Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #794: Dear George

AN OPEN LETTER TO GEORGE LUCAS.

Dear George--

I hope this little missive finds you well, you're certain doing well financially, and I'm sort of glad to hear that your epic Star Wars Saga is coming out on high definition Blu Ray DVD.

I said "sort of glad" because while I am a huge fan of the original trilogy, I probably won't be buying this set to replace the 16 year old VHS copies I have.

Why?


Because you keep pissing on your original fans, like me.

Now I'm not going to complain about the constant fiddling, fidgeting and plain old buggering you do to the original trilogy at every freaking opportunity.

You own it, you have the right to do whatever you goddamn want with your private property. Though I do fear that it's only a matter of time before you digitally replace Emperor Palpatine with Jar-Jar-Binks' evil twin Brother Fart-Fart (voice by Jim Carrey) because of a dream you had after eating an extra spicy fajita.

What bugs me is the pissing on the childhood memories of the original fans, like me, who, through buying tickets, action figures, and other associated merchandise, made you the media powerhouse you are today. We just want a nice copy of the original, unaltered, un-doctored, and un-sodomized version of the original trilogy. We want to show the kids these days the images that electrified us when we were kids.

But you won't let us, simply because you fucking well don't feel like it.

And don't give me that: "I put out an unaltered version as an extra feature on a DVD release a couple of years back."

That's bullshit and you know it.

Let's remember that this "release" was of a non-anamorphic transfer scraped off the 1993 LaserDisc release and wasn't anywhere near the picture/sound quality of the remastered and rejiggered versions you can't stop playing with, especially if you try to watch it on a rectangular hi-def TV.

That basically tells fans like me, the people whose allowance money went on to build your own ego-empire, that you don't really give a shit about them, or their memories.

That's what gets fans pissed off at you.

That and Jar-Jar Binks. Man, he was so-fucking-annoying, were you high when you created him?

Anyway, back to my point.

Your constant fiddling no longer looks like a unending quest for perfection, but a never-ending desire to feed both your ego and your bank account, and to hell with the fans who once looked up at your big screen achievements in awe. It wasn't enough for you to bombard them with overwrought CGI and under-wrought writing and acting in the prequel trilogy, you had to deny them what they really want.

That's why I refuse to give you another dime of my money. You've done more than piss me off, you disappointed me. You started off as a rebel, striking a blow for independence and imagination in the face of a greedy unimaginative corporate studio system. Your vision excited a generation and you were rewarded for it.

Now you are the greedy unimaginative corporate studio system.

You're basically doing remakes, that bane of the imagination you once held so dear, without having to deal with the hassle of rewriting your scripts or working with living actors. You also seem to be hoping that if you deny the audience the originals they crave, you will somehow catch lightning in a bottle again, and the audience will love and respect you once more.

You'll make a shit-load of money, a lot of fans will still buy your shit and call it ice cream, but the days when you could amaze an entire generation are long over.

You should know that, at least show a little respect for your own legacy and your fans.

--Sincerely

Furious D

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #793: Three More Little Thoughts From My Extremely Large Brain

GOD'S GIFT TO LITIGATORS

Film financier and bon vivant David Bergstein decided that being sued by everyone he's ever met just wasn't enough litigation in his life. He's suing his former lawyer for $50 million, claiming that she sabotaged his defense in some of the many lawsuits that led to the collapse of his company and his business practices being compared to Enron.

And folks wonder why investors are leery of getting involved in the independent film business. It seems the only people who make money out of it these days are the lawyers. At least they do until their own former clients sue them.

Why can't we just get rid of litigation factories like Bergstein and find people ready, willing, and able to run independent film like a proper business.

THE HORROR, THE HORROR....

The Wrap has an interesting piece about the failure of most of the recent crop of horror films to make a dent in the summer box office. I'd like you to read it, then read a piece I wrote in 2008, which was actually a callback to an article I wrote for Film Threat in 2003, and count how many times I was proven right.

Then go tell all your friends. My ego demands it!

ICAHN CRIES UNCLE

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is selling off his stake in Lionsgate, and giving up his long running battle to buy up the mini-major studio, and both he and his one-time takeover target are dropping the lawsuits they filed against each other.

I have mixed feelings about this. I was hoping that some sort of middle ground would be found where both investor and upper management would work together happily and profitably instead of the seemingly universally adversarial relationship that dominates the film business.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #792: Three Little Thoughts From A Very Big Brain

CLOONEY CRIES UNCLE OVER U.N.C.L.E.

George Clooney has dropped out of Steven Soderbergh's upcoming film
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. for Warner Bros.

For those who grew up caves
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a TV series in the 1960s that capitalized on the "spy mania" created by the success of the James Bond movies, and even had some input during development by Bond creator Ian Fleming. The show was about two secret agents, American Napoleon Solo, and Soviet Russian Illya Kuryakin battled threats from global power-mongers T.H.R.U.S.H.

Soderbergh seems keen on bringing it to the big screen, and if Clooney isn't keen on joining him, then he's either thicker than two short planks, and thinks that he has enough money to maintain his lifestyle for the rest of his life.

Why?

Well, outside of the
Ocean's 11 movies, which were sugar coated confections made by Soderbergh, you'd be hard pressed to find many George Clooney films crossing that $100 million mark that is necessary to be considered an "A-List movie star," and cash the obese checks he gets for movies far too few people see. Even the last Ocean's movie cost so damn much it still failed to profit despite the big box office, but that's another story.

Clooney needs to do the movie, he needs a Brad Pitt, or equivalent to play his partner, and he needs something people will actually pay money to see. He ain't getting any younger and villas in Italy aren't cheap to keep up ya know.

WANNA DANCE DIRTY?

Lionsgate has hired a writer to reboot the 1987 indie hit Dirty Dancing.

Should be as big as Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights!

Or the Dirty Dancing TV series, which lasted half a season before the network realized that nobody watched it.

Does anyone see what I'm getting at here?

The original film was a lightning in a bottle moment, a tiny, cheaply made movie, that caught on big time. It was the right film with the right attitude at the right time. Attempts to replicate its success on TV and the big screen have all met ignominious failure.

So why keep trying?

Because Hollywood is so scared of trying anything new, they will accept guaranteed failure, because then they can pass the blame onto their market research when it tanks.

MTV SCORES BIG

The MTV Network, home of
The Jersey Cold Sore Shore scored major ratings with the live Video Music Awards last night. In fact, they were the biggest ratings the network has ever seen.

You know, such success might lead MTV into a bold new direction.

Imagine, a cable channel dedicated entirely to music, and music related programming. I'm talking all kinds of genres, styles, music videos, concert specials, you name it.

I think there used to be a channel that did that a long time ago, but it's long dead, and I think MTV can fill this gap.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Jedi Kittens

You've probably already seen this, but I can't resist seeing cute animals fight. With lightsabers.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #791: Universal Needs My Advice

The axe is swinging at venerable but struggling Universal Pictures. They're cancelling projects left, right, and center, including several that were part of their 2008 mega-co-production deal with toy/game giant Hasbro.

The latest to get chopped is Ouija, which
was to be co-produced with Hasbro by Michael Bay and directed by McG. Now I can understand this decision, even though Universal had to shell out a $5 million penalty to Hasbro in order to cancel the production, and it boils down to money.

You see reports are saying that they were looking for a $140 million budget to make Ouija.

That's right, $140,000,000 for what would probably just end up a remake of 1986's $2,000,000 Witchboard.

That just shows how completely out of touch Hollywood has become when it comes to money, and I wouldn't be surprised if such orders aren't coming from their new corporate master, Philly based cable giant Comcast. With the way prices are skyrocketing, especially when it comes to marketing a film, a movie needs to more than double, and lately even triple its production budget to break even, let alone make a profit. The last
Fockers film made a couple of hundred million at the box office, but it cost so damn much to make, it still lost at least two king's ransoms for the company.

So what's a company to do?

They don't have the mega-rich comic book and SF/Fantasy franchises that Disney/Marvel and Warner/DC have. They don't even have a Planet of the Apes to suck money out of like 20th Century Fox.

But they aren't completely empty handed.

Now they almost completely bastardized their once classic monster franchises with the over-priced, non-scary, live-action-cartoon movies like The Mummy, Van Helsing, and The Wolf-Man, but the horror genre has traditionally been good to them and can become viable again if they do two things:

1. Do them cheap.

2. Make them scary.

Special effects and big set-pieces are all well and good but there is truth that there can be too much of a good thing, especially in horror films. Big budgets and big special effects have a tendency to drain horror films of what make them scary: mystery, and suspense. If you have multiple big events like fights, chases, and scares, all carefully timed out to Joel Silver's "Whammy Formula" then the audience is going to catch on, and everything will become predictable.

But I'm not saying that Universal should put all its eggs in the horror basket. No wa
y.

There's also comedy. Work lowbrow, highbrow, leave no stone unturned and do it cheaply.

Now how can one do things cheaply in Hollywood's crazy economy?

First stars. Don't hire them, make them.

Hunt for new hungry talent. Groom them, treat them well, and make sure that they get every penny they're owed if they hit it big. Make working for any other studio seem like an ungodly hassle that just isn't worth it. The A-List is not worth the cash and profit shares that they demand, so do what was done in the old days and make your own.

If you do work with someone on the A-List make sure they can actually put bums in seats and then make them understand that they can get the big up front money, or the generous back end deal, they can't get both. If the movies do well, then pay them what's owed, without the silly ass accounting games that everyone in Hollywood plays.

Then, maybe then Universal might be able to get their house in order and start producing decent films with decent profit margins.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #790: Hellraiser: Bastardization

The ninth film in the Hellraiser movie series is set to be released...

What?

Yes, there have already been eight, count'em 8,
Hellraiser movies since British author Clive Barker adapted his novella The Hellbound Heart in 1987. Most don't remember, or acknowledge the series after Hellraiser 3: Hell On Earth, or the time-bending Hellraiser: Bloodline. Since H3, the franchise has been under the control of the Weinstein Brothers and their genre imprint Dimension Picture. Over the years fans who actually bothered to stick with the series have been treated to wildly inconsistencies, in the mythology at the core of the series and in the nature of the only consistently recurring character the entity only credited as "Lead Cenobite" in the first film, who was instantly branded "Pinhead" by fans because he's got pins nailed into his head. He goes from character that is truly alien in nature, who views pleasure and pain as one and the same, to a raging psycho-killer, to an avenging punisher of evil-doers, or all of the above in the same movie.

As the franchise dragged on, the quality and commercial success declined, reaching what many consider a nadir with the film
Hellraiser: Deader, where Pinhead was literally tacked onto another film that was originally supposed to have nothing to do with the titular franchise.

Well, it looks like the franchise, and the tactics of its producer Dimension Films, have decided that after hitting bottom, they should start digging. That digging popped open a particularly nasty pipe of creative sewage with the latest installment
Hellraiser: Bastardization Revelations.

Let's look at the trailer....



Hmmm.... Looks like seven kinds of suck to me. It's got the already boring "found footage"
Blair-Paranormal-Witch-Activity-Project gimmick being used as a way to justify the film's short shooting schedule and $300,000 budget. The characters all look like shrill unlikable douchebags who the audience might get up and ass kick before Pinhead gets to them.

And that's not all. While the series declined the one positive was that it meant regular work for British character actor Doug Bradley, who made a career playing Pinhead. Now even that is gone, and I feel sorry for the poor bastard who has to fill those no doubt leather and steel S&M Cenobite shoes. He looks like a cosplayer dragged from the convention floor and forced to star in the movie, or his DVD collection gets tossed in the fire.

And if you think I'm just being snarky, well, I have some pretty heavy backup in this case. I'm talking about the author, the originator, Clive Barker himself who said on Twitter:


Pretty strong words.

Of course he has good cause that goes beyond just seeing yet another shitty movie being sucked out of his original creation. I think it also has roots in him being screwed over by the Weinstein Brothers.

You see the word is floating around that the only the reason this cheap quick steaming pile was dropped on the world was so the Weinsteins and their Dimension Films could hold onto the movie rights to the
Hellraiser franchise. You see, when it comes to franchises, most contracts have "use it or lose it" deadlines that say that if a film isn't made within a certain amount of time, the movie rights revert to the creators. It's also believable that Weinstein/Dimension made this film to hold onto those rights, because they did it before. One famous example being a quickly made low budget movie loosely associated with the Modesty Blaise comic strip. There was only one reason for them to make the film the way they did, and that was to hold onto the rights, and to keep anyone else from getting them without paying off the Weinsteins big time.

Barker has been trying for years to get a remake of Hellraiser off the ground, only to have Dimension Films and the Weinsteins put the kibosh to every script and filmmaker that they didn't have complete and total control over. The Bros. Weinstein seem to like controlling the franchise over having a franchise that people want to pay money to see, probably in the hope that they can get a major studio to pay them off with cash and movie credits for a big screen revival.

Ironically, I think that stunts like Revelations, cheapen the franchise to such a degree, that it might just be beyond all hope of resuscitation, no matter how you jigger around the Lament Configuration.

It's a form of cinematic damnation, and the sinners don't even know they're closing the gate behind them.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #789: Is It Just Me Or Is This A Trend

If you're like me, without the genius intellect & devilishly handsome good looks, and you read a lot of articles and reports, and blog postings and other crap about independent movies, you might have spotted something that keeps popping up.

I'm talking about the shot of two people sitting uncomfortably together, usually on a couch, or bench.

Allow me to illustrate with a few examples:
We Need To Talk About Kevin

Bart Got A Room

Lars & The Real Girl
(While Lars seems fine with everything, the Real Girl is definitely uncomfortable)
&

Win, Win

I've seen it in other places about other indie films, but these were the easiest ones for me to find during the fit of paranoia, whimsy, and boredom that drove me to write this.

Now I must ask: Why are these photos the way they are?

Is it because indie films don't have much money, so they did the publicity stills in the cheapest and quickest way possible?

Is it because they all had the same still photographer and he's definitely got some sort of a fetish?

Or is it all supposed to be symbolic, a visual Da Vinci Code for indie films?

Think about it. We have actors as the center of attention, no distracting locations, special effects, or stunts, showing the world that they're "indie" by looking very non-glamorous, in what can only be a story about awkward people in the sort of awkward situation that you can only find in an independent movie.

Do you see it too? It just screams "indie film."

I'm not paranoid, I'm just paying attention.

*KNOCK KNOCK*

Hmmm... why are men in white coats with butterfly nets at my door?

Oh, crap, not again!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #788: Fright Night Got Fried Friday Night

It's official.

Fright Night, the remake of the 1985 horror comedy, crashed and burned at the box office this past weekend, beaten by
The Help and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. This despite a 74% "Fresh" rating with critics, and a 75% positive response from people who have actually seen the movie.

So how could a film with so much good buzz do so badly?

I think it was done in by two things: 3D, and the ad campaign.

3D went from being the mind-blowing wave of the future to become Hollywood code for "
We don't think this film is very good, so here's a cheap stunt, and an excuse to jack up the ticket price," faster than the Flash on his way to a booty call.

People who were iffy on seeing the film would look at the 3D tag, and think: "Feh, it's not worth the extra cost or the headache from the 3D glasses. If I hear it's any good I'll just rent it on Netflix."


That's not good.

Then there's the ad campaign. The TV commercials were especially unhelpful being essentially montages of co-star Colin Farrell swaggering around threatening people, with inserts of commentary from other co-star Anton Yelchin, but mostly from Christopher Mintz-Plasse who is most famous for playing "McLovin" in the movie
Superbad.

You don't really get any sense of the story's "nobody believes me" storyline, anything concrete about the lead's relationship with his girlfriend, other than that she's hotter than his social standing deserves. And there's a big fat gap.

That gap is Peter Vincent.

Peter Vincent, played by former Doctor Who actor David Tennant, is the showman turned amateur vampire hunter played by Roddy McDowall in the original film. He's the only person to believe the teenager's story about living next door to a vampire, and plays a pretty major part in the story.

If all you know about the film comes from the TV ads you're lucky to get a glimpse of Tennant, who literally has millions of fans worldwide, who are full of goodwill towards him because of his great turn as the Doctor. But the ads make what was hyped as a major role in all the pre-release buzz look like nothing more than a "blink and you'll miss it" cameo. Basically, it's all Farrell, all swagger, all the time, and despite what Hollywood wants to believe, Farrell is not a serious draw at the box office.

So why did the studio base the ads almost entirely on an actor of questionable ticket selling ability instead of using the film's positives, like dark humor, popular ex-Dr. Who, and good old fashioned scares.

Probably because of the curse of familiarity.

Farrell is the most well known name in the film, especially inside Hollywood. Tennant's fan-base is mostly outside Hollywood among the "geeks" who, in the collective hive-mind of Hollywood, are only supposed to go to superhero and sci-fi movies. When in doubt Hollywood will always stick with what Hollywood knows. Then there's the familiarity of the Twilight movies and their sexy, swaggering vampires with fashionably mussed hair, and someone at the studio said: "Hey, let's make it sexy like Twilight, that'll sell."

Kinda forgetting that Fright Night is supposed to be a horror movie with elements of dark humor, while Twilight is supposed to be a rather soppy romantic fairy tale written by someone who basically drew the name of a mythical creature out of a hat, and ran with it.

There's a lesson in all this, but I doubt Hollywood is going to learn it anytime soon.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #787: Sometimes Even I Can Be An Idiot

ILDC asked...

Can you still answer my question about celebrity voice casting?

Oops, sorry about that. I could offer an excuse because I've been battling a cold for the last few days, but I'm also an idiot for losing track of your question about celebrities doing the voices in cartoons.

Well, I think it's a mixed bag, it's got good points and bad points for both TV and film.

When I was a kid there was Frank Welker and about 12 other actors, and the occasional radio DJ, doing practically all the voices on all the animated shows we'd watch on Saturday mornings. This tended to make all the shows sound the same. Once in a while a celebrity would do a "special" voice appearance in a feature film, but doing it on TV, on a regular basis was pretty much unheard of.

That changed thanks to the work of voice casting guru Andrea Romano. She worked on the development of Batman: The Animated Series and knew that show stood out visually, and wanted the voice casting to stand out as well. Her strategy was brilliant, instead of trying to get some big movie star to do a cameo appearance, she worked in the middle, targeting well known character actors with distinctive voices, as well as vocal range. I mean before her, who would have imagined Mark Hamill being not only the voice of The Joker, but the definitive animated voice of the The Joker.

She really didn't have much trouble attracting talent, just picking and choosing which talent to use with which character. This is because voice acting work is some of the sweetest work in Hollywood. No make-up, no costumes, no stunts, no waiting to set up cameras and lights, and you can do it in a pair of sweat pants and that T-shirt with the coffee stain on the front right next to rip, and get paid good money for it. Also, Batman had a hellacious amount of street cred, thanks to the monster success of the Tim Burton movies.

Pretty soon everyone in animation was doing it on television, and it became almost mandatory in feature films after Disney hit it monster big with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen headlining Toy Story.

Now let's look at the pros and cons of this development:

PROS:

1. Animated shows get that added boost with viewers that comes from people hearing a familiar voice, even when it's not a big celebrity.

2. Actors in the mid-to lower range of the fame game have a way to earn easy money quick between on-screen gigs.

CONS:

1. Cost. This is especially true in animated feature films, which have become very dependent on getting voices from A-List celebrities. If they're going to lend their voices to what could be the next Toy Story or Shrek franchise, they're going to want some sort of compensation commensurate to their fame, the expected box office revenue, and possibly a little something-something from the merchandising cash. Television is not so bad, because most are following the Romano "character actor" model instead of pushing for the big name celebrity.

2. Work. With more on-screen character actors doing animation, there is less work for the professional "voice artist" who normally does nothing but vocal work, especially in feature films. Now this is compensated to a large extent by the explosion in animated programs on network, cable, and syndicated television, so it's probably not as bad as one might think.

I hope that answers your question, and I'm sorry for losing it earlier.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #786: Seething Rage & Questions Answered

MY ADVICE FOR HOLLYWOOD

What's up with the Scott Bros.?

First Ridley signs on to do a follow up to Blade Runner, which will be done sometime after his prequel/whatever for
Alien called Prometheus, and now, his brother Tony Scott has signed on to commit an act of cinematic blasphemy of unspeakable proportions.

He's agreed to direct a remake of Sam Peckinpah's
The Wild Bunch.

Let's ask original
Wild Bunch character Pike Bishop what he thinks...
Well said Mr. Bishop.

Now I know that it's impossible to get Hollywood to pay the slightest attention to new and original ideas, so I'm going to ask them to do something they'll probably find easier.

Take this stiff metal wire brush... careful, it's a little rusty...

Insert brush into asshole.

Scrape until you see blood.

Remove brush.

Rinse with iodine.

Repeat until you stop fucking things up with stupid remake ideas.

While I know it'll probably mean some work for Val Kilmer, can't you come up with something original, instead of pissing on Hollywood's cinematic legacy?

Now onto less enraged business...

A QUESTION!

Edited for length...
Nate Winchester asked...

So in a reply you said:

-Stephanie. In the old days an actor in R. Pattz's position would do a war movie or a Western next to someone like John Wayne. Nowadays they don't want sacrifice top billing, & there doesn't seem to be any John Wayne's available.

Now, I know you (and others - including me) have talked about the lack of "manliness" or "machismo" in Hollywood.

Yet I can't help but think that there's plenty of manly men... on TV.

And I've forgotten my point. I think I was asking why manliness seems to be stuck in a "ghetto" of TV and some genre films? It didn't always use to be thus, right?
It all boils down to speed.

The faster things like movies and TV are made, the more responsive and responsible they are to popular tastes. In TV your product is judged every week, and if you deliver what the audience wants, you can survive that judgment week after week.

A-List movies generally take a long time to make. Sometimes years are spent in development before a single frame of film is shot. In Hollywood, time=money. Since they're investing so much time, and henceforth money, into said projects, they think they need to insure it against failure in some way. One way they're certain of is to win over the youth market by giving them what they think they want, youthful looking people.

Now boyish does not look manly, even if they manage to grow some sort of patchy peach-fuzz, because they look young, immature, and inexperienced, even as they hit their 30s and 40s.

Time=Money also works in the field of TV and smaller budget genre films. Because money and time is tighter on these projects they usually go for actors who are cheaper than the ones in most A-List movies. These actors don't fit in the mold created by Hollywood's juvenile dementia, and are more affordable in both time and money. The irony is that audiences seem to respond to these actors better, because they are more suitable to such action/heroic roles than the usual A-List man-children.

At least that's my theory.

ANOTHER QUESTION?
Blast Hardcheese asked...

Here's a question for you, D.

The world economy is still mired in a slump, at best. Even taking into account the glamor factor, people can't keep throwing money down a rathole forever. And I can't think of anything that screams 'rathole' more than spending $250M on a stupid Western.

When is it going to end? When will the investors who pony up the money finally say 'this is ridiculous' and walk away from the business? Have they already started?
It has started to a degree, but movies are a tempting business. It's glamorous, sexy, high risk, with great potential for reward, traditionally recession proof (though that may change soon) and being a big wheel in it will get you laid at any number of film festivals.

However, the hedge funds and investment houses that finance a lot of Hollywood's movies are taking recent developments into consideration and following one or more of these three plans:

1. They're getting out of the movie business entirely, and moving onto something safer, like mortgage backed securities, or just playing the ponies.

2. They're subtly cracking the whip and forcing the studios they work with to be more responsive to them and their needs.

3. They're forging relationships with smaller/newer distributors and producers, and/or getting into the business of creating their own content, and/or means of distributing said content.

Hope that answers your questions.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #785: Blade Runner 2?

Word has just hit the internet that producer Alcon Entertainment has contracted Ridley Scott to direct a sequel to his 1982 science fiction classic Blade Runner.

If you've lived in a cave for the last 30 years,
Blade Runner is an adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, about a cop/bounty hunter hybrid named Rick Deckard whose job is to hunt down renegade androids or "replicants" who are running wild in a dark, smoky and almost always raining version of Los Angeles in the faraway year of 2019.

The original film was a
tour de force sparking decades of many imitations, deep meditations, and high expectations. It was also a massive commercial bomb during its initial theatrical release, only to have a second life in the then nascent medium of home video. A restored "Director's Cut" was released theatrically and to home video in the 1990s, and in recent years special DVDs of all the versions of the film were released to much rejoicing by Blade Runner fanatics.

So what will the follow up be like? Well, let's look at the pros and cons....

PROS:

1. CREATIVE ROOM: One of the things that made the original Blade Runner great was that you got the sense that the universe it was set in went way beyond Deckard and his runaway replicants. There is room to grow, places to explore, and the possibilities of new stories set in this over crowded, over industrialized world that looks like film noir on irradiated steroids.

2. FAN BASE: A lot of people grew up using the original Blade Runner as the benchmark of quality science fiction cinema. It was visually stunning, with a complex narrative that was open to all sorts of interpretations. They'd love to see more of this enthralling dystopia.

CONS:

1. FAN BASE: Those same fans, myself among them, are going to hold any sequel or follow up, of any kind, to Blade Runner to a standard that I fear might be impossible to meet. We can't help it, we just love that movie so damn much.

2. SPECIAL EFFECTS: Back when Blade Runner first exploded onto the screen the imagery was even more mind blowing than you can imagine. Not only were they impressive to look at, back then you knew that skilled craftsmen had to burn serious calories to create those images. Now, when you see some fantastical landscape your reaction is going to be more: "Oh, look, someone got some new software for their computer. They can render nose hairs now." Effects don't wow audiences anymore the way they used to.

3. FILMMAKERS: I hate to include Ridley Scott as a potential "con," but I don't have a choice. His output lately has been iffy at best. Look at his record for the 10 years since his war picture Black Hawk Down and American Gangster is the only film anyone actually liked. The rest were forgettable at best, atrocious at worst, and pretty much all of them cost way more than they were worth. I fear that this proposed sequel is going to end up costing $250-$300 million and be as miserable as Robin Hood.

4. STORY: As I said before, the Blade Runner universe has room beyond the movie for stories. The first question is, will the producers use that room, or will they just do a rehash of what went on before, only with exponentially more money being spent. The second question is: Which version will be the subject of the sequel? The theatrical cut, the director's cut, the international cut, the final cut, the janitor's cut.... which one dammit?

So while I won't condemn the idea of a follow up to Blade Runner, I am going to worry about it.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #784: Two Completely Unrelated Thoughts

I have a cold, so my head is wandering like a big.... fat.... wandering.... you know.... thing.... so here are two short bits about two unrelated things....

TRAILER TRASHING: THE WOMAN IN BLACK

Here is the trailer for the upcoming CBS Films/Hammer Films release
The Woman In Black starring Daniel Radcliffe. Watch it, then come read my analysis of it....



I think it's a well constructed trailer. It doesn't blow the story, but gives you a good sense that there is something terrible happening in this decidedly not-jolly corner of old England. The rhyme spoken by the child drops hints about a dark and vengeful spirit being at work, but doesn't really spoil anything.

Also, good use of creepy Victoria era toys. Seriously, the designers of Victorian toys were seriously creepy deviants.

Final judgment: It does what a good trailer is supposed to do, promote interest in the film in question.

THEY'RE BIDDING FOR WHO?

Three out of the four major networks are currently in a bidding war for a single-camera sitcom starring Sarah Silverman.

Sarah who?

That's a question a lot of you are asking. Well, she's a comedian and actress. Her stand-up material basically consists of racial stereotypes, sex jokes, and mocking the religions that it's politically correct, and physically safe, to mock. Her acting career consists of playing the cute, but annoying girl with the nasally voice, for which she is getting a little long in the tooth for.

Most of the TV audience hasn't even heard of her, because the bulk of her career has been spent catering to her niche audience on cable. She's really done nothing to break out of that niche to earn the sort of mainstream audience that is needed to support a network TV sitcom.

I should be surprised that the networks are so hot for this show.

But I'm not.

You see she has a small niche audience, but that small niche audience is Hollywood.

Within Hollywood she is huge, she's is a major star, she has the sun, moon, and stars shining out of her left nostril. In their eyes she's worth all the money they are currently throwing at the whole deal.

Outside Hollywood, she's probably best remembered "that girl" who did a guest spot on Star Trek: Voyager where the ship traveled back to the 1990s.

When you look back at the successful and long running comedian-based sitcoms of the 1980s-1990s, they were all built around performers who made their bones playing literally every little nook and cranny of the country. They had won audiences one small club at a time, and graduated to larger theaters. By the time they were tapped for a golden ticket to sitcom land, they were big players nationwide able to sell out pretty decent theaters anywhere in the nation. Most of Sarah Silverman's audience is built around L.A., New York, and one or two of the hipper neighborhoods in Flyover country. She's not a national figure, she's a Hollywood figure, and I don't think she's really worth the sort of network hysteria she's getting right now.

UPDATE: NBC has won the bidding war to place a "put pilot" order for the show.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #783: The Franchise Who Shagged Your Expectations

I remember the 1990s when Mike Myers literally ruled the kingdom of comedy. Wayne's World was a huge hit, it's sequel, forced upon him by the studio tanked on just about every level, but when he came out with Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery he was back on top. He followed that with a sequel that did even bigger business, and after that a third film, which did okay financially, but everyone agreed that the franchise was out of steam.

Well, not everyone exactly, because Warner Bros./New Line is in talks with Mike Myers to do Austin Powers 4.

Personally, I don't think Myers should do it. The premise is done and dusted, and has been for almost 10 years.

But when I cast the cold calculating eye of business upon this story, I fear that Myers may not have a choice in the matter.

You see Myers only appeared in 1 live action movie since 2002's
Austin Powers in Goldmember, and that was the Love Guru which was a disaster on just about every level. Which leads to Myers' greatest career fumble.

You see Myers refuses to star in any live action film where he is not the dominant player. He has to write the script, produce the movie, and have a director who knows full well that this is a Mike Myers show and that whatever Mike Myers says goes.

Of course you operate that way, without any editorial input from anyone, and you end up with The Love Guru.

Now he has a case to be made for doing things this way. He sees himself as a comedy auteur in complete control of his vision and not a gun for hire funnyman. Also, when he did act as a gun for hire funnyman he ended up in the creative abortion known as The Cat In The Hat.

So professionally he's boxed in a corner. His lone-wolf career plan, the fizzling out of the overworked Shrek franchise, and his failure to heed the advice I offered in May, have left him with few options. He's basically got to take a million to one gamble that he can flog that dead horse one more time and make him relevant again.

Alas, I fear, the only people who believe that's possible are him and what's left of New Line. The whole endeavor is riddled with traps, especially when it comes to audience expectations.

Myers doing a live action movie is an event, because he doesn't do them very often. That creates expectations, high expectations, and when he failed to come even close to meeting the basic requirements of entertainment with The Love Guru, it badly tainted him and his brand. Austin Powers was a beloved character, and if his career was in different shape, the potential of a new movie would be greeted with high expectations. Now, in the aftermath of The Love Guru, AP4 now looks like a desperate money grab by yet another celebrity whose ego wrote checks that his talent could cash.

Those are not good expectations for any movie to have, because you need to create a work of Earth-shattering genius to overcome them. I fear that Myers might not have that in him.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #782: Penny Witless Pound Foolish

Today two stories about how Hollywood is penny witless and pound stupid. That clever turn of stomach phrase is my way of saying that no one in Hollywood knows squat about handling money. They pinch pennies in all the wrong ways, while also creating an atmosphere of indulgence that costs them even more dearly.

MEDIA COMPANIES CAN BE PENNY WITLESS!

By now you've all heard about how AMC tried to make up for overspending on
Mad Men, including Executive Producer Matt Weiner's $10 million payday, by shit-canning Frank Darabont and trying to skin money out of their biggest hit The Walking Dead.

First they clawed back the tax break the show got for filming in Georgia and put in the network's coffers instead of plowing it back into the show like they did in the first season. Then they slashed a further $650,000 per episode from the budget. But they said that no one should worry because the brainiacs at AMC pitched some truly brilliant batshit cost-cutting ideas like:

1. Making the zombies "heard" and not "seen." You see visible zombies cost money because you need make-up. Zombies that are simply moans heard coming from the other room are, at least in the minds of AMC executives, a wonderful money saving device.

2. Dividing the shooting week half indoors and half outdoors. Now this is just fine if you're doing a domestic drama about a bunch of people who live in the same house. However, if you're doing a show about people forced into being refugees in their own country because civilization collapsed, you have a completely different kettle of fish. The characters have to be constantly on the move in order to survive. That's the whole basis of the show.

It's obvious that whoever made these sorts of decisions didn't base them on any rational or logical basis. Then they wouldn't have been so cavalier to jerk around two of their biggest shows
Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, to pay for keeping Mad Men, which fights with Breaking Bad for second place at the network. Ego, and a place in Hollywood's "Cool Kids Club" probably played a bigger role in this territorial pissing match which could have been avoided if it was really all about the money.

STUDIOS, PRODUCERS, & FILMMAKERS CAN BE POUND FOOLISH!

A while ago Disney announced that they were going to revive
The Lone Ranger franchise with their biggest star Johnny Depp playing Tonto, and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda playing the titular vigilante who is neither Lone, nor a Ranger.

Well you can forget about it. Disney has pulled the plug after Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Director Gore Verbinski pitched a production budget that was almost $250 million.

That's right, Bruckheimer and Verbinski wanted a quarter of a billion dollars to make a Western.

If you know your movie history you will recall that in the Golden Age of Hollywood Westerns were considered reliable because the were CHEAP TO MAKE. You just had to go out in the hills with a few horses and some props, and away you go.

The fact that Bruckheimer and Verbinski wanted to make it for almost $250 million strikes me as some form of madness that needs immediate psychiatric treatment.

But I'm not letting Disney completely off the hook. You see Disney was perfectly will to make the film, if Bruckheimer-Verbinski & Co. could do it for $200 million or less.

Think about that for a second: The cheapskate Disney budget offer was $200 million for a Western.

Give me that money, I'll make at least them four westerns. None will star Johnny Depp unless he's willing to take a huge pay cut, and they'll be as violent as hell, but that's how you make a fun Western. At least in my book.

Basically, everyone's bedbug batshit in this story.

So how do you avoid both penny pinching, and indulgent extravagance?

Well, it's easy....

1. IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT MONEY. When it comes to both penny pinching and over-spending it usually has little to do with money, and everything to do with ego and territorial pissing. Studio and network bosses want to show that they're in control, especially when they are feeling really insecure about their abilities and position, and start picking nits whether they need to or not. On the producer/filmmaker side, they're out to prove their importance, and nothing proves that better than spending oodles and oodles of other people's money on your baby.

Now both sides would get along much better if they just put aside such inanity, and realize that they have to make these things so that they can make a profit. That's how you get to make more movies and TV shows.

2. THINK ABOUT WHAT IT DOES TO YOUR CAREER. No one should want to be known as stupidly miserly when they're an executive, or as a profligate self-indulgent twat when they're a producer/filmmaker. When your the sort of penny pincher who fires a producer right after using him to promote the show at Comic-Con over the money grubbing you think you need to do after shilling out too much for too little, the creatives are going to think twice before getting into business with you.

If you're a creative with a reputation for tossing money by the handful whether you need to or not, you're putting your own career in danger. Sure, it's great when you have a string of hits under your belt, but lucky streaks end, franchises run out of steam, and then what? Sure, you might be able to get away with being careless with money while you're hot, but when the day happens when you're not hot, no one is going to want to take a risk on you.

3. LEARN WHAT THINGS REALLY COST. Both media executives and creatives really need to learn what things really cost when it comes to making movies. I'm talking about casting, renting equipment, travel, feeding and sheltering the cast & crew, locations... I'm talking everything. They need to know what things cost, down to the penny, look for competitive bids when they can, then they will know how to do things at the best price available.

Then, maybe then, you might be able to avoid the troubles caused by being penny witless and pound foolish.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #781: More Questions More Answers

Okay, you had more questions, and I have more answers that I just pulled out of my ass.
ILDC asked... With OWN and The Hub under-performing, is it too early to say Discovery should stick with non-brand driven edutainment?
I don't think it's too early to pass judgment on this issue. In fact, I just love jumping the gun and being all judgmental... but enough about me....

The secret of Discovery Network's success was that the channels it started had distinctive brands but wide mandates that can cover all fields of science, technology, health, history, and lifestyle issues. OWN and The Hub, which is a joint venture with Hasbro Toys, have distinct brands but narrow mandates, or at least seem to have narrow mandates to viewers.

The Oprah Winfrey Network's "mandate," at least in the eyes of viewers, carries the promise of the same sort of saccharine "empowerment" and "uplift" 24/7/365 that she used to deliver in more acceptable 1 hour doses 5 times a week.

The "mandate" that viewers get from the Hub's brand is that it's going to be a bunch of extended commercials for Hasbro toys whether it actually is or not. Kids and adults are much more media savvy than media companies seem to realize, and while they'll occasionally fall for trends and fads, they aren't going to watch anything that they think is just there to jerk their consumerist chain.

Discovery might want to get back to what they do best. Maybe a channel dedicated to Mythbusters blowing up animals or something like that.

Next question...
Stephanie asked... Hey, Furious D, love the show! I have a question. Do you think Robert Pattinson will ever live playing Edward Cullen down? From the looks of things Kristen Stewart's doing ok for herself, but Pattinson... I don't know, he seems to keep doing the kinds of characters that can't eclipse (ha! ... okay, sorry) the way everyone sees him as Edward. Or maybe it's just his acting and he's going to fade into obscurity once Twilight finishes. What say you?
I always say that the worst kind of fame you can have is screaming tween-teen girl kind of fame. That sort of fame is fanatical, but it burns too hot, and cools down to frozen faster than you can squeal: "I love your new shoes!"

One day you're the hottest thing on the planet, next day you're in an unemployment line with all the other teen idols wondering where it all went.

One of the worst ways to avoid going from teen idol to idle adult, is to try to use that tween-teen hysteria as a gateway to "big stardom," with big parts in big movies for big paychecks. Producers and studios may go along for a while because they always think name recognition is all you need for success, but it rarely works. In fact, I really can't

Kristen Stewart and the Harry Potter kids seem to be avoiding that sort of trap, because unlike Pattinson, they're fan-base isn't so narrowly constructed around such a fickle demographic. They are also not leaping from their franchise to super-stardom. They're doing supporting parts, ensemble pieces, stage work, and in some cases even television, to prove that they are reliable working actors, and not just a flash in the pan.

Pattinson seems to be still gunning for the role of romantic leading man. That's a mistake, because those who gush over him now as a romantic leading man, are going to go "eeewww he's gross," and soon. He has to separate himself from his
Twilight image and fanbase, and soon, before it's too late.

Next question!
Don H. asked- What would be the best film to learn about lighting and cinematography? (P.S. the damn vampires are back, at least until the summers over)
Sorry to hear about the vampires coming back. Start growing your own garlic.

As for your question.... hmmm... it's a dilly of a pickle. Are you looking for a film about cinematography, or are you looking for films with good cinematography that you can analyze? I don't know many films about cinematographers outside of a TV documentary about Vittorio Storraro called "Writing With Light" from the 1990s, and some segments about camerawork in other "behind the scenes" type shows, but nothing that went too much into depth.

You might be better off looking for books and videos on the subject. Check out Amazon for technical books about cinematography, and great cinematographers. Here's a list of some good ones that you can learn about and some of their films:

Greg Toland (
Citizen Kane) and James Wong Howe (Sweet Smell Of Success) were masters of Black & White cinematography.

Dean Cundey (
Halloween/Escape From New York) developed techniques during his early films with John Carpenter that are great for learning how to get a lot done for very little very quickly.

Haskell Wexler (
Medium Cool / American Graffiti) created a very natural looking cinematography centering on documentary style realism where you can actually see what's happening.

Other names to look into Russell Metty, Stanley Cortez, Conrad Hall, John A. Alonzo,Vittorio Storraro, Lucien Ballard, and Andrzej SekuĊ‚a.

Last question:
Nate Winchester asked... So I was rereading one of my favorite cracked articles when I came across this bit:

The idea is if the shot looks accidental, then that is supposed to subconsciously say "realism" to the audience (rather than "sloppy"). Movies shot the old way (that is, in a way where you could clearly see what was freaking happening) now look too clean and staged. If you want to make the movie look real and gritty, you need to mess it up, so it looks more like a documentary. Though we're not sure how that still works if it's in every movie.

Since it's now done in "every" movie, do you think we're about to see the pendulum swing the other way? That the documentary look will start to get "fakeness" about it and movies will start doing the "clean & staged" style? (which i really miss)
When it was first done it was new and novel, but now it's become a cliche. The really sad part is that it's not only a cliche, it's a great shortcut for a lazy filmmaker. Back in the day with the "clean & staged" style you had to do multiple takes, with different angles, and then put them all together in a coherent and aesthetically pleasing manner in the editing suite.

That's a lot of hard work.

Why burn all those calories when you can just shake the camera around to create the illusion of urgency and suspense.

It's the perfect storm of crap, and sadly, I don't see it going away soon.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #780: Random Drippings From My Brain Pan

IS ROSEANNE BARR COMING BACK TO SITCOM-LAND?

That's the word coming from 20th Century Fox TV, who are currently in talks with the former sitcom star to star in a new show called
Downwardly Mobile about a cash strapped, but optimistic working class family.

Let's take a look at this project's pros and cons.

PRO:

FAMILIARITY: Roseanne Barr is familiar to TV audiences from her show that ran from 1988-1997. In the mindset of Hollywood marketing familiar somehow equals success.

CONS:

FAMILIARITY: Roseanne Barr went from being the nasally drone of the American working class at a time when working class characters were rare on TV, to being a crazy rich woman with a raging power complex, and a voice that reminds people of fingernails on a chalkboard. Her recent foray into reality TV had a good start because of the aforementioned familiarity, but started fizzling out quickly when people remembered just how grating she can be.

CASTING/WRITING: The pitch of the show is that it's going to be her last sitcom done over for the 2010's. This forgets the main reason the original became a success: The supporting cast. She had really good performers around her, and catching that sort of lightning in a bottle a second time is going to be next to impossible, or supremely expensive, because whoever desperate enough to be willing to work with Roseanne is probably not going to be talented enough to carry Roseanne.

Also, who will run the show and who will write the show. Her original sitcom became a joke in Hollywood circles as the revolving door of writers and show-runners hired and fired at her whim. You think Charlie Sheen's going to have a tough time finding people to work on his show, well, Roseanne's going to have just as tough a time. Who is going to sign on to write a show that will give them nothing but stress for anything less than more money than the show will be able to afford?

CREATIVITY: As I said before, this new show is reportedly a rehash of her old show. When Roseanne debuted it was considered a breath of fresh air, the sort of working class comedy that had been all the rage in the 70s, but had fallen out of fashion in the upwardly mobile go-go 80s. Nowadays it's a tired old cliche that's been imitated to the point of parody, and it's pretty much fallen out of fashion again. Seeing her again, replaying the same character, just 15 years older, is not going to be more stale beer fart than fresh air.

My opinion. It's a bad idea, and will crash and burn badly, so it's pretty much destined for a greenlight, because Roseanne Barr is familiar, and that's all that matters in TV.

BLOG NOTE: I know that I posted a photo of Karen Gillan instead of Roseanne Barr for this article, but let's be honest: Who would you rather look at?

PAN AM PRESENT THE 60s, SORT OF....

ABC's
Pan Am, is competing with NBC's Playboy Club for most pointless and blatant Mad Men ripoff with its portrayal of the early days of the swinging 1960s. Except it's not going to be a complete picture.

Pan Am is going to cut out a lot of things that were big in the 60s, chiefly the ever-present elements of smoking and systemic racism.

Now let's look at the show they are ripping off inspired by, and how they handle such issues.
Mad Men simply presents them, while offering no direct or vocal judgement, because people at that time didn't judge such things, they just accepted them as the way things were. That's why Mad Men is almost like a time capsule sent from the era it is set in.

Pan Am, on the other hand, is reportedly going to avoid these issues, because they might cause some sort of controversy. Now such controversy could be used to illustrate how much the world has changed for the positive over the past 50 years, but ABC, and their parent company Disney, lack the testicular fortitude to impart that kind of lesson. All they want is rose-colored glasses nostalgia and Christina Ricci in a cute little stewardess outfit and/or 60s style mini-skirt, and hope that's all it takes to create a hit.

Call me when they do their obligatory: Stewardess becomes a hippy for a day episode if it's not canceled before that.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #779: It's The Furious D Channel All Furious D All The Time

Lionsgate is pondering whether or not to go through with setting up a Tyler Perry cable channel.

Others would say that it already exists, and it's called TBS.

But that's just internet snark and sarcasm, and that has no place on this blog.*

Instead, I'm going to take this seriously, and take a glib, shallow look at the pros and cons of a Tyler Perry themed cable channel.

PROS:

THE BRAND: Tyler Perry has a sizable and dedicated fan base in the African American community, who make almost anything with his name slapped on it a solid money maker. It's a pretty safe bet that at least some of this dedicated fan base would at least give a Tyler Perry Channel a chance.

CONS:

THE BRAND'S A ONE MAN BAND: When you dedicate an entire channel to the brand of a single individual you are endangering the investment made to create that channel. Here's why:

IMAGE: Dedicating a channel to one individual, and that individual agreeing to it, makes said individual look like a raging egomaniac in the eyes of ordinary people. That's not a good start.

THE PROGRAMMING: Tyler Perry's a prolific filmmaker and television producer, but he can't fill all the programming slots for a channel all by himself. You can't just rerun his past projects either because that dedicated fan base that makes creating the channel so tempting have probably seen everything he's done already. People can only stand seeing the same things run so many times before they tune out completely.

He's going to need other people making stuff that he can then call "Tyler Perry's ________."

Therein lies the problem. Every show has to somehow reflect positively on Perry and his image, and the messages he like to profess in his movies. That leaves a lot of genres, sub-genres, and subjects in both fiction and non-fiction TV that can't be touched, because they might be viewed as too low-brow, or too edgy.

THE AUDIENCE: Oprah Winfrey had a long running talk show that dominated daytime ratings, and had a dedicated audience of women from all social strata that stuck with her for over 25 years. She retired from her show to dedicate herself full time to her Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, an all Oprah themed cable channel. Since its creation OWN has hemorrhaged money, viewers, and even top executives.

Tyler Perry's been a national phenomenon for a little more than 10 years, his audience is a sizable part of the African American population. That's less than 10% of the overall population of the USA. Oprah has a little less than 50% of the overall population behind her, as well as a wider range of subject matter at the heart of the channel, and it is struggling on just about every level just to survive.

In conclusion:

After weighing the pros and cons, my advice to Mr. Perry would be to say: "Thank you, it's nice to see that you think so highly of me, but no. I'd love to participate making programming for a new channel, but I don't think calling it after me would be good for me and my brand. Also the spread of individualized channels might someday lead to an All-Donald Trump Channel, and I will not have that on my conscience."

________________________

*This statement was a blatant lie, this blog is almost entirely comprised of snark and sarcasm.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #778: Walking Dead Walking Out & Waking Up

In case you didn't know already, Frank Darabont has left the hit AMC show The Walking Dead and has been replaced as the "showrunner." Now there have been lots of speculation over the reasons for this exit. Some say that he didn't care for the grind of a weekly show as opposed to his regular work in feature films, while many speculate it was over the budget cuts the AMC network slapped on their shuffling corpses, while sister show Mad Men avoided any cuts in a $25-$30 million renewal deal.

Now the AMC people are saying that the budget cuts to
The Walking Dead are natural, because the first season was actually one really big pilot, and that pilots are always more expensive than the "regular" seasons, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I have to confess that AMC's statement gave me the desire to scream "BULLSHIT!" at the top of my lungs.

The Walking Dead has almost twice the audience than Mad Men in plain old numbers (5.3-6.0 million viewers vs 2.9 million viewers). The bulk of this larger audience (4 million) is also in that blessed 18-24 demographic that advertisers dream of. Mad Men's audience skews a bit older and a little higher end, but not really enough to justify the slashing on a show that already had characters out camping out in the open during a zombie apocalypse because it saved the production money.

Walking Dead is also a "bigger" series in sheer scale dealing with people struggling to survive the end of the world. Mad Men is a smaller scale period piece, taking place mostly in offices and homes, and usually goes without big stunts, elaborate special effects or large crowds caked with gory make-up.

So why did Mad Men avoid getting it's budget cut?

I suspect that it has more to do with status than money.

People like to think that all Hollywood cares about is money. That's only partially correct, because if there is one thing that trumps money in Hollywood, it's the status that projects and the people who make them have within Hollywood. Remember, Hollywood is high school with money, being part of the "In Crowd" is everything.

Mad Men is a very well done show, and Hollywood loves it, and I mean really loves it. It regularly showers the show with accolades, awards, and big deals for just about anything or anyone who has anything to do with the show. It's full of baby boomer nostalgia, and its creator has the imprimatur of The Sopranos on his resume. You can't get more inside the collective pants of Hollywood any better.

Walking Dead, despite its popularity is the geek who does everybody's homework, essential, and tolerated, but is not, and will never be part of the "In Crowd." It's got a lot of strikes against it.

Strike One: It's in the horror genre, the red headed stepchild of the movie business.

Strike Two: It's from a comic book that's not about superheroes.

Strike Three: The main man behind the show, Frank Darabont, has had 1 certified hit movie (The Green Mile), one acclaimed basic cable perennial (The Shawshank Redemption) and a few other films that really didn't make all that much money, or win that much praise.

When you have those strikes against you, any attempt to fight budget cuts will get you labeled "irresponsible" "greedy" and "difficult," while fighting to preserve semi-regular budget overages with your "In Crowd" membership card gets you labeled as "artistic" "perfectionist" and "courageous."

There's just no way The Walking Dead could have won that fight, because that's the way the system works in Hollywood.

THIS JUST IN: Darabont didn't quit The Walking Dead, according to this report AMC fired him.

This puts a bit more meat on my theory.

Oh, look what this news has done to Don Draper. It's got him crying.

Don't cry Don, you're in the cool club, you're safe.