The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2011

Friday Estimates by Fast Klady (commentary by really slow Poland)

Fast Five|33.1*|3644|NEW|33.1
Madea’s Big Happy Family|3.1|2288|-71%|34.1
Water for Elephants|2.9|2820|-58%|26.1
Hoodwinked Too!|1.1|2505|NEW|1.1
Soul Surfer|1.0|2010|-57%|31.5
African Cats|0.95|1224|-72%|9.2
Source Code|0.8|1645|-56%|47.2

Also Debuting
Dylan Dog|0.25|862
* in millions


End of Days: April 29, 2011


I wish I really knew what the wave of entertainment media crazy means.  The Elvis Mitchell drama, reports that Jay Penske will throw away more of his fortune on Variety, and now, the return of Anita Busch, nine years after she left entertainment journalism. Anita’s story is not unlike Elvis’, in that there was and will now be a lot of guessing about what it true and what is just giddily repeated rumor.

All I can offer is that Anita was a neurotic handful back in the day, and whether her sense of what was happening to her was accurate or inaccurate, she definitely suffered from the experience.  Is anyone really actionable aside from Pellicano and his employees?  Magic Eight Ball says, “Unlikely.”

Of course, one has to love the idea of Jay Penske being unable to make money on Deadline, Movieline, et al, and going deeper in with Variety.  It’s the entertainment news version of Donald Trump running for President… and like that, it’s not too likely to happen.  But the thought is fantastic!  Nikki Finke as the agoraphobic Charles Foster Krazy would make putting up with the ignorant press hype worth enduring.  And Penske could finally take his well-earned position next to Sam Zell as a media mogul.

Meanwhile, while I am bullish on Paramount/Viacom B in 2011, the spin on this week’s quarterly that has been gobbled up by the press is pathetic.  Love Rango, but Paramount will have more net profit on distribution only on DWA’s How To Train Your Dragon than on Rango.  And there is no reason to assume Rango can be repeated.  Also the bottom line of this quarter and the quarter before last year were skewed significantly by a lack 
of theatrical product and a massive DVD push, followed by a good quarter that included the re-purchase of the $900m DreamWorks library.

I am not saying that Paramount will not do better under Grey than ever this year… just that the increase over 2010 this last quarter is a paper tiger.

I’m happy to see that Soderbergh’s retirement was a figment of his own imagination.

Fast Five seems to be ushering a new era of theatrical domination!!!  The film has a good shot at breaking the record for an April opening… and may even double the record best opening for the second half of April, The Scorpion King.  (Yes… The unbridled enthusiasm  is sarcasm… The record possibilities are not… congrats to Universal… but there is nothing surprising about a well-marketed, commercially appealing film opening big.  And looking forward to the July 4 weekend premiere of the $30 VOD… which no one will buy as they head to the multiplex to see Trannies 3.)


BYOB: Hard To Write

Ah, I remember the days when I would stay up all night writing, not hiding under the blanket to keep the light from waking the toddler.

Shoulld have time to catch up tonight. I hear something happened in the UK this morning. I hope it wasn’t a tornado.


Lost A Days: April 27, 2011

Driving to Urbana-Champaign…

Yesterday seemed to be an all-birther Bobby Ewing day. The Sirius XM new channels were a joy to have.

Restaurant Reviews: Sandwich Week in Chicago… Gramwiches were pretty amazing… Never had a pork belly sandwich (or any other) with corn bread IN the sandwich… special grilled cheese (thanks, Cameron)…. And the great Xoco didn’t disappoint on repeat returns… And now, take-out.

Ebertfest opened in the drizzle, loaded with far-flung correspondents (6 countries outside of the country in the house), familiar faces, and an opening night double feature.

Of course, none of this is End of Days material… Back again tonight.


DP/30: Massy Tadjedin, dir/writer Last Night

End of Days: April 26, 2011

It seems I picked a good week to be out of town…

There is really no news of significance this week.  So the media circle jerk seems to be content to continue to beat the Elvis Mitchell story to death.  Between The Hollywood Reporter suggesting, while offering no reason/excuse for suggesting it, that Elvis might lose his KCRW gig, Anne Thompson spinning some misinformation and a lot of rumors, and Ebert (and our own Kim Voynar) overreaching to protect him, I am sickened by the ongoing spectacle.

And MCN is somewhat responsible, as our Ray Pride was the person who sent Duncan Jones’ tweet to Movieline in the first place, as well as linking it to the specific passage in the pre-Jones screenplay.  It never occurred to Ray or me that all this drama would result.

Look, I am no Elvis fan.  I don’t think he’s special.  There are a parade of well-intended festivals that have been hung out to dry at the last minute by Elvis with lame excuses or no excuses.  (The border incident with the cash was NOT on the way to TIFF.)  The list of jobs… forget not showing up, not even signing a contract… is mesmerizing. I think he manages up well, but in the end, the show he does on KCRW is important.  He is not.

For the record, the only person who stepped up to defend Mitchell from my tweeted “saw that coming”s after he fell out of the Ebert show was KCRW producer/publicist Sarah Spitz.  I have not mentioned this publicly before, as it seemed idiotic to drag her into it, but since THR has, she told me that he had been great with the station for all these years and that suggesting he was trouble was not at all her experience of Elvis.  As far as I know, the only moment there was ever any talk about Elvis losing that job was when he took the NYT job and there was a question whether NYT would him to do double duty elsewhere.  

The Hollywood Reporter doesn’t even offer a reason why they might believe his job at KCRW is in any jeopardy.  Horrible.  Embarrassing.  

Still, anyone who hires him without knowing what they are getting is a bigger fool than Elvis could ever be.  The record is DEEP.  If, as Anne Thompson is now reporting, Elvis was fired because Summit bitched to Nikki (the idea that it’s Penske who is worrying about Summit is laughable… they have been top Nikki manipulators forever and their main Whisperer started manipulating her years before Summit existed at another studio… we used to laugh about it over lunch), Elvis should sue.  He would win.  Of course, he’d never show up for the court case.  And as I noted before, I’d be shocked if there is any paperwork on him with MMC aside from a W-4.

If he was fired to save money and is being smeared by MMC, he should sue.

If he was fired because he was non-responsive, whoever was surprised at MMC is Hollywood’s Favorite Idiot this week, as Elvis being non-responsive is as predictable as the sun rising in the east or Hollywood unions being screwed by AMPTP.

But again, I don’t think Summit actually noticed.  I don’t think Duncan was on a crusade.  He didn’t contact Movieline, if ever, until after he had tweeted and Ray sent it to Movieline later, asking for comment.  If I had to guess, I would guess that Nikki is Anne’s source on this, that it’s an outright lie, and that Anne printed it because Nikki told her (so it must be true) and she got so much attention for the Elvis rundown already.  (You know, the one that attacks him personally, professionally, and in a mix of the two arenas, and ends with, “I almost feel sorry for him.”)

(Side Note: Anne’s suggestion that Elvis was a bad fit at Movieline because he was not interested in social media is made laughable by surviving Movieline critic Stephanie Zacherek and her 6 tweets this week… 1 on the elephant from Water For Elephants, 3 on Pootie Tang, 1 praising the NYT obit section, and 1 linking a piece of Elvis’ writing for the site in an act of solidarity.) 

Was the Source Code review incident a firing offense?  Sure… if you want to fire someone and you’ve determined what actually happened.  But not a single person has claimed to know exactly what happened.  And personally, I don’t think a single person other than Elvis actually knows what did happen.  So maybe we should all STFU.

Of course, the single greatest testament to what bullshit this all is… Elvis’ Source Code review, complete with the pipe that was not in the movie, is still up on Movieline, 27 days later, with it’s 14 comments, about half of which are about the pipe.

This was such a big deal and they didn’t pull or edit the piece.  Oy.

And now, I have shot my mouth off on the subject… deconstructing media and not knowing any more about what is really going on at MMC regarding Elvis than any of the others.  So now, I will STFU about this pimple on the industry’s ass story, filled with mean, craven, manipulative, unhappy people.


BYOB 42611


End of Days: April 26, 2011

Only two stories much worth considering today…

Ms Vachon Regrets… – I dont see much of anything wrong with Christine Vachon’s State of Film address at SFIFF.  I would say that she suffers a little from indieitis, which is what turns up, for instance, in her stated disinterest in discussing theatrical exhibition. Why? Because theatrical as the primary revenue stream for true indie (not studio dependents) is already dead.  Why would she pine for the dead when she’s gotta lotta living to do?  I am amongst those who would like to see theatrical taken seriously, for both aesthetic and financial reasons. But she’s already dealing with an indie universe where DVD and theatrical are not generating enough… so she has to look to streaming as a realistic long-game player.  I would argue that she’s getting in bed with grandma and not thinking about her big eyes, big nose, and really big teeth.  The maturation of the digital world for filmed entertainment is going to hurt a lot of people in a big way. But Vachon is a smart person and a survivor.  And for now, for her, she’s absolutely right. And people shouting down a truth teller is more than a little pathetic.

Netflix YoYo – Nexflix beat their quarterly projections, but still lost on the stock exchange.  Why?  I think because Wall Street is figuring it out.  Netflix has done great building out the streaming future, but perception of what the service can be has been so wildly exaggerated by the media thanks to a non-competitive market, you can feel the slow, steady movement towards reality coming.  Those of us who saw Blockbuster’s future 15 years ago know that there is a business in Netflix… just not the exclusive, ubiquitous business currently perceived.  Even the anti-Netflix rhetoric in the industry is wildly over the top.  Netflix doesn’t have ALL the content, has never had Most Of the content and will never be everything to everyone.  But streaming and VOD are so new that perspective has been lost.

Here is a little Netflix math… Quarter 1, 2011 compared to Q1 2010 saw a $28m rise in net income.  But with gross revenues up by $225 million, the return is not all that impressive. That’s an increase from a 6.5% quarterly net on revenues to a 8.3% net on revenues while the company has grown overall by more than 40%.  And that is without much competition yet… and with some cheap deals, like Starz, still holding as a market advantage without being a greater drain on the company’s bottom line.  Streaming content has gone from $16m a month last year to $64m a month in this last quarter.  And the number is only going up.  Costs for DVDs never hit $15m a month.  

I estimate that Netflix would have to add 3.5-4.5 million new paying subscribers to cover the cost of a new Starz deal with Sony and Disney fully loaded.  And what is the cost of not doing a Starz deal?  What is the cost of competition?  Can Netflix afford to do an HBO Go deal?  

I can’t help but to be amazed by the massive change Netflix has made in its business model.  But it feels like a bubble that just can’t keep growing, yet HAS to keep growing to sustain its position in an increasingly crowded market. 


DP/30: Exporting Raymond, documentarian Phil Rosenthal

Here’s the trailer for Exporting Raymond –

BYOB 42411


Elvis Leaves Another Auditorium

No real surprise here.  If, as Nikki Finke slithers, this is over the Source Code review, the likely behavior that got him fired was not responding. This has been Elvis’ m.o. in most situations in which he Houdini’d. (KCRW would like us all to notice that he has shown up for work and consistently delivered a weekly show there for years now.)

But never let it be said that Elvis’ screw-ups can ever match the scumbaggery of his most recent employers (and be clear, that includes none of the employees of Movieline, who have chosen the rowing bowels of MMC over unemployment).  Or is that douchebaggery?  I don’t know… what would be funnier to think about repeating over and over in court after the next impotent legal threat?

When studio jerks have used the “fire ’em in public” strategy, it’s been cover for their major, job-threatening mistakes. EXCLUSIVEly firing Elvis, without even getting the full story from her in-house source, is just nastiness for nastiness’ sake… and for obsessive fear of being seen as #2. Well, you are #2, Nikki. #1 at being #2.  This is your exclusive journalistic skill.

I don’t know whether Penske knows about Nikki’s choice. He might have encouraged it.  He might be embarrassed by it.  The only thing I know Penske to be guilty of is indulging Nikki’s behavior. No matter how many of his other employees demand to be more than a 10′ pole away from Nikki and her vicous private attacks, he doesn’t seem to understand that they are all right and she is an embarrassment… The Charlie Sheen of bloggers… abusive, attention getting, and lacking any grace.

Whatever we think of Elvis, he is still (at last count) employed by Harvard and NPR, and will have “former lead critic, NYTimes” lead his obit… which is more than most critics  can say. But rushing to report firings is ambulance chasing journalism in 98% of cases. Doing it to someone your own company has hired and fired in just 3 months as a Saturday night EXCLUSIVE is grave robber level journalism. 

You should  stick to Deadline’s best loved role in Hollywood… monkey to powerful and inexcusable organ grinders. 

But no… instead we’ll just get a TOLDJA when Stu writes an official entry about Elvis’ exit. Sigh…


The End of Days: April 22, 2011

Another nothing news day that Mary Richards couldn’t make seem worthwhile…

Lindsay Lohan gets 120 days in jail and 50 8-hour days of community service , as a misdemeanor, for stealing a necklace. She’s appealing (as a legal matter, not as in “She’s CHARMING.”) If she’s serious about rebooting her career, she should skip the appeal, do the time, and come out contrite. If she’s just mouthing platitudes, she should fight this to the end of the earth, wear something that shows her g-string to the next hearing, and start planning to fake her death, ’cause that’s all that’s left. It’s amazing how forgiving this industry is… but you have to admit you have and you are f-ed up.

There is an event at Northwestern University this weekend called, “Illuminating The Shadows: Film Criticism In Focus,” this weekend. Besides the event being more accurately named “Chicago Film Criticism in Focus,” I am amused that they have brought together the group that has the least insight into the state of film criticism… film critics. (I believe MCN is better represented at the event than any other outlet except Time Out Chicago. Still, our lead critic, Michael Wilmington, who is more veteran than anyone involved except Jon Rosenbaum and Dave Kehr, was not invited to participate.)

Box Office Mojo was down for much of the day. So much for that study about Thursday’s box office take vs the last 17 years.

Even with a modest drop for Rio, Madea should win the weekend. Tyler Perry’s long ball hitter has come out to $22m, $30m, and $41m the first three times he’s put on the wig. I don’t know that he can crack $40m again, but that or a bit less should be plenty to pass Rio and completely dust Like Elephants for Chocolate. Of course, critics can’t get too enthusiastic, which is why the must-see of the weekend is getting positive, but meta-heavy reviews… Pom Wonderful presents The Greatest Documentary Ever Sold. It’s a special film. Funny and surprising, yet really enlightening. It makes you think about yourself and the world around you. Sometimes, you even root for the bad guy. A really pleasure to see.

ADDED, 11:18p – My brief tribute to Lumet (a proper tribute would take many hours), running this weekend on Ebert Presents.


The End of Days: April 21, 2011

A pretty dead day in movie news.

Tribeca opened with a not-very-good doc, but got a 3-song concert out of Elton John… which really is the Tribeca Film Festival’s brand to date. This is all they have. What happened to Geoff Gilmore heating things up?

Jeremy Renner gets Bourne. Great. With all respect to Renner, who is a great actor, it’s nothing like a coup. The film will have to be sold from the ground up.

Deadline Hollywood paid Alison Hope Weiner for her sycophantic interview with Mel Gibson (no doubt arranged by Gibson’s loyal handler and the Summit PR team that are Nikki’s bestest friends). Summit is releasing The Beaver and must be desperate for something from Gibson. Weiner claims she gave the interview to Deadline because, “editors at other media outlets seemed inclined to use this story to pursue their own agendas.” You mean, like expecting you to behave like a journalist when you get access to someone with a sordid history? I mean, seriously, not a single real question in the entire interview. People might have bought it, but not EW… to soft for EW! I can softball with the best of them. I don’t need to get into anyone’s personal life to ask them about a movie. But if the only way you address the elephant in the room is to ask whether the smell offends your subject and then offer to clean up all the shit yourself because life is so hard for them… you are a lay down hack. Gibson gets to be forthcoming… and not say a single thing of note. But that’s why they handed him to someone safe… even while Deadline is trying to claim there were no ground rules. Pete Hammond does a tougher interview. Some examples of the weighty questions:
“Do you try to stay fit?”
“Is it hard to have a new baby at your age?”
“Let’s talk about The Beaver. It’s getting amazing reviews — there was just an incredible one by Richard Roeper.” (I believe in Foster and hope the movie is great, but Richard Roeper? The game show host? Really?)
“How did you find yourself in the position to make some of these many bad choices?”
“Did you ever question that you chose the wrong occupation — especially when the tapes were released? Did you think that, ‘I’m sick of this and I chose the wrong job’?”
“People don’t know very much about who you really are. You had this public persona that seemed easy-going and always happy and joking.”
“It seems like you’ve become really uncomfortable with your fame.”
“Don’t you find that a lot of your industry friends have different political beliefs than you?”
And my favorite… “You were going to do a small part in Hangover II. How did you respond to being asked to do that and then having cast members not want you in it? How did it feel to have them allow a convicted rapist [Mike Tyson] in the movie and not you?” which she follows up with, “That’s a very Hollywood hypocritical moment.”
Congratulations, Nikki… you bought yourself the least revealing interview from a guy who stopped giving interviews because someone might ask a real question since Eddie Murphy turned up on Inside The Actors Studio. Maybe Ms. Weiner can get that gig when James Lipton retires. And maybe you’ll set some higher standards for your site someday… but I ain’t holding my breath.

And Premium VOD launched on DirecTV. The Wrap is running an ad that allegedly has gone out to customers… though as a customer who receives my billing and everything else via e-mail from DirecTV, I have gotten nothing. Moreover, the “ad” looks like it has to be a page on the DirecTV website, as it has links at the top to “My Account,” My Programming,” etc, like on the website. But there is NO sign of Home Premium on the website and a search of the term or of Just Go With It leads nowhere. The only offering of any kind that I have been able to find remains the link on the guide, right next to all the other $5 movie rentals, that I noted earlier today on The Hot Blog.


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