Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Observations on Oscar
Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences named its favorites for 2005. Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich all received Best Picture nominations. When "Movies on My Mind" started, its first piece wondered whether Oscar would remember Crash, since it came out so early in 2005. It did. However, Oscar did not recognize Sin City, which I still believe is the most fascinating film of 2005. It also did not nominate much deserving Joan Allen as Best Actress in The Upside of Anger. And, it seems, the shine of Russell Crowe has finally worn off, as he could not lift himself, or Cinderella Man to Best Actor or Best Picture nominations (as he had for so many films in the past, including L.A. Confidential, The Insider, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind and Master & Commander). Today confirmed George Clooney as the filmmaker to watch. He scored three nominations (for Syriana and Good Night and Good Luck). Woody Allen earned yet another Best Screenplay nomination for his critically acclaimed Match Point, making him the undisputed record holder in that category. The Penguins didn't do quite as well as expected. While March of the Penguins landed a nomination for Best Documentary, the animated Madagascar and the Penguins-centric short spin-off A Christmas Caper both failed to gain nominations.
Monday, January 30, 2006
A French Connection?
William Friedkin's The French Connetion, released in 1971, ushered in the gritty filmmaking of the 1970s. The film earned five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. But, it also seemed to usher in a glut of "french" titled films that flooded theaters in the years that followed that decade. In 1973, there was The French Conspiracy, which also starred Roy Scheider (of French Connection fame). In 1974, we had French Provincial. In 1975, The French Detective and the John Frankenheimer-directed sequel to The French Connection both opened. By 1979, French Quarter and French Postcards were added to the list.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Guinness Book of World Records Wrong!
In the most recent edition of the Guinness Book of World Records -- the defacto record source -- has a glaring error. In listing the youngest performers ever to be nominated or to win an Academy Award, the book indicates that Tatum O' Neal is the the youngest to ever win (for Paper Moon) and then lists Keisha Castle-Huges for Whale Rider. Nowhere on the list is Anna Paquin, who became the second youngest person to win the Oscar in 1993 when she took home the Best Supporting Actress for The Piano.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Ben Franklin: Superstar
Founding father Benjamin Franklin had one of those lives that seems too fantastical to be believed on film. Maybe that's why there has yet to be a memorable film version of his life. Publisher. Inventor. Diplomat. Journalist. Philosopher. Ambassador. Revolutionary. Ladies' Man. He could certainly be considered a superstar, in his day. This month (January 17th, to be specific) marked Franklin's tricentential birthday. So, perhaps, now's the time for his amazing life to be revised on the screen, stripped of the jigoistic fanfare that usually accompanies attempts at filming events of the American Revolution and the early years of this country. While certainly and astounding man, Franklin was by no means a perfect man, or saintly. How great would it be for a film to capture both the greatness and the humanity of Franklin? A number of well-known actors have taken a shot at playing Franklin including Tom Bosley, Charles Durning, and Howard Da Silva, in the musical 1776. But I know there's a great film of Franklin's life waiting to be made. When it is, I will be first in line to see it.
Friday, January 27, 2006
From Tessio to Blind Uncle Morty
This time next month, character actor Abe Vigoda turns 85. With all due respect, Vigoda "seemed" old in 1972 when he appeared as Tessio in The Godfather, and, in one of the film's most memorable scenes. After his failed attempt to take over the Corleone family, and a last-minute appeal to family consoliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), "For oldtime's sake..." Tessio hands over his gun and is quietly led off to his execution (off screen). Vigoda appeared as the cantankerous police detective Phil Fish, in the popular 1970s TV series Barney Miller. (He even headlined the short lived spin-off series, Fish.) One might have wondered if Vigoda was still with us when, lo and behold, he showed up as Grandpa in 1989's Look Who's Talking. (That same year he played Dr. Orel Benton in the Christmas sleeper Prancer.) This year, look for Vigoda to play Blind Uncle Morty in the short Frankie the Squirrel, directed by Brian Cavallaro and written by Sal Mazzotta and Leo Rossi. Hmmm. From Tessio to Blind Uncle Morty. One might wonder, "Was that the smart move?"
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Park City Digital Report: Year Three
In late 2003 -- to provide breaking film technology information, and cover the most talked about movies and movie makers at the country's leading film festivals -- I created and launched the first of a series of film festival daily newspapers dubbed, the Digital Reports. The series was inaugurated at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah with the Park City Digital Report debut in January 2004. The publications were distributed throughout the town thanks to a distribution deal I forged with the local Park City Record. Later in 2003, the Digital Report appeared at two other leading film festivals. In May, the Tribeca Digital Report hit New York and was distributed throughout downtown Manhattan and at the festival by The Village Voice. In September, the Telluride Digital Report was distributed at the Telluride Film Festival (through a cooperative deal with the Telluride Daily Planet.) I'm proud to say the Park City Digital Report is now in its third year of publication and distribution at Sundance. To read this year's four issues of the Park City Digital Report go to: http://www.2-pop.com/article_13890.shtml. Word on the street is, the Digital Report brand is now being extended to the Toronto Film Festival as well.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Can't Beat 'Em? Buy 'Em!
Once upon a time, the Walt Disney Studios, producer of the world's most famous animation movies, met an exciting new computer animation company named Pixar. For years, the two companies worked together happily making some of the best animated features of the modern film era -- Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and The Incredibles. Then the two studios had a falling out, and went their separate ways. Now, $7.4 billion later, the two are hoping to live happily ever after, again. This gobble 'em up mentality is the way Hollywood (and most of corporate America) does business these days. There was a time, when talent was developed from within. in what seems to be a bygone era, there was nothing more impressive for an animator to say than he once animated for Disney. But this move by Disney reminds me of a similar merger implemented by Sony last year when it bought MGM. Sony wanted the Bond franchise. When they lost it, in court, Sony decided to just buy it, instead. Here, Disney obviously missed the magic Pixar brought to the mix. But rather than attempt to beat Pixar at its own game, Disney (like Sony) chose to buy the competition. Why? Well, I have two words: Chicken Little.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Hannity vs. Rhodes
Forget the Hulk Hogan wrestling flick No Holds Barred or the Jerry Springer feature fight fest Ringmaster...here is a match up I'd like to see on screen: Hannity vs Rhodes: Battle for the Middle. An astute colleague of mine pointed out recently, what passes for political discourse today, isn't that different from wrestling. There are good guys and bad guys and everyone is talking really loud. It's rude, confrontational and (metaphorically) bloody. There's no middle ground. No room for compromise. Every day, it's winner-takes-all, in a steel-cage, grudge match. The Right Wing's resident bulldog Sean Hannity thinks nothing of stepping all over guests who don't agree with his pre-set (Pro-Bush) agenda. Likewise, the obviously intelligent, but sometimes redundant, Randi Rhodes is no shrinking violet herself. Armed with a considerable amount of referenced facts, but also with a pre-set (Anti-Republican) agenda, Rhodes argues her Left leaning position, each day on Air America, every bit as ferociously as Hannity does his. Watching the two of them square off -- I mean truly debate specific issues (without a script) -- would make a fascinating film. Currently, both personalities essentially preach to their respective choirs. If some poor, unsuspecting "middle-of-the-roader" sneaks in a call on either radio program, and dares to suggest that perhaps both sides of a left/right argument may have merit, he or she is eaten alive, or promptly cut off. Hannity and Rhodes are warriors for their causes, and as such, seeing them together, on film, would be tantamount to watching gladiators do battle.
Monday, January 23, 2006
"I Used to Be in the Musical Business With Elvis, But That Was a Long Time Ago."
I unearthed an arcane bit of film trivia today that I wanted to share with you. The 1958 Elvis Presley vehicle, King Creole, which is loosely based on the Harold Robbins novel A Stone for Danny Fisher, and directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), was co-written by none other than Michael V. Gazzo, the Oscar nominated actor who portrayed the Corleone family snitch Frankie Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II, who, when questioned by a Senate committee about his involvement in the organized crime family headed by Michael Corleone, has a sudden change of heart and utters the immortal lines, "Oh, I used to be in the olive oil business with his father. But that was a long time ago!" Talk about six degrees of separation! Who would have ever thought we could connect Elvis to Coppola in one?!
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Should Jesus Get an Agent?
On screen, who's more popular than Jesus these days? Between, The Passion of the Christ, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe, TV's The Book of Daniel and the latest Sundance Film Festival sensation, Son of Man, it's been a regular Jesus revival! Motion picture seems to be able to do something many churches have found difficulty doing these days -- connecting people to the story of Jesus. The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia (which is a lightly veiled tale of Jesus' passion and formation of the early church) are both certified blockbusters! Meanwhile, NBC's The Book of Daniel -- which seems to be trying to appeal to the Desperate Housewives audience -- and the independent film Son of Man -- which bills itself as the first "black Jesus" film, and is causing a stir at Sundance -- are both raising eyebrows and making news with their portrayals of Jesus. (But Son of Man isn't the first to introduce a black Jesus. Remember the "black Jesus" episode of Good Times when J.J. defiantly hangs a painting of an African American Jesus on the wall of the family apartment, much to the chagrin of his own mother? That is, of course, until family member's wishes start come true by praying to it.) No matter. Whether he's portrayed as the Lion messiah of Narnia, a South African revolutionary, or a laid back confidant in the Connecticut suburbs, Jesus is on screen everywhere. He may even be more popular than The Beatles these days.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Warning! Don't Go to the Movies!
It occurred to me that, in a movie, often times, the most dangerous place to be is...a movie theater! Examine the proof. I went to a drive-in movie to watch Twister, the tornado movie starring Helen Hunt, and about midway through the film, the twister, in the film, rips through, you guessed it -- a drive-in theater. (That was surreal.) In the sequel to Scream, in the opening scene, a movie theater full of teenagers watching the movie Stab! -- which is based on the events of the first film -- are dressed like the killer from the first movie. That sets the stage for two of them to be killed in the theater during the movie. The entire plot, of the admittedly awful, Drive-in Massacre is about patrons being offed in their cars while watching a film. In the 1958 version of The Blob!, the gelatinous red alien makes his way through a movie theater as he devours unsuspecting citizens of a small town. In John Landis' An American Werewolf in London, one of the werewolf's transformations occurs in a porn theater in Piccadilly Circus, where authorities believe they have the monster trapped, until he breaks out! In Joe Dante's Matinee -- a wonderful movie about the loss of innocence and movie-going -- special effects equipment set up in the basement of a movie theater to heighten the movie-going experience of the film within the film -- Mant!, goes awry, and blows up the theater itself! All of this, of course, does not take into account the urban legend of the sleeping man in the first row of the movie theater balcony, who waits for unsuspecting teenage girls to sit next to him so he can cause a distraction and "accidentally" trip one, sending her over the railing -- to her death! These days, though, you don't need an urban legend to scare you, just going to see the 50 Cent movie Get Rich or Die Trying, might get you shot. It's interesting that so many movies would choose to use a movie theater in this way, but when you really think about it, we do allow ourselves to be vulnerable in such a setting, sitting, as we do, in a large room next to complete strangers with all the lights out!
Friday, January 20, 2006
Today, director David Lynch turns 60. To date, he has amassed a body of work that, like director Jim Jarmusch, is uniquely his own. Other visionary directors (including Coppola, Scorsese, Stone, and even Hitchcock) have, at some point in their careers, become "gun-for-hires" and marred an otherwise excellent body of work with a film or two or three that simply isn't imbued with their mark as director. (Anybody remember Coppola's Jack or Scorsese's New York, New York or Stone's Any Given Sunday?) That isn't true for Lynch. Even though, he has taken studio projects (rarely), he's always been able to put his stamp on the film (even if it isn't always successful, a la Dune). Lynch puts me in mind of another David who also has been able to maintain the integrity of his film work. Recently, director David Cronenberg has received high marks for his film A History of Violence (it was even nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes), but what I admire is the fact that, throughout his entire career (love them or hate them), Cronenberg (like Lynch) has always chosen to make challenging films. It's quite difficult in Hollywood, to lose your way and sell out. Lynch and Cronenberg have managed not to, and still make the most intriguing, thought-provoking and (sometimes) difficult films to watch. (Cronenberg was reportedly offered the chance to direct Return of the Jedi in 1983, but declined.) Both directors have given us films that deserved to be watched two, three, or even ten times, so rich are they with cinematic originality, symbolism, subtext and archetypes. How can you ask anything more from a director? If you aren't acquainted with the work of these two avant garde masters, here's a selected filmography of each. Films of David Lynch: Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story (1999), Mulholland Dr. (2001). Films of David Cronenberg: Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), M. Butterfly (1993), Crash (1996), eXistenZ (1999), Spider (2002), A History of Violence (2005).
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Three Old Men & a Bullwhip
I've grown weary of all the online chatter surrounding a fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series. Simply put, the time has passed for such a film. And let's face it, while the first one was a dead-on homage to old Saturday morning serials (and a real fun romp, to boot); the second one was a silly mess that played, at times, like a theme park ride; and the third one was merely derivative of the first! So, enough. I don't care if he's engaged to Calista Flockhart and wears an earring; at 64 this year, Harrison Ford is too old to play the swashbuckling Indy. George Lucas (having just milked a decade worth of audiences from his latest Star Wars franchise) needs to either mine some new territory, or retire and enjoy his billions. And Steven Spielberg (at times, a masterful filmmaker), has gone on to more challenging films. Yes, it was thrilling in 1981 when these three men teamed up to make Raiders of the Lost Ark (Although, I distinctly remember liking Superman II more, that year). There's a reason the phrase "going to the well one time too many" exists. It was fun 25 years ago. But this well is dry. Move on gentlemen.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
For as long as I can remember, the search for sunken treasure -- an undersea adventure culminating in the discovery of gold coins or trinkets from hundreds or thousands of years ago, on the ocean floor -- has fascinated me. As a child, I even owned Sunken Treasure, from Milton Bradley, where the object of the game was to retrieve coins from the sea bottom (in an Operation-style fashion) without getting buzzed. I also collected coins, and would intently study the ads in coin magazines urging me to buy a metal detector and comb the beaches for treasure! So, needless to say, I was intrigued when I learned of the plot for the movie Into the Blue, which, you guessed it, is about the search for sunken treasure! What a well-made film. Solid performances, combined with stunning underwater cinematography, and an adventurous script, make for a fun time. The themes in this film run deep: Love vs. Money. The Power of Greed. Right vs. Wrong. Choices Matter. Essentially, Into the Blue is a mortality play sprawled out against the gorgeous backdrop of the Caribbean islands and the deep, clear, blue (shark infested) waters surrounding them. An expedition by four friends for the illusive sunken civil war ship, the Zephyr, is complicated when the drivers discover, near the site, a sunken plane filled with cocaine. Should they take it and sell it for equipment they need? Should they inform the police? Who can they trust? The web gets tangled and their decisions cost lives. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. You might be too.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Tonight, my father's on my mind. He passed away in 1999, and he's really the reason I love movies so much. He's the guy who introduced me to them, and taught me about them. I remember when, one Halloween night, he eagerly came over my apartment to watch a marathon of horror movies. He piqued my interest in horror movies at a young age (even if he would never step foot into a haunted house with me at a carnival). As a child, I would always ask him what he was watching, as it always seemed he was watching one movie or another. That's Entertainment! Enter the Dragon. Prom Night. Godzilla vs Megalon. It didn't really matter. In the days before VHS, or cable or TiVo, if a film was on the TV, he was watching it (usually late at night). He had an agile command of the minutest information about films, and as a result, was always the "go to" person for an "entertainment" question in a game of Trivial Pursuit. When he passed away, his obituary in Variety, which recounted his stint as a musician, also acknowledged that he possessed "an encyclopedic knowledge of show business." In the last couple years of his life (as he slowly deteriorated from heart failure), I would invite him to accompany me to films I was commissioned to review for Cinefantastique. He never refused, regardless of the film. I treasured those times then, as I do now, since they allowed a wonderful opportunity for us to talk with each other as we drove to and from the theater. About a month before he died, although he was physically not up to the task, he showed up at my house (as was tradition) to watch the Oscar telecast with me, and fill out his ballot on who might win. My mother told me later that he did it because he knew it was something that was important to me. (I am still in awe of the year he correctly picked Don Ameche to win Best Supporting Actor for Cocoon over the odds-on favorite Klaus Maria Brandauer for Out of Africa.) Even in the hospital, during the last few days of his life, film was still our touchstone. As I sat vigil in his darkened room in CCU, I watched Anatomy of a Murder, as the drugs he was on made him hallucinate in the middle of the night. During more lucid moments, we watched Noah's Ark, with Jon Voight, together. And even on the last day of his life, as things began to spiral down quickly, I was still there next to him, talking about film; asking what his favorite movie was, to divert his mind from the inevitable. Movies were the thing that we had together, from my earliest years, to the last moments of his life. And even now, seven years later, there is rarely a time when I see a film and don't think of him, of what he might have said about it, and how film was always our touchstone.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Spanning the Golden Globes
Tonight, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) -- a handful of entertainment journalists who have covered the film scene for overseas media for better than a half century -- handed out its 63rd annual Golden Globe Awards to honor outstanding achievement in movies and TV. For years, the Golden Globes were considered to merely be a fun night out for Hollywood stars, a time for them to mingle and party. For the majority of its existence, the Golden Globe Awards had little prestige -- and was never thought to be in the same league as the Oscars (which are handed out by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences). After all, it wasn't much of a secret, in town, that the members of the HFPA loved to be wined and dined, and given special treatment at press junkets. (Of course, there are many who believe the Oscars themselves are nothing more than a popularity contest, and don't truly reflect the best of the year either). So, for years, the Golden Globe ceremony was something of an inside joke. Stars came for food and drink, to have fun, and be slightly irreverent. However, the ceremony reached its nadir in 1982 when the HFPA awarded Pia Zadora a Best Newcomer award for her critically panned performance in Butterfly (amid rumors HFPA members were entertained at a Las Vegas hotel owned by Zadora's husband). Network TV dropped the show. Enter Dick Clark (Yes, that Dick Clark!) As executive producer of the show (through Dick Clark Productions), Clark returned the Globes to primetime network placement (on NBC) by the mid 90s, and continued to shape and improve the image of the awards. For years, Clark even acted as host (and backstage interviewer) for the proceedings. (Just as he had given the Grammys a run for its money with the creation of the American Music Awards, Clark knew he could bring some of Oscar's audience over to the Globes if he played his cards right.) So, the rules were tightened. Old categories were removed. New ones were added. And marketing soon focused on the Globes being "Hollywood's Biggest Party," hyping the fact that more stars attended the Globes than the Oscars (which they did). Then in 1992, the Globes were remade again when, much to the surprise of many industry observers, the HFPA nominated Scent of a Woman in the Best Picture category. The Motion Picture Academy followed suit, and soon it was reported that the Globes could, in fact, influence the Academy! From that point on, the Globes have been considered a "predictor" of Oscar nominees and winners. Red carpet pre-shows soon followed. The combination of continued star-power (Hollywood's A-list really seems to love attending the ceremony) and a perception of "importance" has now elevated the Globes in status -- second only to the Oscars in terms of interest come Awards Season.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Ohio-native and fellow NYU alumnus, writer/director Jim Jarmusch has been able to carve out a 25-year career of truly independent films, despite the fact his films have never had huge (or sometimes any) boxoffice. He has consistently worked outside the Hollywood system, and still been able to attract top talent such as Roberto Benigni, Johnny Depp, and most recently, Bill Murray. His films have become touchstones for much of the independent filmmaking community (even as Jarmusch has gone from maverick to old guard within that community). His works include Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law, Mystery Train, Night on Earth, Dead Man, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Coffee and Cigarettes and last year's Broken Flowers. His most recent film -- essentially, a one line concept (a man sets out to discover the mother of his son after receiving a mysterious letter informing him of his fatherhood) -- manages to be real in ways most films don't know how to be. Jarmusch doesn't mind silence, or a minimalist approach, or endings that don't neatly tie things up. In other words (his own words), he attempts to make films that experience the present moment as fully as possible. Broken Flowers is quite an amazing film in that regard. Murray's character Don Johnston, may be searching for something from his past that may in fact impact his future, but the film reveals his quest in series of moments that examine his present state, and doesn't allow Johnston (or us) to easily resolve that quest. I have great respect and admiration for Jarmusch's ability to stay true to himself for more than a quarter century and maintain the high integrity of a truly unique body of work.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
It Looked Good on Paper
How many times have you read about an upcoming film "From acclaimed, award-winning director... Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by... Starring Academy Award winning actor/actress...," only to see it completely flop within a week? It never fails to make me wonder, when this happens, "What made this one tank, and that one, with the same pedigree, succeed?" Fair question, right? So many of these films look great on paper. I remember back in late 2001, eagerly awaiting the release of The Shipping News, which had all the markings of a critical and artistic success. It was being directed by Lasse Hallstrom (a favorite of the Motion Picture Academy, who had just come off the popular successes of back-to-back Best Picture nominees Chocolat and The Cider House Rules). It was based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer by E. Annie Proulx (who, by the way, also penned the now popular Brokeback Mountain) and starred Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Judi Dench (as well as Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Pete Postlethwaite, and Scott Glenn. But I blinked, and the film was out of theaters. Of course, this is just one of many examples I could cite. And it's not a recent phenomenon. Back in 1971, Paul Newman directing and starring along side Henry Fonda in the film adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion seemed like a good bet. But it barely caused a ripple. Yet, four years later, barely-known European director Milos Forman's take on Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, starring (Roger Corman alumnus) Jack Nicholson and unknown actress Louise Fletcher, would go on to become a timeless classic. In 1991, the producer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (as well as Amadeus and The English Patient), Saul Zaentz realized his 26-year desire to produce At Play in the Fields of the Lord. With Hector Babenco (Kiss of the Spiderwoman) directing Oscar-winner Kathy Bates, it seemed like a winner. But it disappeared within days from theaters, a critical and popular disaster. This followed Ironweed, another flop from Babenco which also looked great on paper. That film starred (by then, established, and multi Oscar-winner) Jack Nicholson and two-time Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, and was adapted by William Kennedy from his own Pulitzer Prize winning novel. But the Great Depression era drama never caught on. For the last 15 years, Babenco has directed just two more films (and neither one in English). So who's to say if what looks great on paper will translate for audiences on screen? Certainly not Hollywood. But they keep trying, and every once in a while, for no logical reason, the formula works!
Friday, January 13, 2006
The Name Game
Columbia Pictures once owned Tri-Star Pictures, then Sony bought them both. MGM long ago purchased United Artists, then Sony bought them both. The Weinstein brothers had a vision of a mini-studio with Miramax, until Walt Disney Pictures bought it. Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberger had a similar vision for DreamWorks SKG, but Paramount Pictures just gobbled them up. So Sony now owns Columbia, MGM and United Artists. And DreamWorks is a subsidiary of Paramount, even though it grew up on the Universal lot. There was a time when a studio name mattered. Universal gave us monster movies. MGM gave us the musicals. Columbia provided Frank Capra and the screwball comedies. Back then, Disney was a baby, but it was clear what it would grow up to be: the studio of family films. But Hollywood has become so homogeneous now, none of this matters. (Even the once world-renowned icons associated with the studios seem to have lost their luster.) It means nothing to be "A Paramount Picture," or for Universal to "proudly present..." Likewise, Columbia releases no longer generate expectations for audiences. These are now just names, long removed from the executives, the filmmakers and stars who made them matter. I guess in an age when craftsmanship and unique boutiques have given way to mass production and chain mega stores, it's not shocking that Hollywood would follow suit. If Spielberg, arguably, the most influential man in the industry today, could not make a go of an independently run, self-contained studio, the concept is finished. Some might argue the concept was finished in the 70s as maverick filmmakers dismantled the old studio system, but at least then the majors were entities unto themselves, and a healthy competition existed among them. Even that is gone now. Why does Sony keep the names of the studios it bought? Who knows? The brands mean nothing any longer.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
The 9/11 Movies
Looks like 2006 is going to be a good year for 9/11 at the movies. It's been four-plus years now since the events at the World Trade Center stunned the world. I remember shortly afterwards how people wondered if they should ever laugh again. Would David Letterman or Jay Leno ever be able to tell jokes again? The terrorist-themed Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Collateral Damage, was yanked from distribution. TV programs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer were postponed due to violence. But I knew, it would only be a matter of time before the events of 9/11 were explored on film. In fact, within days of the attack, while I could still see the towers smoldering across the water from Port Washington, NY, where I worked at the time, I envisioned a film about the day in my mind. It played out similar to From Here to Eternity and followed the lives of five family that would ultimately be tied together and involved in the attacks. The finale, in my mind, played in slow motion to the wistful strains of Enya songs, which were popular then. In time, I knew filmmakers would explore the events of the day. It was inevitable. So, while others wondered if they should ever laugh or watch violence on TV again, I waited for film to tell the stories of 9/11. The documentaries came first. In 2002, the documentary 9/11 was aired, showing the only known footage shot inside the World Trade Center that day. French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet were filming a documentary on a rookie New York City firefighter when they noticed a plane hit the World Trade Center. The firefighter and the filmmakers rushed downtown, and the brothers kept the cameras on as events unfolded throughout the day. Also airing in 2002 was the documentary Let's Roll: The Story of Flight 93, re-enacting the events surrounding the hijacked plane which ultimately crashed in the woods of Pennsylvania thanks to passengers who stood up to the terrorists, while in the air. The Academy Award-winning documentary short Twin Towers was released in 2003, relating the heroic 9/11 story of two brothers, one a firefighter the other a police officer. In the summer of 2004, Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore released Fahrenheit 9/11, which went on to become the most popular documentary in the history of cinema and win the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Quietly, in 2002, The Guys, the first fictional film to deal with 9/11 was released, telling the story of a fire captain who lost eight men in the collapse of the World Trade Center and an editor who helps him prepare the eulogies he's scheduled to deliver. Now, almost five years after the events, no less than three 9/11 features are scheduled for release. Two films entitled Flight 93 will come out this year. The first, a TV movie, will air on A&E in late January, while a separate (and unrelated) theatrical film is set for released on April 28. Academy Award winner Oliver Stone's eagerly awaited take on 9/11, tentatively titled World Trade Center, opens in August. Meanwhile, two fictional accounts of terrorist acts are also coming to light in 2006. Right at Your Door, which imagines a terrorist attack on Los Angeles, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, while 9/Tenths -- which takes place in the not too distant future, when escalating terrorist threats force some to leave the unsafe cities and seek refuge in the country, establishing a new rule of conduct -- should be out later in the year.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Bunny Funny, or How a Group of Animated Rabbits Took Over Hollywood
Angry Alien Productions is the brainchild of talented 36-year-old animator Jennifer Shiman. The company's website, www.angryalien.com, is also home to "The 30-Second Bunnies Theatre" library, where you can view a troupe of animated bunnies parody a collection of Hollywood movies by re-enacting them in 30 seconds (more or less). The films in the library include, Alien, The Big Chill, A Christmas Story, The Exorcist, Freddy vs. Jason, Highlander, It's a Wonderful Life, Jaws, Pulp Fiction, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Scream, The Shining, Star Wars, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Titanic, and The War of the Worlds. Recently completed, or in-the-works, are bunny renditions of Night of the Living Dead, King Kong (1933), Reservoir Dogs, Casablanca, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Rocky and Caddyshack. The films are seen first at Starz on Demand or Starz Ticket, where they have become a huge hit with viewers. It's easy to see why. They're funny! After a run on Starz channels, the short films move to Shiman's website, where you can view them for free. The Angry Alien Productions website itself is also quite tongue-in-cheek, from the FAQ page to an animated looked into the mind of Shiman. Stop by and check out the bunnies. I would love to see some of Shiman's work released theatrically, and help bring the art of animated shorts back to this country's movie houses!
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
I just watched Red Eye, from director Wes Craven (who proves here, once and for all, he should not be pigeon-holed in the horror film genre), and several things came to mind. First, it was a perfect Hitchcockian thriller, and told exactly as Hitchcock would have told it, if he were working today (right down to the powerful overhead shot in the tiny airplane bathroom). The story is tight, driven by intelligent characters, and does not rely on flashy effects of overblown set pieces to move it along. Secondly, like Hitchcock's films, Red Eye has a beautiful, but resourceful, heroine (think Grace Kelly in Rear Window) and an intelligent and approachable villain (do you remember Shadow of a Doubt?). Rachel McAdams (who plays Lisa Reisert) may in fact be the heir to Grace Kelly's throne. Not only is she an incredibly beautiful woman, she shows equally incredible talent at such a young age (she turns 30 this year). She's prolific, but makes great choices. Red Eye is one of three films in 2005 alone (the others being, The Family Stone and Wedding Crashers). In 2004, she starred in both The Notebook and Mean Girls. I would be shocked if an Oscar is not in her hands within the next five years. Here, she plays her role in a pleated skirt and silky white blouse, and manages to balance feminine grace with emotional acumen and primal resourcefulness. It's a wonderfully riveting performance, and stands at the center of what is essentially a two-person film. The other person, actor Cillian Murphy (who also turns 30 in 2006), has amassed quite a resume himself (28 Days Later, Cold Mountain, Girl with the Pearl Earring) proving, rather quickly, he is a talent worth watching, as well. Earlier in 2005, in Batman Begins, he turned the Batman villain Scarecrow into a believable entity. Here, he molds Jackson Rippner into a villain with even greater depth, a man you sense has chosen his profession, and now is trapped within it. Like all great Hitchcock films, Red Eye puts ordinary people in the midst of a situation much larger than themselves. Watching them maneuver their way through it has always created the greatest suspense in cinema. Working from the script by first-time screenwriter Carl Ellsworth, Craven shows he understands that here. Red Eye will have me seeking out the next films from McAdams and Murphy and also leaves me hoping Craven will follow this path, put Freddy behind him, and, like Clint Eastwood, begin to build a laudable body of work in the third act in his career. If you are a fan of Hitchcock’s films (or, the best of Craven's earlier work), you should buy Red Eye for your DVD collection. It's worth watching, repeatedly.
Monday, January 09, 2006
The Curse of Titanic
Here's one sure way to sink a film. Before it opens, suggest that it will be as popular as Titanic. In 1997, Titanic became a true phenomenon of the cinema -- the #1 film of all time, taking in more than $1.2 billion dollars worldwide. It immediately set a bar many studios felt they needed to reach. But let me repeat this, Titanic was a true phenomenon of cinema. And, as with all true phenomena, you can't manufacture them. Titanic itself was in danger of sinking out at sea, when it first opened. It was passed dealdine, over budget and generating a nasty negative buzz within the industry. Then, two early reviews (one in The New York Times and one in Variety) stopped the leaking. The film opened strong, but set no records initially -- until the phenomenon began. The film's popularity grew with each passing week. People came back three and four and five times to see it. Men liked it. Women loved it. Lines formed around the block. Showtimes sold out at the beginning of the day. And soon, the film became the most popular in history. It went on to tie all-time records at the Academy Awards -- 14 nominations and 11 wins. And thus, Titanic became the brass ring. Every studio started reaching for it. But true phenomena can't be manufactured. That's what makes them so interesting. Still, whenever a studio thought it had a potential blockbuster on its hands, questions started to surface: "Would it be as big as Titanic?" But $1.2 billion worldwide (and $600 million in the U.S.) is a tough record to beat. In the spring of 1998, as Titanic was receiving its 11 Oscars, Noybuki Idei, the CEO of Sony, at a private industry dinner (which I attended), touted the belief that his studio's forthcoming big budget remake of Godzilla would top Titanic. That was followed by a proclamation from Masahiko Suzuki, publicist for Toho (the original studio for Godzilla, and distributor of the Sony version in Japan). "It's going to be the event movie of the summer," said Suzuki. "We're projecting film rentals of Y10 billion ($73 million), or about the same as...Titanic." It didn't come close to that in Japan. In the U.S., box-office topped out at $136 million and total worldwide gross reached $275 million -- a hit, but not Titanic, so it was deemed a flop! Then, last month, the rumblings stirred once more! This time, it was for Peter Jackson's big budget (over-the-top) remake of King Kong. The analysts were at it again -- ABC News: "King Kong Could Reach Titanic Heights." The Sydney Morning Herald: "Will King Kong be another Titanic?" The Drudge Report: "King Kong to Challenge All-Time Box-office Champ." Philadelphia Inquirer: "All of a sudden Titanic looks puny." With hype like that, and the gauntlet dropped, the talk was everywhere -- cable, websites, on-line forums, and blogs. The question was always the same. "Would King Kong top Titanic?" At that point, it seemed the only measure of success. Then, the movie opened strong, but not phenomenal, and everyone started to backtrack. Universal found itself trying to explain away a $50 million plus opening weekend! It all seemed absurd. Boxoffice Mojo chimed in "King Kong Mighty, But No Monster." To date, the film is approaching $200 million in the U.S and a total of $464.5 million around the globe. Which means, King Kong is on pace to top out around $600 million, worldwide. Most movies would kill for that. Still, it will only be half of what Titanic brought in. Not phenomenal? Well, everything's relative. But true phenomena can't be manufactured. So, will there ever be a big budgeted remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla? Not unless the giant lizard and the giant ape sink a luxury liner, on its maiden voyage, during their fight.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
The Sunday Comics
Comic book-to-film adaptations (and more recently, cartoon-to-film takes) are fairly common. Led by the superheroes, Spider-Man, Batman and Superman, comic book adaptations have been popping up on the big screen for some time (and will continue to do so this year, with the much anticipated Superman Returns). Feature film adaptations of comic strips (the type you see daily in newspapers, and in color on Sunday) however, are a bit rarer. A handful spring to mind. Many strips have found success as an animated TV series, but few have been selected for theatrical films. While best remembered for their holiday TV specials (A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, etc) the Peanuts gang, created by Charles Schultz, did make it to the screen on a few occasions, beginning with 1969's A Boy Named Charlie Brown (which opened at Radio City Music Hall in NY) and followed by 1972's Snoopy Come Home (which introduced Woodstock), 1977's Race for Life Charlie Brown, and 1980's Bon Voyage Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back). Al Capp's hillbilly strip "Li'l Abner" was adapted for the screen twice: first in 1940 and again in 1959, as a musical. The musical film Annie, which was adapted from the successful Broadway production (which, in turn, was based on Harold Gray's comic strip "Little Orphan Annie") made it to the screen in 1982, directed by John Huston (but it fell on deaf ears). The same was true for Brenda Starr, which starred Brooke Shields as the comic strip reporter. That film was made in 1986, but not released until 1992, when it quickly faded away. Faring slightly better in 1993 was the film version of Hank Ketcham's long-running strip "Dennis the Menace." The film was directed by Nick Castle of Halloween fame and written by John Hughes (who unfortunately mined his own garish Home Alone films for inspiration). Chester Gould's legendary comic strip detective Dick Tracy first made it to the big screen in 1945, but was given the big budget treatment by Warren Beatty in 1990’s Dick Tracy. Perhaps the most successful comic strip-to-film adaptation is that of "Blondie," the strip created by Chic Young, and named for the attractive, loving wife of Dagwood Bumstead. Blondie was embodied by actress Penny Singleton in 28 films (over 12 years), starting with Blondie in 1938 and ending with Beware of Blondie in 1950. Most recently, combining computer generated animation with live action, Jim Davis' lasagna-loving fat cat Garfield made his screen debut (and was voiced perfectly by Bill Murray) in Garfield: The Movie in 2004. My vote for the next live action big screen adaptation of a strip?: Lynn Johnston’s brilliant and honest multi-generational portrait of the Patterson family, “For Better or For Worse.”
Saturday, January 07, 2006
See Bingo! The Documentary. Offering all the fascination of a top "Roadside America" attraction, this little gem of a documentary -- independently directed, shot, and edited by John Jeffcoat in 1999, and now available on DVD -- may lure viewers in with kitsch curiosity, but ultimately delivers a humorous and often somber expose of the challenges posed by an aging population, gambling addiction, and loneliness. After providing a brief and informative history of the game (which includes an interview with Bingo inventor, Ed Lowe's granddaughter), Jeffcoat proceeds to effectively introduce us to the subculture of characters and organizations that fuels Bingo (from welfare recipients and recovering alcoholics, to drag queens and the Catholic church itself). The film opens with an amazing statistic: more people attend Bingo halls every year than movie theaters, rock concerts and bowling alleys combined. Bingo is a six billion dollar industry! But the sad fact is, it is often funded by people who can't afford to play. An overbearing loneliness, the allure of pseudo-community, and the hope of winning a jackpot (the film points out), draws players in over and over again. Jeffcoat traveled throughout the U.S., Europe (and even onto a Bingo cruise ship) to document the activities of these rabid Bingo disciples and the reasons they play. While Jeffcoat's film may not rank among the legendary entries of the documentary genre, it certainly merits viewing (perhaps more than once). For more information on this film, go to http://www.strangelife.com/bingodoc/bingoframe.html.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Reliving The Dead
Today is January 6th, The Feast of the Epiphany (also known as, The 12th Day of Christmas or The Feast of the Three Kings). In Europe, there is a longstanding tradition of celebration on this day, when it is believed that the Magi from the East visited the Christ child, thus revealing his existence to the gentile world (the epiphany). In fact, there was a time in Europe when January 6th was even more popular than Christmas Day itself. Twelfth Night parties were once commonplace throughout Europe to celebrate this day, and to close out the Christmas season. It's on this day that the events of director John Huston's last film, The Dead -- based on the short story by James Joyce -- takes place. I remember when I first saw this film, at a press screening, sitting far too close to the screen because, by the time I got to the theater, it was filled to capacity with people eager to view Huston's last film. (He had died shortly after it was finished, but before it was released.) The film is gentle. It essentially has no plot. In essence, we are invited to be part of a Twelfth Night party taking place on January 6, 1904, given by two aunts and their niece for family and friends in Ireland. The party, as one might expect, is filled with merriment -- good food, drink, singing and dancing. On the surface, it's a wonderful Christmastime gathering. But, it's at the end of this film, as one of the guests, Gretta, returns to the hotel with her husband, Gabriel, that she reveals that one of the songs at the party reminded her of a teenage love -- a 17-year-old boy named Michael Furey who loved her so much, though ill, stood outside her window in the rain to persuade her not to move away for school. He died a week later. But all these years, she has never forgotten him. And for her husband, hearing this, makes him realize he has never loved a woman as it seemed Michael loved his wife, as a teenager. And this personal epiphany makes him weep not only for Michael but for himself, since he suddenly understands the difference between merely existing and truly living. The source story by Joyce is considered by many to be one of the greatest short stories ever written. (And, like all great short story writers, Joyce understood that the end should have a twist.) Still, it is a near-impossible task to film a movie without a plot, and, at best, ill-advised to stretch a short story into a feature length film. However, Huston made the best film that could be made from this story. In doing so, he preserved on screen a tale many don't read any longer, and on the Epiphany, showed that there is sometimes more to life than the mere trappings of day-to-day living (even a merry Twelfth Night party) may show us.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
For Christ's Sake!
An Indiana TV station refuses to air NBC's The Book of Daniel, because it shows a priest talking with Jesus. That's ironic, because, isn't that was what priests are supposed to do! Getting into the mix on the ban is the American Family Association, the anti-abortion group that also tried, a few years back, to argue that Walt Disney cartoons had subliminal sex in them. But frankly, I'm confused. This sort of puts me in mind of the theme from The Godfather Part II. Michael Corleone is so blinded by his "duty" to protect his family, he doesn't realize he's destroying it. Are the radical "Christians" of this country now doing the same? Are they so hell-bent on banning everything they find objectionable that they now find themselves banning Jesus too? It makes no sense. That same core group seemed to have no problem watching the character of Jesus Christ have his skin ripped apart for more than two hours during The Passion of the Christ. (In fact, they catapulted the film into the all-time top ten!) But the same group protested Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988 (having not even seen it) without realizing that it, in fact, depicted Christ refusing the last temptation of the devil to come down from the cross and get married. I happen to think Jesus' appearance in Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant was a stroke of genius, as it not only embodied the guilt and angst the main character was experiencing but also his need for forgiveness. And for those painfully unaware, I should point out, Jesus as been a TV character on the highly irreverent animated series South Park for years!!! He not only lives in South Park, but has his own public-access TV show! Grow up people. Jesus as a character in a movie or a TV show is not one of the seven signs of the apocalypse.
Reality Check: 2005 Musicals Off-Key
As mentioned in an earlier "Movies on My Mind" piece, 2005 was a make-or-break year for the return of the movie musical. Well the jury is in. Director Chris Columbus' version of Rent never found a wide enough audience, and Susan Stroman's film version of her Broadway phenomenon, The Producers failed to impress critics or moviegoers. So, it's beginning to look like the movie musical revival (started by Moulin Rouge and Chicago but slowed down by The Phantom of the Opera) is going to be short-lived. However, Hollywood is still planning two more for 2006: Across the Universe, directed by Julie Taymor (who received high marks for her stage version of The Lion King), will be set to the music of The Beatles, as it tells a trans-Atlantic love story set in the 1960s. But I'm betting the real money will be on the long-awaited screen version of the legendary Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Written and directed by Academy Award-winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), the film is set to hit the big screen in December 2006 starring former American Idol singer Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover. If Dreamgirls does not create Chicago-like excitement, look for the movie musical to dance off into the sunset quickly thereafter. For updated information on the development of movie musicals, you may want to check out the informative website www.MovieMusicals.net.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Mark my words. You can take this one to the bank. There will be a movie made about the just-announced heroic rescue of 12 coal miners trapped deep underground in West Virginia for 41 hours. This event has all the trappings of a great melodrama. A terrible explosion! A race against the clock, as ominous news of Carbon Monoxide build-up is announced. "It will take a miracle," rescuers say. Forty-one hours tick by and still a thousand feet to go! Droves gather in churches to pray for a miracle. Then...Bells ring out!. "They're alive. They're found alive." Tears of joy begin to flow. A spontaneous chorus of singing erupts. This is the stuff of true melodrama. The kind of stuff you can't make up. (Because if you do, no one would buy it.) Is it exploitation? Absolutely! But exploitation is what Hollywood does best sometimes. So, this is not a question of "if," it's a question of "When?" The only suspense left is who will sell the movie rights first, the rescuers or the miners? Don't think this can work as a film? Rent Apollo 13 again. Paging Ron Howard! Film for Mr. Ron Howard!Addendum: This is a dark day for American journalism. When I wrote the above piece, like the rest of the country, I believed the reports coming from reputable news organizations of the successful rescue of 12 coal miners trapped for 41 hours. Then came the sad fact -- it wasn't 12 miners alive and one dead, but in fact, the opposite, 12 miners dead and one alive (and critical). The news media of this country, so rabid to report the story first, didn't bother to get the story right. Even The New York Times, on its cover, reported the miners were alive. Does anyone check facts or sources anymore? This is an outright disgrace. How can a new organization ever engender trust when it doesn't care enough to get the facts right? Will a movie still be made? My answer is still yes, but now that depends on whether or not the sole survivor, Randal McCloy, lives to tell it. I think a documentarian should be willing to step up and uncover the immense screw up that resulted in the joyful (but false) headlines that dominated newspapers around the country today. Instead of Ron Howard, what this story now needs is Michael Moore.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Snow White's Little Shop of Horrors?
Here is some fascinating news. Roger Corman, the so-called "B-Movie King," is quoted in the Vancouver Sun as having signed a DVD distribution deal for his 400-film library with none other than... Walt Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment. This, despite the fact that another distributor offered more money for the films. I met and spoke with Corman at the DVD Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles a few years back, when he delivered the expo's keynote address. It was clear then that throughout his career, he made the deals that made the most sense for his films. Same principle seems to hold true in the Disney deal. Corman said he decided to take the lower offer from Disney "because they were going to put more money into the distribution, and they can command more shelf space than almost anyone else." Good reason to sign. Corman, who is one of the true survivors in the film industry, went on to say, "This business can be a little bit cutthroat ... so the fact the Disney people were friendly and were willing to really work with us, and share their expertise on mass marketing, really went a long way." While odd at first glance, this is no more strange than Disney buying up Miramax a few years back. What is fascinating to me is, despite these bold moves, Disney, more than any other functioning studio, has been able to retain a unique brand identity for family films that is second to none in the business. Behind the scenes, Disney may own the studio that produced Pulp Fiction, and now control the distribution on the production company behind Little Shop of Horrors and Murders in the Rue Morgue, but its face is still that of Mickey Mouse's and its films, like the current hit, The Chronicles of Narnia, still evoke a family-friendly approach.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Bollywood Goes Hollywood?
Talk about product placement! Shameless exposure for corporate products has become the norm in Hollywood features, but now comes word that Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo -- China's largest manufacturer of personal computers, and the eighth largest manufacturer of PCs in the world -- is "sponsoring" a Bollywood movie in an effort to make a push into the Indian PC market. According to published reports, Lenovo reached an agreement with director Madhur Bhandarkar to sponsor his upcoming movie, ironically titled, Corporate, in which the lead character will in turn endorse Lenovo's products. Bollywood has never shied from the fact that it wants to be as successful as Hollywood. In fact, some reports claim it is already more successful, on the whole. So it's not a shock that corporate influence would eventually creep in to Bollywood films. Afterall, across the pacific, in L.A., corporate influence hasn't crept into Hollywood films, it owns them.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Dawn of a New Era: Smaller But Immediate
When I was growing up, there were two words marketing experts were sure would attract new customers: bigger and better! But these days, those words don't hold the luster they once did. As 2005 proved, and 2006 is poised to confirm, bigger and better is not necessarily what the new generation of movie lovers want. No wonder the industry was shaking nervously at the fact that King Kong (which many unfairly anointed the all-time boxoffice champ before it even opened!) is not doing as well as they hoped. If Kong can't bring audiences in, where is the motion picture business headed? Then it occurred to me. If audiences could watch King Kong (which director Peter Jackson, obvious created as a labor of love for the BIG screen) on a Video iPod, they would. If they didn't have to drive to a theater and wait on line and pay $10.75 for a ticket, and mortgage their home for some popcorn and soda, but instead download it onto a one-inch screen, they WOULD!! Now, that concept makes me quite sad. King Kong or Gone with the Wind or Titanic or Star Wars or Doctor Zhivago or Reds or Gandhi were never meant to be seen on a one-inch screen. Still, if audiences could have done this, they would have done this. Show business executives are finally admitting publicly that the era of telling viewers when and how they can watch motion picture is over. Variety reports that "the challenges facing film and TV companies in 2006 are old ones: how to grapple with years of shrinking box office admissions and splintering TV ratings; how to capture a mass audience that's fragmenting into millions of niches." I agree. TiVo ended television viewing as we know it. Portable DVD players, Video iPods, and other mobile viewing devices may now end movie watching as we once knew it. For the new generation, it's all about small and immediate. New bytes instead of news. Music videos. iPods. Video games. Cameras on cell phones! Tiny is all they have known. The Big Screen holds little allure any more. And while it laments this fact, the industry doesn't really seem to care. Little to nothing is being done to preserve the moviegoing experience. Business arrangements make it impossible for theaters to survive. Films, (especially the event films Hollywood puts all its money on) are nothing more than commercials for other related products and eventual DVD sales. Even King Kong was used to help sell the NY State Lottery! Some would say there's no turning back. Others would cry that we've gone too far. Still others may argue we have in fact come full circle. After all, didn't the Nickelodeons of yesteryear give audiences small images for a small price? Could the future of the motion picture business be buried in its past? How long before theaters become museums?