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Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Hope some of these are your favorites too!
Note: For the periods 1940-1956 and 1959-1966, there were two categories for Art Direction: Black-and-white, and color. I've indicated which films are in which categories.
Note: For the 1927/28 awards year, there were two directing categories - comedy and drama. I've indicated which nominee is in which category.
The list is ordered by profit/loss, so #1 had the largest profit in the sample and #104 had the largest loss in the sample. All figures in the list and in the sections below are in millions of US$, with the exception of budget-returned figures and US/non-US percentages of WLG.
BUDGET (for 104 films): Mean: 58.428 Median: 40 Standard deviation (sample): 52.939 Interquartile range: 52
Five-number summary for budget: Minimum: 2 Q1: 18 Median: 40 Q3: 70 Maximum: 210
Outliers for budget: Lower fence: -60 Upper fence: 148 10 films had a budget above the upper fence of 148: Transformers: Age of Extinction (210), X-Men: Days of Future Past (200), Maleficent (180), Edge of Tomorrow (178), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (170), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (170), Guardians of the Galaxy (170), Big Hero 6 (165), Interstellar (165), and Godzilla (160).
WLG (for 104 films): Mean: 211.627 Median: 119.358 Standard deviation (sample): 221.247 Interquartile range: 218.875
Five-number summary for WLG: Minimum: 3.485 Q1: 61.995 Median: 119.358 Q3: 280.83 Maximum: 1,104.309
Outliers for WLG: Lower fence: -266.358 Upper fence: 609.143 10 films had a WLG above the upper fence of 609.143: Transformers: Age of Extinction (1,104.309), Guardians of the Galaxy (774.176), Maleficent (758.41), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (752.1), X-Men: Days of Future Past (748.121), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (714.766), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (708.835), Interstellar (672.72), Big Hero 6 (652.127), and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (618.909).
BUDGET RETURNED (for 104 films): Mean: 4.985 Median: 3.322 Standard deviation (sample): 5.875 Interquartile range: 2.974
Five-number summary for budget-returned: Minimum: 0.267 Q1: 2.065 Median: 3.322 Q3: 5.039 Maximum: 39.273
Outliers for budget-returned: Lower fence: -2.396 Upper fence: 9.5 10 films made back their budgets more times than the upper fence of 9.5: Annabelle (39.273), God's Not Dead (31.315), The Fault in Our Stars (25.603), Ouija (20.506), Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (18.181), Neighbors (14.898), The Purge: Anarchy (12.289), Lucy (11.472), Boyhood (11.124), and The Maze Runner (10.022).
PROFIT/LOSS (for 104 films): Mean: 153.199 Median: 85.56 Standard deviation (sample): 179.485 Interquartile range: 183.262
Five-number summary for profit/loss: Minimum: -51.338 Q1: 32.402 Median: 85.56 Q3: 215.664 Maximum: 894.309
Outliers for profit/loss: Lower fence: -242.49 Upper fence: 490.556 No film had a loss below the lower fence of -242.49. 8 films had a profit above the upper fence of 490.556: Transformers: Age of Extinction (894.309), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (627.1), Guardians of the Galaxy (604.176), Maleficent (578.41), X-Men: Days of Future Past (548.121), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (544.766), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (538.835), and Interstellar (507.72).
Source for budget figures and WLG figures and percentages: boxofficemojo.com
The list is ordered by profit/loss, so #1 made the biggest profit in the sample and #657 had the biggest loss in the sample. All figures in the list and in the sections below are in millions of US$, with the exception of budget-returned and US/non-US percentages for WLG.
BUDGET (for 657 films) Mean: 45.84 Median: 35 Standard deviation (sample): 35.41 Interquartile range: 45 Upper fence: 132.5
Five-number summary for budget: Minimum: 0.065 Q1: 20 Median: 35 Q3: 65 Maximum: 200
WLG (for 657 films) Mean: 114.96 Median: 61.95 Standard deviation (sample): 151.39 Interquartile range: 115.71 Upper fence: 315.25
Five-number summary for WLG Minimum: 1.43 Q1: 25.97 Median: 61.95 Q3: 141.68 Maximum: 1,119.93
BUDGET RETURNED (for 657 films) Mean: 3.95 Median: 1.94 Standard deviation (sample): 14.72 Interquartile range: 2.64 Upper fence: 7.52
Five-number summary for budget-returned: Minimum: 0.07 Q1: 0.92 Median: 1.94 Q3: 3.56 Maximum: 317.54
PROFIT/LOSS (for 657 films) Mean: 69.12 Median: 24.96 Standard deviation (sample): 132.52 Interquartile range: 95.20 Lower fence: -145 Upper fence: 235.80
Five-number summary for profit/loss Minimum: -92.90 Q1: -2.20 Median: 24.96 Q3: 93 Maximum: 1,025.93
Page 1 Profit/loss: 1,025.93 to 143.34 Page 2 Profit/loss: 142.51 to 69.44 Page 3 Profit/loss: 69.33 to 33.28 Page 4 Profit/loss: 32.78 to 11.47 Page 5 Profit/loss: 11.31 to -3 Page 6 Profit/loss: -3.10 to -20.68 Page 7 Profit/loss: -20.75 to -92.90
Source for budget figures and WLG figures and percentages: boxofficemojo.com
Strange, allegorical drama about the struck-up-on-the-spot relationship between two passengers in a New York City subway car: a black man (Al Freeman Jr.) and a white woman (Shirley Knight) flirt with each other and engage in adult banter. As they alternately beguile and exasperate each other, their conversation reflects the sexual and racial tensions between them. The film is set entirely in the subway car, making for a claustrophobic atmosphere. Knight overacts some of the time (ok, a LOT of the time), laughing loudly, rolling her eyes, and touching Freeman in places where the NYC Transit Authority would probably prefer its patrons to not be touched, but she's never less than interesting and Freeman's more-subdued performance balances things out (although he gets to deliver a blistering, angry monologue near the end). DUTCHMAN's shocking climax is a disturbing culmination of the provocative racial and social themes presented in the film; the film's hour-long length allows for these ideas to have immediate impact.
Like a D-grade comic book brought to life.
***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***
This is a REALLY bad film. The main culprits: the screenplay and Vin Diesel's acting, both of which are god-awful. This super-schlocky superspy movie has as it's main bad guy a Czech anarchist who perfectly represents the cinema's current East Bloc baddie stereotype; it must be written in some fabled "Screenwriter's Code" somewhere: "All post-Cold War Eastern European villains will have long, greasy hair and five o'clock shadow and will sneer a lot." Anyway, he's intent on A DEVIOUS PLAN WHICH WILL PLUNGE THE WORLD INTO ANARCHY! Yes, folks, this is the "new breed" of spy movie; aren't you excited? Vin, of course, plays the hero: Xander Cage, an extreme-sports punk who keeps getting in trouble with the law (but kids, his heart is in the right place, god love him!). Samuel L. Jackson is the NSA bureaucrat who comes up with the only-in-movieland caprice of recruiting Cage to infiltrate and take down the above-mentioned villain's organization.
As I mentioned earlier, Diesel does not distinguish himself in this, uh, "project." The only other things I've seen him in are "Saving Private Ryan" and "Pitch Black", in both of which I thought he was good. But, geez, with "XXX", it's like he's suddenly been struck clueless. I guess he was too busy; he was also an executive producer (which means he was one of those PRIMARILY RESPONSIBLE for this drivel) so he probably couldn't be bothered with mundane matters like delivering dialogue with emotion or establishing character.
There are some good things in this movie. Asia Argento (Dario Argento's daughter, for all you horror fans out there) does a great job as the Love Interest Who Is Forced To Keep Switching Allegiances. She's tough and sexy but vulnerable too. Also, there's fantastic footage of the beautiful city of Prague (where most of the film takes place). And there's a terrifically weird, eye-popping animation sequence over the closing credits.
You know, in retrospect, it's kind of lame when the end credits are among the most enjoyable parts of a movie.
I see where IMDb already has a listing for "XXX 2."
"The horror...the horror."
Heavy traffic ahead...
The things about "Speed" that are most interesting to me are its theme of urban motion and the extraordinary way that the film's mise-en-scene reinforces that theme. All of the conveyances that modern city dwellers use to propel themselves through their environment are presented here (elevators, buses, cars, subway trains) and all are constantly moving faster and faster. Indeed, the essence of city life is captured in the single word that makes up the film's title.
***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***
Actually, "Speed" is sort of a visual orgy of transportation in general: in one sequence alone, we see the procession of the doomed bus and its entourage of police motorcycles and cars hurtling down the interstate, while helicopters fly overhead. The bus runs loops around planes at the airport and careens crazily through crowded downtown intersections.
It is all too appropriate that the film takes place in Los Angeles, which, with its traffic-choked freeways and metropolitan sprawl, is an urban planner's ultimate nightmare (to be fair, the same problems exist in most American cities; but since Los Angeles is the most American of American cities, the situation there is exacerbated). "Speed" reminds me very much of the first "Terminator" movie, also set in L.A. and also using its urban setting to great advantage.
Something for Everyone (1970)
See Michael York and Angela Lansbury eat lots of schnitzel.
Odd, odd, odd film about lowly servant boy Michael York employing Machiavellian means to improve his status in the household of an aristocratic German family headed by widowed matriarch Angela Lansbury. Famed Broadway director/producer Hal Prince directed this baroque mixture of fairy tale and black comedy and it does possess some rather theatrical elements: eccentric, showy characters and ornately stylized sets and costumes. According to the blurb on the back of the video box, the setting is post-WWII Germany, but hairstyles, clothes, etc. indicate several different eras. I guess this is meant to suggest a place isolated from the rest of the world, a place where the past, present, and future are commingled (like in fairy tales).
Some good characterizations: Lansbury is, as always, excellent. She presents the perfect portrait of refined, snobbish nobility, whether looking down her nose at a nouveau riche couple that wants to buy her family's castle or haughtily dismissing the topic of Nazis from dinner-table conversation (because Nazis are, you know, uncultured). Jane Carr is funny as Lansbury's frumpy, intellectually precocious daughter, delivering her lines with a knowing irony.
Bizarre curio of a movie that's worth a look (even if only for the scene where Lansbury sashays around the living room in bell-bottoms).
The Parallax View (1974)
They're out to get me.
An assassination is rightly regarded as an assault on democracy. It horrifies us to think that a person can be literally shot down for putting forth his/her social/political views. What is perhaps scarier than the assassination itself is the possibility of a complex network of people orchestrating the details of the killing.
The subject of assassinations and the conspiracies behind them has made for some great, thrilling films ("The Manchurian Candidate," "Z," "JFK") but none have so chillingly utilized the idea as does Alan J. Pakula's "The Parallax View."
Considering that several of his films deal with conspiracy and paranoia ("Klute," "All the President's Men," "Presumed Innocent," "The Pelican Brief"), one wonders if Pakula went through life with his head permanently turned over his shoulder. It's not surprising that he hit on the best exploration of the "you-can't-be-scared-enough" theme. And nail it, he did: "Parallax" is an incredibly unnerving thriller that speaks to our fear of gunmen lurking on every grassy knoll.
***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***
The story's protagonist is newspaper reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty). After several witnesses to a senator's assassination die in mysterious ways, Frady suspects a cover-up and begins his own investigation. He learns of an organization called the Parallax Corporation that, on the surface, does industrial espionage and security for various firms. When Frady manages to get himself hired by Parallax, he discovers that the company also engages in far more subversive activities...
All the elements of "The Parallax View" add up to a well-constructed suspense film. In their superb screenplay, David Giler and Lorenzo Semple, Jr. artfully relate Joe Frady's descent into conspiracy mayhem by alternating quietly unsettling scenes with moments of chaotic terror. The off-kilter cinematography by Gordon Willis creates a sense of uneasiness. Michael Small's eerie music score achieves the feat of sounding patriotic and sinister at the same time.
The cast is excellent also. Warren Beatty is basically just doing "Warren Beatty" here, but that's always a good thing. As two running-scared witnesses, Paula Prentiss and William Daniels convey different shades of paranoia: Prentiss, teary and frightened out of her wits, and Daniels, world-weary and worried to exhaustion. Walter McGinn is terrific as the mild-mannered Parallax Co. recruiter who subtly controls those around him.
The thought of an omnipotent organization that can extend its tentacles through all levels of government and society and snuff out anyone who stands in its way is terrifying (it's no coincidence that this movie came along at the height of the Watergate scandal). All in all, "The Parallax View" is a truly frightening film that will give you chills on the hottest day in July.
Week End (1967)
Societal meltdown, French style
Words fail me. A stunning, radical lollapalooza of a film. This is the second time that I've seen Godard's "Week End" and I'd be lying if I said that I knew "what it's about." Nor shall I feign a full comprehension of the innumerable socio-political messages that the film imparts. I can't even honestly say that it's enjoyable to watch. So why all the bother? Simply because "Week End" is so far away from conventional cinema that the distance can be measured in light years. Inventive and original, this is a fascinating spectacle, like the proverbial train wreck from which you can't turn away (actually, "car wreck" is more appropriate, but more about that later).
***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***
What little plot there is concerns a married couple, Corinne and Richard, taking a trip out to the country for the weekend. Along the way, they are delayed by massive traffic tie-ups, horrendous car accidents, and roving bands of revolutionary guerrillas.
"Weekend" offers a pessimistic view of society: shouting and violence are the preferred modes of communication and nearly all of the characters are selfish and greedy. People seem disturbingly eager to cause trouble for others. Materialism is rampant; when the traveling couple crashes its car, Corinne clambers out of the wreckage, screaming over the loss of her designer handbag.
Frustration and impatience are abundant also; nowhere is this more evident than in the infamous traffic jam sequence: the camera slowly pans past a long line of cars being held up by an accident, all the while people are honking their horns and yelling at each other. This scene alone will make you want to reach for your Paxil, but I suppose that's the point that Godard is trying to make: modern society is nerve-racking.
Favorite scene: the guerrilla radio operators using the titles of classic films as their handles.
"It's America, all those cars smashing into each other..."
Perhaps I should start this off by just going ahead and admitting my bias: this is one of my all time favorite movies; it holds a very secure position on my personal Top 10 list. "Nashville" is Robert Altman's masterpiece and it's arguably the best American film of the 70's.
***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***
What is "Nashville" about? Ostensibly, it tracks the interplay between 24 people as they mill about the environs of the title city over approximately three days (or four? five? I've never been able to tell, exactly). Several country and rock stars (with accompanying managers, relatives, hangers-on, groupies) happen to be in Nashville at the same time that a huge political rally for third-party presidential candidate Hal Phillip Walker is being put together locally. The beginning and middle of the film show the two or three degrees of separation between the various characters: an intricate spider's web of emotional and business connections that culminates in the rally at the movie's end at which all the characters are brought together and at which the movie's loose ends are made looser (sorry, this is AltmanLand which, like real life doesn't have a lot of tidy resolutions). That's basically the entire story.
But, as with most Robert Altman films, the plot is beside the point. What's fascinating to watch is the on-screen realism he achieves. By using overlapping dialogue (the famous Altman trademark) and by encouraging improvisation among his actors, Altman delivers the spontaneous rhythms of real everyday life.
"Nashville"'s importance also lies in its historical significance. 27 years after its initial release, the film remains an essential part of America's cinematic heritage as it accurately reflects the country at a particular point in time: the mid 70's, when America was reeling from the fallout of Vietnam, Watergate, and the social upheavals of the late 60's/early 70's. The characters are, at best, ambivalent about life in general; people aren't able to find anything to believe in, or perhaps worse, they're willing to accept mediocrity. Mistrust of politicians/government is represented by Hal Phillip Walkers campaign van that prowls the streets of Nashville throughout the movie, blaring the candidate's inane aphorisms from a loudspeaker (interestingly, the ubiquitous van also functions as "Nashville"'s narrative device; subtle foreshadowing of plot points can be found in Walker's folksy ramblings).
Some of my favorite things from "Nashville" (hopefully without giving away too many wonderful details):
The opening credit sequence that switches back and forth between two simultaneous performances in a recording studio: 1) pompous country singer Haven Hamilton (a very funny Henry Gibson) sledgehammering his way through the unintentionally hilarious lyrics of an ostentatiously patriotic ditty, and 2) a soulful, joyous rendition of a gospel song by a church choir.
A handful of the marvelous characterizations: Opal, the celebrity-worshipping BBC correspondent (Geraldine Chaplin), Albuquerque, the somewhat spacy aspiring singer (Barbara Harris; her bit about flyswatters and the industrial revolution never fails to make me laugh), Delbert and Linnea Reese, the couple poignantly juggling familial devotions and marital infidelities (Ned Beatty and Lily Tomlin), and most affecting of all, Barbara Jean, the frail, neurotic star being driven crazy by fame (Ronee Blakley).
The music: for the most part, the actors themselves wrote the songs that they perform in the film. I've noticed several of my fellow IMDb'ers saying that while they're not great fans of country music, they nonetheless love the music in "Nashville". I feel the same way. The songs are fantastic; listen to the lyrics and you'll hear how they help to identify the character who's singing them.
I can't think of anything else to say except that this is a great, important film that is also extraordinarily entertaining. Deserves the maximum amount of stars or thumbs up that are available.
Les rivières pourpres (2000)
Gives new meaning to the phrase "Franco-American"
This film is OK for an evening's diversion (but then, so is "Porky's II"). While providing about two hour's worth of vacuous entertainment, it may also revive the age-old "style vs. substance" debate (again, the "Porky's II" comparison can be made here).
The story follows along the lines of most conventional "thrillers": Two police detectives investigate a series of grisly murders that occur at a remote university in the French Alps. During their investigation, they uncover sinister goings-on at the school (the dean's wife is throwing "Sexy Lady" parties...no, seriously, it's something to do with horrifying genetic experiments...like when my parents had me).
In a daring and creative bit of character conception, the two detectives are comprised of A) the grizzled, seen-it-all veteran (Jean Reno) and B) the young, brash rookie (Vincent Cassell). What an original idea! I'm sure glad that the screenwriter didn't settle for stale, old stereotypes like the grizzled, seen-it-all veteran and the young, brash...Hey, wait a minute...
What else do we have? Luscious Alpine settings that enchant the viewer enough to graciously accept the convoluted storyline. Editing and camera moves honed to a soulless, mechanical perfection. Sure, maybe we swapped meaningful plot development for stylized hokum, but as long as it looks good, that's what's important. Why, it's indistinguishable from your average, run-of-the-mill Hollywood flick. That's a good thing, right?