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Jude (is not) the Obscure

Jude (is not) the Obscure

I’m a Jude Law fan. Not really from Gattaca, like so many other people, but from The Talented Mr. Ripley. Between that role and 2004, he didn’t do much. Some Road to Perdition here, and a little Cold Mountain there. That was pretty much it. And now, in 2004, he has six films hitting theaters in three months: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I Heart Huckabee’s, Alfie, Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events, Closer, and The Aviator.

In some of these, he’s front and center and in some, he’s not much more than a glorified cameo. His release schedule has become so crowded, when I heard he was hosting Saturday Night Live (which he did, for the infamous Ashlee Simpson episode), I wasn’t sure which title he was promoting… then I recalled that Alfie was supposed to be out this past weekend before getting pushed back.

So what’s my point? It’s more a question… is this all a smart move from these studios? We’re in an age of Hollywood business when two competing star vehicles are cause worry, not more than five. One year two studios decide to go head-to-head with different Leonardo DiCaprio vehicles (Gangs of New York and Catch Me If You Can in 2002). The result? Catch Me hits, and Gangs is a critical and box office disappointment.

Then, the following year, two studios made an arrangement that would prevent two Ben Affleck films from competing in the same marketplace. The result this time? The first film released, Paycheck, didn’t hit with audiences. The film that flinched and sat on the shelf an entire year, Surviving Christmas, was an even bigger financial and critical letdown.

So, should some of these distributors have waited on the films? If you follow these models, then no. Obviously some will hit (maybe Closer thanks in part to co-star Julia Roberts) and some will not (definitely Sky Captain). And, to consider Lemony Snicket or The Aviator a Jude Law film would be like saying Sky Captain was Laurence Olivier’s comeback project. Coincidentally, both Lemony Snicket and The Aviator open on the same day in December. So all that leaves is Alfie and how it will affect Closer or vice versa, with their releases only 4 weeks apart. Meanwhile, the Sky Captain failure will have no impact on these films.

And, with the Alfie release date postponement making it closer to Closer, the battle begins between if these two films will influence one another’s box office. Despite its Christmas setting, would Alfie have been better suited for a Valentine’s Day slot? Or, would Jude Law’s increasingly popular work as a cynical bachelor in I Heart Huckabee’s be a factor for the Alfie remake?

The Ben Affleck comparison serves another purpose: Will this supersaturation of Jude Law mean problems ahead? Affleck released 11 films in the last 4 years (and that’s not including his projects on TV with Project Greenlight or Push, Nevada). Now, he’s having a very tough time getting a studio film to make more than $50 million.

What could push Jude Law over the top and help his odds of remaining vital is if he wins an Oscar in the next year or two… something that seems more and more likely, considering he’s been nominated twice in the last five years. Unless, of course, instead of mirroring DiCaprio and Affleck, he begins to mirror Cuba Gooding, Jr. or Martin Landau.

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