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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Indies Gearing Up For An Eclectic Sundance The Sundance Film Festival is less than two months away, and the lineup is looking more than slightly eclectic. "Five dramas made by American directors were shot with characters speaking mainly in Spanish, Hindi, Korean, Portuguese or Muskogee, an American Indian language... Sexual oddities and sexual abuse, the ravages of war, the challenges of immigration, human disabilities and the writer’s life: all will be recurring themes." The New York Times 12/01/06

Can Australia Keep Up The Good Work? Some Australian critics are pinching themselves to see if the high quality of the current crop of homegrown films can possibly be real. But even as film buffs celebrate a golden year of Down Under moviemaking, many look at the past as evidence that the good times won't last. "The one thing the Australian industry has never been very good at - and which drives film critics even nuttier than they usually are - is consistency." The Age (Melbourne) 12/01/06

There's A Use For Your Twisted Sister Videos "While the headlines lately have been about television networks pulling their content or cutting deals with sites such as YouTube, we seem to be missing a bigger phenomenon. Millions of people hoarding vast, arcane and previously useless boxes of VHS (and in some cases, I suspect, Beta) tapes are discovering the Internet and are quietly posting their collections of bizarre minutiae." San Francisco Chronicle 11/30/06

Making Movies With Diana And RFK From "The Queen" to "Bobby," from "Good Night, and Good Luck" to "Flags of Our Fathers," more and more movies are integrating documentary footage with dramatic footage. The use of old footage is nothing new. "But what's significant about these movies of late is the way they use archival material. Rather than as gimmickry, or shorthand, filmmakers are choreographing full-on tangos with the past. They're -- almost literally -- dancing cheek to cheek with history." Washington Post 11/30/06

What's This? Getting Time To Build An Audience? NBC's new series, "30 Rock" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," are not what could be called ratings hits -- yet, on the other hand, they're both still on the air. "These two very different behind-the-scenes looks at network intrigue were among the most vaunted shows of the fall season and did not meet expectations, yet both survived the midseason tumbrel. Turns out cold-eyed corporations don’t always look at the bottom line to determine the fate of fledgling television shows." The New York Times 11/30/06

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You Can't See It Yet, But Trust Us, It's Awfully Good "A version of 1980s working-class England triumphed over a version of 90s upper-class England at the ninth British Independent Film Awards last night. Shane Meadows's This Is England will not be on general release until next spring but it has already won over film festival audiences, impressing critics in London and winning a special jury prize at Rome. It added a Bifa best film award last night. It beat impressive opposition such as The Queen... The Last King of Scotland and two films which won at Cannes - the Palme d'Or winner, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, and the jury prize winner, Red Road." The Guardian (UK) 11/30/06

So, Oasis Wouldn't Be Appropriate, Then? Putting together a film soundtrack is tricky business. Stick to sweeping orchestral melodies, and you sound dated by scene two. But embrace the pop music of your time, and your whole movie will be stuck forever in the year it was made. The trick to a truly timeless soundtrack may be to go retro, but not too retro. Not surprisingly, the master of the form may be that most retro of New York filmmakers, Woody Allen. The Guardian (UK) 11/30/06

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Awards Future Looks Bright For Crack Users & 8-Year-Old Beauty Queens The nominations are out for the Independent Spirit Awards, honoring low-budget and independent film, with offbeat comedy Little Miss Sunshine and drug drama Half Nelson garnering five nominations each. The late Robert Altman was also nominated for his last film, A Prairie Home Companion. BBC 11/28/06

AM Radio Rides To Rescue Of LA's Country Fans "Three months after Los Angeles' only country radio station, KZLA-FM (93.9) switched to a rhythmic pop format, leaving the nation's largest market for country music with nowhere to tune on the radio dial, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Toby Keith and the rest of the twang gang are back on the air. But now they're heard on the AM dial. In fact, when the country music broadcasts started recently on XSUR-AM (540) — transmitting from just across the border in Tijuana — the effect in L.A. was almost like tuning in on an old crystal set with the signal fading in and out." On Friday, Los Angeles station KKGO-AM will go country, too. Los Angeles Times 11/28/06

Monday, November 27, 2006

CanCon vs. HiDef Canadian cable companies are hiking rates in an effort to recoup some of the cost associated with converting to high-definition. But some are questioning the increases, pointing out that the same companies that are asking Canadians to subsidize their tech upgrades have become increasingly uninterested in supporting Canadian-produced content. Toronto Star 11/27/06

Of Course, They'll All Merge Next Year Anyway That the new online video craze sparked by YouTube would have an impact on popular culture has been obvious for some time. What that impact will be is a bit harder to assess. But early indications are that what's good for online video purveyors isn't necessarily good for traditional broadcasters: a new study says that "43% of Britons who watch video from the internet or on a mobile device at least once a week said they watched less normal TV as a result." BBC 11/27/06

The Day The Music Died A new documentary by a couple of young music fans serves mainly as a confirmation of what we already suspected - that the popular music industry is now little more than a corporate shell of its former self. "The men who made this movie were driven to spend a year of their lives wandering the country and talking to musicians and radio and recording-industry people because they correctly felt that something elemental has changed, that the institutions through which they fell in love with music are flailing." Washington Post 11/26/06

The Hollywood Of The Rust Belt? The city of Cleveland is making a big push to interest Hollywood in using it as a film set. There has already been some success, but now, "by opening up the 84-year-old, often-empty and outdated Cleveland Convention Center to Hollywood filmmakers," Cleveland hopes to join the small group of American cities offering not only diverse shooting location, but a Hollywood-caliber soundstage and production facility. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/26/06

  • All About The Benjamins The sad truth of luring Hollywood to your city is that the facilities on offer are only part of the battle. More important to the major studios are the tax breaks and other financial incentives offered by various states and Canadian provinces. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/26/06

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Are We Finally Ready To Talk About Sex? Sex used to be the ultimate taboo in American film - movies featuring explicit sex were considered far more socially dangerous than those showing brutal violence and gore. But recently, audiences (and the industry) have appeared to be loosening up on the issue of on-screen sex. "It would be tempting to think that this was because America was finally getting a bit more grown up about sex, or because the nation at war with itself was ready for some frank hedonism." The Observer (UK) 11/26/06

Reinventing The CBC (For Better Or For Worse) "Richard Stursberg took over as the CBC's executive vice-president of English TV a little more than two years ago. It has been a fractious time, at best. Year one left him with a $100-million budget shortfall due to the season-long lockout in NHL hockey, the CBC's single-richest source of revenue... Stursberg is now in the midst of perhaps the most radical retooling of CBC television in its history. Most would agree that it's sorely needed. But whether he's presiding over its rebirth or its death rattle depends on whom you ask." Toronto Star 11/25/06

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Pirates" Is 2006's Box Office Champ "This weekend marks the start of a new year in the movie business, with American Thanksgiving considered the start of the next year's film crop. As movie studios tallied the take for 2006, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the clear winner, taking in $422,543,393." Toronto Star 11/24/06

Canadian Cable Companies Slam Network Proposal Canada's major broadcasters are proposing they be allowed to charge cable and satellite companies for their signals. "Only specialty cable channels — those higher up on the dial such as Showcase, MuchMusic and HGTV — are allowed to charge carriers for their signals. That structure was designed to compensate those channels for the smaller audiences they have because they aren't afforded prime placement on the dial, and not all are carried by every satellite or cable company in Canada." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/13/06

Hollywood's Bollywood Dreams Hollywood is taking a greater interest in Bollywood. "Stepping up from offering Indian actors small roles in Hollywood and sourcing animation and special effects from Indian studios, foreign studios are now signing co-production deals and buying stakes in Indian media firms." Yahoo! (Reuters) 11/24/06

Network Ratings Rise W/ YouTube CBS says its ratings have gone up since it agreed to have clips from its shows uploaded on YouTube. "In the month since CBS signed a deal with the video website, it has uploaded over 300 clips which have been viewed a total of 29.2m times. At the same time, CBS says ratings for David Letterman's talk show rose by 200,000 viewers, a five per cent rise." BBC 11/24/06

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

TV Network Challenges FFC's Expansion Of Powers "Fox is challenging what it calls an unprecedented campaign by federal regulators to punish broadcasters for airing 'unintentional and isolated expletives' during broadcasts. 'The result is the end of truly live television and a gross expansion of the FCC's intrusion into the creative and editorial process,' Fox argued in its court filing." Yahoo! (AP) 11/22/06

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

CBS Appealing FCC Fines For Wardrobe Malfunction The network is contesting a $500,000 fine for Janet Jackson's over-exposure suring the SuperBowl two years ago. In its filing, CBS described the flashing as an "unscripted, unauthorized and unintended long-distance shot of Ms. Jackson's breast for nine-sixteenths of one second." Los Angeles Times (AP) 11/21/06

Sundance Goes For Cellphone Movies The Sundance Film Festival is showcasing movies made for cell phones this winter. "The six participating filmmakers, who will create 3- to 5-minute films, have all screened films at the institute's Sundance Film Festival." Backstage 11/21/06

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hollywood's Fast Food Addiction "No one is a bigger supporter of the fast-food emporiums that have colonized the known world than Hollywood's studios. For the last 10 years, Disney had a cozy partnership with McDonald's, with promotions specifically aimed at introducing young fans of 'The Incredibles' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean' to the pleasures of Happy Meals. The 10-year pact, valued at more than $2 billion, has just ended, but Disney has not ruled out doing individual McDonald's tie-ins in the future." Los Angeles Times 11/20/06

A Case For Updating Radio 3 There has been an uproar in the UK about plans to change programming on Radio 3. But Norman Lebrecht defends the impulse to change: "It seems to me that Radio 3 is attempting honestly to refresh its look while staying true to principle. If nothing else, the upsurge of protest will give it a welcome boost in the long-running struggle with Classic FM, which will never arouse the same passions." La Scena Musicale 11/20/06

Video On iPods Slow To Catch On Video iPods don't seem to be used much for video, reports a new study. "Owners of Apple's ubiquitous portable media device spend far more time on it listening to music or audio podcasts than they do using it to watch TV or movies." Yahoo! (Reuters) 11/20/06

Dancing Penguins Beat Up On James Bond A movie about dancing penguins was champ at the movie box office over the weekend, beating out James Bond. "Happy Feet is just ahead by a flipper. It's unusual to have two movies this close, battling for that No. 1 position." Yahoo! (AP) 11/20/06

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hollywood Rebounds After Bad 2005 After a terrible 2005, this year has tuned out pretty well for Hollywood at the box office. "Whichever the strategy, the movie business climbed its way out of a dismal pattern of declining audience to more solid footing in 2006. With most of the year’s movie receipts counted, the box office is up 6.5 percent over last year, and attendance has risen nearly 5 percent." The New York Times 11/20/06

Study: TV's Youth Kick May Be Backfiring "Nearly two-thirds of people in the United States say they believe that most TV programming and advertising is targeted toward people under 40, the survey said. More than 80 per cent of adults over 40 say they have a hard time finding TV shows that reflect their lives. A significant number of baby boomers — 37 per cent — say they aren't happy with what's on television." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/19/06

In Australia - Criminalizing iPods? A preoposed new copyright law in Australia might make it illegal to own an iPod. "Section 132AL(2) of the bill provides that a person commits an 'indictable offence' if they possess 'a device, intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work or other subject-matter'." Sydney Morning Herald 11/19/06

Scottish TV - A Basic Lack Of Entertainment Scotland sends £180 million a year on its public broadcaster. The public affairs and news shows are great, writes Tom Little. But when it comes to producing entertainment... well, is this really the best they can do? Scotland on Sunday 11/19/06

A Close Personal Relationship With Your TV "Grandiose promises of an interactive future circulated for decades, then seemingly died out a few years back. But today more than 25 million homes can engage with their television on something approaching their own terms." So what do people really want from their TVs? The New York Times 11/19/06

Foot Soldiers In The Technology Wars Why all the non-compatible formats and versions of your favorite electronics? "The relentless drive to upgrade, overtake, or replace the competition has led to a dizzying number of choices in everything from digital cameras to MP3 players to personal computers. If it's not new features, it's hipper fads that keep most of us on a treadmill of constantly replacing our personal electronics." Christian Science Monitor 11/17/06

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