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The Reeler Blog

The Grindhouse Second-Guessing Scorecard

It looks like the dust has settled enough around the pulsing glow of cinders that is Grindhouse's opening weekend -- $11 million take on a $20 million projection; $60-million-plus budget (plus $30 million P&A) -- that we can start sizing up the routines of movie blogs' finest second-guessers. And there are plenty:

FIRST PLACE: Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood Daily

Finke rang The Weinstein Company early and often to chase down the details, heaping rich shovels-full of dirt in readers directions throughout the day. Like Cronkite after the JFK assassination, the updates keep coming, though Finke has the advantage of a living tragedy, and thus a stream of fabulous Harvey quotes:

"We're smart businessmen. Thank God, we protected ourselves economically. I've spent the last year diversifying the company. We're making profits everywhere but the movie business. But on DVD sales, we're doing well." ... Harvey admitted to me that his attention may have been too diverted from the movie biz(.) "This Cannes, I'm going to change all that. I'm back to being me. We wanted to diversify immediately. Now I have to go back to being Harvey."

Yes! Look out, Samantha Morton.

SECOND PLACE: David Poland, The Hot Blog

Maybe it's laziness, boredom, cutting his losses, whatever, but Poland does the smart thing: Gets out of the way and challenges his readers to suggest in 25 words or less why Grindhouse flopped on its opening weekend. Naturally, the navel lint went flying:

Rodriquez is a gifted technician but one with an adolescent mind and Tarantino's film references have gone from informing his films to being the whole point of them. -- "grandcosmo"

Grindhouse comes off as a pretentious, self-important, elitist, mocking, vulgar, joyless, humorless, obscure, junk food for the soul, misogynist, over-long, turgid, wank fest. -- "Nicol D"

It's a Kurt Russell movie. -- "Rob"

Pretty much everyone else goes over the word count, but fuck it, it's the steamiest anonymous Monday-morning quarterback orgy since, well, Dreamgirls.

THIRD PLACE: Jeremy Smith, CHUD.com and Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere (TIE)

Neither Smith nor Wells introduce any Earth-shattering perspective to the Grindhouse autopsy circle jerk, but for sheer, emphatic doomsaying, they run too close to call:

SMITH: "This is bad, bad news for The Weinstein Company, which might've launched a Viking funeral pyre instead of a franchise. Since officially opening for business in late 2005, the burly brothers Weinstein have struggled to gain any kind of footing in the marketplace. .... Worse, one of their big hopes for this spring - the Scarlett Johansson starring, bestseller-based The Nanny Diaries - recently got booted to a no-confidence September 7th opening. Meanwhile, looking forward to the rest of their 2007 slate, there are only two movies with realistic breakout potential (Frank Darabont's The Mist and Michael Moore's Sicko)."

WELLS (Quoting an anonymous "marketing analyst"): "Harvey has been running scared recently -- he's not the guy he was a year or two years ago. ... It's starting to look like it might be over for the Weinstein's now. It's almost time for the fire sale and the funeral. You can't keep putting out movies that don't make money, although The Nanny Diaries might do some business. But the creditors, I'm hearing, are looking to get out, and there isn't going to be any more money from them. The Weinsteins have fucked a lot of people and are hated. They have to go to festivals to get films. Too many people are allied against them."

As always, Wells has pages and pages of reader comments to lean on, which unfortunately aren't quite sentient enough to push him into sole possession of third place. But with a whole five months remaining to train for The Nanny Diaries, I'm looking forward to the death-watch rematch, particularly for the high-stakes ScarJo second-guessing certain to ensue.

HONORABLE MENTION: Gregg Kilday, The Hollywood Reporter

Despite Finke's aggressive Harvey-cornering this morning, Kilday waited outside the somber TWC locker room for the first post-game interview late Sunday:

"It's disappointing," Harvey Weinstein ... said. "It performed brilliantly in the East and the West, but not so good in the South. Market research that we did showed there was a resistance to the running time, but this is exactly what the boys wanted to do, reinvent the cinematic experience. It got such great reviews and such great scores, that it's baffling, and we're just going to have to educate the audience."

And suddenly, like the classic rallying point in Hoosiers, a slow, rhythmic build of claps and hoots surged from behind the cinder block walls, with Harvey thrusting the playbook into Bob's chest and charging from the tunnel into the stands for a few forearm shivers among the poor bastards still scavenging the stands for souvenir beer cups. They will learn -- they must learn.

NOTABLE ALSO-RANS: Anne Thompson, Variety; Lou Lumenick, NY Post; Brandon Gray, Box Office Mojo

Accurate, close-reads, sure, but all too easy in the smoldering dusk of the crash site. Invoking Grindhouse's "fawning media hype" that hints at the continuation of critical irrelevancy chatter, Gray has a more general read of the weekend's box office totals while Lumenick and Thompson diagnose a succession of ills that may have been too much for the film to overcome -- length, release date, and perhaps deadliest of all, as Thompson notes, too narrow an audience:

The Rodriguez half of Grindhouse was for horror fans, and was far too gross for women, who might have liked the Tarantino half, which is a total female empowerment flick. My friend in Chicago who eagerly took a pal on opening day reported about 30 people in the theater. ... It's also telling that the loud internet chatter didn't translate at the box office. Young men and film fans are the easiest to reach on the web, but Grindhouse needed more. It should have opened in fewer theaters and built up an audience. But at that negative cost, the Weinsteins needed to go wide selling their brand-name directors -- who were playing strictly to their core, with no crossover.

So, as the day after winds down, what does your scorecard say?

Posted at April 9, 2007 5:44 PM

Comments (1)

No love for Scott Bowles in USA Today? The guy has Harvey quotes AND bullet points. You can't go wrong with bullet points.

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