The Hot Blog Archive for November, 2009

Pres Release (Edited) – The Gotham Awards

Uh… not really…
I always find it sad when the smarter awards groups push to be first like it matters.
In 5 years of giving a Best Feature award, the first two years’ winners were Oscar nominated… the last three years were not. Make of it what you will.
The 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Award


Press Release – Avatar Stunts Live HD Event From MTV to Facebook to Mobile Phones



Google Starts Protecting Its Rear?

There is an interesting story in Studio Briefing, best known as the news source for IMDb, today… “We Have Been De-googled!”
I would normally link to the piece, but that would make me much more honorable than Studio Briefing, which was one of the first major content thieves in the web era. And it hasn’t changed at all.
To their credit – though I seem to recall this only happened after there was a major explosion from a false report repeated as news by Studio Briefing – they no longer seem to be focused on repeating gossip from unreliable sources at every turn. Going back from today to Nov 23, there is only one piece of iffy gossip. But the ugly part of this service is that they blatantly steal content from anyone and everyone they can, claiming it as their own without even bothering to link to the originating source, much less doing the honorable thing and doing a lick of work themselves. (Maybe “they” are just this guy Lew Irwin. The level of the work could well be done by one person with a Google fixation.)
Not only was Studio Briefing not pushed out of business early by the studios or the media they stole from, but they were legitimized by IMDb. Studio Briefing’s stolen news recaps have been run as IMDb’s primary news source for years (Along with the even more offensive WENN) and every story links to a blog build by Studio Briefings, claiming to offer the rest of the story, but more often, just getting Lew Irwin another page view.
Which brings us to today…
Lew Irwin writes…
“To draw revenue from the blog, we initially included ads from Google Adsense, and to help attract attention to it, we purchased ads ourselves from Google AdWords that appeared on related entertainment-industry websites. But a few months after we launched we received a boilerplate notification from Google that had been “disabled” because it did not comply with Google policies. The notice was vague, failing to specify which policies we had violated. We have been trying to obtain an explanation ever since, without luck.
Not only did Google delete the Adsense advertisements appearing on the blog, but it diverted its spider from the site as well. As a result, ceased being cited in Google search results. Then, a few weeks ago, we received word that Google had also halted running our Adword advertisements


The Invictus Review


The Lovely Bones Video Review


Weekend Estimates by Klady – 11/29/09

Twilight: New Moon is at about double the 2 weekend gross of the first film. And here is where it starts getting interesting, box-office-wise. On either side of its massive opening, Pirates added 60% of its two weekend domestic gross, which would put T:NM at about $370m in the end. Spidey 3 did about 40% more than its two weekend domestic gross, which would put T:NM at about $325m domestic. The percentage of opening weekend vs final domestic gross amongst the Top 10 openers of all time ranges from 25% to 45% (that’s Spidey 3), so who knows?
After a 15 year movie star career with just 3 $100 million domestic grossers, Sandra Bullock now has 2 in one year. Both will outgross her previous high, her first $100m grossser, Speed and its $122m gross. Both have already outgrossed any female-led film this year except for T:NM. Yes, Virginia, Sandra Bullock is the biggest female star in the world… again. Magic Meryl is a solid #2, with Julie & Julia grossing about $93m domestic and It’s Complicated likely to gross more than $60 million domestic as well… and don’t forget Mamma Mia!‘s amazing $610m worldwide gross just last year.
Some will quibble about what a Drama is… but The Blind Side is, to my eye, the first $100 million drama of the year and seems sure to outgross – domestically – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, last year’s only $100m grossing drama.
2012 has done okay in the US, but as is often the case with Roland Emmerich, the story is overseas, where it has already grosssed over $450 million and looks like it will end up over $550m, which would make its international gross alone more than the worldwide total for The Day after Tomorrow. Emmerich’s career-best gross, ID4, is safe, but 2012 will be #2. (Insert Joke Here.)
The return to the Wild Hogs well, Old Dogs, opened to about 40% of the progenitor… or about what people thought Hogs would open to when it showed up. The bottom line for me remains that when you have two movie stars and your key marketing element is Seth Green singing to a monkey, you are in trouble.
A Christmas Carol is running about 30% ahead of where The Polar Express was at this point in its run. If that continues, you’re looking at a $200 million domestic gross. I would guess it will come up short of that, especially with Avatar coming to eat every IMAX screen that IMAX can find for it. But if it ends up in the year’s Top 10, will it still be the crushing commercial disappointment that it was portrayed as a few weeks ago?
Ninja Assassin reminds us that when a movie is treated like it deserves to be dumped by a studio, audience will smell that.
Unless it finds a way to turn the history of such things, Precious hit its box office wall this weekend. Once a film start losing box office in an under-1000 screen release, it rarely recovers in terms of weekend grosses, no matter how many screens are added.
It seems pretty clear that the template that Lionsgate was working with on the film was a combination of No Country For Old Men and a slightly accelerated Brokeback Mountain a month earlier on the release schedule. Brokeback maxed in its last positive % change in Weekend 7 with $7.4m and a $41.7m total domestic gross. The total was about double that.
No Country had a more exciting run, from Lionsgate perspective. Like Precious, the film started negative % changes in its second weekend over 200 screens. But it went on to do about 3.3x the gross it had hit that weekend. The next weekend, it dropped to a $4.1m weekend and would see only one weekend over $3 million after that… after winning Best Picture. But the film played for 14 more weeks of over $1m at the box office.
So $65 or $100 million domestic… it could go either way… or, of course, somewhere else altogether.


16 Weeks To Oscar

We are getting near the end of the early screenings of the list of titles that will seriously be considered for Best Picture. Very near the end.
The idea of guessing at what films and performances WILL win, especially in this season of relatively soft contenders in all categories (if there is one kind of obvious call, it


Friday Estimates by Klady (Thanks)

Corrected Klady chart
There is a real opportunity for this to be the first Thanksgiving 5-day to have more than four $20 million grossers… and it could be six such titles.
Twilight: New Moon is already at $41.4m for the 5-day with 2 days to go.
The Blind Side is already at $33.2m for the 5-day with 2 days to go.
2012 – $14.7m in 3/5
Old Dogs – $14.1m in 3/5
Ninja Assassin – $$13.5m in 3/5
A Christmas Carol – $13m in 3/5


Do Any Film Critics Actually Review Films Anymore?

Okay… so I am exaggerating from the top. I know that there are writers who actually review movies… and not the books or scripts or previous versions from which they were spawned. You just wouldn’t know it to read Variety. And since Variety has become the #1 embargo breaking website in the film world – and they are so anxious to be #1 in something, even if they have to act like #2s to do so – you will get to hear it from Variety first.
It’s time that all you “who reviewed first” worship blogs start paying attention to where those reviews are coming from and how consistently wrong they are.
(Note; There is no embargo on The Lovely Bones specifically.)
Che, Antichrist, Inglourious Basterds, Where The Wild Things Are, The Road… and today, The Lovely Bones.
The potential was certainly there in the book, which reminds of Dennis Lehane’s successfully filmed novels “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” in its devastating emotional trauma, but offers the distinctive perspective of the most entirely plausible omniscient narrator in modern literature.
a bit reminiscent of…
“The Road” reads extremely cinematically. Filled almost entirely by spare but vivid physical descriptions of a decimated United States in its death throes after an unexplained catastrophe, and with limited dialogue, the book serves up images and tense situations that practically leap from the page as potential movie scenes… Some things were obvious…
Are you are film critic or a book reviewer? Because it seems to me that the job is about looking at what the filmmaker produced and not what you, as a film critic, decided the movie should be.
I am sick to death of this crap. It’s not only lazy criticism, but it is destructive (especially when embargoes are being broken to be FIRST!) to films… particularly films that audiences actually will like, perhaps love. 90% of the people who will say, “I hear Variety hated it” won’t ever read the review or have any idea who at Variety reviewed or whether they were typing out of their ass.
I have always felt that Todd McCarthy was above turning long-form written reviewing into “thumbs up, thumbs down,” but this seems to be his default more and more often.
Can we all try to come to an agreement that a movie is a movie, a book is a book, and the job of a professional film critic is not just to tell people whether they personally liked the movie and what personal reasons they have for that position?
What makes me crazy about Todd’s smackdown on The Lovely Bones, which mostly comes down to complaints about what wasn’t in the movie that was in the book, is that he so clearly does not get… really… has no clue at all about… what Peter Jackson (with Walsh and Boyens) is after. There is nary a sentence in the review about the emotion of the film or the central theme of the measure of love. This is outrageous. We just get to read, repeatedly, about the book and the shots that McCarthy didn’t like as much as other shots.
Peter Jackson’s success or failure can be argued. (And I will make my argument later.) But reading this review, like reflecting on the reviews mentioned above, was like reading someone’s account about the greatest sex they ever had only to realize that 90% of the text was about the eyeglasses she wore because you didn’t know she needed glasses because she was wearing contacts when you met and glasses look great on some women but these glasses didn’t really suit her face and yadda yadda yadda…
And I see this more and more… and almost always on the most challenging, emotional, groundbreaking movies. Meanwhile, disappointing mediocrity gets a pass so often these days it boggles the mind.
I was having a conversation this morning about Scott & Phillips and why the show is completely respectable and not that exciting… and why Siskel & Ebert were great. It’s not because Roger & Gene were so much more insightful than Michael & Tony. It’s because Gene & Roger had real passion… they didn’t know enough to hide it… and movie lovers responded because those are the arguments they want to have over dinner or dessert or drinks after the movie.
So you would prefer The Lovely Bones with no effects images. Great! I don’t care. Tell me in some real ways how those effects change the dynamic of the overall movie. Did you even understand how the “changing wallpaper” relates to the emotional state of the character who is in limbo? Did you even consider trying to understand it? Or were you just sitting there with an anti-CG chip on your shoulder, waiting to find an excuse to smack down a filmmaker who just delivered another very successful audience movie?
Go back and try again… The Road is NOT about the apocalypse, Todd McCarthy… The Lovely Bones is NOT about seeing the murder or investigating the rape of that girl, Xan Brooks… Where The Wild Things Are is NOT a silly romp meant to speak down to children, David Denby… AntiChrist is NOT just about shocking the bourgeoisie, Owen Glieberman.
Analysis of what is better or worse, what one likes and doesn’t like are all fair game. But If you don’t get the basic idea of what the movie is trying to get to, trying to judge the work in any way close to objectivity is folly.
Be clear. I am not talking about differences of opinion. This is not, “Why did you like Star Trek sooooo much when it was just good?” This is not, “I love that film and whatever you say against it sucks.”
This is about a movie, in this case, where the recurring theme is love – parental love, love between children, the first hints of romantic love, and the peace of knowing where love stands – and the negative reviews are about not being graphic enough or not liking the computer graphics.
There will be plenty of people who don’t much care for this film and whose opinions I will respect because they are based on something connected to what IS on the screen. But I cannot abide reviews about what is NOT on the screen, unless it smartly speaks to the context of the filmmaking and some element that might have changed the dynamic in a real way.
Peace out.


Thankful 2009

Another year has come and gone


BYOB – Gobble Gobble


DP/30 – Up In the Air, Vera Farmiga & Anna Kendrick



Munked Again


Blu-ray Time?

“the $99 Insignia model during Best Buy


Shhh…. Do You Hear The Turkeys?

Thanksgiving has arrived quickly this year… not sure why. Maybe it was the beach weather we were still having into late October around here. Yet, Toronto seems like eons ago already.
The only extremely active people in town seem to be the UPS and FedEx men and women, who are just getting the loads of DVDs to deliver. (One actually said to me today, “It didn’t really get going until last week,” as he delivered a pile of high quality screeners today.)
There is something lovely about the slow down. True, I have “work screenings” on both Friday and Saturday of this week. But screenings are the fun and easy part, even more so if the movies don’t suck. In fact, after this weekend, only Avatar will be left to be screened… and the junketeers will see it on the 9th and 10th while we non-junketeers will see it a few days later. (There is already an issue cropping up with some critics groups who will not get to see the film before their planned voting dates… do they disregard the film or wait?)
Anyway… I am happy for the breathing room… gobble gobble…


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