Friday, October 30, 2009

Odds, Ends

Cancer "didn't beat" Patrick Swayze, wife Lisa says

Swayze, nearby but invisible, helplessly cries "But it did! How can I make her see!"

Anna Nicole Smith hearing nears end

If convicted, Nicole Smith to be exhumed and reinterred in state-controlled cemetary.

Rapper releases video directed by Heath Ledger

No, not Tupac. Why would you even THINK that?

Jackson collaborators seek debt payments

They didn't approach him while he was alive, for fear he would rough 'em up.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween - Top-Earning Dead Celebrities

Forbes compiles an annual list of the dead who walk, if by "walk" you mean earn more money dead than you'll make in your lifetime. It's a top 13 instead of top 10, for obvious reasons.

At #13, Andy Warhol! Pulling down $6 million, it's proof that the difference between Andy alive and Andy dead is pretty hard to discern.

Jimi Hendrix comes in next with $8 million. #11 is Aaron Spelling also at 8 bills, no doubt earning more this year because of the revivals of Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. Michael Crichton comes in 10th place with $9 million. As soon as he drops below a certain level, they will clone him.

Einstein dead is worth $10 million. Dr Seuss, $15 million. Says something, doesn't it? John Lennon ties with Seuss coming in at #7.

Charles Shultz dead is worth $35 million... now that's good grief!

Top five time, kiddies! J.R.R. Tolkien brought in $50 million this last year, even without any new movies. Perennial dead wage-slave Elvis made $55 million, but he's facing stiff competition from newcomer Michael Jackson, who took the #3 slot with $90 million. I bet there are parts of the original Michael somewhere that are still alive, which would disqualify him. I think. The rules are a little hazy on this.

Speaking of hazy rules, Forbes says Rogers & Hammerstein is #2 on the chart with $235 million. What's up with that? What about money earned by Rogers when he wrote with Hart? I'm filing a protest.

The top o' the chart, the richest dead guy of the year, taking it with him... Yves St. Laurent! $350,000,000 kids! He's new to the top 13, apparently due to an especially lucrative estate sale. Doesn't seem fair to me. Still, I don't make the rules, I just report the results. You got a problem with it, talk to the dead guys. And note the gender inequality... its not likely to get better until Oprah dies, and that's gonna be a long time comin'.

...hide the deadly (orange) tarantula

I know it has nothing to do with showbiz, but the darn things were so delicious.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Checking Back With Jay

Following up on the Jay Leno Show, which is that thing on NBC five nights a week that you ignore while you're brushing your teeth. Nothing too surprising. Variety examined the effect that Leno is having on the whole NBC schedule:

Though decidedly unpopular with many in TV's creative community, NBC's bet on "Leno" could be easily chalked up as the best offense being a good defense: Leno posed a threat to NBC if he left for another network, while keeping him in a cost-efficient program freed funds for NBC to rebuild its scripted slate.

In contrast, the axing of cop drama "Southland" appears to be a more overt retreat. NBC pulled the plug on the John Wells Prods. drama amid circumstances that leave many observers scratching their heads.

For starters, "Southland" was the best-reviewed and highest-rated freshman series in 2008-09 on a network that has been starved for fresh hits.

Further, instead of keeping other networks from using an NBC-developed asset, as was the case with Leno, the axing invites rivals to take the product and run, as CBS did earlier this year with "Medium."

...Some observers have said NBC realized (perhaps better late than never) that "Southland" was too darkly themed to air at 9 p.m. ...But even if NBC were correct about "Southland" being too grim, the network still must contend with the perception of some producers who see the network as being at a nadir of creative vision. The network will still be a port in the recessionary storm for some new projects, but for creators that have their pick of outlets, NBC figures to be the port of last resort.
What's more...

Since the season kicked off Sept. 21, "Leno" has been holding about 75% of what NBC has averaged from 8 to 10 p.m., compared with holds of more than 90% for CBS and roughly 85% for ABC in the 10 o’clock hour.

This means that while ABC and CBS occasionally deliver their strongest numbers at 10 p.m., NBC is consistently peaking earlier -- and those 8-10 p.m. numbers ain’t pretty. As the network stares down the barrel of another fourth-place finish this season, here’s a look at the early trickle-down effect of "The Leno Show" on other programming:

-- NBC’s "Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien," which had consistently been beating CBS’ "Late Show With David Letterman" in adults 18-49 over the summer, lost during premiere week -- "Late Show’s" first weekly triumph over original "Tonight" segs since 2005.

A primary reason for the shift is that CBS is now much stronger than NBC at 10 p.m. among the coveted 18-49 crowd (3.4 to 1.9 in rating), helping funnel more viewers to Letterman. In the summer, by comparison, CBS held a much smaller edge.
Of course, you still can't deny that NBC is filling 5 hours of primetime a week for peanuts. It's no disaster. Then again, not all ships go down like the Titanic. Some just rust prematurely and are decomissioned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Austin is Like, Vol. 1

I was going to post this picture first:

With the caption "Look what I won! And my wife won one too!" Decided it might be a tad confusing.

Those Grammy awards we're pretending we won are actually the belong to my friend David E. Miller, bass player for Texas Swing band Asleep At The Wheel, old car enthusiast (he has a '55 Panel truck) and owner of Ebony, The World's Best Dog. These two and two more, in fact.

Austin is the music capital of the Southwest, a modest-sized city with more live venues then I have ever seen anywhere. Music is a thriving industry there as well-- they don't host South by Southwest there for nothin'. It's almost unsurprising that the only person I know in Austin has four Grammys.

So yeah-- in a corner of David's lovely, modest Suburban home, atop the piano, sit these four gold gramophones. It's all as casual as can be. Gotta admire that.

I guess this is a big thanks to David for showing us around South Austin Monday and letting us handle his Grammys, his lovely wife Sherry for her hospitality, and Ebony for... Well, for being the World's Best Dog.

Back From the 2009 AFF

Good GOD, I had better post something!

Yeah, I'm back from Austin, with many, many stories to tell and pictures to show. I'll start unspooling them as soon as the crushing amount of work I blew off in order to go to Austin eases up a bit. And my epic hangover dies down.

It was an amazing weekend.

Oh hell, I'll give you one right now as a preview. In the Driskill Hotel, the heart of the Screenwriter's convention, I was taking a tiny elevator to an out-of-the-way meeting room for a seminar on agents with Gayla ("no, I am not reading scripts") Nethercott. There were three of us in there, then it stopped, and then there were eight of us, shoulder-to-shoulder, all badged attendees. Everyone was dead quiet, as often happens in elevators.

I had little reason to be quiet. 24 hours previous, The screenplay I co-wrote won it's category, beating about 675 others. I was in a darn good mood. So I counted everyone and dropped down to my best Don LaFontaine: "Eight screenwriters-- riding a tiny elevator... heading to a room nobody has ever heard of..."

Big laughs. Some guy looked up at me and said, perhaps seriously, "Hey, I'm going to use that idea!"

I replied "You only have a movie if it ends... in... the... same... elevator!"

I get the feeling that somewhere out there (alright, probably in LA) seven laptops are blazin' away right now.

More to come.

One of The First Lanterns I Ever Saw

Conal Cochran: From an ancient, sacrificial circle... Stonehenge. [Shows Chaliss the rock] Ha ha. We had a TIME getting it here. You wouldn't believe how we did it.

- Halloween III, Season of the Witch

And you know what? He never explains how.

Weekend Box Office

Be afraid: the numbers are here.

Paramount's sleeper Paranormal Activity finally climbs to #1 after 30 days of platform release, pulling down (to hell) 21 million. To date, 61.5 mil. It will drop next weekend, even though if anything can drag people away from Halloween parties for a couple of hours next Saturday, it'll be this.

Saw IV opens to $14 million, a little disappointing for the reported most successful horror franchise of all time. Maybe it's time to start branching out - Jigsaw Vs. Freddy, Jigsaw Vs. Mike Meyers, Jigsaw Vs. Cheney. New blood!

Astro Boy (who? says the target audience of kids) and Cirque Do Freak: The Vampires Assistant make the top ten but they might as well already be on video. I'll check out bittorrent; they probably are.

At the other end, U2 3D (the non-YouTube version of their tour) makes $145 bucks on one screen, #122 for people who are scoring. The lowest premiere is actually a re-release of Truffaut's Mississippi Mermaid, a movie which has been underperforming for a little over 40 years. That must be a record of some kind!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Every few months a friend of mine rents out a hall in Pasadena and holds a swanky singles party. She's been doing it for years and each time the attendance seems a little higher than the last time. Except this last Saturday! Attendence was down, and the speculation was that the other big event in town, U2 playing the Rose Bowl, was eating into sales.

If YOUR event was a little slow Saturday, perhaps you have this to blame.

Irish rock group U2 have broadcast an entire live show via the video sharing website YouTube.

Although 96,000 people turned up to see the show at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in California, many times that number were expected to have watched it online.

As he took to the stage, lead singer Bono said: "Thank you Los Angeles. Thanks to everyone watching on YouTube all over the world - seven continents."

The entire show, which Bono described as a "space adventure", is being repeated on YouTube.
God knows it's a good way to beat that traffic. And Bono on a computer screen would look about as tiny as he does from the back rows of the Rose Bowl.

This is an interesting development. In the past U2 would have made a deal with a broadcast network or HBO or some pay-per-view outfit. I wonder where they think they're going to make their money back from?

(PS regarding the singles party - I lost your number, Amy Sue! Call me!)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Local Boy Makes Good

You might have noticed a lack of Skot on the blog lately. Skot been busy. He and his screenwriting par'ner are attending the Austin Film Festival. Up until recently their screenplay, The Sensitivity Program, was in competition there in the Sci-Fi category. Up until this weekend anyway.

During which they won, thus ending the competition.

Skot will no doubt provide details as the the champagne haze clears his head and between meetings with agents and managers, but on behalf of the whole Hang A Lantern On It staff, congratulations!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Odds, Ends

Pie-splattered comedian Soupy Sales dies at 83

This is the man who warped your parents... attention must be paid!

"Saw VI" gets X rating in Spain

Parents, this is the series that's warping your kids.

Taylor Swift first U.S. tour dates sell in minutes

How adorable is that!

'Thriller' zombie tribute to Michael Jackson

Tragically, none of the fans are willing to dress up like a trained anesthesiologist - if they were, maybe none of the other fans would HAVE to dress like zombies.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Squeal Like A Schoolgirl

Fans can force networks to renew a low-rated series; they can influence story lines; and now it seems they can control the very machinations of NASA itself.

Boyband McFly's hit single Star Girl has been played out to astronauts orbiting Earth, after fans called for it to be broadcast.

Nasa agreed to play the group's 2006 song to the spacecraft crew members after being bombarded by McFly fans on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The space agency offered 35 people the chance to talk live to the astronauts, but fans wanted the song instead.

Band member Danny Jones said on Twitter it was a "dream come true".

In a later tweet to Nasa, he said: "Thank you for playing our song in space it's definatly [sic] one if the coolest things that's happened since being in the band... Amazing."
Sure, no one asks how the ASTRONAUTS feel about this. Maybe they'd rather hear New Kids On The Block, or the A-Teens. Or more likely, some early Dolly Parton:

Dr David Whitehouse, a space scientist and author told BBC radio 5 live he thought the play out had been been great publicity for Nasa and the band.

"I thought this was a way, not only to get in touch between astronauts and ordinary people, but to get down with the kids.

"Considering the average age on the space station is 46, I wouldn't have thought many of them have heard of McFly before.

"They do play a lot of music in general in the space station, they wake people up with music but it tends to be more 70s rock and country music."
That's what you get for being old-school. They brought their own music but they couldn't figure out a way to keep the phonograph needle in the grooves with that zero-gravity thing. I bet the unforgiving vaccum of space is lookin' pretty good right now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Old Time Radio Proves My Powers of Observation Are Acute

I admire a lot of old time radio comedy. The Life Of Riley, the Jack Benny Program, Fibber McGee and Molly all seem like perfect gems, finely honed and brilliantly executed. Our Miss Brooks too. But the one I simply cannot understand is The Great Guildersleeve.

If you haven't heard the show, it's a warm family sitcom about Throckmorton P. Guildersleeve, a bachelor who is raising his nephew and neice in a small town of which Guildersleeve is the water commisioner. He is bumbling and self-important. I've heard this show for years on KNX, a local news station which turns over an hour a night to stuff like this, and for years I've wondered why the hell this show was ever greenlighted. My biggest problem with it has been that Willard Waterman's Guildersleeve seems to be a lame version of a more interesting character. He should be a charicature, but he's been watered-down and warmed over and served as mild, bland fare. It's like My Three Sons starring Rip Taylor, only a straight Rip Taylor.

I finally did a little research into the history of the show, and my instincts were dead-on.

Firstly, the character is a spinoff. He was a regular visitor on Fibber McGee and Molly.

On Fibber McGee and Molly, Gildersleeve was a pompous windbag who became a consistent McGee nemesis. "You're a haa-aa-aa-aard man, McGee!" became a Gildersleeve catch phrase. The character was given several conflicting first names on Fibber McGee and Molly, and on one episode his middle name was revealed as Philharmonic.
So, a character designed to be on for two minutes a week. Hence the wacky name! I knew he was a spinoff from something. However the character was another step removed from its orgins in a way I hasn't anticipated - Willard Waterman didn't even orginate the character. The REAL Guildersleeve was Harold Peary, who played him all during the 30s and 40s. In the early fifties CBS orchestrated a talent raid and lured a lot of NBC's pricey stars to their radio network. They got Peary but they didn't get Guildersleeve. Peary was so identified with the character that his show flopped, though he did manage to make it onto the television version of McGee playing Mayor LaTrivia, the role originated by Gale Gordon on radio.

Waterman was a long-time friend of Peary who had a very similar voice, but when he took over the role he refused to do Peary's signature laugh, which is something to behold.

Poor CBS! Spending all that money on radio stars just as radio was sinking into unprofitability. 20 years later they did the same thing in reverse: they had great ratings with The Beverly Hillbillies and all those spinoffs but the demographics sucked (not enough young viewers) so they canceled them and got hipper new shows.
Anyway, show business history is littered with stories of lame-o spinoffs from popular shows, but this appears to be an early example. And it lasted for 15 years! No wonder they kept trying it.

Weekend Box Office

Variety's got your digits here.

Spike Jonze's adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are takes the weekend, finding a way to traumatize a whole new generation and make $32 million doing it. The Gerard Butler/Jaime Fox thriller Law-Abiding Citizen pulls in a healthy $21 million in the #2 slot - maybe Butler's career isn't over after all! Plus, he won't have to hang around Comic-Con so much.

Unnecessary remake The Stepfather premiers at #5 with $11 million. Check out the original; it's a twisted l'il gem. Seriously, check it out... you can stream it for free. In other horror news, Paranormal Activity really works its platform release strategy and goes wider to the tune of $21 million. It's an old-school strategy and it's payin' off.

A documentary takes up the bottom of the chart (like usual) but the lowest narrative movies is a comedy called Taxidermia. #127, $114 for the three days. Originally released in 2006, IMdb describes it thus: Gyorgy Palfi's grotesque tale of three generations of men, including an obese speed eater, an embalmer of gigantic cats, and a man who shoots fire out of his penis. I'm organizing a viewing party! Who's with me?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cort Furniture

Kudos to them for elegant booth design.

Headshot Lane

Much as I love this idea, it's a dead end. No one will get work out of


There are always a lot of free massage ops at these things.

Got Reptiles?

The people at A-list Animals do.

A Lovely Actress

Probably. Could be anything.

Greetings From the Showbiz Expo

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, October 16, 2009

Odds, Ends

BBC Defend Blue Peter Competition

There's actually an interesting story here, but screw that... I just like the title

Garth Brooks Says He's Coming Out of Retirement

Reached for comment, Chris Gaines calls story a hoax

Spirit Awards Moves From Beach to Downtown L.A

A step in the right direction, but the whole ceremony should take place in someone's parents' basement

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Endorsement: Old Timey Radio

God help me, I love radio drama. Perhaps it's the top-of-their-games voice actors, maybe the efficiency expert in me loves the idea of creating an entire half-hour of entertainment using only scripts and mics. In any event, I have discovered that I can stream Radio 1710 Antioch to my iPhone, giving me access to a 24-hour stream of this stuff. As I write this, I'm enjoying Dana Andrews in I Was A Communist For The FBI. Fun, paranoid stuff. Surprisingly complex as well.

Anyway, I'm starting to get a picture of dramatic engines that drove the medium for so long. I understand that this is a skewed vision because most of the shows I'm hearing are post-war episodes, indeed, post-television. Maybe this was the real golden age of radio, but more likely it's just that these episodes survived better because of improved transcription methods. Still, the common themes remain.

Amnesia - you don't see a lot of amnesia nowadays, but it was a very common problem 50 years ago. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting an amnesiac, who would then forget you had done it. People were continually waking up in alleys, not knowing who they were, where they came from, and who that person they had apparently just killed even was. Whatever was causing it, I'm glad the problem cleared up. I only wish I could remember how!

Orson Welles - the man was perfectly suited to radio, more so than even movies or stage. Why? Welles had a short attention span. The idea that you could just hop into a cab and be on the air in 15 minutes, sometimes without rehearsal, and not worry about makeup or lighting, then grab a check and get the hell out, was heaven to a guy like Welles. His whole career would have been different if he could have relied on a steady radio paycheck but sadly, the medium let him down. Welles starred in both Harry Lime and The Shadow as steady gigs, but tellingly the latter ran longer than a season and Welles moved on, leaving the character to lesser lights.

Science Fiction - weirdly, science fiction ages worse than ANYTHING. Every time someone on Space Patrol refers to their "miniature Space-o-phone" it makes you cringe. Robots run on vacuum tubes. The plot of one show revolved around a space port security officer having to review the Venus vacation snapshots and home movies of every tourist, which was time-consuming because they had to develop all that film. Don't get me started on computers.

Good is Rewarded, Bad is Punished - time after time, a whole episode of Suspense or The Whistler is devoted to the planning of a perfect crime, which unravels due to the protagonist's bad execution. The weed of crime bears bitter fruit! The path of wrongdoing ends in a trap set by justice! I think the intention is to teach people to not commit crimes, but I'd argue that it taught people to just be very very careful when they're doing it.

Running Gags Work - the Jack Benny Show and Fibber McGee and Molly got laughs based on premises that had been established in the thirties. So when you marvel at the two minute audience reaction to Jack Benny's famous response to "Your money or your life!" ("I'm thinking!") remember that the setup took twenty years to write.

Put Down That Gun! - I must have heard this said three dozen times in the last week, and you know what? Nobody EVER puts the gun down.

Sexy Women Have Low Voices - What's up with that anyway?

Commercials - they just used to be easier to figure out, that's all. Nowadays commercials are enigmae, often not even deigning to mention the product. Then, a roomful of people would just shout at you for a minute about how good this car battery is, or this soap, or this cigarette. It was the golden age of direct messaging.

There Is No Such Thing As... - Sex. Bodily functions. Ambiguity. A good communist. Homosexuality. Silence.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weekend Box Office

Got your chart here.

Vince Vaughn Vaughnfest Couples Retreat takes the #1 spot with $34 mil, a healthy amount of cash for a movie without any SFX. Watch Vaughn make some mighty good deals coming up. I've only seen the trailers, but maybe America loves him because he doesn't shed all his body fat before doing a shirtless scene.

Zombieland drops 40%. Coulda been worse!

Newest failure on the chart this week: at #98, Wedding Song. 1 screen, $1200. Worst per-screen average, Il Divo which pulled down $21 in 3 days. Stop greenlighting all musicals NOW!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Extremely Stealthy Viral Marketing

First take a look at this:

Then, to follow up, look at this:

And understand that neither of these things would belong on this blog, except in the light of this.

Here's a theory: These video are an elaborate viral marketing campaign for Butterfinger. Green signed on as spokesman for the Nestle candy bar just last month. What little is known about Butterfinger's future creative direction going forward, as spelled out in this press release, is the brand's intent on reviving the tagline made famous by Green's predecessor, Bart Simpson: "Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger." The product was already treated to an online campaign,

Hmmm, all this talk about "laying a finger" and protecting the bar. Could it be that videos about a pitchman being attacked is a new spin on a familiar campaign? Strange as it may sound to trot out videos that don't feature the product being promoted, it's exactly that kind of anti-ad that's likely to lure Gen Y-ers in, presumably before somehow working Butterfinger into some future installment of this intriguing series.
Sounds credible to me, but kudos to the people behind this (if there are indeed "people" who are "behind" this) for their commitment.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Odds, Ends

Hugh Laurie is Bemused By Twitter

Celebrity bemusement experts stunned!

Billy Ray Cyrus urges Miley to return to Twitter

This bemuses Hugh Laurie.

Aerosmith guitarist goes solo as band flounders
I hate to put it this way, but the band formed 40 years ago and they're all pretty old. Gradually, one of them is bound to go solo if you know what I mean.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Sharks

Last night I was fortunate enough to be on the list at a club in Beverly Hills where Dennis Quaid and his band, The Sharks, were playing. Meh.

The band is actually pretty good. They're tight, and they know what they're doing. And they're definitely a cut above the average cover band (a little Doors, a little Aerosmith, a little more Jerry Lee Lewis etc) and while this sounds like faint praise, let's face it - given the setup, above average exceeds any expectations.

Quaid himself, who plays guitars and keyboards and sings lead vocals, seemed to not just be enjoying himself but literally exorcising personal demons with each successive number. Dude looks good and has an awful lot of energy. I'm starting to think he acts so he can afford amps and picks.

You will note the conspicuous absence of cellphone pictures - the dance floor was packed with people who were either dancing or taking pictures of Quaid, or taking pictures of their dates with Quaid in the background. My hipster friends warned me that cell-phone pics are as bad as asking for autographs - you just don't DO that man. So just use your imagination. I've said too much already.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Real Story

"And never forget, we're the real story." - Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), Broadcast News

Every nightmare you have about the televsion news business may be coming true, right now, in Brazil. Via the BBC:

Police in Brazil say a TV crime show host accused of ordering killings to boost his ratings has gone missing after his arrest warrant was issued.

Wallace Souza, also a local congressman, had enjoyed parliamentary immunity until last week when the Amazonas state assembly expelled him. A search is under way, with airports and roads from the city of Manaus in the Amazon region being monitored.

Mr Souza has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

The case made headlines around the world when the police accused Mr Souza of being involved in drug trafficking and ordering killings to increase the popularity of his TV programme. As well as being a former TV presenter, Mr Souza was a popular politician elected to the assembly in the state of Amazonas with a large majority.

However, his expulsion following a vote last week meant he lost his parliamentary immunity and now it appears he is on the run, after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The authorities in Amazonas claim he ordered several killings in order to get rid of his rivals, while afterwards TV crews from his programme would mysteriously arrive at the crime scenes before the police, enabling them to secure graphic footage.
Wow, talk about your worst-case scenarios! Imagine this happening here, with Keith Morrison of Dateline NBC in the place of Souza. I'm not sure what purpose this will serve, but it sure is fun.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Weekend Box Office

Here are the numbers!

Zombieland, a zombie-themed comedy (when did THAT become a genre?) comes in first at $25 million. Disney invests a little money into re-rendering Toy Story and Toy Story 2 so they'll be in that 3D the kids love so well, and it grabs the third spot, right after a newer and more expensive 3D cartoon from Sony. The lesson? Always keep backups of your files.

Surrogates drops 51% from opening, a little steep. Some people were banking on this year being the era of paranoid Sci-Fi and it's not working out.

Bottom of the chart: Gogol Bordello Non-Stop, a documentary. For a change, here's a description taken from their own website:

From the birth of a New York City downtown Ruso-disco phenomena, known as the Bulgarian Bar, to a non-stop touring marathon, with his band Gogol Bordello, Eugene Hütz takes us deep into his artistic foundation.

The story unfolds from 2001 to 2006, following Gogol's steps from underground legends to international attention.

English, Russian, Spanish, Romany
87 Minutes
U.S and A

Even with all the gypsies, the movie only made $104 over the weekend. In 22 days it has earned a little over $5000. The Ruso-disco community weeps.

Monday, October 5, 2009

HEROES Can't Save Everybody

Spent a pleasant weekend in Santa Cruz, attending the wedding of a dear friend. That's outside the purview of this blog (it's nice to have a blog with a purview, innit?) but I can note an interesting way that Santa Cruz is ahead of the curve: there is no local NBC affiliate.

Because of its unusual geography, Santa Cruz has limited broadcast televsion options. it's surrounded by mountains and hills on three sides and the ocean on the fourth, and the population is small. So when I grew up there they had three network affiliates and two independents and that pretty much covered it unless you were willing to shell out for cable, which gave you access to San Francisco broadcasters. Cable went over in a big way.

Anyway somewhere along the way, KSBW 8 in Salinas decided that there ain't no future in paying franchise fees and giving up prime time to NBC. It's not like my area, where there is a Fox affiliate which has apparently decided that it's too expensive to solve the digital transmission problem to my part of town; KSBW said adios and went rogue. They're doing well enough to have a local news team, so probably a good decision.

NBC has been at the bottom of the majors for years now, and with CBS and ABC and FoxTV facing declining ratings too, the Jewel of GE (possibly GE and Comcast) looks increasingly like the network of choice to not choose. And just because these entities are called major networks, there's no law that says every town needs to carry 'em.

I understand the Jay Leno show hosted a political panel on Friday. I have finally figured out what Leno's getting at - he will make his show the Sabado Gigante of America, only two more hours and spread out over five days. And this is almost a third of NBC's weekly prime time programming. I bet the whole network leaves broadcast and is HULU-based in 5 years.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Polanski - Letterman Double-Header

David Letterman. Roman Polanski.


Roman Polanski. David Letterman.


One guy did something shockingly illegal some 30 years ago, and has finally been nabbed by the long, long , really really long arm of the law.

The other one did, by his own admission,"terrible" things over many years, but "terrible" is a self-description: It hangs a lantern (hah!) on a career-long habit of dating co-workers. It certainly isn't illegal. And he got blackmailed for his troubles.

I'm rooting for Letterman. I'm not rooting for Polanski.

To make the case that David Letterman did something illegal would require that someone find him guilty of sexual harassment: That is, coercion or promotion in exchange for sexual favors. It's true that Letterman has long dipped his pen in company ink, but he's been on top of his game for over two decades, and I doubt he would ever put his career in harm's way for a fling. He may seem all aw-shucks and Heartland charm, but we don't know the man. Hell, I've been watching Dave since 1983: I won't even pretend to try.

I will venture an opinion, though: He'll escape any personal prosecution. He's either so friggin' smart that an overture he makes to comely staffer begins with legal paperwork being signed. Or he really is so gee-whiz and awkward that his crushes are of the schoolboy variety: boyish and insecure (and insecure celebrity: how 'bout that?) to the extent that philadering and quid pro quo are far off the table. Again, it's all guesswork.

As for Polanski: Lock his ass up. I'm not coming from a right-wing, absolute justice angle here. I actually believe the 13-year-old girl he raped has come to forgive him. I also believe he has shown some small amount of remorse for the act.

What drives me absolutely crazy about this case is the resurfacing of celebrity exceptionalism. Everyone from French lawyers to petition-bearing Hollywood types are making a passionate case for his release, on the grounds that... that... that he's a great filmmaker, and it's been, like, a really long time. I think that's the case being made.

Well, the first part, that Polanski is a great filmmaker, I do not disagree with . I saw A Knife In The Water in film school and was transfixed by it's artistry. Chinatown is still one of my favorite films. Roman Polanski is, in my personal opinion, without reservation or doubt, one of a few truly important filmmakers of the last part of the 20th Century.

This fact places him above the law? This fact gives him immunity from prosecution? This fact makes the quite terrible thing he did to a girl 31 years ago palatable?

Lock his ass up.

As for the argument-- argued quite well by Ronald Sokol-- that this late, late prosecution is, by virtue of it's immense delay, tantamount to legal revenge, How's this for a reply: Revenge is a dish best served cold.

ADDENDA: I know Daniel wrote earlier that we wouldn't be doing this sort of crap. I did get the memo. This whole thing got just a little too big and weird to ignore, is all.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hang A Lantern On It: The Origin Story

Reposted from Box Office Weekly - the explanation of our peculiar name.

As a fan of vintage television, I cannot resist WILD WILD WEST reruns. Episodes come in two basic flavors - black and white and color. The difference isn't just cinematographical either. The black and white ones were weird but logical, an attempt to fit a James Bond character into an American western sensibility. The color ones, shot as the sixties became psychadelic and the writers ran out of reasonable ideas, were often illogical, implausible, and delicious.

Last night's rerun on local television boasted Ricardo Montalban as a legless former confederate officer, who hated James West and harbored a Kahn-like desire to avenge his lost limbs. His plan was to marshal mystical powers to travel back in time, and kill General Grant DURING the civil war thus upsetting the balance of power and allowing the South to prevail. Oh, and somehow kill West in the process. And he almost succeeded but his newly restored legs were crushed by a bookcase

Even by WWW standards, it was half-baked. Montalban compensated by over-overacting, that is, overacting at twice his usual level. But anyway, at the end of the show West and Gordon are filing a report of the incident, Gordon wants to tell the truth. He starts to summarize the episode, and they both conclude that it would be better to just lie about it.

It's what they call "hanging a lantern on it."

From the Kung Fu Monkey blog:
"hang a lantern on it": Instead of trying to hide a script/credibility problem, address it in full measure, so it can be dealt with and discarded. "How does she break into the base?" "Hang a lantern on it, how tough it is to get the codes, but that makes her twice as cool for pulling it off."
Other examples of this script trick include dialogue like "Imagine finding an exact double of you right here in the city! It's almost impossible!" and "Atmospheric conditions in outer space often interfere with transmissions." It's a way of telling your audience that you knew this is stupid and don't worry, you're taking care of it. If you ever watched ALIAS you may remember Marshall, the gadget nerd? He had a full time job hanging lanterns.

A few lanterns, judiciously placed, go a long way toward helping the audience suspend disbelief and just enjoy themselves. Maybe afterwards you may think, "almost impossible?" But by then the show's over.

Incidentally, the Wild Wild West was also frequently guilty of another writing crutch, which Kung Fu Monkey calls "Sucking the Day-Player Crack Pipe" but I think we can address that at another time.

Jay Leno Show May Be Profitable in Other Ways

h/t via Hollywood Reporter