Looking over the movies that have been released during the first half of 2014 and looking ahead to what’s coming between now and December got me thinking about the movies that opened 50 years ago when I was a teenager.
For the first six months of 2014, the most popular films — which is to say the top 10 biggest moneymakers so far, according to the website Box Office Mojo — have been superhero sequels (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past”), animated features (“The LEGO Movie,” “Rio 2”), a couple of remakes/reboots (“Godzilla,” “Maleficent”), a futuristic youth fantasy (“Divergent”) and two dumb, vulgar comedies (“Neighbors,” “Ride Along”).
For the first six months of 1964, the top 10 biggest moneymakers were (in descending order): “The Carpetbaggers,” “From Russia With Love,” “A Shot in the Dark,” “What a Way to Go!,” “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “The Pink Panther,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Becket” and “Man’s Favorite Sport?”
An interesting contrast, isn’t it?
Films aimed at an adult audience dominate the 1964 list, but one could argue that not a single movie on the 2014 list is aimed at a mature audience. Any appeal the 2014 pictures have to older moviegoers is “crossover,” as the primary target audience is teenagers.
Well, unless “Neighbors” qualifies due to its level of R-rated raunchiness. (Although it seems oxymoronic that puerile behavior is intended for “mature audiences.”)
Movie ratings didn’t come into play until 1968, so even though most of the 1964 films here are intended for parents, not their children, none are in what we consider to be R-rated territory.
“The Carpetbaggers” comes closest, based on a racy novel that fictionalizes the story of Howard Hughes, and is clearly a movie intended for grown-up consumption.
And “What a Way to Go!,” “Man’s Favorite Sport?” and the two Inspector Clouseau farces, “The Pink Panther” and “A Shot in the Dark,” are all sex comedies intended for adults, though they rely on innuendo rather than the sleazy vulgarity that marks such fare today. (“A Shot in the Dark” even has a hilarious sequence set in a nudist colony with the nudity cleverly obscured.)
Then there’s the second James Bond thriller, “From Russia With Love,” an adult mix of sex and violence. “Dr. Strangelove” (the only black-and-white movie here) is more of an art film, a very dark, radical satire of Cold War politics and the threat of nuclear warfare, obviously not for the kiddies. And “Becket” is high-minded Oscar-bait, an adaptation of a historical play (in fact, it earned 12 nominations, winning for best screenplay).
Only the two musicals on the list, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Viva Las Vegas,” are really family fare, the latter, which pairs Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, marketed to teens.
Returning to 2014, what about the rest of this year? Well, it’s too early to know how the Oscar-worthy fall films will be received — but we certainly have plenty of sequels to anticipate in the “Transformers,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Planes,” “Purge,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Expendables,” “Sin City,” “Dolphin Tale,” “Paranormal Activity,” “Dumb & Dumber,” “Hunger Games,” “Horrible Bosses,” “Hobbit,” “Night at the Museum” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” franchises.
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