The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2007

Just Saying…

“When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of ‘gossip.’ She held a feather pillow and said, ‘If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow.’ That’s how it is when you spread mean things about people.”
John Siegenthaler Sr


Gurus of Gold – 19 Weeks To Oscar



An Oscar Lock?

It seems that the smart folks at Fox Searchlight did qualify the short, Hotel Chevalier, for Oscar before releasing the film on iTunes.
And so the question… how could the film not be nominated? And how could it not win? There are often some terrific shorts out there, but Wes Anderson did the best work of his year in this short… and he is one of our most talented, even when at his most self-indulgent.


BYOB – October 22



More on The Heartland Film Festival in the next couple of days. But first


Strikingly Wrongheaded

Without the real threat of SAG and or DGA refusing to cross WGA picket lines, there is no chance of WGA


Sunday Estimates by Klady – Oct 21

I think it’s worth pointing out, though no one seems to much care – could it actually be a race thing… a quality thing? – that Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married is holding better than any Tyler Perry film to date and that it will be no worse than his #2 film (of 4) and could actually pass his #1, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, if it keeps holding. Is this a sign of some crossover? Are adult white women, clearly rejecting Rendition and Elizabeth 2, showing up for this one as a colorblind alternative that speaks to their lives in bigger numbers?
30 Days of Night is one of Sony’s weaker openers in the teen/action/horror categories. But was there much more there to get? Like Lionsgate, Sony’s efforts in that arena that target boys and not really girls seem to be fading. It’s not quite the shock some make it out to be. Even the tne boy demo gets tired of being fed the same thing over and over. They’ll come out for Beowulf, but their next group obsession has yet to come clear.
$5 million plus for The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D reminds us that the theatrical experience is still valued… especially when the kids market is being underserved. It will be interesting to see if WB can get any screens for The Polar Express in the next 2 months.
Across The Universe continues to hold strong on the grrrrl power tip. $25 million is not impossible. But the whole experience has to be much more exciting (and pressure filled) for the DVD release, where they will hope to become a phenom and make back the money the film cost.
Anyone who thinks that a $3500 per screen for Gone Baby Gone is a bad result was smoking the pipe going into the weekend. It’s the third best per screen amongst 1000+ screen titles, which is amazing considering that Casey Affleck is not a star and the film is being sold almost exclusively on positive media energy.
Into The Wild took some more lumps as it expanded from 153 to 658 screens. As a point of reference, it did a similar per-screen to GBG while being on about a third of the screens. I don’t know why this film, which is beloved by a high percent of viewers once they see it, isn’t quite catching.
The Darjeeling Limited is playing it closer to the vest, doing better in per screen, but finding a smaller audience in actuality. Logically, Searchlight is mining all the money that is out there for the film… a limited opportunity once they knew lightening wasn’t striking.
3:10 to Yuma has been forced to give up screens, essentially ending the theatrical run, but $53 million is quite an excellent haul.
Lars & The Real Girl is limping along, hoping for a word of mouth push to come. The $8800 per screen is second only to Nightmare 3D in the Top 30. Nice. But that next step has been the killer this season… let’s hope they figure out how to turn that trick. The film is running on a similar track to Half Nelson so far… but this one not only deserves better (so did HN, for that matter), but it is a much more audience friendly film… they just need to let audiences know that.


Friday Estimates by Klady – 10/19

Another week, another four new movies with expectations. (The complaining in New York about the number of new movies that needs to be reviewed each week is understandable, but the truth of every other city is that four newbies from studios with real hopes is still a pretty busy week.)
Did Sony see 30 Days of Night as being soft as The Messengers? Probably not. But it might be interesting to note Sam-Raimi-as-producer produced that soft seller as well as the more unexpected, but still not $20m opening Boogeyman. I



Ironically, I just saw Hard Candy on my TV this last week, in hi-def. Given the positive buzz, I was not surprised by it. But I thought it was an effective little off-Broadway piece of theater with very stylized production values. Smartly shot in a tiny box of a space, the film worked. Bravo to director David Slade.
But given a little more space and budget, it turns out that Slade really can


Wristcutters Finally Lands

One of my beloveds from Sundance 2006, Wristcutters, is finally landing in theaters. Boy they took their time.
Here is what I wrote back then.
If you have the chance and you don’t mind working through the kink, see it. The time will be not only pleasant, but give you that kick of movie joy that comes only when you are truly surprised by how charmed you are.

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By Request: What Movie Would You Actually Like To See Remade?

Yes…. people hate the idea of remaking films. But Spacesheik reminded us that some people would like to see some films remade.
My personal take is that film is now a mature enough art form that remakes can be, as in theater, something wonderful. Someone needs to have a reason to do it other than just money… but something like riffing on Citizen Kane with a internet billionaire who goes mad after investing in the internet, high-def, and basketball might be fascinating. And so long as the masterpiece original exists, who is hurt?





Box Office Hell – October 19

I usually don’t comment on this feature, but I feel the urge today… WHAT A MESS!
I don’t recall as much of a blurry, heaving group of guesses in the history of Box Office Hell. Maybe it’s that the trades and the LA Times seem to want to join the prediction business lately. Maybe it’s that some “box office geniuses” have stopped embarrassing themselves weekly by running hard numbers. Maybe it’s that EW isn’t tracking indies… though I have to say, their guesses on the indies are closer to my personal notions while their notion on one studio release has my head swimming.
The top new title has guesses with a range of $3.9 million or 17%. The Comebacks has an $8.1 million spread. Rendition, $3.7 million or 34%. $3.2 million or 35% on Gone Baby Gone. Only Things We Lost In The Fire seems to have relative consensus.
So what will the people who love to write, “Movie X didn’t meet industry expectations,” either higher or lower, write on Sunday afternoon?


Whose Tracking Is It Anyway?

In trying to offer some perspective on box office prediction madness, the Los Angeles Times’ John Horn, a guy who has been around and smart for a long time, takes us further down the rabbit hole.
He writes:
Every weekend, the studios turn to three research firms to help predict upcoming box-office numbers. The companies — IAG Research, OTX and the National Research Group — conduct different surveys, but their numbers all try to answer the same question: Are moviegoers interested in a new release?
The data is called tracking, and throughout the week (but especially on Thursday and Friday), marketing and distribution executives sift through the numbers as closely as a desperate 49er panning for gold.

First, instead of getting into why tracking from all three companies is inherently flawed, he just kind of accepts that they are chasing a goal. But their goal is not primarily to find out if moviegoers are interested in a new release. The primary goal is to find out if the tens of millions in marketing and publicity is hitting the mark as it rolls out.
The simple reason for the Tyler Perry being so drastically off of the tracking number is that telephone surveying does a piss poor job of finding black audiences and hispanic audiences, just as it fails to find the audience under 22 week after week after week. Smart studio execs with a history with tracking can read around those numbers and see how they are doing with their marketing… which again, is the only real goal. Everyone likes to know the future… but studios need to feel they are spending millions and millions of dollars as efficiently as they can. It’s not about being Carnac.
Alleged journalists who now want to tell everyone they “have tracking” and that they know what it means are simply misleading the public for their own self-aggrandizement. This brings me to Horn’s second terrible misstep in his piece.
Again, “The data is called tracking, and throughout the week (but especially on Thursday and Friday), marketing and distribution executives sift through the numbers as closely as a desperate 49er panning for gold.”
They are panning on Thursday and Friday the week BEFORE opening. If they are sifting for anything on the day of release or the day before, it is only for their upcoming success or humiliation. But the real work of tracking is done when marketers can do something with the information. If you are “panning for gold” on opening day, it is, as any marketer will tell you, fool’s gold. Too late. The ship has sailed. Moreover, on opening day, execs are getting reports from actual business on the east coast, then across the country as the day progresses. And even at 7p, when the east coast has early evening numbers coming in, it’s still not anything more than 80% sure. And even on Saturday morning, when Friday estimates are pretty clear, the weekend still has major variations to come.
Of course, reading the story, perhaps all of that soft information about tracking is just a rationalization to allow the LA Times to start sifting through the numbers as closely as a desperate 49er panning for gold each week. Historically, sifting like that would be embarrassing to a savvy veteran like Horn. I can’t say I disagree with that sentiment.


20 Weeks – Rest of the Charts

A bit of a screw-up in technoland… here are all the first week 20 Weeks charts, which are now linked to one another, so you only really need to click on one to navigate.
Actor/Supporting Actor
Actress/Supporting Actress
Screenplay/Adapted Screenplay


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