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The Cautionary Box-Office
by Christopher Stone

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THE IDES OF MARCH is Clooney's canny cautionary tale for USA, circa 201

THE IDES OF MARCH is Clooney's canny cautionary tale for USA, circa 201
Mostly, Hollywood gives us mindless entertainment, aimed, almost exclusively, at the 14-25-year-old males who fuel the box-office.

Once in a Blue Moon, the majors try a cautionary tale - a flick that warns us of danger: be it the 1930s' campy REEFER MADNESS or last year's sexy BLUE VALENTINE. Cautionary tales don't always mean big box-office, but they can alert us to serious perils ahead.

An early Box-office cautionary tale, one that was successful enough to be remade three times, was WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? (1932). In this RKO/Pathe Picture: a waitress at the Brown Derby befriends a likable, alcoholic director, and her star goes into high orbit. At the same time, the director, and his career, are on the wane.

The messages: Fame is fickle, and the price of Hollywood stardom starts at an arm and a leg - and goes up from there. The tale was tweaked and the title was changed, but the messages remained the same. WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? was remade three times as A STAR IS BORN. A fourth A STAR IS BORN is currently in development, and Beyonce has been named as the possible star.

Match-Flickers may remember one or more of these Hollywood films that warned us of a danger - or dangers:

AMERICAN BEAUTY: This 1999 multiple Oscar winner, starring Kevin Spacey, cautioned its audience: You can never keep up with the Joneses, and trying to do so will kill your spirit, and possibly lead to your death.

THE MATRIX TRILOGY: (1999-2003). The warning in these Keanu Reeves thrillers was clear and succinct: Don't let technology rule the world! For Keanu, whose movie star has been in decline since the final MATRIX, the personal warning may have been: Don't let technology take over your film career.

V FOR VENDETTA (2006): As if the events of 9/11 weren't enough, this thriller, starring Natalie Portman and Rupert Graves cautioned us, "Don't let extremists take over!"

Before its October 7 U.S. opening, THE IDES OF MARCH had already wowed Match-Flickers at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals - as well it should. IDES, a classic Faustian morality tale, is one of the best pictures of 2011.

Directed by, and starring, George Clooney, the flick warns us about the rotten fabric at the core of our political system, as well as the greed and selfishness that has been eroding our country for decades.

I had hoped that American movie-goers would anoint and embrace this great American political melodrama with monster box- office success. Sadly, that was not to be. Seven weeks after its U.S. release, this timely and topical cautionary tale has earned less than $40 million domestically, and it's worldwide cum is stuck at $46.2 million.

My hope now is that IDES will garner multiple Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, sending Match-Flickers back to the box-office to see what they are missing.

On the eve of a presidential election year, with our choices largely limited to a Scarlett party that's completely owned and operated by the corporations, and a sky-hued party that's largely bought and paid for by lobbyists, IDES goes a long way in explaining why the current crop of White House hopefuls evoke clowns rather than leaders, as well as why our country's best days appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

IDES brilliantly explores the corrosive, corrupted dark side of American politics, without ever letting us know if there is a bright side. Every adolescent and adult American should see this movie.

This isn't virgin territory by any means. For many, IDES will bring to mind two other great American political cautionary tales: THE CANDIDATE (1972) and ALL THE PRESIDENT''S MEN (1976). But our democracy has gone from bad to worse since 1970s, and Clooney's is a 21st Century take, enhanced by a powerful and Oscar-worthy performance by Ryan Gosling, as an idealist,forced to become a realist.

As well as delivering important warnings about the society in which we live, IDES is also compelling entertainment. If you haven't yet seen THE IDES OF MARCH, get thee to the multiplex. And beware the dangers of which the flick warns.

FALL BOX-OFFICE WATCH: Just short of a franchise record-breaker, THE TWILIGHT SAGA:BREAKING DAWN, PART 1, owned the Pre- Thanksgiving Weekend Box-Office, generating a potent $139.5 million, domestically, and a staggering worldwide cum of $283.5 million. On the other foot, the HAPPY FEET franchise had nothing to dance about. The penguins tapped out only $22 million in their sequel. The original had an opening weekend of $41.5 million. The previous week's Número UNO IMMORTALS plunged 62 percent to capture $12.3 million and third place.

HOLIDAY WEEKEND PICK: Quality-loving Match-Flickers. run. don't walk, to MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.

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Nov 30, 2011 8:06 AM
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At least Clooney is attempting to discuss these issues and expose them to the light. Thanks,

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

Summer: The Biggest Winners and the Biggest Losers

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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