Right now, the St. Louis Cardinals, a team made up of 25 men that I have never met personally, are playing in the National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, another group of 25 men that I've never met personally. I am openly rooting for the players on the Cardinals to beat the players on the Phillies -- even though this causes strife with my girlfriend because she's originally from Philadelphia. It makes sense, though: I am originally from St. Louis; even though I don't know the players personally, there is a feeling of civic pride when the team that bears the name of your hometown does something good. In turn, when your team loses a game, it makes sense that you'd feel sad deep-down because of that loss. There is nothing that makes sense about feeling sad because '50/50' didn't perform as well as it was expected.
I was really rooting for '50/50' at the box-office. I don't think I'm the only person who does this -- irrationally rooting for movies that I have nothing to do with to succeed financially -- but it still baffles me that I would do such a thing. I don't know anyone involved in the production of '50/50.' I don't know Seth Rogen, but he seems like a nice enough guy. I did interview him once, but during our ten minutes on the phone together, it's not like an emotional bond was created.
(I've heard writers claim that they know their interview subjects after a short conversation over the phone, but to say that I know Seth Rogen would be equal to saying that I know the representative at AT&T that I spoke to three weeks ago who increased the quantity of text message that I can send and receive in a given month without being charged a fee. I believe his name was Dan.)
Back to the point: I have no emotional ties to anyone in the cast or crew of '50/50' -- yet I really wanted '50/50' to do well. I have no idea why this is the case. I mean, it's not the "St. Louis 50/50s." (Though, I would have no problem if they changed the title to that for the DVD release.)
Shouldn't the point be that I liked it? Why isn't that enough? Why is it that I feel the population of the United States must universally love the film in order to enhance what I already feel?
Taking the baseball example even further, imagine if that's how I rooted: Not by wins and losses, but, instead, by attendance numbers. That would be a very sad existence. Yet, for movies, this is what we do. This is what I do. Sure, there's the argument that if the film doesn't do well, then movies like the one that I enjoyed may no longer be made by the studio. I think this is horseshit. I have no proof that this is horseshit, but I do know that this is not my concern when I feel an emotional attachment to a movie that I want to do well.
My irrational behavior has backfired before. Do you remember how much 'Titanic' made domestically its opening weekend? Neither do I. But I do remember that it was lower than expected, especially for a movie that would gross a ridiculous amount of money that I can't remember either. OK, I looked up both amounts on Box Office Mojo: 'Titanic,' a movie that grossed over $600 million domestically, only made $28 million in its opening weekend. I admit, I really liked 'Titanic' when it was released. (Actually, inexplicably, I still really like 'Titanic,' but that's another story.) I remember feeling compelled to tell everyone I knew that they needed to see 'Titanic.' I have nothing against Pierce Brosnan's James Bond, but, for whatever reason, I really wanted 'Titanic' to beat 'Tomorrow Never Dies' at the box-office, which it barely did. I won. I feel there is something quite unhealthy about this fact. I didn't win. James Cameron won. After my fifth viewing at the theater, I still had to show up to my statistics class the next morning (a class in which I would eventually earn a C-). Perhaps if I had spent more time studying statistics instead of rooting for and watching 'Titanic,' I would have earned a better grade and went on to fame and fortune as a statistician. Now, I will never know. But I will be remembered as "guy in 1997 who liked 'Titanic' too much." (Another unhealthy fact: there are five different people alive today who would answer "Mike Ryan" if asked, "Who did you first see 'Titanic' with?")
So, if it's not an emotional bond with a member of the cast and it's not civic pride, why is it that I care? The only other option is financial reward. Ha. Put it this way: I wish that I could be in a situation where I had to make a decision about a conflict of interest. "Ah, yes, I have so much money left over this month after rent, food and booze, I think I will invest my vast amount of leftover money in Summit Entertainment. If people listen to me, I will be rich."
As such, here we are: the paragraph where I attempt to wrap up all of my points and conclude with a concise answer as to why I act this way. Sadly, I'm still not really sure. If I go and see '50/50' again tonight, it's not like there would be a noticeable moral change onscreen because the actors are now aware of the disappointing results. Seth Rogen and the dolphin from 'Dolphin Tale' have never even met, let alone competed against each other in any discernable way -- but I really hate that poor dolphin. "F-ck you, dolphin," I irrationally said out loud on Sunday. My team didn't even play a game, but I feel they did. Furthermore, why do I keep typing "my team"? I don't have a team. I have a movie that I enjoyed -- that's it. The box-office results have no impact on me financially or physically and I'm ready to accept that.
Then again, I did really enjoy 'The Descendents.' You should see it.
[Photo: Summit Entertainment]
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