The Hot Blog Archive for August, 2009

BYOB Monday

Has this been the most oddly-busy-with-real-news end of August in movie news history?
Wandering LA, especially with the heat, is like wandering through a Quaalude sundae. Yet, there is a lot of stuff happening – including a more-active-than-usual Toronto prep – that isn’t just people dumping news, movies, staff, etc.


How the Disney Deal Could End The Avengers Movie

This is not that complicated.
Disney will now own Marvel, which in spite of what some have spun, have so far been the hands-on manager of just one franchise-level hit (Iron Man). The idea that Disney will treat it with the respect it treats Pixar


Loves Ya, But…

Look… I am rooting for Atom Egoyan… I am rooting for Amanda Seyfried… we are all, obviously, greatly sympathetic to and rooting for Liam Neeson, who soldiered on after a terrible unexpected personal loss… and I am even rooting for Julianne Moore, Ivan Reitman and Erin Cressida Wilson. The film landscape that Chloe is working is challenging for audiences and for funding. God bless the ambition.
Those challenges are well documented in this NYT piece about the film.
And I appreciate that the word “remake” isn’t the best bait for a film that’s looking for distribution… especially when the film being remade got a 2 screen release in the US on the way to DVD.
But the film that Chloe is based on, Nathalie…, is not only a terrific movie in its own right, with three very strong performances, but the filmmaker, Anne Fontaine, is – like Atom Egoyan – one of the few top-notch filmmakers who make movies about women that are not “chick flicks,” but serious, challenging, and often underappreciated in America.
Fontaine is traveling America now with her Sony Classics release Coco Before Chanel, which like all her best work, lingers in memory like the perfume of a lover you can’t seem to forget. My first encounter with her as a director was How I Killed My Father, which I wandered into at TIFF with some free time to fill. Amazing. Nathalie… continued my love of her work, in part because it was not what one might expect from the synopsis. It’s sexy at times, but so not the way we are used to seeing on screen, with the younger, sexy girl being objectified by the filmmaker. It’s more an observation of that objectification than an invitation for the audience to objectify her. The Girl From Monaco was her romp with a twist that got here this last summer. And now, Coco, which is so much more than I imagined… not really a bio-pic, though it is… not really a feminism film, though it is… not really a period piece, though it is.
Anyway… I understand why the producers and sales company might want to hide Nathalie… under a bushel. But it’s not respectful of an artist whose growth parallels Egoyan’s.


The One Where Mickey Eats The Hulk

Disney’s acquisition of Marvel is cheaper than its acquisition of Pixar. But it is also a much more dangerous play.
Unlike the Pixar deal, which included the talent (Lasseter) to revive a somewhat moribund in-house animation business as well a very strong, if very annually limited production partner, Marvel is a straight character play with some real question marks about how its movie future will play out.
Iron Man is theirs, outright. But Paramount will eat the distribution gravy off of the top. Spider-Man is, essentially, Sony


Ridley Scott Talks About Himself (BBC)

Weekend Estimates by Klady – August 30

Well, 3D advocates, The Final Destination is good fodder for you. The series opens went up 60% from 1 to 2, 19% from 2 to 3, and now up 47% from 3 to 4 when you would expect a drop, not a rise. Assuming that 25% of that is 3D pricing, that’s still a healthy 10% – 15% rise in actual attendance for the fourth movie in the dying franchise.
The question remains… 3D: novelty or trend?
Others have Inglourious Basterds holding even better than Klady does… but either way (and even if it turns out to be 52% in the “finals”) the hold is about right for the opening and the genre.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 gave The Weinstein Company – pronounced dead by much of the media just a week or two ago – two of the top three films for the weekend. And maybe that was the point. If you have a company that has been treading water for 7 months, barely showing a public face, and you want to tell your investors that you are serious about your future, what more could you ask than two of the top three at the box office, plus a record-breaking launch for Project Runway on your TV side?
The answer to that normally rhetorical question is: #1 and #2 at the box office instead of #2 and #3. Had Zombie’s H2 opened like his H1 and TFD opened like FD3, it would have been a 1-2 punch for Harvey.
These are also the #2 and #3 openings EVER from The Weinstein Co/Dimension on its own and #4/#5 for The Weinsteins since Disney, MGM or not.
Still, the statement, albeit a tiny bit gentler than they might have liked, has been made.
(I hate to say this, but I must… it is often when companies seem to be coming out of the woods like this that the other shoe drops. Last summer, for instance, WB laid off 300 in Burbank shortly after Dark Knight broke box office records. This is also how the media often misses the story both coming and going. For the sake of the staff at TWC, let’s hope that the smiling public face matches the inside face right now.)
Julie & Julia had a great hold… est. 20%… as it continues to make a play for $100m… which is probably out of reach. Thing is, Sony got the movie to the oldster release period… the older audience that doesn’t go for the first few weeks, but finally gets there on word of mouth. A mini Big Fat Greek Wedding if you will. They must have been patterning on Mamma Mia! numbers, which had drops in the 20s in weekends 5 and 6 and then a 25% positive bump over the Labor Day 4-day. If Sony can pull that off, the film will be near $85m at the end of next Monday.
Also working that leggy chick flick thing, The Time Traveler’s Wife is becoming a major surprise movie. It probably won’t get to the $81 million of The Notebook, but this drama is steaming along towards the high 60s/low 70s. Few people would have put this one in their Top 20 of Summer 2009 movie grossers and it is heading there.
A bunch of landmarks this weekend… The Ugly Truth passes $85m, The Hangover passes $270m, Up is just two days shy of $290m, (500) Days of Summer passes $25m to become the #3 release by a Dependent this year (behind Focus’ Coraline and Searchlight’s own Notorious), Trannys 2 will hit $400m by this time next week, Harry Potter 6 could hit $300m by the end of next weekend’s 4 days and if not, will get there by the weekend after.


TV New Zealand Follows PJ To Comic-Con

Some Things That Bore Some Of You Do Matter

I’m not going to go off on a long rant about it.
But here are three pieces about the web and how we all bounce off one another which reflect some of the ideas I have been shoveling out around here too often for some of your tastes…
Media Shift – Simon Owens – Newspaper Editors Want Clear Credit When Bloggers Link to Them
Media Shift – Mark Glaser – Using the ‘Steal-O-Meter’ to Gauge if Stories Steal or Promote – Michael Tomansky’s Blog – The man who helps rule the media’s world


A Little Inside Basseball

Please excuse me while I implore fellow film writers to get themselves to How To Fold A Flag, which is screening selectively, pre-Toronto, in LA on Monday.
The film is the final part of an Iraq trilogy by Michael Tucker and Petra Eperlein… and I consider all three films to be amongst the very best made on and around the subject. Gunner Palace took us into the lives of the soldiers in the cities of Iraq for the first time, as they lived in one of Uday Hussein’s former summer palaces and tried to survive IEDs when they went on patrol. The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair told the story of an Iraqi journalist, swept up by a US patrol (as seen in passing in Gunner Palace), who gets abused by both the US and the Iraqi government for no reason but the madness of war. And now, How to Fold A Flag brings it all home to the US, literally. Characters we’ve met in the other films and some new faces try to adjust to coming home… some for better, some for worse… mostly in between.
This team has been ahead of the curve in these docs every time. They are hard and funny and only ever as sentimental as survivors get.
If David Magdael hasn’t already sent you an invite – and you are press and you know who he is, which you should if you are legit – drop him a line. This is exactly the kind of film one can miss on opening weekend… and it won’t play again until the second Friday. So do yourself a favor and get on it now.


Friday Estimates by Klady – H2FD

Halloween 2 is down a few million on opening day from the last one… The Final Destination in 3D is up a few million from the opening day of the last one. Combined, they are about a million off of the horror opening high of the year, Friday The 13th, which started with $19.3 million in February.
Questions –
Why would you put both of these films out on the same day? M.A.D.
Is this a better indication of what the 3D thing can do commercially for a movie? This looks like the best FD opening day by about 25%… so how did that break down with the 3D, which charges a premium of about 25%.? Did the audience increase or was it just the same audience as in the past paying 3D prices?
Did FD shoot its 3D load in one night? We’ll see.
Based on these numbers, H2 should be looking at about $40m domestic and TFD at about $65m domestic. But history is not always kind to these films at this time of year.
Inglourious Basterds dropping 59% is not a big deal. The weekend should end up with more like a 50% drop, which is about normal these days for a strong opener with a niche appeal… and though more women went than expected – according to TWC’s claims about exit polls – it is still a niche film. And yes, niche films can do $100 million now.
District 9 is holding fine, but is not growing… even though Sony threw some new ads at Weekend Three this week. The drop is normal. Anyone who uses the words “Best Picture Nomination” in the same sentence as the title, “District 9″ needs a trip to the optometrist to have their to have their August perspective checked… quickly.
Interestingly, Inglourious and D9 are traveling in near-lockstep at the box office. D9 was about $500k ahead of where IB is after the second Friday. The two movies, compared day by day, have split “top spot” almost evenly. And on Friday 2, Inglourious is up. Will it hit D9’s $7.2m second Saturday? We’ll know tomorrow. But it looks like the two films will run neck-n-neck to the end, each ending with between $110m and $125m domestic.
GI Joe looks like it is heading to a $300m worldwide final. 6 years after Hulk did $245m worldwide, you’re looking at a similar financial situation. GI Joe will be trying to get out of the red ink for years to come – a couple of million DVD units will make the difference between a loss and a breakeven film – but is not an unmitigated financial disaster. Then the question of the sequel… and if you think an announcement is the same as a film getting made, you are too green to live. Marvel lost money on The Incredible Hulk, even though it did a better job of giving the core audience what it wanted. It grossed slightly more than the first Hulk film… but cost more – which says so much, given that when Universal made the first film in 2002/3, it was their priciest effort ever – and it lost money.
So do you make a GI Joe sequel? Do you try to rein in the budget? Didn’t the kids come to see stuff blow up real big? It’s not like they spent the budget they had on actors. I don’t know. Does this studio want to be dragged through a sequel? Remember the public apologies that came out of Charlie’s Angels; Full Frontal. Remember all the drama around M:I3? Could they mistake $300m from GI Joe for $700m from the first Transformers? And dare we invoke Superman Returns and its $391,081,192 worldwide gross? (No sequel for YOU, Bryan!)
Taking Woodstock opened with a splat. A pity. Mr. Martin was fine in the lead, but Jake Gyllenhaal would have given them a better shot. So would Emile Hirsch. But we’d be talking about the $2.8m Friday instead of the $1.2m Friday. Shia LeBouf… maybe then you’d be looking at a $6m Friday and a $15m opening weekend.
Nice number for The September Issue. Valentino: The Last Emperor announced its upcoming, self-distributed release on DVD and Blu-ray this week. Which film will be more popular in the end… and in history? I would say that they belong together in a double box… perhaps with Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags , a movie I haven’t seen yet, but which is heading to Toronto and seems like a good fit.


Poll du Jour

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Taking Woodstock

There are many things wrong with this film.
It attempts too much. It glides around some of the issues that it seems to want to confront. And it sets up many interesting ideas that it never finds the time to dig into.
But I kinda liked it walking out of the theater… and i have liked it more in retrospect as the weeks have passed.
Ang Lee is, obviously, a quality filmmaker. He’s got skillz. And he has put together an often compelling and unexpected cast.
The stand-out is Imelda Staunton, though she is also the actor most vulnerable to attacks for overacting. I am on the pro-Staunton train on this. Her performance as an immigrant Jew who didn’t go to the camps, but did get chased out of Europe with that threat on her heels, and then settled in rural upstate New York, is muscular. She is the bull, whether in the field or the china shop. And the reason it’s not overacting is that it all feels like it is coming right from the soul of that woman. The problem, unfortunately, is that her story is one of those that gets many interesting angles, but doesn’t get fulfilled by the overloaded blintz of a movie. Her use as a comic character would have been fine… had they given her the full expanse of her storyline.
Demetri Martin is good as the Mary Richards of the film.. though to be fair, he is a somewhat more proactive character than just being the soft center around which the crazies dance. But what is driving him? Again, this is a hole in the storytelling. The movie gives us all the touchstones of what is going on with him, but isn’t coy so much as so overwhelmed by everything else that it fails to allow the time for his issues to solidify.
Even the idea that this young man brought Woodstock: 3 Days Of Love, Peace & Music to Woodstock: The Town (or really, the town next door) but never gets to enjoy his accomplishment is given a central line through the movie… but doesn’t quite congeal into what it clearly seemed to be going for.
Still… as unset a pudding as it is… as prone as it is to want to recreate the experience on the ground there and then become a drawing room comedy and then turn into Meatballs and then become a 70s coming out movie… the warm spots stay with me. Emile Hirsch seeming like he is about to go off the rails and then bringing it all back again… Eugene Levy giving a solid performance without resorting to schtick… Paul Dano looking handsome and Kelli Garner feeling completely real as a girl you’d get into the VW bus with just in case the drugs have loosened her belt as much as her memory… Liev Schreiber set up to fail horribly, but pulling it out regally… the folks who make up the town… Carmel Amit and Jennifer Merrill as the girls you can’t take your eyes off of in the Earthlight players… Henry Goodman, best known in the US for failing to replace Nathan Lane in The Producers, delivering a relaxed turn as a so-familiar aging man who just wants to get along… Jonathan Groff, who played Claude in Hair in Central Park last year and gets to play a wealthy spin on Berger – he’s still a little young – in this film… Mamie Gummer looking more like her mom here, but seeming more of her own actress than in other roles…
The number of little gems – and that is just a partial list – is why this film overcomes its weaknesses for me. It’s a tapas movie when I was expecting a full meal. But the tapas are tasty. And that lingers with me.


The Hot Blog

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“I find it hard to believe that it’s pure machismo. It’s too simple of a thought. I don’t know what the reason could be. I also think that it makes sense that, as time goes by, filmmaking should become more of a women-dominated activity. To me, of course, I feel like it’s going to happen. It seems to me that, especially for a certain cinema with its own language, you need to take a lot of risks. And women receive a type of education that allows much more for failure than the type men receive. It is easier for a woman to take risks than for a man. But I’ll also tell you another thing, women need to learn to master the tools, to solve technical problems, to control unscripted situations. There is also a totally macho attitude that many women have internalized in terms of not solving certain technical problems on their own. That also makes them a little less capable… Female DoPs often think that their technical area is limited to pen and paper. And that’s wrong. You need to learn a lot of things to be a good DoP. For me, machismo breeds both a masculine education and a nefarious feminine education. Macho culture engenders an education for men and another for women. The education for men we already know, and is easily criticized. And the nefarious education that machismo has for women is exemplified by women who ultimately ignore how to use tools, who—when something breaks, or when it gets dark—are rendered useless and get desperate. Women who do not even know how to build a fire. They don’t know how to deal with these situations, because these were activities that have traditionally been delegated to men. That can make us… not very… prone to achieve certain things. For me, we first have to fight against our own education, and also against an external model of erasure that has rendered women less capable than men in certain fields.”
Lucrecia Martel

“When my first book came out in 1978, and Carter was president, the top tax bracket in the US started, at that time, at one hundred thousand dollars a year; the federal income tax was 70 percent. Now, that may be excessive—I mean, it certainly was excessive—but the people who are rich now are psychotically rich. It’s stupid amounts of money that people have, and they pay no taxes! And they are allowed to make money in ways that you were not allowed to make money before. So there used to be all kinds of laws in this country. All kinds of regulations: usury laws, laws that regulated the amount of interest you were allowed to charge, bank regulations—all this kind of stuff. These were laws made by humans. They could be made again by humans. There is no reason why people should be allowed to make billions of dollars. It’s a stupid amount of money. It’s just simply stupid. And no one earns a billion dollars. You earn twelve dollars an hour. These are stupid amounts of money. No one should have them.”
~ Fran Leibowitz