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Monday, September 22, 2014

The 'SCENE' by Seymore Flix

Make 'em Laugh ... Make 'em Laugh ... Make 'em Laugh

According to Greg Foster, Head honcho at IMAX  (the movie theatres with the XXL screens), audiences are now looking for 'happy films'.  Speaking at a recent conference, Foster stated, "Maybe people are getting a little sick of the post-apocalyptic, dark, angst-ridden, suicidal movies.  There's maybe a few to many of those (films). "

If true, Foster should be taking to the studios which have nothing but super-hero and darker mooded, vampire and undead movies planned for the foreseeable future.  Now, it may be that the average moviegoer is tiring of all of the high-impact, fantasy genre films, but they still reign supreme at the box office.  Perhaps lighter, funnier fare is to become the next big thing in movies, but I don't think so. The top ten grossing films so far this year included 8 high impact, fantasy movies: Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, Transformers, Maleficent, X-Men, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Spider Man, and Godzilla, only The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street bucked the trend.

That trend will continue in 2015, as the big bruiser films are going to be more of the same: Avengers, Star Wars, a Bond film, Ant-Man, Terminator, Fast & Furious 7, Batman v. Superman, and on and on.  Yes, there will be funny moments and lines in each of these films by there overall purpose is shock. awe, escapism, and in-your-face special effects.

Sorry Greg, but I think what you term "dark and angst-ridden" films will be with us for some time to come - and the 'make 'em laugh' films will be second stringers.

Movies Loss Is TV's Gain

As I noted before in CMG, it's TV and not movies that hold the most promise for directors, writers, actors, and the multitude of highly skilled that are required to make good entertainment.

In the past decade, the studios have shifted their business models toward making fewer, bigger would-be blockbuster bruisers based on a comic, a toy, a video game, a sci-fi or fantasy novel.  The movies that make up the foundation of the American cinema (dramas with adult storylines are few and far between).

Veteran scriptwriters, like Scott Frank, who has been writing movies for over 30 years says, "It's gotten harder and harder to make movies about people. I could never get a movie like 'Get Shorty' green lit today. It took me more than a decade to get 'A Walk Among the Tombstones' - which opened this past weekend- to reach the big screen." 

In this environment most of the younger screenwriters are going right to TV where there is lots of work and they can be creative.  "There's been a big change in the time I've been doing this, and that's been the rise of marketing-based decision making," says Frank, "Everything comes from marketing. Marketing is now even part of the greenlight process. Once you believe you have a formula and you know what people are going to see, all the movies tend to become similar."  But the movies loss is TV gain - as most of the younger top talent is gravitating to TV and cable productions, particularly serial productions.

As we have reported, moviegoers may be getting a bit tired of the high-impact, action film and need more 'story' to fill their entertainment needs. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as the big tech firms, as well as, the content streamers get involved and set the tone and pace of what is viewed on the small and big screen.

S. Flix

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Most Valuable Product on the Web - YOU!

If you are using a free online service its sponsors are mining your data for information to sell to 'advertisers and other third parties' - it's that simple. The service providers primary product isn't what you are using - it's YOU!

All internet service providers are 'for profit entities'.  They need to make money. They make money by selling ad space and information about who is using their service.  Only last week, Google began a class action law suit whereby it plans on arguing that it's not a violation of privacy to scan your emails, build a profile about your interests and proclivities, and sell that information to third party clients - because to Google, using G-mail gives you "no legitimate expectation of privacy". To Google, G-mail isn't the product ... you're the product.

Now, in all fairness, the products being served up for free - search, email, social networking, phone access, etc. - are in exchange for your data and that business model works very well. In fact, these web service providers clearly state in their privacy policies (be it in the small print) that "this is what kind of information we collect and who we share it with".  Facebook doesn't even call their privacy policy a "Privacy Policy", they call it a "Data Use Policy".

The question then becomes, would you be willing to pay for your favorite free (and additive) service such as Facebook, YouTube, email, etc. or would you drop them?  And at what level of cost would you draw the line?  When you pay, you have more control because you can then demand an opt-out system be put in place so your data is not shared.  The main goal of the service providers is getting money for data collection and disbursement so you have to pay them for not dispersing your data.

Don't forget, anything you put on the web is not yours! You don't own it and have no legal right to it. Once posted - memo, letter, text, photo - it is the property of the service provider.  So, maybe it's time to break the 'free habit' and stop all of the superfluous personal data flow. Stop and take control of your vanity and not have your 'life' sold to others to manipulate and influence. Or maybe not because you don't mind having your personal information sold and you love the free services you are getting and using on a daily basis.


Friday, September 12, 2014

The "SCENE" by Seymore Flix

Film .... Movie - Is There a Difference?

To me the words, Film and Movie, are interchangeable, but I could be wrong (this once).  I think a 'film'  describes the art form. You never hear the term, "movie school' or 'movie festival'  or "movie studies'.  It's all about 'film school' and ''film studies. 'Film critics' not 'movie critics'.

The term 'movie' is more commercial. Referring to moving pictures. Studios make movies, directors make films.  The term  'movies' can refer to the media or a venue - "We're going to the movies".  You're never, "going to the films".

Film, refers to the medium, the art form. Like painting, photography, or glassblowing.  Film elevates the sense of what making movies is all about.  Critics could only be taken seriously as 'film critics', this title gives them juice and import. Yet, aren't the terms synonymous?  Great films are embedded in movies, it's that simple.  The term 'film', in the digital age, is a throw-back. When was the last time you bought a roll of film?  Even in movie production, film is used, but less and less. Very few cinemas have film projectors, and those that are remaining will soon be relics of  technology - as they should be.

'Film' vs. 'Movie' who cares. Just serve up some good ones.

Kate Moss, 40 - no cosmetic work - it's in the genes

Unfortunately, Joan Rivers decided to have one too many cosmetic procedures.  And as we all know, even the simplest of surgeries comes with a fair amount of risk.  Thus today's discussion: breasts, particularly celeb breasts. Viral on the web, last week, were the photos of famous women's breasts, as hackers had infiltrated their cell phones and posted their 'nipple selfies' online.  Why celebs feel the need to take selfies of their breasts begs a larger phychological question, we are only interested in the news of nipples.

For example, the actor Michelle Rodrequez, has championed a "free the nipple" cause. To the point where she has designed a T-shirt boasting boobs censored with duct tape over the nipples. Keira Knightly, who posed topless for 'Interview' magazine, says there is nothing wrong with female nudity.

Well, maybe not female, but in Japan it seems that the male breast is controversial. The Huntington Post Japan reported that over 84% of Japanese women think it unacceptable for men's nipples to be visible under their shirts.  Luckily, Japanese men have an option - 'the male nipple shield'. No joke, these high-tech pasties sell well and provide Japanese men the assurance of a smooth and uncluttered chest look.

And finally, as I depart this subject, thank God, and go full-circle to the Joan Rivers episode, it appears that some women are having a surgical procedure whereby they are having their nipples reshaped and tattooed to look like various objects: hearts, stars, seashells. Known as 'tittooing' the procedure runs about $2500 and was originally conceived to reconstruct breasts after cancer surgery, it is now becoming a fad to reshape nipples for fun and even more selfies.  Go figure.

Comic-to-Animated Superhero in San Fransokyo

Disney owns Pixar, Marvel Comics, and Lucas Films, in addition to Disney Animation studios, so you would think that animated superhero productions would be a mainstay.  Not so, but with the upcoming release of  'Big Hero 6'  the ice is now broken.  'Big Hero 6' will be Disney's first venture into the world of comic-based superhero animation and it may just prove that live-action movies with real actors and oodles of CGI may have to step aside.

'Big Hero 6', culled from a Marvel comic, is about a Japanese team of superheros and centers around the relationship between a schoolboy inventor, Hiro, and his machine pal, Baymax and is set in the make-believe city of San Fransokyo.

Why this merging of Disney animation and Marvel Comics hasn't already happened is any one's guess. It may be just due to Disney's internally absorbing and assimilation of its acquisitions - Pixar, Marvel, Lucas - each with a different corporate culture.   The huge box office grosses for Pixar's films suggest audiences aren't turned off by the absence of real actors on screen - in fact, one could argue that several, if not many, live active features might have been better and generated larger grosses had they been in animated form.

Comic book animated superhero movies, I believe, will be coming out on a regular basis from Disney in the future - and they will be great entertainment having wide audience appeal.

Where Are They Now?
Connery - Then/Now

We have all wondered where past big-screen actors are now. That wonderment is even more curious when thinking about past Oscar winners.  Here are 10 of them:

- Joe Pesci - Best Supporting Actor, 'Goodfellas'
- Adrien Brody - Best Actor, 'The Pianist'. Can be seen on TV mini-series 'Houdini'
- Cuba Gooding - Best Supportig Actor, 'Jerry Maquire'
- Geena Davis - Best Supporting Actor, 'The Accidental Tourist'
- Jennifer Connelly - Best Supporting Actor, 'A Beautiful Mind'
- Brenda Fricker - Best Supporting Actor, 'My Left Foot'
- Marlee Matlin - Best Actor, 'Children of a Lesser God'
- Joel Grey - Best Supporting Actor, 'Cabaret'
- Linda Hunt - Best Supporting Actor, 'The Year of Living Dangerously'
- Sean Connery - Best Supporting Actor, 'The Untouchables' 

Seymore Flix

Monday, September 08, 2014

The 'SCENE' by Seymore Flix

Odorama : I Can Smell It Coming

The cinema needs a boost (particularly after this summer's dismal box office) so why not bring back the 'scratch n; sniff' cards that accompanied many admissions during films of the '80s.

Let's bring back a real 'sense of community' to the local cinema with scents of realism. Mingled with the aroma of fresh popped corn the smell of a film and the use of scent technology that didn't exist in the '80s would be intoxicating.

Today's cinema audiences would be thrilled and in awe of a non-digital based goodie for 'real' moviegoing.  Perhaps a surcharge for the 'scratch n' sniff'. Why not.  There are up-charges for 3D, for larger seats, for viewing in bigger auditoriums, why not for smell!  Consumers are accustomed to up-charge fees - just look at the airlines and their cadre of 'extra' fees.  Hotels too, and let's not forget about your friendly Bank and credit card company.

Then again, hmmmm.... in some cinemas you may be tempted to forego the 'scratch n' sniff' and really get a whiff by rubbing the seats - oh well, I digress. But darn it, cinemas are always searching for the "immerse experience" - better sound, bigger picture, enhanced concession - why not smell - the fourth sense in the cinema experience. Let's go for it. I smell money in 'scratch n' sniff'.

Long Live the Lego

Greatly aided by the huge success of the 'Lego Movie', Danish toy maker Lego has seen it sales and operating profit dramatically increase this year and sees no reason why their good fortune will not continue.  Children from all over the world are forcing their parents to run to toy stores to buy up Lego toy kits, particularly those linked to the movie.

The 'Lego Movie', which was released in February, cost about $60 million to produce and has grossed over  $470 million globally; additionally, it is anticipated that DVD sales will be killer. Now, it can be argued that the 'Lego Movie' was the greatest use of product placement ever, and targeted at a specific demographic which was likely to go out and purchase the company's products.

Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, Lego's CEO says, "The result of the first half of 2014 is an outcome of our ability to develop, launch and distribute Lego products, which children all over the world put at the top of their wishlists."  You're not kidding Jorgen.

Lego, which is headquartered in the small town of Billund, Denmark started producing the small plastic bricks in 1949.  By the 1970s , those miniature building blocks had become a staple in millions of toy boxes around the world.  Then things collapsed, and by early 2003, Lego was about to go bust. But new management coupled with massive layoffs and a refocused mission got the company back a solid footing.  Lego's sales will surpassed Mattel's this year.

'Lego Movie 2' is in the works and Warner Bros. says it will be released in 2017. Children across the world can't wait.

The BIG APPLE Gets Smashed Again - Why Not Oslo?
There Goes Lady Liberty

2014 was a good year for major city destruction at the movies. NYC was devastated in Spiderman, San Fran got clobbered in Godzilla. and Paris got wasted in Edge of Tomorrow.

NYC is the target most often but it's not the whole city, but Manhattan, in particular, as it houses all of the recognizable, iconic structures - Empire State, Grand Central, Central Park etc. Now, the new World Trade Towers and 9/11 Memorial are in the cross-hairs of mega-destruction directors and special effects people.  I've seen more NYPD cars demolished than any other vehicle on the big screen - its been going on since movies began, re: King Kong of the '30s.

NYC gets trashed on a consistent basis.  You would think that movie producers/directors could change the venue of destruction once in a while.  Cities with noted landmarks get attacked over and over again, but NYC wins the top honor.  Blow up Cairo, Rio, Moscow, Mexico City - and nothing. Lima, Cape Town, Sydney - no reaction.  Cities that have never been leveled by monster, bomb, or asteroid need (no deserve) to be turned to rubble.  I vote for Toronto, Shanghai, and Santiago and throw in Singapore - they all deserve some humility and devastation. And what about Rome and Athens?
Of Course the Brooklyn Bridge Must Go

Now, make no mistake, most of these cities would gladly pay a film crew to come in and destroy everything (in make-believe) just to get the monies spent by the film studio while shooting.  So, let's throw in Amsterdam and Istanbul, and don't forget Madrid.  All of these deserve a good thrashing and leave poor NYC to rebuild.  And, so yes Hollywood, just for me - don't forget The Hamptons.

Seymore Flix

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fan Clubs - OUT / Digital Fanatics - IN

The relationship between idol/star and fan has seen recent and profound change. In the past, the relationship between idol and fan was well defined - there were 'Fan Clubs', where annual dues were required and a kit given with photos, a club card, etc.  The Club had a President and other officers and annual get-togethers held where T's, albums, and possibly the idol would make a quick and fleeting appearance.  Club members tried, but failed to keep tabs on their idol's comings and goings and usually only saw them at a distance at a concert or red carpet event.

This has all changed! Snail mail and pre-signed photos are so far out they are not even considered a remote possibly in today's Fan world.  Now, it's all about real-time access - fans know where and what their God had for lunch, were and when they will or can be seen and the selfie with idol has become the 'membership card' of today's fanatic.  Fan armies assemble on-line and insist on direct contact with their idol, and the stars must play this game, for the more traction they have on social media - the more fans they have and the more popular they get, the more endorsements, the more fame.

But there is downside. Stars complain that their fan base is too old or too young. Fans are too gay, or too female or too ugly. Sometimes they are seen as too intense or too annoying.  Would idols choose to spend and evening with their fans? NO. Do they want their fans to believe they would? YES.

Swift w/fans giving selfies
Interviewed by the Wall Street Journal last month, Taylor Swift said it best when she noted that autographs have become obsolete. "I haven't been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera.  The only memento fans want these days is a selfie.  It's part of the new currency, which seems to be 'how many followers you have in Instagram'."

Nowhere can the change in the relationship between idol and fan so seen more vivid then in the recent surge of meet-and-greets, usually held before a concert and bundled with a pricey VIP ticket. It is no longer necessary to wait with the masses for a glimpse as the 'star' quickly races by.  No, no. Today, you can book an appointment to meet your 'God', in the time it would take to make an appointment to have your car serviced - and would probably be cheaper and include a buffet.  Unthinkable just a few years ago, today's fan can rub elbows with their Gods.  Even Beyonce' offers these 'fan' rendezvous and they are only a three figure credit card charge away. Fan expectations and demands have grown enormously.

Stars today, must hire digital agencies to pretend to be them or to create a personality where there isn't one. Today, the illusion of intimacy is a must, but social media has replaced the 'signed' photo. Fans have more power today and more control over their idols - pushing them to act and adjust to the 'new' Fandom world.  Fan power has shifted from the artist to the fan. It is the fan that must be catered to. It's the fans that have the disposal income to buy inflated concert tickets, iTunes, and watch videos with embedded pre-sold ads (the higher the play count the more the idol can charge for the ads).

The idol/fan relationship is now completely intertwined. Fans can not be ignored. Idols must placate to their minions and fans can get ever closer to their God, but for a price.