Film Essent Archive for March, 2011

Reuse, Collaborate, RECord

Happy Tuesday. Here’s Morgan and Destiny’s Eleventeeth Date — The Zeppelin Zoo, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who, frankly, I would watch in just about anything) and Channing Tatum. The vid is from SXSW 2010.

Now probably, you are way hipper than I am and so you already knew about HitRECord, JGLs’ way cool collaborative art project, which you can check out over here. But if you haven’t heard of it, start by watching the video above. Trust me, it’s worth your time. There’s JGL in a fake mustache! And sepia tones blended with … oh, just go watch it. It’s creative. It’s cool. And it’s almost guaranteed to be better than doing whatever real work you’re supposed to be doing right now.

So the idea of HitRECord is that anyone, anywhere in the world, can upload digital bits and pieces — video, text, images, music, what have you (not naughty bits! get your mind out of the gutter!) — and then other people can use those bits and pieces in creating their own projects and upload those.

To get a better idea of what it’s about, here’s RegularJOE (that’s what the-actor-otherwise-known-as-JGL calls himself over here on HitRECord) in what he calls a “bare bones” video, explaining to newcomers what the site is about, and encouraging others to take his video and mix it up and add to it however they’d like.

Or, for you more visual types, here’s an effort called Brainstorm that explains it all in pictures …

… And if you want more? Head on over here, where RegularJOE has curated some HitRECord videos, many of which have screened at Sundance and SXSW, for your viewing pleasure. I have an interview request in to do a Spotlight on this site, so I’ll hopefully be telling you more about it in the near-ish future. In the meantime, if you make a video for HitRECord — or if you’ve already made one — drop a line in the comments to point us to your awesomeness, won’t you?

Support the Strike! Let Arianna Write Her Own Damn Content

All right, people. This is a call to action to support the writers who are striking against Arianna Huffington.

We need to unite against the business practices of Ms. “Let Them Eat Cake” Huffington and support the writer’s strike by boycotting all AOL/HuffPo content until and unless they negotiate a fair and equitable contract for the writers who have helped Ms. Huffington build her media empire. If you are not a striking writer, you can support them by NOT reading or linking to any AOL/HuffPo content for the duration of the strike.

If you are a writer who is still contributing to AOL/HuffPo — even if you are getting paid to do so — you are supporting Ms. Huffington. (Yes, my good friends who are Cinematical writers, I am looking at you, too. Sorry. And this includes editors writing for “free” instead of paying writers to write posts.)

As you may be aware, I’ve been writing a lot recently about the AOL/HuffPo merger, and about Arianna Huffington’s practice of building her media empire on the backs of legions of unpaid writers. This isn’t some state secret. The Queen Bee-yatch has been perfectly open about her contempt for the people who have been writing for her for free, helping her build HuffPo up into a site that she could talk AOL into paying $315 million for. Pretty smart, Arianna, I’ll give you that. Unethical, but smart.

Now the writers are striking back. Finally. Arianna thinks “no one will notice” if all her unpaid writers go on strike. It’s time to take Her Arrogance down a few notches, my friends.

By the bye, studio people: You are not helping, either. The writers who write about your movies need to pay the rent and keep food on their family tables just like you do. If you are paying AOL/HuffPo to run ads on sites that are using free content, you are contributing to the problem too. This means Moviefone, and Cinematical, because they are now a part of Arianna Huffington’s empire, like it or not — and whether those sites directly use free content or not.

Other folks on the strike:

Here’s the call to strike by the Newspapers Guild.

Bill Lasarow explains in a piece for the Guardian why Visual Art Source is encouraging their writers to strike and no longer give content to AOL/HuffPo.

Here’s an LA Times piece on the strike.


How Social Network Should Have Ended

Happy Monday.

Imagining the Future Through Film

The site Futurestates, part of ITVS, is a very cool site that challenges students to think about what the future will look like 25, 50, 100 years from now. The site combines films on pertinent subjects with lesson plans that tie in and challenge students to think about what they’re learning and hypothesize about what consequences might result decades from now, from choices they’re making today.

One of the Season One lessons, for instance, used Ramin Bahrani’s terrific short film Plastic Bag, narrated by Werner Herzog, to illustrate the relationship between humans as consumers and how we impact the environment without thinking.

One of the season two episodes, Exposure, which releases April 4, was directed by Mia Trachinger, whose film Reversion played at Sundance a few years ago. Reversion was a trippy film about a group of people who lack the ability to travel linearly through time. Trachinger used this basic conceit to explore the idea that if we don’t experience life linearly, we don’t ever see the direct consequences of actions, as an allegory for consequential morality generally.

Reversion had some flaws in the execution (Trachinger just told me she’s recut the film, though, so I am really interested to see it in this new iteration), but it was a really smart concept and Trachinger herself kind of reminds me of a sci-fi Miranda July … very smart and passionate, with a particularly interesting and engaging way of looking at the world.

Here’s the trailer for Trachinger’s film Exposure, which imagines a future world in which teams of government workers are tasked with the job of inoculating the population against disease by exposing people to contagions, and a group of people trying to avoid being exposed.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this project, now that I know about it, and maybe using some of the lessons with my middle school youth group at the Unitarian Church to kick off some discussions about some of the issues addressed. Pretty cool.

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Cinematical’s Scott Weinberg Resigns Over TechCrunch/Moviefone Battle

Cinematical’s Managing Editor Scott Weinberg called me yesterday to let me know that he resigned Tuesday over the Moviefone/TechCrunch issue. Here’s Scott, in his own words, on why he quit:

As I tweeted a few days ago, the specific people (although many of them have been laid off recently) I’ve worked with at Moviefone were always very professional to me. And yes, that definitely includes Patricia Chui. I have serious complaints about what’s happened to Cinematical over the last year, but I have no idea who those complaints should be directed towards. I do know that it’s not the “fault” of the Moviefone team, who always showed Cinematical respect as a separate entity.

I chose to stay as long as I did because I love the entire Cinematical team, and I’m really proud of the site Erik Davis and I inherited (which was already pretty excellent) and then, hopefully, improved upon. I chose to leave when I did because, frankly, I didn’t like what I was hearing about the Huffington Post / AOL partnership in relation to the people who actually SIT DOWN AND CREATE THE CONTENT. The TechCrunch story was probably just the ass-kick I needed.

My only regret is that my frustration compelled me to quit “effective immediately,” which leaves Erik Davis, Pete Hall, and the rest of our team without an extra editor during one of the busiest film festivals of the year. I’m also concerned that I indirectly knocked Patricia and the Moviefone team, which was definitely not my intention. Whatever the future holds for Moviefone, they need more people like Ms, Chui; not fewer.

-Scott Weinberg


Film Geek QOTD: Do Studios Have a Right to Control Content?

I was talking to David about the whole AOL/Moviefone/TechCrunch battle, and he pointed out that no one is discussing the other side of the issue: Whether studios generally have a right to an expectation of a particular type of coverage when they give journalists access to parties (or for that matter, screenings).
Read the full article »

1 Comment »

… And Now TechCrunch’s Paul Carr Calls for Moviefone EIC Patricia Chui’s Head on a Platter? Seriously?

What started out as a relatively small battle between TechCrunch and Moviefone has escalated, as TechCrunch’s Paul Carr fired a warning shot over the bow of Moviefone this morning with this piece, which kinda-sorta retracts the previous headline Alexia Tsotsis put up about yesterday about AOL telling her to tone down the snark — and instead posits that Moviefone’s Editor-in-Chief Patricia Chui should resign in shame immediately, or be fired by AOL. Um, WTF?

Okay, folks. Here’s where I’m going to take a turn you maybe weren’t expecting in commentating on this interesting little car wreck and tell Paul Carr that he is completely full of shit here.
Read the full article »


AOL/Moviefone Editor Asks TechCrunch to Tone Down the Snark?

So there was an interesting little editorial kerfuffle over at TechCrunch, which you might recall from our handy-dandy AOL timeline of acquisitions and cannings, was acquired by AOL back in September 2010 (actually, it was more late September).

The scuffling started when TechCrunch writer Alexia Tsotsis interviewed Jake Gyllenhaal and Duncan Jones about the film The Source Code at SXSW. She posted the video interview along with a piece she wrote up about called “Jake Gyllenhaal Movie ‘The Source Code’ Markets Itself To Techies.”

Now really, it was pretty clever of Alexia to take advantage of being at SXSW for the Interactive element, seeing a relevant movie tie-in with a film playing over at the Film side of the fest, and finding an angle for a cross-platform interview, right? Now, pop on over there and watch the video interviews with Jake Gyllenhaal and Duncan Jones (they’re short-ish), and while you’re there read over the accompanying text. I’ll wait right here and watch some more earthquake/exploding nuclear power plant coverage on CNN while you’re away …

… Okay, back? Now, maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t find anything in either the videos or the accompanying post that I would view as overly snarky or in any way detrimental to the film — at least insofar as it’s no more snarky than anything else Alexia writes for TechCrunch. Certainly, I don’t see anything that would have prompted the AOL Overlords Alexia’s connnection at Moviefone to email her this:

Hey Alexia,

Hope you’re having a good time at SxSW and that it’s not been too crazy busy for you!

First wanted to thank you for covering Source Code/attending the party, etc. But also wanted to raise a concern that Summit had about the piece that ran. They felt it was a little snarky and wondered if any of the snark can be toned down? I wasn’t able to view the video interviews but I think their issue is just with some of the text. Let me know if you’re able to take another look at it and make any edits. I know of course that TechCrunch has its own voice and editorial standards, so if you have good reasons not to change anything that’s fine, I just need to get back to Summit with some sort of information. Let me know.


Me again. Okay, I have a couple thoughts on this. First, back in October, when TechCrunch sold themselves to AOL, Michael Arrington reassured the site’s loyal user base that AOL (which would include Moviefone) would keep their grubby corporate paws off editorial. From Arrington’s post dated September 28, 2010:

So at that point we were basically sold. But AOL was very aggressive about one last important issue that really sealed the deal – editorial.

Tim told me that he doesn’t want whatever makes TechCrunch special to go away. He also said it was important that we feel free to criticize AOL when we think they deserve it. And the agreement we signed with AOL fully reflects this.

Okay, so. Moviefone sends Alexia a passive-aggressive note to tone down the snark (note that the tone of the note is carefully crafted to make it seem like “Hiya! Whoops, hey! No! We’re not dipping our toes in your editorial wading pool! Just touching base about this one teensy little thing …”

Now, in all fairness, since Alexia works in tech journalism and probably hasn’t dealt with movie business people a whole lot, I do have to say this: The movie industry is a different world than tech. And probably
it came down something like this:

Some higher up at the studio didn’t like something, bitched about it until it traveled down the food chain to someone who was told to look into it, who sent a note or made a phone call to their contact at Moviefone to say, hey, can you look into this? Maybe do me a solid and smooth it over? And that person sent Alexia an email, being careful because of the “hands-off” editorial policy to say, hey, if you have an editorial reason for being snarky, cool, just tell me that so I can pass that back up the food chain, and by the time it works its way back up to the source, hopefully everyone will have downed a bunch of beer at SXSW parties and forgotten all about it.”

That, realistically, is about how it works.

Now, honestly, I don’t find anything about either the video or the original post all that snarky. Maybe Summit isn’t grokking the techie angle, or whoever got in a tiff there to begin with just doesn’t know who this Alexia chick is and why a tech blog was approved for a video interview with their talent or something. Who the hell knows. Weirder things have happened around publicity for a film at a fest.

If Summit or Moviefone thought the original post was “too snarky,” I can imagine the blood pressure points that shot up over Alexia’s response, in which she says, in part, “Apparently, the post was not enough of a blowjob for Summit, and they let it be known to the AOL person at Moviefone who hooked us up with them in the first place.

As an aside, I love how some of the commenters are taking her to task for using the word “blowjob.” Sorry, but if the word “blowjob” as it applies to the ethical precipice on which the relationship among studios, publicists and press delicately balances is offensive to you, you’re either pretty thin-skinned or you haven’t been around this industry much. Blowjobs, back-scratches, reach-arounds and “solids” are the currency that oils the gear of this business, however much we all try to avoid crossing that boundary between PR and press.

The headline about AOL asking Alexia to “tone down the snark” is maybe bordering on hyperbole, but just barely. They did send the email, they did ask if she could tone it down. They didn’t count on her publishing it, but tough cookies. So it goes. Alexia might not get another invite to a movie party, at least not through her Moviefone contact, but whatever … it’s not every day that there’s a cross-over like that for her to find an angle on anyhow.

So what do you think? Is TechCrunch making a bigger deal of the perceived heavy-handedness of its overlords than is merited by the actual email? Or did Moviefone cross the line and deserve a smackdown for it?


… More coming very shortly on TechCrunch’s Paul Carr calling for Moviefone Editor-in-Chief Patricia Chui’s head on a freaking platter.

Help Save the Music

Yo, music fans. Today’s the last day you can bid on items in the Power Saves the Music Auction, the charity event being put on by filmmaker Ari Gold in conjunction with release of Adventures of Power on DVD. The film, which debuted at Sundance three years ago, tells the story of a dorky factory worker (Gold) whose passion for air drumming takes him from small town New Mexico all the way to New Jersey for a big air drumming competition.

The film features a cameo by Rush drummer Neil Peart (see, lots of drumming tie-ins) and the Power Saves the Music Auction has heaps cool stuff; here’s the roster of donors:


Proceeds from the auction benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, so it doesn’t even matter whether you loved Adventures of Power or hated it! You love music, right? Unless, of course you’re a music hater. Music haters wouldn’t be interested in SAVING THE MUSIC, would they? So don’t be a music hater, go bid on some drum lessons or cool drums autographed by your favorite drummer. Or both, if you’re really awesome and independently wealthy.**

**And if you are? Call me.

The Real Problem with Mars Needs Moms

Over on the Hot Blog, David (again) takes Brooks Barnes to task for lazy writing on his blog-tastic piece titled “Many Culprits in Fall of a Family Film.”

And as is often the case, David has some interesting and astute points to make about the journalism (or lack thereof) in this piece of writing for The Paper of Record and the business side of who did what to whom and who’s taking the heat for the failure of this film. And there’s lots to pick apart there, lots of business angles to analyze and quotes to dissect, and if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of the business analysis of Mars Needs Moms, you should go read it.
Read the full article »


Dallas IFF Announces Stellar Lineup

SXSW may be rocking Austin right now, but the Dallas International Film Festival, which runs March 31-April 10, is just a few short weeks away, and the fest, under the leadership of Artistic Director James Faust and Senior Programmer Sarah Harris has just announced an impressive slate.

Last year was the first year that the fest took off under its own steam, after three years of partnering with AFI, and this year from the looks of it Faust, Harris, who set out with the goal of bringing films from a wide array of cultures to Dallas audiences, certainly seem to be aiming for that goal. I’ll be in Dallas myself a few days toward the end of the fest, so I’ll be keeping you apprised of all the cool happenings at this year’s fest. In the meantime, you can check out the press announcement with the full line-up right here.

Spotlight: Ari Gold on Adventures of Marketing Adventures of Power

Three years ago, filmmaker Ari Gold made a little film called Adventures of Power, a quirky comedy about a dorky air drummer (played by Gold himself) who pursues his air drumming dream all the way fro New Mexico to New … Jersey where he battles Adrian Grenier for a $2000 smackeroos. Unfortunately for Gold, the film debuted at Sundance to divisive reviews, just as the faltering economy was bursting the bubble of industry sales at the Park City fest.
Read the full article »

Weekend Video Break: Feeding the Hungry

I love this video about CNN Hero Narayanan Krishnan, who gave up his job as a chef to feed the homeless every day. Inspiring. Thanks to John Wildman for sharing via Facebook.

Review: Mars Needs Moms

I’m going to be right up front about Mars Needs Moms and tell you that I wasn’t overly impressed with this movie. And I feel bad saying that, because it’s apparent that an awful lot of work went into making it. Actors wore little dots all over their faces, for Pete’s sake! To do motion capture! That’s gotta count for something, right? Unfortunately, someone forgot to give the story as much thought as they gave to the motion capture technique, which isn’t in and of itself new enough or nifty enough to overcome a flawed script.
Read the full article »


Can’t Make it to SXSW? Here’s Some Free Docs to Make it Better.

So all your friends are hanging out in Austin at SXSW, and you’re stuck at home. What’s a bored, lonely not-at-SXSW cinephile to do? For one thing, you can relive SXSWs past — or at least, some SXSW docs — for free (that’s FREE, people) over at Hulu Documentaries, where What (Not) to Doc’s Basil Tsiokos has curated a selection called SXSW Flashback.

The docs available for your (FREE) viewing pleasure are:

Before the Music Dies
The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks
Billy the Kid
The Way We Get By
Big Rig
American Grindhouse

For more on the selections, be sure to check out Basil’s article on his selections over at indieWIRE.

Quote Unquotesee all »

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
To have to die.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

What is your favourite smell?
Fracas perfume by Robert Piguet.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The lost plays by Aeschylus and Sophocles.
~ Isabelle Huppert at 65

“I come from a generation where men were men. There’s nothing soft or touchy-feely about any of us, where we were from in Wales. There’s a negative side to that, because we’re not very good at receiving love or giving it. We don’t understand it. After Richard Burton died, his brother Graham invited me to the Dorchester where they were all having a get-together, the wives and the men, all the sisters and brothers. All pissed. And I noticed the women were sipping their ports and brandy, but all the men were, ‘Come on, drink! Drink!’ I thought, ‘There’s something very Greek about this.’ Men together. You know, like the bouzouki dancers. It’s not homosexuality, but it is a sexuality, a kind of bonding. That’s what I was thinking of.”
~ Anthony Hopkins