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December 3, 2012

Hollywood and Web

The video from the November 19 Berkman discussion of the intersection of Hollywood and the Web is now up.

Here’s the panel discussion before screening of We Made This Movie, with Rob Burnett (the movie’s co-writer/director) [twitter:robburnett1], Elaine McMillion, and me, moderated by Jonathan Zittrain.

After the film I led a Q&A with Rob:

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November 27, 2012

At the corner of Hollywood and Web

I greatly enjoyed last weeks’s Berkman Center event about some of the ways the Web is affecting the movie industry, which included a screening of an indie movie that has been released only on the Web.

First here was a panel discussion with Rob Burnett [twitter:robburnett1], Elaine McMillion, and me, moderated by Jonathan Zittrain. Rob is the executive producer of “The Late Show with David Letterman” and the director and co-creator of the new indie movie We Made This Movie. Elaine is a Berkman Fellow and is orchestrating a crowdsourced, interactive documentary called Hollow. Jonathan Zittrain is extremely Jonathan Zittrainy, which is a wonderful thing. We talked about what the Net is doing to movies, and you couldn’t ask for two more insightful commentators than Rob and Elaine, led by the Best Moderator in the Business.

Then we watched Rob’s movie, which I loved. [Disclosure: I did a little free consulting about the Web release.] The movie is hard to describe, which is a good thing, but it’s funny, engaging, touching, and deeply clever. In fact, it transcends its cleverness, but of this I can say no more. It’s also got an incredibly talented ensemble cast that made me think of Diner. Go to the movie’s site to find out how to see it online. (Hint: It’s on iTunes.)

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September 26, 2012

Hollywood’s most over-used exit line

Huffpo has a compilation of “Check please!” being used as an exit line in Hollywood movies. It then makes the completely unsubtantiated claim that it’s the most over-used exit line.

Tish tosh! I proffer my own two unsubstantiated claimants to that title:

The first is “I think that went well” after some plan has gone disastrously wrong.,

But the most over-used exit line in Hollywood films is, by a landslide: Not saying goodbye when hanging up the phone.


April 29, 2012

You score this movie

An indie movie launching in September is holding a contest to find four songs for four scenes that need musical backing.

The movie is We Made This Movie from Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman (creators of the TV show Ed; Rob is the Late Night with David Letterman producer). Because of the theme of the movie, they had the trailer produced by a high school student.

(Disclosure: I am an informal (= unpaid) marketing advisor to the project. I am also a Rob Burnett fanboy.)

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January 17, 2012

Elmore Leonard and Morgan Freeman

Meredith Sue Willis, novelist and teacher (and my sister-in-law), has a hunch about a “newish” Elmore Leonard novel:

I have a theory that Elmore Leonard came up with the idea for DJIBOUTI from a combination of headlines (piracy off the coast of east Africa) and a interview in which movie actor Morgan Freeman complained that he gets lots of work, but never gets to have sex in his movies. He has played Nelson Mandela, the corner man in MILLION DOLLAR BABY, not to mention God a couple of times- -all pretty much asexual. So my little scenario is that Leonard, who always has his eye on the movies, wrote the character of seventy-ish Xavier in DJIBOUTI for Freeman. Just a thought.



December 25, 2011

“Hugo”: Anti-spoilers

No spoilers in this. In fact, my aim is to undo a false expectation about “Hugo” that may be keeping you from seeing this amazing movie.

“Hugo” is not about robots, animatronics, or a boy’s relation with a mechanical man. An automaton is an important part of the plot, but that’s not what this movie is about. BTW, “Hugo” is the boy’s name. The automaton doesn’t even have a name.

There are lots of reasons to like it because it works at many levels. Those levels are resonant, and deepen through their redundancy. Also, Chloe Moretz is in it, whose talent as a young teen already can only be measured in streeps.

But mainly I loved this movie because — in a way that is itself redundant with the movie’s content — the filmmaker’s technique turns it into an artwork. Martin Scorsese takes us through a movie that emotionally and aesthetically feels like one long tracking cut, although of course it isn’t. Most movies are constructed as a series of scenes. While “Hugo” has different settings and scenes, it plays without interruption. It’s the difference between traveling by plane and traveling by foot: Scorsese leads us along a path, sometimes walking, sometimes running, but it’s one continuous landscape. Crappy metaphor, but “Hugo” is as close to perfect movie construction as I’ve seen.

I’m not saying that “Hugo” is the greatest movie ever made, but it’s a
movie that makes the most of what a movie can be: so limitless in its ability to move us through spaces, so able to show us what’s going on inside by showing us surfaces, that it is the medium best suited to dreams. (as Norman Mailer once observed).

So, now let me de-hype it. “Hugo” is a wonderful movie, but it’s a small movie. I understand those who see it as sentimental. There are a couple of moments that don’t work. But I woke up thinking about yet more ways in which the movies scenes’ and ideas not only work together like a clock mechanism (you learn early on that Hugo winds the clocks in a Paris train terminal, so he is in effect part of that mechanical system), but reflect upon one another as analogies and correspondences in the Medieval sense…and this is too is what the movie is about.

So lower your expectations from this review and go see “Hugo” before the new Chipmunk movie pushes it off the big screen.

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June 8, 2011

E.T.: A very old trailer

Here’s the 1982 trailer for ET:

MovieLine posted the trailer to support the wisdom of Super 8’s decision not to give away too much ahead of time. But, wow, does the ET trailer seem dated! It feels like it has about half as many scenes as a typical modern trailer. Contemporary trailers are much more coherent, not in the sense of making sense (which they usually don’t), but in the sense of feeling like a whole experience, usually ending with an ear-ripping blast or, after you’ve thought it ended, a shocking image or wry remark. I hate contemporary trailers because they are assaultive and disrespect the movies they spoil, but the ET trailer seems excepionally poorly made.

Maybe they figured (correctly) that they really just had to tell us that it’s the next Spielberg film, and that ET was unlikely to bite children in half.

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April 17, 2011

Comedy or not?

At the risk of becoming just slightly obsessed with the awfulness of Airport 1975, here’s the honest-to-grid trailer for it, indistinguishable from parodies of it:

Simply for purposes of comparison (SPOILER: better cast, better acting, even funnier):

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April 15, 2011

They couldn’t be more different

A couple of days ago while waiting my turn in the shower, I snapped on CNN, quickly got fed up with what can only be called drivel, and spun the dial. I landed on what I at first thought was Airplane! but,which after a cognitive twitch came into focus as that upon which the parody was based: Airport 1975.

This morning I went through the same drill, but this time I landed at the final fifteen minutes of Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado about Nothing.

Fortune has, I believed, paired up for me two movies that meet the rigorous formal requirements for the relationship Could Not Be More Different Than.

Airplane 1975 is the one with Linda Blair faithfully waiting for a kidney, lying next to Helen Reddy who is an honest-to-jeebus singing nun. It’s the one where Karen Black accepts the garland for Worst Performance Ever by playing the stewardess-behind-the-wheel with such passivity that you want Sister Helen to come into the cockpit and slap her once, real hard. It’s the one where Charlton Heston descends from a helicopter through the hole in the airplane to save the incompetent female, and then tells her to calm the passengers with the eternal bard-llke phrase: “Go, do your thing,”

On the other hand, in the fifteen minutes of Much Ado, I laughed hard, cried harder, and hugged my wife at the end.

I’m sure there are other pairings, and I’m curious what they might be, but none can surpass the More-Different-Than-ness of Airport 1975 and Much Ado about Nothing.

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November 21, 2010

What the inside of a computer looks like

Silestone — ‘Above Everything Else’.

By Alex Roman. Completely computer-generated. More here.

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