Tracking Trailers: Tracking Trailers
by Alex Keen
Published: February 25, 2001
It has been almost a month since I last wrote, and I figured I would share with you a dose of a favorite upcoming film of my own.
The Caveman's Valentine (CMANV) - Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Michael Hall, and Colin Feore. Directed by Kasi Lemmons. Written by (book & screenplay) George Dawes Green. Released by Universal Focus on March 2nd, 2001 (limited). Rated R. Trailer Link:Hi-Res QuickTime
This stock has been resting in my portfolio for quite some time. While it has not brought too much growth or profit, it has brought the potential. After seeing the first picture of Samuel L. Jackson in his caveman rags, I knew this film would grab my attention.
It seems that lately Jackson is attempting to do more acting movies ("Unbreakable"), instead of shouting ones ("Rules of Engagement," "Deep Blue Sea"). And "The Caveman's Valentine" looks like a perfect film to garner Oscar attention (if only it were released in the winter and not early spring). The trailer begins with an intense line of dialogue, "Help you? Do I look like I could help you?" Add in some flashbacks that indicate this "caveman" not only lives in a cave, but also that he is musical genius to boot, and Jackson is now in line for the reviewer acclaim known as "standout performance."
From performance to representation, the trailer makes the film look pretty complex. Its uses jump cuts, over exposures and compelling piano to represent artistic intent and dramatic substance. While jump cuts and over exposure have become pretty standard when making films about horror (whether it is cerebral or physical), the cliché of piano in trailers is still one of the most successful ways to make the film seem intriguing. Recent masterpieces are Shine and The Legend of 1900.
In the case of "The Caveman's Valentine," the piano is used to initially introduce the character of Romulus Ledbetter (Jackson) to us. However, after that introduction is through, the piano becomes an orchestra delivering a dramatic story to us. Is a homeless man dead because of the cold? Or did cold-blooded murder deliver him from his life? It is Ledbetter's contention that that man was in fact murdered.
This film seems to parallel another homeless man's story, The Saint of Fort Washington. While both films star a prominent African-American male as a homeless man, both also share the hidden wisdom and intelligence of the street philosopher. Granted, it appears Jackson's man seems to be mentally ill, while Danny Glover's seems to be just a repressed dreamer.
Unfortunately, from a box office perspective, "The Saint of Fort Washington" racked in a measly $56k. While "The Caveman's Valentine" will probably get more screens, nothing is definite at this point. Distributor Universal Focus has had only one financial success so far, "Billy Elliot," while production company Franchise Pictures has had several noticeable past and future releases ("Driven," "The Art of War," "The Whole Nine Yards," and "Angel Eyes").
For the target market "The Caveman's Valentine" must be a success with critics. Without their buzz, this film will die just like "The Saint of Fort Washington." However, even with that buzz, films still get murdered at the box office. "Wonder Boys" opened wide last February to much praise, and yet never passed $20m in total receipts.
If critics fall in love with "The Caveman's Valentine," expect limited audiences willing to see Jackson retire his current action hero guise for a dramatis persona cloak. Fans of good drama, powerful acting, and critical success will appear in stadium seats. This film may make $5m if it is lucky.
Where have I been? Follow this link (I am the writer): Cleaning Private Ryan