Monday, June 30, 2008

Flashback Time, Part I

Best Week Ever's blog a while ago spotlighted a website where you can find out the #1 song, according to Billboard, on a specific date. The writer pointed out how eerily appropriate some of the song-and-date matchups were--the most memorable being Alicia Keys' "Fallin" for September 11, 2001. Short takes: My college graduation's was Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder" (definitely fitting); my birthday, Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing", which just makes me laugh. It's a good idea to see the waves in popularity certain styles and groups have, especially if you follow popular music, and even what type of songs score during specific times of year. For example, looking at my birthday over this decade, most of the songs are summer holdovers, and they nearly all are sexy R&B-tinged dancers.

The site is designed poorly; it's pretty obvious it's a first-generation bare-bones HTML job. But it's pretty cool to find out what was big in the country at a certain time. A great reference that my internet browser somehow found!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Translating Audiences

I’ve been away for the last two weeks, traveling in Europe, and as such have been unable to comment on the storyline aspects of Sex and the City, incorporating some of that into musings on Rilo Kiley’s views of relationships and marriage in their songs (I saw them recently at Terminal 5 in New York City), as well as just general maintenance of this blog.

While abroad, I took lots of photos of movie posters in different languages. Indiana Jones and Sex and the City were by far the most popular, and in a city like Prague which has a substantial amount of foreigners and English-speakers (enough to warrant a weekly English-language newspaper) the billboards were displayed prominently. Once, the Oscar-winning film, and Horton Hears a Who! (abbreviated Horton), were also current movies featured in theaters.

A friend of mine commented on my post about the return of Sex and the City, musing how well it can possibly do overseas, considering the show is racy and may not be syndicated in those countries. I am going to bet that in countries that promoted the movie the show ran, although how and how long I have no idea. I’m not quite sure what to make of the prism Europeans will make of the show’s values—for Europe is generally considered more sexually liberal and permissive than Americans, so maybe all of Samantha’s shenanigans won’t be so shocking, and they’ll laugh off the true love and marriage messages.

But it turns out that even though Sex and the City takes place in a very specific time and place, it seems to translate well, whether referred to as "Sex ve Meste" or "Szex es New York". A recent article in the Times discusses how comedies translate abroad, and mentions how durable What Happens in Vegas is. That movie was also regularly found abroad, usually found by just “Vegas". (I was hoping that it would somehow be 21 instead, since "Vegas" looks really stupid.) The article focuses on Judd Apatow’s movies, since they do very well here but flounder overseas. I was amused that Forgetting Sarah Marshall in German is “Nie wider Sex mit der Ex”, which translates to "Never again sex with the ex". That just sounds crude, although it does give away the premise slightly more.

Although I tended to focus on American movies since they were familiar to me, some cinemas did have movies from other countries: Germany, Japan, Hungary. “Pop culture used to be American pop culture,” an analyst in the article is quoted as saying; American pop culture dominated the market in a perverse way, but now that countries, even developing ones like Russia and those in Central Europe, are beginning to have the capital, they are producing their own narratives. Good for them. The likelihood of them translating into American theaters will be small, partly because of the language barrier.

Apatow’s movies, it is noted, tend to have its characters reference other American movies and pop culture staples, and his recurrent themes of arrested adolescence may not make the transition to other cultures. I had a conversation with an Indian boy this past week who spoke about his father’s generation as being one that believed in good, hard work, whether you like it or not, while Western attitudes (which were beginning to filter down to his generation) were more about having a fulfilling, challenging job, one that fit your interests and strengths; these were never concerns of the elders he knew. We discussed dropping out of school and finding work congruent with our passions, both ideas incongruent with many other cultures. My friends and I have lauded Apatow’s portrayals in Superbad as being realistic, but maybe for many outside the US those lives come across as ridiculous fantasy, a silly way to live, and so do not connect with audiences.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Exceeding Expectations


Early reports are in, and the Sex and the City movie not only nabbed #1 at the box office, but in taking $55.7 million is the best opening for a romantic comedy ever, as well as a TV adaptation, and the fifth-best for an R-rated film. It's also the highest opener for a female-led film (bye-bye, Angelina Jolie's crappy Tomb Raider!--which is another male-oriented action flick. Oh the irony!). Yeah. Suck on that.

Although there was a huge drop between Friday and Saturday (Friday alone garnered $26.1 million), I don't think this spells death-knell for the movie. I think it will still do well in the next couple of weeks, following a typical second-week plummet for blockbusters. Bank on multiple viewings--this is one movie where critical reception will mean naught, and the idea is to get rabid fans to get casual fans and/or females with little exposure to the show (those girls exist) to see it in subsequent weeks. And don't discount those fans who didn't have a chance to see it this weekend. When you even have males like this reviewer acknowledging that he even liked the movie, watch out.

The fact that this movie is an adult movie will also bring in middle-aged married folks. Some teens may have had exposure to the show, but I'll bet more 17 year-olds today are more likely to see High School Musical than Sex and the City, and it's not because of the R-rating; they just missed its heyday, and reruns are no match for the original.

I know people are going to mention Indiana Jones. That's a movie who's so-so ratings seemed to have hurt it, and it's buzz is definitely wearing off. I'm still hearing about Ironman; Indiana Jones, not so much. Indiana Jones feels so old to some people, but the girls of Sex and the City, while also being newer, have the allure of the present and the entertaining luxury to bathe in. Besides--it's seems a good romance can beat an action flick when the final numbers are tallied. Aren't some of the biggest movies of all-time romances, like Titantic and Gone with the Wind?

Of course, success already seems to spell one thing: sequel.

****One thing I wanted to mention in yesterday's entry was the previews for the movie. With the exception of Hancock, all the promos were for meant for a maximum female audience: Mamma Mia! with Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan (it looked fun), the He's Just Not Into You with it's all-star cast (I'm guessing they took situations from the book and fleshed them out?), which is banking on that SATC tie-in, and a Diane Lane-Richard Gere adult romance that has my parents as its target demographic (it's a happier version of Unfaithful). I know movies always have promos that are pretty much based on a strict line of similarity (teen gross out comedy begets teen comedy), but man, did this feel like an estrogen-fest.

The Love Continues

I apologize for not posting in forever. I'm going to work on that, I swear.

I've had so many things that I've wanted to write on--spoilers, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Flyleaf's "All Around Me", random reviews...hopefully I'll post an extremely belated Britney Spears entry, as well as the spoiler one. But first, I'm hear to say that the Sex and the City movie is fantastic.

Michael Patrick King wrote a love letter to the show's fans. Anyone who loves the show will love the movie; if you don't like it, it's not for you. Ignore the reviews; many of the reviewers hadn't understood the appeal of the show, and for them, it's confusing. It's a full-fledged story. There is a plot. There are typical one-liners; there are waves of emotion; there are disappointments, heartbreak, fabulous fashions, whirlwind romance and of course, the requisite happy ending.

The men do get the shaft. But while Manohla Dargis of the New York Times writes, "I’m all for the female gaze, but, gee, it’s also nice to talk — and listen — to men, too," I feel that once we're allowed our day in the sun. Yes, it would be nice to hear Harry, Mr. Big, Steve and Smith actually get more than a few lines each, but this isn't about them. The movie celebrates love and female friendships, and if anything, this movie's success celebrates it. There have been reports that fans are seeing this movie in groups--hell, that's how I saw it--and I bet there will be a lot of repeat customers (I will be one as well). Everyone bitches and complains that Hollywood is a boy's club, and that the romantic comedy is dead, because the truism is that women will see men's movies (Ironman) but men won't see women's movies. I hope Sex and the City is number one at the box office this weekend. It deserves to be, and I think while everyone knows it's going to be huge, how huge it turns out to be--and number one--signifies that women still matter, that a women's movie, and one featuring middle-aged women, are willing to go out to the movies.