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DID YOU READ

Have comedy, won’t travel

Have comedy, won’t travel (photo)

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How do you like your comedies? Gross-out? Witty? Physical? Well however you like them, I hope you like ’em cheaply produced, because that’s how you’re going to get them for the foreseeable future, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times. Ben Fritz writes that several factors — most notably the decline in DVD sales and comedies’ relative unpopularity overseas — have forced Hollywood to drastically scale back on their budgets. The days of $50 million dollar plus budgets for comedies may be coming to an end, replaced by more films like “Bad Teacher,” which was made, according to the Times, for just $19 million, including $1 million for star Cameron Diaz (as opposed to her $8 million fee for last year’s “Knight and Day”).

My first reaction is “Well, duh.” Why in the world do you need $50 million to make a comedy anyway? You don’t. Comedy is one of those rare cinematic commodities that can’t be improved by throwing money at it. If your giant transforming robots don’t look so hot, you can pay for better special effects. Other than paying for a better screenwriter, how else can you throw money after comedy? You can’t.

But there’s a bigger problem here, one that’s been on my mind since I wrote that piece about movie stars last week and spent a lot of time looking at the recent international grosses, and that’s this idea that a lot of American comedies don’t gross well overseas. And since foreign box office is becoming more and more important, that has made comedies less and less desirable for studios. As a test case, let’s look at some recent films by Will Ferrell and compare their American and foreign grosses. I’m excluding teeny tiny movies like “Everything Must Go,” just because those are a different story altogether. All numbers come from Box Office Mojo (where else?):

“Megamind” (2010)
AMERICAN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $148.4 million
FOREIGN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $173.4 million

“The Other Guys” (2010)
AMERICAN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $119.2 million
FOREIGN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $51.2 million

“Land of the Lost” (2009)
AMERICAN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $49.4 million
FOREIGN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $19.3 million

“Step Brothers” (2008)
AMERICAN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $100.4 million
FOREIGN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $27.6 million

“Semi-Pro” (2008)
AMERICAN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $33.4 million
FOREIGN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $10.4 million

“Blades of Glory” (2007)
AMERICAN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $118.5 million
FOREIGN BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $27.1

With the exception of the animated “Megamind,” Will Ferrell’s movies do not travel well abroad. They routinely (and kind of shockingly) draw 75% of their total worldwide earnings in the United States alone. Whether Ferrell’s movies are hits (like “Blades of Glory”) or flops (like “Last of the Lost”) here hardly seems to matter. Winner or loser, they’re always losers overseas.

This isn’t true of all American comedians. Adam Sandler regularly grosses just as much overseas as he does in the U.S. (his last film, “Just Go With It,” made $103 million domestically and $111 million internationally.). I guess Cajun Man is funny wherever you are.

I completely understand the reasons why some comedies don’t survive their exportation. Filmmakers like Judd Apatow are working with particular phrasings of language and culturally specific touchstones. Part of the reason American audiences love those movies is because they speak to some fundamental part of the American experience, one that some international audiences might not be able to relate to. Unfortunately, what makes these movies worth seeing here is the same thing dooming them at the foreign box office.

But just because I understand this phenomenon doesn’t mean I like it. This is just the latest and maybe the most frustrating example of the mass mainstreaming of American movie culture. It’s not enough to for a movie to be good, it has to translate too. Giant transforming robots translate. A God with a badass magical hammer translates. A joke about Michael McDonald playing on an endless loop in box electronic stores doesn’t translate. It’s almost as if we’ve returned to the silent era of film: dialogue is out and visual storytelling is in. These aren’t sound films; they’re noise films.

Let’s hope this only means the shrinking of comedy budgets, not the removal of comedies from Hollywood development slates altogether. I’m a little worried that some day they’ll be gone completely, or replaced by comedies starring the robots from “Transformers.” Or maybe we’re approaching a dystopian world where all movies star the robots from “Transformers”: “Transformers” comedies, “Transformers” romances, “Transformers” eco-docs.

Okay, so maybe that last one would be kind of interesting.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…