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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Breakthrough - Hollywood's New Leading Men "In the past two years, black actors have been making bold artistic strides. Not since the '70s, when actors like Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty took a hands-on interest in filmmaking, has such a talented bunch of performers delivered such varied, impressive work in a range of movies." Denver Post 12/10/06

Movies For God "Ever since 'The Passion of the Christ' grossed $371 million in 2004, Hollywood has been dreaming of capturing the Christian dollar. Only recently, New Line’s 'Nativity Story,' the latest in a series of religious-themed films from mainstream studios, had its premiere at the Vatican and took in a modest $8 million at the domestic box office on its opening weekend. But until now the studios have been largely unsuccessful with Christian films because, as David Kirkpatrick sees it, most executives do not know very much about Christianity." The New York Times 12/10/06

Friday, December 8, 2006

If He Runs It Like He Runs The 'Skins, It'll Be Back To Classical Soon In what will likely signal an ignominious end for classical radio in Washington, D.C., Daniel Snyder, the notoriously inept (but charismatic) owner of the Washington Redskins football team is buying classical station WGMS, with plans to convert it to sports talk. Washington's two public radio stations air no classical music (WETA phased it out in favor of news/talk nearly two years ago; WAMU never had it), and WGMS has been the subject of complaints from listeners concerning its weak signal. Washington Post 12/08/06

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Aboriginal Film Cleans Up At AFI Awards "Australia's first ever indigenous language feature film has been awarded the country's top movie honour. Billed as an Aboriginal comedy, Ten Canoes tonight won the best film category at the 48th annual Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards in Melbourne." The Age (Melbourne) 12/08/06

British Musicians Want Copyright Protection Extended "Paul McCartney, U2 and Eric Clapton joined thousands of other musicians Thursday in an appeal to the government to extend the British copyright protection on their recordings... in response to a report recommending that the government maintain its current laws granting copyrights on sound recordings and performers' rights for 50 years. That falls well short of the 95-year copyright protection that exists in the United States, and the recording industry fears that British artists could see their work exploited in their lifetimes." Houston Chronicle (AP) 12/07/06

Should We Trade Commercials For Product Placement? Ever since the TiVo began to gain traction in the television marketplace, consumer advocates have worried that the ability for viewers to skip over commercials would lead to more product placement within shows. Dan Brown says that would be just fine with him. "The deal I have in mind would be a classic quid pro quo. Each side would get something. The first step would be a ban on commercials. That’s right. There would be no more commercials on TV. In return, TV producers would be allowed to do as much product placement as possible." London Free Press (Ontario) 12/07/06

Let The Parade Of Self-Congratulation Begin! "Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language film Letters from Iwo Jima has won the first major prize of the film award season. The film topped the US National Board of Review (NBR) list for best film. Helen Mirren was named best actress for The Queen, while Forest Whitaker won best actor for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland." BBC 12/07/06

The Retro Christmas Craze Television doesn't often go in for retro. Everything in the TV business seems to be contractually required to scream "new and different," even when the program in question is a pale imitation of dozens of others. So it's notable that, every Christmas season, TV is suddenly awash in ultra-low tech, decidedly old-school holiday specials. It's even more notable that viewers can't seem to get enough of them. "It's about the shared experience, the childhood memories that powerfully linger and the new memories adults are so desperate to create with their kids... Make no mistake, it's the parents driving this train." Washington Post 12/07/06

Treading Carefully On Sacred (But Funny) Ground Despite the tendency of comedians to embrace the topical, you don't see a lot of Islamic-based comedy in Western countries, in part because of how easy it has been to inflame Muslim sensibilities to deadly effect of late. But a new Canadian sitcom is meeting the issue head-on. "Its creators admit to uneasiness as to whether Canadians and Americans can laugh about the daily travails of those who many consider a looming menace... The strongest insurance against outrage from the faithful is that [the show was created by] a Canadian Muslim of Pakistani origin whose own assimilation, particularly after she left Toronto for Regina, Saskatchewan, 10 years ago, provides much of the comic fodder." The New York Times 12/07/06

Oscar Dabbles In A Bit Of The Ol' Ultraviolence "The fight for the Oscar is often a bloody one, filled with subplots, capers, and strategic stabs to the back, metaphorically speaking. But this year an unusual amount of mayhem is showing up in the movies themselves. Academy members in the thick of screenings for the Oscars could be forgiven for wishing they had donned surgical scrubs for what has become a very bloody year." The New York Times 12/07/06

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Why Hollywood Keeps Its Closet Door Locked Hollywood's public promotion of gay rights stands in stark contrast to its desperate cling to the inside of the closet door, writes Andrew Gumbel. "Playing gay and admitting to being gay are two completely different things. When it comes to the latter, Hollywood still adheres to the mentality that American audiences look to their on-screen idols as outlets for their own romantic fantasies and thus need to think of them as strictly heterosexual. The mentality is not necessarily wrong - homophobia is certainly widespread in the American heartland, as evidenced by the slew of recent state ballot initiatives condemning gay marriage. But it does suggest a certain failure of the imagination." The Independent (UK) 12/06/06

Canadian Film Treasures Dead To Rights "Thanks to spiralling copyright licensing costs, payable to whoever holds the copyright (unions, archives, creators, corporations) -- and thanks, too, to the rising cost of insurance to protect against copyright claims -- more and more public film footage is no longer available to the Canadian public, nor for use by Canadian creators." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/06/06

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Hollywood's Moroccan Dreams Morocco has become a hotbed of American movie production. Why? "In the post-September 11 world, most U.S. movies that deal with or are set in the Arab world have found their options for location shooting limited because of safety concerns. And Morocco has been the beneficiary." Yahoo! (Reuters) 12/05/06

Sunday, December 3, 2006

LA's Noir Vision, An Export To The World "Noir is the indigenous Los Angeles form: It was created here, it grew up here and from here it spread, not only as a genre but as a way of looking at life, character and fate. As a framing lens, it's now so powerful that it seems not only to be a strategy for telling a story but a way to understand — automatically, unconsciously — how a story works. ... Raymond Chandler's narrow mean streets now encompass Tokyo, Berlin, São Paulo, London — any city that has crime or deceit or cracks in the facade or some event in which fate's jaws snap shut with cruel or ironic finality." Los Angeles Times 12/03/06

TV For The Whole Family, Sans Saccharine "The debate over what should be considered 'family TV' is never-ending. We talk ourselves into spirals of contradiction, illogic, and subjectivity when we make big pronouncements about how to control a child's imagination. Oddly, if you ask the Parents Television Council what kids ought to watch, the answer is reality TV." Recoiling from that suggestion, Matthew Gilbert says the situation is not so dire. He points to "a number of recent prime time shows that have found a way to appeal to teens and their parents simultaneously, without insulting either group with sap or stupidity." Boston Globe 12/03/06

Audio Books, Savior Of The Lowly Cassette "Variety recently published an obituary for the VHS format: 'VHS, 30, dies of loneliness.' If there’s a format heaven, you’d expect VHS to be joining audiocassettes there. At age 42, cassettes predate VHS and have been pummeled by CDs and digital downloads. But the cassette just won’t seem to die." What's keeping it alive? Audio books. The New York Times 12/03/06

German Drama Takes Top Prize Among Euro Films "A film about a secret policeman in the former East Germany has taken top prize at the European Film Awards in Warsaw. The Lives of Others - or Das Leben Der Anderen - beat Spanish production Volver by Pedro Almodovar, although this still came top in five categories. These included best director for Almodovar, top actress for Penelope Cruz plus the people's choice award." BBC 12/03/06

Call It The Rock Hudson Mental Block As liberal as Hollywood is, many gay actors have chosen to remain closeted throughout their careers, partly out of fear that American movie audiences wouldn't accept a known gay actor playing a straight role. "Indeed, while top straight-identified actors have for years received praise and prizes for playing gay characters — Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, for example — executives, casting directors and maybe mass audiences still seem to have a block when it comes to gay people in straight parts." Toronto Star 12/02/06

And By "Study," They Mean "Leave It For Someone Else To Deal With" The city of Cleveland has been making a big push to draw Hollywood films to its borders, but a major part of the plan - passing statewide tax incentives that would make the city competitive with other big film towns - has hit a snag. "An Ohio Senate committee is recommending a study of the incentives, instead of a bill that would go ahead and enact them." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/02/06

So, The Pirates Will Have To Move To Jersey? Harsh. The mayor of New York is cracking down on movie piracy, pushing a new city statute criminalizing unauthorized recording. There is already a federal law banning such practices, but advocates of the New York bill hope that "such a law would spur the Police Department to crack down on piracy and minimize the economic damage it does." The New York Times 12/02/06

The Borat Effect: Ethics & Integrity In Filmmaking The International Documentary Festival is underway in Amsterdam, and everyone is talking about... Borat. Well, not Borat, actually, but "many of the ethical issues that emerged in the Borat backlash are similar to those being discussed here this week by filmmakers from around the world. Not everyone here has seen Borat, but everyone certainly knows about it. So whether or not Borat will have any lasting effect on real documentary filmmaking is definitely up for unofficial debate." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/02/06

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