MEDIA - August 2000

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Thursday August 31

  • US AGAINST THEM: Norman Jewison says "The Hurricane" is the best film he ever made. "It seemed to have Best Picture written all over it," wrote the Washington Post. But the movie sank w/o much of a ripple. Jewison is angry at the way directors are treated by studios. Globe and Mail (Toronto) 08/31/00
  • "MILLIONAIRE" MAULS MOVIES: The Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" is such a ratings hit in India, movie theatre owners say it's killing their business. "If things continue the way they are, our trade will be almost finished. Nobody is interested in coming to the theatres when the game show is on." BBC 08/31/00

Wednesday August 30

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF BACKUP: A weekend fire at Moscow's central TV broadcasting tower has shut down broadcasts of all of Russia's national television networks ever since. Variety 08/30/00
  • WHAT DOES “SOCIAL REALISM” MEAN TODAY? The question took center stage at the Edinburgh Film Festival last week when the UK’s Film Council executive director announced that the council would no longer fund any "social realist art films" - a surprising decree given that many of the hits at this year’s  festival fit squarely within the definition.” The Guardian (London) 08/30/00
  • DISSENTING OPINION: Although the BBC’s recently announced plans to enhance its arts programming have met with popular approval, one critic at least sees only flaws: “BBC4, the new outlet for eggheads and art-lovers, is foredoomed to failure. Among arts leaders, the BBC is viewed with suspicion verging on contempt. Its credibility vanished years ago, along with all its best producers.” The Telegraph (London) 08/30/00
  • FILMING FRIDA KAHLO: "No Mexican cultural figure has ever been as sought after by Hollywood. For years, filmmakers here have tried to make a movie based on Kahlo's gripping and tragic life story, but they have found their projects derailed by bickering parties, mediocre scripts, lack of financing and controversy about casting decisions.The latest chapter in the making-of-the-Frida-Kahlo-movie saga is the fierce competition between three bio-pics rushing to be the first in production. They involve some of the biggest Latino names in filmmaking." Los Angeles Times 08/30/00

Tuesday August 29

  • FLICKERING FORTUNES: Cineplex Odeon, Canada's biggest movie theatre chain, may be forced to shut down many screens as its U.S. parent negotiates with lenders. Parent company Lowes, the movie-theatre company, is in debt for some $635 million, and said that it plans to close up to 250 money-losing screens in North America in fiscal 2000. Globe and Mail (Toronto) 08/29/00
  • BBC AMERICA, the BBC’s U.S. channel, was launched two years ago and is already so popular its audience base rivals the BBC proper. “Why is BBC America growing so fast? [BBC America’s president] and his programming staff get to pick the best of the BBC, programs that already are battle-tested, turned into hits and refined.” 08/28/00
  • ELVISH SPOKEN HERE: Tolkein fans can breathe a sigh of relief if their “elvish” isn’t up to snuff: the hotly anticipated “Lord of the Rings” trilogy will have subtitles when the elves speak in their own language - according to Ian McKellan (who plays the wizard Gandalf ). He divulged a few secrets on his website. The Age (Melbourne) (NZPA) 08/29/00
  • THE GREED FOR SPEED: "New technology confronts all programme-makers with genetic modification in the name of economy and efficiency: as budgets and schedules shrink, we lose vital space for human factors - surprise, and the room to fail, to make mistakes, to rethink and work on them until we get them right. As demand mounts for instant strong results, ethical concerns are inevitably downgraded." New Statesman 08/28/00

Monday August 28

  • A GAME OF RISK: BBC chief Greg Dyke proposed a “revolutionary transformation of the BBC channels” last week that includes more arts programming and educational content. “If he pulls it off, Dyke will earn himself the reputation of the man who saved the BBC from the ravages of the digital age, maintaining the corporation as a universal broadcaster at the centre of cultural life in Britain. The risks of the strategy cannot be underestimated: mess it up and the BBC will be left in ruins.” The Guardian (London) 08/28/00
  • CAN'T WE DO BETTER THAN THIS? This has been one of the shabbiest movie summers in memory - a stretch as desolate as a beach closed by the Board of Health. Still, out of habit, people make the trek, and while remaining fully dressed poke at the debris that's washed up. There's always something to be admired in this old boot or that chunk of scrap metal, decomposing amid the syringes and jellyfish. The Nation 08/28/00

Saturday August 26

  • NEW ARTS TELEVISION INITIATIVE: BBC chief announces major new initiative to revamp the public broadcaster. "BBC3 would target younger viewers with home-grown comedy, drama and music and BBC4 would be an "unashamedly intellectual mixture of Radio 3 and Radio 4 on television". He said that the 800,000 visitors to the Monet exhibition at the Royal Academy last summer and the huge popularity of Tate Modern proved that there was a potential audience for a channel for 'arts, ideas and in-depth discussion'." The Telegraph (London) 08/26/00

Friday August 25

  • INVESTING IN THE ARTS: The UK's new Film Council will be investing in movies. Art films? Documentaries? Not hardly. "There's no difference between the Film Council and the mini-studios that exist in Britain, such as FilmFour, Momentum, Redbus, Renaissance, Sky Pictures, Intermedia. We are not dirigistes, as you are in France. Public money should be invested prudently, just like private money. We are not prepared to take unnecessary risks." The Guardian (London) 08/25/00
  • RADIO STATION GIVES UP BROADCAST FOR THE WEB: A Santa Monica California radio station decides to abandon broadcast operations and exist only on the web. "It's still a bit early, but we want to be there when the technology catches up to the demand." With the push of a button, listeners will be able to purchase the works of the artists they're hearing, and concert tickets, too. Down the road, advertisers will be able to target ads to individuals. Chicago Tribune 08/25/00

Thursday August 24

  • MOVIE THEATRES IN TROUBLE: Can a whole industry declare bankruptcy? Movie theatre companies are filing for court protection after building too many megaplexes in recent years. "Edwards Theatres said Wednesday it filed for Chapter 11. Carmike Cinemas did the same a few weeks ago, and Regal Cinemas, the nation's biggest chain, gave notice it may not be far behind. Meanwhile, United Artists is trying to hash out a deal with its bankers and bondholders in lieu of an outright bankruptcy filing." Variety 08/24/00
  • NEW ART OR MORE OF SAME? The hottest thing in Hollywood right now is the internet. "The lures are obvious: Internet greed, and the chance to pioneer a whole new art form, to be both D.W. Griffith and Louis B. Mayer. It’s an all-star game. The world’s best pitchers, catchers and home-run hitters, people like Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, want in. The only problem is, no one has invented baseball yet." LA Weekly 08/23/00

Wednesday August 23

  • AMERICAN BULLDOZER: It's hardly been a summer to remember at the movie box office in America. Nonetheless, American movies have clobbered French films in French theatres. "After eight weeks, the battlefield is strewn with corpses, le Parisien said yesterday. Only one film - Destinées Sentimentales is expected to survive the season." The Times (London) 08/23/00
  • CYBER-ACTING: The technology is here to allow producers to use digital actors instead of live ones. Does that mean real actors will be out of work? "Producers and directors who think virtual actors will be easier to work with than their human counterparts are also deluding themselves. The truth is that instead of one creative temperament or sensibility to deal with, you have 50. It's simply better and cheaper to use a real actor." Backstage 08/23/00

Tuesday August 22

  • BRINGING BECKETT TO THE SCREEN: An interview with Michael Colgan, artistic director of Dublin's Gate Theatre and the producer behind The Beckett Film Project - an ambitious enterprise involving some of the world’s most famous filmmakers to create movies of all 19 of Beckett’s dramas. CBC 08/21/00
  • SMALL FILMS, BIG BOX OFFICE : Low-budget “art house” movies from around the world have developed an overwhelmingly devoted (and high-paying) audience in Tokyo’s teenagers - a niche market that can single-handedly make or break a film’s worldwide gross. “To illustrate the power of the Japanese mini-theaters, take a look at ‘The Virgin Suicides.’ As of the end of July, the box office for the U.S. movie in overseas markets was about $1.5 million. The breakdown works out to $1 million for a run at a theater in Tokyo and $500,000 from every other cinema in the world where it is being shown.” Yahoo! News (Reuters) 08/21/00
  • TAKING BACK CREATIVE CONTROL: It seems like corporate people make all the decisions in television these days, that creative people - like writers - are at the mercy of the suits. "Some in Hollywood's creative community are nevertheless trying to break this stranglehold - the one that says Disney, as just one example, will own, shape and control pretty much everything broadcast on ABC. They are taking chances many view as liberating after toiling on the focus-group driven, overly massaged 'product' networks are most comfortable serving up. These efforts vary wildly in size and scope and venture capital." Los Angeles Times 08/22/00

Monday August 21

  • APRIL FOOLING: Hollywood fully expects to be hit with writers' and actors' strikes next summer - and predictions are they'll be long strikes. So production is in full bore now to complete projects before work stops. April 1 is the deadline they're racing to make. "It's not a question of if there are going to be strikes. It's a question of what are you going to do about it." Variety 08/21/00

Sunday August 20

  • MULTIPLEX BLUES: "This summer has been a dark one for the movie theater industry. The season is usually the time for the chains to boost their bottom lines, most of which need a lift to pay for all of those state-of-the-art multiplexes the exhibitors have been building across the country." Instead, several large movie-theatre chains are on the verge of bankruptcy. Chicago Tribune 08/20/00

Friday August 18

  • BBC TO CREATE ARTS CHANNEL: "BBC Knowledge, one of the broadcaster's digital channels, will announce an autumn schedule dominated by televised theatre performances, arthouse films, music and literature. The move is seen, and feared, by critics as the beginning of the ghettoisation of arts programmes." The Independent (London) 08/18/00
  • DIGITAL DISPOSITION: New sleek movie versions of Shakespeare leave out something important: words.  "This begins to give some idea of what is lost when Shakespeare's words take a back seat to the ambitions of directors and critics who are more concerned with their own agendas than with Shakespeare's poetic art." The Atlantic 08/18/00
  • FREE ART: "Brooklyn-based historian, author and playwright Charles Mee believes that the greatest plays in human history - those by the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare - would never have been written had copyright laws existed to keep the authors from borrowing from the culture around them. Mee puts his money where his mouth is. He makes the texts of his plays freely available on the Web, and forgoes royalties." All Things Considered (NPR) 08/17/00 [Real Audio file]

Thursday August 17

  • DIGISTAR: The leading actress in Al Pacino's next movie is a computer digitization. "If modern film technology can conjure up dinosaurs, Jabba the Hutt and Bruce Willis with hair, then the substitution of actresses by fleshy cartoons, courtesy of a cheap-labour Korean animation factory, could only have been a matter of time." National Post (Canada) 08/17/00

Wednesday August 16

  • WEB OF SUPPORT: The Academy of Motion Pictures says any internet film not seen in theatres before its web release will not be eligible for Academy awards. So an AMC Theatre in LA opens a new i-film series. The deal is "only one example of the growing relationship between the Internet and Hollywood. Industry insiders like talent agencies, managers, studios and theater owners are trying to help Hollywood translate traditional ways of doing business to the Internet." Los Angeles Times 08/16/00
  • ACADEMY AWARDS officials are protesting California Governor Gray Davis awarding a fake Oscar to Bill Clinton Monday. "The motion picture industry's highest accolade can be awarded only by the artists who make up the academy, and only for accomplishments relating to motion pictures." BBC 08/16/00

Tuesday August 15

  • THE MOST POWERFUL MARKETING FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE: Hollywood has the capacity to excite the public about just about anything - which is why NASA has been bending over backwards to help Hollywood make its space movies more authentic. It goes something like this: if people get space-crazy, NASA may get more support from Congress. The Age (AP) 08/15/00

Monday August 14

  • CRITICAL DISCOMFIT: Movie critic Stanley Kauffmann finds his opinion has changed after 40 years. "The plain, discomfiting fact is that every one of us who has watched plays and films or read books or listened to music or looked at painting and architecture is, in some measure, self-deceived. Filed away in the recesses of our minds are thousands of opinions that we have accumulated through our lives, and they make us think that we know what we think on all those subjects. We do not. All we know is what we once thought, and any earlier view of a work, if tested, might be hugely different from what we would think now." The New Republic 08/10/00

  • FORBIDDEN HONOR: Chinese director Wang Shuo’s film “Baba,” which has been banned in China since it was made four years ago, has won the top prize at Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival. Billed as a “surprise entry,” the film was unveiled at the last minute to avoid attracting unwanted attention from Chinese authorities. "No custom and passport officers will ever let the director of a banned film leave China if they know the banned film is going to play in the foreign country where the director is heading," BBC 08/13/00 

    • A BITTERSWEET WIN: Wang Shuo told a huge audience in Locarno that he’s thrilled his film was honored with the award, but regrets it will never be screened in his homeland. China Times (AFP) 08/14/00

  • THE HARDEST WORKING DEAD GUY IN SHOW BUSINESS: It's been 23 years since Elvis died. But "during the past year, Elvis could be found in more movies than other hardest working men in show business such as Michael Caine, Gene Hackman and the Bridges brothers. The period of mid-1996 to mid-1997 - the first year of my unscientific survey -  remains the champ. During those 12 months, Elvis "appeared" in 26 movies - only seven fewer than the number in which he actually starred." Chicago Sun-Times 08/14/00

Sunday August 13

  • AGENT WAR: "Since the earliest days of Hollywood, agents have been the power-wielders behind the studios' thrones. They have thrived as wheeler-dealers who guide clients' careers, negotiate salaries and, nowadays, arrange those all-important 'back-end deals' - percentages of a film's gross profits." Now there's an agent war. Poaching is rampant. "Industry insiders have not seen anything like it since the mid-Eighties." The Telegraph (London) 08/12/00
  • SAVING HISTORY: That Packard discovered and came to love classic American cinema is one of the luckiest things that ever could have happened to classic cinema. In the past 20 years, Packard, 59, has done more for film preservation than any private citizen in history, funneling millions upon millions of dollars into archives such as the Library of Congress, the University of California at Los Angeles and the George Eastman House. San Francisco Chronicle 08/13/00

Friday August 11

  • WINDFALL: "Thanks to a tight race and more money flooding into politics, the Television Bureau of Advertising is forecasting that television stations will post a record of $550 million in 2000, up significantly from the $367 million of 1996." Variety 08/11/00

Thursday August 10

  • STRIKE PREP 101: As the actors' strike against TV commercial makers drags on into a fourth month, TV and movie studios are coming to the alarming realization they may be facing actors strikes for their projects too next year. "We are trying to get everything done and wrapped up by a June deadline. You don't want to be halfway through a project when the strike hits." Washington Post 08/10/00

Wednesday August 9

  • CONSUMERS WEB: "But a general malaise appears to have gripped consumers; in part due to what many consider unfairly priced CDs. Consumers have flocked to file trading networks such as Napster, Scour, and the nearly 100 other applications that allow users to trade and sample music for free. Even as a federal court prepared to shut down Napster for violating copyrights, 3 percent of the entire Internet home population logged on to the application in search of free music." Wired 08/09/00

Tuesday August 8

  • BATTLE FOR HOLLYWOOD: A bitter war has broken out in Hollywood, with agents battling to lure new clients. "In the past year, the business has been thrown into turmoil because many of the biggest stars and most powerful agents have abruptly changed agencies, lured by the promise of better roles and more money. With stars and directors commanding millions per picture, plus a hefty percentage of the gross, the stakes are high." National Post (Canada) 08/08/00
  • THE AD'S THE THING: "For years, 15-minutes of ads was a kind of unofficial barrier for TV, a mark that no network wanted to go past for fear that it would turn viewers off." Now two American networks have crossed the line. "Soon we'll have no programs left to watch." New York Post 08/08/00

Monday August 7

  • REAL CREDIT: The Writers Guild of America has corrected the credits of eight blacklisted writers on 14 films released between 1951 and 1964. The writers had been credited as pseudonyms to subvert McCarthy-era blacklists. The Age (Melbourne) (AP) 08/07/00 
  • FILM AND THE POLITICS OF REPRESSION: "The decade of the 1980s in Argentina was characterized by profound political, economic and social upheavals. Yet the Argentine film industry in this period had retained a remarkable ability to stay afloat and adapt to the radical shifts of the forces in power. This skill was seen not only in production but in the areas of distribution and exhibition as well. The connection between the different governments and the national cinema was more complex than what emerged from the accounts of Argentine and foreign scholars about filmmaking during the 1980s." The Idler 08/07/00
  • STORE THIS HERE: "Think about it - every time you see a web page that's using a piece of clip art with a dog looking surprised, there are anywhere from six to a thousand other web sites using the exact same image, all stored in different places. This is what my Information Mechanics professor used to call a 'waste of space'." That's why I invented a program for the Library of Congress to erase duplicate information. *spark-online 08/00 

Sunday August 6

  • NEVER NEUTRAL: "In 1991, Pauline Kael decided to stop writing movie reviews for The New Yorker, which she had been doing more or less continuously since 1968. Nine years later, everyone still wonders what the most influential movie critic of all time thinks." Toronto Star 08/06/00

Friday August 4

  • WHAT MAKES A GREAT FILM? A new survey purports to explain all. "It found that, unless a film fitted a recognisable genre, the odds would be heavily stacked against it - crime stories, prison dramas, sci-fi and bio-pics figure in many all-time great lists of films. Another asset was a conventional boy-meets-girl love story running through the film. And, though it may seem blindingly obvious, strong plots helped, as did a few big name stars. Keeping the title short, preferably one or two words, did not do any harm either. The Age (Melbourne) 08/04/00

Wednesday August 2

  • STRIKE INSURANCE: Hollywood producers are terrified that writers and actors will go on strike next summer when their union contracts are up. So studios are stockpiling films and scripts just in case. Variety 08/02/00 
  • IL BEL MARCELLO: A salute to Marcello Mastroianni, on the eve of the UK’s National Film Theatre’s major retrospective of 22 of his movies. “Nowadays, if you want to sum up Italian style, that sinuous Italian charm that is so easy on the ear and eye, then it's usually Mastroianni who comes to mind.” The Guardian (London) 08/01/00
  • STAR KIDNAP: One of India's big movie stars has been kidnapped, and the story sounds like it's right out of an outlandish movie plot. Nonetheless, "schools are closed, buses have shut down, shops are shuttered and people are frightened to go out as bands of angry, rock-throwing movie fans rampage through the streets. Newspapers dubbed the day after the kidnapping Black Monday." Washington Post 08/02/00

Tuesday August 1

  • WHERE OH WHERE: The Moscow Film Festival is supposedly an "A" festival alongside the likes of Cannes and Venice. But it's difficult getting the stars to come to Russia. "This year, as in the past, many of the promised celebrities failed to show, leading an English-language newspaper here to dub the event the 'Moscow Vanity Fair - high on vanity but low on fair value.' " New York Post 08/01/00