The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2008

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BYOB – Hump Day


Again With The Videogames Vs Theatrical BS???

I don’t want to belabor the idiocy of all this… but Financial Times, of all places, is selling this junk about the release of Grand Theft Auto IV damaging Iron Man‘s opening. (Variety added this goof.)
Last September, when Halo 3 was going to destroy the box office, Peter Berg’s The Kingdom opened to $1.4 million less than Peter Berg’s The Rundown did on the same date four years earlier. It is possible that Halo 3 geeks staying home and playing all weekend had some minor effect on that opening. But it’s a lot more likely that the $23 million opening for The Game Plan was a lot more significant. In the end, the total domestic grosses for the two films were almost identical (under $200k).
Could there be a million dollar hit on the Iron Man opening because GTA4 players stay home all weekend and don’t go to see IM until the second weekend? Sure. But with an opening that is likely between $60m and $75m, that million bucks is minor.
And Paramount should be lowering expectations, which have run way out of control based on geek love. The studio knows that their audience is somewhat limited. You can see it in every single ad. That doesn’t mean that they won’t have a huge number by any fair standard. But this idea that it’s a $100 million weekend or bust is just dumb.
I repeat… the best opening for a non-sequel and non-Spider-Man in that slot is still Van Helsing‘s $52 million. Four years later and much better buzz, one can imagine a 50% increase. But a 100% increase?
Anything is possible. But if it does, it will be a shock, not something you should be expecting.


No Iron Man Is An Island…

But maybe it’s The Island.
Iron Man is better than the Mark Steven Johnson comic book movies


BYOB – Return to L.A.

It’s yet another travel day… to be followed by another on Wed, heading to the San Francisco International Film Fest…
You’re up.


Hollywood, Ink. – May 28, 2008

I’ve been wanting MCN to be doing an editorial cartoon for years. I am a huge fan of the form and as far as I know, no one has ever done a regular one for this industry.
You might recall me posting some political cartoons from The NY Observer here a few weeks ago, both of which used movie poster images to make their point. Those were from RJ Matson… and we are thrilled that he has agreed to work with us each week, in addition to his ongoing work with NYO, The St Louis Dispatch (his home paper), and the Capital Hill daily, Roll Call.
Look for a new comic-tary from RJ every Monday.
This week’s inspiration… the Spike Lee/Nokia deal.
Here is the first cartoon…


Lunch With… Tarsem Singh On The Fall

The interview…
(Note: Apologies to Tarsem for the mistaken label on the front of the video… it is being fixed now.)

1 Comment »

The Culture Of The Apolo-Lie

I just saw all this crap about Miley Cyrus and her exposed back and lipstick.
People do know that 15-year-old breasts, while they really have no business being shown in public, do exist, whether covered in a sheet or a t-shirt, right?
Really, bottom line, this tempest in a training bra is nothing but a screw up by a personal publicist who didn’t call Disney to get their input on Miley’s Annie Lebowitz output before this became an issue… that is, combined with the increasing arrogance of Ms Cyrus, whose urges to go more “adult” have been signaled endlessly, especially in her concert tour.
There is a long, long way between Ms Cyrus getting out of cars without panties or indulging hourly shots of the side of her breast in a bikini or taking video of going to second base or whatever the Scum Pack is doing this week and an Annie Lebowitz shoot that includes a provocative image that smartly addresses the question of selling teen sexuality without really including much of it.
But Disney is pissed. No doubt, Vanity Fair heard about it before they went on the web with it and did it anyway, knowing that they would have a must-discuss-Vanity-Fair moment for the first time in a while, and would still have the open door to publish or not publish the photos. (However, people must realize that the actual magazines are likely in the printing process and unlikely to change, no matter what the furor.) Disney, knowing its been played, is overreaching with near-kiddie-porn accusations. And Miley is playing the role of The Innocent, caught between two companies and between stages of maturity. BLECH!
Of course, this is the same infantile stance that America continues to take about The Rev Wright, Gerry Ferraro, rare slips of the tongue by candidates who are on the trail gabbing for hours a day, etc, etc, etc.
Apologies to placate groups that misunderstand – usually intentionally – are an insult to everyone. They are patronizing to the idiots who “misunderstand” because why should an apology matter if the fact is really that important. And they insult the people who do understand by allowing the rug to be pulled out from under the truth.
I’m not saying that there is a TRUTH, but let’s stop being such babies about telling The Truth. Let’s get Gallup to poll pedophiles and see whether they would rather satisfy themselves to Miley Cyrus’ concert DVD or this rather innocent photo in which Miley’s back is exposed. Then, let’s have Gallup poll people who claim to be “regular” but who see the photo as some sort of come-hither image that suggests a hard night of sex with the 15-year-old. It’s those people who I worry about.
The main thing I noticed was that the girl needs to improve her posture.


Ang In Urbana

Ang Lee is here at EbertFest, presenting Hulk.
I hadn’t realized that he was here for his undergrad work, years ago.
He’s become a more and more relaxed interview (as we found on his Lust, Caution LWD), the highlight so far being his discussion of The Ice Storm, which he says he should have called “The Fuck You Movie,” as the choice to do it was a direct response to having made “nice, heartwarming” films. He said, “A lady would come up to me and say, ‘I just loved Sense & Sensibility,’ and I’d just want to punch her in the face.”
On Hulk, he copped to how much the film was about his problems with his own dad. He also talked a lot about how tough the critical response to the film was in America. Like Lust, Caution, other countries saw the politics of it.
What really struck me sitting here is that Lee makes films that, for Americans, are really for women and for men over 35. The perceived failures of Hulk seems to have come from comicbook fans who wanted the very male testosterone rush. That just wasn’t the movie Ang Lee made.
Of course, there was a Heath Ledger question. Ang talked about the work and simply said, “I love him… He carries the movie.” (He also said that it was Jake G’s role to steal the movie… and he did.)


BYOBox Office

Can’t get a chart posted on the iPhone, but Klady’s estimates should be on the MCN front page… have at it.
My short response is that Harold & Kumar 3, which is terrible (especially compared to the glorious original), opened off its DVD love and the number is about right. And a strong campaign by Universal for a not very good movie worked on Baby Mama.


Baby Nah Nah

Sorry… but comedy is harder than it looks… even for pros who are strapping on the directing jodhpurs for the first time.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a terrific idea with some interesting talent, desperately in need of a director and a producer. And now, Baby Mama is a terrific idea with two extremely compelling actresses… in desperate need of a producer to tell the writer that, 1) he can’t direct and 2) that the script needs work on the story level and 3) just because Mike Myers improved a lot of Wayne’s World does not mean that Amy Pohler can save his story problems by making faces, even if she gets laughs.
Universal is smartly selling only the first act of Baby Mama, because if they told you where it was going, you wouldn’t show up. People want to see the uptight working woman learn about life from the wild white trash chick. But someone told writer/”director” Mike McCullers that the big heartwarming turn that is an old tradition on these films would be a good idea. But it misses by a mile. The hard part is that fightingthe studio “make the characters more likeable” thing was right too. But the “not obvious” choices must be elegant. It’s just that making warmth work from the bones of a farce is a mile tall order… few make it… as is proven again here.
We’re getting more and more of these near-miss comedies in light of the Apatow success. And I find it wildly frustrating, as in both of these cases, a better movie was sitting there, waiting for a bright, critical voice pushing the writers and first-time directors to be more demanding of themselves. (There is a reason why Apatow hires unexpected, but experienced and hungry directors for so many of the films he produces.)


Friday, Friday

It’s Friday in lovely Champaign, Urbana.
I spent the morning on a panel with the surprising combination of Joey Pants, Barry Avrich, Tarsem, and the legendary Paul Schrader. The panel was on the nature of making personal movies in a business-minded industy, but became mostly about the evolution – or devolution – of distribution for indies. Pantoliano’s film here, Canvas, was funded in part by he and his co-star, Marcia Gay Harden, who contributed their fees and more. Tarsem funded his own film, The Fall. Avrich has made tough docs about US subjects out of Canada. And Schrader, obviously, has been through all areas of the biz.
Schrader was particularly vocal about a paradigm shift he feels has already happened, away from the traditional model (a tradition for 30 years, since VHS) and into a whole new set of delivery options dominating.
I disagree.
It’s not that the delivery systems won’t exist or won’t get traction. It is my ongoing belief that there is a huge economic need for theatrical and that one you get to the afterlife of a film, there will be a dozen delivery options… but only one, relatively low, price point that Hollywood will to adjust to in budgeting production and distribution.
As always, a recurrin theme is that people who want more quality film have a responsibilty to spending dollars on better films. And filmmakers, like the ones on the panel, need to put their money where their rhetoric is.

A Fresh BYOB

Expect some spot blogging from here…
Meanwhile, a clean page for you all to play on…


Sipping Champaign

It was a long trip to Champaign-Urbana from Los Angeles today. But it was too long a trip for Roger Ebert to make, laid up in his hospital room, still pressuring his doctors to give him a greenlight to bring his broken hip to his hometown for even a few hours at his namesake film festival.
It’s the 10th anniversary of Ebertfest and while last year felt a bit like a tribute to Roger himself – many of his closest filmmaker friends brought films and his own screenplay effort, Beyond The Valley of the Dolls, was shown – this year feels more like the festival Roger and his top sidekick, Nate Kohn, have programmed for years… films that have very mixed reputations, but play at their best with the warm embrace of Roger to offer this audience the reasons why they should love the films as well.
Roger’s wife, Chaz, will serve as lead host, as she did last year with Roger in attendance. Her opening remarks at today’s pre-show cocktail were very emotional and sweet and expressed what many of us in town for yet another year felt. Roger’s physical absence, combined with the permanent loss of “co-conspirator” Dusty Cohl, just feels odd and, as Chaz said, melancholic.
This is not the first Ebertfest at which I have seen every film programmed. And it’s an odd coincidence that I just sat down for a “Lunch” with Tarsem Singh, that one of my favorite “Lunches” of last year was with Ang Lee, who is going to be here with Hulk, and that another was with John Turturro for Romance & Cigarettes.
But coming to Ebertfest long ago stopped being about business for me. It’s a trip to Southern Illinois to have an annual reunion with a part of my family. I’ve never been particularly close with Roger & Chaz… though they have been very generous to me over many years now. I was closer with Dusty… and am thrilled to have a chance to spend some time with his wife, the amazing Joan. But I have not had a lot of mentors in my life’s work. Both men have been, when they knew it and when they didn’t, filling that slot in various ways. And there are others… friends from here who I see every year… friends that I have traveled with on The Floating Film Festival… friends from the journalistic and industry trenches.
You can be a fan or not a fan of Roger Ebert. But you can’t deny, when you are here – even when he is absent physically – his passion and commitment to film. In many ways, his absence, which we all hope will be brief, feels like a call for all of us who might push forward to find ways to bring similar passion to our circles of the world to do so.
To do any less would just be unrogerlike.


For The Valkyrie Record…

I just want to make clear that while this blog is mentioned in the New York Times story on Valkyrie, I have nothing to do with Defamer’s further take that UA is dead because of this film or with any of that incompetent, for-sale idiot Roger Friedman’s blubbering about the movie.
There is one reason why, in spite of many people wanting me to go negative on the film, I finally wrote that “Valkyrie is dead.” Two moves and the date they settled on.
UA will tell you that they love President’s Day Weekend and that they have more open space there and that the fall is a graveyard. Great.
Meanwhile, I don’t understand how the NYT let them off the hook by using two mid-September releases as “the period” that Valkyrie was scheduled for… because Valkyrie was scheduled for October, not September, which is where Academy Award nominee Michael Clayton was released in 2007 and Oscar winner The Departed was released in 2006.
But I digress…
I don’t care whether the footage that’s been seen so far look mediocre or even bad. I am happy to let a movie become a movie. Or a studio become a studio.
I have nothing against Cruise (whose nomination for Magnolia I called for immediately and who I have said repeatedly deserved the Oscar for Born on the Fourth of July) or Singer (being a fan of all of his work until Superman Returns) or UA.
And yes, nobody knows anything.
But the fact remains, a move from summer to fall to winter (particularly February) has never boded well. And in recent years, the movies that have “died” under those circumstances include Jumper, The Other Boleyn Girl, Charlie Bartlett, The Astronaut Farmer, and Freedomland.
Moreover, the entire list of $100 million grossers that have opened in February in the last ten years consists of Ghost Rider, Hitch, The Passion of the Christ, 50 First Dates, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, Daredevil, and Hannibal. 3 Romantic Comedies, 2 Comic Book movies, a horror sequel, and a once-in-a-20-years-phenom starring Jesus Christ. Do you see anything close to Valkyrie?
But anything can happen. Good luck to them. If the trailer that finally lands is brilliant, the movie will open. And if the movie is great, it will find an audience… even if it is unlikely to find a huge one in that slot.
Early buzz didn’t make Snakes on a Plane massive or bury any number of crap films, including the horrible Batman & Robin, which had what was then a sixth-best ever opening with $42.8 million.
I just wanted to say, I would never make any of the silly, lazy reaches that The Inhuman Stain would. They are unfair and uninformed. But then again, what do you expect from a gossip columinst who works for a right-wing organization that stands against much of what he stands for and who “reports” what he is told to report?
PS – Do I need to point out that it was the NYT, not some blog, that “reported” on Tom Cruise’s cameo in Tropic Thunder as though it was news?
At least Cieply didn’t call me ” a blogger.”


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