Friday, January 01, 2010

No more nines

For some reason yesterday I became fascinating with trying to dissect why Nine bombed. It's budget is listed at $80 million according to Boxoffice Mojo, but so far it has made just over $8 million, and it's been pulled from several theaters. That's about as bomby as bombs get. So why? Here's my theory.

1) Timing. The film was up against Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Invictus, The Princess and the Frog - there's a glut of movies just opened, even if you don't count holdovers like The Blind Side, Up in the Air and It's Complicated, all of which are still hanging on to solid box office number. This isn't a blockbuster film and it isn't a low budget film and its audience is very specific. Why on earth would you open it during one of the most competitive weeks of the year? Throw it our there it in a quieter time when people have less to choose from.

2) The title. Nine? Why did they change it? Did some survey somewhere suggest that whole numbers do better at the box office that fractions? The original title of this story was 8 1/2, which was at least original. Over the past few years we've seen films titled 9 and The Nines, and a failed TV show called The Nine. I've got 9 fatigue. STOP PUTTING NINE IN THE TITLE.

3) The trailer. Know who goes to the theater to see musicals? Gay men, women, and old people. And sometimes the people they drag along with them. Yet in the previews for this film, all I saw was half naked ladies - some of them not so young anymore - parading around in some kind of worship of Daniel Day Lewis. Now, of the aforementioned gay men, women and old people, who is that supposed to appeal to? Old men, maybe? Oh yeah, there's a lucrative fan base for you. Ahh, but Chicago had hot naked ladies dancing and singing, you might say. Yes, but those women were young and popular at the time, and it was also a film about a sort of woman's empowerment. They were women you kind of wanted to be and at the same time were a little disgusted by. They were interesting women. And the Cell Block Tango, which I often show to my students as an example of a clever way to reveal exposition, appeals greatly to men because of its sexiness and women because we all relate to their rage and annoyance at the things our men do. But Nine? I just saw scantily clad women singing and Daniel Day Lewis running around flailing his arms about. The first time I saw the preview was in the theater preparing to see The Road, and I honestly had no fucking clue as to what this movie was about other than some women singing and Daniel Day Lewis running around like a lunatic on stage.

4) Movies about making movies usually only appeal to people who make movies, and all those people were off watching Avatar.

5) At least Chicago had a charming male lead in Richard Gere. When's the last time Daniel Day Lewis was charming? Sure, we all thought he was uber hot in Last of the Mohicans, but that was before we all found out how weird he is. I think Bill the Butcher took care of all my residual desire to bone Daniel Day Lewis. He's an amazing actor, and he WAS There Will Be Blood, but this didn't seem like the right film for him. I heard him on NPR admit he can't really dance or sing. He can't dance or sing, but they put him in a musical? You mean there wasn't a single known actor in all the English speaking world who could dance and sing and was available to make this film? I think when you make a musical where your lead has to dance and sing, dancing and singing ability should probably be somewhere on your list of casting requirements.

And that is why I think Nine bombed.


  1. the cast in NINE is also un-appealing. Kate Hudson? No FUCKING thanks.

    but I think one of your theories is the most true-- bad timing, up against Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. They should have released this in early spring, I think.

  2. "Nine" is basically a musical version of a Fellini flick. Thing is, the general public no longer knows who the hell Fellini was anymore.

    For better or worse, Fellini isn't relevant in our culture at the moment. That may change - the dude was nothing if not an interesting director - but, as we stand, the old "Maestro" ain't doing so well surviving the test of time.

    As for the flamboyant, womanizing, decadent world of 60s art cinema the dude seemed to rule over; well, no one remembers that, either.

    Which is kind of a shame, when you think about it, since some serious stuff came out of that chapter of film history.

    Still, there you have it.

  3. If what domremy03 says is true, it's a musical version of a Fellini flick, then they should have left the title as 8 and a half. Or maybe 8.5

  4. In defense of the title NINE that was what it was called when it was a successful Broadway musical and that's the commodity it's known as. It really isn't a straight musical remake of 8 1/2 and for that matter when the deal was made to produce the show long ago Fellini's only stipulation was that neither his name nor the title 8 1/2 could be used in connection with it. Maybe they could have called it "Precious Based on the Musical Nine by Sapphire."

    That's the only defense I'll make of it. Domeremy is right in saying that people don't have any connection with a Fellini-like figure any more. To them, it may as well be about somebody on Mars. They did relate somewhat to the characters in CHICAGO and, for that matter, that show/film had catchier songs as well (for the record, I still didn't like CHICAGO).

    I am not a gay man, a women or old (at least, I hope I'm not old) but I did see NINE out of curiosity mostly because I like Italy and I like the sixties (I also like 8 1/2, but I knew that wasn't what I was getting). Yes, the songs are forgettable and the lead isn't interesting or sympathetic or anything but it's also such a lifeless movie. It's clear that Rob Marshall has never had a single interesting cinematic concept appear in his head. It's so blah to look at and it's amazing that there are multiple Italian locations listed in the credits—about three-quarters of it may as well have been shot in Vancouver and I’m not even talking about the lame stylized soundstage-bound musical numbers. There's no passion to any of it. You should have been able to taste the red wine as you watched it. And yeah, Daniel Day-Lewis is either miscast or misdirected, a very neat trick. It's not just a terrible movie, it's a misguided, blah movie. It wouldn't have mattered when they released it--it would have tanked at any time.

  5. I prefer Daniel Day Lewis when he is scaring the crap out of me, so I guess Mr. Peel is right -- miscast.

  6. I'm pretty sure the musical was called 9...the one on Broadway, which is probably why they kept the title.

    The trailer, however, was retarded. I can't remember anything about it except there were a lot of feathers.

  7. Javier Bardem was originally cast, but dropped out. Imagine that.

  8. The trailer, however, was retarded. I can't remember anything about it except there were a lot of feathers.

    And sand. Or was that meant to be the "grains of imagination" being kicked about by women bound to torture the poor fellow? ;)


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