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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mind Turning Off The 'Rant'

Every other critique I see regarding Hollywood is a tirade by some pundit about 'gender or race casting'.  Which according to these social watchdogs is rampant and a great smudge on our culture.

News Flash: To all race and gender casting baiters - the only color that Hollywood cares about is green - period.
Race or Gender Casting - You've Got To Be Kidding

If a minority actor can put butts in cinema seats they are as golden as any other actor of any race or gender.  For example, of the top grossing action heroes,Will Smith and Denzel Washington come out tops.  I can't turn on my TV without seeing Samuel L Jackson in a commercial or Morgan Freeman in a voice-over.

It costs ten if not hundreds of millions to make a movie, so the studios do their best to ensure that every movie they produce and distribute is profitable.  Right now, the high-impact, action film is what generates the big grosses.  The 25 top grossing movies generate about 50% of the entire global box office - action, superheroes, fantasy, post-apocalyptic films are the 'now' income generators, and the same holds true of scripted TV shows.

Actors, even 'A' listers. are becoming less relevant in films. The big box office blockbuster bruisers, in many cases, have no 'A' list actors simply because they are not required to entice moviegoers - those days are gone.

So, please pundits and moral judgmenters, turn off  your rants.  Your arguments are unfounded, dumb, childish, and do not depict the truth regarding how movies are made and what drives the people who make them.  The last thing movie-makers are thinking about is how do we screw over women and minorities - that notion is ludicrous at best and plain crazy at worst.  How can I prove this. Simple.  Just look at the credits at the end of any major film.  There are hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of names.  Names of all sorts. Minority names, female names, Hispanic names, Asian names, Greek, Italian, Irish, Russian, you name it names.

Just saying,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Cinema 'Scene' by Seymore Flix

Movies Go Dark

Is the zombie craze over?  Have audiences moved on to happier more lighter fare?  Not by a long-shot.  The demographic that's driving both movies and TV shows to the dark and gloomy (the Millennials) is getting stronger! Gloom and doom dramas are the Millennials (18-34 age group) most watched. In fact, post-apocalyptic films and dark-themed fantasy movies are stronger than ever.

Sociologists say that Millennials, having grown up under the constant threat of  terrorism, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, and the burden of high student loans are not an optimistic group.

The darker movies of today are a far cry from the upbeat films of 30 years ago as the boomer generation viewed the world in optimistic terms and movies reflected that with happy endings, and certainty.  Today, Millennials see the world as a dangerous place filled with uncertainty and fear - and this is manifested in the movies they view.  In fact, this darker and foreboding theme is now influencing the boomer generation as well.

Movies and TV shows that feature chaos mixed with an ounce of hope for salvation are hot - be it 'The Hunger Games' or 'The Walking Dead'.  The trend is dark movies that feature antiheroes who are angry, conflicted and flawed.

Like all fads, this dark phase in movies and TV shows will pass but it appears this trend will be with us for awhile.

Hollywood Stars Get Pay Cut?

What's all the buzz about 'A' Listers working for less. And what is the driving force behind H'wood pay cuts.  It seems that some of the biggest big screen stars are working for less pay these days
- the question is why and the answer lies with both the stars themselves and the box office in general.

'Bad Teacher' was big payday for Diaz
The current thinking by stars these days (including 'A' listers) is to just get good roles. For example, Jonah Hill got just $60,000 for his role in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' but the part brought him his second Oscar nomination.  So, currently, actors will often take work for the prestige over pay in the hopes that the project will evolve into a 'hit' at the box office.  Cameron Diaz (an 'A' Lister) agreed to a $1 million salary for her part in 'Bad Teacher'; however, the movie was a box office hit and her back-end deal pushed her paltry $1 million salary up to $42 million - the risk was definitely worth the reward.

A low pay deal can also work as a long-term tactic.  Jennifer Lawrence made $500,000 for her role in the first installment of  ' The Hunger Games', but after that film grossed over $700 million, she demanded and received $10 million for the next 'HG'  installment.

The other reason for the pay trimming is that the studios don't see the value in paying 'A'. 'B', or even 'C' listers high salaries, simply because 'star value' ain't what it use to be. While Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, and other stars may have ruled with huge eight-figure salaries in the past, they're all on losing streaks now.  So, there is less need to pay their inflated salaries.  To be a blockbuster today a movie doesn't need 'named actors' - just look at 'Fifty Shades of Grey', or the 'Twilight' series. In fact there is a greater risk for the studios in signing a 'big name' to a project than not.

It seems that the earning power of the stars is shifting to the advantage of the studios.  Moviegoers aren't demanding that the movies they frequent require named actors, it's all about the action, special effects, stunts, crashes, and a. sort of, coherent plot.


Monday, March 16, 2015


NYC has been the host to countless films over the decades. In fact more films has been made in the Big Apple than any other city including LA.  NYC has become almost a character in many of the movies it has 'starred' in as those films wouldn't have been the same without the City as a backdrop.

My favorites include the following:

1930s - 40s - King Kong, The Thin Man, Citizen Kane (many parts shot in NYC), Yankee Doodle Dandy, Miracle on 34th Street, Rope

1950s - 60s - Rear Window, The Seven Year Itch, Sweet Smell of Success, Marty, West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pawnbroker, The Odd Couple, Rosemary's Baby, Midnight Cowboy,

1970s - 80s - The French Connection, Serpico, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, Annie Hall, All That Jazz, Tootsie, Ghostbusters, Moonstruck, Raging Bull, Wall Street

1990s - present - Home Alone 2, Goodfellas, You've Got Mail, Being John Malkovich, The Royal Tenenbaums, Spider-Man, Elf, American Gangster, The Avengers, Birdman

There are hundreds of other NYC films and I'm sure you have your favorites as well - it doesn't take too long to think of favorites.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

U.S. Cinema On Course For Record Breaking Year

Last year's lackluster box office has made a huge recovery and the cinema business is on track to have its biggest year ever.  Industry analysts are predicting that box office revenues will exceed $11.5 billion, and are expected to easily exceed 2013's record $10.9 billion gross.
U.S. Cinemas Gear-up for record year.

The U.S. cinema is already more than 10% above last year and a slew of blockbusters are waiting in the release wings: 'Frozen', 'Star Wars', 'Hunger Games', 'Avengers', 'Jurassic Park' to name just several.  Two mega-hits began the year: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and 'American Sniper' and set the pace for things to come.  Even 'Sponge Bob' exceeded expectations.

January was a big deal for cinemas as it demonstrated that even winter releases can prove to be box office bruisers, as a typical January gross averages about one-half a July's take.  Studios would worry about risking an off-summer release but that scenario has changed.  Good movies generate good grosses no matter when released.  Additionally, a year-round release schedule ensures that big films don't cannibalize each other during over crowded summer debut weekends.

Outstanding sound if imperative for cinemas
An added benefit to exhibitors is that a record year will strengthen their argument for keeping the theatrical release window open as opposed to day-and-date release via streaming or pay-per-view. Cinemas are also finding ways to increase concession revenues with pricier products, improved moviegoer comfort, and outstanding presentations, unavailable in the home environment.  Several of the larger cinema circuits have tried self-serve concessions with great results as it creates impulse buying and people do not have to deal with wait-lines.

What this all means is that cinemas aren't going away any time soon, if ever.  People want to get out of their homes and get away from sitting in front of a computer or TV.  They crave an afternoon or night out at a good, clean, and inviting cinema that offers great entertainment and great concession.

Just saying,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Cinema 'Scene' by Seymore Flix

H'wood Cleaning Up
Joy Mangano selling her wares

Self-wringing mops and plastic tubs that burp are two hot topics in H'wood - as Jennifer Lawrence and Sandra Bullock (arguably the reigning top female actors) are booked to star in biopics about trailblazing business women.

Lawrence is currently involved in the production of a biopic about Joy Mangano, the inventor of the self-wringing mop and over 100 other inventions.  The title of the movie is 'Joy', which is being filmed in Boston and depicts the career of Mangano, a single mother of three, whose rise from rags to riches is very inspiring. In 1990 she made 100 mops and sold them to shops in Long Island.  Then Mangano went on QVC to sell her mops and sold 18,000 in 20 minutes. Today, they have sold in the millions.  She next invented and sold the very popular Huggable Hangers. She then  broke a record on the Home Shopping Network in 2010 by selling over 180,000 of her Forever Fragrant air fresheners in one day.

Her company, Ingenious Designs was eventually sold to HSN for an undisclosed amount and she now works there as a senior executive.  Mangano is predicting that the film will be a blockbuster hit - and I for one wouldn't bet against her.

For her part, Sandra Bullock (who is also co-producing) the film will be portraying Brownie Wise the brains behind the Tupperware empire. The movie is based on a novel written by Bob Kealing entitled, "Tupperware Unsealed". Basically,  Earl Tupper, the inventor of Tupperware, could not market or distribute his product and hired Wise, a single mother, who had a talent for marketing.  She developed the concept of having sales parties sponsored by stay-at-home-moms, which was the perfect promotion answer during the postwar baby-boom era.
Brownie Wise the Queen of Tupperware

Thousands of women became Tupperware hostesses, many of them becoming rich in the process.  In 1954, Wise was the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week magazine when the company's sales reached the $100 million mark.  Tupper came to resent Wise's success and in 1957 fired her from the company and gave her an outgoing severance of just $30,000.  Wise died in 1992 at the age of 79.  "She was one of the most important businesswomen of the 20th century, the prototype for all women who are marketing products online", says Kealing, "I'm glad she will finally get the recognition she deserves."

I think both of these films will have huge followings and be great entertainment for both men and women.

Friday, March 06, 2015


Just think about it.  The first thing you do before getting out of bed is look at a screen. The last thing you do before going to bed is look at a screen.  Screens are everywhere, and it's not crazy to say that they rule your life!

It's not just TVs, tablets, and phones it's also windshields, refrigerators, eyeglasses - screens rule.  They dominate our existence, they are omnipresent, and we interact with them constantly. Screens enhance our lives but also detract from our time - many wasted hours playing games, binging on TV shows, or browsing, but we can not survive without them.

Cinemas were once the dominate screens. It was a destination providing a shared experience which today offers that same experience only with much improved sensory stimulus.  Next came TV, which was much more personal than cinema, and provided choice in viewing to tens of millions.  Then came the PC and a major shift to our relationship with screens. Now it was super-personal and super controllable by the viewer/user - hence the name 'personal computer'.  The passive viewer of cinema and TV became the active user and the possibilities of use and abuse proliferated.

The cell phone screen came next.  Growing from a simple dial-up device to present day multi-functionality.  Today your phone not only provides voice, text, and email communication but can act as a cinema, meeting room, game player, monitor, radio, music player, camera, and offer up thousands of apps for your convenience, pleasure, and information.  Tablets and phone screens provide on-the-go access to the internet - over 50% of all traffic on the internet originates from mobile devices.

Screens allow us the ability to document and broadcast our lives providing the ultimate in personal expression.  Thus screens have created huge cultural, business, and social changes and, in fact, made the world a much smaller place - all from a device you carry in your pocket!
Windshield Heads-up Display

Now comes the smart watch - the smallest screen.  I recently received a FitBit for my birthday. A FitBit is a fashionable device (a black band in this case) worn on the wrist. It provides me data: time, heart rate, steps taken, miles walked, stair risen, and when worn to bed records my sleep patterns which can be traced and graphically displayed, by wirelessly interfacing the FitBit to a PC.

But the wrist is just the beginning. Screens are and will be everywhere. Heads-up displays on windshields, providing traffic patterns, weather, GPS assist etc. On appliances, on entry doors, on eyeglasses, on almost any electronic device you can think of.

Screens Rule - it's that simple.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

'Cinema Scene' by Seymore Flix

In Defense of the Super Hero Movie

Finally, someone in Hollywood agrees with me. What drives the global box office aren't the 'so-called' thoughtful movies - such as the likes of this year's Oscar nominees (all about personal frailties and misjudgments). Give me a super hero pic or perhaps a well constructed Pixar
movie and I am completely satisfied and feel well entertained.

Now James Gunn, the director of last year's biggest grosser, 'Guardians of the Galaxy' has spoken out to defend the high-impact, action films that generate all of the money and are the fodder that most moviegoers feed upon.

Gunn took to Facebook after there was a fair amount of critical snootiness towards superhero films. Jack Black commented that superheros were a blight on Hollywood during his rant at the Oscars. And Dan Gilroy said that "we must rise up against the tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry."   Are they kidding! Without these films there is no Hollywood.

High-impact films are popular worldwide
Gunn argues that comic book movies should be judged on the same criteria as more celebrated art house features. "Whatever the case, the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. I've already won more awards than I ever expected for 'Guardians'. What bothers me is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films."  I couldn't have stated it better.

Gunn went on further to say, "I find there are plenty of people everywhere making movies for a buck or to feed their own vanity.  And than there are people who do what they do because they love story-telling, they love cinema, and they want to add back to the world some of the same magic they've taken from the works of others.  If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we're dumb.  But if you are a serious film maker and think you put more love into your characters then superhero directors you are simply mistaken."

Three Cheers for James Gunn! We couldn't agree more. The Oscars should reflect what films are currently driving the industry and which films are the ones most consumers go to the local cinema to see.

Chinese Box Office Numero Uno
Chinese Box Office Breaks Record

The box office gross in China hit a record in February, amassing a huge $650 million which set a record and beat the U.S. generated gross ($640 million) for the first time.

February is always a big month for movie-going in China with the Lunar New Year but this year all the stops were off.  The big news however, was that the Chinese box office was fueled by non-Hollywood product.  The big grosser was a move entitled, 'The Man from Manchu II', a comedy sequel and 'Dragon Blade' an action movie starring Jackie Chan and John Cusack (of all people).

One of the major reasons for China's box office increase is that the number of screens keeps rising and now totals over 25,000.  This compares with the U.S.'s roughly 37,000 screens but China has over 3 times the population - leaving lots of room for growth and China will easily surpass the U.S. in total box office gross in the near future.

Oscar Winner, Halle Berry Speaks Out

Being the first and only black actress to win a Best Actor Oscar Halle Berry spoke frankly recently about Hollywood and her career. She is currently awaiting the release of a film she produced and stars in entitled, 'Frankie and Alice' - about a woman with a multiple personality disorder. She has been waiting for its release for 6 years.

Halle, can you even remember making Frankie and Alice?

Absolutely. When something is that important to you, and you put your blood, sweat, and tears into, I doubt you'll ever forget it.  When people say "there's no way you're going to make a little movie about this subject no one cares about it", I think you remember every step of the way.

Is it hard to make a low-budget film?

If you have an artistic itch, and there's a story you want to tell, you go on that journey and do it anyway.  And if only five people see it, it's worth taking the time to make the journey, to do the art. If for no other reason than to get it out of your system.  Little movies are hard to do, people don't always want to see them.

In terms of producing your own movies, do you get burnt by the experience?

No, not at all. You win some, you lose some. Some things turn out great, some things are great but don't get an audience, some things are shit and get a huge audience.  You can't let any of that discourage you, if you're in this business.

What's your take on winning the Oscar for Best Actress

If anybody tells you after winning an Oscar they can pick out things that will be hits, they're lying! The quality and value of our work isn't determined by an award.  Find the win in the work. Do your craft well.

What about the quality of work for women over the age of 40?

I've always had a hard time getting roles, being of color, so I get as many offers as I always did - there is no difference for me.  When I was 21, it was as hard as it is now when I'm 48.  For me it's the same.

You are starring in and producing 'Extant', which will debut on the Amazon Prime streaming service, why go the TV route?

Anyone in this industry will tell you that that's where the best writing is. Good actors are going to TV. It's not just about making movies any more, Movies are becoming harder and harder to make.
The taboo of television is long gone. There was a time when movies were 'movies' but now we have big screens in our homes.

Thanks Halle.

French Director Sues the Cannes Festival

For the first time in its history, the Cannes Film Festival has been sued.  Paul Verhoeven, a French film director, as sued the Festival claiming his film, 'Teenagers', was rejected by the festival due to homophobia and sexual prejudice.

The low-budget movie was rejected by Cannes officials saying that "the film is ethically very doubtful."  For his part, Verhoeven seeks either having the festival forced to screen his film or pay for it to be screened in cinemas.

A spokesman for the festival called the case "absurd" and said that films were rejected or accepted on grounds of quality alone.  'Teenagers' has received poor to bad reviews from critics. A ruling in the case is scheduled to be released this month.

Ford to Star in 'Blade Runner' Sequel

Harrison Ford will star in the sequel to the iconic sci-fi cult film 'Blade Runner'. Ford was quoted as saying that the script for the new film as, "this is the best thing I have ever read".

Released in 1982, 'Blade Runner' tells the story of a police officer, Rick Deckard, set in a dark and gritty futuristic Los Angeles.  The movie has become a classic sci-fi film and a sequel has been long-awaited.

Ford will also be starring in the upcoming 'Star Wars' , which is scheduled for release in December. He will be returning as Han Solo, space smuggler extraordinaire.

Happy Move Going,