The Hot Blog Archive for February, 2012

Disney Offers This (Tiny) View Of Their Muppet Oscar Nominee

BYOB 22412


It’s a 45!

Yes.  Today Goh Nakamura, a musician who also acts – the film, Surrogate Valentine is on its way to SXSW – gave me a real live brand spankin’ new 45!


3 Days To Oscar: Pissing on The Artist

I’m so tired of it.

I get it. A silent, black & white movie that tells a classic tale of the high brought low and then resurrected isn’t “special” enough. Great.

90% of the time, the real issue people have with The Artist – and this is hardly the first Oscar winner to suffer this – is that they liked some other movie better and are sick of the obsessive focus on a movie that is not their personal favorite. So there has to be a pathology behind the choice… something that can be rationalized.

Karina Longworth offered up one of the more complex and one of the more stupid rationalizations. The movie somehow comforts an uncertain Hollywood about its future going into the digital delivery era.


Why are journalists invariably 2 years behind the actual temperature of the town?

So what was the rationalization for The King’s Speech last year? “Hollywood” feels like a very powerful stutterer who needs a good bitch slapping to straighten up and lead again?

The success of The Artist with Academy voters is not a trick. It’s not an act of Harvey Weinstein chicanery. They just love this movie more than other movies.

There is plenty of support for The Descendents and Hugo and Moneyball and all the other BP nominees. But not quite as much love.

Year after year, unlike Karina and her ilk, I watch this closely, not down my nose. And I see this year after year. Love.

I’m not going to fight with anybody over their preference. Love what you love. But when others love something else, don’t pretzel yourself trying to figure out some rationalization.

Here is the question I ask people when they make a face after they ask, “What’s going to win?” and I say, “The Artist” (as I have since September). “We all now there are some excellent films that are nominated. Is there any one of the nine this year that you feel desperately needs to win… should win Best Picture?”

In almost every case, I get a blank stare and some mumbling.

It’s not that they don’t prefer some or all of the pictures to The Artist. It’s that they don’t have the passion for the other nominees that some people – many voters – have for The Artist.

And that’s how The Artist wins Best Picture.


Oscar Asshole™: Whose Stupid Idea Was Stunting The Red Carpet?

Here are some questions to really ask yourself about the idea of Sacha Baron Cohen appearing on the Oscar red carpet as “The Dictator”…

1. Paramount and Graham King’s company spend millions of dollars to push for Hugo to win some Oscars and, they hoped, Best Picture. Do you really think they want to shift all the focus from Hugo, a film about the artistry of cinema made by a living legend (and really a team of living legends) and which they still hope will be a multiple Oscar winner, to their upcoming film of the (higher end) Norbit variety?

2. Do you think Martin Scorsese wants Sacha Baron Cohen mocking, for lack of a better word, the sanctity of the Oscar red carpet, on his dime?

3. Have you considered how this stunt plays out on the red carpet? Unlike the silly stunt by the South Park guys, who arrived in drag for the show and walked the carpet, Cohen’s methodology involves drawing other people in to his sometimes brilliant game. Is it fair or even decent to allow him to infringe on everyone else’s moment?

I was an advocate of allowing Banksy to turn up at the Oscars in any disguise that pleased him. Again, the difference is that Banksy being masked is a part of his art and a part of his film, which was honored with a nomination. I would not advocate him walking around with a can of spray paint, painting other nominees as they talked to E! on the red carpet. Ironically, as much as a guerrilla as Banksy is, he seems to understand his place in the world and respects it as much as any businessperson would.

If it were just Sacha walking down the red carpet in that outfit, waving… whatever. But you know that the money shot is going to be Octavia Spencer giving The Dictator the stink eye or trying to get some international outlet to interview him as though he was a nominee or engaging Meryl Streep in some way. If you aren’t actually in Ari Emanuel’s pocket, as some “journalists” won’t toldja they are, the idea of Mr Emmanuel’s client disrupting the event may be amusing at first, but ultimately will get in the way of journalists whose outlets invest heavily in this event getting their jobs done.

I don’t believe that this was Paramount’s idea, though Nikki Finke seems to want to collar them with it. This is a company that is heavily invested in the awards season and respectful of The Academy. And no one over there is stupid. Stunting the red carpet is not a tradition.

And the comparison of this event to Cohen’s Borat premiere at Toronto is, simply, moronic. That stunt was brilliant. But it was at an event that was specifically about Borat. It wasn’t in conflict with the tone of the evening. It did a great job setting the tone of the evening. (And by the way, it was planned WITH the festival in space set aside by the festival for pre-premiere press activities.) And after the projector broke and they had to reschedule the screening at another venue, we were all disappointed when there was not an even bigger stunt at the new venue.

The con here is to spin this as The Uptight Academy. But that either intentionally unfair or just plain ignorant. Hundreds of people are invested in that red carpet, thousands and thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars… and that’s beyond the investment by ABC and The Academy. But there are always plenty of people who just want to see the staid, organized event turned upside down. Ha ha.

There is a difference between inventive spontaneity and imposing yourself on others.

Paramount’s marketing and publicity department know this. They are as smart as anyone in this business.

And actually, Sacha Baron Cohen knows this. This kind of thing is actually a bit out of his wheelhouse. Even when he included celebrities in his Bruno stuff, he set up small, private, controlled situations. Neither of his previous characters for film were about invading major public events and subverting them. He gets his laughs from pained intimacy, not mocking the business in which he makes 10s of millions a movie. (Rebel with a platinum card.)

Of course, in the end, this was probably never meant to end up with Cohen on the red carpet in his dictator suit. Once it was announced to The Hollywood Reporter, it lost any chance of being subversive and would have all the edginess of product placement in it went forward. Cohen would be the perky Ford that keeps getting close-ups for no apparent reason.

My guess would be that everyone knew this… that Paramount would never have allowed WME’s client to announce this – and maybe didn’t know it was coming – unless they knew it would die before Sunday… and that the story on Sunday night after all this will be that Sacha isn’t going to do any interviews on the red carpet, which he wouldn’t be doing out of character anyway, so people will speculate on him being muzzled by The Academy. Perhaps he will wear a piece of tape on his mouth to create more media drama as he moves quickly into the theater.

So I would bet the real answer to the headline question is, “No one’s.” The goal was to get attention for a new movie without actually shitting where Paramount, Cohen, WME, and Nikki Finke live. Goal achieved. Shame on y’all. Shame on us.


The Lack Of Any Facts Behind Polone’s Claims About Black Entertainment

Gavin Polone, who has found a voice as a columnist explaining the world of show business through the prism of a former agent, is right about many things. In a new column entitled, “Polone: The False Circular Logic Behind Hollywood’s Resistance to Black Entertainment“, he is right that Hollywood – even more so than The Academy – is missing color in the offices where decisions are made… not just black… any color other than white. He is right that this doesn’t help the thinking process behind developing and greenlighting movies starring blacks or other ethnicities

However… as most people who have already decided what they think and what the world must think… Polone has to dip and duck and avoid reality in order to make a case that seems more, uh, black and white, than it is.

His premise: “Why have things been moving backwards, not forwards, and why are the major entertainment companies shunning a vibrant market that is only becoming more economically valuable, culturally and politically important, and ripe for crossover appeal? Here are a few of Hollywood’s main rationales:”

He makes 3 main points. The first is that Hollywood sees “black films” as niche. Here is the sentence that grabbed me: “The theory is that black and white people alike will go see Avatar or Fast and the Furious XXI, but whites won’t go see For Colored Girls…”

That’s when my head explodes. Could he possibly have picked a franchise less helpful to his argument than The Fast & The Furious?

Film 1: White guy and ethnic mutt (offered up as Italian) team up. White guy fixates on his new partner’s dark-skinned sister, while the Italian is in love with the HIspanic girl.
Film 2: Rinse, repeat. Add more ethnicity in Eva Mendes, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, and Devon Aoki.
Film 3: Is the franchise going to fade without Ambiguous Vin? Let’s focus on that Asian spin and go to Tokyo. Add Bow Wow.
Film 4: Reunion tour, now that Vin’s heat has ebbed. Add Brandon T. Jackson.
Film 5: Throw all of your ethnics into a movie with Paul Walker… add The Rock and put it in Brazil. Walker is now the only white in the room. Biggest hit yet.

You can’t find a franchise that has benefited from the addition of color more than this one. Not one.

I just wrote the other day, coincidentally, about Eva Mendes being a secret ingredient of ethnicity that has helped many movies. Besides being gorgeous and a strong actress, she is ethnic without being ETHNIC. Whether opposite Denzel, Will Smith, Nic Cage, or Will Ferrell, she isn’t the opener… but she, in my eyes, is a valuable supporting draw.

And we’ll see The Rock twice this year as an added element meant to jumpstart a wannabe franchise, now in Journey 2 and coming in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

And yet, it is 100% true that white audiences, in general, have no interest in Tyler Perry movies or any movies about The Black Experience. Perry could not be much more consistent in his solid numbers for relatively inexpensive movies. Any studio is happy to have those films, whether they are Black ethnic, horror films, chick flicks, whatever. But Tyler Perry is more Freddy Krueger and less Denzel, in that, he is an icon with a specific value to a strong base at this point… not a “movie star” in the classic sense.

Perry has been pushing Lionsgate to try to make his movies crossover from the start. And he has made headway in terms of the ad buys. They have to keep their star happy. And it doesn’t mean diddly.

Forget race for a second. What is Tyler Perry’s brand. Comedy based on the specific, narrow experience and talky drama. Who makes a career out of that? Well… Woody Allen. And even though he happened to have his biggest film this year, Allen still makes less money per film in the US than Tyler Perry… selling the white, jewish, urban experience. And even this year’s Midnight in Paris… Perry has had three films outgross that domestically in the last 6 years.

Niche realities are not inherently racist. Sorry.

Polone’s #2 is “There is a perception, especially with movies, that African-American actors don’t sell overseas —unless, of course, they are Will Smith or Denzel Washington, but only in a thriller or action movie.”

Let’s start by looking at Denzel’s career. For the first decade, he never once cracked $50m domestic, in spite of being in some Spike Lee hits (including Malcolm X), Oscar movies like Glory, and action, like Ricochet..

And then, in 1993, he was in a film with Julia Roberts and film with Tom Hanks. Both made over $50m domestic and one was just below and one just above $200m worldwide. Crimson Tide was next… $91 million, but only $66m foreign. Courage Under Fire with Meg Ryan did $59m domestic, only $42m foreign. But then The Siege did almost double overseas what it did here. Bruce Willis. Of his next eight films, only one did better than 40% of its business foreign… The Bone Collector, a thriller that also marked the emergence of Angelina Jolie.

And then… Deja Vu… his third action-y film with Tony Scott at the helm. $64m domestic, $117m foreign. 2006, after 25 years making movies, Denzel Washington starts to be able to deliver internationally. He, not to put too coarse a point on it, stopped being Black in the eyes of the rest of the world and started just being Denzel. Of seven films since then, only The Great Debaters (in which he was really a supporting character) and, oddly, The Book of Eli, have failed to do at least 50% of their business overseas. He hasn’t hit over 60% again, but he has now into his fifth year of every film he stars in making at least $150m worldwide. That’s a step up from when he was sure to do $70m domestic each time out, but the distributors were (fairly) unsure about foreign.

And no one, not even Mr Polone, can say with a straight face that the studios weren’t trying to make him a worldwide star.

Polone tries to blame the different between Tyler Perry and Will Smith on the studios’ intent: “is Good Deeds any more “niche” than 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, a big domestic and international hit about a struggling black businessman who takes custody of his son when his wife leaves him? The main difference is that the latter stars Will Smith, so it is not thought of as “niche” and Columbia marketed it all over the world as a broad-based film. But keep in mind that Will Smith only became the star that he is because he was marketed early as a “star” — not a “black star” — and audiences accepted him as such.”

Whoa, big boy. Let’s start with a, “Yes… DUH… Good Deeds is profoundly more niche with Tyler Perry as a star than the same exact script and director and Will Smith as the star.”

Will Smith saw The Legend of Bagger Vance and Ali and even the first Bad Boys perform relatively poorly overseas long before he did $145m in a drama there. It’s quite a good number, but the only film Smith has done in the last decade that failed to do $100m international was his other drama, Seven Pounds. (It did $98m. But you get the point.) In the last decade, Smith has averaged $216m overseas on each film… and that doesn’t include outliers ID4 or MiB.

You know who else has achieved this kind of number? No one. That’s why his 2 dramas can’t even begin to be compared to the potential of Tyler Perry or any other actor, Black or White.

One more thing… though many of the foreign distribution channels are owned by the same multinationals that own the US studios,the domestic distribution chiefs don’t get to make the call for the foreign ones how much money in marketing and other distribution costs are going to be set for each film.

And another… the Black issue in America is a hot button. But has Polone considered why the biggest Indian stars in the world are worth nothing in the US market? Why hasn’t Disney been able to convert American families into Miyazaki freaks? Has Polone looked at the numbers for movies starring Blacks in Japan, Russia and other countries that now make up so much of the worldwide box office? Is there a Black film star in any other other country whose success can compare to Will or Denzel… or even Tyler Perry?

Before I’m done with this “Hollywood isn’t interested in spreading Black stars” stuff… Eddie Murphy. He’s been one of the biggest stars in the world for what will be 30 years this December. 37 movies. 14 have grossed $100m domestic. 20 have grossed over $70m domestic.

Only 4 Eddie Murphy films have ever grossed 60% or better of their worldwide gross overseas. Shrek 4, Mulan, Beverly Hills Cop 3, and Meet Dave, which was such a loser here that the $39m overseas is hardly worth blowing a horn about. And less than 1/3 (11) of his titles have done 50% of their worldwide gross or better overseas.

Were they not trying hard enough?

Polone’s argument 3: “The people running networks and studios today, as it was in the past, are a remarkably homogenous group, made up of educated white people from upper-middle-class backgrounds.”

Yes. 100% true.

And yet, look at the studios that have women in charge and show me how female-centric their slates are.


You say that Amy Pascal almost lost her job when she made a slew of “chick flicks” and has since focused on Spiderman and Sandler and Ferrell and Fincher and Will Smith? Hmmm…


Polone has also disregarded one major event in all of this. When DVD started sliding, according to the insiders I have spoken to over the years, it slid harder in the Black community than in the White community. And the companies that were making a lot of the niche product… a tier of movies that were not as big as the big ones, but was still employing a lot of people for a lot of money… stopped because they couldn’t count on adding DVD sales to their core “urban” theatrical.

Yes, again… math instead of art. And math that could be overcome by making movies that found a way to cross over.

But, you know, Hollywood, evil as it is, WANTS Terrence Howard to be another Will Smith or at least a Denzel. He doesn’t end up on Law & Order: LA because the industry doesn’t want another handsome, talented movie star. And Laurence Fishburne is on CBS. And Don Cheadle’s on Showtime. And The Rock is in kids movies a lot. And Ice Cube hasn’t played a lead in a few years.

Things are far from perfect, not only for Blacks, but for all the communities underserved by Hollywood. Very bright minds need to find ways to make films work. A big part of that is making budgets that work with a realistic view of the revenue opportunity on all levels of distribution.

You know, Alexander Payne and Scorsese and Bennett Miller and Terence Malick are niche filmmakers too. Sometimes they have casts that make them something else. Sometimes they do not.

But sadly, there are niches and there are international realities of distribution and there is a white out at the studios. And claiming that the studios just aren’t trying hard enough is lame.


5 Predictions For 2012

Yes, I know that we’re already a 7 weeks in… all the more pressure on these predictions, which have only 11 months to blossom…

Summer 2012 Will Be Covered As A Slump When May Titles Perform Well, But Not Sensationally – Ah… the spring and early summer start to come into focus. March looks to have at least two, if not three $100 million domestic hits… compared to just Rango last year, which was labelled “disappointing” versus the March DWA numbers of the past. On the other hand, April, which last year boasted three $100m grossers – including the $200m Fast Five – has its best hopes in a re-release of Titanic and a reunion sequel to American Pie. Meh.

So strong March… soft April, in comparison to last year.

And then, The Avengers. Will it be at Iron Man levels ($300m+) or will it be at the summer movie levels for Marvel of the last few years ($145m – $185m)? Somewhere in between? This will be the sixth straight summer to be led off by a Marvel superhero. And it will set the tone. Last summer’s $65m launch for Thor was the smallest. Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2 were the two over $100m ($151/$128m, respectively). Anything under a $100m launch will probably be seen as coming up short. A bit silly, but such is the nature of all this stuff.

Dark Shadows is Depp, but kitschy, Burton-y Depp. Realistically, a $25m opening is about where that can be expected to land if it lands nicely. Sacha Baron Cohen will hope to open as high as $20m with his latest character.

The big non-Marvel horses are Battleship and Men in Black 3. Who the hell knows? There were no $100m openings last May and $100m 3-days over Memorial Day weekend are a challenge, even though there are now 3 titles that have done the trick. There hasn’t been more than one $100m launch in May since 2007, the summer of the Three Threequels (Spidey/Shrek/Sparrow).

The big upside on both Battleship and MiB3 is likely to be overseas, not here. So I expect there to be a lot of itchy box office writing in May, coming off of a soft April and only Avengers likely to pull its perceived weight initially.

But then June starts loading up. This summer could match last summer’s six $100m domestic grossers, with Kristen Stewart’s Snow White, a Madagascar sequel, Prometheus (which I expect to be Top 5 worldwide next summer and could be the biggest R-rated film ever). a Sandler, a Pixar, and GI: Joe Rock-dux…. plus some high potential smaller titles in Rock of Ages and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

But July is where things get really nuts and the reporting will be all lovey dovey… Spiderman and Batman alone are pretty sure to bring in over $750m domestic. Then add on Ice Age 4… a franchise that’s never done less than $175m domestic and which did almost $900m worldwide last time. Only 8 movies are scheduled to open in July this summer… very unusual. But everyone else is just getting out of the way… with 3 movies looking for $3 billion or more worldwide in a matter of weeks. But there is still a Stiller/Vaughn movie being thrown in there that will be hoping to do 9 figures.

August is a bit of a crap shoot. Bourne looks like a hit, but it’s rebooting. Total Recall should be viable… but why open it opposite Bourne if you think it is? Rivals/Dog Fight, a political comedy pitting Will Ferrell vs Zach Zach Galifianakis could be an underdog hit. Can the geezers do it again with The Expendables 2? Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt stalked by Michael Shannon draw a late summer audience looking for grit? Will WB get a Chronicle out of The Apparition?

The tone about the entire summer, which could well be a record-setter, as this year’s was, may well be set by some of these smaller titles and their perceived success or failure. Or it could just a be a referendum on the numbers for Men in Black 3D. What we can be sure of is that it will be reactionary and once positions are taken, attitudes will have to be pried from cold, dead word processors.

Studio Ups & Downs – After a sensational 2011, Paramount will take heat for a reduced schedule and a lack of high-profile product coming through the pipeline. The success or failure of World War Z will become an enormous pressure on the psychology of the studio.

Universal will see more executive turnover after Battleship underperforms domestically, even though it will make up for it overseas. Soon thereafter, Snow White, Bourne, and the Oscar success of This Is Forty (or whatever it ends up being called) will seem ironic.

Fox will take its usual heat until an exceptionally strong summer, but the boo birds will return in the fall, as the studio hits singles and doubles.

Disney will be ducking for cover all year long after John Carter, having a decent success with The Avengers, but not much else that gets anyone excited – Pixar’s Brave being a wildcard – until Spielberg’s Lincoln in Nov/Dec.

Sony will have its biggest summer ever and its first billion dollar title, with Bond and Bigelow in the holiday season. Solid year.

Warner Bros = Batman & Hobbit in 2012. But there are some very interesting smaller titles, starting with Project X, Dark Shadows, Rivals, Gangster Squad, and what many hope will be major Oscar bait for Ben Affleck, Argo. It could be a sensational year for the studio.

Netflix Will Keep Losing Subscribers In The US – Netflix continues to signal that they are angling at becoming a competitor of HBO. What this means, when uncoded, is more original/exclusive content, less content overall.

I see this, as I have seen it, as a necessity of the future of this company and not a simple strategic choice. Netflix simply cannot afford to be what Netflix was as a DVD rental business as an ongoing streaming business. There is nothing wrong with this. But it is a wildly different model than the Netflix that built a new paradigm.

Logically, as Netflix becomes a more narrow business, some of its audience will move on, as they have for 2 straight quarters. As best as my research tells me, HBO has never cracked 16 million paying domestic subscribers. They have not only a wide array of channels, but a strong reputation for its original programming and a very solid movie package from WB and elsewhere. The monthly cost of the service is similar to the cost of Netflx and includes HBO Go for most cable/satellite users.

Obviously, no one has to choose between Netflix – which has a much deeper library at this point – and HBO. You can have both. But as more competitors enter the market in Everything Everywhere mode, the number of $8 monthly subscriptions will pile up and people will start feeling compelled to make decisions.

In 2012, I expect inertia to keep the leakage slow, though steady. But as we get to 2013, Netflix will be forced to define itself in clear ways that it isn’t ready to do now. And that will surely be a tipping point… not for the company to go out of business or become a minor business or any of the extreme things that defenders like to throw out there to unbalance the conversation. But for Netflix to become, as it is aiming to, more like HBO, competing more like HBO competes with Showtime and Starz… and with a subscription base back under 15 million.

Majors Will Start To Move Into The Day-N-Date VOD Business – One major is getting ready to launch an international VOD arm of one of their divisions. This will continue and expand.

Studios and more significantly, studio Dependents have stayed out of day-n-date VOD models so far. There are too many layers of well-established, highly profitable distribution that have to worry about cannibalism and perceived cannibalism to go there. But as the Magnolias and IFCs make the case for a VOD-driven business model and margins tighten and DVD is phased out, the potential for VOD-first as a business opportunity for movies that are not going to get a studio release looks more and more attractive (not unlike the indie business was before they decided the upside wasn’t up enough.

Someone Will Start Paying Cable & Broadcast Nets For Full Mobile Streaming & Perhaps In Package Agreements With AT&T Or Other Wireless Provider – This one came to me in a flash the other day and really inspired this entire piece.

Most of the major cable and satellite outlets now have streaming opportunities within the same wi-fi reach as your converter box. HBO, ESPN, CNN, and a few others are offering completely mobile platforms for live streaming with membership through you cable/satellite provider.

But what is really cool? Being about to watch what you want, when you want off of your cable/satellite. Slingbox for all!

What is the biggest problem? 5g a month max for most data service without being throttled.

If people are paying $8 for Netflix and $8 for Hulu, and $100 for DirectTV, how much more a month would they play to watch anything anywhere? $25 a month? And if $20 of that went to AT&T because they’d be using more bandwidth and $5 is split between the content providers and DirecTV while any station watched gets the benefit of viewership?

And obviously, all the better – for the viewing experience – if used on wi-fi… self-interest.

If cable companies are worrying about cord cutting, this can be the beginning of a more inclusive package. Don’t fight streaming… become streaming. What does it cost to keep a household connected to the wired infrastructure? How much is it worth to keep customers?

Personally, I don’t want to be on streaming only. When the wi-fi slows down, I don’t want to be waiting on the cache to fill. I want my reliable, consistent, high-quality satellite stream. But I also want to be able to flip on anything I already pay to receive at home in any hotel, stadium, restaurant, or outing I like. And I’d pay for the right… at least until the cord cutting price wars of 2015.

It only makes sense, as the technology now allows, that someone moves forward in this direction.


Go Back to School

About Central Institute Technology

As one of Australia’s largest training institutes, Central Institute of Technology trains more than 29,000 students annually, including 1300 international students.

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DP/30: Natural Selection, writer/director Robbie Pickering, actor Rachel Harris

A rollicking interview… these two are very funny together.


Gawker Hoaxed On Netflix Pulling The Bodyguard Story?

Gawker is running a story called, “Studios Allegedly Pull All Whitney Houston Titles from Netflix to ‘Make More Money off the DVD Sales’.” The first sign that they really haven’t done much legwork is the “allegedly” in the title.

Then, one should consider the fact that WB, the distributor of The Bodyguard, does NOT have a deal with Netflix for streaming. So how would The Bodyguard be on Netflix in the first place? Of the top 10 films released by WB in 1992, the year the studio released The Bodyguard, only Lethal Weapon 3 is currently streaming on Netflix. How? Through Starz. This is also the ONLY way that The Bodyguard would be streaming on Netflix. And as with all Starz titles, the streaming window is tied to the cable play window.

Starz does run Black History Month programming this month, which includes WB titles The Color Purple and Rosewood. Did it include The Bodyguard sometime this month? Maybe. But the two WB movies that are playing this week are NOT streaming on Netflix. Maybe they will on Feb 22, the day they are scheduled to run on the cable net. But not now.

Waiting To Exhale is also bouncing around as a Whitney title still streaming on Netflix. Via Starz. Fox, which released that film, also doesn’t have a Netflix streaming deal. And of their 1995 top ten titles – the year Exhale came out – four are streaming via Starz, one through a deal with Saban, and mysteriously, Die Hard 3. But when Starz goes, so will the four Starz streaming titles.

Looking at the source of the story… complaints in the comments on the The Bodyguard page on Netflix, the only specific claim of a date on which the film was available for streaming was October of last year. There is no sign of the film on Starz schedule for that month, so I don’t know how it would have been streaming through them. There may have been some sort of WB streaming deal that had some play dates in 2011… but there is no indication of one now.

This is not to say that WB is not taking advantage of Whitney Houston’s death to sell stuff, The film is now available on VOD on DirecTV… and I can’t imagine that it was before last week. Digitial sales have been strong. Etc.

But this story has every earmark of being a hoax… perhaps even an honestly started hoax. People think Netflix streams everything. But if it’s a WB movie, your memory is – in all but Starz cases… and only for another week or so – either old or just wrong.

ADD: By the way… if there was a streaming deal in place, it is possible, but highly unlikely that there would be a death clause allowing movies to be pulled at will at a moment like this. Netflix plays a ton for streaming. This is the rare moment where there is real value that would accrue to them… that is, if they had a deal to stream The Bodyguard… of which there is no evidence.

ADD, 5:03p – It turn out that the source of the Gawker story retracted his story at 3:05p today. Two hours later, Gawker is running neither the retraction or the Netflix denials. So maybe they weren’t hoaxed… maybe they didn’t care about spreading false information around the web, where hundreds of sites ran the bad info as fact.


6 Days To Oscar: You Might Be An Asshole If…

If you really believe that Alexander Payne, who seems to be very much in his head in many ways, came back to directing after 6 years and pulled his punches to try to make The Descendants more of an Oscar bait movie, you’re living inside a fantasy of your own creation. Maybe you are still thinking that he was chasing Oscar because Giamatti and Haden-Church MEAN Oscar wins.

There is a big difference between someone thinking or saying out loud, “You/I could win an Oscar for this” and adjusting a film or a performance to that end. And to sit here, after films have been released, awarded, discussed, and nominated and deciding from whatever desk you sit at, “Well… you blew your chance because your aesthetic choices were insincere,” is a load of manure.

In my experience, the work doesn’t get to this place if it has been restrained by those limited goals. Is anyone really stupid enough to suggest that Michel Hazanavicius thought, “If only I make a black and white silent film, set in Hollywood, with my wife and France’s top comedy star, it’s an Oscar winner for sure!”?

The full column…

Big Newspaper Journalism Isn’t Always What You Think It Is

I have been tweeting on and on about the pathetic waste of time that is the LA Times “investigative” report – “Umasking The Academy” – on The Academy’s membership.

The whole enterprise speaks to everything that is now wrong with entertainment journalism and why no one in the film industry but Oscar advertisers and employees really care whether the LAT continues to cover this industry. I’ve already gotten into a conversation in public with someone I respect about whether this survey adds anything to the conversation. He felt it was factual, therefore of value. I feel that it is a massive waste of hours and resources by a paper that refuses to get serious about industry coverage, even though they have a large, experienced, and talented staff.

But I’ll restrain myself for the moment and focus on the lead of one of the four packages… as this is what pissed me off first and most profoundly…

“Which two of these four entertainment names — Woody Allen, George Lucas, Meat Loaf, Erik Estrada — are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences?

It’d be understandable if you guessed Allen and Lucas: The directors made such classics as “Annie Hall” and “Star Wars.”

But neither filmmaker is a member.

On the other hand, the man known for sweating on stage performing “Bat Out of Hell” and the 1970s pinup who as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello in “CHiPs” fought freeway mayhem while wearing oversized sunglasses and a tight uniform have been ensconced for years (both in the actors branch).”

So we’re mocking Meatloaf and Erik Estrada here, right? Unnecessary and cheap. Mean spirited. And though they do get into when Meatloaf was invited to join – while not mentioning that in the same year, he was heavily buzzed for a Supporting Actor nod for Fight Club – they don’t get into Estrada’s entry… and only one of the other eight members they bring up for mockery.

And back to Meatloaf… they add this shitty slap, “Meat Loaf, who noted that “War Horse” was his favorite movie of 2011 because it made him cry five times.” Seriously… fuck off. This is the scummy way of writing stories… mock and then try to cheap shot people though smirky associations, even though many people probably cried 5 times in War Horse. If you wouldn’t laugh in Meat Loaf’s face when he said it and face the consequences, it’s cowardly and lame to throw it in there as an attempted cheap shot.

Oh yeah… and Woody Allen and George Lucas, used for the shock gag opposite Meat Loaf and Estrada… both passed on Academy membership. So what’s the point? It’s such a cheap game! The hypothesis is that the wrong people are in The Academy… but it’s not because Meat Loaf took Woody Allen’s spot or that The Academy is taking Meat Loaf because they can’t get Woody Allen. It’s NOTHING but a cheap, lazy device. And it’s embarrassing that the LAT needs to stoop to that.

I often say that in 95% of docs in which a quality, experienced documentarian whose device isn’t being a part of the story shows up in the doc, it means that they didn’t get the story they were after… they failed to nail it. Same is true with this kind of cheap spin. If there was really a story there, they wouldn’t have to resort to insulting .2% of the Academy or spinning an angle behind two guys who passed on membership. Epic big paper fail.


Weekend Estimates by Flipped Top Klady

So… The Vow falls to second place… which doesn’t diminish its success a single bit. It will be Screen Gems first $100m domestic grosser. Also, interestingly, it may be the last Spyglass film to go out without a MGM logo.

Surging to the top of the chart – again, the slotting meaning almost nothing in any other context – is Denzel’s Safe House, now assured of hitting $100m domestically and with a shot at being Denzel’s #2 career grosser, over Remember The Titans‘ $116m, but not quite American Gangster‘s $130m.

Ghost Rider 2 opened to about half of what the first film did and will likely gross about half as well. In one of those moments when a supporting actor might have changed the dynamic, how big a difference did Eva Mendes make the first time around? Did this go from a franchise that women weren’t excited by, but would consider going to see with their men/boys, into a 100% geek sausage fest? Did anyone know from just watching the ads that The Woman From The American and Idris Elba were even in this film? Hmmm…

It wouldn’t be shocking if Journey 2 moved up another notch, passing Ghost Rider, for the 4-day, The opening is almost identical to the leggy first film in the series, which was one of the first 3D players (back when finding enough screens for 3D was a problem), though this one has a Lorax in the way. We’ll see.

This Means War is hard to read fairly. The height of Reese Witherspoon’s commercial career was a decade ago, with Sweet Home Alabama. In the decade since, only Legally Blonde 2, Walk The Line and Four Christmases opened better (amongst live action films). Sequel, Johnny Cash drama, team up with a red-hot Vince Vaughn. So… this really is a pretty good opening for her. Better than Water for Elephants or Just Like Heaven, much less flops like How Do You Know, Penelope (a supporting role in an aging pick-up), Vanity Fair, or Rendition. Chris Pine might add a little value… but little. The brilliant Tom Hardy remains recognizable and therefore unmarketable. So give Reese her due. She can still open a movie in the mid-teens. That’s not nothing.

On the other hand, they work with Simon Kinberg to get the next Mr & Mrs Smith… and obviously, this is not that. Closer to Knight & Day, another Fox misfire that wasn’t a complete disaster ($265m ww), but left a the appearance of a stench. My guess would be that this film ends up breaking even with international and tips Fox’s balance sheet not at all. So versus some expectations, perhaps a loser. But really, just another piece of business for Fox and an indicator that Reese can still open a movie… even one that limps out of the gate.

In The Oscar Race… The Artist is still on 808 screens and should hit $30m by the time it wins Best Picture next weekend. Presumably, that will lead to at least 2000 screens and a domestic total around $50 million. The Descendants will pass $75m today or tomorrow and is likely to pass War Horse to be the #2 grosser in this year’s Best Picture race. Traditionally, that would make it the likely film to win on Sunday, but I don’t think you can find anyone who still believes that’s going to happen. Hugo has made a bit of a comeback from the weak early grosses on the film, though $70m domestic seems to be the cap… which is still not what was hoped for this expensive period dramedy.

Interestingly, the only BP-nominated films not already over $100 million worldwide are The Tree of Life, The Artist, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Of those three, only The Artist has a legitimate shot at getting there (it’s just over $60m now.) The Help is the top grosser both domestically and worldwide… the only film over $200m. But you’re #2 ww – as of now – is Midnight in Paris, with $148m. Then The Descendants with $132m, War Horse with $126m, Moneyball with $108m, and Hugo with $106m.


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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