To some, it was a surprise upset: the week-old The Hangover outgrossed the brand-new The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Or, in other words, the film with no stars beat out the film with two humongous stars. It's easy to look back over the past 12 months and find similar trends. Star Trek is currently the year's biggest smash, with no stars. (I'm using the term "stars" here very loosely; I'm talking, big, big stars, known the world over.) Likewise, Slumdog Millionaire, Up and Watchmen were all big hits with no big stars. We could argue that stars like Hugh Jackman, Tom Hanks, Ben Stiller and Christian Bale have been in hits this summer, but you could also argue that they're all in sequels that have sold because of other factors.

Some stars seem unstoppable. Will Smith, for example, rarely stars in a film that grosses less than $100 million, and when he does, he gets an Oscar nomination for it; the exception, last year's Seven Pounds, even managed to turn a profit despite the fact that nobody liked it and it disappeared before anyone could blink. And you could hardly argue that Gran Torino would have been much of a film without Clint Eastwood. Indeed, most of the big hits of the past year and a half have had big stars in the cast, but relying on a star and a star alone to carry your film seems to be a thing of the past. There needs to be a big concept or a selling point that's as big or bigger than the star. What do you think, dear readers? Is the star system obsolete? Are there stars you adore so much you'll see anything they're in? Or do you go to the movies for other reasons?