Ari Aster’s new film, Beau is Afraid, has probably been the most divisive and controversial film released so far in 2023. Among those who have seen it first, whether critics or other moviegoers, most have either really loved the film, or hated it.
Some wrote rapturously positive reviews, while others were heard yelling at the screen after an early preview screening:
The three-hour Beau is Afraid is an odd, surreal, inscrutable film; one that’s decidedly not for everyone, and even though I personally loved the film, it’s not one that I would recommend to everyone that I know.
But some people on the anti-Beau side have taken things a step further, in arguing not only that the film is bad, but that we should be angry that its distributor, A24, spent $35 million to make the film.
Leading the charge here is Oscar blogger Erick Weber, of the website Awards Ace, who has argued against the “insanity” of A24 spending $35 million on this movie:
Now, even those who aren’t fans of this particular movie, I’m not sure how that translates to one believing that studios shouldn’t take chances on crazy, out-there ideas by promising young directors.
And besides, while a $35 million budget is high for an A24 film, it’s nothing compared to the price tags for superhero movies and other blockbusters, most of which are in the hundreds of the millions – and none of which, so far in 2023, have been anywhere close to as creatively adventurous as Beau is Afraid.
But there’s a larger point here: If you’re a critic, an Oscar blogger, or even a standard moviegoer, you are those things. You are not a studio executive, a marketing staffer, or someone else who works for A24 or Disney, or any other studio. If that’s not your job, there’s no reason to worry or be concerned about how much a movie costs to make.
Just as fantasy sports, gambling, and other aspects of modern-day sports serve the idea of sports fans putting themselves in the shoes of team management, that’s starting to happen with movies, too. Then again, as evidenced by that dude a couple of years back who suggested that giving away spoilers for a Marvel movie should trigger a fine to the tune of $1 million, some people really want to be Disney’s copyright attorney.
Roger Ebert Said it Best
I’m reminded of a Movie Answer Man column by Roger Ebert in the mid-1990s, when a correspondent pointed out that Kevin Costner was spending $200 million on Waterworld, and asked whether moviegoers should be “protesting these gargantuan budgets.”
Roger’s answer: “Why, are they billing it all to your credit cards? I’ve never been able to understand public indignation over big budgets. Hey, as long as they’re not charging you $60 to see these films, how can you lose? The more they spend on a movie that still costs you the same ticket price, the better–right?”
There’s also a widespread idea that if a movie flops at the box office, or if was made with the intention of getting nominated for Oscars and it isn’t, that means the movie should not have been made at all. Which is ridiculous. I don’t tie a film’s value or virtue to its box office number, or how many Oscar nominations it received. I don’t feel that a movie I love is in need of the validation of either.
All the time, movies written off at the time of their release are reclaimed as masterpieces years later. When I saw Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales at a press screening in 2007, there were multiple walkouts. A few weeks ago, I saw it again, in its Cannes Directors Cut, in front of a rapturous crowd with Kelly in attendance. And while Beau is Afraid looks less like a movie that everyone hates than a movie that some love and some hate, I suspect with time it will be seen in a similar way.