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Skepchick Quickies 4.22

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. As much as it pains me to say so, I disagree with the suggestion that Expelled failed. I think it actually did pretty well for a documentary film without the major star presence of, say, Michael Moore. Heck, Morgan Spurlock’s new film opened this weekend too(granted, on about only 1/10th as many screens), and had a far lower per-screen average.

    Plus, I felt that Hemant (or whoever he quoted)’s evaluation against other famous docs didn’t account for the competition against which those films opened, the (mostly) positive buzz they all had before opening, and WHEN during the year they opened. Taking just this weekend, Expelled had the third highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Friday, fifth highest on Saturday, and fourth on Sunday. While the raw numbers dropped off sharply each day, those are still pretty good for a doc.

    The only positive I can hope for is that the sharp decline in attendance may exceed the normal rate of drop off from Friday to Sunday and suggest poor word-of-mouth and, thus, more rapidly diminishing returns. But as it is, it’s not unreasonable to assume the film could near or pass 10 million in domestic receipts, which would probably be a pretty significant triumph.

  2. Saw Padre of the Balloons on the news last night and clearly he’s been watching Mythbusters or Donny Deck Chair. He really had an amazing amount of balloons!! Perhaps God was not his co-pilot.

  3. Well, what he said was apparently that he was feeling:

    “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa”

    because

    “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”

    It still shocks me that he said that. It sucks that, in addition to (or maybe even instead of) being remembered as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, he will be remembered as a racist.

    It also bugs me that scientists can be just as irrational as anyone else. I once knew another geophysicist in grad school who did not believe in evolution, but did believe that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Of course! He knew too much about radio-dating to fall for the usual creationist arguments about that. It’s funny how people sometimes, when it comes to an area they don’t know very much about, are so willing to say that the people who do work in that area are wrong.

  4. “Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of balloons appeared with a suit of flight, and separated the two of them; and Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli went up by a whirlwind into heaven. ”

    II Kings 2:11
    New Skeptic Version

  5. In other news: did you see the article about the “quickly evolving lizard”?

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080421-lizard-evolution.html

    Creationists have been complaining for years that they can’t see evolution happening. “You don’t see a dog grow another leg…” Well, check out this lizard. True, this isn’t like growing an extra leg, however it is like growing an extra stomach, bigger head, and stronger bite!

  6. ” I think it actually did pretty well for a documentary film without the major star presence of, say, Michael Moore.”

    No, Expelled had Ben Stein, someone who has more recognizability than Michael Moore.

    I think this film is a failure by any reasonable standard. I honestly feel I no longer need to waste my time with it. (Back to the grassroots.)

  7. scotte, do you really think Ben Stein is more recognizable than Michael Moore? I’d say that point is debatable, for sure, and given that it’s a documentary, not a game show or 80s movie, Michael Moore would be a bigger draw.

    What was the last non-Moore documentary to do $3 million in business on opening weekend? Tupac Resurrection is the ONLY other one I can find.

    Three million is a respectable sum for ANY doc during its WHOLE run. According to Box Office Mojo, it’s already the 30th most successful documentary since 1982 (the extent of their listings), after just one weekend. If it makes $10 million total, it’ll be in ninth place behind Super Size Me.

    I despise the liars that made that film as much as anyone, but it was no failure and we look bad to spin it as one. The only measure I can find by which it isn’t a well-performing doc is that it opened in more theaters than any documentary I can see listed at Box Office Mojo.

    Perhaps it didn’t do as well as its supporters hoped, but to anyone with a reasonable expectation for documentary film performance, it did well enough. And to me, it did well enough to cause concern.

  8. I wonder what the comparison would be for advertising rates between Expelled and other documentaries. I don’t usually watch TV but I did last week and it felt like there were a lot of Expelled commercials on. Probably just my bias but it still makes me wonder.

    And yes, James Watson has his own special brand of loony. I liked how the article I linked mentioned that.

  9. ” I’d say that point is debatable, for sure, and given that it’s a documentary, not a game show or 80s movie, Michael Moore would be a bigger draw.”

    Eh. This strike me as being immaterial. Either someone is recognizable enough, or they aren’t. (Ben Stein I could pick out of a line-up. Michael Moore, not.)

    But in any case, I doubt any star power would have assisted drawing anyone to this film. If someone went to see it, then they went to see it for purely ideological reasons, not because they’re a Ben Stein fan.

    If the film is a cause for concern, you’re looking at the wrong end of the dog. The film will be very forgotten by everyone it had hoped to reach by next year. Say what you will about the American public’s ability to be distracted by shiny, but it does work against people looking to cash in on Stein’s recognizability.

    “I despise the liars that made that film as much as anyone, but it was no failure and we look bad to spin it as one”

    If the only allowable definition of its success is that it made money at the box office, then fine, it’s a success.

    But it seems to me that this is a profoundly useless measure of success. The film is already not even being targeted at it’s oft-stated audience (i.e., those who are not evolution deniers to begin with). By that point alone, the film fails catastrophically.

    Placing at 30th since 1982 is not impressive. Impressive is first. Maybe second is slightly less impressive (runner-up wouldn’t be bad). But noting that 30th in 22 years time is substantially underwhelming is not spin: it’s common sense.

    Ultimately, I’m not willing to expend a whole lot of effort being worried about a movie which will have all the relevance of yesterday’s potato peelings in a shorter period of time than even I thought.

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