Saturday, 28 February 2009

And Now A Moment of High Culture

To be sung to the tune of "I Am The Very Model of A Modern Major General" by Gilbert & Sullivan.

I am the very model of a modern Movie-Mogul,
I've information political, financial, and mineral,
I know the heads of Studios, and I know box-office historical
From Star Wars to The Dark Knight, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters cinematical,
I understand foreign films, both the simple and enigmatical,
About the Oscars I'm teeming with a lot o' news,
With my expense account acting as my muse.

My studio's books require differential calculus;
I call my assistant a snivelling li'l homonculous:
In short, in matters political, financial, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Movie-Mogul.

I know Hollywood history, Bug Bunny said What's up doc's;
I'm fashionably agnostic, my career is a paradox,
I quote in statistics all the hits of Michael Bay,
In meetings I can floor martinis all day;
I can tell unformed Spielbergs from Uwe Bolls and Ed Woods,
I ignore their croaking critics as long as they bring in the goods!
Then I can rewrite my contract to pay myself more and more,
And snort cocaine off the buttocks of a Tunisian whore.

Then I submit receipts in Babylonic cuneiform,
To buy my mistress a french maid uniform:
In short, in matters political, financial, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Movie-Mogul.

In fact, when I know what is meant by "development" and "turnaround",
When I can't tell the diff from my arse and a hole in the ground,
When such affairs as premieres and parties I'm more happy at,
And that I know precisely when an actress has become too fat,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gadgetry,
When I know nothing without my precious Blackberry—
In short, when I've a smattering of inter-office strategy—
You'll say a better Movie-Mogul has never sat a-gee.

For my cinematic knowledge, though it's plucky and adventury,
Only really goes back to the beginning of this century;
But since I just inherited this job from my uncle,
I am the very model of a modern Movie-Mogul.

Saturday Silliness Cinema: 3 Stand-Ups

Time for my weekly break from griping about how Hollywood is run to dish out some entertainment. Today I have a sampler of stand-ups, the king of surreal absurdism Steven Wright, manic Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan, and Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy.

I'll be back to griping about business as soon as possible.







Friday, 27 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #240: Hollywood's Real Drug Of Choice

According to Nikki Finke recently ousted NBC exec Teri Weinberg has a sweetheart golden parachute deal as a "producer" with NBC Universal, courtesy of her former boss Ben Silverman. To boil it down, she's getting to develop projects for NBC-Universal with financing and freedom that no other producer can get, even though she was fired for a mix of inexperience and incompetence. In fact, she seems to have this deal because she got fired for inexperience and incompetence.

Now I'm not going to bad mouth her, because I don't know her. She might be a good person at heart, and the reasons she was fired probably had more to do with covering for her boss than her own personal failings, but it does illustrate a problem with the way Hollywood is managed. When senior people screw up, costing millions of dollars in losses, they are supposed to get fired, except in Hollywood, executives are like herpes, you never truly get rid of them.

Instead of a get out and don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya, Hollywood's executives are instead reborn as "producers." They get sweetheart deals from their friends that cost even more millions of dollars, and the majority of the time, they accomplish very little except picking up the occasional starlet with a "I'm a producer" line.

Why does this happen?

Part of it is the fact that Hollywood is an Old Boys/Girls Club. When you're part of the clique in power, you are forever in that clique unless you commit some grievous, expulsion worthy crime, like getting convicted of murder, or caught voting Republican.

It doesn't matter if you cost the company millions, because the folks that run Hollywood are all high on the most addictive drug in La-La-Land.

No, I'm not going to join the gossips who accuse Silverman of being on some illicit chemical, what I'm talking about is different from anything like cocaine, heroin, or extasy, but is even more addictive and brain addling than all of them combined.

I'm talking about OPM.

No, not opium, OPM-- Other People's Money.

Spider-Man always said that with great power comes great responsibility. Obviously Spider-Man's never had to run a studio with investor's money and no possible way for those investors to either prevent or punish incompetence, corruption, or just plain bad luck. Studio/Network bosses have tremendous power, but no responsibility, no accountability, and even if they do get tossed as a sacrificial lamb, there's no harm done to them no matter how much was done to the company.

And remember that these are the same executives who can't make a decent contract deal with the unions, or even follow the ones they actually make, yet they can feather their own nests quite lavishly, no matter how many feathers they take from everybody else's.

Here's my advice: Shareholders, film investors, and the unions should join together, force these boondoggle contracts to be rewritten, make the companies more responsive, and maybe bring a little real capitalism to the movie business. Because it definitely needs it.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Comic Book Confidential: An Open Letter To DC Comics...

Dear DC Comics

I think you can consider this an intervention, because you have a problem, and people are starting to talk about it behind your back.

It's about your recent announcement claiming that you're going to adapt the comic book Suicide Squad to the big screen.

Hmmm... how exactly do I put it...?

You must admit that you have
no intention of actually making that movie.

Come on, you announce new movies as regularly as Harvey Weinstein gets sued, promising Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, half a dozen others, with
nothing to show for it, and I don't care what IMDB says about Justice League: Mortal being in production, I'll believe it when I see it.

Yes, the Batman movies under Christopher Nolan & Co. have been great, but those films seem to exist in spite of DC's movie policies instead of because of them. (And don't get me started on that whiny emo-Superman flick)

But all these announcements with no movies to show for them are making you the comic book version of that guy at the bar who is always saying that he's going to finally take that correspondence course and become a VCR repairman and never does.

Marvel is leaving you in the dust in the movie biz. Take a look at the money they have rolling in. Why can't you?

I know that unlike Marvel, DC Comics is just a cog in a massive corporate behemoth, and that every decision at this company has to be run through a dozen vice-presidents, and a tortoise named Mr. Piddles before anything can be done. But someone in the organization has to grow a pair, stand up and say, "We have to get this damn thing done, and get it done, now!"

I mean it shouldn't be that complicated, you're owned by the studio that releases the movies. It should be simple, but nothing is simple when you're part of a media conglomerate, but that excuse is getting thin, and folks just aren't going to get even remotely interested when you make an announcement anymore.

Remember, I'm pulling for you, but you have to do this for yourself.

Sincerely:

--Furious D

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #239: Matters of Priorities

1. Nikki Finke reports that mega-investor Carl Icahn has not only increased his stake in mini-major Lionsgate, but also filed papers declaring his intention to shake things up at the company by making changes in the makeup of the board of directors.

I don't suspect that Icahn's looking for a quick buck, though the potential is there, by either selling the company, or its assets. The market's down right now, the company's not living up to the real value of its assets, and very few people are willing to get involved with Hollywood these days, what with all the financial screwings going around.

I do suspect that Icahn wants to reform and reshape the company in accordance with his chief priority, his crusade for the rights of shareholders over management. He's been fighting for years over at Time Warner for that very thing, but Time-Warner's so huge, so lumbering, it could take many more years before his crusade there bears fruit.

Lionsgate, by comparison, is much smaller, leaner, and doesn't have the sheer tonnage of a tortoise-like corporate culture weighing it down, which could make it the perfect test case for Icahn's crusade.

I hope this is the case, and that he makes the company a model for other companies to follow. And he can increase shareholder value by working out a business plan befitting a company of Lionsgate's size and strength, and by making it the best financial partner for outside film-financiers to work with. This would give them a huge leg up over the major studios, many of them being too busy driving away these same investors with their financial shenanigans.

2. This story reveals the priorities of NBC-Universal CEO David Zucker. While NBC flails with sinking ratings, stinking shows, their few decent shows (like
Life with Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi) not getting the promotion they deserve, and layoffs flying in all directions, Zucker goes and expands his personal publicity and public relations apparatus.

This is like the captain of the Titanic stealing all the lifeboats for himself and his luggage, leaving everyone else behind.

While Icahn's priorities are based around building shareholder value through responsive management, Zucker seems all about self-promotion, and failing that self-preservation. The whole company can crumble around him, but he'll have a high-paid staff ready, willing, and able to tell the world that it's not really his fault at all, so please don't fire him.

Now Zucker's flacks will probably say that their priority is to correct a failure in communication, that's not the case. This is not a failure in communication, but a failure of priorities.

If Zucker had his priorities right, he'd be trying to save his position by finding out the problems with the company and solving them. Not trying to hope that he can "pitch" his way out of the black hole he's put his company.

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.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #237: Post Oscar Wrap-Up

The Oscars were held last night. I watched the Mythbusters bust moon-landing conspiracies instead, but I did get the list of winners and in my own snarky way will pass judgment on them.

—Motion Picture: "Slumdog Millionaire."

The only film not made for the Oscars actually won an Oscar. Bully for them I say in my more Teddy Roosevelt moments. Plus, it keeps yet another Oscar out of Harvey Weinstein's hands.

—Actor: Sean Penn, "Milk."

While honouring a film about life in the slums, the Academy did its part to keep Sean Penn out of the slums by giving him the only thing keeping his career alive. Without he'd have to rely on box-office appeal, and he's not going to get the decent money for that.

—Actress: Kate Winslet, "The Reader."

This is filed under "well d'uh," because it was a character the Academy would love, an unrepentant Nazi war criminal pederast who struggles to overcome illiteracy.

—Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight."

While deserved, I have the sneaking suspicion that in an alternate universe where Ledger didn't die tragically young, it would have been snubbed by the Academy.

—Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

And I have it on good authority that Academy voters did fill in the film's full name on the ballot, and not: "That flick where she makes out with Scarlett Johansson."

—Director: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire."

Congrats. Been a Boyle fan since
Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later.

—Foreign Film: "Departures," Japan.

Nothing to snark about here.

—Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."

The brilliant strategy they used to win this award was to say that a vote for
Slumdog Millionaire meant another Oscar that Harvey Weinstein couldn't claim as his own.

—Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, "Milk."

I still like my version of the script better.
But the producers turned it down, because Sean Penn didn't want to wear the costume.

—Animated Feature Film: "WALL-E."

File this under "Well d'uh" even though the film has the rather major plot-hole of why the humans didn't just order their legions of robots to recycle their garbage before it built up so bad, and to send the unrecyclable stuff into space.

But it had heart, so I guess that makes up for it.

—Art Direction: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

A consolation prize for Button, the film that had all sorts of nominations, despite very few people actually liking it.

—Cinematography: "Slumdog Millionaire."

—Sound Mixing: "Slumdog Millionaire."

Once again, bully for them.

—Sound Editing: "The Dark Knight."

A technical consolation prize for the most grievously snubbed film of the year.

—Original Score: "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman.

—Original Song: "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar.

—Costume: "The Duchess."

At least it won an Oscar considering its entire theatrical run was over about twenty minutes before the first screening finished.

—Documentary Feature: "Man on Wire."

A new definition of riding high.

—Documentary (short subject): "Smile Pinki."

Pinki stops smiling when they realize that the short subject Oscar and $4.50 will get a mocha latte at the local Starbucks.

—Film Editing: "Slumdog Millionaire."

Most of Danny Boyle's films are well edited, so this shouldn't be a surprise.

—Makeup: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Make a star look young and attractive, get nothing, make them look old and crusty, win an Oscar.

—Animated Short Film: "La Maison en Petits Cubes."

You gotta love those little cubes. They're just so cubical.

—Live Action Short Film: "Spielzeugland (Toyland)."

I had to have my Spielzeu gland surgically removed, but did they make a movie out of that? Noooo!

—Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

I was surprised that this won, because a lot of the effects were so seamless, a lot of people thought they were just make-up effects.
___

Academy Award winners previously announced this season:

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (Oscar statuette): Jerry Lewis

Yes, he's an annoying old fart who doesn't know when to shut up, but he did raise a shitload of money for medical research. So let him have his moment.

Gordon E. Sawyer Award (Oscar statuette): Pixar Animation co-founder Ed Catmull

Congrats, I don't remember what the Sawyer Award is for, but if its for making truckloads of cash and dominating animation, then it's well deserved.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #236: Some Musings Before The Oscars...

1. The Academy Awards are on tonight. So far the nominated films haven't enjoyed the traditional "Oscar Bounce" in their box-office, and the awards themselves, despite the charms of host Hugh Jackman, are expecting to hit new lows in the ratings.

Of all the nominated films, I believeJ
Slumdog Millionaire deserves to win in every category it's been nominated in.

Not because of the quality of the film, I haven't seen it, but because it's the only film on the Best Picture list that wasn't made solely to win an Oscar for someone.
Benjamin Button, made to get Brad Pitt a nomination, Milk, ditto for Sean Penn, The Reader, get one for Harvey Weinstein. Slumdog, with its rags to riches story, romance, and even suspense, appears to have been made because the filmmakers had a story they felt needed to be told, because they believed that story would make that all important emotional connection.

All the others strike me as just Oscar bait, and after so many years of the Academy Awards rewarding such blatant Oscar whoring, it's cheapened the value of the awards themselves. Quality has very little to do with winning an Oscar, just convincing the 5,000 Academy voters that you're better than anything that demeans itself by being entertaining.

Perhaps an underdog
Slumdog win could shock the Oscars back into the real world.

It probably won't but it would be worth a shot.

I for one will be checking out the
Mythbusters rerun marathon on the Canadian Discovery Channel.

And I'm not mentioning that as a cheap excuse to post a cheesecake picture of Kari Byron, it was a
serious editorial decision.

Really, it was.

Honest.

I have my integrity.

______________________

2. Nikki Finke watched the Independent Spirit Awards and pondered on just how independent these movies really are.

And I'm inclined to ponder that issue myself. Just about all the winners were not only produced by the boutique "indie" branches of major media companies, and the "fresh indie talent" making those films are pretty much the same people who have been making indie films and winning Independent Spirit Awards since the boom of the 1990s.

I fear that American independent film has become Canadianized.

No, I'm not implying that independent films have started drinking better quality beer, and having better manners than the other films, I'm saying that the independent film industry is turning into a Americanized version of the Canadian film industry.

Here's how...

Like Canadian films American indie films are for a shrinking niche audience, and no, I'm not talking about the "art house" crowd who dress in black and think everything's better with subtitles. I'm talking about a niche of a niche audience. You see Canadian films, except for the Francophone Quebec cinema, is, for the most part,
not for the general public.

Canadian films are made
by industry insiders for the other industry insiders who judge a festivals, hand out awards, and to the bureaucrats who control the purse strings of the film industry.

In Canada, those bureaucrats work for the government, in the USA, the bureaucrats work for the big media conglomerates, but what they do share is a dislike of these films enjoying mainstream success. Because these films are not made to earn money, or even entertain people. These films are made to give "street cred" as patrons of the arts to gray men in gray suits. It gets these gray men lots of fawning attention at film festivals, praise from filmmakers for the "creative freedom" they give them, honours for the "courage" they show in spending other people's money for little or no return, and a heavily subsidized social life among the cultural and financial elite that helps their own ambitions.

It's really showing in Canada, where our main film awards The Geminis, don't even rate an airing on our main public broadcaster, the CBC. A similar fate is no doubt waiting in the wings, first for the Spirit awards, and then the Oscars themselves. Because barring a major paradigm shift, it's inevitable.

There was a time when indie film sought to fill gaps left in the cultural mosaic by the big players, now they just look to please those same big players they claim to be rebelling against.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Flight Of The Conchords

It's time for my usual Saturday break from my ranting and raving about the business of show business to sit back, relax, and have a little giggle.

Today, it's the Flight of the Conchords, New Zealand's fourth popular comedy folk duo. Here are some of their "sexiest" songs. Enjoy.







Friday, 20 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #235: The Real Cost of Runaway Productions?

The state of California, reeling from a budget crisis is reportedly giving the movie biz a $500 million tax credit." Now this is a state that can't pay its own bills, but it takes half a billion dollars from the pockets of taxpayers to the big media companies. Now both the state government, the big media moguls, and the unions are saying that this measure is necessary to stop what they call "runaway productions."

Runaway productions are considered the greatest evil in Hollywood, because they are movies that are filmed outside the Southern California area, and not because they need a specific location, but because they are cheaper than filming in Southern California. I find this whole debate fascinating, because Hollywood only became Hollywood because of runaway productions.

Back in the dawn of the movie biz most films were made in studios in New York, Chicago, and New Jersey. The first filmmakers to go to Hollywood went there because it was just plain cheaper to operate. The pleasant weather meant you could shoot outdoors in the sun all year round without expensive lights, the land was cheap, and so was the labour, because the cost of living was so low out there.

For decades the studios shot everything they could in the Hollywood area. Wanted to shoot in the great outdoors, who needs to see the north woods of the Pacific Northwest, as a studio exec is rumoured to have said: "A tree is a tree, shoot it in Griffith Park."

Why?

Because it was just plain cheaper and more efficient to do it that way.

How things have changed.

Sure California's still sunny, most of the time, but technology has improved and you don't need sunny weather all the time. In fact, now you can shoot in all weathers, and even at night.

Plus, the cost of living and the cost of infrastructure in California has skyrocketed beyond belief. It is now simply cheaper, even without tax breaks to shoot in a myriad of places other than California.

Which brings me to the main question of this post.

Are runaway productions really a bad thing in the long run?

I mean yes, it does cost jobs in California in the short term, but those people who work in the film business have skills that can go with them to where the jobs are. The money may not be as big as they would get with a homegrown Cali production, but the cost of living in these areas are way cheaper, so things may just even out for them in the end.

Plus, the extreme centralization of the entertainment business really hasn't been all that great for the business. It's become even more inbred than that clan in
Deliverance, and is gradually losing its connection with the Joe and Jane Averages in the audience due to sunshine induced group-think. So spreading the industry around, might actually be a good thing, adding more variety to not only the people in showbiz, but the places where they work.

So a case can be made that runaway productions are just a natural evolution of the business, and might benefit it in more ways than just saving money in the long run.

What do you think?

Here's Your Oscar Speech.

In the interest of public service I have decided to help the celebrities up for Oscars by giving them a simple form for them use for their Oscar speeches. Because face it, most winners need it since they seem to be rendered speechless with every award, as if their producers hadn't shamelessly campaigned for them. So here is a nice, concise, ultimate Oscar Acceptance Speech with directions in parentheses.
(Hear name announced)
(Look surprised, try to forget the millions spent by the producers campaigning for this)
(Walk up on stage, don't trip over the seat-filler, try to pretend you're still friends with your co-stars as you go by)
(Get up on stage, exchange air kisses with presenters)
(Take trophy and go to the microphone)
Oh, I don't know what to say. I'd like to thank the Academy.
(don't acknowledge all the terrible things you said about them when you lost the last time)
And my family, agent, kabbalah adviser, Xenu, Phil from the Dry Cleaners, and Che Guevera.
(never acknowledge the people who wrote the script or directed your performance)
We live in uncertain times...
(insert political message of choice, as long as it conforms to Hollywood's permitted political stances, remember, any deviation can cost you work)
Thank you very much!
(leave stage, forcing a smile while you slowly realize that the Oscar will do nothing for your career, except pigeonhole you in maudlin dramas as you desperately try to win another Oscar.)
I hope that helps.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #234: Sonny Crockett's On The Warpath

Actor Don Johnson is suing Rysher Entertainment (and its owner Mark Cuban's 2929 company) over money owed to him from his show Nash Bridges.

I should start by saying that I was never a fan of
Nash Bridges, I thought of it as a forgettable throwback to the late 70s/early 80s cop shows, and at the time it was on, I was already a dedicated fan of Homicide: Life On The Street.

However, the show did run over 6 seasons, and apparently had some success in international syndication, because Johnson is claiming that there is over $300 million in revenues, including $150+ million in syndication earnings, and that he, as the show's co-developer, producer, and star, is owed half.

Now this is a classic example of why it is next to impossible to do any real business in Hollywood. The revenue split should have been simple, if Person A owns an agreed upon X% of the show, then Person A should be paid X% of the profits.

Of course Hollywood doesn't think that's good business. Instead of paying the Person A their X% of the profits, they try to get away with paying nothing.

Because the mindset in Hollywood is that if you can get away without paying people what they're owed, then you must be a genius.

But in the real world, trying to avoid paying people what they're owed, you're not a genius, you're an idiot.

Because in the long run, the only businesses that really profit from this are the lawyers.


Companies and people go under financially all the time, but the lawyers almost always get paid.


And it's hurting Hollywood as a business. When you have to resort to litigation over what should be routine business, the costs of doing everything skyrockets. The talent who make the movies and TV shows a media company needs to survive start demanding more and more money up front, because they're expecting to screwed over the back end. Investors, especially in today's economy, start to move away, looking for real profits instead of money losing tax shelters.

I guess you can break it down like this:

Costs rise.

Profits shrink.

Losses grow.

Investors leave.

Industry collapses.

And what's even sadder, is that when I read about this case, I automatically assumed the company had to be guilty, because such behaviour is the default position of the entire industry.

Which can only hurt it in the long run.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #233: A Match Made In....?

Hollywood is abuzz over rumours about a possible merger between the super-sized talent reps William Morris Agency, and the Endeavor Agency to form a super-duper-mega-agency.

Now those in the know are saying that it actually could be a good match. WMA has a powerhouse music division repping a good chunk of the Top 40 at any given moment, but it's movie division has been weakened by defections to other agencies, Endeavor being one of them. Endeavor has a killer movie/tv department, but doesn't have all that much of a presence in the music world.

Both could do very well from this merger.

And they could do very badly.

You see both agencies are run by powerful, Type-A, alpha-dog types. I mean you have to be in order to survive and thrive in the shark tank we call Hollywood, and there is the great potential for a massive clash of egos that could kill the merger before it happens, or destroy whatever form the mega-agency takes after the merger.

Because there's a problem with business in Hollywood. It's letting the ego drive beat out the money drive in decision making. I know I'm sounding like the next crackpot on Oprah's reading list, but I'm not talking about eliminating the ego drive, because it can be a useful tool. Nor am I saying it should be all about money, because that leads to greed, and greed leads to stupidity. Both the desire to boost ego and income should work together, seeking success for the company as a whole.

My advice to both agencies. Take a look at the situation, right down to the brass tacks, and if it really looks like you could both profit from this deal, then go for it.

However, after the merger, you must remember that now you must all work together. While competition, even internal competition, is good and healthy, remember that the key is to win, not to make the other player lose.

And by winning I mean getting the best clients, and the best deals for these clients you can get. But backstabbing has to go, or everyone can end up a loser in the end.

So I would like to see something in Hollywood run well, just once, and if the folks at these agencies are as smart and shrewd as I think they have to be, they might pull it off.

But then I can sometimes be a cock-eyed optimist.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #232: Confessions of a

Is it just me, or is there a problem with romantic comedies these days?

And I'm not just talking about the relative box-office under-performance of Confessions of a Shopaholic in the face of the
remake of Friday The 13th, but about the genre in general.

There was a time when romantic comedies appealed to both women and men. Okay, it appealed more to women, but at least men could sit through them. The point was that they could truly be date movies, with romance for the women, comedy, sometimes slapstick, for the men, and everyone was happy.

Lately I've noticed a trend in romantic comedies to veer away from comedy and become consumerist fantasies, more about shilling expensive shoes than the quest for true love in a complicated world.

Now I suspect there are different reasons for this. One is that the elements of hazard that fueled the humorous misunderstandings in romantic comedies, like scandals over infidelity, divorce, or even deviancy, don't really have the weight they used to. There was a time in certain levels of polite society when such things could really wreck a person's life. Nowadays, if it was particularly extreme, such scandals could get you a reality show deal.

Plus, the production code forced the filmmakers of the Golden Age to be subtle in their sexuality. They couldn't have people hope into bed before marriage, and even after marriage they couldn't show it, so they had to do all the foreplay verbally via witty repartee.

But I think the biggest reason was demographic market research, or as I call it, Satan's Fun-Box. This research showed that the majority of American women did most of the buying in American households. So a new mindset seemed to take over Hollywood, if you were making a picture geared towards women, then make it an orgy of product placement.

So you get movies designed more to sell clothes, shoes, and accessories rather than tell an entertaining story.

And it's hurting the genre. There was a time when romantic comedies were talked about, their best lines became pop-culture catchphrases. (People still talk about the deli-orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally) Nowadays, while some still might do well in ticket sales, they are usually quickly forgotten about five minutes after people leave the theater.

Another thing that's hurting the genre is the portrayal of women in what's supposed to be a women's genre. In the golden age the leading ladies of romantic comedies were intelligent, sometimes eccentric women, who were more than the match of any man they dealt with. They had their own minds and their own lives, love often came as an inconvenience, that led to the sort of romantic complications and misunderstandings that fuelled the comedy.

But now, in this supposedly liberated age, I see romantic comedies playing and the characters seem to fit into basic stereotypes, the emotionally needy doormat, the frosty business bitch, the gratingly vapid fashionista, or a combination thereof. You'd never see Katherine Hepburn or Barbara Stanwyck play these types. And when you realise that someone who posted a cheesecake shot of Shopaholic's Isla Fisher at the beginning of this post is concerned about the image of women in movies, you know it's a serious problem.

Now I'd like to know what you think about the current state of romantic comedies.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Bob Newhart.

I know, you were probably expecting something themed with Valentine's Day, but since massacring gangsters in a Chicago garage isn't considered comedy by most I decided to just go with Don Rickles' best friend, comedy legend Bob Newhart.

Bob Newhart began his career as an accountant, and while working for a Chicago TV producer used to record mock telephone calls with a co-worker that they'd send to a local radio station. When the co-worker quit, Newhart kept on, developing his trademark one sided phone call. These were little one-person sketches where someone politely tries to navigate out of a bizarre situation, only to dig themselves in deeper, as seen in this sketch where a very special customer contacts his dry cleaner...



His first album
The Buttoned Down Mind of Bob Newhart became an overnight sensation, and Newhart soon found himself playing the top clubs around the country, and getting tapped by show-biz legend and fan Dean Martin to appear on his hit variety show.



After starring in a variety show that only lasted one season but won both the Emmy and Peabody Award, and a string of guest appearances, he landed his own sitcom
The Bob Newhart Show, where he played a mild mannered psychiatrist dealing with a crazy world that became one of the classic sitcoms of the 70s, and followed that up with Newhart, a subtly increasing surreal comedy about an author trying his hand at running a inn in a quaint, but eccentric town in Vermont.

But this isn't about sitcoms, this is about comedy. So I'll close today's show with Newhart being uncharacteristically mean, albeit in a nice way, at the roast of his best friend Don Rickles.


Friday, 13 February 2009

Update:

Sorry no blog today, I was working on a chapter summarizing the history of war movies, but I will have a fresh Saturday Silliness Cinema tomorrow.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #231: Pulling Over Push?

Well, one thing is for certain, some lawyers are going to get paid, though I don't know where Harvey Weinstein is going to get the money for it.

Maybe I should explain for those folks too lazy to click this link.

You see, during the recent Sundance Festival a film called Push (not the one with the psychic Dakota Fanning) won awards, critical praise, and the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. The Weinstein Company wanted it, Lionsgate wanted it, and a company called Cinetic was contracted to broker some sort of deal where either one would land the film, or they would share it.

Weinstein claims that Cinetic sent him an e-mail claiming that they had agreed to go with TWC, but then signed a contract with Lionsgate. Now Harvey Weinstein is suing everybody, and Lionsgate is suing back.

Since we're talking about an urban drama that the people who liked it described as extremely well made, but bleak, depressing and a very hard sell to ticketbuyers, the only folks that will probably make money on
Push will be the lawyers.

But it does raise a question.

Why was The Weinstein Company even in the running?

Think about it for a second.

TWC doesn't have MGM to distribute their films anymore, there were just too many jokers in that deck, and that's just counting the films that TWC
actually released. The company is notorious for sitting on movies, sometimes for years, or dumping it in one theatre through their 3rd Rail distribution arm. Even Harvey's pet project, the pederast Nazi Oscar-bait flick The Reader has made around the same amount in ticket sales in its entire pre-Oscar run that Paul Blart: Mall Cop made in its opening weekend.

It seems obvious to me that TWC was more interested in winning the movie than in actually winning
with the movie.

Does that make any sense?

Allow me to explain.

You see, TWC is almost completely driven by the Ego Drive. Back in the glory days of Miramax, there was some balance between the Ego Drive and the Money Drive, leading to profitable, and award winning movies, but now Ego's in the driver's seat, while Money doesn't even seem to be in the car anymore. Probably because it was other people's money anyway.

I believe that Harvey Weinstein is more interested in adding another Sundance Award winner notch on his cinematic bedpost, than doing anything with the film that might reward the filmmakers and the investors who actually made the damn thing. And any filmmaker
who doesn't know that by now, probably shouldn't be in the movie biz.

At least Lionsgate will at least try to make something from the film, they don't have a choice right now, it's a matter of survival for them.

I guess you can figure out who I'm rooting for right in this fight. I'm rooting for the people who made Push, and hope their film gets the release they deserve.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #230: When You A Little Guy

Yesterday I commented on the troubles Lionsgate Entertainment is going through, a string of expensive bombs, a stumbling stock price, unhappy shareholders, and the possibility of a major management shake up.

Well, I'd like to take this post to offer something a little different than my usual sarcasm and try to be positive, and offer advice to what a smaller company can do to survive, and hopefully thrive in these times.

1. Know your limits. This should be self-explanatory, but a lot of people in show-biz need to be reminded. Every company has limits to what it can afford to do, and what it can afford to lose. Learn them, know them, and figure out the best way to expand them and turn them into strengths.

2. Study what the majors are doing, and do the opposite. Okay, maybe I'm being a bit glib here, but there is some truth in it. The majors are going through a production contraction, reducing their production slates, and centering mostly on big blockbusters like comic book adaptations and Oscar bait. Look where there are gaps in the market that need filling, and respond accordingly.

3. Land a horror franchise. Horror franchises are bread and butter to a small company. They're usually cheap, sell well, and make a decent profit. However, they can also be a trap if you get lazy, so you must also...

4. Know when to end a horror franchise. Horror films usually enter the realm of self-parody around the 4th movie, and then you're just flogging an undead horse. Plan ahead with the creators to see how long you can play that pony, and when to send it to the glue factory. This goes hand in hand with having at least two or three potential replacement franchises waiting in the wings. (Note: never let any two franchises running at the same time be too similar. Divide them between supernatural thrillers, sci-fi monster flicks, and traditional crowd pleasing slasher flicks.)

5. Maintain good relations with talent. When the talent gets pissy, prices go up. It's a fact of life in the movie biz, and as a smaller company you can't really afford to pay those kinds of prices. Be fair, be open, be honest, and you'll find that people will be more willing to take less money up front. It's the first rule of tre capitalism, when both sides of a deal are happy, then many more happy-making deals are in the offing.

6. Getting big is good, but pace yourself. As your film company succeeds, the temptation will come to "go big" and make expensive blockbusters like the big boys in an attempt to find "legitimacy." And while blockbusters do have the potential for great reward, they also come with humongous risks. Which is why you have to pace yourself, never letting your movies get too big too fast, or you might just burst something and start hemorrhaging more money than you can afford. This goes hand in hand with knowing your limits.

7. Never let ego or money drive alone. I've said before that the two driving forces behind decision making in Hollywood is the Money Drive and the Ego Drive. The Money Drive craves commercial success, the Ego Drive craves awards, prestige, and personal glory. Alone, they can quickly destroy a company, but together, in the proper balance, they can make a company succeed.

I'll end with a cautionary note. There was a company, it had a profitable niche, made a lot of money, and even made an Oscar winning blockbuster trilogy. However, they didn't follow my advice, and...



...we all know what happened to them in the end.


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #229: A Lions Share of Lionsgate?

According to the always indefatigable Nikki Finke for this report on the fortunes, or to be more exact misfortunes of Lionsgate Entertainment.

Lionsgate started out in Vancouver, Canada in the mid-90s to take advantage of a boom of film production in the region. It quickly made a name for itself
as a distributor willing to handle controversial or edgy material. One of its best money makers was a string of low budget horror films, chief among them the grotesque Saw franchise.

Now recent years saw it step away from its low budget horror roots to invest in bigger, more lavish productions.

And that's where the trouble started.

Too many expensive films sold too few tickets in too short a time. The stock is tumbling, and the investors are getting restless. Nikki reports that Carl Icahn, the superstar investor and 9% stakeholder in Lionsgate, is chief among the displeased, and has a history of shaking up companies that are under-performing.

Which leads me to the lesson of this piece.

When you do something well, like handling profitable low budget movies, you don't phase that out. You keep doing what you do right, reinvesting the profits and using the films themselves as a training ground for new talent, talent that would view Lionsgate as their home base when they move on to bigger and better things.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't have moved into making bigger movies, but they should have paced themselves better. Having one big flop is bad enough, having them come in a cluster like many recent Lionsgate releases, shows a sincere problem with management. It was all just too much too soon, the company that was like a baby that had just perfected crawling, and then tried to start running, before mastering walking.

They also made a mistake trying to copy the sort of films that the major studios make, like big budget action flicks, and comic book adaptations. What they needed to do was to look at what the major studios were not doing, that the audience was interested in, and then trying to fill that void in a way that's both cost-effective, and audience pleasing.

In other words, the management has to pass on becoming a major studio for now, and rely on just being the best Lionsgate it can be. It may not please the ego as much as being a major mogul, but who cares when you're company is making truckloads of money.

And speaking of management, in case the shareholders are thinking of making a change

You can't blame me for trying.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #228: The Business of Evil, and the Evil of Business

Writer James Hudnall did a post last month at the conservative pop culture blog 'Big Hollywood' about 10 More Cliches That Must Die. One of the first cliches mentioned is the "Evil Businessman / Corporation."

You've seen this cliche in action. I can't name all the

One of the most egregious examples is the movie movies that feature some evil businessman or corporation plotting to stage terrorist attacks, make zombies, or do whatever sinister doings need doing whether it makes any rational sense or not, but usually not. The Constant Gardener, which won rave reviews, awards, and was on a truckload of "Best of the Year" lists was one of the most egregious examples. For those of you who haven't seen it, or read the original John LeCarre novel, a bureaucrat goes to Africa and beyond to solve the murder of his wife, which is part of a big international corporate conspiracy. Which is the big problem I have with the film.

Now if you're going to read on, I must warn you that the following contains
spoilers.

Okay here's the conspiracy. A multinational pharmaceutical company, which I'll call EvilCo Inc., starts giving an experimental tuberculosis drug to AIDS patients in Africa. Now the company knows their TB drug won't do anything for these AIDS patients, and will probably do more harm. Well, it does do more harm, and a bunch of people die. To keep this secret, and to maintain the TB drug's marketability the drug company then goes on a international killing spree as a cover up.

Do you see the problem inherent in this conspiracy?

If not, I'll explain, and I'll write slowly so you'll can catch up.

The conspiracy doesn't make any sense.

Think about it, you own a drug company, and you have a new drug that you hope will combat an antibiotic resistant strain of tuberculosis, and you've spent millions of dollars to do the research, and navigate it through the complex and expensive web of the drug approval system.

What do you do?

Well, one thing you
wouldn't do is anything that would screw it up, like giving it to people in a third world country with a different terminal disease without any thought as to the effects. Because doing that will pretty much toss all your expensive research out the window, leave you open to the threat of millions, if not billions in litigation, and probably criminal charges for all involved. And that's not including all the killings that you have to cover it up, and then you have to bribe all the law enforcement, media, and anyone with an internet connection who might expose your plot. It's an ever-expanding web of murders and cover ups, and new murders and cover ups, that not only will never end, it just doesn't make any sense.

Yes, I know that the people behind the story were making a statement about the lawless behaviour of businesses operating in Africa. But failing to offer a remotely logical crime, only trivializes their cause.

In many cases these EvilCo Inc. corporations are solely doing these things not for profit, because there's no profit in zombies, or plagues, or zombie plagues, but solely as a stock evil-doer who only exist to do evil. They're the modern equivalent of the Mad Scientist from the old movie serials. They have no rhyme or reason, because they don't need it, especially when there's evil to be done.

Can you imagine the board meetings at EvilCo Inc.?

"Okay," said the CEO, "what's our plans for the third quarter?"

"I think we can unleash man-eating aliens on the planet," said Terwilliger, Vice President in Charge of Evil Research and Development.

"What can we do with man-eating aliens?" asked the CEO.

"We can sell them as weapons," said Terwilliger.

"How are they controlled?"

"You can't control them," said Terwilliger, "they eat everyone they can get, even our own people."

"Who will buy a man eating alien that they can't control and will most likely turn on you?" asked the CEO. "Because a weapon you can't aim, isn't a weapon, it's a problem."

"That's marketing's problem," said Terwilliger, just before one of his aliens broke out of its cage and ate his head.

Do you see what I'm getting at here?

Now you wonder why do they keep dredging up this cliche, even though it only serves to dumb down stories. Well I think there are three reasons:

1. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: Hollywood cannot allow anyone that isn't a rich white male be the villain, unless they are under the secret control of the rich white villain, for fear of being accused of racism. That's how the Middle Eastern Islamic terrorists in Tom Clancy's novel The Sum Of All Fears, ended up transformed by Paramount into a cabal of Teutonic Neo-Nazi businessmen in the movie.

2. CLASS WARFARE: Film has always had pretensions of being the art of the working class, even though the people making it have nothing to do with the working class as soon as the start making major films. So they need to appear like they're on the side of the "working man" and to do that, they must raise the red flag and start banging on businessmen. It's not a new phenomenon, in fact, look at any silent movie and you'll see mustachioed tycoons plotting to close the orphanage and tie damsels to railway tracks. The problem is that they're still doing that, albeit in more expensive suits, but audiences need a certain amount of verisimilitude. They don't need much, just enough to keep them from saying: "Damn this story is stupid."

3. THEY DON'T KNOW THE REAL WORLD: Think about it. The only businesspeople Hollywood people are regularly exposed to are media industry businesspeople. Here are business people who will do something outrageously stupid and unprofitable to fulfill some irrational, ego-based goals that would make no sense at all outside of Hollywood. Then they see the cases of Bernie Madoff, and other Wall Street scoundrels, which makes them think the real world is like their world, and can't conceive of someone who just wants to make money and not commit any crimes.

My advice, try to find some new villains, because Hollywood needs them, badly, or at least give them something logical to do.

Hollywood Babble On & On #227: Rourke VS Penn

An interesting debate has popped up over at Nikki Finke's blog over who should win the Best Actor Award, and that the top contenders are Sean Penn for Milk, and Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. So I've decided, as an outsider, to offer my services as a neutral voice and look at the reasons why and why not.

WHY THEY WOULD WIN:

SEAN PENN: Just about everyone agrees that his performance in
Milk was a startling transformation. And not just for playing a gay character, hundreds have done it before, but for Penn's ability to play Harvey Milk as witty, charming, and lively, something Penn has not been able to do in a very, very, long time. Plus, playing a gay character gives him a political edge, allowing Hollywood to ensure their gay-friendly bona-fides in the aftermath of losing the Prop 8 vote.

MICKEY ROURKE: Just about everyone agrees that Rourke's performance as a washed up wrestler struggling to reconnect with not only his family, but normalcy in general, was a gut wrenchingly honest performance full of real emotion. Plus, he's already won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA award, and his performance is more than just a comeback, it's a re-invention of his entire career.

WHY THEY WON'T WIN:

SEAN PENN: Penn's role in Milk was Oscar-bait, pure and simple. Because Penn needs the Oscars to maintain his status as a movie "star" and keep working at the level, and salary, that he does. Without regular nominations Penn would be forced to do things to prove his box office worth, and he doesn't really have much box office worth,* and he doesn't have much, if any good-will with the American audience. If Milk had been an HBO TV movie, with no hope for Oscar qualification, I doubt Penn would have taken the role, because he doesn't strike me as someone who would settle for an Emmy.

MICKEY ROURKE: Rourke had a shot at stardom in the 80s, but lost it, and spent a long period in the comparable wilderness by Hollywood standards. After winning the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, many Academy voters figure he doesn't really
need the Oscar to revive his career as much as Sean Penn does to maintain his. Plus, there was also a recent incident where Rourke made, by Hollywood standards, a shocking political statement. He refused to criticize former President George W. Bush. He didn't openly support the former president, he just refused to criticize him the way about 90% of Hollywood regularly criticizes him. That probably killed his chance with Oscar as much as anything.

Of course all this could be moot, and Richard Jenkins could be the upset winner for
The Visitor.


*
Milk has made about $25 million domestically, with a $20 million production budget, if they're lucky they might break even after a $15+ million post-Oscar boost to cover their prints, advertising, and publicity costs.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #226: A Pledge From Me...

Like just about everyone on the internet I jumped on the old bandwagon over the whole Christian Bale taped tirade incident, although I do admit, I used it to make fun of big media bosses, but that's not an excuse.

The more I read about the cause of the incident, the more I can understand what he did, he may have over-reacted, but now I don't think it was the spoiled star-brat sort of temper tantrum a lot of celebrities are prone to.

I really should have seen through it. Because despite what the media says, there's one sure fire test to find out if an actor is "difficult" or not, and it's really simple.

Just look at the number of people who work with him more than once, and those who say they would work with him again.

Some have called Russel Crowe difficult, but Ridley Scott has him in just about every movie, and Scott's not the type to work with someone he considers difficult.

And it strikes me the same with Bale, Warner Bros. treat actors playing Batman as fairly disposable, (Remember the ones made in the 90s, and that whoever's cast spends over half the movie under a mask?), and Nolan cast him in his non-Batman film
The Prestige, which doesn't strike me as something you do with an actor you don't get along with.

I like Bale as an actor, he works very hard at his job, and he usually does a very good job, you don't see him partying his brains out like many modern celebutards, preferring life with his wife and family, a refreshing change. Plus, unlike a lot of modern actors, he's not afraid to play unabashedly heroic characters, without the ironic smarm, laughable implausibility, or gag-inducing posturing found in so many other leading men.

So, in conclusion, I would like to say that I will no longer make fun of Christian Bale, and would like to apologize for jumping on the Bale bashing bandwagon. Face it, deep down, I'm just another internet lemming.

Saturday Silliness Cinema: The One & Only Don Rickles

For decades Don Rickles has been inaccurately described as an "insult" comic, while his style is a combination of lightning quick improv and a form of teasing that actually leaves his targets feeling honoured for getting zinged. After serving in the navy on a torpedo boat in WW2, Rickles tried to make it as a dramatic actor, but had to make ends meet doing stand up in the booming nightclub circuit. At first he did standard impressions and jokes, but really hit his comedic stride by diverging from scripted material and playing with the audience.

He hit it big in the 1950s when Frank Sinatra caught his act. Rickles spotted Sinatra in the audience and said: "I just saw your movie, The Pride and the Passion and I want to tell you, the cannon's acting was great." He then said: "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!"

Sinatra loved it and got a lot of his celebrity friends to go to be "zinged" by the man dubbed Mr. Warmth by the press, and Rickles became the hottest act in Vegas.

No one is safe from Rickles' unique brand of venom, not even the then governor of California, and future US President Ronald Reagan, as seen in this roast.



Rickles has always been a popular guest on talk shows, because of his ability to liven up the show without a script, and only the foibles of the people around him, like in this 1984 clip from the Tonight Show, where Rickles has some fun at the expense of host Carson's recent, and highly costly divorce.



Rickles is still a big draw on the stand-up circuit, the usual success in sitcoms that most comedians pursued, having eluded him because heavily scripted and censored comedy really doesn't mesh with his loose, improvisational style. But he has had some good turns as a dramatic actor, most notably in Martin Scorsese's crime epic
Casino, where, according to Rickles he "carried DeNiro."

Friday, 6 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #225: Dream a Little Dream of DreamWorks.

According to the always indefatigable and inestimable Nikki Finke the deal between Universal and DreamWorks 2.0 has been kiboshed. Word has it that DreamWorks wanted money, a lot of money, as well as distribution, lots of money, and that Universal, wasn't willing to give money and already had too much on its plate, distribution wise.

Now all is not lost for DreamWorks because Disney is waiting in the wings, they need DreamWorks' output to fill their release slate, and might sell Miramax to finance the deal. Which strikes me as odd, but I'll get back to that in a moment.

This incident illustrates one of the major problems Hollywood has and they have only themselves to blame.

Some folks have asked why DreamWorks Bosses Spielberg and Katzenberg haven't ponied up their own dough to make the Universal deal go through. Well, they don't because they're intelligent men, and there's a word people have to describe people who invest their own money in the movie business: Suckers.

I'm not accusing Spielberg and Katzenberg of anything untoward, I don't know them, and I don't know how they do business, though I will say that they do have the least complaints against them, which does say something. What I am saying is that Hollywood is a terrible place to do business, and nobody is willing to be played for a sucker anymore.

When high-price litigation is considered standard operating procedure, your industry is in trouble. Because the days when people were willing to piss away their money for a tax write-off are over. They want results, and the don't want the headaches associated with doing business with Hollywood.

So now the credit crunch is threatening the viability one industry that managed to thrive during the Great Depression. There is a solution, but it is a painful and drastic one: Hollywood must reinvent its business model, it must simplify all facets of the business, and realize that there is no shame in both sides of a deal getting what they want. In fact, they need to realize that it's a good thing.

-- Okay, now onto Miramax. The report said that Disney might sell Miramax to finance the DreamWorks deal, which strikes me as odd, because I thought Miramax was just a name Disney slapped on its occasional "indie" release in the years since the Weinsteins went off on their own. So who would want to buy a name that doesn't really have the cachet it once had in the 1990s?