Hot Button Archive for January, 2000

YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS 2000



As I start to write each year’s resolutions, I like to take a look back at the past. So, let’s look at how my 1999 suggestions for each studio turned out.

DISNEY:
The studio took a year off of Bruckheimer, but when he returned, the budget for Tennessee was “brought down to” $140 million, not $80 million as I suggested. And Michael Bay balked at that. The studio has started acting like the animation kings they are and didn’t counter-program as aggressively this year against the other studios’ animated efforts. Sadly, Iron Giant, South Park and The King & I didn’t need to be attacked to tank at the box office. They didn’t make another Jonathan Taylor Thomas movie. They let
Chris Pula loose, though not in the way I anticipated or suggested. And like Rushmore last year, a number of very good movies were labeled “critics films” internally and never really took off. I’m not saying the studio didn’t make an effort, but Cradle Will Rock and The Straight Story could have done better.

DREAMWORKS:
The company did pat themselves on the back for 1998, the best second year of a new studio ever. But they never did add the high profile pictures to the 1999 slate. Galaxy Quest was the only film pushed into production for `99 and the entire slate was six pictures, two of which the studio basically dumped (In Dreams, The Love Letter.) Geffen has not appeared to get more involved and, in fact, Jeff Katzenberg has taken a surreal step down in rank. And the studio still hasn’t made any big aggressive deals. Or any Spielberg movies.

FOX:
Fox didn’t gloat. In fact, they tightened the belts even tighter. Laura Ziskin made Fox Searchlight one of the hippest rooms in town, releasing two more films (of eight total) from her division than DreamWorks did as a whole, but she couldn’t make a profit. Bye bye. As I projected, “the returns from Leo (The Beach,) Drew (Never Been Kissed,) David Fincher (Fight Club with Brad Pitt to boot) and Mike Newell (back to comedy with Pushing Tin) aren’t all huge.” Leo still hasn’t been released and Drew was the only
winner in the group. Thankfully, Bay turned down the Planet of the Apes remake. The Phantom Menace was the monster that was expected, though the backlash was so tough that there probably wasn’t as much joy at Fox as expected. And the one thing the studio hasn’t been able to do that I asked them to, was to make up with Devlin & Emmerich so that ID4-2 could be made. Unless The Patriot tanks, we may never see that sequel.

MIRAMAX:
This studio was probably the least close to my resolutions for them last year. And coincidentally, it was the worst year they have had in a long while. Nothing seemed to work. It’s true, they didn’t make a movie with Famke Janssen in any role or do a Matt Damon movie, though they do have international distribution on The Talented Mr. Ripley. Chicago died and Madonna didn’t get Music of the Heart. (Guess we’ll have to wait for a 2020 revival.) They didn’t hire me for a talk column and look where that got that magazine. (tee-hee) And their employees’ happiness? No one is left to quit.

NEW LINE:
They didn’t create a spin-off studio to handle “genre pictures.” They did capitalize, literally, on their Internet division, even if we haven’t really seen the full results yet. Young talent continued to find a home at New Line, but the results
this year weren’t so hot. No more bald Brits or public corporate fellatio. They’re still on a whole bunch of floors in their building, and Freddy vs. Jason is still as much rumor as anything else. Finally, Heather Graham made only one movie for New Line in 1999. It was their only real hit. Hmmm….

PARAMOUNT:
Changes on high came this year in the person of the high-octane Mel Karmazin. His hire has fueled speculation that there will be changes at Paramount that will make the studio, which has been fairly successful in recent years, far more aggressive. Rumors have also swirled around the Star Trek universe, none of which have Jonathan Frakes in any position of controlling the future of the movie series. And as far as press paranoia… well, we’ll see how they react to this.

UNIVERSAL:
Universal hired within to find leadership, though some people question whether the leadership is any clearer now than it was a year ago. The likelihood of Imagine or DreamWorks taking over the film division seems to have diminished, but a bad run could start the rumor mill back up in an instant. And October? Pretty much dead. Though USA Films, which incorporated the other Universal “arthouse” purchases, released Being John Malkovich, made under the Propaganda banner. Whether that kind of originality will continue to thrive under Barry Diller‘s top leadership is anybody’s guess. If it does, it seems likely to be because Diller isn’t paying attention, not because of his inspiration. His hands are filled with Wall Street driven activities.

WARNER BROTHERS:
The studio’s way of getting over the bloodshed of 1998 was to finally shed Daly & Semel from the top of the WB food chain. The surprise of that occurrence lasted about ten seconds. As I wrote last year, “This column will not resolve to fire Lorenzo DiBoneventura. The problem may be older and more corporate than that. Resolve to get some truly new blood on the lot.” Some suggest now that Lorenzo needs to go as well. Perhaps. As for new blood, they got it in Barry Meyer and Alan Horn, though they aren’t really changing the creative oil, thus the call by some for Lorenzo’s head. No Batman or Superman…just rumors. Oh well.

As for my
general resolutions for 1999
:
None of these things happened:

  • pay-per-view network.
  • seat counting instead of screen counting which isn’t accurate anyway because multiplexes vary screen allocation all the time.
  • more variety in trailer
    length.

  • dumping of SDDS, DTS and Dolby tags, and of non-movie commercials, for that matter.
  • ushers who act like ushers.
  • revival house revival.
  • move to push all these
    critics awards and the Golden Globes into January, where they belong.

This one thing did:

  • Studios continued to try to build new “untested” release days throughout the year.

So, I spent a couple of extra days trying to think of New Year’s resolutions for the studios and the industry alike, but I just never came up with anything inspired. I guess after writing over half a million words about this stuff in the last year alone, I’m tired of telling people what to do… at least for the moment.

And so, I resolve the following:

  • To make The Hot Button as complete and fair as possible.

  • To worry less about the advantages being given other people, traditional media outlets and web sites, focusing exclusively on making roughcut.com better.

  • To demand that studios and publicists understand the value of the web, of you as committed readers and of roughcut.com specifically.

  • To sleep more, play more and maybe even to take a vacation in 2000.

  • To make the readers an even more important part of the site.

Thank you all for your willingness to read a column like this one and for the participation of so many of you. I always tell people that The Hot Button has the best readers in the business. I am one of the few guys I know who doesn’t get crass, thoughtless, childish e-mail. (Well, occasionally.) Hot Button readers have something to say. It’s not gossip. It’s conversation. And I am really thankful that you take the time to be a part of the column. Happy
New Year!

E ME all holiday season long. The Hot Button is back on its regular schedule
starting next week.

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“I was 15 when I first watched Sally Hardesty escape into the back of a pickup truck, covered in blood and cackling like a goddamn witch. All of her friends were dead. She had been kidnapped, tortured and even forced to feed her own blood to her cannibalistic captors’ impossibly shriveled patriarch. Being new to the horror genre, I was sure she was going to die. It had been a few months since I survived a violent sexual assault, where I subsequently ran from my assailant, tripped, fell and fought like hell. I crawled home with bloody knees, makeup-stained cheeks and a new void in both my mind and heart. My sense of safety, my ability to trust others, my willingness to form new relationships and my love of spending time with people I cared about were all taken from me. It wasn’t until I found the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that something clicked. It was Sally’s strength, and her resilience. It was watching her survive blows to the head from a hammer. It was watching her break free from her bonds and burst through a glass window. It was watching her get back up after she’d been stabbed. It was watching her crawl into the back of a truck, laughing as it drove away from Leatherface. She was the last one to confront the killer, and live. I remember sitting in front of the TV and thinking, There I am. That’s me.”
~ Lauren Milici On “The Final Girl”

“‘Thriller’ enforced its own reality principle; it was there, part of the every commute, a serenade to every errand, a referent to every purchase, a fact of every life. You didn’t have to like it, you only had to acknowledge it. By July 6, 1984, when the Jacksons played the first show of their ‘Victory’ tour, in Kansas City, Missouri, Jacksonism had produced a system of commodification so complete that whatever and whoever was admitted to it instantly became a new commodity. People were no longer comsuming commodities as such things are conventionally understood (records, videos, posters, books, magazines, key rings, earrings necklaces pins buttons wigs voice-altering devices Pepsis t-shirts underwear hats scarves gloves jackets – and why were there no jeans called Bille Jeans?); they were consuming their own gestures of consumption. That is, they were consuming not a Tayloristic Michael Jackson, or any licensed facsimile, but themselves. Riding a Mobius strip of pure capitalism, that was the transubstantiation.”
~ Greil Marcus On Michael Jackson