Author Archive

Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund, Johannes Kuhnke

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” – Teaser Trailer (OFFICIAL)

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Yes, I actually like this trailer a lot!

F-Bombs For Feminism (Very NSFW, No Ad At The End)

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Quite the conversation about this on my YouTube channel. Curious what you all think.

I hope you will have an open exchange of ideas on this. Not expected everyone to like it. I, for one, won’t be name-calling anyone on either side of the issue, or as has often been the case, when people are offended by the use of children in this way. It’s been about 50/50 so far… which has been interesting.

20 Weeks To Oscar: Surveying The Board

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

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Interstellar lands this week.

That leaves Unbroken, The Gambler, Selma, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, Into The Woods, Big Eyes, and Exodus: Gods & Men

That’s a lot of movies, given an already pretty narrow field. More movies to come than movies that are seen a pretty sure Oscar nominees in Best Picture at this time. And any one of these new films could be a gamechanger. There are those “we” see as potential gamechangers and those “we” do not, but unseen movies often surprise, for better or for worse.

Of course, the primary focus right now is on Interstellar. Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay… and those 6 are just what what people are seriously considering as options from the “Top 8″ categories.

Let’s make an example of this film because… why not?

Questions -

1. Is It A Best Picture Movie?

Well, that’s really two questions. First, can it get into the group of 9 (or so) Best Picture nominees? Second, can it win?

As noted in my previous 20 Weeks column Bring On The Narratives, a story that fits is part of answering Question 1a. The first question, at this point, everyone seems to be taking for granted. Nolan, 9 slots, probably in. It’s more Inception than Batman, right?

But on Part 2, how about “Interstellar vs Boyhood?” That would work. The massive movie about saving the entire world vs. the minimalist, intimate piece with the unique shooting schedule. “Interstellar vs Unbroken?” Not buying that so much. No real inherent conflict… just which one did you prefer?

2. How will Matthew McConaughey fit into the Best Actor picture?

Well. that’s a good question. He is serious longshot to win, having won last year. But being nominated again, not so long a shot.

Whom would he displace? Well, I don’t buy into the idea—at all—that there are 4 locked places in Best Actor. That does not mean that I think that 4 of the current 5 frontrunners won’t end up making it. That could well happen. But the only actor I consider cemented into a nomination is Michael Keaton. Great performance, great story, super-strong movie. In. After that, there is a lot of assumption and not a lot of solid evidence of lockdom. And I am a fan, personally, of the performances of Cumberbatch, Redmayne, Carrell, and Spall. But we really don’t know how these movies will settle in with Academy voters. They feel like good fits… as do the movies they are in. But we have a long way to go, even if we have a short time to get there.

3. What about the actresses?

Both Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway are vetted Oscar types. And the presumption is always that the female acting categories are easier to mount. Let’s work through it.

Which is lead? Which is supporting? Are both supporting?

Will Jessica commit to an awards push for Interstellar after committing so heavily to The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby? And then there is A Most Violent Year right around the corner (already being shown to some). And while the “She’ll go lead in one, supporting in the other” argument can be made, split attention had often lost actors both shots.

Will the backlash from the Oscar hosting gig still cling to Ms. Hathaway, perhaps unfairly, but in reality?

What actresses would they displace? Again, the assumption that we are done is a bit premature. These two performances, plus unseen work by Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and the women of The Gambler, Into The Woods, and Selma are pending.

And what about the movie itself? Does it end up being seen as more commercial, more artistic, or something in the middle? How does it compare to, say, The Fault In Our Stars and Shailene Woodley, with voters?

And how does the category line up? Looks like a number of previous nominees and a few newcomers. Does this affect the vote or will there be enough pure love of Interstellar to power it past the issue?

4. Assuming this is a big worldwide box office hit, how does that fact affect the race?

Aside from this, Gone Girl and, potentially, Unbroken, there doesn’t look to be any other $100m domestic grossers in the field this year. There hasn’t been a year in the last five in which there was not at least one $145m+ domestic grosser. Gone Girl will probably get there. Unbroken seems less likely. But Interstellar seems a lock for that and a lot more.

In most years, there are multiple $100m grossers. On the other hand, if you go back 6 to 10 years, you will find multiple years with just one or even no $100m+ domestic grossers. Has the trend changed or has it been circumstantial?

The thing that Oscar keeps reminding us of is that it is not easily limited to a set of rules that guarantee anything. We are all forever balancing the way The Academy leans and the fact that we just don’t and just can’t know what is coming. Certainly not on October 22.

When I look at a movie like Exodus, I see a massive worldwide hit. It’s The Ten Commandments with 2014 technology. (Well, the commandments will be in the sequel, “Exodus: 40 Years Of Sand,” but you get the idea.) The Passion of The Christ did $611 million. Unless the 20 minutes or so I have seen—and which the studio is showing to faith groups and others all over the world right now—are very misleading, I see this as an $800 million worldwide smash with huge ancillary value.

Great actors in this film. Ridley Scott is a great director. And a massive worldwide hit that could eclipse Interstellar. Sometimes that changes the Oscar board. Sometimes it does not. In some ways, if the faith community likes the film too much, it will hurt awards chances. But who knows? Scoff all you like—and I know that some of you will—but way odder things have happened.

Is A Most Violent Year the movie that is magic for J.C. Chandor? For all the endless talk about his work in indie circles, he has had one nomination… for the Margin Call screenplay. But will this one turn the trick? Will Oscar Isaac, who was touted and didn’t land last year make up for it this year? Will Albert Brooks get the love he deserves? After all, it’s still a crime movie… not an Academy favorite… unless Nicholson is the criminal.

Can Into The Woods break the recent curse of Broadway musical adaptations? Is Selma more memorable than The Butler? Which kind of Eastwood movie is American Sniper… good, bad or get off my lawn?

By the time you are reading this, Interstellar may well be buzzing under embargo. It is a big puzzle piece. But it is not the only puzzle piece.

The change that all these unseen films may bring is no change at all. Or 40% of the top categories could flip in the next month.

Ain’t it cool?

Weekend Estimates by Kladyman

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

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A weird weekend. Fury is a win, for sure. It’s a better number than some expected, but it’s not a sensational Brad Pitt opening or a giant commercial number. It’s good. (First person who mentions Cinemascore as though it matters gets shot.) There was a sense going into the week that the film was going to underperform and that it was out of the awards race as a result. That presumption can no longer be made. This launch is about 20% better than Moneyball, which got 6 nominations. So a hard push for the movie, the screenplay, Ayer’s direction, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt – if he’ll push – and a slew of below-the-line nominations (sound, costume, and production design, particularly) can be expected.

Gone Girl remains solid, dropping under 35% again. There was a sense of waning Oscar prospects there, too… that may be turned around as the film heads north of $150m domestic, by far Fincher’s biggest commercial hit.

The Book of Life, a personal beloved, got off to a weak start for an animated film. As noted before, I think Fox was shy about the age issue on the film – which they had no reason to be – and also didn’t sell as intensely to girls as they might have. It really is a love story. For all the very, very, very smart people in big studio marketing departments, movies that get a little complex are often a problem for them. You would think it wasn’t so, but it keeps getting proved, over and over and over again.

Speaking of which, the board looks a bit painful for Warner Bros lately. There is no question that the studio is great with big movies. But right now, they have The Judge, This Is Where I Leave You, Dolphin Tale 2, and The Good Lie all underperforming. (The decent number on Dolphin 2
is 20% behind where the first film was at this point.) The only hit is Annabelle, a horror movie. But more so, no other studio has as many films on the big board this week. Fox and Sony each have 3. Disney and Par, 2. Universal only 1. Every movie has its own life and there have certainly been times when WB having a lot of movies in play has worked well. But with the studio in some transition again, at least strategically on spending, you have to wonder whether the further avoidance of middle and small movies will be a natural reaction for the company moving forward.

Warner Bros has four more movies left to release in this calendar year. One is a guaranteed mega-hit (Hobbit 3). One is a sequel to a cash cow (Horrible Bosses 2) that was driven by brilliant marketing the first time around, so expect big profits there. There is an Eastwood movie (American Sniper), which looks commercial, though awards people are hopeful as well. And there is the challenging title, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, a comedy that seems to be made for the very smart and those who think they are very smart. It’s going to be an excellent quarter for WB… but the story to look at will be whether they can get Vice past the $20m mark domestically. The future of smaller films at the studio may depend on it.

One last note. I have to laugh at those who are so dazzled by Marvel/Disney’s commercial success that they assume that Batman vs Superman is guaranteed to be a lightweight in comparison to Captain America 3… now with Downey! They assume that because Superman did okay, but not a billion, that it’s soft. But Batman is the key and that is why he has top billing. Batman films still own the #4 and #5 all-time best openings and of the 5 other Batman films, 3 were the biggest opening weekends in history when they happened. Warner Bros knows what it is doing with Batman. 100% The only opening of the franchise that can be remotely considered soft was Batman Begins, which was a reboot.

Warner Bros really needs a team that specializes in the smaller and middle budget movies that require more intimate hand-holding. It’s not a slap about the team that’s there. It is just the reality that it is rare that a team that does big releases is equality expert with smaller films that are more challenging. This was the real – and long lost – value of Warner Independent as a concept. Paramount is really the only big studio team in town that shrinks well, but a lot of that is that they don’t release nearly as many movies as WB. Screen Gems, Searchlight, and the evolving Focus all report up, but have their own strong voices in releasing specialized films. I’d hate to see WB completely out of that game, but… well… we’ll see…

The Equalizer – which I keep thinking is a WB film – is on its way to $100 million. It’s not going to get to the $126m domestic that Safe House did, but it will be Denzel’s #4 or #3 film of his career. He hasn’t has d a film gross less than $130 million in the last 5 years and this will be his third time over $160m worldwide in the last 3 years. If you’re looking for a consistent movie star out there, Denzel’s high on your list.

Nice expansion for Weinstein with St Vincent to 68 screens. An estimated $9880-per is a really strong number at that screen count. But it’s not clear what happens next. This film isn’t making a serious awards run, so… we’ll see.

Birdman is the big new indie release in exclusive release. 4 screens at over $105k per. Strong. What will expansion look like? We really won’t know until it happens. But a happy weekend in Century City.

Also doing great in exclusive releases are Dear White People ($32k per on 11), The Tale of Princess Kaguya ($16.5k per on 3), and Listen Up Philip ($12.5k per on 2).

Birdman, Michael Keaton

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Friday Estimates by Len Tanky

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-10-18 at 10.17.22 AM

Fury is Brad Pitt’s #10 opener, putting it right near the middle of his list of wide releases. So, not so exciting. On the other hand, it is a better launch than Moneyball, which ended up with six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Though Fury may not hold as well as Moneyball did (three of the first seven weekends dropped in the 20s and two more in the 30s), it will surely be a lot stronger internationally and be profitable… which Moneyball danced on the borderline of being. Fury‘s Oscar prospects will lay at the feet of Pitt’s interest in pushing the tank uphill. If he doesn’t—and so far, he hasn’t—it will not happen. If he does, it has a real shot at multiple nominations. The fact that Pitt’s production company, Plan B, is not a producer of the film is an issue… especially since Plan B did produce Selma, Ava Duvernay’s soon-to-arrive historic drama at Paramount.

By the way… Fury is a David Ayer picture, first and last. And by that standard, this is a HUGE opening… should be double or near double his next best. His previous stars have been Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Bale, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Keanu Reeves. So he remains a guy who male stars want to work with when they are ready to play capital-M Men. And this is the third of his five films that has really stuck with me. Next time someone does a puff piece about puffy men, throw Ayer’s films in their face to remind them that tough guys can still be there if studios want to make those films. (And remember which critics are turned off profoundly by all the testosterone.)

Really, the #2 opening of the weekend is Birdman, which on four screens should manage over $100k per screen. Keep in mind that this is about half of what the same distributor, Fox Searchlight, released The Grand Budapest Hotel to back in March and that film ended up doing a Wes Anderson-best $59m domestic and $173m worldwide. Alejandro Iñárritu’s best grosses were $35 million domestic and $135m worldwide for Babel. And that may well be where Birdman lands. Or maybe Searchlight (and audiences) will pass those numbers. My guess is that they will have an easier time chasing that domestic number than the international (without Pitt, Blanchett, and three internationally-based stories).

Also opening wide were The Book of Life and The Best of Me. Best of Me is a clear Nicholas Sparks sell. It’s the fifth Sparks film in the last five years and will be the weakest opener. And you can’t just blame Relativity, because they opened Safe Haven to $21 million just last year… and that was with a Thursday opening siphoning off the biggest single day of the run. One advantage is that the sell on that film focused exclusively on Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, while this one suggests that Monaghan and Marsden are the framing device for two unknown actors playing them as young ones. This, of course, worked with Garner & Rowlands framing McAdams and Gosling… but those young actors were, well, Gosling & McAdams.

I’m sure I didn’t see all the marketing for The Book of Life (a movie I love), but I have felt for months that Fox wasn’t going all out for this one. Maybe the look, which most people I know who have seen the film see as a strength, didn’t test well. Maybe they didn’t think girls would bite on the central idea, which is two guys battling for the heart of the smart, beautiful girl. Maybe they found that parents were shy about the Day of the Dead theme and wouldn’t bring their under-8s to the film if that was leaned on too heavily. (Personally, I know my 4.5-year-old would love the film and the studio wasn’t so sure he was old enough for it.) I don’t know what their internal arguments were. But I do know was that as a consumer, I got the impression that this was a smaller sell than something like a DreamWorks Animation movie. And for me, with due respect to Lego, this is the best animated film of the year… one that will be discovered by most kids when it lands on TV at whatever point.

This opening day is about the same as The Boxtrolls—another strong, interesting film with a much harder domestic sell—and behind Planes 2, neither of which will get to $60m domestic. Much bigger numbers for The Lego Movie, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and the upcoming Big Hero 6, one of which is likely to win Best Animated Feature, though if there is an upset of those three, it would likely be from a tiny competitor, like The Tale of Princes Kaguya (also opening this weekend), not from a quality film with mediocre domestic results.

Speaking of The Tale of Princes Kaguya, good, but not overwhelming launch. They could get up to $15k per screen on three.

The other muscular exclusive opening, aside from the bird, was Listen Up, Phillip, which should take just over $10k per screen on two.

Kill The Messenger, director Michael Cuesta

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Fort Bliss, Michelle Monaghan

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Birdman Speaks (NSFW)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne (LA)

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Sunday Estimates by Still Gone Len

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

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Friday Estimates by Leonard Part 1

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

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21 Weeks To Oscar – Carlos & Joey & Cash, Oh My! (Part 2 of 2)

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Continuing yesterday’s piece that was inspired by Carlos de Abreu’s attack-by-journalist on Joey Berlin…

So now, after actually talking to the subject of the attack piece that ran on Carlos’ mock journalism site, there is greater clarity. Joey Berlin, as producer of the awards show for the BFCA (an organization he co-created), he makes very good money… but it’s about half as much as the hit piece by the formerly-loveable Bob Welkos suggested. Roughly, Berlin’s production company gets between $350k and $450k for doing the show each year. He produces the show with veteran event TV producer Bob Bain.

And for me, that is about where the factual story about that ends.

In yesterday’s piece, I called Joey “a hustler.” I meant that in the affectionate way I see much of Hollywood. He didn’t like the nefarious suggestion that the word brings. But I don’t know a better word. He built something (BFCA) out of nothing and made a very well-paying job out of magic dust. He didn’t make much for the first number of years that the awards show existed. Now he does. And with today’s announcement of BTJA (Broadcast Television Journalist Association… smartly leaving out the questionable “critic” from the title) launching a TV show on A&E, there is a good chance he will be making even more money.

But that really isn’t anyone outside of the organization’s business. As long as membership knows how much Joey is making and keep electing him and the board to run the organization, it’s all copacetic.

This might be where Carlos de Abreu fesses up to how much he personally makes from the Hollywood Film Awards or the amount for which he sold the show to Dick Clark Productions… but it won’t be. He is not a not-for-profit. The Hollywood Film Awards is a for-profit… always has been, likely always will be.

My issue at this point is to look at where we have come with the major award shows.

The Carlos Awards aka The Hollywood Film Awards are a made-up event to profit one guy who smartly manipulated studios and talent alike by putting on a glitzy show with a distinct below-the-line bent, which brought out big names to honor the below-the-line talent that make their movies work. They also accepted some big awards… just because they were there. The balance shifted, year by year, to more big names and fewer below-the-liners. I would expect zero below-the-liners to appear on the CBS show this November. Your qualification for awards with The Carloses? You’re in heavy contention as determined by guys and gals like me, who prognosticate, as well as having the support of the distributors who will pay to make the appearance happen. Who judges? Carlos. Only Carlos.

How embarrassed should distributors be for being a part of this sham… this mockery of the arts? How embarrassed should we be for the talent that shows up to win a fake award and have their picture taken a lot?

I have no real way of estimating what Carlos has taken in annually on this con job, but it has surely gone from 6 figures to 7 with Dick Clark Productions. The good news, as per the rumor mill, is that Carlos will be out of the picture after the first 2 years with DCP. So I guess they will finally be called The Dicks. Fitting.

So this show will be an award show with no portfolio. A business, designed to make money as a TV show, from a business that has no interest in being anything other than a profit center. Fair enough.

The Golden Globes are given by group that hovers between 80 and 90 “foreign press.” How active are these press members? It varies. But most of them are in the quiet part of their careers. Those who have had more current active credentials, like Mike Goodridge, then of Screen International, don’t seem to last very long.

I have estimated that a slot on the HFPA membership roster is good for $200,000 to $300,000 in perks each year. That includes the studio-paid perks, but the group also spreads the literal wealth amongst themselves. And yes, they do make charitable donations… which keep them a not-for-profit and cleans up their tax situation each year.

So this show has eighty-something journalists of various levels who, a few of which have names that someone might recognize within the industry in any context other than being HFPA members. They work hard for their benefits. It’s no easy slog having your ass kissed 175 times a year. But they put a brave face on and do it.

How have the Golden Globes come be seen as significant in any way. In some ways, just as Carlos did, they played the game. They vote, with few exceptions, for the films in the field that has already been narrowed by the Gurus o’ Gold and all of its imitators. It’s not tricky. But because the group is so small, relative to others – except for the greasy group of one, Carlos – the studios have all taken to laying down and paying fealty (and airfares and hotel rooms and meals and per diem) all year long. Ironically, this has made the attempts to manipulate the group somewhat moot. Mutual Assured Destruction, they call it in the military. But no one dares get out of the game, lest they lose some position.

The same, by the way, is true of media… now more than ever. The hunger for new content, especially celebrity and event content, overwhelms almost anything that ever passed for journalism in this arena. To marginalize any of these events is to risk being unable to get the access they afford media. Ironically, the events exist for the media, so the threat works both ways. But the showmakers have the upper hand in this Not So Cold War.

Then there is The Academy itself, an institution that includes about 6,000 of the most veteran film industry people there are. But it too is playing the TV game, with the vast majority of the organization’s annual revenue coming from one night’s worth of TV. Does that perverse the idea of honoring film? Of course. On the other hand, The Academy is by far the most legit organization giving out movie awards. The group does make real investments back into the film industry and community. The group is so large that any individual or group trying to control it will find it nearly impossible. And there is a sense of maturity and perspective… even if the eventual outcome tends to lack daring. Members of The Academy pay for the privilege, it’s positions of power, outside of the internal bureaucracy, are voluntary. And while the bureaucracy pays some people far too well and others fairly, the organization is hiring – and can fire – those individuals. They are, ultimately, employees.

I would submit to you, dear friends and countrypeople, that the only award show amongst these that really matters is The Oscars. There are glaring flaws with all of the others. This is not debatable.

What is debatable is whether these question marks matter. Should anyone really care that Joey Berlin has built a “critics” group that now affords him a rather significant annual payday? Does it matter than Carlos de Abreu made up awards out of nothing but the contents of his giant scrotal sack and now has gotten rich on the money that returns virtually nothing of value to the studios? Eighty-something foreign-language speakers have made themselves seem worth much, much more than the time of day because they have a TV show that has been successfully and inaccurately positioned as an Oscar precursor… should we care? The Academy has made The Oscars less and less about movies and more and more about being like the Jimmy Fallon show with statues (Oscar nominee beer pong, coming this spring!) because they are obsessed with being cutting edge, when the only real distinction of the organization is the many years it takes to get invited to join, thus given its awards real weight… does it matter?

The scary part is that if I was so inclined, I could ask the Gurus – and a few who work for outlets that are not allowed to play – and 20 of us could hold up the studios for millions a year, demanding perks and more for our valuable prognostications. We could have The Gurus show and force every movie to send the biggest stars in the world to come drink with us for a night while we hire a hot comic to make a show of it. And we could all quit our day jobs and just be wealthy off the fat of OscarLand. And this not ego talking. The reality is, no one gets to December without coming through us… which like all these shows, does not mean we make these movies any better or more Oscar worthy. But we are the gatekeepers in the vetting process that drives ALL of these shows.

And I have no interest in going there.

And I am not happy that things have become this anti-art.

The reason Gurus is considered so legit by so many is that we aren’t on the payroll. Yes, there are ads on MCN and on all of the sites where all of the Gurus work. But there is no quid pro quo. Really, there is very rarely any suggestion of any either. We don’t have a show. We aren’t milking the studios for more, more, more. We all have jobs with organizations and we are all responsible to those outlets before we are responsible to Gurus o’ Gold or advertisers.

And the most ironic thing is that NYFF and LAFCA and NSFC get love, but none of the deep attention that these TV-driven organizations get. NSFC doesn’t really want it. The other two groups wouldn’t mind it at all. And these groups are really about film criticism.

But TV award shows aren’t about The Best. They are about TV.

So perhaps, this entire conversation is – and should be – moot. You tell me…

BYOB 100614

Monday, October 6th, 2014

byobriot

21 Weeks To Oscar – Carlos & Joey & Cash, Oh My! (Part 1 of 2)

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Lots of disclosure here… sorry, but it’s necessary…

I have been a non-participating member of Broadcast Film Critics Association for, I think, 5 years now.

I took fire from one of Carlos de Abreu’s many fake storefronts, HollywoodNews.com, in 2010, when they “investigated” a 2007 screening series Movie City News did in conjunction with BFCA by looking at BFCA tax documents which showed that BFCA “loaned” MCN $27,600. What the “reporter” was told by both me and Joey Berlin in separate conversations was that this money was paid out for a theater rental which we mutually decided to make an MCN event and not a BFCA event in 2007. Movie City News collected the cost of said rental from the studios involved and paid back BFCA back in 2008. The situation was positioned as something nefarious, as Carlos and his henchman (formerly good guy journalist Bob Welkos) tried to take me down personally as “Crackpot of the Month.” I believe this was the only time they gave out this “award.” Like most things Carlos, it was just a ruse towards an unstated end.

I was part of Carlos’ group of “consultants” or his “committee” for the Hollywood Film Awards in years past. This consisted of an occasional phone call and a couple lunches a season at either Orso or Crustacean for which he paid. The purpose of the contact was to solicit opinions about who would be the likely Oscar nominees in the year to come so he could then go solicit/choose them for his award show.

Carlos also asked me repeatedly to run his Hollywood Film Festival, which was and has been another false front, cover for the awards show on which he made his money. However, he wanted me to do it for no money and with virtually no budget. I tried, for a couple of years, to get LA Film Critics interested in taking over Carlos’ festival. They had almost no money, but were trying desperately to create a platform to promote films they felt were being lost to the distribution machine. But their position on Carlos was extreme and full of rage. They would have nothing to do with him. And they were right.

As years passed, Carlos stopped being funny to me and his con started making me sick to my stomach.

How could I write about what a con the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was – and is – with its eighty-something barely-employed writers puffing up with self-importance and raping studio coffers all year long while showing no semblance of journalistic integrity whatsoever, and be charmingly amused by Carlos who made up awards, chose winners by himself in negotiations with distributors, with no other purpose than to line his own pockets? I was being a hypocrite. So I stopped engaging. And Carlos has hated me for it – as he hates anyone who tells the truth about him – ever since.

I am old enough to remember the Old Hollywood way of things. I felt, for instance, that George Christy was a wonderful example of this. Anita Busch and David Robb felt he was embarrassment to entertainment journalism and worked hard to eventually force Bob Dowling to dismiss him from The Hollywood Reporter. What was his crime? He took up the back inside page of THR with pictures and florid writing about stupid Hollywood parties. And, in a long established con, acted in movies one or twice a year to get health insurance. That crime, which still feels rather benign to me, and Anita’s obsession with it, got him fired.

Likewise, I have had an have a soft spot for Joey Berlin and his work at the BFCA.

When I was actively involved with BFCA – through these screening series (which John Horn, then at the LA Times, also used to lie about me and the revenues from the series in the LA Times without ever interviewing me on the subject) – I got to know Joey. Good guy. He was still the muscle behind infamous quote whore Jeff Craig, who is a real person, but who doesn’t see movies. He has a series of junket people feed him opinions… which are almost always positive. The resulting output is Sixty Second Previews, which is syndicated across the country on radio. Joey was and is a hustler. But not a liar. Even then, he was drawing a salary of, I believe, $75k a year to run BFCA, when none of the other critics organizations were paying their presidents. (This may have changed in years since. I have been more concerned about the macro grotesquerie than the micro for years now.)

Pushing BFCA onto television was Joey’s primary goal at the time and continues to be, it seems, his primary focus for the organization. I am pretty sure that the year I got more involved was the last one in which there was no TV, just the event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which had started to bring out the biggest names in the awards season. This lead to television and a lot more money in the pot.

I withdrew my efforts (and my vote) from BFCA a couple years later, as BFCA continued to expand its roster as the job of “film critic” in traditional media (aka, paying media) became an endangered species. While I was out making lists of the dwindling number of full-time critics jobs at the time, BFCA, which was an organization of junketeers, not of film critics, was expanding. Done. But I didn’t want to embarrass the group or Joey, so I just withdrew quietly, without informing anyone. I know it is impossible to imagine someone making a decision without blogging about it… but it happened.

I knew that Joey was taking a producer’s role and surely a salary. But he was also creating profile, opportunity, and even paying jobs for journalists/critics. BFCA was and is a more legitimate platform – even with fewer than 25 of what I would call real film critics on its roster – than HFPA or clearly The Carlos Awards. I felt no need to take him down. And there was no doubt that I could have taken advantage. As DP/30 was in its early stages, BFCA was offering money for pilot projects in a relationship with the Reelz cable channel. I didn’t get in line for the support or the handout.

The reason I am writing this today is that Carlos and his employee, Robert Welkos, went after Joey Berlin personally today. And there is information worth unpacking there. The concern is legit, especially for BFCA members. But when a con man goes after a hustler, there are always more questions left unanswered than not.

We are a little under a month from Dick Clark Productions’ version of The Carlos Awards running on CBS. The con man leap-frogged over the hustler on this one.

I have no idea what DCP and CBS have in mind to try to make Carlos’ one-man show appear more legitimate. Perhaps they feel no need for legitimacy in the current circus atmosphere of movie awards, following the lead of such “Come show up and win an award” shows as The American Comedy Awards, created by the legendary George Schlatter to fill a void and to make some money. They already moved the event from October to November, surely because the distributors told them to do so.

You have to figure that Carlos will personally pocket no less than a million dollars a year for creating this monstrosity. If it’s a hit, that number (whatever it is) will multiply. It is far from inconceivable that he will be making $5 million or more annually off of the show, which is based on his willingness to create something from absolutely nothing. Carlos doesn’t even know enough to have his own opinions. He is the cover of a magazine, writ larger… just as available for purchase to the highest bidder.

As for the BFCA… I am still unpacking this. First, I am seeking confirmation that the tax return, as stated, is accurate. And a response. And I am pained just trying to get my head around the numbers, talking to others who are associated, but not on anyone’s side of this issue. And that is why there will be a Part 2 to this piece. Because I am committed to speaking to this… it would be wrong to bury my head in the ground (or in my distaste for Carlos and his scummy ways), but I am not ready to have a strong opinion yet.

Weekend Estimates by Gone Klady by That Much

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

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Okay… was at the Pumpkin farm… great roasted corn, terrible internet reception.

Gone Girl probably wins the weekend. Truthfully, I expected it to pull farther away. We have it at a million. Others at a bit less.

The truth is, it is Annabelle overperforming the standard for horror than a Gone Girl issue. The estimate is a bit better than WB’s big opening for The Conjuring, which did 2.4x Friday’s number for its opening weekend. Annabelle is estimating 2.47x. Insidious 2, which is the other big opener in the category in the last year did 2x Friday’s number… which is really more the norm in the genre.

On the other hand, Gone Girl‘s estimate could turn out to be low by as much as a million. Fox took what looks to me to be a conservative position on estimating Sunday. We’ll see. This is, as estimated, Fincher’s best opening by almost $8 million or a 27% bump over his now #2 opener, Panic Room.

There have only been twelve $35m+ openings in the history of October. This is the third time that there were 2 such openings in the same year. It’s the only time they have occurred on the same weekend. So, a happy story for everyone on both films.

The trio of other openings over 100 screens were surprisingly obscure. FreeStyle did okay, but not sensationally with Left Behind, which starred Nic Cage, not Kirk Cameron. Fox International rolled out Bang Bang, which makes the most sense as an unknown. WB rolled out The Good Lie from Team Alcon.

Also trawling for word of mouth was CBS films with Pride and Paramount with Men, Women & Children. Neither found much of an audience.

The best per-screen from traditional domestic indie distributors was IFC’s $7,030-per estimate for Matthieu Almaric’s The Blue Room.