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The Hot Blog Archive for February, 2013

DP/30: A Place At The Table

Documentarians Lori Silverbush, Kristi Jacobson, and subject/exec prod Tom Colicchio

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Trailer: Undeniablly Insane & Infectious New Gondry Film Trailer

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Michael Moore Is Not The Best Manager Of His Genius

Adding (7:30a, 2/27)

Michael Moore spoke to The Atlantic yesterday as his way of responding to the Buzzfeed stories. He also wrote his own “final word” on the issue.

Unfortunately, as much as Michael doth protest, even the friendly piece in The Atlantic cuts the entire timeline – from the minute Burnat & his family walked off the plane to the minute they were free to exit LAX however they so chose – to under an hour. And that hour included waiting in line at regular old customs, which rarely is less than a 20 minute wait. It seems that the “detention” was, indeed, just under a half-hour.

It also seems that the excitement over the whole thing was ratcheted up by a dinner party Burnat was expecting to attend as he got off the plane. He was running late for the party, texted Moore – who was at the party – and the inflammatory attitude and then rhetoric ensued.

Now… I am not saying that Buzzfeed didn’t have a limited perspective on the facts on some level. They committed a form of legitimacy suicide by having to correct the initial story from “sources” to “source.” However, the reporting – even though it came from a source at LAX who was clearly speaking to them anonymously in order to protect the reputation of LAX and the Customs/Homeland Security apparatus there – turns out to be pretty accurate. There are now multiple confirmations of the basic storyline generated by Michael Moore’s attempt to paint them or their anonymous sources as liars.

The biggest problem I have with the story from Moore’s side is that he and now others following his lead – like Glenn Greenwald – are doing to Buzzfeed exactly what they are attacking Buzzfeed for having done. There is one source for the story, Burnat. And they have done, at least as is indicated by the combined publishings on the subject, no independent investigation at all about what actually happened to Burnat & Family at LAX. Basically, everything that Buzzfeed or anyone at LAX is saying is considered to be a lie because of the anonymous sourcing.

So mostly, on the Moore side, there is an emotional plea, an initial story (as told by Moore) that is now pretty clearly inaccurate, and an attack on Buzzfeed that is so ferocious that I guess Buzzfeed is supposed to just go away.

On the Buzzfeed side, there is the fact (every indication now pointing in the same direction) that they uncovered significant hyperbole by Moore. But they then allowed it to be couched in a few personal presumptions of their source (claiming it was probably a publicity stunt) that have become convenient hooks by which to attack the publication on secondary issues while sidestepping the important ones. The “what terrible journalism” thing being thrown at Buzzfeed is really about editing choices. They seem to have gotten the story correct… but the tone – and is often the case at Buzzfeed – was as hyperbolic’s as Moore’s. They laid on the “publicity event” angle when the only news in the story was that the Moore tweets that started all this and the media blitz that followed was being exaggerated by at least a third… and as it turns out, probably two-thirds.

But that’s not how we do things in media these days.

And this is the power we give celebrities who can broadcast to the world on a Twitter feed instantaneously.

Now, both need to defend somewhat indefensible positions. Moore is spinning what actually appeared into Buzzfeed into some “willful ignorance of racial profiling” meme… which is like accusing your sibling of stealing gum when your mom catches you with your hand in the cookie jar. Moreover, there is now some mysterious set of extra rooms being brought up by Moore, which may exist, but only blur the point. Burnat and his family seem to have spent about an hour before exiting LAX, about half of which was spent being held as the authorities determined his status.

Honestly, would any of this gotten picked up by news wires as a story – much less TV – if the tweet was, “Authorities holding Emad Burnat at LAX being overly officious about his paperwork. Meanwhile, he’s missing a really cool doc party at Cipriani’s. Some Hollywood welcome!”?

As I have noted before, I kinda adore Michael, but I know what it’s like to be on the “wrong side” (read: not his side) of an argument with him. The more wrong he is, the more dramatic the explosions.

I am not a Buzzfeed fan. But they are getting unfairly abused here. Moore twisted the dagger fairly, citing the ridiculous sidebar of puppy stories and lists they run endlessly, more kitsch porn than anything resembling journalism. But they caught Moore is a somewhat extravagant exaggeration here… one, admittedly, that I felt I could smell the minute I read it. But it was always a gossip story, from Moore and from them. Emad Burnat suffered no tragedy or travesty at LAX. He suffered an inconvenience… one many of us have suffered in the US and elsewhere. (I was always very closely shaved when traveling the world right after 9/11… and was still searched multiple times in every country I went to or exited.)

Michael is right to have said his “last word,” because he has already said too much.

And Buzzfeed should be more careful about sticking to the facts. They got good facts this time… and their sloppy editing choices, in the name of hype, made them wide open for unfair attacks.

And so it goes…

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2/26-5:42p after the jump
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Anyone Want A Free Copy Of The Master in Blu?

Enter to win, here.

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“It Takes A Village To Make A Car Wreck” & Other Thoughts On The Oscar Show

Interesting conversation this morning… how much do you blame Seth McFarlane—who is a reasonably talented singer, dancer, and tooth whitener —and how much does last night’s debacle of lowered taste land on Meron & Zadan, producers of “Smash” and The 85th Annual Academy Awards?

For me, the line is at the jokes, more so than the production numbers. It’s really simple. If Seth McFarlane was hit by a bus a week ago and Billy Crystal stepped in… if Leno stepped in… if Letterman stepped in… if Steve Martin stepped in… very few of those jokes—in terms of tone, style, and content—would have been told. Period.

Whose stupid idea was it to do a 17-minute opening with old Captain Kirk commenting on the quality of the show? Who thought it would be okay to do “The Boob Song” so long as it was couched in meta spin? Who said, “Ready Seth Go,” without realizing that 3 of the movies referenced in the song only had nudity in rape scenes?

I can’t say. I wasn’t in the room. But I can’t imagine that Mr. McFarlane was not making some of the decisions.

I apologize for saying this aloud, but if there was a show designed to reenforce the stereotype that gay men hate women, this was it. So I can’t just assume that the jokes were not tacitly approved—and/or enjoyed—by the producers.

Moreover, the cutaways in the show (some of the few) to Academy boss Dawn Hudson laughing her ass off, reinforced my worst concerns about the current trajectory of this organization.

It takes a village to make a car wreck.

The biggest problem I have with those who are saying, “Hey… they were just jokes.. get over yourself” is that the deeper you dig into the show, the worse it gets. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about the rape thing. And if that were it, I could accept the notion that it was a one-off and should not be held over anyone’s head. But it was not a one-off.

To start with, it was part of “The Boob Song”… a song making fun of actresses showing their breasts in movies. And in the context of “Family Guy” or Ted or Mr. Skin, perfectly appropriate. In the context of the Academy Awards, one joke about, say, repeated topless scenes by Kate Winslet, is just about where the line is. Tastefully teased, you can get away with that. “The Boob Song”… no.

The Onion has been raked over the Twitter-coals for a joke that, in the context of The Onion, was right on the edge, but not really shocking. (The joke was in a tweet, saying in all the ennui-ish rage that you see so much on Twitter during the Oscars, that 9-year-old Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané  Wallis was being a c***.) I am sympathetic to those who are unhappy with that choice, but I am also conscious that sometimes a big shock joke in a situation where the same things are being repeated endlessly is what a writer feels the need to do. And I don’t think anyone really felt that the tweet was meant to be a truthful representation of the situation.

So where is the rage about—in the context of an event honoring people’s work —Ms. Wallis, in the room, still well underage, being part of the punchline about a joke about George Clooney’s sex life with younger—but not very young—women? Where is the rage about an off-handed joke about the big Hollywood orgy at Jack Nicholson’s house… where, btw, Roman Polanski gave drugs and alcohol to and then anally raped a 14-year-old?

Again… in the context of the one line, you can write it off to a stupid joke, the layers of which were not considered. But it just kept happening.

Three Latinos—Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Salma Hayek—all shoved together, marking the time one “comes on stage and we have no idea what they’re saying but don’t care because they’re so attractive.”

McFarlane said in one interview that he thought his job was, in part, to be roasting the talent. But the show is about honoring the work… even of people with accents unlike McFarlane’s.

There are more sexist comments being shoved around the internet today.

And then you get to the show… the show where someone thought it would be funny to play someone off with an increasingly loud Jaws theme as someone tried that speak after, likely, the greatest public honor they will ever receive. In the case of the first play-off, the winner was trying to mention the bankruptcy if Rhythm & Hues in the face of winning Oscars for Life of Pi.

There were not 1, but 2 tributes to Chicago… which coincidentally, the producers of The Oscars produced a decade ago.

There was, what seemed to many, a truncated In Memorium segment so we could get to Barbra Streisand singing.

There were live performances of 3 of the 5 nominated songs… including an attempt to stir Les Mis love with the five leads of Les Mis singing and then being sung over by the chorus… while the other 8 nominees were relegated to clip packages, bunched together in packs of 3 to save time for more musical numbers. Why was Ted sung live by someone who didn’t sing the song in the film and the other two films left to clips and segments of their nominated songs? I can only assume it was because they don’t matter as much.

The James Bond thing laid a big fat egg. People loved Shirley Bassey, but almost exclusively because she IS Shirley Bassey. And then, for an un-BP-nominated movie, we ended up with Adele being a second segment, completely removed from that presentation.

And once again… the 17-minute opening… which thank God was not a musical extravaganza. But what it also was not—and this is what matters… it was not about movies. It was self-reference (and multiple references to The Globes) that had nothing to do with the actual purpose of the show… honoring the best movies of the year.

McFarlane was okay. He is a good joke teller. He dances a little. And he looks good in a tux. But the material was in the toilet a large percentage of the time.

One win was the Sound of Music joke… which was imperfectly set up, but fitting. Jennifer Lawrence falling up the stairs and accepting had charm and surprise. And Daniel Day-Lewis won the night with his Meryl Streep joke, which worked on so many levels.

But the core of the show they put on last night is not the core of what Oscar is about. It’s about celebrating the best work of the year in movies. And it very rarely felt like that last night. More like they deigned to interrupt the mediocre but beautifully costumed and production designed show from the summer stock troupe now and again to give out an award.

Is this how The Academy wants to be represented?

I don’t think so.

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BYOB Oscar Night

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Evolution Of A Blog: The Next Step

Maybe I am not supposed to write this entry.

I have rewritten it twice as it sat on my desktop, day after day, only to have the last version disappear when I pushed “publish.”

Here’s the punchline… time for change.

I don’t know what the change will be. There are many things I love about the work I do. And I get reminded of this by people who I cherish… people who have been around long enough to have perspective. People who give a shit, in spite of all the ugliness into which we have seen the entertainment journalism business devolve.

I want to write more. I want to complain less. I love doing DP/30, but almost a thousand  interviews in, I want it to be better. I am not a shark, but if I don’t feel like I am moving forward, I feel like I might as well be dead (figuratively, for those prone to literalism). And right now, I must admit, I am not 100% sure where to go in The New Normal… which will be the New Normal for a while, whether it is great or shit.

It’s a new year tomorrow. Some room to breath. Some time to seriously consider what the boundaries of that New Normal are and what contribution I can make that would be worth making.

It’s that simple and that complex.

I will discuss, consider, and experiment in the months to come.

There is plenty I despise about what’s happened to journalism in recent years. But push comes to shove, there is still a lot that I absolutely adore… that I do not want to live without… that I want to see through rose-colored glasses again.

Wish me luck…

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DP/30s with Oscar Nominees

Someone requested a list today… so I figured some of you might like to have it as well. (after the jump)

Yes, watching all of these would take you at least 5x as long as watching the ™ show itself tonight.

Also, let’s see if anyone can find the DP/30 scheduled to be in the actual show tonight.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady

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Friday Estimates by Snitchy Klady

Identity Thief will likely win the weekend. Snitch will be a weak opening. Safe Haven… awwwww. Dark Skies isn’t very bright.

Off to the Indie Spirits now…

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BYOB: Oscar Weekend 2013

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SNL Passover Video: Elijah As Borscht Belt Comic

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Fun Video: Courtroom Movies: Hollywood’s Most Hackneyed Genre

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Favorite Footage Of The Week

Just like living in Los Angeles…

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Best SNL Sketch This Week

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The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

INTERVIEWER
Do you outline plays before you start to write them?

PINTER
Not at all. I don’t know what kind of characters my plays will have until they…well, until they are. Until they indicate to me what they are. I don’t conceptualize in any way. Once I’ve got the clues I follow them—that’s my job, really, to follow the clues.

INTERVIEWER
What do you mean by clues? Can you remember how one of your plays developed in your mind—or was it a line-by-line progression?

PINTER
Of course I can’t remember exactly how a given play developed in my mind. I think what happens is that I write in a very high state of excitement and frustration. I follow what I see on the paper in front of me—one sentence after another. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a dim, possible overall idea—the image that starts off doesn’t just engender what happens immediately, it engenders the possibility of an overall happening, which carries me through. I’ve got an idea of what might happen—sometimes I’m absolutely right, but on many occasions I’ve been proved wrong by what does actually happen. Sometimes I’m going along and I find myself writing “C. comes in” when I didn’t know that he was going to come in; he had to come in at that point, that’s all.
~ Harold Pinter

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