The Hot Blog Archive for March, 2009

Why Does…

Anne Hathaway as Judy Garland both creep me out and make me think it could be spectacular… both at the same time?
It’s just so… God… so close to being satire on the face of it.
Marion Cotillard really lost herself in Piaf, another way-over-the-top drama queen, for La Vie en Rose. But Cotillard was pretty much an American unknown and Piaf, as a person beyond a couple of records, as well. Ben Kingsley as Gandhi.
Even Johnny Depp as Dillinger in Public Enemies isn’t fighting an icon that we have a strong visual and aural take on already.
But Hathaway is a well-known person herself. And the fact that she actually does have some of the same skin tone and slightly exaggerated, but beautiful, but odd kind of looks as Garland… I don’t know… is that good or bad?
Judy Davis went there in 2001, for TV, to great acclaim. But again, not an icon (though I am a huge Judy Davis fan) playing the icon. And not young enough to even attempt to play her “young.” (Tammy Blanchard did that.)
I don’t know… truly in the category of truly great or truly disastrous, it seems to me. I hope it’s the former.


BYOB – Humpday


The Dirty Garage



I’m going to bed, so I will keep this missive as short as I can.
Nikki Finke decided to slap back at Variety today. And as Kim Masters noted earlier… she’s got a fairly easy target.
The simple reality remains, Nikki counts on fear to keep studio executives who are not using her to spin stories they way they want them spun from telling the truth about her tactics and lack of interest in the facts… truths that, if those who think she is a straight player knew, they would turn away from her, even though they still might LOVE reading her Perez Hilton act.
From this side, the side of a working journalist, to tell the truths is to expose the tellers of the true tales… stories that are embarrassing enough to the tellers that there is little motive to lie.
Nikki’s reign of terror over other journalists started early. The first time I ever heard from the woman was when she was screaming about a story that she still doesn’t understand was dead wrong on the facts and which got her fired from one of her jobs. She has managed to intimidate outlets much too big to be intimidated… but much too uninterested in listening to her screaming to bother keeping up their journalistic standards.
I would love for Reed to buy Nikki, because it would be the end of her. There would be a major lawsuit within six months and that would be the end of that.
No major journalism entity, doing due diligence, will ever buy or hire Nikki… because the exposure is just too great. If she had an editor, very little would ever run. If she worked for a company that actually worked as journalists, she would be forced to follow up gossip with reporting before posting and scoop even less than she actually does now.
And the moment of truth – actual truth – is coming. Some think I am jealous – always a lame excuse, as there are many others who have things in this world, unlike Nikki, that I actually covet… and you never see me attacking them. The truth is that lying, double dealing, failing to source her stories past the person who gave them to her, ignoring the responses she often gets from the subjects of her stories, failing to edit honestly and changing stories to fit new information she previously had wrong, trading gossip she hears for future favors, harassing studio executives, threatening studio executives, etc, etc, etc, is the way Nikki does business every single day… even while preparing for her father’s funeral.
If all that and more is okay by you, then you should love Nikki and embrace all she does. If not, you should not.
The fight for “first” or in this case, eventual “toldjas,” is the worst of what has happened to the media in the internet age. Nikki, in this industry, has been the first to have no editor AND no shame. She makes Jeffrey Wells look like a pre-teen still learning how to be harsh to people. People – including some very smart people – mistake this for hard-charging reporting. But it is not. It is gossip of the lowest order.
And again, if that’s good by you… so be it. It makes me want to vomit every time I get an eyeful of it. If that’s the future, please count me out. But I don’t think it is the future. I don’t think it’s what people really want. And when the industry stops using her and/or being afraid of her – in equal measures – then it will end and end quickly.
All I know is… I speak out so I can look in the mirror each day. I know what Nikki is. And I know what I am. And, for that matter, I know what Peter Bart and Patrick Goldstein and Anne Thompson and Kim Masters are. They are all scared to death. And they all smirked as Nikki smacked around people who deserved smacking… until she started smacking them… and making it less viable to hold standards in this business… and made them all wonder whether they would have to do all the things that Nikki does to keep earning a living. And in that group… I don’t think any of them really know just how ugly it is. But they looked the other way… just as Sharon Waxman did, thinking that Nikki was ready to play nice and to share the turf… because Nikki told her she would… and then the Nikki carpet bombing started when they were put in competition with each other by a journalist… and then it was the truth coming out.
Nikki only cares about Nikki and feeding her emotional Grand Canyon.
People need to stand up.
I know many readers or bored to death with this conversation. But until others stand with me, I will keep giving it voice. Because it is the truth. And the truth must be the first standard, in the shadow only of honor to those who help you see that truth.
Good night.


BYOB For A New Week


Why Does The NYT Keep Missing The Story?

Over the weekend, a Brooks Barnes story


The Gossip Wars: Episode 32309


A Little Irony

Peter Bart’s latest blog attack – printed on his blog with support from Anne Thompson’s blog and indeed, linked to the cover of the MCN website, often called a blog – had the usual dose of “it’s not us, it’s them.” But what really struck me as funny (both odd and ha-ha) was his slap at come-lately websites (like MCN since award season ended) not having enough ads… but take a look at the page he posted it on…
4 ads for Variety… 0 from paying advertisers.
Thing is, it’s not Us vs Them. Variety will survive based on its value in the marketplace, as will MCN. And one-person sites like Nikki Finke’s and Jeff Wells’ will survive as long as those individuals can earn enough to feel good about the effort that goes into their pages. And the newer sites, like The Wrap and HitFix, which have gone and found outside money to launch, will have to deal with their funders and the revenue streams they all feel good about.
What is disingenuous about Bart’s piece is the idea that blogs or websites are somehow more vulnerable to the slings and arrows of competitive angst than Traditional Media like Variety. As I have said forever, my biggest fear with where some New Media is going is that Traditional Media is following like voracious sheep trying to become wolves.
It is true that Nikki Finke is the scum of the earth and that there is not a single studio in town that has not used her AND been burned by her. Only one, that I know of, has given up on controlling her and mostly cut her off. The Nikki Handlers are alive and well. But the worm, in part because there is so much talk about Nikki, seems to be turning. That said, the way Nikki wields her willingness to be reckless and uninterested in facts over insinuation makes her a very hard animal for the industry to put down.
Still, her business does not directly affect Variety’s revenues (or MCN’s, for that matter). The question Variety faces is the need for any trade magazine in the internet era with the significant overhead that the paper – and The Hollywood Reporter – carries. And as Bart notes for others, though it is just as true for Variety, this is a given information “news” arena… not a serious reporter’s medium. Some of the very worst reporting on this business has been from reporters who take their work dead seriously… because the rules of Hollywood just aren’t the same. The stakes are lower and the egos are bigger and corporations lie daily in spite of their stockholder responsibilities.
Stories like DreamWorks/Par/Universal/Disney are the kinds of stories that “real reporters” can work over a series of days, weeks, and months. They matter as news as much as anything in this business does. But for the most part, this is a gossip business. And the people who wield the gossip stick best – or most willfully – are perceived as the most powerful. It used to be Variety. It used to be Patrick Goldstein. Right now, it’s Nikki.
But as her ego inspires her to push her sources – and more importantly, their staffs – to the brink (the entire exercise of her page is about Nikki’s ego and the more it is fed, the more of an embrace she needs to keep up the buzz that keeps her massive self-loathing in check), the info will spread out again. And as I have written before, it already has on stories like Rudin vs Weinstein, where the gossip outlet of choices shifted for each player as Nikki’s ego caused her to expose her sources in a completely transparent way.
On of these days, when I am feeling particularly reckless, we’ll run the list of Nikki Handlers and the sourcing for her last 50 stories or so. But I’m in Bermuda trying to relax and see 3 or 4 movies a day right now.
Anyway… interesting times. All guys like Bart want is to be back on top. And really, who can blame them for that?
ADD – 8:18a, Monday – If you want a specific example of the kind of arrogance that will eventually end the Nikki Finke gossip thing, just look at today’s attack on NBC’s Parks & Recreation, where she reprints an internal document from the network. Like or hate Ben Silverman, who someone clearly has been using Nikki for his entire tenure to tear down, what kind of piece of shit hands Nikki an internal testing report for public consumption in what is sure to be the nastiest way? The kind of piece of shit who is getting closer and closer to being exposed to his/her employers, if this kind of “look what I have” crap continues. This is not old school AICN temp-took-it-off-a-desk stuff (and yes, AICN has evolved well past that). This is clearly an executive or agent with an agenda that Nikki follows blindly because Silverman has been her best fed whipping boy and she has been able to sustain the attack for the longest period with the most eye-catching vitriol.
Having worked in testing for a short period of my life, I can tell you that some of the best shows I ever saw were killed by these kinds of reports. And some of the biggest hits that were on the air a decade ago had reports like this and were successfully turned around.
This show isn’t going anywhere. But some people are having a miserable day today, thanks to Nikki… and Ben Silverman is not at the top of that list. The TALENT that Nikki claims to be supportive of… they get the worst of nasty little stunts like this. Congrats on the “journalism,” Nikki. Brilliant cutting and pasting, as ever.


Weekend Estimates by Klady – March 22

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DP/30 – Tony Gilroy

The writer/director of this weekend’s new release, Duplicity.
The video interview after the jump…. or here for a downloadable podcast…

Read the full article »

BYOB Weekend


Friday Estimates by Klady

Summit did a great job of selling Knowing as a knock off of National Treasure.
The I Love You, Man estimate is $300,000 or so more than Forgetting Sarah Marshall last year. Good job of creating that deja vu.
And Duplicity starts with $2 million more than Charlie Wilson’s War or Closer and $600,000 more than Mona Lisa Smile. Aside from animation and Ocean’s drive-bys, these are her only 3 films since then. That would be 8 years. Idiots who wish to make this some “Julia doesn’t have it anymore” issue are either simply hateful or ignorant or both. She hasn’t had a $100 million movie since Erin Brockovich… but she hasn’t been in that business either. And with all due respect to a very good and charming actor, she’s making this return with Clive Owen, not Richard Gere. Calm down, people.
And, much crap as I might take for it, it must be said… the Watchmen thing is going from not-as-good-as-they-wanted to an unmitigated disaster… even by the most generous terms of budget estimation. Does anyone want to argue that the film will not lose money if it tops out at under $110 million domestic? Does anyone want to argue that a gross that low will even cover domestic P&A… or if you want to stick to untrue lowballs on P&A, that and Warners’ distribution charge… which puts not one dime towards the production budget?
Worse, the failure of the film to do as much as or more than 2x it’s opening weekend suggests that the film simply didn’t connect much beyond its core, which was mistaken for a bigger group than was ever real. In other words, word of mouth was not great and those who really wanted to see it saw it on Weekend One. Like it or not, Watchmen will have a lower opening weekend to domestic total ratio than Batman & Robin, Van Helsing, Hulk, The Village or even Speed Racer. It’s Cloverfield with 25% more box office and at least 5x the budget.


Photos Lately

It seems to me like this street art takes a cue from The Flash and Captain America… no?
If you live in NY, read the NYT, and care about what Manohla has to say, wouldn’t “Dargis” be enough of a clue? I mean, it’s not like “Smith… Post.” There is only one Dargis.
Calling the 12th Bermuda International Film Festival to order.


Will They Stop With The 3D Claims Already?

Uh… no.
Here is the latest WSj story on the 3-D Crazy. (Note also that it puts a modest $175,00 price tag on the BofA promo for Monsters vs Aliens… a new fact from real reporters that is unlike to get any play on Drudge or the gossip columnists peddling the lie of some massive deal that undermines the US government.)
Jeffrey Katzenberg has created a remarkable legacy for himself. He has, unlike anyone else other than Lasseter and Pixar, wrestled the legacy of Walt Disney to the ground. He has been a leading figure in building/building two live-action studios, Disney and DreamWorks. And he has done it all as the working stiff and not the self-iconizing charm merchant that others have worked so hard to be.
Does he really want to throw it all away on 3-D?
The thing about 3-D is that it is much better than it was and it is much more widely viable than before with the installation of digital projectors across the globe. However, it is not the savior of the film business. It is not The Next DVD. And as we have seen so far, not only is it an incremental box office winner, but it has a bad tendency to marginalize, by its offering, non-3D offerings of the same product.
If you asked me what the box office savior of The Polar Express was, I would have to say, “3-D.” And if you asked me what the box office downfall of Beowulf was, I would have to say, “3-D.” Anyone who was anxious to see that film was anxious to see it in 3-D. And there just weren’t enough screens.
There is a slightly different, morphed version of the problem with Coraline, which has performed beyond expectations, but lost a great deal of its audience draw when it lost 3-D screens to The Jonas Brothers’ 1 day storming of the 3-D box office.
Thing is, Coraline in 2-D looked great and would have been a thrill for the audiences of kids and adults alike out there. Ironically, as the fight over a re-stylized version of The French Connection in Blu-ray rages for cinephiles, the “two versions” of Coraline are running in theaters, quite the different visual experiences… as was the experience on The Polar Express to an even greater extent. The difference was, Polar Express in 2-D kinda sucked… and in 3-D, it was pretty magical.
This brings us to the “won’t it be better when every screen can play 3-D?,” issue. The answer is “no,” and here’s why… not every film is better in 3-D, just as every movie experience is not better in IMAX. I have now had a few experiences with IMAX where the experience of the film was worse for the size of IMAX. I still love IMAX and what it does for some films. The issue, again, on a film like Speed Racer, of what the digital car racing looked like on IMAX vs a smaller screen… amazingly different. And I still can’t really say which I prefer… because they were so very different. Did I prefer the disconnected pinball feel of the smaller film or the giant grounded cars of the IMAX version? (shrug)
But here is the biggest problem… the more mainstreamed the 3-D experience, the more meaningless it will be as a marketing tool and the less willing people will be to pay increased amounts for it. Of course, there will always be exceptions. But as Warners found out, the audience for Harry Potter didn’t change its size significantly because of a 3-D or IMAX section of film.
3-D and IMAX cannibalize “regular” screenings in all but a few cases. Only when a film is having box office problems does the 3-D or IMAX win seem to become a financial boon. And keep this in mind… selling out IMAX theaters of 150 – 250 seats with a limited number of venues is a marketing slight of hand, not a change in the movie business model. If a studio said, “here are the 500 screens – not every screen in the multiplex – that will give away free t-shirts to Big Movie X on opening weekend,” those theaters would see a big increase in business. (ironically, this is a stunt that Katzenberg tried on Dick Tracy. I still have my shirt, though the theater has been knocked down.) But the surrounding theaters would see a decrease as a result. This is not a complex principle.
There is nothing wrong with 3-D… though the glasses, while better, still aren’t great… and every person’s eyes are not necessarily able to have the full experience. But as a business model, it is an incremental winner with the really good chance of fading back into fad status.
This is the trouble in Movie Mudville these days. Business is good, even if the studios need to make a dramatic correction in how they are spending to make and market films. But the audience is still there… still hungry… still vulnerable to great marketing. But that is not enough. The industry wants the kind of growth that DVD brought. There are all kinds of great opportunities, from 3-D to self-promoted direct marketed movies over the web and/or DVD and even theatrical to the eventual return of 2nd run and living arthouses by way of digital projection.
But the sad revelation is, There Is No Spoon.
At least, no tablespoon or ladle or forklift. And this is an industry of size queens. Time to get over that and to take the pleasure where it can be gotten and not just where it makes your ego grow


Another Critic Slot Disappears

The list of critics remaining in the U.S. is still a work in progress. Passions about it are high and we want it to be right before it is published in full.
But more bad news… Soren Andersen, critic at The News Tribune of Tacoma, is taking a buyout and will be done before the end of this month. I got the note from a local exhibitor who is already mourning the loss.
There is also, in addition to lower rates for freelance critics at Variety – which is now everyone but Todd McCarthy – a serious cutback in the number of reviews they will be buying from those ongoing freelancers.
There will be some additions to list, particularly from small towns. Let’s keep a good thought for all of them.


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