Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scott's Links September 2012

Scott roams the internet far and wide to ply his trade as a link dealer. Fortunately, Scott provides links free to us. Check these out. . . share your thoughts! And away we go. . .

Cable's walls are coming down

I have no more love for the cable company than you do, and it's not a political thing either. It's a 20th century business model in a 21st century reality. This multi-part feature looks at the various issues plaguing the cable industry (and its frequently-complaining customers). One thing is certain - neither side has all the answers. Yes, a pay-per-channel system would be great but there are legitimate reasons why it can't work, but that's not to say it won't happen in the future.

8 ways that judges have cited Star Trek from the bench

This one's for the lawyers! Star Trek turned 46 years old earlier this month and its power as a pop culture juggernaut shows no signs of stopping. "The saga of Starfleet has influenced how we think about ethics, morality, and the nature of civilization. Time and again, when sitting judges reach for a great metaphor, they mention the voyages of the Starship Enterprise."

10 movies we wish we'd seen in their original form

All the usual suspects are listed here, including the original cut of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons and the first cut of Dr. Strangelove which ended with a pie fight. As for me, my holy grails are the 3-hour rough cut of Planes, Trains & Automobiles (though I doubt it's remotely presentable) and the long-lost original roadshow version of The Blues Brothers, which was supposed to have an intermission!

How Hollywood accounting can make a $450 million movie "unprofitable"

This is one of my pet peeves about the film industry - its ridiculous business model. The filmmakers aren't necessarily the ones to blame, but the studios really do have some ridiculous accounting practices which have existed for years. "Creative accounting," indeed - Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom would be proud!

From Russia with Love is not unsophisticated - you are

I fear for our nation's cultural heritage. I can't count myself as typical since I'm a huge geek and I managed to grow up in a time when older films and TV shows still aired on TV. But ask a kid today about a movie made 30 years ago and you might as well be talking about the pyramids! I'll never understand the inability to engage with a piece of art or entertainment, while at the same time bearing in mind the time period in which it was made. Yes, some movies are dated - no need to denigrate them!

Why science fiction movies drive me nuts

This essay by author Cory Doctorow looks at the state of science fiction films today. He's a sci-fi guru so he's a bit biased but some of his observations are spot-on, especially the part about set design: "Let’s follow [Peter] Parker up into the labs, or rather 'labs.' Because although these are the home of cutting edge research, they look like no lab I’ve ever visited. Instead, they look like a highly polished phone-support bank, with glassed-in conference rooms around the edges that have been temporarily taken over with trade-show exhibits for new products."

What's the next technology that will change the way you watch movies?

Honestly, I have no idea what's next, though the folks interviewed for this article have one or two theories, mostly involving new innovations in visual effects: "The one thing we have not done to date is recreate a human. We've gotten close, but always an alien face. No one has made a human actor that was digital and convincing. Smeagol is great and expressive, but he's not 'human.' There has yet to be a [human] character that can stand up to scrutiny and come off as photoreal and alive."

The 13 greatest zombie movies ever made

Andrew, you'll be happy - Pontypool was given an "honorable mention." [smile] No surprises on this list and I can't disagree with any of them, though I'm no expert in the genre. Truth be told, I never considered Death Becomes Her a zombie movie. (And I'm partial to Zombieland simply because several people have compared me to Jesse Eisenberg in that film!)

Why are movies about art so frequently terrible?

Allow me to quote tip #4: "We get that artists lead interesting, often extremely troubled lives, and depicting that matters. Do not use this as an excuse to make your story all about this genius, mean-spirited, super-charismatic shining star. Sometimes, an artist is a fat, lazy schlub who can't dress and hasn't had sex in years. Related to this: not every artist who teaches at college has boffed his or her students."

Celebrating 20 years of Sneakers

Sneakers is a film I enjoy immensely. I wouldn't call it a favorite but it's something I can watch at any time and still enjoy. The folks at Slate recently wrote a multi-part article on the film 20 years after its premiere. In addition to the article linked above, this article takes a look at why people like the movie, this piece compares the characters to the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, this article discusses how the film paints a surprisingly unflattering portrait of the 60s counterculture scene, James Horner's wonderful score is dissected here, and finally, the great Stephen Tobolowsky remembers what it was like on set.

Last night's listening:

It's been pretty quiet on the film score front, at least for me. What usually happens is that nothing I'm interested in will be released... then a dozen titles I want will be released in the span of a month! I seem to be in the eye of the storm, so to speak. I've actually been listening to the Eyes Wide Shut soundtrack. I find the film (Kubrick's last film; he died just after finishing it) infinitely fascinating. As usual, Kubrick's music choices are all top-notch, from Chris Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" to a great waltz by Shostakovich to original music by composer Joceyln Pook to a haunting piece by Franz Liszt titled "Grey Clouds." Good stuff. Samples here.

42 comments:

K said...

Time and again, when sitting judges reach for a great metaphor, they mention the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.

Sure, who needs John Locke or Thomas Jefferson when the wit and wisdom of Wesley Crusher is at hand?

From Russia with Love is not unsophisticated - you are

It's okay. In a few years their children will be laughing at the shaky cam and the oppressive leftist PC in today's movies.

Sneakers
I would have enjoyed this much more without Redford's in yer face product placement ads for his politics. That is almost compensated for by being one of the very very few movies in which new left revolutionary radicals aren't given a total pass.



kristina said...

thanks once again Scott, good roundup, especially like the 10 movies/original form one, those cut up films always take on extra mystique, who knows, maybe with the footage they wouldn't be all that.

I like Sneakers too. and fond memories of Night of the Living Dead as the first movie I got to stay up late to watch as a kid.

ScottDS said...

K -

There are other characters on Star Trek, ya know! Besides, they certainly have drug policy covered. :-) (Did every 80s show have a Just Say No moment?)

Interesting thought about what future audiences might laugh at... the way things are going, I expect movies in the future to be treated like opera is today: something expensive that most people don't see in the theater

As for Sneakers, you're right - Redford has a couple moments but I think they're true to the character (Andrew and I have discussed this before); but Kingsley's character clearly never grew up

ScottDS said...

kristina -

Thanks! We'll most likely never know what these movies would've been like in their original form. And to be fair, most deleted scenes you see included on DVDs were deleted for a reason but every now and then, you come across a movie that was gutted beyond recognition that the addition of cut material helps. (A plot point is better fleshed out, a character gets more face time, etc.)

I don't remember the movies I used to stay up late watching. I do remember perusing TV Guide every week when I was 8 or 9 for movies on HBO with naughty stuff, then making a mental note to stay up. :-)

tryanmax said...

RIP Andy Williams 1927-2012

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for the links. I'll be back throughout the day with more thoughts. The Hollywood accounting thing was interesting, but I wonder that anyone falls for it at this point? I know it's difficult to determine what is a legitimate expense, but in that kind of world, I think you flip them the bird and say "off the gross."

Retro Hound said...

"From Russia with Love is not unsophisticated - you are"

My kids are well versed in the classics. While playing Scattergories we had to name a movie star beginning with the letter "T." My 16 year old said "Tyrone Power." They think it's awful that other kids their age don't know who Errol Flynn is or have never seen a Don Knotts movie.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

I missed that one. I don't know much about Andy Williams, other than the "National Grammar Rodeo" episode of The Simpsons episode where we find out Nelson's a big fan! :-)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Your welcome, as always.

Re: accounting, I imagine people fall for it because they don't assume any wrongdoing in the first place. (I'm sure the issue is much more complicated than this, though.)

ScottDS said...

Retro -

I'm not a religious man so I don't say this very often...

God bless you and your family!!

I wish more kids were better versed in the classics, or at least that more kids would keep an open mind.

One of my worst movie-going experiences was seeing Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt in the campus theater at FSU. There were some genuine laughs and reactions but, at one point during a dinner scene, the mother says something to the effect of, "Wine with dinner? That's so gay!"

That line brought the house down and I had to stop myself from getting up, turning around, and yelling, "She didn't mean it like that you f---ing idiots!"

I haven't seen a classic film in a theater with an audience since.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Probably. Plus, a lot of the people they are talking about signed their deals in the 1970s or earlier, probably before this knowledge became widely known.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

True, but this sort of thing still seems to happen today. In the article, they use one of the Harry Potter films as an example and you'd think by now the studios would have people over their shoulder making sure all the ducks are in a row but WB claims they're still in the red... on a movie that made nearly a billion dollars worldwide. (Not even counting merchandise, DVDs, etc.)

K said...

Scott -

One of the best experiences I had with a classic film was watching "The Court Jester" in a crowd at SD Comic Con. I liked it on the small screen at home, but the supportive reaction of a knowledgeable and appreciative crowd enhanced my enjoyment of the movie ever since. I have not seen any movie there which was ridiculed by the audience.

IMO, there are far more louts in college these days than in my day.

ScottDS said...

K -

They showed that at the Comic-Con? Interesting. I mean, I've seen movies I grew up with at rep theaters with like-minded audiences (movies like Ghostbusters or Star Trek II) but that experience at FSU more or less destroyed any possibility of me seeing a movie made more than 40 years ago with an audience.

Maybe it depends on the genre. I was out of town but the New Beverly in LA once did a Marx Brothers triple feature and I imagine those still work for people. But a melodrama, with "corny' dialogue and "exaggerated" acting? I don't know. I guess it just depends on the crowd. College kids? The hell with them! :-D

ScyFyterry said...

Death to cable! :)

ScyFyterry said...

On the From Russia With Love thing, I don't know. I don't like films from certain eras either. So it's hard to say kids are wrong if they don't like movies from that era. I guess that's life.

ScottDS said...

ScyFy -

Like I said, I have no love for cable but hopefully other companies like Apple and Google will start moving in on their territory, forcing cable to change its ways.

As far as films from other eras, I don't know why anyone would automatically dislike a film just because it's from another era without having seen it, but that's just me. :-)

Then again, I haven't exactly been in a rush to see silent films, even the comedies. (I had a Harold Lloyd boxset on my Amazon wishlist for years before I finally deleted it - if I really wanted it, I would've bought it by now!)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I often wonder about seeing films in their "original form." Sometimes it seems like a great idea because so often the directors cuts on films are great. But at other times, I'm not so sure that these films weren't cut for a reason?

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, That's life. The things you think are such critical culture points will slowly be lost with each passing generation. I'm still amazed at all the things my father mentions, for example, which I simply have never seen and have no interest in seeing.

Even in my life, I grew up watching things like "Gomer Pile" and it seemed like that would continue forever just like "My Favorite Martian" and "Alice" and "Air Wolf" and "The Equalizer" etc. And as the years pass, I realize that these shows which seemed so BIG at the time are vanishing and nobody wants to remember them.

EricP said...

>>"From Russia with Love is not unsophisticated - you are">>

Really had to fight back tears of sorrow (or maybe they were rage-related) upon learning only one of the 20-somethings on my kickball team had seen both Beverly Hills Cop and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. And these are entertainment industry people, too.

They're pathetic, I'm old, boo-hoo and wah-wah.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I'd say there's a difference between the normal editing process in which certain shots, scenes, etc. are removed for the good of the film...

...and a case like The Magnificent Ambersons where the film was cut against Welles' wishes. (I think this might be a unique case since Welles' didn't have final cut AND was out of the country working on something else during the test screening process.)

As for older stuff, there are certainly plenty of movies and TV shows I have no interest in seeing but I guess I just don't see the need to mock any of it. If I pay to see an older film in the theater, why would I spend the entire time making fun of it? I paid for the experience of seeing a film so you can bet that's what I'm going to do. Why go out of my way to denigrate something I may not even care about in the first place?

And I don't have the link in front of me but some indie filmmakers were trying to raise money to make the definitive Airwolf documentary - I didn't donate anything but I wish them well in their efforts!

ScottDS said...

Eric -

My future sister-in-law says she hates black and white movies. Just because they're black and white. "Shit, one of those people," I thought to myself. Hopefully, my brother can talk some sense into her one day. :-)

As for me, now and then I'll make a reference to a movie from the 70s or 80s and the other person won't get it. So far I've had pretty good luck but I also try to put my references into context when I know the other person won't get it: "Well, there was this movie..." etc.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I have no reason to mock them either. In fact, I think it's kind of silly to mock something that isn't relevant to you. Sounds kind of trollish.

That said, I do enjoy a good mocking of things that deserve to be mocked, like the MST3k did. Those were fun!

ScottDS said...

Andrew, I'll agree with you when it comes to things that should be mocked. (The Room being a great recent example.)

I guess this conversation is for another day but I still think this problem is simply a sign of the times. There's such an onslaught of new material that no one has time to let older things sink in. Any idiot with a camera can now make a movie.** Many kids today aren't taught to appreciate the arts. Film has been reduced to a product - it's not special, and many kids would rather sit at home and play videogames. They don't value movies the way we do.

**I'm all for democratization but owning a camera doesn't make you a filmmaker, any more than running a blog makes you a journalist. (I'm not referring to you specifically; more to the idea that anyone can do this sort of thing - there still needs to be standards!)

I'm done now. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Welcome to old age! LOL! Get off my lawn you damn kids! Don't appreciate anything...

That is sadly how the world works. The next generation or two simply don't respect the same things we did. And in truth, film has done little to keep itself special. Movies don't excite me like they use to because they just aren't that interesting or daring at the moment. I'd rather see films that swung for the bleachers and struck out than all these attempts to hit a single.

(Note, the baseball metaphor itself represents a game that has failed because of changes in the public's perception.)

T-Rav said...

Good links, as always, Scott. :-)

I like the list of zombie movies. Of course, I like any list that has Zombieland in it.

Andrew, if you're insinuating that baseball is a failed sport, then @#$% you. Grrrr.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I would never say that baseball is a failed sport. Sport implies some sort of athletic effort. ;)

ScottDS said...

Yeah, I'm staying out of that argument. My knowledge of sports is nil at best.

By the way, Andrew, I do agree that film hasn't done much to keep itself special. But to be fair, it's also competing with much more than it used to. (That's obviously old news and not a keen insight on my part.) :-)

Besides, not to open another can of worms but why see a movie when you know it'll just be out on Blu-Ray in three months? I think Hollywood kinda shot themselves in the foot with home theater.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

Thanks, as always! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Zombieland.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's definitely true that a big part of the problem is that there is just so much competition right now, and it's all copying the best parts of films. For example, television is no longer about 30 minute chunks, it now competes directly with one and two hour segments and serials.

And as the home theater experience has gotten better than the theater experience, television is winning (and now television is actually doing more intelligent, more surprising stuff than films).

Moreover, a lot of films now are little more than videogames on the screen, which makes you wonder if you might not just be better off playing the game.

But the big killer, I think, is the net. The net is an addiction and it's hard for people to leave it for 2+ hours to go see a film. Plus, the net is so full of spoilers that it sucks all the surprise out of films. Not to mention, because of the net, there is nothing larger than life about actors anymore either.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I swear: If you don't stop that, I will start giving shout-outs to Rick Santorum on every single thread. You have been warned.

AndrewPrice said...

My most sincere apologies, Mr. Rav! LOL! I'm just kidding anyway. :)

rlaWTX said...

T-Rav, that's a serious threat! I doubt Andrew really wants Commentarama to be mentioned in every google search for Rick Santorum!!!
:)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I most definitely would not want that to happen!

PikeBishop said...

My take on when something looks or feels dated, is that it occurs when there is a connection with the audience to the situationn on screen. No connection, hence no cognitive dissonance.

Cops using payphones on Hill Street Blues look funny to the I Phone generation, beacause we are familiar with phones. I bet in the fifties, the people who watched Vertigo laughed at people using the hand set and seperate ear piece phones of White Heat or Public Enemy. (Look at that phone isn't that quaint?)

No one wonders why they didn't radio for help at the Alamo while watching the film, or wonder if Jack Sparrow had sonar on his ship.

No connection to the era means no familiarity which strikes us as odd or funny looking, when we see it.

ScottDS said...

Pike -

I can't disagree, and even when watching certain Seinfeld episodes, I'll think to myself, "Well, here's another episode rendered obsolete by technology."

I guess it comes down to the individual viewer: you can laugh at this stuff or just go with the flow.

PikeBishop said...

Scott: Funny you should mention Seinfeld, was just talking about the Chinese restaurant episode the other day, where one of the plot threads was George waiting to use a pay phone.

And for fun, Google "24 1994 version" which is on College Humor I think. That is hilarious, while Jack Bauer waits for AOL to connect with a dial up modem or it taking about an hour to download and print a photo or a map.

Kit said...

PikeBishop,

Here it is:
24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot
They also did "If All Movies had Cell Phones" and "If Movies Had the Internet" or Smartphones.

I like the last one, especially newspaper headline in Citizen Kane and the guy's over-the-top Humphrey Bogart impression for Casablanca.

------------

As for the laughter of idiots during screenings of classic movies. Happened during THE BIRDS, but not during SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.
The only out-of-place laughter might have been during the beginning when the stars are arriving but it was more of amusement at just how little things have changed in 80 years. :)

tryanmax said...

Been busy, but I've been meaning to delve into Scott's links:

Tear down this wall! I took my first steps to becoming a cord-cutter on Sept. 11, 2001--an easy date to remember, for sure. I had just moved into a new place and had yet to hook up the cable TV. I first heard the news over the radio and, much to my chagrin, I didn't seem to have a TV antenna anywhere. (The old jam-a-wire-hanger-in-the-coax-jack trick wasn't working, either.) I did, however, already have my dial-up *boop, screeeeeeee!* internet already in place. This was still, of course, before the advent of almost any social media, but I spent the morning following events online.

To boldly rule: Wow! Literature doesn't get more culturally impactful than to be cited in legal rulings. Well played, Mr. Roddenberry, well played.

Secret origins: Honestly, of all the famous items listed, the only one that interests me is the director's cut of The Breakfast Club. (I'll admit to never having seen Freaks, so that could change if I ever do.) I prefer to think that those which might have been multi-hour epics fared better for the cropping. As to the ones we know a little something of, I think Kubrick did right by omitting the pie-fight scene from Dr. Strangelove; the tonal shift would make it an altogether different comedy walking away. As to Annie Hall, I just don't understand why anyone would want to spend more time in Woody Allen's head.

No accounting for it: It's too bad there isn't a ready solution for this practice. Clearly, SAG isn't doing it's job on this front. (Surprise!) But it also serves as a reminder to those "conservatives" who believe corporations are holy sacraments of the capitalist system.

Я тебя люблю: It's disturbing, yes, but not at all unusual that the people of the present fancy themselves more sophisticated than their predecessors. Perhaps the timeless words of Inigo Montoya are the best counter to the use of the term "sophisticated": You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

continued…

tryanmax said...

…continued

Sci-fi fluff: Is the author describing Spider Man or an encounter with a beautiful call-girl? That the two can be couched in similar terms is great cause for pause.

What's next? It doesn't really sound like any of the interviewees have a clue. They are just talking about refining what already is in use. Also, something intuitively tells me that the digital actor dream is a misguided one. I have no doubt it will be achieved, but will it be embraced by audiences wholesale? I have my doubts.

Zombies! Maybe I'm leaning too much on the source material to count it as a zombie film, but I'm a little surprised that The Omega Man didn't make the list. In any case, The Last Man on Earth staring Vincent Price should have made the honorable mentions list. My favorite part is where Price fends off one of the "vampires" with a limp-wristed punch in the face. Sorry, Vince, you're just not tough-guy material.

Art sucks: A fifth tip that the author doesn't provide--though he should given the list of good examples he provided--is to tie the artist's creative process to something in the zeitgeist. If the artist's method can serve as a metaphor for something culturally significant (and there's no reason it shouldn't, seeing as the artist in question most likely carries some cultural significance of his own) then that directly ties the creative process to the film's action. Seems obvious to me.

Robert Redford is an ass: The film Sneakers pisses me off every time I watch it. Sure, it's a good caper film, and Lord knows I love a good caper film. And it quite possibly has the perfect techno-MacGuffin. But did they really need to put in that obvious political dig at the end. Way to take a movie everyone can enjoy and turn of half the audience.

Kubrick music: I really enjoy a film that can make great use of existing pieces to build a score--not that I don't enjoy original scores, as well. However, there is a certain art to montage that goes widely unappreciated, and a well-placed pop song or familiar classical piece is a minor example of the skill required to meld the existing into the new.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

I almost thought you had forgotten! Good to see you here again. :-)

Re: Tear Down This Wall - I live with my folks (ugh, again) and they just cancelled HBO to save money. Unfortunately, Comcast has a nice little monopoly around here and AT&T U-Verse is just as pricey. I don't know what I'll do when I get my own place. Internet might be more expensive if you don't purchase it in a package deal.

Re: To Boldy Rule - Yeah, it's pretty cool to see actual authority figures in positions of power quote fictional characters to justify their decisions!

Re: Secret Origins - As long as the theatrical versions that we know and love are preserved, I don't care what gets altered (paging Mr. Lucas) or what the studios might do in the future if deleted footage ever surfaces. As for Woody, I'm a fan and I understand some of the Annie Hall murder mystery plot ended up in (the underrated and quite fun) Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Re: No Accounting - I agree. I don't know about the problem as far as the unions are concerned, though, but I believe the studios are mostly to blame.

Re: Я тебя люблю - Again, I agree. It's rather disheartening though every now and then I see a glimmer of hope (a friend of mine posted a Facebook photo of his young sons watching a Three Stooges short - starting them off early!).

ScottDS said...

Re: Sci-fi Fluff - I have no idea! I expect a sci-fi author to have certain reservations about sci-fi films and it doesn't help that everything's been dumbed down to the point that a "lab" in a movie needs to look like the Apple Store so people know it's "kewl and hi-tech."

Re: What's Next? - They've been talking about virtual actors for years, specifically resurrecting dead ones, but I don't see that happening, at least in my lifetime. Not to mention the moral and ethical dilemmas.

Re: Zombies! - I never saw the Vincent Price original but I saw The Omega Man and it was... okay. I was in a bad state in life and I think I need to see it again. No rush, though!

Re: Art Sucks - I'm not sure every artist has cultural significance. In fact, some artists may resist the idea. I understand what you're saying but at the same time, it's usually best to simply try to tell the best story you can regardless of the zeitgeist.

Re: Redford - I just like the movie, though I agree they could've ended it ten seconds earlier with no change to the story. :-)

Re: Kubrick Music - I think everyone knows where I stand on original scores but there is something to be said about use of existing music. Do I wish Kubrick would've commissioned more original work? Sure. Am I glad he ended up doing what he did as well as he did? You bet!

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