Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Moneyball, numbers -- why do I even need a clever way to link?

New movies still no match for a 20-year old re-release of a cartoon animated through drawing pictures by human hands. That's all you need to know about this week's top ten. But if you want to know more, the 2nd biggest movie was Moneyball, based on a true story almost as uncinematic as The Social Network's. It did a respectable $19 mil, $20 if you insist on rounding up. Just below it, A Dolphin's Tale at $19 mil. At #4 we have Abduction, a thriller that almost cleared $11 million and finally the Sam Peckinpah remake train pulls in again with The Killer Elite, this time not starring James Caan but opening with $9 mil.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Travel, Broadening The Mind

My girlfriend just got back from a biking tour of Switzerland. No, she's not the kind of girl who does that all the time, but I can say she's done it one more time than I have! Anyway, aside from an appreciation of dairy-based cuisine and a higher metabolism, she also brought back a stack of French DVDs, because she knows how much I love the obscure.

Some of the titles were less obscure than she had hoped - for example, she didn't recognize a two-episode arc from CSI directed by Quentin Tarentino, dubbed into French; a few episodes of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo dubbed into French from the original Australian. But at least one item was a brilliant thing I'd never heard of: an Italian horror movie from 1960 called Le Moulin des supplices, or Mill Of The Stone Women.

Neither one of us knew anything about it; she was attracted by the lurid cover, pictured here. We watched it in English with French subtitles, and it's fascinating from the get go - just trying to figure out where and when it takes place for one thing. People are dressed in period garb but you can't quite put your finger on what period. The road signs and so on aren't in English, but they're not in Italian either. In fact, they're in Flemish.

The movie has a gorgeous technicolor gloss to it, like a Hammer picture from the same period - but the Hammer chaps were going for shocks. These guys had one thing on their mind, creepiness. Who is that woman who looks so much like Gina Lolabrigida, peeking from behind the curtain? Why does she have a tiny greyhound on a leash? Why is the old Flemish lighthouse filled with statues of agonized historical figures? Is the lead character really in a mausoleum at the base of the windmill or is he just dreaming?

The great thing about the movie is that the answers to these questions is even weirder than you thought, though also largely improbable and insane. Like any effective horror movie, the dream logic is a lot stronger than the normal kind.

Still it's probably that lack of plausibility coupled with the awful title that kept the movie out of sight for all these years. And they tried a lot of other titles over the years: The Horrible Mill Women, Drops of Blood, Icon or my favorite, Doktor Skräck och de förstenade kvinnorna. It's Swedish and funny because there is no Doctor Skrack in the movie.

Anyway it was worth the effort to watch, and considering it's copy protected AND encoded in PAL instead of NTSC that's saying something.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Can you feel the numbers tonight?

This is the first time I can remember that I got out over the weekend to SEE the #1 movie, and I fell in love with it all over again. The Lion King, this time in 3D through judicious saving of files on Disney's part, is just about the perfect movie. Everybody involved was at the top of their game, the storytelling is epic and economical at the same time, the songs are hummable and they took a few crazy chances, such as visually referencing Leni Riefenstahl in the "Be Prepared" number. So I'm happy to report that the re-release took the #1 spot with $30 million. I bet it's still in theaters when the Blu-ray comes out!

A handful of new movies opened this weekend too: action drama Drive came in @ #3 with $11 million; the long-awaited remake (?) of Straw Dogs took #5 with $5 million, and I Don't Know How She Does It doesn't quite do it, coming in at #6 with only $4 mil.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hollywood's Immune System

In order to see Contagion comfortably, I chose a late, late showtime: 10:55, the last showtime at the Tanforan 20. From what I'd read about the effectiveness of Steven Soderbergh's new thriller, I wanted at least a few rows of seats between me and the next moviegoer. There were only 8 or so in the auditorium, and nobody was coughing. (but there was, as there always seems to be in late-night movie screenings these days, a couple dragging their toddler-aged kid along.)

Contagion is a very good, very scary film. Soderbergh calls it a horror film, evading the "thriller" tag, and he has a good point. Good horror plays on primal fears-- remember that grotty dude hacking away without covering his mouth at Starbucks last week? Sure you do. That, coupled with the always-unsettling glimpse of the thin veneer of society peeling away at the epidemic's later stages, creates feelings of rising unease as the film progresses. And as it uses Soderburgh's signature multiple-storyline style, you're never quite sure which of the Oscar-caliber ensemble is going to bite the dust next.

Later in the film there are plenty of scenes of National Guard troops in digital camouflage and Hum-Vees keeping roadblocks. This aspect calls back to the discussion about Torchwood: Miracle Day, which covers remarkably similar ground concerning profound social disruption. But here's the thing: the high-concept sci-fi idea of everyone on earth inexplicably granted life everlasting is sort of fun to think about, but the hard-science idea of an unstoppable virus wiping out millions is not only depressing and scary to ponder, less than 100 years ago something very similar actually happened.

Aside from the micron-sized and therefore un-telegenic virus, there's a human villain in this piece: Alan Krumweide (Jude Law), a crummy, weedy fellow who sows fear and misinformation and false hope in alternative medicine cures through his blog. In a film that focuses on the selfless efforts of government scientist to save lives (a la Outbreak and The Andromeda Strain) he represents the conspiracy nuts, the anti-vaccine moms-- the whole, weird anti-science know-nothing movement that seems to depressingly be steadily gaining traction in larger society.

But I think there's something more subtle going on here. This is at least the second major feature film which paints a harsh picture of the internet in general and social networking specifically. Recall the tone of The Social Network, a film that exposes Facebook's roots as a crude sexist college diversion and it's founders as litigious snobs or prickly sociopaths. And in Contagion, it's made clear that everything would be going so much better for humanity in general if it were not for some nutty blogger from San Francisco (surprise: Hollywood yet again portrays the Bay Area as a scenic loony bin).

And why shouldn't establishment Hollywood view the Internet in the worst possible light? As far as the studios are concerned, it's a disease.

I think such negative depictions of internet culture in major movies are a sign of Hollywood's immune system going into overdrive. Even now, there is little the internet and social networking can do to help studios sell tickets: viral hits like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project are so rare they've become cautionary tales (as in: never mention either of them when you're pitching a script). In realpolitik, internet film marketing is just another money-suck for which studios are obliged to staff buildings full of web designers and marketers to create feckless web presences for their movies.

The internet has come to represent nothing less than a full attack on Hollywood, a galloping infection that attacks both control of product and the bottom line. The studio buys a script, and they have to make sure it doesn't get uploaded somewhere. Greenlight, and there are even more potential leaks. Outright piracy begins generally at the first pre-screenings right through general release, eating away box-office as effectively as a blood-borne parasite eats red blood cells. As whole films fall into bit-torrent oblivion, snippets of their films get cut out and put on YouTube or Daily Motion and there's little to be done about that either. Finally, even the home video market and it's tidy widget-style sales model is being sapped by streaming services, offering the same film for a fraction of the cost of a DVD or BluRay version.
As falling revenues draws the industry into existential crisis, we're seeing it's immune system deploy T-cells and leukocytes, out to destroy the malignancy. Expect to see more.

Once upon a time, internet culture as depicted by Hollywood was a rich source of pseudo-high-tech, blatantly unbelievable tropes: "I'll have to hack their IP with a custom-written worm to access their triple-encrypted password. And… there it is!" Remember Hackers (1995) with Angeline Jolie as "Acid Burn" and Jonny Lee Miller as "Crash Override?" Hoo-boy. But that was then: the era of that sort of fun-loving naivete is over.

Endorsement: Sherlock (2010)

The thing that makes Sherlock Holmes a great character is this: He'll open with an unlikely conclusion, and then dazzle you with the insane amount of detail he observed to reach it. And no matter how implausible the conclusion is, you see that there can be no other. It's with this in mind that I tell you this:

BBC's recent 3 episode series of Sherlock, set in the present day and starring an actor named Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes is brilliant.

Actually the 1st and 3rd episodes are brilliant, the 2nd is merely very good. Here's my favorite line from the 1st episode, a curt response to one of Inspector Lestrade's team:

Against all odds this Sherlock is bouyant, depsite there being absolutely no need for a modernized Sherlock Holmes. Let's face it, he's already all over televsion in the person of Hugh Laurie's Dr. House, any given episode of CSI: Wherever, Castle -- 50% of all primetime TV is Holmes nowadays, and another 35% is reality TV. What does that leave? Two and a Half Men. And that's just America.

What works with the new Holmes is, as far as I can see, pure serendipity. You have the right show runners (Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat, who also are steering the Dr. Who franchise nowadays -- there's another Holmes for ya) the right actors (Cumberbatch, who Moffat claims is the only actor to play the character who has a stupider name than Sherlock Holmes) and Martin Freeman, late of The Office and Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy)) and the right format (90 minutes! Who the hell makes 90 minute TV shows? But it's just right for the complexity of these stories) and maybe most important, Holmes kinda belongs in the 21st century.

I don't want to give anything away because this stuff is available on streaming Netflix and places, but I will say that for starters, HOLMES LOVES TEXTING. And Google. If there's an internet outage in some upcoming episode, the poor detective will likely go insane.

Anyway, check it out, especially if you were disappointed with Robert Downey Jr's Holmes recently. Because this one works.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Numbers fever -- catch it!

Not bad for early September! A virus thriller with an all-star cast called Contagion takes the top spot, with $22 million. This week's other new movie, Warrior, barely fights its way to #3 with $5 mil.

Last week's lowest ranking release The Conspiritor is still holding on, and things are looking up! This weekend it made $32! You know what that means... 3 people saw it, 1 more than last time. Why do I get the feeling that Robert Redford owns a piece of that theatre?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day - The Debate 4

So strangely, Dan and I seem to agree: Russell T Davies seems to have knitted together a TV show that is much greater than the sum of it's prior parts. Furthermore it is quite apparent that he'd be quite happy to move the series past it's small-form BBC Cymru roots to a grander vision with international locations and big guest stars (Bill Pullman! The former Mrs. Clint Eastwood!). After all, he jettisoned all the previous cast except for the two leads, and these characters spent a lot of time distracted and off the procedural trail. I won't be too surprised if the leads next year are Mekhi Phifer's Rex Matheson (quite the sly, TV-sci-fi tip of the hat, that character name) and either Jack Harness or Gwen Cooper.

And yes, I'll agree that John Barrowman is not an especially compelling actor. I was gonna chalk it up to my mistaken idea that he was an English actor being held back by having to do an American accent, but he's basically American-- Scots-born, grew up outside Chicago, he was in an extra in The Untouchables (1987). My wife is terribly perturbed by his hair, which changes drastically from shot to shot.

Honestly, if the premise of the next season is anything like the compelling one of Miracle Day, the whole Torchwood/Doctor Who backstory can be dispensed with.

Torchwood: Miracle Day -- The Debate 3

Ah, that would change one's perspective. Miracle Day does get a lot of charge from being set in the States. It seems like Davies got a bigger budget than usual and plowed it all into a wish list of character actors - the Starz series is peppered with faces that you haven't seen in years, gobbling up scenery like some kind of existential maw at the center of the world. And I'll add that it's great to see Wayne Knight again, fat and sweaty like he's meant to be.

Lauren Ambrose comes from the world of musical comedy, and somehow manages to tap into that energy on the small screen without going big and fake. She's quite a find and they'd be crazy to not make her the engine of the next season. That woman is all charisma.

Also with every succeeding series of Torchwood, Davies jettisons more of the premise of the original series and I like to think he's as fed up with those characters as I am. Especially Captain Jack. My high school drama teacher is right, Jack Barrowman is a terrible actor. Now and then he turns out an authentic moment, but then so do animals and children if you put them in the right context. The thing that ruined Torchwood: Miracle Day for me, more than anything else, was Torchwood.

Still let me be unpleasant with the following spoiler.




















At the end, the two CIA agents are seemingly killed - one survives and one doesn't. The twist is, the guy who's been running around with a gaping chest wound throughout the show survives, because as it turns out, he's been transfused with Jack's blood. Then he's shot at the funeral for the other agent, but he heals up again. Everyone is surprised.
WHY? Didn't they notice his failure to die when the blessing reset itself? It's sloppy.

Torchwood: Miracle Day - The Debate 2

I have never watched a scrap of the first three seasons of Torchwood. I have also never seen more than a dozen of so minutes of the sixty-odd seasons of Doctor Who. First impressions are made early, and I remember trying to watch the show when I was just a kid-- it was in black & white and consisted of endless scenes of a fusty old Brit climbing around an abandoned brickworks or whatever.

So I took in Torchwood: Miracle Day as a complete newbie, having to fill in the gaps as I went along as to who the supercilious gay guy with the wartime coat and the resentful Taff with the freckles were.

Oddly, I think this perspective put me in a position to really appreciate what a remarkable series it was. Russell T Davies and company (notably former Buffy and BSG showrunner Jane Espenson) cooked up a series that is centered an a hard science-fiction concept so simple, so profound and so rich I can't figure out why nobody had done it before.

And moreover, this simple concept (one fine day, for no apparent reason, people stop dying everywhere) is explored thoroughly and realistically. Yes, Miracle Day would seem like just that for most people-- until you start thinking about the consequences of getting injured or incapacitated or shot full of holes or crushed in a car compactor. Play these things out and you get economic collapse, moral panic, and the eventual re-classification of those incapacitated but undying into a category to be disposed of. Immortal life, which is something we mere mortals can only hope and pray for, becomes the stuff of unending pain and horror. That's good, well-thought-out speculative fiction.

Death is a inextricable part of the human condition-- one which everyone would very much love to banish. But take it away-- and watch the chaos spread. It's such a powerful idea to explore somebody wrote a New York Times Op-Ed about it.

I've lost track of how many TV shows that have introduced a world altering concept and were either too lazy or hidebound to thoroughly explore the ideas they are promulgating. The late reboot of V on ABC was a prime example of this-- after a while, it felt like the the Visitors were nothing more than annoying new neighbors everybody had to just put up with.

So I came away impressed by this show. Sure, it was a bit talky here and there-- and the season finale, though it wrapped things up well, was just plain bad. Without spoiling, in the last two acts the baddies, though they are in an unquestionable power position, stand around like a bunch of potted plants while the intrepid Torchwood team undoes all their grand plans basically right in front of them. And of course, they wouldn't be bad guys if they didn't get in some epic monologing beforehand. (And I'm with Dan, we want more Lauren Ambrose. And John DeLancie had the best parting line ever.)

I'd venture to say that the Miracle Day effect was so rich an idea, it made the precedent Torchwood adventures irrelevant. I feel no need to review past episodes. In fact, since it was a BBC Wales show before the infusion of US cash from Starz/Encore for Miracle Day, I'm sure they're just endless scenes of fusty Brits (and a resentful Taff) climbing around an abandoned brickworks or whatever.

Torchwood: Miracle Day - The Debate

Russel T. Davies' Torchwood series is kind of a gauge of your geek cred. I proudly claim to have seen every episode and for the most part, hated all of them.

The premise of show, a spinoff from Davies' reboot of Doctor Who (attention anagram enthusiasts!) is that  the UK government has a top-secret intelligence agency devoted to tracking down and neutralizing extraterrestrial threats, headed by Captain Jack Harkness, an immortal humanoid alien with a penchant for WWII fashion and an unmistakable American accent. And he's bisexual, though lately only interested in men.

In the last two series, Torchwood has been dismantled (aggressively dismantled) and instead of saving the Earth on behalf of the government, it has been saving the Earth because Captain Jack and Gwen Cooper, the only two original team members not assassinated, simply refuse to leave the Earth to its own devices. The latest series, Miracle Day, has just completed its 10-episode run on Starz. It was epic in scope and, as usual, frustrating.

The series, first of all, seemed about 5 episodes too long. The plot engine in Miracle Day is that suddenly, one day, nobody dies. All around the world, at exactly the same time, everybody is immortal, except Captain Jack. Sounds great at first, but of course the devil's in the details. Overpopulation becomes a problem inside of a week, along with the disturbing proviso that mortal wounds never heal. You're just kind of alive, stuck with this oozing gunshot wound or flesh-eating virus or what have you. Good premise but the longer you have to think about the implications, the more holes you're going to find. And there are a lot of them holes. For example the phenomenon seems linked to Harkness, but when he takes a bullet, he just heals. Hell, they blew him up last year! He was encased in concrete for the better part of century once, and it's no biggie. So why not the new crop of immortals?

And my biggest beef with the series is definitely on display this time around: it violates the prime law of procedurals. Okay, it's my law, but it seems to hold: if you do a show about people with a job, they must be really really good at that job. If it's about bus drivers the plots must be how they solve bus driver problems that would flummox ordinary bus drivers. And they have to care about the bus so much that it takes precedence over their personal lives. A bus driver who is neglecting his kids because he's putting in so much extra time to keeping the bus running is a hero in a procedural.

In Torchwood, it's always been a conceit that the team members are people! With needs! So when Captain Jack literally takes an evening off from saving the world so he can pick up a bartender, it sticks in my craw. A good dozen of the plots in the first two series revolved around Earth-threatening conflicts caused by the Torchwood staff. If I were the British government, I'd have taken those guys out around episode 5.

Just Seen: Mozart's Idomeneo

First-nighting a live performance is always a thrill, and it's something I haven't done in quite a while. On Saturday, we had the honor and pleasure of attending the opening night of Opera San Jose's 2011-2012 season at the California Theater. Our attendance of this performance was all due to an incredibly generous gesture by Amanda, a very talented opera singer and member of Opera San Jose's chorus.

For those not from the Bay Area, one would get the impression that Opera San Jose is a sort of small-town affair. It's not: San Jose is a larger city by population than San Francisco or Oakland, and still-flowing Silicon Valley money allows for upper-crust activities such as supporting opera. The problem is one of comparison: 40 miles north of the California Theater sits the War Memorial Opera House, home of the San Francisco Opera-- second only to New York's Met in size. There was nothing second-rate about Saturday's performance: it was a $3 million plus production, backed by Packard family money.

The opera was Mozart's Idomeneo, an Italian-language opera first performed in 1781. Structurally, it's a classic 18th century Opera Seria, full of rich emotional performances and virtuosic singing. And like all good operas, this one was not short on spectacle: Excellent lighting, wonderful costumes and some awe-inspiring sets-- the temple set in act III is three stories tall, eliciting gasps from the audience (I have no idea how they moved it in and out). Archaeologists were consulted on costume and set design, which strongly evoked Mycenian-era Crete.

And the lush orchestral score: Mozart, 'nuff said.

If you're gonna attend a season-opening performance that lasts for nearly three hours and forty-five minutes, you're gonna come out with quite a range of impressions:

• I've always maintained that opera is the ancestor of the motion picture, and Idomeneo was no exception, full of dramatic scenery, emotional exposition, and extras. What I didn't expect is a story that reminded me of a modern romantic comedy. It's based on some of the characters from Homer's Iliad (which makes the story about 3000 years old, well into public domain). In brief, Idomeneo, King of Crete, his son Idamante, his Trojan prisoner/ son's love interest Ilia, and the jealous princess Electra all carry big important secrets. At one point all four characters sing out on how these secrets are making all of them terribly unhappy-- but it does not occur to anybody to disclose these secrets. It's not at all different from a contemporary rom-com where the main character has constructed some elaborate fantasy to woo the girl, and everything would be solved by a short conversation. Then again, I'll wager 230 years ago such hoary plot contrivances were at least fresh.

• Another story element has changed quite a bit from then to now: I'd call it the Homeric element. The prime mover of the story-- the character who basically makes everything happen-- is the god Neptune, a supernatural being. He causes the initial crisis for King Idomeneo at the start, extends it in act II with the introduction of a ravaging monster, then wraps things up nicely in act III. (Neptune shows up with the wordless appearance of a buff actor with a big white beard and a crown: his disembodied voice resolves all the conflicts at the end.) In other words, Deus Ex Machina is not just used to wrap up the plot: it IS the plot. But if you are at all familiar with the Iliad it's pretty clear that Homer had no problem telling a story driven by divine intervention-- or it's evidence of bicameral mentality 3000 years ago.

• Our friend Amanda was not hard to spot in the chorus: Attractive and quite tall, she managed to gain some impressively central stage positions during the arias, standing out in a large chorus. It helped that we had excellent seats in the orchestra. So thanks again.

• In general, it was a delightfully civilized evening of culture. One of the things I really like about these venues is enjoying a sophisticated adult beverage during the intermission. To save time, the bar lets you pre-order your drinks before the first curtain, and you pick them up according to number later. It was perhaps a rude reminder of the moral decline in modern society that when we went to collect our Manhattans at the first interval that we discovered someone had stolen them. The folks at the bar were nice enough re-pour us new ones-- a kind act of non-divine intervention.

Friday, September 9, 2011

At Least They're Consistant

I love bad movies. In fact I once appeared on a game show (when you live in LA it's a matter if IF, not WHEN) and Dick Clark asked me why I like them so much. "They make me feel good about myself," I replied to the delight of a tiny studio audience.

Anyway, it gets harder to find bad movies every year as digital production technique classes up even the cheapest product. Even a cheap monster movie can get a creepy patina added to it in post and suddenly it's not bad, just mediocre. With all the tools at one's disposal nowadays, to make a bad movie you practically have to be aiming for it.

Which is why I was so thrilled the other day when I watched Titanic 2 on streaming Netflix. It's deliciously awful. The acting matches the writing; the writing is crazy stupid. It takes place on the 100th anniversary of the launch of the other Titanic, and the conceit is they have the good sense to avoid icebergs on the route, but global warming causes a glacier at the North Pole to calve so massively that it causes a tsunami that PROPELS THE ICEBERG INTO THE SIDE OF THE SHIP. They shot on the Queen Mary, a ship that has been docked in Long Beach for over fifty years and I have no doubt that had they wanted to, they would have rewritten it so the iceberg would have fallen from space onto the deck.

Somehow they even managed to do what everyone else in Hollywood has avoided - they make the CGI look unconvincing, as is their SFX department is running off a handful of Commodore Amigas. "We need to save this shot! Bring more floppies!"

Full disclosure - I auditioned for a part in this movie last year. I don't blame them for not using me - I was unprepared and got there late to boot. Anyway, I like the guy they did use for first mate, so it's all good.

Anyway, keep an eye out for this movie and any product from The Asylum. I've seen two other movies by these guys and they're always just the right level of bad. I didn't get a chance to catch MegaShark Vs. Giant Octopus yet, but again, it's not IF.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Labor over these numbers!

Labor Day is the only 3 day weekend that reliably delivers NOTHING to the studios. Here's why: September is an enormous dead spot as people focus on going back to school or stocking up on supplies to make it through the harsh winter. They don't go to movies in September. Thus, anything you released this weekend had three days to make its money, and then it's gonna drop like a stone. If you had any confidence you'd have put it out a month ago or you're holding it until October.

So coming in at #2 is Focus Pictures' The Debt, making only $10 million. Then at #3, goofy SF concept Apollo 18, making almost $9 million; at #4 is Shark Night 3D (about Tuesdays at the bar down the street, I think) which only made $8 million. And those are the highlights. Yeah, and The Help came in on top again with $14 million. Some people at Buena Vista are keeping their jobs through the fall!

Worth looking: Robert Redford's The Conspiritor is claiming $24.00 one one screen. That's one couple, or two very, very lonely people.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Apple Comes Out Swinging: Hits Below Belt

One of the biggest changes in the film industry right now is happening outside the general scrutiny of the public. Several months ago, Apple rolled out the highly anticipated new version of Final Cut Studio, thier well-used, well-loved professional-level editing suite. Skipping right over versions 8 and 9 to a cool Roman 10, the new product rolled out as FCPX.

It was a resounding failure.

The new program has a completely different user interface, key shortcuts and throughput capabilities. It won't export edit decision lists, capture video from tape sources, and it's not backwards-compatible-- if you have a legacy project in Final Cut 7 and want to port it upwards, you're outta luck. It bears a strong resemblance to iMovie, the free, consumer-level editing software that comes with your laptop, so much so that post-industry wags dubbed FCPX "iMovie Pro."

At some point, I understand what Apple was trying to do: make a clean break with a system that utilizes a more powerful core engine. The core engine is the video processor system that drives all the renders and makes things like FCP work. From Final Cut 1 to Final Cut 7, they've all been driven by the QuickTime engine, which was state of the art about a decade ago. FCPX utilizes an engine based on AVC and AVCHD, which is state-of-the-art (and is used by most prosumer camcorders these days) and blazingly fast.

The problem here is the calculation Apple made that professional users of FCP, a billion-dollar market, would blindly follow on the brand name alone. These professional users have deadlines, large libraries of legacy projects, and mortgages to pay-- and can't spare the time to dick around with a product that, fast as it may be, is "unsuitable for professional workflow."

People seem to have a fixation on Apple as a cutting-edge, market-making company with unique ideas, and they're right. But innovation is risk-taking, and that means Apple is less a cautious computer hardware company and more based on a movie studio model (As Steve Jobs was a founder of Pixar, this isn't a surprise, I hope.) Invest in a far-out idea, market the hell out of it, shove it out there and hope for a blockbuster. This worked for the iPod, iPhone, iPad and a lot of other stuff. It DIDN'T work for the Apple Lisa, AppleTV, and the Cube. And now it didn't work for FCPX.

If you need an example of a traditional computer hardware company's approach to marketing, consider the Toshiba laptop. They're completely reliable machines, tough and robust-- and they barely change from model to model. a 2011 Satellite looks like a 2001 Satellite. Toshiba bases their business model on market share, not market making.

But innovation becomes something of an ethical issue if you have thousands of users dependent on you for their livelihood. If that's the case, innovation becomes self-serving: killing legacy compatibility and altering features beyond usefulness makes the upgrade risky for most. And there is a definite show-biz angle to this story: A lot of people, from movie studios to indie-film hacks, cut their movies on the Final Cut Pro platform. There is a good chance that TV show you just watched, the movie you just saw, or the DVD you just got from Netflix, came to you through the FCP workflow. (Not your Blu-ray, though: more below.)

And yes, this has affected my business in a big way. I make DVDs for a living, and the suite of programs in FCPX does NOT include DVD Studio Pro. (this is somewhat understandable, as DVDs haven't changed all that much in the last 6 years or so, so upgrading the authoring software is sorta redundant.) Fortunately, the fine folks at Adobe have a wonderful suite of recently hotrodded editing and authoring solutions-- the Creative Suite. They saw Apple stumble badly with FCPX and are sweeping up market share with half-off offers for switching to Premiere 5.5-- and have subtly altered the look and feel of it to something approximating classic Final Cut Pro. I'm already using Premiere and Adobe Encore to author BluRay-- a format Apple still refuses to support! So I'm gonna persevere with FCP7 and DVD Studio pro until they rot off my hard drives (or a new Mac OS refuses to open them anymore) then head across the street to Adobe.

Apple has a right to do whatever they want with their products, of course. But as the legal aphorism goes, your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. And there are quite a few video pros out there with bloody noses looking to hang out with a less pugilistic company.