There's no business like show business!

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2020

Or like show business punditry:
Was Parasite the best film of 2019?

We have no idea. Objectively, since there's really no such thing as a "best film" of any year, we'd say the answer is probably no.

What was last year'a best film? Such claims are wholly subjective.

On the other hand, some claims about major films almost seem to be evidence-based. Consider A. O. Scott's claims in this morning's New York Times about Parasite's amazing popularity with adoring audiences.

Scott was chatting with his fellow Times critics, Manohla Dargis and Wesley Morris. Few groups of narrators are more reliably unreliable. Along the way, Scott offered these gushing remarks about the current it-film:
SCOTT (2/11/20): Of course the triumph of “Parasite” goes beyond those precedents, but in other ways it’s an almost ideal Oscar movie. Admired by critics and adored by audiences. A box office hit all over the world. A wonderfully entertaining movie that tackles serious issues.

[...]

How can the [Oscar telecast] continue to attract a global audience? By focusing on the big-budget, IP-driven franchise movies that are Hollywood’s leading global export? That has been an obvious, dreary answer for quite some time, but “Parasite” suggests a different one. There’s a whole world of movies out there—exciting, surprising, popular movies—that deserve audiences and accolades in America.(Scott's italics)
There is no question that Parasite is widely "admired by critics." According to this compilation by Metacritic, it seems to have been the best reviewed film last year—indeed, the best reviewed film by far.

Parasite was picked as the year's best film by 77 of the critics monitored by Metacritic. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood finished second, with 38 "best film" picks.

Plainly, Parasite was widely "admired by critics." But has it been "adored by audiences?" Has it been a "popular" "box office hit all over the world?"

We don't know why Scott would make those gushing statements. Here's what the leading authority on Parasite says about its box office receipts as of the night of its Oscar win:
As of 9 February 2020, Parasite has grossed $35.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $132.1 million in other territories (including $72 million from South Korea), for a worldwide total of $167.6 million.
$35.5 million in the U.S. and Canada? Especially given the critical acclaim the film received, that isn't giant box office.

According to Box Office Mojo
, Parasite ranked #98 in box office receipts for 2019 as of New Year's Day 2020, following an October 11 release. At that time, it was poised between such giant hits as (the well-reviewed) Booksmart and Stuber—two other films which didn't bring in major bucks.

What does a box office hit really look like? Depending on what we're comparing to what, we'll show you where domestic receipts stand, at present, for some of last year'a films.

All data come from Box Office Mojo. We're leaving out quite a few of the year's biggest box office hits:
Domestic box office receipts, selected 2019 films:

Avengers Endgame: $858.4 million
The Lion King: $543.6 million
Star Wars Episode 9: $510.6 million
Captain Marvel: $426.8 million

Spider-Man Far from Home: $390.5 million
Joker: $335.2 million
Jumanji The Next Level: $298.5 million

Us: $175.1 million
Knives Out: $159.0 million
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood: $142.4 million
1917: $132.8 million
Ford v. Ferrari: $116.3 million
Hustlers: $105.0 million
Little Women: $102.7 million

Parasite: $35.5 million
Especially given the rave reviews, does Parasite look like a popular box office hit, one which has been adored by audiences here in the U.S.?

Parasite's domestic receipts will grow because of its Oscar win. We're not sure how many of those new attendees will actually like the widely praised film. That said, it simply wasn't "adored by audiences" or a "box office hit all over the world" as of last Sunday night.

Why did A. O. Scott say those things in this morning's Times? Did we mention the fact that he's a critic for the New York Times, whose critics may well be the planet's least reliable narrators?

Tomorrow, we'll offer one of our favorite Oscar pundit corrections of the past year—the correction which is appended to Scott's review of Little Women.

Needless to say, Scott loved the film, as was required by Hard Pundit Law. His overall assessment was, of course, a matter of judgment.

We thought the error he had to correct inserted a bit of unintentional humor into the year's widespread foolishness. It also may seem to go to a possible shortcoming with the viciously snubbed master film.

Without any question, Parasite has been hugely admired by critics. It hasn't yet been a box office hit, except in the New York Times, a place where everyone knows your name if you've been anointed, and a place where everything's possible.

20 comments:

  1. Okay, dear Bob, I'll bite: isn't it a foreign language film? And not a particularly common language, world-wide? How can you compare its box-office receipts with Avengers and other Hollywood crap?

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  2. Bob,
    FYI, Opinions are like assholes.
    Everybody has got one.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mao here took the words right of my mouth. 35 Mil is probably pretty good for a foreign film. It seems to me that TDH should move on from Little Women, and movie commentary in general. There are surely more relevant things for him to howl about. (Although this is not as bad as his obsessing about populizer's of astrophysics, or his going on about Wittgenstein.)

    ReplyDelete
  4. “Parasite” played in far fewer theaters than movies like “Avengers”.

    Also, its ratio of box-office to production budget is higher than many of the blockbusters.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't understand why Somerby considers only "objective" measures of "best film" to be relevant, and not subjective ones. Objectivity matters in science but not when it comes to enjoyment, pleasure, interest, and other emotions that are part of personal, subjective experience. When it comes to assessing subjective response, subjectivity matters. Knowing that a film grossed a certain amount isn't going to make that film a more enjoyable experience for you, if you don't like it in subjective ways.

    When many different people's subjective assessments converge on the same opinion of a film, that's when you get a "best film." And that is the way it should be.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Without any question, Parasite has been hugely admired by critics. It hasn't yet been a box office hit, except in the New York Times,"

    To Somerby, the rest of the world doesn't count. It only happens if it happens in the USA.

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