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Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club

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Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club

With Dallas Buyers Club, Jean-Marc Vallée, previously known for his penchant for hyper-stylization, attempts a gritty approach to the inspired-by-true-events, issue-driven biopic formula. Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a tenacious, rodeo-loving electrician from Texas who, upon being diagnosed with HIV, shouts at doctors, “I ain’t no faggot.” Not one to ever back down in a fight, Ron refuses to accept that he has 30 days left to live and, with a newfound knowledge of the disease, and booze streaming through his blood, he confronts the hospital’s administration and demands to be given AZT, a yet-to-be-FDA-approved pill that pharmaceutical companies are pushing for profit and that he gets on the sly through a hospital janitor. When his supply dries out, he heads to Mexico, where he’s eventually informed of an effective drug cocktail of proteins and vitamins, which he, dressed as a priest, smuggles back into the U.S. and—with the help of a well-connected, HIV-positive transsexual, Rayon (Jared Leto)—distributes via a membership-based business to people desperate for expensive, hard-to-get AIDS drugs.

Box Office Rap Elysium and the Summer Traffic Jam

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Box Office Rap: Elysium and the Summer Traffic Jam
Box Office Rap: Elysium and the Summer Traffic Jam

Jacques Tati and Jean-Luc Godard would undoubtedly be amused with the August traffic jam Hollywood has made for itself, as 14 wide releases will debut within the next four weeks. June 2013 saw just eight new releases, but even then, a mega-budgeted film such as Man of Steel only managed to stay in theaters for seven weeks, so the likelihood of any August films sticking around for longer than a month becomes a near impossibility. Has the summer market always been so saturated? Looking back to June 1993, seven major studio films saw wide releases, only one less than 2013. However, Jurassic Park played in theaters for 71 consecutive weeks. Even Last Action Hero, a film that brought a studio to its knees, lasted 12 weeks during that 1993 summer.

The casualties this summer have been numerous. Most notable is, perhaps, The Lone Ranger, a $215 million production that fell to just 553 theaters in its fifth weekend and is likely to be out of theaters by Friday by the time this week’s four mega-wide releases drop. What’s an onlooker to make of these developments? On the one hand, from a cultural capital perspective, these are dire days. Matt Zoller Seitz wrote an excellent, and spot-on, positive review of Gore Verbinski’s film, in which he bets that, like Steven Spielberg’s 1941, 20 years from now The Lone Ranger will be “re-evaluated” and discussed as “misunderstood.” Seitz’s thoughtful and contemplative review shuns much of the mob-mentality demonstrated by the film’s embarrassing Rotten Tomatoes score and reveals the underlying problem with such an adopted critical system: emphasis on scores and figures over ideas and commentary. Yet his perceptive insights are lost amid this contemporary climate because, in turn, the marketplace cannot hold such a product long enough to receive honest feedback and critique; the “critical consensus” passes immediate judgment on The Lone Ranger to expedite the film’s financial (and cultural) execution. On the other hand, a neo-Marxist couldn’t help but delight in Mouse House miscalculation, as the film appears unlikely to match its budget through even its worldwide haul, which currently stands at $175 million.