Friday, 30 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1063: Think Before You Donate...


German director/writer/and producer Uwe Boll wants your money.


You shouldn't give him any money.

You need more details?

Fine.

If you're not familiar with his oeuvre Uwe Boll is nicknamed the "Auteur of Awful." His films are generally reviled by critics, and mostly avoided by audiences outside of a handful of brain-dead soulless cinemasochists.

Now you're probably wondering how a filmmaker can pump out dreck and lose money but keep on making films.  Well the answer is fairly complicated because it involves investors deliberately losing money. During his peak filmmaking period of the late 1990s and early 2000s Germany had a loophole in its tax laws that made losing money a winning proposition for investors.

Here's how it goes. The German government said that an investor didn't have to pay any taxes on any money invested in film production, and only have to pay taxes on any profits. So investors would borrow the money they would invest in Boll's films at a low interest rate, make a really shitty movie, then when it tanks at the box office, claim the money it lost as a deduction on their taxes.



With a good accountant and a tax lawyer an investor could pay off the loan and make a little extra on top just from their tax refunds and deductions.

Now the law changed in 2005 because it had done more harm to the German film industry than good. Boll's output in quantity and budget (but not quality) has dropped considerable since then, which is why he's now going to Kickstarter.

Boll is looking for donors to pay for him to make a sequel to his failed lowbrow comedy Postal, which itself was based, like many of Boll's films, on a video game.

Now there are many independent film projects on Kickstarter that are infinitely more deserving than Boll doing Postal 2

Boll had his chance, at his peak he was working with budgets well over $50-$60 million, and he still put out inane unwatchable dreck. Money is no substitute for talent. So why give someone with a track record of having only one talent, and that's punching critics, money better spent helping get something potentially worthwhile off the ground.

Some might give him money out of masochistic irony, others might give him money because they're profoundly stupid, all I can say is DON'T BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.

If you have the money to give to film, find someone new, who has the benefit of the doubt at least because movies won't get any better if you keep knowingly supporting crap.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1062: More Little Thoughts From My Massive Brain

First A Question?

This is for any British readers I might have.

I watch an inordinate amount of British TV shows and I've noticed a bit of a mystery. How come every British show with a lead character that's a single driven career woman have an unwanted pregnancy storyline? Is it laziness on the part of the writer looking for drama with little creative effort? Some sort of BBC mandate? Or are British women really bad at birth control?

Twerk It Don't Work It!

Everybody's talking about former Disney starlet Miley Cyrus shaking her bony, tramp-stamped ass to the tune of Robin Thicke's "Is That My Roofie In Your Martini" at the Video Music Awards on a channel that doesn't show music videos.


The ratings were okay, but they didn't set any records, but that's not stopping people from the MTV Publicity Department Parent's Television Council to MSNBC to declare that civilization is coming to an end unless heads roll. It doesn't matter that Thicke was singing the new anthem for the Bob Filner's of the world, an ex-child star was next to nikked.


This isn't the end of civilization. It's more like Hollywood announcing they're doing a remake of a really crappy movie, with the same crappy script, the same crappy director, same crappy editor, same crappy cinematographer who can't keep the boom mikes out of the shot, but this time they have a different star, so it can't possibly be crappy this time.

Miley's merely doing what other teen starlets try when their careers hit the skids after tasting mega-fame thanks to the stupidity of tween girls. They try to go "adult" by getting tramp stamps, wearing skanky clothes and doing skanky stuff on things like the MTV VMAs.

Her attempt at a movie career is pretty much over. Even at her peak the only film to crack that precious $100 million "can be a real movie star" line was an animated family film.  I could do a voice in an animated family film and crack $100 million and it wouldn't make me a movie star. And let's not forget her last movie:


Which was judged so bad by the producers they literally sat on it for over a year, and only gave it the bare minimum release they were contractually obligated to do. They preferred to lose their entire budget rather than be publicly associated with that big steaming pile.

What does she have left?

Shameless publicity whoring on the VMAs which exists solely for shameless publicity whoring for MTV.

It won't work. Her album won't sell, and her future movies won't sell, so all she's got left to do is take up drugs, mental illness, and get a gig as a judge on a reality talent show after her parents put her through rehab and under a conservatorship.

Double Feature Follies!

Paramount is rereleasing their really expensive hits World War Z and Star Trek Into Darkness as a double feature.

It'll be called the "We Spent Too Much On Them Night At The Movies."

NBC Has A Fever, & Instead Of More Cowbell It Wants More Germs!



NBC has made a deal with ex-ER executive producer John Wells to develop a pilot based on the 1990s disease thriller Outbreak. If you don't remember, Outbreak was about an outbreak of an ebola type disease in a small town thanks to an evil monkey, and while Dustin Hoffman and his team struggle to save the day, an Army General played by Dustin Hoffman keeps trying to blow it up because that's what Army Generals do when they're bored.

Now Outbreak was a hit when it came out, 18 years ago, and NBC had tried doing something similar in 2005 with a show called Medical Investigation, which lasted one truncated season.

But I'm sure it'll work this time.

What do you think about this Nineteenth Century English Gentleman?
I thought so.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1061: Little Thoughts From A Big Brain

NEW WAY TO DO TV?


Lionsgate and European TV production company Tandem have inked a deal to co-produce projects based on their relatively new business model.

That model is to pre-sell the show to markets all over the world before trying to get it on an American network like they recently did by selling the show Crossing Lines to NBC.

Now the plus side of this model is that it sort of takes the creation of television shows out of the hands of network executives. Since many network executives don't really understand things like storytelling, character development, and common sense.

On the downside their next project is supposedly a sexy crime series about handwriting analysis.

Not too sure about that one.

WHO GETS NO JACKSON


Officially they're saying he doesn't have enough time.

Unofficially it's because he wanted to expand the script for 1 episode into nine hours by including scenes from old scripts from Blake's 7.

BATFLECK


The internet promptly shit its pants.

Personally, I think he's a little old, but since they're deliberately going for an older Batman, and seems to have grown beyond the whole Bennifer debacle that defined his early career to be reborn as a serious director and actor I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Just don't let Matt Damon in it. He's starting to annoy me.

SPEAKING OF AFFLECK

To do Batman he's dropping out of directing a feature film version of Stephen King's first epic tome The Stand.

Probably a smart move. The complete version of King's book about a deadly plague and a battle between good and evil is over 1,000 pages long and has a massive cast of characters, plots, and subplots. Any feature film version would be just a cheat notes version of the novel, which had already been done as a miniseries over a decade ago.

If they're so adamant of remaking the damn thing, they should probably do it as a "event" series, let's say where the second flog-the-dead-horse season of Under The Dome is planned to go.

But that would be logical.

SPEAKING OF BOOKS

A new documentary on the life of reclusive author JD Salinger says that some previously unpublished works will be released soon.

The weird part of the story is that it's all Knight Rider fan fiction.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Comic Book Confidential: Oh, Canada, Oh, Comics

The Justice League of America from DC Comics will soon be no more, and in its place will arise...
Yep.


Should you care?

Probably not, even if you're a comics fan.

It's yet another one of the never-ending series of "events" that comics publishers grind out to spur brief upticks in sales so they can say that they're still in the comics business and not in the business of feeding the more lucrative movie and TV franchises with characters.

If you're just a casual comics fan who has been out of the loop for a while and think that this event is your way back in, you probably shouldn't care either.

Like every other event storyline it will probably require detailed knowledge of every other event going back to Crisis On Infinite Earth in the mid-1980s, even though DC promised to have rebooted everything back to their roots with their New 52 event.

Plus, it shouldn't last too long anyway because they probably have five more events in the hopper for 2014.

Which brings me to the fundamental problems with comics.

They're too hard to get. You either have to order them online or go to any of the dwindling number of specialty shops to get them. The days of casually browsing and buying them at the corner store are deader than a dodo. Chain retailers don't even want them anymore because their size and profit margins make them more hassle than they're worth.

They're too hard to get into. If you're a kid who like superheroes forget trying to get into superhero comics, because too many require specialist knowledge of story-lines and characters that occurred before your birth. If you want to get into an A-List character you better be ready to pay, because the really popular ones can appear in over a dozen separate titles, and if you can't keep up with all of them, you're going to be shit out of luck knowing what the hell is going on when the next event occurs.  

Even if you do wade through all the tons of material you need to fully get a character you like, then POW, they have an "event" kill off, change, or replace the character you like for cheap publicity that rarely interpret into increased sales.

Then there's the whole "we don't need kids" attitude found in the comics industry.

Where do you think new readers come from?

Right now comics are targeted at 30-40 somethings and the younger people needed to replace them aren't coming. Kids crave stories of good versus evil, the more outlandish the better, it goes back to all that Joseph Campbell "Hero's Journey" stuff which is probably hardwired into our brains.

What do comic books offer kids?
Usually ridiculously over-sexualized characters and situations that will make the kid's parents toss the comics in the trash for being trashy.

I have nothing wrong with a something being sexy. My family's latin motto translates to "Hooray for Boobies" but there's a line where you go from being sexy to sleazy. Not only that the exaggerated anatomies and ridiculous poses are insulting to women and to the intelligence of readers. Plus it makes the people who do buy comics look like perverts who are unable to use the internet to find pictures of real nikked ladies.

Comics are in the business of selling stories, preferably fast-paced stories of excitement and adventure with fantastical characters and settings. They are the gateway drug for readers, especially the genres of science fiction and fantasy.

Lose the young readers, and eventually you'll end up with a lot of dead franchises no one really cares about that you can't revive no matter how much money you throw at them.

Like The Lone Ranger.

No one wants to repeat that mistake.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1060: The Return Of Rambo?

Sylvester Stallone is considering doing a television series.

Not just any television series, but a RAMBO TELEVISION SERIES.

Now I'm not going to run around screaming "Oh, for the love of Xenu, no!" Instead I'm going to take a look at the PROS & CONS!


PROS:


1. STALLONE: Stallone is still considered a big movie star, especially in Europe and Asia, and signing him to a television series is a big get. 

2. RAMBO: The Rambo franchise is still considered viable, the last instalment made over $100 million worldwide.

CONS:

1. STALLONE: Stallone's movies don't do as well as they used to and they haven't for a very long time. Even movies like the Expendables franchise which features him and just about every other actor who has ever thrown a punch on-screen have a hard time cracking the $100 million mark domestically. In fact most need the combined North American and International box office to hit that vital benchmark. Which means the actual rentals and profits are a lot smaller than Stallone and the makers want you to think.

Then there's his image, which went from underdog makes good (Rocky) to action star (Rambo: First Blood Part 2) to cartoon (Rambo 3) to failed clown (Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot) back to cartoon (Demolition Man) to the aging, bulging steroid addled bulging veined freak he is today (Expendables +) peppered sparsely with attempts to be a serious actor again (Cop Land).

People may be willing to look at him once or twice a year on the big screen, but I doubt enough will want to see him week after week.

2. THE GENRE: I want you folks to name a truly great action-adventure TV series. One that operates along the shoot-em-up punch-em-out lines of the Rambo franchise, and remember, no irony.

I'll wait.

Having trouble thinking of one outside of 24, which was more of a suspense/thriller/mystery procedural?

That's because most attempts at translating the action/adventure genre to the small screen tend to compress all the worst elements of the genre while losing the character development and clever plotting that would make a show stand out in this hyper-competitive era.

That's what I think, what do you think?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

RIP Elmore Leonard.


Elmore Leonard passed away this morning, marking the end of an era in both literature and movies.


He started writing Westerns stories for pulp magazines and then expanded into Western novels and screenplays before expanding into crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many set in and around his hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

He was a master storyteller and most writers seek to come close to his skill with dialogue.

He will be missed, but his work will be enjoyed for generations.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1059: Bombs, Brazilians, & Bad Ideas

BOMBS

Relativity Media's release Paranoia has officially tanked at the box office, sparking some firings and hirings in the marketing department, that some have compared to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic


Relativity's box office record is not very good for a wannabe studio. Per film domestic box-office revenues haven't cracked the $100 million mark yet, and while they may toot the horn of the film's raking in bigger money overseas, that's a bit of an illusion because Relativity doesn't have the international distribution ability of a major studio with branches in every country.


That means that they have to license their films out to other distributors, who need to take their cut out of rentals that, while different in almost every territory, are usually much smaller than the rentals they get in the domestic box office. That only counts if they get rentals at all since most indie producers will "pre-sell" their pictures for money up-front to make the movie.

No matter what, Relativity needs to make money at the domestic box office, or they won't make any money at all.

Maybe "mediocrity at best" is their business plan, but it doesn't strike me as much of one.

BRAZILIANS

The Mayor of Rio De Janeiro is offering to have the city pay for 100% of the budget if Woody Allen shoots his next movie there.

Now targeting is probably a smart move on Rio's part since his films aren't known for their lavish budgets. However, I don't think cities, or governments, should be in the business of financing movies, something I've written about before.

BAD IDEAS

Timur Bekmambetov needs a new agent.

After Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tanked at the box-office he's got two potential projects lined up, and both look like pretty bad ideas.

One is a horror film called Squirrels, about, naturally, squirrels, who become man-eating terrors.

The second is a remake of Ben-Hur, which I also think is a really bad idea.

Let's look at the facts.


The premise of Squirrels says that it's supposed to be some sort of  horror/comedy hybrid, something that isn't one of Timur's strength if you go by the reviews for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Then there's the alleged cause for the squirrels becoming homicidal flesh-feasting maniacs. Apparently an evil energy company is drilling for gas, and that's put the environment out of whack and the squirrels respond by developing a taste for human flesh.

That just reeks of filmmakers trying to be "relevant" and "important" and elevate their gory little fright film to the realm of Swiftian satire.

It never works.

When Hollywood attempts satire it the usual result is a ham-fisted failure that bores half the audience and annoys the other half.

Real satire requires a singular vision that isn't afraid to tackle their own shibboleths as well as those of their peers. Hollywood never does that. Hollywood's idea of satire is to look at what people outside of Hollywood do and then paint them as cartoonish freaks.

Hollywood is too isolated and too heavily invested in  the group-think of their own superiority to do it. 

Then there's Ben-Hur.

We all remember the big William Wyler version starring Charlton Heston, but even that was a remake of a silent film starring Ramon Navarro.

Both were monster hits, and the folks running MGM think history is due for a 3-peat.

I beg to differ.

The average American in flyover country doesn't trust mainstream Hollywood to handle religious themes, usually because the people making movies these days view religion as an evil oppressor, and religious people as a variety of mental defective.

So even if a Hollywood filmmaker does a religious themed film with all sincerity, the audience will probably steer clear expecting another hatchet job.

MGM should save their money and make a good idea for a change.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1058: The Check From China Is In The Mail.


The MPAA is hooting victory, the studios who were denied their profits from China have been "paid in full" by the state owned national distributor, and everything is going to be all flowers, puppies, and unicorns.


Is it time to strike up the band and hold a parade to announce the dawn of a new golden age of cinema?

Nope.

China is paying the money only because the apparatchiks who run the country see it is in their personal best interests to pay the money.

Remember, we're talking about state run monopolies in the Chinese movie business. They don't have to worry about judges saying that the law of contracts dictate when, where, how, and to whom, payments should be made. They appoint the judges and make the laws whenever they want and however they want them.

This will happen again, repeatedly. It may take many different forms but when you boil it down, it will all be the same people doing the same thing.

I'm not saying that Hollywood shouldn't do business with China. It's a big market with a vibrant cinema-going culture. However, Hollywood thinks that China's billion+ ticket buyers will heal all of their self-inflicted injuries, and that's just a pipe dream.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1057: The Tale Of The Per Screen Average

It's Monday, so everyone is talking about who is #1 at the box office and who isn't, but there's an element to the box office that a lot of media don't report, which is very important.

That element is the "per screen average."

The per screen average is how much a movie is making at each showing, and how that can help distributors, especially independent distributors gauge the film's performance, and whether or not it has legs, or the ability to either have a long run, or a wider release.

Let's look 1 major release, and two small releases this past weekend and see what stories they tell us...

Elysium, the economically questionable sci-fi action epic, scored $30,400,000 in its crucial opening weekend. Failing to match its director's previous outing's $37,000,000 opening, but that's not the point of this piece. Elysium played in 3, 284 screens in North America, which means that it had a pre-screen average of $9, 257. 

The analysts are looking at that and thinking that the film is probably due for a big drop, and that drop could keep the film from breaking even on its $115,000,000 production costs, let alone the tens of millions spent on prints and advertising.

Sure, it's number 1 now, but probably doesn't have the legs to make it in the long run.

Now let's look at two "little" films, the biopic Lovelace and the Sundance darling In A World.

Lovelace tells the story of 70s porn star Linda Lovelace, played by the doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried, whose skills as a cinematic fellationist in the film Deep Throat sparked the pornography-as-mainstream-entertainment fad that lasted about five minutes during the 1970s.

It opened this past weekend and raked in about $184,000 at the box office.

The second film is In A World, about competitive voice-over artists that was written-directed-produced and starring actress Lake Bell. This film's opening weekend raked in a total of $71,000.

Now who do you think is the big winner of the weekend?

It's In A World.

Lovelace raked in more money overall, which I'm sure its distributor is happy with, but when you realize that it played in 118 screens, it only made $1,559 per screen.

In A World, made less than half of Lovelace overall, but it only played on 3 screens. It made an average of $23,667 per screen. More than 15x the per screen average of Lovelace, and more than double the per screen average of even Elysium. Add on the fact that Lovelace had a much bigger ad-budget as well and the promise of Amanda Seyfried doing scenes all nikked, and it's performance is even more impressive.
Now you're probably wondering "Does this mean if In A World played on as many screens as Elysium it would have made over $60 million at the box office?"

The answer I'd give is "No."
In A World is a specialty release. It's target audience are people who like independent films as a rule, so it's not really a threat to a heavily pitched blockbuster wannabe like Elysium.

However, it is a threat to Lovelace.

Theater owners pay close attention to per screen averages, because that's their bread and butter, and would probably be more willing to move Lovelace out of some screens and move In A World into a few that serve the film's target audience.

And that's why per-screen averages are important.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1056: How About A Little Common Sense?

Word is that Disney, looking at a $160-$190 million write-off with The Lone Ranger, is mulling cracking the whip on the people behind it, especially producer Jerry Bruckheimer, taking away his final cut rights, and trying to impose some fiscal discipline on his next fantasy epic for the company Pirates Of The Carribean 5: Flogging The Dead Horse.



For those of you who don't know Hollywood jargon, right of "final cut" means that Bruckheimer had  the final say on how his finished films came out and that Disney had to take them "as is." 

Only the top Hollywood power players get to have final cut, especially on the big budget monstrosities that Bruckheimer specializes in. Bruckheimer, star Depp, and director Gore Verbinski, used to be such power players.

Now I don't think whether or not Bruckheimer has final cut will make much difference in Disney's, and by extension, Hollywood's coming blockbuster meltdown. Nor will the demands for tighter budgets, insisting on budgets that require only $1 billion at the international box office to break even instead of the usual $1.2 billion.

That's like someone who eats two bags of Oreo cookies everyday goes on a diet that says everything will be peachy keen as long as he only eats one and a half bags of chocolate chip cookies.


Here's an idea: USE COMMON SENSE!


Bruckheimer is a major player, but his films are very rapidly pricing themselves out of the market. If he can't deliver a film that can break even before breaking records, then let him move on, and let someone else have a chance.

Remember, he pledged to take $50 million out of the budget for The Lone Ranger, and literally days later, they had gone over the newly negotiated budget almost to the level of the budget they originally wanted.

That was a blatant act of territorial pissing where Bruckheimer declared himself the Alpha in the relationship with Disney.

Disney literally can't afford to let that happen, but can only have the testicular fortitude to do what it takes if they're willing to see beyond the "track record" and the glamour of his position within Hollywood to the cold hard facts on the ground in front of them.

Maybe Disney could start a trend where they buck from the rest of Hollywood and use common sense in their budgeting practices.

I doubt it will happen, but one can dream.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1055: Did Critics Kill The Lone Ranger?

The stars, the director, and the executive producer of Disney's mega-flop The Lone Ranger are blaming the film's failure on the critics who were harsh on the film because of its bad buzz.

Well, I just happen to have a device that can tell Depp, Hammer, Verbinski, and Bruckheimer exactly who is responsible for the failure of The Lone Ranger.
It's called a MIRROR!

Why did the film have bad buzz?

Because the people starring and making the film went completely bugshit crazy with the overindulgence. They spent too much, they "acted" too much, they put everything on size and campiness, and not on story.

The whole project reeked of overindulgence in everything except creativity.

Now not everybody paid attention to the stories of overspending and overacting coming from the movies rather monstrous sets. However, the market is like a big hive mind comprised of millions of minds. While the majority may not know the facts, they do get a sense of what's going on, even without the specifics.

That's called "buzz" and there was no good "buzz" of any kind coming from The Lone Ranger.

That's not the fault of the critics, but of the people behind the film.

Critics can hurt a film, but I doubt they can really kill a film. Adam Sandler's career would have ended years ago if that were true.

What can kill a film are the sort of self-inflicted wounds people like Depp, Bruckheimer, Verbinski, and Hammer put on it.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1054: 2 Sides of the Same Coin

I can't help it.

I like it when rich people have a little slap fight with each other, especially when it helps me make a point.

This time it's actor George Clooney versus hedge fund mogul & major Sony investor Daniel Loeb.  Loeb wants Sony Pictures to make more money after a summer where the company has dropped bigger bombs than the Enola Gay. Clooney says Loeb is an anti-artistic Philistine who should leave Sony alone.

Personally, I think they have more in common than anyone thinks, both sides of the coin, and that coin is called What Is Fundamentally Wrong With Hollywood.

Loeb's attitude reminds me of a legend about a management shift at a major studio in the 1960s. The founder had retired, and a new CEO moved in. The CEO had worked in the theatrical and financial divisions in New York, and really didn't have any experience in actually making movies. At the first meeting of the company's top brass the new boss declared: "From now on, we will only make hit movies."

There was a moment of stunned silence, then someone asked him "How?"

The new boss didn't know.

And that's the point. William Goldman once described  Hollywood as a community where "nobody knows nothing." Even with the best of intentions and the best information, there is still no way to predict whether a film will hit or miss. By all of Hollywood's metrics both After Earth and White House Down should have been sure things. They cast people the studios tell us are big box office stars, made by established names with "track records," they were big budget high concepts that the experts say are what the audience wants, and multi-millions were spent promoting them.

But they still tanked.

Movies are a crap-shoot at best, and even the most crassly commercial shilling can't guarantee a profit.

Now this doesn't mean that Loeb is completely without a point.

Hollywood in general and Sony in particular could use some fiscal sanity when it comes to spending. Budgets for big star vehicles are way too bloated, and too little of those budgets are making it onto the screen. What does make it to the screen doesn't seem to hold much appeal for the audience, and they either lose a fortune, or just scrape by with a razor thin profit margin once all the "Dollar 1" deals with the people with "track records" are paid out.

Now onto Clooney.

Clooney, if you listen to Hollywood talk about Clooney, is the biggest star that ever existed. Hollywood wants you believe that men want to be him, and that women want to be with him, at least until their 33rd birthday, then they're out the door.

Now if all you knew was his coverage, you'd think that Clooney was the biggest box office draw in the world.


In fact, he hasn't had a movie break the $100 million mark without the word "Ocean's" in the title and at least 10 other stars to back him up since A Perfect Storm in 2000. Even then his one hit franchise was killed by rising costs and declining returns.

So he's not really a "star" in the classic sense that he can sell tickets.

As a producer he's getting all sorts of praise for backing Argo, which did better than his recent starring vehicles, pulling in over $136 million domestic gross on a $44 million budget and won an Oscar for Best Picture. Currently all the insiders are chattering about his upcoming film Monuments Men, about recovering art stolen by the Nazis in World War 2 is going to be the next big Oscar winner.

And that makes my point.

The people who buy tickets are not Clooney's target audience.

Hollywood is Clooney's target audience.

He makes movies for Hollywood to give awards to, and to make Hollywood feel better about itself. He's the perfect symbol of an insular, isolated community that's supposed to be the heart of our popular culture.

The one up-side is that Clooney doesn't seem to over indulge in the budget department in his personal projects. A quantum of fiscal sobriety in a crowd that  is usually high on the most potent drug of all, OPM, Other People's Money.

What Sony in particular, and Hollywood in general need to do is get back to the fundamentals.

1. Remember that they are in the business of selling stories to the audience. If people don't get stories that interest them, they will stay home and watch their stories on television.

2. Remember that they don't need to spend the GDP of a third world country to make a film. The appeal of stars are over-rated, and special effects can only go so far. The only real hedges against failure are sensible budgets and quality of story. Lower costs lower risks, natch, but quality can give a film a shelf life that can help it get discovered in the future by audiences in our fractured media-sphere. Remember It's A Wonderful Life, it tanked so badly, the producers let the copyright lapse. Now it's an annual TV event that consistently wins good ratings.

3. Remember that the audience is out there, in the real world, and they are a lot smarter than you give them credit for, but they are finding it hard to trust Hollywood to deliver quality entertainment. Regain that trust, and you can have a business that can be the heart of pop culture for another hundred years.

That's what I think, let me know what you think in the comments...

Hollywood Babble On & On #1053: Fighting Over Who Would Be Who?


It's official, 55 year old British actor Peter Capaldi has been named the new star of Doctor Who, thus bucking the trend of younger and younger actors playing the ancient Time Lord from the Planet Gallifrey.


It's also official that some folks are feeling emotions ranging from annoyed to angry that the Doctor has not been changed to a woman or minority. They're saying that changing the character to reflect what they want is the only "fair" thing to do.


If you're too lazy to click the link, I'll sum it up.  People ask for characters that better represent our diverse society. Rather than let diverse creators create and support diverse new characters, they change an established character. This gives them a lot of hype in the media, some pats on the back from their former critics, and they get to call anyone who questions the decision racist, sexist, homophobic, and fattening.

This desire for fairness exists in denial of the fact that heroic characters are, to a certain extent, idealized reflections of their creators, and that they have a certain dynamic that has to be maintained or they literally become a totally different character.

However, these changes radically shifts the character's dynamics, and in doing so, could potentially hurt it in the fields of ratings/sales. So they're always done in mediums and franchises where they be changed back if the sales slump, or they're pawned off on some alternate universe where they won't interfere with the mainstream "canon." It's a form of tokenism that media companies use to get some publicity and polish their PC credits without the effort of opening the door to new diverse creators and characters and making any lasting commitments to those creators and characters.

Which brings me to my next point...

What happens when they reach the inevitable time to change the character back or cancel the project?

Those who demanded the change in the name of fairness, then demand that everything must now stay the same, still in the name of fairness.

But none of it's really fair.

Popular culture is like a pot-luck buffet. People bring the dishes they made. Dishes that reflect where they came from, what they are, where they want to go, and what they want to be.

Changing a character's sex, race, or whatever, is the equivalent of the powers that be saying to women and minorities: "You don't need to bring your own dish to this buffet for all of us to sample and enjoy. Instead, we're going to give you some of our scraps. Enjoy them, but don't get used to having them regularly, because the powers that be believe that you're not really worth it."

That's pretty insulting, and not really fair at all.

What is fair is letting everyone, regardless or gender, race, religion, or lack thereof to bring their dishes to the pop culture buffet, which despite what people say has plenty of room for all, regardless of their background, gender, or ethnicity. That way those who want more diverse characters can create and then support these characters and prove that there is an audience for original diverse characters.

That would be fair for everyone and we won't be wasting time arguing over who would/should/could be Doctor Who, because then we'd know that any casting choice would be for purely organic reasons and not for politics or publicity.

If you don't agree with me, then you are officially racist, sexist, homophobic, and way worse than Hitler!