The Hot Blog Archive for November, 2004

Great Photoshop, Batman!!!

Worth 1000 delivers another terrific photoshop contest.  This one is called "Director’s Cut."   I picked my four favorites to show you, but you should check out the big load of them on the site.







It’s kind of amazing how sad it is to hear about a guy who you worked for… 20 years ago and way, way, way down the food chain… getting into a plane accident and surviving, but apparenly losing his14 year old son.

My thoughts are with Dick Ebersol, Susan St. James and their entire family tonight, as well as with those involved who I do not know, including the pilot and co-pilot of the private aircraft that they were killed in yesterday morning. 

Losing a teenaged child, especially in an accident of leisure, is nothing that anyone should ever have to experience.

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The new musical version of A Christmas Carol on NBC… that is what I see as the crap film that people who despise the film of The Phantom of the Opera seem to be talking about.  Banal, horrid lyrics with no wit and performers with no apparent soul, though most of them have proven to be of value in other venues in the past.

Where is the Albert Finney Scrooge when you need it???


Todd McCarthy's Fascinating Aviator Review

I read Todd McCarthy’s review of The Aviator and found it remarkable.

I agree with 90% of what he has to say.  But what struck me funny was that he only seemed to review 50% of the movie. 

The film will or will not be a Best Picture nominee.  It’s no Alexander… not even a Gangs of New York.  But what will inhibit it is not all the great stuff about Hughes as a hard-driving aviator.  It is the going nuts part… which is a large percentage of the movie. 

Miramax’s advertising is brilliant, as it really emphasizes what works so well in the film.  As I have written before, these are some of the best flying sequences ever put on film.  And Todd seems to have focused only on those parts and just conveniently forgotten the rest of the movie. .. which is almost a harsher indictment of the rest of the film than giving it a complete review.  If it can’t take up any review space, it must be pretty terrible or meaningless in his view.  But dang… it’s at least half of the movie.


Box Office Sunday

Well, Alexander turned out to be far uglier than the first few days of the weekend suggested.  Word of mouth travels fast.  An estimated $21.7 million five-day suggests strongly that this film is going to have a very hard time getting to $50 million domestic.

I mean, we’re looking at The Siege, Men of Honor and The 6th Day as the precursors of this ugliness, though Alexander cost more than twice what any of those films cost.  Scrooged, which got to $60 million, is the upside of this equation… but that film had the advantage of a Christmas theme that brought an upturn on Christmas week.  I don’t expect Alexander to be on more than 800 screens by Christmas week.

On the flip side, The Polar Express is holding better than expected.  The film got very tough review from a lot of critics, but the film was the only film not going wide this weekend that actually had an uptick in viewing.  I still say, see it in IMAX 3-D… but someone out there is really liking this movie and talking about it.  And this weekend’s success will encourage exhibitors to have the film on a large number of screens on Christmas week, even if they start going to matinee-only plays for the next couple of weeks as they await the next wave.

As usual, expectations determine how one sees the success or weakness of the box office results for limited release movies.  MCN’s Len Klady sees the results for Finding Neverland, Sideways, and Kinsey to be “solid.”  I see them as a bit underwhelming. 

Kinsey’s position is very reminiscent of the distribution of The Motorcycle Diaries, a film that has now stalled at around $14 million.  Of course, that number is great for a film like Swimming Pool… but not for a hard charging Oscar wannabe.

Miramax has done an excellent job of parlaying an early entry into the season and the power of Johnny Depp to move Finding Neverland along.   They’ve gotten some separation from Sideways, which is doing okay, but feels like it is a long way – perhaps an Oscar nod will be required – from a $20 million total.  Finding Neverland feels like it could go to 2000 screens next week and do $10 million.  Remember, Johnny Depp + Secret Window = $48 million domestic. 

The film that Finding Neverland probably will most emulate fiscally is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which hit $35 million in its run last March.  For Neverland, that should be enough to make a legitimate Oscar run.  There are two huge differences between the Neverland and Eternal Sunshine as far as the awards race goes.  First is timing.  It is very difficult to rev things back up for a March title in December.  Second is that eternal Sunshine is hip and smart and young (just try to get an Academy member to recall the title accurately) while Finding Neverland is an old fashioned weepie.  Which do you think Oscar voters prefer?


Million Dollar Trailer

I got a note from a reader about the new trailer for Million Dollar Baby, now in theaters and posted at MCN, worried that it gave away too much.  So I watched the thing this morning and was not only pleased that WB and Mr. Eastwood kept it close to the vest, but  I found myself tearing up a bit seeing that footage again. 

I really did like the movie when I saw it, but it is staying with me more strongly than expected. The simplicity and power of Eastwood’s music for the film is remarkable.  And it’s interesting to see the intense shadows of Tom Stern’s cinematography in the commercial format.

Anyway, just wanted to put it out there that the trailer is not Disney, circa 1990… it is safe to view.

Yes, The New Yorker

There are three absolute movie must-reads in the November 22 edition of The New Yorker.

Malcolm Gladwell’s piece about what constitutes plagiarism and just what is theft of intellectual content and what is not is one of the most important pieces I’ve read in a long time.  Gladwell and the New Yorker were perhaps-victims of a perhaps-theft by the author of the Broadway play, Frozen.  Yet, he manages to offer both his personal perspective and a journalistic one.  Tremendous piece.

David Denby’s long piece on Almodovar gets Almodovar better and more completely than anything else I have read on the filmmaker.  It was time for perspective on Almodovar’s career and Denby hits it out of the park.

And Anthony Lane, who generally pisses me off for having more interest in being clever than in discussing film, examines the story behind Finding Neverland.  And much like Gladwell, he offers both an excellent piece of reporting as well as some personal perspective on J.M. Barrie’s history.  He does take sides, but there is more than enough in the piece for you to decide how you feel for yourself. 

It’s the issue with the Barbara Bush-looking woman in an elevator, staring up at “Floor 4, Men’s Dresses.”  I think the cartoon edition has replaced this one on newsstands.  But it would be worth the effort to track it down.  Sorry I didn’t offer this up earlier…

UPDATE SUNDAY:  Thanks to Marc Weisblott for pointing us to’s New Yorker database with links to each of the stories above.

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Star Whores?

Have you noticed that LucasFilm has once again started its marketing effort for the next and last Star Wars movie by bringing their “stars” into high profile spots for mass market companies?

Darth Vader appears as a punch line for both Target and ESPN.  Both spots feature a Storm Trooper and the ESPN spot also features C3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. 

Every time I see one of these spots… and they’ve done this at 9 months out or so on all three of the new movies… I wonder why they are bastardizing their brand.  But I guess that showing themselves as having a sense of humor about the franchise and reasserting the iconic nature of these characters is a higher priority. 

It’s a very daring move.  William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy making fun of themselves for money is one thing, but these characters are expected to generate a billion dollars at the box office next summer.  Perhaps it is the ultimate show of power… Lucas can afford to do what others don’t dare. 


Pre- Weekend Box Office

The big ugly story of the weekend to come… from the two days that came… is Alexander and its projectable $25 – $32 million five-day opening on the way to a domestic cume of under $100 million.  And that projection isn’t even severe.  End of Days and Spy Game both started over Thanksgiving weekend with over $30 million and ended up with less than $70 million domestic. 

The smaller ugly story is not nearly as ugly.  Christmas With The Kranks, which opened Wednesday in sixth place, leapt to second place and what looks like its own $30 million range opening and what seems likely to be status as the biggest new movie of the weekend.  And the good news for Revolution is that the equally horribly reviewed comedy, The Haunted Mansion, got to $75 million domestic.  In fact, no comedy opening this time of year with a number anywhere near where Cranks projects to land has done worse than that. 

In the happy column is National Treasure, which had as strong a Thanksgiving Wed/Thur as all but a handful of films (Toy Story 2, Harry Potter 2) has ever had.  That includes movies opening on the holiday weekend.  That should translate to another strong weekend of sales, leaving the title at around $85 million for 10 days, well ahead where Elf was at the 10-day mark last year and a little ahead of Disney’s highest November grosser ever, The Waterboy.

On the dark side again, Finding Neverland, Sideways and Kinsey all widened out and all disappointed heading into the weekend, averaging between 40 and 75 people per show in each of the cases in spite of the widest release of the trio being 513 screens.  As all three films head into awards season, the critical importance of the critics groups to these three titles is now blatantly apparent.

More as the weekend progresses….


Happy Post Turkey

Gobble Gobble Hey, Mecha Heimy Hey.

Excuses, Excuses

Sorry about the silence… crazy schedule… crazy life…

Got to see Million Dollar Baby, show Closer to 400 people, hang out with Michael Giacchino (a great guy) and with Walter Salles (ditto on the great guy-ness), drive a lot, prep a whole load of new features for MCN that will role out in the next few days and weeks and even celebrate my niece’s 14th birthday. 

I’m freakin’ exhausted.

Even worse, in order to make my schedule, I had to give up face time with the about-to-be-Oscar-nominated Natalie Portman.  Ouch.

But I will hit the computer more than a couple of times Thursday-Sunday as the Thanksgiving holiday rolls along…


Weekend Box Office

The Incredibles will fall to two films this weekend, one of which is another Disney release, which kind of makes you shake your head.  After all, Disney does have to protect all of its assets and if it can get National Treasure off to a $30 million start and the film has the playability that its testing numbers suggest (not to mention the critics who obsessively led their reviews by pointing out how commercial the film was), that is a win for the company.  On the other hand, the third weekend for a Pixar/Disney film taking a 53% drop seems unheard of…

Or is it?

Monsters, Inc., remarkably enough, took a 50% drop in its third weekend back in 2001 and was roughly $15 million behind where The Incredibles are going to be by the end of their its weekend.  M.I. ended up bouncing back on Thanksgiving weekend and after that, adding about 25% to its total for a $256 million domestic run… right behind Potter 2 and The Grinch.  Project that out for The Incredibles and you are looking at a domestic cume of between $265 million and $270 million for what would be the second best November total in history. 

For National Treasure, they are probably looking at a domestic total somewhere between Elf and 101 Dalmatians.  (A lump of coal in the stocking for Eisner bashers everywhere.)

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie is looking like a slightly more muscular version of The Rugrats Movie, which crawled over the $100 million mark in 1998.  Spongebob should be able to make that number without hocking any crabby patties.  That would make it the first film from Paramount this year to cross the $87 million mark domestically and only the third over $60 million.   

Of course, Paramount has its big gun, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, coming up in just a few weeks.  It will be fascinating to see whether the studio makes as strong an effort to interest teens and college-age kids to come out for Snicket, which appears so far to be infinitely more complex and sophisticated than our absorbent yellow friend.

The Polar Express is off 41% for Friday… a good indicator that it will never get close to the $100 million mark domestically… though if you add in IMAX, which is going great guns, it surely will.  But with the studio having to wait an entire year to reap the benefits of the DVD marketplace on this seasonal wannabe classic, the interest on the shortfall will be into eight figues all by itself.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason went wide this weekend and looks like it is going to burn out quickly.  Universal’s Nikki Rocco is a smart cookie, but the $8.7 million from the 530 screen release last weekend, it seems to me, combined with this weekend’s $10 million or so, seems about what they should have done in one big weekend opening.  Audiences clearly are not going to be as kind to this sequel as they were to the first film.  I guess there are many roads to $50 million… if you expected this to do about $50 million.  And that may well be the case and Ms. Rocco’s strategy may have been smarter than it looked.  And she’ll put New Line’s After The Sunset forever in her dust by the end of business today.

Ray is slowing down a bit, but awards season should eventually push the film past the top musical bio-pic to date, Coal Miner’s Daughter (also a Universal release), which totalled out at $67 million domestically in 1980. 

It’s an interesting awards hopscotch with the musical bio-pics when you look at box office success and Best Picture success.  Top grosser CMD got nominated, #2 La Bamba did not, #3 Amadeus did, #4 What’s Love Got To Do WIth It did not, #5 Shine did, and #6 Selena did not.

One hates to pull out the "race card," but the only consistency I can see in this is that all the movies that didn’t get nominated were about ethnic stars and all the ones that got the nod were about caucasians. Let’s hope that Ray can break that streak. 

Lions Gate’s micro-budget pick-up Saw should pass $50 million this weekend.  It’s already LGF’s second highest grosser of the year, far more profitable for the studio than its association with Fahrenheit 9/11 (Home Entertainment alone on Saw will net more) and way out ahead of The Punisher, the successful but slightly disappointing Open Water and last year’s grossly overrated thriller, Cabin Fever.

The Oscar-looking trio of Finding Neverland, Kinsey and Sideways are kinda sitting there waiting for the next big moment to happen.  The first two are both on 8 screens and had almost identical per-screen numbers for Friday, separated by fewer than 100 tickets sold. 

Sideways is not killing out in the world, the only limited release (279 screens) besides The Motorcycle Diaries (233 screens), which has been out there twice as long. It looks to do about the same number as it did last weekend… despite being on four times as many screens.  Sideways is going out much slower than Motorcycle did and way slower than Lost In Translation last year.  But perhaps the most notable point is that L.I.T. was at $30 million by the first of this year, as Oscar ballots headed out.  The Pianist, on the other hand, didn’t even open until Christmas in 2002.  In 2001, Gosford Park opened on December 26.  But there is always In The Bedroom to hang one’s hat on.  It opened in November of 2001 and was still just under $15 million when nominations closed.  That looks like the likely scenario for Sideways and The Motorcycle Diaries

You have to go back to the 1997 awards to find the last time two films made it in that fiscal situation, Shine and Secrets & Lies… another Mike Leigh in play tha year, as well as a Jim Brooks production (Jerry Maguire). 

The winner that year?  An unabashedly romantic period drama with no name stars… not that I’m suggesting anything…


Outrageous Censorship At A PBS Station

It’s ironic that I started the day today discussing the many media outlets focusing on penises in movies this week.  And yes, Kinsey does included penises and homosexuality and omnisexuality and a very strong message about the power of love and the support of a family.

But now, WNET in New York City has rejected interstitial advertising from the film, their representative saying, "WNET executives found the ‘Kinsey’ spot "too commercial and too provocative." 


There have been shows of media conservatism and fear of the FCC lately and most of them have left me shrugging my shoulders.  Even the Monday Night Football/Desperate Housewives non-event last week has been played in full on show after show after show with no further threats.  Comedy Central continues to air the uncut South Park: Longer, Bigger & Uncut occasionally as well as the "How many times can we say shit?" episode of the show… no threats.  Things tighten up every once in a while, whatever the administration.  It seems like minutes ago when the Reagan Administration was going to end pornography forever with the idiotic Meese Commission… nope.

But this… New York City… PBS, the first network to air nudity and language, long before NYPD Blue… a message approved by the MPAA tight asses…

I find this very disturbing, much the way I find it far more disturbing when the NY Times makes a bad call than when some smaller paper does… some things should be more sacred than others.  And freedom of speech in New York City, even after the sanitizing of Times Square, is one of those.

If you agree, please make your voice heard…

WNET’s Phone – 212-560-1313
WNET’s local New Jersey line: 973-643-3315
or send a nasty e-mail via:

And you can read the full AP story here


More On The Dart Thrown By Pat

Just a thought…

I think it’s great that Scott Rudin is coming to Leslee Dart’s side in this time of transition, but here is another angle on the "firing in the middle of Oscar season" angle…

Given that the contract was up sometime in December, waiting until the bitter end would be even more damaging for Oscar-leaning clients.  The next week leads up to the Thanksgiving holiday… even though Mr. Rudin is revving the Closer engines right now, this is, for all intents and purposes, the only lull period until Christmas.  And with nominations closing on January 15, a lot of publicists will be eating their Christmas goose at their desks. 

Wouldn’t it have been much worse for this to drag on into December? 

Also, by treating it as a termination and not as a simple exit at the end of a contract, doesn’t that blur the likely-contracted rules about client-taking, competition and staff cherry picking?

My guess is that by December 1, Ms. Dart’s clients will notice little has changed for them except for the name on the stationery.


This breakdown at PMK/HBH is oddly reminiscent of the breakdown of CAA as Ovitz left.  It’s wasn’t the end of CAA by any stretch of the imagination.  But it was the end of the monolithic view of agentry in this town. 

CAA was The King. Likewise, outside of a few specific publicists, PMK has been seen as The King (or The Queen if you will).  A big part of that power was an absolute domination of the biggest names in the game, which allowed for packaging on a higher level than anyone else.  And the same has been true at PMK.  Having a problem (like not signing your life away to get access) with Tom Cruise and you have had a problem with everyone else in town, it has seemed.  It’s not that PMK still won’t be able to push really, really hard.  But Cruise, Kidman, Hanks, Rudin and Imagine represent a big chunk of the current upper echelon and they will (most likely) now be flacked elsewhere.

It’s not exactly breaking up ATT, but in Hollywood terms…

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Can't We All Just Get It On?

Have you noticed the bizarre trend of the moment where everyone has to decide what movies and movie characters are gay, not gay and any variation in between?

Perhaps it is just coincidence.  I’m writing this just as I posted four stories on MCN, all of which speak to the same issue… was Alexander gay, was Shark Tale queer, why movies are showing so much schlong these days and of course, Spongebob.  Of course, without all these movies, there would probably be stories.

Perhaps it is the focus on gay marriage in the last election and the odd crackdown on sexuality in media controlled by the FCC. 

Perhaps Tom Brokaw’s first book in his new retirement will be "The Gayest Generation."

Or perhaps we can just start letting what happens in the bedroom of all people be private.  Unless you want to start discussing where you like appendages coming and going in your life.

But what really gets me is The Sponge.  Seems to me that Spongebob Squarepants is the first truly gay cartoon. Sponge is a young, giddy gay man, every pore looking for action, all sublimated into his crabby patty obsession.  (Is that an not-so-oblique reference to the female anatomy?)  Patrick Starfish is just an old queen.  Squidward is clearly Paul Lynde, reanimated.  And what exactly is Plankton trying to hide?

Or perhaps, it’s just a funny cartoon with a lot of silly characters… hmm… 


The Hot Blog

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon