20 janvier 2012

USA quarantine year's best films

This is what some 120 American movie reviewers believe ARE the best films of 2011 (or more exactly the ones that American distributors agreed to buy last year, which is a different matter altogether). This is not a selection imposed to them by the European elite, they chose these willingly and ended up with this consensus. Even if American critics love to remind that there is hardly 15 or 30 great films made every year, that would deserve to be shown in festivals... they still want to show they can name 50 films when year's end come.

Apparently the American distributors don't agree with the movie reviewers. If these are the BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR, distributors do not think they deserve a better exposition than a couple of screens to meet/build an audience.
We're not looking at the full list of obscure, elite foreign films, indies and artfilms shown in American festivals... These are the 50 very BEST ones, amongst those deemed "commercial" enough to be released by American distributors and exhibitors. Why even the very best doesn't get a special treatment?

There are 7 or 8 blockbusters (Contagion, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes are Best of the Year material? really???) because they wanna show they are close to the taste of the masses. American criticism is popular criticism. And, of course, all these titles with a "blockbuster release" are ALL Hollywood movies! The foreign title with widest distribution is French : The Artist (no subtitles issue, and a story ABOUT Hollywood!) on 472 screens. 

Although, these populist flicks are not quite at the top of the poll. The highest one barely makes the top10 and is targeted at KIDS! Obviously the American consensus is a lot more elitist than what they declare all the time in the media. 40 out of the 50 best films received a distribution inferior to 500 screens in a country of 40000 screens and 311 million population! 30 out of 50 best films got less than 100 screens !! 17 got 10 screens or less !!! 

30 films of the TOP50 are QUARANTINED on less than 100 screens nationwide each !!!

Even in France (with 7 times less available screens), 100 screens is a weak distribution for a successful art film (see below, The Tree of Life got 350 screens, and A Separation over 250!). So the vast American market should be able to attribute MORE screens than France to comparably successful art films!

From the top10 (You haven't seen 10 films better made than the ultra-academic A Dangerous Method???) : half of the 10 BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR had less than 20 screens !!! WTF are the American exhibitors doing??? Where are the art-film friendly art houses in the USA? There might be 20 or 50 art houses throughout the entire US of A willing to screen "niche" films with low audience potential, for the sake of the art of cinema, for the sake of world culture, for the sake of THE BEST 2011 FILMS IN THE WORLD... is that all? Is this a joke?

The Tree of Life : the one "BEST FILM" elected this year by AMERICAN critics is an AMERICAN film, in ENGLISH, with HOLLYWOOD stars and only gets 237 screens (see Weak's Cutoff: No Cinephilia for detail). Considering the absence of cinephilia in the USA, this kind of score is reaching for the stars for an "art film", an "indie". Don't say the reason is that Americans watch movies at home now... or multiplexes would have shut down by now, and they still release The Rise of the Planet of the Apes on over 3600 screens nationwide! The problem is not a dramatic drop of movie-going population, or the lack of infrastructure  (there are 10 times more screens available per title released each year than in any European country). It's just that the American moviegoer does not watch art films at all. And the few art film lovers that do exist in the USA are quitters, they are the ones who stay at home, and download foreign films illegally (when they don't buy DVDs).

Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives, "SECOND BEST FILM OF THE YEAR", is projected in 5 lucky theatres! How many Americans can watch it on the big screen with only 5 art houses opened? Seriously?

A Separation, "FOURTH BEST FILM OF THE YEAR", which was a popular success in France (with over a million spectators so far), was shown on 3 screens... (UK's and France's populations are 5 times smaller) Come on! This film is a MAINSTREAM NARRATIVE movie with a wide audience appeal, how come is it considered more obscure in the USA than Uncle Boonmee????????????????? Wow, it was really worth it to wait 1 year since its Golden Bear at Berlinale 2011, to find the right spot on the releases calendar and get 3 measly screens at the end of the year when the year-end polls and Oscar nominations are already closed... (sarcasm intended) American distributors are fucking useless. 

Don't ever tell me again there is a cinephile niche in the USA. You have no clue what cinema at its best looks like when you see it. Making money is one thing. If 90% of the screens were monopolized by the major studios to milk the cash cow, we'd think that the USA is a profit-driven industry, that still has 10% for an art film circuit. That's not the case (see: October 2011 releases USA).
There isn't even 1% within the plethoric American movie market to show the BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR. They can't "spare" 200-500 screens (which would still be less than what a Hollywood flop gets) for each of the 10 best films of the year. So we can't even say that there is a "minority" of cinephiles within the American movie goers... they are statistically (and commercially) INEXISTANT. You're not supporting World Cinema, you're not pulling your weight in the global balance. Not even the least benevolent effort at home (and help artists make some money on the American domestic market) to show a modicum of "counterweight" to the global hegemony Hollywood imposes on the world... American cinephiles don't even feel sorry for the Hollywood hegemony crushing local markets abroad. They don't even make the effort to support the big screen out of pity, if not for their own pleasure of watching FILM ART as it was intended.

Meanwhile the American media is totally oblivious to this appalling situation, fatalistically believing that France is an exception, that it is humanly, logistically, commercially, physically impossible to do any better for art films than 5 fucking screens nationwide... Yeah right. Nobody expects the USA to do as well as France (OMG they don't have ENOUGH billion dollars to fund such a miraculous enterprise...), but at least do "good" in the American market context. I'm sorry but this chart up there is not good by any standards (commercial or philanthropic), it is a FAILURE of an hypothetical art film circuit (if there ever was one), plain and simple. 
And smart-ass movie reviewers prefer to take cheap shots at Major Film Festivals than to deal with their domestic market and get some effective work done, culturally and commercially, for a viable art film circuit. Can't they figure out by themselves that there might be some serious (possible) improvements to be done??? 

There was an attempt of audience-self-empowerment (or Twitter-empowerment) for the neglected indie American film Margaret last year. That's a start. An American-made film. And the excuse to rebel against Hollywood decisions to limit screenings, was motivated by the access for this film to the "Oscars nomination" process... Was it a coincidence? I would hope that they are capable to protest for GREATER films too, foreign films that are ranked higher on the list these very reviewers produced. If Margaret deserves an outrage, maybe Uncle Boonmee, A Separation, Mysteries of Lisbon, Poetry, Film Socialisme, Le Havre, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaucescu, Le Quattro volte... would deserve a more respectful distribution, right? Why nobody speaks up? Why nobody demands a decent number of screens for these masterpieces even if they don't run for the Oscars? I wonder what they believe is the responsibility of a film critic...

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4 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

"[..] World cinema is evergreen, but here in the States it continues to serve a select clientele, even as blessings like Netflix and YouTube randomly broaden palates. The problem is that demographic apartheid still reigns like Ghaddaffi. [..]
In other words, The Tree of Life should have been available for free or dirt cheap at every multiplex that carried it, in a quiet corner auditorium. And, Sheila, the same goes for Juliet Binoche and her lipstick. And experimental films. And silents (real ones, not just The Artist). And little, delicate DIY films, from Maya Deren to Lena Dunham. And, Simon, Love Exposure and Film Socialisme. We are not serious about liberal, progressive values (yep, I am assuming everybody in this discussion claims liberal and progressive) if we go another year comfortable with a cinema landscape this undemocratic, stratified and mercenary."
Steven Boone (SLIFR; 18 Jan 2012)

HarryTuttle a dit…

"Forgive the negative connotation of the label I'm about to use, but before we go further I think we should admit one thing: as far as cinephilia is concerned, we are the 1 percent.
In saying that, I don't mean to imply that we are the haves in a world dominated by have-nots. Not at all. I mean only to point out that in the universe of movie consumers there is only a tiny fraction that approaches cinema with the same obsessiveness that we demonstrate: not just seeing movies but analyzing them, not just analyzing them but writing about them, not just writing about them but tweeting about them, not just tweeting about them but dialoging about them, not just dialoging about them but reading about them, not just reading about them but reading even more about them, and so on."
Jason Bellamy (SLIFR; 22 Jan 2012)

HarryTuttle a dit…

David Bordwell : "[..] ‘Plexes, whether multi- or mega-, tend to look alike. But art and rep houses have personality, even flair. [..]
What unites them is what they show. They play films in foreign languages and British English. They show independent US dramas and comedies, documentaries, revivals, and restorations.
In the whole market, art houses are a blip. Figures are hard to come by, but Jack Foley, head of domestic distribution for Focus Features, estimates that there are about 250 core art-house screens. In addition, other venues present art house product on an occasional basis or as part of cultural center programming."
Pandora’s digital box: Art house, smart house; 30 Jan 2012

HarryTuttle a dit…

Gavin Smith : "This year a 120 people participated in this poll. So we feel it's as close to a definitive look at the year as anyone is gonna get."
(video 16 Dec 2011)