The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2009

Does Size Matter… In The Summer Movie Season?

Let me make it clear from the beginning


Summer of Love

Why has the idea of doing my Summer Preview: 20 Weeks of Summer been like anticipating a trip to a dentist this year?
I guess it’s because so much of this upcoming summer is so not for me.
I mean, I am actually looking forward to Transformers 2. Not being irritated by it would be great, but should this really be the film I am excited about?
Terminator: Salvation? I hope so… but God, does McG’s name on it scare me.
I think Angels & Demons will be a lot better than the first of that series, but how excited can I get?
Up is certainly going to be very good, but Nemo, The Rat & The Wall will be hard to beat.
I would love to love The Girlfriend Experience, but everything about the movie screams ambivalence.
Land of The Lost and Year One? Surprise me please!
I am pretty sure I will get on board The Taking of Pelham 123. That could make a nice mid-summer adult pleasure.
The great two week span for me is likely to be Public Enemies and Bruno. It’s a big ball move for Mann to be doing period with handheld digital and Cohen will surely be just balls out.
God, I hope that Julie & Julia is actually great… and come on, Quentin… hit one out again… it’s been a long time!
I don’t know… another Harry Potter movie kind of defines it all for me… should be good… but hard to get excited for it…
Where’s the surprise going to come from?


Bea Arthur, 86

She was one of those rare things… a self-contained icon.
There are few people who are the dictionary definition of a type. A “Bea Arthur-type” is not easy to find. Very tall… very droll… very deep voiced for a woman… very tough… but capable of being quite vulnerable.
Her strength was also her limitation. But she will remain indelible.


We Are All The Kirk

ADD, Sunday 11:39a – Funny… just saw a Trek ad on ESPN… all about Kirk as The Man. Seems that the marketing team sees the need to lean heavy on that notion, even if the film is not so singular in focus.
The most interesting element of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, for me, is the Generation Why? mindset that everyone is equal, no one is actually special… or everyone is.
Kirk is at the center of the film, but in many ways, it is much more Spock’s story. All of the well-known supporting crew – aside from McCoy and Scott – have skills and smarts that mean they really could fill in for anyone else on the Enterprise. There is no ying and yang because everyone is so in touch with both sides of themselves.
Even the bad guys in the film are motivated – wrongheadedly, we find out – by an honorable rage not unlike the rage that made Americans willing to attack Iraq… and not with the seeming Machiavellian, secret motives that motivated Cheney/Bush.
It fascinates me, in part, because the folks who made this film are also responsible for Fringe, a TV show that establishes character distinctions of strength, weakness, and motive with complete alacrity within minutes of meeting any character.
I will write more about the film in time… but for me, this is the biggest thematic difference between this film and the Roddenberry vision, which was so much about seeking equality for all… the new Star Trek starts from that point, conceptually… which begs the question… what are they Trekking for?
This may turn out to be the populist turn that makes this film work for bigger, younger audiences. I honestly have no idea… as I don’t know what makes teens feel good about themselves these days. But the concept intrigues me.


Friday Estimates by Klady – Draft Day

1992… The Hand That Rocks The Cradle surprises people with a good opening ($7.7m) and long legs ($88m domestic total) with a similar story… Rebecca de Mornay, Annabella Sciorra, and Matt McCoy never quite recover, career-wise..
Later that same year… Single White Female opens to $10.2 million and ends up with $48 million… Jennifer Jason Leigh has a nice run of roles afterwards while Bridget Fonda hits a career wall.
The opening of Obsessed looks to land somewhere between Taken and He’s Just Not That Into You. Nice number. Not shocking… except to those who think they should have seen it coming… and not very important.
Dito Montiel’s shot at The Next Level will do… okay.
The Soloist has a better shot at legs than either of the other films, it seems. A movie for adults takes some time to build.
Earth, ironically, is not being put in perspective by many as a TV project now being shown on a big screen. Good number for that. But Disney has certainly got to be considering what the potential of DisneyNature is, for future, and how they will build an audience for future releases that are fresher, but still about nature.


Roger Friedman Goes Back To Work

First, he celebrates…

And then, he blogs
Soon to come… a quote-alicious rave of Inglourious Basterds and some ads to go with it…


Box Office Hell – 2/24/09

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DP/30 – Is Anybody There?

I had the chance to sit down with the great interview of moviedom, Sir Michael Caine, and John Crowley, a terrific young director to discuss their new film. Unfortunately, we did it at the start of a junket day, shot on their set, and plugged in their sound… which was way too hot… one of the few things you just can’t fix in post.
I really enjoyed the film and the interview… so if you can put up with some bad sound, I hope you will enjoy it too… it’s after the jump…

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More Wolverine Baiting

A remarkably ill-informed piece on The Business Insider led me to look at the work output of its author, Hillary Lewis. This led to a story headlined, “Fox CEO Tom Rothman Wrong: No New Footage In Final Version Of Wolverine.”
This led to an AICN story with someone who goes by Veritas (the arrogance is breathtaking) saw the film at a junket or exhibitor screening and also saw the leaked download and claims: “The workprint version IS in fact identical to the release print, sans effect and some audio work.”
I haven’t seen the release print yet. But I can say, from what I did watch of the leaked version via a street-bought DVD of the film (as I wrote about last month), “effect work” is a massive change to the leaked version of the film.
As for anything else, it is so very inside baseball that it’s nothing but geek masturbation.
In the AICN Talkbacks, the issue of the moral line that was so dramatically shifted at the site on the occasion of this leak, not running reviews based on the leak, was thrown up in the air again by allowing a piece about the difference – or the lack thereof – between the leak and the release version… a piece that required a close review of the illegal leak and the assumption on the part of the “reviewer” that they have a perfect memory of both versions, so as to compare.
The argument is made – as I have made in other contexts – that this is not a review of either version of the film, but a journalistic look at whether or not the leaked version was, in fact, substantially the same as the leaked version. And while I can understand and appreciate that position… the idea that it is okay for a screening that was obviously not meant to lead to public commentary of any kind to not only lead to comment, but to comment that, in effect, call Tom Rothman a liar, is the same kind of shit that has been the problem with AICN and sites like it forever.
What purpose is there in running this on AICN, other than to try to damage the movie’s box office take and to hurt Tom Rothman? There is no reasonable argument that it is empowering movie lovers, as any movie lovers who have watched the film have watched it through illegal means… and Harry Knowles has already made the argument that this is the case.
Of course, I would not be writing any of this had the AICN piece not leaked into what claims to be a legitimate source of business news, The Business Insider.
Not only are the stories on both AICN and on TBI misleading and poorly reported, but they are the start of a potential next wave of coverage that aggrandizes illegal behavior towards no good end. And when that ball starts rolling downhill, it quickly gets out of control.
I hope that cooler media heads will prevail. And I understand the irony that I am sitting here writing about it as I am asking others not to do so in future. Such is the nature of gossip.
Forget about who you like or don’t like in this fight… what is the right thing here? How can Fox defend itself from salacious spin without digging themselves a bigger ditch? Wasn’t it better when this all just quieted down and became what it really should be… a non-story in every way except for the danger of digital materials being shared outside of a trusted few?
ADD, 6:55p – Another factoid… the talk about matching running times is interesting, since the illegal leak has fake titles from one of the other X-Men movies on it. I, of course, have no idea of whether the titles for Wolverine will be the same length as those of what looks to be X3. But the running time of the film part, including opening credits, is about 1:40:30. So if you are trying to tag the film based on running time, one version versus the other, compare accurately.


BYOB – Pre-Weekender


DP/30 – Bermuda '09 – Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans

Director Dawn Logsdon & producer Lucie Faulknor

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Serving The Customer

I was not aware of, until last night, WB’s Red2Blu site, which allows HD movie buyers to get Blu-rays to replace the now obsolete discs for just $4.95 a pop. It doesn’t cover all the WB HDs that are now on Blu, but it’s a nice offer and a smart play for Warners, as it gets Blu-ray buyers on their website – as opposed to Amazon or others – and gives a nice, warm feeling of loyalty of the company to people who have been buyers in the past. And they likely make a buck or two in the deal to boot.
Also interesting was a piece of mail today that came in offering a year of EW for $10… with an extra coupon to let a friend in on the same offer. $10. Does that cover postage? Got to keep those subscription rates up.
I had a conversation just a couple of days ago with an Academy member who didn’t pay for a Variety subscription, but was sent the paper daily for years anyway… I suppose so Variety could claim that all Academy members (or some very high percentage) received the print version of the paper which charges so very much for that front cover during Oscar season. The paper stopped showing up on his doorstep each morning in February of this year. Will it start again in October? Probably. But interesting times… interesting times…


Review – Out Rage

Kirby Dick’s latest doc lands in Tribeca today or tomorrow. I didn’t really intend to be writing about it until after sitting down with him in a couple of weeks. But particularly striking was a Brian Brooks “First Look” at the film in indieWIRE that pretty much “outed” every single thing the film has to offer. It’s here… but I really wouldn’t read it if you intend to see the film.
The film is, not unlike Dick’s last film, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, is very well made and serves effectively as a primer to the controversy. But it fails to dig much deeper… which for me, is a shocking thing from Kirby Dick, whose films Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist and Twist of Faith dug deep, deeper, and deepest.
The basic set-up starts with Larry Craig and the internet journalist (Michael Rogers) who pushed for the details behind that story which led, in part, to Craig’s resignation. There are a lot of gay Congressmen in the closet… there are a lot of gay staffers in both parties in the closet… he is working on the stories of a number of high profile names who he will eventually out…
So what do you expect from this film? A bunch of surprising names being outed… or a few… or a single one.
And you don’t get any.
Now, is that what the film needed to be… and outing fest? Of course not. A film like this has many roads it can take and the filmmaker makes that call. But what we get is basically a dozen public figures who have already been outed, most of whom are either still in office and out of the closet or have given up their public lives. By the film’s end, there are two public figures in focus who have been pretty much outed, but who are still firmly maintaining their place in the closet.
Great. But a little ho-hum.
And it didn’t help that the distributor made a big deal out of not showing the film earlier because it was soooo controversial. BZZT! It’s controversial if you have never read The Village Voice. I mean, even Fox News addressed the question of whether Charlie Crist is a closet case.
My personal take was that what this 90 minute film is could and should have been done in 60 minutes. As I wrote, it is very well made, the interviews are good and the cinematography/visual direction in this film is as beautiful as you’ll see in any talking heads doc. But to make this a 90 minute film, either the tone had to be much tougher – many of the interview subjects walk away without answering the toughest questions and other interviews, even given the fact that many people would never agree to be interviewed for this and I am not demanding that Kirby go all Michael Moore on them, just weren’t there as follow-ups to some of the questions posed by the film – OR there needed to be some new blood in the water OR there needed to be some of the long history of outing and how that gossip sheet history became so much more political. The film does do a nice job of explaining the idea of why political figures in the closet can be so much worse than, say, celebrities. But I would argue that the kind of outing that some of the people in this film were doing as the AIDS crisis grew, from actors to guys like David Geffen, who was still publicly straight in the early 80s, became more and more serious and less frivolous and that it would not lessen the political argument to have that included in this film.
Nonetheless… as a history of the outing and non-outing of closeted politicians in the last 20 years, the film delivers. Like I said, I might have liked a slightly broader historical perspective or a shorter film, but still, in this way it is effective. But it is not a game changer or a next step in any way. The film even pulls its punches a bit when it doesn’t acknowledge that a major factor in Charlie Crist not getting the Republican VP nod was that his outing was close enough to confirm that his White House ambitions, no matter what the film says, are dead.
And if there is one thing that I found truly shocking in the film and was truly disappointed in the filmmakers for not pursuing more aggressively, it was a segment of Larry King Live, with guest Bill Maher, which the film shows was edited from the live broadcast to the reruns to remove his outing of a Republican whose homosexuality is, as Maher explains beforehand, an open secret in Washington. They interview Maher… but don’t discuss the edit. There is no indication that CNN refused an interview about it. There is… nothing more.
Now, Maher, in that interview segment, seems to have explained the situation, and perhaps, something about Outrage. He says that he doesn’t want to be the first person to publicly out someone because of all the legal issues that raises. I’m sure CNN felt the same way. And I guess that Kirby and Magnolia Pictures also felt that way because there isn’t anything here for anyone to potentially sue over…. at least nothing I can see.
Good movie… not explosive.
Finally… on a more personal note… I found myself reflecting quite a bit during the first 30 minutes or so of the film, as the discussion of the politics of outing were discussed by a wide variety of people. It was much the same discussion I have about the idea of writing about the work of other journalists. Like closeted politicians, journalists work behind a veil of a certain kind of invulnerabilty… journalists don’t want to “out” people and journalists don’t really want to be seen “outing” bad work by other journalists. In the gay situation, the question is, “What is the news value of exposing someone’s personal life.” In journalism, it’s more like Fight Club… you just don’t talk about other members of the club to the public. But I have always felt there was a major hypocrisy in doing a job in which one publicly analyzes and often attacks the jobs that others are doing while being free from public scrutiny of the way in which you are doing that analysis. And as gay politicians in the closet do bad things to keep from being scrutinized, so do journalists whose standards are below the journalistic high bar.
I have made many enemies, known and unknown, by “outing” bad journalism. And most of the time, the public attacks in response have not been factual, but personal or wild in response… which I see as an affirmation of the work that I did to cause that response. There is no question that the closeted politicians who have worked against gay causes have literally been responsible for the death of thousands or hundreds of thousands, if not millions of gay men… both by maintaining the closet and by their actual votes in Congress and efforts within other institutions. Bad journalism or gossip posing as journalists will not literally kill anyone. But I do believe that the ongoing lowering and readjustment of standards, while not directly responsible for a changing media landscape, changes the map that will eventual settle into being the standard as things shake out. In other words, an AP (as an example) entertainment story may be limited to 500 words, but those 500 words don’t have to be shallow or gossipy or inaccurate because another 500 words will turn up in a few hours.
Standards matter. Truth or the very best effort to find truth is the first standard. This is how things get better… whatever medium you work in… however serious or silly your profession is.

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Toy Of The Week

The entire auto-loading thing after the jump…

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DP/30 – Bermuda '09 – Garbage Dreams

A remarkable documentary by Mai Iskander about an entire working culture in Egypt, Garbage Dreams tells the tale of 60,000 Zaballeen… people who make a living processing garbage, closeup and personal… happily. Their livelihood is being threatened by The Future, in the form of government contracts for the very impersonal removal of garbage by non-Egyptian companies.
Iskander manages to get us past the initial discomfort of the idea of living in a world of refuse and ultimately reminds us that all working cultures deserve respect.
The film premiered at SXSW and in one short month since then, it won Best Doc at Bermuda, won Best Director and the Audience Award at Phoenix, and just won the Al Gore Reel Current Award in Nashville. It heads to the Newport Beach Film Festival this weekend, here in California. There

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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