Monday, 20 April 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1228: The Affleck Effect?

I've been trying to avoid talking about the leaked Sony e-mails, not wanting to feed upon that particularly stinky carcass, but this story I really couldn't ignore.

You see among the recent batch of leaked e-mails was talk between senior Hollywood folks that Ben Affleck the actor, director, and upcoming Batman, had turned an ancient sin of his ancestor into his own modern gaffe.

While participating in the PBS show Finding Your Roots With Dr. Henry Louis Gates Affleck was told he had an ancestor who owned slaves.

Affleck then pressured the show to edit out all references to this ancestor in order to preserve his image as the arch-liberal good guy.

Well, word got out, as it inevitably would, and now Ben Affleck has the image of an obnoxious hypocrite who has never heard of the "Streisand Effect."

"What's the Streisand Effect?" you ask, furrowing your brow in a feeble attempt to understand.

A few years ago a group wanted to promote awareness of coastal erosion in California. Their plan was to take pictures up and down the California shore, and use those pictures to illustrate their point. 

But there was a problem.
One of those pictures had Barbara Streisand's Malibu beach house in it. No one thought it was a problem, since it was just another mansion nestled among dozens of other similar mansions.

But that wasn't enough for Streisand.

Streisand promptly shit kittens and she did everything she could to get that picture pulled from the project.

This is where the Streisand Effect kicked in.

All of Streisand's attempts to censor the picture made that picture news. It went from a photo of coastal erosion seen only by a handful of environmentalists and legislators to a big news story about Streisand's house that was seen by EVERYONE.

Over the run of Finding Your Roots the show has had several celebrities who turned out to have slave-owning ancestors. They were discussed on the show, mentioned the next day on some websites, and then promptly forgotten. It's not like the show revealed that the celebrities themselves currently kept a slave wrapped in a latex gimp-suit in their basement, it merely mentioned something done by someone who has been dead for over a century.

With Affleck, since he is such a big activist for the Democratic Party, he probably would have been the punchline on conservative websites for a day, and then quickly forgotten.

However, that would have only happened if he just let his family tree go out unexpurgated.

He didn't do that.

He tried to cover it up, and the cover up always amplifies the original crime right out of proportion. Now Affleck has "slave-owning hypocrite" branded onto his forehead for at least the foreseeable future.

What Affleck did was just plain dumb.


Wanna support this blog?

Then get yourself some of my short stories on your Kindle for 99¢ USD.

During WW2 a fighter pilot must battle a mythical beast with the fate of the Allies in the balance.

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My short story A CHOICE OF MONSTERS is now available for Kindle users for 99¢ US.

It's a blend of actual movie history, adventure, and fantastical horror for any fans of monsters, movies, and monster movies.

Also available around the world, including:

Not into monsters?

Maybe a crime story is more your thing.

Hollywood player Carter Bennett is losing friends fast. They're dying young, in the weirdest ways, and there's a strange old man showing up at their funerals and leaving the same cryptic message.

Bennett's investigation uncovers a brutal revenge from the darkest corner of the Cold War.

Also available in the 

Buy them, read them, leave reviews, and tell all your friends and family to do the same.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1227: Casting The Rumours

You can't spend 5 minutes on the internet without seeing some entertainment site breathlessly pitching that an actor was "circling," "being considered," "in talks," or "the front runner" for a movie role.

I understand why the entertainment media reports on them, they are expected to delivers so-called "exclusives" and "scoops" 24/7/365 and there no better click-bait than claiming some actor is up for a big part.

The problem is that 99% of these reports are total bullshit.

When a major Hollywood studio film is being cast there are literally dozens of actors being considered for every role. Big names, middle names, and total unknowns are all looked at and judged on how right they are for the part and how well they can sell to the audience.

So reporting that an actor is somehow being looked at for a part is basically the Hollywood equivalent of reporting that the sun has risen as if it's an exclusive scoop that should win the Pulitzer Prize.

Which is why, when I seize power and impose my brutal dictatorship upon the world, I will declare a law that casting rumours should only be reported if they involve these three actors:



Now if they are "circling" or "being considered for" a role, that's actually news.

Then you will be allowed to report it.

All other pointless rumours will be punished by CATAPULT!!

Which is why you should all vote for me as your despot of choice.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1226: In Cold Blood…Again?

This news has inspired one question:


In case you spent the last 60 years in a cave I'll do some explaining.

In 1959 two recent parolees Dick Hickock and Perry Smith slaughtered four members of the Clutter family in rural Kansas because they heard a nonsensical rumour that the family had a mythical stash of money in their house.

Truman Capote, already a successful author, and his childhood friend turned personal secretary Harper Lee, travelled to Kansas to write about the case, and Capote got to know the killers very well as they waited for their execution in 1966.

The book was a monster best-seller and opened the door to a flood of "True Crime" books that sell well even to this day. Ironically it was the last substantial work Capote ever wrote, producing only short pieces, one unfinished novel, while transforming himself from an author who became a celebrity into a celebrity who was once an author.

Despite some disputes over its accuracy In Cold Blood became his most famous and enduring work.

Which brings us back to the question: Why do it again?

The first adaptation was in 1967 and is considered a classic due to the powerful performances and Conrad Hall's vivid black and white cinematography.

Then it was done again in 1996 as a TV miniseries.

Then two other movies, Capote and Infamous, were made and released almost on top of each other and they were about Truman Capote's writing of the book.

So, it's not exactly as if the story's never been told on screen.

In fact, it's been told FOUR TIMES.

Even by remake-crazy Hollywood standards that's a little extreme. Even reboot nutty superhero movies they at least try to change things up with different villains and situations.

This is not that kind of story.

It's a story that's been told, repeatedly, and often pretty well, so why try again?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1225: Farewell To Nova Scotia?

The Finance Minister of Nova Scotia is planning to slash the payroll tax credit for film and television jobs by about 75%. Local producers naturally object to this, because it burdens them with extra costs, and even American rapper Snoop Dogg declared his support for the tax credit because it makes his favourite show, Netflix's The Trailer Park Boys, possible.

Now you're probably wondering what all the fooferall is about, so I'll do a little explaining.

A little over 20 years ago the Nova Scotia government instituted what's called a payroll tax credit program for film and television productions that shoot in Nova Scotia and employ Nova Scotians. At the time, there was about $6 million a year spent in film/TV production in Nova Scotia, but it has grown to about $130-$140 million a year.

That's a lot of jobs created by taxpaying companies, and held by taxpaying citizens.

That's not counting the secondary and tertiary jobs created by the spending of those same taxpaying citizens. Usually an industry creates between 2-3 secondary and tertiary jobs for for every one of their jobs.

That's a lot of jobs that otherwise wouldn't exist.

I'm betting that the Nova Scotia government breaks even on the income taxes at the very least, but more likely turns a profit when all the numbers are crunched.

And dropping the tax credit would be really stupid since without it the province would probably lose Tom Selleck's freshly revived Jesse Stone TV movie franchise, The Trailer Park Boys, and CBC's flagship political satire series This Hour Has 22 Minutes. For many productions the credit makes Nova Scotia affordable, and in many cases possible. 

Now you're probably wondering why I'm defending what many see as a government subsidy, since I regularly state my opposition to government subsidies in the film business.

Well, it's not a subsidy when you look at the facts, and it's not run like a subsidy.

You see, the tax credit is basically a refund of all or some of the payroll taxes employers in film and TV would normally have to pay the government for the privilege of employing Nova Scotians.

That's right, the payroll tax is a tax on anyone who is creating taxpaying jobs.

That's a stupid tax.

It's also not handled like a normal film subsidy. You don't have to go to a funding agency and kiss the ass of bureaucrats in Toronto to prove your worthiness of taxpayer's money by employing the same-old same-old pack of cronies you see in 90% of Canadian productions. All you had to do for the tax credit was prove that you were making film and television programming that was shooting in Nova Scotia, and that you were employing Nova Scotian taxpayers.

Then you didn't get a subsidy, you got relief from a stupid and counterproductive tax regime.

And let's not forget that it's not just foreign productions shooting on location getting these benefits, there's also a hell of a lot of 100% homegrown work that wouldn't otherwise exist without it.

So save the tax credit and save Nova Scotia's fledgeling industry. A quick way to make your voice heard is via social media, like Twitter, so let the Nova Scotia Finance Minister know what you think.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1224: It's Just A Joke.

First South African comedian Trevor Noah was tapped to be the replacement for Jon Stewart at Comedy Central's The Daily Show.

Second came increased interest in this guy who most Americans have never seen, since he had only three Daily Show appearances before being crowned heir apparent. More people were tweeting about Noah than actually watch The Daily Show.

Then came the inevitable event for any comedian, close scrutiny of Noah's Twitter feed uncovered jokes, but not just any jokes, jokes that offended some people, by going outside the list of pre-approved subjects and targets.

Naturally this led to outrageous outrage that a comedian would dare to joke about something that might hurt the feelings of someone somewhere. Then comedian Patton Oswalt stepped in with an epic Twitter rant mocking those outraged at mockery.

Leading to Oswalt to be declared "Problematic" yet again by the authors of many an online think-piece.

This controversy taught me three important things.

1. It explains why Jon Stewart avoided doing ANYTHING where every single word he said wasn't pre-written and pre-scrutinized by a staff of 20 professional writers, producers, and probably a few lawyers. He learned to avoid talking or joking off the cuff, because it was nothing but trouble. Better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak, and remove all doubt, even better to have professionals do all the heavy lifting for you.
2. The post of Daily Show anchor is extremely important to the people who staff the Twitter outrage machine. This is because whether they actually watch the show or not, they use the Daily Show, and the hundreds of almost daily on-line think-pieces it inspires, to determine who or what they're supposed to be outraged at while not feeling like a censorious prig because they're the right kind of hip for following The Daily Show. For a host-apparent to violate their shibboleths must feel like a horrible betrayal.

3. If Noah gets the same ratings as Jon Stewart, but doesn't get paid the exact same money that Jon Stewart got for the exact same job, then Comedy Central is irredeemably racist.


In other news...

My short story A CHOICE OF MONSTERS is now available for Kindle users for 99¢ US.

It's a blend of actual movie history, adventure, and fantastical horror for any fans of monsters, movies, and monster movies.

Also available around the world, including:

Not into monsters?

Maybe a crime story is more your thing.

Hollywood player Carter Bennett is losing friends fast. They're dying young, in the weirdest ways, and there's a strange old man showing up at their funerals and leaving the same cryptic message.

Bennett's investigation uncovers a brutal revenge from the darkest corner of the Cold War.

Also available in the 

Buy them, read them, leave reviews, and tell all your friends and family to do the same.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1223: Europe, Movies, & Money.

The folks running Europe are hoping to streamline the movie business by eliminating what's called "Territorial Exclusivity." You see if you want to distribute a movie in Europe now, and don't already own a European distributor, you have to make a deal with distributors in each country or territory. If this new legislation becomes law, filmmakers will only have to deal with one distributor for the whole of Europe.

Filmmakers, especially independent ones, are not happy with this because they're pretty sure it'll kill their business.


Allow me to explain.

You see independent filmmakers and smaller studios like Lionsgate rely on the fact that films are sold in Europe on a country by country basis. If you don't have a major studio backing your movie you're going to have to go to Europe before you film, attend an event like the market at Cannes where all the deals are made, and you "pre-sell" your movie to the local theatrical and home video distributors. 

That adds up to a lot of Euros that independent filmmakers need to get their movies made.

If Europe gets reduced to one market, I'll bet you Euros to croissants that all the small regional distributors will be run out of business or absorbed by two to three all-Euro-encompassing major players who then dictate the prices they will pay for all of Europe.

That means indie filmmakers who need a dozen small players each putting up a certain amount will be forced to take whatever the new mega-sized trans-Europe distributors offer, and it probably won't be anywhere near enough.

Now I'm usually all for free trade over borders, but this is a situation that could easily lead to something akin to a monopoly in everything but name.

Which is why I think it's a bad idea.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1222: Comebacks, Questions & Shameless Self Promotion

Network television is in a bit of a pickle.

Every day they lose viewers to their rivals be they cable channels, or streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.  The key to the success of these upstarts is that they produce bold original programming that the once mainstream networks don't deliver.

So what do the networks do?

They bring back shows from the dead.

Fox is bringing back The X Files, complete with original stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Now the reaction to the return of The X Files has mostly been a big collective "Hell yeah!" A lot of people loved that show but was terribly dissatisfied with the way it fizzled out. Dying of over-extension, creative burnout, and network meddling. 
X-Fans, and they are legion, wanted the show to have a proper ending, something they didn't get from the jumbled mess of the second X Files movie. So a return would mean a lot to them, because it gives the beloved show, and its complex mythology a second chance at a proper ending.

Which brings me to Coach, and the question why?

I never watched the show myself, but I knew that it was popular, but not exactly ground-breaking or revolutionary. When I heard it was coming back I looked it up and saw that when the show ended after a very long run, they gave the characters some happy endings and wrapped it all up nice and neat.

There was no clamour for the return of Coach, no one griping online about how unsatisfied they were by the ending. So why resurrect it like The X Files?

The only explanation I can think of is the Twenty-Eight Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, or by it's more familiar name The Nelson-Bakula Amendment which was passed in 1986.

That Amendment states that actors Craig T. Nelson and Scott Bakula cannot be off television for more than six months at any given time. They're not getting any younger, and need to bank lots of episodes to rerun into infinity, because if they ever run out, then the government must nuke every state capitol.

Not sure why they passed and ratified it, seems like a silly thing to put into the Constitution, but who am I to judge?

In other news...

My short story A CHOICE OF MONSTERS is now available for Kindle users for 99¢ US.

It's a blend of actual movie history, adventure, and fantastical horror for any fans of monsters, movies, and monster movies.

Also available around the world, including:

Not into monsters?

Maybe a crime story is more your thing.

Hollywood player Carter Bennett is losing friends fast. They're dying young, in the weirdest ways, and there's a strange old man showing up at their funerals and leaving the same cryptic message.

Bennett's investigation uncovers a brutal revenge from the darkest corner of the Cold War.

Also available in the 

Buy them, read them, leave reviews, and tell all your friends and family to do the same.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1221: Can-Con-Can-Can

The Canadian government has changed the rules regulating Canadian content on television, specifically, daytime television.

Now there were reasons for the creation of the law, and reasons for reforming it.

Back in the day if you were a Canadian looking to get on television or radio you had one option: The CBC. The privately owned TV network CTV, and private radio stations avoided Canadian material like the plague. The Guess Who had the number one song in the USA and the UK, but couldn't get played on radio, or get an appearance on television because they were from Winnipeg, and Canadian media executives believed that Canadians didn't want to see or hear other Canadians, no matter how successful they were everywhere else.

So the government put in rules that broadcasters had to play a certain amount of Canadian content, or CanCon every day.

At first, this meant that a lot of substandard material got on air solely to meet the CanCon quotas, but over time market forces started to take effect.

The quantity and quality of Canadian television began to improve. And with the growth of specialty channels it began to explode and Canada became a major exporter of content. 

The government now thinks that since many daytime shows are commercially viable on their own, they don't need any special protection, and they may be right.

They also may be very wrong.

Canadian media has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. As a business culture it can be excruciatingly stupid and self destructive for reasons that do not make sense on any level.

One of the first examples of Canadian media stupidity was Don Messer's Jubilee. It was a music program out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was corny, it was old fashioned, but it was a massive ratings winner for 12 years.

Then CBC cancelled it while it was still pulling in big numbers.

They cancelled it because it was old fashioned and corny, and the CBC wanted to be more hip. The show then went into syndication and ran right up until Messer's death in 1973.

Another example I mentioned before was Cinar. It dominated huge portions of the kids TV market with shows airing all over the world. They destroyed themselves by running a penny-ante scam where they were getting Canadian government grants to hire Canadian writers, and then spending the money on American writers. It was stupid, it was unnecessary, and it opened up a can of worms that destroyed the company.

Then there were some events I was personally involved in, in one case somewhat peripherally.

In 1999 I got a phone call from a very successful Canadian comedian. He had co-starred in a classic Canadian sketch show in the 1980s, and made out quite well in the 1990s as a producer, writer, and occasional performer on another comedian's show that they sold all over the world, and was putting together a starring vehicle for himself.

It was a sketch-show and he needed material, so he calls me up tells me he read my work and wanted to hire me to contribute material for his show. Having been a fan of his first show I said "Yes." He got my e-mail and said he'd send me the details as soon as he got back from his two week vacation.

He never did. Which struck me as extremely callous and unprofessional to offer someone a job, and then walk way without so much as a goodbye. However, such behaviour is pretty much standard operating procedure for people in Canadian media. Those who are in, are in, and are expected to treat those who are out with all the humanity they'd show something they found on the sole of their shoe.

Back in 2000, Salter Street Films won the licenses to set up several new specialty channels including a Canadian version of IFC.

Meanwhile, Alliance-Atlantis had grown from a tiny gaggle of producers & distributors into a massive media giant, that even owned the CSI franchise, the number one show in the world. They also got licenses for new specialty channels, but they wanted more.

Back in the Batcave I got a phone call from the newly minted boss at IFC Canada. He had read some articles I had written, saw that I lived nearby, and wanted me to make some short videos about the movie business to serve as filler between films.

I was game for a paying gig and said yes. The IFC Canada president then said he'd call me in a week to set everything up.

During that week Alliance bought Salter Street Films for some seriously big money.

The next day I got another call from the president of IFC Canada, or, to be more exact, the Ex-President of IFC Canada. The new owners immediately fired EVERYONE and cancelled or sold off EVERYTHING they were working on. This went from tiny projects in development like mine, to shows that were big worldwide hits, like CSI, which they sold to CBS.

Alliance then announced that since they now owned all these new channels, they were getting out of making television, and dedicate themselves 100% to broadcasting it.

Within about 6 years Alliance had collapsed, and the scraps were then picked apart by other companies.

So, as you can see, if there's an opportunity to be self-destructive, unprofessional, incompetent, or just plain idiotic, Canadian TV will go for it with both hands.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1220: Two Random Topics


Sony has gone from flogging the dead horse of the Ghostbusters franchise to downright beating it with hammers. We've got the all-women Ghostbusters coming out soon, and it will soon be followed by an all-guy Ghostbusters that will share a "cinematic universe" with the all-women reboot.

And to top it all off, Sony is forming Ghostcorps, a specialized company designed solely to grind out Ghostbusters crap at an almost constant pace.

Oy gevalt!

Remember this is a franchise that consists of 1 hit move that people remember fondly, and 1 terrible flop that most would rather forget.

It's not a comic book company like Marvel and DC who have dozens of characters and decades of stories to fall back on. It's 1 hit, 1 flop, and if you want to toss it in an animated show that some 80s kids remember.

Anyway, I've expressed myself about this topic repeatedly.

What does Walter Peck think about this?
I have to agree with him.


According to reports Jeremy Clarkson, host of the BBC show Top Gear has been suspended after a "fracas" with a BBC producer.

Some are howling for his return, but many in Britain's media elite are howling for his blood, one saying he should do the "decent thing" and resign to keep from "damaging the BBC."

So why all the vitriol?

Well, if you're not familiar with Clarkson and his show there's some explaining to be done. Top Gear is nominally a show about cars, but in reality it's about three middle aged men Clarkson, and cohorts Richard Hammond and James May, doing really stupid and crazy things usually involving cars.

Clarkson is also notorious for being deliberately offensive to many of the shibboleths of his media colleagues. He despises political correctness and enjoys nothing more than poking and provoking people, groups, and even entire countries.

His reputation for provocation is so strong that the Top Gear crew was chased out of Argentina by a stone throwing mob of Argentinian nationalists fired up by a rumour that his car's license plate was commemorating their defeat in the Falklands War.

Now many in the BBC's upper management and general media community would love to be rid of Clarkson. He's not one of their community, never will be, and actually has an active dislike for them and their attitudes.

But the BBC always hesitates from pulling the trigger and canning him.


Top Gear is syndicated in every country in the world except France and North Korea, and in every country those episodes are rerun until the tape wears out. Every year it pulls in millions upon millions of dollars, pounds, Euros, shekels, and Yen in profits that go straight in the BBC coffers.

Even a public broadcaster, supported by a mandatory tax on owning TVs and radios can't turn away lucre of that magnitude.

Top Gear without Clarkson would be like having a chocolate cupcake without chocolate icing. Albeit hairy, oversized, oafish icing, and that cash flow would probably dry up.

So unless they have video of Clarkson beating someone with a stick while yelling racial slurs and slandering the Queen, I don't see the BBC working up the guts to fire him.

He might quit though, because he's sick of the constant fighting, and he knows that they'll be a lot worse off without him than he is without them.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1219: Two Comic Related Thoughts...

I'll start with an update as to why my posting has been so erratic lately.

You know my mother had an accident, needed surgery, and she is still recovering, but her recovery's happening faster than anyone expected, and she's been moved to a hospital close to home.

The great irony is that while she's recovering, I caught a cold. Which was really inconvenient, but I'm recovering from that now, so hopefully everything is heading for sunshine and smiles.

So let's get to work with my usual snarking and griping…


DC/Warner Bros. has revealed the look they'll be using for Melissa Benoist's upcoming turn as Supergirl on CBS.
I have to say that I'm shocked an appalled by this costume.

Where is the gross, sleazy, hyper-sexualized costume we've come to expect from the last 20 years of comics costume design?

This outfit looks almost as practical as you can get when it comes to a super heroine's outfit.

We can't allow that, some chick might see it and develop enough self-esteem to see a future for herself as something other than a sex object. 

(That's what you call satire)


Valiant Entertainment was started by a group of comics creators and investors after their bid to take over Marvel was outbid. The company enjoyed some success during the boom times of the 1990s, and was bought out by video-game maker Acclaim. Acclaim went bankrupt and for a while everyone thought that was it for Valiant.

Not quite.

New owners came in and began rebuilding the company and its comics properties from the ground up. That work seems to be paying since Beijing based DMG Entertainment is ponying up a "nine figure" investment in the company to develop movie and TV franchises based on their characters.

Now some may poo-poo the idea since Valiant's roster doesn't have the same household-name status in the zeitgeist as Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man.

I say that's not as big a problem as you might think.

Iron Man was considered a "C-List" Marvel character and starred Robert Downey Jr., an actor that everyone considered washed up and quite possibly box office poison. No one thinks that anymore because Marvel's raked in BILLIONS thanks to the doors Iron Man opened for them.

Valiant seems to be watching and modelling themselves after Marvel. Which means that they'll be selling them not as familiar brands, but on the promise of delivering a quality entertaining story that's packed full of action and opens doors for even more quality entertaining stories.

It's a big promise, and Valiant is going to have to burn serious calories to deliver. However, if they do pull it off the rewards could be enormous, and could break the Marvel/DC duopoly that dominates big screen movies.

So I wish them good luck. The business needs competition to stay vibrant, so the more the merrier.