(Photo by Courtesy Everett Collection)
As seminal dance film Save the Last Dance turns 20, we look at the best dance films ever made… and why the Julia Stiles favorite is just a bit too off-beat to make the cut.
Save the Last Dance, which turns 20 this year, has some things you probably want in a movie. A soundtrack that includes Jill Scott and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes? Yes. References to James Baldwin in the first twelve minutes? You got it. A 23-year-old Kerry Washington in one of her first adult roles, radiating the kind of charisma and power that will one day convince Pope Associates to kill and die for her? Damn right.
It also has a lot of what you’d expect to find in a dance movie, especially one about a ballet dancer. Rehearsal montages? Absolutely. Bleeding toes mangled by hours spent dancing in pointe shoes? Obviously. A dramatic final number performed in front of snooty gatekeepers? Of course.
Unfortunately, for lovers of dance, Save the Last Dance’s dance sequences themselves leave a lot to be desired: the hip hop club scenes are given short shrift, as are the moments in which the lead characters go to the Joffrey Ballet to watch a professional performance. The sequences in which Julia Stiles and her body double do ballet – and especially when they perform the climactic ballet-hip hop hybrid final number – are a reminder that while it can be hard to cast actors who can really dance (or dancers who can really act), it’s usually worth it.
As for the racial politics of the movie – suburban white girl moves to Chicago to live with her father when her mother dies, goes to a majority Black high school where students have criminal records and kids, falls for the college-bound Black boy who teaches her hip hop, and is relieved of the comforting colorblind fantasy that there’s “only one world” – it’s not so much that they’ve aged badly. In a crop of dance movies that came out between 2000 and 2006 (Center Stage, Step Up, etc.), Save the Last Dance is the most direct about race and racism, making explicit what a lot of the other movies leave implicit. But it’s hard to imagine a dance movie made in 2020 putting a gawky white ballet dancer learning hip hop – and her realization that white women enjoy privilege that plays out in their dating and social lives – at the center of its narrative. Which is a sign of how the needle has moved in the two decades since Save the Last Dance was released.
And there are still some things that the film leaves implicit, the most obvious of which is the notion that ballet is inherently white and feminine, practiced by uptight and feminine people, that it’s a form of rigid artifice. Hip hop, on the other hand, a Black artform with origins in street and social dancing, is depicted as inherently loose, cool, masculine, and real. These are stereotypes that were in place in 2001 – and that have been reinforced by films in which uptight white girls have to learn to loosen up and get down – and they persist today, making ballet and Blackness seem antithetical, especially for Black girls and women who aspire to learn ballet.
In honor of Save the Last Dance’s 20th anniversary, we’ve assembled a list of 30 essential dance movies sorted by Tomatometer, encompassing ballet, hip hop, modern, tap, ballroom, breaking, and the magic of Mike.
In order to be considered for this list, the movie had to include diegetic dancing – that is, dancing that the characters acknowledge as dancing, as opposed to a musical number in which the characters break out in song and dance. Exceptions were made for musicals that contained diegetic numbers, like A Chorus Line, which is about a Broadway audition, and Singin’ in the Rain, which is about the creation of a musical. -Chloe Angyal
Angyal is a contributing editor at MarieClaire.com and the author of Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers Is Saving Ballet From Itself, which will be published by Bold Type Books on May 4.
The resurrection of yesterday’s movie heroes continues with Sylvester Stallone‘s new film Rambo which finds the vet in Southeast Asia where he is pulled into another battle with baddies. The R-rated film from Lionsgate follows the actor’s Rocky Balboa which defied the odds last winter to become both a critical and commercial success. Stallone directed both films. Rambo also comes after Bruce Willis saw a lucrative reboot of the Die Hard franchise last summer, and arrives before Harrison Ford‘s much-anticipated return as Indiana Jones this May.
John Rambo may not be as loved by fans as those other characters which means it may gross the least amount of dough at the domestic box office. The new Rambo will surely attract older males with the nostalgia factor, but younger men are also being targeted by using today’s rock music in the television spots and print ads with images of a cult-like Sly. The image could easily be spray-painted on a wall next to the heads of Andre the Giant and Che Guevara. Rambo is getting the widest release of any new film on Friday and with football taking the weekend off, male audiences will be more available. Most of the competition will come from Cloverfield‘s second frame, but those wanting intense violence and a ton of bullets flying around will find no better choice. Attacking 2,751 theaters, Rambo could debut to about $18M this weekend.
Chick flick 27 Dresses is not worried about Stallone, however Diane Lane and the Spartans could provide some competition this weekend for the Katherine Heigl laugher. Audiences have been having a good time with the Fox release so a 40% drop could occur. That would give 27 Dresses roughly $13.5M over three days and a total of $44M after ten days.
Batman franchise alums Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman enjoyed a terrific hold for their pic The Bucket List last weekend which is playing to an older and more patient crowd. A 30% fall would put the Warner Bros. film at around $10.5M pushing the sum to $58M.
LAST YEAR: Spoof comedy led the way with Fox’s Epic Movie which bowed on top to the tune of $18.6M on its way to $39.7M. Opening right behind in second with almost identical per-theater average was the Universal drama Smokin’ Aces with $14.6M from 600 fewer theaters. A $35.7M final gross resulted. Former chart-topper Night at the Museum followed in third with $9.6M while the dance drama Stomp the Yard placed fourth with $7.7M. A hair behind in fifth with a $7.7M debut was Sony’s Jennifer Garner drama Catch and Release which found its way to just $15.3M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Following a six-week streak of R-rated films topping the charts, The Rock‘s family comedy The Game Plan led the box office last weekend. Now, adult fare comes back to claim the crown with the new Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid which is aiming for an easy number one debut. Also opening nationally are the fantasy adventure The Seeker: The Dark is Rising and the music-filled drama Feel the Noise. With the Columbus Day holiday falling on Monday, some students will have extra time off making for a solid start for the month of October.
Almost a decade after There’s Something About Mary became a sleeper smash, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly reunite with Stiller for another raunchy relationship comedy with The Heartbreak Kid. A remake of the 1972 film written by Neil Simon, the Paramount release stands as another number one hit inherited from the DreamWorks factory. The pic tells the story of a man who marries too early and then falls for another woman during his honeymoon. In the past year, the R-rated envelope-pushing comedies Borat, Knocked Up, and Superbad grossed nearly $400M in combined domestic box office proving that there is gold to be mined in this genre when films are made well and deliver the laughs that audiences want.
Plus star-driven comedies with major Hollywood faces routinely lure moviegoers away from the home and into the multiplexes. Heartbreak will probably not reach the $30.7M opening weekend figure of Knocked Up which had more buzz plus opened in June when most college students were out of school. But reviews so far have been quite good for this type of film so adults will certainly give it a try. And with so many dark and serious films about outlaws, vigilantes, and terrorists out there, audiences definitely want something light and funny right now. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, The Heartbreak Kid may debut with about $27M this weekend.
The Middle East drama The Kingdom has been ranking number one during the week since kids are busy with school and less able to see Game Plan. Universal should see a 45% drop to about $9.5M which would put the Jamie Foxx actioner at $32M after ten days. Look for Resident Evil: Extinction to slide 50% to roughly $4M leaving Sony with $43M to date.
LAST YEAR: October kicked off with a bang with the top spot debut of Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed with $26.9M. Warner Bros. went on to gross $132.4M domestically and $288M worldwide plus scored four Oscars including the coveted Best Picture statue. Opening in second place with $18.5M was Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which was the first of three horror sequels that month. New Line found its way to $39.5M. Sony’s toon hit Open Season dropped to third with $15.6M in its sophomore frame. The Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month bowed in fourth with $11.4M on its way to $28.4M. The Guardian rounded out the top five with $9.6M in its second weekend.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
With the Super Bowl taking males out of the picture, mothers and daughters squared off at the North American box office this weekend with the younger set earning a slim victory. The spooky thriller "The Messengers" opened at number one driven by teenage girls and young women while the Diane Keaton comedy "Because I Said So" bowed close behind in the runnerup position drawing upon older women.
The overall box office picture was bleak as the top ten slumped below the $70M mark for the second time in three weekends.
Sony scored its seventh consecutive victory over Super Bowl weekend with the haunted house spookfest "The Messengers," which grossed an estimated $14.5M in its debut frame. The PG-13 pic averaged a solid $5,736 from 2,528 locations but was weaker than the studio’s previous three hits that ruled this particular weekend. Last year, the horror pic "When a Stranger Calls" topped the charts with a $21.6M opening and $7,205 average, in 2005 "Boogeyman" led with a $19M bow and $6,232 average, and in 2004 "You Got Served" hit number one with $16.1M and a $8,341 average. "Messengers" did however post the best opening for a horror film since October’s "Saw III." A long string of terror flops were tossed into the marketplace in between with disappointing results.
Budgeted at only $16M, "The Messengers" skewed to a young female audience. According to studio research, 53% of the crowd was female and an equal percentage was under the age of 21. The studio is already planning for next year’s Super Bowl frame when it will release the horror remake "Prom Night," which will again cater to the same crowd. Teenage girls and young women historically have been the group least interested in football’s big championship game making them an attractive audience to target on this weekend. Creepy PG-13 films with strong female characters coupled with saavy marketing have led to many number one hits for Sony and its Screen Gems unit. But with the grosses getting smaller, movie fans could be telling Hollywood that it is dipping into this well too often.
Opening in second place with respectable results was "Because I Said So" with an estimated $13M from 2,526 theaters. Averaging $5,155 per location, the PG-13 film stars Diane Keaton as a meddlesome mother trying to find love for her unmarried daughter played by Mandy Moore. Men showed practically zero interest in the Universal release. Studio research showed that a whopping 82% of the audience was female. The film also played more to Keaton fans than to the Moore crowd as 55% of the turnout was 35 or older. 83% was Caucasian. Critics trashed "Because" and "Messengers" may have eaten into its potential with younger women.
Last weekend’s number one film "Epic Movie" dropped a sizable 56% in its second weekend and ranked third with an estimated $8.2M. With $29.4M in ten days, the spoof comedy looks on course to finish with $40-44M making it a bit smaller than Fox’s spoof from last February "Date Movie." That spin on romantic comedies grossed a somewhat stronger $33.8M in its first ten days, had a slightly lower 53% sophomore drop, and found its way to $48.5M.
Fox’s runaway smash "Night at the Museum" slipped only 29% and placed fourth with an estimated $6.8M pushing its tally to $225.4M. The durable Ben Stiller blockbuster became the first film to spend seven weekends in the top five since 2004’s "The Passion of the Christ."
Universal’s mob thriller "Smokin’ Aces" dropped 57% to an estimated $6.3M in its second weekend and put its cume at $25M after ten days. The step dancing hit "Stomp the Yard" followed with an estimated $4.2M, off 45%, for a total of $56M. The Oscar-nominated musical "Dreamgirls" saw the worst decline of its run dropping 40% to an estimated $4M. Cume stands at $92.8M.
Picturehouse added 259 theaters to the run of the fantasy pic "Pan’s Labyrinth" and stayed put at number eight with an estimated $3.7M. With six Academy Award nominations, the R-rated film upped its cume to $21.7M while its average of $3,383 was the third best in the top ten. Will Smith‘s tenth career $100M blockbuster "The Pursuit of Happyness" took in an estimated $3.1M, down 38%, for a $157.4M total to date.
Tied for tenth place with an estimated $2.7M in ticket sales each were the Helen Mirren Oscar nominated pic "The Queen" and the Jennifer Garner dramedy "Catch and Release." The Miramax contender for Best Picture slipped 33% raising its cume to $45.5M while the Sony flick tumbled 65% in its second weekend thanks to its female audience shifting over to the frame’s two new releases. The ten-day total stands at a weak $12M.
The horror remake "The Hitcher" also saw sales nosedive and dropped out of the top ten. The Focus release slumped 68% to an estimated $1.2M giving the R-rated scarefest only $15.6M overall. A final gross of $17M seems likely.
MGM and The Weinstein Co. saw a solid start for its indie drama "Factory Girl," starring media darling Sienna Miller grossing an estimated $95,000 from only three theaters for a stellar $31,764 average per site. Bowing in just New York and Los Angeles, the R-rated film tells of the rise of Edie Sedgwick and her mentor Andy Warhol. Reviews were mostly negative.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $66.5M which was off 13% from last year when "When A Stranger Calls" opened at number one with $21.6M; and down 19% from 2005 when "Boogeyman" debuted on top with $19M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Can Ben Stiller and his living artifacts four-peat at the top of the North American box office, or will one of the new releases take the crown over the four-day Dr. Martin Luther King holiday weekend? Ticket buyers will decide.
Leading the freshman class is the dance drama "Stomp the Yard" which could have breakout potential. Also opening are the fantasy pic "Arthur and the Invisibles," the drug dealer pic "Alpha Dog," and the horror flick "Primeval." With so many schools closed on Monday, the new films are targeting students of all ages who will have extra time on their hands.
The west and east coasts meet in "Stomp the Yard," a story of a Los Angeles student enrolled in an Atlanta university who uses his unique style to help his fraternity compete in a step dancing contest. The PG-13 film is short on starpower, but makes up for that with terrific marketing which is the real ingredient that will put asses into the seats. Sony has cut exciting trailers and commercial spots which should spark lots of interest with teens and young adults. Plus, MLK weekend is the perfect time to open a black college film since interest will be high for this particular subject matter. African American students will especially be out in solid numbers. However, the opening of Justin Timberlake‘s "Alpha Dog" could take away some of the young adult crowd.
"Stomp" should appeal to the same audiences that delivered bigger-than-expected openings for "Drumline" ($12.6M opening, $6,865 average), "ATL" ($11.6M, $7,212), and "You Got Served" ($16.1M, $8,341). The urban youth of America possesses tremendous spending power and Hollywood has just woken up to this in recent years financing low cost flicks that return handsome profits through theatrical and DVD sales. "Stomp" also offers an appealing story relevant to today’s young people and looks to join this list. Stepping into 2,051 theaters, "Stomp the Yard" could collect about $16M over four days this weekend.
The weekend’s only new kidpic comes in the form of the French production "Arthur and the Invisibles," a groundbreaking feature which mixes live-action with animation in a fantasy tale. The PG-rated film from The Weinstein Co. is directed by action professional Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element," "Joan of Arc") and features the voices of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna. With so many young children across the country having a long school holiday, "Arthur" should get some play as the only new option for parents who have taken enough trips to the Museum. Of course "Happily N’Ever After" flopping last weekend shows that family audiences will not come out for just anything. With about 2,500 theaters, it is the widest of the new titles which could help it get into double digit millions over the extended frame. The marketing push has been admirable too. MLK weekend has often seen better-than-expected results for debuting kiddie flicks like "Kangaroo Jack," "Racing Stripes," and "Hoodwinked." "Arthur and the Invisibles" may carve out its share of the pie and gross roughly $11M over the four-day period.
Pop music king Justin Timberlake joins an ensemble cast which includes Emile Hirsch, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis in the gritty drama "Alpha Dog." Directed by Nick Cassavetes, the R-rated film tells of a drug dealer who kidnaps the younger brother of a friend who owes a debt. The Universal release is based on true events and will target older teens and twentysomethings. The marketing makes the film look slick and cool plus JT provides a built-in audience of fans that can be tapped into.
However, two main obstacles are in the way – the rating and competition from "Stomp the Yard." A large portion of Timberlake’s fans are young teens and they will have a hard time buying tickets. Plus, "Stomp" will be distracting the urban youth with its slick look and milder PG-13 rating. On top of that, the studio’s release is not too wide. These factors should curtail the potential of "Alpha." Critics have given solid support which may help a little, although Time Out New York boldly calls the pic the worst movie of the year in its zero-star review. Opening in about 1,200 theaters, "Alpha Dog" might bite down on around $8M over the long weekend.
Every horror film since Halloween has flopped and the streak looks to continue with "Primeval" from Buena Vista. The R-rated film about a news crew hunting down a killer boasts no starpower and lacks a compelling plot worthy of the ten-dollar bills of genre fans. Marketing support has been weak and awareness is not very high. The fright flick seems to have the same potential as last month’s "Turistas" which bowed to a weak $3.6M and $2,282 average. "Primeval" will open wider with about 2,000 theaters and has an extended four-day session so a gross of roughly $6M could result followed by steep drops.
Zhang Yimou has seen solid but not spectacular averages for his latest Chinese epic "Curse of the Golden Flower" which has already grossed $2.2M from its limited release in about 60 theaters. Its average of $6,104 last weekend will drop considerably as it expands nationwide into about 1,200 playdates. The Mandarin-language period piece seems to be going too wide too fast and with all the choices in the multiplexes, Sony Classics may find it difficult to get multiplex crowds into all those new seats. "Curse" will try to play to fans of the "Hero" director, but Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li are no Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi at the American box office. A $4M gross over the long weekend could result.
Ben Stiller and Will Smith have been inseparable blockbuster brothers atop the box office charts for the last three weeks. But the weekend’s new releases should finally cause a breakup. Stiller’s runaway smash "Night at the Museum" has been holding up incredibly well against any competition that has come its way and will attempt to become the first film since 2003’s "The Return of the King" to remain number one for four consecutive weekends. The only thing standing in its path is a possible teen explosion for "Stomp." "Museum’s" four-day holiday gross could slip 25% from last weekend’s three-day figure giving the Fox hit about $18M and a remarkable cume to date of $187M.
Smith has done pretty well for himself too with "The Pursuit of Happyness" which should see another solid turnout over MLK weekend. A 20% drop would give Sony a four-day tally of $10M boosting its total to a stellar $137M.
Since it opened nationally on Christmas Day, "Dreamgirls" has been posting the best per-theater averages of any wide release. Now, Paramount will more than double the run and expand the Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical from 852 to about 1,800 theaters. The Jamie Foxx–Beyonce Knowles musical is the favorite to take home that honor, plus other statues, and the studio wants to make sure the product is available everywhere once the wins occur. Plus, films with African American casts routinely do very well over the King frame so a jump in sales is assured. For the four-day period, "Dreamgirls" may climb to around $11M putting the cume at $68M. If it wins the Globe for Best Picture and secures a sizable number of Oscar nominations the following week, the total domestic take could certainly surpass the $100M mark as it did for "Chicago" four years ago. The Richard Gere musical reached a similar $63.8M at the end of the weekend it went fully national into 1,841 locations and went on to a sensational $170.7M final total.
LAST YEAR: Disney kicked off the first of what would be many hit sports flicks in 2006 with the basketball drama "Glory Road" which opened at number one over MLK weekend with $16.9M over four days. The live action film barely beat out the animated comedy "Hoodwinked" which also grossed $16.9M over the Friday-to-Monday period, but was about $50,000 shy of the number one spot. The duo reached $42.6M and $51.2M, respectively. Third place also was held by a new release. Paramount’s Queen Latifah comedy "Last Holiday" bowed to a solid $15.5M on its way to $38.4M. Rounding out the top five were former number ones "The Chronicles of Narnia" with $12.8M and "Hostel" with $11.4M over the long weekend. Fox’s romance "Tristan & Isolde" found few lovers in its debut opening to $7.6M on its way to just $14.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Hoo boy this is confusing, so I’ll just let Dark Horizons completely explain it to you. But the gist is this: Russell Crowe WILL (not) be starring in Baz Luhrmann‘s war drama, despite the rumors that the gig went to Heath Ledger instead … only it didn’t.
Thanks to DH for deciphering all this stuff: "Crowe has for months been set to play Nicole Kidman‘s lover later this year in the film, which was to be set around the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942. Crowe however, who has been very upfront about his involvement in the project, was accused of demanding script approval before signing on for the film.
The producers apparently told Luhrmann to find another actor, and so he met Ledger several times and offered him the movie, and then according to insiders "Crowe came back to Luhrmann and said he’d forgo script approval and wanted to do the film, but they told him it was too late – to buzz off…
Now, today’s Variety reports that reps for (Heath) Ledger confirmed he was offered but had passed on the project. At present, Kidman and Luhrmann are still attached to the project which is still going forward, however it’s unlikely Crowe will return."
Wait … what?
The Hollywood Reporter brings news of a new project that sounds a lot like "You Got Served … Candy!" Evan Ross Naess, son of Ms. Diana Ross, is in final negotiations to star in Warner Bros’ roller-skating comedy "Jellybeans."
Described as "a contemporary urban comedy with music and dance set in a roller-skating rink in Atlanta," the flick will be directed by first-timer Chris Robinson, but the rookie helmer will apparently have a lot of help from a cadre of screenwriters. "Jellybeans" was written by Tina Chism ("Drumline"), Antwone Fisher ("Antwone Fisher"), Gina Prince-Bythewood ("Love & Basketball") & Joe Robert Cole … and the resulting screenplay is "based on material by Dallas Austin and T-Boz." Whatever that means.
Odd that you’d need six writers to create a skate-rink kid’s comedy, but I’ll hold my snarky commentaries until after I’ve experienced the wonder that will surely be "Jellybeans."