Monday, 31 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #668: The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

Welcome to the show folks...

Here are 2 stories about Jolly Old England, and my thoughts on them:

SUPERMAN: TRUTH, JUSTICE & THE AMERICAN WAY WITH A BRITISH ACCENT

In case you're living in a cave and I'm your only source of news, you sorry bastard, British actor Henry Cavill has been cast as the new Superman to be directed by Zach Snyder and produced/mentored by Christopher Nolan.

Now some are upset about a Brit being cast as America's greatest superhero, who happens to be an alien co-created by a Canadian. Especially with British actors playing Batman (Christian Bale) and Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). However, I know why these actors were cast, even if the people who cast them don't.

1. BRITISH ACTORS KNOW THEIR PLACE: I've written about this before, but I'll reiterate my point so you or I don't have to go hunting for the post I did last year. You see British actors are taught to believe that acting is a profession, and that fame and success can only come through hard work, talent, and versatility. That means taking not only many roles, but many different roles in many different kinds of projects. It's not much of a stretch to see a British actor star in a big hit movie that wins all kinds of international awards and then go do a guest spot on a TV sitcom back in England.

Too many American actors act, pardon the phrasing, like their job is some sort of sacred calling that puts them above everyone else, and that fame and success is an entitlement that comes from building an
image that must be maintained at all costs. If they become successful then going off to do a smaller project, like a TV guest spot, becomes less about doing interesting work, and more about using said project to promote and maintain said image.

Not all American actors, and not all British actors fit my broad generalizations, but enough do to justify my smug know-it-all statements.

2. BRITISH ACTORS CAN PLAY MACHO: This wasn't always the case. America used to export the highest standard of rough and tumble manliness. Nowadays, try to find a Hollywood actor under 50 who looks like they can win a fight and you'll probably wind up with a very short list and, Angelina Jolie would be at the top of it.

Now some critics say that this is caused by the metro-sexualization of Hollywood leading men because of the influence of gay culture, but I disagree. Gay actors in the past like Rock Hudson, could play macho manly characters without a problem, and today, there are some openly gay actors who can play macho way better than many of Hollywood's leading hetero actors.

I believe that the low testosterone levels among the younger Hollywood heroes stems from Hollywood's obsession with youth, or what I call "Juvenile Dementia." Too many of today's stars are more boyish than manly. They don't look like they could make a vital life and death decision in the face of chaos and evil, they don't even look like they can grow a decent beard. This makes far too many Hollywood actors too boyish even for the relatively boyish role of Peter Parker.

I guess I can sum it up by saying that too many of Hollywood's young actors seem
un-serious, more fitting to playing petulant whiny self-absorbed navel gazers or boorish immature frat-boy slacker hybrids than real heroes.

The question one has to ask when casting an action hero type is:
Will this man back me up in a brawl, or will he scream "NOT THE FACE!" run away, and hit on my girlfriend while I'm getting my ass kicked?

Now look through a list of current Hollywood heroes, and check off those who would give you the right answer to that question and you'll be shocked at how few you'll find.

FOX SEARCHLIGHT SHINES ON BRITISH INDIES

Fox Searchlight the pseudo-indie division of the 20th Century Fox/News Corp empire has joined up with indie financier Ingenious to finance and distribute British independent films.

Now this bodes well for British film on several levels. Fox Searchlight was run differently than the other faux-indies run by the major studios, and that's why it's still around and most of the others have been shuttered. The others were created pretty much for one purpose, to get awards and indie street cred for the studio, the people who run it, and their close friends.

Fox Searchlight's purpose was run to buy and release independent films that had a chance of making a profit, even a small one. So while the other companies may have dominated awards season more than Searchlight, Searchlight stayed in business.

This deal shows that Fox Searchlight sees profit potential in British independent films. They aren't buried under an over-priced star system, and those accents can make anything look respectable. Now similar deals between American studios and British producers have fallen through in the past, usually over choice of project.

British filmmakers should see this as a challenge to be overcome strategically, rather than as a call to man the artistic barricades. The key to overcoming this problem is trust.

Now in Hollywood the only use of the word trust is to describe the funds that support vacuous heiresses, but it is something these British filmmakers can do.

First you make some films with some commercial appeal. They don't have to be mini-versions of big Hollywood studio blockbusters, but fill that huge mid-range gap in drama, and genre films that the big studios and the other indies are ignoring.

If they are made within budget, and then make money then you can earn trust as a reliable filmmaker who isn't wild and crazy with their money. Once you reach a certain level, you can slip in more daring work, if you do it cheaply. If it loses money, then it's no biggie, because they know and trust you to do quality work at a reasonable cost.

I call the Clint Eastwood strategy, he's been making his own films, his own way for almost 40 yrs, and so can you.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #667: Sunday Schoolin'

Welcome to the show folks.

My recent post answering Blast Hardcheese's question about the costs of distributing a movie really only scratched the surface of the issue of film distribution. I've dug up an excerpt of the book-in-progress I'm writing about the film industry to help scratch a little bit more off this surface:

DISTRIBUTION: THE ART & SCIENCE OF GETTING IT OUT THERE

Any idiot can make a movie.

That's a fact. All you need is money and equipment, and you can make a movie. It doesn't mean that your film will be any good, but you can get it made.

However, distributing a movie is beyond the pay-grade of the average idiot, because it takes a special kind of idiot to do that.

Distribution is one of the most important stages of the movie business. You can make a film as art, seen only by yourself, or your friends & family, and give yourself a nice old pat on the back for being so brilliant. However, if you want to make a film to be seen and appreciated by others outside your immediate social circle, and hopefully make enough money to help you produce another film, you need distribution.

Distribution can be boiled down to being all about getting movies into theaters, but it's not the whole story. Any idiot can make a movie if they have the money and the time, but you need more than money and time to distribute a film effectively. You need knowledge and experience to be a distributor, the sort of knowledge and experience that can answer these questions:

1. When's the best time to release your film?

As in comedy, in distribution timing is everything. You can't just dump your movie into theatres without putting any consideration into the exact moment when you release it, or you'll lose your shirt, and your probably your pants. You want the best time to attract your target audience, where your movie can stand out the best among the competition. So you have to consider your competition, eligibility for awards, and the availability of theatres you can book the film in.

I
f you've made a sincere drama about angst in suburbia, you might not want to release it in summer-time among all the big comic book action films, but in winter where it will be fresh in the minds of Academy voters. Movie releases have their own seasons, and any good distributor has to know what seasons suit their movies best.

2. How many theaters should you open your film in?

Basically this comes with knowing the target audience of the film you are about release. Is it the type of film that would have people lining up down the street and around the block on the opening weekend? Then maybe a huge nationwide release of 2,000-4,000 screens is right for it. But if it's a sincere little indie drama you might want to consider a smaller opening.

As a distributor you have to be very careful when deciding on the number of screens you are going to use, because prints costs money. A lot of money. Now the studios aren't exactly forthcoming about the actual costs of these prints, but you can rest assured that it's pretty expensive. A major nationwide release involving thousands of screens could add literally millions to the costs of the film. So any distributor has to take this into account when figuring out just how big they should go.

Ironically, the practice of releasing movies in thousands of screens simultaneously, which is now most associated with the big studios was actually started by an independent producer. Back then they would open a movie, even big budget ones, in only a few hundred theaters at a time, allowed word of mouth to spread, and would gradually expand with fresh prints, or have prints travel from city to city. This changed when Tom Laughlin, the man behind the Billy Jack movies of the 60s and 70s, grew dissatisfied with how his hippie action-revenge pictures were being handled, and managed the first modern style blanket mass release on his own. When it made money, a lot of money, and made it really fast, the majors soon followed and made it standard practice for the big blockbusters.

Now there are also tactical considerations about reducing the number of screens a film debuts on. When advance buzz for Stephen Spielberg's Jaws was really hot, Universal's distribution department considered opening it at a then massive number of 800 screens. Universal boss Lew Wasserman said "No, make it 600 theaters."

Why?

He wanted news reports on the massive line-ups and extra screenings being added shown on every TV channel and in every newspaper, thus giving the film even more publicity, and all for free.

3. Do you screen the film for critics?

Some films are destined to be beloved by critics, and some films are not, regardless of their actual quality. Horror films, and low-brow comedies, are probably not going to do well with critics, so advance screenings are often avoided unless the film in question is considered an groundbreaking work of staggering genius. Most distributors only do advance screenings for movies they're pretty sure will deliver at least 50% or more good reviews. They're often wrong, but they're human, mistakes happen.

4. Where are the theaters we want to play our movie?

Location, location, location. This is important when you're not releasing a major blockbuster type picture. Smaller films need a certain amount of care. Media attention, critical praise, and awards are critical to put them above the fray, and build an audience. The usual strategy is to put them in limited release in major media centres, like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and have critical buzz, and word of mouth build that audience for them. Sometimes it doesn't work, and small films just fail to catch on and win that important wide appeal, but everything in show business is a gamble.

5. For how long should they run in those theatres?

This question is asked by the distributor, but it's the exhibitor who actually answers it. Basically, the exhibitor will run a film as long as it puts popcorn munching, soda-sipping, people in their theaters, and if it fails to do that, or to cover their "nut" (explained in the next section) then the film will not have much of a chance unless the studio somehow does something to make it worth their while.

During the Golden Age of Hollywood they really didn't have to consider these questions. The studios owned the theaters, and since all but the biggest hits usually only ran for a week, they would just put whatever they were releasing on as many of their "first run" screens as they could and see what stuck. The first run screens were in the big population centres, and were generally large and impressive movie palaces. After about a week, the movies would then pass to the second run theaters in the outer neighbourhoods and smaller towns, and then after that, they'd be rented to re-release companies to play in the low rent "grindhouse" theaters in the less reputable neighbourhoods, and roadshow screenings going from one rural backwater to another.

That all changed when the studios were forced to unload their theaters by the federal government. The newly independent theater chains then had to deal with something called "block booking." That's where if the theater chain wanted the new big studio A-Picture with big stars John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, they had to book another, less promising, picture. Despite some urban legends the practice really didn't have much of a shelf-life, and it's highly unlikely that the studios would be doing it these days. Costs are too big, and profit margins too thin to risk everything with a feud with one the mega-theater chains that could potentially deny them the theaters they need to screen their films, and that's not even considering the possible legal ramifications such a stunt would bring about.

Once the distributor has figured out the answers to the major questions to the best of their ability, and booked the appropriate number of theaters, in the appropriate places, at the appropriate time of year, it then becomes a matter of money.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Need A Detective?

Welcome to the show folks...

In case you haven't noticed I'm playing around with the look of this place, so let me know what you think. It's Saturday, time for my usual break from ranting and raving about business for a laugh, or in this case, a word from my blog's new sponsor.

If you're in the need of a detective then click this video:

Friday, 28 January 2011

Something For The Kids...

Welcome to the show folks...

Bit of a slow day for news for me, so here's a video of the next hot new toy... at least for kids whose parents are nerds with money.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #666: Number of The Beast(ly Blog Post)

Welcome to the show folks...

In keep with the infernal number of this post, we will be diving deep into the deepest deep depths of two bottomless pits of infinite darkness.

I'm talking NBC-Universal, and the MPAA.

Okay, I exaggerate for comic effect, it's part of the job description here, anyway, let's get started...

NBC UNIVERSAL GETS PEACOCK BLOCKED

NBC Universal's new overlords, Comcast, unveiled a new logo for the once venerable TV network movie studio combo. They dropped both the network's peacock and the studio's globe for something that can best be described as minimalist:
Not only do they have a logo done in a font that I think they stole from the cover of a Fantastic Four comic from the 60s they also have a new slogan:

Let's make history. Again.

I hope they learned some history before they try making it, so they don't repeat it.

Does that make any sense?

Comcast turned down my suggestion for a slogan:

This time we won't suck. We promise.

Let's hope this marks the beginning of a new era for NBC where they have more than the sitcom
Community worth watching.

MPAA DOA?

According to Politico, via Nikki Finke, the Motion Picture Association of America just can't pull the strings the way they used to. They can't get politicians to attend the eating/screening/schmoozing get-togethers they were once famous for, they're having a hard time finding a replacement for the ultimately forgettable guy they had to replace the late Jack Valenti, and they can't exert the same sort of influence the group once had.

Here's my theory as to why:

1. IMBALANCE: Hollywood literally put all of its eggs in one proverbial political basket. Namely the Democratic Party. Now the industry has tended to lean Democrat in most areas since the New Deal of the 1930s, but in the past they were always able to do business with Republicans. In the past decade any semblance of bipartisan business has crumbled, a process that accelerated with the retirement of long time boss Jack Valenti. Sure, he had his detractors, but he was a very skilled Washington operator who could work both sides of the aisle.

With him gone Hollywood is now stuck with one party, the Democrats, that take their support for granted, whether they actually do anything positive for the industry or not, and another party, the Republicans, that's openly hostile to Hollywood on almost every level, because they believe that Hollywood is openly hostile to them.

That's not healthy for a political lobby group. In order to have influence, you need to present your support as available to those who best represent your interests. That way you get both bidding for your attention and favors.

2. INCOMPETENCE: What do people think of when they hear of the MPAA? A movie like The King's Speech getting an R rating for a scene with some F-bombs in it. Back in the day an R Rating meant either nudity or extreme violence, coarse language meant a PG or PG-13 depending on the amount of cussing going on. Nowadays it seems to rest completely on the MPAA raters' increasingly erratic whims. And to top it all off, the ratings system is pretty well unenforceable when it comes to home video or online streaming.

The rating system is a complete mess, it only serves to screw up films' theatrical releases, and no one at the MPAA seems to know how to fix it. That's not a good image to present to the power players of Washington DC, they smell weakness like a piranha smells blood in the water.

3. LACK OF COHESION: The studios used to be mostly independent corporations that competed on one level, but were willing to work together for interests that served the industry as a whole. Nowadays they are subdivisions of divisions of larger companies that often have interests that conflict with the interests of the movie studios. The current leadership of the MPAA seems unable to find those common interests to justify their own existence.

4. DECLINE OF INFLUENCE: The studios aren't the taste makers they used to be. The internet has spawned hundreds, if not thousands, of subcultures all vying for supremacy, and more and more people are getting their news from alternate media sources that aren't controlled by their big media parent companies.

Until all these problems are addressed, I don't see any change to the MPAA's continued decline.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Complete Oscar Nominations!

Welcome to the show folks...

I'm feeling a tad lazy tonight, so I've copied and pasted the complete list of Oscar nominations. Feel free to discuss the nominated, the snubbed, and all the rest in the comments.

Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
  • Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
  • Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
  • Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”
  • James Franco in “127 Hours”

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
  • John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone”
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
  • Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
  • Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
  • Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
  • Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”
  • Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
  • Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
  • Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature Film

  • “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
  • “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
  • “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction

  • “Alice in Wonderland”
    Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
    Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • “Inception”
    Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
  • “The King's Speech”
    Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
  • “True Grit”
    Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Cinematography

  • “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
  • “Inception” Wally Pfister
  • “The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
  • “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
  • “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design

  • “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
  • “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
  • “The King's Speech” Jenny Beavan
  • “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
  • “True Grit” Mary Zophres

Directing

  • “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
  • “The Fighter” David O. Russell
  • “The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
  • “The Social Network” David Fincher
  • “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)

  • “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
  • “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
  • “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
  • “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
  • “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)

  • “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
  • “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
  • “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
  • “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
  • “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing

  • “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
  • “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
  • “The King's Speech” Tariq Anwar
  • “127 Hours” Jon Harris
  • “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film

  • “Biutiful” Mexico
  • “Dogtooth” Greece
  • “In a Better World” Denmark
  • “Incendies” Canada
  • “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria

Makeup

  • “Barney's Version” Adrien Morot
  • “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
  • “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)

  • “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
  • “Inception” Hans Zimmer
  • “The King's Speech” Alexandre Desplat
  • “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
  • “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)

  • “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
  • “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
  • “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
  • “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Best Picture

  • “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
  • “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
  • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
  • “The King's Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
  • “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
  • “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ce├ín Chaffin, Producers
  • “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
  • “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
  • “Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Short Film (Animated)

  • “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
  • “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
  • “Let's Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
  • “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
  • “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action)

  • “The Confession” Tanel Toom
  • “The Crush” Michael Creagh
  • “God of Love” Luke Matheny
  • “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
  • “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing

  • “Inception” Richard King
  • “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
  • “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
  • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
  • “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing

  • “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
  • “The King's Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
  • “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
  • “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
  • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects

  • “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
  • “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell
  • “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
  • “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
  • “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
  • “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
  • “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • “Winter's Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
  • “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
    Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
  • “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
  • “The King's Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler
I do find it interesting that the official Academy list puts the writing categories last, with "original screenplay" dead last. Yeah, Hollywood sure does respect the people who write the stories that make movies possible.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #665: You Have Question I Have Answers

Welcome to the show...

Yesterday's post has netted me a question:
Blast Hardcheese asked...

D, if you aren't sick of this topic I would be curious to get your comments on something from the Deadline article on Smith:

"Smith said if he sold his $4 million Red State, a distributor would need to pay $20 million in P&A, and would then need to gross more than twice that $24 million just to recoup (Smith seemed to forget that P&A triggers ancillary revenues that often provide the profit margin). He made it all sound shady."
I know that the indie market is different than the 'mainstream' studios, but this still seems like a huge amount of cash to print and promote what is, at the end, an already-finished low-budget horror film. Does this seem reasonable to you?
Good question Mr. Hardcheese, or if I may call you by your real name BIFF PLANKCHEST!

Anyway, back to the business at hand.

As I am fond of saying, any idiot can make a movie, but it takes a special kind of idiot to get that film into theaters and making money.

Prints and advertising are expensive. Making film prints can cost around $1000 a
pop, and maybe more if you're an independent distributor only making a few prints of a single movie for a roadshow, because there are no bulk discounts that you can get as a major studio with a fleet of blockbusters needing 2,000-3,000 prints each. Digital copies are cheaper, requiring a special hard drive to plug into the digital projector. Then there's booking the theaters, getting the prints to said theaters, and making sure that they're getting the screens and show-times you've agreed to.

All that takes people, time and money. And if you're doing a roadshow with it playing at one theater at a time, you're going to need backups because prints wear and tear with every showing, and there's always the possibility that a digital print's storage could get damaged in transit, etc...etc...

But that's nothing compared to advertising.

There are two types of advertising.

There is MARKETING, that's the stuff you pay for. I'm talking about print media ads, in-theater trailers, TV/Radio commercials, internet ads, websites, and give-away merchandise. This is freaking expensive, because these all have to be made by editors, graphic designers, and ad agency copywriters. Then you have to pay for the space on the print media pages, the time on TV channels, etc...etc...

Remember these very same outlets overcharge the studios that have the same parent companies, what do you think they're going to do with an independent distributor? They're going to ask you to bend over while they get the wire brush.

Then there is PUBLICITY. This is free advertising, basically getting your mug and your film's name into the media in the form of generating news stories. This could be in the form of interview junkets with the stars, reports on the movie, reports on controversies around the film, and stuff like that. However, while it's free advertising, it's not completely free. This sort of advertising needs publicist(s) to manage it.

Someone has to schedule the junket interviews, make sure that the big national/international outlets get the stars when they're awake and fresh, and not after 16 hrs of answering questions from local TV stations and newspapers like the Palookaville Post. Then there are the inevitable publicity stunts that Smith seems so fond of, they have to be carefully organized for maximum impact and minimal exposure to expensive litigation.

Now a good publicist that makes sure the media is putting out the story you want out is worth their weight in gold. However, they are rare birds, and the slightest mistake in managing said publicity can turn people away from the box office when you need them the most.

Then there's getting the money from the theaters.

The theaters get a little thing called the "House Nut." It's supposed to cover the costs of each screening of the film, and it usually takes up about half of the ticket price per person. If the film doesn't clear the house nut, the theater will drop the film for something more that will put bums in seats and the distributor is more than likely to get jack shit for his troubles.

Also the theaters are slow to pass the money onto the distributors. It's a little game the majors play where the theater owners can hold onto the interest that money earns, and the distributors can use the delay to fiddle with their books just a little bit more.

However if you're a small indie distributor with bills to pay, this game is a royal pain in the ass. Plus this game requires accountants, tax attorneys, and other experts to manage properly, and they don't come cheap.

All this adds up to some pretty big coin.

Now if you have a film that would translate well into toys, t-shirts, and other merchandise, you can assuage these costs, and probably profit from, licensing the film to merchandisers. The tricky part is that in order to make the really big bucks, you're going to need superheroes, spaceships, and/or monsters that appear in a G to PG rated film with guaranteed wide appeal.

In conclusion, after all this yammering I can say that it's possible for an indie distributor to drop $20 million on what would be the indie version of a wide release for the movie, which would still be much smaller than a major studio's summer blockbuster. However, I don't really think any indie distributor would have actually spent that much on the specific film in question.

If this was Mythbusters I'd be saying "Plausible" but "Very Unlikely."

Monday, 24 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #664: Making Failure Work For You

Welcome to the show folks...

A lot of people are saying that filmmaker Kevin Smith is in full implosion mode over his film
Red State. He makes a big deal about having an auction for the film at Sundance, got those yahoos from the Westboro Baptist pseudo-Church to protest the film, then after some cranking, whining, and insulting those who bothered to attend, he sold the film to himself for $20 and pledged to self-distribute it as a traveling roadshow.

Well, he might be crazy, but he also might be crazy like a fox.

You see he might be doing this whole thing, including making the movie, just so it can be a failure.

Of course for it to work it can't be just another one of his run of the mill failures like
Zack & Miri Make A Porno, or Cop Out, it has to stand out, it has to be special, it has to be what I call a "Heroic Failure."

You see a heroic failure is a movie designed to fail at the box office, but win plaudits, and hopefully big money deals from within the Hollywood community.

To create a heroic failure you must create something that would repel the general audience, but appeal to the prejudices inside Hollywood. How do you do that? Well, antipathy towards Christians and Christianity is the last prejudice Hollywood is allowed to have. Need proof, check out the movies and TV shows from the past 20 years and count the times where it turns out that the openly religious characters are either maniacally homicidal, or perverted at worst, or sleazily hypocritical at best.

Now there are some who would justify this prejudice that these film/TV makers are merely speaking "truth to power" about the coming fundamentalist theocracy. Well, Hollywood is basically cowardly, and highly unlikely to do anything that might threaten them financially, and absolutely
nothing that might harm them physically. Remember how the entire community collectively shat their pants over South Park satirizing Islam and supported its censorship?

If there was a theocracy coming, or enraged Presbyterians wearing Semtex underpants and leaping into studio commissaries Hollywood wouldn't dare raise a finger to offend their delicate sensibilities. The suits that run the industry may do stupid things, but they are not suicidal.

To sum it up, it's safe to insult or offend Christians, because the worst thing they will probably do to you, is either not see your movie/TV show or buy your product, or complain prevent you from getting their tax dollars.

So, you go and make a film that's the cinematic version of the art world's "Piss Christ" a work who's only point is to generate controversy and attract attention by casting Christian fundamentalists as a cult of homicidal maniacs. Then you top it off by calling it
Red State, the commonly used description for parts of the country that vote for the Republican Party. Now you have Republicans, even non-religious Republicans, also repelled by the film, and guess what, there happens to be a lot of them in the United States these days.

What will these people do?

They will simply not go to the movie.

As my Grandpa would say they won't even ignore it.

Not everyone will ignore it. Some will make noise, and some are already being a little more active. Namely the douche collective otherwise known as the Westboro Baptist Church, which has already made appearances at Sundance to protest the film.

Well, that's perfect for Smith.

Westboro is basically a bunch of hyperactive howler monkeys who love to make noise and hurl the equivalent of pseudo-theological feces at passersby to get attention, but will run away and scream for the protection of the police and their lawyers if things threaten to get ugly. (Remember when they threatened to protest the funeral of the little girl murdered in Tuscon? When buzz got around that some were going to aggressively crash their party, they canceled and ran straight to the safer fields of Sundance)

Smith will take his movie on the road, making sure that Westboro get all the dates. That way their protests will guarantee him media attention, sell a few tickets to counter-protesters, and otherwise blame the film's inevitable financial failure on him being "suppressed" by the sinister religious right.

Hollywood will see this and automatically feel sympathy for Smith and his film, standing up to these disgusting little trolls. Sure Westboro is small, politically powerless, basically cowardly, and loathed by people on both the Left and Right of the political spectrum, but they're good at getting attention. That makes them a super-human foe in the eyes of Hollywood, and a perfect foil for Smith.

Which brings us to his behavior at his precious Sundance, which has been described as veering between erratic and obnoxious and all points in between.

Sure, it could all be crazy, or it all be a brilliant played shell game.

Remember one simple fact, Hollywood is high school with money. Not just any high school, but the stereotypical upper crust high school you see in an 80s teen movie and the social strata breaks down like this:

Actors are the cheerleaders.

Directors are the jocks.

Writers are the nerds who have to do the homework for the everybody else.

Producers and studio executives are the keeners who run for student council and eagerly seek the approval of the cheerleaders and the jocks, because attention from them makes them look and feel more important than they actually are.

This hunger for approval from the "artists" who get paid the most in attention and money leads to them not only forgiving obnoxious behavior, but actively promoting it. Rant about how their business model is all screwed up and holding back their art, and they may tut-tut for a minute., but they won't punish you. They are not allowed to stay mad for any real length of time, because they want to be seen as people who understand the artistic temperament, with an emphasis on temper.

The only time they might stay mad at an artist is if said artist costs them personally in the form of a bonus, pay raise, or even
, in rare cases, their job. But those times are rare in the age of other people's money.

This forgiveness gets amplified exponentially when the artist in question is in the situation explained above: Namely promoting one of Hollywood's few permissible prejudices and facing alleged
"suppression" of their from allegedly right wing religious forces, when the most damage actually came from non-religious, non-political, market forces.

Suddenly all behavior, whether it's biting
the hand that feeds them, or producing a string of flops is forgiven, because this "artist" is now being seen not as a simple failure, but as a heroic who is mad, bad, and dangerous to know, as well as making a huge sacrifice for their art.

But it's more than likely that they're just using failure to play the system like a puppet on a string.

So here's my prediction. Smith will play
the film in a few cities. It will attract protests from his new frenemy Phelps & Co. which will attract some attention and a few counter-protest ticket sales, but not enough to justify any wide release. Then he'll go back to Hollywood, get a pat on the back for his courage, and a fresh new movie deal, his past behavior and poor performing films forgiven.

Truly, a Hollywood ending
.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #663: Random Snark Attack!!

Welcome to the show folks....

I'm in a snarky mood today, so leaven my nastiness and sarcasm (AKA "sarcastiness" or "nastasm"), I'm going to post pictures of current
Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan.

RED STATE ON THE BLOCK

Kevin Smith is out to sell his indie horror film
Red State at the Sundance, and he's hosting a real life auction to sell the rights to the movie.

I think it's a great idea. The people at the auction, Hollywood suits, are the film's target audience, and they're the only Americans willing to pay to see a movie that all advanced buzz says is designed solely to insult a large chunk of the American populace. They'll buy the film, watch it fail miserably at the box office, and pat themselves and Mr. Smith on the back for their "courage," forget all about the string of stinkers he's been dropping lately, and sign to make a bunch more movies.

It's not their money being wasted, so it's a win-win for all involved.

Another interesting twist is that five years in the future the film will be the subject of another auction when the storage locker the unsold DVDs and unscreened prints goes into default and ends getting sold.

Now some Karen...

Like a red-headed ray of sunshine.

GEORGE CLOONEY GOT SICK & IT WASN'T AN STD

George Clooney contracted malaria, but he's all better now. He tried an unconventional cure, he announced to his own bloodstream that he was going to watch every movie he's ever made, and the malarial parasites fled from his body en masse.

Come on down Karen...
Thank you.

FACEBOOK NOT MAKING THE FACEBUCKS?

This report says that Facebook's ads aren't worth the price, because Facebook users don't click them.

But the company will be fine, they're making more than enough money selling your private personal information to everyone from market researchers to the mafia.


ZUCKER SAYS GOODBYE

With the Comcast-NBCU merger finally approved Jeff Zucker is finally leaving, and he put out a farewell memo to senior NBCU staff.

The staff sent a response memo, it read: "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

And one more photo of Karen Gillan...
This idea was a hell of a lot better than posting another picture of Jeff Zucker.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #662: Flogging A Dead Horse.... With A Lethal Weapon

Welcome to the show folks...

If there was something that Hollywood loves to do it's to flog a dead horse.

The latest deceased equine to get vigorously flailed is the
Lethal Weapon franchise. Yep, that's right, Warner Bros. is very keen to revive the buddy cop series, either as a sequel, or possibly a remake/reboot with a new cast.

Okay, normally I'd do one of my "no-no-no" rants, but since I'm in one of my more analytical moods, otherwise known as "sober" I'll analyze this idea coldly, clinically and impartially.

That means it's time again to play....

PROS AND CONS!!

PROS

1. The original series was extremely lucrative. The last film 1998's
Lethal Weapon 4 made around $285 million worldwide at the box office, despite the verbal drubbing it got from critics and fans.

2. The original stars should be available. Both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover aren't exactly burning up the charts they way they once did. Gibson's now known more for boozing and batshit behavior, and Danny Glover's known more for campaigning for South American dictators than starring in commercially successful movies.

CONS

1. The films got increasingly more expensive.
The first Lethal Weapon cost $15 million, the third movie cost $35 million, and the fourth film, made 5-6 years later, cost $140 million. That's a huge leap cost-wise, and I suspect that Warner Bros. will probably end up spending way more than that on any sequel/reboot.

Gibson and Glover know that they're essential to the franchise, and they know that any back end deal is a joke these days, so they will demand huge pay-offs up front, and they're used to working as a united front when dealing with the studio.

Remember the formula, you have to at least double a film's production budget, to reflect the prints & advertising costs, then deduct that from the box office take to get a good look at the odds of profit and loss. The first film was relatively cheap, even by the standards of the 1980s, so it's $120+ million domestic take was pure gravy. The last film only made $130 domestically. It did better internationally with around $155 million, but even that's not as sweet as it sounds, because then you have your international distribution partners all taking their piece. So at best, LW4 might have broken even, and that's a big might.

2. The actors are old, but their characters are even older. Mel Gibson's 50+ and Danny Glover is 60+. While films like Red and Taken show that people like a little experience with their action heroes, their characters were written to be much older than the actors playing them. Remember, Murtaugh is 50 years old in the 1987 movie, and Rigg's supposed to be a Vietnam veteran. Basically they will both be beyond mandatory retirement age for police officers. Are they going to take on politically correct crooks in their retirement as well? Though I must say that a high speed walker vs. wheelchair chase might work.

3. The franchise is dusty. It's going on 13 years since the last movie, and folks really didn't care for the last movie.

But that's if they do a sequel, if they do a remake there's one big con:

The original films succeeded because of the great chemistry between Gibson and Glover and their director Richard Donner. That chemistry got diluted by way too much money by the fourth movie, but it was the secret to the film's success.

So what can Warner Bros. do?

Well, first, scrap the idea for a remake or a sequel. Sorry, I don't want to be cruel, but I have to be.

Second, look at what made the first film click:

1. Excellent chemistry between cast and director.

2. A clever, funny, script with a novel premise and an actual plot rather than a chain of excuses for shootouts and chases.

3. A reasonable budget, at least with the first three.

Then try to put together a new buddy cop franchise. How do they do that?

1. Look for a good script with an original premise, and good characters that people will want to see again.

2. Find a good cast and director who have their own appealing chemistry, rather than trying to copy the chemistry of other people.

3. Try to keep a high level of quality in the storytelling to keep audiences and cast/crew interested in sequels.

4. Keep costs reasonable. You don't need a huge budget to make an action movie, you just need skill and imagination.

Then maybe they might get lightning to strike twice. It's risky, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper than the idea they're planning.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

No Blogginess Tonight

Welcome to the show folks...

The news isn't exactly blowing up my kilt with excitement tonight, so I'm taking the day off. To assuage your hunger here's the trailer for RUBBER the mother of all killer tire movies...



Of course this film mean that I'm going to need a new title for my spec script about a sinister condom that's at the center of international political intrigue.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #661: Staying Too Long At The Fair

Welcome to the show folks.

Regis Philbin is retiring from television at the end of this TV season. He's ending a career in television that seems to pre-date the invention of television, and he's doing it before complete fossilization.

If I was of the Don Rickles frame of mind I could say that he quit entertainment decades ago, but I won't, because I'm a nice guy.

However, Mr. Philbin is a rarity because it looks like he chose to retire at this time.

That's rare, because when it comes to appearing on television if you're in it, you are not leaving it, damn the low ratings and obvious senility. The most obvious example is Larry King who had to be dragged out of the studio by his ever present suspenders even though he himself had quit journalism some time in the 1980s. They forced him out to make room for a new show where a new talk show host appears to interview other talk show hosts, but I digress.

There are some people who linger on TV long past their prime, and refuse to leave, regardless of their age, health, and sometimes obvious senility. They just keep going on and on, turning off viewers, embarrassing themselves, and destroying whatever legacy they had.

Most refuse to let go and retire, regardless of their wealth, because they need something more than money. They need to be important, and to be important they need to be on television. It's like crack.

Now you're probably wondering how these people are allowed to linger for so long in such a harsh and money driven business like TV, well one reason is peer pressure.

You see, most of these gray eminences are based out of New York. New York's media high society is a very insular community and protective of those they think of as "their own." Guess who are the core of this little community: The same old farts clogging up the airways.

No network executive wants to be ostracized from all the best dinner parties and gala social events. That's where they get to show off their importance. Best to just eat the losses because it's other people's money anyway.

The second reason is nostalgia. These are the people that the executives grew up watching, and are still held with a certain amount of awe.

The third reason is a complete failure of imagination coupled with terror. These executives can't imagine bringing in anyone new because that would take effort to find the new talent, and terror at the possibility that the road might get bumpy. So they think it's best to stick with the devil they know and hope that things don't get worse.

That's why you don't see a lot of these old timers retire by choice, they don't want to give up their crack, and the networks are too scared to get rid of them. Usually TV personalities have to be forced out after doing something really embarrassing in public. Even then it's tough.

That's why you have to know that in life, as in comedy, you have to know when to get off the stage. Because eventually the audience is going to stop clapping, wonder why the hell they're there, and start leaving in droves.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #660: These Are The Golden Globes We're Talking About Here!

Welcome to the show folks...

I broke one of my own rules last night and actually watched some of the Golden Globes.

I didn't watch the whole thing, mind you, my sanity couldn't have survived the full dose, but I did watch over an hour and a half of the annual boondoggle. Ample time to ogle Sofia Vergara's cleavage, whenever she was on camera, and post the occasional snark on Twitter, and to hear host Ricky Gervais lob a few torpedoes at the various sacred cows that circled him.

Now folks are all over complaining that Gervais "went too far," that he was "too mean" and his "cheap shots" hurt the integrity of the Golden Globes.

Holy freaking shit on a shingle, I'm surprised the whole internet didn't explode from the use of the words "integrity" and "Golden Globes" in the same sentence. Since most of you chose not to watch it, here's a taste of what he said during the show:



Oooh.... dangerous.

So freaking what.

The Golden Globes is supposed to be a social night out, where people would get drunk, pass out awards that don't mean anything, rag on each other, pass out themselves, and otherwise have a good time.

It wasn't meant to be taken seriously. How can you take an awards show where all the awards are selected by a tiny, secretive, clique of journalists for foreign newspapers who are easily swayed, convinced, and sometimes even bribed to vote for movies regardless of quality.

However, it's been around a long time, and like whores and politicians, awards shows, no matter how morally and artistically bankrupt, eventually become respectable with age. Then there's its status as a "predictor" of the Oscars. That status is very similar to the old cliche about a broken clock being right at least twice a day.

The Golden Globes are a joke, the fact that Gervais treated them as such has shocked self-important Hollywood to its core. They are so long used to mindless worship and unquestioning adoration, no matter how asinine they act, they can't seem to take it when someone calls them on it.

That also shows that not only is Hollywood smug and self-important, it's also nutless.

It reminds me about the time Chris Rock hosted the Oscars, and made a rather weak joke about Jude Law being in everything. Sean Penn came out to present an award, and promptly went into an angry righteous defense of Jude Law. It only succeeded in making Penn look like a humorless self-righteous asshole who can't recognize that comedians tell jokes and that the best way to get back at what you think of as a mean zinger, is to zing back.

All Penn had to do was remark that Rock, as the man responsible for the classic
Pootie Tang, really shouldn't criticize anyone's movie work.

In reaction to Gervais Hollywood has turned into Sean Penn.

Why didn't some people zing back beyond the tepid little "stop hurting our feelings" shot made by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen?

They could have talked about how he's been coasting off The Office for the last 10 years, how his movie career has dropped bigger bombs than Curtis LeMay, and how his box office record is so bad he doesn't even rate his own Box Office Mojo page.

That's what old Hollywood would have done. Someone would have fired back, big time, and if the show degenerated into a zing-flinging war, then maybe the goddamn thing would have been worth watching all the way through.

But Hollywood didn't. Instead, they whined, and got their pet poodles in the media to cry along with them.

Gervais showed actual courage. Hollywood is his biggest fan right now, and his appeal within the Hollywood community is the only reason he's still making and starring in his own films instead of scrabbling for supporting roles, or to get another sitcom on the air. If they decide to backlash against him, with his weak performance at the box office, his career could take a hit.

But then again, maybe he's got enough from licensing the remake rights to The Office to every country from Albania to Zambia to not worry about what Hollywood could do to his career.

Anyway Hollywood needs to grow a pair and learn to take it as well as they can dish it out.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #659: Miscellaneous Musings

Welcome to the show folks...

Still sick, but slowly feeling better. So here are some more short pieces to tide you over.

ROCKFORD REDUX WRECKED

NBC has finally officially passed on the rebooting of the legendary PI drama The Rockford Files. The excuse being given was that David Shore had to return to the reigns of
House MD and was unable to complete the script.

Yeah, right, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the idea was doomed from the start. Why? Because it was a show that was literally custom tailored to the talents and charisma of original star James Garner. Any attempt to do it with someone else saddles the project with a level of animosity that any show, regardless of quality, can overcome.

Now the ironic thing is, if NBC had asked Shore to develop a new and original private eye show in the spirit of
The Rockford Files, with a charismatic star, and pitched it as coming from the "Creator of House" and it might have actually sold.

IS HE REALLY WORTH IT?

18 year old
Twilight star Taylor Lautner is making seven figures a picture, is the highest paid star in his age bracket and is going to produce and star in some major tent pole films.

Yet nobody actually knows if he can carry a non-
Twilight film because he has yet to have one of these mega-projects released. Personally, I don't think the Twilight hysteria is worth such a huge investment before he's proven himself as a solo act at the box office.

Do you remember the non-
Twilight movies released by his cast mates?

Neither do they!

Now he might break this hex and be a tremendous success, however, the odds are against him.
Twilight fever is running too hot not to cool down and congeal into something gross and oozy, the fans of that franchise don't go to their non-Twilight movies. There's also been no "test case" of a smaller film where he can prove his appeal outside of playing the dog-faced boy who can't keep a shirt.

Instead, millions upon millions are being placed upon him in the hope that this time it will be different.

I hope he holds onto the $7.5 million a picture they're paying him now, because if he doesn't come out bigger than Gabby Hayes and Van Johnson combined, he might never work again.

TWO IDEAS ONE RESPONSE

ABC is green-lighting a Charlie's Angels remake.

Producers are developing a Pac-Man themed reality show.

Here is my response.

NO!

NO! NO!

NO! NO! NO!

BAD HOLLYWOOD!

BAD BAD HOLLYWOOD!

DON'T MAKE ME RUB YOUR NOSE IN IT!

I think I've made myself clear on these issues.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #658: Furious D's Fast & Furious Sick Day Post

Welcome to the show folks...

I'm sick as a dog that's currently not feeling very well, so I won't be doing the sort of in-depth analysis that you crave like the salivating dogs that you are. What I can do are some quick notes.

BOND 23 HAS A DATE

And it's not with a saucy femme fatale. I mean a release date, November 2012. The film will star Daniel Craig, and will be directed by Sam Mendes. Mendes, the man behind American Beauty will mark a change of direction for the franchise, moving away from its spy thriller roots into a domestic drama about the soul crushing conformity of suburbia.

Good luck MGM, hope it makes a fortune, because you can use it.


HISTORY CANCELS HISTORY?

The History Channel has canceled their mini-series about
The Kennedys before it even aired, leaving this slice of American history to air on the Canadian History Channel. Their excuse is that it somehow wasn't "historic" enough for a channel that airs shows speculating that Nostradamus shoving Crystals Skulls containing the ghosts of dead aliens up his backside to tell us that the world will end in 2012.

The biggest problem they had with the Canadian produced miniseries was not the script, that had been carefully analyzed and pre-approved, it was with political and social pressure.

The mini-series was written by Joel Surnow, the man who created the TV series 24. Surnow is a rarity, a political conservative openly living and working in Hollywood. The knee-jerk reaction among Hollywood people is that as liberals they must idolize Kennedy, and that Surnow would treat Kennedy the same way they would treat a historic figure or character who is politically conservative. Basically, they were worried that Surnow would pull a right wing Oliver Stone.

The ironic thing is that most conservatives actually respect most of what Kennedy did and stood for policy wise. He stood up to the Soviets, promoted national defense, cut taxes, and did many other things that many American conservatives supported.

Of course that's not what the Kennedy family and their friends are worried about. If Surnow did a real "warts and all" biography, then there would some discussion of JFK's philandering, Joseph P. Kennedy's shady business dealings, RFK's crusade against only mobsters who voted Republican, the mysteries over the Chicago vote count, and other things.

That's biography, and the Kennedys and their allies only want hagiography. So they bring down all the political and social pressure they can bear on the project, and the History Channel's parent company AETN.

POLITICAL: AETN is part owned by Disney/ABC and NBC/Universal. Both are being carefully watched by federal regulators, especially NBC/U which is currently trying to be sold to cable giant Comcast. Suddenly questions start being asked about your company by Senate and House committees, and important business suddenly can't get done.

SOCIAL: AETN executives have to live in the small world of Hollywood. A world where influential can get you bounced from the list of the next $2,500 a plate fundraiser that all your Hollywood friends are going to. Or you could find the tires on your sports-car slashed by the razor-sharp cheekbones of Maria Shriver.

This is far more powerful than the public complaints that compelled CBS to dump a controversial mini-series about Ronald & Nancy Reagan, onto their Showtime cable channel.

So you tell me: Is this editing? And by that a purely business/creative decision. Or: Is this censorship? Where the decision was based solely on political/social pressure.