Update: So, as it turns out, we forgot a pretty big gerund movie. We can only hope that the $70 million success of Nicolas Cage’s Knowing means that the curse is broken and that similar box-office results for Fighting will herald a new era in which audiences give all films an equal chance, regardless of the tense their titles are conjugated in.
You’ve probably already written off Fighting, the underground-boxing flick out next week, as cliché-riddled excuse for Channing Tatum to take his shirt off a lot. And while it may very well be, it’s also so much more: by opting not to name it Fighter or The Big Fight or Time to Fight or Fighting Time or Fight Fight Fight, the producers of Fighting have made it the latest entry in a cursed genre — the gerund movie.
Precious few movies have embraced the beautiful awkwardness of a solo gerund title, and none have fared well. 2005’s Ryan Reynolds–Anna Farris romance Waiting … seems to be the big dog, with $16.1 million. Next is 1988’s Moving, Richard Pryor’s comedy about moving, with $10.8 million. Michael Douglas’s Running earned $6 million in 1979, and it all goes quickly downhill from there: 1992’s Flirting ($2.4 million); 1970’s Loving ($2,100,538); 2000’s Swimming ($234,287); 1994’s Shopping($3,061 [!!!]).
There’s also the short-lived Fred Savage sitcom Working, the forgotten young–Keanu Reeves movie Flying, and the race-car drama Winning, which somehow failed to become a classic, despite starring Paul Newman.
So can Fighting break the dreaded gerund curse and top the box office next weekend? Maybe! No matter what happens, though, we’re impressed with its bravery.