The Hot Blog Archive for January, 2008

Good… But Has The Lesson Taken At All?

Entertainment Tonight/The Insider decided NOT to run the Heath Ledger tape. I was traveling, so I haven’t heard the on-air excuse. But I read this AP story and while I think the choice was right, that’s still about the only thing that was.
From The Story:
Executives at “Entertainment Tonight” refused to talk publicly about the retreat. There was some bewilderment and anger at the company about why its show was singled out when many other publications and TV outlets were talking about the same thing. The party video is likely to be seen soon in England, and is already available over the Internet.
Well, the reason ET/Insider was singled out is, a) they are the biggest, b) they are truly MAINSTREAM Media, meaning they have not turned completely into trash gossip rags and no one wants to see them become one, and c) is answered in the next pull…
Ledger is seen standing in the doorway of a room where the party was taking place, swigging from a beer bottle. The actor is heard saying that he was “going to get serious (word bleeped) from my girlfriend” for being at the party.
The show made clear that there was nothing on the video showing Ledger taking any drug. At one point, however, the then-26-year-old said he “used to smoke five joints a day.”
But a person who has seen the entire video, who asked not to be identified because of its sensitive nature, said Ledger then points to his tattoo of “M” (for his daughter, Matilda Rose) and says, “this is to remind me never to smoke weed again.” That part of the quote was not used in Wednesday’s preview.
Later, with Ledger in the background, an unidentified man, his face blurred, seems to snort cocaine from a table.

So… not only is the tape NOT shocking… and NOT heartbreaking… it doesn’t even contain an image of the man doing a drug of any kind aside from alcohol in the form of BEER!
Will the off-the-record complainers at ET wake up and get it? This is the WORST form of gossip mongering… it tarnishes without actually delivering the goods.
It would be sad and disgusting for them to run a video of Mr Ledger snorting 3 or 4 lines of cocaine… and in Hollywood, not remotely shocking. But this is so much worse… he isn’t even doing drugs and they have Dr. Drew Pinsky

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BYOB – Jan 31

It’s yet another travel day… here is some room to roam…

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Lunch With… Jacqueline Bisset

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One of Hollywood’s storied beauties, she continues to fight for more challenging work… and found it as a Holocaust surviving shrew of a mother in the Sundance title, Death In Love.
We chatted.

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You Know…

I didn’t think I was actually going to get angrier after watching Entertainment Tonight promote their ongoing rape of Heath Ledger’s dead body.
But I did.
Because they were doing something even worse that I saw coming.
They are trying to position this shite as not only a healthy choice on their part, but one that can help others.
First, they blame the video being shown on Australia

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How Ugly Will It Get?

Sadly, I seem to be spending more and more time gagging on the tabloidization of the entertainment media. We’ve always been a whorehouse, but every hour wasn’t spent trying broadcast the tv-safe version of the Dirty Sanchez.
Now this, in defense of the memory of Heath Ledger, who the publicists have no financial benefit in protecting, only the opportunity to stop vomiting for a moment as the media becomes even more abusive that the most abusive personal publicist ever considered being…
Tonight Entertainment Tonight/The Insider are previewing an extremely distasteful segment regarding Heath Ledger. The segment centers around a two-year old video ET purchased for a large sum of money in the hopes of stirring up a salacious and exploitive story about Heath, which would win them big ratings on the first day of sweeps. The two outlets did not even have the courtesy to wait until after Heath

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Hannah Montana Stampede

I normally consider Fandango’s releases about their ticket sales nothing but self-hype that should be allowed to linger, unpublished, in the inbox. Like 98% of internet stat-making, they are invariably irrelevant. But the details on the Hannah Montana concert movie are interesting.
From their press release:
If you are reporting on the HANNAH MONTANA concert movie phenomenon, here are some facts that might interest you:
*HANNAH currently accounts for 91% of all ticket sales on Fandango, the nation

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THR Dives Into The Toilet With The Rest…

“Now we all deserve to die
Even you Mrs. Lovett…even I
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief
For the rest of us death will be a relief
We all deserve to die.”

The Top Story Online…
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BYOB – Jan 29

Before I leave it to you, a couple quickies…
1. All this talk about the WGA talks being tied to Oscar is ticking me off. Does anyone really think that The Oscars are more important to The Writers than that little thing called, “going back to work?” I have said repeatedly that “Hollywood” will not stand for Oscar being shuttered. But it feels almost as though this is yet another effort by Gil Cates to make the negotiation appear to be bigger than the Negotiating Committee. It is not. Had the AMPTP put this deal on the table in October, this strike would likely have never happened. And this leads to the real question… how much did AMPTP really want the strike to happen so they could force majeur the decks clear?
2. I happened to chat with Anjelica Huston the day of the Oscar nods. There was no coyness about who Daniel Day-Lewis is channeling in his performance. See her here.
3. Juno, which just crossed $100 million, will be amongst the 10 most profitable films of 2007, along with 300, Knocked Up, Superbad, The Simpsons, and Ratatouille.
Now, your turn…

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Lunch With… Amy Ryan

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The Oscar nominee sits down to talk about the work in Gone Baby Gone, her next film (for Paul Greengrass and with Matt Damon), and life as a working actor turned media phenom almost overnight.

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The Hi-Def Price Wars Begin

The battle between Blu-Ray and HD seems to have, once again, been won by Blu-Ray after Warners made a decisive move. (You might remember that we were at this point right before Paramount/DreamWorks were bought on board as HD-only for a year or 18 months.)
I look for signs off the press release schedule on these things and found it when I signed onto Amazon.com and found that a HD player I had wishlished had dropped its price in half since I “wished” it. The next sign was a 53% Off Sale on HD DVD titles… though I quickly realized that these were specifically WB titles.
Today on Amazon, I find that there is now a drop on disc prices, for both formats, across the board. WB has the deepest discounting. But every disc on the site seems to be at least 30% off. The last season of Lost, which went on sale about 2 months ago, is on sale for 59% off.
It would appear that the unpress-released story is that all the studios have come to decide that the only way to make a future for hi-def DVD is to make a legitimate price argument. The difference between “regular DVD” and Blu-Ray or HD seemes to be about $7 on most new titles. On Ratatouille, it’s just $5… on Transformers, in both formats a 2-disc set, it’s just $2, as is Zodiac (another Paramount title).
Of course, nice as this is for hi-def hardware owners, the problem ahead is still price resistance to the Blu-Ray players, where the low price for a solid, web-accessible-for-upgrade player is still over $350. HD has players $100 lower… but the format is, for all intents and purposes, dead until proven living. With upscaling DVD players in the low-100s, I can see a 4200 – $250 player getting traction. But $350 is just too much for people to take a flyer on. If Sony wants to seal the deal, they need to build the low-frill $200 Blu-ray player with wi-fi for updates. And then, they’d have a real shot at gettting to 3 or 4 million units by the end of next X-mas.
And one more suggestion… Sony Home Ent should make a deal with Criterion to invest in converting that entire catalog ASAP. It may be a niche market, but it is one of the few markets where buying a $400 player is a no brainer if you can get those classic art films in the highest possible form of home delivery.

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My Favorite DVD News In A While

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FROM THE DIRECTOR OF

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Direct-To-Bad-Journalism

I don

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Lunch With… Stacy, Skipp, and Kumasi

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I took director Stacy Peralta and “subjects” Skipp Townsend (center) and Kumasi (left) of Made in America for a ride around Park City as we had a rather serious discussion about race, gangs, oppression, and the future. It’s not our typical fare, but one of the best conversations we have ever had.
“Let’s take this utopian Sundance Village right here. To me, this is America. We are visitors. We don’t belong here. We need to leave in the next 24 hours. All the things we do to express ourselves is a result of an American creation. We are a community held hostage by America. I have never been called an American to my face… not in this country. I am a resident non-member of America.”
Watch it here.

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Did You Hear The One About…

… the Hollywood union that screwed the foreign journalists?
By the time the AMPTP/WGA negotiations go official later this week or early next week, the deal will be very close to done. Only some form of insanity on one side or the other will keep that from happening.
Today, the WGA waiver for The Grammys was made official… though the decision not to picket last week made this a fate accompli.
I am happy the strike will soon be over and that the WGA’s deal will not be embarrassing. But someone should probably be willing, against political logic, to point out how grotesque some of the attitude that still comes from the WGA in deigning to allow the recording industry its awards show.
To wit, ” ‘Professional musicians face many of the same issues that we do concerning fair compensation for the use of their work in new media,’ WGA West president Patric Verrone said Monday. ‘In the interest of advancing our goal of achieving a fair contract, the WGAW board felt that this decision should be made on behalf our brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.’ ”
Yeah. Bull.
The AMPTP deal is around the corner and pissing off more people is not in WGA’s interest… period. The WGA is most aggressively trying to make sure that TV and film writers don’t get their guts ripped out in the new media era the way that songwriters have.
But more importantly, there is something so arrogant and petty about lording it over a bunch of frickin’ awards shows. How many millions of dollars did WGA take out of the pockets of union members by shutting down The Golden Globes? And not just union members, but union members – like hotel staff and tv production personnel – who aren’t the ones on camera… aka the ones who actually need the money.
Let me say it again… I support the WGA’s goals in this labor action. 100% But when this is all over, we ALL need to consider what happened. It’s all too easy to say, “Fuck HFPA,” which now appears to be the only awards show that will actually pay a price – a steep one – in this strike. Isn’t the basic idea of democracy and the core of morality the embrace of the freedom and respect of the least popular?
(And by the way… John Ridley isn’t any hero. I agree with some of his concerns, but cutting and running is not any better than a group of thoughtful people having their daily discourse devolve into a fascist disinterest in a wider range of ideas. A thinking adult fights the fight until the fighting is done. And then you fight for a better future so the next fight is less bloody.)
The awards season can be an endless bore. And for most people in the media and industry, this kink at The Golden Globes was more invigorating than the show going on as usual. Plenty of people would be just as happy to see all the awards shows go away. (Others are con artists who scream about how inconsequential awards shows are, but then announce their awards intentions months early in search of ads and then return from their alleged sick beds to “cover” nominations. But I digress…) But if we start basing our moral notions on what we like then most of the WGA members shouldn’t bother to go back to work after the strike ends. (And yes, that applies for all artists across the industry in all arenas.)
Let’s take the lessons that have been learned in this strike – especially the ability to mobilize the independent media – and work a lot harder next time to avoid having a strike at all. Let’s start discussing the real issues months before the deadlines and not weeks. Let’s see the kind of effort made by the creative community to make its points – like Speechless – before the money clock starts running on everyone who lives off of this industry.
Maybe shutting down The Globes and striking in November were key to the settlement to come. Maybe 100%. Maybe 70%. Maybe 40%. Maybe not at all. What we do know is that the men and women of the negotiating committee moved forward with the most honorable intentions and belief that action was absolutely needed in order to get a decent contract. What we also know is that AMPTP didn’t flinch, doing almost exactly what was expected from early on.
The water under the bridge should wash away much of the angst… and hopefully, create a reservoir of thoughtfulness about how to do it better next time. And I hope that when push comes to shove again that the first idea is not, “First, let’s kill all the awards shows.”

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas