MEDIA - July 2000

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Sunday July 30

  • SPUD DUD: The possibilities for interactive TV are exciting - shop, learn, book airline tickets, communicate with friends - it'll all be possible. But in the short term, interactive TV will fail. Why? "Simply put, we like to watch. Period. Over the years, viewers have developed a seductively passive relationship with the small screen. They're couch potatoes for a reason; they sit, they click, they veg." Boston Globe 07/30/00
  • DOING THE DVD: With more than 2 million players sold and thousands of titles available, the DVD has become the most successful consumer product ever. But some in the movie industry are still resisting, fearing that safeguards against piracy aren't good enough. Boston Globe 07/30/00
  • DIGITAL SHORTS: They still have tiny audiences, but short digital movies are hot right now. "Not just showing them, but clamoring for them; building businesses around them; showcasing them in film festivals; nominating them for Academy Awards, and, perhaps most significantly, paying for them." Chicago Sun-Times 07/30/00
    • ON THE OTHER HAND: An internet movie "George Lucas in Love" that cost  $25,000 "premiered last October on, one of several new Web sites that offer short films to Internet users. An instant hit, it was streamed to 150,000 homes in its first three weeks, and more than 1 million to date." Now for sale on Amazon, it consistently outsells Lucas's latest "Star Wars" installment. San Francisco Chronicle 07/30/00

Friday July 28

  • MEDIA LAB COMES TO DUBLIN: Tod Machover and MIT's thinky Media Lab have set up shop in Ireland. "They believe Dublin will host the creation of an entirely new, large-scale art form that combines a variety of media. 'We need to figure out what comes after theatre, what comes after cinema,' Machover says. 'We're hoping to develop a large part of it in Ireland.' " Irish Times 07/28/00
  • MOVIE HEARING: A group of deaf movie fans has sued movie theatre chains under the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking to force the theatres to accommodate them. "We're looking for some form of captioning for the hearing impaired to be able to access first-run movies at the same time as the non-disabled." Wired 07/28/00
  • BUREAUCRATIC AND POMPOUS? A former Australian Broadcasting Company producer enumerates ABC's many shortcomings as he sees them. "Mr Moore also accused the ABC of class bias towards people educated in private schools, adding it was too literal, pompous, middle-brow, and lacking in irony and a sense of humour." The Age (Melbourne) 07/28/00
  • TIMES AXES MIRAPAUL: The New York Times has discontinued Matt Mirapaul's column on art and technology. "The column was one of the first in the mainstream press to report on the intersection of art and technology, including 'Web-based art exhibits, interactive music, hypertext fiction and other expressions of digital creativity." Wired 07/28/00

Thursday July 27

  • ACCESS TO THE MENTALLY DISTURBED? Berlin's public access channel is under fire and in danger of losing its spot on the broadcast band. "Opponents say the channel is out of date and a refuge for egomaniacs and the mentally disturbed. They argue the special-interest groups don't reflect society as a whole." Die Welt (Berlin) 07/27/00
  • COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION TO CANADA: The actors strike in the US against producers of commercials has been a boon to the Canadian production industry as producers head north to get their projects done. CBC 07/27/00
  • SENSITIVE NEW AGE GUYS: Guy movies may no longer fall into the category or beat-em-up, shoot-em-up, testosterone-y macho propaganda - there seems to be a new wave of films that present more feeling, sensitive men. "John Wayne on a prairie, the man alone, definitely is something I can't relate to," says one director. "I want to love, I have needs. Men around me in my life, they've got needs. In this day and age, I think it's become necessary to depict that." The Age 07/26/00

Wednesday July 26

  • HOLLYWOOD NORTH: Toronto is crawling with movie projects this summer. "In the first half of 2000, the value of production in Toronto was $352.8 million, according to agency data. That's an increase of 15.2 per cent, from $306.2 million in the first six months of last year, and it doesn't include the millions of dollars spent on TV commercials, animation and special effects." Sixty-one percent of the projects come from the US. Toronto Star 07/26/00
  • BOSTON STRONGARM: Do Boston teamsters shake down Massachusetts movie producers to ensure they use union crews on locations? "Local film producers and officials said yesterday the Teamsters' heavy hand has been felt in Massachusetts movie-making for decades and is a main reason major studios and independents avoid shooting in the Bay State." The FBI is investigating. Boston Herald 07/26/00
  • “LORD OF THE BOOTLEGS:” Director Peter Jackson is doing his best to keep his movie version of “Lord of the Rings” top-secret until its release - despite the devious attempts by several people on the New Zealand set to leak clips and documents to the public. Three people have already been arrested for distributing video footage and photographs of the set, actors, and costumes. Wired 07/25/00

Tuesday July 25

  • PREEMPTIVE STRIKE: Hollywood studios are bracing themselves for potentially contentious negotiations and walkouts when many actors’ and screenwriters’ contracts expire next spring. In anticipation, studios are ramping up production and stockpiling scripts. The last Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes were in 1988 and cost the industry an estimated $500 million in losses. Times of India (AP) 07/25/00 
  • MAKING NOISE OVER THE SILENTS: Hollywood’s landmark Silent Movie Theater has recently reopened after a $1 million refurbishment, and audiences are packing the house every night to watch the silent era on screen. “With the greatest respect to modern cinema, people are grossed out with special effects and stuff done on computers. There's a yearning for the purity of these old movies.” The Telegraph (London) 07/25/00 
  • SAVING PUBLIC BROADCASTING: "Activists and citizen groups are crying out that public broadcasting in America has abandoned its Great Society-era foundations and is failing its Carnegie Commission mandate to present diverse perspectives. They warn that it has bowed to commercial pressures and corporate influence, due to inadequate funding. Charges of bias abound from both the right and the left. In a media-saturated country and a media-saturated age, can we still seclude some public space from the marketplace?" [a collection of stories about public broadcasting]  Mediachannel 07/25/00
  • FRENCH DIRECTOR CLAUDE SAUTET DIED Wednesday at age 76. One of France’s most popular filmmakers, he directed more than 30 features and won the Oscar in 1978 for “Une Histoire Simple.” CBC 07/24/00

Monday July 24

  • SCREEN SCENE: Plans for a short-film series by contemporary British artists to be shown on a huge outdoor screen in central London are causing quite an outrage. No surprise there: The films include “an actress dressed as Diana, Princess of Wales, crossing and uncrossing her legs in the manner of Sharon Stone in the film “Basic Instinct,” and the blown-up facial expressions of a series of men and women recorded while using the lavatory.” Although endorsed by the London Tourist Board, the Tories’ Home Secretary has publicly condemned the series, worried it could “tarnish Britain's image abroad.” The Age (The Telegraph) 07/24/00 
  • THE "CURIOUS" NETWORK: Pat Mitchell, PBS's new president, is talking about reinventing the public broadcaster. "If you look at this new media landscape we're moving into, with more and more choices ... who are viewers going to trust? Our mandate is ... to bring a certain vitality and relevance to our schedule; new ideas that appeal to new viewers, as well as keeping the ones we have." Minneapolis Star-Tribune (St. Petersburg Times) 07/24/00
  • AILING ANIMATION: “It may not be dead, but some are wondering whether animation's pulse - at least that of the traditional, two-dimensional variety made by anyone other than Disney - might be fading.” Fox Animation Studios closed down this week, and Warner Bros. and Paramount have scaled back production. “Audiences, they argued, were demanding up-to-the-minute digital magic and shying away from the traditional animation they remembered, unless the name Disney was attached.” New York Times 07/24/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • A HORRIBLE HOMECOMING: Since earning the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May for his “Devils on the Doorstep,” director Jian Wen has met with nothing but resistance from government censors since returning home to China. “Censors have refused to allow his movie about wartime China to be shown in his homeland and they won't tell him why. They also want to confiscate the movie's negatives, and Jiang fears that he could be banned from directing and acting in China.” Nando Times (AP) 07/23/00

Sunday July 23

  • THE STAR OF PBS: "The Boston station produces or co-produces nearly 35 percent of PBS's prime-time lineup - an output rivaled only by WNET-TV in New York - and also generates roughly 20 percent of the children's programs. The advent of the Internet has expanded the station's reach: More than one-third of all visits to PBS Web sites are for WGBH programs. As for the numbers that matter most - ratings - WGBH accounts for more than half of PBS's 10 most-watched shows in any given month." Boston Globe 07/23/00

Friday July 21

  • REAL REALITY? "Though it was never a part of the show's design, 'Big Brother' is broadcasting in prime time many of the unresolved fears that stretch across the nation's racial divide. The series already is being labeled groundbreaking television, with the raw footage captured by the cameras that film around the clock generating heated discussions in cafes and Internet chat rooms across the country." Los Angeles Times 07/20/00

Thursday July 20

  • BACK IN HOT WATER: Director Roman Polanski - exiled from the U.S. since a 1978 conviction for statutory rape - is now being sued by Artisan Entertainment which claims he siphoned $1 million in VAT refunds into a private bank account after the release of the film “The Ninth Gate.” Sydney Morning Herald 07/20/00
  • BEST TV NOMINATIONS: This year's Emmy nominations were announced this morning. "West Wing" and "The Sopranos" each got 18 nominations. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (AP) 07/20/00

Wednesday July 19

  • NAH-UH - THAT'D NEVER HAPPEN: Lawyers for eight movie companies tell US federal judge the movie industry never would have begun issuing movies on DVD if they had known they could be copied on computers. The Age (AP) 07/19/00

Monday July 18

  • SO WHO NEEDS INFRASTRUCTURE? Earlier this year the Australian government announced it was withdrawing funding from the Australian Film Institute. The AFI is the only distributor of Australian short films and independent documentaries in the country, and the primary source of information about Australia's television and film industry. Aussie film luminaries are criticizing the government's decision, saying the cuts "would harm the long-term health of the Australian culture and economy." The Age (Melbourne) 07/18/00
    • QUIT TALKING AND RAISE MONEY: "In what is turning into a battle for industry support, the commission has hit back by saying that the AFI, which has twice claimed during the past six months to be facing insolvency, has failed to seek additional funding sources, sponsorship or strategic partnerships to maintain the threatened activities. Instead, it has devoted its resources to campaigning against the decision." Sydney Morning Herald 07/18/00
  • A MATTER OF HISTORY: The roar of protest over the distortions of history in the movie "The Patriot" has been deafening in recent weeks as the movie opened in Britain. So what is up with this month's Smithsonian Magazine article trumpeting how it helped the movie-makers get the details of history right? Has "the nation's attic" sold its soul? Washington Post 07/18/00   

Sunday July 16

  • PROUD GRADS OF THE RSC: Movies like the "X-Men" are all about special effects, things being destroyed and shooting. So why do you need Royal Shakespeare Company-trained actors like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan for that? "Shakespearean actors need to make a living too; why should the Keanu Reeveses and Tom Cruises of the business grab all the money and the fame? And one can imagine that a Hollywood blockbuster like ''X-Men'' gives actors such as McKellen and Stewart a few months to rest their well-trained acting muscles - the equivalent of reading a beach book after a year of classics." Boston Globe 07/16/00

Friday July 14

  • DON'T PISS OFF THE CENSORS: "China's film censors have blackballed popular actor-director Jiang Wen because his award-winning film was judged to be unpatriotic. A well-placed source in China's cinema world said Jiang, who won this year's Grand Prix jury prize at the Cannes film festival with 'Guizi Lai Le', had been banned from acting or filming in China, or even appearing on television for seven years." China Times (Taiwan) 07/14/00
  • SHOW ME THE MONEY: In the past year Hollywood has been accused of being closed to minorities. The number of minorities working on TV projects doesn't come close to representing their numbers in the general population. But this summer "African-American filmmakers are now making their presence known in Hollywood in the only way Hollywood has ever truly recognized and respected: by making huge amounts of money for the industry." Boston Herald 07/14/00
  • GREAT PERFORMANCES: Over the next two years, Broadway Theatre Archive plans to release a total of 300 digitally restored adaptations of plays from PBS' 'Great Performances,' 'Theatre in America' and 'Hollywood Television Theatre,' and such commercial network series as 'Hallmark Hall of Fame' and 'Du Pont Show of the Month.' "I have always been surprised that Broadway, in particular, has never successfully made the leap to television. The only way it did was through staging original productions for television. I was curious what that body of work was." Chicago Sun-Times 07/14/00
  • UN "PATRIOT"-IC: The British are protesting the gratuitous rewrite of history in "The Patriot," but there are other reasons to worry about this movie. "Thanks to the sheer raving outrageousness of 'The Patriot' - which climaxes with the use of an American flag as a bayonet; which evokes Waco in a scene in which a church-full of militia sympathizers are burned alive by the British; and which peddles a right-wing agenda so outlandish it would make Rambo blush - you'd have to be a flaming, wood-paneled idiot to miss the movie's politics." Toronto Star 07/14/00

Thursday July 13

  • THE KODAKS? Companies buying the right to plaster their names atop modern sports palaces has become routine. Now Kodak will pay $70 million over 20 years to afix its name on a new Hollywood theatre that will permanently house the Academy Awards starting in 2002. Los Angeles Times 07/12/00
  • LAST DAYS? Over the past decade the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has lost more than half its viewers for CBC-produced programming. "From the '50s through the '70s, the CBC was one of the world's great public broadcasters. But the Corporation was also evolving into its own self-contained world of bigger budgets, exploding infrastructure, myriad administrators and, ultimately, a kind of on-air arrogance." Now budget cuts and a failing mandate with the politicians threatens the network. Mediachannel 07/00 
  • BUY CANADIAN: Canada has elaborate tax-credit laws used to encourage use of Canadian content in the movie and TV industries. But a new audit reveals that up to a third of the companies that took advantage of the tax breaks in the province of Quebec deliberately or accidentally misrepresented their labor and production costs. National Post (Canada) 07/13/00
  • ALL ABOUT THE ADS? Broadcast companies are beginning to invest in internet radio in a big way. "Traditional radio has been limited in the number of commercials that can be sold, since there is only 24 hours of broadcasting time in a day. Not so with the web, where niche and specialty channels can be created almost without limit, raising the advertising time available for sale." The Independent 07/13/00

Wednesday July 12

  • POPCORN WITH YOUR PROPAGANDA? In January it was revealed that TV networks have received millions in exchange for working anti-drug messages into their programming. Now federal drug policy-makers are taking their campaign to Hollywood, urging studios, writers, and directors to promote (and profit from) films with similar messages. CNN (AP) 07/11/00

Tuesday July 11

  • RADIO FOR ONE:  Internet radio is music to the ears of many listeners tired of the predictable hit-list programming of mainstream radio. But whereas traditional radio is an inherently mass medium uniting listeners on common musical ground, "the very multiplicity that makes Net radio so appealing also makes it somewhat depressing. If Net radio delivers us from everything banal and venal about analog radio, it also endangers what's vital about old-fashioned broadcasting." New Republic 07/17/00
  • THOSE REVISIONIST YANKS: The movie "Patriot" hasn't even opened in Britain yet but the English are boiling about the revisionist way the movie interprets them historically. "Hollywood has a habit of taking away the character of notable English people and demonizing them. With their own record of killing 12 million American Indians and supporting slavery for four decades after the British abolished it, Americans wish to project their historical guilt onto someone else." Dallas Morning News (AP) 07/10/00 

Monday July 10

  • BLOOD SPILLS AT BBC: The BBC will ax 900 jobs over the next three years. The corporation says the move will result in "a flatter, more coherent and more co-operative BBC. Overall we are now confident that these new changes...will give us a great deal more money to spend on our programmes and services over the next five or six years, something like £750 million over the period." BBC 07/10/00
  • RADIO FROM THE SKY: The first satellite radio broadcaster is in orbit. "The satellite is one of three that Sirius will use to broadcast its 100 CD-quality music, news, sports, and talk radio channels for a monthly charge of $9.95." Will it kill conventional radio as we know it? Wired 07/10/00
  • ALL THINGS CULTURAL: Chicago's WTTW public broadcaster reinvents as a multi-media local portal, putting its emphasis on local cultural programming and throwing out a challenge to other public broadcasters. Chicago Tribune 07/10/00

Sunday July 9

  • THE POLITICS OF CLICHE: In the old days (the 1990s), it seemed like every Irish film played on nostalgic stereotypes. Now a new set of stereotypes have taken over. "Perhaps the moguls have simply updated their clichés - and, just as every Hollywood success spawns a raft of imitations, Irish films come in thematic waves. Rural melodrama is out; Dublin-based drug barons with dubious accents are in. It may not be much of a new wave, but at least it's more exciting than the old one." The Sunday Times 07/09/00

Friday July 7

  • PEERING ON OUR PEERS:  “Survivor,” “The Real World,” “1900 House,” and now “Big Brother” - Why the current obsession with voyeurism and so-called “reality television”? “The camera has become central to Hollywood’s notions of voyeurism, also privacy. To generations raised on television, just sitting in the dark and watching surreptitiously now seems normal. But, add a camera, or a 100 hidden cameras as a new film recently did, and it’s still possible to make the concept feel pretty racy.” NPR 07/06/00 [Real Audio file]
  • STRATEGIC PLANNING: Organizers of Britain’s top film awards, the BAFTAs, rescheduled the annual ceremony for a month before the Academy Awards - an unabashed attempt to upstage (and hopefully influence) the Oscar outcomes. Sydney Morning Herald 07/07/00 
  • END OF THE OSCAR CAPER: A truck driver in Los Angeles has been sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay $50,000 for stealing 55 Oscar statuettes shortly before this year's Academy Awards ceremony. BBC 07/07/00
  • JEDI DANCER: Filmmaker George Lucas has hired San Francisco choreographer Michael Smuin to choreograph scenes for the next "Star Wars" movie. "George envisioned the saber fight to be more dancelike this time,'' said Smuin. "It took three people to accomplish this: a sword master, a Cirque du Soleil acrobat and a dancer with the Australia Ballet." San Francisco Chronicle 07/07/00

Thursday July 6

  • MOVIE INVESTIGATION ICED UNTIL AFTER ELECTION: This spring, US presidential candidate Al Gore launched an investigation into why so many movie productions are heading north to Canada. Now completion of the report has been delayed because of potential political ramifications. If the report attacks Canadian tax incentives to the movie industry, "state incentives (in the United States) may be vulnerable under international trade rules, just as (states) would argue that what Canada is doing is vulnerable under international trade rules. Toronto Star 07/06/00
  • DEFENDING A "PORNOGRAPHIC THELMA AND LOUISE: French intellectuals, celebrities and movie makers took to the streets of Paris Wednesday to defend a hardcore movie panned by the critics and banned from general movie theatres by the French censors. The demonstration took place in front of an MK2 cinema in Paris' Latin Quarter. The theater is one of 20 that have been defying the State Council's ruling. Variety 07/06/00
    • CENSORSHIP WARNING: French Culture Minister Catherine Tasca warned that the court ruling raised the prospect of a return to state censorship. BBC 07/06/00
  • A SINGULAR DIRECTION: Zhang Yimou is revered in the West as one of China's greatest filmmakers. But his name is still inseparable from that of Gong Li, his partner for eight years and the star of the cycle of six Zhang films. Most were historical dramas with strong political undertones. Now that the pair has split, Zhang's last two films have none of the lush sense of historical sweep we associate with his name, and you couldn't imagine Gong Li playing in either of them. The Age (Melbourne) 07/06/00
  • LIFE'S A BEACH: An environmental group in Thailand has sued 20th Century Fox for the ecological damage incurred on Phi Phi island during the filming of the Leonardo DiCaprio film "The Beach." Nonetheless, "DiCaprio has repeatedly defended the use of the Thai island. The 'Titanic' star has also insisted that producers improved Maya beach and said the movie would boost tourism." The Age 07/06/00

Tuesday July 4

  • DEATH OF INDEPENDENCE: In recent years, the entertainment business has been all about consolidation. "Zero score and seven years ago, in fact, the Federal Communications Commission brought forth a new TV business, one dedicated to the pursuit of bigness and consolidation at any price" Now, a few independents are beginning to strike back. Los Angeles Times 07/04/00
  • THE REALITY OR REALITY: Just why are so many millions of people fascinated with the reality shows "Survivor" and "Big Brother"? Daniel Boorstin may have predicted the reason some 40 years ago. "Attributing the blurring of news and pseudo news to a combination of technical virtuosity and audience democratization, he wrote: 'The image, more interesting than its original, has become the original. The shadow has become the substance.' Images, synthetic and simplistic yet vivid and believable, have become the nation's measure of what is real. New York Times 07/04/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • FILM AID: "Founded last year by Caroline Baron, a film producer, Filmaid's mission is to bring feature films, children's cartoons and other screen entertainment to refugee camps, where the horrors of war are often succeeded by bad memories, isolation and tedium." New York Times 07/04/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Monday July 3

  • FLEEING NORTH: "This is a record-breaking year for Hollywood films shot in Canada, entertainment-industry figures on both sides of the border agree. In past years, U.S. producers have taken advantage of the weak dollar to shoot low-budget feature films and made-for-TV movies in Canadian cities. This year, though, the studios have brought their big projects north and a long list of marquee-topping stars such as Sean Connery, Christina Ricci and Robert de Niro." Toronto Globe and Mail 07/03/00