Tuesday, 30 June 2009
The book I'm in Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse, got two good reviews available online.
One even included my chapter as a highlight, describing it as "fun." Which is sort of the point of the story.
Read them... HERE & HERE.
Now go buy the damn book.
Michael Bay here, or, Michael Fucking Bay, if you're a critic. I've taken some time off from rolling in a giant bin of Transformer's money to hack into this insignificant little blog to tell you TEN AMAZING FACTS about the most amazing force of nature in the universe: Me.
1. I literally made the careers of Ben Affleck, Nic Cage, and Will Smith. Without me, they'd be homeless and dwelling in back alleys, trading hand-jobs for chrystal meth.
2. I invented "Jazz hands."
3. I fathered Octomom's eight children by having her look at a picture of one of my sperm. Yes, I'm that potent.
4. San Francisco Bay, Tokyo Bay, the Bay of Pigs, the Bay of Bengal, and thousands of other pieces of coastal geography were all named after me.
5. The phrase "to be held at bay," comes from the incident where I forced a rampaging rhino to freeze from the glamor of my smile.
6. In the year 2100 the Vatican will approve a sequel to the New Testament, called the Bay Testament.
7. I could make the Weinstein Company release a profitable movie, but I won't.
8. I don't drink coffee in the morning, I drink nitroglycerin, then I do jumping jacks to promote regularity.
9. Even I will admit that The Island was shit.
10. I don't use toilet paper, I use reviews.
Monday, 29 June 2009
For years I laboured under the concept that Bay did not direct films, but instead put all his energies into directing the trailers. Creating melodramatic imagery for the ad campaigns, but not bothering if the story made sense or not.
Well, I now think I was only partly right. (You see, I'm never wrong)
I think Bay's success is based on an unspoken invisible contract between him and the audience, one that cannot be articulated by either side, but each sort of understands that it's there. This invisible contract is based on something that Hollywood claims to revere, but in fact abhors: rebellion.
Yes, I've come to the conclusion that Michael Bay is the last rebel left in Hollywood.
I can read you're mind, and you're thinking that I've lost mine. Well don't worry, just let me explain, and everything will come clear.
In Hollywood, everything is about conformity, especially among those that Hollywood considers rebels. Just look at them, they all wear the same designer tattered clothing, have the same artfully messy hair, the same tattoos, and the same stereotypical vices. They're sort of person you meet at a bar who lectures you about how you're a slave to corporate consumer culture while they're dragging on Phillip Morris cigarette, and downing Seagram's brand liquor.
These are safe rebels, and no matter how much they deny it, they're corporate friendly rebels. Their style and lifestyle ensures their dependence on the largess of their corporate masters. They'll make fun of the beliefs and attitudes of the general audience, making jabs at religion, middle class mores, and their so-called "consumerist" culture, while never challenging the innate hypocrisy within their own social circle.
They'll take the occasional jab about their employers, but that's actually preferred by their masters, because it makes them feel like they're one of the cynical post-modern cool kids, hanging with the rebels with the wild hair and clothes and joining in on "sticking it to the man."
It's all phonier than an studio executive's expense claim.
Michael Bay makes no pretense of sticking it to the man, in fact, he goes swanning around like he is The Man. His image is of the cocky, arrogant, I'm Michael Fucking Bay and you're not, who still has the same haircut and dress sense he had in the 1980s, and he isn't going to change just to fit in with the other messy haired pseudo-rebels.
He knows that he's never going to win an Oscar, or even get nominated, or even a good review from a major critic, and he doesn't seem to give a shit because he's literally making Optimus Prime-loads of cash and those who don't like him or his films can kiss his probably well-toned behind.
Just look at his recent ad for M&Ms, if that isn't a great big "eat me" to his critics, both cinematic and personal, I don't know what is.
(Add the fact that he's a peanut M&M makes it all a Freudian festival.)
He's not rebelling against the middle class mores that they themselves live by, he's rebelling against the snobbishness and insularity of Hollywood itself. This drives Hollywood nuts, spawning a mini-industry of Michael Bay haters, who can't stand him, or his movies, resent that most of them make a lot of money, and that he's doesn't want to be one of the "cool kids" preferring to just be one of the "rich kids" and rubbing it in. He goads the haters even further, making his films, and his own image, bigger, louder, and more obnoxious every year.
The audience catches this vibe from him, even though they can't articulate it, they go to his movies, knowing that while his films only offer spectacle and may insult their intelligence, they're not going to insult their existence, like many so-called "smarter" films, and that making it a hit will really bug those who claim to know better. This makes the audience Bay's ally in his one man war on Hollywood's shibboleths, and sells tickets by the boatload.
So, to sum it all up, the secret of Bay's success is that he's literally the bug up Hollywood's ass. It's really that simple.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Actually, the Times UK reports Jackson had recorded 100 unreleased songs that Sony will compile & release over the next 5 years. He's also #1 on the Itunes & Billboard charts which means he is earning more than the reported 20 million he generated per year prior to his death.
You (& Mr Burnaska) seem to know so much about Jackson, his delusions, etc.
Why didn't you know that?
D, w/ all due respect, you appear to have an interesting, generally insightful perspective on the workings of the entertainment biz. But occasionally you allow your lack of personal success in that realm & the hatred for those who have succeeded to cloud that insight.
You might want to work on that in order to remain credible.
You'll probably delete this post.
Michael Jackson was the greatest musician who ever lived, whose songs never annoyed me by repetitiveness and overplaying, he never mutilated himself with plastic surgery, and he didn't share his bed with little boys, monkeys, and do other weird and creepy things.
But I have a few questions:
If Jackson was so sane, and so consistently successful, and earning $20 million a year, why are folks reporting that he left behind $400 million in debts? Couldn't he live on $20 million a year? I could.
Why did every deal involving Michael Jackson, from auctioning off his curios, to shopping at his local pharmacy end in lawsuits? He was making $20 million a year, he had 100 songs banked with his record company, why not pay his bills?
Sure, Michael Jackson is #1 in sales right now, but will that actually translate into continuing sales for this 100 song back catalog over the next 5 years, or is it just ghoulish memento hunting, like folks who dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood at the scene of John Dillinger's shooting?
And while the songs maybe selling, even in the millions, how much of that $400 million debt will it cover?
Anonymous, are you just an Anonymous Jackson fan, a co-delusional, trolling for anyone daring to bad-mouth your pop-idol, or are you a sock-puppet for the record company/concert promoter trying to tamp down criticism while your employers try to squeeze out something to cover the millions pissed away on Jackson's now aborted comeback, in other words, a profiteer?
And by the way, I won't delete the post. I stand by my opinions, and won't let anyone who doesn't even have the balls to even make up a phony name, tell me otherwise. Also I probably should remind you of something: I'm talking about Hollywood, I still have, and always will have, more credibility as an obnoxious cranky blogger than 99.9% of Hollywood's media machine.
Thanks for commenting, I haven't had some troll in a while.
UPDATE: My critic speaks again-
You can read their full comment, but we'll skip the part about my bitterness and get to the meat of the issue:
thought about explaining the intricacies of Jackson's situation to you re: his 50-100mil music library, the other multi mil $ library's he owns, not to mention the fact his potential to earn much more than what he owed gave him leeway w/ his creditors. In addition to the publicity & payment for media exposure those lawsuits generate.Now the value of his music library, and his partial share of the old ATV Music library, and the Lennon/McCartney songs are all well and good, but they didn't do him much good during his life. Plus, there are reports that the contract for the Lennon/McCartney songs are going to revert to the original owners in a few years, thus chopping a couple of hundred million off the catalogue's value.
I see his post-mortem albums having some sales at first, out of ghoulish curiosity, but I fully expect them to perform much like the way his last few albums did. A lot of hype, but resulting in little sales to recoup the costs spent on the hype, and lawsuits flying with the regularity of the swallows of Capistrano. This aborted tour was the 3rd comeback attempt that I can recall off the top of my head, and it showed all the signs of being exactly like the other two.
His creditors are going to realize this too, and they're going to pounce like ravenous wolves. I feel bad for his children, because by the time this is all over, they won't have anything left. Lawyers have a nasty habit of making everything cost more, exponentially more.
If you wanted a serious discussion, you would have said something more like:
"I must disagree with your points, I think the value of his song catalogue will solve all his estate's financial problems. I also believe that Jackson's history of bizarre behaviour, accusations of pedophilia, and the opinion of critics that the quality of his work was declining, will not affect future sales of his bank of over 100 unreleased new songs."Then I would have said that you were free to disagree, I'd reiterate my points, and we'd leave it at that.
However, you made your comment an anonymous personal attack by claiming to know everything about me, you invited vitriol, which if you really understood me, you'd know that analysis liberally seasoned with sarcasm, snark, and even vitriol is what this blog is all about.
How can I criticize Hollywood and not criticize those who are considered "successful," especially when they insist on pissing that success away? Should I start a blog satirizing the homeless?
Your tendency to turn what should be a simple disagreement into some sort of personal vendetta doesn't bode well for your alleged career as a show-runner. Which sort of makes me glad that I won't be working for you, because I appear to have touched a nerve with you, and you are apparently very bitter about the writings of unknown Canadian bloggers.
(Do you see how that just invites a flaming?)
I knew writing about Jackson was going to bring out the obsessives. That's why I put the warning in the original post.
Too many follow predictable patterns of rise, fall, comeback, and crash, and usually for no better reason than common stupidity.
But I would like to take a moment to talk about the business of gossip.
Gossip, especially about the rich and the famous, is as old as civilization itself. I'm sure on a back wall of an ancient ruin in Iraq someone scratched Xerxes is cheating on his concubines with his catamite in cuneiform.
Of course that went into overdrive with the birth of the modern film industry. Hollywood created "more stars than in heaven" and while at first the studios kept the gossip under some semblance of control, they couldn't control it completely.
Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper became legends as the first modern gossip columnists, reporting on the sins, both mortal and venal of Hollywood's new elite. Walter Winchell soon followed, putting the power brokers of Washington and New York in his sights as well.
One thing that these groundbreaking gossips learned was that they didn't get ahead by being liked, they got ahead by being feared.
Celebrities had to kiss their ass or find their careers being slaughtered with rumor, innuendo, and sometimes outright slander at the hands of this unholy trio and their acolytes. Lawsuits were pointless, since the gossip's expenses were covered by their publishers, whose lawyers could tie up litigation for years.
This industry burst from newspaper columns, and the occasional fly-by-night gossip rag, to take over first the tabloid newspapers, luring them away from reports of Bigfoot and gruesome crimes, then mainstream "general interest" magazines, and TV shows from Entertainment Tonight to TMZ.
Gossip also became coin of the realm of the internet, leading the transformation of failed actor, turned freelance writer, turned receptionist, Mario Lavendeira into gossip king Perez Hilton.
Hilton's specialty was going lower than any other before him. His trademark was scribbling penises, or white-dots (for cocaine) all over poached paparazzi pics of celebrities, outing closeted (or just suspected of being closeted) celebrities, and putting general acceptance of the gay community back about two decades by embodying every negative stereotype you know, and making up a few new ones.
Of course his career is following the usual arc of a gossip monarch, he's just doing it way faster than the others, probably because of the lightspeed nature of the media itself.
1. NOVELTY: Most of the major gossip "stars" become gossips because of their failure to become celebrities based on anything like talent or ability. So they dig up some dirt, create a public image: Hedda Hopper- big hats and faux moral superiority, Walter Winchell- the "hard living" newspaperman, and Perez Hilton- The catty hairdresser stereotype. This novelty, coupled with the celebrity dirt people crave leads to initial success. This success leads to...
2. POWER THROUGH FEAR: Soon people start to fear appearing badly in the column or blog, so they start kissing the gossip's ass. The gossip starts getting invited to parties with the beautiful people, and treated like they were one of them. However, they are not one of them, and somewhere deep down they know this and this breeds deeper resentment. They start to take the power they have accrued, and the fear it creates, and they develop...
3. POWER MADNESS: The whole business of gossip transforms from just reporting the rumours to making and breaking people. Those who don't pay obeisance to them will be destroyed. Be it an actor Hedda Hopper doesn't like, a politician Winchell considered a "red," or a beauty queen that has the same religious beliefs as the president Hilton voted for.
4. CONSEQUENCES COME CALLING: When you make your living shoveling shit, the wind is going to change and some shit is going to blow into your face. It's a law of nature. Hedda Hopper got kicked in the ass by Spencer Tracy, Louella Parsons had more drinks thrown in her face than you can shake a stick at, and Walter Winchell eventually became a pariah from the people he wanted to hobnob with.
Hilton's hissy fit certainly didn't help his case. By going on the internet before going to the police, he trivialized the incident to one of his own stories, and the childish use of a homophobic slur, alienated the gay community that was already trying to distance themselves from him.
5. CRASH & BURN: With the consequences coming fast and furious, the sources of gossip tend to dry up. Hopper and Parsons eventually ended up just regurgitating press releases, and became "quaint and old fashioned" by the standards of their former acolytes. Winchell lost all his sources, all his clout, and ended up printing his column on a mimeograph in his apartment and handing it out on the street to passersby.
It's the cycle of life, and Perez is right in the middle of it, and he can't even see it.
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Friday, 26 June 2009
I never liked Michael Jackson.
I didn't care for his music, I didn't care for his public image, and that ambivalence quickly shifted to outright disgust as the words "bizarre" and "wacky" began to dominate his life and career. I'm going to be blunt, cruelly blunt, so if you're a Michael Jackson fan, you might want to find another blog.
Michael Jackson went from a child star to grotesque self parody as he became a failed version of the Emperor Norton of pop culture.
Emperor Norton I was once a San Francisco businessman named Joshua Abraham Norton. When Norton lost his fortune in a fiasco over the price of rice, he disappeared for several years, only to reappear in Frisco, where he declared himself the Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
The thing was the entire city of San Francisco went along with his delusion. Businesses accepted the currency he printed, he lived in the "Imperial Suite" of the city's top hotel, and people accepted his decrees with applause, whether they followed them or not. This game went along for around 20 years until Norton's death in 1880. Even at this funeral, 30,000 people formed a parade to honour their deceased delusional monarch.
Michael Jackson's story is a little different. Jackson was never able to get businesses to accept his own currency, which is why almost every business deal Jackson got involved with appeared to end in expensive litigation.
But let's get back to the people involved in his delusion, they break down to two basic types:
THE PROFITEERS: These were the people who hung around him, telling him that everything he did was right, whether it was excessive plastic surgery, or dangling a baby off a balcony. Why? Because they wanted the Michael Jackson gravy train to keep on trucking. Despite having album sales in the toilet since the 1980s, and that he was hemorrhaging cash like a stuck pig, there was always a chance for a buck, thanks to the second type...
THE CO-DELUSIONALS: These were people who appeared to honestly believe the lunacy that Jackson believed, and even they can be broken down into two groups. On the fan side there were the now middle-aged women who would look at the surgically mangled face of Jackson and still see the cute little 10 year old dancing and singing his heart out, because if he didn't, his daddy was going to beat his ass into next week. They accepted his crazy behaviour out of sympathy for his tragic childhood.
Then there were the wannabe profiteers, folks who bought into Jackson's self-declaration as the "King of Pop," and figured that since the man was still living big, he had to still be big. A huge comeback was always just around the corner, and that if they got in on the ground floor, they'd make mucho dinero. Yet those comebacks never really happened.
None of these groups wanted Jackson to face the brutal truth that his career was washed up, he had no money coming in, and had more lawsuits than faux-military dress-suits. Or admit that people bought tickets to his concerts either out of nostalgic delusions, or a desire to watch a car-wreck in action. They had their own delusions to protect, and guarded them as much as the profiteers wanted to protect their meal ticket.
Of course this is just the beginning. Profiteers and Co-Delusionals will start clawing at the ragged remains of his estate in the vain hope of flogging something out of that dead horse. There will be lawsuits over debts, properties, custody of his children, and the music library that included a share in the Beatles-Lennon/McCartney song catalogue.
This is because when you live in a dream-world you don't really pay attention to petty mortal things like balancing a checkbook, or figuring how your kids will live after you're gone. You just rely on the fact that the magical unicorn will come along and drop off whatever you need.
Michael Jackson lived crazy, and attracted crazy like moths to a flame. So, fully expect for his death to attract even more crazy.
Thursday, 25 June 2009
FARRAH FAWCETT- Died at the age of 62 after a 3 year battle with cancer. She was a sexual icon of the 1970s, who reinvented her career during the TV movie and miniseries boom of the 1980s, including a chilling performance as a sociopath who kills her own child and tries to kill two more in Small Sacrifices.
MICHAEL JACKSON- Is dead of a reported heart attack at the age of 50. All I have to say is that this is going to start a media circus that will make the Anna Nicole Smith fiasco look tasteful and restrained.
There will also be lawsuits. The poor man couldn't shop for groceries without it ending in a lawsuit, so you can only imagine what his death will start. Expect suits over money, contracts, the custody of his children, and all sorts of things that will make his bizarre story even more bizarre.
His death will be just the beginning.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Hollywood Babble On & On #311: Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun, Double Your Bullshit Tolerance
In case you haven't heard, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have doubled the number of Best Picture nominees from the traditional 5 to 10.
What the hell?
Of course the official reason for this incredibly dumb-ass move is that the studios want some of the more mainstream fare to have a chance over the actor-friendly, overly serious, pseudo-sincere melodramas, mostly released by studio's pseudo-indie divisions for the last few years.
However, Hollywood is the land of unintended consequences and there are going to be plenty with this decision.
Because when you double the number of Best Picture nominees you're going to:
1. Double the chances for Harvey Weinstein to be obnoxious while wasting millions of investor's money in the vain hope of getting another Oscar.
2. Double the number of tedious movie star vanity projects.
3. End Sean Penn's leave of absence from movie-making immediately, because it doubles his chances of justifying his existence.
4. Double the amount of screener DVDs filling landfills across Southern California.
5. Double the run time of the awards ceremony and halving the audience. (Which pretty much puts it down to two quadriplegics who caregiver left the TV remote out of reach.)
6. Completely ruining of the nice configuration of 5 TV monitors at the nomination press conference. No more 2 on each side, one over the announcer's head, now they're going to be stacking them like cord-wood.
7. Double the odds of a Miley Cyrus film getting a best picture nomination.
8. Double the chances of the Best Picture presenter getting lost reading the nominees, and starting all over again.
9. Double the chances of a Michael Bay film getting a nomination.
10. Doubling the odds of voters just saying "fuck it," and tossing their ballots.
10 nominees, 10 unintended consequences.
What a coincidence.
The Wildclaw Theatre Company of Chicago is doing their annual "DeathScribe" competition, for short radio plays in the genres of horror or thriller.
And no, I'm not talking about the Michael Jackson album. I'm talking scary creepy, not creepy creepy.
So if you have, or can whip up, a short radio play (under 10 min) complete with audio and music cues, before July 30th, then you might get it performed by professional actors and sound FX artists.
Details are here.
I wrote a short piece called The Vivisection, inspired by my love of old Hammer horror films, and it was a lot of fun trying something new.
So give it a shot. Who knows, you might end up scaring something up.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Groundbreaking Hollywood business blogger Nikki Finke has sold her site Deadline Hollywood Daily to the Mail.com internet empire.
DHD will reportedly add a New York correspondent, and add a few new features to her site.
I wish her luck. I don't think she "sold out" in the proverbial and pejorative sense. She was basically a one woman show, and the demands of running such a popular site would overwhelm anyone, and would probably eventually effect the quality of the work she does.
That's not saying that there aren't any potential pitfalls, and I hope that Mail.com fully understands what they're getting into.
DHD was founded on a reputation of being the site that bucks the big-media friendly sites who basically just regurgitated press releases under the guise of investigative journalism. DHD got inside dope and put it up, whether the big media companies wanted it up there or not, especially if it was "or not."
That means any attempt to fiddle with the site and its standard of muckraking, would have the immediate effect of driving away first the sources who give the site its precious info, and then the audience that made the site so popular.
My advice to Mail.com, don't screw it up.
2. WHAT ABOUT PARAMOUNT?
I got this question from a reader:
Following your analogy, if Paramount's pending re-rescue is indeed a remake of Gulf + Western's 1966 takeover, how successful it is will depend on if the buyer "gets" what made the source material work, and can get something fresh out of it; if not, just as most current remakes flop, this new Paramount may, if not fold, be as moribund as MGM (even having another studio own its (Second) Golden Age films, as Universal now owns Paramount's First Golden Age features)
Interestingly, what made Paramount successful was pretty much the opposite of what Paramount does now. You see during its first golden age (1920s-1950s) the company was known for hiring top producing, directing, and writing talent at their creative and commercial peak, and then not meddling with them like most studios, simply because if the powers that be didn't trust their judgment, they wouldn't have signed them to Paramount in the first place. Which is why Paramount had such heavy hitters as Alfred Hitchcock, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, and others on their roster at various times.
The second revival of the 1960s-1970s was brought on by marrying young film-making talent, with direct high-concept projects that won both commercial and critical success, like The Godfather (Francis Coppola) and Chinatown (Roman Polanski).
Nowadays they have to figure out a way to bring in top new talent, quality material, and make it in the most cost-effective way possible. Because if they don't, they just might end up like MGM, which is basically a library whose profits get swallowed up to pay corporate debt.
3. ED MCMAHON R.I.P.
Ed McMahon who was best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick on the Tonight Show, and probably one of the best pitchmen in TV history passed away at the age of 86. I'd rather not remember the last couple of years of his life, plagued by poor health, and bad finances, and think back to the laughs. Like this moment of TV history...
Monday, 22 June 2009
And to top it all off, all of the company's summer releases are being produced by one man. All of their eggs are literally in one basket.
Despite the success of Star Trek's reboot, the company is in rough shape.
But it's happened before.
You see Paramount has been one of the biggest studios in Hollywood since almost the beginning. The United Artists company, now part of the moribund MGM, was started as an act of rebellion against the immense size and dominance of Paramount.
But with size Paramount has also been cursed with a very bureaucratic system. It tends to be slow to react to changing trends, and has a bad tendency of trying to force trends through tossing way too much money on big films that probably shouldn't be made, but get made simply because someone at Paramount thinks it's the sort of film they should be making simply because it's big.
Can anyone say Paint Your Wagon?
Can anyone say G.I. Joe, which looks like six kinds of suck judging by the trailers and marketing materials?
Some folks are predicting that Paramount may actually fold up shop. I think that's a little far fetched. What's more likely to happen is that like in the past it'll come close to complete collapse, then like every time before, someone will take advantage of the fire sale price, buy it, bring in fresh blood, and history will repeat itself all over again.
Because Hollywood history is more than cyclical, it's actually the historical equivalent of remakes. The same story told over and over, just not told as well as the first time, and increasingly dumbed down with every telling.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
However, the long battered and beleaguered assistants in Talent and Management Agencies have begun a web site to vent steam in ways that don't involve urine and a vente mocha latte.
It's called Can Yooouuu and allows those assistants to leave little stories of unreasonable demands, obnoxious behaviour, and just plain insensitivity on the part of their cruel masters.
You know how I feel about the whole agent/assistant situation, and if you don't, then read this.
Saturday, 20 June 2009
So it's a perfect time for a laugh.
With the movie The Hangover staying in the top 5 of the box office after 3 weeks, let's take a look at one of its breakout stars comedian Zach Galifinakis.
Thursday, 18 June 2009
There are literally tons of stories about already overworked, and underpaid assistants, being used, abused, and refused until they either quit, or get adopted by Barry Diller.
Now there are two reasons why they treat, and pay their assistants so poorly, and no, it does not come from a taste for having angry assistants piss in their soy latte.
1. MONEY & CONNECTIONS: Basically agencies don't appear to want anyone who might actually have to live on the wages they pay. Assistant is just an entry level position, and for agents it is all about connections, who is related to whom, and they don't want to have their positions entered by anyone who doesn't already have money and status in their little community.
The time when a poor kid from the old neighborhood could get a gig in the mail room and making it to the top spot through pluck, luck, and hustle is long over. Hollywood is a shrinking and inbred community, and if you don't have any connection to someone who is already a somebody in the industry, you will never get that mail room job.
2. TRIAL BY FIRE: When you base your hiring on contacts over merit, you are going to get quite a few weeds in your garden of talent.
So to get rid of those weeds, you need the Garden Weasel of Simple Brutality. That means shitty pay, long hours, no overtime, brutal workload, and employers who are demanding bottomless pits of need.
Hopefully you will get the jokers out of the deck, and hopefully find a few with the hustle and drive to become real agents.
This system goes back a long way, in fact, it's the oldest form of training known to civilization, and it's called the Apprenticeship.
You see, you can't really learn how to be a good agent in university. Sure, you can learn contract law, and some of the more technical aspects, but there are literally hundreds of other aspects that they don't teach in school. You can only learn how to handle those things by doing, and by doing it under the most stressful, wretched conditions they can finagle, so that when you do make it to the corner office, you can handle everything fate throws at you.
Now these systems tend to get worse as the industry gets richer. This is because those who were assistants when they first started had it rough, so they feel that they must make it rougher to make up for some feeling of inadequacy in the face of the legendary generation that preceded them.
I sort of picture the discussions about treating assistants going a lot like the old comedy sketch the Four Yorkeshiremen:
AGENT 1: Assistants these days have it easy. They don't know the meaning of working hard. When I started out I was only paid three cents an hour, had to live under my desk, and work 23 hours a day. Then my boss would make me crawl over broken glass to serve him coffee.
AGENT 2: You had it easy. When I was an assistant I was paid three cents a day, was forced to live behind the copier machine, work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, swim through a tank full of piranhas to serve him coffee, and then he'd toss it in my face, horribly scalding me.
AGENT 3: Ya pussy! When I was an assistant I was paid three cents a week, had to live in my boss' waste paper basket, work 36 hours a day, 9 days a week, and crawl on hot coals to give my boss his coffee, which he would then throw in my face, and then he'd shoot me in the kneecaps, crippling me for life.
AGENT 4: Too much soft living, that's your problem. When I was an assistant I was paid three cents a year, had to live in the urinal of the executive washroom, worked 48 hours a day, 30 days a week, 3,650 days a year, and everyday I had to swim across a pool of acid to get my boss his coffee, and then he'd throw it in my face, saw off my head with a rusty knife, and shit down my neck.
AGENT 1: B'ah, wuss.
This system isn't always foolproof. It leaves too many openings for ass-kissing, conniving, and scheming, and the judgment of the mentors who are supposed to do the weeding, can be too easily swayed by such things, or by the connections of the assistant and their relatives. So some of those weeds do bloom, and often these weeds lack the "start from nothing" hustle that made the founding of the Hollywood agency system legends.
And another flaw in this system, is that the really big agencies, drunk on their own prestige, usually are the worst employers. This means the really clever candidates with the rare and precious hustle aim for the smaller agencies, work their way up, become big fish in a small pond, and when the majors come to recruit them and their mojo, they have to pay the big bucks. The funny thing is, if they made a few adjustments to their system, they could probably get these people at the start, and keep them loyal to the agency that brought them, at a more reasonable cost.
Of course the key word is loyalty, and if you want that in Hollywood, you better get a dog.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Take a look at the list and see how you can't agree:
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Blade Runner
- The Thing
- Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
I think this was due to a trend that started in the 60s, where filmmakers tried to take the genres of SF and horror, from their "B-movie" roots, and thanks to Star Wars now had the commercial viability, and special effects technology to do it.
Now I think those very things that SF/F/H so great in 1982 have now made most modern SF/F/H so damned forgettable.
Thanks to the past success of genre films, studios will toss a minimum of $100 million into the budget, and thanks to CGI, all you have to do is think of something, and you can make it happen on screen.
Sadly, once the novelty of being able to see everything wears off, it becomes a crutch to all but the most imaginative filmmakers. Why need to be subtle with your monster, when you can render its every pore and pimple in 3D and the studio is giving you millions to do it?
So where old filmmakers used story, and characters to make their films stand out above the limits of visual effects, modern filmmakers simply just toss in the CG and let that do all the work.
What do you think?
Can the SF/F/H cinema become as memorable as it was in good old 1982, or am I just an old fart enamored with nostalgia for the years I discovered such cinema?
"Does that offend you as a Jew?" asks the Priest.
"No," answers Seinfeld, "it offends me as a comedian."
That's sums up how I feel about the whole David Letterman/Sarah Palin kerfuffle.
It doesn't offend me on any political level, I'm a Canadian, and American politics doesn't really involve me, but the fact that he allowed such a poorly conceived and executed joke make on air, offends me as someone who at least tries to be funny without the benefit of a multi-million dollar salary and staff of writers.
And it doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, it was a bad joke that was badly executed, and Letterman didn't give any thought into it all, because if he did, he wouldn't have done the joke.
And here's why:
1. RELEVANCE: The 2008 election ended in November 2008. Sarah Palin then went back to being governor of Alaska, and pretty much stopped being national news. The only reason most people even heard that she had visited New York, was because Letterman made jokes about it. It wasn't big news, it wasn't even little news, and doing the routine meant that it was done at the expense of more relevant stories.
Yes, she did run as Vice President, but that was last year, she lost as well, and she went back to Alaska. Her visit to New York had about as much resonance nationally as the Governor of Wyoming visiting New York. Before this boondoggle the only people who seemed to care a whit about Palin were the people of Alaska who see her as their governor, a handful of Republican supporters who think she's their messiah, and the upper-echelons of the New York-Los Angeles media community, who think she's Lucifer incarnate.
Inadvertently, Letterman made her politically relevant again, and put a big fat target on his own head by attacking her child, and giving her supporters the material they need to get her back in the news.
2. ETHICS: Making jokes about the children of public figures is just plain tacky. Making sexual jokes about the teenage daughter of a public figure is really tacky. It doesn't matter if Letterman meant the 18 year old with the baby, or the 14 year old without, it's still really tacky. The children of politicians often find themselves the subject of unwanted media attention, constant questions from reporters, watching by cameras, and gossip by bloggers. They're trapped in a catch-22, if they do try to control the situation by doing occasional interviews, they're accused of being exploited as the puppets of their parents, if avoid the press, they're damned for participating in an alleged cover-up.
Teenage girls, whether they had a baby or not, don't need some comedian telling the country that they're so slutty they put out baseball players in the dugout, or getting propositioned by a hooker-chasing ex-governor. Ridicule the parent as much as you like, they wouldn't be in politics if they couldn't take a joke, but their children are not fair game. The question a comedian would have to ask is: "Would I want someone saying that about my own daughter?" The answer would be no, and those who would ridicule the children of someone famous deserve all the scorn they get.
3. LAZINESS: The whole routine struck me as the sort of material someone blurts out in the Writer's Room, gets a giggle, and then is quickly forgotten, because while it may amuse a bunch of people buzzed on caffeine, Chinese food, and Xenu knows what else, it's just not good enough for national television. It's like making fun of a colleague's genitals with a rudely placed egg-roll, it may get a laugh in the writer's room, but it doesn't make it worthy of late-night.
The fact that it made it through the usual process of getting a joke through to air, shows a decided lack of effort on the part of the writing staff, and on Letterman himself. I know that producing relevant news jokes on a daily basis is tough, but it's been done since the dawn of television, so it's not impossible. And the laziness shows in the structure of the routine itself.
Saying Palin has a "slutty flight attendant look" was cheap, and inaccurate. She has more of a naughty librarian look, but the writer was probably watching some p0rn with flight attendants on his computer, and that stuck in his head. (My advice to Letterman, if he has to fly commercial, bring your own food and drinks, flight attendants have feelings too, and ways of getting revenge.)
Plus, when you do news related material you have to make sure that you at least know who is in the story. You don't just make an assumption and run with it. If Dick Cheney said something joke-worthy, it would be poor work on the part of the comedy writer to go and place the quote in the mouth of Vladimir Putin. Not knowing which daughter was on the trip, and putting the wrong daughter in the cross-hairs, is a sign that someone wasn't doing their job.
4. ARROGANCE: Letterman made the joke because of a simple, yet false assumption. The bulk of his narrow social circle in New York opposed her run for the VP seat. That is their right, it's a free country, but they seem unhealthily obsessed with her, viewing her as a combination of Elmer Gantry, Forrest Gump, and Dracula in heels.
This goes beyond the simple attitude of "I don't agree with them politically so I will ridicule them and their positions," to an attitude of "I don't agree with them politically, so they must be retarded and evil, so I will ridicule them and their children."
Since everyone in Letterman's social circle shares his attitude, he assumed that the entire country shared his attitude.
And let's remember that bit of wisdom: Don't ASSUME anything, because you will only make an ASS out of U and ME.
Letterman didn't count on Fox News, talk radio, and conservative bloggers to jump on the issue like stink on a mule. I get the feeling that's because he doesn't watch Fox News, listen to talk radio, or read conservative bloggers, because if he did, then he would have seen this coming.
It's the perfect storm for them, Letterman's a millionaire late night comedian, who refuses to make jokes about the current ruling administration, employed by a multi-billion dollar mega-conglomerate, attacking the child of the governor of a state that's literally two countries away from his Manhattan circle in what appears to be some sort of petty revenge for campaigning for a party he doesn't like.
Letterman didn't seem to realize the law of unintended consequences. He made the joke in the hope of belittling a former candidate and her family, but instead gave her supporters the ammunition they needed to revive her standing on the national stage. The millions of people who voted for her, and even those who didn't, saw the joke as an attack on a child and joined in on the outrage, seeing a middle class mother turned governor of a relatively politically small state being attacked while the politically powerful walk unscathed on a nightly basis.
Why didn't Letterman see the shit-storm coming?
The only reason I can think of is arrogance.
Letterman runs his own shop, nobody dares say no to him about anything, he apparently listens to no one that doesn't agree with him completely, and after too many years of that you start to think that you're all that and a bag of chips, and that you can make a really bad joke, and not see the wave of shit it's going to start.
Should Letterman be fired?
No, I don't think so, and I doubt he will. He'll ride it out, and in a week or two it'll all be forgotten.
What he should do is obtain a little humility, because humility is the comedian's best tool. It's what helps a comedian tell the difference between a joke that deserves to get on air, one that can only causes shit.
Now I hope that Letterman sees that he screwed the pooch, and makes himself and his writers aim for a higher standard in their material.
And let this be the last we talk of politics here.
It's not my bailiwick.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Well, first thing I have to say is that the studios have no one to blame but themselves for this.
But I guess I should do a little explaining...
First, a spec screenplay is industry slang for a "speculative" screenplay, which is basically a script that was created completely by the writer, and not from an assignment by a studio.
Second, development is the process where the studios weed through spec scripts, find the ones they like, buy an "option" on that script which gives the studio a year to get the film made, go through about 500 rewrites, hire a director, cast, and all the other things that a studio needs to do before they get around to actually make a movie.
As in all things in Hollywood, this costs money. People need to be paid, to read the scripts, to write reports called "coverage" about the scripts, then the producers have to decide which ones to buy, they have to pay the writer, not only for the rights to the script, but for rewrites, or they hire another writer to do it, etc...etc...
Now a lot of scripts go into development, costing a lot of money, and never get a green-light in the end. So the whole process, like everything else in movies, is pretty expensive and risky.
The studios running out of development money, and finding it hard to find decent spec scripts have basically the same cause.
You see when the major studios became big media conglomerates everything became about "consolidation," "synergy," and other corporate consultant spewed bullshit. This gave the studios the idea that they could do anything and everything "in house," and playing it safe with the familiar. Basically this meant doing mostly sequels, remakes of old movies/TV shows that the studio already owns, and adapting comic book characters.
Which leads to a problem.
You see, the entertainment business is all about being actually entertaining. That means a certain amount of novelty and originality is necessary to keep the industry going.
But big corporations are terrified of new ideas, because they are inherently risky, and the people who create those ideas are less likely to just hand over the entire farm to the studio. So they aim to create a sense of novelty not through originality, but through spending money, money, money.
I'm talking about money for stars, millions upon millions of dollars, whether they can deliver an audience or not.
And then tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars on production, and marketing. I'm talking about lots of special effects, and more advertising than you can shake a stick at.
Of course if you know the history of film, you'll probably know that many of the things that made many past films so memorable were the things done by filmmakers to save money. A classic example was Spielberg's spare use of the mechanical shark in Jaws. He didn't do it originally to build suspense. He did it because the shark kept breaking down, and looked crappy. So he kept it to a bare minimum, and made a horror blockbuster.
Today's filmmakers don't have to use, you know, actual film-making, to fill the gaps. Nowadays all is possible, and all it takes is money, which Hollywood is willing to spend. Just get the CG department to make the car chase bigger than the last one, and just shake the camera a lot during the fight scenes to make it look like every other movie.
But audiences get bored with the constant remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and sequels to sequels, and the rather tepid film-making, and they start going to movies less. Cost go way up, profits go down, the cash supply dwindles, and suddenly Hollywood doesn't have enough to pay for the new ideas they need to keep going.
It's a new facet of the self-fulfilling idiocy that dominates Hollywood.
Monday, 15 June 2009
Now I don't know who could project the right public image for the floundering network, but here are some candidates who might do the job:
Or, if NBC's willing to do something drastic...
Sorry, bit of a Stan Lee moment there, but anyway, yesterday I lost my internet connection for a few hours. Being unable to blog left me in curled up in a corner of my office in a fetal position, crying and hugging a bottle of Jack Daniels.
So to recover from that trauma, I've used my deep and powerful connections to the major players in showbiz and got them to debate a pressing issue right here, live. Today I have former Fox.com gossip columnist Roger Friedman, and his former boss Rupert Murdoch to discuss the real reason Friedman was fired from his job.
Go at it!
I WAS FIRED
It's time for the truth to come out!
I was not fired because I wrote a review of a pirated copy of 20th Century Fox's movie Wolverine. I was shit-canned because of an evil conspiracy against me by Rupert Murdoch and the Scientologists.
So let me start from the beginning.
First, Rupert Murdoch is responsible for the piracy of the Wolverine movie. He wanted to see a DVD copy of the movie, and apparently no one ever thought of making a copy for the CEO of the company before, and that strange and radical request led to the piracy, that I then wrote glowingly about in my article.
Plus, the Scientologists pressured Murdoch to fire me, because I've been critical of them a couple of times in the past. And Fox didn't want the awesome power of my words, which are treated as gospel by people all over the world, hurting Valkyrie, which they were distributing globally, or offend the awesome box office clout of Kelly Preston.
That's the real reason why I was fired, and the reason why I am suing News Corp, Rupert Murdoch, and the guy behind this blog for writing a bogus blog post under my name!
WHAT A CROCK!
I've spent more years in the newspaper business than you've had hot dinners, and I've learned to spot a crock of horseshit when I see it.
First, his charge that I caused the piracy by demanding a copy of the movie.
I'm the fucking CEO of the whole bloody didgeridoo!
Why the hell shouldn't I have a gander at one of my movie studio's big tent-pole movies?
That's like saying I can't get a looky-loo at the front page of a bloody newspaper that I bloody well own! It shows that you don't know much about how a bloody business is bloody run.
And besides, you weren't sacked over who caused the bloody piracy! You were sacked because you wrote about the bloody pirated movie for the whole world to see!
Those pirate bastards are stealing the vegemite out of my bloody cake-hole! And if it's coming out of my cake-hole, then it's not going into your bloody cake-hole, you bloody asshole!
Your article was bloody well telling people how bloody well cool it was to steal movies from the bloody people who paid bloody good money to make them, who also sign your bloody paycheck! That whole article was one big "piss in Rupert's ear and tell 'im it's rainin'" fest.
Now about those Scientologists, your little crusade against Valkyrie was a bit overdone, especially since we have the MGM/UA international rights, and had to make something out of that boondoggle, but it wasn't why you were sacked. As for Kelly Preston, who cares about Kelly Preston, or John Travolta. She's not a star, and he's easily replaced by about half a dozen cheaper, and more profitable actors.
And let's not forget that the biggest ad against Scientology was bloody Tom Cruise himself. Jumping on Oprah's bloody couch, and hooting like a bloody bandicoot in heat. So what if he doesn't do our Cameron Diaz movie? In fact, I can't really think of a reason for us to do a bloody Cameron Diaz movie in the first place!
I bloody well wrestle crocodiles for fun, I don't get pushed around, I do the bloody pushing!!
I'd like to end by saying that you're full of shit, I'll bury you and your lawyers for fun. Now I got to go, a dingo's got my baby again!
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Too keep up the show's mystique the stars would do all public appearances and interviews in character, even hosting a nationally televised awards show in character.
Despite its modest, no budget, beginnings, the show went on to become a global cult phenomenon, winning awards and viewers in Britain, Australia, the USA and a dozen other countries, a profitable feature film, produced by Ivan Reitman, and a sequel movie in the works.
An interesting, possibly apocryphal, but very believable, story, about the making of the show was that after the show's success in foreign markets, MTV made an offer to buy the show. Now you must remember that the show is about pot-smoking, foul-mouthed, drunk, petty criminals. MTV said they loved the show, but would only buy it if the characters stopped smoking pot, using foul language, getting drunk, or committing any crimes.
If that doesn't tell you how that whole MTV-Viacom business thinks, I don't know what does.
Here is the entire premiere episode of the series, and while it was more raw, and not as gut busting funny as later episodes, it does lay the foundation of the entire show. It also marks the first appearance of a character named Cyrus, a crazy, gun waving gangster, and occasional nemesis, who I swear was based on a real life criminal from around those parts.
NSFW for language.
Friday, 12 June 2009
Now what's the key thing in that cartoon about investing?
It's that the money gets invested in the creation of something new. A lot of the money-making "financial products" basically had nothing to do with creation, and money that is not being used to create something, like a good, or a service, is basically just a bet on a bubble, and you're better off going to Las Vegas.
Because the only way to safely grow money, and do all the improvements in the standard of living, not just for yourself, but for everyone, is to create, to build. Anything else is just a gamble.
I'm trolling for some show-biz news for me to bitch about, and will try to get something up later.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
According to the report, Mr. Murphy seems to think that on-set call times are just a suggestion and he's usually about 90 minutes late every morning. He will only work 5-6 hours a day, causing extra (& extra-expensive) shooting days to be added to the schedule, and demands a mini compound of multiple RVs for him and his extensive entourage.
Now one has to wonder why Murphy's getting this treatment. His box-office performance is iffy at best, with only a few money-makers among bushels of overpriced money-losers. The only reason I can conceive of is that he's still coasting on the early success that made him a star over 20 years ago.
Which is why I think every studio needs a Vice President of Brutal Truth. This is someone who cannot be fired, whose sole job is tell anyone, and I mean anyone, from the janitor to the chairman of the board when they're screwing the pooch.
This VP would then have a conversation with Eddie Murphy, alone, without his coterie of toadies, minions, and associated yes men and say:
"Eddie, you've done some great work in the past. And I really mean in the past. I'm talking about when Reagan was President, okay? And lately, I'm talking since Bush 1, your performance at the box office is more off than on. Come on, Meet Dave? Yet your still expecting to be treated like royalty, in fact, better than royalty, because even the Queen of England still shows up on time."Because if there's one thing Hollywood seems to need, it's someone willing to tell them the brutal truth.
"Do you see what I'm getting at Eddie? I'm talking about one of the primary laws of business, which is returns on investment. You don't deliver the returns worth the investment your behavior is costing us. Even the rare movies that make a profit, make only a thin profit because you cost so damn much. So you have to start acting like a professional, or we'll find someone else, and you can find another profession."
"This was a lovely chat. Now I have to go tell the CEO that he can take his expense account and shove it up his ass. Bye, and I hope we don't have to talk again."
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Nope I'm talking about SAG president Alan Rosenberg, Harvey Weinstein, and Jeff Zucker. First up...
1. ALAN ROSENBERG
The Screen Actor's Guild voted to accept the AMPTA's last contract offer, after months of arguing, division, more division, and even duelling You-Tube videos.
Now it's president, character actor Alan Rosenberg, wants to run for a 3rd term.
My advice to Mr. Rosenberg: Don't.
Because at heart, Rosenberg is an idealist, and while ideals are lovely things, right now, SAG doesn't need an idealist.
It needs a bastard.
A bastard that can't be bribed, bullied, or bullshitted, and who can do at least two terms of two years each, and be able to the things that need to be done, by any means necessary.
Here's what needs to be done:
1. End the divisions within SAG, and with the other unions, like AFTRA. Too many factions, too much undermining, it all has to be stopped, by hook or by crook. Do what the politicians call "opposition research" dig under rocks, do what needs to be done.
2. Build a war chest big enough to strike long enough to affect the bottom lines of the studios, and more importantly, executive bonuses. Shame the A-List, have bakes sales, I don't care how you get the money, just get the damn money, it is the ammunition needed to win.
3. Find allies. Show investors and financial backers that you are not the problem, but part of the solution. Labour and Capital need not be enemies in true capitalism, in fact, they can be strong allies when face with management that run businesses like medieval fiefdoms.
1. Prepare to negotiate hard for a new contract in a truly united front with the other unions, and the money people. No more undermining each other for personal advantage, that's what the AMPTP wants.
2. If the studios play hardball, have the resources to play hardball right back.
And I don't think that an idealist can do that.
2. HARVEY WEINSTEIN
Rumours are abounding about how The Weinstein Company is hording cash to cover the costs of releasing Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, and Halloween 2, in the vain hope that the 2 films will save the failing company.
Well, it's a real gamble.
Reviews on Basterds are mixed, at best, Tarantino has to trim 40 minutes of the film, and then there's the indulgence factor.
Sometimes Tarantino's self-indulgence, nurtured by chronic enabler Harvey, clicks with the audience. Kill Bill 1&2 is the classic example of his fetishes for lowbrow pop culture, and Uma Thurman's feet catching on with the zeitgeist.
Grindhouse though is a $100 million example, of when it doesn't.
Plus, there's the added factor of World War 2 itself, and how that may affect the film's performance.
Tarantino's main inspiration were the dark, nihilistic, and morally ambiguous war-exploitation films that came out of continental Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. That's because to most Europeans, who were either conquered, collaborators, or crushed by WW2, the whole thing was dark, nihilistic, and morally ambiguous.
Americans view the war as the great heroic crusade against Nazi genocide, and Japanese militarist imperialism. The war and its memory are held sacred by a large segment of the population, a segment that Hollywood neither understands, nor cares to know, even though it buys the bulk of the tickets. While they may go for the Nazi killing, they may not go for a story of American soldiers engaging in terror tactics while their sons and daughters fight terrorists overseas. They may consider an insult to veterans, past and present.
3. JEFF ZUCKER & BEN SILVERMAN
Poor NBC. It can't buy a hit.
Conan O'Brien's rating are slipping to the point where he's being beaten by Letterman, and Letterman hasn't figured out the 2008 election ended months ago.
The network doesn't seem to be bothered, thinking Conan's younger demographics will save the day. But I'm not so sure about that.
You see, Conan's core audience, stoned college kids, are busy getting stoned during the Tonight Show's time slot. The Tonight Show is the time when the stoned college kids' parents climb into bed to laugh at the monologue before going to sleep with the TV on.
I think NBC management rushed O'Brien into this, without giving him the time to prepare his act for the Tonight Show's older audience, who preferred Leno's un-hip, but likable persona. But someone sold NBC's honchos some demographic snake-oil, they rushed to screw Leno as quickly as possible, and a boondoggle that could hurt a lot of people was born.
Which is a shame, when I was in college I watched Conan O'Brien a lot, and liked him, but I just don't think he can sell to the over 50s, who view him as silly, and failing here can seriously screw his career. I hope he saved his money, like Leno.
But I wasn't stoned.
I was up late studying for my World Domination finals.