The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2010

Inarritu's Most Popular Film?

At virtually the same time Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was debut his long-awaited Biutiful at Cannes, Nike was launching his epic “Write The Future” ad for the World Cup. And this may be his true masterpiece.
Coming in at 3 minutes and to be chopped up into many smaller spots, the film has the eclecticism Inarritu is known for with the hopefulness he’s not.
Ironically, I am writing this on an iPad, but posting Vimeo, which cannot be seen on this piece of hardware. YouTube, actually partnered with Nike on this, offers no embed code to mobile viewers. Odd.

Write The Future from Nalden on Vimeo.


Bunny Back

It’s nice to see WB trying yet again to revive Looney Tunes.
The only hole in Brooks Barnes’ story, as best I can tell, is that he didn’t know about the five (if it was a different number, please correct me, oh geeks of lore) shorts that WB commissioned and completed around the time of Osmosis Jones laying an egg in 2001. The shorts were tested… and universally disliked, apparently.
The really hard thing is that you can’t just role out the old characters. You need someone with a strong voice who can do what the guys who first did Looney Tunes did… bring their own thing to the party. Just as Chuck Jones and Robert McKimson and Friz Freleng and Tex Avery each did something different with some of the same characters.
The greatest classic revival I’ve seen is John K’s Mighty Mouse. But even if you just look at what Matt Groenig and company have done with the sitcom… and then, look at where Seth MacFarlane took it. It’s not that the foundation is so unique… it’s the perspective (combined with a great deal of talent).
Shouldn’t Todd Graff, writer/director of Camp, get a check for every episode of Glee that airs? And while we’re at it, send a few bucks to Michael Meyer, who directed Spring Awakening and not only made musical theater cool for teens again, but splayed Lea Michele out on the stage naked to hit those high notes with Jonathan Groff (not Graff). Or do we just award the prize to Kenny Ortega and Peter Barsocchini for doing High School Musical.
And every one of those shows… different voices because different, completely committed people did the work. They weren’t just looking to revive something. (Broadway’s biggest kink in recent years was revivals directed by the original director… like you were seeing it in the 50s. Bad idea. Meanwhile, the greatest successes in revivals have, for the most part, been about finding new voices… usually with a British accent.)
So I wish them luck, I would love my son to watch as many hours of Looney Tunes as I did growing up. And he will… even if this revival fails utterly. The oldies are still pretty sensational.


BYOB Thursday/Friday

I’m not sure whether you will see anything from me on Friday. 6:58a flight out… home by 11p.
Here’s some space. Be nice to each other. Play on…
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The Shia & Megan Drama

Real simple… Megan Fox was NOT dumped from Trannys 3 for saying that Michael Bay wanted to be like Hitler. Bay is a lot of things, but he’s not thin-skinned in that particular way.
Megan Fox may turn out, someday, to be more than an on-screen piece of ass. There are hints that she is a conceptual thinker. But right now, that is what she is – especially in this franchise – and a fresh piece of ass, in the great horrible tradition of Hollywood, is called for. She is, in movie terms, now too old for the role.
Shia LaBeouf is an odd movie thing. He’s been in 3 worldwide blockbusters in 3 years, all of which relied on him for box office in any way. Eagle Eye & Disturbia each did more business than expected, for which he certainly can take some credit. But is he a major box office stat? There is no strong indication, one way or the other. He’s Harrison Ford, in a way, in that Ford never really proved himself a box office draw of any weight until after all 3 Star Wars and 2 of the 3 Indiana Jones films were out. And then, starting with Witness, we started to see what he would become on his own head of steam. Shia’s box office story has not yet really begin to be written.
In any case, there is a BIG difference between being a truth-teller and being someone who gets a rep for biting the hand that feeds them. There is honesty. And there is stupidity.
This, friends, is stupidity.
Comparing it, as Patrick Goldstein does, to whistleblowers and war protesters, is a bit of a reach.
This is an issue of common courtesy… well, more than common, since without Michael Bay there is no boldfaced Megan Fox and without Spielberg, Shia LaBeouf is still hoping to get Holes 2 and is best known for being on Project Greenlight.
And as hypocritical as Deadline Hollywood is, in so many ways, does Patrick Goldstein really get to call anyone out for logrolling from the ultimate self-protectionist environs of the LA Times? Seriously… traditional-journalist-turned-blogger heal thyself.
The only reason Nikki Finke is still able to publish is that the industry allows her to because she is of use to so many. She is the greatest kind of lay-down… the kind that appears to the public to be not only independent, but utterly uncontrollable… the exact opposite of the truth, if you are the top exec at a company and want her in your camp. Staff… even senior staff… still get shit on daily. But the bosses want Nikki to keep doing their dirty work, so they let their employees suffer the indignity of Nikki’s insanity.
No one but a boss or someone closely aligned with a boss could survive that behavior… because there is no perceived payoff for it internally. Yes, there is kinds of bad behavior. But if your boss at a studio thinks you are not on their team, you’re soon to go away.
And that is why Nikki is in the position she is in right now… because she can do what others – people who actually control purse strings and jobs – dare not… and she gets away with it. The more she gets away with it, the more people indulge her. Quite literally a vicious circle.
Back on the talent side, i have had this conversation many, many times with high-end actors and writers and directors who were considering slicing into the studios or even producers they were working for. And in the end, each of them got it… it’s suicide.
Studios have, say, 15 slots a year, and 200 movies that actively want the slots. Except for Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, and sometimes Johny Depp, there are no irreplaceable actors… even movie stars. So if you are running the studio, who would you hire? The kid who you turned into a worldwide star by putting him in your three massive franchises and his one other $100 million grosser, but who thinks it’s “honest” to diss your work… or someone else who might actually not piss where he lives as though he was better than the people he works with?
“Telling the truth” about the people you work with in Hollywood is almost never about honor. It is almost always a massive form of self-indulgence. “Look how big my meat is! I can diss Spielberg! Or “I can tell fans that ‘We are going to do better next time,’ even though I will read whatever words they put in front of me for that 8 figure check.”
Of course, there is always cocktail/coffee chatter between friends and even off-the-record journos. And even then, it must be taken with a grain of salt because it is one perspective on a story. But it’s a very dangerous game because if word gets back to the higher-up and they believe it to be true, forget about the next deal/job/favor/what-have-you.
And there is this… Patrick and others agree with the “truths” offered by Ms Fox and Mr LaBeouf. What if he and others did not agree with the “truths?” This is one of my mega-peeves at the media right now… too many things are being vetted or shot down because of the personal tastes or relationships of the journalists. Things are not facts because we agree with them in our gut.
Regardless, attacking the people who hand you giant sums of money is not smart in Hollywood. And really, it’s not good behavior either.
Need we be reminded about what happened to Gary Oldman when he went up against Spielberg privately and publicly? Now, his comments were much nastier than LaBeouf’s or Fox’s. And the decade in studio movie prison he spent for the bad behavior – 4 years before a single role of any size in a studio movie (Potter and then Nolan’s Batman films)… 6 more before he got a role big enough to advertise (The Book of Eli) – was perhaps too great a punishment for being a jerk and having a bit of a lunatic as his manager. But pay it he did.
Tony Kaye went after New Line publicly over American History X and hasn’t worked for an American studio since.
Both men are massive talents. Both men dug their own graves… from which both are still reemerging.
Finally, need I point out… Shia LaBeouf was in Transformers and Transformers 2. He’s about to do Trannys 3. Neither of the first films was, objectively, much better, if better at all, than Indy 4.
Hopefully, Wall Street 2 will be the best film of his career, which would make a total of maybe 4 good films out of 25 or so he’s made. At this point, the guy is, as my sister would say, all beans, no franks.
Should people be enraged by these “truths” being spoken? Why would anyone waste their times caring about what either one of these kids has to say? They’re not talking world peace… they’re talking movie smack. Yawn.
But is it good behavior… smart behavior… even fully truthful behavior? Not so much.


Marketing I Like: Salt

I think this outdoor is elegant, eye-catching, and stimulating. And because it is Angelina Jolie shooting stuff, they don’t need to sell story or anything like that in the outdoor. It’s a pure awareness play. But it also entertains, which suggests the idea that the film might be equally pretty and clever.


DP/30 – Mike Newell, director of Prince of Persia

I decided to chat with Mike Newell, even though Disney can’t be bothered to show me the film he directed for them, Prince of Persia… but that’s another conversation.
This conversation, almost an hour long, was a great delight for me. Newell’s first directing credit was in 1964, the year of my birth, for the BBC. He and his contemporaries – including Stephen Frears, Michael Apted, and Richard Eyre – came up in what would be the UK version of our “golden age of television,” though in their case, they shot a lot of single-camera films with a theater-like respect for the writer. He became a name director in American with a series of small, well-respected indies, and then, the massively successful Four Weddings & A Funeral… which was soon followed by the drama Donnie Brasco… different than Hollywood’s expectations of this director, but right in line with his history of doing all kinds of films.
We talk Potter. We talk Persia. But mostly, we just talked. And Mr. Newell has a lot to say, he is a truth-teller, and he is a good storyteller. So a real delight.
And I’ll even see his movie one of these days.
mp3 of the conversation


"Fake Paramount" Twitterer Strikes Again

The twitter feed is funny, sometimes a lot more inside baseball than not.
Roman Polanski remaking Lolita with Chloe Moretz in Smell-O-Vision is funny and mean, but easy.
It strikes me that burning bridges with people who might, somehow, be a part of the future for the McKay/Ferrell team, is crossing a new line.
Tonight’s 140 characters was an act of brutality:
Congrats to John Travolta, Kelly Preston, and the guy who impregnated Kelly on their upcoming baby from all of us at Paramount!
I don’t know that making fun of a couple who lost a son and are pregnant again is square pool. And there is a twinge of self-destruction bubbling up there. People will forget the “fuck you” to Brad Grey because he will be gone someday… and he is already well despised. But attacking talent… interesting call…


Following The Distribution Leaders

The future of distribution is an ongoing – and endless – discussion these days. Every now and again, I run into something that strikes me as a key that should be followed by others.
The revelations of the last few days started with baseball. While exploring Sony’s PS3 Playstation Store, I saw a mention MLB.TV, the service of Major League Baseball that offers iPhone and iPad apps that allow play-by-play access to every baseball game, along with radio play-by-play from the station of choice between the two teams playing.
Last season, MLB’s portable offering evolved, from the animated play-by-play and radio to experimentation with TV signals to a full offering of TV access for an annual fee. Watching games on an iPhone was a need novelty, but not worth $100 or so per year for me… especially when I could get the radio for the price of the app.
Moreover, I was paying about $130 a year for the full range of MLB games on my TV via DirecTV. Unlike the NFL, DirecTV doesn’t have an exclusive on this programming. But ifyou root for a team that is not playing where you live, it’s a great chance to see most of their games. (If your team is in your market, every game is on cable/satellite or broadcast TV for free.)
But with the arrival of the iPad, watching a game on demand, rather than listening to the radio or watching balls and strikes, etc, come up on a nicely animated screen, became a much better value. So I paid for MLB.TV… even though it felt a bit financially indulgent to now be paying almost $250 a year to watch The Yankees 50 or 60 times when it wasn’t on network air.
Circling back to the Playstation 3… not only did my MLB.TV subscription work through my PS3 for no additional money… but my fear that the wi-fi connection wouldn’t be as good as the satellite connection watching live baseball… eliminated by a few hours watching baseball.
I called DirecTV immediately, to try to figure out whether I could get out of my baseball package commitment. I couldn’t.
But consider 2011.
My $100 paid directly to MLB.TV and a $15 app purchase gets me video and everything else on my iPhone, my iPad, my computer, and my big HDTV. I will have everything I want, delivered in every format I could ask for (and I believe there are apps for other kinds of phones), and I will pay less than I paid for satellite alone this year, much less the cost of cross-platform delivery AND the DirecTV buy.
How does this work for DirecTV? Good question. What happens when the next contract comes up? Good question.
But Major League Baseball gave me an option I wanted. I was willing to pay way too much to have it. So I am all but guaranteed to accept the access at a lower price.
Plus, it’s a win for Sony hardware, though you can also use Roku and Boxee, and presumably, any tool that sends video signal from your computer to the TV.
And MLB protects their broadcast deals by blacking out Saturday network telecast periods as well as keeping all of the post-season on TV alone.
Thing is… they had a lot of inventory that was not being fully utilized… out of market games. And now, they are another revenue producer.
In the case of the NFL, DirecTV does have an exclusive for the national rebroadcast of live out-of-market games. And they chard $100 or so more than MLB for a lot less content. Demand is high. DirecTV started offering, a couple of years ago, online access to those games. And last year, added an iPhone app. I expect an iPad app by September.
I’m sure that the NFL is looking at the MLB for a tipping point, where separating those rights makes financial sense.
The NBA is waaaaaay behind both. A lame app or two. In fact, MLB even offers a minor league video package now. Brilliant. Niche, but brilliant.
Network television is complicated, because of the affiliates, but where in heck is, for instance, the MTV app that offers streaming content from MTVs around the globe, MTV live from air, repeats of every show, and all kinds of other goodies, including exclusives? Free app or $5 app. $48 a year subscription for all-access viewing. And they can still run the freakin’ ads… and charge more for them over time.
And why isn’t Hulu on iPad by now?
Moving on to movies, I adore the Netflix app on the iPad, computer, and via my PS3 … but no one is making any real money on it.
If Disney is so keen on pushing the envelope, where is the app that streams Alice in Wonderland day-and-date with the DVD or 28 days later in the Redbox or iTunes window (if they have one) – and all of this year’s content – as part of a $150 a year subscription that also allows you access to the library of Disney live-action classics that have gone a little stale, like Bedknobs and Broomsticks?
No one is going to pay excessive dollars to get any one movie – well, with perhaps a few exceptions – across platforms. But by creating a new market for quality content that is not producing revenue, like out-of-market baseball broadcasts, using newer content as bait, the price resistance changes dramatically.
BabyFirstTV is pushing their new channel as a premium on DirecTV. It launched at $10 month… is now down to $5 million… and will probably start selling quite well at $3 a month or as part of a different, small premium package. It’s a niche market, but one that is keenly interested. How many parents of kids 2 – 14 would resist buying seemingly endless Disney access for $15 month?
My trip to DirecTV about the MLB package got me stumbling into their website and a new “play any show in any room of your home” program that I have not heard about before. Great!
$100 for the equipment and $50 for installation, but when it’s done, all of our TVs will be connected to the internet, each DVR will feed the other, making our taping space 4x as big without attaching other hard drives, no need to tape the same show on more than one DVR anymore, etc.
Being wired makes DirecTV’s VOD system work for us. But more importantly, it opens other doors as well.
How can Fox make it easier and more profitable to them for me to see earlier seasons of 24, for instance? I can stream them on Netflix, virtually for free. But how is this great for FOX? And how much would I pay to have access to, say, 20 years of The Simpsons, on my TV, my iPad, my iPhone, my computer, or anywhere else we can think of it being?
Yes, the issue of DVD sale cannibalization is there. But you can feel the movement to multi-platform happening under our feet. First in gets the biggest rewards… no?
more later…


Free Nikki! & The Semantics Of Cash

The joke behind the story that Nikki Finke might get paid a consulting fee on Tilda because it’s soooo Nikki is that the big question is whether she can cover HBO if she does the deal.
The bigger question is whether we could, if she does this deal, make the very reasonable conclusion that one of Nikki’s 5 primary operators, Ari Emanuel, who is packaging the show, is now, essentially, paying Nikki for services rendered and services to come in benefit of WME.
For that matter, her attorney, according to THR, is Tal Vigderson, who also has producing ambitions and a history with such talent as the exec producers of 24. He also worked with a number of Simpsons producers and others on the twice-failed web comedy/animation start-up, partnering with Gary Levine, who was formerly Executive Vice President, Creative Affairs at Warner Brothers Television, Steve Stanford, formerly of New Media at ICM, and Howard Gordon and John Collier, both of whom have extensive television credits.
But of course, the biggest conflict of interest is that HBO is Time-Warner and Time-Warner is Warner Bros and Nikki is already in bed with WB production chief and hopeful Horn-of-the-future Jeff Robinov. Now his company will be paying her too.
This is not to say that every relationship leads to bias or that it is easy to escape corporate parents who create unwished-for conflicts of interests when all the party in question wanted was a to make a living. In such a small media universe, conflicts must be proven by action, not simply inferred by relationship.
But I digress…
Crazy Nikki Finke is in the gossip game. Virtually every story she runs is something someone has asked her to write. Every story is a relationship with someone being worked over to both sides’ mutual benefit.
The only actual difference between Nikki being paid by HBO as “a consultant” and her cashing a check from every studio that she runs stories for is… well… the semantics of cash.
Nikki has, for the decade-plus that I have known and dealt with her, traded in ego first and money a distant third or fourth. She doesn’t really care about anything she writes – now more than ever – so much as the fact that a studio chief hops to and answers her e-mails or calls like a trained monkey… that she can abuse highly paid, highly regarded staff members of companies like toilet paper during a gastric disorder… that she can convince herself of her own importance even though she has not actually done a single positive thing for a single person – other, perhaps, than Diane English, whose film she intimidated WB into releasing more widely – in all of her years of work (even though WGA hardliners still think her support meant something as they went through a strike that got them nowhere.)
So I say, “Free Nikki!”
Who cares whether HBO pays her? Who cares who does what for her when? She is bought and paid for already, just in the perception of power, not cash. And for Nikki, that is worth more than money. Of course, she’ll cry in her bathroom, afraid to expose herself to the closed curtains of her living room windows, when the show airs. But she’ll write about how she controlled Bill Condon. And she’ll take the Big Win, which is that she was willing and capable of intimidating HBO into paying her.
And journalists who once thrived on the ego of writing for Mainstream Media will try to hide the drool sloshing out of both sides of their mouths, seeing someone who seems to be self-empowered at the same time their former outlets’ slides into bankruptcy and other obscurity utterly emasculates their perception of their own power and creates blinders to all the standards they once claimed to hold dear.
For Nikki, conflict of interest is a given. Her work starts and ends there. Everyone of any significance knows it. And none of them want to say it on the record because they fear her. Same old high school crap. No one has the guts (or the sense of honor) to tell Carrie that she’s not really a popular homecoming queen and that once they get a good laugh, they’d just as soon soak her in blood for a bigger laugh. Part of this is the sick culture of enjoying shredding someone privately while building them up to their face. Part of it is just gutlessness. But a big part of it is that they all still operate under the delusion that Nikki can set the room on fire with a thought.
And the truth is, Nikki can… because the stakes are so low. In this town, screaming and leveraging are very powerful tools. No one in the world, including Wall Street, could give two fucks about Nikki Finke calling someone names or attacking them on a blog. Carl Icahn is not reading Nikki Finke to determine what to do next, no matter how desperately the LGFers feed her intel in hope of changing public perception of their fight. But the most powerful men and women in this town are its thinnest-skinned, most-broken children. With few exceptions, they too have screamed and leveraged their way into getting others to think they know best. And in one or two cases, they do. (Those people know who they are. And those who think I am talking about them in the pejorative are proving my point about their fear.) In more cases than not, they are the best upward managers on the planet, first and last.
So please… let’s not encumber a breathing conflict of interest by pretending that something would change with a check cut by a studio.
Besides, you don’t want the truth. You can’t handle the truth. it’s not nearly as fun as the lies.


The Boston Pops & Movie Stars (inc DeNiro) Tribute The Kennedys

BYOB Tuesday

Abdicating the morning…
I feel like I am getting all the Cannes I need from Anthony Breznican, Ebert’s tweets, and Manohla at the NYT.
The trend of reporting on the opinions of others has gone past the boredom barrier for me. And sadly, when it comes to Cannes, the flash consensus is almost always wrong or at least wrong-headed. Do we really need to fight over I


BYOB Monday


"Get Outta There!"

Todd Haynes' Mildred Pierce Is Coming…



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