The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2011

Pirates & 3D

According to Len Klady’s Sunday reporting, 66% of Pirates 4 screens were 3D screens and Disney told him that just 48% of the box office gross came from those screens.

Let’s consider what those numbers mean…

Figuring a very rough average ticket of $9 for non-3D and $12 for a 3D ticket, they sold 3.6 million 3D tickets and 5.2 million non-3D tickets. This flips how the distribution was set up regarding 3D… 59% of sales were non-3D and just 41% were 3D.

Not only is this a clear rejection of 3D on a major movie, but given how distribution is currently designed, it makes you wonder whether Disney cost themselves a lot of gross by putting their film on too high a percentage of 3D screens.

The principle is that on opening weekend of a mega-movie, you want potential ticket buyers to be able to get into the movie in that first weekend. So you may have a screening starting every 30 minutes in some megaplexes on those opening weekends.

So let’s say you went to a megaplex with 5 Pirates screens and had decided to go to the 2D version – for whatever reason – you only had one play time available every 2 hours or so while 3D ticket buyers had one an hour. If 2D showings were more available last weekend, would it have increased the gross substantially?

Could 3D as a tool to increase the average ticket price collapse under the weight of audiences unwilling to kick in an extra $3 a ticket when given a choice?

We have a lot more 3D product to look at as the summer progresses. I don’t believe in broad slaps against 3D, like comparing one non-3D movie’s opening to a 3D opening. That’s just a way to gloat. It doesn’t have any real weight. But if Cars 2 and Harry Potter find that there is a high percentage of ticket buyers seeking out 2D screens, we will find ourselves at a tipping point. Realistically, exhibitors will have to start backing away from 3D, as it will be apparent that it is costing them money, as they are the only part of the movie chain that really cares about the number of ticket buyers… as mass numbers of ticket buyers are the model to anticipate concession sales.

After that, there is a very serious conversation to be had about whether it is the quality of 3D or the higher price point driving the issue.

(CORRECTION FOR MATH, 11p)

21 Comments »

Review: The Hangover, Part II (spoiler-free)


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

And so goes the trouble with sequels to movies that take audiences by surprise. Magic in a bottle can only happen once per bottle.

However… I really enjoyed The Hangover, Part II. It did what a good sequel (not to be confused with a multi-part story) is supposed to do. It takes you back on the journey you enjoyed the first time, it adds some new stops along the way, and it leaves you feeling like a part of its dysfunctional family.

In this case, we’re talking about a first-film that was a house of mirrors, doing what great comedy does… surprising you into laughs over and over and over again… but also, somehow, lingering with the audience. How does this film give you exactly what you expect, but somehow make it seem fresh? I can’t really deconstruct it that much based on one viewing. What I do know is that there is a wedding, again… a bride to disappoint, again… a male red-herring, again… bursts of shocking & funny sex and violence, again… Ed Helms’ Stu growing himself a bigger pair, again… Ken Jeong stealing scenes, again…

For me, there are a couple of significant differences. There is a more complicated role for Zach Galifianakis, as Alan becomes a more active part of The Wolfpack, and thus, the movie. The other change is that there is an odd confidence in our trio that wasn’t in the first film. They have been here. They know they can get to the end. And in response, Todd Phillips & Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong are meaner to them in this film, to make up for the slack. And there’s a monkey.

There is also more size to this film than the original. Is that important? Not? Your call. But it is a slicker piece of filmmaking, as Due Date was slicker than Hangover 1. Phillips is doing a better job behind the camera.

I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of The Hangover. I laughed. I enjoyed it. But it was so loaded with events that after a while, it felt a bit stuck together, moving fast enough never to have its logic questioned. Parts of it, like the sequence going to Tyson’s home, were a bit of a mess. But the punchlines (literal and figurative) kept it going. And the film became a guy version of the fem-culty Sex & The City, as people (male and female) identified with what happens in Vegas taken to the extreme.

The boys are back. Happy to see them. And happy that the filmmakers didn’t overreach. Most sequels do. They are trying, same as this, to reproduce that feeling that made the first film a hit, but try to force in some major variation on the theme. Not this one. (There is a helicopter that there is no need for… but a minor indulgence, given how wild Phillips could have gone after a near-$500m worldwide gross last time out.)

For instance, the missing man, the bride’s brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), is as disposable as Justin Bartha’s Doug was on the first go round (and here too). They didn’t try to integrate Doug into The Wolfpack. Nor did they make Teddy any more of a character than Doug was in Vegas.

On the other hand, I kinda like the odd choice of Phil (Bradley Cooper) calling Sasha Barrese’s Tracy again and not someone else who was actually more significant in this story. It was a direct, unblinking call back to the original. And the dialogue, likewise. There is a lot of self-reference in the film… but it’s not coy, trying to pretend it’s not winking at the audience. I appreciate not being treated like a moron.

For me, the bottom line is, did I laugh? And I did. As much as I did the first time around. And in the final moments, I had great pleasure… however predictable the sequence might seem.

I guess that if I expected them to change the game… to push the envelope… to make the sequel that armchair quarterbacks fantasized about… I would have been disappointed that Michael Caine didn’t show up as a debauched ex-pat who knew more about Bangkok hookers than anyone alive… or that the baby wasn’t along for the ride… or that there isn’t really a topper to the Mike Tyson appearance. But I have to say, I thought it was refreshing that they weren’t trying to trick us into loving some other movie. And unless Phillips decides to do “The Wolfpack Meets Count Dracula,” there is probably no reason to do this a third time.

But I laughed.

One last note… I mentioned in my chat with Todd P that I thought this film was better than Bridesmaids. And I think it is. It’s more professional, less unable to let go of its darlings (though this one cycles one idea one too many times too), and more of a movie movie. Bridesmaids is pleasure, but it’s all over the place and Wiig spends time mugging to camera too often and too long for her own good. But the way that Old School announced Will Ferrell as more than a character third-wheel and the way Phillips created DJ Qualls in Road Trip… that’s the stuff of Bridesmaids. It’s a pleasant enough experience, but it is a door opener to the better stuff, more than a great movie. Of course, critics always prefer what they feel they discovered. And so it goes…

23 Comments »

Inconsequential Moments: Forgot To Blog Today…

7 Comments »

SIFFing

Seattle has become an annual destination for me… eight years now. It’s one of the most joyous and best programmed fests in the world.

This year has challenged my festival screening system. You know, 16 month olds don’t sleep soundly when daddy is watching indie films until 3am with the crib two feet from the tv.

This year’s experience, so far, has offered three really interesting film ideas. One is from a doc called Circus Dreams. Made by a middle school teacher, the film documents a summer of Circus Smurkus, a professional traveling circus performed by 12-18 year olds. It’s a great story and reminds you of what the NEA should be funding. This is a $1 million a year operation that needs to make that nut in 70 public shows in 3 summer months. They generally are making it, but a $250,000 government grant, it seems, could insure years of operation without quite as much pressure to scrape by. And besides the 28 kids who perform, Smirkis seems to inspire the next generation to see its potential.

As far as filmmaking, this novice does a really fine job of telling the tale without losing the audience with pacing that’s too fast or too slow or by losing track of the story. However – this is the repeating fest movie phenomenon I have been seeing a lot in recent years – you wish she had better equipment… that the film looked as much like a permanent document as her work deserves. It’s great that she did it and for $150,000 spent over 5 years, she did great. But she’s not going back… and anything more than VOD and scholastic distribution, already a hard get for this kind of film, becomes almost impossible when it isn’t glossy.

See the movie when you have a chance. You will be happy you did, unless you are in the mood for brooding Russians.

The other phenomenon, which is hardly new to festival movies, but seems to have become as glossy as Circus Dreams is not, is the “don’t know how to end the sketch” thing. Here’s a fascinating idea… so now let us drag it out on powerful images until the audience is saturated with style… and then leave them to create the third act over their post-screening dinner. Argh!

The third notion is great ideas in the hands of inferior directors. Today’s was a great teen movie for the post-Twilight era. A bunch of good looking teens get into competitive gaming… some mad genius figures out a way to empower them in the real world as they are empowered inside the first-person shooters, racing, and fighting games they are so good at… he seeks to use them to rule the world, but their power is too great and their little teen brains and morals are all that is left between using these powers for good or great evil.

The problem is, this director ain’t Louis Letterier or Michel Hazanavicius or Timur Bekmambetov. It’s some guy who made a low budget thriller with a better idea than its execution.

Kills me.

Review: Tree of Life

The first thing that strikes me about the response to The Tree of Life is that the film is suffering a bit from Eyes Wide Shut syndrome… which is to say, it’s a very simple, clear idea that people are getting distracted from by the light show.

Well, the idea is simple.  The ideas are not.

The Tree of Life is the story of Jack, a boy, whose tale is remembered as a man by his adult self.  (That’s Sean Penn.) But the movie rests on Jack in a way that gives a Malick film its clearest protagonist since Days of Heaven. 

The theme is also stated pretty clearly up front… Nature vs a human idea of Grace.  Malick stacks the deck a bit by offering the non-biblical creation of earth, using images that bring all steps back to a visual of cellular reproduction. However, inside of Jack’s family, things are more complex, as the mother attempts to live with grace, but is drawn to the wildness of nature and the father lives by his natural instinct, but fights to live the grace that does not fit him throughout.

Some have already simplified the father, the Brad Pitt character, into “the abusive father,” but I would argue that point.  I think he is a raw man who wants the grace for his children that he’ll never have. I believe his offers of love.  

The mother (Jessica Chastain) is a pinball in this pre-feminist world.  She doesn’t want her husband to be harsh, yet she wants the discipline he offers and can’t offer herself.

Jack is not only stuck between the two, but is also the only son to come of age during the telling of this tale.  It is time for him to take some power for himself, but how?  

Grown-Up Jack lives, literally, in glass houses and offices, as his parents do.  It’s a prison of glass, where you can see nature, but never touch it, never feel it. Is his adult ability to rein in nature, leaving his life rather chilly, a good thing? Did he give up on nature when his brother died, decades earlier, living in a grace coffin?

Of course, all of that is the subtext.  What the text reminds me of is the found footage films of recent years. Obviously, this footage is as beautiful as a television commercial. This ain’t in Super 8.  But it’s the feel… even more so than previous Malick, which has that unsettled feeling (even though the filmmaker cuts longer than any major filmmaker).

It’s almost a silent movie. Malick’s trademark of spoken word over images that don’t match exactly fits better than ever before, as The Story isn’t screaming for your focus.  It is a reverie with moments of detail.  It’s how people think, I think, as we slow down to consider our lives.  

Malick delivers as intimate a portrait of a fairly normal childhood-coming-into-manhood as any filmmaker ever has. And Malick being Malick, it is the tiniest of things that makes it work.  The way boys jostle each other for no reason as they walk pretty much anywhere.  The way they approach nature.  The way they stare and make noise and brood and leap and break and heal and think so hard that they can hardly stand it anymore.  

Malick takes the time to let us consider our own feelings about this young man’s pov.  How did we see our parents at that age. How did we think they treated each other… and now that we are adults, what was really going on?

It is one of the master strokes of Tree of Life that Malick offers very few answers… even as these characters go through big events.  And in most films, this would be disastrous. Most films in this dramatic arena are about exploring how things bounce through the mind and heart.  This film is about the soul… the universal soul. 

I have no connection to the family in this movie, by faith, geography, class, ethnicity, history, etc.  But I am Jack.  His parents are my parents.  His siblings are my siblings.  Because they embody the challenges of life, not because of who they are on paper.

Even the spirituality of the film, which could be argued to be anti-organized religion, if you wanted to, speaks to the universal.  You can’t get much more universal than the origins of the planet (and species).

I look forward to seeing this film again… like sitting in Malick’s church… silent and solemn and challenging and reflective. 

15 Comments »

Weekend Estimates by Cap’n Klady

20110522-091840.jpg



The deconstruction of where Pirates went wrong will now begin.

Not here. But all over town, no doubt.

There will be all kinds of questions and no doubt, someone will claim it’s Dick Cook’s fault for “allowing” Bruckheimer to go down the Rob Marshall road. My take is that the movie has nothing new to sell. By downgrading the effects angle and not taking strong angles on the old characters changing or the romance angle in the film, what told audiences that this was a Must Go?

On the other hand, it is still one of only 22 films to open to $90m or more… and the lowest gross on one of those was $234m (X3). International likely keeps this at least a $700m picture. So let’s not weep too hard or slice too deep considering this disappointing film.

(Add, 10:30a – Interesting reporting from Klady: “The big surprise was that only 46% of its opening box office derived from 3D and large format engagements that comprised 66% of Pirates initial foray. Had tickets matched the percentage of 3D playdates, the film would have grossed more than $100 million this weekend. A studio spokesman said that he didn’t have an explanation for this but it was something that was definitely being investigated.”)

Nice hold for Bridesmaids, which will face off with an actual Hangover next weekend. And a decent hold on Thor, though the real story remains international there.

And a positive launch for Woody Allen movie. It’s a hard movie to sell, even with great reviews from many critics. This ain’t VCB, when it comes to being “an entertainment.” But Sony Classics will carefully roll it out and try to get anyone who has ever read The New Yorker to buy a ticket.

59 Comments »

Friday Estimates by Yo Ho Yo Ho Klady

20110521-101723.jpg

Pirates 4 could be the first $100m spun as a disaster. It looks like it will open down from the last one by about 15%… or about what 3 lost from 2. And the drop of domestic gross of about 25% from 2 to 3 is unlikely here (it would be down to about $230m). Disney can’t be jumping up and down over this launch – still Top 20 all-time amongst Friday openings – but it’s not a disaster.

I do think this will be the poster child for the next era of 3D, which is to say, it’s now just another price point and combined with studio efforts to disincentivize the theatrical window, one has to conclude that 3D pricing is now pushing away ticket buyers in some cases. Roughly 8 million people will go see Pirates 4 in theaters this weekend for an average of about $12 a pop. Would 10 million have gone to see it at $8.50 a pop? Is there anything that sticks with an audience after seeing this film – or most films – in 3D instead of 2D? Only the empty space in the wallet.

3D is a good tool for some things and a great marketing tool for a few. Smart people have known for years that the price point on movies was an important component in keeping things movie forward. When Average Joe and Joanne figured out that 3D was just a way to bump up the ticket price by 25% and not giving them 25% more pleasure… when it occurred to them that there was a new 3D “event” every other week (or more often), the bloom fell off the rose.

The international market is usually 6 months – a year behind us in smelling a rat. But they will figure it out too.

21 Comments »

Review: 4 3D P No

Rob Marshall has a big fan club amongst actors.  I know that Penelope Cruz and Geoffrey Rush, in particular, gush about the man.  And Johnny Depp has signaled that he wants to work with Marshall again soon.

Why? 

It seems to me that Marshall thrills actors by asking them to push themselves into fresh water.  The perfect example of this – and Marshall’s directorial level – is Rush’s Barbosa in Pirates 4.  He starts the film as a fop and ends the film a hard core pirate.  (Is that a spoiler? Only if you haven’t sent he first three films.)

As a “B” story, this should have been comic gold throughout the film.  Every time we see him, the evolution should be one step clearer, so that the audience can anticipate and enjoy every entrance of that character. And most of all, the big ending, when we should be thrilled that our old evil pal, Barbosa, is back!

I saw the work Rush was doing.  But Marshall seemed to have no idea of how to sew this into the film.  Really, even in Rush’s first scene, the contrast of the blonde bearded privateer isn’t funny enough because we have already been soaking in Richard Griffiths’ fabulous foppery.  And these are the choices a director makes.  Griffiths kills. He is a theater hero.  So Marshall probably got excited and prioritized giving him more than a tiny cameo.  But he allows Griffiths to distract from Rush, who is a star of the film.

Typical Rob Marshall.

He has great taste and no story sense whatsoever.

I can’t say that I know how the screenwriters and Gore Verbinski and Jerry B worked together, but for me, it comes down to the director, who is also there in post.  You have to kill your darlings and make your movie, not your favorite moment that breaks the film’s rhythm.

It’s no surprise that Marshall can’t shoot action.  He shoots his best dance numbers like his actors are dancing is an 8’x8′ box.  Forget about Gore Verbinski’s giant visual imagination. Even intimate sword fights barely play here… which leaves nothing much to remember visually, aside from the form fitting mermaid tails and how they cover the models’ girl bits.  

Marshall isn’t the only problem here.  The usually reliable writing crew through out most of the repeating gags of the series and didn’t replace them with much.  

The most promising idea was that Sparrow deflowered Blackbeard’s daughter, played by P-Cruz.  The idea of real fatherly angst over his girl and “the wrong kind of pirate” seems like great fodder set at the middle of an action film.  But it doesn’t go there.  It doesn’t go to any real sexual chemistry between these two.  Couldn’t we even get the schtick of one of them still being in love and the other still being angry… Hepburn & Tracey/Grant/Bogart stuff… SOMETHING!!!  But it never seems to be confident about going hard in any direction.

Love Ian McShane, but he’s completely wasted here.  

There’s lots of green.  And the actors glow.  But the film sucks.  It just doesn’t have the magic of the first trio… not characters… not visuals… 

And the mermaids… have fangs.  Come On!!!  This is the cutting edge?  Hot chicks with fangs and tails?  And without any real story… they are there as a tool for the rest of the characters… how could they matter?

Of course, some critics have gone too far overboard and seem to be in the Nasty Critics Olympics.  Uncool.  

But this is junk that will only excite the least demanding audiences… and kids too young to follow storyline anyway.  Still, I expect that the marketing team at Disney will open the hell out of this thing.

Pirates 5, anyone?  Captain Jack gets married and has a kid HAS to be the next iteration. Pirates of the Crappy Diapers.  Give the character something to do aside from running to camera, widening his eyes, and turning right or left.  Give Jack something to lose (which he seemed to have in the previous films in Knightley’s character).  Give us something that allows us to love this franchise again.  Please.

15 Comments »

BYOB Arrrrrrrrrr

30 Comments »

DP/30: The Big Uneasy, director Harry Shearer

Cannes’nt Take The Heat? Get Out Of The Film Festival Business

I’m getting ready to get on a plane to go to a festival that has been more influential on French and other world cinema being distributed in the United States than Cannes (Seattle International Film Festival), so for now, this is a placeholder for a more considered piece, but…

I have to say, it makes me kind of sick to my stomach to think that Lars von Trier, stumbling over his own ideas about being Jewish and German, basically saying stuff that has been said by high school upperclassmen and college freshmen for decades, and having it all reduced down to “I Heart Hitler!,” leading to Cannes’ board meeting and saying that the filmmaker is now “persona non grata.”

Seriously?

As inarticulate as his comments and the tortured path they rambled down were, he never said anything more generous to Hilter than, “I think I understand the man.” And he “liked” Albert Speer, which American TV networks have done, via mini-series, in the past.

I have been known to say of my origins that I am a sand monkey… that all of us brown guys are… Arabs and Israelis and Persians, etc.. all from the same sand next to the same blue water… and perhaps it is that closeness that causes “us” to fight so fiercely, to the point of our own destruction. I am adopted. And I am told that I am 3/4 Jewish by way of my birth parents. But who knows what the details of the genetic history really is.

And the point? Who cares? How petty is it to hate based on GPS?

The word “Nazi” was used, in the context of the press conference segment I posted last night, by von Trier as a provocative shorthand about himself. And then it snowballed into snippets that could be taken out of context. But what i heard was that he was thinking about the German mindset and the Jewish mindset and how he is caught between the two, part of the two, and understands both… even Hitler.

We’re back to the sane idiotic PC fascism that took hold when Roger Ebert tweeted that he would “rather be called a nigger than a slave.” This is a sentiment you could disagree with. (I don’t.) But instead of having a conversation about a provocative and interesting idea, we had a discussion about whether American’s Film Critic was doing damage with a racial slur. (The only real damage done was to him, dragging him through the pristine mud of political correctness.)

Of course, von Trier was marginalized by much of the American critical community in years past as “anti-American,” making it hard for some of his work to get distribution here. And there was the stupid – really stupid – claim that Anti-Christ was torture porn of some kind. This was about as accurate as saying that paintings of Christ on the cross are torture porn.

What really disturbs me is that this is not Fox F-ing News, where anti-intellectual hysteria is a way of life (as they support everyone who would drain every last dollar out of the pockets of anyone earning less than $200k a year). This is a FILM FESTIVAL. We are film critics.

And what I get, for years now, is a Cannes that is, between the festival and many of the critics – there are notable exceptions – a place to kill the most ambitious movies, except for the one or two that somehow make it through the gauntlet and which are usually then overpraised. If Godard showed up today for the first time with modern work that evoked his earliest works, he would be played out of competition and barely written about. But hey… there was a panda and some pirates to drink with and a work that took years and years to make into a gentle wisp about how we live that needed to be judged into oblivion within seconds of the exit doors opening at the theater.

And now, as the French president of the IMF is up on rape charges and Newt Gingrich is being drummed out of the Republican presidential race for making a statement of moderation and 27 were killed at an Iraq police station… and a filmmaker is being kicked out of the Cannes party for words. Words. Not even his ideas. Words.

And the media is completely complicit as we incite the rage by making headlines referring to a “meltdown” or blasting “I am a Nazi” all over the place, when it could not be more clearer than von Trier was NOT endorsing the mass murder of Jews or any race. And if you were to kick every filmmaker at Cannes who thinks “Israel is a pain in the ass” out of the festival, it would be a quiet place indeed.

Is von Trier an ass at times? Absolutely. Aggressive provocateur? Absolutely.

But he is one of the few high profile filmmakers who pushes audiences to Think. You can hate what he makes, but you can’t deny that he is skilled and alive with ideas. Who will stand for this in a homogenized, instant-news-cycle culture if Film Critics and Festivals will not?

It’s a weird feature of The Blacklist that those who were put on it were not, it seems, targeted specifically for the ideas in their works. They could escape career destruction not by making more “patriotic” films, but by bowing their head to the power of a Senator to silence artists, using the cover of fear of communism.

What are they afraid of with von Trier? Is he being banned because of his ideas or because he made himself vulnerable to being taken out of context and not just being a good boy? Is he in trouble for showing up at the damned press conference? Can anyone seriously make the case that the man, the artist, is in need of being shunned based on anything in his work? If he had actually made the argument that he identified with Palestinian suicide bombers and truly believed they had good reason to kill in the name of their people, would he be banned? Or is that too real an idea for him to be run out of town?

Would I be defending von Trier if he made a film that made jokes about WWII’s concentration camps? Probably not. I still wouldn’t think he should be banned, but that is a more complex conversation. At least that would be a fight over his work… and not some half-assed overly-blithe use of “Nazi” at a press conference, where he did not even invoke the smart ass kid idea that “Hitler had to be admired for his efficiency” and clearly did not refer to himself as a Nazi by claiming to agree with the ideas of Nazism. He also did not use anti-Semitic slurs of any kind, as Galliano did at a restaurant… nor as Mel Gibson did on the PCH.

What does von Trier stand for that must be stomped out? If he bent over and showed the world his ass hole two blocks away on the beach, it would be a Borat stunt. He did it verbally a few feet from Henri Behar, so off with his head!!!

Weak.

98 Comments »

von Foot In von Mouth

11 Comments »

Bay. Cameron. 3D.

So Paramount had a theater full of people tonight to see the 3D trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon and a clip package.

Looked a lot like a trailer and a clip package. Feelings reserved.

The highlight of the event was a chat with Jim Cameron and Michael Bay, who was against doing this film in 3D and then ended up doing it anyway, with a hand from Cameron and his 3D crew that had worked on Avatar. So this was the coming out party… Bay is convinced…

Not so much.

There was a lot of jargon and some laughs, but what I kept hearing was Jim talking about how things are moving forward and Bay talking about how big a pain in the ass shooting in 3D was. Over and over again. At one point, Bay mocked a problem with a shutter and I think Jim actually said, “Don’t talk about that”… one step from “Shut up already, Mike!”

The most impressive 3D visual we saw was the least technical… base jumpers leaping off of buildings in Chicago. Depth and fear of death make a good combination.

But is Michael Bay a convert? Well, it sounds like as the next generation of cameras come together when he shoots another movie in a year or so, his needs will be met. Until then, didn’t seem that way.

Meanwhile, an e-mail from Paramount landed a little while ago with an embargo until 5am pst/8am est that turned out to be the only real news that should have come out of the event… along with some footage. Look for the embargo to be broken and called EXCLUSIVE by Nikki Finke any minute now. It’ll be on the front page of MCN at 5am.

16 Comments »

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

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