Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Scott's Links July 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. . .

5 leadership lessons from Captain James T. Kirk

I believe this is the first time I've linked to a Forbes article. The author certainly isn't the first person to find inspiration in a Star Trek captain but (for the most part) I can't disagree with any of these, especially the reasoning behind #2.

The sociopolitical message of Spies Like Us

I'm not a political wonk so much of this article went over my head, though I'm heartened that someone felt the need to write it in the first place. I've been a fan of this film for years and it's nice to see someone treat it seriously. I was especially impressed with the article's use of the phrase "ordinary-schmuck amateurism" to describe the antics of Chase and Aykroyd's characters.

The importance of critics

We often think about critics in a less than positive light but do they serve a useful purpose? According to this article, the answer is yes. Not only do they provide basic consumer advice, but, "When something new and startling comes along, it often baffles us, and we are tempted to drop it, pained, for easier cultural lifting. A great critic can help us to figure out what it going on, and to appreciate it in a richer way."

10 classic movies that critics hated

Having said that, the only true test of a film/TV show/album's success isn't money or awards or critical accolades - it's time. Here are ten films that are considered modern (cult) classics that many critics hated the first time around but have since found their audience. On that note, I had forgotten that Stanley Kubrick was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Director for The Shining!

How does the film industry actually make money?

Fascinating article. "All business requires guessing, but future predilections of moviegoers are especially opaque. If a large company wants to introduce a new car, it can at least base its predictions, in part, on factors like where oil prices are headed. Movie executives, on the other hand, come up with a host of new theories each summer about what audiences want, then, sometimes over the course of a weekend, ricochet toward a new theory."

What will happen to special features in the era of streaming movies?

I'd like to think that special features (deleted scenes, documentaries, etc.) will still be around in one form or another. Even iTunes introduced "iTunes Extras" which includes many similar features in an otherwise virtual environment. Or maybe physical media will simply become a niche thing, like laserdiscs used to be, where the creators can put a little more tender loving care into creating prestige items.

The 20 most pro-American movies of the last 10 years

Yes, I know what you're thinking: "They found ten?!" Needless to say, you're mileage may vary though most of the selections seem to be in the ballpark.

Why can't the War of 1812 have its own blockbuster?!

Uh... good question! Maybe HBO or the History Channel can make this a reality one day.

Does Hollywood hate adults?

This is a complicated question and it has nothing to do with politics. "It’s a symptom of the fact that Hollywood remains trapped in an old, inflexible business model based on Gigantor-size spectacles - in an age when everything else about the culture has gotten more niche-oriented and individualized - but hasn’t yet faced a big enough crisis to force major change."

In praise of red matter

Usually, I would agree with the author of this article - it doesn't matter how Superman flies, it only matters that he can fly. But in the case of Star Trek, previous TV shows and films have at least tried to maintain a modicum of scientific accuracy, the same accuracy that has led countless fans to become scientists and engineers. Then we get the reboot with red matter... what is it? Who cares?!

Batman and Gotham City: a deeply dysfunctional love story

I'd never heard it phrased this way but the author is correct. "'It’s the Don Quixote desire he has of going out every night to keep what happened to him from happening to anyone else, and knowing he’s going to fail.' Batman, in other words, believes in Gotham City more powerfully than any other Gothamite. That's why the best Batman stories are the ones with an existential threat to the city and only the city. Superman saves planets; Batman saves downtown."

Why do supervillains fascinate us?

Speaking of superheroes (and in light of recent unfortunate events)... I believe there is a certain wish fulfillment fantasy at work here, though, like everything else, it can be channeled positively or negatively.

Last night's listening:

More Batman! La-La Land Records recently followed up their superlative 2008 release of music from Batman: The Animated Series with Volume 2: a 4-disc set of even more music from the series, featuring variations of Danny Elfman's theme and episode music by Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, Carl Swander Johnson, and of course, the late, great Shirley Walker who left this world much too soon. Listening to this music makes me want to watch the show again - I haven't seen it since my elementary school years!


AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for the links Scott! I'll check them out a little later. :)

Tennessee Jed said...

one at a time Scott. Just read the Forbes article on Kirk's leadership lessons. Bravo :)

Tennessee Jed said...

I agree the streaming experience is more like the old days, but ever since I started doing the occasional film review for this site, I've come to love Blu-Ray and special features.

Needless to say, my list for top American movies of the past ten years varies quite a bit with this guy, but it also includes a bunch of my picks. I like the fact not all are military and love the Wil Smith film pic. Didn't know if this was written prior to release of Act of Valor. Miracle is a great pick also. Probably the best of the Disney "G" non-fiction sports movies.

Tennessee Jed said...

Sadly, as far as 1812, about all is available is The Bucaneer. My choice is to make a screenplay from David Nevin's excellent historical fiction novel "1812."

Tennessee Jed said...

As far as the film industry making money, I am only surprised the corporate financial guys permit so many flops. A few mega-hits and the ancillaries may pay for them, but think of the profits if they had fewer losers to pay for.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The Kirk article is excellent. That is all solid leadership advice.

Anonymous said...

Jed -

I've been a special features nut since before I even had a DVD player. I remember when I was younger reading about all the cool features on laserdiscs but I was too young to have a job so I could make money to buy them!

I still haven't seen Miracle or The Pursuit of Happyness. I thought the National Treasure movies were harmless fun and, given Nic Cage's financial situation, I'm sure we'll be seeing another one any day now. :-)

I don't know tons about the War of 1812 but I'll happily support any good movie about American history, which is one of those genres that seems to be a low priority, thanks to the studios' reliance on the international market - that's why I said I was hoping TV would fill the gap.

Re: flops - from what I understand, paranoia plays a big part in Hollywood and I agree, it's a miracle more people aren't fired. I don't know if there's a technical term for this but the studios probably take a certain amount of loss into account each year, hoping the big blockbusters will cover their asses. (I believe some heads at Disney rolled after John Carter.)

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I knew you'd like it, though I'm not sure I agree about #3 "Be a part of the away team." Yes, it's nice to take charge, be on the front lines, etc... but sometimes it's smart to send a subordinate down first to evaluate the situation. Maybe I'm biased because I grew up on the Trek spinoffs which used this tactic.

Tennessee Jed said...

That was always one unrealistic feature of the original Trek. The Captain is too highly trained to be beaming down into potentially hot situations. But, . . . . that is a case where realism would make for a lot of duller plots. They needed Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on screen

Anonymous said...

Jed -

I agree. I may be wrong but I believe the TNG model of away teams was inspired, like so many things from the early years of that show, by the aborted Phase II series from the 70s, where Kirk would've presumably stayed on the ship and Cmdr. Decker (the Stephen Collins character who later showed up in the first film) would've led the away teams.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Lead from the front is classic leadership advice. So is be a "hands on" boss.

Anonymous said...

I'm off to school...

...I'll be back in a few hours!

K said...

"Spies like US"?????

Really? Saw it in theaters - the entire point was to bash Reagan and Star Wars. It's kind of ironic then that the pseudo-intellectual article was all about how pop culture was the real reason the USSR went pop, and not spending over a quarter of GNP on defense - trying to counter things like, uh, Star Wars and the Reagan defense build up. How quickly inconvenient history gets forgotten.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I enjoy that movie a good deal, but it definitely has an anti-Reagan/anti-Star Wars overtone to it... and it wasn't even subtle.

tryanmax said...

Scott, you dirty link hustler! Thanks for the fix!

Kirk’s rules: I like #2 the best. I had a similar experience to the author when I worked at McD’s. Eventually, that manager left to pursue greater things and was replaced by a totalitarian lay-about who mysteriously vanished during peak hours. A lot of people quit after that, eventually including me.

Wonks Like Us: Don’t feel bad about any of this going over your head. The author’s excessive sesquipedalianism seems to betray a slight sense of inadequacy about the topic of exegesis. Too bad, he makes a few good points. He could be describing Apple, Inc. when he cites Virno’s “virtuosity.” And his tangent on neoliberalism captures the essential educational/occupational problem of today.

An aside to K, I think pop culture was a definite factor in the USSR’s downfall. Like most things, there are multiple causes to an outcome. The Soviets might have been able to throw all their money at the military indefinitely if the people had no sense of the depth of their deprivation.

Critics and Criticism: I can appreciate both points being made. I think the issues that arise between artist and critic only do so when one or both parties fail to recognize their essential symbiosis.

Movie Money: I don’t think it’s so mysterious how the movie industry makes money. It’s the basic shotgun approach. In sales, you expect a 10% response rate to the advertising and a 10% conversion rate from the initial response. In Hollywood, they make 100 movies in hopes of 1 hit.

Extra! Extra! Let’s face it, there were two factors to the genesis of DVD extras, and neither was consumer demand. One was the simple ability to do so, but more importantly, extras were used to justify the high cost of early DVDs over VHS. Hard to believe now that the $5 bin at Walmart is overflowing with double and triple features. I even saw a $3 display the other day. Sheesh! Of course, a demand did develop after the introduction, especially related to sweeping fantasy franchises. But the loaded DVD is the film equivalent to the quadraphonic mulit-LP albums of the 1970s. They may have been lovingly crafted and immersive, but they were time-consuming as hell which inherently limited their appeal. But, just like the album experience, I don’t expect DVD extras to go completely away, just to become less prolific.

Patriotism in the 2000s: Is it sad that National Treasure is my second favorite on that list? (After Iron Man, of course.)

1812: A buddy of mine keeps bringing up that there should be a movie about the Star Spangled Banner. I’ve told him that he knows the history and I can do the writing. But he’s all bluster and puff.

Adultery? I just did the Cine-dine thing for the first time the other day. I have more criticism than praise for it: uncomfortable seat, smallish screen, not the best expenditure of my food dollar. However, I liked having a beer with my movie and it was nice to have fries to munch on at a point in the movie where the nachos are typically long-gone. And there weren’t gaggles of noise-making kids. If there were some competition in that market, I could easily expect it to improve. What am I saying? Just that adults would like to have an adult experience when they go out, and for the longest time, movies haven’t provided that.

Red Matter: Yes! Yes, yes, yes! YES! And again, YES!

Love letters from Gotham: Is it weird that that article made me a little misty?

Supervillainy: It’s hard to argue with the likes of Freud, Jung, and Maslow. If only because they use so many big words. ;-)

Music: Sounds like fun! I might not be down for volume 2, but now that I’m turned on to volume 1, I might go looking for it.

K said...

tyranmax: I'm sure pop culture helped grease the skids, but you can't keep enough KGB employed making sure the rock and rollers are kept sufficiently underground if you don't have the funds to employ them.

tryanmax said...

K, I think you inadvertently put my position ahead of your own.

tryanmax said...


T-Rav said...

Oh, goody. The critics thing gave me a segue to ruin several people's days. Worried that Hollywood's just feeding off itself nowadays with countless sequels, prequels and remakes? Well, boy were you wrong!

Did I say wrong? I meant right

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, Ow! Mah Brainz!

T-Rav said...

Yep. You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

K and Andrew -

A couple of folks have beaten me to it but the author of the Spies Like Us article is not the first to suggest that American pop culture played at least a minor role in the fall of the Soviet Union. I know there have been at least a couple of documentaries on the subject (and if BH did its job, we'd all know about them).

Having said that, I've always enjoyed this film. Sure, there's a reason it's not mentioned along with the other "classic" 80s comedies but I like it. There are some good gags in it, along with what I consider one of the great classroom scenes (with John Landis perennial Frank Oz as the proctor), some funny lines ("What's a dickfur?"), and a bombastic Elmer Bernstein score (all that and Soul Finger!). :-)

It's not a subtle film but it's not hateful. Imagine Will Ferrell doing this movie today...

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

-Kirk: When I worked at Target, a lot of people complained about one store manager who came in, who was a bit of a busybody. I can't blame her for trekking to each department to get the lay of the land and meet everyone but I had been there for a few years (this was during high school) and I didn't need to her to tell me how to do my job! I guess it's all in the approach. Like my dad says, "Being a good manager means hiring people who know more than you do!"

-Wonks: That's fine. I was merely speaking extemporaneously. :-) As an aside, if you want some great jargon and big words, check out this article.

-Critics: At the end of the day, critics need artists but do artists need critics? In my experience, most filmmakers don't care for critics (at least when the reviews are bad!). But I agree that they can introduce the masses to new things they may not otherwise have discovered on their own.

-Money: You said it better than I did. :-)

-Extra!: If extras start to become less prolific, I know there are film geeks out there who will gladly pay more for the privilege and maybe we'll go back to the days when laserdiscs were the expensive niche item crafted with love and care while everyone else was content with VHS. We're almost approaching that point now where they sell two Blu-Rays: a bare-bones one and a deluxe multi-disc set with all the widgets.

-Patriotism: No, that's not sad at all. Like I said above, I thought National Treasure was harmless fun and, unlike so many other films patriotic and otherwise, it accomplished exactly what it set out to do.

-1812: Better than being pufster and bluff. :-)

-Adults: They just opened a similar theater near here but I really have no interest in going. I don't actually go to the theater that often and when I do, I refuse to eat or drink anything because I hate having to use the bathroom during the film.

-Red matter: So, uh, yes? :-)

-Gotham: No, not at all. Movies are what got me into design and I always enjoy reading articles like that. What's really sad is that the Oscar-winning production designer of Tim Burton's Batman committed suicide a few years later. I'll come out and say it: I think he's pretty much responsible for what many people think of when they hear the words "Gotham City." Anton Furst... you went too soon.

-Villains: I agree.

-Bat music: The fine folks at La-La Land re-released Volume 1. It was originally released in 2008 and quickly sold out... but now it's back!

Anonymous said...

T-Rav and tryanmax -

Don't get me started on the Shining prequel. They might as well just do a story on the Donner Party - it was mentioned in the film and I'm sure there's at least one hack writer out there who can connect the two!

T-Rav said...

I don't worry too much about the red matter thing. It's kinda like the flux capacitor--you don't have to know how it works to enjoy the story. I do wish it was a little more consistent, though--in the recent movie, you can use the black holes it creates as wormholes, but then at the end the Romulan ship is "too close" to it and gets torn apart instead? I don't get it, but then I may not be well-versed enough in Trekspeak to understand.

rlaWTX said...

T-Rav, actually sounds like you're too well-versed in logic...

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I saw that Shining thing last night. Barf. Hollywood is shameless.

T-Rav said...

Darn. And here I thought I was going to make your head explode.

T-Rav said...

rla, that's not what liberals tell me. But I guess I get too nitpicky about these things at times.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I think you missed my reply to you and K re: Spies Like Us.

And I think I mentioned I was working on custom Blu-Ray covers to get some Photoshop time in. Here's my latest. :-)

And yes I agree, Hollywood is shameless.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I didn't "miss it" if you know what I mean. ;) Let me check it out.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I agree that the film isn't hateful. It has a clear political message, but it's done in such a ludicrous, humorous and over-the-top way that you're never quite certain if they are making fun of Reagan/Star Wars or the people who attacked Reagan/Star Wars. The makes it somewhat politically neutral in the sense that both sides can see what they want in it -- though I suspect the real motives were obvious.

As an aside, I still recall a bunch of leftist scientist claiming in the 1980s that it was simply impossible to hit a missile with a missile. Idiots.

Any way, I enjoy the film a lot. I think it's well done, it's funny, it's got some great gags, and it's all around enjoyable.

As for pop culture bringing down the Soviet Union, that's a nice theory but it's crap. The Soviet Union collapsed because its system was sclerotic and Reagan recognized that and pushed them beyond their ability to compete. When they tried, they imploded.

tryanmax said...

Regardless of how much water the pop culture theory can hold, I still like it, mainly because it is espoused by pinko anti-capitalist college professors. As such, it's like a political litmus test. From either perspective, it suggests that capitalism defeated communism. It's whether the theory is expressed in adulatory or lamenting terms that proves the test.

Anonymous said...

I know you get e-mails for comments and I'm always content to wait. I guess it's the old "Let's give him just five more minutes!" trope. :-)

I can't find the link but I know Libertas featured a trailer for a documentary about American rock music and its influence on Soviet youth. But if it's crap, it's crap. That's why I used the phrase "minor role." :-)

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

I don't know much about pop culture "theory" but, one one hand I shudder when I think of some of the crap we're exporting (99% of all reality shows, for instance). On the other hand, if one of those shows somehow saves someone's life or gives someone hope, I guess I can't complain!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, As you know, nothing in our world is ever 100% of a reason. And I do think our pop culture played a role. Our pop culture was so enticing (and betrayed so much wealth) that the Soviets feared it would incite revolution. That kept the Soviets excessively nasty toward their own citizens and it became the dream that fired many Russians and Eastern Europeans when the end came. But the truth is that money moves the world and what killed the Russians was essentially bankruptcy.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Yeah, it's been a busy day and I haven't had a chance to participate fully.

As for our culture, yep, we seem determined to destroy the planet.

Commander Max said...

Funny link about Hollywood making money.

Quite frankly the most creative people in Hollywood are the accountants.

The stories I've heard about how they juggle money, is only second to the government.
The last people you ask about how they make profit are the studios.
I'm still amazed that Terminator 2 was considered a bust.

Kit said...

In Niall Ferguson's documentary about Western Civilization's 6 "Killer Apps" (which I highly recommend watching) he used a version of that theory, consumerism, using the American jeans as an example by pointing out that they were a luxury on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain that the USSR and various Communist states tried to ban.

Kit said...

"Quite frankly the most creative people in Hollywood are the accountants."

"I'm still amazed that Terminator 2 was considered a bust."

Same with Forrest Gump and Return of the Jedi, or at least that is what Winston Groom and David Prowse were told when they asked why they hadn't received any residual checks.

Kit said...

Addition re: consumerism.

He uses it to point out how America's capitalist system worked over the Soviet communist system.

Kit said...

Best part of Spies Like US:

Bob Hope: "Hello Doctor, Doctor. Glad I'm not sick."

Kit said...

"Top 20 Pro-American Movies

Loved Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers.
I also enjoy National Treasure. Far, far better than Indy 4.
I'll admit, while I don't know if I'd rank THE MAJESTIC as "pro-American" it is a movie with some fun moments (Jim Carrey at the piano).
Pursuit of Happyness: Perfect movie for either July 4th or Father's Day.
Miracle was an awesome movies.
The Spiderman Trilogy was to me what the Indy and Star Wars films were to another generation.
Never saw Flags of Our Fathers but saw Letters From Iwo Jime, thought it a good, well-done movie.
World Trade Center, powerful as a punch to the gut. In the good way.
Iron-Man: What is more American than kicking terrorist butt while wearing a metal-combat suit you built yourself and listening to AC/DC? Am I right?
Hancock: Fun movie, kinda goes weird in the second half.

War of 1812: Didn't read the article yet but I've been saying ever since I saw a History Channel documentary on the War of 1812 that the Battle of Baltimore and Fort McHenry really, really needs a movie or mini-series. Just do one covering the Burning of Washington to the Victory at Fort McHenry. It'd be awesome.

Anonymous said...

Kit -

I didn't like Hancock, actually. I thought it was a huge waste of time and, like so many movies made today, it goes off on a few tangents, which was most likely the result of a frenzied writing process. (I can't be sure, though.)

Spies Like Us has a lot of funny lines. "What's a dickfur?" :-)

And I agree about the Soviet/consumerism stuff. I remember back in school hearing about the blue jeans thing.

Anonymous said...

Max -

I've heard many similar stories. For some reason, it's usually screenwriters or authors who complain about this sort of thing. But Hollywood, as an industry, definitely needs to get its ducks in a row.

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