The Hot Blog Archive for February, 2008

BYOB Mazatlan

The boat cruises along…
How floats your boat?


Is There Something Wrong With Oscar?

Bad ratings once again has brought a plethora of reactive, silly pieces about “what’s wrong?”
As you know, I am on a boat, but this morning, it was Old Man Goldstein busy, as he so often does, mistaking his home for a place of importance in the scheme of things. Wrong!
There’s nothing more pathetic than Traditional Media, unable to figure out the current marketplace, explaining to others how the current marketplace should work.
What happened to the ratings? It’s not complicated. The expected acting winners and the ones who won in upsets were all, pretty much, unknown outside of the arthouse world. Juno was the one major box office hit in the group… but as excellent as Ellen Page is, she was the only acting nominee from the film and has not proved to be a “we have to tune in to see what she says” kind of public personality. The f-ing songs nominated from Enchanted… a movie most loved by the already committed Oscar viewers.
But this is the micro view… not very meaningful.
Paradigm shifts in media are most often driven by micro choices, but those choices are based on the macro view.
James Bond has had three major successful transitions in its 40 year (or so) history. From the serious Connery to the charmingly quippy Roger Moore to the Bond-as-many-think-of-him Brosnan to the rough and tumble hard edge of Daniel Craig. Yes, the actor matters. But the bigger idea of what a Bond is defines the change.
But The Academy Awards is NOT a movie. It is television. Deal with it.
And television is, like most media, narrowing. For everyone, except the Super Bowl, which is a four-quadrant event like Christmas, regardless of who is playing the game. Up a little for NY teams… down a little for small market teams. But the machine is much bigger than the game. And if it stops being that, that event too will become marginalized.
So the question can not be, “How can The Oscars be returned to its glory?” That is a disaster in the making.
The questions can only be, “What is it that makes this idea appealing to people?” and “How do we best design a show to fit that appeal?”
The answer is NOT The Rock… with due respect to the delightful scent of what he is cooking. it’ also not loading up the show with every presented under 40 they could scrape up.
None of us know the answer for sure. But my sense is that there are two ways to go… toney or intimate. The Golden Globes was “the intimate choice,” but has gotten less so over time. The toney choice is Steve Martin or the like hosting, cool enough to be smart, dry enough to never let them see him sweat… a show of utter elegance and produced in near black & white.
I kinda would like to see them try that multi-headed host thing again… go cross-generational. I mean, would you like to see up there? Let’s not see a Judd Apatow Oscars. How about Amanda Bynes, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, and Meryl Streep? Or Amy Adams, Steve Carrell, George Clooney, and Kathy Bates? Or Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bruce Willis? Or Ian McKellen, Josh Brolin, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jennifer Garner?
Do the musical numbers as covers… serious covers… but serious names… that can seriously be sold after the show.
Add a category or two, like stunts.
And remember why people watch… to see emotion and glamor and the unexpected from people who they only know through their performances.
Or not.
All I am saying is that it might be more fun for Oscar to feel more like that ballroom at the Hollywood Roosevelt again.
Regardless, the ratings are likely to continue dropping until they reach the next natural plateau. It is the nature of the medium. You can make that plateau a little higher or lower, but you can’t make this show the massive hit it once was again. It is the nature of niche.
And picking apart silly details – which The Academy itself was nervously doing even before the show this year – is not going to change that.


BYO Bon Voyage

We’re pulling out of dock… The 10th Floating Film Festival is on its way.
I will be doing some writing as the cruise goes along. They have wi-fi this time. But mostly, it’s up to you guys for a while.
Have fun without me… Just not too much!!!


52 Weeks To Oscar aka My Oscar Yammering



Bring Your Own Oscar Yammering

Liveblogging died today… as every monkey with a keyboard, Traditional Media or New, feels a need to comment minute-by-minute on a show that everyone gets to see live. It seems to me to be about the equivalent of reading a column about sex during sex. Methinks your “partner” would be better served by a little concentration.
The day of verbal diarrhea as a communications medium is coming to an end.
I don


Gurus o' Change

We gave a chance for all 30 Gurus, Gold & 2.0 to offer last minute changes. As of this posting (1:11p pst), 3 have offered changes.
Ironically, a lot of the hubbub this weekend about an upset came from Pete Hammond, who was wondering aloud, in room after room, whether Marion Cotillard had closed the gap on Julie Christie. But no last minute request of a change for Pete.
Here are the trio. Others will be added if they turn up in the next couple of hours.
Susan Wloszczyna
Tilda Swinton for Supporting Actress
Transformers for Visual Effects
Mark Bakalor
Supporting Actor
2. Hal Holbrook Into The Wild
Supporting Actress
2. Tilda Swinton Michael Clayton
Art Direction
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
2. Sweeney Todd
Animated Short
1. I Met The Walrus
Live Action Short
1. At Night
2. Le Mozart Des Pickpockets
Oscar Frenzy
1. Sweeney Todd
2. Atonement
Supporting Actress
1. Amy Ryan
2. Tilda Swinton
Original Song
1. Falling Slowly
2. Raise It Up
Art Direction
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Sweeney Todd

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Shame On Whom?

I was quite shocked when I read a Reuters report of Hillary Clinton claiming that Barack Obama was using tactics “right out of Karl Rove’s playbook” and calling “Shame” on him regarding a claim that she would perhaps garnish wages to force Americans to pay for their universal health care.
I was more shocked when I read that she was accusing him and his campaign of lying about it when he has been saying this for weeks, including in the middle of the debate last Thursday… when she responded that he was also suggesting penalties, though his were only for parents who were not covering their children. She compared the need for every single person to be covered, by whatever means neccessary, to Social Security and Medicare.
The Reuters story noted: “Shame on you, Barack Obama,” Clinton said, speaking to reporters after a rally in Ohio, a state that is key to her struggling campaign.
Brandishing a copy of the leaflet, Clinton said the Obama campaign was spreading “false, misleading, discredited information” about her health-care plan.
“Senator Obama knows it is not true that my plan forces people to buy insurance even if they can’t afford it,” Clinton said. “It is blatantly false and yet he continues to spend millions of dollars perpetuating falsehoods. It is not hopeful. It is destructive, particularly for a Democrat to be discrediting universal health care.”

This accusation continued on her website.
From Hillary Clinton’s website (2/23):
Fact Check: False and Misleading Comments from the Obama Campaign About Hillary


SNL Oscar Parody

SNL did “I Drink Your Milkshake!” as a Food Network show, also parodying No Country and Juno in the process.
For some reason, I can’t get YouTube this morning… so here is another site with the piece.
What struck me, however, was that the Oscar satire, the night before, was in the third half hour of the show… the half hour of the dregs. How little interest is there in The Oscars this year?


Weekend Estimates by Klady – Oscar Sunday '08

The only thing I can offer of any interest to these numbers this week is that it now looks like we will have the second February in five years – the exception being 2006 – without a single $100 million domestic grosser. And I forget each year that January has successful films… but all grossing under $100 million, a detail that remained true to form this year.
What really distinguishes this year’s lack of 9-figure gold is how many films aspiring to that goal the studios threw at the first two months of the year. Cloverfield and 27 Dresses in January and Jumper and The Spiderwick Chronicles in February all revved the engines and then came up short… with four very different marketing strategies. Geek Love, Women, 4-Quadrant (leaning young), and Kids all failed to deliver the home run, the last two films being by far the most expensive risks. In the past, one or two such films were launched and once, three… never four.
The “year-is-down”/”theatrical is dead” stories should start soon. And it is unlikely the gross numbers will catch up much over the course of the year. The biggest year ever will not be duplicated. And the sky is not falling. This is not a business of selling toilet paper or razor blades. It’s about the movies and the marketing opportunities that those films allow. And you’re just not going to have three $300 million movies in May, a fourth in July, and three more $200 million-plus films in most summers. It’s never happened before… and it won’t happen again for a while.
Holiday 2008 could be up, with a Bond, a Madagascar sequel, a Harry Potter, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and a Jim Carrey comedy that may harken back to his good ol’ days. But the year could easily be down by double digits by November 1. We’ll see.
But for now, March…
Next week, New Line is hoping that a leap year Feb 29 date will be like last year’s March date for Will Ferrell, who scored $119 million with Blades of Glory. Warners’ 300 wannabe, 10,000 BC, opens dead on the $211 million hit’s date. Horton Hears A Who is in the very successful Ice Age and Ice Age 2 slot. And God knows what Par is chasing with Drillbit Taylor, which seems like a summer movie being dumped in spring. And Sony’s 21 hopes to be the second launch of Jim Sturgis, who built a base with teen girls in Across The Universe and looks to win over the boys here, supported by Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, and the threat of a tryst with Kate Bosworth.
FINALLY… The Oscar bump stories… mythology.
The last time we saw a bump like this – and it was significantly bigger – was 2004. Why? Because it happened to be the last year where the nominees and the release strategies matched like this. Juno had a minor bump after nominations, but the near $45 million “bump” for the film was really the pretty much expectable continuation of a very strong commercial run.
There Will Be Blood


I've Got Indie Spirit, How About You?

The Spirit Awards are the best they have been in years, in great part because they are the most produced ISAs in years. Someone who is written for and is really a performer is just a better host of a looser show than a comic. And Rainn Wilson has been sublime.
More on the troubles of this being The Searchlight Awards later…
It’s not that I don’t think this movie, Juno, doesnt deserve the love. It just kinda sucks when one film that already has so much eats all indie films.
(The winners…)


Friday Estimates by Klady

Wow… look at that line-up!!!!



It’s the Friday before Oscar… three new wide releases (over 1000 screens) and I can only hope that Vantage Point doesn’t suck relentlessly. Proud moments!
Is there anything left to say about Oscar (or anything else)?
You tell me.


Brother, Can You Spare 350 Dimes?

Nikki Finke has, once again, swept the LA Press Club awards with little or no apparent competition.
She is now being given awards for being the best online film critic… without any indication that she has even seen a movie this year. (Moreover, she has always mocked me for writing criticism… she the real journalist, above that lowly form… until it came to sending in an entry form.)
With due respect to Alex Ben Block & Co, these awards are a complete joke and they need to look at the world in a way that actually considers modern journalism.
It’s not so much that Nikki won something. I can understand that. The Strike Queen did something unique this season and showed us how things can be online, for better or worse. The problem is that in two of the three categories of online, it appears that there was not a single person up against her (nominations are not offered on the LAPC site), as she not only won, but there was no 2nd place, as there were in all other categories.
Alex Ben Block, admittedly, made a point of reminding me that entering the awards was happening and that I should nominate myself. But as all of us who have been online for long enough to deal with “The Webbys” experienced, self-nomination for a fee ($35 an entry at LA Press Club) is not a happy road.
It is notable that every single winner and runner up in every category is from a nationally represented news organization, used to chasing Pulitzers, etc, in the pay-n-nominate process. This is not how the web thinks.
And the ego of it… do I really want an award I had to ask for? Should anyone?
Someone pointed out a while back that The Oscars required self-nomination. And I get that. But it’s different. No one is NOT nominated by their companies if there is a ghost of a chance of a nomination. But at companies like The New York Times and Tribune Co, who is nominated and for what is the subject of all kinds of internal wrangling. Do we really aspire to the web joining that ungracious tradition… much as the winners are deserving of praise?
If LA Press Club is serious about being taken seriously (this is billed, humorously, as “1st ANNUAL NATIONAL ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALISM AWARDS”), they should get some nominating committees together, pick 20 or so nominees in each category, and break it down from there. List the 20… then the 10… then the 5… then the winner. Then, if there are people who feel left out of the 20, a method for allowing submissions can be created.
And a little transparency wouldn’t hurt. Who are the candidates? And are we really expected to take any award bestowed by 3 people seriously? “National Journalism Award” voted on by a committee of 3? I mean…
This could all come under yesterday’s theme in the Patrick Goldstein entry… maybe we just don’t think alike. That’s ok.
It would be nice to have a serious and respected award out there that breaks the narrow, political mold of The Pulitzers… but this clearly is not it… at least not as it is currently conceived.


20 Weeks… End Of Weeks



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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