Guest Blogger: Barry Monush, author of the Screen World series, The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Screen Actors, Everybody’s Talkin’, West Side Story: Music on Film, Hollywood Musicals Year by Year, and Lucille Ball FAQ.
Best movie of 2010 that you may not have seen.
Among the pleasures to be had from editing Screen World is the hope that your editorial decisions can draw attention to a movie or two that didn’t get its fair shake.
If you’re an ‘independent,’ as the industry insists on calling thoroughly accessible movies that don’t fall into the ‘high concept’ category, it’s considered perfectly respectable if you make $15 million at the box office, but I don’t see it that way. This means you’ve still fallen nearly $30 million short of the final figures on Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Huh? If you have any taste, you’re probably thinking I made that title up, because nobody in their right mind sat around in 2010 anticipating the release of Kitty Galore, nor did you probably run into anyone talking about it at a cocktail party.
Which brings me to the $15 million-grossing movie in question, The Ghost Writer. The earliest media mentions it received came by way of a negative event – being the latest offering from director Roman Polanski, just as he was being arrested for the crime he fled our country for back in the 1970s. I don’t know if this publicity was the reason those $15 million-worth of folks chose to see what was, in my assessment, the best thing Polanski had done since Chinatown. Or maybe his notoriety is what kept this smart, devilishly unsettling adaptation of Robert Harris’ terrific page-turning novel from reaching the heights of, um, Kitty Galore.
If The Ghost Writer did not sit high on the year’s box office list, as Chinatown did back in 1974, there are a number of reasons, the most unfortunate being that there are more paying customers these days who will respond to the simplicities of Kitty Galore than to the dialogue-heavy plot turns and restrained, subtle menace of The Ghost Writer, so conditioned have they become to assuming that a movie you see in a theatre is fast, loud, and very high in concept. Too bad for them.
Barry Monush (Metuchen, NJ) is the author of the acclaimed Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965; Everybody’s Talkin’: The Top Films of 1965-1969; Hollywood Musicals: Year by Year (revised third edition); and the Music on Film volume on West Side Story. He is a researcher for the Paley Center for Media in New York City.
Screen World 62’s outstanding features include a color section of highlights; an index with over 19,000 entries; full-page photographs of the four Academy Award-winning actors as well as photos of all the acting nominees; a look a the year’s most promising new screen personalities; a priceless biographical reference to more than 2,500 living stars; and obituaries for 2010.
Available from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.