MEDIA - Film/Radio/TV/Web - March 2002

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Friday March 29

TV FEEDS VIOLENCE: A new study links teens watching TV with a propensity for violence later in life. "The findings show that of children who watch less an hour of television a day at the age of 14, only 5.7% turned to violence between the ages of 16 to 22. For those who watch between one and three hours, this number jumped to 22.8%. The rate went up again to 28.8% for those who watched more than three hours a day." BBC 03/29/02

ALTERED STATES: Popular culture has always influenced the way people perceive the world around them. "But now there is a new kind of medium, which has begun to close the gap between culture and life. It is an interactive medium, or, more specifically, video games. Compare games to earlier forms of pop culture, and you'll soon realize that they are really different. The more closely games mimic life - with visual realism, emotional weight, an intuitive interface, conceptual rigor - the better they get. And most games try to do more than replicate life - they systematically probe the fantastic, the better-than-real. One senses that the best games aspire to supplant the living of life." LAWeekly 03/28/02

  • OUT OF THE ARCADE AND INTO THE LAB: Many of the ideas and tools that show up in popular culture have their doubles in scientific laboratories. For video games, the parallel is the study of artificial societies. A-society researchers have found that "they can create 'societies' of great complexity—ones that in many ways mirror what's going on in the real world. These models imply that there are certain patterns into which human beings unconsciously arrange themselves—and the models help to identify what those patterns are." The Atlantic Monthly 03/29/02

PUSHING TO "PROTECT": The US Senate is already considering a bill to require digital copy protection to be built into new media playback devices. Now a similar bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives, in an effort to speed up enactment of such a law. Wired 03/28/02

TOWARDS A CLEANER TV: "A study released last week showed that between 1999 and 2001 the amount of sexual material on TV entertainment shows dropped 29 percent, and the amount of serious violence went down 17 percent. "Popular culture is not necessarily on a permanent and steeply downward slide, concludes the report, issued by the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Christian Science Monitor 03/29/02

WHEN MERCHANT IVORY RULED THE EARTH: For a good part of their 40-year collaboration, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory’s movie collaborations were must-watch affairs. "Watch a Merchant-Ivory movie these days and you feel like you’ve been languishing for 40 years in the company of the wearisomely refined (and interchangeable) director and producer." The Times (UK) 03/29/02

HISTORIC? CERTAINLY. MEANINGFUL? WE'LL SEE: The parties are over, the smiles have faded, the tears have dried. Is there any reason to think that the Oscar wins by Halle Berry and Denzel Washington will translate into more equable representation of minorities in the movies? Or does it only mean, as one cynic puts it, that "more people will want to hire Denzel and more people will want to hire Halle Berry." Los Angeles Times 02/29/02

Thursday March 28

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING HOLLYWOOD: A new report says that "Southern California's economy shed about 18,000 motion picture and television industry jobs last year, or nearly 12% of Hollywood's work force, largely when the rush to make movies before feared labor strikes gave way to months of relative inactivity." Backstage 03/27/02

TOWERING GIANT: Clear Channel Communications has come to dominate America's radio and concert business. "With holdings that include approximately 1,225 radio stations and 130 concert venues, the company in recent years has amassed unparalleled power in the music and entertainment industries. That power - and what it means for the music business, as well as for Clear Channel competitors - has been the topic of heated debate within the music industry for the last year." Now government regulators are paying attention. Salon 03/27/02

UNCLE MILTIE PASSES ON: "Milton Berle, the brash comedian who emerged from vaudeville, nightclubs, radio and films to become the first star of television, igniting a national craze for the new medium in the late 1940's, died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93." The New York Times 03/28/02

Wednesday March 27

NUMBING DOWN: If the video images of September 11 seemed unreal, perhaps we should blame it on the numbing effect of film. "It should have been a massive wake up call, because for too long cinema had been playing with reality, playing with it in such a way as to allow actions to become divorced from their consequences. For too long sensation has come to eclipse almost everything: bigger and better explosions that miraculously don't kill the most important of the protagonists, simulated plane crashes which the right people somehow survive, shootings that manage to create victims without widows or orphans." The Guardian (UK) 03/26/02

IF THE FEW CONTROL THE ALL... "Media conglomerates are in a merger frenzy. Telecommunications monopolies are creating a cozy cartel, dividing up access to the online world. The entertainment industry is pushing for Draconian controls on the use and dissemination of digital information. If you're not infuriated by these related trends, you should at least be worried." San Jose Mercury News 03/26/02

RACIST BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY? While critics are hailing last week's Academy Award wins by Denzel Washington and Halle Berry, British actors say that the UK film industry is not nearly so racially open. "The industry's attitude is not malicious, it stems from ignorance. I only began to get properly cast as an actor in my own right 10 years after I left drama school. The US has huge race problems, but at least in US culture everyone gets a chance. Here, we are sidelined and insulted." The Guardian (UK) 03/26/02

WHAT ABOUT OTHERS? Representatives of American minority groups wonder when the "breakthrough" for other minorities will happen in the movie industry. "What's historic about equality? Historic for me will be when all people of color are represented and are capable of garnering these awards," said Skyhawk, president of the advocacy group American Indians in Film. Newsday 03/26/02

WHITHER PBS? Last week, Maryland Public Television unceremoniously fired Louis Rukeyeser, the popular host of PBS's "Wall $treet Week," reigniting a familiar debate on the future of American public broadcasting. Increasingly, it seems that PBS is programming for high ratings, just as commercial networks do, rather than for diversity and quality, as was its original mission. But does PBS's attempt to 'skew younger' and homogenize its programming reflect a move towards irrelevance, or just a desire to compete with private networks? Baltimore Sun 03/27/02

Tuesday March 26

ANALYZING THE REMAINS: This year's Oscar race was "universally acknowledged to be the most petty and mean-spirited in memory." Okay, but exactly what does that mean for those few of us who are not Hollywood insiders? Mostly, it was a behind the scenes, below-the-belt slugfest between Miramax and DreamWorks, with Matt Drudge and a few free-lance publicists as seconds. Los Angeles Times 03/26/02

Monday March 25

OSCAR COMES TOGETHER: "After an awards campaign season universally acknowledged to be the most petty and mean-spirited in memory, the entire Academy Awards process also got a heartening, emotionally stirring Hollywood ending. With Sidney Poitier's special Oscar, Halle Berry's best actress triumph and Denzel Washington's best actor nod, the Oscar ceremony touched chords of genuine feeling you would have sworn were beyond the grasp of this often derided ceremony." Los Angeles Times 03/25/02

  • BUT IT'S SLOW: "Alas, TV's most-watched slug crawled back into town last night, despite the exciting and unpredictable nature of the contests and the bang-up finale. As usual, the technical awards formed a Bermuda triangle in the middle of the show, and the film-clip fests and production numbers numbed our brains. Cirque du Soleil is spectacular, but could we take a rain check?" Boston Globe 03/25/02

GOOD TIMES UNDER DARK SKIES: "The average cost of making and marketing a film fell by about 4% to $79m last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the major studios. And this happened while box-office takings in America were growing to $8.4 billion, as Americans made almost 1.5 billion trips to the movies—the highest number since 1959. Everything seems wonderful, darling. And yet a shadow stalks Tinseltown. Beneath the bonhomie the industry's leaders are increasingly nervous that Hollywood is about to be 'Napsterised'." The Economist 03/22/02

POOH ON YOU: The Winnie the Pooh franchise is a lucrative one, generating "somewhere between $1 billion and $6 billion a year for Disney." But "for the past 11 years, the Disney Co. has been locked in a legal slugfest with the wealthy Slesinger family, which purchased some merchandising rights to Winnie-the-Pooh back in 1930." The case is not going well for Disney. "Last summer, the judge slapped the company with a $90,000 fine for destroying relevant documents and issued a harsh set of orders that, experts say, will hamstring Disney's lawyers." New Times LA 03/23/02

Sunday March 24

GREEN RASPBERRIES: As Oscar hype winds up to a fever pitch, the "Razzies" step in to provide a modicum of sanity and humility to Hollywood's self-congratulatory smarm. The awards honor the worst movie achievements of the year, and this year, in unprecedented fashion, the biggest winner was at the ceremony to accept his awards. Tom Green, the former MTV host and teen grossout movie specialist, picked up five awards for his monumentally disturbing flick Freddy Got Fingered, and became only the second star ever to accept the dubious honors in person. BBC 03/23/02

Friday March 22

FORCED TO PROTECT? US Senator Fritz Hollings has introduced his long-anticipated (dreaded?) bill to mandate copy protection on new digital media players. "The bill, called the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, prohibits the sale or distribution of nearly any kind of electronic device - unless that device includes copy-protection standards to be set by the federal government. Translation: Future MP3 players, PCs and handheld computers will no longer let you make all the copies you want." Wired 03/21/02

ANY CHANCE OF MAKING JOAN RIVERS STAY HOME? Much has been made of the new venue built for the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. "The new 3,300-seat Kodak Theater, in Hollywood, has been custom-built for the Oscars. But it is significantly smaller than the show's old sites in downtown Los Angeles." How much smaller? Well, nearly 300 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will have to watch the show on television this year. BBC 03/22/02

  • BRINGING OSCAR HOME: "The Academy hasn't held the Oscar ceremonies in the real Hollywood since 1929, when it lasted all of 15 minutes, hardly long enough for a self-respecting celebrity to exit a limo these days. The $94 million Kodak Theatre, designed for the Oscar ceremonies, is pure nostalgia. It resembles a 1920s movie palace with stacked opera boxes." But the Kodak sits in the middle of a strip mall, in a neighborhood known more for its drug dealers than its glitz and glamour. Is the project a laudable attempt to revitalize a landmark area, or a misguided plunge into a history that no longer exists? The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 03/22/02

FILMFEST AS URBAN RENEWAL: "With judges ranging from the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi to the former ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, the new TriBeCa Film Festival will try to rejuvenate downtown New York, it was announced yesterday by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, the festival's co-founders. The festival was organized quickly, Ms. Rosenthal said, because it is intended more to save a neighborhood than to celebrate film." The New York Times 03/22/02

SEX AND VIOLENCE DOWN: A new study says that sex and violence on TV has declined between 1998 and 2000. "There is evidence that television has started to clean up its act," says the study. "As for movies, the study found, the amount of sex and violence in the most popular theatrical releases during the same time periods remained unchanged." Nando Times (AP) 03/21/02

  • THINGS YOU CAN'T SAY ON THE RADIO (UNLESS YOU WANT TO): "Accusing broadcasters of trolling 'the depths of decadence,' Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps challenged radio and television executives in early February to better police themselves regarding indecency and vulgarity on the airwaves and create a voluntary code of conduct, all by Easter Sunday. Normally, broadcasters abhor dead air. But with a week to go before Copps' suggested deadline, their silence has been deafening." Los Angeles Times 03/22/02

DISSING YOUR WRITERS: Screenwriters have a gripe about how they're credited in the movies. Writing a movie is much more than writing snappy dialogue. Story ideas, character development, other words, years of work. And then along comes a director and when the movie gets to the screen it carries the tag "a movie by..." If you're the writer, you've just been insulted. Slate 03/21/02

Thursday March 21

DIRTY TRICKS: This has been the ugliest Oscar campaign ever. "That new breed of film executive, the 'Oscar consultant', has introduced the sort of dirty tricks and whispering campaigns once restricted to the sleazy world of politics. This is nothing to do with art; this is business. The Oscar consultant is more than a spinner, he is a strategist who works out how to maximise the chances of a film and direct a campaign of flattery, propaganda and vilification to that end." The Times (UK) 03/21/02

  • A BEAUTIFUL MESS: The supposed smear campaign against the Oscar-nominated film A Beautiful Mind is not really about 'revelations' concerning the behavior of the main character. It's about Hollywood choosing to bend the facts of true stories for narrative purposes. "The decision to change a true story — to delete material that may confuse or disturb viewers, to telescope chronology, to insert composite or entirely fictional characters into historical events — is as much an artistic (and therefore an ethical) choice as the casting of a certain actor or the selection of a camera angle. And such choices are the basis of critical judgment." The New York Times 03/21/02

THE BRITNEY MUSICAL? With the critical and popular success of Moulin Rouge, many Broadway fans are predicting a renaissance of the movie musical. But even if the supposition turns out to be true, there may be a catch. "Moulin Rouge has nothing to do with the Broadway genre. If it becomes a model for Hollywood studios, as some industry insiders predict it will, the movie musical of the future will draw more heavily from MTV than from "My Fair Lady." The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 03/21/02

RATINGS THAT DON'T MEAN ANYTHING: Australian TV networks scrutinize every bit of minutiae of the ratings reports trying to find even the slightest advantage over rivals. But statistically... well, if you apply a standard statistical margin of error, the ratings are useless.  "Applying the error margin to the last full week of ratings available for Sydney (week 10), every show in the top 10 could be potentially moved to a different position, although they couldn't be simply jumbled at will. Unless the two networks are split by at least 5 per cent, which they almost never are, the figures are statistically irrelevant. They're just shadow boxing." Sydney Morning Herald 03/21/02

Tuesday March 19

ELDER-HOSTILE: Older British TV viewers believe they're ignored by programmers. "Around 70% of those questioned thought that the views of the over-65s were ignored by programme-makers. The figure was even higher for the over-75s, while half of those over 55s thought their age group was not portrayed realistically in news and factual programmes." BBC 03/18/02 

MUCKING UP VENICE: Five months before it starts, the Venice Film Festival is in disarray. "By tradition the Venice Biennale is an extravaganza where up-and-coming artists carve international reputations, but the Italian prime minister hoped this one would also give his government an opportunity to showcase administrative skills and political savvy. Instead the government finds itself accused of incompetence, hypocrisy and a heavy-handed attempt to promote a rightwing agenda." The Guardian (UK) 03/18/02

Monday March 18

TRYING TO TAKE DOWN PUBLIC BROADCASTING: Is Canada's CBC-TV "irrelevant, unwatched and unloved? Do Canadians really not watch CBC-TV? Would they not miss it if it were sold? Is it a bureaucratic fat cat unanswerable to anybody?" That's what Canada's largest commercial media conglomerate believes. And - here's a surprise - the company believes CBC ought to be privatized and relieved of its public funding. But their case looks to be based on a series of unsupported myths. Toronto Star 03/17/02  

ENTERTAINMENT BOOM: "Revenues in India's entertainment industry rose 30% in 2001, seven times faster than the economy as a whole, and are expected to double over the next five years." BBC 03/18/02

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: The Academy Awards have a new home - one especially designed for them. But with 3,100 seats it's much smaller than Oscar's old home, which had 5,600. That leaves a lot of Hollywood bigshots without seats. Think they're happy about it? The New York Times 03/18/02 

SMEAR TACTICS: A nasty campaign smearing the character of John Nash, the subject of the Oscar-nominated film A Beautiful Mind is meant to dim the movie's chances of winning. "The whisper campaigns, which reach a peak during Oscar balloting, are fueled, the film's supporters say, by the Internet, by a fascination with tabloid-type scandals and by the rise of private Oscar strategists hired by the studios. But even in that context, the campaign against A Beautiful Mind has struck many in Hollywood as particularly brutal." The New York Times 03/16/02 

GUERRILLA CINEMA: At the appointed hour, a car pulls up, the driver gets out, sets up his equipment, and "guerrilla drive-in" is up and running. In Los Angeles, a filmmaker projects his movies on the sides of buildings, broadcasting the sound on a local pirate radio frequency. "The director began projecting a two-hour cut of his three-hour movie onto the sides of buildings from Santa Monica to the Valley last summer. Sometimes he gets the owner's permission; sometimes he doesn't, a dicey prospect given tonight's locale: behind the parking lot of the LAPD's Hollywood station." LA Weekly 03/14/02

Sunday March 17

THE OSCAR'S NICE, BUT... So there are three African-Americans nominated for Oscars this year. A breakthrough, right? Not at all. "There are a lot of people, mostly outside of Hollywood, making a big deal out of whether this year's Oscar race is truly a turning point for blacks or just a blip on the fluke meter. Do nominations mean long-term gains for black artists, or come the Monday after the Sunday of the awards show, will talented brothers and sisters with Yale acting school degrees still be lining up for bit parts in keepers like How High? Sure, some actors got a nod, but where are the nominations for black directors, sound recorders and craft servicemen?" Los Angeles Times 03/17/02

  • TOKEN EFFORT OR A TURNING TIDE? Long criticized for its lack of minority hiring, Hollywood is holding auditions. "While hoping for the break all actors long for, the performers at the minority showcases have become part of a larger game this spring—recruits in the primary networks' first major quest for minority talent, timed to coincide with the frenzied casting season for series prototypes, or pilots. The showcases were born out of a controversy, making them significant not only to the minority actors who took the stage, but to the entire television industry. Some industry executives maintain that while they would like more minorities on comedies and dramas, the talent pool is not large enough." Los Angeles Times 03/17/02

ET - THAT WAY SCARY ALIEN: Australia's film rating board has upheld a decision to reclassify the rerelease of ET as "PG". When it first played 20 years ago, ET had a "G" rating. ''Although the resolution of the film is positive, the children face difficult and complex situations without support. From a child's perspective, many of these situations are menacing." The Age (Melbourne) 03/17/02

Friday March 15

SCREEN SMOKES: A report details tobacco companies' attempts to promote their products in movies. "In the 1970s and '80s - Phillip Morris alone is credited with 191 placements in films including Grease, Die Hard, Field of Dreams and The Muppet Movie." From a Phillip Morris marketing plan: "It is reasonable to assume that films and personalities have more influence on consumers than a static poster. ... If branded cigarette advertising is to take full advantage of these images, it has to do more than simply achieve package recognition - it has to feed off and exploit the image source." Hartford Courant 03/15/02

GENERALIST IN A WORLD OF SPECIALISTS: Canada's CBC is a major cultural force in the country. But its audiences haven't grown for years. Why? Maybe because the broadcaster has to be a little bit of everything, while cable has fractured audiences with numerous specialty channels. "Our experience at the CBC has confirmed that, given the opportunity, large numbers of Canadians will turn to high-quality, original Canadian programming. Our experience also shows that Canadians will not accept cheap alternatives simply because they are Canadian." Toronto Star 03/15/02

X-RATED: In Britain, The Exorcist has finally passed the censor for video. But Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971) is still banned. This is the record of the retiring president of the censor board. "His four-and-a-half-year stint as Britain's chief film classifier certainly saw the board gain a more permissive reputation." The Guardian (UK) 03/15/02 

FAILURE TO PROTECT: Movie and music producers are trying to copy-protect their work. But "many critics are convinced that copy-protection technologies are doomed to failure. No system is perfectly secure, and anything that works too well is bound to annoy consumers. Veterans of the consumer industry recall the late 1980s, when many software manufacturers abandoned various copy-protection schemes as bad for business. That cycle, they argue, is set to repeat itself." Salon 03/13/02

WHAT'S AN OSCAR WORTH? Well, it's priceless, of course, a big boost to a career. But everyone appearing on the Oscar TV broadcast - presenters and performers alike - will go home with a goody bag worth £14,000 of presents and vouchers. "The bag will contain a £1,000 watch, and a £280 handbag from American designer CJ & Me." BBC 03/15/02 

Thursday March 14

SHARE OF THE PROFITS: American actors have long been able to sign deals with movie studios for a share of profits. Now British actors can make the same deal with UK filmmakers, ending a six-month dispute that threatened to shut down filming. The Guardian (UK) 03/13/02

Wednesday March 13

UK STRIKE AVERTED: "A strike by British film and TV actors has been called off after a new deal for performers was agreed between actors union Equity and producers' organisation Pact. The two-year agreement means performers will for the first time receive either a share of the profits of a film or a share of the proceeds from sales of films to television and for video and DVD sales and rentals." BBC 03/12/02

DIGITAL RADIO DEBUTS: The BBC launched its new digital radio service this week. But there were probably only a few hundred listeners to listen in. Sales of digital radios, required to pick up the broadcast, have been slow in the UK because of their high cost. The Guardian (UK) 03/13/02

"TERRIFIC!" SENSATIONAL!" "I LOVED IT!": Last year Sony made up a critic and newspaper to blurb glowing reviews of its movies. Now the company is paying the state of Connecticut "$326,000 for using fake reviews attributed to a local newspaper in promoting its films. Sony also has agreed to stop fabricating movie reviews, and to stop using ads in which Sony employees pose as moviegoers praising films they have just seen." Nando Times (AP) 03/12/02

RADIO JUST ISN'T FOR MUSIC FANS: Blame it on a vast corporate conspiracy, a bad local program director, or anything you want, but radio's small playlists and near-total unwillingness to play anything not backed up with reams of audience research and paid for by the big labels is unlikely to change anytime soon. So why do stations do it this way? Well, because most listeners seem to want nothing more than their favorite songs repeated over and over, and have no taste for experimentation. And the folks who run the stations admit that, if you're a true music fan, you're pretty much out of luck. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/13/02

Tuesday March 12

PAID TO SMOKE: "Tobacco companies, hoping that smoking scenes in Hollywood movies would increase sales, worked diligently through the 1980's and early 90's to get as much screen time for their brands as possible, a British medical report says, and at least one company went so far as to provide free cigarettes to actors and directors who might therefore be more inclined to light up when the cameras rolled." The New York Times 03/12/02

  • PAID NOT TO RUN ADS? Hollywood trade publications have refused to run ads for a group mounting a campaign against the portrayal of smoking in the movies. "At a time when smoking is banned in most public places, tobacco use is everywhere in movies. You can find stars smoking in three of the five films nominated for best picture." Toronto Star 03/12/02

EMBRACE THE MACHINE: When VCR's hit the market a few decades ago, movie studios went into a panic, calling them the "Boston Strangler" of the film business. Now they're making the same noises about digital copying machines. But just as videotapes became the movie industry's biggest profit center, might the same not also happen with new technologies? "New technology has a funny way of appearing scary at first glance, but it often opens the door for unforeseen business opportunities." Los Angeles Times 03/12/02

A RECORD CURL: The hottest movie in Canada this week? It's Men with Brooms, a film about curling. "Launched on 207 screens across the country, with a promotion budget in excess of $1-million, the Robert Lantos-produced film placed third nationally and topped Johnny Mnemonic (1995), the previous English-language Canadian winner for opening-weekend grosses." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/12/02

Monday March 11

BOLLYWOOD VS HOLLYWOOD: "As East and West eye continue this cultural flirtation, there's money to be made on both sides. Bollywood's film-makers have developed a shrewd eye for their market overseas, shaping films to appeal to non-resident Indians in the West. Meanwhile, Hollywood is manoeuvring its tanks on to Bollywood's front lawn, launching films such as Jurassic Park, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings in India. Dubbed into Hindi, they have been big hits, and movies such as these accounted for almost five per cent of box-office receipts last year, a small but ominous figure." The Telegraph (UK) 03/11/02

MORE MOVIE AWARDS: Another set of awards said to presage sentiment in Oscar voting. "Russell Crowe was named best actor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday for his portrayal of delusional math genius John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, a win that could boost his chances to win back-to-back Academy Awards. Halle Berry won for best actress as the widow of an executed death row inmate who becomes involved with one of her husband's guards in Monster's Ball." Nando Times (AP) 03/11/02

ART OF PROGRAMMING: How do radio programmers decide what music gets on the air? "How the man behind the curtain arrives at what we hear on the radio is somewhere between an art and a science. Although some people like to blame a big corporate conspiracy for the state of radio, much of what we hear is determined by a jury of our peers." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/10/02

Sunday March 10

SAG REELECTS GILBERT: The Screen Actors Guild has reelected Melissa Gilbert president in a special election. "Gilbert captured 21,351 of the vote to Valerie Harper's 12,613 in a record turnout for a highly publicized race. The election has been one of the nastiest battles in the history of Hollywood unions, marked by accusations and name calling involving some of the industry's best-known actors." Los Angeles Times 03/08/02

  • WHAT NEXT? "Despite an aggressive campaign, Harper, 61, was unable to convince members that her opponent allegedly was too cozy with agents, studios and others Hollywood unions at the expense of SAG. Gilbert's margin of victory far exceeded what it was in November, when she pulled in 45.3 percent of the vote compared to Harper's 39.4 percent." Los Angeles Times 03/10/02

TV FOR ADULTS: The BBC's launching of a new arts channel has been controversial - who needs an "arts ghetto?" But "halfway through its first week, BBC4 looks like the best thing that has happened to television for a long time. It gives the novel impression of being a channel produced by adults for adults. True, it sometimes resembles radio with a camera in the room, but that is more daring than the brand of television in which movement and noise are valued above intelligence. If you don’t employ bells and whistles, witlessness is not an option." The Scotsman 03/09/02

Friday March 8

LEAVING FRANCE UNPROTECTED: Vivendi Universal chief Jean-Marie Messier is a major media player in France (as well as the US). So when he recently predicted the demise of "an intricate system of state subsidies that have protected the French movie industry for years against les grosses majors américaines" his countrymen were outraged. "France’s cultural elite view the subsidies program as a kind of national treasure." New York Observer 03/06/02

SAG SOAP DRAGS ON: The controversy over last year's Screen Actors' Guild elections continues to rage, with stars on both sides squealing over who actually won the election for head of SAG, and whether a re-vote is necessary. The pointless arguing was bad enough, but then members "began to get inundated with e-rhetoric from those directly involved, those tangentially involved, and those who maybe wanted to get some publicity because they're not on television anymore." Backstage 03/07/02

A RETURN TO MOVIE MUSICALS? The success of Moulin Rouge seems to be leading the way to a predictable revival of the popularity of the movie musical. Studios are looking for attractive ways to package the new round of musicals, including using actors not known for their singing (as in Rouge) and debating whether revivals of classics like Chicago or development of new, modern musicals is the best way to go. USA Today 03/08/02

Thursday March 7

RECORD YEAR FOR MOVIES: Hollywood had a record year at the box office in 2001. "Films including Harry Potter, Shrek and Lord of the Rings helped the box office hit a record high of $8.41 billion, well above 2000's $7.7 billion. The report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which represents Hollywood's major movie studios, shows that films are costing less to produce." BBC 03/06/02

A KINDER GENTLER RUSSIAN TV: The three national TV channels in Russia run a lot of violent programs during the afternoon and evening hours. In fact, they routinely ignore the children's programming quotas required by their license. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has two teen-age daughters, doesn't like it. He urged the Russian media to make better children's programs a priority. To emphasize his concern, he ordered the Press Ministry to start monitoring those quotas. The Moscow Times (AP) 02/06/02

Wednesday March 6

A MORE HARD-CORE ET? Australian film censors have given a tougher rating for the upcoming reissue of the movie ET than it got 20 years ago - the movie got a "G" rating then; now it gets a "PG" tag. "In reflecting contemporary community standards across all classifiable elements of the film, the supernatural themes and language could not currently be accommodated at the G level of classification. It is understandable that attitudes shift over a 20-year period. This results in some films receiving different classifications when classified now." The Age (Melbourne) 03/06/02

TURKEY BANS FILM IT FUNDED: The Turkish Culture Ministry helped fund a movie it hoped would compete for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. But now the government has banned the movie in Turkey "on the grounds that it highlights Kurdish nationalism and portrays the Turkish police in a poor light." The Guardian (UK) 03/05/02

Tuesday March 5

A FIRST - DVDs SURPASS VHS: For the first time since the DVD debuted nearly five years ago, DVD sales and rentals have outdone the more traditional videocassette format. Couple that with the fact that more than 26 million DVD players are in homes nationwide, and it's no wonder that the figures are so staggering. In 2001, DVDs generated more than $4.6 billion in sales compared to just $3.8 billion for VHS." Nando Times (Scripps Howard) 03/04/02

CONGRESS COOL TO ANTI-COPY LAW: Members of the US Congess appear to be cool to the idea of legislating copy protection into CD and DVD technology. Hollywood studios and recording companies looking for help in combatting digital piracy want to mandate the protections to prevent illegal copying. Wired 03/04/02

Monday March 4

THE ACTORS WHO WOULD BE PRESIDENT: The biggest battle in Hollywood this winter isn't over the Oscars. It's about who should be president of the Screen Actors Guild. "The campaign for the two-year term as guild president is a rerun of a race last fall in which Melissa Gilbert was declared the winner. She has been serving in the job since then, but the guild's election committee nullified the results after some members complained of voting irregularities, prompting a second election and an investigation by the Labor Department that is continuing." Valerie Harper is the challenger, and with ballots to be counted Friday, the race is too close to call. The New York Times 03/04/02

UNPREDICTABLE: "Predicting the Oscars used to be a relatively dependable business. The components of a potential Oscar-winner could be tallied up with almost scientific precision. Positive themes, worthy true-life tales of injustice and courage, 'intelligent' spectacle, crippling conditions overcome, terminal diseases not overcome, noble failures, heroic victories, big weepy farewells. But ever since Titanic swept the board in 1998, the academy’s voting patterns have become increasingly eccentric and youthful. The recent winners are not particularly undeserving, just out of sync with previous Oscar voting patterns." The Times (UK) 03/04/02

IS TRADITIONAL ANIMATION DEAD? "On the surface, traditional animation is in trouble: witness the continuing layoffs at Disney, cradle of this 20th century art form. Rival studios Warners and Fox are still smarting from their humiliating attempts to emulate Disney's 1994 triumph with The Lion King by setting up their own animation studios." Steve Jobs says traditional drawing is over - computers do it better. Calgary Herald 03/03/02

THUMBS DOWN ON CONFLICTS OF INTEREST? Film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper are on a cruise - a cruise sponsored by Disney, which owns their show. Fans of the show can pay to go on the cruise and meet the critics. But "the cruise raises some questions about whether journalists and critics can navigate the tricky waters of cross-promotion and still avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest." Los Angeles Times 03/03/02 

MOVIE TIME IN NEW YORK: New York is planning to build a $375 million movie studio complex. "The 15-story Studio City will offer more than an acre of Hollywood-style backlot on the ninth floor, with a view of the New York skyline and the Hudson River. Planned on a West Side block between 10th and 11th avenues and 44th and 45th streets, the tower will provide production studios, equipment and offices to film, television and advertising companies." Backstage (AP) 03/02/02

Sunday March 3

WHAT'S WRONG WITH AN ALL-ARTS CHANNEL? This weekend the BBC launches BBC4, its new arts channel. But not all arts lovers are cheering. "BBC4, for all its cultural riches, is not a creative channel in the way that BBC1 and BBC2 were at their best. Its philosophy is alien to the creative risk that produces great television. Rather, it stripmines other art forms and creates little that is new." The Guardian (UK) 03/02/02 

ABC TO KILL NIGHTLINE? Is ABC planning to buy David Letterman to replace the network's Nightline? "ABC News staffers, furious that network brass were working to replace their most prestigious program, launched an attack to try to save the show, led by news division President David Westin." Washington Post 03/02/02

A REAL LOOK AT OSCAR? "Two women's groups, the Guerilla Girls and Alice Locas, have mounted a giant billboard in the heart of Hollywood depicting an 'anatomically correct oscar' in the ungainly shape of a pudgy, middle-aged man. 'We decided it was time for a little realism in Hollywood," they said in an statement yesterday. So we redesigned the old boy so he more closely resembles the white males who take him home each year'." Sydney Morning Herald (AFP) 03/03/02 

Friday March 1

OUR LIVES IN MOVIES: Film biographies rule the screen these days. But "the biopic is more than a film 'based on a true story' or a movie about historical events. In a secular society, biopics can be the closest we get to lives of the saints - or the sinners. They can be cautionary tales, inspirational stories, lenses through which we view the past - cheery hagiographies or bitter denunciations." The Age (Melbourne) 03/01/02

ILLUSIONS OF QUALITY: Is Miramax "the world's most annoying" film company? "Movies are all about illusion, and the greatest illusion of them all is the illusion of quality. This is Miramax's stock-in-trade. It takes stories that seem a bit classy - Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Shakespeare in Love, Chocolat - and turns them into cultureless mush, affected little movies which are grand in their own way, and which win Oscars, but which are actually meritless escapades fine-tuned to dupe the public." The Telegraph (UK) 03/01/02