Thursday, 30 June 2011

Comic Book Confidential: Riot On The Streets Of Metropolis!

Nerd rage will be in full effect at San Diego Comic Con as outraged fans will protest the upcoming DC Comics reboot.

The fans are mad at the comics division of the Time-Warner conglomerate for changing their beloved character's back-stories, costumes, and other minutiae.

DC Comics won't even ignore it.

They have too much invested in this reboot in both time and treasure to worry about these angry fans, because in the grand scheme of things,
those fans don't matter.

Allow me to explain.

Comics books as a medium is dying.

Plain and simple.

The audience is shrinking, and aging, and there are no new readers coming up to replace them.

The kids, the original audience for comics, don't read them anymore because too many comics rely too much on back-story going back five to seven decades.

Without the kids taking up the comics banner, the conglomerates that own the two major comics companies, view them only as source materials for movie franchises. And lately they've been over-killing on the franchises lately, making their box office performance wildly uneven.

So all this controversy proves is that both the fans, and the comic book companies are being really, really stupid.

The current fans are being stupid by demanding that the comic book companies keep to a strict "continuity" even though it makes modern comics impenetrable to new readers. Also, while they complain about the constant stream of continuity complicating "event" comics they still buy them, because they're essential to maintaining their own mastery of said continuity.

Give a kid a copy of just about any long running superhero title, and you have to give them a college level course on the character's history, just to know what the hell is going on.

The industry can't go on like that. Without new readers the market will continue to shrivel up until it dries up completely, then they will have nothing.

Readers have the accept that their favorite medium is the modern equivalent of the folk-tale. Over the top stories of heroes, villains, and fantastical adventures. Folks tales exist in a constant state of change, yes the fundamentals stay the same, but they become embellished, and expanded over time. When folk tales become rigid and fixed in their telling, then people stop telling them, and then they die.


Which brings me to the stupidity of the company.

Everything I've read about the reboot is telling me that it's going to be a repeat of Crisis On Infinite Earths. If you haven't read my past pieces on the subject that was DC's first attempt to straighten out their convoluted continuity. It was a huge event, where major characters were killed off, whole universes were destroyed, and the writers and artists started gradually undoing all the changes pretty much in the very next issue.

From what I've seen history will repeat itself. Take for example Batman. While the reboot is supposed to mean that he's at the beginning of the career, it's going to include all the Robins he's trained over the years, as well as Batman Incorporated. Batman Inc. is a relatively new development where Bruce Wayne, back from a spell where he was both dead and time traveling, franchises out the Batman brand to vigilantes all over the world.

When I first heard about Batman Inc. and the coming reboot I thought: "Oh, this is how they're going to have Bruce Wayne hang up the cowl in dignity, by creating an army of Bat-Men to take up the cause for him." Because it sounds like a damn logical way for Batman to end his career. He's not super- powered, or immortal, so battling crook and kooks can't go on forever, but he can't just give up the fight even if he's unable to kick a villain in the throat the way he used to. He's got to pass the proverbial torch and go from front line fighter to mentor. It is either that or have him and the Joker plunge off the roof of a skyscraper to their mutual deaths in one last brouhaha to end all brouhahas.

Of course doing something that would logically fit the narrative is not something a comic book company would do if it means cancelling a franchise they can squeeze some merchandise out of. So somehow Batman's logical retirement plan becomes something he's apparently done at the very beginning of his career while also training half a dozen Robins.

Hence, I'm forced to call bullshit on this whole reboot thing.

DC is not giving their heroes the reboot they need. They're just doing stupid, piddling costume and story tweaks to get some hype to sell a few books and see what they can use for the next movie franchise.

Which is a shame, when I first heard I was thinking that this was my chance to get back into comics after giving up on them aeons ago because I didn't have the money or the access to keep up with all their continuity nonsense.

Now I guess I'll just stay home with all the other former fans.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #757: Talking Filthy Filthy Filthy

The US Supreme Court is going to take a look at the FCC and its enforcement of "decency" rules that govern profanity and sexual content on broadcast television. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals had slapped down some of their decisions and America's self-appointed guardians of decency, the Parents Television Council had to toss in their two cents:
"The high court will have the opportunity to reverse misguided 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rulings that would open the floodgates for graphic nudity and some of the harshest profanity in the English language,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
He forgot to scream:

Now there are two possible reasons for Mr. Winter to make that sort of statement:

1. He's doing his part as the secret minion of Hollywood publicists seeking to create attention, and hopefully viewers, for shows that probably wouldn't get viewers by other means, like quality storytelling.

2. He really believes his own bullshit.

And yes Mr. Winter, I used a dirty word, because I know for a fact that this blog is not read by children, but by a small, but loyal, following of angry loners, and mental deviants. Children don't go near my blog because I talk business, which children find boring. The market, the collective mass-mind of all humanity, and my own tedious subject matter, does what legislation and regulation cannot do.


The same thing works for TV.


I can tell you exactly what would most likely happen if the Supreme Court completely trashes every decency regulation the FCC has.

Probably nothing.

Now Mr. Winter wants you to believe that every channel on broadcast TV will be nothing but hardcore sex and foul language, 24/7, 365 days a year.

That ain't gonna happen.

What would happen is that some networks may try experimenting with pushing the tried and true controversy buttons of flashing some nipple and butt-crack, but, quicker than you think, everything will be
right back to business as usual. In fact, I think TV would be even less "sexual" by nature in the long run without the regulations.

Because that's where the money is.

The old adage of "sex sells" doesn't really hold water anymore in this jaded day and age. People want interesting stories that make them laugh, cry, and get that thrill you get from tales of suspense and mystery. Something called "entertainment." If the modern cynical audience sees a show offering a constant stream of risque material, they usually back away, suspecting that the show probably doesn't have much else to make it worth their time.

If they want titillation of a sexual nature, they can go to internet. There they can get all the action they want, to suit any fetish they have, and get it without annoying commercial breaks.

Then there's the peer pressure issue.

Who wants to gather around the water cooler at coffee break time and tell their co-workers how they beat off like a bastard to an orgy scene in ABC's new hard-core offering Desperately Horny Housewives. It's the really easy way to get you branded a lecherous pervert.

HBO broke ground by having shows with nudity and rough language, but they only won large audiences and respectability when they offered much more than nudity and rough language with shows like The Sopranos.

In the long run, you could see broadcast television backing down from sexual content in ways not seen in decades. Why? Because it'll slowly sink into their thick skulls that story is what really sells in the long run, and without the FCC, or the PTC to raise hell, and publicity, at the slightest hint of nipple, the notion of "sex selling" will eventually fizzle out and die.

That's my opinion, which is absolutely right in all respects, but feel free to let me know yours in the comments.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #756: Random Drippings From My Brain Pan...

Just some random news bits...

BIG DEAL NEWS...

Open Road, the distributor founded by the AMC & Regal theater chains, is taking another big step in showing the world that they're serious about the movie biz. They've just inked a rental/streaming video deal with Netflix, starting with their first release The Killer Elite.

Good luck to them, I hope they give the big boys a run for their money.

BAD DEAL NEWS...

Stan Lee's Pow Entertainment is putting together a new consortium, this time called Magic Storm Entertainment, to finance new film franchises based on Stan Lee's new superhero ideas, and they're going to be specifically targeting China as a key market.

What does this tell us?

1. It doesn't matter if you hadn't had a successful or even appealing idea since the death of disco, you can still suck the life out of the legacy you created decades earlier. Especially if that legacy involved the creative talents of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, who are now looking more important than ever.

2. China will now see all new superhero characters loosely based on the menu at Stan Lee's favorite restaurant. I myself can't wait for General Tao to dispense hot spicy justice against the sinister Egg Roller.

3. Investors can't do any research, because how could they possibly go into business with people that thought
Stripperella and The Governator were good superhero franchises.

GOOD COMICS NEWS...

Frank Miller's long awaited anti-terrorism comic book
Holy Terror is finally coming out, thanks to the new Legendary Comics company, founded by indie financier Legendary Pictures.

In case you haven't heard of this long gestating project, it started as Frank Miller's response to the 9/11/2001 terror attacks. The original idea was for Batman to go after Al Qaeda with a vengeance. Now for a long time the project disappeared into the mists of controversy. Some said DC didn't want to ruffle any politically correct feathers, some say that Miller wasn't happy with the limitations that come from having Batman in the lead role, but all that doesn't really matter anymore.

The situation and the main character changed, from DC's Batman, to Frank Miller's new creation The Fixer.

Their next project will be a Fixer / General Tao crossover with Stan Lee.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #755: Marketing Is Not Making & Vice Versa

Momentum Worldwide, a global marketing firm, is branching into making its own content with a new entity called Momentum Entertainment Group. This new media conglomerate will have three divisions, Momentum Entertainment, Artist & Brand, and the production company Branded Pictures.

Good luck with that because they're going to need it.

Because if there is one hard lesson I learned, it's that marketing something is extremely different from making something marketable.

I've probably told this story before, but since it's germane to the topic at hand, and not tito, I'll rehash it for you.

Way back when the Earth was cooling, in an age known as the 1990s I was a bright eyed young university student and I heard that a new production company was looking for new people with comedy writing experience. I was new, I had comedy writing experience, so I answered the call, passed the "audition" where I had to show I could write sketches on the fly with whatever topic they gave me (My instant sketch was "Gang Violence Barbie.") and was hired as a staff writer for this new comedy pilot.

At the time Canada was getting tons of new channels, those channels had to produce a certain amount of Canadian made content, and the people running them usually didn't have a clue what they were doing. So the odds of getting at least the pilot on air as a special was pretty good.

There was about eight writers, all in our early 20s, about eight performers, and we started putting stuff together. Now I'm not saying that we were the reincarnation of Monty Python, but we were putting together a pretty good little diamond in the rough.

Then the producer brought in the marketing consultants.

Oy gevalt!

Almost overnight our diamond in the rough sketch comedy pilot was transmogrified into a completely incoherent sitcom about angels with some candid camera type gags tossed in.

How did that happen?

Well, Philadelphia Cream Cheese was having a very successful ad campaign featuring an angel extolling the virtues of their "heavenly" product, in fact, it's still running to this day, mocking me, like the smug bastard that it is...

But I digress...

The marketing consultants told our producer that mimicking that commercial in the form of a sitcom/candid camera rip-off hybrid was the magic bullet she was looking for to make the show a guaranteed hit. So she butchered rewrote all the sketches to fit this strange new mold, the backers who went in looking for SCTV found a dog's breakfast, so they pulled, the whole deal collapsed, and no one got paid except the marketing consultants.

To this day I will not eat Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Which isn't much of a stretch considering I never really liked it in the first place.

The problem with marketing is that it is their job to look at what's selling and to figure out how to use that information to sell whatever product they need to sell.

Making things like movies and TV shows requires a radically different skill set. It's supposed to be all about coming up with something new and novel that can excite both filmmakers and audiences. It doesn't always work out that way, but that's what it's supposed to be in a perfect world.

In a perfect world a filmmaker presents a project to the marketing people. The marketing people see what makes it exciting, and use that to sell it to a wider audience. That's a perfect world scenario. In the imperfect world we live in you often get marketing dictating the making of a movie or TV production. Gone is the sense of the new and the novel and the excitement it can bring, in its place is a search for the familiar and comfortable. Which either sucks the creative energy out of a project, or makes it a big steaming pile like it did to the TV pilot.

Let's hope someone at Momentum knows that.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #754: Tangoing Does Take Two...

For the last week I've been writing a lot about people in Hollywood wasting money like crazy, even though such wasteful spending usually does more harm than good to the spender. I talked about free spending executives, and over expensive movie stars, and the dose of reality that both need to have, but will most likely never do. Today, I would like to take a stab at trying to figure out why they do what they do. The foundation of this theory is the concept of "To E.R.R. is human," and E.R.R. standing for:

ENTITLEMENT: Both sides of this little dance of waste reek of a sense that they are entitled to everything they can get, including fat salaries, $200,000 bathrooms, and 2 story luxury trailers.

Executives think that they are entitled to all they can grab because they believe that they made it by virtue of being the relative of the parent company's chairman, or by belonging to the right fraternity at the right Ivy League school. Ability or merit doesn't appear to have anything to do with their success or failure, only their ability to suck up to the right people, and putting the blade to anyone who might outshine them.

Stars feel entitled to all that they can get, because they live in a world that is very different from the one we live in. I call it The Axis of Ego. It's a plane of existence separate from the rest of us who dwell in the mortal plane. If you're a full citizen of the Axis you live in a world where everyone you meet is either in your business, want to be in your business, or are in some way dependent on your for their livelihood. You are constantly bombarded with the message that you are wonderful, you are great, and that you deserve everything you can grab.

It's bound to warp your mind after a while.

RESPONSIBILITY: Nobody has any sense of responsibility towards the money because it's not their money, and the wasting of it usually doesn't have any affect on their lives, unless....

Executives only have to face the music when the ownership or top management of their company changes radically. We're talking about the sort of drastic shake ups that come from take-overs or buy-outs. Usually the effects of corporate shake ups like this are temporary, and the new suits that come in after the new broom sweeps clean start repeating the same old habits of the people they replaced.

Stars only have to face the music when they fail to sell tickets to such an extreme that their salaries and demands for extra perks look extremely ridiculous. Now this is much rarer than corporate shake-ups, because "A-List" stars have two layers of protection. One layer is "name recognition" the notion that if you appear in the media a lot that you will sell movie tickets. Jennifer Aniston has coasted through her entire "post-
Friends" career by constantly giving "exclusives" to every celeb magazine, tabloid, and TV show, about her pathetic love life and how she wishes the media would leave her alone. The second layer of protection are their agents and managers. If these said agents and managers have a large and prosperous clientele, they can use that clout to keep their less successful clients in clover, and executives don't care, because it's not their money anyway.

RESENTMENT: There is a hell of a lot of resentment going on in Hollywood. It's the rhythm of the tango that both sides are dancing to.

Executives resent the Stars for getting so much money and attention, as well as the audience for not accepting their every brain-fart as a masterpiece of genius. So they give themselves little pick-me-ups like big salaries, perks, and overpriced extras.

Stars resent the constant attention, though they spend a lot of time and money begging for that same attention, they especially resent the studio system because they fully expect the studio to screw them in any way it can, and they're usually right. So why not get whatever they can squeeze out while they can get away with it.

Do you see how this mixture adds up to a toxic business culture that does more harm than good to the industry.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #753: Two Random Thoughts...

CAN A STAR PRICE HIMSELF OUT OF STARDOM?

Men In Black 3 is looking like proof of my theory about the three stages of trilogies. In case you forgot the stages are:

1. SUCCESS: The first movie is a big hit,
immediately sparking talk of a sequel.

2. DISTRESS: The sequel does well enough, but both the fans, and the filmmakers are ultimately dissatisfied with it because constant studio meddling upped the cost, and the hassle making the movie. Usually such meddling only succeeds in sucking out the energy and creativity that made the original a hit.

3. EXCESS: By the time a third film rolls around the people essential to making it, the stars and the filmmakers decide that this time they are the ones with the power. So they go over the top on everything. It's indulgence city both in front of and behind the camera. It comes out, and even it does well, the fans are dissatisfied, even disgusted, and aren't afraid to express that on the internet. Even if the film makes a profit, which is slim under the best of circumstances, it pretty much kills the series. If any attempt is made to keep the franchise going, it's usually a "reboot" with new people.

Now I know that not every trilogy follows this pattern, but enough do, so keep your nit-picking to yourself.

Which brings me to the real point of this random thought. If you read the article in the above link then you read about star Will Smith's extras and perks. This includes "personal writers" who look for places for him to insert
"Aw hell no!" more goof off jobs for his friends than a mobbed up construction site, and a trailer so huge, it took them two weeks to find the illegal immigrant family living in the trailer's basement.

So here's a question.

Is it possible for a movie star to price themselves out of stardom?

I suspect yes.

Sure Will Smith is a pretty safe investment when compared to the majority "A-List" stars, but there is a line, and being instrumental in the production budget for
MIB3 being twice as big as the one for the then overpriced MIB2 could easily put a movie star over it.

Recent movie history show that you don't need big stars to make big bucks at the movie theater, and while Smith may be doing okay now, it can't last forever. Expensive antics, such as the ones during the making of
MIB3, could make producers think twice.

Look at this imaginary, yet realistic, conversation taking place in the anteroom outside a studio boss's $200,000 office bathroom, otherwise known as his office:
STUDIO BOSS: (puffs cigar made from $100 bills) You got a great script for a new sci-fi action adventure franchise. It's a real winner.

PRODUCER: (tossing scalding hot coffee
in assistant's face) Yeah, it took over 37 different writers to get it right.

STUDIO BOSS: We should get Will Smith to star. The script's the perfect vehicle for him.

PRODUCER: Do we really need Will Smith? I mean the script's pretty salable on its own, plus, it's already a big budget project without him. With him it could super expensive, and need
Avatar like box office just to break even.

STUDIO BOSS: Your right. Let's get someone cheap. Ooh, get the guy who played Carlton on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He should be available.

PRODUCER: He is available, in fact, he sold me my vegetarian breakfast burrito with extra ground beef just this morning.

STUDIO BOSS: Then go get him!
It's not that far-fetched if you think about it.

JUST A THOUGHT....

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, John Lasseter, the director of
Cars 2 said that "Big Oil" was going to be the villain of the kiddie oriented spy-spoof.

Now I'm not the type to tell someone how to do their job.... Oh wait, I am exactly that type.... but it did make me think for a second.

The world of Cars 2 is a world where there are only cars and other vehicles as the sentient life.

Big oil is the "uber bad guy" of Cars 2.

Cars, even sentient ones, run on gasoline, lubricate with oil, and are dependent on all sorts of other petroleum based products.

So basically, it's the plot equivalent of James Bond going after the cook at his favorite restaurant for cooking him the food that he likes to eat.

Even for a kiddie spoof that's sort of stretching it.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #752: You Gotta Know When To Hold'Em

I don't normally talk about celebrity news, but these stories have a little more to them than the usual sex-tape type antics we normally hear about.

YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO HOLD'EM

Recently venerable critic Roger Ebert created a twit-storm that raged across the entire internet. If you don't know the full story, here's the gist of it. Former Jackass co-star Ryan Dunn died in a car crash after an evening at a bar with friends. He drove his Porsche off the road at 140 mph, killing himself and a friend, with what turned out to be a blood alcohol level of .196, over twice the legal limit.

When word got out, Ebert tweeted "Friends don't let Jackasses drink and drive."

Then the shit started to fly.

Co-star and friend Bam Margera got the ball rolling with his own outraged Twitter, and soon Ebert was being slandered from one end of the internet to the others.

It got so bad that Ebert's Facebook account was temporarily suspended because of the volume of obscene comments being left on it.

Now who is right in this issue, and who is wrong?

They're all wrong.

Roger Ebert loves to be smug and condescending, not knowing that being smug and condescending is my job, and loves to come up with a clever bit of wordplay to make himself feel even cleverer. The fact that he did it right on the day the poor bastard died, taking a friend with him, is a case of poor timing caused by the sense that his piquant brand of snark was somehow protected by his status as America's critic emeritus, and by the fact that his usual targets are people who don't vote the same way as him.

At the time the tweet was written the toxicology on Dunn wasn't done yet, and the bartender was telling anyone who would listen that the man wasn't drunk.* The fans, looking for something to be outraged about used that as an excuse to go after Ebert hammer and tongs, complete with slurs, threats, and almost incoherent anger.

Now it looks like they were ranting in defense of a guy who drove drunk and killed himself and a friend. That's something that deserves scorn however, this whole thing was screwed up by both timing and method.

Ebert was too soon and too pompous, the angry fans were too aggressive and too crude.

Both sides should have just stepped back, and held their opinions until after the full story was known.

Of course since this is the internet we're talking about, there's no fun in that.
*I'm sure the fact that bars often get sued by the families of drunk driving victims had absolutely nothing to do with the bar's claim the Ryan Dunn wasn't intonxicated.

KNOW WHEN TO FOLD'EM

Tobey Maguire, Leo Dicaprio, Matt Damon and other Hollywood hot shots are up to their gonads in a lawsuit over illegal underground poker games, especially Maguire.

Maguire allegedly out pokered a hedge fund guy out of $300,000+ and the guy alleges that it forced him to turn his hedge fund into a ponzi scheme to get out debt. Now that ponzi scammer wants his money back from Maguire. (I wonder how many items in the hedge fund guy's garage alone could have been sold to pay off the debt without resorting to criminality?)

It doesn't surprise me that Maguire's good at poker. He's got the right face for it, I've seen him go through whole movies with a sort of blank expression that it pretty near impossible to read.

As for me, I'm filing my own lawsuit against Maguire for this movie:



I'm taking applications for my class action. Join now!

Anyway, this sounds a lot like an attempt by a con man to try to con his way out of trouble by passing as much as he can onto others. I think he shouldn't have gambled with money that wasn't his in the first place, and he'd be a free man now.

UPDATE: Now reports are coming that Toby Maguire "stomped" the swindler at the heart of the lawsuit for his poker money.

I'm sorry, but I never conceived of the words "Toby Maguire" and the word "stomp" in the same sentence, especially one where he's giving, instead of receiving. This isn't Lee Marvin we're talking about here.

KNOW WHEN TO WALK AWAY

Interesting op-ed about the rock band U2. The author is a fan, I sort of drifted away from them back in the 90s for reasons I will explain momentarily.

Well, it turns out that not only are they poseurs, they're also big jerks. Their "charity" raised $14,993,873 from fans, but only gave $184,732 (1%) to charitable causes. The other 99% went to pay executive salaries, and for Bono's trips around the world telling people that they aren't giving him enough to pay for telling people that they aren't giving him enough. They're also big time tax avoiders, environmental hypocrites, and still have the stones to go around telling people that they need to be more giving like them.

Of course U2 probably won't stop their alleged "activism," or their proven perfidy, they live in a cozy, luxurious bubble where they hear nothing about how wonderful they are, and that everything they do is the best thing ever done.

I saw signs of that bubble forming around them in the 90s, and that's when I decided to just walk away from U2, and I go back a way with them, first hearing from older kids about the edgy new album called Boy by an edgy new band, and becoming a fan when
War broke them in North America.

They were new, sincere, and original. Then all the praise went to their heads, Bono started wearing sunglasses 24/7, and it was starting to show in their music, and I sort of gave up on them.

KNOW WHEN TO RUN

Well, that's all for now. See you later.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #751: Time For "The Talk"

Paramount has inked a deal to make a comedy directed by and starring Warren Beatty.

That's right it's not Dick Tracy 2: The Great Pension Office Caper, so you're going to have to keep waiting, at least until the battle for the rights for the character heats up again.

Nope it's going to be a comedy. The actual story and subject matter doesn't really matter at this stage of the game.

What matters is that someone important at Paramount give Mr. Beatty "The Talk."

No, he doesn't need the birds and the bees explained to him. He figured that out himself a long long time ago. And I'm not talking about that clone of
The View on CBS that just happens to feature the wife of the guy who runs CBS.

I'm talking about that dose of bitter reality that both Beatty and the studio have to swallow if they're going to make a successful movie.

I imagine it going something like this....
STUDIO SUIT: Beatty baby, come on in.

BEATTY: What's new pussycat?

STUDIO SUIT: Everything baby doll, everything. Have a seat. Can I get my assistant to fetch you something?

BEATTY: I'd like a bottle of Perrier. Hand delivered from France.

STUDIO SUIT: (to assistant) You heard the man! Get on a plane now! (to Beatty) Now Warren, baby, we need to talk about this movie you're going to direct and star for us.

BEATTY: It's going to be great.

STUDIO SUIT: I'm sure it will be. You've been in, and made some really big movies, and won all sorts of awards, but we have to be careful here.

BEATTY: What do you mean careful?

STUDIO SUIT: This whole thing could blow up in our pretty faces if you're not careful.

BEATTY: What do you mean by careful!?!

STUDIO SUIT: I'm talking about money. Times have changed, making movies are more expensive than ever. We can't just toss money around unless it's something that will bring in the kids, like a superhero or a talking toy.

BEATTY: I can bring in the kids!

STUDIO SUIT: Out of curiosity maybe, but not out of their love for you and your movies. Ask anyone under 35 about you and most will respond "Who?" Your core audience are baby boomers don't go to the movies as often as they used to.

BEATTY: Gasp!

STUDIO SUIT: Did you just say "gasp."

BEATTY: Maybe.

STUDIO SUIT: Anyway, let me get back to my point. Because your audience is older, and smaller we can't spend the sort of money that we used to on your movies.


BEATTY: My movie's a comedy without big special effects, it shouldn't cost that much.

STUDIO SUIT: Your last comedy without big special effects cost over $90 mil just to make it, and made less than dick at the box office!

BEATTY: It took a long time to make it right.

STUDIO SUIT: It took almost 3 years to make it and it was still a big steaming pile on the rug, and most sources say the super-long shoot was mostly your fault!

BEATTY: I'm a perfectionist.

STUDIO SUIT: Perfection is a luxury! We just want them to be entertaining at best, salable at worst. You've been in this biz for longer than I've been alive, you know that the chief thing a movie's budget buys is time. The longer you take, the more expensive it becomes, and more expensive it becomes, the less likely it will make any money. We need our movies to make money or we have to stop making movies.

BEATTY: An older actor can still sell. Clint Eastwood is older than me, and his Gran Torino made almost $300 million worldwide.

STUDIO SUIT: Point 1: Gran Torino cost less than 1/3 what your last movie cost, because Eastwood doesn't waste time or money making his movies. Point 2: He didn't completely drop out of everything for ten years before doing it. He was still fresh in the audience's memories, they knew it would be his last film as an actor and paid to see it in droves.

BEATTY: So what am I supposed to do?

STUDIO SUIT: Make a good film in a reasonable amount of time, for a reasonable amount of money, without the goddamn off camera melodrama that take up time and burn company money. If we can trust you to do this, you will probably be able to direct and star in other movies in the future.

BEATTY: New Line didn't give me this grief with Town & Country.

STUDIO SUIT: And we all know where New Line is now, don't we?

BEATTY: I don't.
Now that conversation dripped from the bubbling cauldron of my fevered brain, and the odds of anyone in Hollywood having the stones to have it with someone of Beatty's stature are slimmer than a supermodel.

UPDATE: The mystery project in question is going to be about the later life of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, because his story has never been done before.

Warren really should have taken Tarantino's offer to be in Kill Bill, he really should have.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #750: Toilet Talk

Comcast is shaking things up at their new property NBC-Universal. One of the first things to go are the perks of the senior executives. They have been moved out of their big fancy offices, to more modest digs, the restaurant style executive dining room that was barely used is now a buffet, and a lot of guys have lost their private bathrooms.

One tidbit from the report stuck with me. That tidbit was that former NBC-Entertainment President Jeff Gaspin spent $200,000 getting a private bathroom installed in his office at the Universal Studios lot.

What does that tell you?

It tells me that he really, really, really shouldn't have had a job with any authority beyond asking if the customer wants fries with their order.

I have nothing against a boss having a private bathroom. If I was running a major corporation, I'd like to have a private bathroom. Because there's nothing that undermines someone's authority than having everyone hear (and smell) the evidence of the massive monkey-claw double-deuce you dropped after a burrito party at Jeff Zucker's house.

But it's not something that's worth $200,000.

I've seen a hell of a lot of home improvement shows, and while I'm no expert, I've seen some pretty fancy-schmancy bathrooms go for $20,000-$25,000 max, so basically 1/10 what NBC-Universal paid for it. The basic model would be a sink, and a toilet, now if you're a really big cheese you're going to want a shower, because accidents happen, and it's better to have and not need, than to need and not have. You don't need it to be big, you don't need it to be fancy, because you're probably going to be the only one using it. All you need it to be is clean, and functional.

The fact that this bathroom was so huge, they reportedly moved out two other offices to make room tells me something about him, and the management of NBC. The reaction to the board of directors to this extravagance should have been to fire him immediately, possibly out a window.

That's because he's:

1. Someone you can't trust with company money: There is only one reason for him to spend that kind of money on that kind of opulence for what should be a purely functional space.

Ego.

The ego to think that he is so special he needs a massive bathroom, as well as the ego to think that it's perfectly okay to spend lots of the company's money to feed said ego.

Nobody's that special, and anyone who thinks they are, do not deserve any authority because they are going to abuse it.

OR

2. Someone so out of touch with reality they got easily ripped off: Now this is if it wasn't his ego that made him do it, just plain old stupidity or ignorance of life in the real world. It reminds me of a news report I once saw. In it some people were criticizing presidential candidate John Edwards for spending over $1,000 for a haircut. In the report TV producer Norman Lear defended Edwards by stating that it was a perfectly reasonable price for a haircut, because he pays $400 for a haircut and he's pretty much bald.

On what planet is $400-$1000+ considered a normal price for a haircut?

Why the Axis of Ego*, of course.

It's an extremely isolated world, one where everything costs way more than what the free market calls for, because it's not a free market. A free market requires a consumer who knows what they're willing to pay for something because it's their own damn money. In the semi-feudal market of the Axis of Ego prices are determined by how much of someone else's money they can get away spending.

It's hard to find a good and honest contractor, there are a lot of crooks out there. This is especially true inside the Axis. The customers are allowed to be careless with money, because it's not their own, and the vendors know that. So it's perfectly reasonable for a smooth talking salesman / contractor to pawn off a lot of overpriced luxuries on someone who really doesn't know that it's not normal.

Which one is true?

It doesn't really matter.

But either way, it does explain a lot about how poorly NBC-Universal's been run in recent years.

------------

*Beverly Hills, Malibu, Hollywood & related environs.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Cinemaniacal: The Plot Holes Of The Apes...

The internet has seen the recent release of various trailers for the reboot/prequel of the Planet Of The Apes franchise called Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Here's one of them now...


Now I was a big fan of the original movies. I saw all the movies on TV, had the action figures fighting with my Star Trek figures, and I even watched the short lived TV series when the
Great Money Movie would re-run them in two-episode blocks.

However, I avoided the remake from 2001. Sure the make up and special effects were slicker, but the originality and novelty was long gone, and any attempt to recreate the kick in the nuts shock quality of the ending of the first movie would just be jerking the audience's chain.

I will also avoid
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes for a variety of reasons.

1. No Roddy McDowall. While Charlton Heston
provided the square jawed heroics in the first movie, it was McDowall, playing various Chimp characters who provided the humanity.

2. Explaining how it happened kind of ruins the metaphor. What made the original movie work was that the roots of the Apes inheriting the Earth was left vague. Everything was summed up with "You maniacs, you blew it up!" The apes existed to make a point about the human race. The sequels lost some of this emotional/intellectual impact when they eventually did attempt to explain what happened in the sequels. However, since the sequels were based on a time travel premise they created a complete circular cluster-fark and ends telling you that a whole new future, independent of the events of the other movies, has been forged.

3. The plot. I can sum up the whole movie. Doctor Franco tries to cure Alzheimer's disease, but it makes his test monkey super-smart. Super-smart monkey gets treated meanly by the sinister corporate executive guy, and their minions the obnoxious redneck guys, making smart monkey want revenge. Super-Smart Monkey makes the other downtrodden apes super smart, and the few hundred or so apes somehow bring down the entirety of human civilization by jumping on helicopters and throwing parking meters at cop cars.

Seriously.

What happens?

Does the EPA declare the rebelling
apes an endangered species, barring humanity from fighting back?

Because unless something like that happens, the humans will grab their guns and the apes will soon realize that their poorly opposed thumbs aren't very good in a gunfight. Remember, even if every ape on the planet becomes super-smart, they are still outnumbered by the armed military personnel of the world.

That part of the premise makes as much sense as this picture from my childhood:
And that's not a lot of sense.

At least original franchise had the idea of apes being used first as pets, then as omnipresent slave labor in every facet of society. It was a bit of a stretch credibility wise, but it gave them the excuse they needed to have intelligent apes in every city and every house in the world.

When they rose up, there was a scintilla of a chance of succeeding.

I don't see any sign of that in this new movie. Just a handful raising hell in one city, waiting to be gunned down or bombed into oblivion by the police and military.

If they wanted to go beyond CGI monkey action they should have taken an entirely different tack. Doctor finds cure for Alzheimer's that makes the test monkeys super smart. After it eliminates Alzheimer's disease, the humans start abusing the cure thinking it will make them smarter too, but instead it makes them crazier. Civilization starts to fall apart, and the smart apes go off to hide in a safe corner, watching nuclear apocalypse swallow up their homo sapiens cousins. The smart apes then decide, let's build our own civilization, and not make the mistakes they made.

It still cheapens the metaphor/mythology created in the original film, but it at least doesn't stretch credibility beyond even the capabilities of science fiction.

That's my opinion, though I do tend to be right about these sorts of things.

UPDATE: Word is out on how the film ends. Click here for my thoughts on the ending. Warning it contains SPOILERS.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #749: Shocked & Appalled

I just saw a report that said the Feds are rolling up an indie film scam like a cheap carpet.

It seems some modern day Eliot Ness called shenanigans on the activities of Q Media Assets, and Cinamour LLC for running a boiler room operation. For those of you who aren't hep to the lingo of big money long con grifters, a "boiler room" is a room literally filled with telephones and people trained to use them. In this case the telemarketers would call suckers leads and tell them about a "wonderful investment opportunity."

The opportunity would be the chance to put money in an independent movie. This opportunity came with a guarantee that 93% of their money would be visible on screen, and that they will receive a 1,000% return on their investment. The scam came from the fact that these "producers" spend less than 1/3 of the $25 million they raised to make and release, two indie films, while pocketing the remaining 2/3s, and instead of the 1,000% promised return, the stooges investors got somewhere between jack and squat.

Now I am shocked and appalled by such scams. Because for every investor burned by such a scam, a thousand will avoid getting involved in independent film at all.

But what shocks and appalls me more, was the apparent ease at which these scammers raised $25 million.

Why can't I get some of that action?

So this is where I throw my hat in the ring, and make my pitch to raise money for at least two independent movies.

GIVE ME $25 MILLION!!

I will use that money to make two films of about $10 million a piece for production, then use the bulk of the rest to sell the two movies to a decent distributor who will actually release the film within the decade.

I won't promise you a 1,000% return on your investment. Because I'm not a liar, and you are not an idiot.

What I can promise you is that I will--

- Not waste money on stars who can't deliver at the box office.

- Make a movie with a decent story with commercial appeal.

- Not waste your money on 3D.

- Do everything I can to sell that movie, not only to a distributor, but to the public.

There's a very good chance that you could lose the entire investment, because success in the movies is largely a crap-shoot. What could bomb one day can be a blockbuster the next. So will advise, nay,
insist, that you only invest what you can afford to lose.

At best you can get a good return on your investment, at the very least you can tell the chicks that you're a "for real movie producer," and have the paraphernalia to prove it.

And that is my honest investment pitch.

So let's just sit back and watch the money roll in.

*crickets*

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #748: Dear Stan Lee

AN OPEN LETTER TO STAN LEE

Dear Stan.

This is the sort of message that I wish was a telegram, because then I could say:
Dear Stan Lee STOP

Just heard about new project with the NHL. STOP

Please, please STOP

Of course nobody gets telegram related humor anymore. Thank you advancement of technology, but the message is still pretty much the same.


But since this is a blog post and not a telegram I better explain to the folks out there who are not Stan Lee.

I just saw a report that you talked NBC and the National Hockey League into backing a new superhero themed project based on all the NHL hockey teams.

I can definitely say that this whole scheme shows that you have a very special kind of genius. Not the sort of genius you showed in your classic collaborations with Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby back during your days at Marvel during the Silver Age.

No, this is another kind of genius entirely.

I'm talking about talking investors into putting money into hare-brained schemes that are only doomed to failure, and ignominy.

Yes, I just used the word "ignominy," that's how much my dander is up. You can look it up if you don't know what it means.

You're a legend, you literally created hundreds of great characters, and great stories during your career at Marvel. That's an impressive legacy.

Lately though, I don't know what the hell you're doing. Thankfully, boondoggles like
Stripperella have been so quickly forgotten after they disappear in puff of failure and litigation they have yet to taint your Marvel legacy.

But you can't keep getting away with that forever. People are starting to notice the cringe-worthiness of many of your recent announcements and what used to be fanboy excitement over new projects is being replaced by a sense of boredom salted with pity over the greatness that used to be.

I mean come on, THE GOVERNATOR?

THE FUCKING GOVERNATOR?

Seriously, have you paid a scintilla of attention to the hundreds of failed celebrity based superhero cartoon and comic projects?

Have you paid any attention to the overwhelming impotence of Arnold's political life as well as the overwhelming randiness of his private life?

Have any of your investors?

Obviously not.

Now you're going to make superheroes based on NHL teams.

Sure, there's no way that's going to come out looking lame.

Oy gevalt, I almost choked writing that last line.

Let's look at the line up of this new superhero team and what their "powers" will most likely be:

New Jersey Devil - He's got horns poking out from among his frosted tips as well as 6 pack abs, can drink and dance all night while getting book deals despite his illiteracy. And he's got a magic hockey stick or something.

New York Islander - He's go "Manhattan Island" powers. Basically he can create traffic jams with the power of his mind. And he's got a pair of rocket skates.

New York Ranger - He can "range" things, with his magic goalie mask.

Philadelphia Flyer - Obviously he can fly while making killer cheese-steak sandwiches with his magic knee-pads.

Pittsburgh Penguin - He's got penguin power, he swim fast, waddle awkwardly over long distances, eat raw fish, and not fly. Powers he gets from his enchanted cup, and no, it's not the Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruin - He's big and hairy, and kinda looks like a bear.

Buffalo Sabre - It's a talking buffalo with a sword.

Montreal Canadien - Fights crime with poutine, cigarettes, and really tasty smoked meat sandwiches. Also has the ability to attract hot artsy chicks, and comedians.

Ottawa Senator - Can talk on and on and on about nothing. Beats criminals with the power of inducing boredom.

Toronto Maple Leaf - Has amazing Torontonian themed super powers. He believes that he is the actual center of the universe, and refuses to look at any evidence to the contrary.

Atlanta Thrasher - He can thrash. Whatever that is.

Carolina Hurricane - He has the power of wind. Power only works while outdoors, and the if the weather conditions are right.

Florida Panther - Got panther power. But not a black panther, or Marvel will sue the ass of us.

Tampa Bay Lightning - He can shoot electricity to jump-start the hearts of retirees.

Washington Capital - Same power as the Ottawa Senator, but he costs trillions of dollars more every year.

Chicago Blackhawk - Can collect pay-offs for politicians in a single bound.

Columbus Blue Jacket - He's a really snappy dresser.

Detroit Red Wing - You don't want to know what this guy does aside from making cars. Trust me, you really, really don't.

Nashville Predator - Fights crime when he isn't being caught by Chris Hansen on Dateline NBC.

St. Louis Blue - Can play any musical instrument, but only knows how to play one song.

Calgary Flame - An openly gay cowboy with a magic lasso.

Colorado Avalanche - He can make things fall over. A lot.

Edmonton Oiler - He is the master of lubrication. Calgary is always asking him for help.

Minnesota Wild - His power is to get wildly angry after shoveling his driveway for the fifth time in one winter's day.

Vancouver Canucks - Can riot like a bastard when he's not growing bitching marijuana.

Anaheim Duck - Water just goes off this guy's back like.... well... gee, I don't know how to describe it.

Dallas Star - Failed Walker: Texas Ranger impersonator.

Los Angeles King - It's basically Charlie Sheen in a crown, annoying criminals into surrendering with his persistent cries of "Winning!"

Phoenix Coyote - He roots through criminals garbage and attacks their pets and small children.

San Jose Shark - He has to be constantly moving forward or he'll suffocate. Also tends to eat people.

Okay, that bit was more parody than reportage, but I don't see my ideas being much worse than anything you can come up with using this material.

I know that you don't want to be an old fart sitting on a pile of past glories. But that's certainly looks a hell of a lot better than some of the shit you've producing lately. If Jack Kirby's ghost was remotely corporeal, he'd headbutt you right now.

Step back from the creative abyss before it swallows you and your legacy whole.

Please.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #747: Flying Away With Indie Films...

Today, two stories about indie film companies. One about hope, one about hopelessness...

HOPE: COMCAST IS FOCUSING ON FOCUS.

After a long period of speculating over the future of NBC-Universal's "indie" division Focus Features, including rumors of it being shuttered or sold, its new owners, Comcast, are now saying that they're keeping the scrappy little company.

Good for them, because if there is one thing
I love to preach about it's the simple fact that independent film can become a viable business. In fact, the collapse of the indie film biz after the 90s boom can be directly attributable to the studios.

If you remember your film history, independent film, and independent film companies exploded in the 1990s. A sort of indie golden age boomed as films made outside the Hollywood system won critical praise, major awards, and even box office success. The big studios saw all this, screamed "Me too," and leaped in with both feet.

That's where things started to go wrong.

The major studios started buying up, or squeezing out indie film companies. One by one they either were absorbed by the corporate Borg Collective of the major studios, or driven out of business by their inability to match the acquisition bids of the majors at markets like Sundance, or their marketing clout at the multiplex.

However things weren't all that rosy for the majors who now all had indie divisions. The biggest problem was that most of them didn't have a clue as to what to do with them. The risk taking entrepreneurs who started the companies the majors absorbed were, with the exception of a handful of wily survivors, gone. In their place were studio bureaucrats who weren't about taking risks on originality and filling gaps in the movie-going pallet, they were all about playing it safe and following trends that everyone else was following.

Soon most of these "faux indie" divisions became dumping grounds for self-indulgent star service, or anything else their studio owners thought might get them an award or two. One by one these divisions fell, shuttered by their bosses, or sold off so they could become another person's problem. Only two remained, Fox Searchlight and Focus Features. Their secret was that they operated on the same philosophy that made the 90s indies film boom happen, taking carefully calculated risks on the sort of material that the big studios wouldn't touch because they honestly believed that there was an audience out there.

Now is the perfect time for an indie film renaissance. The technology to make films has never been cheaper, the ability to sell said films to niche audiences has never been easier for those who know what they're doing, and let's not forget the huge gaps in the market being left by the major studios.

I wish Focus luck, and I hope Comcast plays their cards right.

HOPELESS: RELATIVITY VS. WEINSTEINS.

The Weinstein Company's attempt to sue Relativity Media out of arbitration has suffered a setback. The court ruled their lawsuit improper, and a violation of their arbitration agreement, and sent everyone back to arbitration to settle their disputes.

Their fights are to answer two questions about two movies.

Who screwed up the movie
Nine, the people who screwed up making the film, or the people who screwed up releasing the film?

Who gets to release the remake/reboot/regurgitation of the comic book movie/Goth cosplay inspiration
The Crow?

I have the answers, so they should have come to me.

You both screwed up the movie Nine. So just wash your hands and promise to never do it again.

Fighting over a remake of The Crow is like two dogs fighting over a broken fan belt. After all is said and done, the winner will end up with something that will probably do nothing to improve their life.

Who needs lawsuits and arbitration when they have me?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #746: Casting Conundrums

TOO SMALL FOR THE PART, TOO BIG TO DENY

Tom Cruise is in talks to bring Lee Child's novel One Shot to the proverbial big screen. In the adaptation he will play the novel's lead character, ex Military Policeman turned drifter/vigilante, Jack Reacher.

Now if you have the slightest familiarity with the Reacher books you are probably getting your sides stitched back together, because they have just split from the absurdity of it all.

If you know nothing about Jack Reacher, then you have to know that the character in the books is 6'5" tall, weighs about 250+ lbs, and has a face that would make Lee Marvin wince.

Sounds like a perfect fit for Tom Cruise.

In a
Furious D Show exclusive, I have the first photo of the villains in the movie:

But enough about Cruise's physical shortcomings, let's talk about him as an actor.

Tom Cruise is a good actor, he's no Gene Hackman, but he's good at what he does best. What does he do best? Cocky, confident, fast talking charmers either fighting against some sort of physical threat, or against their own personal demons. That's his niche and he's good at it.

To make him into the hulking, taciturn, and un-charming Reacher you're going to need more CGI than
Avatar.

So why is Cruise even being considered for the part?

Well, on Cruise's part it must be ego, and possibly some sort of Napoleon complex.

On the part of the people making the film, it's a case of too small for the part, but too big to deny. Despite quite a few career setbacks in recent years, Tom Cruise backs an outsized amount of clout in the Hollywood community. Getting him attached to the film will pretty much guarantee that it gets made, and people making it get paid.

It doesn't guarantee that fans of the source material won't think of the film as some sort of overpriced joke at best, and an insulting bastardization at worst.

Oh Hollywood. Won't you ever learn?

CHARLIE SHEEN WANTS TO SCREW UP YOUR NETWORK

Charlie Sheen is reportedly sniffing around a major network for a new sitcom. Word is that CBS is out (natch), ABC and NBC have said "No thank you," leaving the moving finger pointing directly at Fox.

I can understand Fox talking to him, if there's a door open to exploiting something for cheap attention, they'll at least peek in before slamming it shut. However, I don't see them doing a deal with Mr. Sheen.

Here's why:

Money.

Charlie Sheen would cost way more than what he's really worth right now. Let's look at the costs:

1. Salary: Charlie Sheen is probably going to demand a salary commensurate to the one he pissed away at Two & a Half Men. Remember that at the time he was the highest paid star on TV.

2. Insurance: No movie or TV production goes forward without insurance to protect them if something goes wrong. I don't see any responsible production insurer willing to cover Sheen without getting paid a monthly rate that could feed a third world country for a year, and an up front deposit that could pay off the national debt of Greece.

3. The Audience: Everyone is pretty much sick of Charlie Sheen right now. The only reason most of the audience of his live shows were there was to catch him dropping dead on stage with their camera phones. When he failed to ring down the curtain and join the choir invisible live on stage, they were disappointed. Those who actually like Charlie Sheen as a comic performer would rather see him in a happier-healthier looking state in reruns of Two & A Half Men, than the wizened, rambling, wreck that he is now.

Add to that the simple fact that most viewers would see any new show starring Sheen without Sheen going through some sort of rehabilitation, both health and career wise, as a sleazy attempt to milk some money out of a sick pathetic character.

So I don't really expect much to come out of this. The costs are just too high.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #745: Never The Twain Will Meet?

Hollywood has a big case of China on the brain lately. The newly minted chief of the MPAA, former Congressman, Chris Dodd visited China to preach the gospel of doing business with Hollywood, producer Mike Medavoy is forming partnerships in Shanghai, while Legendary Pictures is starting Legendary East, to produce English language pictures in Asia.

I love international trade. Nothing makes peace better than people making money in a healthy way, but is business in China as healthy as it should be, especially for Hollywood.

Let's look at the Pros and Cons of this relationship:

PROS:

1. China is huge market, about a billion people. It is also a market that is very cash flush right now. Why? Look at the products in your house, count the percentage was made in China. Then you know why.

To paraphrase Ned Beatty's character in Network: "The Chinese have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow. Tide and gravity. It is ecological balance."

Because when you have a lot of currency from another country, you are pretty much stuck spending that currency on goods and services from its country of origin. Right now the Chinese are weaning themselves off of buying US government debt with said currency, and are now looking for other ways to put it to work.

2. China's movie business is exploding. Production is expanding, the numbers of theaters are expanding, and the average Chinese citizen is an avid and regular moviegoer. There is also a hunger for product from the west to go alongside their own popular domestic product. (Just look at how much piracy involves bringing western movies into China.)

CONS:

1. While China is a large market, as well as a rich market, it is
not a free market. It's still a communist dictatorship. The simple truth is that the majority of the people you do business with in China is either going to be part of the government or a crony/political ally of the government. That's a recipe for trouble.

It also has a funny idea of what trade actually is. They love selling their stuff to the west, but are leery about bringing stuff from the west in, especially something like movies & television. Right now only 20 foreign made movies are allowed to be released in China each year, and even if you do get a shot at the brass ring of a billion plus audience, you're only going to get less than half of the box-office share you'd get in any other market.

And let's not forget how touchy the Chinese government can be. Films can be banned from China for having what the government considers the wrong sociopolitical message, and the Chinese government is not above banning other films by the same company, or threatening the "nationalizing" of foreign owned assets, just to mark their territory. Hence you get things like MGM's
Red Dawn remake being rewritten and partially re-shot to change the invading army from Chinese to North Korean. (I believe the ending's been rewritten to have the invasion stall when the North Koreans find their first supermarkets and fast food joints, and stuff themselves too much to fight anymore.)

2. Demographics. China is a booming economy, however, the boom doesn't have the healthy bloom that it should. Vast wealth is pouring into China on a daily basis, but it is tightly concentrated in a very small class of politically connected elites. This is because China is putting the bulk of their eggs in the basket of cheap labor and large scale mass-manufacturing, instead of fostering the combination of highly educated entrepreneurs and skilled tradespeople needed to create new domestic industries and products for export, like they are in neighboring India. Because of this, the wealth coming into China isn't trickling down to the ordinary folks as well as it would in a truly free economy/society.

Then there's the issue of age and sex. The population of China is going to grow old before it grows rich. The decades old "One Child" policy, and cultural preference for boys has created a potential societal powder keg. The population is aging, there are not enough young people to replace them, and the young people they do have are expected to support a senior citizen population that outnumbers them. There's also a escalating shortage of marriageable women in China, and many of those that are marriageable want careers and lives of their own either before, or instead of, settling down to start a family.

So, the combo of state enforced class inequity, limited socioeconomic mobility, and many unsettling population issues shows that while China has great potential as a market, it also has many great risks.

My advice is to tread lightly and watch every step.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #744: Insert Foot "A" in Mouth "B"

Oh what a tangled web we weave when our brains pack up and leave.

Tracy Morgan, former
SNL cast member, and current co-star of 30 Rock, went on a tirade about gay people during a stand-up performance in Nashville, saying that if he had a gay son he would "get a knife & stab him."

That story shocked and horrified me in two
ways.

1. That Morgan would say something nasty and stupid like that in public.

2. That people were actually there to witness it.

While I was shocked, I wasn't surprised.

Morgan has a history of running off at the mouth in directions that have nothing to do with comedy. Personally I suspect that his inability to self-edit comes from the almost constant hype that surrounds his career as he's the second coming of Eddie Murphy (circa 1980s).

Eddie Murphy without the charm, versatility, or much of an audience outside of people who dish out TV awards.

But then again I've never found him particularly funny, mostly a grating, one note performer.

His employers,
30 Rock writer/producer Tina Fey, and network NBC both put out statements condemning his statements but also accepting his apology and not firing him.

That's fine by me.

You see, I'm not going to join any of the calls to fire him from his show, or to censor him. I'm a firm believer in the freedom of speech, including ugly asinine speech like Morgan's. Because if you don't let the assholes be assholes out in the open, they start acting like assholes on the sly, and that's when they go from being nuisances to being real troublemakers.

So what can you do in response to Tracy Morgan's statements?

Easy. Make statements of your own. Use the internet to tell the world that he is an asshole. That is your right. Practice it.

Then just don't give him your money. If he offends you so much, don't watch his TV show, don't pay to see his movies, and don't pay to see him live.

However, judging by the ratings for 30 Rock, and the box office performance of his movies where he's used as a selling point, most people were already doing that before he opened the big hole in the front of his fat head. As for his live shows, well, they might do better because half the audience will be bringing camera-phones in the hope of catching another case of verbal diarrhea that they can sell to TMZ.

Someone once asked me on Twitter how he can mend fences after this. Well, we live in a hyper-sensitive age, and no one in the public really mends fences after something like this. They just get pounded with broken pickets until people get bored, then they move on, not only ignoring their target, but pretty much forgetting them.

Just ask Mel Gibson how this has hurt his career, and pretty much crippled his showing Jodie Foster's Beaver to the American audience.

Morgan's situation is different, because the American audience is not Morgan's target demographic. Thanks to 30 Rock, his target demo is essentially Hollywood, and Hollywood can be harsher on political incorrectness than any other place on the planet.

Morgan has to do something drastic to keep his place as the third lead on the 106th most popular show in America where movie stars go to do cameos to make themselves feel clever. Because if he doesn't, they will find a way to slide him aside until he's out the door, and then he has to rely on the box office winnings of movies like Cop Out.

So here's what he can do to save his career in the eyes of Hollywood.

1. Go gay. Blame the rant on self-hatred, then introduce the world to a new male life partner named Bruce. Then do PSAs about self-hatred leading to hatred of others. Now Morgan might not be willing to go this far to save his job, but there are other options.

2. Rehab. Blame the rant on the drugs and "exhaustion," check into a posh rehab, and then come out cured of not only drug addiction, but addiction to the sound of your own brain farting in public. Perhaps he could share a room with Anthony Weiner.

3. Scream racism. Accuse anyone and everyone who criticizes you of being racist. Nothing shuts up the militantly PC than a good old cry of racism.

4. Go after a Palin. There is nothing Hollywood loves more than going after Sarah Palin. Now anyone who doesn't have this obsession sees it as unseemly, but, if you play your cards right as an anti-Palin, it can keep you working in Hollywood no matter how obnoxious you act. Now to recover from such a massive public shit-storm you need to do something really drastic. The option that hasn't already been used in Hollywood is sucker-punching one of the Palin children as drastic enough, but Kathy Griffin's already got that planned to get a regular slot as a parent on Glee.

Of course, unlike those suggestions, the only real way to avoid having your career wrecked by being an asshole, is to not be an asshole.

Then try being funny.