My book review of Hollywood Blockbusters: The Anthropology of Popular Movies by David Sutton and Peter Wogan (Berg, Oxford and New York, 2009; AU$39.95; NZ$54.95) has just been published in the March 2011 issue of Media International Australia. It’s a fascinating book, with useful insights (I loved the Field of Dreams analysis of baseball).
Unfortunately, in the authors’ enthusiasm for examining how cultural myths have entered the American subconscious, they have ignored some hard truths about the five films they have chosen to examine: only two of the five are bona fide blockbusters – Jaws and The Godfather, both of which topped the American box office in their respective years of first release. Field of Dreams only grossed US$64 million in 1989, and sat in nineteen place in US theatrical box office rankings. While The Big Lebowski may be a cult classic, it never has had pretentions to blockbuster status, grossing just over US$17 million when released in 1998, coming in at 96th place. The Village grossed US$114 million in 2004, sitting in twentieth place in USA box office rankings, and had an extremely rapid fall-off of admissions, testifying to that film’s lack of staying power. While these facts do not undermine the good analyses included, they do mean the book’s title is misleading: simply using the subtitle “The Anthropology of Popular Movies” would have been much more appropriate.
You can read my full review by clicking on the attachment at the top of this post.