MEDIA - Film/Radio/TV/Web - October 2001

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Wednesday October 31

VIDEO WHEN YOU WANT IT: HBO introduces video-on-demand. "Video-on-demand is like having access to a virtual video store with no tapes or late fees to worry about. It not only gives viewers absolute control over viewing times, it also offers VCR-like functionality: Viewers can pause, rewind and fast-forward programs." Wired 10/30/01

I WANT MY MTV (SMALLER): After decades of growth, MTV says it's time to contract. The network will lay off 450. Officials say "the reorganization was motivated by a need for changes in MTV Networks' structure as well as by the poor advertising market." 10/30/01

NEW YORK-BASED TV - TALK SHOWS: TV talk shows based in New York report they're having trouble booking guests lately, because many celebrities are reluctant to travel. Among recent no-shows were Emeril Lagasse, Steve Harvey, Drew Barrymore, and Heather Graham. At the same time, David Letterman's ratings are shooting up. Hmm. Nando Times (AP) 10/30/01

Sunday October 28

THE END OF PRIME TIME? American TV networks are getting out of the big-budget big-show must-watch prime time TV production. "This week, Fox, the fourth-largest network, shut down its entire in-house production division. And the other three networks all announced major cuts and layoffs. ABC, for one, says it will cut the number of shows it develops by 25 to 40 per cent. Prime-time TV no longer interests them. This is, in part, because the big shows are no longer very profitable - the huge star salaries and development costs have outstripped the advertising revenues." Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/27/01

WHY CANADIAN TV DOESN'T WORK: This week's awards show for Canadian television isn't likely to be watched by many Canadians. Canadian TV has difficulty competing with American. "Most Canadian TV, with the exception of news and sports, is a money-losing proposition. That's because a domestic drama series costs a network about $200,000 an episode while earning maybe $125,000 in ads. That's an automatic loss of $75,000. Meanwhile, a typical U.S. series costs some $80,000 an episode while generating $200,000 in ads - for a cool $120,000 profit per hour." Toronto Star 10/28/01

Friday October 26

RETURN OF THE HORROR FILM: It never went away, of course. But it may be that genre, rather than the action movie, with which Hollywood gives us a metaphor for our times. "It might not be giant bugs, but some sort of shape will be found to symbolize today's faceless villain. The horror movie is going to move away from the age of Godzilla. Instead, it's going to be much more on the 'X-Files' model, where the villain is elusive and perhaps conspiratorial." International Herald Tribune 10/26/01

Thursday October 25

SHOULD HAVE WON BEST TITLE, TOO: The British Independent Film Awards have been handed out, and the big winner is a charming little gangster flick called Sexy Beast. BIFA organizers said that it was a particularly good year for independent film. BBC 10/25/01

GRAMM GOES HOLLYWOOD: Retiring Senator Phil Gramm of Texas has been cast in an upcoming movie, playing (surprise) a Southern politician. The senator's role is, fortunately for those who like to understand the dialogue in the films they attend, a non-speaking one. Nando Times 10/25/01

GLASS IN HOLLYWOOD: Considering the low esteem in which the public has generally held minimalist art, the continued popularity of composer Philip Glass is nothing short of astonishing. Somehow, Glass seems to have managed to bring life and surprise to a musical form designed to remove both, and his forays into the world of film scoring brought his work to a wide audience. A new project in L.A. offers audiences the chance to watch a "live" soundtrack: an ensemble playing Glass's music accompanies a series of new film shorts. Los Angeles Times 10/25/01

Wednesday October 24

DIVERSITY IN MONOPOLY? The consolidation of media outlets into a few giant companies the past decade has been breathtaking. But while the chairman of the FCC concedes "there is 'rightful anxiety' about concentration of media ownership, he stressed that rules curtailing entertainment giants are outdated and the government must be shown strong justification to maintain them. Given the proliferation of channels, he added, television and media are 'more diverse in 2001 than at any time in their history'." Los Angeles Times 10/24/01

SUBSIDIZING AMERICAN CONSUMPTION? Are "Canada's private TV networks are using tax-funded subsidies to help finance a program buying spree in Hollywood?" A new report says the networks are lessening their commitments to Canadian programming in favor of American shows. National Post (Canada) 10/24/01

MOVIES ON THE COUCH: Movies often depict psychiatrists in central roles. But while moviemakers often go to great lengths to try to portray these medical professionals in realistic ways, they rarely succeed. "The practice of movie psychiatry bears almost no resemblance to real-world psychiatry. In movies, psychotherapy is generally used only as a plot device." Los Angeles Times 10/24/01

Tuesday October 23

SOLIDARITY FOREVER, PLEASE: "The US actors' union has backed its UK counterpart over a planned strike by British actors that is due to start in December. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has urged its members not to sign up for UK films that could hamper British union Equity's chances of striking a new deal with producers." BBC 10/23/01

Monday October 22

THE MATTER WITH HARRY? A documentary film maker charges that the Harry Potter movie (and books) are anti-Christian and that "under the guise of harmless children's fantasy literature, a massive effort to draw children around the world to the occult threatens to undermine Christianity." New Times Los Angeles 10/18/01

Sunday October 21

ENTERTAINING WAR: Television executives met with White House officials last week to plot what ways the TV industry might be helpful in the American war effort. "We listened to their ideas, we talked about resources we might have in government to be helpful to them," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan. "The purpose of this meeting was to open a dialogue and provide a source or channel of information." Washington Post 10/20/01

FEAR OF MAIL: Movie studios are changing their working routines. Among the changes: "Notices are going out from production and casting companies advising agents and managers that mailed submissions of actors' photos and résumés will no longer be allowed." San Jose Mercury News 10/21/01

Thursday October 18

TWICE-CANCELED EMMYS RESCHEDULED: They'll be held Nov. 4 in Los Angeles. "Still unknown is how many top-drawer nominees will show up Nov. 4. Some stars, including Dennis Franz, the Emmy-nominated actor on ABC's NYPD Blue, have expressed the hope that the Emmys wouldn't be held this year. The canceled Oct. 7 telecast had planned a bicoastal component, enabling nominees of New York-based shows to attend without boarding a plane. The Nov. 4 event will have no such element." Los Angeles Times 10/18/01

RATING THE CREDIBILITY OF HOLLYWOOD SCI-FI: So the American military is consulting Hollywood over high-tech battle scenarios...How plausible are the movie-makers' techno-dreams? Two tech pioneers rate the ideas versus reality: Data-chip brain implants in Johnny Mnemonic - only 30 percent. The paranoid computer in 2001 - 90 percent, but still 20 to 30 years away. Uploading a virus to incapacitate a ship's computer in Independence Day - don't look now, but it's already here. 10/16/01

Tuesday October 16

ON SECOND THOUGHT... Pauline Kael on the art of watching movies: "I still don't look at movies twice. It's funny, I just feel I got it the first time. People respond so differently to the whole issue of seeing a movie many times. I'm astonished when I talk to really good critics, who know their stuff and will see a film eight or ten or twelve times. I don't see how they can do it without hating the movie. I would." The New Yorker 10/15/01

STEP ASIDE, ARNOLD, HERE COMES JET LI: "Asian movies are red-hot. From a purely commercial standpoint, Hollywood is betting that Hong Kong-style martial arts films, which put more emphasis on gravity-defying stunts than on blood-drenched gunplay, can deliver a new generation of action icons to replace aging stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone." Los Angeles Times 10/16/01

YES, VERY ROMANTIC. VERY COMEDIC. VERY APPROPRIATE: Pity poor CBS president Les Moonves. People are jumping all over him just because he said "his network is mulling a romantic comedy about two people who meet after their spouses are killed in the WTC destruction." That's not exploitive, he insists, adding, "You want relevance when appropriate." Boston Globe 10/16/01

Monday October 15

SOMEBODY'S GOT TO DO IT: The Hollywood junket has got a bad name. But "for many reporters, especially those from smaller outlets or overseas, paid junkets are the only way they can afford to get access to the celebrities their readers and viewers demand to know about. We don't think of the jaunts to Hollywood to stay in posh hotels and interview stars as vacations but as giving up our weekends and time with our families to work." Sydney Morning Herald 10/15/01

A MOMENT IN WEB TIME: Thousands of webpages commemorating various aspects of the World Trade Center attacks have sprung up since September 11. Now an attempt to organize them in a central repository. "From mayoral papers to fliers of the missing, the artifacts from this event will be of potential interest to historians." The New York Times 10/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WORKING TITLE - MURDER, SHE CHUCKLED: "The CBS network is considering a sitcom arising from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 5,000 people. Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS Television, told the Los Angeles Times that the proposed series was drawn up before the attacks on New York and Washington, and in the aftermath of the bombings, the writer suggested that they 'heighten the stakes.'" National Post (Canada) 10/15/01

Sunday October 14

FATHER, SON, & HOL(L)Y(WOOD) SPIRIT: With the events of September 11 permanently burned into the minds of Americans, filmmakers are exploiting the 'good vs. evil' mindset with a slew of Christian-themed movies. Hoping to follow up the success of last year's The Omega Code, the new wave of 'Godsploitation' films may tap an underserved niche market. Or they may find themselves on the scrapheap with religious clunkers Left Behind and Battlefield Earth . The Christian Science Monitor 10/12/01

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE TIMING: "2001: A Space Odyssey, originally budgeted at $6 million, ultimately cost MGM $11 million. And [director Stanley] Kubrick missed the intended delivery date by two full years. So some may find it appropriate -- a joke of cosmic proportions? -- that the newly restored 2001 won't be coming to a theater near you ... until 2002." Wired 10/13/01

GOLDIE WON'T BE STARRING IN IT, WILL SHE? "Film rights to a newly published Mark Twain novelette have been sold by the Buffalo library to the Hollywood production company owned by movie stars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Cosmic Entertainment will have exclusive rights to "A Murder, A Mystery and a Marriage," written by Twain in 1876 but published for the first time this year, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library executives said Thursday." Baltimore Sun (AP) 10/12/01

Friday October 12

THE TROUBLE WITH TODAY'S FILM CRITICS: "In an age of critical bet-hedging, when an urge to spot the next trend, defend mediocre Hollywood product, go along with the critical consensus or appeal to one's audience/employer is the order of the day, few critics have the bite, the ferocity, the assurance of opinion and a willingness to offend." creativeloafing 10/11/01

CLASSICfM FACES LISTENER INPUT: "Classic fM – Britain’s most popular classical music broadcaster – is to set up an independent consumer panel to assess the radio station’s performance. The move is in response to the UK government’s proposed changes to broadcasting regulations, outlined in a communications ‘white paper’." Gramophone 10/12/01

Thursday October 11

IT'S NOT UNDERWRITING, IT'S ADVERTISING: "Federal regulators are leaning toward approving today a controversial proposal to allow public TV stations to sell advertising... Under the plan, the Federal Communications Commission would let PBS affiliates and other public TV stations show ads on data or subscription services they offer as they roll out digital TV." USAToday 10/10/01

ON-BASE EMMYS? "Television officials, looking for a new place to stage the twice-postponed Emmy awards, are considering moving the ceremony to a California military base. CBS and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences are working on a plan for the ceremony to air before the end of the year, although details remain unsettled." New York Post 10/11/01

TIMES CHANGE. PEOPLE DON'T: The conventional wisdom suggested that "in this time of war, audiences would shy away from violent movies and seek out an uplifting story, sentimental nostalgia, or silly fluff." So what happened? The Michael Douglas "kidnap thriller Don't Say a Word... has now grossed $32 million. Denzel Washington had his best opening ever, to the tune of $22 million, as a corrupt, killer LAPD detective in Training Day." So Hollywood is adapting, and quickly. "What the audience wants, for better or worse, is what the audience gets." Boston Herald & MSNBC (Newsweek) 10/11/01

Wednesday October 10

ARTS MAN TO HEAD RUSSIAN TV: "The Hermitage director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, has been elected chairman of the board of Russia’s largest television network, ORT. The move is part of the government’s bid to bring order to the station which has long been embroiled in conflict and corruption." The Art Newspaper 10/08/01

FOR NOW, BIG BROTHER IS A HERO: "For more than 30 years, a staple of popular culture in movies, books and television has been the depiction of the government as a hostile, corrupt, even evil force spinning elaborate conspiracies to manipulate and suppress Americans." Even before September 11, however, that was changing. And now it's definitely taboo as a premise. The New York Times 10/10/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DIRECTOR ROSS DIES: "Herbert Ross, a choreographer and director who worked on films including Funny Lady with Barbra Streisand and Steel Magnolias with Julia Roberts, died Tuesday. He was 74." Dallas Morning News (AP) 10/10/01

AND SHE WISHES SHE'D REVIEWED DEEP THROAT: Pauline Kael, who died last month, was the film critic in many minds. Why? Chaplin, she thought, "pushed too hard." Spielberg has "become so uninteresting now." In comedy, her favorites were the Ritz Brothers. And those awful taboos: "There's almost no one you can make fun of now. The women's movement, in particular, has added many taboos. You can't have a dumb blonde anymore, and the dumb blonde was such a wonderful stereotype." The New Yorker 10/08/01

Tuesday October 9

BEFORE AND AFTER: Several of the world's top film festivals have come and gone in the last month. Ordinarily, each would be measured equally, but not this year. "Usually, festivals are measured by which premieres and stars they snag, which prizes are awarded. This year, however, only one factor comes into play: whether festivals and films ran before or after September 11." The Nation 10/22/01

IT'S A GUY THING: Whether it's Don Quixote or Of Mice and Men, there just seems to be something fascinating about the idea of two guys taking off and doing something. "It's the most enduring genre in Hollywood. Westerns are dead. Detective movies are gone. Screwball comedies are kaput. But buddy films are still alive and well." Los Angeles Times 10/09/01

EMMY AWARDS MAY BE A NO SHOW: This year's Emmy Awards show, already postponed twice, may not happen at all. If that's the case, the awards will probably be handed out at a dinner or a press conference. "Many in the industry, including producers and casts of TV shows, had called to express reluctance at taking part in the ceremony." At last report, the next big award show is still on. That's the Gramophone Awards,the Oscars of recorded classical music. It will be October 19, at the Barbican Hall in London. Nando Times (AP) & Gramophone 10/08/01

Monday October 8

STRIKE TWO FOR EMMYS: "Originally scheduled for Sept. 16, less than a week after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Emmys were postponed to Oct. 7 and redesigned as a simulcast from New York to accommodate actors who were reluctant to board a plane for an awards show. In this atmosphere, the Emmys - compromised and chastened but emboldened to continue nevertheless - were pitched by academy leaders as nothing less than a retort to the terrorists." That's why Sunday's second cancellation caught many off guard. Los Angeles Times 10/08/01

HOLLYWOOD'S DISASTER SCENARIO: The US government is consulting with real experts in terrorist scenarios - Hollywood action movie makers. "An ad hoc working group convened at the University of Southern California just last week at the behest of the U.S. Army. The goal was to brainstorm about possible terrorist targets and schemes in America and to offer solutions to those threats, in light of the aerial assaults on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center." Washington Post (Variety) 10/08/01

Friday October 5

PUBLIC RADIO'S DOWNSTREAM: Public radio stations are beginning to wonder if streaming their content over the web is such a good idea. "At issue are the fees that copyright holders demand from streamers for use of their works online. The debates between rights-holders and broadcasters have sparked court challenges and tense negotiations. For public radio, with its limited resources, the squeeze is always felt more acutely." Current 09/01

Thursday October 4

SHOCK TO THE BETTER: What if movies got better because of September 11? "Maybe a time of crisis is what it takes to make us question the shape, texture and direction of movie culture. In the aftermath of the attack, executives in Hollywood, seemingly as shaken up as the rest of the nation, were acknowledging that quite a few things would have to change. Isn't right now the best possible time to throw down a challenge to Hollywood?" Salon 10/04/01

  • WILL MOVIES CHANGE? YES AND NO: "We'll be reminded of just why Busby Berkeley was so successful in the Depression era, designing ostentatious musicals to take people's minds off their troubles. Expect escapism for shot nerves. [But] Hollywood will know how to fit the new stories into its existing formulas without blinking an eye. Film history offers a host of examples of what gifted filmmakers living in times of national catastrophe can produce." The Nation 10/15/01
  • WILL MOVIES CHANGE? PROBABLY: Movie producers know they're in a different world now, but aren't sure what to do about it. "At some point Hollywood will stop dithering and decide. And there is an emerging consensus, however vague, on the kinds of films that will be made. Graphic violence will be out for a while, say the voices of experience in Hollywood. Light comedy and heroic tales will be the order of the day." Washington Post 10/03/01
  • WILL MOVIES CHANGE? PROBABLY NOT: Popular culture, as measured by audience response rather than producers' plans, seems not to have changed a great deal in a month. "[W]hat's most striking is how unchanged the appetite for popular culture seems to be. People are returning to the kinds of television programs they usually watch, the movies they normally go out to see, the music that they buy, and... the kinds of books they read." The New York Times 10/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BART: "Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are becoming distinguished figures on theological courses, and in texts for students training to be priests. A new book claims that far from being subversive of the moral fibre of America, the Simpsons embody its sturdiest values and impart a highly religious tone to viewers." The Guardian (UK) 10/01/01

Wednesday October 3

WHAT MOVIES? Hollywood movie studios are paralysed into inaction. "What will the American public want to see? Action? Romance? Light humor? In a city where a year ago there was a frantic drive to shoot movies in anticipation of an entertainment industry strike, there is a sudden calm. Some might call it a near-paralysis. Sony has no movies in production until the end of this year; last year in the fourth quarter it had nine. Warner Bros. has three movies in production; last year at this time it had 15. The other major studios have similarly sparse schedules. Producers say they are not sure what to offer." Washington Post 10/03/01

  • ART IN DISASTER: Can Hollywood make something meaningful out of the World Trade Center disaster? Director Henry Bean: "The real difference is that in the movies the crashes don't happen amidst all my thoughts, in the midst of my life. One of the things art could do is to bring these events into the midst of our lives. Tolstoy could do both, juxtapose the petty and the daily with the grandiose. A plane hits the tower and blows my personal life out of the water. My personal life returns altered by these events. That takes an artist." Los Angeles Times 10/03/01

Tuesday October 2

"REALITY" NO MATCH FOR REALITY: Television's numbing parade of "reality programming" seems to be slowing. Ratings for most such shows are down. "In the face of such immense real-life loss and destruction, viewers may no longer be as interested in the petty bickering that’s become the hallmark of the genre." MSNBC 10/01/01

Monday October 1

COUNTING ON ENTERTAINMENT: During the Great Depression, entertainment flourished as people looked for ways to distract themselves. After a couple of weeks of lacklustre admissions to movies, business surged over the weekend. "Ticket sales for the top 12 films were up a sharp 25% from the same weekend last year." Los Angeles Times 10/01/01

BI-EMMYS: This year's Emmy Awards will be split between New York and Los Angeles. "The awards ceremony of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences used to be a bi-coastal affair, and the tradition has been revived, as many Americans have declined to fly in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 hijackings." The show won't be the typical high-dress glamor affair. "Designers, stylists and stars are in a race to interpret the new 'elegant business' dress code established last Wednesday by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences." New York Post 10/01/01