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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cinema BUZZ by Seymour Flix

The Best Awards Show

SMASH Global Pre-Oscar Gala
Ah, entertainment awards season. It's getting to a saturation point and it's hard to keep up with all of the festivities (if you like that sort of thing).  The Emmys, Grammys, Academy, Golden Globes, SAG, Critics Choice, People's Choice, and on and on and on.

Starting in November (with the noms for the Emmys) and ending in June it's one black-tie affair after another. But the Show that stands-out against all others is the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) SMASH Global Pre-Oscar Gala, which was celebrated last Sunday. Now this is a party! This bash is the only one that provides attendees with a four-course meal and top-shelf, all-you-can swill, drinks. It also features a fight ring in the middle of the ballroom where MMA contestants battle it out between meal courses.

This was the first year for SMASH and the big winner was Steven Seagal for his many years of producing, directing, and starring in action-films  Seagal is a seventh-degree Aikido black belt and is also a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  When asked which movie he voted for best picture he said, "I've seen all of this year's nominees and I like 'Hacksaw Ridge' quite a bit, but I thought it was a bad year for films. I didn't like much." Seagal, who is currently in Thailand making a movie, has dual citizenship (he was granted Russian citizenship several years ago). "I think that we need to be friends. I think Russia and America should be brothers, but I am an American and always will be."

A large part of the proceeds from SMASH (which will be an annual event) went to the non-profit charity 'For Veterans, By Veterans'. 

SMASH founder, Steve Orosco, told CMG, "MMA matches are viewed by a wide demographic. It includes everyone from hedge-fund managers and doctors to people who wear Tap Out t-shirts and drink Bud. At some point MMA will overtake professional boxing in popularity."

Cheap Streep

Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic clothing fashion designer and current head of Chanel says, "Meryl Streep is cheap, very cheap."

The kerfuffle started when Streep contacted Chanel and told them she was interested in wearing a gray silk gown she had seen in Lagerfeld's most recent couture collection to the Oscars. The $105,000 dress was ordered and custom-made to Streep's size. However, right after hearing that the dress was ready for fitting Streep notified Lagerfeld (by messenger) that she wanted to be paid to wear the dress.

"Chanel", Lagerfeld told Streep, "has a policy of not paying celebrities to wear its clothes. He further stated,  "We gift the dress but she wanted us to pay for her to wear it. We give them dresses, we make the dress, but we don't pay. She can keep the dress because of the size. It's couture. It's perfect. She's very cheap." 

For her part, Streep stated, "He lied and Women's Wear Daily printed the lie"  Hmmmmm, fake news Meryl?  Doesn't that make you mad?  Problem I have is why would Lagerfeld make up such a story. I'll be looking for the gray dress tonight.

Just saying,

Friday, February 24, 2017

Spectacles: The Next Thing For Short-Films

Snap, Inc. (parent of SnapChat) refers to itself as a "camera company",  its goal, "to reinvent the camera." To this end, Snap is launching video-enabled sunglasses, called Spectacles, available in the U.S. starting this Monday.

The glasses cost $130 and are designed to capture and upload 10-second videos to SnapChat.  The videos are in a circular format vs. the normal rectangle dimensions of camera pictures.  Spectacles have been previously sold in selected cities via SnapChat vending machines and at a pop-up store in Manhattan.  The limited introduction was to gauge consumer demand and afford a proof of concept.

Starting Monday, the glasses can be purchased at www.Spectacles.com in either black, teal, or coral.  The pop-up store has now been closed but the bright yellow vending machines will continue to appear in "surprising locations throughout the country."

SnapChat has about 70 million daily users so even if just a small portion opt to purchase Spectacles it would equate to major, new revenue for Snap.  Thus far, wearable web-based devices have not been very successful with consumers - i.e. the recent withdrawal of Google Glass from the marketplace. but Snap thinks they have a winner with Spectacles.

Spectacles connect directly to the SnapChat app on smartphones via Bluetooth or WiFi and capture the short videos with a 115-degree field-of-view.  The glasses charge-up in the included case and are good for one-full day of Snapping.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oscar Swag Bag Doesn't Disappoint

Each year CMG delves into the freebies that the Oscar nominees will receive in their goody-bag. This year's bag is valued at over $250,000 and completely over-shadows the paltry $32,000 bag Adele and Beyonce received for the Grammys.

However, word has it, that not all the giftees are enthralled by their booty as the IRS says tax must be paid on the value of the swag - which in many cases, given the high incomes of the recipients, is over $100,000. So, the loot is culled by the Oscar hopefuls, keeping only the most precious and valuable and the rest given to charity. OMG I'm teary over the generosity of the glitterati.

This year's bounty includes such items as: CPR lessons, apples that don't turn brown when cut, a golden crayon, and lots of expensive get-aways.  I should note that the Oscar swag bags are completely unaffiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

2017's bags are entitled, "Everyone Wins" and are delivered to the recipients the week prior to the Oscar ceremonies. Some of the more expensive items included:

- 15 day walking tour of Japan - $54,000
- 10 day, all expenses paid trip to Israel - $55,000
- 3 night stay at Lost Coast Ranch, CA for 10 guests - $40,000.
- 5 night stay at Koloa Landing, Poipu, Hawaii - $6,500.
- 1 week stay at the Golden Door Spa, CA - $8,800
- 3 night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento, Italy - $5,400
- 3 night stay at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como, Italy - $5,700

Some off-beat stuff:
- Joseph Toilet Paper - $275
- Personalized M&Ms - $300
- Vampire Breast Lift - $1,900 (search me?)
- Park Clinic Plastic Surgery - $5,500

Best Gift, in my opinion:
- 10,000 meal donation to an animal shelter or rescue of choice - $6,300

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Oscars: Still Not Diverse Enough or #OscarsSoAgeist

Forget about race, gender, and sexual preference - to reach true diversity the Academy Awards have to think about longevity!

A new study, conducted by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and the Humana Health Insurance Company, has revealed that age is not being fully addressed in reaching true Oscar diversity and age discrimination is taking place in Hollywood on a massive scale.

The study found that less than 12% of the 1,256 speaking characters in the last 25 best picture nominees were 60 years or older. Additionally, of the 100 highest grossing films of 2015, only 11% included characters aged 59 or older. Stacy Smith, co-author of the study told CMG, "We often talk about diversity by including the usual suspects of race, gender, sex preference, and disabilities but age is left completely out."

Note: In the U.S., people over 60 account for 19% of the population and generated 14% of 2016's cinema admissions.

Perhaps, more importantly, the study found that Hollywood is demeaning towards seniors, often depicting them as doddering, physically challenged, or feeble-minded. Best picture nominees between 2014-16 included only one leading role to anyone over 60 - that being Michael Keaton in 'Birdman'. This year, only Denzel Washington, who is 60, played a leading role in 'Fences'.

Well, as far as CMG is concerned - if this ain't bigotry, what is? Old folks unite. Where is the justice? It is high-time we put a stop to Hollywood's discriminatory practice of the willfully shunning and exclusion of geezers. There is no diversity without seniors getting their fair (and honestly-won) share of Oscars.  This lack of human decency must stop. The Academy must give fogies their due. And, don't forget, golden-agers come in any color, sexual persuasion, or gender - so it's a diversity two-fer.

Make Hollywood Great Again!

In a related topic, noted film-maker James Cameron recently stated that, "there is definitely a bias at the Academy against blockbusters in favor of dramas that make no money." True statement? Of course. For example, in 2016 of the 25 highest grossing movies only two were none blockbuster type films - 'Hidden Figures' and 'La La Land' which ranked 23th and 24th respectively.

At the box office, it's all about 'Star Wars' and 'Finding Dory'  but at the Oscars it's 'Manchester By The Sea' and 'La La Land'. There is a real disconnect between what moviegoers pay to view and what the Academy deems worthy of awarding.

Correcting this disparity calls for a CMG solution. That being, every Oscar nominated film must generate a minimum amount of commercial success for it to be considered for an award. Now, I wait to get all of the emails and twits from the cinema purists who are going to argue that this would be unfair because all that you would get for nominees would be high-impact franchises, animated kid-flix, comedies, fantasy, and super-hero films. What, no boring, over-scripted, over-hyped bladder films. No old, tired-themed dramas and message films with the same casts receiving their obligatory nominations year-after-year. The Oscars need a shake-up, a renewal, a reset to a modern era to make Hollywood great again.

Movie-goers don't care about coming-of-age tear-jerkers or personal struggle message films - they have that everyday in their own lives. What they seek is escape from that 'real world' into a world of fantasy and fun, for a few precious hours.

So, why are all of these mediocre 'nothing films' produced?  Well, the industry needs, what I term "marquee fodder". Both Hollywood and cinema exhibitors need a constant flow of product and these, mostly low budget, films fit the bill. The Academy goes along with the scheme because it's in their best interest to do so. The big-budget box office bruisers generate the vast majority of ticket sales but receive no accolades while low-budget dramas, that number in the many, but viewed by the few are heaped with kudos. That's the way it is and it needs to be changed.

Just saying,

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Internet Providers and H'wood at Odds on Piracy

You Maybe Able to Hide Now
The major internet service providers (ISPs) are ending their participation in the four year-old Copyright Alert System, whereby consumers received a 'copyright alert' when viewing peer-to-peer pirated content.

Started in 2013 the policy was viewed as a major way to fight movie and TV show piracy. How the system worked was that any user who received six alerts would suffer legal penalties, which included the slowing-down of their internet content delivery - this penalty being administered by the various ISPs.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) cited lax enforcement of  penalties by the ISPs as to why the system was being shut-down. In a statement issued by the MPAA it stated, "an estimated 981 million movies and TV shows were downloaded in the U.S. in 2016 using P2P piracy. The provisions under the Digital Copyright Act are not being enforced by the ISPs, particularly against repeat violators."  So, after four years of extensive consumer education and engagement the Copyright Alert System will cease to exist.

The flaw in the Alert System that it is based upon an erroneous premise - that consumers were unaware that they were pirating content and once informed would stop, but the opposite is true.
The use of content piracy has grown, not lessened, and not only for P2P  content, but even more so with online streaming.

Now that they are full-on competitors in the content game, the ISPs have no interest in helping the Hollywood studios fight piracy. In fact, the more content that is pirated the more the ISPs make. There is no incentive for them in curtailing consumers use of the internet service they provide.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

European Union vs. Movie-makers - Who Will Win

Another leak in the Eurodike
For years the cinema industry, led by the Hollywood studios, and the European Union have fought over the issue of a single digital market.  In a nutshell, the issue is that the European Union wants digital content licensed in one E.U. country be available to all E.U. countries.

 Problem: content providers want the ability to license their property on a country-by-country basis. Why? Because it would be very difficult to obtain financing for any project where negotiating distribution rights (particularly with regards to replay of content throughout Europe) would be eliminated.  Additionally, there is the problem of consumers viewing movies and TV shows in a non-production country before it is viewed in the originating country that financed the project.

"At stake is the future ability to finance production, marketing and distribution in Europe by co-production deals and/or pre-selling future distribution rights", says Benoit Ginisty, of the Federation of Film Producers Association of Europe. What is at issue here is the control of intellectual property rights. If the E.U. has its way copyright and IP rights of films and TV shows are rendered void.

The E.U. Council of Ministers is made up of representatives from all 28 member states and the Council makes decisions based not on unanimous vote but by a qualified majority vote. So, although France and Germany have stated their opposition to the E.U. proposal it may still be voted in.

What the opponents to the E.U. proposal want is a re-do, a "fundamental course correction" says Ginisty, "as the proposal on the table is unworkable."

CMG agrees with the content providers.  They should have the right to strike distribution deals in any country they choose.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

CMG's Oscar Picks

Just a quick post on CMG's favorite selections for an Oscar win. This in no way is what I feel were the best films but those that I believe will win the awards.

Best Picture: La La Land
Best Actor: Casey Affleck - Manchester By The Sea
Best Actress: Emma Stone - La La Land
Best Supporting Actor: Maharshala Ali - Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis - Fences
Best Director: Damien Chazelle - La La Land

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Cinema Mucho Gusto 10 Years After

CMG turns 11
Now in its 11th year, I'm happy to say that CMG has grown in global viewership and now experiences over 7500 individual views per month! For a blog that has never been promoted or advertised this is a giant feat in the realm of social media.

Not only has viewership grown but it is very diverse. For example, in January CMG experienced 7728 views and although dominated by U.S. viewers, there were hundreds more in many other countries. January's top 10 viewing countries were: U.S., France, Germany, Greece, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Indonesia, and Portugal.

CMG has endeavored to be direct and honest in its reporting and has made an effort to backup its satirical commentary and opinions with true facts (in most cases with quotes from the original source). This is why, I believe, viewership continues to grow on a worldwide basis.

I want CMG to be edgy and humorous while relevant - in other words, entertaining. That has been the goal from the outset and that will be the mantra going forward.

My sincere thanks and I will continue to provide you with the best, most relevant, most witty commentary on the cinema and entertainment industry.

Warm regards,

Friday, February 03, 2017

Disney's $100 million 'Poaching' Payout

Last week the Disney Co. agreed to pay $100 million to settle claims that it colluded with other studios to not hire each others workers - so called, 'no-poaching pacts'.

Disney was the last defendant in a class-action lawsuit alleging several studios conspired to suppress wages through an 'agreement' to not recruit each others workers. Comcast Corp's Dream Works Animation previously paid out $50 million, while Sony Pictures and Blue Sky Studios each paid $19 million.

High-rollers Order-up $15,000 Dinners:

A bit 'stuffy' for me
In another Disney story, and one which may help pay for that $100 million lawsuit, a new restaurant in Disneyland called 21 Royal will serve you up dinner for a cool $15,000.  Now, that is enough for a family of four to eat pretty well for a year but that is what it will take to dine in insane lavishness in what Disney-folk call, "a night of pure Magic".

So, what does one get for $15,000 at 21 Royal. First, the restaurant is located in the opulent, and secret, apartment that Walt Disney constructed for himself in the middle of the Disneyland park. You can dine alone or with up to 11 other guests.

The whole experience is 5-6 hours long and starts with a cocktail reception with fine wines, liquors, and hors d'oeuvres with (if you wish) a Disney historian to explain the history of Walt and his famous living quarters.  After the reception you and your guests will be served a seven course, made-to-order gourmet meal based upon your tastes and food preferences. It's then off to the balcony and look-out over the Park and a fireworks display.

Hmmm..... for $15k I could come up with a magical experience lots better for myself... but that's me.

Just saying,