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David Poland

By David Poland

Watchman Myopics

I will be brief, since I think I’ve been clear…
It pains me to see smart people act like fools.
If any of you lent a friend $10,000 to start a business they needed $200,000 to really start and you had the understanding that if they ever got their funding, you would be paid back, and if not, you would own some percentage of the business… and your friend took your money, almost got funded but didn’t, then ultimately did, but acted as though you didn’t exist…
Money against film projects is as Studio 101 as it gets. I would be shocked if Drew McW doesn’t have at least one writing deal over recent years that is not in turnaround and carrying the burden of what he was paid on it. I was a screenwriter for 2 years and I have one. Some of the best scripts ever are sitting unmade because of the amount that they have sitting against any future production. Superman Returns had over $60 million against it, but WB went forward because they hoped it would outdo that burden.
Studio 101.
And all this geek whining tells you just why the geek community is not taken seriously.
It’s politicians talking morality and then getting caught with their dicks out.
There is nothing wrong with wanting Watchmen to come out and for creativity to reign over money. There’s nothing wrong (except that it’s mildly delusional) to believe that Tom Rothman is not just a more honest version of every other businessman in this game and that most would be thrilled to have his track record (or Mechanic’s for that matter). But suggesting that something is wrong with Fox getting it’s absolute, legal, moral, not remotely unusual due on this movie is infantile and/or intentionally self-deceptive.
That’s all I’m sayin’…
And before you start telling me that I am in anyone’s pocket, keep in mind… I knew this was going to happen almost exactly as it has the day I read the legal docs. It’s not a borderline call. The only question is who pays what to whom. WB infringed on an existing contract and either maliciously or incompetently moved forward. Whoever compared it to Art Buchwald came close… but Fox is Buchwald and WB is Par… though Fox’s claim is much more solid than Buchwald’s. They wrote checks. They left it sitting like over 50% of written screenpllays sit in this business of turnarounds.
And the Fox Knew… Fox Should Have Pursued Earlier thing is utter bullshit. If your landlord doesn’t ask for your rent every month and you get 6 months behind, does your obligation go away because your landlord didn’t manage your finances and push you to act responsibly?
If “geeks” want to be treated like serious adults, they need to start banging on WB to eat their porridge and pay what they owe, so y’all can see Dr Manhatten hang out on Mars. If someone steals from someone you don’t like, you don’t just keep blaming the guy you don’t like because he is “evil.” Well… you do if you are six.

23 Responses to “Watchman Myopics”

  1. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Notice how the Liberal Media is by and large silent on this Hollywood farkup. They’re too pigged out on what Biggie Smalls called “Hype and B.S.”

  2. jeffmcm says:

    Well, it’s very ‘inside baseball’ and there are no stars involved, so I think your double-ironic (triple?) ‘liberal media’ belives that the mainstream audience doesn’t care (and they don’t).

  3. Most people don’t care about this stuff, except Watchmen fanboys and Hollywood insiders. So yes, JeffMCM is right. the mainstream folks don’t care, period.
    we are too busy paying attention to what’s happening in the Middle East and worrying about the failing economy.

  4. David Poland says:

    I basically agree that it is inside baseball… but we are 3 months from release and they can screw up the release with a lot of drama and/or a delay.

  5. Josh Massey says:

    “And all this geek whining tells you just why the geek community is not taken seriously.”
    Reading the AICN crowd’s reaction to this story was enough to make me wish the Internet had an age limit. Of course, most of those guys were probably over 30,…

  6. Hopscotch says:

    I read AICN pretty regularly…until 2002 or so. Then I just quit. Not sure if it’s because I entered my 20’s or I figured out the site is a suck-up club.
    As a film fan this is kind of preverse, but every year there’s usually one or two movies I flat out (privately) root to fail. I hope it sucks, I hope people are disappointed because I either don’t like the filmmakers (actors / director) or the property or that kind of movie.
    This year it is WATCHMEN. I just want it to go away.

  7. Tofu says:

    And the Fox Knew… Fox Should Have Pursued Earlier thing is utter bullshit.
    In legal standing, absolutely. In terms of business, it borders on unethical, and has set in a negative image for what could have been a simple buyout transaction. The landlord analogy is fairly weak, and honestly, an analogy isn’t even needed here in the first place.
    Fox is losing public image credibility not because they want their share, but because everyone had the suspicion it would alter the release date. Now with Fox Legal stating exactly this intention, we the consumer aren’t exactly throwing a party over the matter.

  8. alynch says:

    The landlord analogy is fairly weak, and honestly, an analogy isn’t even needed here in the first place.
    I agree that the landlord analogy doesn’t work, but not for your reasons. It doesn’t work because a landlord is not a tenant’s direct competitor. The fact that FOX & WB are competitors makes bigger bullshit of the notion that FOX should’ve given WB a heads up. Beyond that, it’s untrue anyway. FOX did contact WB regarding this contract issue prior to production beginning. In short, this fuckup is entirely WB’s. To blame FOX for this is to be logic’s enemy.

  9. Josh Massey says:

    “In terms of business, it borders on unethical,…”
    In the same way Canada borders Saudi Arabia, perhaps.
    Fox has an obligation to one group of people. Not Warner. Not “Watchmen” fans. Not the bloggers, commenters, or pundits. Fox has an obligation to its stockholders, and the timing absolutely does benefit them.

  10. anghus says:

    i dont think anyone ever accused you of being in the pocket of 20th Century Fox….

  11. martin says:

    I don’t care whether or not Watchmen comes out, it looks like typical comic book nonsense. But I do think that the industry needs to do a better job of policing itself on this kind of thing, and not treat other studios as villains they need to hurt at the box office. Occasionally there’s a release date scuffle between blockbusters, but for the most part there’s a respect amongst the studios to do what’s best for the industry. This kind of thing is bad for the industry. As I said, the film looks like garbage, but that’s not the point. There’s a lot of people that will want to see it, and taking it out of release is bad for moviegoers as well as struggling theater chains.

  12. IOIOIOI says:

    Martin and Hoppy pretty much sum this group of people up rather well. No wonder so many of you are irksome. Nevertheless; people hate Rothman. They hate the man, they hate this move, and they will use this move to go after him.
    It has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong. It has everything to do with the people rightfully taking it out on a company, that lacks the heart and balls to produce something like The Watchmen. If that does not make you mad. You need to visit Whoville, discover the meaning of fucking Xmas, and have your heart grow three sizes bigger.
    You can keep on having a problem with the geeks, Heat. I will keep on have a problem with people like you, who sell shit like this; “It’s his destiny.” Really? This movie is nothing but Millions set in India, and I am supposed to take that seriously? A love interest? In INDIA? They have a westernized version of love now? Really? Get the fuck out of here. Robin Radzinksy or the BAT for the WIN!

  13. Martin S says:

    IO – how could Fox have produced this film when Gordon had never presented it to them, in any form, since the early 90’s? They gave him creative control and in turn, when he had something, he was supposed to run it by them first. If they liked it, they’d make it. If they didn’t, he was free to go. If he didn’t want to put it in front of them, then they wanted a million dollars.
    This was way before Rothman. Mostly under Mechanic, but also when Chernin ran the studio.
    This “rightfully taking it out on a company”… Yeah, they’ve produced a lot of crap, but where’s the outrage against Gordon who’s held onto this project for dear f’ing life? It would have been made by now, and there’s a distinct chance it could have been a Cameron project if it stayed at Fox under Mechanic. Hell, if it went with Silver, you might have seen a Wachowski Watchmen instead of Speed Racer.

  14. IOIOIOI says:

    Martin: I never stated this made any sense, but it does have to do with FOX sucking at GENRE FILMS. While Warners are seen as going out of their way to make a GREAT GENRE FILM in THE WATCHMEN. If you think it looks like crap, then you most have some serious fucking issues with genre films. Nevertheless; this has everything to do with FOX being involved. If it were any other studio. The uproar from the geeks would be minimal. This being Rothman and the douches at FOX. Well… it makes people angry. Real angry.

  15. montrealkid says:

    The other angle not being talked about enough, is WBs refusal to settle, especially when they are so clearly in the wrong. While the geeks are ready to hang Fox, where is their outrage at WB for their legal equivalent of sticking their head in the sand? Their refusal to suck it up and negotiate a settlement is the real source of any release date delay. Of course WB, when Fox wins their injuction (and they will), will point the fanboys toward Fox to unleash their anger.
    And the argument that “Fox isn’t good at genre films” is ridiculous. Their success X-Men was pretty showed every other studio that comic movies could be done, please the faithful and rake in a bunch of money.

  16. Bennett says:

    yeah a little too inside baseball….Basically, Fox did the smart thing….and will make a huge profit for the shareholders….It is time for Warner to fire some of their legal department
    I think the average movie fan cares about two things…..
    1. Will this affect(or is it effect) the release date? I think that viewers like myself(who knew nothing about the Watchman comic) were excited to see the film will be pissed having to wait to see a completed film because lawyers are negotiating what percentage of who gets what. I loved the trailer.
    2. Will Fox make Snyder change anything in the film? I loved Dawn of the Dead and 300, so I believe that he will make a film that a mass audience as well as the geeks will like. I had heard that he had made a 3 hour hard R rated flick…Not exactly the most profitable presentation. If Fox rips it to under two hours and make it a PG-13 friendly film, then I will be dissapointed.

  17. montrealkid says:

    Bennett, at this point all Fox cares about is one thing: $$$ They have no interest in editing Snyder’s film or making any post-production decisions (it was already announced that Snyder’s longer cut will be on DVD, while the theatrical runtime will be in the neighborhood of 2.5 hours). All Fox is looking for is a percentage of theatrical and home video, and as DP mentioned, probably their logo added in front of the film and in the credits.

  18. IOIOIOI says:

    Of Montreal: Xmen and X2 were Singer. What happened with LAST STAND? Everything they made forward? Fox suck at genre films. That’s how it is at the moment, and this is why people are angry.

  19. IOIOIOI says:

    Oh yeah: if I ran fucking Warners. No matter how wrong I may be in this lawsuit. There’s NO CHANCE… NO CHANCE… NO CHANCE IN HELL, that I would let FOX put their cottonpickin’ logo in front of OUR MOVIE. NO FUCKING WAY! If FOX want that… they are higher than Fixed News.

  20. Martin S says:

    IO – you would put the logo on or you would be fired and sued by your own company.
    As for “Fixed News”…I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. This is all Newscorp resentment dressed in righteous genre indignation. They could fire Rothman tomorrow, and it still won’t make a difference to the Oufoxed believers. McWeeney’s tune might change, but that’s about it.

  21. montrealkid says:

    IOIOIO: What happened with The Last Stand? It was the most financially successful film of the trilogy. All comic book rights holders care about when optioning their films is if they studio can make them money and Fox has proven time and again that they can.

  22. The Big Perm says:

    So IO’s brilliant legal analysis is that WB should use the “Fox sucks at genre movies so let us win” argument in court. Who knows, it just may hold up if the judge is a nerdy 14 year old.

  23. Martin S says:

    Montreal – Don’t you think it’s safe to say the majority of comic rights holders only care about an option that pays up front?

The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin