The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2005

Early Box Office Analysis (The Short Form)

$8.1 million was a good start for The Hitchhiker


Is The Too Much Pre-Show For Movies To Excite Us Anymore?

A Hot Blog ROTD
“Have you ever wondered if its not you and your age but the world that has moved on? The ubiquitous internet postings, bloggings, spoilers and previews, etc have left all of us way too jaded to really care about one of the few things that we really care about — the movies.
How I long for the halcyon summer days of 1982 when I knew nothing of ET, POLTERGEIST, STAR TREK II, THE ROAD WARRIOR, BLADE RUNNER, et al. Big budgets and franchises (some), but they arrived with relatively little fanfare (at least to me) because the marketplace hadn’t evolved into what we have nowadays: Batman shilling for Verizon, HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE trailers online for months — and it still doesn’t look funny (cool but not funny), Roger Ebert in my inbox, and enough Lucasfilm product placement to choke a bantha.
And as much as I love you (don’t get any ideas — it’s purely
platonic), your site and the myriad others like it add to the
hype/expectation/disillusion/frustration. We’ve become a society of
attention deficit disorder moviegoers. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want you to go anywhere but your industry feeds our obsession which feeds your industry which feeds our obsession, etc, etc.
It’s not even about the opening weekend anymore — we’re bored by
Sunday morning. Like media junkies, even as we’re shooting up we’re
already looking forward to our next fix. And then we’re disappointed
when it can’t even come close to our expectations. We’ve only been
reading about a film for months (or years), watching the on-line video production journal, hearing about sneak previews and work prints at junkets or festivals, judging the script, and analyzing,
frame-by-frame, the multiple platform trailers, and then wonder why
we’re so jaded.
Every day is five minutes after Christmas morning with the crestfallen emptiness of Peggy Lee’s “Is that all there is?” rattling around the celluloidial zeitgeist.
We got exactly what ennui wanted. And now we’re left scratching our
heads and asking, “why did we want it?”
I don’t know what to tell you, Dave. You’ve got an enviable job
(y’think?) but I feel for you. You can’t turn back the clock and the
genie ain’t getting back into the bottle.
Ever since WHAT LIES BENEATH gave away too much in its trailer and Bob Zemeckis defended it by saying most Americans don’t want to be
surprised, I’ve given up seeking out info. I limit my online reading to your column, a selective perusal of MCN, reviews in The Observer and The New Yorker and my EW and Premiere subscriptions (not exactly cold turkey, eh?).
Keep the faith and keep looking for those gems that still knock you
out. Your enthusiasm for GUNNER PALACE has had me looking forward to it for 8 months. So what if those gems only play at festivals and it may take months (if ever) for them to see a theatrical run, smoke ’em if you got ’em and and let God sort ’em out.
But that’s just my opinion. Thanks for listening.”


And so…. Summer Begins

Are you in a rush to see xXx: State of the Nation or The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy?


Closed Set? Tee Hee!

Dave — It’s so funny — in that article you posted on “movie star” Naomi Watts (trust me, she wouldn’t trade it in for anything), the writer says, “Jackson has kept the film set closed during production with a strong expectation for the movie following the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.”
Oh? Closed? Closed to what? Press from Botswana? Closed…except for the half-hour daily Internet diaries showing every last detail of the production from craft service to scenes being filmed and an AICN writer hanging out for, like, two weeks, and all the rest of the media hoardes. Except for that, sure, it was closed. What a joke.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with press on set (obviously), but why try and create this fiction?


Three Days Without Spam Dooley…

Just noticing the quiet.


Batman 911?

I just watched the new Batman Begins trailer on MTV’s site (I won’t link because it’s a maze) and with Ra’s Al Ghul saying “Gotham must be destroyed” and Betty (okay… she’s called Rachel Dodson… but she’s playing a Betty) talking about moral choices in Gotham and when the Batman himself says that Gotham is not beyond saving… not to mention all the military equiptment…
Is Batman Begins going to be a comic-colored commentary on the issues of 9/11? Is Batman going to teach us how the U.S. should behave in the face of maniacal, if rationalized, terrorism?
Maybe that’s the pitch and not the movie. But in this trailer, it’s pretty unmistakeable.


Producers, Yes… DPs, No…

There was a slight hitch in the giddy up on the set of The Producers in recent weeks as veteran DP John Bailey was dumped from the production after not being able to get along with first time director Susan Stroman.
Or perhaps it was Mr. Brooks. It is fascinating to look at his career and realize how loyal he is to actors and writers and that in his twelve film directing career, he has gone through cinematographers like Kleenex. Paul Lohmann shot two of the films (High Anxiety and Silent Movie) and at the end of the directing run, a camera operator on Spaceballs graduated to D.P. on both Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. (I have to admit… I forgot that the Dracula film was even in the Brooks ouvre.) This cinematographer, Michael O’Shea, has a resume’ that suggests that he works fast and cleanly. But there is little of aesthetic interest there.
John Bailey, by my standards, is the most accomplished D.P. to ever work for Brooks on a hands-on production. (Freddie Francis and Laszlo Kovacs are amongst those who have worked on BrooksFilms productions for strong directors.) Bailey has shot more than 50 films, including two coming from Warner Bros. this summer. He has shot in the IMAX format, pushed the envelope in quality for indie digital productions with first time directors on The Anniversary Party, shot such visually influential films as American Gigolo, Silverado and A Brief History of Time. He’s worked for Schrader, Kasdan, Eastwood, Schlesinger, Ramis, Raimi, Brooks, Benton and so many others, including a lot of new directors. He had not shot a musical, though there were musical sequences in Living Out Loud, Light of Day and other films he’s shot.
In any case, it didn’t work out. Universal execs seem pleased with the footage that’s coming in, regardless of this glitch. It certainly didn’t bode ill for Collateral last year. But studios are getting more nervous about any information that can be perceived as negative coming out reagrding their film. And this is that. In this case, the biggest worry is that this is a sign of a first-time director missing the mark.
Bottom Line: We’ll see the movie when we see the movie. Remember, only one of the five Best Picture nominees last year was nominated for Best Cinematographer. And Scorsese was, likewise, the only nominated director whose cinematographer got a nod.


How NOT To Make Any Money On A Hollywood Blockbuster

Slate has apparently assigned Edward Jay Epstein the Hot Button beat. And this piece on German tax breaks is interesting. It’s not really accurate, but it is interesting.
The impression of the piece is that other countries essentially pay for the entire production of films budgets over $80 million out of vanity. The reality, which he forces you to unearth in his “lead with what sounds cool” writing is that $65 million on Tomb Raider was, according to him, pre-sold to the six largest action markets outside of the U.S. and Australia. According to his numbers, $10 million came from the German tax deal and another $12 million for shooting in the U.K. That left Paramount’s bill at $7 million, which they covered by pre-selling to Showtime… a cable network owned by Viacom and in the case of a huge success, a win that could make production partners angry to the point of litigation (see: Lord of the Rings).
What Epstein fails to mention in all this is that this strategy put, in some part, the last regime at Paramount on the street. More than half of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider


Apology Of The Weak

Howdy, y’all…
I’m in Champagne-Urbana now. Roger Ebert has returned to the Steak-n-Shake… Guy Maddin has me thinking in black and white… the guys from Murderball continue to travel endlessly… Zupan doesn’t dig Tati and showed up by walking out of the screening last night before going out and wearing the party out of UIUC…
As for Palm Beach… well, not there anymore…
I am getting too old to work as relentlessly as I worked just a few years ago… I’d apologize, but working that relentlessly was somewhat insane…
I look forward to the summer starting in earnest. Movies, movies, movies…


What The Rudin-To-Disney Stories Aren

With so many studios playing ring-around-the-rosey, it


Variety Goes Bloggy

A terrifc get by Gabriel Snyder in Wednesday’s Variety is very much in the style of bloggers and is a terrific story… whoever put two and two together.
Litigious scholar seeks to enter PR ‘Kingdom’
‘God’ scribe Reston offering expert services to media

“Even though James Reston Jr. is still threatening to sue 20th Century Fox over “Kingdom of Heaven,” the historian would love to be featured in any stories or shows about the film.Two weeks after Reston publicly claimed that Fox illegally lifted material from his 2002 book “Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and the Saladin in the Third Crusade,” the tome’s publisher, Anchor Books, sent out a press release advising, “If you are planning an article, segment or show on the new movie ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ — and need an expert on the Crusades — James Reston Jr. is available.”
While the advisory doesn’t mention the author’s legal tussle, it does bill the film as “sure to be one of the first major summer blockbusters!”
Asked if the attempt to publicize his book by latching onto the film amounts to a reversal of course, Reston shot back, “I think you’ve got it upside down. It was the movie that latched onto the book. It’s my view that the whole movie is based on my book.” Though rattling his saber, Reston has not filed any suit.
Russell Perreault, director of publicity at Anchor, said there’s been media interest in Reston but admitted it makes for a “weird” situation. “He’s completely promoting his book, not the movie,” he said. “He has not seen the film. He’s not commenting on whether it’s good or bad.”
Reston acknowledged an expert contemplating litigation may not be the ideal source. “It should be disclosed,” he said, “and there are people who would rather speak to someone else.”
Date in print: Wed., Apr. 20, 2005, Los Angeles”


Too Hard?

I have now heard from a number of people who felt last Friday’s Hot Button was “a personal attack” on Gerry Rich and too harsh about his past and future.
I need some slightly less vested opinions. Please tell me your thoughts. Don’t feel obligated to sound off if you don’t have a sense of perspective on the story.
I acknowledge that Rich has had four #1 openings in twelve openings at Paramount and that Sahara was an especially strong achievement (even if they cribbed National Treasure). I also acknowledge that some of the strongest candidates for the job he eventually took have been taken off the field as potential near-future hires, by Paramount or anyone else, so the comparative threat has lightened.
That said… what say you?


Not Real Early Box Office Analysis

The news of the weekend was somewhere between


Joy, Fun, Seasons In The Sun

Just in case you are ready to shread-y…
20 Weeks Of Summer & The Chart O’ Cash


Sometimes A Banana Is Just A Banana

Yes, there is something that smells odd about Scott Stuber & Mary Parent announcing their exit from Co-Chair slots at Universal only seventeen months after taking the job. Even after all the pretty-much-what-the-release-said stories ran yesterday, people are still rumbling, looking for a


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