Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

How easy was it to guess the biggest films of 2011?

I know I am a bit late on this, but I recently remembered that, back in December 2010, I made an attempt to predict the most successful films of the looming year. I could have done better. But it is …

Sun, May 13, 2012, 22:26

   

I know I am a bit late on this, but I recently remembered that, back in December 2010, I made an attempt to predict the most successful films of the looming year. I could have done better. But it is still faintly chilling that there was so much correlation between my guesses and the eventual winners. Here’s what I said:

1. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES

2. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

3. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

4. CARS 2

5. ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: SECRET OF THE UNICORN

6. KUNG FU PANDA 2

7. THOR

8. THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1

9. THE HANGOVER PART II

10. SHERLOCK HOLMES 2

And here’s the eventual winners with my predictions in brackets.

1. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 (2)

2. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON(3)

3. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (1)

4. THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 (8)

5. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — GHOST PROTOCOL (N/A)

6. KUNG FU PANDA 2 (6)

7. FAST FIVE (N/A)

8. THE HANGOVER PART II (9)

9. THE SMURFS (N/A)

10. CARS 2 (4)

What do we learn from this? Well, it proves that, when it comes to predicting the takings of Kung Fu Panda films, Screenwriter is your only man. I got everything else wrong. Forgetting how big Tom Cruise remains in Rest of World, I failed to anticipate the huge success of Mission: Impossible. I also — foolishly, I now realise — didn’t quite grasp the number of parents who, distraught on bank holiday afternoons, would return to the bosom of The Smurfs. It should have been obvious that the throwaway cartoon would slip past the more prestigious Cars 2. My biggest mistake was, however, surely a mad belief that Tintin would lay all before it. It is easy to forget that Herge’s reporter remains a fairly obscure character in the United States. That film eventually wobbled towards the number 16 spot.

But I would still maintain that the fact that one can, in an idle half hour, predict seven of the following year’s top 10 says something rather unhappy about the current state of cinema. It’s not as if any of the entries I didn’t mention were from beyond left field: the fourth Mission: Impossible, the fifth Fast and the Furious, the first Smurfs. None of my own failed predictions were particularly eccentric.

The temptation is to say: “Oh it was ever thus”. It was not. Let’s go back 50 years to lovely old 1962. Here is the US top ten for that year.

1. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

2. THE LONGEST DAY

3. IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS

4. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

5. THE MUSIC MAN

6. DR NO

7. THAT TOUCH OF MINK

8. MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY

9. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

10. GYPSY

Yikes. It seems even longer ago than half a century. I hardly need to point out the most obvious point. There is not a single sequel in the list. Unless I’m wrong there is only one remake — Mutiny on the Bounty. A smart fellow might have guessed that two of the era’s biggest musicals — Gypsy and The Music Man — would generate massive hits. I suppose Lawrence of Arabia, a weighty epic, always looked to make a significant amount of money. Dr No was based on a very popular novel, but, then again, it didn’t even manage to break the top five in the US. The third biggest picture, In Search of the Castaways, is an almost forgotten Disney live-action picture.

Now, it would be wise not to get to dewy eyed. The 1962 list is not exactly packed with classics. Lawrence of Arabia (though I have reservations) fits the bill. To Kill a Mockingbird is durably solid. Dr No is a throat-clearing exercise for From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. The Longest Day is a bit bloated. We will, however, give out an unqualified cheer to celebrate the presence of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Now, there’s a movie.

The important point is that the films form an eclectic list that appealed to a wide variety of demographics. This year it’s very hard to imagine anything that’s not a prequel or a sequel making the top spot. It’s going to be The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises or The Hobbit. Isn’t it? The only non-sequel that looked like having a chance was The Hunger Games, but it underperformed outside America and has already been pummelled by those pesky Avengers.

I would have a guess at 2012. But this game is just too dispiriting.

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