Taylor Swift's Unexpected Cameo in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'
Sure, Taylor Swift’s music is everywhere these days. She’s on your radio, at the supermarket check-out line, at NFL football games, and currently at local cinemas. The one place you probably thought safe from the Grammy Award-winning pop icon would be 1920s Osage County, the setting for Martin Scorsese’s new film “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival before the strikes and is now in theaters. Gearing up for a big award push from co-studios/distributors Paramount and AppleTV+, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro. Taylor Swift does not appear on screen during the almost three-and-a-half-hour running time, nor is she listed with any musical credits. Yet during every quiet dialogue scene (and there are many during the three and half hours of running time) between DeNiro and DiCaprio’s characters, we hear “Shake it Off” or “Cruel Summer,” an odd choice from Scorsese for sure. Unfortunately, that’s what many moviegoers will likely hear From Swift’s Concert film “The Eras Tour” booming from an adjacent theater.
Before the film begins, Martin Scorsese, a revered cinema icon, appears on screen, thanking the audience for seeing his latest movie in a theatrical experience. When Nicole Kidman says “sound that I can feel” in her iconic AMC commercial, I don’t think she meant sound from the adjacent auditorium. Cinemas continue struggling to get people back in theaters in the post-pandemic era. Unfortunately, we can’t have a ‘Barbenheimer’ phenomenon every quarter. With the times between a film’s release in theaters before it’s available on a streaming channel getting shorter, most speculate that “Killers of the Flower Moon” will be on AppleTV+ before the end of the year.
Theater chains of all sizes want and need more business. We haven’t even begun to see the effects of the strikes on new releases. 2024 will have both a pile-up of completed films needing to be released and unfinished movies having to be pushed to later dates so they can complete production. This will likely leave a period where there are only a few mainstream films to fill the gaps. If theater chains want people to leave the comfortable Taylor Swift-free zone of their homes to see a movie, they must meet the audience halfway. Managers: ensuring screens and theaters are clean, the sound levels are correct, etc., are elements moviegoers take for granted when sitting down for a film.
Yet, at the theater where I was, multiple people felt compelled to leave the film 90-plus minutes in because of theater inadequacy. A movie about Native American genocide shouldn’t include Swift belting “You Need to Calm Down” during authentically shot burial ceremonies.
A theater manager at a large nationwide chain said a “film booker” typically will decide how many screens there are and whether they are premium based on their deals with the individual studios. “The theater should have good isolation. It’s also common sense to, let’s say, put a Bollywood title, which can be consistently loud, away from a quiet period piece,” said the manager, wishing to remain anonymous. Typically, it’s smaller theaters, like the one in Galveston, where you can consistently hear the bleeding of noise between one film and another. Yet reports even out of the Willowbrook AMC Theater in Houston had audiences also complaining of hearing Swift during multiple showings of “Killers of the Flower Moon” during opening weekend.
Another theater manager of an 8-screen Regal Cinema in another state said they didn’t realize how quiet “Killers of the Flower Moon” was until they received complaints in person and online. At this specific theater, the only one in town, the two larger auditoriums are side by side. “The studios or film buyers don’t always take our placement suggestions,” she said. “We do the best we can, but this situation has been rectified.”
Cinephiles will want to experience the latest Scorsese film on the big screen. Who knows how many more we have from the influential filmmaker? “I wish I could take a break for eight weeks and make a film at the same time. The whole world has opened up to me, but it’s too late. It’s too late. I’m old,” the 80-year-old Scorsese said at Cannes.
Scorsese’s film will join “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” in the promenade of big-budget movies heading into the awards race. However, with a measly $23 million over the opening weekend (Swift’s The Eras Tour concert film once again took the number one spot at the box office), it will depend more on word of mouth, screeners for voters, streaming for non-ticket buyers to get the same number of eyeballs. Even with DiCaprio and DeNiro performing well, “Killers of the Flower Moon” lacks award-winning elements in any category.
We may see a repeat of Scorsese’s last film, “The Irishman,” which had 10 Oscar nominations but won nothing. Already, there is category confusion surrounding Lily Gladstone, who is by far the film’s highlight.
After some debate about her performance (lead actress or supporting actress), she will campaign for the lead despite her disappointingly limited screen time. The film would have been even better had Scorsese told the story from her point of view.