“Midnight in Paris” has become Woody Allen’s most successful movie at box office (Woody Wednesdays)

The dvd sales of “Midnight in Paris” which went on sale in December have gone through the roof (look at the bottom of this post) and this summer we learned this fact below:

Paris: The Luminous Years

‘Midnight in Paris’ becomes Woody Allen’s all-time biggest hit. How the heck did that happen?

woody-allenImage Credit: Everett Collection; Roger Arpajou

It turns out that Owen Wilson, playing the last herringbone-jacketed screenwriter in Hollywood, wasn’t the only one who wanted to go back in time to meet the great expatriate writers and artists of the 1920s. This weekend, Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s time-machine-of-high-culchah trifle, crossed the line to become the filmmaker’s all-time biggest hit, surpassing the $40.1 million mark set 25 years ago by Hannah and Her Sisters. That movie made its money in two separate releases one year apart, so perhaps Allen’s real erstwhile biggest hit should be considered Manhattan. And, of course, if you factor in inflation, Midnight in Paris wouldn’t be number one by a long shot. That said, movie-land accountants don’t tend to do a lot of adjusting for inflation (they look at the raw numbers), and so the inescapable fact is that the top of Allen’s box-office track record will now look like this:

1. Midnight in Paris ($41.8 million, probably heading toward $50 million)

2. Hannah and Her Sisters ($40.1 million)

3. Manhattan ($39.9 million)

Summer Movies: Get the latest news, photos, and more

4. Annie Hall ($38.2 million)

Quick, can you say: “One of these things just doesn’t belong here?”

I’m never one to begrudge anyone a hit, and certainly not Woody Allen, who has always found a way to make a movie a year (forget the couch — making movies is his therapy), though not, in recent years, without jumping through a few hoops. His movies, when viewed next to the clattering roller-coasters of Hollywood, are almost legendarily “small,” which is why he has been forced to go to Europe for financing, and to set most of his recent pictures there, a trend that began with Match Point (2005), the nimble, devious, midnight-dark, Woody-meets-Hitchcock thriller that, to me, should have become his new all-time biggest hit.

Creatively, it’s been a good run for him, even if the novelty of Allen’s Euro-movies, at least in my eyes, has begun to wear off. To get that novelty back, here’s a suggestion: He should now set a comedy in Berlin, starring Ryan Gosling as a visiting American professor of Holocaust Studies torn between his devoted French Jewish girlfriend, played by Mélanie Laurent, and the 18-year-old goth German temptress, played by Emma Stone with a Marlene Dietrich accent, who turns out to be the great-granddaughter of a member of the SS. Talk about having your Nazi jokes, love-vs.-lust triangle, and moral ambiguity at the same time.

But I digress. Up until now, the movies that crossed over from Woody Allen’s core audience to become his major hits were also his greatest films. (That’s true even if you go back to his Early, Funny Films. The cathartically hilarious Borscht Belt-surrealist comedies that planted Allen on the cultural map were crowd-pleasers that raked in substantial amounts of money, from Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, at $18 million, to Love and Death, at $20 million.) I’m well aware that Midnight in Paris is a movie that a lot of people seem to love, or at least like a lot. But to me it’s a minor shock that this movie, with its one-note flippancy and its Great Artist caricatures who seem to have walked in out of an old Saturday Night Live sketch, has gotten such a hold on audiences. The movie may on some level be charming, and it’s got that Paris-in-the-rain, summer-travelogue-from-heaven factor, but, I’m sorry, its slightly daffy la vie de bohème nostalgia is so, so thin. Which is why its all-time-biggest-hit status for Woody looms as quite a paradox in his career.

All you have to do is to say the titles of the three movies in Woody’s neurotic-romantic New York trilogy — Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters — to conjure a spirit of filmmaking that, in addition to being immortally funny, is richly observant and psychological and dramatic. Those movies may have come out a long time ago, but they have never left us, and it was largely because of them that the phrase “Woody Allen movie” came to symbolize something so special. They were some of the most soulful comedies ever made.

Over time, however, the phrase “Woody Allen movie” has undergone a chemical change. For decades, Allen griped about what he saw as the clanking superficiality of contemporary Hollywood movies. His inspiration always came from somewhere else — from the art-house giants (Bergman, Fellini) he famously revered, or from the winsome sublimity of the silent clowns. Yet I would argue that the Hollywood brand of moviemaking that Woody Allen has always looked askance at is defined, more than anything, by its psychological thinness. And in that light, Midnight in Paris, while it certainly has the pleading earnest hero, the opening credits with the white-on-black Windsor EF-Elongated lettering, and the name-dropping cultural-studies chitchat, is less a classic “Woody Allen movie” than a comedy that masquerades as highbrow while delivering high concept. It’s the rare Woody Allen movie that’s not so much great enough to be a smash as slender-and-lite enough to be a smash.

So what did you think of Midnight in Paris? Are you surprised that it’s such a big hit? Do you think it deserves to be Allen’s new number one?

______________________________

Below are the top dvd sales and you can see that “Midnight in Paris” is in the top ten.

US DVD Sales Chart for Week Ending Dec 25, 2011

Rank Prev. Rank Title Units this Week % Change Total Units Sales this Week Total Sales Weeks in Release
1 (4) The Hangover Part II 756,287 11.6% 2,614,760 $7,555,307 $35,386,701 3
2 (3) The Help 725,959 -15.2% 3,185,006 $12,384,861 $54,592,230 3
3 (-) Dolphin Tale 715,371 -.-% 715,371 $10,723,411 $10,723,411 1
4 (2) Kung Fu Panda 2 670,070 -24.4% 1,556,157 $9,374,279 $24,942,828 2
5 (1) Rise of the Planet of the Apes 557,308 -39.5% 1,478,876 $9,708,305 $27,033,784 2
6 (5) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 480,242 10.1% 5,828,243 $4,797,618 $81,291,915 7
7 (-) Straw Dogs 404,386 -.-% 404,386 $6,235,632 $6,235,632 1
8 (6) The Smurfs 298,053 -7.1% 1,688,442 $5,063,920 $28,962,595 4
9 (20) Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection 295,081 170.7% 891,380 $14,456,018 $43,864,439 7
10 (-) Midnight in Paris 288,372 -.-% 288,372 $4,899,440 $4,899,440 1
11 (11) Bridesmaids 279,902 56.1% 3,873,255 $3,955,015 $52,753,009 14
12 (9) Mr. Popper’s Penguins 230,592 2.4% 974,854 $3,456,574 $16,295,205 3
13 (7) Cowboys and Aliens 209,643 -23.7% 1,012,645 $3,742,128 $17,385,132 3
14 (21) Super 8 193,761 96.7% 932,216 $2,613,836 $14,566,587 5
15 (-) Colombiana 192,475 -.-% 192,475 $2,885,200 $2,885,200 1
16 (12) Friends with Benefits 191,415 11.5% 764,804 $3,703,880 $13,919,240 4
17 (8) Cars 2 188,920 -25.3% 4,405,462 $2,994,382 $73,121,010 8
18 (10) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 186,803 -3.2% 7,066,706 $864,898 $85,930,362 37
19 (22) Crazy, Stupid, Love 178,966 94.4% 1,159,868 $1,698,387 $15,389,604 8
20 (13) The Lion King 168,954 5.4% $2,292,841 878
21 (-) Warrior 152,392 -.-% 152,392 $1,979,572 $1,979,572 1
22 (-) Horrible Bosses 147,098 -.-% 1,194,516 $1,416,554 $16,762,368 11
23 (19) The Change-up 137,127 24.3% 754,747 $1,853,957 $12,448,104 7
24 (14) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 121,989 -12.3% 1,009,722 $1,645,632 $17,862,153 10
25 (25) Captain America: The First Avenger 100,284 25.5% 1,434,346 $1,503,257 $25,091,268 9
26 (-) Love Actually 98,439 -.-% $681,198 400
27 (23) 30 Minutes or Less 93,958 5.3% 421,308 $1,766,410 $7,607,485 4
28 (27) Our Idiot Brother 93,676 47.1% 332,788 $1,444,484 $5,105,182 4
29 (-) The Debt 89,393 -.-% 201,584 $1,518,787 $3,424,912 3
30 (-) Green Lantern 81,981 -.-% 1,194,507 $818,990 $16,890,705 11
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