Spider Man Is Dead!

Much to tell in coming days about all the films I’ve seen during the pre-Awards season festival: that last month or so of the year and first few weeks of the next, when the cinema-going public matters a little, and revels in that relevance.

It’s the time of year when the industry tries to figure out who deserves the Academy Award® brand moniker, which has some bearing on home viewing sales and a handful of artists’ bankability, but first they have to get past the four women having movie night in Boston: Which one of them will say “Okay,” suck it up and watch a film a second time for the sake of group cohesion? Past the gay guy in Lawrence, Kansas trying to figure out which matinée to take his mother to. Past the theater owner in Pennsylvania who’s looking at the numbers wondering whether he can keep a screen for Dallas Buyers Club for another week.

Every year I swear I’m not going to get caught up in it – I’m a serious artist, after all! – but, like the Democratic Party, I end up a sucker for it every time. But that’s not what we’ll be raising our glasses for this afternoon when I visit my friend with his stack of S.A.G. DVD screeners. We’ll be toasting to last night’s closing of a Broadway show: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

“The producers and investors,” says the Times, “are expected to lose up to $60 million on the Broadway run, though they could still see some financial return if the show runs in Las Vegas and proves popular.” Go west, young man!

You can spend $75 million on play development for a comic book story that even people who never had a comic book phase, such as yours truly, already just know by osmosis. You can hire two of the best-selling (though not especially known for narrative) rock songwriters to write the lyrics. Disney could even buy Marvel Comics around this time, which it did. You can pair up Julie Taymor herself and a children’s TV writer, and it can still flop, and you might have to call in one of the writers of Glee, who currently has a musical adaptation of American Psycho up in London, to do his best to save your story.

Get back to where you once belonged.

Get back to where you once belonged.

True story digression: I was on a Chinatown bus about six years ago, and a 16-year-old Latina sits next to me. Her phone goes off, starting with an unmistakeable acoustic guitar riff: Bwim-BEEM! Beep-bip-bip-beep.”Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup…” “Hola?” Where’d this girl come from, listening to John Lennon? And where was she when I was obsessed with that song when I was 16? Then I remembered the Julie Taymor film Across the Universe that had just come out.

I absolutely loathed it, but if it got the kids to listen to the Beatles for another decade, God bless. I have no such connection to Spider Man, so good-bye. I guess there were enough 16-year-olds in 2007 willing to drop ten dollars on a second viewing of a childish story with a cartoonish sense of history, but not enough families willing to drop $400 since 2011. It’s a good day for writers when a titanic production that put someone other than a writer in charge of the story finally sinks.