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

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Monday September 30

SIN-TILLATING: New-style censorship companies edit out what they consider to be objectionable parts of movies and make them available to clients. One company - CleanFlicks - says "we love movies, but prefer to watch them without the sex, nudity, profanity or extreme violence." Now Hollywood is suing, saying no one has the right to edit creative property owned by those who make it. These Internet Age puritans have the "misguided notion that there are spiritually correct ways to wallow in sinfulness. It's a bit like telling us what kind of life preserver is the best one to wear for a joyride down the river Styx." Toronto Star 09/29/02

THE POWER OF LITERALSPEAK: The need to get foreign audiences to buy cinema tickets, videos or DVDs to see obscure-sounding movies has created a specialised genre that marketing departments have christened 'literalspeak'. Although not always crystal-clear when translated back into English, the system replaces the title of Woody Allen's film Annie Hall, which could mean anything, with the foreign distribution rebranded The Urban Neurotic. Boogie Nights, a title that conceals the central theme of an unusually well-endowed hero, is spelt out in China as His Powerful Device Makes Him Famous." The Guardian (UK) 09/17/02

Sunday September 29

CHURCH CONDEMNS FILM - IT JUMPS TO NO. 1: Not long after condemning the movie that won this year's Venice Film Festival top prize, the Catholic Church is attacking another movie - the surprise Mexican blockbuster, The Sin of Father Amaro, "a tale of a young, idealistic and heterosexual priest who lets himself sink into the institutional corruption of the church after getting his young lover pregnant. If the condemnation was meant to keep the faithful away, it backfired spectacularly. In the last week, driven on by lurid rumours of the film's contents - particularly a scene in which an alley cat eats a host wafer spat out by a communicant - The Sin of Father Amaro has become the most successful Mexican film ever." The Guardian (UK) 09/28/02

PLAY IT AGAIN: Are there really no new ideas in Hollywood? Sometimes it seems that way, given how many remakes there are. But no - there are planty of ideas. The reason movies are made and remade over and over is - here's a shocker - money. "When you've got the equity already built up in a brand name, it's already been promoted, it's already been sold once. It's almost like going into the movie already having had one advertising budget spent on you." Chicago Sun-Times 09/29/02

Thursday September 26

SPACE INVADERS: The US Congressman who is proposing legislation that would allow copyright holders to invade and disable the computers of those they suspect of copying copyrighted works, defends his proposal: "While these P2P networks have some usefulness, there really can’t be any doubt that their primary use is sharing millions, perhaps billions, of copyrighted works. This bill fundamentally affects their whole business method." Wired 09/25/02

Wednesday September 25

MAJOR MOVIE COMPANIES SUED: A movies-on-demand company is suing major media companies, charging they have set up a cartel to shut out independents. "In a lawsuit announced Tuesday, Intertainer leveled 14 counts of antitrust violations at AOL Time Warner, Vivendi Universal and Sony, claiming they have withheld movies from being licensed by unaffiliated companies while they developed their own on-demand streaming service called Movielink." Wired 09/24/02

FILM OFFICE CLOSING: The Dallas/Fort Worth Film Commission is being closed after the city of Dallas withdrew its funding. "In folding, the local office follows other film commission casualties in Massachusetts, Ohio, Orlando, Fla., and St. Louis. Arizona got a last-minute reprieve but had a 50 percent cut to $500,000. Illinois had a 35 percent budget cut, Iowa and Michigan are down to one person, and Wisconsin currently has no film office." Dallas Morning-News 09/24/02

RUNNING COMMENTARY: "The concept is relatively simple, though somewhat clunky in execution: Hook up a microphone to your computer, fire up a DVD, record your insights as you watch, convert your words to either one long, low-bit-rate MP3 or several smaller ones (perhaps divided by chapter), and, finally, post them on the Web. Interested parties can download your file, then play it through their computer speakers in sync with the corresponding disc." But is anyone interested in what you might have to say? Salon 09/24/02

Tuesday September 24

SO MUCH FOR THE OBSESSION WITH YOUTH: Movie audiences are getting older. "According to a survey by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, between 1990 and 2000, moviegoers in the obsessively sought-after 16-20 age group had dropped from 20% to 17% of total viewers. Moviegoers in the 25-29 category dropped from 14% to 12%. Even 12- to 15-year-olds, who are supposed to be part of the biggest demographic bulge since baby boomers, dipped from 11% to 10%. Meanwhile, moviegoers ages 50-59 didn't just stay steady, they shot up from 5% to 10% of total audience." Los Angeles Times 09/24/02

PROTECTING THEIR OWN: The movie industry has been making menacing noises about going after consumers who copy movies. But Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti says: "All we're trying to do is to be able to protect movies in a sturdy fashion, so that we can deliver them on the Internet to give consumers another choice as to how they want to watch movies. The industry wants to do this at a fair and reasonable price.'' San Jose Mercury News 09/23/02

PROTESTING TOO MUCH? New satellite radio services are selling themselves as an alternative for listeners who want more diversity in programming. It's a pitch that must be working - the National Association of Broadcasters is putting money into a PR campaign to dispell this "myth." "The NAB has said all along that traditional radio provides almost everything the vast majority of listeners need, and that if satellite radio finds a market at all, it will be a small niche on the fringe." New York Daily News 09/24/02

Monday September 23

NBC'S BIG NIGHT: Conan O'Brien hosted, Katie Couric and Matt Lauer worked the red carpet, and Friends and The West Wing took home the gold at the 54th Annual Emmy Awards, while cable network HBO walked off with 24 awards but few of the big ones. Nearly shut out was HBO's Six Feet Under, which many had picked for a sweep, and Michael Chiklis took home the Best Actor award for his work on a show most Americans had never heard of. Los Angeles Times 09/23/02

  • THIS SHOW SUCKS! "The trend in televised award shows isn't going the way of either the Oscars or Emmys. You want to see the future of TV awards? Find someone with a tape of the last MTV Music Awards. Pagan exhibitionism, baby. That's what the world of show-biz award shtick is coming to. Or, put another way, we're talking the difference between formal proms and a rave." St. Paul Pioneer Press 09/23/02

Sunday September 22

FORCED TO CHOOSE: For years, African-Americans have assailed the major broadcast networks over a lack of non-white faces on the small screen. In recent years, diversity has increased a bit, with a handful of shows scoring points both for their originality and for their willingness to showcase minorities in non-stereotypical situations. But two networks have once again enraged activists and TV critics alike with their inexplicable decision to put America's two most successful shows featuring black families (The Bernie Mac Show on FOX and My Wife and Kids on ABC) opposite each other in the new fall lineup. Chicago Tribune 09/22/02

Friday September 20

RADIO CONSOLIDATION - GOOD? BAD? Has massive consolidation of the radio industry in recent years led to "more opportunity for radio industry employees, more diversity of programming and better radio for smaller markets? Or has it meant a "loss of jobs, the elimination of local content, less access by the public to the airwaves and a narrowing of the music and opinion heard on radio?" Both views are being heard as the radio business is transformed. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 09/19/02

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Are there really no original ideas left in Hollywood, or is everyone out there just exceedingly lazy? In either case, the film industry is once again obsessed with remaking movies that someone else has already made. In one particularly ridiculous example, Paramount is preparing to release the fifth version of "The Four Feathers." Some say it's homage, but most agree that it's just yet another sign that Hollywood is making movies the way McDonald's makes burgers - fast, cheap, and every one like every other. The Christian Science Monitor 09/20/02

COVERING THE DEAD: A TV host in the U.K. is attacking the BBC for what he sees as arts coverage mired hopelessly in a previous century. Melvyn Bragg, who hosts an arts program for BBC rival ITV, pointed to a recent BBC documentary on the Mona Lisa as an example of arts programming which ignores contemporary work and living artists. The BBC says Bragg is full of it, and insists that Britain's original broadcaster is firmly committed to showcasing contemporary British art. BBC 09/20/02

Thursday September 19

NO SANITIZERS: Hollywood says it will crack down on those who re-edit films to filter out content for "sensitive or politically conservative consumers. "This is not about an artist getting upset because someone dares to tamper with their masterpiece. This is fundamentally about artistic and creative rights and whether someone has the right to take an artist's work, change it and then sell it." The New York Times 09/19/02

ENHANCED ENTERTAINMENT: Who wants to have to watch ads when you've shelled out $8-10 for a movie at the local megaplex? Yet mosty theatres now bombard their patrons with a succession of advertising before the feature begins. Or did we misunderstand? Theatre owners have a different perspective on what they show. They're actually provided an enhanced service: "During a time when they would otherwise be sitting watching a blank screen, we're providing entertainment for them." Denver Post 09/19/02

Wednesday September 18

HOLLYWOOD DOWN UNDER: The Victorian government has signed off on constructing a new $110 million film/TV studio complex. The plan would be the "last piece of the jigsaw to establish Victoria as a pre-eminent film and TV location in Australia". The project is expected to generate "an extra $100 million of film and television production a year, 500 jobs during construction, and 1000 in the film industry." The Age (Melbourne) 09/18/02

HOLLYWOOD IN CHINA: "Nothing stirs Hollywood's covetous soul these days quite so much as the mention of China. With 1.3 billion people and only 5,000 movie screens — North America, with one-fourth the population, has more than six times as many screens — China looks to Hollywood much like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge must look to the oil industry: vast, untapped and potentially fat. But the potential for profit is undercut by the flood of illegal DVD's into Chinese homes." The New York Times 09/18/02

SOPRANOS SINGS: The Sopranos season debut on HBO last week beat everything the broadcast networks served up in the timeslot, as 13 million viewers tuned in. That's a record for the cable network. "That audience would have placed "Sopranos" sixth among all prime-time programs last week--a stunning figure given that HBO is received by roughly a third of the 106.7 million homes with television in the U.S." Los Angeles Times 09/18/02

Tuesday September 17

TV - MORE LIKE AMERICA NOW? Three years ago American minority groups accused television networks of excluding minorities from the screen. But "it's been awhile since we've heard the NAACP mention the possibility of anything as dramatic as a boycott. Does that mean change has come? How have the networks progressed over the past few years? Are African-American performers finding more roles in network television?" Backstage 09/16/02

THE CASE FOR/AGAINST TIVO: Tivo allows TV viewers the ability to watch whatever programs they want when they want it. Also to get rid of commercials, and that worries TV execs. "According to its last customer survey, 74 percent say TiVo has made their life better, 89 percent say it's frustrating to watch TV without TiVo and 96 percent say it would be difficult to adjust to life without TiVo. More than 40 percent said they'd toss their cellphone before giving up TiVo." Hartford Courant 09/17/02

PROGRAM CHOICES: The real battle for the eyes and minds of American TV viewers is being played out over onscreen programming guides. With so many channels available on digital cable and satellite, the guides are essential. But who gets to control what kind of program information you get? Wired 09/17/02

Monday September 16

MAGDALENE GETS ANOTHER WIN: After winning top prize at the Venice Film Festival, The Magdalene Sisters, scores another top win at the Toronto Film Festival. The film, "a drama about women condemned to an asylum by their families and the Catholic Church in Ireland," won the critics prize Sunday. New York Post 09/16/02

  • NZ FILM WINS TORONTO HONOR: The New Zealand film Whale Rider has won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film, only the second from director Niki Caro, beat 344 films from 50 countries." New Zealand Herald 09/16/02

WE ARE THE WORLD: It's increasingly difficult to identify movies as having come from a particular place or culture. "Independent filmmakers, seeking to maintain their distance from studio filmmaking, more frequently must go around the world to seek financial arrangements that make their independence possible — in the process engaging in a variation of the same kind of international moviemaking practice that now defines the very studios these filmmakers seek to work independently of." Toronto Star 09/16/02

HOLLYWOOD'S WAR COLLEGE: Since the attack on the World Trade Center, a group of Hollywood screen writers, directors and producers has been meeting to "devise plausible ways in which terrorists might launch new attacks against the US. Unusually for Hollywood, where everyone wants a credit, the participants chose to remain anonymous. Equally odd, they didn't want to be paid. Indeed, many of the group were thrilled because this was the first time they had been able to collaborate with their industry competitors. They continue to meet occasionally. They also agreed that their ideas would remain secret." The Age (Melbourne) 09/16/02

WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE: "Back in the days of The Golden Girls, it was almost a novelty to find active, vibrant older actresses in leading roles on television. During the past several seasons, however, that has begun to change. With an onslaught of ensemble dramas, women over 40 are continually being pushed into the forefront and defying stereotypes of mature women devoid of personality, sexuality and corporate savvy." Los Angeles Times 09/15/02

ARTISTIC CODE: An exhibition at the Whitney aims to make connections between finished digital art and the underlying code that makes it work. Even at its basic code level, artistic choices distinguish code as art. "This is a very unusual artistic practice in that the artist completely writes the project in verbal terms and that determines the visual outcome." The New York Times 09/16/02

Sunday September 15

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT TORONTO: Sure, there's been some kvetching from a few critics (notably Roger Ebert) who couldn't manage to gain access to a couple of screenings, and no one would envy this particular festival its placement so close to the 9/11 anniversary, but the Toronto Film Festival may well be the closest thing we have to what a celebration of the cinema ought to be. Where Sundance and Cannes are little more than platforms for the stars, Toronto is a festival of, by, and for the people, with the general public not only invited but encouraged to mix in with the glitterati. The result is that the city spends a couple of weeks talking seriously about film, and that can't be a bad thing for the industry as a whole, no matter how many puffed-up semi-celebs get their panties in a wad. Oh, and the movies are pretty good, too. Dallas Morning News 09/15/02

TROUBLE IN BOLLYWOOD: An Indian film actress is facing contempt of court charges after she apparently enlisted the support of a right-wing political leader in her efforts to stop a film in which her character appears naked from being screened. Manisha Koirala had sued the film's distributors after discovering that nude scenes featuring her body double had been added in post-production without her permission. The court ruled partially in her favor, but judges are now furious that Koirala solicited the heavy hand of the Shiv Sena party to forcibly stop theaters from showing the film. BBC 09/13/02

HOW TO SAVE THE NETWORKS: Any way you slice it, the traditional American broadcast TV networks are in trouble. With cable slicing away at an increasing share of the audience, and a shockingly large percentage of network fare looking stale and boring before it even hits the air, something clearly needs to change in the network culture. Neal Justin has some thoughts, and they begin with the hardest advice of all for TV executives: Butt out, and let your creative people do their jobs. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 09/15/02

Friday September 13

WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? A new study of 120 American broadcast television and cable networks or channels shows that "only 16% of the presidents and chief executive officers are women." At the 10 biggest entertainment conglomerates, "women comprise only 13% of directors on corporate boards and only 14% of the firms' executives." Fox Entertainment and USA Networks "don't have a single woman among their top executives in their 2001 annual reports, while Clear Channel and AMC Entertainment included no women on their boards." Backstage 09/12/02

  • ALL ABOUT THE GUYS: Ninety percent of Hollywood movies are directed by men. Does the gender imbalance dictate what movies are made? Or do the movies Hollywood dictate the gender of its directors? "I think that because most of the movies the studios want to make at the moment are aimed at a young male audience guys are having an easier time finding work and receiving the green light. They are more tapped into making pictures for that particular audience." The Scotsman 09/12/02

BROADCAST VS CABLE: Much of the buzz about new shows in recent seasons has been about cable series like The Sopranos and Sex and the City. But is cable programming really getting that much better, or is broadcast getting worse? "Pay cable's hype is totally out of proportion compared with publicity for the 180-plus shows on the seven broadcast networks. But more than half the lead-out sitcoms on the networks are failing to retain a decent portion of their lead-in audience. Yet the broadcasters continue to spend billions on what they know is a broken system." LA Weekly 09/12/02

OVERSTATING THE YOUTH MARKET? Advertisers care so much what males 18-34 watch that they focus most of their advertising on them. But is this traditional wisdom wise strategy? "A growing number of experts are suggesting that the "get 'em while they're young" premise is an outdated assumption about both the young and the old. First, women, not men, control 85 percent of all personal and household spending, according to recent research. And the over-49 crowd in general has more disposable income than younger people." Christian Science Monitor 09/13/02

  • BECAUSE NUMBERS AREN'T JUST NUMBERS: Why do shows with decent ratings get dumped, while others that seem to struggle with viewers get to live? It's not just about numbers. Some viewers are worth more than others, and it isn't always fair. Christian Science Monitor 09/13/02

FONE TRADERS: A French company has developed technology that will allow users to trade digital music, pictures, and data via their phone, in a similar way to today's computer-based file-trading programs. "The technology gives users a digital store cupboard for their own media files and lets them pass them on to anyone who wants to use, listen or look at them on their own handset." BBC 09/12/02

Thursday September 12

MY STORYBOOK GREEK WEDDING: Nia Vardalos was a struggling actor in Hollywood, getting no parts and not likely to. Then she organized her own script of a story about a Greek family and a daughter's wedding and staged it at a small LA theatre. But it wasn't until Tom Hanks and his production company got involved that the play got made into a movie starring Vardalos. And in real storybook fashion, the movie has become one of the biggest hits of the year. The Telegraph (UK) 09/12/02

WANTED - DOWNLOADING DECISION:The recording and movie industries have asked for a quick ruling in US courts in their case against file-trading software providers. But file traders defend themselves: "There can be no liability for two reasons. The first reason is that we have no ability to control how people use our software. Secondly, the software is capable of substantial non-infringing uses which was the basis for the Sony Betamax case." BBC 09/11/02

Wednesday September 11

IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM... Fans will soon be able to download Harry Potter and other hit films over the internet. Mindful that the music industry failed to give consumers an easy way to legally pay for music, the film industry is experimenting with movie downloading. "Hit films will be able to be downloaded for $3.99 per view, with other movies costing $2.99 in the three-month experimental deal." BBC 09/10/02

DEATH BY PATENT LAW? As video-on-demand gets ready to take off, a company that filed a patent back in 1992 angles to get a piece of all the action. Will its claim kill a new industry? "When you have a patent that purports to cover a huge industry, the stakes are too high and the companies often have to fight it to the death. They do a risk analysis, and decide the patent has to be crushed." Wired 09/11/02

WILL THE VCR SAVE FILE-TRADING? As Hollywood's Old Guard movie and music production companies try to sue file-traders out of business, the traders have settled on a 1984 ruling in the Betamax case. The US Supreme Court ruled that Sony "wasn't liable for copyright infringement because its videocassette recorders had 'substantial' legitimate uses as well as illegal ones. If the file-sharing companies win, the music and movie companies would be forced to turn their legal guns directly onto consumers who make pirate copies. That's a step the entertainment industry has been loath to take because it's expensive and might alienate customers. But if the file-sharing companies lose, some advocates say, the shrinking scope of the Betamax ruling could put a damper on new technology." Los Angeles Times 09/11/02

Tuesday September 10

A SCOTTISH HOLLYWOOD? Many cities and countries around the world would like to grab a piece of the global movie-making business. Accordingly, a group of Scots has ambitious plans to build a movie studio near Inverness. But a leading Scottish film producer has pronounced the project unworkable: "There are too many reasons for people to work elsewhere - the technology investment is so enormous and changes so rapidly that London production houses are having a tremendous problem keeping up with the huge technological spend that they are required to make just to stay in [the industry]." The Scotsman 09/10/02

Monday September 9

VENICE PICKS MAGDALENE: The Venice Film Festival closed Sunday by naming "director Peter Mullan's scathing depiction of an abusive Catholic convent, The Magdalene Sisters" as Best Picture. The film had been criticized by the Vatican" as an "angry and rancorous provocation." Toronto Star (AP) 09/09/02

  • MULLAN DEFENDS: Mullan defends his film against criticism by the Catholic church. "The Magdalene Sisters follows four promiscuous girls who were used as labourers by the Catholic church in Ireland in the 1960s and shows them being abused by nuns in the notorious asylums." The church has denied the abuse happened. But Mullan says: 'I'm not a good enough dramatist to make this stuff up'. "The film got a rapturous reception from one audience in Venice, who cheered every time one of the girls tried to escape or rebelled against the nuns." BBC 09/09/02

CORPORATE GRAB: Copyright wars are heating up as computers begin to act more like home entertainment devices. But while the multimedia capability is welcome, consumers are finding new built-in restrictions on how they can use their machines. "These machines have copy-protection embedded in the hardware, much like home recorders that keep people from making copies of videos they have purchased. The threat of lawsuits has motivated companies to develop locked-down, closed computers. And those restrictions no longer mean a product won't sell." Wired 09/09/02

THE 9/11 EFFECT: The way movies and TV are being made has changed since last September. "Overall, in the film industry, the changes are largely in what kinds of stories aren't being told, while in TV, with its hundreds of channels, the networks have served up sometimes contradictory fare. At the other end of the prime-time spectrum are nostalgic series that previously might have seemed overly sentimental but now are accepted and, more important, bankable." Los Angeles Times 09/09/02

Sunday September 8

DESOLATION AND RENEWAL IN VENICE: In an age when film festivals increasingly reflect nothing more than the desire of filmmakers to become famous and make money, the Venice Film Festival is a refreshing slice of reality, says one critic. Well, maybe refreshing isn't the word - after all, reality is not terribly upbeat these days, and much of this year's festival is reflective of an uncertain and sometimes frightening world outlook. But the art is genuine, and the entries as eclectic as any film fan could wish for. And you know the festival can't be taking itself too seriously, since the president of the judging panel speaks only Mandarin, a language in which not one of the entered films is subtitled. Chicago Tribune 09/07/02

  • EH, IT'S NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE: If Venice really wants to be taken seriously as a premiere film festival, it needs to stick to what it does best, and quit trying to be Cannes or Berlin, says Frank Bruni. This year's red-carpet fixation reflects "the overarching, unofficial themes of the festival's 59th incarnation: relentless self-examination, aggressive overhaul and an emphatic quest for renewed glory at a time when competitors have stolen much of its luster. Over the last few decades, Venice has gone from the grande dame of film festivals to the somewhat neglected spinster, and the first person to say so is...its new director." The New York Times 09/07/02
  • NEWS FLASH - NOT EVERYONE LOVES THE U.S.: The idea was simple - get filmmakers with different global perspectives to create separate short films about the September 11 attacks, and screen them together at the Venice Film Festival. But some Americans in attendance were infuriated by some of the entries (in particular, an Egyptian film blaming U.S. foreign policy for the turmoil in the Mideast,) claiming a lack of "balance." Critics, for the most part, have applauded the series. BBC 09/06/02

THINGS THAT NEVER HAPPEN IN HOLLYWOOD: "The screening of the Hindi film Ek Chhoti Si Love Story (A Small Love Story) has gone ahead, despite a court order to postpone its release. The [Indian] high court... ruled the film could not be shown after its star, actress Manisha Koirala, alleged that her reputation would be damaged if people saw it. The actress claimed the film's director, Shashilal Nair, had used a body-double in allegedly obscene shots - thereby portraying her in an indecent manner." The director claims that Ms. Koirala gave her permission for the body double, and movie houses are showing the film anyway." BBC 09/06/02

Friday September 6

FEST EXPERIENCE: There are now more than 1000 film festivals a year - every day of every week somewhere a festival is playing. And they have changed how movies are marketed and what we see. "Different constituencies like film festivals for different reasons. Cities like them because they are useful for tourism and promotion. Audiences like them because they are exposed to films they might not otherwise see. Filmmakers like them because they can debut their films before enthusiastic audiences and at the bigger festivals they can get a lot of publicity at one event, getting the most bang for their promotional buck." National Post (Canada) 09/06/02

  • TOPS IN TORONTO: "North America's biggest film showcase, the Toronto festival has become a key launching spot for studios' major fall releases, including Academy Awards hopefuls. The 27th annual festival began Thursday and runs through Sept. 14. It will feature 265 feature-length movies and 80 short films from 50 countries." (AP) 09/06/02

Thursday September 5

BLOCKBUST AT YOUR PERIL: This was a blockbuster summer for Hollywood, with numerous films making hundreds of millions of dollars each. But the costs of making these blockbusters has soared too, with big-name stars making tens of millions for their parts. And then there are those costly flops...Little wonder studio execs are looking hard at surprise boutique hits like My Greek Wedding, which cost $5 million to make, but has brought in $100 million so far. The New York Times 09/01/02

VENICE ON THE WANE: "This has been a disappointing year at the Venice Film Festival, and even its director Moritz de Hadeln has observed that it is in danger of losing the pre-eminence in Europe it has shared with Cannes and Berlin. The problem is simple to pinpoint, if difficult to solve: too many film festivals, and nowhere near enough first-rate or interesting films to go around." The Telegraph (UK) 09/05/02

ARARAT IN TORONTO: "When Atom Egoyan's Ararat opens the Toronto International Film Festival tonight, it will do so under the same cloud of controversy that has trailed the much-anticipated film since its production... According to the communications officer for the [Armenian National Committee] of Toronto, the Turkish government has threatened the film's producers, threatened Egoyan and attempted to discredit the director and attack his personal life. An official at the Turkish embassy in Ottawa says the country's government is concerned by the film's content, but is not participating in a campaign against the film and will not be mounting any form of protest when the film debuts in Toronto tonight." National Post (Canada) 09/05/02

ANCIENT ATTRACTION: After a long period out of favor, the ancient world is hot in Hollywood again. "The most popular man in Tinseltown at present is Alexander the Great. Four projects about his life are competing to make it first on to the screen. Baz Luhrmann and his leading man Leonardo DiCaprio are favourites to win the race, but they are competing with two other big-screen versions of the Alexander story - one directed by Oliver Stone, another by Martin Scorsese - and a mini-series starring Mel Gibson." The Guardian (UK) 09/05/02

Wednesday September 4

TECH COMPANIES RACE FOR PROTECTION: "Studios and record labels want their products protected from the widespread thievery popularized by services such as Napster. Spurred by the threat of federal legislation, technology companies such as Microsoft Corp. and RealNetworks Inc. are scrambling to prove that their systems do more than the other fellow's to keep content under lock and key. Microsoft has been particularly aggressive, launching a number of efforts to satisfy entertainment moguls' hunger for security in a digital age when content can be perfectly reproduced millions of times." Los Angeles Times 09/03/02

BUZZ SAW: Film festivals exist for the purpose of finding undiscovered gems, which can be "catapulted onto a higher plane of existence by a combination of word-of-mouth, lavish press and the embossed chequebooks of major-league film distributors. That's what makes buzz. But here's a word of advice that may not be appreciated by some of the more excitable elements of the entertainment press: Don't believe the hype. As a breed, film festivals don't have a great track record of predicting movies that will catch on with the public." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/03/02

Tuesday September 3

IRRATIONAL RATINGS: The rating of films in America is a murky business. There's no absolute standard, and independent filmmakers complain that the ratings board deals with their films more restrictively - especially movies with sex in them. "The rating system was started to fend off church-related organizations from rating films themselves, which often led to community bans. But the ratings board has become the worst kind of censor itself, exercising its own subjective, often maddeningly capricious opinions. This is especially true of the board's decisions involving sexual content." Los Angeles Times 09/03/02

HOLLYWOOD'S RECORD SUMMER: The numbers are in for the summer movie season. "By Labor Day, domestic ticket sales will have totaled about $3.15 billion since Memorial Day weekend, surpassing the record of $3.06 billion set last summer. Factoring in higher ticket prices, movie admissions this summer likely will come in slightly lower than last year's 542 million and well below the modern record of 589 million set in 1999." Hartford Courant (AP) 09/02/02

IMPERFECT MEASURE: Traditional survey measurements of what people listen to on the radio are generally inaccurate. But with so much money riding on the ratings, several companies are developing better ways of recording what we're listening to. Sydney Morning Herald 09/03/02

Sunday September 1

KEEP THE STARS OUT OF IT: Hollywood has once again become enamored of Shakespeare, and in recent year, you can't swing a screenplay without hitting a big-money production of the Bard's work, usually starring one or more of the biggest names in the biz. Great, right? No way, says Clive Barnes. "Once in a while this approach works out marvelously - when you get the sheer magnetism of a Christopher Walken or a Liev Schreiber, for example. But more often it turns out like this, where no one - from the cast to the production team - seems to know where they were going." New York Post 09/01/02