Monday, January 26, 2009

Nerd. . . the new hotness?

I have always been one for pondering the mysteries of life. Here's my latest: for the second week in a row, "Paul Blart, Mall Cop" has been number one at the box office.

Okay, I confess, I chuckled at the trailer when in the theater for another show. I tried to be a good sport about the possibilities, remembering Kevin James's memorable romantic nerd as one of the high spots of the movie "Hitch." And I honestly think Kevin James has a handsome face. . . on a nerdly body. He's naturally comedic and has an appealing "every man" thing going.

But really. Number One? In the season of "Benjamin Button" and "Doubt" and "Slumdog Millionaire" and even the Oscar-snubbed "Gran Torino"? Yep. Numero Uno.

Interestingly, this happens in the same week that Academy Award nominations were announced for most of the above-mentioned movies. . . none of which even made it into the top four on any given week. So what does that say about the disconnect between the Hollwood-ites and the rest of the viewing public? That it's big and growing? That it's in danger of snapping the fragile ties of respect the viewing public has for Oscars? That Hollywood is badly misreading the mood of the country? That our tolerance for paying $8.50 to $10.00 to sit in a darkened theater and be talked down to or be badgered with depressing or sobering or even just quirky images has reach the breaking point?

Maybe it means that with Caterpillar laying off 20,000 (announced this morning!) and Detroit circling the drain and the biggest banks in the country on public life support and everyone's retirement decimated and income in jeopardy . . . we just need a damned good laugh.

And maybe it means that the operatic lives of the stars and the arrogance of the Hollywood elite have finally exceeded our appetite for them. Maybe it means we're getting back to more central and down-to-earth values. It's hard to admire Paris Hilton's swag-grabbing greed and self-absorbed self-importance, or marvel at the millions paid for pictures of the "it" couple's new baby when people all around you are losing jobs and you're wondering where your next house payment is coming from.

Maybe it's a sign our society is waking up. Growing up. Maybe it's just the pendulum swinging back. . . away from artifice and glamor to something more basic and enduring. Fun. Escape into good fiction. Bonding with characters because they're kind of like us. Enjoying their triumph vicariously.

And maybe it's the REVENGE OF THE NERDS boxoffice style. Maybe nerds really are sexier and more desirable than anybody gives them credit for. They're certainly more interesting than the manequin-perfect pretty boys Hollywood churns out in droves. I mean, there were a couple of guys in my high school class who had distinct possibilities. . . waaaay smart, nose stuck in books, not at all conceited, and not especially social. . . who turned out to be quite the catch. Did you have any of those guys in your class? Where are they now?

What do you think? Do we just have "hottie" fatigue? Are we tired of washboard abs and guys who are too sexy for their shirts? Is Nerd the new Hottie? Or is there room for both in our hearts and imaginations? Check this out:

Is he adorable or what?

WHAT do you think? What's responsible for the success of "Mall Cop?" How many of the Academy Awards's "Best Picture" nominees have you seen? How many would you/do you want to see? And do you think Nerds may be on the way IN?


M. said...

Haven't seen any of the Oscar nominees nor Mallcop yet, but my DH and I have also marvelled at the popularity. We think maybe the genius of this movie is that it straddles adult & kid appeal - our 8 y.o. has repeatedly said he wants to see it. Something about the slapstick and segway in the trailers made it appealling to him. Go figure.

Michele Hauf said...

I loved Kevin James in his TV series (the name completely escapes me though right not).

Not sure if nerds are having their revenge or there was just slim pickings for movies this weekend. Underworld opened and I raced to see that one. Also saw Frost/Nixon, and now completely understand all the awards hoopla around that one.

As for nerds, my latest fav TV show is THE BIG BANG THEORY. Nerd bonanza! And man is it funny, and smart, and sexy and a very Spock meets Bill Gates kind of way.

lois greiman said...

Hasn't there always been a disconnect between the Oscars and what people really want to see though? Remember English Patient. My husband HAD to see it cuz it was up for a bazillion awards. I'm still mad that I paid money for that one. If I want to get depressed I can do it for free.

And for all your amazing wisdom, Betina (I mean that sincerely) I'm not sure that making Mall Cop a favorite can possibly mean that America is growing up. Remember Jack Ass the movie? I bout cried when that did well at the box office. On the other hand, watching Marley (of Marley and Me) walk through the window of the car while Wilson held his hind end just about gave me a laughing hernia. I'm a sucker for comedy. Then again, I looooved Benjamin Button. Go figure.

I've come to the conclusion that people are too complex (read weird) to figure out.

Betina Krahn said...

Okay, Lois (snicker, chortle, cough) you got me with the "growing up" thing. Maybe a wee bit too optimistic. lol. And I had totally forgotten about the Jackass movie thing. sigh. Can only read so much wisdom into the American movie tastes. I must have a rose-colored hangover from the inauguration.

Marilyn, I haven't seen many of the awards nominees either. Which is strange, considering I see at least one movie a week. (Saw 74 last year-- I counted it up last week!) In my defense, most of the nominated ones came out in the last two weeks of 2008, and I honestly didn't have much of an urge to see them. "Benjamin Button" came and went already. They're having to bring it back as an "also running" in our area. I guess I'll have to see it.

And Michele, I ADORE the Big Bang Theory. GREAT nerds! And appallingly accurate. My son and daughter-in-law went to Carnegie Mellon U, where nerds are king. . . and the show is like a glimpse of their undergrad dorm life! they're all close to my heart.

Cindy Gerard said...

Betina, I love the way your mind works. Love the post and all of your observations and I think that the answer to all of them is Yes. Specifically, yes I think there's a disconnect between the 'common folk' like us and the Hollywood elite. And yes, we like to laugh. Kevin James is just a laughable, affable sweetie pie who appears to have no pretenses. I think that is much of his appeal. My best laughs still come from The Office. I've know someone like every single one of the Dunder Mifflin staff. It's comedic parody at its very best.

Terry S said...

I do think there is a disconnect between Hollywood and the viewing public. There isn't one of the Oscar contention movies I have any interest in seeing. In fact I saw more in theater movies in the last month than I have in the past year. I liked them both and both were definitely in the category of escapism...Inkheart (love Brendan Fraser) and Yes Man (Jim Carey back in comedic form).

I think the new McDonald's latte commercial (2 men in a coffee shop) is brilliant and parallels your thoughts today.

Bottomline for me, just about 100% of movies today should be straight to DVD and even then I would pass on 98% of them. I'd rather read.

Keri Ford said...

I'll take a funny movie any day! I want to see this one, but I haven't. Will probably be waiting for the chance to rent it.

I am personally sick of hearing about the 'it' couple. Wouldn't hurt my feelings none if they went to their French home and stayed there, never to be heard of again. Hello! Hollywood, there are other chicks out there who can do badass.

I've never gotten the movie awards show. most of the times the ones nominated I'd never even heard of. So yeah, they way out of touch.

D Twomey said...

Generally speaking, I usually enjoy the movies that get bad reviews and dislike the ones that get good reviews. Hmm... what does that say about me? I've always wondered, but am much too afraid to figure it out....

Helen Brenna said...

Hmm. So much to think about in your post, Betina.

Kevin James is sweet and funny and real. And nerds have been on the upswing for years. Starting, I think, with Napoleon Dynamite all those years ago.

I think it's very cool.

I agree there's a disconnect between Hollywood and real people. But the Oscars have never been good about nominating comedies. And that'll probably never change.

Betina Krahn said...

Cindy-- your words are manna for my battered soul!

Terry S, I saw "Yes Man," too, and LOVED it! I came out of the theater wanting to say YES to everything and experience life at full throttle! I also liked the portrayal that what sometimes seemes like a bad thing can turn out to be a good thing in the end! A lesson I've really needed reinforced of late. I was on a hopeful upper for days after that movie!

Keri and D Twomey, I have gotten pretty jaded about "critics" lately. Usually a B or C movie is one I'll really enjoy; they don't try too hard to be clever and deep. I'm usually suspicious of the "A" movies. . . something is probably pushed to the limit there.

And Helen, don't you think that it's a little easier, these days, to be okay with "less than perfect"? Or is that just me? I know kids still feel a lot of pressure to conform, but with nerds and others finding respect and fun and even love. . . maybe the standards are not quite so rigid.

Betina Krahn said...

And, hey, I notice nobody has seconded my notion of "hottie fatigue." Think such a thing exists?

Kylie said...

I don't see that this is any different than at any other time of history. Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler consistently nab number 1 and 2 spots. Stupid comedy seems to sell. My kids love it but they preface they're remarks to me by saying, 'you won't like it because it has stupid humor'. The only exception, ever, was Chris Farley movies because he cracked me up.

Hollywood sees themselves as representing the best of the best. The Oscars are really more for them than us. They commemorate the movies they want to believe are their most distinctive works. I don't have a problem with that. It's much like fiction--the literary awarded fiction isn't necessarily the most popular.

I'll watch all the nominees eventually. I always do. And because I like Kevin James I just might give Mall cop a whirl but only if I can rent it.

flip said...

I have never been attracted to pretty men. I don't find Brad Pitt hot. (HE might be a very nice person) I like the rugged type much more. As for a guy like Kevin James, I prefer intelligence, humor, compassion, and strength over a six pack any day.

Caroline said...

Hi Betina,
Very fun post. I haven't yet seen the nominated movies, or Mall Cop yet, but as Keri said, I'll take a funny, good time movie any day. I don't see the dark ones or slasher. I love a good romance, or just plain good story. Something about laughing though is wonderful...


Kathleen Eagle said...

I think M. hit the nail on the head with the cross-over audience theory, which is probably true for many of the comedies like this. Slapstick is probably way high on the popularity scale for humor. Satire (my personal fave) not so popular.

This kind of movie is usually a rental for me. We watched "Swing Vote" this weekend. It's the redneck buffoon character, but there's an interesting theme and lots of laughs. Costner seems to shine in this kind of role.

The use of the word "elite" has changed a lot in recent years. Interesting.

It's true that blockbusters aren't usually the award winners. Sometimes they are. Titanic. Dances With Wolves. Also true that many actors feel they do their best work in the smaller budget movies, and the only reward might turn out to be a golden statue from peers and posthumously getting hailed as a genius. Robert Redford says (in a really interesting 2-hr bio special that pops up on cable now and then) that he pays the bills by starring in the big movies so he can produce and direct the script he loves.

Some carryover to our business, I'm sure. It can be an art, but for most of us it has to be a business, lest we be driven to chop an ear off. For supper.

Christie Ridgway said...

I'm not a fan of funny movies that rely too much on slapstick. I don't like movies where teenage guys do gross things. The trailer for Mall Cop looked kind of fun, though no way would I pay theater prices for it.

I've seen Slumdog Millionaire (loved it) and there's others I want to see, but the dh is having a bad back spell. Hope he gets more comfortable soon, because we enjoy going together.

Debra Dixon said...

In defense of the Oscar nominees...I have been very very busy and haven't seen as many movies as I normally do in a year. At least not at the theater. (Netflix is a revolving door around here.)

But, still, I have zero desire to pay real money to see any of the Oscar nods for Best Pic.

I'm a sad spectator to too many real-life dramas to want to see anything depressing on screen.

I adore a good nerd movie. Of course Vicki Lewis Thompson has done quite well with her Nerds series!

Kathleen Eagle said...

I thought maybe hottie fatigue was a function of being a woman and realizing that the hotties are mostly my sons' ages. I'm with flip on the pretty boys. Not a real turn-on for me unless they have real talent. And then it's the talent.

I do think the Oscars should give a best comedy/musical award the way Golden Globe does. I've always thought RWA should go that way, too, rather than some of the more thematic categories.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Had to check the Oscar nominees. I haven't seen any to the best pic noms: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

I want to see all of them. Also "Doubt" because I love MStreep and PSHoffman. I'll probably save most of them for dvd, though. They all hit at once, didn't they? One thing I've heard about Benjamin Button is that there's a big chunk devoted to visual feasting on BPitt.

Michele Hauf said...

I just saw Frost/Nixon yesterday. (Blogged about it today at Dusted.)

This is not a movie I would have ever gone to watch had it not starred one of my fav actors, Michael Sheen. I'm just not into politics.

I was fascinated. I never really understood the Nixon thing because I was around 10 at the time. Just knew my dad didn't like the dude. So to see the movie explained some of that for me. I was impressed with both Langella and Michael Sheen. Amazing performances. The first thing I did when I got home was Google the Frost/Nixon interviews (the real ones) and watched for an hour. The movie got it right.

Helen Brenna said...

No hottie fatigue for me, Betina, but I do more than ever see the appeal of nerds.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's any easier for kids today, despite the apparent better acceptance of nerds. I hope, though, all us nerdy adults feel more comfortable!!

Betina Krahn said...

That's probably it, Helen. that's what I'm tapping in to. . . comfortable nerd maturity. But I see so man more "normal" kids shown in films than there used to be. Even in movies like Juno. . . the oddballs may feel out of it at times, but they still have a sense of who they are. And we audiences love them!

Kylie, you're so right with the Adam Sandler flicks. . . they're regularly panned, but pull in the bucks.

Flip, I'm not especially taken with Mr. Pitt either. Just don't get all the hype. But I will admit there were a few shots in the movie "Troy" (which he bulked up for) that left me a little, um, warm.

Kathie, I think it may be the age factor for me, too. Hotties are usually about my sons' ages. Ewwww.

And Michele, thanks for the heads-up on Frost Nixon. I DO remember all that happening and I'd love to see how they portray it. That's one I'll have to catch.

And Helen, I guess-- from the frequence of beefcake photos we managed to squeeze into our blogs, we're not really tired of hotties. Maybe we just want to graze at the great buffet of manliness. . . a little nerd and some quirky to spice up life.

Estella said...

I think people just need to laugh and forget about the economic troubles for a couple of hours.