"Nobody knows anything" was William Goldman's Hollywood mantra. He's written two of the the best books I've read about Hollywood, "Adventures in the Screen Trade" and "Which Lie Did I Tell?" He also wrote and won Oscars for "All the President's Men" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
And if Goldman says about Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything," then it's a good bet nobody knows anything about Hollywood. Even people whose job it is to know something about Hollywood prove every day that nobody knows anything.
Peter Bart, editor in chief of Variety -- who, providing full disclosure, has never said anything approaching decent about this critic either in print or in person -- writes: "Box office data this year suggests that filmgoers seem to be having a great time at the multiplexes. The critics, by contrast, may be shopping around for a new line of work."
The critics, he points out, didn't like "300," which set box office records. Or "Ghost Rider" or "Wild Hogs" or "Norbit," each which have either or will soon hit the $100 million mark at the box office. Or "Night at the Museum" which has done $525 million around the world.
First, Bart, critics did like "300." The New York Times didn't, but according to rottentomatoes.com, 61 percent of the critics they tally gave "300" positive reviews.
Also I liked it. And I liked "A Night At the Museum," which I thought did exactly what it set out to do -- entertain families and children. Bart quotes the negative reviews The Times ran for both those films. Perhaps he should stop reading The Times. When it comes to show business they truly know nothing.
Besides, as Bart knows full well, quality and quantity aren't always mutually exclusive -- just most of the time. Quick: Who's sold more burgers, 21 or McDonald's? Quicker: If someone was taking you out for a burger and gave you that choice, which would you pick?
"Citizen Kane" was a flop. The studio kept it running until it could earn some Oscar nominations. Even then, I don't think it made any money. "It's a Wonderful Life" was such a box office flop Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra both thought their careers were over. It didn't become a hit until TV viewers discovered it in the 50s. And those are great movies.
I have heard rumblings that some newspapers have told their film critics to go easy or give positive reviews to films they know will be box office hits whether they like them or not. That's scary. And it won't help the print press attract the teenage movie audience, which doesn't read newspapers but does go to bad movies.
The weekend box office? "300" did $32 million, not an expected $38 million, but moviegoers in the Northeast were snowed out of Friday night screenings. "Wild Hogs" dropped 32 percent and crossed the $100 million mark -- maybe moviegoers were getting in out of the snow? "Premonition," which, according to the aforementioned rottentomatoes.com, was the worst reviewed film of the year, was Sandra Bullock's biggest opening weekend ever. It did $18 million and received 8 percent positive reviews.
The story? Sometimes her husband is dead, sometimes he isn't, she has to keep a calendar to figure out which. Didn't she make this same movie and call it "The Lake House" with Keanu Reeves? Didn't Denzel Washington make the same movie, and wasn't his really called "Deja Vu"? Sometimes it seems as if Hollywood is making the same movie over and over again because they really are.