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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trouble in Paradise

It's only a rom-com but 'race-casting' has reared its ugly head once again.  This time it's in Hawaii, where an indigenous peoples support group is targeting the film 'Aloha' with race-casting by featuring - "to few Asian-Pacific Islanders and for insulting the Hawaiian culture."

The new film - to be released this week in the U.S. - has been accused of "white-washing".  The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) released an angry statement against Sony Pictures and Cameron Crowe (the film's director) saying they failed to recognize the majority of Hawaii's population.

"Caucasians only make up 30% of the population but from watching this film you'd think they made up 99%," said MANAA. "This comes in a long line of films that use Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there.  It's an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii."

'Aloha' stars Bradley Cooper, who falls in love with a female pilot while he is trying to reconnect with his ex-wife.  The female leads are played by Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams.

What can I say? Hollywood, I believe (as should everyone) is color and ethnic blind, except for the fifty shades of green - as in moola.  Like the constant belly-aching by African-American actors saying they deserve more and bigger roles, to all the other groups that say they are under-represented in movies - the only concerns of film producers is if the film is going to make a profit.

If putting Asian, African, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, or others into their movie would garner a larger box office gross - it would be done.  Movies are made with a certain demographic in mind, and that demographic is what that film is intended to 'play' to.  'Aloha' is a simple rom-com, chick-flix.  Its demographic is white females aged 18-38.

Nuff said,

Just Say - "Can"

The 2015 Cannes (say 'can') Film Festival (the tops in film fests) is over - and, as is always the case, there was controversy, arguing, and disappointment.

It seems to me that Cannes has become political vs. artistic. The Festival has morphed into a nature preserve, a sanctuary for endangered foreign and documentary films, rallying against the un-natural, polluting, and destructive ways of Hollywood.

The grand prize winner of this year's Palme d'Or was 'Dheepan'. A French made film, 'Dheepan', the work of Jacques Audiard, is about a Tamil Tiger, who escapes Sri Lanka with a bogus family (a woman and child he doesn't know) and goes to France where he gets caught-up in a drug turf-war.  A great film? A good film?  I hope to view it at an arthouse. I'll let you know what I think.

'Dheepan' would never have won an Oscar - but then again Cannes is not an awards show but a festival - a coming together of cinema makers to show their wares and craft-skills.  Cannes, in my opinion has gone to the dark-side.  It's less about the art of film-making and more about the message. Political messages and viewpoints are smeared all over the Festival - from the monotonous, blustering of the global warming threat to the Tamal Tigers (a defunct pro-self governing military organization which formed in Sri Lanka in1976 and was destroyed by the Sri Lankan military in 2009).

Cannes is still the preeminent annual affair for all the biggies in the global movie industry to be seen and heard.  Like most industries, the movie business in now global.  This globalization can be witnessed by the number of films screened at Cannes which were in English (the world's un-official universal language).  Of the 20 films in competition for top honors, only three were made by English speaking film-makers, yet 12 were in English.  So, even foreign films are being made and distributed in English.

I post about Cannes because it's all about excess. In dress, in food, in private jets and yachts, in the way the glitterati pontificate to the 'common and misinformed man', and in the way our hum-drum lives are, some how, made better by the existence of Cannes and its Festival.

Just saying,

Sunday, May 24, 2015

CINEMA BUZZ by Seymore Flix

New York Times To Cut Number of Movie Reviews

The venerable New York Times says it lacks the staff  to review all of the films that are being released and that it will be independent and documentary films that will be taken off the review roster.

Capable of making or breaking a movie with one of its reviews, the Times' Chief Critic, AO Scott, stated that, "Because of the increasing volume of new films released each year, the Times in no longer able to guarantee reviews of all New York theatrical releases." He added, that new movies would now be chosen for review on a case-by-case basis, but promised that the Times would continue to review as many as possible.

The Times has (in the past) criticized the number of low-quality releases screened at cinemas, for even one or two runs, which would require a review from the famous newspaper.  Termed. 'vanity bookings', Scott says, "It's not hard to spot vanity bookings. There are clues. If there's a chance something will be worth our time and space, we want to review it." 

The concern is that a very good film may miss a review and lose out on an Oscar nomination.  The entry rules for Best Documentary Oscar is that the film must have been reviewed by either the NY Times or the LA Times.  "We didn't tell the documentary branch of the Academy to make us the standard and it's tricky because a lot of those are, in effect, good films", says Scott. "We have three staff critics and a good roster of freelancers, but it takes time and space and editorial labor and cost to review so many movies."

I agree that there are just too many movies being produced. Many are not worth big screen time and a great number do go straight to cable or VOD from one of the internet streamers.  As a cruise Netflix or Amazon for films to watch, I see a lot of so-so features and foreign movies - single-star stuff that has no business being shown at a movie theatre.

Do people still read newspaper film reviews?  Or even reviews by web based critics?  If the film is not a big budget blockbuster it's success is mostly word-of-mouth via tweets, texts, or verbal.  There seems to be a documentary on very possible subject, from kudzu to meerkats and each  year more and more would-be filmmakers enter the fray.  There is just too much mediocre product and the Times is right in not wanting to spend the time and money on reviewing them.

Porn in 3D - It's 'Love' in Cannes
Noe' (w/beard) and cast of 3D pron-film 'Love'

Defending his new movie, 'Love' which was screened at the Cannes Festival, film-maker Gaspar Noe' did admit it would "have been hard to make the film in America". There is "nothing nasty" about the film, Noe' stated, however there are explicit sex scenes that do jump out at the audience via the 3D effect.

'Love' tells the story of the melt-down of a relationship between an American ex-pat in Paris and his girlfriend which is perpetuated by the introduction of another female into their relationship.

'Love' will be distributed in the U.S. by Alchemy, an indie film distributor.  It is unlikely that any of the major cinema chains will screen the film. It will carry an 'unrated' rating and it would be a huge struggle to get it into cinemas.

The chances that 'Love' will be playing at your local cinema are very slim. Not only because of the explicit sexual content but that it will have to play in 3D and not many (if any) cinemas are willing to give up a 3D blockbuster for a sex film with a very limited audience.  I think the affair with 'Love' was over before it started.


The first social media horror film, 'Unfriended' is again in release. The film, produced by Blumhouse Productions (a Universal Studios subsidiary), cost about $1 million but last weekend ( in a re-release from 2014)  grossed $15.8 million in the U.S. and an additional $3 million overseas.  'Unfriended' has room to grow over the summer, so if you're an exhibitor and haven't booked it, try and do so.

Blumhouse, best known for its 'Paranormal' franchise has made mega-bucks on its ultra-low budget horror movies.  'Unfriended' takes place within web browsers and Skype cams of teenagers where internet searches reveal half the name of the next murder victim.

'Unfriended' is a winner, especially for drive-ins, but also for indoor cinemas which have a good teen demographic.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Old, The Familiar, The Comfortable - That's Today's Hollywood

Remakes, sequels, franchise films - that's what drives Hollywood these days.  The major studios pop-out these films on a regular basis and plan for more of the same - it's what moviegoers crave and are willing to part with their cash for.

Indies, foreign, documentaries, serious dramas, etc. are auditorium fodder for the multiplexes, in-between fillers as exhibitors wait for the next box office bruiser to be released - and it appears that this scenario is going to be in play for some time to come.  The six majors (Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warners) will continue to focus on what they know works. The only concern is keeping up with the technology.  Technology has made movies more expensive to make as each time a new special effect, immersive sound, or visual enhancement is achieved and delivered it raises the entertainment expectations of moviegoers for more and better.

Generally, a major release ($100 million or more cost) needs to make 2.5-3 times its budget before it can be considered a success.  That's why the studios favor known box office winners with a ready-made audience.  Hence the remake or sequel -  give moviegoers the familiar, the old and successful, the comfortable - with characters and story-lines that they can relate to.  Books have become a huge source for movie content.  Marvel comic characters, for example, come with a large and supportive audience that already knows the background story and traits of their favorite heroes.  Fan boys and girls that range in age from 12 to 65 - the older generations were comic fans, the younger video game fans of the same characters.

It is now common for a remake or sequel to outperform the original movie.  This is particularly true of franchise films which build one-upon-the-other making the characters more and more familiar to the audience, and thus more and more believable.

The old, the familiar, the comfortable is what Hollywood banks on - and it's paying off.


Barden Bellas 'Bitch-Slap' Mad Max

Boxoffice Battle of The Sexes
Women a Force in Films

In a boxoffice battle last week, the girls came out swinging and beat-down the gents in a no-holds barred bout.  'Pitch Perfect 2' - representing the growing power of the female moviegoer - grossed $70.3 million, while 'Mad Max: Fury Road' - the male-centric film - garnered only $44.4 million.

Women, one could argue, have been underrated as a bloc when it comes to moviegoing. but this notion is changing.  The audience for 'Pitch Perfect 2' was 75% women and outscored its older sister, 'Pitch Perfect' (released in 2012) which grossed a total boxoffice of $80.8 million over its entire run. Thing is, 'Pitch Perfect's' VOD and DVD sales were huge prompting Universal to move forward with the sequel.  The film also had a mega soundtrack hit with the Barden Bellas, the 'Pitch's' singing group.

Making matters worse for the guys is that 'Mad Max' cost $150 million, while 'Pitch Perfect 2' costs only $29 million to produce.  However, coming into the Memorial Day weekend the 'Max' should perform well, and we'll see if the girls can sustain their winning streak.

The performance of 'Pitch Perfect 2' coincided with remarks made by actress, Salma Hayek, at Cannes this week.  Saying that women have been ignored by the studios and industry in general. "The only kind of movie where women make more than men is the porno industry" cried Hayek.  "They don't see us as a powerful force."   Well, this may all be changing as women dominated films kill at the boxoffice.

Films by and about women are now having huge boxoffice success.  Hayek also remarked about missing out on roles because male stars get the right to veto female co-stars - but women don't get the same right.  Additionally, since the Sony Studio's computer hack of last year, we now know that women lead or co-lead actors don't get the same money as men.

The battle of the sexes in movies will continue and I'm betting my money on the fairer sex.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CINEMA BUZZ by Seymore Flix

'Tentpoles' - What Are They In The Movie Business

The word 'tentpole' is frequently used to describe movies that are box office blockbusters.  These are the franchise films that the studios are betting will hit it big. Currently, these are the high-impact, action or fantasy films that moviegoers crave and support.

Tentpoles are known quantities that the studios are banking on and have strategically positioned there release dates to garner the best possible grosses - so as to prop-up the year's releases that will be flops.

But where does the term 'tentpole' come from?  Well, it been around for decades.  In fact the term goes back to 1917 when a theatre critic, Alexander Woolcott, described the stage actor Harry Mestayer as a "tentpole".  Mr. Woolcott wrote, "Every now and then a visitor to a play sees an expert actor holding up a scene as a tentpole holds up an acre of bellying canvas"  That phrase has resonated for decades and somewhere along the line tagged it to movies that bolster (lift up) box office grosses.

The term was first used in reference to movies by then Paramount chairman, Frank Mancuso. "Tentpoles are movies that because of content, star value or story line have immediate want-to-see"., stated Mancuso. That phrase stuck and 'tentpoles' are what drives the movie industry today.

No Flats At The Cannes
Oui! Oui!

It's Cannes Film Festival week and as usual things got ugly.  This year it's all about footwear - or at least women's footwear.

Aucun! Aucun!
It seems there is an unwritten Cannes rule that says women MUST wear high-heeled shoes to all red carpet events.  Well, I, for one, was appalled when a number of women tried to circumvent the rules and were promptly turned away for wearing flats.  The gall of it all.  Anyway, so what if some of the women had medical or phyicial conditions which prohibited the wearing of high-heels.  Rules are rules!

The Cannes dress policy for red-carpet events states, "men must wear black tie with black shoes and women must be elegantly dressed with smart footwear".  I guess high-heels are smart and rhinestone loafers dumb - at least at Cannes.

Ah, the superfluousness of it all- the glitterati arguing over shoes - I love it!

World of Warcraft ...... Finally
Doomhammer -  so cute.

Nine years in development the first scenes of the movie based on the gigantically popular video game, 'World of Warcraft' has hit the web. Released by the film's director, Duncan Jones, the clip is a shot of orc chieftain - Orgrim Doomhammer (to know him is to love him). Doomhammer comes to life via the efforts of Industrial Light and Magic, which also did the Hulk in 'Avergers: Age of Ultron'. The creatures, in the film, are real characters yet are regenerated using digital filming techniques.
"We've gone beyond the point where these are just creatures in movies. We now have the technology and the ability to make new characters entirely", says Jones.

'World of Warcraft' is scheduled for release in June 2016 and will mimic the video game's on-going battle between humans and orcs in the fantasy world of Azeroth.

Seymore Flix

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bikes vs. Cars

I like documentaries. Even if I don't agree with the filmmaker's point-of-view or message I learn something about the subject or situation.

A recent docu from Fredick Gertten, a Swede, who has been making films for many years, caught my eye - entitled 'Bikes vs. Cars'.  The film is an expose' on the war between bikes and autos, which seems futile and very one-sided until you dig a little deeper.

Major cities across the globe are designed for cars and are more or less hostile to bike travel. Gertten knows this, so his film centers on the notion that, "Car dependency is a disease for society. If you're dependent on having a car everyday, you have lost your freedom.  Most people are unhappy in traffic. Yet, the people who bike, become city-lovers.  When you're in a car, you don't see the city, you are only watching the road.  On a bike, you can see the sky, you can see the trees."  That's all well and good Fredick, but people need cars to get to and from work, play, food, recreation, vacations, visits, etc.  So there has to be more to it than a love for cities.

However, Gertten does have a point. People, in many countries, have come to believe that auto traffic is a normal, natural thing - it isn't. And eventually we all will have to change our ways of 'getting around'.  Although the film is very much on the pro-side of biking, in the end you feel more sorrow for auto-commuters.  So miserable, so tired, so fed-up, in a futile and wasteful part of their lives.  In San Paulo, commuters spend, on average, three hours per day in traffic.  In LA, the roads at rush hour are so clogged that one fender-binder puts traffic at a full-stop (this a can personally attest to).

Docu-maker Fredrik Gertten
As the statistics on the number of cars in the major cities around the globe go ballistic, a picture starts to develop - where perhaps perpetual growth meets the limitations of space.  One always thinks that population growth, water shortages, etc. would be the big catalysts for pushing sustainability but transport may rise first.  The absurdity of trying to cram more and more cars into already clogged roads makes the case for sustainability without even trying to argue it.  Gertten is right when he states, "I don't even think it's about growth or not growth.  Growth needs to be sustainable to be counted as growth, this is just destroying things".

'Bikes vs. Cars' opened in early May to a limited release.  If you get a chance to view it do so - you may not agree with the message but the final outcome seems pretty certain.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

In-Cinema Advertising - The Answer To Many Marketers

Market Fragmentation Not An Issue For Cinemas

Everyone knows that in-cinema, pre-show advertising is very much worth the cost for advertisers. The greatest concern for any company advertising its products or services is market fragmentation - which has never been greater.  Getting to a target audience is primary and a huge challenge for most companies.  But cinemas offer up such an environment, if fact, cinemas are stand-outs as audience fragmentation gets worse.

The normal (and old) response to audience fragmentation by marketers is to use the shot-gun approach - offer the same ads to everyone. But this approach doesn't work well and cost a lot of money, in addition, it does not have an audience that is paying full attention to the ad.

Cinemas offer an audience that IS paying full attention - there are no distractions.  Cinemas offer an environment where other outlets (particularly online or mobile) face - an ever increasing number of ways for consumers to avoid watching ads.  Only 50% of viewers say they pay attention to ads on TV, and there are ways to 'not-view' ads - using DVRs, ad-skipping, ad-blocking and time shifting, and through the use of streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon.  This leaves companies wondering; Who is watching our ads, and more importantly, how do we get to the target market.

What advertisers want is to have viewers not only watch their ad but impact them to take action.  They want consumers to see and engage.  The only place this works well, give the fragmented marketplace we live in, is cinemas.

Every weekend audiences show up in the millions at their local cinemas - and those audiences are captive and impressionable.  Cinemas offer up the world's best programming in an immersive and distraction-free environment. Offering unique ad awareness, as 0% of a cinema's audience can skip ads, and the impact is 100%.

Taking this one-step further, cinemas ads can be pin-pointed to a particular viewing audience.  Different ads can be presented depending upon the movie being played. For example, an ad played for an audience that came to view a high-impact, action hero movie vs. ads presented for a rom-com.

All cinema operators should be running pre-feature ads and adding that revenue to their profits.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CORD CUTTING - Not A Big Savings

Value in the Bundle 

You hear a lot about people 'cutting-the-cord' or getting off of cable TV and going with internet or 'over-the-top' (OTT) content viewing. The biggest reason for 'cord-cutting' is cost. Many people believe that cable has gotten too expensive and many of the channels they are paying for they never watch.  But is this true?  If you look at the numbers you get a different picture.
what is referred to as

Despite the hype, OTT packages offer a very limited number of channels, and most don't have all of the sports - that many people young and old crave.  Even non-sports fans get short-changed as they have to subscribe to several OTT packages or services to satisfy their entertainment needs. Factor in the cost of basic broadband and the total cost of OTT  approaches a 'double' or 'triple' play from a cable provider. 'Double' play means having cable TV and internet connection. 'Triple' play means having cable TV, internet connection, and phone connection.

To me 'cord-cutting' sounds great in conversation but crumbles when faced with reality.  When taken individually, none of the OTT offerings provide everything viewers want, and cable providers will move toward a menu driven programming whereby subscribers can pick-and-choose the channels they want to see and only be charged for these.

What Are The Costs

A cable TV provider 'bundle' (TV, internet (broadband) service, and phone service) runs about $100 per month - give or take.  The cost of  OTT services varies greatly, but here is a current rundown:

- Amazon Prime - $99/year and free Amazon shipping. Offer some original series and library of old movies, music, etc.
- Apple TV- $30-40/month.  25 live channels including ABC, CBS, and Fox.
- Sling - $20/month. Live streaming channels, including ESPN, TNT, TBS. Other content and extra $5/month.
- HBO Now - $14.99/month. Movies and original series
- Hulu Plus- $7.99/month. Current and past TV shows from major broadcasters and cable networks.
- CBS All Access - $5.99/month. Live and on-demand programming from CBS network.
- Noggin- $5.99/month. Ad-free programming for kids.
- PlayStation Vue - $49.99/month. 50 networks including CBS, NBC, Fox, TNT, TBS, etc.
- Netflix - $7.99/month. Original programming plus library of movies, TV shows, etc.
- Xfinity - $49.99/month. Offers 140 channels including major networks, plus ESPN and others.

So, you still need an internet (broadband) connection to access any of the above. Average cost of broadband $50-60 per month. On all of the above a lot of the newer content, especially movies, are on a pay-per-view basis and most don't offer 'everything' that you want. The result is that most 'cord-cutters' wind-up subscribing to two OTT services and sometimes more!  So the 'bundle' being offered by the cable TV provider gets to look better and better in terms of value, accessibility, and content variety.

What is happening is that the folks are, by-and-large, sticking with their cable provider (which also provides broadband service) and subscribing to one or two of the OTT services - like Amazon or Netflix.


Monday, May 11, 2015

It's All About Moms

It's Mother's Day and I want to congratulate all of the great Moms out there, each any very one.
However, it struck me that sometimes Moms aren't so great. And what about bad Moms in the cinema.

Let's start with the first Mom, Eve. Hmmmm not so great.  Ate the forbidden fruit and condemned us all to hell. Plus one of her sons killed the other. Not too nurturing, Eve.  But let's talk bad cinema Moms. Here are some of my favorites:
Ramsey in 'Throw Mama'

Throw Mama From The Train (1987) - starring Danny Devito, Billy Crystal, and Rob Reiner with Anne Ramsey playing Devito's cruel and domineering mother who he plots to kill.  This is a black comedy that is well worth the view, bad Ma aside.

Dunaway with wire hanger
Mommie Dearest (1981) Semi-bio memoir and expose' of actress Joan Crawford. Played by Faye Dunaway, the story goes that Crawford, the mother of four children (two of which were orphans), becomes abusive due to a series of career and romantic frustrations, coupled with alcoholism. "I told you never to use a wire hanger" Crawford screams at her daughter.

Ma Barker's Killer Brood (1960) depicts the life of Arizona Donnie Barker, better known as Ma Barker - the ring-leader of a notorious gang (which included her four sons).  The Barker gang robbed, kidnapped, and murdered throughout the mid-western U.S. in the early 1930s.  Ma was a great role model and taught her sons the tricks of the criminal trade. The real Ma Barker was killed in a shoot-out with FBI agents in 1935.  Although the movie was highly dramatized it nonetheless showed Ma in her glory days.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Eleanor Iselin (played to perfection by Angela Lansbury) takes pleasure in brainwashing her son into becoming an assassin in the hopes of using him to further her (and her new husband's) political fortunes.  The movie, which was controversial had its release postponed due to the Kennedy assassination.  The film also starred Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey and ends well, as the son kills the not-so-good nurturing Mom.

Well, what can I say. Yes, there are bad Moms, just ask Oedipus.

Just saying,

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Cinema Buzz


- Another Actor Agrees With Me ...... They are finally getting it right!
- Deluxe and Technicolor Join Forces
- Eastwood Opens Up At CinemaCon

Downey Gets Down on Indie Films

Another actor has come forward in describing the movie industry and its fixation with indie films that are "exhausting to make and a lot of times suck."  That according to Robert Downey, Jr., one of Hollywood's highest paid and sought after actors.

On a promotional campaign for 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Downey got down in an interview and stated that independent film-makers are "inexperienced and lame for the most part".  As I've stated many times in this blog the big, blockbusters need to get their due.

When asked by an interviewer from Entertainment Weekly whether he ever felt like making a $500,000 budget indie movie, Downey's response was a flat, "No. Because they're exhausting and sometimes they suck and then you just go, "What was I thinking?"  The indie film makers are like, "Hey, man, we're just running a couple of days behind. Do you think you can stay through your birthday and then come back on the fourth of July? And, by the way, like the crew - can you pay for the craft services?"  Craft services are snacks provided on film sets between main meals.

Downey indicated that he has little patience with the snobbery of those in the indie industry.  Three cheers for Robert Downey. Finally actors are coming to the front and speaking out regarding the Hollywood hoi poloi and their films that make no money and have little entertainment value.

Deluxe and Technicolor Form Joint Venture

Together in a new venture, called, 'Deluxe Technicolor Digital Cinema', the new entity will specialize in cinema digital mastering, distribution, and key (movie codes) management.

The new venture will be managed by Deluxe and be based in Burbank, CA.  The company was conceived to streamline the D-Cinema distribution process and open the way to the next generation of immersive cinema entertainment without competing with each other. This will impact all movie exhibitors and hopefully make the distribution and running of movies easier and more efficient.

Both Technicolor, Inc. and Deluxe Entertainment Services Group have been in the movie industry from the beginning. Deluxe since 1915 and Technicolor since 1914.

Eastwood on Eastwood

At this year's CinemaCon, Clint Eastwood received the 'Legends of the Cinema Award'.  At 84, Eastwood is still going strong, having just seen his latest film, 'American Sniper' become a huge box office success.  On 'American Sniper' Eastwood said, "Everyone has opinions on it, but nobody's really thought about it from the point of view of the families of the people who volunteer for a belief that some of us think is a great idea and some of us don't thing is a great idea."

 As Man with No Name
Eastwood has had a long and very successful career - starting in TV, moving overseas to star in the famous spaghetti westerns, then into direction and production of a wide range of films including several that gave him Best Director Oscars - 'Unforgiven' (1992) and 'Million Dollar Baby' (2004), Regarding his career, Eastwood stated, "I ain't stopping when it comes to making movies, but I won't be doing any superhero movies."

Eastwood started his production company, Malpaso Productions in 1967.  He has starred in many of his films but there are many in which he did not appear, such as 'Mystic River'(2003), 'Letter from Iwo Jima' (2006), and the recent 'American Sniper' - most of which have won critical acclaim.

Clint deserves the 'Legends' award. We all owe him thanks for a great many hours of fine viewing entertainment.