Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

War films, what are they good for? — not box office

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Damon1Iraq war films. They may be good for Academy Awards, but not for Hollywood’s b ox office receipts — not yet, anyway.

Ever since “In the Valley of Elah” hit movie theaters in 2007, we in the media have been writing stories looking at whether and when audiences might turn out in big numbers for films that in some way cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several movies dealing with some aspect have come and gone in theaters with very little box office to show for it. The mostly low-budget movies include “Stop-Loss,” “Brothers” or even “The Kite Runner,” which had nothing to do with the current war but nevertheless was about Afghan culture. Even some big-budget films such as “Jarhead” (2005) or “The Kingdom” (2007), which feigned that they had nothing to do with the current conflicts but could not be watched outside the context of today’s headlines, failed to generate big returns.

So, with that as a backdrop and just coming off the Oscar victory for “The Hurt Locker” earlier this month, a good many movie reporters watched anxiously to see if this past weekend’s “Green Zone” could break the slump. It had a major Hollywood star in Matt Damon and top director with Paul Greengrass. The two had pairedDamon up before in two of the smash hit “Bourne” spy movies. It had all the makings of a box office smash, except that the story took place inside the US controlled green zone in Baghdad and covered the US military’s inability to find weapons of mass destruction following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The outcome: the movie flopped. You can read about “Green Zone” here and an interview with Damon here and this weekend’s box office story here.

from Tales from the Trail:

General Odierno gives “The Hurt Locker” friendly review

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OSCARS/As the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno must have on-the-ground knowledge of the American military teams that defuse roadside bombs in Iraq.

So it seems like high praise, indeed, that he complimented the Oscar-winning movie "The Hurt Locker" for how it portrayed the sacrifices made by bomb disposal soldiers in the Iraq war.

10 Oscar nominees, but who’s counting?

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Oscar1Back in June, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it would expand its list of best film Oscar contenders to 10 from five, then Academy President Sid Ganis told reporters doing so would “cast our net wider, and it casting that net wider, who knows what will turn up.” (Read about that here). Essentially, what that meant was the Academy wanted more populist fare among its nominees after years of seeing its membership favor low-budget adult dramas over box office hits like Batman movie, “The Dark Knight.”

Why is that important? The Academy knows that nominating popular movies helps boost the audience size for the Oscar telecast. Last year, when “Slumdog Millionaire” was on a roll at box offices ($141 million), more than 38 million people tuned in to the Oscars compared with 32 million the previous year when gritty drama “No Country For Old Men” ($74 million) won best film. 

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