THE REAL CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES:
Globe and Mail SHILLS Gross FLOP Hyena Road
Commentary and Report By Greg Klymkiw
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." - Jonathan Swift in "Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting"You would think Jonathan Swift might well have penned the aforementioned words as a kind of prescient reference to Canadian "filmmaker" Paul Gross, whose grotesquely bloated Afghanistan war picture Hyena Road enjoyed a World Premiere Gala at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2015). Opening theatrically soon after, with an unprecedented amount of publicity courtesy of Cineplex Entertainment, various levels of provincial and federal marketing assistance (the Canadian taxpayer) and the film's Canadian distributor Elevation Pictures, the film was a resounding FLOP!!!
One would assume this latest effort by Mr. Gross, known the world over as Constable Benton Fraser, the scarlet-uniform-adorned Mountie in the inexplicably long-running TV series Due South, would have been assailed by a Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces; but no, Mr. Gross was instead hailed by a decidedly non-Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces in the form of virtually every member of the Canadian media and critical establishment.
One can forgive the professional shilling of supposed entertainment "journalists" in print and broadcast media, since that is what arts reportage has been reduced to in these Dark Ages. One might even be tempted to forgive the ludicrous number of positive notices the movie received from Canadian film critics, since many of them could care less about the genuinely great Canadian cinema that takes the world by storm and long to accept something vaguely commercial. That said, there's virtually nothing commercial about Hyena Road, save for its dull levels of borderline competence. Essentially, the picture is bargain basement war-pornography extolling the virtues of all the Canadian soldiers whose lives were wasted in a completely unnecessary war and certainly one in which Canada should never have succumbed to participating in.
Is there, then, anyone we should not forgive? Of course. Canada's purported "newspaper of record", the Toronto Globe and Mail has been part of an obvious shill effort to canonize Paul Gross and his dreadful film(s) and career for some time now. The most egregious act of shilling occurred in the Globe courtesy of "reporter" Simon Houpt in the article headlined: "Hyena Road’s battle at the box office brings in $486,000", followed by the puffery of a ludicrous lead which reads: "Hyena Road, the new Canadians-in-Afghanistan war drama, scored the biggest opening of any Canadian film of the year last weekend, bringing in $486,000 at the box office."
This is all well and good, but he merely swallows this dubious honour based upon the bumph supplied to him by the Canadian distributor Elevation Films who are quick to point out how well the film did in Western Canada (where the deservedly-trounced Conservative party remained the strongest after the recent election to become the Official Opposition to Justin Trudeau's new majority government of Liberals).
Though Houpt hammers home the historic grosses of this $12.5 million effort (a nice chunk of which was borne by Canadian taxpayers), he also benevolently allows the distribution company to make excuses for the film's performance by suggesting that Canadian grosses for all films were down right across the board for the entire Thanksgiving weekend due to the Toronto Blue Jays and their playoff bid. We furthermore find out that there was, in fact, only a small drop in the grosses twixt the holiday Monday and Tuesday which, according to Houpt, "may augur well for sustained business."
Alas, as the numbers played out, it did not auger well, but Houpt is forgiven for not being clairvoyant. He does, of course, include the ludicrous comment from Elevation Pictures that this drop in box-office “goes to show that people wanted to see the film, but they weren’t rushing out.”
"Not rushing out" seems a whopper of an understatement.
The film's second weekend turned out to be even MORE dismal.
What Houpt fails to point out in his obvious shill piece is what any reporter worth their salt might have noted. In his box-office report for Movie City News, veteran film critic and film industry reporter Len Klady notes: "In Canada Afghan war saga Hyena Road was unenthusiastically received with a $337,000 gross." Granted, Klady is referring to the three-day weekend and not Houpt's four-day long weekend numbers, but Klady, instead of slanting a shill in favour of Hyena Road presents his comments, not on the misleading cumulative grosses, but on what (I reiterate) ANY REPORTER WORTH THEIR SALT would have noted:
The per-screen average of Hyena Road was dismal. Even going by Houpt's numbers, a cumulative gross of $486,000 and a screen count of 184, tells a much different story than Houpt's shill-prose: The film grossed an average of $2600 PER SCREEN. Let's be generous here and say that the average ticket price is $10 (quite conservative, but we'll use it). This means that Gross's film's grosses were so pathetic that a grand total of 260 people went to see the film in each cinema over FOUR DAYS, FOUR SHOWS PER DAY!!! Doing the math even further, an average of sixty-five (65) people saw the film on each screen over the same period - PER DAY!!! Let's do the math even further: Sixteen (16.25 to be precise) people saw the movie each show over the same period. I won't even bother doing the math on how many people saw the movie per show, per day - that would be cruel.
These, of course, are averages. Granted. They especially do not accurately represent the numbers in cinemas located in the redneck Conservative enclaves of Western Canada, but even those numbers could not have been that much higher than the rest of the country. The fact remains that the film's distributor, its exhibitor (primarily the monopoly known as Cineplex Entertainment) and the Canadian Taxpayer forked out a whopping amount of dough, not to mention effort, for a promotional budget which was up there with any major release (at least in Canadian terms).
The film's second weekend per-screen average was a mere pubic hair over $1000. As for its third weekend, I didn't even bother looking for grosses, but I couldn't help but notice that many screens had already dropped the film entirely or reduced its daily runs to two shows a day.
In spite of the movie flopping so obviously on its opening weekend, it's a bit distasteful to see that Houpt, not only shills, but turns himself into an apologist for Gross, the film, its distributor and all those who backed this spindly Thanksgiving Turkey when he writes:
"...the strong theatrical opening positions Hyena Road well for a video-on-demand run, and would likely increase viewership when it appears on the pay-TV channels TMN and Movie Central. The film has also been sold to CBC-TV.
'This is a Canadian film that now has huge awareness, which will play out for the life of the film,' he [the film's Canadian distributor] said."
Great! The movie will play on TV. We might even see DVDs and Blu-Rays in the Wal-Mart $5.00 bargain bins across the country. In spite of crappy box-office grosses, there is a "huge awareness". Really? Huge?
And why, oh why, does Simon Houpt's Globe article accept what the film's Canadian distributor says at face value? Had this reporter never thought about scouring the trades outside of Canada? Or taking a look at the numbers via Rentrak Corp., the world's most prestigious viewership data and analysis companies? Was there any thought at all to perhaps getting a quotation from either the industry scribe Klady or, for that matter, RentTrack's topper Paul Dergarabdian who offers opinions/analysis to virtually any outlet that asks him for it?
I can only assume that Houpt chose not to do any of the aforementioned because he is a shill and/or not an especially good reporter.
However, let's not blame the messenger 100%. Surely Houpt's editors at the Globe had something to do with this. They're either shills themselves or don't care or worse, are part of the Moron Club at the Globe who green-lit the most idiotic editorial in the history of journalism in Canada. One day after Houpt's shill for Hyena Road appeared, the Globe urged all Canadians to give the fascist Conservative party another mandate to govern. This would be bad enough, but that the Globe would idiotically suggest Canadians vote the Conservatives to a majority and in the same breath call for ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper's resignation is tantamount to gross stupidity.
Yeah, right! If the Conservatives had won, Herr Harper would have listened to the Globe editors and resigned - NOT! Love him or hate him, Stephen Harper is/was the Conservative Party of Canada. He's also more intelligent than all the knot-heads who make up the rest of the party combined.
The election is over. The Conservatives have been defeated. Harper has resigned as party leader. BUT NOT because of the Globe.
And Hyena Road is the stinking flop nobody wants to admit to.
Oddly, I feel like the Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces. I have dared to piss on the genius that is Paul Gross as well as the utter failure of his film at the box-office. It seems, publicly, that I am a Confederacy of one on this front.
That said, I offer the following by asking: Who comprises the genuine, non-Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces?
I think we all know the answer to that one.
My review of Hyena Road is HERE.
My review of Guy Maddin's Hyena Road "making of", Bring Me The Head of Tim Horton is HERE.
My review of Guy Maddin's The Forbidden Room which was partially finished by monies funnelled to Maddin for his Hyena Road "making of" is HERE.
My editorial commentary "The Unbearable Promotion of War: Buying Grosses for Wasteful Gross Film" is HERE.
My editorial commentary "Maddin Fêted in New York with Fine Single-Screen Opening Weekend Numbers While Gross Multimillion Dollar Canadian Pro-War Film a FLOP with Paltry Per-Screen Average" is HERE.
My review of Paul Gross's execrable Passchendaele is HERE.
Simon Houpt's article in the Globe and Mail is HERE.
The Globe and Mail's moronic editorial endorsement of the Conservatives is HERE.