Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #238: Two Miscellaneous Morning Musings

1. Peter Chernin, the #2 honcho at the News Corp. empire (which includes 20th Century Fox, Fox Networks, & even MySpace) is stepping down from his position to go back to being a producer. Naturally he's a producer with one sweetheart of a deal with Fox that any Hollywoodite would gladly sell their first-born children for.

I think it shows a bit of wisdom on Chernin's part to step down when he did. Fox's desire to do everything in house hurt it at the box-office this past year, and alienated a lot of the independent talent and financing partnerships needed to make the sort of blockbusters big companies need. Chernin tried something, it didn't work as well as he hoped, so he stepped down to make way for hopefully fresh blood with fresh ideas instead of clinging to his position, trying to keep the ideas that didn't work alive until the entire company all but collapses. (Robert Shaye, I'm looking in your direction)

It also might be best thing for Chernin himself. I remember what happened to Canadian producer Robert Lantos. For years he was head of the ever-growing Alliance media empire, a film/tv company, cable broadcaster, and Canada's largest film distributor. Then he engineered a merger with rival tv producer Atlantis, and eventually went back to being an independent producer. I remember seeing photos taken a year pre-retirement and a year post-retirement, and he looked 15 years younger, and seemed positively giddy to be out of the corner office, and back in the trenches of street level deal making.

I hear that old Rupert Murdoch has the succession in place, though he's playing his cards close to his chest, as he does with everything. However, if anything should go wrong with replacing Chernin, I'd like to offer the advice to...
You can't blame me for trying when you see what Chernin had in his contract. I'd do it for half!

2. Well colour me corrected. It turned out the Oscars weren't the worst rated ever, only the 3rd worst rated ever. Well, good for them. Though I didn't watch the show, I did catch some clips on the internet, and although the musical numbers were a tad hokey, at least Hugh Jackman looked like he was having fun, and the only nominees that seemed happy to be there were the folks from
Slumdog Millionaire. Everyone else looked like they were just going through the motions.

Some folks aren't happy with
Slumdog's success at the Oscars, and its sleeper-hit status at the box-office. I saw one chap calling it poverty porn, saying that it perpetuates negative stereotypes of India, and that it only served to feed the prejudices of westerners. I don't get that. The film is about someone from a poor region of an otherwise booming economy, who becomes rich, and gets the girl through self-reliance, determination, and intelligence. It's a universal story, because while the average fat westerner may not have faced that sort of poverty in their lifetime, most westerners have ancestors, some of them very recent, who did. So there is an emotional connection they can make with the plucky hero, not out of a false sense of superiority, but from a rich vein of experience in the lore of their own families.

I have to admit, that there are worse stereotypes out there than being self-reliant, hard-working, intelligent, and prone to spontaneous musical numbers. I say take it and run with it. (or in the fashion of Bollywood, dance with it.)

And let's not forget just how hot India is right now. The economy is still strong despite recent upheavals, lifting 300 million people from the sort of slums in the movie and into the middle class in the past 15 years. That's about equal to the entire population of the United States of America, an unprecedented achievement that the entire nation should be proud of.

I think the growing interest and popularity in
Slumdog, and all things India, from it's rich history, to its current economic strength, and increasingly strong relations with other democracies aren't about pointing out what people see as different, but by realizing what they have in common.

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