MEDIA - September 2000

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Friday September 29

  • ANIMATORS, MEET THE ACADEMY: An Oscar for feature-length animation has been introduced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, making it the first new category in almost 20 years. The first animation award could be presented at the March 2002 ceremony, but it will only be handed out during years when more than eight films are eligible. Variety 09/28/00

Thursday September 28

  • CORRUPTING COMMERCIALISM? The state-funded Australian Broadcasting Company looks to be pursuing e-commerce opportunities in new-media. That has some critics concerned: "Content will be assessed on its commerciality primarily, and over time depart from the charter obligations of the ABC. We should not be in the business of designing content solely to draw audiences for advertising ..." The Age (Melbourne) 09/28/00
  • WRITING OFF YOUTH: Why did Canada's CBC take serious classical music programming off its Radio Two network? "Young people, the CBC thinks, are basically dumb: You can only appeal to them with bubblegum and the Internet. Youth equals light. So we will ensure that the cultural radio station appeals only to the old and sentimental, and thus ensure the reality of the presumption." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 09/28/00

Wednesday September 27

  • BAN REVOKED: Ireland's censor has just revoked a ban on a 1967 movie version of Joyce's "Ulysses." "The production, which contains all the sexually explicit language that made the novel notorious, is expected to be released to cinemas here for the first time. Film censor Sheamus Smith said it was 'innocent stuff now', and has granted a certificate for showing to audiences aged 15 and older." Nando Times (AP) 09/27/00

Tuesday September 26

  • SHOW ME THE MONEY: In India, where the average income is about $215 a year, the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" has become a wild hit. "Streets are half deserted when 'KBC' comes on, suddenly it's easy to get a seat at late evening movies, pubs in some cities say business has been hit, and bookshops are packed with books to guide you through the quiz programme." The Times of India 09/26/00
  • WHERE HAVE ALL THE AUDIENCES GONE? For nine weeks in a row now, movie admissions in the US have been down compared to a year ago. So far in September, ticket sales are down 22 percent, and some movie people are beginning to worry- "Did we do something to drive people away?" 09/26 00

Monday September 25

  • HEAR THIS: "A week ago, Congress used its authority to force the major television networks to explain at a hearing their marketing of violence to children. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, chairman of the arts and entertainment caucus, says similar tactics could be used to have the networks explain why there are so few Latinos on TV shows." Nando Times 09/24/00

Sunday September 24

  • THE SILVER SCREEN PROBLEM: Why is it that great stage musicals rarely translate well to film? The release of "The Fantasticks" after sitting around for five years on the shelf after it was made, gives some clues. Los Angeles Times 09/24/00

Friday September 22

  • COPYRIGHTING MOVIES: The Australian government wants to look at allowing film directors the ability to copyright their work. The Age (Melbourne) 0922/00

Wednesday September 20

  • CASTING A WIDE NET: Director Roman Polanski placed an ad in the London Guardian to find a man to play Polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman in his next film, “The Pianist.” The ad read: “Looking for a sensitive, vulnerable and charismatic man, acting experience not essential.” BBC 09/19/00
  • SIX DISTRIBUTORS IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE: How to market an independent art film on a tiny distribution company’s budget and reach an audience that isn’t growing at the pace of the releases? “[Distributors] will tell you that there are too many films vying for the attention of an audience that is no larger than it was in the '70s. The pie is the same size, but it's being cut into smaller slices.” Village Voice 09/26/00

Tuesday September 19

  • SETTING OUT TO SHOCK? Austria's Ars Electronica Festival, Europe's most prominent electronic arts festival, was controversial both among artists and Austrians. "No matter what you think of the artistic quality of the festival, it had the undeniable effect of enraging local politicians from the Freedom Party." The New Republic 09/18/00

Monday September 18

  • WHERE ARE THE YOUNG? Movie attendance in Europe and Australia for those under the age of 25 has fallen off. Movie theatre's blame the drop on the growing popularity of computers and cell phones. The Age (Melbourne) 09/18/00 
  • NO GOOD MOVIES: Movie attendance this weekend was the lowest in the US since 1997. The Olympics and a lack of good films are blamed. 09/17/00
  • FIGHTING FOR FIRST: Toronto Film Festival concludes with awarding its top prize to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" a "unique and sumptuous martial arts adventure by Taiwanese-American filmmaker Ang Lee." Chicago Tribune 09/18/00
  • POST-MORTEMING TORONTO: "The rap against this year's festival is that the Hollywood studios have hijacked the event. This observation comes not only from the Canadian media but some of the top American critics as well." The Globe and Mail 09/18/00

Sunday September 17

  • SEE ME, HEAR ME: Some movie theatres are installing technology to help blind and deaf people enjoy movies. For the deaf, "rear-window captions display the dialogue and certain sound effects. Blind moviegoers get a special headset to listen to a description of the visual elements of a film." Ottawa Citizen (AP) 09/17/00

Friday September 15

  • CHASING BETTER RATINGS: Eight prominent Hollywood directors advocate scrapping the current movie ratings system, saying that it is unworkable. In its place, they propose a ratings system that would apply to all popular culture. Washington Post 09/15/00

Thursday September 14

  • BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST? There’s never been a shortage of filmmakers (from “The Agony and the Ecstasy” to “Basquiat”) trying to get inside a painter’s mind and tell the imagined backstory of a work of art. Spanish director Carlos Saura’s new film, “Goya in Bordeaux” blames a thwarted love affair for the Spanish master’s nightmarish masterpieces. The Guardian (London) 09/14/00

Wednesday September 13

  • BORING! So we're back to being offended about violence in entertainment again. But what a a paper issue. "Some of the current sanctimony is sincere. But come on: since the 1960s, if not earlier, the cultural contradictions of capitalism have been the cultural contradictions of capitalism. Our ferociously efficient free-market system, the one bubbling along so nicely just now that Al Gore will be elected president, requires revenue maximization, which means every prospective buyer of every legal, medically safe product must be targeted. 09/13/00
  • FCC LOOKS AT KIDS’ PROGRAMMING: A day after a federal report excoriated Hollywood for marketing violent content to children, the FCC urged the television industry to adopt a voluntary code to ensure children’s programming is age-appropriate during the hours they’re likely to watch. On Thursday the FCC will discuss advertising practices during children’s programming. Yahoo! News (Reuters) 09/12/00

Tuesday September 12

  • FTC TAKES AIM AT ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY: "This Big Tobacco-type drubbing comes from the Clinton-Gore administration just 28 days - long enough for the checks to clear? - after the same entertainment industry whooped the city of Los Angeles into one, huge week-long fund-raising party for Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and the Democratic Party." 09/11/00

    • NEXT UP - CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS: "Wednesday, Lynne Cheney, wife of GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney and a longtime leading figure in the culture wars, will be called to testify. And she is only the latest high-profile figure from both parties eager to take part in what is shaping up to be such a congressional gangbang that representatives from the entertainment industry have decided to pull out of the hearings." Salon 09/12/00

    • LIKELY OUTCOMES: Expect protests from the entertainment industry and a lot of grandstanding from politicians, but don't expect any legislation. The entertainment industry will remain self-regulated, but it will be encouraged to get a lot better at that self-regulation. If it doesn't, it will face a full-on assault, much like the tobacco industry has faced in the last several years. 09/11/00

    • HOLLYWOOD PONDERS DAMNING REPORT: Hollywood was busy digesting Monday's report by the US Federal Trade Commission on violence which concluded that "the movie, music and video game industries undermined their own rating systems by advertising to audiences for which the content is deemed inappropriate." Variety 09/12/00

  • THE COSTS OF NOT WORKING: The 19-week strike by actors against commercial producers has cost the Los Angeles economy $200 million, says an economist. Variety 09/12/00

  • TORONTO IS TOPS: "Other events may have made their mark by being snobbish, elitist, difficult. Not Toronto. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and generally considered the top festival in North America and the most important in the world after Cannes, Toronto has become the destination of choice for filmmakers and journalists largely by being appreciative, hospitable and sane." Los Angeles Times 09/12/00

Monday September 11

  • THEATRE GLUT: "The proliferation of new theaters was supposed to usher in a golden new era of moviegoing, with screens available for new hits, the classics and indie films. In 1995 there were 27,805 screens in the United States. By last year the number had jumped 34 percent to 37,185." Now some chains are going out of business because of the overbuilding. Newsweek/MSNBC 09/11/00  
  • EMMY AWARDS: "West Wing" wins. List of winners. New York Times 09/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • VENICE FESTIVAL WINNER: An Iranian film wins the Venice Film Festival. " 'The Circle' tells the story of eight Iranian women struggling with the restrictions their society places on them because they are women." The Age (Melbourne) 09/11/00

Sunday September 10

  • LOSING THE WAR: It seems like recording companies and the entertainment industry are winning their battles with the new digital cowboys. But it's not so: "What's happening to the entertainment industry is the same thing that happened to the brokerage business when on-line stock trading appeared: An industry built on one business model feels fear when something new appears that threatens that way of doing business. The New Economy word for this kind of thing is 'disintermediation', and it's breaking out all over thanks to the Internet." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 09/10/00

Friday September 8

  • DRAGGING DOWN CANADIAN FILM PRODUCERS: Canadian film production houses are hurting, despite an abundance of work. The reason is an ongoing scandal at production house Cinar, which is "under investigation for taking illegal tax credits, allegedly by using Canadians to cover for American writers who didn't qualify under Canadian content rules, and misappropriating $86 million (U.S.) in unauthorized investments." 09/08/00
  • WHERE HAVE THE LITERARY FILMMAKERS GONE? "The posh literary film (or PLF) is one of the relatively new petit-bourgeois enjoyments. Since the 1980s, indeed, we've had nearly all of EM Forster, a good deal of Henry James, more than half of Jane Austen, a bit of Orwell and Wilde and Graham Greene and, any minute now, no doubt, a Technicolor account of Pope's Dunciad, starring every British actor who ever failed O-level English - which would make it a cast of thousands." The Telegraph (London) 09/08/00
  • SO YOU WANT TO BE A SCREENWRITER... A new paper by the Australian Film Commission says that 1,200 to 1,400 feature scripts have been developed here in the past three years. And the number that reach the screen? About 25 to 30 a year." Sydney Morning Herald 09/08/00

Thursday September 7

  • FILM FEST COMES OF AGE: The Toronto International Film festival turns 25 this year - “an event that not only has grown into one of the world's most important film markets but also has become the prime launching pad for Oscar bait.” New York Times 09/07/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
    • WHY ART FILM LIVES: Back in the 1970s it looked like big commercial Hollywood blockbusters would take over the world. Toronto was begun as an antidote to that. The festival quickly proved that "in a miraculously sustained but constantly shifting way, international cinema refuses to lie down and die. You can starve it and stomp on it with Sylvester Stallone movies, but its lifeblood keeps pumping, and it keeps growing new limbs." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 09/07/00
  • FICKLE FILMGOERS: It’s commonly believed that big film awards - an Oscar or a Palme d’Or - work wonders for a filmmaker’s career. Not so for Bruno Dumont whose “l'Humanité” took home best actor, best actress, and the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes. “Depending on who you listen to, ‘l'Humanité’ is stultifyingly boring/ hypnotically entrancing, intellectually intriguing/exploitatively hollow, etc. Some audience members have insulted Dumont; others have held his hand and wept.” The Guardian (London) 09/07/00

Tuesday September 5

  • DOES ANYONE CARE? The BBC's shift of its national newscast from 9 pm to 10 pm is calculated to get more viewers. "What surprises me about this gloomy, shifty discussion of news programming is how little people consider why it has become, over the course of a decade, such a ratings calamity. With more competition, there will be fewer viewers for any single bulletin, but Britain is the greatest newspaper-reading nation in the world, the home of Radio 5 Live and three indigenous rolling news TV stations. If people are ceasing to watch the best resources news shows of all, maybe there is something wrong with them." New Statesman 09/04/00
  • STILL A LICENSE TO PRINT MONEY: Ratings for the TV networks have been slipping for years, and it looked, even a year or two ago, that network TV might not be profitable again for a long time. That was then..."The networks' parents don't break out numbers for the properties, but analysts estimate that earnings in the second quarter were up across the board: NBC raked in $375 million; ABC, $220 million; CBS, $95 million; and Fox, $48 million." 09/04/00
  • LOW SEASON: The summer movie season is officially over. "This has been one of the shabbiest movie summers in memory - a stretch as desolate as a beach closed by the Board of Health." The Nation 09/04/00

    • HIT ME: "Summer 2000 closed with its sixth straight frame in the red compared with 1999. It still wound up as the No. 2 summer of all time, barely edging 1998, but the lack of dynamic titles and the troubles of exhibitors made it an anxious season for most distributors." Variety 09/05/00

Monday September 4

  • OVERBUILDING TO DEATH: The movie theatre business is hemorrhaging money - several are on the verge of collapse, even as the movie business itself is doing just fine. So what's the problem with theatres?  Overbuilding. "It was a mass suicide. They see their competitors putting up new attractive theaters, so they think that to be competitive they have to do that, too." New York Times 09/04/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday September 1

  • POP GOES THE ART FILM: As our diversions become more and more tied to audience numbers and popularity, can difficult or subtle art films survive? The evidence is mixed.  New York Times 09/01/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • WHAT THE FALK? An Argentine actor/director goes to the Falklands with a crew posing as tourists and without permission and films a movie covertly in nine days. The movie "tells the story of an Argentine man visiting the islands with the aim of... umm ... impregnating as many British women as possible, thereby achieving the takeover that 72 days of fighting at a combined cost of 891 lives and $2 billion could not." 09/01/00