Why do all the movies that you want to see open the week between Christmas and New Year’s? And by “you,” I mean people who are older than 13.
During January, February, March and April, when you have plenty of free time on your hands, nothing will come out of Hollywood but movies made for 13-year-olds with severe ADD, who can’t sit through a movie unless there is a body-part joke every 30 seconds. But during the holidays, when adults are so busy cooking, wrapping, traveling and socializing, the studios release one must-see blockbuster after another.
There are many reasons for this, the main one being the age-old tradition of going to the mall the day after Christmas to return unwanted gifts as if they have a shelf life of only one day, then gorging at the Cheesecake Factory and numbing out at a movie, just like they did in the Bible. (Not that Bible, silly, the show-business bible: Variety.)
After all, what says Christmas more than “Sherlock Holmes,” “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Mission: Impossible” or “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”? It’s like a Currier and Ives scene.
But there’s another reason so many films come out in December: To compete for the following year’s Oscars, a film has to be shown in a theater before Jan. 1.
Why aren’t Oscar-worthy movies spread out over the rest of the year so you have a chance to see more than one or two of them before the awards ceremony? Because Hollywood bigwigs know that the people who vote for the Academy Awards are just like the rest of us. They can’t remember the movies they saw in the distant past of last January, or even October. So the closer to the new year a film is released, the better chance it has for winning awards.
This causes even more problems. That film that’s getting all the Oscar buzz? It’s in the theaters before the end of the year, all right -- one theater in L.A. and one in New York. The rest of the country won’t be able to see it until the middle of January.
TV shows and magazines will start to do profiles about actors and actresses, writers and directors, producers and reviewers, and about which films should win awards and which should be ignored. One story that shows up this time of year is “The Smartest Man in Hollywood.”
It will be about some guy who’s had three or four hit movies in a row. Is “smart” really the right word for that? Has he proved Fermat’s Last Theorem? Can he speak five languages? Does he know how oxygen gets from the lungs into the blood? Does he understand chemical bonding? Has he read Proust? Joyce? Cervantes? Does he understand string theory?
No. He made a few hit movies. He also made three or four movies that were so bad even cable television won’t run them at 4 a.m. He’s on his fifth wife, and his kids from his first, third and fifth marriages don’t speak to him (even though they will all want to be in show business and will blame him when they fail). He’s been admitted to rehab four times, and he’s doing 100 hours of community service for a DUI violation, which is really strange, because he gets around town in a chauffeur-driven limo. Smart? It makes you wonder what a total whack job the second-smartest man in Hollywood must be.
One day I’d love to see a story called “The Happiest Man in Hollywood,” but, apparently, there isn’t one.
Jim Mullen’s new book, “Now in Paperback,” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.