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

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

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

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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