Monday, 21 July 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1162: Beggars-Choosers-Chose


Nikki Finke is reporting that Indian Paintbrush Films, the production company founded by billionaire Steve Rales, is rewriting their mission statement. 

When it was founded in 2006 the company's mission was to acquire and produce "filmmaker driven" independent projects. Well, they're still doing that, but according to Nikki, they're cutting down to only two filmmakers Wes Anderson and Jason Reitman.


The thing that struck me was that Indian Paintbrush wasn't making any official announcement about being solely in the Anderson/Reitman business, and there are reasons for that, but I sort of wished they would.



First let's look at the reason, not for the cutback, but why they wouldn't announce it, and will probably publicly deny it.

They won't announce it because if you're a producer who publicly admits that they're only going to work with 2 filmmakers, and only those 2 filmmakers, you're going to lose a lot in the ass kissing department.

Folks like to divide people in Hollywood to Beggars and Choosers. Filmmakers and writers are the Beggars, naturally, but there are two levels of Choosers.

Producers/financiers are the first tier of Choosers. Filmmakers have to kiss their ass, but in turn there is a higher level of Chooser, the people who run the studios and independent distributors.

Now imagine that you are a Chooser, of the lower tier, and you formally announce that you're no longer looking at anything or anyone outside of the two people you're already doing business with.

Suddenly you're no longer a Chooser, you Chose, and then why should any mere beggar waste their time dealing with you, or even bothering to be nice to you when there's literally nothing in it for them?

It's a great way to get dropped from a lot of guest lists.

Now I'm going to tell you why I would like them, if the report is true, to make a formal announcement:

I like honesty.

All companies form cliques, little groups of people who get special treatment because of their relationships with the people who run the company. This is especially true of independent companies, because they're much smaller, and interpersonal relationships between exec and filmmaker are so much closer.

I would just like to see someone admit it and make it official for once.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Thanks

Just a quick note of thanks to author and critic Lars Walker of Brandywine Books.Net who gave my first novel JOE AVERAGE a very good review.

Thanks Lars.

Tell all your friends, family, relatives, and even your enemies.

I need the sales. ;-)


The free e-book giveaway's done, but JOE AVERAGE is still available for $2.99 from Amazon and the trade paperback edition is 17% off too.

Help support the blog and get some entertainment out of it too.

Thanks.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1161: The Thor Thex Thange

Marvel has announced that big manly Thor, star of comics, movies, and animated TV shows is now out, and will be replaced by a female Thor, sparking some to ask if movie Thor Chris Hemsworth should fear for his job.

Marvel also announced that this is a permanent change driven by serious creative considerations.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

That's so full of grade A horse-shit I could fertilize an entire farm with it.

Let's look at the facts:

FACT #1: Chris Hemsworth doesn't have to fear for his job. 

The change is occurring in the comics.

What happens in the comics doesn't count anymore because kids don't read comics.

What matters happen in the movies and the TV shows, because that's what the kids are looking at and basing their merchandise purchasing decisions on. 

FACT #2: This will not be permanent.

Like the deaths of Superman, Wolverine, Bucky, and countless other character this will not last.

I'll bet dollars to donuts that old male Thor will be back in business in time for Age of Ultron's release because Marvel will not sacrifice those crossover marketing dollars so long after the hype over the switch dies down.

They will either kill off the female Thor, or give her another magic hammer, a new name, and pawn her off on some B-list team, or just let her fade away.

There will not be a female Thor movie with Katee Sackhoff.

Sorry, it'll never happen.

FACT #3: The foundations of this change is not based on serious creative considerations, but on a hunger for publicity, and a fundamental hypocrisy.

The comics industry knows that killing off a character or changing their gender is a great way to score free publicity from news outlets who normally don't give a Wolverine's whisker for comics and superheroes.

They also know that changing a male character to female is a good tactical move. Anyone who complains about it can be shouted down as "sexist" "misogynist" and otherwise horrible.

But who is really the sexist one in the conversation here?

Let's look at just a sampling of Marvel's past treatment of women:
This is the most modest outfit in the bunch.

What's the point of a space-suit that let's the astronaut's boobs hang out?

Is her superpower a super stretchy torso & light show?

It's CLEAVAGE, featuring superheroes.

And there's tons more. There are literally whole websites dedicated to the sexist hyper-sexualized  and physic/anatomy defying portrayals of women in comic books.

But, make Thor a woman for a little while, and all seems to be forgiven, and the folks who green lit those images are treated like they're the vanguard of the women's rights movement.

That's not insane, it inane, because it seems to fool people EVERY DAMN TIME.

If you honestly believe that Marvel's going to make the Thor change permanent, and that they're great feminists at heart, you shouldn't be allowed outside without wearing a helmet.

Please, if you don't stop falling for these stunts, they're going to keep doing them, to cover up the fact that the comics industry is hell-bent on burning itself into the ground.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1160: 2 TV Tidbits!

The Emmy Nominations are out, let's take a look:


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”
Woody Harrelson, “True Detective”
Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”

If McConaughey wins he will be halfway to getting the EGOT, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Which means that he is going to go through with his plan write, direct, produce and star in a Broadway musical called All Right All Right All Right!



Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex”
Kerry Washington, “Scandal”

For the second time in a row the Emmys have snubbed Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany, star of Orphan Black, who just about everyone agrees tops all the other nominees by not only giving one good lead performance per episode, but anywhere between three to a dozen distinctive performances per episode.



Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Dancing on the Edge”
Martin Freeman, “Fargo”
Billy Bob Thornton, “Fargo”
Idris Elba, “Luther”
Mark Ruffalo, “The Normal Heart”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: His Last Vow”

If nerd-girls voted for Emmys, it would be Cumberbatch's hands down. But since they don't, it's a toss up, at least to me.



Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Helena Bonham Carter, “Burton and Taylor”
Minnie Driver, “Return to Zero”
Kristen Wiig, “The Spoils of Babylon”
Cicely Tyson, “The Trip to Bountiful”



Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Ricky Gervais, “Derek”
Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Louis C.K., “Louie”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”



Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham, “Girls”
Melissa McCarthy, “Mike & Molly”
Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”
Taylor Schilling, “Orange Is the New Black”
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” 



Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
“The Amazing Race”
“Dancing With the Stars”
“Project Runway”
“So You Think You Can Dance”
“Top Chef”
“The Voice”



Outstanding Miniseries
“American Horror Story: Coven”
“Bonnie & Clyde”
“Fargo”
“Luther”
“Treme”
“The White Queen”



Outstanding Television Movie
“Killing Kennedy”
“Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight”
“The Normal Heart”
“Sherlock: His Last Vow”
“The Trip to Bountiful”




Outstanding Variety Series
“The Colbert Report”
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
“Real Time With Bill Maher”
“Saturday Night Live”
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”



Outstanding Comedy Series
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Louie”
“Modern Family”
“Orange Is the New Black”
“Silicon Valley”
“Veep”

HBO's Girls was snubbed this year due to a rumour that the rules had changed barring Emmy voters from nominating shows they only pretend to watch in order to seem cool to their colleagues, who also only pretend to watch.



Outstanding Drama Series
“Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“House Of Cards”
“Mad Men”
“True Detective”




Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”
Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey”
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
Josh Charles, “The Good Wife”
Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”
Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”



Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”
Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”
Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife”
Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”



Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Paul Giamatti, “Downton Abbey”
Dylan Baker, “The Good Wife”
Reg E. Cathey, “House of Cards”
Robert Morse, “Mad Men”
Beau Bridges, “Masters of Sex”
Joe Morton, “Scandal”




Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Margo Martindale, “The Americans”
Diana Rigg, “Game of Thrones”
Kate Mara, “House of Cards”
Allison Janney, “Masters of Sex”
Jane Fonda, “The Newsroom”
Kate Burton, “Scandal”



Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Adam Driver, “Girls”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Modern Family”
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
Fred Armisen, “Portlandia”
Tony Hale, “Veep”



Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”
Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Kate Mulgrew, “Orange Is the New Black”
Kate McKinnon, “SNL”
Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”




Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Bob Newhart, “The Big Bang Theory”
Nathan Lane, “Modern Family”
Steve Buscemi, “Portlandia”
Jimmy Fallon, “SNL”
Louis C.K., “SNL”
Gary Cole, “Veep”



Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Natasha Lyonne, “Orange Is the New Black”
Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is the New Black”
Laverne Cox, “Orange Is the New Black”
Tina Fey, “SNL”
Melissa McCarthy, “SNL”
Joan Cusack, “Shameless”



Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Colin Hanks, “Fargo”
Jim Parsons, “The Normal Heart”
Joe Mantello, “The Normal Heart”
Alfred Molina, “The Normal Heart”
Matt Bomer, “The Normal Heart”
Martin Freeman, “Sherlock: His Last Vow”




Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Frances Conroy, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Angela Bassett, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Allison Tolman, “Fargo”
Ellen Burstyn as Olivia, “Flowers in the Attic”
Julia Roberts, “The Normal Heart”



Outstanding Variety Special
“AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Mel Brooks”
“The Beatles: The Night That Changed America”
“Best of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Primetime Special”
“Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays”
“The Kennedy Center Honors”
“Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles”



Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program
Betty White, “Betty White‘s Off Their Rockers”
Tom Bergeron, “Dancing With the Stars”
Jane Lynch, “Hollywood Game Night”
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, “Project Runway”
Cat Deeley, “So You Think You Can Dance”
Anthony Bourdain, “The Taste”




Outstanding Structured Reality Program
“Antiques Roadshow”
“Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”
“MythBusters”
“Shark Tank”
“Undercover Boss”
“Who Do You Think You Are?”




Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program
“Alaska: The Last Frontier”
“Deadliest Catch”
“Flipping Out”
“Million Dollar Listing New York”
“Wahlburgers”
“Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan”

IN OTHER TV NEWS:

Rosie O'Donnell is returning to The View for its 18th season after they consciously uncoupled from Sherrie Shepherd and medical scientist Jenny McCarthy.

I've seen shows jump the shark, I've seen shows crash and burn, but this marks the first time in my living memory that a show has publicly posted a suicide note.

You may recall that Rosie joined the show for 1 year that was, for all intents and purposes a total car wreck. Rosie repeatedly declared her hatred for large swathes of the population of the USA, and declared that the US government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks because her deep understanding of metallurgy taught her that "Fire doesn't melt steel."

She then followed it up with a variety show that was cancelled halfway through the pilot episode out of sheer embarrassment. 

Then she had a talk show on the basic cable Oprah Winfrey Network, that also tanked costing them millions.

Now The View has never been seen as a particularly intellectual program, in fact, if you want your opinion of women completely destroyed, watch The View for about a week. However, I never thought the management would make a decision that makes as much sense as this picture:
So why are they doing it?

Either they're doing some elaborate scam to get the show cancelled and themselves out of their contracts, or it's a case of isolation.

I fear that the brain trust behind the show think that she is some sort of ratings gold and had a conversation like this:
NETWORK PRES: We need a new co-host for the view! 
NETWORK VEEP: We could rehire Rosie O'Donnell.
NETWORK PRES: Do you think viewers will like her?
NETWORK VEEP: I was at a party at Susan Sarandon's place last week and she had everyone hanging on her every word. That included other actors, like Ricky Gervais, Lena Dunham, and Russell Brand, the publisher for the New York Times, and a professor of gender studies in activist journalism from Columbia University. 
NETWORK PRES: Well if that doesn't represent all of America I don't know who does. Spare no expense!
Either way, I think it's going to have the same effect.

At least whatever replaces The View can't possibly be worse.

Can it?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Book Report: Nationalize It?

The Amazon/Hachette feud is getting dirtier.

Amazon, as you may recall, has been playing silly games with books by mega-publisher Hachette, and I also wrote about how it's just one of the troubles affecting the book business in general. Amazon's shot across the bow is a trial balloon letter where Amazon offers Hachette authors 100% of all their e-book royalties. 

Now while it may sound like Amazon is being all generous with the poor downtrodden authors, folks should beware of internet geeks bearing gifts. The big thing is that accepting that deal would no doubt violate the authors' contracts with Hachette, trapping all sides in an expensive legal quagmire that only Amazon and Hachette could possibly emerge from sans bankruptcy.

Now the brain-trust at Salon.com have offered a suggestion: Nationalize Amazon, Google, and any other internet company that displeases the author of this "think piece."

First thing I have to say is:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Okay.

Back to the topic.

Yes, the internet was invented by departments of the US government. Specifically it was created by the dreaded US Military/Industrial Complex. It's original intent was for military and government facilities to exchange information even during a nuclear attack.

A form of the internet as we know it today was first envisioned by Richard Nixon in his little known "Wired Nation" plan.

Nixon's dream was to have a box attached to every television in the USA that allowed people to watch whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to,  to communicated to others via TV, and to be able shop from home and deal with any retailer they wanted.

It was immediately shot down as technologically impossible, condemned as potentially "fascistic" and "Orwellian," and pretty promptly forgotten.

Now while the internet was exclusively government property it could do simple text only e-mails, and that's about it. When it expanded to connect universities it developed some more capabilities, but otherwise remained a scintilla of a shadow of what it is today.

But the computer nerds at the universities saw potential, not only for sharing data, but for making profits.

It's thanks to the profit motive that the internet went from a handful of e-mail services and buggy bulletin boards to the fever swamp of porn, self-righteous outrage, and cat videos that we all know and love today.

So while the government started the ball rolling, Nixon's dream couldn't be realized until private businesses figured out how to make that rolling ball useful to anyone outside of military bases and universities.

Now let's look at the practical aspects of nationalizing businesses.

THEY MAKE THINGS WORSE.

Need more explanation?

All right.

I'm Canadian. I grew up and live in what has been classified as a "have-not" province since the 1930s. I've seen businesses get nationalized, and I have yet to see them work.

A good example was the Sydney Steel Corporation (SYSCO) in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. For decades, and under various names and owners, it mined local coal, processed it into coke, and then used that coke to smelt Newfie iron ore into steel, then forge that steel into rails for export.

By the mid-1960s the rail market was shrinking, the costs of mining coal was going up, and it just wasn't feasible to keep the plant going. 

But the plant was the centre of hundreds of jobs all over the region. Those people voted, and the ruling party wanted those voters voting for them, so they nationalized it. 

The steel plant and the mines stayed open. They pumped out rails they couldn't sell, and every year lost a fortune.

SYSCO then became a political football, draining millions every year from the province, and creating products they couldn't sell and lots of highly toxic pollution. 

Eventually the province ran out of other people's money and the mines and the plant closed, leaving behind the toxic Sydney Tar ponds that took over 20 years to clean up.

That's not an outlier or an anomaly in the annals of nationalization, it's pretty illustrative of the entire thing. Similar stories can be found from the USSR, to the UK, to the USA and all points in between.

Now let's look at the political aspect of nationalization. Does Salon.com really want that sort of precedent in place with the possibility of a Republican presidency coupled with a Republican majority in both houses of congress in 2016?

Would they be so keen for nationalization of internet based businesses then?

Probably not.

Now this is the point where you say: "But D, the article wanted them to be heavily regulated like a public utility rather than be taken over and run completely by the government."

Then they shouldn't have used the word "Nationalize" so much when they claim to be advocating regulation.

Let's look at how the government can regulate Amazon and Google into becoming good corporate citizens.

They can't.

Guess who writes government regulations.

Congress?

The President?

Bureaucrats?

They all take credit for writing regulations, at least the ones that don't end up a public political embarrassment, but they don't really write them.

Who writes them, then?

Lobbyists.

Lobbyists for the people the government is trying to regulate to be specific.

That means that any attempt to regulate internet commerce will be written by people like Amazon and Google, and they will be structured to protect Amazon and Google while putting the screws to any and all potential competition.

Amazon and Google are not monopolies, yet, but they they very well could be in the near future. To become monopolies they need the backing of the government, because only the government has the ability to legally arrest, fine, or confiscate material.

So what's the best way to handle Amazon if the heavy hand of the state will inevitably be turned to the service of Amazon?

Amazon needs viable competition.

Amazon almost had competition in the form of Borders Books. Borders was an early pioneer of the "big box" style bookstore, and had the most efficient inventory system in the industry. They knew what was on each shelf in each store in the country, and could move merchandise to the best locations quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

So why did Borders go out of business?

It committed suicide.

When e-commerce of books was a new thing, Borders signed its death warrant by turning its online sales wing into basically a link to the Amazon web-site. They could have set up a system where orders could come in online, and the nearest store with the item in stock could ship it, cutting down on delivery time and costs.

But they didn't, they were short sighted, the rest of the book business didn't see it either, and now they're paying the price.

The big multi-billion dollar mega-publishers should band together with the independent presses, and figure out what systems can be set up to get books to people without Amazon.

I live in a small town, and we lost our independent bookstore to Amazon, and now we're stuck with the selection at Wal-Mart and the local grocery stores which consist mainly of books either written for teenage girls, or by James Patterson.

That's not good for anyone. Not for readers, not for publishers, and not even for retailers.

First, make deals and plans with Amazon rivals like Books-a-million, Barnes & Noble, and many other to make people think of their sites when they think of shopping online.

Then there's physical stores, which the business seems to forget is an old-fashioned but highly enjoyable way to shop for books.

Sure, online is convenient, especially when you already know what you want, but then you have to wait for delivery, and there isn't the joy of the magical accidental discovery you make while browsing the shelves of something you didn't know you wanted until after you've found it.

The technology exists so that no reader should have to go to Amazon to get a book. Publishers should make sure that the new book printing Espresso machines are in every possible location, especially the smaller bookstores. They should be under a big sign that says: "If it's not on our shelves, just ask at the counter, and you can have it in ten minutes."

Use high-speed on-demand on-site printing to lure the punters in, then let the browsing time to induce them to buy other stuff on top of that. I know book readers, I am one, and they will always buy more books when given an opportunity.

If my local store had one of those machines it probably would still be in business. Why wait a week to get what you ordered when you could walk down to the local shop, give your order to the clerk, or send it in online and have it all ready and waiting for you to pick up?

Then Amazon might be willing to act more like a business, and not like a power-drunk absolute monarch.

That's what I think, tell me what you think in the comments.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1159: Random Drippings From The Brain Pan

WEEKEND WEAKENED

Overall box-office for the 4th of July weekend is down.

Not just down, but really down.


Do you think the studios will pause and take a look at what they're doing to see how such a precipitous drop could happen?

Probably not.

TRIBE GETS A DISTRIBUTOR

Drafthouse Films has acquired The Tribe, a Ukrainian film set at a school for the deaf and with a cast of all deaf amateur actors. Sadly they turned down my suggestion to retitle it "Talk To The Hand."

*pelted by rotten tomatoes*

Fine, be that way.

WEINSTEIN CO. COLLECTS LAWSUITS LIKE TRADING CARDS


A man named Michael Trigg donated $100,000 via CharityBuzz to the La Jolla Playhouse with the understanding that it would result in him getting a small part in Scary Movie 5 with a few lines.

The suit alleges further costs because he had to change his flight and accommodation plans because of changes in the shooting schedule, the film's makers didn't know about the contest, or his role, and about a dozen different troubles and complications that left him bereft and feeling that he has to sue everyone involved for unspecified damages.

Which makes me wonder why the Weinstein Co. ever did the contest in the first place. Casting is tricky, even the small parts, and characters get edited out all the time, including major ones. If everyone involved in making the movie isn't fully in-on the thing, it's going to cause confusion, dissatisfaction, and probably lawsuits.

Maybe they should have just offered a trip to the set to meet the stars. It may not have raised as much money, but it would have saved money on lawyers.

HEIGL-ANIAN DIALECTIC


Now a look at Hollywood history would reveal many actresses who made many romantic comedies, some almost exclusively so, and had pretty long and healthy careers.

Heigl's problem comes from the simple fact that too many of her romantic comedies were shit, and for some reason very few people were willing to work with her more than once.

PINK FLOYD REDUX

Legendary British rock band Pink Floyd is going to release their first album in 20 years.

It's going to be called: PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN WILL YOU SHUT THE HELL UP I'M TRYING TO SLEEP.

First single will be called GET OFF MY LAWN YOU DIRTY HIPPIES.

GAME OF WINE


Here are some slogans for this new wine:

LANNISTER WINE*: "By the second glass even your sister will look good."
*Available in a Tyrion size half-bottle

STARK WINE: "You'll lose your head over it."

TARGAERYAN WINE: "The Whitest of the White Wines."