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Posts from the ‘filmmaking’ Category

“Coraline” is doing just fine at the box office, thanks (or – How I learned to stop worrying about opening box office, because it’s kind of useless)


If you haven’t guessed from my impromptu “theme” portrait change last week, I really, really, liked Henry Selick’s “Coraline”… which is interesting, because I was decidedly lukewarm on Neil Gaimans novel (admittedly I’m probably not the target audience, but that hasn’t stopped me from raving about other work even less demographically aligned).

I was somewhat surprised to read today at over at Occasional Superheroine (a regular comic blog haunt) that Valerie thinks that it’s troubling that Coraline’s opening was “lower” than “Friday the 13th”. Well what she exactly said was:

“Eyebrows [are] raised at how huge the opening was for “Friday 13th,” and how low “Coraline’s” was in comparison.”

Really? I’d like to see whose eyebrows, so I can tell them how they’re very, very, wrong. Coraline’s opening would suggest it will be a much more profitable film than the newest “Friday” by a large margin. Read more

The Piracy Battle – Two VERY different approaches


I found it interesting that on the same day that American producers were again renewing the call to battle piracy (although, unsurprisingly not mentioning the latest US legal judgement that a pirated download does not constitute a “lost sale” for calculation of damages… something I’ve long argued the MPAA and RIAA are using to cloak far more systemic problems with their respective business models) I was having a conversation with a couple of Canadian producers on Network Neutrality touching on similar issues (most of the Canadian ISP’s now looking to “shape” all that congesting BitTorrent traffic).

I’ll have much more to say on this as the Net Neutrality hearings at the CRTC heat up – but I wanted to share one of the key points that came out of my discussion that I’m not sure I had heard expressed with such crystal clarity before (and my apologies I can’t recall who actually made the point):

Without absolute network neutrality, content producers will never be able to provide legal content alternatives as effective as illegal ones.

Like the Napster/iTunes evolution, until a legitimate alternative exists which offers most of the benefits of the illegitimate one, you will never win the fight. And without true network neutrality, the capability to implement such a system would be limited entirely to those who own the infrastructure, essentially creating a new caste of “super broadcasters” to gatekeep access to audience.

One of the above discussions struck me as horrifically quaint, while one seemed refreshingly forward-thinking. Can you guess which one’s which?

(illustration via Education Week)

A Historic Tuesday

I would be the one who is neither incredibly ripped, nor dressed in vague 17th century garb

During the contentious 2008 US election we were often bombarded with variants of a very basic Republican speaking point: You don’t actually buy the hype do you? For all the talk of change you don’t expect you will magically open your eyes into a mystical new wonderland should, against all odds, a black man named “Barack” get elected to the highest office in the land?

Oddly, I had assumed this was just the usual pundit pedantry – intentionally making shallow word-play out of the broader social and international importance of metaphorical “change”. Heck, I think I probably argued that the act of such an unlikely election, in and of itself, would encompass of more national “change” than, perhaps, the entirety of the previous several presidential terms.

Ironically, the promise wasn’t nearly as metaphorical as I’d thought:

1130h EST, January 20th 2009 – Barack Hussein Obama II was inaugurated at the 44th President of the United States of America.

1200h EST, January 20th 2009 – I find myself in Puebla, Mexico officiating a press conference between Captain Henry Morgan and the famous Mexican wrestler, El 1000 Por Ciento Guapo, Shocker.

Now that’s change you can believe in!
(en espanol, but here’s a mildly comprehensible auto- translation)

Watchmen Updates – What’s that on the Horizon?

no, no metaphors here

Is it a settlement? No. Not quite. Lots of good updates on Watchmen lawsuit happenings over at Film Esq. – my favourite lawblog du jour.

The Coles notes is that everyone who prophesied a quick settlement after the Dec 24th order (cough, cough) may want to take a mulligan. Fox appears to be going for the jugular looking for the court to grant their permanent injunction before any discussion of how many zeros they would like on their publishers-clearing-house-sized novelty cheque. So much so that they’ve waived their injunctive claims on any other aspect of this case (I have no idea if they had anything of value there anyway… but lawyers tend not to jettison any potential avenue of attack unless they smell blood in the water… you only need so many butter-knives to compliment your fully gassed-up chainsaw).

On the other side of the coin, I’m not entirely sure what Warner’s is thinking, or doing, since I haven’t seen any of their recent documents. But since I read judge Feess Dec 24th order, I’m still a little fuzzy on their master strategy anyway unless it involved filling up a pool with gold coins Scrooge-McDuck-style, and the putting said pool on the back of a gold truck and driving the whole shooting match over to Fox with a nice gift basket.

And maybe cushioning the basket with some nice decorative grasses.

And wads and wads of bills.

Rodney Perkins is doing a fantastic job of breaking down the (still somewhat perplexing) shenanigans in far more detail, and unlike me, I bet he doesn’t accidentally wring up accidental $10 charges every time he uses PACER:

Seriously, Who’s Watching the Watchmen Lawsuit?

You've come a long way, baby

Dear Fox,
Eat All the Dicks
Daniel O’Brien

Like lots of other bloggers, I was shocked to come out of my post-Christmas turkey induced coma to the news, broken by Michael Sieply in the New York Times, that Twentieth Century Fox has succeeded in at least some of their lawsuit against Warner Brothers relating to “Watchmen” – a ruling which now puts the proposed March 7th release of the film in jeopardy.

Now at midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew come out and round up everyone that knows more than they do.
– Bob Dylan

Like lots of comic fans, my initial reaction was annoyance – I’m a tremendous fan of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons original work, and have been looking forward to the film with equal parts anticipation and dread. My bio notes that I’ve been hired three times to write about comic books for very disparate magazines (all three of which stopped publishing before my first columns ever saw print). It’s a testament to the depth and breadth of “Watchmen” that I was able to reference it in all three of my initial columns despite the very different audiences and focus of each. It’s one of my “hook” books to introduce adult readers to comics when they ask me to “recommend something” (although I do occasionally suggest that on first reading one can skip the supplementary text-pieces, and “tales from the black freighter” sub-plot – both of which have caused friends of mine to “stall” and not finish the book).

My frustration quickly turned from Fox to the larger press given that since Justice Feess dropped his December 24th surprise order no one was actually reporting on what the case was about, except in vague banalities like “contract dispute”. For copyright and computer law I’ve been a little bit spoiled by resources like Groklaw – wherein within moments of legal documents being available they have been widely made available and dissected into plain English by eagle-eyed legal beagles. Eaglebegles. Leaglebles.

I can’t offer that, but since no one else seemed to be looking into this, I spent yesterday morning digging through the Byzantine labyrinth of PACER (the US courts electric document filing system) to bring (hopefully) a little meat to this discussion.
Read more

Missed Opportunities, Part 2

Aw man, here I already write one post about Pixar today, and I totally miss that the trailer for their 2009 film is “up” today.

I’m slipping in my dottage.

I also long ago discovered it’s nigh impossible to judge Pixar on their concepts. See “Rattitouli”.

WALL-E Script Available On-Line, Delightful

I still don’t have my Caution, Robots wallpaper. Disney. I know, I know, you want me to buy the Blu-Ray that came out this week… and, frankly, the likelyhood of someone giving me a copy over the holiday season is almost guaranteed given my outspoken love, at which point I’ll make my own wallpaper… but I’m not HAPPY about it. If there’s a theme to WALL-E it’s that things are much more valuable when they’re just given to you as you sit on a giant floating chair, right? Right?

But just when Disney/Pixar was off my Christmas card list you both went and, as a gesture of goodwill, made the full script for the film available for download on your Walt Disney Studios “For Your Consideration” Awards Page (click “WALL-E”, then “Download Script”). Okay, it was probably less for reasons of “holiday cheer” and more because you’d like it to be nominated for a best screenplay Avademy Award. But there may indeed be method to your madness. Read more

Rudy Ray Moore 1927-2008

(Dolemite Theatrical Trailer – 1975… NSFW)

Others will write about how Rudy Ray Moore in many ways laid the groundwork for the African American comedy, music, and rap explosion of the late 70s and early 80s. How the “party record” circuit in many ways showed for the first time there was a voracious market of African American consumers (even in disadvantaged neighbourhoods) who where starved for any kind of material that actually spoke to them directly. The number of contemporary hip-hop, r&b, and rap artists who claim they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing without Moore (or Red Foxx) is proof enough of that.

Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that’s for real.

-Tha Dogfather

I remember the first time I ever saw Dolemite, and was blown away by an almost pure expression of independent cinema. Here were a group of self-financed, self taught, street hustlers with no film experience. There are no shortage of criticisms you can level at the film (or Moore’s other blaxploitation staples: The Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw, and Disco Godfather) they’re misogynist, foul-mouthed, and often technically amateur (and I’d be lying if I said that period kitsch fascination wasn’t a huge part of their longevity) – but they were absolutely the vanguard of the low-budget independent movement. Each of those films was solid proof that one didn’t need millions of dollars, or a studio, to make a feature film (also, you apparently didn’t need actors, technical crew, fight choreographers, a script, special effects, or an ending). What you did need was the desire to tell a certain story, in a certain way that spoke to an audience.

It’s absolutely fascinating to me that most of the criticisms that one could level against Moore’s early work could be equally applied to the recent Nollywood movement in Nigeria. One could almost do a point-by-point comparison between the two easily (film theory majors in need of thesis topics take note).

In a couple of later interviews I read with Rudy Ray Moore, he seemed frustrated at how much the systems he had laid the groundwork for had become co-opted by “the man”. Rap, R&B, and even “independent” film are once again the domain of the major labels and studios. As someone who drove town to town, selling self-pressed comedy records out of the trunk of his car, I’m sure it was tough seeing others make far more financially successful careers with only a modicum of his drive (simply because of fate, timing, or their accessibility to a wider audience), but to his credit Rudy Ray Moore knew how important his contributions had been (and would tell anyone who cared to listen, along with delivering his trademark smack-talk) until the end.

Rest in peace Rudy, we know that Dolemite hasn’t quit – he’s just run out of ass to kick down here and gone off looking for a better challenge.