The Hot Blog Archive for February, 2008

BYOB Mazatlan

The boat cruises along…
How floats your boat?


Is There Something Wrong With Oscar?

Bad ratings once again has brought a plethora of reactive, silly pieces about “what’s wrong?”
As you know, I am on a boat, but this morning, it was Old Man Goldstein busy, as he so often does, mistaking his home for a place of importance in the scheme of things. Wrong!
There’s nothing more pathetic than Traditional Media, unable to figure out the current marketplace, explaining to others how the current marketplace should work.
What happened to the ratings? It’s not complicated. The expected acting winners and the ones who won in upsets were all, pretty much, unknown outside of the arthouse world. Juno was the one major box office hit in the group… but as excellent as Ellen Page is, she was the only acting nominee from the film and has not proved to be a “we have to tune in to see what she says” kind of public personality. The f-ing songs nominated from Enchanted… a movie most loved by the already committed Oscar viewers.
But this is the micro view… not very meaningful.
Paradigm shifts in media are most often driven by micro choices, but those choices are based on the macro view.
James Bond has had three major successful transitions in its 40 year (or so) history. From the serious Connery to the charmingly quippy Roger Moore to the Bond-as-many-think-of-him Brosnan to the rough and tumble hard edge of Daniel Craig. Yes, the actor matters. But the bigger idea of what a Bond is defines the change.
But The Academy Awards is NOT a movie. It is television. Deal with it.
And television is, like most media, narrowing. For everyone, except the Super Bowl, which is a four-quadrant event like Christmas, regardless of who is playing the game. Up a little for NY teams… down a little for small market teams. But the machine is much bigger than the game. And if it stops being that, that event too will become marginalized.
So the question can not be, “How can The Oscars be returned to its glory?” That is a disaster in the making.
The questions can only be, “What is it that makes this idea appealing to people?” and “How do we best design a show to fit that appeal?”
The answer is NOT The Rock… with due respect to the delightful scent of what he is cooking. it’ also not loading up the show with every presented under 40 they could scrape up.
None of us know the answer for sure. But my sense is that there are two ways to go… toney or intimate. The Golden Globes was “the intimate choice,” but has gotten less so over time. The toney choice is Steve Martin or the like hosting, cool enough to be smart, dry enough to never let them see him sweat… a show of utter elegance and produced in near black & white.
I kinda would like to see them try that multi-headed host thing again… go cross-generational. I mean, would you like to see up there? Let’s not see a Judd Apatow Oscars. How about Amanda Bynes, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, and Meryl Streep? Or Amy Adams, Steve Carrell, George Clooney, and Kathy Bates? Or Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bruce Willis? Or Ian McKellen, Josh Brolin, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jennifer Garner?
Do the musical numbers as covers… serious covers… but serious names… that can seriously be sold after the show.
Add a category or two, like stunts.
And remember why people watch… to see emotion and glamor and the unexpected from people who they only know through their performances.
Or not.
All I am saying is that it might be more fun for Oscar to feel more like that ballroom at the Hollywood Roosevelt again.
Regardless, the ratings are likely to continue dropping until they reach the next natural plateau. It is the nature of the medium. You can make that plateau a little higher or lower, but you can’t make this show the massive hit it once was again. It is the nature of niche.
And picking apart silly details – which The Academy itself was nervously doing even before the show this year – is not going to change that.


BYO Bon Voyage

We’re pulling out of dock… The 10th Floating Film Festival is on its way.
I will be doing some writing as the cruise goes along. They have wi-fi this time. But mostly, it’s up to you guys for a while.
Have fun without me… Just not too much!!!


52 Weeks To Oscar aka My Oscar Yammering



Bring Your Own Oscar Yammering

Liveblogging died today… as every monkey with a keyboard, Traditional Media or New, feels a need to comment minute-by-minute on a show that everyone gets to see live. It seems to me to be about the equivalent of reading a column about sex during sex. Methinks your “partner” would be better served by a little concentration.
The day of verbal diarrhea as a communications medium is coming to an end.
I don


Gurus o' Change

We gave a chance for all 30 Gurus, Gold & 2.0 to offer last minute changes. As of this posting (1:11p pst), 3 have offered changes.
Ironically, a lot of the hubbub this weekend about an upset came from Pete Hammond, who was wondering aloud, in room after room, whether Marion Cotillard had closed the gap on Julie Christie. But no last minute request of a change for Pete.
Here are the trio. Others will be added if they turn up in the next couple of hours.
Susan Wloszczyna
Tilda Swinton for Supporting Actress
Transformers for Visual Effects
Mark Bakalor
Supporting Actor
2. Hal Holbrook Into The Wild
Supporting Actress
2. Tilda Swinton Michael Clayton
Art Direction
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
2. Sweeney Todd
Animated Short
1. I Met The Walrus
Live Action Short
1. At Night
2. Le Mozart Des Pickpockets
Oscar Frenzy
1. Sweeney Todd
2. Atonement
Supporting Actress
1. Amy Ryan
2. Tilda Swinton
Original Song
1. Falling Slowly
2. Raise It Up
Art Direction
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Sweeney Todd

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Shame On Whom?

I was quite shocked when I read a Reuters report of Hillary Clinton claiming that Barack Obama was using tactics “right out of Karl Rove’s playbook” and calling “Shame” on him regarding a claim that she would perhaps garnish wages to force Americans to pay for their universal health care.
I was more shocked when I read that she was accusing him and his campaign of lying about it when he has been saying this for weeks, including in the middle of the debate last Thursday… when she responded that he was also suggesting penalties, though his were only for parents who were not covering their children. She compared the need for every single person to be covered, by whatever means neccessary, to Social Security and Medicare.
The Reuters story noted: “Shame on you, Barack Obama,” Clinton said, speaking to reporters after a rally in Ohio, a state that is key to her struggling campaign.
Brandishing a copy of the leaflet, Clinton said the Obama campaign was spreading “false, misleading, discredited information” about her health-care plan.
“Senator Obama knows it is not true that my plan forces people to buy insurance even if they can’t afford it,” Clinton said. “It is blatantly false and yet he continues to spend millions of dollars perpetuating falsehoods. It is not hopeful. It is destructive, particularly for a Democrat to be discrediting universal health care.”

This accusation continued on her website.
From Hillary Clinton’s website (2/23):
Fact Check: False and Misleading Comments from the Obama Campaign About Hillary


SNL Oscar Parody

SNL did “I Drink Your Milkshake!” as a Food Network show, also parodying No Country and Juno in the process.
For some reason, I can’t get YouTube this morning… so here is another site with the piece.
What struck me, however, was that the Oscar satire, the night before, was in the third half hour of the show… the half hour of the dregs. How little interest is there in The Oscars this year?


Weekend Estimates by Klady – Oscar Sunday '08

The only thing I can offer of any interest to these numbers this week is that it now looks like we will have the second February in five years – the exception being 2006 – without a single $100 million domestic grosser. And I forget each year that January has successful films… but all grossing under $100 million, a detail that remained true to form this year.
What really distinguishes this year’s lack of 9-figure gold is how many films aspiring to that goal the studios threw at the first two months of the year. Cloverfield and 27 Dresses in January and Jumper and The Spiderwick Chronicles in February all revved the engines and then came up short… with four very different marketing strategies. Geek Love, Women, 4-Quadrant (leaning young), and Kids all failed to deliver the home run, the last two films being by far the most expensive risks. In the past, one or two such films were launched and once, three… never four.
The “year-is-down”/”theatrical is dead” stories should start soon. And it is unlikely the gross numbers will catch up much over the course of the year. The biggest year ever will not be duplicated. And the sky is not falling. This is not a business of selling toilet paper or razor blades. It’s about the movies and the marketing opportunities that those films allow. And you’re just not going to have three $300 million movies in May, a fourth in July, and three more $200 million-plus films in most summers. It’s never happened before… and it won’t happen again for a while.
Holiday 2008 could be up, with a Bond, a Madagascar sequel, a Harry Potter, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and a Jim Carrey comedy that may harken back to his good ol’ days. But the year could easily be down by double digits by November 1. We’ll see.
But for now, March…
Next week, New Line is hoping that a leap year Feb 29 date will be like last year’s March date for Will Ferrell, who scored $119 million with Blades of Glory. Warners’ 300 wannabe, 10,000 BC, opens dead on the $211 million hit’s date. Horton Hears A Who is in the very successful Ice Age and Ice Age 2 slot. And God knows what Par is chasing with Drillbit Taylor, which seems like a summer movie being dumped in spring. And Sony’s 21 hopes to be the second launch of Jim Sturgis, who built a base with teen girls in Across The Universe and looks to win over the boys here, supported by Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, and the threat of a tryst with Kate Bosworth.
FINALLY… The Oscar bump stories… mythology.
The last time we saw a bump like this – and it was significantly bigger – was 2004. Why? Because it happened to be the last year where the nominees and the release strategies matched like this. Juno had a minor bump after nominations, but the near $45 million “bump” for the film was really the pretty much expectable continuation of a very strong commercial run.
There Will Be Blood


I've Got Indie Spirit, How About You?

The Spirit Awards are the best they have been in years, in great part because they are the most produced ISAs in years. Someone who is written for and is really a performer is just a better host of a looser show than a comic. And Rainn Wilson has been sublime.
More on the troubles of this being The Searchlight Awards later…
It’s not that I don’t think this movie, Juno, doesnt deserve the love. It just kinda sucks when one film that already has so much eats all indie films.
(The winners…)


Friday Estimates by Klady

Wow… look at that line-up!!!!



It’s the Friday before Oscar… three new wide releases (over 1000 screens) and I can only hope that Vantage Point doesn’t suck relentlessly. Proud moments!
Is there anything left to say about Oscar (or anything else)?
You tell me.


Brother, Can You Spare 350 Dimes?

Nikki Finke has, once again, swept the LA Press Club awards with little or no apparent competition.
She is now being given awards for being the best online film critic… without any indication that she has even seen a movie this year. (Moreover, she has always mocked me for writing criticism… she the real journalist, above that lowly form… until it came to sending in an entry form.)
With due respect to Alex Ben Block & Co, these awards are a complete joke and they need to look at the world in a way that actually considers modern journalism.
It’s not so much that Nikki won something. I can understand that. The Strike Queen did something unique this season and showed us how things can be online, for better or worse. The problem is that in two of the three categories of online, it appears that there was not a single person up against her (nominations are not offered on the LAPC site), as she not only won, but there was no 2nd place, as there were in all other categories.
Alex Ben Block, admittedly, made a point of reminding me that entering the awards was happening and that I should nominate myself. But as all of us who have been online for long enough to deal with “The Webbys” experienced, self-nomination for a fee ($35 an entry at LA Press Club) is not a happy road.
It is notable that every single winner and runner up in every category is from a nationally represented news organization, used to chasing Pulitzers, etc, in the pay-n-nominate process. This is not how the web thinks.
And the ego of it… do I really want an award I had to ask for? Should anyone?
Someone pointed out a while back that The Oscars required self-nomination. And I get that. But it’s different. No one is NOT nominated by their companies if there is a ghost of a chance of a nomination. But at companies like The New York Times and Tribune Co, who is nominated and for what is the subject of all kinds of internal wrangling. Do we really aspire to the web joining that ungracious tradition… much as the winners are deserving of praise?
If LA Press Club is serious about being taken seriously (this is billed, humorously, as “1st ANNUAL NATIONAL ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALISM AWARDS”), they should get some nominating committees together, pick 20 or so nominees in each category, and break it down from there. List the 20… then the 10… then the 5… then the winner. Then, if there are people who feel left out of the 20, a method for allowing submissions can be created.
And a little transparency wouldn’t hurt. Who are the candidates? And are we really expected to take any award bestowed by 3 people seriously? “National Journalism Award” voted on by a committee of 3? I mean…
This could all come under yesterday’s theme in the Patrick Goldstein entry… maybe we just don’t think alike. That’s ok.
It would be nice to have a serious and respected award out there that breaks the narrow, political mold of The Pulitzers… but this clearly is not it… at least not as it is currently conceived.


20 Weeks… End Of Weeks



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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