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Friday, December 27, 2013


'Best Valued' Hollywood Stars 
Emma Stone, World's Most Valued Actor

Like any investment, a movie needs to make a profit so its backers get a return on their money.  A major component of a successful box office is the named actors which are cast in the movie. Some actors are more 'bankable' than others but even better are the stars with real 'bang for the buck' - those actors that return the most profit for each dollar invested. And, by this measure, it's the female actors that dominate.

Recently, Forbes Magazine issued a list of the 'best value' Hollywood stars, and three young female actors topped the list - Emma Stone, Mila Kunis, and Jennifer Lawrence.
Emma Stone, who appears in the Spider-man films was named "best value actor in the world", with a return of $80 per $1 invested in her!  Kunis was second with $68.70 per $1 paid, while Lawrence, was just behind, at $68.60 per $1. Natalie Portman, who stars in the Thor series, rounded out the top four with $31.30, pushing the male actors top stop to 5th place - that spot being held by Dwayne Johnson, who returned $31 for every dollar he was paid.

Unfortunately, for the women, their high dollar returns didn't negate the fact that older male actors are overwhelmingly the highest paid.  Robert Downey at $75m, Channing Tatum at $60m, and Hugh Jackman at $55m were the highest earners in Hollywood last year.  The highest paid female star was Angelina Jolie at $33m. None of the highest paid made the top ten list of best valued stars. Adam Sandler, holds the worst valued star position, with only a $3.40 return for every $1 paid - no surprise there.

The Top 10 Best Value Stars
1. Emma Stone - $80.70 per $1
2. Mila Kunis - $68.70 per $1
3. Jennifer Lawrence - $68.60 per $1
4. Natalie Portman - $31.30 per $1
5. Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) - $31.10 per $1
6. Daniel Craig - $25.60 per $1
7. Russell Crowe - $25.60 per $1
8. Kristen Stewart - $25 per $1
9. Robert Pattinson - $23.50 per $1
10. Taylor Lautner - $21.40 per $1

In related news, the Associated Press, which polls 70 of the top U.S. editors and news directors, gave their annual Entertainer of the Year Award to Jennifer Lawrence. She beat out Miley Cyrus, who came in second.  Besides the over $1.5b global box office of the Hunger Games films, Lawrence won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in 'Silver Linings Playbook' in 2013.

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Binge Viewing' - The New Normal

I feel sorry for the movie exhibitors that opted to purchase the most inexpensive digital cinema equipment for their film-to-digital conversion.  What they are left with is a dim, unexciting visual/aural presentation that, over time (a few years at most), will be so inferior that moviegoers will fore-go viewing movies at that cinema.

Binge watching is widely accepted by consumers

At the outset, I warned exhibitors that upon conversion they needed to ensure a 'presentation wow' factor'. That their presentations had to be better than high-definition TV and that their sound systems needed to be enhanced (if needed) to have the dynamic feel unattainable in consumers' living rooms.  Unfortunately, many exhibitors didn't heed my warning, but those that did will reap the benefits as moviegoers gravitate to their cinemas. This will be doubly true when movies are released day-and-date across all media outlets - which is inevitable.

To bolster my case, least CMG readers think I'm just blowing smoke, case in point. Harris Interactive, the polling company, recently conducted a survey which found that 'binge watching' is widespread behavior among adults aged 18-34, with 61% binging on a regular basis.  Of all people in the survey, 73% defined 'binge watching' as viewing between two and six movies or TV show episodes in one sitting.  Nearly 80% felt positive towards binge watching!

Binge watching has become a cultural phenomenon as people are changing their content viewing behaviors.  Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist, who has consulted for the major studios, Netflix, Apple, and Google told CMG, "Binge watching has really taken off.  The current content viewer is different, the couch potato has awoken.  Consumers now have control over what and how they view content."  McCracken believes our digital lifestyle where storytelling is often reduced to Twitter 144 character conversations, leaves us craving for a long narrative of storytelling. "Content viewers are no longer zoning out as a way to forget about their day, they are tuning in but on their own schedule."

According to Harris, 76% of viewers say watching several movies or multiple episodes of a TV show is a welcome refuge from their busy lives - with 80% saying that watching several movies at once is more enjoyable to them.  Nor is binge watching a solitary experience. Of respondents, 51% said they binge watch with at least one other person.

Cinemas must be aware and prepare for the changing competitive landscape in which they will find themselves.  Screening a so-so movie presentation, unimaginative concession offerings, and poor showmanship will not cut it.  Those cinemas that have heeded our warning and are adjusting and making the require commitments will be the big winners as the future unfolds.

Jim Lavorato

Friday, December 20, 2013

CMG's Christmas Gift Selections

Perfect gift suggestions from Cinema Mucho Gusto need to be useful, thoughtful, and technology-forward.  With this in mind, our 2013 Christmas gift selections are:

The Smart Toupee

A Sony Patent Drawing for Smart Toupee
For the man or woman who has everything but hair, the Smart Toupee is the perfect gift. Created and patented by Sony Electronics, these hairpieces can notify wearers of text messages, phone calls, or emails.

Termed a 'wearable computing device' the wig is adapted to cover part or all of the head with, at least, one sensor for providing input data, a processing unit, and communication interface. The wig is designed to provide tactile feedback directly to the scalp.  The sensors notify the wearer of incoming text messages, phone calls, emails, or in concert with GPS, to alert the wearer when they are going in the wrong direction.

Yes, the Smart Toupee is the gift that will set you apart in showing appreciation for the bald folks (or wannabe baldies) in your life. Pair it with a set of Google Glasses.

A Gift Card for Ghost Texting Software

Ghost Texting is communicating with the dead.  No, its not through the use of a Ouija Board, medium, or psychic but the digital domain.  It is software that ingests all of a person's previous public content and develops an interactive artificial intelligence blog that communicates through text messages. It could be your giftee's next 'Friend' category on Facebook.

To further enhance and upgrade the dead's communication skills, the opportunity to provide his/her personal emails, videos, pictures, and prior social network postings to the program will allow for phone conversation.  Hmmm..... Creepy but a great gift suggestion, nonetheless.

The Sit and Be Fit Stool

Why pay for the cost of a gym membership.  Why feel the need to workout. Just give your best friend or relative the Sit and Be Fit Stool.  Designed as an ergonomic exercise chair for office or home work environments these whimsical cuties - a cross between a traditional stool and an accordion - bend and flex. It provides that all day workout your giftee needs as they work their core chatting with staff or co-workers, it's the best workout device since the ThighMaster.

The Alcohoot

For $119 you can gift a breathalyzer that plugs into the audio port on a Smartphone or tablet.  So for the friend or relative who likes to throw back a few, this is the perfect gift.  No more need to rely on their own inner sobriety tester the Alcohoot does it all.
It boasts, "law enforcement grade" sensors, paired with an internal pump and pressure sensor.  And, each year, for $30, the folks at Alcohoot will ship you a brand new device along with a shipping label to return the old one.

So, your giftee can drink up and then test themselves before getting behind the wheel.


PointGrab turns your finger into a remote control!  Imagine dimming the lights simply by pointing at the switch. Or, turning on a microwave without leaving your couch. PointGrab makes this a reality.   A TV can be controlled simply by pointing at it.

Termed 'gesture-based functionality', PointGrab says that "our technology allows users to point at lights, air conditioners, and other appliances to turn them on and off.  For the real couch potato on your X-Mas list this is the gift that will keep on giving and giving.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I like the Coen Brothers' films - they are different, edgy, unpredictable. Like Kubrick, the Coens attack the audience, leaving them with unanswered questions of good v. evil, right v. wrong.
Coen antiheros
Joel (59) and Ethan (56) Coen started out making 8mm films as youngsters. Joel is married to actress Frances McDormand (who has starred in 6 Coen movies) they have one child.  Ethan is married to film editor, Tricia Cooke, they have two children. Both brothers live in NYC.  The Coens began their professional movie careers with the release of  'Blood Simple' in 1984. That film, like others in the Coen repertoire has become a cult classic. Including the just released 'Inside Llewyn Davis', the Coens have produced 16 feature films: Blood Simple (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), Intolerable Cruelty (2003), The Lady Killers (2009), No Country For Old Men (2004), Burn After Reading (2008), A Serious Man (2009), True Grit (2010), and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).

To label their films 'noir' would be too easy as they are much more Sisyphean. Gloomy, flawed characters who rise to the occasion only to fall because of their inner demons.  Coen films have quirky, twist and turn plots with people placed in unnatural circumstances.  More visual than narrative, for Coen antiheros it all about waking up to a nightmare - and that's what makes Coen films so enjoyable and engaging.

I have recently begun to re-watch all of the Coen films, many of which have been critically acclaimed.  Their latest, 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is no exception. It depicts a week in the life of a folk singer in NYC in 1961. It stars Oscar Isaac as Llewyn and Carey Mulligan, as his girlfriend Jean. "Everything you touch turns to shit. Like King Midas' idiot brother", says Jean and the movie proves her right. Winner of the Cannes Grand Prix, one of the American Film Institute's top ten films of 2013, and the nominee of three Golden Globe Awards, 'Inside Llewyn Davis is Oscar bound.

The Coens (photo of Ethan and Joel with Oscars) next project is what they have referred to as the third installment of their "numbskull trilogy", its current title is 'Hail Caesar', the other two numbskulls being 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' and 'Intolerable Cruelty'. George Clooney, who starred in the first two, is slated for the 'Hail Caesar' lead. Besides Frances McDormand and George Clooney, the Coens have used many of the same actors in their films, including: Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, Jon Polito, and John Turturro.

The Coens have been nominated for 13 Academy Awards and have won four.  They have 20 Golden Globe nominations with three wins. I believe these numbers will all change in 2014 with Oscar and Globe wins.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, December 14, 2013

CINEMA BuzzFEED - 13 December 2013

Best Selfie of  2013
Best Selfie of 2013

Why do people take selfies?  Two reasons: Look At Me! or I Was Here!

Well, for me, the best selfie of the year (although you don't get to see a face) was taken by Astronaut Luca Parmitano on his space walk.  You see the void of space with the earth reflected on his visor.  You decide.

Let The Games Begin

The fun of picking the best films et. al. of 2013 has started and will culminate on March 2nd when the Oscars are presented.  Two of the most influential prognosticators are the American Film Institute and the Golden Globe nominations.

For 2013 the AFI's top 10 movies are:

American Hustle (Columbia/Sony)      Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)
Captain Phillips (Columbia/Sony)       Nebraska (Paramount)
Fruitvale Station (Weinstein)               Saving Mr. Banks (Disney)
Gravity (Warner Bros.)                        Twelve Years a Slave (Fox)
Her (Warner Bros.)                              The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount)

According to the AFI, these films "best advance the art of the moving image, enhance the rich cultural heritage of America's art form, inspire audiences and artists alike and/or make a mark on American society."

Prominent films excluded from the AFI list: The Hunger Games, The Butler, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyer Club, All Is Lost, and Labor Day.

The Golden Globes, which include both movies and TV shows, are much more extensive than the AFI selections.  Within their movie related nominations the Golden Globe include:

Best Drama, Comedy, or Musical:

American Hustle (Columbia/Sony)           Twelve Years a Slave (Fox)
Her (Warner Bros.)                                  Captain Phillips (Columbia/Sony)
Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)            Gravity (Warner Bros.)
Nebraska (Paramount)                             Philomena (Weinstein)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount)       Rush (Universal)

Best Actor:                                                            Best Actress:

Chiwetel Ejiofor - Twelve Years a Slave              Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Idria Elba - Mandela                                            Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips                              Judi Dench - Philomena
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club     Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Robert Redford - All Is Lost                                 Kate Winslet - Labor Day

We still have the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the MTV Movie Awards, Scream Awards, and Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards that have yet to be posted, just to name several.

Behind The Curve - Big Time 

Whether the cinema industry, cable or broadcast TV, satellite company, cell phone or internet provider, or web-based retailer - communications law reform is desperately needed to take our society into the future. However, our behind-the-curve federal government is literally decades behind in terms of dealing with the communication issues confronting us.

A perfect example of this governmental incompetence is that it was just this past August that the House of Representatives voted to repeal the FCC requirement to report to Congress on the status of the telegraph. I'll repeat that.... the telegraph!  As of today, however, the Senate has yet to act, so the telegraph report obligation by the FCC is still required. 

Unfortunately for Congress, in the face of all their ineptitude, the digital domain progresses on, stopping for no-one, including the U.S. Government.  Communications delivery mechanisms are morphing and effect every facet of our lives, yet - current regulations are so antiquated it would be laughable if it were not such a serious matter. Congress watches (as spectators) as technology moves ahead: TV on tablets, movies distributed via satellite (and eventually the internet), gaming consoles as primary communication devices, cell phones as payment systems - digital technology moves relentlessly and ever forward. The Congress and Obama Administration need to enact legislation that frees up bandwidth, delineates the boundaries  of video distribution, addresses questions regarding cybersecurity and privacy protection and these are just several issues that need immediate legislative action.

CMG's take: The chances for progressive communications legislation before 2016 (and perhaps beyond) are nil; therefore, it is best that Congress and the Obama Administration just do as they have been doing - staying out of the way, reading the telegraph report, and letting technology and the marketplace dictate the future.                                                                    
Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Lamarr was MGM '40s Star
Everyday when you use a wifi enabled device or make a call on your cell phone a technology called 'spread spectrum' is at work.  Essentially, it enables a radio signal to be spread across the entire available radio spectrum - increasing that signal's speed and quality.  The odd thing, is that this very valuable technology was invented by a 1940's Hollywood siren - Hedwig Kiesler, who was better known by her stage name:  Hedy Lamarr.

Lamarr's story is not only engaging but very fascinating and inspirational.  She said that the secret of her beauty was "to stand there and look stupid" - but in realty she was anything but.  She was a genius and math prodigy, who was not only an actor but inventor.  She juggled these endeavors with six marriages. Her beauty made her rich but her great accomplishments resulted from her intellect and inventions, which are still shaping the way we live today.

Hedy Lamarr's interest in wireless communications began in the 1930s. At that time she was married to Friedrich Mandl, then Austria's leading arms maker and supplier to the Nazis.  One of the most interesting topics for Mendl and his customers was the technology surrounding radio-controlled missiles and torpedoes. Wireless weapons offered far greater ranges than the wire-controlled alternatives.  Lamarr sat through Mendl's meetings and dinners "looking stupid" while absorbing all the information on the subject.  In 1937, Hedy left Mandl and escaped to London, selling her jewelry to finance her trip and new household.  In London, Lamarr met with Louis B. Meyer, then head of Metro, Goldwyn, Meyer (MGM) Studios, and signed an acting contract. She became one of MGM's biggest stars. In 1942, at the height of her acting fame, she invented a new kind of communications system, optimized for sending coded messages that couldn't be jammed.  Her innovation was encoding a message across a broad area of the wireless spectrum - if one part of the spectrum was jammed, the message would still get through on another frequency.

In August of 1942, Hedy Kiesler Markey (her married name at that time) was granted a U.S. patent for the 'spread spectrum' technology. Born in Vienna in 1914, she died in 2000 at the age of 85. She had three children.  At 18 she began her film career in a movie entitled 'Ecstasy'.  The film was widely acclaimed but notorious for Lamarr's facial close-up during a simulated orgasm and brief nude scenes.  Her memoir, entitled "Ecstasy and Me" was published in 1967.

Almost no one knows who Hedwig Kiesler was and less know that she was the pioneer in wireless communications.  Many do know Hedy Lamarr, the actress, but not the great inventor.  Hollywood should take note.  Hedy Lamarr's life story should be made into a movie - it's a special tale that need telling.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, December 07, 2013

CINEMA BuzzFEED - 7 December 2013

Diaz and Cruz in The Counselor

Time Magazine couldn't wait until year's end to post their 10 worst films of 2013, I guess figuring nothing could stink more than the 10 already selected.  In order of 'stink to stunk', following is the Time's list (commentary is mine):

- The Hangover III - Three definitely wasn't a charm. Bad film.
- Oz the Great & Powerful - Nothing great or powerful in this flim.
- The Counselor - A waste of top talent. Diaz's performance only reason to watch.
- The Big Wedding - Need to work hard at making a farce of this magnitude.
- Only God Forgives - Like waiting in line at the DMV - Borrrrring
- R.I.P.D. - Yeah .... and the title was the best thing about this film.
- After EarthScientology, as a life philosophy, belongs in Sci Fi.
- The Host - Thank God, no sequels are planned.
- Salinger - A bio on J.D. A great novel deserves a great film - this wasn't it.
..... and the worst film of 2013
- Grown Up 2 - Tiresome and witless film about aging frat-brothers solving life's adult male problems of: Urination, Defecation, Drooling, and sundry Scrotum issues. Sandler's latest bomb.  How does he get funding for these films?


Although fresh on the heels of the awful, untimely death of Paul Walker, there was some very good news for one of the 'F & F' family' this week. It was announced on Wednesday, that Gal Gadot won the part to play Wonder Woman in the forthcoming Batman v. Superman movie - ending months of speculation over whether Wonder Woman would appear in the film.  The movie, yet untitled, is known to center on a conflict between Superman and Batman and along with Wonder Woman, will also feature superheros:  The Flash and Nightwing  (neither of these roles have been cast as yet).

Gadot, a former model and Miss Israel tweeted, "Wonder Woman! So exciting!!! Can't express how happy I am:))))"  If the film is a hit, it is expected that Warner Bros. will produce a Wonder Woman solo film. Along with Gadot will be Ben Affleck, playing Batman (he has signed a multiple film contract) and Henry Cavill, who reappears, as Superman.

Linda Carter (62), who played Wonder Woman in the TV show, tweeted, "Congratulations to Gal Gadot!"  However, some reaction to Gadot's casting was mixed.  Comments like, "She's very pretty, but looks like she'd snap in half if leaned on her the wrong way." were blogged.  We can only wait and see, good luck Gal.


Having been under scrutiny over the past few years by the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies, Google has turned-the-tables and is suing the U.S. Government regarding requests for information on its users.

Having growing concerns with the amount of information about its users that the government is requesting Google is pushing back. In its most recent report detailing U.S. Government information requests, Google stated that these requests have increased by more than 100% since 2010.  In its suit, Google is requesting that it be allowed to make public the requests it receives for information reported under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which the government wants keep secret.
Additionally, Google wants legislation that would require a warrant, based on probable cause, before forcing Google to disclose the content of the any user's electronic communications.

CMG believes Google has a better than fair chance of winning its suit as the requests for information on user searches and emails by a myriad of  U.S. government agencies - many unrelated to national security - has proliferated under the Obama administration. To bolster its suit, Google has been very aggressive is shutting down pirated content on YouTube which clearly benefits the cinema and other media industries.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Best Movie Restaurants - MPAA Blasted on Oral Sex - Top 10 Sports Movies

CMG's List of the Best Movie Restaurants

I consider myself a 'foodie'.  I do not cook, at all, but I do enjoy eating all sorts and types of food prepared by others - from street vendors in Singapore and food trucks in Buffalo, to culinary on-the-edge joints like Alinea's in Chicago or La Bernardine's in NYC. So, I thought it would be a good idea to 'pair' my love for food with my favorite movie restaurants.  They are in no particular order and I'm sure you have favorites of your own - please share.

1. Mos Eisley Cantina - Star Wars - Featured the Modal Nodes Band
2. Jack Rabbit Slim's - Pulp Fiction - '50s style landmark
3. Rick's Café American - Casablanca - Never was a 'real' Rick's
4. Cafeteria (Univ. of Oregon) - Animal House - Belushi at his best
5. Korova Milk Bar - A Clockwork Orange - LSD laced milkshake, anyone
6. Louis Restaurant (the Bronx) - The Godfather - Dining mob-style
7. Katz's Deli - When Harry Met Sally - NYC landmark
8. Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo - Kill Bill - Bloody rare
9. Copacabana - Goodfellas - Wise-guy central
10. Grafton's Saloon - Shane - "a low-down Yankee lair"

Oral Sex - Not Mainstream, Yet

Evan Rachel Wood blasted the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for demanding that the scenes featuring oral sex be cut from her latest film.  Wood's (26) is starring in 'Charlie Countryman' which would have received an 'NC-17' rating vs. the 'R' rating it has if the oral sex scenes were not omitted.

After viewing the edited version, Wood took to Twitter and described the MPAA action as, "Symptomatic of a society that is frightened of female sexuality.  I would like 2 share my disappointment with the MPAA, who thought it was necessary to censor a woman's sexuality once again. The scene where the two main characters make love was altered because someone felt that seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people 'uncomfortable'.  This is a symptom of a society that wants to shame women and put them down for enjoying sex".

'Charlie Countryman' received the 'R' rating by the MPAA once the oral sex scenes were cut in fear of receiving the dreaded 'NC-17' rating (anyone under 18 not admitted) which can spell box office disaster as the large cinema chains will not exhibit films with an 'NC-17'.

CMG's take: Like most things in society, the more frequent - the more accepted. So, the more film-makers feature oral sex in their movies the less offensive it becomes until it is viewed as normal and not taboo.

10 Best Sports Movies

Published in England since 1791, The Observer, is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper. It also prints some of the best 'top ten lists' and recently it ran a list of the 10 Best Sports Movies. Here is their list:

1. Raging Bull/Boxing
2. The Hustler/Pool
3. Hoop Dreams/Basketball
4. The Wrestler/Professional Wrestling (photo: Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler)
5. Jerry Maquire/Football
6. Point Break/Surfing
7. Bull Durham/Baseball
8. Slap Shot/Hockey
9. Olympia/1936 Olympics
10. This Sporting Life/Rugby
Can't say I disagree.

Jim Lavorato