Saturday, 31 January 2009
Thursday, 29 January 2009
Nor will I say that it marks the end of ideas in Hollywood. The reason why I won't say that is simple, because people have been saying that since the day after the invention of cinema when someone used the pie in the face gag in two films in a row The simple truth is that as long as there are humans living on this planet, people will be having ideas.
What it does mark is a symptom of the possible loss of any testicular fortitude in studio management.
I'll explain that in a second, but first a little history.
Remakes have been an integral part of Hollywood history pretty much since the beginning of the medium. And being a remake does not automatically disqualify any film from classic status. Just look at The Maltese Falcon, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart as private eye Sam Spade, it was the third movie version of Dashiell Hammett novel produced by Warner Bros. and has become the definitive version for generations of film fans. So I won't condemn all remakes as an infernal machination of Hell's Grim Tyrant, but what I will condemn the motives behind the remakes.
In the Golden Age of Hollywood remakes were usually done for, what seemed to the studio, a pretty good reason. These reasons could be remaking the movie in question with sound, or in Technicolor, or even as a musical, or just having a do-over with a film that had a good idea, but had what was seen as poor execution. The problem with remakes today is that many don't have a reason behind them other than fear, the fear of being fired.
You see most studio executives these days are not the entrepreneurs and impresarios of old. They are not risk takers looking to construct a legacy in both business and culture, they are just takers, interested solely in getting fat paychecks, bonuses, and perks, and keeping them coming as long as possible. The surest way to maintain their jobs are to take the fewest risks as possible. The problem is that purely original material is inherently risky, because no one truly knows how the audience will react to something that doesn't have that ring of familiarity.
Now it used to be that those who gave projects that precious green-light were willing to settle for things that, although original, could at least be pitched to have some sort of similarity to a hit from the past. "It's like Jaws, but in the desert," they'd say, or "It's like Star Wars meets Ghostbusters with a hint of My Dinner With Andre."
But things have changed. With costs skyrocketing because of the industry's shoddy business practices, the ratio of risk to reward began went into a very uncomfortable place, the sort of place that could ruin the career of an up and coming executive. So movies being merely familiar stopped being good enough, they literally had to come from something that was already well known. Which is why we get adaptations of best-selling novels, comic books, and especially remakes galore.
Remakes are especially popular with executives, not only because they're familiar to the audience, but because they can just remake properties they already own, meaning they don't have to pay as much as they would to adapt a novel or comic book. They no longer need reasons for remakes outside of redoing a movie for about 10X to 100X the cost and some slicker special effects.
To try to avoid being branded with the stigma of being a remake, they attempt to give them new names like "re-imagining," "re-booting," or "re-energizing." Such "re-brandings" almost never work, with many remakes fading fast not only at the box-office, but in the public memory, but that's not going to stop Hollywood from milking that money cow. Because while writers and filmmakers are not out of ideas, the Hollywood executives are. Ideas having been scared out of them sometime in the 1990s.
Not all remakes are bad, and some even do well, but the successful ones share three specific traits.
1. They were made by filmmakers who were passionate about the material.
2. They really offered a fresh and original take on the original story, not just slicker special effects.
3. They were made because of that fresh and original take, not just slapped together because of a familiar title.
Now Hollywood isn't going to stop doing remakes, that would take a miracle, so I propose a new policy when it comes to remakes. Movie history is loaded with movies that had good central ideas to them, but poor execution in the original film, how about giving them a try.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Come on Kate. You're a good actress and all that, but this is your third major award this year, which pretty much guarantees you a fourth. There's no shame in having a quick prepared statement for when you win, especially when it's as pre-ordained as this year's awards season seem to be. Of course if she had, then she'd be committing a cardinal sin in the Fame Game, which would be acknowledging the sheer pointlessness of modern award shows. (Which is the point of this post, and not a cheap excuse to post a picture of Kate Winslet.)
You see, the script that all must follow goes something like this: No matter how locked in you have the award, even if your competition was more or less disqualified by getting busted the day before the final ballots were filled in setting fire to a synagogue while singing the "Horst Wessel Waltz," you must still act as if you were not expecting it.
You must act like this is the greatest honour on the planet Earth and that you are not worthy of such a glorious honour.
To do anything else would be "disrespectful" of this great honour, even though it's definition of "the best" is often tainted by a certain level of snobbery. Snobbery that allows people to rather cynically make films for the sole purpose of winning awards for the people involved, regardless of their quality and/or cultural staying power.
It wasn't always like this, there was a time when any film could at least get nominated, regardless of genre, cast, or political leanings. Stars who won would go to the dais, thank the Academy, thank some friends and family, and then go back to their seats. And while not every best picture winner really won the sweepstakes to perennial classic status, I'll wager washboards to wigs that the ratio between classic/forgotten was still far better than recent years.
But what caused this change?
Two things: Method Actors, and Television.
Now I'm not knocking Method Actors, per se, but how people view method actors. You see when the first generation from the Actor's Studio arrived on screens in the late 1940s and early 1950s they were considered a revelation. They seemed so dramatic, yet so real, and suddenly acting went from a job that could make you famous, to a job that gave you some sort of special insight into the human condition. The ability to cry on cue by using the memory of the day their goldfish died turned actors from mere entertainers, to deep and profound artists.
With themselves being taken way too seriously, they started to take everything associated with them way too seriously. Awards ceremonies, which used to be partly social, partly promotional events, suddenly became hugely important events. And because these events were so important the words they said on that stage more powerful than the Gettysburg Address, and the Complete Orations of Cicero combined, and many of them much longer. They were compelled to thank all the little people that helped them become so wonderful, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Now some could make a statement by not showing up. The first person to boycott the Oscars was George C. Scott when he was nominated for Patton. Scott did it because he didn't like the idea of actors competing with each other, and even called it a "meat parade." However it was Brando who took it to the next level, sending actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place when he won for The Godfather to make a political speech on the behalf of the Native Americans involved in an armed standoff with the federal government at Wounded Knee.
Now the stunt really didn't do anything to end the troubles at Wounded Knee, or help anyone, or their cause. In fact it might have done more harm by making it, and its association with the notedly eccentric Brando, a punchline for comedians for years afterwards. But it did do something that has affected awards shows ever since, it made the Oscar dais a political platform.
You see when it comes to celebrities, it's monkey-see monkey-do, especially if the first monkey to do something holds a position of admiration, like being the first breakout method actor in Hollywood. Of course none since would allow anyone else to make the statement for them, that would take away from their precious spotlight time. Instead you have cleebrities declaring on everything from war (against), to universal health care (for), and wearing a variety of coloured ribbons denoting their support for everything from curing breast cancer (pink), to ending chain e-mails (brown).
Of course this attitude has made award shows range from unwatchable to comical as they make their broad declarations to the cheers of people who all think exactly like them for fear of never getting invited to another award show.
And its even affected the films. Changing it from any film having the possibility of a nomination, to only serious dramas, and broad epics making the cut, to films being made solely for awards and nothing else.
These films had to be worthy of such an honours, and to do that must belong to an ever narrowing range of genres from biopics, to tales of Suburban angst, to anything involving illicit sex and Nazis that doesn't have the words: Ilsa and She-Wolf in the title.
That brings us to television and awards shows. You the networks need awards shows for several reasons.
1. Award shows are a veritable factory of cheap content. Networks are all owned by big media companies, these media companies need content not only for their networks, but for all the entertainment related shows they have in syndication. Award shows provide content that goes far beyond their three hour plus run-time. Before the awards there are speculation about who will be nominated, who will be snubbed, and most importantly, what they will wear on the red carpet, then comes the post-show analysis of that clothing, who won, who lost, and their speeches. And this goes beyond television, to newspapers, magazines, and web-sites. That's why every award show where there's a chance someone famous might show up is now getting televised.
2. The big media companies need them to win investors. You see there's nothing that impresses a mutual fund manager from Dusseldorf and convince him to invest with your studio than an invite to either a nosebleed seat at an awards show, or to one of the lavish all-star after-parties. There they can have a few drinks, and get an even more intoxicating taste of being among the beautiful people for an evening. Xenu only knows the number of contracts signed because some money man got to shake hands with Angelina Jolie. So the companies promote these events, heavily, not just to win ratings, but to inflate their importance to the people they need to keep the ever precious money flowing.
All of this combines to create an attitude that puts awards show beyond their true status as a way those in a certain trade could honour their own, to the bloated, self-important, ego-fests blighting our airwaves from now til Oscar night.
Monday, 26 January 2009
What a radical idea, having the people who actually own the company have a say in how it's run.
You see, a lot of corporations these days are run by the CEOs, for the CEOs, and investors be damned. They get the companies incorporated in a state with fairly lax corporate laws, they then rewrite the corporation's bylaws and stack the Board of Directors with their cronies to make sure that those who are able to grab the top spot, can not only hold onto the power, but all the rewards as well.
Now I'm not against CEOs earning big money, but the key word is earning. How many times have we seen major corporations driven into near insolvency while the CEO not only bags a massive salary, but huge bonuses, and a golden parachute that could buy India if they actually do get fired, while the shareholders not only lose money on their investment, they can't do anything to change it. Those CEOs do not earn their rewards, they just take them. A CEO who earns all his boons and bonuses does so by making real profits, and creating real dividends for their shareholders.
The neo-feudalist "taker" CEOs are the kind of CEOs who buy $50 million corporate jets with the federal bailout money that was supposed to stave off bankruptcy. Can you name anyone who isn't the CEO or his crony that could possibly support that decision? Probably not.
It used to be said that all companies care about is the bottom line, if only that were true. You see the bottom line has the elements that would create real value for shareholders, and using that as a basis for decision making at least has some merits. The problem is that most companies are not thinking about the bottom line, instead they're basing their decisions on a few lines up from the bottom, the ones that delineate CEO salary, bonuses, and perks, and when that's all anyone thinks of, the bottom line suffers, shareholder suffers, and the whole economy suffers.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
Anyway, enough self congratulation, it's time to get down to the business of this blog, which probably involves a lot of griping.
In the past I've discussed how the world of the celebrity is divided between Media Appealers, and Audience Appealers, and the importance of audience goodwill in the strength and longevity of an actor's career, but I think it's time to reiterate some of those points through the are of comparing and contrasting. So I'm going to pick two famous people, and explain what's similar about them, and what's different about them, to hopefully teach people about fame, how to get it, and how to translate it into real success in show business.
1. Both come from wealthy families. The Hiltons have their chain of hotels. Dreyfus' father is a senior partner in the biggest commodities trading firm in Europe, and the Dreyfus family are worth billions of dollars.
2. Both are supposed to be actresses. Though it is in dispute with one of them.
1. Hilton uses her famous name to promote her career, and assumes the constant publicity will make her a "star." The majority of people who watch Dreyfus on TV probably don't even know that her family's wealthy, and eschewed the socialite celebutard lifestyle, spending years in the trenches as a working actress until she hit it big with Seinfeld.
2. Hilton craves the spotlight, becoming a regular in tabloids, entertainment "news" shows, and gossip sites treating bad publicity the same as good publicity. Dreyfus, avoids the spotlight for just about anything that doesn't involve her work.
HOW DOES IT WORK FOR THEM:
Paris Hilton is famous, but really can't carry a movie in a film festival swag bag, banishing them to DVD oblivion where the only people who see them are the judges of the Razzie Awards. Even the reality shows that made her now dwell, exiled, in the backwaters of cable television. The only reason she gets any work is because some dimwit investor gets hoodwinked into thinking that her fame somehow translates into stardom.
Dreyfus is on her second successful sitcom, and while it may be considered beneath an "A-list" movie career, it may be interpreted that she's found something she's good at, the sitcom, that she works hard at, and it appears that audience appreciates that. She made a niche for herself with a built in audience, and it seems to be working for her. She doesn't appear to be interested in the fame for the sake of fame ethos, that many of Paris' generation seem obsessed with, but with the old fashioned actor's ideal of putting the work first.
1. Both were actors who started their careers as kids, who then exploded into mainstream stardom in their late teens/early twenties, and both have histories of family dysfunction.
2. Both have a history of addiction, both have spent time in rehab, and both have been arrested with Downey jr. spending some fairly hard time in jail.
1. While Downey jr. has come clean about his past addiction issues, and has appeared to have reinvented himself as someone dedicated to his family and work. Lohan still acts like the Los Angeles club scene is her sandbox, and seems more interested in tabloid attention than actually buckling down and getting her crippled career back on track.
HOW DOES IT WORK FOR THEM
Lindsey Lohan couldn't get hired to make a sex tape with Screech from Saved By The Bell, and even if she did, all it would get is a Razzie nomination.
Meanwhile Robert Downey jr. just finished the best summer of his career, has rocketed to the big-money A-List, and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. And his reaction to that Oscar, the statement: "It's about time narcissistic, accolade-seeking idiotic actors were formally recognized," shows a very healthy attitude towards the whole fame game.
Lohan still seems to think that as long as she's in the tabloids, it's only a matter of time before she's a "star" again. She doesn't seem to realize that she's actually making it harder to be a star in anything but a gossip blog.
Let's look at it this way. When Downey was on his downward spiral, his behaviour was self-destructive, which meant that he appeared to be only hurting himself. Plus, I don't recall ever hearing any stories about Downey being a problem to work with, or doing his job poorly. He did his work as best he could, something that's very impressive, considering the problems he was going through.
Lohan on the other hand, is the subject of constant stories of bad on set behaviour. Late nights out, late appearances on set, dirsuptive behaviour, poor performances, annoyed and angry co-stars and crew, and making her herself otherwise not worth the trouble.
Both Hollywood and the audience can be very forgiving of addiction, but what neither can abide a poor work ethic.
Downey rejected trying to win his way back to stardom through the media by attracting petty scandals among the jet set, but worked, and worked, and worked. He worked like a mule at everything, from acting to staying sober. People saw this, appreciated it, and now are rewarding it.
So I guess the lesson to be derived from this is that being famous is easy in this tabloid sodden age, but turning that fame into an actual career in showbusiness still requires a hell of a lot of hard work.
Saturday, 24 January 2009
Next on the docket, is comedian and free speech legend Lenny Bruce, with his animated short, Thank You Masked Man....
Friday, 23 January 2009
I looked up and saw an old 70s Gran Torino halfway up the sidewalk.
"What the hell?" I asked.
"Sorry," said the car, "I'm not really that good at steering without a driver to operate me."
"Can you go in reverse?" I asked.
"Yes," answered the Torino.
"Then get the hell off my chest!" I said.
The car backed off my chest and I could breathe again. I tell you, the sensation of a heavy weight of artificial material on my chest gave me a sense of how Pamela Anderson must feel.
"At least I drive better than the Batmobile," said the Torino.
Suddenly there was a bigger crash than a Weinstein production as the heavily armoured Batmobile took out a wall, and a news kiosk.
"You see," said the car.
"Why are you two going around without drivers?" I asked, neglecting to ask why they also able to talk.
"We've been snubbed!" said the Torino, the Batmobile said something in agreement, but its voice was muffled by all the bricks.
"What are you talking about?"
"The Oscars," said Torino, "we didn't get the nominations we deserved!"
"What am I supposed to do about it?"
"We want you to find out why," said the Batmobile.
"Sorry," I said, "but I gotta hot date tonight."
"Yeah," said Torino, "we read that lie in the narration, will you take our case."
"I hate being in metafiction," I said. "Fine, but it'll cost you big time."
I got down to business, and started beating the bushes, but then cops chased me out of the park. So I decided to rattle a few cages, which got me tossed from the zoo. Apparently chimpanzees are very touchy creatures.
That wasn't getting me anywhere. So I had to go straight to the source.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
The Academy's headquarters in a little rented office above a diner called Bubba's Beanery in Hollywood.
"Hello Sweetcheeks," I said the Academy's receptionist, Sweetcheeks McGee.
"Oh," said Sweetcheeks, "it's you Furious D, what is it this time?"
"I need to see the head honcho," I said, "the big cheese, the big boss, the man in charge."
"He's in there," said Sweetcheeks pointing to a half open door.
"That's not the office of the President of the Academy," I said.
"No," said Sweetcheeks, "but he runs everything."
I went into the office. Sitting at his wide oak desk was a Mummy, not as in female parent, but as in long desicated ancient corpse.
"Hello," croaked the Mummy.
"I hear you run the Academy," I said.
"I make all the final decisions," said the Mummy.
"Then why did Gran Torino get shut out of the Best Picture Oscars," I asked, "why did Clint not get a best actor nom, and why did you snub The Dark Knight except for a couple of technical categories and Heath Ledger."
The mummy sighed, and some dust fell off his ancient wizened head.
"Here's a little fact about the Best Picture Oscars," said the Mummy. "It doesn't always go to the best picture."
"I know that," I said, "I've seen a lot of Best Picture Winners. But why not break that habit."
"But then we might be forced to agree with..." the Mummy stopped, his dehydrated face twisted into a disgusted grimace, "... the general public."
"And what's wrong with that?"
"We're the Academy," said the Mummy. "We are above all you peasants! We only nominate people and films that hold the same disdain for the people that we have. Unless there's some sort of public pressure, I mean we had to nominate Heath Ledger, or face being lynched. That's why we allowed Robert Downey jr. to be nominated for a..." then he grimaced again, "...a comedy. Because we're going to give it to Heath. He may have done a popular film, but since he died shortly afterward, so he's okay."
"I don't understand this at all," I said.
"It's the only reason why I nominated Benjamin Button," said the Mummy, "I mean it's not doing that well with audiences, or critics, and it is basically a cross between Forrest Gump and The Jerk with some fairly slick aging effects. But it does have a lot of pretension going for it."
"And The Reader?"
The Mummy shrugged. "Harvey Weinstein wants it so bad he actually started crying about it. I just can't say no to Harvey, his contempt for the audience is almost as strong as mine."
"Sean Penn playing a gay martyr," said the Mummy, "if we didn't at least nominate it, we might risk being called homophobic. Though Penn does do a good job, and the film does have a certain charm."
"So why didn't Clint get an acting nomination?"
"He's 78 years old," said the Mummy, "and he has the biggest wide release opening of his career with a low budget film. That sort of populism is not what the Academy wants to be associated with. Besides, he won for best director, he should settle for that."
"Wait a minute," I said, "if all you want is something that's pretentious enough, why didn't Revolutionary Road get a nomination?"
"Because the only reason that film was made was to get a nomination," said the Mummy, "we don't like it when they try to hard. Besides even I'm getting sick of that whole 'suburban angst' genre."
"At least that makes sense," I said.
Thursday, 22 January 2009
So if you would like to nominate up to five movies, actors, directors... etc... etc... then leave them here in the comments.
Then we'll work out a voting system.
Don't be shy, and feel free to unsnub the snubbed.
Nominees for the 81st Academy Awards
Best motion picture of the year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros)
A Kennedy/Marshall Production
Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production
Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
Milk (Focus Features)
A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production
Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production
Nominees to be determined
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight)
A Celador Films Production
Christian Colson, Producer
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon (Universal)
Sean Penn in Milk (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in Changeling (Universal)
Melissa Leo in Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in Doubt (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
Achievement in directing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) David Fincher
Frost/Nixon (Universal) Ron Howard
Milk (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
The Reader (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in Milk (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in Doubt (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in Doubt (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)
Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax) Written by Mike Leigh
In Bruges (Focus Features) Written by Martin McDonagh
Milk (Focus Features) Written by Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon
Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Screenplay by Eric Roth
Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
Doubt (Miramax) Written by John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Morgan
The Reader (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
Best animated feature film of the year
Bolt (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton
Best foreign language film of the year
The Baader Meinhof Complex, A Constantin Film Production, Germany
The Class (Sony Pictures Classics), A Haut et Court Production, France
Departures (Regent Releasing), A Departures Film Partners Production, Japan
Revanche (Janus Films), A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production, Austria
Waltz with Bashir (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel
Best documentary feature
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) (Cinema Guild), A Pandinlao Films Production, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
Encounters at the End of the World (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment), A Creative Differences Production, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
The Garden, A Black Valley Films Production, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Man on Wire (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
Trouble the Water (Zeitgeist Films), An Elsewhere Films Production, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal
Best documentary short subject
The Conscience of Nhem En, A Farallon Films Production, Steven Okazaki
The Final Inch, A Vermilion Films Production, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
Smile Pinki, A Principe Production, Megan Mylan
The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306, A Rock Paper Scissors Production, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Alexandre Desplat
Defiance (Paramount Vantage) James Newton Howard
Milk (Focus Features) Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) A.R. Rahman
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Down to Earth” from WALL-E (Walt Disney) Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam
Achievement in art direction
Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros)
Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films)
Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt
Achievement in cinematography
Changeling (Universal) Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) Wally Pfister
The Reader (The Weinstein Company) Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Anthony Dod Mantle
Achievement in costume design
Australia (20th Century Fox) Catherine Martin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Jacqueline West
The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor
Milk (Focus Features) Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) Albert Wolsky
Achievement in film editing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Lee Smith
Frost/Nixon (Universal) Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
Milk (Focus Features) Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Chris Dickens
Achievement in makeup
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros), Greg Cannom
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros), John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal), Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz
Best animated short film
La Maison en Petits Cubes, A Robot Communications Production, Kunio Kato
Lavatory - Lovestory, A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production, Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi (Talantis Films) A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
Presto (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland
This Way Up, A Nexus Production, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes
Best live action short film
Auf der Strecke (On the Line) (Hamburg Shortfilmagency), A Media Arts Cologne Production, Reto Caffi
Manon on the Asphalt (La Luna Productions), A La Luna Production, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
New Boy (Network Ireland Television), A Zanzibar Films Production, Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
The Pig, An M & M Production, Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
Spielzeugland (Toyland), A Mephisto Film Production, Jochen Alexander Freydank
Achievement in sound editing
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Richard King
Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Tom Sayers
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
Wanted (Universal) Wylie Stateman
Achievement in sound mixing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
Wanted (Universal) Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt
Achievement in visual effects
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros) Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan
I'll go over the list and post my analysis later, but to satiate your appetite for my special brand of cynical cranking, here's my last FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION AD.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
"A GROUNDBREAKING FILM THAT WILL OPEN YOUR HEART TO PEDERASTY AND NAZISM"-HELMUT VON YUNGCHASER, BUENOS AIRES WEEKLY EXPATRIOT
"IT'S GOT BAKING, UNDERAGE SEX, NAZIS, AND KATE WINSLET NAKED, IT'S PERFECT" -DAVID MANNING, RIDGEFIELD PRESS
"GIMME MY FUCKING OSCAR!" -HARVEY WEINSTEIN
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
And folks are wondering just how Sundance lost its cachet as the barometer of all things wonderful in independent film. Let us cast our eyes upon the guest list at this year's Sundance festival. Let's see, there's a guy who made billions exploiting drunk teenage girls, some sort of trashy reality TV "star," the daughter of a former studio boss famous for sleeping with women more famous than her and then acting crazy about it in public, and a sex-tape starring "socialite" who proceeds to clean out the festival's gift house with something like 30 bags of corporate swag. (I won't give their names because that's what they want.)
Now you might be wondering, why are these people at Sundance. None of them appear to be in or involved with any of the independent films being screened there.
Well the answer is simple.
It's because Sundance really isn't about independent films anymore. It's about being seen by Hollywood as one of the cool kids. One absolute truth about Hollywood is that everyone craves the kind of attention having the appearance of "integrity" can bring. And since Hollywood is populated with pampered poodles and those who coddle them before ultimately betraying them, there is no real integrity to be had. So they have make themselves look like they're "outsiders" and "rebels" and the best way to do that is to make it look like they give a rodent's rear end about independent film.
You know Robert, I think it's time to close up shop. 25 years was a good run, but you transformed Park City from an indie film hub, to a big fat fame-whore magnet where you can find your way to the latest documentary about preserving mother earth by following the trail of carelessly discarded non-biodegradable plastic water bottles.
I think you should let someone else set up an independent film festival, one so out of the way from mainstream Hollywood, that only those actually interested in independent film would make the effort to go there.
2. REBELS WITHOUT THE CASH
Workers and supporters of the endangered Motion Picture Home are organizing a rally to protest the closure of the Hollywood institution.
Now while having a protest is all well and good, I love me some free speech, I think a fundraiser would be more appropriate. The home is closing because the money that once supported it is not there anymore. If the money's not there, no amount of protesting will ever bring it back.
So I'm offering my advice to all the interested parties in a way to save this essential institution and the services it provides.
RAISE SOME FREAKING MONEY!
For the love of Xenu, the town is crawling with people who get paid two times the MPH's annual budget shortfall to do a movie and then complain that they had to take a pay cut. Maybe get some A-Listers to get off their duffs and do something for the greater good, perhaps reminding them that they're one or two bad movies, a terrible accident, or a Bernie Madoff away from needing the home themselves.
It wasn't always like this. Golden Age Hollywood used to follow a tradition from vaudeville and music hall of doing benefit shows to raise money for things like hospitals, orphans, or feeding the hungry. Sure, it didn't completely solve those problems, but remember, stars back then made a hell of a lot less money than their modern counterparts, and didn't have networks with the deep corporate pockets to buy such a star-spangled show.
Hell, NBC will probably buy it for more than $10 million, they're desperate and will buy anything these days. (Just tell them it's a reality show you ripped off from Europe.)
It sort of reminds of a lot of those celebrity "charitable" foundations they love to give each other prizes for. When you look at most of them though, a lot of them aren't about solving the problems they were founded over, but about promoting "awareness." Basically, setting up a web-site about the problem, while some poor bastard in the Third World wonders why he didn't get any food after having his picture taken with the white person in the Armani safari gear who was wearing make-up for the cameras. The foundation isn't going to feed that guy, but they're going to make sure anyone who stumbles on the website after Googling "[Celebrity-Name] Naked" will certainly be "aware" of his hunger.
The means of saving the home are out there, but you're not going to find them by just complaining about it. How about trying to shame some of the A-list into coughing up something for the less fortunate.
Of course, if the had any shame, the probably wouldn't be on the A-List, so I may have just suggested a pointless undertaking.
- Gin & Tonic Quarterly
"I used to consider him wooden, now I don't know what to think. Won't someone from the studios tell me what to think?"
- Sam Shill, Variety
"A film that looks at one of the universe's greatest mysteries:
What the hell was he drinking?"
- David Manning, Ridgefield Press
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Now the company cited the usual reasons for these layoffs, the weak economy, reducing expenses responsibly, etc., etc., yadda, yadda, yadda, the usual buzz-words and double speak.
Their critics think it's all just a ploy to plead poor during the SAG negotiations, and just to be evil, and while they may have a point, I think there's another reason for it all.
No, I'm not talking about psychoanalysts, I'm talking about stock analysts. In theory, these are guys on Wall Street who do nothing but look at companies and try to predict whether or not they're going to make money, and hopefully take the guesswork out of stock choices.
That is in theory.
In theory, communism works.
You see the problem with stock analysts, is that they've gone from trying to predict stock performance, to actually affecting stock performance.
If you pay any attention to the business media you've seen reports about how a company only made $999,999,999.99 in profits when the analysts predicted that they would make an even billion and suddenly the stock value crashes. It's as if the the $999+ million in profits didn't happen, they didn't please the analysts, so everyone acts as if the company's going under.
That's nuttier than a pound of squirrel turd.
And it's not as if stock analysis is an exact science. A scientist picked stocks by how a chimp through his feces at the business page, and he outperformed all the "expert" analysts.
Basically, stock analysis is glorified guesswork, at least it is in a perfect world where unicorns prance in green fields, and Alyson Hannigan does nude scenes. You see analysts are not hyper-rational Vulcans working only with accurate data, and with no interest in anything but the truth, they're human beings. And human beings make mistakes at best, and operate with hidden, and possibly malicious agendas at worst.
We see their predictions, but we're not really given either the data they use to make these predictions, or the motives that lay behind them.
Now how is it responsible for the layoffs at Warner Bros.?
Well, if the analysts aren't all hot for your stock, then your stock is not going to do well, and if you're a CEO, it's going to affect your bonus. If you want to buy your daughter a new yacht for her Sweet 16, you're going to have to get that stock to tick up, and they can only think of one way to get that tick.
Yep, mass firings are automatically chalked up as savings in the cold equations of the analysts. The analysts start singing your praises, your stock ticks up for about 5 minutes, and voila, your daughter gets her new boat.
And I think I'll give the last word to the inestimable Barry Diller and his opinion of profitable companies having layoffs...
“The idea of a company that’s earning money, not losing money, that’s not, let’s say ‘industrially endangered,’ to have just cutbacks so they can earn another $12 million or $20 million or $40 million in a year where no one’s counting is really a horrible act when you think about it on every level. First of all, it’s certainly not necessary. It’s doing it at the worst time. It’s throwing people out to a larger, what is inevitably a larger unemployment heap for frankly no good reason.”Amen Brother Barry. Amen.
“It’s not that you don’t want to earn as much money as you can — it is your obligation, of course — but companies have obligations beyond that and they certainly have obligations beyond that at certain times, in the times in which they operate. And they also certainly ought to know that meeting and beating expectations is probably yesterday’s game and it will be increasingly so, which would be by the way very healthy for companies. Running a company that meets and beats expectations, and that runs their company accordingly, are companies that I would question why anyone would invest in.”
Monday, 19 January 2009
Is Hollywood/the film industry dying? If it is, then how long (do you estimate) until it kicks the bucket and will it leave a vaccuum?
Hollywood is definitely not healthy, but I'm wary of going so far as to say that it's dying. Hollywood's been on the ropes before. In fact it's been on the ropes several times. First there was the Edison Trust that tried to monopolize the industry, then the coming of sound destroying careers and hiking up costs, the Great Depression, the Consent Decree of 1948, then came competition from TV, Pay TV, and now the Internet.
The key is that people love stories, especially told in movie form, so the art of cinema won't die, new businesses based on a new business model would arise after any potential collapse of the big media giant. And they'll probably be from Mumbai.
What events could kill the film industry/Hollywood?
Two words: Zombie plague.
But barring an uprising of the flesh eating undead, the film biz is not likely to "die" but be grievously, but not mortally, wounded. This could be brought about by two things happening:
1. A rebellion by shareholders, film financiers, and creative contributors. All contribute to the success of the studios, but almost none of them reap any real rewards. There's a feudalistic attitude in the head offices of the major media companies where who ever gets the job of CEO automatically assumes that they are the king and queen, and it's sweet-fuck-all for those who actually do most of the heavy lifting.
The money people used to let the studios get away with a lot because their questionable finances enabled them some shelter from taxes. However, with the economy the way it is, they can't stand to have millions being pumped into something that doesn't pay anything back. They're getting screwed just as badly as the unions, and if they decide to do something at the same time, or, even more devastating, in concert, they could give the studios a royal thrashing about head.
2. Political involvement. As I've said before, Henry Waxman (D-CA) is taking over as chair of the House Commerce Committee. Now he has a reputation as a grandstanding muckraker who likes easy targets, and they don't come any easier than the greedy businessmen of Hollywood's executive ranks. A shareholder/financier/talent rebellion may clue him in that his riding in Beverly Hills, Malibu, and other prosperous areas hold more voters getting screwed than doing the screwing. Toss in the potential of Angelina Jolie testifying before congress about how she lost her profit share of the Tomb Raider movies, and it's a perfect storm of politics, celebrity, and money.
Then some ambitious US Attorney, and/or the California Attorney General, could decide to go after some of these executives to boost their own political career. Any deep study of recent white collar crime convictions show that sometimes you don't even need an actual crime to get at least an indictment. And no executive wants to do a perp walk under the unblinking gaze of cameras owned by their own subsidiaries, unable to resist a real cracking story.
Is there any hope for a film renaissance?
Now in Answer #2 I said that the movie biz would be wounded, but not killed. Now after such a wound healing can begin.
New people would have to be brought in to revive these companies. And the only way to do that is to literally start from the ground up. With a business model based not on making only the CEO and his cronies rich, but making everyone involved happy, from the shareholders, to the investors, to the people making the movies, and even the audience. Because in a truly capitalist system, every transaction must end with both sides sincerely saying "Thank you" to each other, because they both got what they want. Right not, no one says thank you, only "screw you," and "sue you," and that's not good business, and it's not good capitalism.
How could a change in the current industry come about?
Right now the studios are undergoing a major contraction, reducing the number of movies being made overall, and forgoing any project that might make less than $100 million at the box office or win them an Oscar. A contraction like this leaves openings. Theatres need movies for their screens, and TV channels need content. Smaller, leaner, more efficient companies can start to forge little niches for themselves. They can't compete with the big boys in the sort of mega-marketing campaigns the studios can do, but there are ways around them for clever, adaptable businesspeople.
Then these companies can grow, slowly, steadily, and gradually take over where the studios are failing. And hopefully someday, they can either absorb the old order, and reform it in their image, or consign them into the dustbin of cinema history.
I hope these answered your questions.
"You can really believe Sean Penn's a small furry animal," - Furrier Weekly
FRED FERRET -PRODUCER
SEAN PENN as HARVEY MINK
GUS VAN VOLE
WALLY WEASEL & PAUL POLECAT
Sunday, 18 January 2009
DR. ZAIUS - PRODUCER
ZIRA T. CHIMP
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
CORNELIUS T. CHIMP
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
DR. GALEN & GENERAL URKO
(FROM THE NOVEL BY CHEETAH)
Yeah, it surprised me too that it's still running, but it is, despite threats of Prop 8 inspired boycotts, and confusion over whether or not a SAG strike will affect the buying and selling of films. Robert Redford gave his usual opening address, praising films that will mostly disappear the day after the festival closes, to the usual suspects of movie media people who are only there in the vain hope someone worthy of an Access Hollywood spot might show up.
It wasn't always like this, there was a time in the 1990s when Sundance was the place to get your movies seen and sold. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino "graduated" from Sundance to commercial success, critical appeal, and even Oscar nominations.
Now, in its 25 year, it struggles to be relevant, and the films it promotes seem to be forgotten about five minutes after their first festival screening.
What happened? What made the dream die?
Well 3 things....
1. THE INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED: The indie distributors that filled multiplexes in the 1990s are pretty much all gone now. Either they folded, or were absorbed into one of the big media conglomerates, never to be seen again. Currently major players like ThinkFilm is now SinkFilm awash in lawsuits, union troubles, and money woes, and a couple of years ago the Weinstein Company decided to get out of the business of releasing indie films, and went into the business of buying indie films and not releasing them. And that's another problem indie films face. Films that get a lot of praise at Sundance do get bought, but usually by companies more interested in bragging rights of having the big Sundance film, than any interest in actually releasing the film in any decent way. Which usually sends these poor indies into the discount bin of irrelevance.
2. CELEBRITIES HAVE CHANGED: Now it used to be that an indie film landing a star of any weight was a boon to that film. But that was back when stars could actually help a film get sold. Things have changed, the gloss is off the apple, and there's a big fat worm in it, and that worm's name is ego. Nowadays we see a lot of independent films being made not because they have a story that must be told, but because someone with a scintilla of celebrity wants the street-cred of being in an "indie film." So you get a lot of films that aren't really meant to be enjoyed, or even seen by the general public, but are meant to be seen by Hollywood insiders so they can be properly impressed by the "integrity" of that actor.
3. INDIE FILM HAS CHANGED: Sundance became a genre onto itself. Sort of like the Oscars, where a certain, and by that I mean heavy, amount of faux-sincerity, as if looking to entertain a mass audience somehow deems them unworthy of Sundance attention. There was a time when independent film sought to give the audience what the studios weren't delivering, but not anymore. Mr. & Mrs. Average American looking for mature and intelligent entertainment are not the target audience, because they don't dish out awards, or big Hollywood contracts.
And let's not forget the year Paris Hilton started going to Sundance. That gal's like a black hole, where any class or taste just vanishes into the unknown, never to be seen again.
Saturday, 17 January 2009
It was produced as a reaction to Channel 4's decision to scrap an episode called Back To Normal With Eddie Monsoon, during the show's first series. The script, about a rude, obnoxious TV host, had been written in collaboration by the regular Comic Strip Presents cast (Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Peter Richardson, Jeniffer Saunders, and Dawn French) but was deemed to offensive even for the "edgy" Channel 4. So when a second series was commissioned, they did an episode about that same rude obnoxious TV host, played by Edmondson (Eddie Monsoon being a play on his name) having his career collapse, yet again, because of that cancellation.
I picked not so much because of the humour, which is a little dated and silly, but because this show from 1983-84 pretty much predicted the shameless "I'll Do Anything" style fame-whoring of today's "reality TV" stars decades before they became so dominant in pop culture.
Friday, 16 January 2009
Thursday, 15 January 2009
Now I could criticize the industry for not properly maintaining these institutions financially, I mean billions of dollars pass through the industry every year. $10 million a year is about 1/10th the budget of an average Hollywood film, without special effects, and only one major star. The money is out there, it's just not being managed right.
But knowing that Hollywood folks aren't really that good at seeing anything beyond their next paycheck, and aren't capable of realizing that one bad career decision, a bad accident, or a Bernie Madoff, could put them in need of the fund and its services, I've decided to do something constructive. I am offering fund-raising ideas to save the facilities.
1. Media outlets that do Awards Show red carpet spots should pay a fee to the fund. It doesn't have to be a big fee, but if you want a shot of Angelina Jolie's latest gown, or get the celebs to talk to you, then you gotta pony up some dough for the fund. And the unions should strictly enforce this with fines if they talk or pose to non-paying outlets.
2. A paparazzi tax. Get the state to pass a law that 30% of all fees earned by paparazzi get donated to the fund. It should help curb a lot of those semi-amateur paps who scurry around celebs like ants on a picnic when their profit margin after legal fees, trespassing fines, and overhead are paid.
3. Get celebrities to fake scandals. This will work in two ways. First, the money paid by the tabloids for the dirt will be donated to the fund, then when the celebrities sue for libel they can kick back a share after their legal fees are paid.
I'm pretty sure that'll earn enough to cover the losses, and leave enough for an endowment fund that won't be run by Bernie Madoff.
What suggestions do you folks have to save the fund and its facilities?
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
He started out in Hollywood in the 1940s as one of the few Hispanic actors working in the industry. And in the tradition of old-school miscasting, was often cast as Asian characters. He also toiled playing Latin lovers in musicals, American Indians in westerns, and any other ethnicity the studios needed, though he did break the mold to play a Boston cop in the film noir Mystery Street. He also worked a lot in television, beginning his spot as a sci-fi icon with a guest spot on a then struggling TV show called Star Trek as a genetically engineered super-dictator from the anarchic future of the 1990s.
He reappeared as that villain in the film Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, putting him in the rare position of having a hit movie, and a hit TV show (Fantasy Island) at the same time. And just to illustrate his presence as an actor, the film is always viewed as a battle between Khan and Kirk, yet he and Shatner are never in the same scene, they only speak via monitors and communicators. Any other actor would leave the audience feeling cheated that there wasn't a face to face scene between him and Shatner, but you don't with Montalban, because he makes the character fill every scene he's in, even when he's just a voice on a speaker, or a face on a screen.
You'd be hard pressed to find a modern actor that could pull that off.
And he kept working for the love of it, even when ill health confined him to a wheelchair.
He was predeceased by Georgiana Young his wife of 63 years.
First Patrick McGoohan, now Ricardo Montalban.
From now on, this time will be called Black Wednesday by sci-fi/fantasy fans the world over.
Rest in Peace Ricardo. You were always a class act.