The Hot Blog Archive for August, 2011

DP/30: Midnight in Paris, actor Corey Stoll


Happy Brithday To THB

14 years now since we started down the daily content road on the internet. And like a typical guy, I forgot my anniversary… which was Monday.

It was The Hot Button… it’s now The Hot Blog.

Here are the rules of the road. I think that #2 needs a numeric and revenue sources rewrite, but aside from that, these principles are all just as important today as they were then.

Thanks for being part of my conversation.


1. Great Media Outlets’ Standards Are Less Stringent When The Subject Is Entertainment And That Sucks.

2. $150 Million Is No Longer A Blockbuster In Theatrical… But Right Now Represents The Start Of A Road To More Than $200 Million In Returns to The Studio In Most Cases Thanks To The New DVD Market And Expanded International Theatrical Market.

3. Successful Movie Advertising Sells One Idea At A Time… And There Actually Has To Be An Idea Worth Selling

4. The Story Of The Moment Is Almost Never The Real Story

5. There Are Very Few Journalists In Entertainment Journalism

6. Talent Is Your Friend Until It’s Time For Talent Not To Be Your Friend

7. Reviewing Scripts Or Test Screenings Is Selfish And Immoral… You Do Not Know What Effect Sticking Your Nose Into Process Will Have And More Often Than Not It Is Negative

8. Opening Weekend Is Never About The Quality Of The Movie

9. There Are Things I Know And Things I Don’t Know And Sometimes They Change

10.Love What You Do And Do What You Love Or Get The Fuck Out.


More TIFF Cliff Notes

There was a list of filmmakers and guests are expected to attend the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It was so big, I decided it would make good wallpaper for the festival, maybe for the laptop or your phone.

Also released today, a Fact Sheet, including:
336 Total Features – 268; Shorts – 68 (339 Total: Features – 258; Shorts – 81)
249 Features that are World, International, or North American Premieres: 123, 28, and 98 respectively
90% Feature-length films that are World, International, or North American premieres (69%)
3461 Total Submissions: International – 2,502, Canadian – 959 (3,526: International – 2,677, Canadian – 849)
65 Countries (59)
61 First Features (64)
33 Screens Used (33)

There were also some additional titles announced. New films from two filmmakers who often seem like kindred spirits are included…

I Wish (Kiseki) Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Japan International Premiere Koichi lives with his mother and retired grandparents in Kagoshima, the southern part of Kyushu region. Separated by their parents’ divorce, his brother Ryunosuke lives with their father in Hakata in northern Kyushu. A new bullet train line in the region will be inaugurated soon, and Koichi starts to believe a “miracle” will happen the first moment these new bullet trains intersect each other from opposite directions with their highest speed; his only wish is for his family to live together once again. With some help from grown-ups around him, Koichi sets out on a journey with a group of friends, each hoping to witness a miracle.

Restless Gus Van Sant, USA North American Premiere Restless is a powerful and emotional story of discovery that centres on the relationship of two outsiders brought together by unforeseen circumstances. The story of friendship becomes an engaging and provocative love story.

The Campaign for The Lady Launches


First Gurus Of The Season

The charts…

It’s an interesting view at this point in the year. Two of the Top 10 have been in release. Just one from Cannes. A couple that have been quietly screening for long lead and fall preview press. And at least three that no one… really, no one… has seen.

We also got into surprise actor and actress choices, which can be weird. You say “surprise,” I say “lock.” You say, “It’s obvious.” I say, “No way!”

So for me, John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene starts the season as a frontrunner. He was nominated last year and the performance can be “gotten” in a 30 second clip. (Not fully, obviously… but you get why it’s a showstopper.) Unless The Artist somehow stumbles badly, Jean Dujardin is this year’s Roberto Benigni, but doubly so… a guy with leading man good looks and clowning genius that has made his one of the biggest stars in France. We’ll see how he does with English while in Toronto, but he could be a frontrunner to win right now.

Will it really be a surprise if Charlize Theron gets nominated for her brilliant turn in Young Adult? No. You want a long shot, think Patton Oswalt. But if the stars align, it could happen. Paramount pushed the film past the award season, hoping that it will be a fresh addition late in the game… and it could well work out perfectly for them.

The really interesting longshot on the list is Michelle Yeoh in The Lady, a Luc Besson film that goes to TIFF without US distribution in place (that we know of). And interestingly, it is a film about a female leader, not as famous as the iron lady, but perhaps more compelling for US audiences. Don’t be shocked if the film also becomes a serious candidate as we move forward.

In fact, I do expect more surprises post-TIFF this year than in years past. One or two buys that could be in serious contention with the right distributor. And Searchlight has decided to put the now-locked The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in spring 2012… unless they change their mind. The uber-Dependent has a history of using TIFF as a springboard to finalize season strategy. As you can see on the chart, the Gurus are all over their main awards horse for this year, The Descendents. But if they want two…


OK Go, The Muppets – Muppet Show Theme Song


DP/30: Paul Mazursky

It’s the most epic DP/30 ever. Almost 3 hours covering almost 60 years in show business. From his early career as an actor and stand-up, to a high-profile writing career, working with Peter Sellers and helping create The Monkees, to his career as a writer and director, Paul Mazursky has had truly remarkable career. He made fifteen theatrical releases, starting with the groundbreaking Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, directing Art Carney to an Oscar, delivering perhaps the best movie on the feminist revolution, An Unmarried Woman, making an actor out of Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson, turning Disney around with Down & Out In Beverly Hills, and taking the daring turn of adapting Isaac Bashevis Singer with Enemies: A Love Story.

He’s been Oscar nominated 5 times, 4 of which were for screenwriting. Six times, his actors (Dyan Cannon, Elliott Gould, Art Carney, Jill Clayburgh, Lena Olin, Anjelica Huston) were nominated for Oscar, and Stanley Tucci took home an Emmy & Golden Globe for Winchell. (IN spite of the film winning the Emmy for Best TV Movie, Mazursky wasn’t nominated. He explains why in the interview.)

We shot this all the way back in January. And now, here it is. 5 parts. 3 hours. The life of an artist in his own words. I hope you enjoy it.

Read the full article »


Autopsy Report: Nikki Finke

I have to admit, I am fascinated with Nikki’s newest schtick, “Autopsy Report” on movies that open poorly. The reason I am fascinated is that it pulls the veil back, intentionally or not, on the good and bad of Nikki’s reporting skills. She gathers an incredible amount of information. And has a remarkably limited idea of what any of it actually means.

This, of course, is what makes Nikki Nikki. Her perspective on the industry comes from whomever is telling her what to write in any given 30 minutes on any given day.

This weekend, thanks to a pile-up of iffy titles, we get three autopsies, each of which has its own flavor. One, of Dimension’s Spy Kids 4, is the only one not being sourced heavily inside of the company. All Nikki has are the worthless (and endlessly repeated) CinemaScores and a couple of very public details to throw at her general theme, which is, “The Weinstein Company isn’t in great shape.” Wow. Never heard that before.

The other two autopsies are of Disney’s release of DreamWorks’ Fright Night and Lionsgate’s release of a rebooted 3D Conan The Barbarian. In both cases, according to Nikki, the failure to get to strong numbers has nothing to do with the marketing departments of either company. Instead it was The Brand or Colin Farrell. Things that should have helped were a 101 minute running time (WHAT?), hiring the DP from Twilight (have you seen a Twilight film?), or Dr Who’s David Tennant (Who?) or Ahnuld giving the new Conan “thumbs up.” Uh-huh.

(Let’s see… those marketing departments are buying Oscar ads now and through the season… hmmm…. But Nikki is above pandering. You can tell by the hard-hitting awards coverage. Maybe she’ll toughen things up and hire George Christy this year!)

And here is the take on ComicCon, coming from the same confused pen…

One on film, “marketing generated considerable awareness, with a significant Comic-Con presence,” while on the other, “all that Comic-Con hype and hoopla did nothing to bring in moviegoers.”

Uh… which one is it? Are ComicCon stunts good or bad? Are they something that you get credit for trying or something you wasted your money on?

When someone tells you, as a journalist, “”There’s so much history with this character and this brand they needed someone who could both really ‘own’ Conan (making him feel relatable for this generation), but also who offered continuity with what fans already know and love. Because there’s no competing with Arnold…,” does it occur to you to mention that it’s been 27 YEARS since the last Conan movie… that Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t done anything more than a cameo and a housekeeper in 8 years… that the young Conan in the new film could have been played by the GRANDCHILD of someone who paid for an R-rated ticket to see the first Conan feature 19 years ago?

You have to sell the movie to get people to buy tickets.

“Director Craig Gillespie (Lars And The Real Girl) is being criticized for being too faithful to the original film and for not making any interesting use of 3D.”

How would ANYONE know whether the 3D in Fright Night would be interesting or not without seeing the movie? Worst excuse EVER. And being too faithful to the original? The marketing on the movie was not faithful in any way, ever, to the original. From the clips shown at CinemaCon to the ads to the trailers, do we even know that a Peter Vincent character is anything but an expositional cameo in the movie? Has anyone seen a clip that includes Christopher Mintz-Plasse beyond a line or two of exposition… not that character going all Renfield? Has there been a show of ANY humor, other than shock horror humor involving Colin Farrell?

How about these one sheets?

Well, of course. People thought it was a shot-for-shot remake!

The film was sold as Anton Yelchin (great, but has never opened any movie) vs Colin Farrell (can be great, but isn’t an opener), mano-a-mano with Toni Collette and pretty blonde girl as meat between them… a horror thriller, heavy on sex and violence. That is what the public was shown. That is not faithful to the original. And clearly, not anything people were in a rush to see… not to mention, in a logjam on the same weekend as Conan for the one demographic that really does want to see that film.

As it turns out, people have been commenting about how much more like the original this was than they expected… and how much better. I didn’t go see the movie because Disney put a Friday/Day Of Release embargo on reviews, claiming that the trades had agreed to hold to review on opening day and, essentially, got me to write off the film completely. How bad does a movie have to be if there is an opening day embargo for EVERYONE? (Mid-week, Disney rescinded the embargo and opened it up to all reviews. Too late for me.)

So yeah… happy for Nikki to be “autopsying” films she’s never seen, has no interest in, and into whose marketing she has no insight. Why? Because it’s a chance to read the Press Releases Of Failure… a much better title for her feature. What do Nikki’s keepers have to say about the messes they left on the sidewalk? What excuses are they using? Who would they like to shove the blame over to?

Where else can you get crazy shit like Joe Drake talking about how critical it was to find the right Conan while Lionsgate is red-band-marketing footage of Kid Conan fighting, so we never even see adult Conan fighting? Or that he and Avi had a success with an all-star gun action nostalgia movie, so they tried to recreate the vibe with a no-star sword & sorcery movie? (Did they notice James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow bringing the Brando to the first one? And Wilt Chamberlain and Grace Jones in the second? Stephen Lang and Ron Perlman are great… but they don’t add high camp as the first films clearly needed, above and beyond Arnold.)

Anyway… there are more ignorant, less intellectually interested people reporting on show business than Nikki Finke, no doubt. But no one is better at speaking for the studios than Nikki. She has truly become a trade site. So much bravado. So much reporting. So little thinking. You’re Welcome, Hollywood!


Weeeknd Estimate Leftovers by Klady

(Apologies… the chart that was up before 11:45a was a workbook draft that was posted in error. These estimates are now the correct ones. The last graph of my analysis column has also been adjusted. DP)

How bad were the four openings this weekend? Bad enough that they can barely be considered part of the summer. Only Glee 3D, Judy Moody, Monte Carlo and Winnie opened wide as pooh-ly as three of these films and One Day is, by estimate, the worst wide opening of the summer.

But we can’t just blame late August. The higher grossing trio of openers this weekend grossed, together, about $500k more than Inglorious Basterds grossed in the same slot two Augusts ago. The 2007 Halloween reboot opened to $26.4m. Even the unknown element that was The 40-Year-Old Virgin opened to $21.4m in 2005.

With four titles getting smushed, there is plenty of blame to be deflected.

On the other hand, there are two clear August winners. The Help is more than $20 million ahead of either of its “summer ladies pictures” predecessors, Eat Pray Love and Julie & Julia and the second weekend, specifically, is estimated at about 65% more than either of those two films.

Others may argue otherwise, but I would say that Unforgiven is the highest grossing drama ever released in August, with $101 million. There are 25 films that have grossed more, domestically, in August, including two Shyamalan films. But removing action/thrillers, kids movies, and comedies, I’d say it’s Unforgiven. But The Help is likely to pass both EPL and J&J by the end of next weekend and Unforgiven in the middle of the weekend after. And then the question is just how high the film can get. $115m? $120m? More?

Meanwhile, Apes are rising. Currently at #11 of all August openers, it will pass Rush Hour 3 and XxX to take the #9 slot during this week. Next weekend, it looks like it goes to #6, passing American Pie 2, Talladega Nights, and GI Joe. It may stall out in that slot. The next landmark is The Fugitive at $184m domestic and that might just be a rope swing too far. But at least $170m domestic seems quite likely.

That also would put it right behind Thor and ahead of Bridesmaids for this summer, three “first-films” (can’t call 2 of the 3 original, can we?), all behind the top 5 films of the summer… all sequels.

The Smurfs are still kicking along here. But even more so overseas. Over $200 million and counting. Looks like it will be Top 10 worldwide through the summer, behind only Thor in the comic book arena, when the numbers are all counted up.

Final D5 is about half way to the gross of the last film in the franchise and will given the sharply downward trajectory that these films have always taken (aside from the first of the series, which was leggy) end up being the lowest grossing of the lot ($47m is the low bar, domestically).

Senna was the arthouse star this weekend with a $11.6k per-screen on 14 screens. Decent per-screen of The Whistleblower too… $3350-per on 44. Also finding winners on a smaller scale, Neo Classics with The Hedgehog and Music Box with Mozart’s Sister.


Friday Estimates by Klady

Excellent hold for The Help, though helped by a Wednesday opening, making the Friday number less overblown by must-sees.

Another solid hold (by 2011 standards) for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s a stronger 3rd Friday than any of the comic book movies, though the total is still running about $12m behind Thor after Day 15.

Spy Kids 4 opened to $1.4m less than the first Friday of the least successful of the previous 3 films in the franchise (SK2)… but that film actually opened on a Wednesday, making this number even uglier.

Yet that was still better than Conan The Barbarian or Fright Night, which was the only member of the 4-film group opening today that had any shot at a demographic crossover.

The most horrifying part of the weekend was, I think, that 3 of these films were in 3D.

So is this a late August dump, and no one cares, or is this yet another 3Disaster?

One Day‘s ads looked like Chanel ads. Anne Hathaway has an accent and glasses. And there’s no real promise in the ads of the relief of Big Love finally happening. In other words, it looked like a kinder gentler meaningless spin on Never Let Me Go without the organ transplants. And we know how commercial the great version of that ended up being.


Super Amazing HOT MIley Cyrus Sex Tape Trailer – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence


But this trailer… it actually looks like it could be the rare comic book movie that really gets it… is that possible?


Trailer: Carnage


The Best Of The Summer Poll: Docs & Indies

(NOTE, Friday 6:30p: I just noticed that I made an error and included The Future in the doc section. My apologies. It will get an automatic pass to the indie semi-finals.)


Time To Push Arkansas Gov Mike Beebe To Pardon The Memphis 3

They are out of jail, but still legally guilty of heinous crimes they didn’t commit. There will be no new trial because of the plea agreements. This is an outrageous dereliction of duty by the Arkansas prosecutors office. The only way to fully and finally free the Memphis 3 is for the Governor of the state, Mike Beebe, to pardon them.

Tweet him – @GovBeebeMedia
Facebook him
E-mail him
Call him – 501-682-2345

clemency process in Arkansas


The Best Of Summer Poll: Semi-Finals

I took all films with a ranking higher than a “3” and/or the top 2 in each of the Round 1 categories.


The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

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