The Hot Blog Archive for November, 2011

BYOB Weekend


A More Confident Tintin TV Spot



It’s been an odd couple of days…

I was running around all day on Monday and didn’t even hear about the “fag” gaffe until 5p at night.

I was running around all day on Tuesday and got word about Ratner being out when Ratner was out. And found out that The Academy had not planned a way to keep Eddie Murphy in tow, though I would have encouraged them to do so.

The job of producing the Oscars really does start about now. That’s why Ratner – and Murphy, for that matter – were expendable. The biggest problem for The Academy bringing in a replacement for Ratner is that Don Mischer is already in place. So someone had to come in, be “the creative person,” be comfortable with Mischer, and make Eddie comfortable as well. It was a little tricky. The list was about 3 deep. And I don’t think The Academy actually approached any of those 3 before announcing Ratner’s exit… or even afterwards.

In some ways, I think The Academy was more comfortable writing off the entire Ratner era, including Eddie, than managing the situation at hand. Grazer’s name has come up internally as a potential producer of the show repeatedly in recent years. And again, without joking, without Gil Cates alive to take the reins late in the game, Grazer is a pretty safe choice. He can wrangle all the top talent in the business. Could he get Hanks and Cruise and Jim Carrey to host together? Yes. Will he? No idea. Could he just go the easy route and re-hire Billy Crystal, who has been anxious to get back in the tux for years? Sure. But unless he plans on being back next year, my guess is that Grazer has grander plans now that he has the job.

I assume that someone out there has spoken to the odd fact that we have now switched from the director of Tower Heist to the producer. If things go sideways again, no doubt, Ted Griffin will be producing the show.

I was in Roger Corman’s office when Grazer was announced. Maybe The Academy should have gotten Roger to do it… his reunion tour would be pretty impressive. And The Academy could save a bundle!

(Note to the “Muppets 2 Host” crowd… cure. But having spent my very early 20s working at Henson as a peon, I know how complicated this would be. I think they even tried it at the Emmys one year, no? I love The Muppets too. But all of a sudden, 60% of your production time becomes about making the puppet show work… as opposed to 20% of your time being focused on even the most difficult host. It’s the kind of thing you might attempt after you have a producing team in place that’s done it 3 years in a row and is ready for another level of challenge. It’s not the kind of thing you do in the midst of chaos. Sorry.)

So now it’s Thursday. (I think.) More running about. Shooting 3 (more) truly amazing talents today. Tintin tonight… on the same screen that I saw Shame on (again) last night. Well… the movies are so similar!

This week has been so loaded – and there is more coming in the next couple of days – that it feels like the Academy Award film festival. I almost can’t wait until it’s over just to get a little perspective on shooting The Dardennes and Roger Corman and Lynne Ramsey on one day, Nolte & Dunst on another, and Herzog, McQueen, and Verbinski in the next breath… and others who I won’t mention because I don’t want to get all the FlipCam crews beating on their monkeys.

Sorry I have not been Mr. Jump To It on this producer/host drama. But spending every day talking to talent puts in all in perspective. I am the luckiest boy in the world. So sayeth Pee Wee. So sayeth me.


DP/30: Into The Abyss, documentarian Werner Herzog


DP/30: Contagion, screenwriter Scott Z Burns

Ratner Exits: Saving His Career Comes First

An Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry from Brett Ratner

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last few days, I’ve gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most
in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I
said in a number of recent media appearances. To them, and to everyone I’ve hurt and
offended, I’d like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.

As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any
young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments. And
they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian, or transgender individual must deal with as
they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.

So many artists and craftspeople in our business are members of the LGBT community, and it
pains me deeply that I may have hurt them. I should have known this all along, but at least I
know it now: words do matter. Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes
out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. With this in mind, and to all those who understandably
feel that apologies are not enough, please know that I will be taking real action over the coming
weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help
stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I’ve so foolishly perpetuated.

As a first step, I called Tom Sherak this morning and resigned as a producer of the 84th
Academy Awards telecast. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest
moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association
with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.

I am grateful to GLAAD for engaging me in a dialogue about what we can do together to
increase awareness of the important and troubling issues this episode has raised and I look
forward to working with them. I am incredibly lucky to have a career in this business that I love
with all of my heart and to be able to work alongside so many of my heroes. I deeply regret my
actions and I am determined to learn from this experience.

Brett Ratner


BYOB 11811

This is about the roughest non-festival week I’ve had this year… see you when I see you…

There’s a new Gurus on the front page if you want to chew on that.


DP/30 Sneak Peek: Nick Nolte


Question du Jour


DP/30: Hanna, actor Saoirse Ronan


Hugo A Go Go (spoiler-free)

My sense is that there is a growing consensus that I agree with… not necessarily on specific qualities of Hugo, but the schizophrenic nature of the film.

It is a very dark, but lovely children’s film for an act. It is a singular, powerful, thrilling homage to the idea of film as magic for an act. And there is an act in between that mixes the two central ideas. There is also a Tati film massaged into the seams, though it really is tertiary. (Imagine a Sylvain Chomet movie – Triplets more than the actual Tati-based film – as a live action film.)

I really like the children’s film, though I fear that some of the darkness is more real than, say, Bambi’s mother or flying monkeys. In particular, I was a little creeped out by a leg brace being caught on the undercarriage of a moving train. I get that this is a play on Keaton or Lloyd or Tati… but it felt oddly unfun to me. Obviously, it doesn’t end up with someone splattered against a stanchion, but it was an indicator that we might not be in a film that was okay for under-8s.

Scorsese talked about the 30s film influences on Hugo after the screening and it made perfect sense. And they achieved their goals brilliantly. The stage of Hugo’s life, the train station, is both real and theatrical, epic and intimate, and lushly beautiful. Hugo knows all the nooks and crannies, like Jerry in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. (Sasha Baron Cohen is The Tom.) Scorsese treats us to an epic set piece, mostly devoid of any spoken words, that spans the first 10 minutes or so of the film like a balletic prologue. And indeed, holds credits until it’s done.

And when Hugo leaves the train station, you really feel like he is going into a strange, foreign world in which he doesn’t have control. However, that’s not what the movie is about… so it’s a beautifully rendered thread that doesn’t really lead to much. I felt a bit like I was seeing the boy pining over the girl in the window in Sweeney Todd… great scene, beautiful song, but why is he there and how does he see her and… just not quite right. But still beautiful.

Another problem for kids is the lengthy time in which Hugo refuses to tell his story at all. I suppose this “flaw” is, in part, about the time we live in and how we tell stories. But when he is asked about his “secret” repeatedly and seems poised to lose that which is most important to him for being unwilling to speak, it starts to feel like we are waiting an entire act to get to what the movie might be about. And indeed, we pretty much do.

Interestingly, the second “big secret” of the film, which I won’t even hint at here, is similarly dragged out… but doesn’t feel dramatically problematic, in part because it’s not something we can guess as an audience and also because the secret is better motivated emotionally.

Now that I think about it, I can’t really write about the second half of the film without giving away its central secret. But though others will surely not worry about this, I’m going to hold my water. I will say only that the film explodes in that second half with a love of early filmmaking artists that is absolutely still as fresh and exciting as it must have been back then. Scorsese certainly identifies with the artist in the film, on some level, but is hugely respectful. He embraces and supersizes the magic of the artist, taking his cues from his predecessor, never trying to top him.

The audience for this film will be limited by its schizo nature. Paramount, smartly, is selling the family film. But I can’t imagine a kid younger than high school age who won’t get itchy. And I imagine that a lot of adults, especially older ones, will wonder what they got themselves into in the first act.

Personally, I would have tried to streamline the space between the two tales, not cutting the stuff in the station (the Tati elements), but letting Hugo tell his secret and getting to the next secret 20 minutes earlier. I really love the Tati stuff… Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths… Christopher Lee… Emily Mortimer as a silent-film love interest… loved Michael Stuhlbarg too… and Helen McCrory. And if there is a non-BTL Oscar nomination we should seriously be considering in this film, it’s Ben Kingsley as Best Supporting Actor. He divests himself of the Sir Ben stuff, as he does in his best work (Sexy Beast and Elegy, most recently), and delivers pain and passion with all the intensity he’s ever brought to the screen. It’s an east-to-overlook, absolutely masterful performance.

Hugo is an absolute must-see and a must-see on a big screen for anyone who loves film. I would love to see it in 2D, because it is another one of those films in which I find myself too conscious of the 3D with too few moments when it matters. Some of the film world’s best worked hard to make the 3D as good as 3D can be… but I’m still sitting there in glasses wondering if I am really getting the richness of the light and color. But you should try the 3D. And we should all probably try the 2D as well.


Weekend Estimates by 2Boots Klady

Wow! Puss in Boots, after being smacked last weekend for not opening big enough, has a remarkable hold… and the only story people are obsessing on is that it “beat” Tower Heist.

#1 Box Office Fallacy, circa 2011 – Being the highest grosser for the weekend is about beating the other movies. Yes, it is sometimes a legitimate point. But the tyranny of the weekend round-ups that simply mouth whatever the numbers in the “race” are is good for the #1 movie… and a big crap sandwich for the film industry.

Tower Heist was not battling Puss in Boots for the top slot. Both could have done $50m this weekend and there’d be room for more! This obsesssive need for horse race headlines is moronic and should embarrass every journalist who hits “send” on one.

We can discuss the estimated $25.1m opening of Tower Heist in context. That is a legitimate debate. Being “beat” by the success of another film that played to a completely different demographic is not. At all. It’s stupid.

But to start with Puss-in-Boots… even though the spin of last weekend was about the weather… which was not all that significant, as the surprise snow didn’t really shut down the east coast… the softer than hoped for launch last weekend may have had more to do with Halloween, as kids trick-or-treated on Sunday in much of the country. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been conscious of this were I not the parent of a near-2-year-old. But I am. And while kids did go out on Monday, most of the kids I know of were at some sort of Halloween event on Sunday, including many organized by malls all around the country. But I digress…

A 98% hold for a fairly standard animated movie – not a big event and not on a holiday weekend – is remarkable. $33.3m is easily the best second weekend for an animated film this, blowing away everything from Cars 2 to Rio to Rango to Kung Fu Panda 2. Of course, what counts is the cume and after two weekends, Puss is ahead of Rango, close to Rio, and still well behind Cars 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2. But this brings Puss right back into the DreamWorks Animation wheelhouse of grosses. Puss In Cement Boots says, “F*** you.”

As noted yesterday, Tower Heist is right in line with Ben Stiller openings that are not family films or Fockers. In 2004, he had three straight comedies come out and opened to $27.7m, $28.1m, and (with Vince Vaughn as the lead) $30.1m. Since then, a $14m opening for The Heartbreak Kid, $25.8m for Tropic Thunder, and an indie blip with Greenberg.

Oh… he’s teamed with Eddie Murphy. So people assume that this naturally expands the market and the business. But where exactly do we have any semi-objective proof of this? This is the highest opening for a “2 stars teamed” movie this year. Last year, the top one was The Other Guys, opening to $36m in the middle of the summer, then Due Date with $32m in this very slot, then an April opening for Date Night with almost the same opening number. Before that, you have to go to 2007, to Rush Hour 3 and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry to find a better than $25m “2 stars teamed” comedy opening.

As for Eddie himself, aside from Shrek films, better openings this decade are Norbit and Daddy Day Care.

And did we notice that the film opened against another comedy that drew strongly from a core group of guys who were right in the broader Tower Heist demo?

Wheel of Blame points to “Unreasonable Expectations.”

In spite of the whiners, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas had a better than reasonable opening. It was slightly off of the first H&K sequel, which benefited from the mighty cult status of the first film, which wildly underperformed. The sequel couldn’t manage 3x opening, with summer just a week after opening… which speaks to what a disappointment it was for most audiences. The hope on this one is that it will settle in on fewer 3D screens, but play solidly through the next 6 or 7 weeks, the studio happy if it gets to $40m. Obviously, they’d prefer $75m. But that would be… everyone… unreasonable expectations!

In Time has a decent hold, but off of too small a number to matter much to the bottom line. Great hold for Footloose, but $60m domestic is still a far-away number. Likewise, Real Steel has a long way to $90m. Ides of March heading to just over $40m , which is a reasonably good number for that film. And Moneyball passes $70m, which is a nice number or that film.

Sony’s Anonymous roll-out doesn’t seem to be taking. It’s a shame. The movie deserved a lot better. It’s a reminder that “good” is not enough. You have to have that marketing hook to drag people in. Hindsight says that they may have been better selling it as a chick flick.

Like Crazy did okay in its small expansion. But it’s hard to say whether it will blossom beyond the $5m range. Likewise, Searchlight’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, which is doing similar business to Sony Classics’ Almodovar film The Skin I Live In, though in that case, $6m would be perceived as a strong result.

OOPS, noon – Forgot to mention Tintin hitting $125 million overseas, now in 31 markets after opening in 12 more this weekend (I believe, based on the Sony info that was not specific about the market count this week).


Friday Estimates by Caper Klady

I’m going to start with smashing Nikki Finke’s bullshit in the mush. I know. Not all that unusual. But it’s getting more important as the mouthpiece for the studios – she’s gotten her wish and truly become a trade magazine, circa 1985 – continues to push The Lie Of The Theatrical Slump 2011 Edition. Honestly, I think she just doesn’t have the slightest idea what she’s writing about and isn’t much interested in doing any legwork at all except to pick up the phone and to be told what to write… as usual. She’s a victim. But when you write crap like, “North American box office is still unsettlingly weak just as it’s been since the beginning of August. This weekend’s total gross is running a bad -25% behind last year’s,” you can’t get a pass.

First… she’s listening to someone who is telling her about the aggregated weekend gross for this weekend based on Friday matinees. Stupid.

Second… yes, it’s likely Ron Meyer and/or his people who is/are spinning her on this, as he’s got the perceived weak launch this weekend.

Here is a (CORRECTED) list of all the first-weekend-of-November films that will have opened better than Tower Heist seems likely to this weekend..

Notice… 3 non-animated comedies total. One, Borat, was a phenom. One, The Waterboy, was the next movie after Sandler’s first big hit and was, at the time, the biggest November opening of all-time. That’s all of November, all-time. Does any of this sound like Tower Heist to you yet?

The third comedy to open to more than $15m was Due Date. $33m last November 5. That was probably what Universal was counting on. But have they looked at Ben Stiller’s career in the last five years? School for Scoundrels, $8.6m opening. The Heartbreak Kid, $14m opening. Tropic Thunder, $25.8m opening. Everything else has been for kids and/or a sequel.

And what is Tower Heist going to open to? Probably a little less than Tropic Thunder, which btw, opened in the summer and had Downey 3 months after Iron Man.

Must be a slump!

Want to know the reality of the last three months? August was up $20m from 2010. We had the biggest September in history, the first ever over $600m, and up $58m from 2010. And October was down $79m from 2010. All-in-all, business is off by $1m in the last 3 months. SLUMP!!!

You want to know where the big difference was between Oct 2010 and Oct 2011? Simple. Jackass 3D. The only film to earn $100 in either month, there was no similar event this year. Paranormal 2 actually brought $20m less in the month of October than Paranormal 3 did this year. The other big factor? The Social Network vs The Ides of March.

It’s the movies, stupid!

Here’s what we got in August… the first time in history that two august films grossed over $150m domestic in one year.

Here’s what we got in September… four releases that grossed over $60 million… when there have never been more than two before.

Here’s what we got in October… the biggest opening in October history and the 2nd biggest animated opening in October history.

SLUMP!!!! It must be the industry and not the movies…. right?!?!?!?

The thing is, I now think this crap is being pumped to ignoramuses like Nikki so that the studios that control some media can try to get an upper hand – read: complete control – over the theatrical window vs VOD issue. And while they all refuse to openly admit their weak-ass VOD numbers (indie is an exception), they continue to whine about theatrical, willing to knock down what’s working in order to make way for a change on which they have no real numbers.

And i keep saying to the exhibitors… let then have that day-n-date window on Tower Heist… the only stipulation being that the studio publicly admits the real VOD number.

Why is the simple truth so very painful for some people?


DP/30: Bridesmaids, director Paul Feig

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BYOB Weekend


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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