Self-indulgent though it may be, I'd like to begin by addressing a criticism: Recently, a reporter for Variety
described my EW column as ''largely thesis-less.'' Slander! If you look back on my oeuvre, every one of my columns has a clearly defined main idea. For instance, ''90210
is awesome!'' qualifies as a thesis. ''YouTube
is awesome!'' - that's totally a thesis. My prose is searing, precise, much like a skin-refining laser wielded by Dr. Robert Rey
. It's as decisive as Tim Gunn
making a judgment call about a sloppy hem. It's as focused and unwavering as an icing tube guided by the steady hand of that Ace of Cakes
guy. But enough with the cable-centric metaphors. On with the spew!
I think I might be one of the only people in America, or at least the only person I know, who saw both The Dark Knight
and Mamma Mia!
on their shared opening weekend. The simultaneous release of these films turned out to be a canny strategy for both Warner Bros. and Universal. The Dark Knight
(unsurprisingly) made over $48 million overnight and Mamma Mia!
had the biggest opening for any movie musical in history, surpassing even b.o. juggernauts like Xanadu
and Grease 2
. I imagine the film was also appreciated by a small yet devout group of fetishists who've spent years Photoshopping bib overalls onto pictures of Meryl Streep
Counterprogramming - pitting dissimilar films against each other in the hopes that audiences will be divided - is a high-stakes gambit. Particularly for the romantic comedies that are quietly released opposite the latest megabudget explodo-flick, Marvel adaptation, or apocalypse fantasy. Personally, I consider Titanic
the most brilliant example of successful counterprogramming; the film actually countered itself by embedding an epic chick flick within a classic disaster movie. Sentimental types got Jack and Rose flirting in steerage. The rest of us got a dude being killed by a propeller. Genius, right?
Since I like to defy classification, at least as far as market research goes, I decided to see Mamma Mia!
and The Dark Knight
in rapid succession. Stylistically, these films are jarringly incompatible. The pale, brooding denizens of dim Gotham City are like a photonegative of Mamma
's blond, tanned revelers on their sparkling Greek isle. Christian Bale
's inscrutable, rasping antihero is the ideological opposite of Amanda Seyfried
's saucer-eyed bride. The Dark Knight
makes bold, definitive statements about morality and responsibility. Mamma Mia!
is - to borrow a distinctive term - largely thesis-less. Shockingly, I loved both films!