Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

  • George Clooney goes on epic rant tearing into hedge fudge founder.

    3
    georgeclooneybadass

    A few days ago, Daniel Loeb, the founder of hedge fund Third Point, a major investor in Sony, sent a letter to his investors stating how fed up his was with Sony and their recent box offices failures (e.g. White House Down, After Earth).

    In a recent interview with Deadline, George Clooney, had a few things to say about Mr. Loeb.

    Here is the rant in its entirety and, I assure you, it’s well worth the read, particularly for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes studio nonsense that goes on:

    I’ve been reading a lot about Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund guy who describes himself as an activist but who knows nothing about our business, and he is looking to take scalps at Sony because two movies in a row underperformed? When does the clock stop and start for him at Sony? Why didn’t he include Skyfall, the 007 movie that grossed a billion dollars, or Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained? And what about the rest of a year that includes Elysium, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and The Monuments Men? You can’t cherry pick a small time period and point to two films that didn’t do great. It makes me crazy. Fortunately, this business is run by people who understand that the movie business ebbs and flows and the good news is they are ignoring his calls to spin off the entertainment assets. How any hedge fund guy can call for responsibility is beyond me, because if you look at those guys, there is no conscience at work. It is a business that is only about creating wealth, where when they fail, they get bailed out and where nobody gets fired. A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments, and he is dangerous to our industry.

    [Loeb] calls himself an activist investor, and I would call him a carpet bagger, and one who is trying to spread a climate of fear that pushes studios to want to make only tent poles. Films like Michael Clayton, Out of Sight, Good Night, And Good Luck, The Descendants and O, Brother Where Art Though?, none of these are movies studios are inclined to make. What he’s doing is scaring studios and pushing them to make decisions from a place of fear. Why is he buying stock like crazy if he’s so down on things? He’s trying to manipulate the market. I am no apologist for the studios, but these people know what they are doing. If you look at the industry track record, this business has made a lot of money. It creates a lot of jobs and is still one of the largest exporters in the world. To have this guy portraying it that Sony management is the bad stepchild and doesn’t know what it is doing and he’s going to fix it? That is like Walmart saying, let me fix your town, putting in their store, strangling all the small shops and getting everyone who worked in them to work for minimum wage with no health insurance.

    “It’s crazy he has weight in this conversation at all. If guys like this are given any weight because they’ve bought stock and suddenly feel they can tell us how to do our business — one he knows nothing about — this does great damage than trickles down. The board of directors starts saying, ‘Wait a minute. What guarantee do you have that this movie makes money?’ Well, there are no guarantees, but if you average out the films Will Smith and Channing Tatum have made, you will take that bet every time, even if sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

    Hedge fund guys do not create jobs, and we do. On the movie we just made, we put 300 people to work every day. I’m talking about nice, regular people, and when we shot in a town, we’d put another 300 people to work. This is an industry that thrives; there are thousands of workers who make films. You want to see what happens if outside forces start to scare the industry and studios just make tent poles out of fear? You will see a lot of crap coming out.

    What do you think about what Clooney had to say to Deadline? Do you think he makes valid points? Do you think Loeb is correct in his view of trying to please investors? Chime in with your thoughts!

  • Listen: Sound City – Real to Reel

    1

    If you haven’t heard of the Sound City documentary, directed by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana fame, turn Ke$ha off on your iPod and buy it now. If you have heard of it, you probably read our reviews by Marina (click here) and Carlos (click here).

    Simply put, the film is awesome and for anyone who loves rock and who loves people who ooze with passion about music, this goes down as one of the great music documentaries.

    Now, inspired by the documentary, the coolest-guy-in-rock Dave Grohl has put together an album inspired by his love of Sound City Studios, bringing together artists such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Lee Ving, Chris Goss, Robert Levon Been, and Rick Springfield to collaborate on some seriously awesome songs.

    Even better? You can listen to the entire album for free on NPR’s website.

    If you’re not familiar with Sound City Studios and their legendary analog mixing console, they are responsible for recording albums not only by Nirvana, but also artists and bands including Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Santana, Blind Melon, Tool, The Black Crowes, Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age, Tonic, Wolfmother, Nine Inch Nails, Elton John, and Rage Against the Machine – among others.

    Listen to my potentially favorite song from the album, the one of two songs which has Dave as lead vocals. Titled “If I Were Me,” Dave is accompanied by the always awesome Jessy Greene, as well as Rami Jaffe and Jim Keltner.

  • Newman’s Own: 30 years, 350 million dollars

    0

    As legendary of an actor as Paul Newman was, he always hoped he’d be remembered for a little more than Cool Hand Luke or his big blue eyes. He was many things: a director, a racecar driver, a businessman, a husband, and a father. He was also an incredible food enthusiast and philanthropist.

    He decided to combine those two passions in 1982. After years of making homemade salad dressings and pasta sauces at home, often giving them away to friends as Christmas presents, he and his good friend A.E. Hotchner established Newman’s Own. Initially, he was hesitant about having his face plastered on all of his products, but decided to do it. And not only would the ingredients for every product have to be all-natural, but 100% of the profits would be given to charity. No exceptions. It was unprecedented (and still would be today) for a movie star to lend their image and name without any sort of direct monetary benefit. But that was Paul.

    As the popularity of his high quality foods – which included not just salad dressing and pasta sauce, but salsa, iced tea, lemonade, pizzas, popcorn, pretzels, cookies, cereal, coffee, wine, and condiments – increased, he once quipped: “The embarrassing thing is that my salad dressing is out-grossing my films.” In 2003, he and Hotchner co-wrote a book (alternating chapters) about their endeavors, titled humorously and not-so-ironically Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good (you can buy it used on Amazon for a penny… it’s an awesome read).

    In August of this year, Newman’s Own marked its 30th year and, as the Stamford Advocate wrote, $350 million has gone to fund human services, health programs, education, arts, culture, and Newman’s passion, the Hole in the Wall Camps, which were residential summer camps for seriously (and often terminally) ill children, of which he helped out every summer until his death after its establishment in 1988.

    In all, they help support 750 charities. While Newman died in 2008, he has ensured that the legacy of his company would live on, with all profits still going to charity, with his family and Hotchner still running the business, and with his daughter’s “spin off” company, Newman’s Own Organics, promoting other healthy foods.

    For the company’s 30th anniversary, they have a goal of giving away $30 million this year. That would be the largest amount of any single year, but the company is confident that the quality of their product will make it possible. I am also. If I’m buying jarred pasta sauce, it’s usually Newman’s Own Sockarooni Sauce. My go-to salad dressing at home is their Olive Oil & Vinegar. If I’m dipping chips into salsa, it’s almost without exception their Hot, Mango, Chunky Roasted Garlic, or Tequila Lime. They are even kind enough to have dozens of recipes (many of them Paul’s) on their website.

    So, if you feel like buying some Ragu or Tostino’s salsa or a DiGiorno, take a look down the aisle a ways. Look for that bright, smiling face of Paul. Not only will you be eating a great, all-natural product, but your extra pennies will be going to a good cause.

  • Movies We Watched

    0

    Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.


    The Raid: Redemption

    (4.5/5)

    2012 indonesia. Director: Gareth Evans. Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy.

    Imagine, if you will, the heart-pounding action of the very best of John Woo. Combine said action with the quickness, brutality, and sheer awe inspiring talents of Tony Jaa. Take, perhaps, Woo’s Hard Boiled, replacing the gunfights with knives, and the cast with several martial artists that may well give the aforementioned Jaa a run for his money. From this, trim the fat (e.g. story), and extend the final forty minutes into a 101-minute orgy of visceral and incredibly well-choreographed violence and bloodshed. That is The Raid: Redemption in a nutshell. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the works of Messrs, Woo and Jaa … well … you’re missing out, and you need to rectify that immediately. No need to even read the rest of this post – get to it.
    -DOMENIC


    Red Dawn

    (3.5/5)

    1984 USA. Director: John Milius. Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Harry Dean Stanton, Powers Boothe.

    If it weren’t for the acting and some really horrible dialogue, this film might still hold pretty well as a history flashback on the American perception of The Soviet Union in the 80′s.

    The propaganda never really struck me much as a kid – always just liked watching kids blow shit up real good. But the world that is set-up with the opening credits and then carried on throughout the movie is pretty terrifying and realistic in many ways.

    But yeah, the kids are awful awful awful.
    -ANDREW

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • “American Graffiti’s” Budget was Exactly $777,777.77 [Universal Turns 100]

    1

    In 1912, Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated in New York. Founder Carl Laemmle said he got the name for the studio after noticing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon. In honor of the studio’s 100th anniversary on Monday, the studio released 100 interesting trivia facts about some of its many many films they’ve released over the years. Some of the centennial facts are kind of neat, others not so much. Check out the full list below…

    1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.

    2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.

    3. The working title for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was “A Boy’s Life.”

    4. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”

    5. In 1969, a then 22-year old Steven Spielberg was assigned to direct the Universal Television series pilot, Night Gallery. It’s safe to say things went pretty well for Steven after that.

    6. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.

    7. The first feature filmed at Universal City was Damon and Pythias in 1914.

    8. President Ronald Reagan starred in the 1951 Universal feature film, Bedtime for Bonzo.

    9. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.

    10. The film A Beautiful Mind was shot in sequence in order to help Russell Crowe better develop his character’s emotional and physical arc.
    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Question of the Day: Teasers for Trailers

    9

     

    While it seems to be a sci-fi only thing at the moment, I have no doubt that it will soon be the new normal in terms of online film advertising. Prometheus, Total Recall and now Looper all have teasers leading up to the debut of only the films trailer. Arguably, the Stephanie Meyer non-Twilight property, The Host, had a power-point level ‘teaser’ was effectively a teaser for the trailer, albeit the presentation was not quite that explicit in communicating a ‘trailer premiere date’ as the former three, so you might just call that one a traditional ‘teaser.’

    Advertising for advertising is a strange beast born of the 21st century. Especially, considering that it is likely only hard-core film nerds are ‘excited to see a trailer’ to the point where they will seek it out on their own. And like the “Ain’t It Cool News is a populist-baromoter to every thing pop-culture” fallacy of the late 1990s (*Cough* GODZILLA *Cough*), the studios seem to think that advertisements for their advertisements is the way of the future. Personally, I’ve got no beef with the director of the film making a personal pitch to the audience, dropping a heady concept into the audiences lap in a more intimate and personal way (from the horse’s, mouth so to speak), rather than the ‘visual-and-audio-overkill’ that many trailers are these days. I would still rather this method be done attached to the online trailer, as if the director or star introduces it followed immediately by the trailer itself. But the preference, at this particular cultural moment, is to trickle things out rather than plant a flag and shout from the hilltops.

    What are your thoughts on this. Does it bother you? Are you completely indifferent to this trend? Do you like to be teased about the arrival of more marketing? Or do you merely skip all these trailers and teasers (and teasers for trailers) for films that you want to see, particularly those easy-to-spoil plot-twisty sci-fi films?

  • Sorry Weinsteins. Rules are Rules.

    18

    Just wanted to weigh in quickly on this latest controversy between the Weinstein Company and the MPAA. If you’re not aware, the short of it is that the MPAA slapped the Weinstein’s documentary Bully with an “R” rating. Really wanting to show the film in schools and have kids come to screenings as much as possible, the studio appealed the decision but by a very small margin (one vote I think), the MPAA stuck to their guns and said, sorry guys: R.

    Now the internet is up in arms about it. Twitter is a flood with cries of bullshit and pleas to the MPAA to change their minds. I’ll be honest, I’m no fan of the dunder-heads over at the MPAA. And for the most part I’m in agreement with the protestations. But allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Fighting for 35mm…and Our Cinematic Heritage

    42

    There’s no doubt that the future of cinema is going to be digital rather than film (as a physical format). Theatres are converting to digital projection right and left, with fewer and fewer 35mm film prints struck all the time, and the major camera manufacturers are ceasing production of film cameras to focus solely on digital cameras instead. It’s where the demand is. But this shift to digital doesn’t only affect new films, which are likely to be shot, edited, and projected digitally, never spending any phase of their creation on physical film – it also affects older films, which were shot on 35mm and meant to be projected on 35mm. Many Hollywood studios have declared their intention to stop producing 35mm prints of older films for use in repertory cinemas, museums, film forums, universities, etc, instead presenting those films only in digital formats as well.

    On the one hand, it’s easy to see why this makes sense to them. Digital copies are much easier and cheaper to store and transfer to theatres than bulky 35mm film prints. And many people will argue that digital looks better anyway, or at least consumers won’t be able to tell the difference. I heartily disagree with that – I love the tactile, physical look that 35mm has vs. the sterility of digital. But my point of view is quickly labeled romantic and old-fashioned in a world where cinema is a business and 35mm is antiquated technology. To some degree, it is a romantic perspective. I certainly get a rush of emotion every time I walk into the Silent Movie Theatre and see the film canisters sitting there, ready to be lovingly threaded through the projector by the seasoned projectionist for the evening’s screening. I smile when I see the cigarette burns signalling a reel change. I feel a connection to other audiences when a print is flawed through its many uses in other cinemas, screened for other audiences in other places. But what do my emotions, certainly the emotions of a minority of cinemagoers, matter in this equation?

    I’m definitely not alone in my love for seeing films projected on 35mm (or 70mm or whatever format was originally used to shoot them) – Julia Marchese of Los Angeles’s New Beverly Cinema, one of the foremost repertory cinemas in the country and one that would certainly feel the loss of 35mm prints, has started an online petition to Fight for 35mm. It currently has nearly 6,000 signatures of a hoped-for 10,000. Here’s the bulk of her plea:

    I firmly believe that when you go out to the cinema, the film should be shown in 35mm. At the New Beverly, we have never been about making money – a double feature ticket costs only $8. We are passionate about cinema and film lovers. We still use a reel to reel projection system, and our projectionists care dearly about film, checking each print carefully before it screens and monitoring the film as it runs to ensure the best projection possible. With digital screenings, the projectionists will become obsolete and the film will be run by ushers pushing a button – they don’t ever have to even enter the theater.

    The human touch will be entirely taken away. The New Beverly Cinema tries our hardest to be a timeless establishment that represents the best that the art of cinema has to offer. We want to remain a haven where true film lovers can watch a film as it was meant to be seen – in 35mm. Revival houses perform an undeniable service to movie watchers – a chance to watch films with an audience that would otherwise only be available for home viewing. Film is meant to be a communal experience, and nothing can surpass watching a film with a receptive audience, in a cinema, projected from a film print.

    I feel very strongly about this issue and cannot stand idly by and let digital projection destroy the art that I live for. As one voice I cannot change the future, but hopefully if enough film lovers speak up, we can prove to the studios that repertory cinema is important and that we want 35mm to remain available to screen.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • The Year’s Just Getting Started: Most Anticipated Movies Still To Come

    16

    Summer is no more. Gone are 2011′s big summer blockbusters and as much as I enjoyed them (the likes of Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the last Harry Potter flick really impressed) now is the time when the heavy hitter, Oscar-ish films start to hit screens. The serious films we can all really sink our teeth into.

    Since there’s a lot of noteworthy films still to come out between now and the end of the year (although some won’t hit screens in my British neck of the woods until early January/February next year) I thought I’d make up a list of what I’m most looking forward to checking out before year’s end, from 15 on down to 1.

    I decided in order to qualify the films have to have a theatrical release scheduled (i.e. festival showings don’t count) somewhere in the world, whether that be in the US, the UK or anywhere else.

    So without further ado, let’s get to the list, shall we?

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • What’s In A Movie Title?

    10

    As I was walking in to see Rupert Wyatt’s wonderful Rise of the Planet of the Apes a couple of weeks ago I started to think about titles and their effect, if any, on my preconceptions of a movie. In the case of the latest Apes flick I have to say it bothered me a little. Regardless of the quality of the film itself, the title doesn’t exactly role off the tongue (I still don’t see why the simpler “Rise of the Apes” couldn’t have sufficed) and whether it’s right or wrong it cast a small shadow on the film before I’d even sat down. I didn’t let it affect me while watching the movie or my opinion of it after I’d seen it but I have to admit I was irritated every time I saw the poster beforehand.

    The question it raised for me was what’s the real importance of a title? After all it has no real bearing on the movie itself, it’s only a signifier of a main character, a crucial plot point or quote (which we don’t usually know until we see the actual movie itself) or maybe even just an overall theme. And how does a title affect the film’s chances at the box office? It’s true that a simple, often one-word title can serve some movies, particularly big blockbusters, very well. Something tells me – and it pains me to write this – that the upcoming Battleship movie will do very well at the box office and at least part of that success will come down to its easily remembered title (and that’s not just because it’s based on one of the world’s best known board games). But then again look at the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers franchises – with the exception of Michael Bay’s first movie about robots incessantly punching each other they all have long ass titles and as we all (unfortunately) know they have made more than some whole countries are worth.

    Some titles are misleading; The Constant Gardener isn’t really about someone who does nothing but cut the grass and arrange flowers, Million Dollar Baby doesn’t actually involve a very valuable newborn and there are no actual submarines in Submarine (spoiler alert!). Other titles are are so blunt it’s like being hit over the head; Snakes on a Plane, Monsters, Fighting and Bad Teacher (to name a few more recent examples) all deliver exactly what they say on the tin. Does an ambiguous or obvious title play that big of a part in a film’s success or does the content speak for itself?

    It would be impossible to prove in any sort of definitive way that a short and sweet title does the trick money-wise better than a longer, more complicated one. It’s more about how well it’s marketed to the public and, for the sake of repeat viewings and word-of-mouth buzz, the content of the movie itself. So ultimately I’ve gotta’ fall on the side of “it’s just a title, nothing more” side of the fence. But nonetheless I can’t discount them completely.

    Do you place any importance (big or small) on a film’s title or could you care less what a film is called? Just for fun what are some of your favourite movie titles and why?

  • Finite Focus: “My Rifle, My Pony and Me” (Rio Bravo)

    9

    Rio Bravo posterHallmarks of the Western genre include shoot-outs, cowboys battling Indians, chases on horse-back and the classic good versus bad mentality. But Howard Hawks’ wonderful Rio Bravo (which I just saw for the first time recently, I am ashamed to admit) is one of those which proves that a little sing-song is welcome every once in a while.

    Instantly taking its rightful place on my list of all time favorite movie scenes is when Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson sit back, relax and join together to sing “My Rifle, My Pony and Me.” Added touches of joy come from Walter Brennan’s Stumpy playing the harmonica while he awaits eagerly to join in on the next song (and he very much does!), as well as Western veteran John Wayne happily watching on without singing a word. The scene is so well played that you forget, if only for a few moments, the overall plot of the movie.

    Truly one of the great “take a break from the action” moments of all time and surely one to cheer you up if you’re feeling down. Sublime.

     

  • OK I Admit It. The Final Harry Potter Trailer Looks Pretty Awesome.

    2

    I‘ve seen parts 1,2 and 4. To say I was underwhelmed is putting it delicately. That said, I think I’m finally ready to go back and watch them all in order (still interested in the Alfonso Cuarón entry) so’s we can check out this epic conclusion properly. On the big screen. In 2D. As awesome as it looks, I still wouldn’t say that I’m super excited about it but this is an event film; and you know how I hate to be out of the loop.

     

     

Page 1 of 3123»