11 January 2011

War of the Months: January

Well it's the Second Tuesday of the Month, which can only mean one thing, of course. It's time for the War of the Months! What does that mean? Um...well we here at Norwegian Morning Wood hold a stalwart belief in Superfluous Journalism and dammit, these are things that deserve examination. Each and every month in 2011 we'll be chatting a bit about what these months typically mean for movies, and a handy list of the greatest films ever released in that month. And by ever I mean dating back to around 1989...because that's the last year that Wikipedia has its movies ordered that way. Let's begin!

January: Month of Shit

The first month of the year is a month of new beginnings, resolutions and Holiday Hangovers. For December oncoming snow is a nice reminder that Christmas is right around the corner. January Snow is a reminder that we've got three months left of this shit. January sucks. It's a way to remind us of shit that we should be doing this year, kids have to go back to school after Christmas, and no one really wants to do anything.

So what movies to release? How about all the crap that wasn't good enough for the Holiday Season? Since the cut-off for the Year's Awards Eligibility ends with December 31st, even smaller films that Studios use to bait Oscar Voters have typically come and gone at this point. So all that's left is spectacular shit like Daybreakers (2010) and Bride Wars (2009). Wow. The old standard is thus that January is this rollover month for both quality and box office. The best we'd get is either an Oscar Bait getting a wider release or some other hangover film from the Christmas Season.

Box Office Returns - Mild to Milder:

Here are two cool lists from BoxOfficeMojo.com. The first is the greatest Box Office Opening Weekends in January of All Time. Take a look. Go, absorb and come back. We'll wait.

Okay, notice a few things. Firstly, that the second-highest here is the release of the first Special Edition of Star Wars in 1997. There isn't another film from the 90s or earlier in the Top 30 and that record of $35 million wasn't beat until Cloverfield (2008). That's hideous. But we can also check out the fact that Cloverfield had a pretty decent January opening, mostly due to a viral mystery campaign that actually worked and a gimmicky yet well-executed plot.

In the years since, though, January has proved not to be quite the commercial mire it once was, if not still lacking in any kind of critical success. You can check out Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009), The Book of Eli (2010), the wide release of Gran Torino (2008) and Taken (2009) as all recent January release that eventually made close to or over $100 million. There is this growing feel for January as a spot to put dumb broad comedies or aging action star vehicles. Just shit that is half-good that can make a quick buck. Movies that are really best served being caught at 2 AM Sunday morning on F/X. January is becoming that kind of month - stupid, not even really entertaining movies, but truly brainless features. Something just slightly better to do for two hours than stare at your thumbs.

The second list from BoxOfficeMojo (so convenient), is the Highest Grossing Januaries of All Time. Go look, back, whatever. You may be wondering why 2010 won easily with Blart and Taken boosting 2009. Well, remember AVABAR (2009)? Yeah, that motherfucker wasn't out of theaters for months while making ridiculous bank all over town. January's cash is almost always fueled by Christmas Hangover Films, really only that 2009 contained a handful of flicks that could survive on their own. While Cloverfield had the greatest weekend in 2008, it didn't really sustain the momentum, the first weekend accounted for 50% of its eventual total Box Office.

Best Films Ever Released in January:

This was pretty tough. Eventually I found really only Eight Films released in this month in the past two decades that I've enjoyed. Some are actually kind of surprising to find out. So, in order of least to most liked by only me, here we go:

#8: March of the Penguins - 01/26/05
#7: Taken - 01/30/09
#6: Orange Country - 01/11/02
#5: Kung Pow: Enter the Fist - 01/25/02
#4: Half-Baked - 01/16/98
#3: Cloverfield - 01/18/08
#2: Grandma's Boy - 01/06/06
#1: Smokin' Aces - 01/26/07

Hey, I said it was rough. Like I said before sometimes you can catch the wide release of some flick like 12 Monkeys (1995), There Will Be Blood (2007) or Gran Torino but more often than not for films that originate in January there's this deep aura of shit. Is Smokin' Aces really the Greatest January Movie Ever? Well fuck, I dare you do show me better. That's a really cool movie. Happy 01/11/11.

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