The Hot Blog Archive for August, 2012

DP/30: The Expendables 2, director Simon West

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DP/30: Lawless, director John Hillcoat

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BYOB: You’ll Neeee-verrrrr Blog Aaaaaa-LONE!

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39th Telluride Film Festival

It’s an interesting line-up… but I’ve seen 6 of the films (2 of them twice), will see 9 more (and shoot interviews will the directors) in the next 11 days, and really, have 4 films that will be added to my radar because of their placement at Telluride.

It’s still my favorite festival in the world and I would love to be there – family makes it complicated – but aside from the camaraderie, beautiful location, and the luxury of wandering from excellent film to excellent film without too much worry about getting in and knowing you’ll be seeing them with a passionate, intelligent audience… not sure it isn’t redundant for those of us also attending TIFF this year.

In a way, I am happy for the festival. The last few years became awards hype fodder – and look for some TBAs to be announced in the next 24 hours (Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina and Only God Forgives seem most likely) – and it bent the idea of Telluride. It was always a festival about perspective, down to its silent film roots, and not about launches.

Here’s the list of new films…

THE ACT OF KILLING (d. Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark, 2012)
AMOUR (d. Michael Haneke, Austria, 2012)
AT ANY PRICE (d. Ramin Bahrani, U.S., 2012)
THE ATTACK (d. Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon-France, 2012)
BARBARA (d. Christian Petzold, Germany, 2012)
THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (d. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon, U.S., 2012)
EVERYDAY (d. Michael Winterbottom, U.K., 2012)
FRANCES HA (d. Noah Baumbach, U.S., 2012)
THE GATEKEEPERS (d. Dror Moreh, Israel, 2012)
GINGER AND ROSA (d. Sally Potter, England, 2012)
THE HUNT (d. Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark, 2012)
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (d. Roger Michell, U.S., 2012)
THE ICEMAN (d. Ariel Vromen, U.S., 2012)
LOVE, MARILYN (d. Liz Garbus, U.S., 2012)
MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN (d. Deepa Mehta, Canada-Sri Lanka, 2012)
NO (Pablo Larraín, Chile, 2012)
PARADISE: LOVE (d. Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 2012)
PIAZZA FONTANA (d. Marco Tullio Giordana, Italy, 2012)
A ROYAL AFFAIR (d. Nikolaj Arcel, Denmark, 2012)
RUST & BONE (d. Jacques Audiard, France, 2012)
THE SAPPHIRES (d. Wayne Blair, Australia, 2012)
STORIES WE TELL (d. Sarah Polley, Canada, 2012)
SUPERSTAR (d. Xavier Giannoli, France, 2012)
WADJDA (d. Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia, 2012)
WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE? (d. Mark Cousins, Ireland-Mexico, 2012)

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“Final” Trailer – The Master

This “final” trailer explores the duality of the central character(s) that I have discussed here more clearly than before.

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DP/30 @ Cannes: Lawless, actor Guy Pearce

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DP/30: Lawless, producers Doug Wick & Lucy Fisher

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Weekend Estimates by Up-Weekend Klady

This is one of those weekends that reminds us how myopic box office coverage has become. Metrics like numerical placement (#1, #5, etc) are irrelevant, except for sheep to whom studios are marketing. And on a weekend like this, with three new titles, none of which were really expected to do better than they did, the significance for the industry is minimal, as the holdovers did better than, say, last year, while the newcomers do less. I’m not suggesting that close analysis of specific weekends year-by-year has great meaning. This is a business of individual efforts brought together by distributor or schedule or season. It is really easy and really wrong-headed to lose the trees for the forest.

The estimate on 2016: Obama’s America is not surprising after that Friday number, which was clearly front-loaded. It’s not 3x Friday, but still quite an impressive getting out of the choir. As I noted in a comment response yesterday, it still isn’t a million people who have seen this film, which with few exceptions means that the audience for this film went in decided to vote against Obama. The hope for the wing-nuts is that the film’s box office is covered in a way that entices non-tea partiers to see the film in the weeks to come. Good luck with that. The last “big hit” from this distributor, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, never dropped by less than 50% in its 7-week run in 2008. I would expect this propaganda film to do a little better than double Expelled… $16m – $19m.

The best per-screens in the indie world are, easily, Sleepwalk With Me, Mike Birbiglia & Ira Glass’ This American Life comes to life comedy and Samsara, the visual feast from the guys who made Baraka.

Moonrise Kingdom is chugging along, now $2.3m behind The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for status of top Dependent release of 2012 so far. (Searchlight would want you to know that Marigold has done, to date, more than 6x Moonrise internationally.)

Ted is coming up on $215m and Saving Private Ryan for #7 R-rated film of all time.

The domestic Top 10 for the summer is: Avengers, TDKR, Spidey, Brave, Ted, Madagascar, MiB3, Snow White, Ice Age 4, Prometheus.

Worldwide, it’s Avengers, TDKR, Ice 4, Spidey, MiB3, Madagascar, Brave, Snow White, Ted, Prometheus.

The bottom of The 10, in both cases Prometheus, is $126m domestic/$330m worldwide.

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Friday Estimates by Len of the Doldrums

Okay… so it looks like 500,000 to 750,000 extremists are going to see 2012: Obama’s America this weekend. It was advertised and promoted relentlessly—like every single commercial break—on rightie talk radio this last week and so they found people to come see the film. Why would anyone be shocked?

Only your basic “this is why I got it wrong… it wasn’t because I was using completely unreliable metric so I have to make excuses every Saturday morning” idiot is really surprised. This is the crowd that doesn’t tend to go to the movies a lot… the group that had The Passion of The Christ averaging about $25m a day for its first five days. It’s also the same kind of political hysteria that drove Fahrenheit 9/11—a movie I have always said was so extreme and unfair that it may have helped Bush win reelection—to a $24 million 3-day opening on 868 screens.

Fiscally, it’s an almost identical opening to Big Miracle, this year’s Free The Whales flick that was distributed by Universal and hailed as a forgettable flop commercially. But put those same numbers on an extremist right-wing rant and it’s NEWS! (Especially if you to give Matt Drudge a reacharound for driving 40% of the traffic your site gets to you.)

Personally, I wish more people—especially Independents—would see this film so they could more clearly understand the difference between the reality of Obama and the fantasy that the loudest right-sellers project upon him. Seriously, if they could tie him to Jews sucking the blood out of babies, they would… only that would interrupt the consistency of the lie that he hates Israel and is out to sell out the country to Iran.

I said in 2004 and I say today, if Michael Moore used that giant brain of his—and he is a brilliant guy, seriously —to seriously create change instead of mocking guys like Bush, he could change some things. But when the level of discourse is about raging at the guy for how he reacted while reading a book to kids at a school on 9/11, you are only preaching to the long-converted. Ha ha. Big laugh. But there were so many real things to be angry at Bush about and none were “My Pet Goat” or his family’s relationship with Saudi Arabia or how someone combs their hair with spit. We NEED Michael Moore out there… but we need a Michael Moore who hasn’t lost his shit.

And The Right could use some leadership that doesn’t want to sew women’s vaginas shut or to give corporations the rights of individual human citizens or who want to take The White House at any price just to service the richest 1% of the country until we become a revolutionary culture again.

But I digress from box office boredom…

No real surprises in the weak tea this weekend. Expendables 1 was off 63% on the second Friday. The rest are about average, though it’s clear that Bourne 4 isn’t getting very excited word of mouth. The new movies are all about where they should be. The two studio movies are dumps. It’s a bit shocking to see a Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie being thrown out like old meat, but Sony did just that. There were some TV ads, but they were confusing and hyperactive. And Open Road didn’t have much budget for their Dax Shepard comedy. Apparently, The Apparition isn’t a movie about a ghost who wants to finger Ashley Greene’s nose and feel up her breasts… but you wouldn’t know from the ad campaign. (Maybe there will be a surprise, but right now, it looks like a Summer 2013 Playboy spread followed by stints on Survivor and Go Daddy ads.)

The funny thing is that if you look at last August, you can hear the recording of the meetings where these release decisions were made. Premium Rush for the Colombiana slot ($10.8m opening) Open Road’s Hit & Run in for TWC’s Our Idiot Brother ($7m). And The Apparition in for FilmDistrict’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ($8.5m). Repeating mediocre is not a great business model.

And by the way… WB is dumping TWO movies this weekend. Very aggressive. Not only is Apparition disappearing, but Thunderstruck is getting the ‘ol 245-screen heave ho.

Not a lot of excitement on the indie side. Samsara opened to $12,300 per screen, easily the best of the day.

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BYOB For The Pre-Labor Day Weekend

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On Patrick Goldstein

So Patrick Goldstein is no longer a movie industry columnist.

Hmmmm…

I don’t know exactly how to feel. I think it is absurd to suggest that there will be a hole left in the coverage in the industry, as in the last few years, Patrick has become less of a reporter and more of a self-reflective stenographer.

I got along with Patrick early in my 15 years as a columnist-then-blogger. He was quite nice about my work and we had pleasant communications, even when I disagreed with him publicly. That changed with the birth of MCN, 10 years ago, and particularly our headlines, which I wrote almost exclusively for the first 5 years of the site’s existence. He did not like being smacked in headlines. And from then on, there has been a nasty edge to the relationship, in real life and in print.

I give the man, Parrick, a lot of credit for reaching out (when we ran into each other at SBIFF) after the birth of my son. Very decent. But by then, there had been years of angry, arrogant “those fucking blogs” rhetoric from Patrick and his LAT sidekick, John Horn. There was wildly overstated mockery. There were, quite literally, lies about my business that were not researched (as in calling and asking about some very specific claims) and my response was buried on Christmas Day after the paper refused to retract the falsehoods that LAT printed. And there was blocking of potential business relationships with LAT that might have been mutually beneficial to this day.

That said, I believe that people are basically decent, that people get caught up in the moment, and that fear of losing one’s status drives people mad. That last one is, for me, one of the true dangers of journalism in this era. We are in the middle of a major transition and I don’t think we’re close to having the kind of media we will see stabilize in the years to come. One of the things slowing the process is Legacy Media holding on to every inch of turf it can, mo matter what the price.

You know, we can bullshit about it all we like, but the reason Patrick – he’s not alone – never really converted to the Internet is simple. He didn’t do the work. He can be doubtful about the value of the way much of what floats around the web is lazy or uninteresting. But if he wrote as few as three challenging, thoughtful, unemcumbered-by-his-lunch-schedule pieces a week, he could have been a big internet success and potentially, an important voice. He had all the built-in advantages of Legacy Media.

Instead, we got Avi Lerner’s film criticism, polls of his neighborhood kids, demands on Home Entertainment based on what he personally wanted, never seriously considering the price the industry would pay for so indulging him. We got the view from Table 6 at The Grill, whether he was towing the line for those who befriended hm in the name of using his column or when he was being a renegade and telling those same people why he thought they might be wrong. But instead of becoming another Carr, he became a bit of a cartoon.

Patrick and I come from, roughly, the same generation of movie industry journalists. Back 20 years ago, there was no internet to speak of, people were paid a lot more for doing a lot less, and the pool of potential employers was quite small, really. For film coverage, there were The Trades (two!), NY & LA Timeses, a bit of hands-on coverage in the Chicago Tribune and some of the other Top 15 markets, the general interest magazines – Time, Newsweek, New York, New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, the young EW – a handful of alt-weeklies, and the gossip rags.

Status was derived, back then, from where you worked and how you were valued by the outlet… freelance, contract, full-time, editor-in-title, actual editor. Columnists earned their way to those slots. The idea of a journalist offering their own voice and opinions out them right near the top of the food chain.

But being near the top of the food chain is a dangerous place for a journalist to live. That’s one of the reasons why most people who move up in that system get further behind the scenes (or used to). In politics, the danger is that you become an operative, even if unintended, of those with the political bent you favor. In sports, the danger is becoming too close to the teams you cover, either fighting for or against them while pretending to be objective.

In the entertainment media business, the seduction of being “part of the family” is very real. Unlike politics or sports, the public face of “playing” tends to be about short bursts – movies opening, promotion, awards – while the daily grind is kept behind the scenes. When journalists are not being awed by a big new gross or a shiny award or world media domination for a month, it is easy to feel like the talent you meet is just going to work with a lunch bucket, just like you. For the price of lunch at the Polo Lounge – which your paper used to cover without a blink – you can step into their world. You can put on the tuxedo or gown and say “hello” at fancy parties, just like you belong. When you work for what is deemed a Major Outlet, your calls get answered pretty quickly and you might just think that it’s because you have “a relationship.” And sometimes you do. But mostly, the speed of a return call is measured by the amount of concern the call-ee has with what you might print and how many people they know might end up reading it the next day/week/month.

I do, for the record, think people in this industry work very, very hard. But it’s not the same as the work of journalists (at least those earning under $1m a year). Whether they are earning 8-figure checks or just being handed 8 or 9 figures to make a movie with, it is a different level of responsibility and reward. You see, if Ryan Seacrest had a single journalistic bone in his body, he would never have become Ryan Seacrest. That’s not a criticism. That’s just reality. You can’t be a trained monkey one day and the organ grinder the next. Just doesn’t work that way.

Patrick, in the last decade, has lived as deep in the “part of things” hole as anyone. A weekly bully pulpit at the paper that has a Company Town section. Paid very well. Seemingly unfireable. Writing one 1000-word column a week. His subject was anything film related,so everything was research. High-level people wanted him to either do their bidding or to be in their pocket if something went wrong, so they wouldn’t be slaughtered.

But there is a problem when you start making a top-notch living for not working very hard and not having very much real accountability. You get lazy. You get complacent. You mistake your very real skills as a reporter for being personally insightful. And eventually, you become the bore that you always feared you would be.

Some of you might now be sharpening your “nice description of yourself, Poland,” comments as you read. Okay. But that is my accountability. I have, for 15 years now, understood that as the price of admission for my career of self-indulgence… a career I built without much more than said self-indugence and hard work, no cover of a major outlet or, when this journey started, even a major medium. And I think Patrick understood and appreciated that price early on… until he had so much working in his favor that there was something to lose. He had, as was said by Costner via Mamet, became what he beheld.

He’s not the first. He won’t be the last.

In the bigger picture, Patrick symbolizes the dying light of the last generation of Legacy Journalism. There is a mindset about a hierarchy that just won’t quit amongst those who lived it. They protect and defend their own. They tend to see themselves as a social class. As one old guy used to say, “It’s us versus them. We’re in the bunker together.”

Uh, no we’re not.

It has always been my position that so long as I feel comfortable enough in my arrogance to opine about the work of others – on camera, off camera, and behind the scenes – it would be endlessly hypocritical for me to not expect the same in return and with equal, if not greater force… since I, in actually, produce nothing except for my opinions and a gathering of the opinions and facts of others.

When I forget myself and what I am, I will, because I have earned a little status, be able to coast for a year or two… and then, I will be done.

And now, Patrick is done.

He will land somewhere, being paid half of what he was supposed to be worth a couple of years ago. But unless he regains the perspective he had before the internet ruined everything, he is all but retired now. Buy a pipe and write a book.

I would LOVE for Patrick to come back strong. (For that matter, I would love almost every journalist or institution I have ever criticized on this blog to come back strong, Even Nikki.) I think he is very smart and very capable. But he’s been on the dole for a lot of years. It’s hard to get over that and to not be bitter and to become the best you have ever been.

Roger Ebert, who always worked his ass off, but did become a guy with an awfully high perch, is doing the best work of his life. He almost died and is still handicapped by that illness. And he still works his ass off. So getting fired by the LA Times… not much of an excuse.

Hell, I’d be happy to house Patrick’s inevitable blog here at MCN. I’d be happy to generate an income for him here. I’d be happy to stay far, far out his way or to work very closely.

But I do know this.

He’d have to rebuild and earn an audience every day, every week, and every month. That’s the ethic of 2012 media with few cushy exceptions left. The internet has shrunk the media industry, but it has also torn it down to its roots. Writing news or about news is a lunch bucket profession once again, no matter how you dress it up. And it’s time to make the donuts. It’s ALWAYS time to make the donuts.

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The Hot Blog

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“Studios treat audiences like lemmings, like cattle in a stockyard. I don’t want to ask actors or anyone else on a movie to work so hard with me if the studios treat us as though we’re making Big Macs. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is not a Big Mac. Gone Girl is not a Big Mac.”
~ David Fincher In The October Playboy

 

“We’re on our way out. Anybody that doesn’t realize that is looking like it’s Christmas or something. We’re on our way out, as a culture. America doesn’t make anything anymore! The Chinese make it! Detroit’s a great example. All of those cities that used to be something. If you go to a truck stop in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, you’ll probably see the face of America. How desperate we are. Really desperate. Just raw.”
~ Sam Shepard Sings America