Back when I covered the Cannes Film Festival, I always wanted to do a project that I jokingly called The Bullshit Barometer. The idea was to check in after a year or two on all the big-ticket financing deals and aging star-driven film projects that were breathlessly announced during the Cannes market (another weird Nic Cage action-thriller? Really?) to see what actually ended up real and what was dressed-up puffery hoping to become real. The odds wouldn’t be great.
Wishful trade announcements aren’t limited to Cannes, of course. I’m still waiting for that Jack Nicholson movie he was supposedly coming out of retirement to make—in 2017. But there’s an especially high number of Cannes Bullshit Barometer candidates so far this year—a John Travolta–Katherine Heigl rom-com, a Patricia Highsmith horror biopic, and yes, a weird Nic Cage action-thriller, this one where he would play an Australian surfer, presumably with an American accent and a fantastic hairpiece. I know, that’s the Cannes market, but it will never not be funny.
More broadly, the Barometer concept would also apply to the television upfronts in New York, which are concurrent with Cannes. Those presentations by the TV networks to advertisers have always been mostly about P.R. spin and hopeful thinking. Last May’s “highest-testing ever” sitcom is this May’s punchline in a Jimmy Kimmel joke about abject failure. Hell, most of these executives are selling billions of dollars in linear television advertising. In 2023. And this year’s slimmed-down, mostly star-free pitches to the ad buyers threw off especially big Cannes vibes.