Jul 16, 2010

Whatever happened to the box-office bomb?

"It used to be one of the more raucous spectator sports in America — watching Hollywood gather together some of the finest talents in the land, throw barrowfuls of money at them, lock them in a sound stage and not let them out until they had made the biggest, proudest, costliest turkeys yet devised by human hand. Bonfire of the Vanities. Waterworld. Last Action Hero. Cutthroat Island. Their names were legend. They bestrode the world like colossi, their charred, rusting bulks a testament to the reach of man’s hubris, the folly of human dreams, and the price of bottle water at Spagos. They were so famous, people wrote books about them; we pored over every directorial temper tantrum and movie-star sulk like fish inspecting a shipwreck, looking for signs of the times, auguries of things to come, or else just a cheap shot of schadenfreude, although frequently it would be the bombs themselves that had the last laugh. Their notoriety was so great, their shadow so long, that eventually they subject to the same revisionism that envelops anything that sticks around in the culture for long enough. Recent critical opinion has it that Heaven’s Gate is not a bad film, just a ruinously costly one, and even Ishtar has its defenders — ironic, coquettish types who wink at you from behind their Yashmaghs. What’s happened to those films — the megabombs, the nuclear flops?" — from my piece for Slate about the disappearance of the box office bomb

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