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

Arts Journal Home Page
PublishingTheatreVisual ArtsArts IssuesPeople

common threadsarts watchletters
issues archive

October 02
September 02
August 02
July 02
June 02
May 02
April 02
March 02
February 02
January 02

December 01
November 01
October 01
September 01
August 01
July 01
June 01
May 01
April 01
March 01
February 01
January 01

December 00
November 00
October 00
September 00
August 00
July 00
June 00
May 00
April 00
Mar 00

Feb 00
Jan 00

Dec 99
Nov 99
Oct 99
Sept 99

Arts BeatSearchContact Us

News Service Home`ServicesDigest SamplesHeadline Samples





Friday November 30

MOVIE PROTECTIONISM: Hollywood film workers, including high-profile stars, rally against shooting movies outside the US. "Now is the time we all band together and work toward keeping our jobs in the USA, jobs that will help keep the delicate fabric of our economy whole." The Age (Melbourne) 11/30/01

Thursday November 29

IT'S TOUGH TO BE A KID, AT LEAST ON TV: "Forget about the innocent challenges of flirtation and infatuation. Forget about exfoliation, and the sting of the Stridex pad. Today's TV teens wrestle with nothing less than alienation, isolation, spiritual hunger and the emotional pitfalls of irony. When it comes to coming-of-age TV, the teen-age wasteland is more T. S. Eliot than Pete Townshend." Orange County Register 11/28/01

EVERYTHING'S WORSE IN RUSSIA: Most reality TV simply appeals to our inner moron. But the Russian version - Za Steklom - is even more insidious. "We are made to believe that we are witnessing something of significance, of import - something gripping. I think Za Steklom more than any other program has exposed that there is a concerted effort to turn us into morons." The Moscow Times 11/28/01

Wednesday November 28

FRANCHISE PLAYER: "In the 1930s, Hollywood's best movies were musicals and screwball comedies. In the '70s, films were full of loners, losers and brooding antiheroes. But the movies that exemplify the spirit of our time are part of a genre that has more to do with corporate profits than content: the 'franchise film'. And in an age when much of pop culture is based on borrowed references, whether it's advertisers using dead celebrities to sell beer or hiphop music creating hits out of melodies lifted from old pop songs, it's no surprise that success in modernday Hollywood is increasingly dependent on cultivating the familiar." The Age (Melbourne) 11/28/01

THEY AIN'T OVER 'TIL THEY'RE OVER: Ratings are way down for "reality" TV shows; in fact, several have been dumped. Still, "the assumption that some sort of collective wakeup call will chase Survivor and its ilk into full-blown retreat is simply misguided. Millions of viewers like these shows, and networks have a strong financial incentive to put them on, largely because most of them cost relatively little to produce, an attribute that's hard to overstate given the current advertising downturn and weakened economy." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 11/27/01

WAR, COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU: After shilly-shallying for a month or more as they tried to read the mood of America, Hollywood producers have decided that war movies are a good idea. A couple that had been shelved or hidden in mid-September are being hustled out into the light, release dates have been pushed ahead on others, and still more are in the works. USAToday 11/27/01

Monday November 26

BIG BOX OFFICE: So Harry Potter opened big. Very big, racking up record box office in its first week of business. But will it topple Titanic's $600 million take at theatres? Titanic was more of a marathon runner, as people returned again and again to see it. And Harry? So far, it's in a head-on sprint. Will it have legs? The New York Times 11/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MOVIE LOTTO: Ten thousand movie-producer wannabes submit their scripts in competition for a $1 million prize to film their project and be distributed by Miramax. Is this any way to make a movie? New York Magazine 11/26/01

Sunday November 25

TRAILING EDGE: Want to see the Harry Potter movie? Wait. Literally. Warner had so much clout with this hit that it forced movie theatres to show twice the number of trailers usually shown before the movie. And theatres are loading up on commercials before the feature starts, so after eight or nine trailers and commercials, 15 minutes or more has gone by before the movie begins. Washington Post 11/25/01

WHO CARES ABOUT THE CRITICS? When a blockbuster movie like Harry Potter comes out, who cares about the critics? Masses of people will go to it no matter what. For that matter, what use are newspaper movie reviewers anyway? "In these days of massive promotional campaigns and instant Internet buzz, has the newspaper reviewer gone the way of shepherds and 8-tracks? Does the consumer really need yet another guide? In short, movie boy, rationalize your existence, justify your salary." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/24/01

  • WHY REVIEW MOVIES? "Reviewing is not grounded in theory. We describe a movie as 'good' without bothering to offer a definition of 'the Good,' but the discussion is also about ethics and aesthetics. The strength of movie reviewing is that it still deals in evaluation, not just as consumer tips, but also in terms of these matters. Though cultural relativism is indisputable, generalizations are justified; film is as close to a universal language as we possess." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/24/01

CENSORING THE FAT GIRL: A French film Fat Girl has run afoul of Ontario's censors. "Unless the distributors cut the offending scenes of nudity and explicit sex, or successfully overturn the board's decision in an Ontario district court, Fat Girl will be barred from theatrical release in Ontario. The chorus of protest has been vociferous. The distributors, predictably, heaped abuse on the Dark Age custom of censorship. Two dissenting board members filed letters of objection, lauding the film. A cadre of Canada's most prominent filmmakers and academics excoriated the OFRB's decision, comparing it to the Taliban." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/24/01

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY ELVIS: What becomes a classic? Advertisers would like us to believe that anything we've heard of a few times qualifies. A new TV program "takes real things, but shows how we imbue them with meaning which they never had and how that becomes an important part of who we are as Americans," thereby making them classics. Christian Science Monitor 11/23/01

Thursday November 23

A WAY WITH ART: Critics hated entertainer Rolf Harris's show on art Rolf on Art last Sunday, deriding its "patronising format and embarrassing, simplistic script". Evidently the TV audience disagreed, though. More than 6.8 million people tuned into the show on BBC1, the most ever for any cultural show on any channel. The Guardian (UK) 11/23/01
  • UNDER THE INFLUENCE: The show was seen by 6.8 million, "compared to the 800,000 who watched Robert Hughes' American Visions on the BBC in 1996. The Australian artist and musician appeared to have done more to interest the masses in art than any of the more lofty television critics such as Hughes or Andrew Graham-Dixon." The Age (Melbourne) 11/23/01

TOO BIG TO COMPETE? With 1,200 radio stations in the US, Clear Channel Communications is by far the largest radio company in America. The company grew to its current size consolidating numerous stations in the 1990s, and since "FCC rules limit companies from owning too many stations in one broadcast market, the commission approved many of those consolidations on the condition that the ever-growing company divest itself of certain stations in some cities. Now, voices are beginning to charge that Clear Channel may have in fact retained control of some of those stations - an unprecedented flouting of commission rules." Salon 11/20/01

WHY FILM SCHOOLS FAIL: "Film schools are flourishing, but that their graduates seem rarely to realise their filmmaking ambitions, despite shelling out the same fees as a medical or law student - up to $100,000 - but with a roughly 5% chance of recouping a cent. Film schools, are essentially factories whose primary product is not film-makers per se, but rather the smelly little orthodoxies of modern film-making." The Guardian (UK) 11/23/0

REINVENTING THE FILM BOARD: Canada's venerable National Film Board is so...well...venerable. It's award-winning films were made well in the past, and it's hard to imagine edgy new filmmakers embracing the NFB. Now the board's new director wants to shake things up. "I want to make sure the NFB will play its role as a talent scout and incubator for emerging talent all across the country." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/23/01

Wednesday November 22

NO PAY, ADS INSTEAD: For months music and movie fans have been waiting for big recording and movie companies to introduce pay-to-play online music and movie services. But Vivendi, one of the world's largest producers, has decided against paid subscriptions. "The plan would radically alter the business landscape that online entertainment companies have been gearing up for, namely, the advent of subscription models. In its place would be a recycled advertising-based model that would keep consumers from paying for movies and music online." Wired 11/21/01

TIME STEALER: A new machine that discreetly shortens live TV programs by fractions, allowing stations to insert extra commercials has irked producers of programs, who object that their content is being altered. "The device, which sells for US$93,000, is able to generate millions of dollars in extra advertising revenues for the stations, but it comes at the expense of discreetly altering the content that people tune in to see." National Post (Canada) 11/21/01

ERRORS EVEN WITH A $125 MILLION BUDGET: Harry Potter fans have spotted at least 17 mistakes in the movie. They're minor things - like a character sitting on one side in a shot, suddenly sitting on the other in the next frame, or shadows that run the wrong way. New York Post 11/21/01

Tuesday November 20

DIRECT TO DISK: The Harry Potter movie just opened last weekend in the US. But already by Tuesday in Chine, "video disc peddlers were selling illegal copies of the smash movie, with Chinese subtitles, for roughly $1.20 US. The packaging showed the boy wizard on a flying broom and shots from the film." National Post (AP) 11/20/01

THIRST FOR MOVIES: Crowds packed a Kabul movie theatre Monday as the theatre reopened with first movie to be shown in Afghanistan in five years. The departed Taliban had banned entertainments such as movies. "Hundreds of people were turned away from the packed theater, which was showing the popular Afghan film Ascension. Finally, soldiers with rifles intervened, pushing the crowd away from the front gate." Nando Times (AP) 11/19/01

BETTING THE FRANCHISE: "In the 1930s, Hollywood's best movies were musicals and screwball comedies. In the 1970s, films were full of loners, losers and brooding antiheroes. But the movies that exemplify the spirit of our time are part of a genre that has more to do with corporate profits than content: the Franchise Film. The Franchise Film is not so much a movie as a self-perpetuating commodity, a carefully constructed cash cow designed to appeal to the widest possible spectrum of moviegoers, fueling merchandising tie-ins, DVD sales, theme park attractions and video game spinoffs, all geared to keeping consumers occupied until the next movie starts the cycle again." Los Angeles Times 11/20/01

NOT JUST THE POPCORN: A Toronto filmmaker is deconstructing the movie-going experience in an attempt to find out how movies take hold of an audience. He "believes movies have a direct conduit to our emotions through our eyes. That's because humans rely on subtle movements of facial muscles to tell them how others are feeling, and a movie screen, of course, is like looking through a magnifying glass at an actor's face. If the actor is convincing, then it enables us to suspend our disbelief by plugging us directly in to the emotional content of the film." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/20/01

Monday November 19

HARRY ON TOP: The Harry Potter movie breaks box office records with a $93.5 million opening weekend. "We obviously knew going in we were going to have a great opening. Nobody anticipated such a staggering number that would shatter every industry record." Dallas Morning News (AP) 11/18/01

  • MAKING A PITCH FOR HARRY'S DARK SIDE: As movie-goers in Peterborough, Ontario were filing in to see Harry Potter this weekend they were handed copies of a letter attributed to the city's mayor, "warning of the 'satanic' and 'evil' elements in the film. The letter charges that more than 14 million children belong to the Church of Satan, 'thanks largely to the unassuming boy wizard from 4 Privet Drive'." The mayor says the letters were fakes - she didn't write them. National Post (Canada) 11/19/01

BOOSTING RATINGS WITH THE ARTS: The UK's channel 5 is known for its tacky lowbrow fare. But with ratings slipping and advertising down, the channel is trying a surprising tactic - going up-market with new arts programming. The Independent 11/18/01

Sunday November 18

YOU DON'T NEED TO TELL THEM TWICE: It raised quite a few eyebrows last week when word leaked out that the U.S. government had been prevailing upon Hollywood to get cracking on a new batch of good old-fashioned, ass-kicking American Patriot movies, preferably involving shady Afghan terrorists. But as critics are beginning to point out, Hollywood really doesn't need any encouragement to churn out such mind-numbing propaganda. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/17/01

HEY, WE ALL LIKED 'RUN, LOLA, RUN': "German cinema has been promoted with public funds for as long as anyone can remember; in 1966, a law was even passed to govern how films are funded. None of this helped. Funds are flowing, but the movie industry has faltered. As the number of German productions goes up, their international reputation goes down." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/16/01

Friday November 16

THE SELLING OF HARRY: Is all the merchandising hype going to ruin Harry Potter? "Some fans of the book say all this Potter paraphernalia is ruining a wonderful tale. But pundits of popular storytelling suggest that this charge may sell everybody short: Books differ from movies, which differ from video games or Legos or stuffed animals. Each medium can have something to contribute to experiencing a great story, they say." Christian Science Monitor 11/16/01

ONTARIO CENSORS FAT GIRL: "French film director Catherine Breillat says she is 'stupefied' by the Ontario Film Review Board's decision to demand cuts from her movie Fat Girl,and has written to the board to request it rescind its 'unique' decision. The film is playing uncut in Europe, and has passed Britain's severe film-classification procedure without cuts as well." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/16/01

WHEN COLLABORATORS TAKE OVER: When the writer of Billy Elliot went to make his next film, he assumed he'd have more creative say in the script. "Any screenwriter knows that a screenplay is more like a recipe than a sonnet, and much of the fun and best creative discoveries are gained by getting your hands dirty with your collaborators as you make the pudding." But by the time the movie came out, it was unrecognizeable. The Guardian (UK) 11/16/01

AMERICANS LOOK TO BRITAIN FOR NEWS: "Americans in search of news and opinion on world events since Sept. 11 are looking across the Atlantic to broaden their perspective. Websites for British papers like The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph are seeing increased traffic from the US. And more public TV stations in America are offering world news from the BBC and ITN - programs that are also drawing larger audiences." Christian Science Monitor 11/15/01

Thursday November 15

9-11, THE MOVIE: Maybe it's too soon to talk about yet, and it'll probably take a year or two. "However, scholars and critics have no doubt: theatrical films dealing exclusively with the terrorist attacks [of Sepetmber 11] are just around the corner. Nando Times (Scripps Howard) 11/14/01

Wednesday November 14

MUDDLING MOVIES AND THE REALITY OF WAR: So the White House is asking Hollywood to supply ideas for the war on terrorism. There's a problem here. The movies already have too much influence on the imaginations of American leaders. Just because they've seen it in the movies doesn't mean it ought to happen. The Guardian (UK) 11/14/01

RECONSIDERING AUSTRALIAN CONTENT: Australian regulators are going to review regulations mandating the amount of Australian content that must be shown. The last time regulations were changed, it was decided that New Zealand programs could count as homegrown. But with most station showing more Aussie shows than required, some tweaking of the rules may be in order. The Age (Melbourne) 11/014/01

BEAUTIFUL NEWS: Why must the people who read us the news be "beautiful people?" "Hiring attractive people is certainly nothing new in television, but the premium on Barbie-doll looks seems more pronounced than ever, with newswomen overtly trading on their sexuality as a come-on to viewers." Los Angeles Times 11/14/01

BUYING AUSTRALIAN: A weak Australian dollar brought foreign movie makers to shoot their films Down Under. Foreign producers spent "a record $191 million in Australia in the 2000-1 financial year," and the movie industry increased expenditures to $808 million. The Age (Melbourne) 11/14/01

Tuesday November 13

CULTURE WARS TRUCE: It wasn't so long ago that Washington was attacking Hollywood "to score points in the arguments over violence, sexuality and blasphemy in films, pop music, museum shows, video games and television shows — part of a larger set of issues known collectively as the 'culture wars,' which has become in recent years a flashpoint for political partisanship. Now, although people on each side say they remain vigilant about transgressions by their opponents, the mood in the great, unified mainstream seems decidedly different." A truce has been called. The New York Times 11/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DOWN WITH THE ARTS: Has the BBC, once an exemplar of arts programming, failed the arts? "High culture, alas, is something in which the mainstream BBC has lost practically all interest. Curiously this notion that 'the arts' is simply a highbrow ghetto rather than something that ought to be part of all our individual lives rises above the current cultural landscape like a kind of mantra." The Times (UK) 11/13/01

THE MERCHANDISING OF HARRY: The new Harry Potter movie figures to be the most-hyped film in history. Can the story survive the merchandising? "Much has been made of Joanne Rowling's insistence on probity in the merchandising, but the reality is frankly horrific. A trip to Hamley's ("the biggest toyshop in the world") reveals something far darker." Irish Times 11/12/01

HOLLYWOOD ON NORMAL: "Like the news media and Madison Avenue—in fact, like the country itself—the movie industry has been wrestling with a tangle of conflicting currents and mixed messages. People go to movies to escape! Patriotism sells! Go have fun! Be alert for terrorists! Nothing has changed! Everything has changed! Even studio marketing experts, who make a living out of figuring out audience tastes, have had a hard time reading the national mood." Los Angeles Times 11/12/01

THE FRENCH ARE COMING. AGAIN: "Record numbers of French moviegoers stormed cinemas to see a rich variety of films produced by a domestic film industry that has reinvented itself as both a substitute for, and an alternative to, American films. Heads aren't rolling in Hollywood studio offices just yet - but the French film industry is taking on Hollywood at its own game." Christian Science Monitor 11/09/01

Monday November 12

THERE GOES PUBLIC BROADCASTING: Canada's culture minister suggests that the publicly-owned CBC ought to make a partnership with rival commercial network CTV. "Sheila Copps told MPs the multi-channel universe has left CBC-TV and private broadcasters struggling against one another for shrinking audiences." CBC 11/10/01

LA'S NEW THEATRE FOR A STATUE: Los Angeles has a new opera house. OK, it was designed for the Academy Awards, and it's located in a shopping mall. It was also designed "with blind eye and tin ear." It's designed for TV and it's an "ungracious building" for a human audience. "Inside the theater, the assault never ceases." And the acoustics? A mess. Los Angeles Times 11/12/01

Sunday November 11

THE SOUND OF PUBLIC RADIO: In recent months, protests over program changes at public radio stations around the country have been successfully fought. The protests trace back to David Giovannoni. "A brilliant analyst of public radio's audience — who it is, how much it listens, when it listens, what it listens to, when and why it donates money — he is quite possibly the most influential figure in shaping the sound of National Public Radio today, the sound heard by upward of 20 million Americans weekly." The New York Times 11/11/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FANTASY THINKING: Hollywood hopes that in troubled times America is into fantasy. Numerous fantasy movies are due to be released in the next few weeks, and "in a coincidence remarkable even by Hollywood standards, at a moment when Americans are understandably enthusiastic about psychological escape, two widely popular epics of 20th century fantasy literature are coming to the screen to anchor the holiday movie schedule." Los Angeles Times 11/11/01

HARRY VS HOBBIT: Which will do better at the box office this winter - Harry Potter or the first Lord of the Rings movie? If you feel strongly about it, you can bet. Oddsmakers are taking a variety of wagers on the box office: will Harry Potter tie or break the "first-five-days-of-release gross" record of $100-million set by George Lucas's The Phantom Menace in 1999? "The odds are 1 to 2 that it will tie or break, 3 to 2 that it will not." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/10/01

NO FUN FAT: Plus-size advocates are protesting the new Shallow Hal movie: "Thin stars wearing fat suits to performing in blackface, now considered offensive and demeaning to blacks. If we wanted white actors to play black people, would we paint their faces black? No way." Hartford Courant 11/11/01

Friday November 9

TWO MINUTE WARNING: Artist Jonty Semper has spent two years collecting every surviving recording of the two minutes of silence marking Armistice and Remembrance Days since 1929. In the 1988 ceremony a baby cried. It's a double-cd. He'd like you to listen. "I really don't think people will find it boring. All the silences are quite distinctive. What is remarkable is how different they are." The Guardian (UK) 11/09/01

MEDIA ART FROM - LITERALLY - THE DUSTBIN: In the early years, TV programmes on BBC often were not recorded, or the recordings were lost or destroyed. A recent public appeal has turned up more than a hundred such "lost" shows. Among the recovered gems, a 1963 appearance by the Beatles on a TV chart show (they evaluated an Elvis recording), and a 1962 Benny Hill show. CNN 11/08/01

FILE-SHARING GOES TO WAR: "The Pentagon is taking a friendlier view of Napster's file-sharing concept than are America's big entertainment companies. Rather than trying to shut down the new computer networks that allow people to directly connect other personal computers, the military wants to enlist their creators in the war against terrorism." Washington Post 11/08/01

Thursday November 8

WHITE HOUSE WANTS HOLLYWOOD TO HELP: "Several dozen top executives in the film and television industry plan to meet on Sunday morning with Karl Rove, a senior White House adviser, to discuss what Hollywood can do to aid the war effort. 'The gathering is to brief studio executives on the war on terrorism and to discuss with them future projects that may be undertaken by the industry,' a White House spokesman said. 'The White House has great respect for the creativity of the industry and recognizes its impact and ability to educate at home and abroad.' Several executives emphasized today that they were not interested in making propaganda films." The New York Times 11/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HOLLYWOOD HELPS ITSELF: "While denying any attempt to exploit the mood of the country, two major Hollywood studios have moved patriotic war movies to this year from 2002. John Moore's Behind Enemy Lines has been moved from Jan. 18 to Nov. 30 by 20th Century Fox. Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, from Sony Pictures, will open Dec. 28." New York Daily News 11/08/01

Wednesday November 7

DOWNSIZING PBS: Commercial broadcasting isn't the only sector laying off employees in the economic downturn. PBS is cutting its staff by more than 10%, (59 jobs). "The cuts, to be made through a combination of 27 layoffs and the rest in unfilled positions, follow a 9% staffing reduction, or 60 positions, in March, and will bring PBS' total number of employees to just over 500." Los Angeles Times 11/06/01

Tuesday November 6

CBS, FOX IN POST-EMMY PISSING MATCH: So the Emmy Awards, desperate to get their ceremony in before the winners were too old to make it to the stage, scheduled the telecast against Game 7 of the World Series. So Emmy host Ellen DeGeneres promised to announce the score of the game repeatedly during the show. So Fox decided to list the Emmy winners in a screen crawl during the game. So West Coast viewers knew the winners several hours before the broadcast aired in their time zone. Ain't television a blast? Washington Post 11/06/01

Monday November 5

THIRD TIME'S A CHARM: After being canceled twice, the Emmy Awards finally go off when planned. West Wing wins most statues, while Sex in the City becomes the first cable comedy series to win best comedy series. Ten of the 27 winners were not in attendance. Los Angeles Times 11/05/01

Friday November 2

DEATH FOR "MIS-USING" ART? Tahmineh Milani is one of Iran's top movie directors, "thanks largely to her consistent focus on the plight of Iranian women." But now she faces execution , "charged with 'supporting factions waging war against God' and misusing the arts in support of counterrevolutionary and armed opposition groups." Hollywood has taken up her cause. The Guardian (UK) 11/02/01

DVD COPYING, FOR NOW, IS STILL LEGAL: The movie industry has been encrypting dvd's so they can't be copied. Trouble is, they can be, and movie producers want courts to ban distribution of the software that cracks the code. The court (so far) says no. The software, the court says, is protected free speech. Business 2.0 11/02/02

...BUT IT'S NOT EXACTLY LIKE THE BOOK: Pre-release reviews of the Harry Potter film are in. Are they good? Not Really. Are they bad? Not really. Will the vast audience of true Harry Potter believers care either way? Not really. The Guardian (UK) 11/02/01

Thursday November 1

SURVEY DOWN, BOX OFFICE UP: A new survey says 60 percent of adults over 35 don't want to go to movies right now. So then what accounts for the increased box office every week since one but September 11? Fall receipts are 9 percent ahead of last year. MSNBC (Variety) 10/30/01

AUSSIE MOVIE RENTAL BATTLE: Australia's movie rental stores are fighting with movie studios. "Warner simultaneously releases DVDs to the retail and rental market. They are color coded - silver for retail at a wholesale price of $24, and blue for rental, wholesaling at $55. When Warner threatened to sue video shops caught renting the retail-designated DVD, the association - representing 55 per cent of Australian video shops - took the offensive. It argues that under the Copyright Act, Warner cannot restrict the rental of DVD movies." The Age (Melbourne) 11/01/01

GET READY TO HUM: Okay, so the Harry Potter soundtrack may not be John Williams's greatest work ever. (You try following up Star Wars and Schindler's List.) But the fact that it's one of a dwindling number of big-budget films to even bother with a full orchestral soundtrack says something about Williams's ability to draw us into fictional worlds, and at least one of the pieces in the score is almost guaranteed to stick in your head for days. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/01/01