The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2011

Delivelution 102411: Netflix Q3 Spells Out The Future

I am really digging the Q3 Investors Letter from Netflix. (The Investors Call this afternoon didn’t add much insight.)

Unlike most media, I don’t care about the subscriber downturn. It was inevitable and frankly, it could have been a lot worse… as Netflix says repeatedly in the letter. If you’re looking at quarterly subscriber numbers and even the projections vs the actual financial results, you are looking too closely, which is to say, myopically… which is to say, like Wall Street usually sees things.

I’m more interested in the key phrases that point forward…

“As of today, less than half of our streaming subscribers also subscribe to our DVD service, and we expect that number to continue to fall, given that only 7% of new streaming subscribers also currently sign up for DVD.”

READ: DVD is dead.. long live DVD. Fewer than 2.5 million of Netflix’s 23.8m subscribers are DVD Only. Just over 10 million get DVD & Streaming. And about 10 million more are now getting Streaming Only. When that goes to 1m DVD, 5m DVD & Streaming, and 14m Streaming Only, look for the return of Quickster.

“An Oscar‐nominated film may be of less value to Netflix subscribers than “Pawn Stars,” because subs are watching the reality show more than the Oscar‐nominated movie.”

READ: Yeah… we know that we have almost none of the Oscar-winners in our streaming library. But our subscribers are happy to watch reality crap, which has more library value in part because it hasn’t been so aggressively exploited.

“We have recently closed output deals with DreamWorks Animation, Open Road, and The CW, as well as an ongoing deal with AMC, all of which will provide a unique differentiator from our competitors in the years to come. As more movies come from “mini‐majors” like Open Road, Relativity and Lionsgate relative to the big Hollywood studios, Netflix members will enjoy a steady stream of great new films in addition to the hundreds of movies recently added from partners including Paramount, Sony, Miramax, MGM, Universal, and Warner Bros. In the next few weeks, the new Johnny Depp film “The Rum Diaries” and the epic action film “The Immortals” will open in theaters and be among the films available to Netflix subscribers exclusively in the pay TV window. Other recent films include “Drive” and “The Killer Elite.” Current box office hits like “Paranormal Activity 3” and “Footloose” will also be coming soon for Netflix subscribers.”

READ: We don’t have deals past the next 5 months with any of the majors except Paramount, through EPIX. And Relativity, which withholds streaming from their Home Ent and Distribution deals, and is releasing product through WB, Universal, and Sony. We have deals with the semi-defunct MGM and Miramax. And we have deals with Lionsgate (EPIX) and rising indies Open Road and Film District. And sorry to add a “the” to Immortals.

But we WANT you to think we are in business with all of the majors. (The only ones we didn’t mention are Disney, even though we are still streaming their product via STARZ for now, and Fox, who we’ve never been in business with.)

Soon, you’ll be able to watch Kung-Fu Panda and Shrek Forever After as many times as you like. You also better love Mad Men, The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries, and The OC, because we will be the streaming home of all that stuff you get for free. And those two Paramount movies we closed with… watch for them on Netflix next summer.

Netflix has about ten times the streaming content selection of full Starz, in terms of what consumers actually choose to watch.”

READ: Don’t cry about Starz. Only 10% of our streaming was their content anyway. Never mind that 10% of our streaming content costs are or soon will be more than the $350m a year for which we could have closed that deal. (We’re targeting that money on specific reruns.)

“Hulu Plus is harder to analyze because we think most Hulu Plus subs are paying to get current season TV content, which Netflix does not carry”

READ: Yeah… we know that most of the current TV content streaming on Hulu is NOT available on Hulu Plus. And Criterion? Fugeddaboudit. Thier pay business is a blip because their content that streams past the desktop is weak. We don’t have to worry about them until they get their crap together.

“After launching the UK and Ireland, we will pause on opening new international markets until we return to global profitability. We plan to do that by increasing our global streaming subscriber base faster than we increase our costs.”

READ: We are like a shark… keep swimming or die. We have to see if the UK and Ireland are an investment that pays off, as we have competition from the larger media businesses that are already more advanced than the outlets in the US.

“Our future is in rapidly expanding streaming, but we will make sure that current hybrid subscribers continue to get a great and STABLE experience.” (my caps)

READ: DVD is dying… but perception means keeping it going. but we’re not going out of our way to improve your DVD experience anymore.

“We think DVD subscriptions will decline sharply this quarter, as reflected in our guidance, due to our price changes. Our weekly rate of DVD cancellation is steadily shrinking, as the price effect washes through, and in future quarters we expect DVD subscriptions to shrink more modestly. We don’t anticipate any additional material investment in equipment or other PP&E and a majority of our DVD library is fully depreciated; so at $7.99, the segment is profitable. We have yet to decide whether or not to offer video game discs. The decision will have little financial impact either way.”

READ: We’re done investing in DVD and we don’t really see a future in hard discs for video games. But we’re still making a few bucks, even though subscribers are dropping like flies.

“Overall for the quarter we expect slightly negative streaming net additions. Streaming hours are continuing to climb, as members who use streaming mostly stay with Netflix streaming. Our streaming hours year‐to‐date are up over 3 times from a year ago, and set new records most weeks.”

READ: People who are staying are using the service a lot. But some are losing interest in our product. (And please don’t look at the internet use caps that are standing over there behind the curtain.)

“We’ve been aggressively increasing our content spending, and in 2012 will nearly double what we’ve spent this year, putting us almost at par with what HBO, the biggest of the premium TV networks, spends in the U.S. and making the range and quality of content on Netflix the best it has ever been.”

READ: In just 3 years heavily in the streaming business, we are now spending as much as HBO took 30 years to build to. (What we’re not telling you is that they own much of their content and control it… and we own and control almost none of ours.)

“In television, by contrast, the networks (ABC, FX, etc.) have long relied upon exclusive content to differentiate among themselves. As video moves online, so too has this practice of exclusive content. HBO has an exclusive license to recent Universal movies that includes its online HBO GO, for example. Netflix has signed exclusive licenses for DreamWorks Animation, for Relativity, and others. In episodic television, exclusives are also the norm. Netflix doesn’t license “Deadwood” from HBO because they see strategic value in keeping it exclusive. Netflix licenses “Mad Men” and “House of Cards” exclusively for much the same reason.”

READ: We have spent a lot for non-exclusive content, but we are coming to understand that exclusivity is how we have to move forward. Don’t think about the fact that this means that we will be have less and less non-exclusive content in the years to come. Watch more Mad Men!

“We have dramatically more content than any other subscription service or network, but given the existing licensing structure of the cable network industry, the total content available will likely remain carved up between Netflix, Showtime, HBO, Hulu and others. Two services can license jointly, or from one another, like Netflix and Epix, where it is in their mutual interest, but to date that has been the exception rather than the rule.”

READ: These streaming deals in which a pay-tv service is the middle man between a streaming company and the content rights holders are about over. With real money in play, why would Disney or Sony need a middle man? Right now, we have dramatically more content available, even in streaming, than any other outlet. But that is going to continue to change, not in our favor, as these other streaming businesses continue to grow.

“While we and our competitors face the constraints imposed by the traditional licensing structure of cable, we have many advantages over linear premium pay networks. We are unbundled, and charge a very low price of $7.99 a month. We are pure on‐demand so we can create more compelling user experiences than a primarily linear channel. We are personalized, so each user interface is tailored specifically to the individual taste of a given consumer, helping them to easily find movies and TV shows they’ll enjoy. Finally, we can innovate at Internet pace rather than cable‐set‐top‐firmware‐update pace.”

READ: We see not being part of a bundle as an advantage (for now), as people see the 8 bucks a month as a different buy, not another addition to a big burden. With all of our streaming content being on demand, we see our experience as superior. And we can change faster than others (though change hasn’t gone so great lately).

Think of HBO as the smelly cheese section of Whole Foods, where the prices are even higher than the rest of the overpriced food… and us as Costco.

“Any given consumer will have only one of DirecTV or Comcast, say, for their video service. That is classic either‐or competition. But with premium television networks like Netflix, the more good experiences there are, the more consumers are willing to spend to have multiple channels from which to get enjoyment.”

READ: Again, we don’t see our business as competitive, but as a “multiple channel” addition to the entertainment pallet.

“We offer significant value to the television licensing ecosystem by creating additional revenue in the prior season window for networks, which allows them to invest in additional first run content”

READ: Netflix is good for the studios because we pay them well for old stuff too. So they shouldn’t fear us… even if they also own the cable companies with whom we are pretending not to want to compete.

“We won’t have every movie or TV series; but we do provide enough value that consumers also want to subscribe to Netflix.”

READ: Yeah… we don’t have everything. But you should be happy with what you get for 8 bucks a month.


20 Weeks To Oscar (20W2O) Charts: October 23, 2011

Monday, 11:30a – Wow… that was ugly! My apologies. No idea how I managed to remove two of the most likely nominees – The Artist and The Help – from this chart… but I did. My apologies to all.

10/23/11 Charts
Picture | Actor | Supporting Actor | Actress | Supporting Actress

Nomination Frontrunners (seen)

Midnight in Paris

Nov 23 The Artist
Nov 18

The Descendants

Mystery Movies
Dec 28

War Horse

Nov 11

J Edgar

Dec 21

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Dec 25

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close


Von Sydow


We Bought A Zoo

Dec 16

The Iron Lady

Upper Middle Class
Open The Help
Dec 9

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Dec 2


Dec 9

Young Adult


The Tree of Life




The Ides of March



Nov 23

A Dangerous Method

Dec 23
Albert Nobbs
Dec 23


Nov 23



Take Shelter

Dec 2

The Lady

Oct 28
Nov 18



DP/30: Paranormal Activity 3 Directors Talk Catfish

Weekend Estimates by Record-Breaking Klady

There is almost nothing to discuss today that’s different than the conversation based on Friday numbers.

Nikki Finke would be funny if she weren’t so widely read on box office (thanks, Matt). It takes a very brief look at the all-time October chart to find that 4 of the top 5 October opening weekends in history were for #3s in series… so not ready to call Paranormal 3 a game changer (PA, Jackass, Scary Movie, and the only High School Musical released in theaters.. #3) and a #3 that was a top opener. Moreover, the notion that other studios will use this as a model is laughably stupid… not that some studios are willing to do laughably stupid things. We did go through a cycle of very successful Japanese horror remakes that were very popular with women. Screen Gems, really, was built on this. But “let’s make a cheap horror film and it will make us rich” is like “let’s make a four-quadrant film that will make a billion dollars” or “let’s make an Oscar winner!” These are not business models. These are ideals which are completely dependent on execution and a lot of luck.


The only other wide-release story of this weekend is more excellent holds. Every one of the top 5 holdovers were estimated to drop between 32% and 25%.

On the indie side, Sony Classics’ fifth Almodovar release this decade, The Skin I Live In, is expanding faster than any of the others, out on 21 screens this weekend. The highest 2nd weekend count before was 5 screens. Of Pedro’s releases this millennium, only Volver had better expansion numbers ($512k when it went to 30 screens in its 4th weekend). It will be interesting to see if Sony Classics can “do the Woody” for Pedro, breaking out of what has become a $5m a film rut (a very nice rut for a foreign language director) and get closer to $10 million domestic on this very entertaining film.

Margin Call had a good outing too, averaging almost $10k-per on 56 screens. That’s better than the Winter’s Bone launch. Some great, passionate notices… but how narrow is the interest in the subject. So… we’ll see.

As I wrote yesterday, very solid, but not sensational numbers on Martha Marcy May Marlene on 4 screens. And a nice 1-screen launch for Being Elmo, basically self-distributed by Submarine. After doing a worldwide deal for Hanway to pursue international distribution, apparently, the right deal never hit the table for this crowd-pleasing doc about the rise of the man behind Elmo, from the wrong side of the tracks in Baltimore to being a worldwide star and television producer. This film really deserves more than an Oscar qualifying run. Fingers crossed for it.


Friday Estimates by Paranormal Klady 3

Paranormal Activity remains one of the great marketing efforts ever. Paramount’s slate was clear that fall, they spent a ton – just like Blair Witch – selling the idea that this was real footage. They rolled it out in key geek markets first, never discussing the issue of reality directly. And then pushed into 1945 screens… which were booked before the first sneaks started, all the time calling for the audience to demand to see the movie. If it had gone bad, the movie would have still gone out on over 1000 screens… but it didn’t go bad at all. Last time, it opened to $40 million, though the legs were shorter and only got to $85m domestic. But the product was so cheap that it was still a major cash cow. This time, the price went up again… but slightly. The opening was better. And we’ll see how the legs hold up. Paramount is wisely predicting that it won’t double the Friday (with Midnight shows) over the weekend. Then you have to wonder whether it will double this weekend over the course of its run. But still… so cheap… lots of cash. And do keep in mind… Saw 3 was the height of that franchise’s history. It may well be that PA1 was the height of this franchise. But still… nothing but profit. And one of the reasons that Paramount’s marketing team is considered one of the best in town.

This probably won’t be the worst opening in Paul WS Anderson’s career since his first release (which went out on 1 screen)… but it will probably be #2. Well…. it’s definitely #2. Thank goodness that some studios have an in-house box office apologist who rarely leaves her house making excuses. But it’s the marketing. Summit seemed to run off the tracks on this one when they realized that the all-3D sell was a problem as 3D became less and less attractive to audiences outside of some carefully selected titles. Who is the target for this film? Teens? Adults? Boys? Girls? No idea from the push. It seems to be looking at 4 quadrants. Fair enough… but if so, a terrible date for this film. It feels like holiday or summer and unlike Fast Five, doesn’t have enough of its own steam to get attention outside of standard opening slots.

All that said, MIla Jovavich should have kept her mouth shut about the marketing. I could cost her and her husband work. The one deadly sin in this business is to be seen as pissing on your film in public as the distributor is trying to release it. She did it in a minor way… but it will mark her as trouble. Still, is she wrong? When Summit is releasing a Twilight film in a month, you don’t want to be The Other Child. It;’s a very talented group over there, but… it’s like being released within weeks of a Harry Potter film at WB. (Yet, Horrible Bosses was a surprise smash, released just a week earlier than Potter 7b.)

Every time there is a Rowan Atkinson comedy coming – and they all make their fortunes overseas – it feels like Universal marketing is just going through the motions. And yet, they’ve all opened to over $9m each time. This time… not. Hard to say why. Do Real Steel (another great hold) and Dolphin Tale really so dominate the kids market? Or did the ad buys for this one just get so low key that no one really saw it coming? Honestly, no idea. No sense of the campaign from here. Just a sad day of results.

Martha Marcy May Marlene‘s opening on 4 looks like the strongest of the weekend… but it’s about a third of what Tree of Life opened to and about double what Another Earth opened to. So is this a $3m grosser? And what does all this say about the parade of smaller titles from Fox Searchlight (which will soon unleash The Descendants, aiming for the stars)? Time will tell.


20 Weeks To Oscar

Of course, every one of these groups – aside from National Society of Film Critics, which sanely still votes right after the new year – pretends that they don’t care about the one thing every one of them cares about because they think it legitimizes them… influencing Oscar.

And here is the bottom line. Not ONE of them has a measurable influence on the Oscar winners. (Just ask The Social Network.) The ONLY thing that the critics groups really do is to help narrow the field a bit… just as it is narrowed by media from September on.

The rest of the column…

BYOB 1020

Besides a lot of DP/30 shooting, my 21-month-old perfected crib escape last night. Proud of the developing skills, exhausted by wearing a hole in the carpet walking him back to his crib 60+ times. Welcome to Bed Life, kid.

Daddy will return to blogging soon…


DRIVE Lawsuit 3: Witness For The Screenwriter

London, England

Dear David

I came across your item while googling reviews of Drive, and see it has generated a fair number of comments.

I am Hoss (Hossein) Amini’s former college roommate from Oxford University, his best friend for over 25 years, and the godfather of his son. The suggestion that he is in any way anti-Semitic is preposterous. I cannot imagine a less anti-Semitic person. Indeed Hoss is the nicest person I know, and I have never heard him utter a word of prejudice about anyone. He has always been very fond of Jewish culture and fair to the state of Israel, and has often stood up for Jews and Israel while others in England’s cultural and literary circles have not done so.

I am a fairly well known commentator on Jewish and Israeli affairs, who was on the staff of Britain’s best-selling quality newspaper the Daily Telegraph for many years, and before that worked in Israel for the Jerusalem Post. I remain a contributor on Israeli and Middle East issues to a number of American papers, including The Wall Street Journal.

I am Jewish, though Hoss is not. My father, John Gross (who among other things was the book editor of the New York Times – as well as occasionally writing movie reviews for the Times and other papers) has also spoken on many occasions about Jewish issues with Hoss and remarked on several occasions that Hoss could almost be Jewish, so friendly was he to Jews and so understanding was he of Jewish concerns.

Tom Gross

Stupid Lawsuit Of The Week!™
DRIVE Lawsuit 2: A Critic & A Lawyer Walk Into A Bar…


Why Criticism Is Dying – Episode 9478: NYFCC Devolves Into NBR

I’m working on the first 20 Weeks of Oscar piece for tomorrow. It’s about the changing tone of the season this year… and how ugly it’s getting to be as a cottage industry for one organization has turned into a main business plank for an increasing number of desperate businesses.

And then, this morning, New York Film Critics Circle beat me to the punch with a harsh illustration of just how bad things are, announcing that it was going where no legitimate critics group has gone before… into November.

I am surprised how upset I am about this. It immediately burrowed deep under my skin.


Well, the self-proclaimed “nations pre-eminent critic’s group” has abandoned its critical post and has reduced itself not to a call girl showing up in a Penthouse at The Plaza, but to a Javits Center street walker.

I guess it’s the same reason why I am so unhappy when major outlets mess up industry stories. I want someone out there holding up the standard. I honor the intentions of these groups, even if I sometimes question their specific choices. So my disappointment in the failures – not in typos or silly errors, but in clearly intended bad calls – is extreme. It really bothers me.

There is no honor in this move. There is no excuse for this move. There is only one possible reason for this move… and it has NOTHING to do with honoring movies. It’s to be FIRST!

This was somewhat confirmed by NYFCC member Lou Lumenick, who tweeted when I asked for a single good reason for this move other than being first, “Being first is a totally fine reason to do this!”

Meanwhile, my immediate call to the group’s publicist to go through proper channels to speak to group president John Anderson was met by stonewalling bullshit. “John is tied up on deadlines today. Let me see if he can call you tomorrow.” Way to take a position, John. You make an announcement like this and then won’t take a 10 minute phone call about it? This is the same guy who felt so strongly about the boundaries of critics and publicity that he swung on Jeff Dowd?

Don’t bother trying to call tomorrow. You made a very clear statement today… twice.

For me, this kind of fight goes back to the DVD ban of a few years back when the studios decided not to send DVDs. LAFCA, in particular, was enraged by this call. How could they possibly see all the movies? Well… how about not voting on year-end awards less than 2 weeks into December?

I still think this practice is horrible. However, I concede that these groups would have a hard time dealing with their events, which piggyback on other events with bigger talent travel budgets, if they didn’t plant their flags before the holiday break. It’s kind of a sucky excuse, but it is a functional excuse.

But to push your vote to before NBR… an utterly illegitimate awards organization? To push before the first week of December, in which two or three of the December movies have traditionally waited to be shown? To try to strip the Gotham Awards of their tenuous media slot by announcing on the same day as their show? To make the object of a once-legitimate critics group to be “kicking off the annual end-of-year discussion?”

Here’s some footage from NYFCC headquarters just before the decision was made…

Lou added another bit of fresh air, tweeting, “I’m sure the rest of the trade press will be unhappy too. They know where their bread is buttered.”

From a personal perspective, may I note… fuck off, Lou. You’re bread is buttered by Page Six. You’ve got no standing from which to stick your nose in the air about anyone else.

But from a professional perspective, might I note… it means NOTHING to the trade press. NYFCC doesn’t butter anyone’s bread. Moving your awards earlier will actually make you less relevant, all but forgotten by the time BFCA, HFPA, and LAFCA announce. NYFCC will no longer be part of the heat of the conversation. The organization will just be another NBR, with only the most desperate publicists who have nothing else to offer bring it up as an award of significance.

One more thing… for better or for worse, the “end of the year discussion” was kicked off 7 weeks ago. Looks like you’ll have to move the voting to August next year.

The New York Film Critics Circle is now an official victim of “first” desperation mentality. As bad as things are for criticism right now… in the perspective of a small circle that really cares… this is a real tragedy.

The only thing that would be more tragic is if any other group followed their lead.


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(from a publicist)

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DRIVE Lawsuit 2: A Critic & A Lawyer Walk Into A Bar…

Yesterday, Michigan attorney Martin H. Leaf, who is representing Sarah Deming in her lawsuit against Film District and the movie Drive, turned up on the blog to further argue his case. (I’ve contacted Mr Leaf and confirmed his identity.)

Here is the actual filing (pdf) and the part of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act that speaks to their claim about misleading movie advertising being actionable.

So, I have read the material a few times. And I still don’t buy the connections that have been made between the trailer and/or the film and the claims against Film District. There are just too many conclusions that are staking out an extreme position on the materials that is wildly subjective.

You know… like a film critic.

And that’s what I like about the argument. I don’t think it belongs in a court of law and if there is a case to be made for making Deming pay Film District for their legal costs for filing a frivolous lawsuit, I would support it. But even though I disagree with the argument, I would be happy to spend a few hours in a bar booth arguing the claims in this suit as a matter of film criticism.

Is the argument offensive to Nicolas Winding Refn? I imagine so. I doubt Film District’s lawyers would allow him to say so in public right now. But this is a man who is quoted as saying in response to Lars von Trier’s “I am a Nazi” schtick at Cannes, “What Lars said was just very, very mean. Coming from a Jewish family myself, it saddened me that someone would say something like that without thinking what it means to so many people.”

Is the argument offensive to Iranian-born Hossein Amini? I imagine so. There is no history in his work of anti-Semitism of any kind. He may be Jewish as well, though I have not been able to confirm that. But many Iranians in exile are.

Does the argument fail to take into account that the novel, by James Sallis, is the origin of the two Jewish hoods in the film, including the choice that Nino was once named Izzy? Yeah.

And with due respect to the plaintiff in this case, if you look at the trailer for Drive and think it’s selling a movie like The Fast & The Furious, you have to be a an idiot. I don’t think she’s an idiot. I think she went to see an arthouse movie, The Debt, and saw a trailer for Drive – which is loaded with moody music, intimate violence, and even threatening speeches from the obviously Jewish Albert Brooks – and went to the movie… and got SHOCKED by the Jewish bad guys, especially after seeing the trailer on a movie about arguably heroic Jews. Then, she and Mr. Leaf looked at the issue from a legal perspective and came up with the best argument they could make without much to work with.

The issue of the alleged Jew-hating and the issue of false advertising really have no cohesive relationship. The religion of the “bad guys” in the film is clearly not the central theme of the film, which is to say, Drive is not a movie about Jews who cheat and kill others. It is a traditional thriller in concept and a stylized version of that tradition in form. And, in fact, if you read many of the critics who were not as effusive about the film, the primary theme is that the work here is quite familiar, a current spin on stylized 80s thrillers from directors like Michael Mann and WIlliam Friedkin. (Perhaps it’s time to go back to litigate To Live & Die In LA and discuss why Willem Defoe, who has played many Jewish characters in films, is the bad guy there… obsessed with money and shiksas. Hmmmm….)

The lawsuit claim says, “Despite said advertising and promotion by Defendants, DRIVE was an extremely graphically violent film.” So apparently, the plaintiff didn’t bother to read the rating board’s warning, “Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.”

I don’t know if the plaintiff saw the red band trailer, though she might well have, given that she saw in before The Debt, another R-rated movie that includes, according to “man runs in front of 18-wheeler to commit suicide with graphic footage of his body crushed by the wheels of the truck… man violently slams woman in face and throws her against wall then kicks her bloody face… images of the Holocaust includes medical experimentation on women and children, woman stabs man with needle and restrains him with her legs around his neck during gynecological exam… woman slaps man, man violently stabs woman with medical scissors, and she stabs him in leg, with lots of blood…” (Here’s the link to that film’s trailer.)

Is any of that offered in the trailer? There is a hint about the gynecological exam sequence, but aside from that… no. But no lawsuit.

The filing also mischaracterizes Nikki Finke as a “respected film critic,” when, inarguably, she is not a film critic at all… and sees very few of the films she writes about when writing about box office, her insight on films coming primarily from trailers and competing distributors. It also quotes Finke as saying that she “felt the pre-release marketing with its superficial one-sheet and film trailer and TV ad failed by never distinguishing Drive as anything more special than just another Fast and Furious ripoff.”

Of course, Finke has no expertise in this area… and has never claimed to have or shown any consistent professional journalistic interest or insight into marketing, except for occasional spouting off. Her writing on this subject was based around a weak “C-” Cinemascore rating on opening weekend.

And the discussion of that “C-” does carry some legitimacy… not on the Jewish issue, but on the question of misleading advertising. I agree that the film clearly drew an audience that did not expect exactly what they got.

The problem is, there are many things that might well be unexpected by first-weekend audiences for this film. The biggest disconnect is not a lack of fast driving, nor an excess of violence, and certainly not Jewish villains… but the pace of the film. I would argue that the trailers and ads for the movie suggest that as well. But the trailer and ads certainly move faster than the film. They are, after all, trailers and ads. But Drive is a movie that confounds the current trends in the pace of mainstream films.

Also opening the same weekend was Straw Dogs… also a retro film in many ways… and sold as a straight-out violent thriller with a woman in the middle. Half as many people went to see the film. It got a “C” with Cinemascore. I would argue that its ad campaign was notably less honest about the actual content of the film than was Drive‘s.

This is why legal cases about things this ambiguous are impossible.

But enough of explaining why this suit seems to be without merit… not because the principle that movie ads can mislead is false, but because it can easily be argued that Drive‘s marketing campaign did not mislead in any significant way. Let’s talk about the argument about the film itself (which extends to the source material)…

The argument is, basically, that only the top villains in the film have their religion noted, that the two men are “uniformly and unambiguously evil,” and that DRIVE is an allegory about the “Jewish threat in the world today,” which suggests that killing Jews is a “necessary response to the Jewish threat.”


But it gets weirder/more interesting. Specifically, the filing notes a red crucifix worn by The Driver and a “perverse baptism” when he kills. It speaks to the method of murder by Bernie Rose, killing by cutting throats, which the filing projects to be a reference to Jewish ritual slaughter.

THIS is a real discussion. It’s a discussion that goes back to the novella. Ir’s the kind of conversation that people who are serious about film and who find a movie worthy of deep thought can engage in a real way.

Is it a conversation that should be held in a courtroom? No. Should it be allowed to derail the discussion of an Oscar nomination for Albert Brooks… one of the JEWS, who most certainly did not take on a role to propagate Jew-hating? No. Do I think the argument has much merit? No.

But I would have that argument with a friend or fellow film-lover at a BBQ or a bar or wherever. I wouldn’t just derail the conversation by arguing the absurdity of suing over a trailer, as though any one trailer is so misleading that it reaches the level of consumer fraud. If a lawyer in Michigan decided to take on Hollywood distributors for constantly proclaiming “Critics Agree!” while they keep running quotes from the same five people on such a high percentage of films, I might get behind that suit. It’s not just “quote whores agree,” but the repetition of the same characters that suggests a lack of agreement outside of the circle of those who love everything.

But I digress…

My initial take on this suit was that the filmmakers (as it turns out, staying true to the novelist) were spinning on a fairly traditional idea and found ways to surprise. One is a 60-year-old character, much less a Jewish one, killing people with his own hand. Got me! #winning! I want to give the guy an Oscar nod!

But after reading this filing, I am interested in looking at the film again and thinking more about the choice. Is there a subtext? It’s made all the more interesting by having The Driver played by Ryan Gosling, a great actor who would be a good hire regardless, but who happened to break out playing a self-loathing Jew in The Believer. And don’t forget the Jewish director.

If Richard Brody brought this up in The New Yorker, people would be discussing it seriously.

That said, it isn’t a film critic bringing it up. It’s a silly lawsuit. The list of 11 Jew-hating stereotypes is comedically myopic in light of the genre. (And sorry… but Jews do tend to “obsess” on Chinese and Italian food… even in Detroit, which I am told has the worst Chinese food on the planet.) The argument that Scarface’s mother was moral and honest, so therefore the Cuban stereotyping issues were erased is absurd. (The argument that Scarface was a Cuban stereotype and not a very specific look at a specific moment in history in Miami, blown up to epic/cartoonish levels – which were still subtle in some ways, considering the real cocaine cowboys era in Miami – is ridiculous to start.) The argument that these Jewish bad guys are less nuanced than “Jewish gangsters” in other films and that this proves something other than stylistic choices is silly. Arguing that there is “no factual basis” for this depiction seems to intentionally misunderstand the idea of fiction… and to assume that no Jew has ever killed for bad reasons. (Would it have been better if they had been Israeli and learned to kill in the army? Would the argument then be that it was anti-Semitic AND anti-Zionist?)

If Mr Leaf and Ms Deming’s goal was to start a conversation… congratulations… they succeeded.

If they made this film toxic as we head into award season, that would be a shonda.

Drive is a film that has serious, thoughtful intentions as a film. Whether you love it, hate it, or it lands in between, all film lovers should appreciate all films that are trying this hard to be more than the simplest, most commercial pap.

And I, for one, would love to read a thoughtful piece on the religious subtext of the film. I’d need to watch it again… and probably a few more times… to really have a strong position on it. But it’s intriguing. It’s just not illegal.

Stupid Lawsuit Of The Week!™
DRIVE Lawsuit 3: Witness For The Screenwriter


DP/30: Martha Marcy May Marlene, actors Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, and writer/director Sean Durkin

And for those of you who’d like to see how time changes people over 10 months, the DP/30 from Sundance, with added guest star High Dancy


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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