The Hot Blog Archive for September, 2009

Sad Legal Turn, Whichever Side One Supports

Roger Avary was sentenced today to a year in jail in the sad story of a gathering of friends, a few drinks, a too-fast drive home, and the death of one of the friends and serious injuries to another.
I have to say… there are no winners here. Jail time and money will not make a parent’s grief any less painful. The punishment for Avary started the moment he realized what he had done at the wheel of that car.

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Waxman Pushing Hard To Be Finke

Quite a day for Sharon Waxman and The Wrap.
This morning, the big headline was “Despite Denials, Big Change Looms at Universal,” hypothereporting that Shmuger & Linde were moments away from being dumped for Fogelson and Langley. By the afternoon, the entire company was being sold, deal points being hammered out already in Exclusive: Comcast in Talks to Buy NBC-Universal from GE.
Will either actually happen? Who knows? There will be another story soon enough.
This morning’s Ad Age interviewed Waxman, headlining, “There’s Not Going to Be Room for Press Release Journalism Anymore”. By the afternoon, there was this press release, rewritten and bylined by Wrapper Lisa Horowitz and this direct steal from Variety, which generously (as in “Polanski generously offered the girl half of his quaalude”) gave a link to the paper at the bottom of the story whose only news value was given away in the part The Wrap made into their own page.
I guess there is no room for press release journalism… better to just lie about the press releases you run or to just steal news from other publications.
In fact, a full half of the stories in the news section of The Wrap is either press releases pretending to be reported or stories from other outlets, key content stolen and placed on a Wrap page.

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So quiet…

It really is odd how quiet things are right now… September is ending… we’re past the Jewish holidays… so very quiet…
I enjoyed getting through the Stradella Road Theatrical Market Study, but I’m a bit disturbed to find at least two online outlets of note misreading the results in significant ways. The Wrap is blaring a headline – “Do Movie Marketers Waste Their Money on TV?” sub-hed, “Study finds that youth learn about movies online and from friends, not from television”- that is no only a gross oversimplification of the findings, but factually inaccurate, according to the study.
Plenty of bad studies come out every year and get overhyped, but when a good one lands and the media rushes to mischaracterize it… oy.
All this hoo-ha about Summit going on a buying spree… I mean… people… math. But Summit eating Lionsgate or MGM right now would be similar to AOL eating Time-Warner or, in movieland, Artisan eating Lionsgate (the opposite happened, in reality). As far as Summit eating WeinsteinCo… good luck with that. What, exactly, would Summit be buying?
The reason that Summit is floating this notion that they are buyers is that it is the takeover target, not the other way around. They should be cash-flow-heavy on the presumed Twilight-franchise revenue and they have no costs that need to be continued. The company would likely be valued at over a billion dollars by Time-Warner or Viacom on the basis of that franchise alone at this point and with all due respect to the management… will never likely be worth more than it is worth RIGHT NOW.
The smartest movie in Hollywood right now, similar to Mark Cuban selling Broadcast.com when he did for what he did, would be selling Summit to a major. But it would not be the first company that got itself obsessed with empire building over the smart financial play.
Specifically, trying to consume the MGM library or the Lionsgate library would lead to a company like Summit going down exactly the same road as Lionsgate and MGM… anxiously trying to sell for year after year after year… never able to build the company to being bigger than the library, no matter how many great and successful opportunities come their way, from Saw to Tyler Perry to Bond to The Hobbit.
Everyone who is in the financials of the movie business wants to have the opportunity that Summit has right now… getting out with a big fat payday after hitting the home run on one property early in the history of the company. The scale can be different. For someone to come along and eat WB, they would be eating Potter and DC, etc, and so the movie side alone would have to be valued at more than $10 billion on that, the library, and the synergistic values alone.
This is why, ultimately, Time-Warner got out of New Line, which had finished its likely peak franchise and from there on, would just be in the movie business. And heck, look at the year already produced New Line product had after the company was shut down! But not enough to keep a second business in business. Not for Time-Warner. (I think this was a short-sighted mistake… but that’s another column.)
Anyway…
What The Weinsteins were offered by Disney back before the split would be snapped up in seconds by TWC now. But no one is offering. And if Summit isn’t thinking about funding Dimension/TWC to a few hundred million a year, what is the point, really? But why would Summit want to be eaten alive by The Weinsteins… makes no sense.
And LOOK, what a surprise… another hack is out there taking a shot across the bow at Universal… now pimping the idea that the head of production and head of marketing should take over from the former head of marketing and former head of distribution from Focus… a ha… production and marketing come up short this year, so they promote the leaders of those departments… interesting strategy… sounds a lot like the one that led to where things are right now.
My take… Universal was slow to respond to the changing economics of the industry and greenlit a handful of movies at exaggerated prices that ended up losing money. Only one lost A LOT of money. In a cyclical business, the Universal situation is not desperate. But God knows, the media wants it to be. And NBC/U management may be listening to that hum. If they are going to make a change – and they might – they need to make a big change. If they just keep pushing junior (albeit very high ranking) staff into higher positions, nothing much will change… by definition.
I am not calling for this change. I believe Universal will rebound without it and that all the drama about this summer has been way overblown. But if new leadership is coming, if it’s not a sea change… a new vision… that the choice to change is not really a choice to change at all.

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Press Release – Stephanie Kluft Goes Trojan

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Polanski III

Steve Lopez’s LA Times column sent me back into the Polanski grand jury transcript.
I suggest that anyone who wishes to defend Polanski as a victim read the whole thing.
Clear your mind of all the other frou-frou… and ask yourself… does a 13-year-old girl saying “no” to a 43-year-old man mean ‘no” or does it mean “maybe” or does it mean. “yes?”
That is the question that those who defend this man right now are answering… same as the answer the left had to whether an extremely powerful older man was morally and legally right in secretly allowing a 20-year-old intern in his organization who had a crush on him to perform oral sex on him in a back room and then perjuring himself about what happened.
I don’t think the people defending Polanski actually realize that they are aggressively fighting the notion that rape is possible in any circumstance other than by physical force… that there is no “date rape”… that it is not a woman’s right to choose her sexual partners… and that the only way to prove you don’t want “it” is to come to the police with skin under your fingernails and a bruised or otherwise bloodied body.
Because what did Gailey/Geimer do that any rape victim would not? She went to the police. She testified… and has never refuted the facts. She got a private financial settlement when the legal recourse was at what seemed to be an end. And first and foremost, she said, “no.” A lot.
We are a forgiving nation… way too forgiving when it comes to people we like… way too disinterested when it comes to people we don’t like or don’t personally know or know about. But what sickens me most is that we are willing to throw out our standards at times, picking one principle over another and fighting to claim moral high ground when we do. Sometimes, when there are conflicting moral issues, you have to choose a side. But when you do, you must be contrite and respectful of the morality you are putting to the side. if not, you might as well be waterboarding, humiliating prisoners, and lying about your intent in invading a sovereign nation.
I am going to lay out just some of the instances of where Ms Geimer, nee Gailey, said “no” and Polanski kept moving forward on this 13 year old.
After the jump, a wider swath of the transcript.
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Read the full article »

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A Survey Worth Chewing On

Former New Line web guru Gordon Paddison

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More EPKing The Princess & The Frog

Disney released this today. It’s not the 6 minutes of footage found on the Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs DVD release, which is the opening of the film, establishing the core qualities of the family The Princess comes from.
And yes, it does feel as though – as we go into this too conscious of the issues around the film – that Disney is managing the racial issues a bit. But that is a part of their job. And if you look at it without the built-in concerns about race, this is yet another piece that simply looks like the pitch for a classic Disney film.
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More Polanski…

The Key Pro-Polanski Rationalizations
1. He was going to be sentenced unfairly… so fleeing was okay.
2. It’s been so long, why is this still be pursued?
3. He shouldn’t have pleased guilty… so he should not be held accountable for having done so
4. He is a great artist and though we don’t want to say this out loud, he should be above these petty laws.
5. The girl and her mother have some responsibility in the matter.
6. The girl has forgiven him, so the law should too.
7. The butchering of his wife and child, as well as his history of escaping The Jewish Holocaust must have changed his sense of right and wrong… the man needed love and help and not punishment.
Answers To The Key Pro-Polanski Rationalizations
1. This is what appellate courts are for.
2. This is what Statutes of Limitations address… and Polanski took the time issue off the table by fleeing the country. In addition, he has repeatedly chosen not to face the charges in the United States, even though there have been clear indications of the case leaning in his favor now.
3. The failure of Polanski and his attorneys to choose a jury trial over a plea is their own, not even the terrible judge in the original case… and certainly not the judicial system as a whole.
4. He is a great artist… but you have to be kidding. Some very intelligent and well-intended people are, amongst the ivory tower arrogant fools, supporting this man. Where were they when OJ – one of the greatest athletes in history – was on trial? Ya… they decided he was guilty before any evidence was offered in court and didn’t want him to have a fair trial either… they just wanted him put in the electric chair… because artists and intellectuals should be more influential on criminal law than the courts or lawyers or the facts.
5. As in, “she was asking for it?”
6. “The Girl” also got a cash settlement from Polanski years ago. And how many rape victims don’t want to move on with their lives? Do people realize how many women – of age and underage – never report their rapes to the authorities… how many never tell the people in their lives that are closest to them?
7. Tell it to the judge. They are called extenuating circumstances. And if the sentencing judge was acting illegally, tell it to the judge who overturns him. You don’t get a free pass because you have suffered.
Sorry… I do think there are complex moral issues in play here. I do think that on a purely emotional level, there is some importance to Ms Geimer’s public forgiveness and to the length of time since the events and the attitude of many Europeans about the reasonable age of consent, etc, etc.
But I also believe in The Law as our best chance of structuring civil intercourse in this country. And I believe that no one is above The Law, including President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Roman Polanski.
I am pleased that amnesty was given to draft dodgers after Vietnam. It was morally righteous – in my opinion, though many people who served and who family members died serving might still disagree – and it was legal.
I believe that marijuana laws should be changed to reflect the realities of American use of the drug, that gun laws should be changed to reflect the realities of American use of guns, the marriage as a legal issue should not be allowed to be discriminatory under the Constitution, that abortion rights should be sacrosanct within limits that reflect medical consensus, etc.
If you want to change the law, change it. But breaking it is breaking it. Murdering Bush & Cheney on the day they were elected might have, quite literally, saved scores of thousands of lives, both American and Iraqi. But sorry… not acceptable.
There can be a debate between reasonable, well-intended people about what the statutory rape of a child by a grown man 30 years ago means today. I don’t think everyone who argues sympathy for Polanski is insane, stupid, or morally bankrupt.
But the idea that this is an extra-legal moral conundrum is the worst kind of moral relativism we on the left have engaged in here in America… which started back with Clinton lying under oath and then rationalizing that it was okay because it was sex – we can have the discussion over how consensual the blow-job of an employee half your age really is some other time – and because it was “personal.”
Why you commit perjury can be and generally is considered when it comes to the punishment for your illegal actions. it is completely reasonable to argue that the punishment of impeachment is excessive… even absurd. But the perjury is no less illegal because it was about a blowjob. Sorry.
Fleeing the country because you don’t anticipate the deal you thought you made for sentencing over the illegal act that you pleaded guilty about is not going to go the way you expected or like doesn’t become legal because the judge was trying to screw you over.
Where is the outrage of so many of these same people over men who have been sitting on death row for decades based on perjured testimony, judges who didn’t let in relevant testimony, or simply biased juries… even before we get to DNA issues?
He’s guilty… he admits he’s guilty… he ran… but we like him… so it’s okay.
Epic Fail.
If you want to make the argument, make a real argument.
I haven’t heard one yet.
P.S. I feel bad for the film festival that invited him and may feel responsible for the arrest… they get a moral pass from me for saying truly stupid things in response… they are being reactive… and that happens.

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Finally, I Agree With Nikki

“Don’t you want to be on a beach somewhere when Nikki Finke starts flashing pictures of you trying to get your dick hard?”
“I’ll fuck Nikki Finke before I let her affect my business decisions.”

Pretty fair representation of Nikki Finke’s role in this industry. Whorey gossip… more interested in embarrassing others than finding or considering news in a smart way… ineffective against anyone who isn’t weak minded.
I don’t really believe she will put it on her tombstone. But she is well on her way to putting it on the tombstone of serious journalism about the film industry.
The New Yorker story on Nikki should arrive in the next couple of weeks. I plan on being out of the country.

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A Building Theme In Media

David Carr double dips today, with his regular Monday media column and a bit in NYT’s Media Decoder blog. Both entries into The Conversation strike me as being of a kind…
From the column, about moguls – “Some of the blame falls at the feet of those of us who walk around with notebooks. We love new, we love sexy, and we are all about the moguls and the grand pronouncements and tend not to worry so much about performance.”
From the blog entry, about Twittering journos – “Every time a reporter hits send, he or she might do the following exercise: How would I feel if my mother and/or my boss read this? Because they well might, along with the legions of folks who sit, like crows on a wire, looking for any wiggle or wobble from media outlets they regard with suspicion in the first place. There will be stumbles and missteps on the way to a hybrid future, but if you can

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BYOB – Gone Atonin'

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Klady's Weekend Estimates

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Running out the door, but here is Sony’s analysis, as I have no time to offer my own…
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs became the first animated film in 2009 to score back-to-back weeks as the #1 film in North America.
Cloudy took in $24.6 million this weekend for a 10-day cume to date of $60.036 million. The film showed exceptional strength from last weekend dropping only 19%. Like food falling from the sky, Cloudy

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Polanski Intervention

Roman Polanski is a brilliant director.
Roman Polanski has suffered great life tragedies of the type that often destroy people.
Roman Polanski is a bit of a coward.
Roman Polanski is in custody.
It kind of strikes me like an intervention. After years of self-imposed exile from the United States, Polanski has been dancing around coming back to face the music for years now. The exposure of misconduct by the judge – mostly suggested before Marina Zenovich’s documentary, but certainly given focus by the doc – and the victim’s active forgiveness of the man have suggested that he has a good chance of looking at little more than time served and perhaps, probation, as a price.
Because, ahem… he did fuck a little girl.
Sorry for the graphic language… but as brilliant as the man is, we should all keep in mind, no matter how much we now blame her mother, the girl herself, or the judge… no matter how forgiving the now-grown-woman is… a mature, aware man gave an underage girls drugs and had sex with her… and whether she wanted it (the drugs or the sex) or not, not many of us would be okay with that if it was our daughter or loved one in that position.
And to play The Devli’s advocate, is a life of freedom in Europe really such a severe punishment?
Of course, I have no problem with people feeling that enough time has passed, that his life has faced a limitation here, and that he is now being persecuted and not prosecuted. And I have no problem with people who disagree. What I feel personally… not the point.
But it seems like Polanski facing the music, whatever the legal tune, has been a long time coming… even just measuring the 7 years since The Pianist. And now, the hand of fate has reached him in a place he thought was safe, Switzerland, and it’s the LA DA’s move.
Interesting.
Finally, I must say, if the US does not demand extradition of the man in this situation, then the charges must be dropped fully. Holding him on a string of the threat of prosecution is not right if the government does not feel strongly enough to prosecute. So the next step is coming.
I suspect that Polanski will be in front of an LA judge by late this week. And if he is not, time to cut him loose. Either way, this should be the moment of resolution in this long, sad, very human story.



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LexG Appears On SNL


Megan Fox continued to keep many of us wondering what her next act is, even if the show didn’t do much to surprise… the writing was as lame as it’s been in a long while…
But she did take shots that will be internet classics for a long time to come… (no, not a pun, Lex)…
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DP/30 – Terry Gilliam On The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus

The full interview…
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The teaser

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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