Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I've been busy dousing flames on the personal front, but not too busy not to comment on some of the smoking hot writing about Canadian TV going on over at the house McGrath built.
Check out Trouble Down At Mill and Brandtastic...Denis poses some great questions and makes lots of wonderfully insightful observations --- but the answers, dammit...still so hard to find.
And while on the topic of Canadian television, TV Eh's Diane Kristine puts forth some seriously depressing revelations about difficulties she's had trying to promote our homegrown programs...HERE.
Finally, as an aside, we now get AMC in Buttkick...yay! So all caught up with the goodness that is Mad Men...and does anyone remember that Christina Hendricks (Joan) was on Firefly?
I just did. Mmmm. She's cool.
Friday, July 25, 2008
"To be an actor kinda says to the world, I have nothing to say...and I want to become hugely famous because I can say things that other people think of."
Some Friday Fun in this three part Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling walk and talk through the streets of New York chatting about acting, writing, comedy, and lost jackets...
It takes a bit to get going, but stick with it...parts 2 and 3 are loaded with insight into the minds and methods of these two comic geniuses.
Because it makes me smile...and go hmmmm.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
And some great golf quotes have come to mind, including Mark Twain's "Golf is a good walk spoiled", and this one from Robert Browning: "There are three ways of learning golf: by study, which is the most wearisome; by imitation, which is the most fallacious; and by experience, which is the most bitter." But I'm not sure if anyone has been quoted more than Caddyshack's Ty Webb (except maybe Carl the Greenskeeper)...
A flute with no holes is not a flute, a donut without a hole is a danish, and of course 'be the ball'...words to live by, my friends, words to live by.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
If you were to take CTV's Susanne Boyce at her word, it's the Canadian network. In fact, the term 'reverse simulcasting' has been thrown around a lot in the promotion of the show....like in this NY Times article:
Susanne Boyce, the president of creative, content and channels for CTV, calls the arrangement a “reverse simulcast.” While Canadian networks often show American programs at the same time they premiere, the transfer of talent doesn’t often take place in the opposite direction.
That statement doesn't really need any explaining...to me it's saying CTV programmed the show to air on Friday nights, and then CBS agreed to do the same. That's what simulcasting has come to mean for us up here...so this would be the 'reverse' of that.
But then later in the same article, producer Bill Mustos chimes in:
What’s unusual about “Flashpoint,” said Bill Mustos, the founder of the production company Avamar, “is that, shortly after the pilot was produced and the second script was written, we were able to make a sale to both CTV and CBS in such a way that they’re both involved in a very hands-on way in the creation and production of the series.”
With filming scheduled to wrap on August 23, the episodes are being produced almost as soon as they are written. CBS leaned on the producers to “make the show on an accelerated basis,” Mr. Mustos said, because the network wanted to to debut it during the summer.
CBS leaned on the producers....because the network wanted to debut it during summer. Hmmm. Still, not to take anything away from CTV...they were certainly responsible for developing and greenlighting the pilot last year.
But then today we have an announcement from CTV that they are moving the show from Friday night to Thursday night..
After dominating Friday nights for the past two weeks in a row, summer’s hottest drama is moving to television’s biggest night. CTV, along with U.S. broadcast partner CBS, announced today that Flashpoint will now air in the coveted Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET time-slot beginning this Thursday, July 24.
But yesterday, at The Futon Critic, we saw this 'breaking news':
CBS is swapping its scripted originals "Flashpoint" and "Swingtown" for the rest of the summer.
Effective immediately "Flashpoint" will now run on Thursdays at 10:00/9:00c while "Swingtown" will head to Fridays at 10:00/9:00c. The latter posted a 1.6 rating among adults 18-49 for its most recent airing on July 17 while "Flashpoint" snagged a 1.5 is the key demographic on July 18.
No reason was given for the change. A press release confirming said news is expected to go out tomorrow.
Again...I don't begrudge anyone involved and wish the show and its writers (of which I know a couple) all the success in the world, but who's reallly driving the bus....CTV? Or CBS?
I suppose one could also say....it's a hit, so does it matter?
Addendum: Just let me make myself clear...I am hoping, seriously hoping, that 'reverse simulcasting' is at work here. It would truly be a thing to hold up high and praise after years of watching simulcasting of US shows build up our network and cable provider coffers while simultaneously helping erode and marginalize our indigenous TV drama industry.
So I want to believe that CTV is calling the shots.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
From the Associated Press:
Shannen Doherty will reprise her role as Brenda Walsh in CW's new version of the 1990-2000 series, with her character now a famous director who's invited back to stage a musical at her alma mater, the network said Saturday.
Walsh will guest star in multiple episodes, the network said at a meeting of the Television Critics Association — which, appropriately enough, was in Beverly Hills.
She'll be reunited with a few members of the old West Beverly High School gang. As previously announced, Jennie Garth will return as Kelly Taylor, now a school guidance counselor, and Tori Spelling will be back as Donna Martin, who owns a boutique.
Jennie Garth? Tori Spelling? Shannen Doherty??? Now I'm really confused...who is this show trying to appeal to?
See, I'm interested because my kids watch and talk about these kinds of shows...they liked The O.C. a lot, and One Tree Hill, and Gilmore Girls, and even The Hills. And even though 90210 wasn't on their radar in its heyday, it's on their radar now. But still, why should I care...the reboot isn't really for me...or is it?
By several accounts, reviews of the new 90210 pilot script were pretty good...including Karen Hill guest posting/reviewing it on Jill Golick's blog. Hill says "the new 90210 eschews the cornball humour of the original series in favour of a hip, wry tone. There’s tons of banter and the de rigueur hyper-articulate TV adolescents who bear zero resemblance to the pimply mumblers trolling food courts everywhere."
Hip wry tone? Tons of banter? I suppose kudo's are in order to Rob Thomas and his successors, Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs, for achieving TV 'goodness'...however, it sure ain't sounding like the 90210 I remember.
The original show was popcorn...fun, flavourful, and tasty, but still just popcorn at the end of the day. And I don't mean to slag the talents of Darren Star...he's got it in spades. But Star's 90210 and his followup Melrose Place weren't trying to be TV goodness the way we define it today...except in the soaptastic kinda way. The reboot sounds like it wants to be good, like Veronica Mars or Freaks & Geeks 'good'...but the show title does not connote 'good', it will always only connote fun tasty popcorn.
Which led to my initial confusion...why call a piece of retro candy the same name if you are going to change all the ingredients? Some might argue it's only an 'updating' ...but I'd contest that as 'good' as other teen soap dramas like V Mars and Freaks & Geeks (and even Gossip Girl) are/were, NOBODY watched/watches them...or at least not in the kind of numbers that make for a real 'hit', which BH 90210 was for quite a few years.
The CW wants this reboot to be A HIT.
Furthermore, the original 90210 (like The Hills and The O.C. today) all began with little fanfare, then slowly built a primarily young audience who tuned in each week for some gossipy 'who's sleeping with who' water cooler fun. The new version already has too much hype, which means very high expectations, which means it can only disappoint.
But it doesn't have to disappoint, as long as it doesn't try to reach too high or too wide.
When these shows hit, they keep it simple and they appeal to a specific age group with closet desire for some occasional mindless escapism and fantasy drama. It can be pleasurable experience, but you really don't feel that good about watching. Seinfeld encapsulated it all perfectly in the episode where he didn't want to admit he watched Melrose Place...and when he finally fessed up to his soapy addiction, he lost the girl he was trying to hide it from. But that was still okay with Jerry...and the episode ended with him racing home to tune into a new Melrose ep. "Oh that Michael I hate him...he's just so smug."
The kids can and will eat that stuff up...but I'm not sure they will if it's weighed down by hip wry tone and ultra witty banter. Add to that the show bringing in a bunch of old cast members (who really really can't act for shit) from the original series, and I think the kids will be thrown off again. I know I was thrown off...does the show want the young un viewers? Or do they want me? Teens and twenty somethings looking for some soaptastic escapism? Or aging Gen X's with fond memories of a show they used to love?
I don't know anymore...but if the producers think a new tone and stunt casting will get them both, my fear is after big premiere numbers due to the curiosity factor, by trying to snare everyone, they'll end up with no one.
p.s. The new title sequence should probably look like THIS...but might end up looking more like THIS.
Friday, July 18, 2008
H/T to Drew Potter
Monday, July 14, 2008
Oh yes, now I know what's been missing.
Introducing Sarah Shahi - we noticed her in Alias...we liked her in The L Word...and now we're really digging her in NBC's Life.
And she's not adverse to gracing the pages of Maxim magazine...
Enjoy your week.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
"If there isn't a monster on my call sheet, I won't show up to set."
Guillermo del Toro
I love seeing films that the director "...directed the shit out of" (as Ken Girotti so aptly put when describing Wanted's Timur Bekmambetov) --- I watch in awe and wonder with even a little jealousy thrown in...more than just 'how did he/she do that?', but 'how did he/she even think of that??' I felt that way last night watching director Guillermo del Toro's work on Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
CGI is everywhere in our theatrical features today...and more often than not it tends to take me 'out' of the film rather than draw me in. The same evening I saw the trailer for the upcoming installment of the Mummy series, and it left me feeling kinda cold in that way...on the outside looking in.
But some directors seem able to effectively blend the 'artificial elements' of computer generated images with the human elements of character, plot, and story to create genuine drama and suspense and tension for the viewer. You are 'moved and transported', which always makes for the best kind of film-going experience...del Toro accomplishes that in spades.
I first saw del Toro's talent at work in Mimic, a little horror creepfest filmed in Toronto around 10 years ago. Someone I knew was working on it or an editor I knew was involved (I can't remember now), and I was able to see some dailies and rough cuts. Needless to say, I was very impressed (since I knew how small the budget was).
The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyryth, and the Hellboy films have successfully continued del Toro's march onwards and upwards...and we now have his take on The Hobbit to look forward to. Always a master of craft and technique, there's also mucho heart and soul rooted deep at the core of his films...and when you put it all together it's called 'vision'.
Another director today who crackles with vision is Alfonso Cuaron...his work on Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban blew me away...and not surprisingly he and del Toro are close friends. But what is perhaps surprising is that they (along with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) are from Mexico. Oh...and their films not only look great, they sound great as well. Visually and audibly they feel, well...designed for a purpose, as opposed to orchestrated for effect (usually very LOUDLY).
Anyway, I find it fascinating that what appears to be our French New Wave of today came from the USofA's neighbour to the south. Do we (Canada) have 3 filmmakers that measure up not only in terms of being visionary, but also are close friends and collaborators? If so, I'd love to be enlightened as to who they are...our feature industry could seem to use more of that kind of thing.
Nevertheless, now you can treat yourself to an entertaining hour on film and friendship with these three Mexican filmmakers: Alfonso Cuaron, director of "Children of Men", Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of "Babel", and Guillermo del Toro, director of "Pan's Labyrinth" --- as moderated by Charlie Rose.
It's a long one...(and unfortunately the audio starts to lose sync after a while - I believe its also included as an extra on the Children of Men dvd), but if you can take the time to stick with it, prepare for a really uplifting and enjoyable experience...it's like eavesdropping on three smart funny passionate friends discussing life, art, and the movies.
I'll admit even a little envy as I viewed this...when you can form these kinds of connections and relationships in both your life and your work, it almost makes it all worthwhile.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Jim (or Jimmy, as my parents still say) lived here way back when, and was one of my fathers fav acting students during Jim's stint in our University drama department program. So I was just a kid when I first met him...just before Jim headed off to LA and then Toronto to try to make it as a film and stage actor. I still remember how excited we all got when he appeared with Jack Nicholson in the opening minutes of the The Last Detail. And all got excited again when he was cast as the voice of Tender Heart in the Care Bears TV series (hey...it was a big deal! At least for the kids...).
Then, like fifteen years later, I found myself living in Toronto just after finishing film school and working in a downtown video store...and who should walk in to rent some porn was Jimmy (okay, it wasn't porn...but it could've been!). I reintroduced myself, and instead of backing out and getting the hell away from this fawning newbie, Jim was kind enough to invite me out to visit the set of a new series he was story editing for....Adderly...as he'd recently crossed over to the writing side of television. It was a long subway trip followed by a long bus ride out to the studios, but well worth it just to see the machine at work.
I moved back home, but a couple years later was back in TO attending a Robert McKee-like weekend session on directing, and there was Jim sitting in the crowd. We had lunch and within a couple weeks he'd helped coordinate a director observer position for me on the new series he was now on...Friday the 13th - The Series. And then a couple years after that he gave me my first two freelance writing assignments for the CBS show he was running...Top Cops.
All major career boosters for me...and what did I give back? Hmmm...I guess a story editing gig on my first movie Guitarman.
I think I came out ahead in that deal.
Anyway, we've remained friends over all these years (even though we actually haven't worked together that often - funny how that is)...probably mostly to do with our mutual love/hate relationship with all things that are the Maple Leafs. It was great to spend some face time together.
And Jim was even gracious enough (or too road weary to argue) to let the cameras come out (since he is picture-less over at the Legion)...to capture this rare photo op.
We started out striking the 'cool bloggers who are going to take over the biz' pose...
...then jumped on the computer to co-write the 'tell all post to beat all tell-all posts' about the Canadian film/TV industry...
...but the Canadian Club and cokes kicked in shortly thereafter and the evening quickly degenerated into a bad version of the Beavis and Butthead show...
Ah well - good times were had...and there's always another day for that monster post.
Drive safe Butthead....see you after the jump.
And it's some Austin Powers-inspired Friday Fun..."Daddy Wasn't There" (with Matthew Sweet!)
H/T to Juniper for pointing the cam and clicking.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
And I don't know if anyone will ever be able to duplicate YouTubes's success, but I'm here to direct you to a recently launched Canadian 'online film portal' called Super U.
From their website:
SuperU.ca is an online community fostering the development of Canadian short film content in both French and English. Super U encourages filmmakers at all levels. Unique Contests challenge your film making skills and inspire your creative vision. Winners receive big cash prizes and the chance to have films broadcast on Super Channel, Canada’s only National Pay Television service.
Thousands of people will see your short film on Super U – and you’ll get respectful, constructive feedback direct from your audience. Or you can choose that your films only screen to private, invited audiences – the perfect way to distribute a rough cut or reel. You can also upload screenplays, film music, even your resume or bio. Super U is not limited to above-the-line. Every film enthusiast, craftsperson and support person is welcome at Super U.
Yeah, there's the Super Channel connection, but don't regard this as just shameless self promotion --- the two entities are very loosely connected. I'd say Super U is of primary interest to the blossoming Canuck film/video maker or film student...a place to expose your short film to viewers beyond your basement apartment, receive some feedback and/or criticism, and with some talent and a little luck you might actually get noticed.
Super U recently awarded a round of prizes for comedy submissions, and the winning video from a Calgary filmmaker can be seen HERE.
Hmmmm....well, it seems to have borrowed a page from the Roxbury Guys, and doesn't pack the punch of Matt Dancing...but at the end of the day, it probably has as much of a chance to go viral as the next video. Because nobody really knows why some clips click and others don't, though I'm sure those that do succeed has something to do with what McGrath said in his Dancing Matt post..."(it) speaks to me with all that is important and key about video content on the internet: it must punch, and be immediate, and evocative, and most of all -- convey its message in a short, sharp burst."
Wise words that wannabe's should take to heart...and with a site like Super U, the opportunity at least exists for your Canadian short vids to get out there and go wide.
Check out Super U HERE.
Monday, July 07, 2008
But being sick didn't keep me from continuing to groove on Evil Urges, the new release from My Morning Jacket. I fell for this band hard after their 2005 effort Z ("Keep it off the record, baby, off the record!")....and Urges hasn't disappointed.
But why....what makes this band stand out for me so much? They do some funk, alt country, classic rock and prog rock...I'm sure I'm not the first to try to pinpoint this Kentucky bands' sound as Wilco meets Prince meets Radiohead, but that's what I came up with. And yes their first single 'I'm Amazed' is more Wilco than anything else...
...until you hear the songs 'Evil Urges' or 'Highly Suspicious' from the same cd, and pinning them down becomes much more difficult.
I'd definitely liken them to two other young American bands I've enjoyed of late, Band of Horses and TV On The Radio...what with all the psychedelia-influenced classic rock with lotsa falsetto vocals --- my only real complaint about all these artists is the length of time between releases...3 years?? Too long, boys...too long.
But go trip out on My Morning Jacket...you'll be glad you did.
And I'm feeling better already.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Great beach tune. Or nude beach tune even.
Makes me wanna catch some rays...
Friday, July 04, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
To coincide with the release, TV critic Alan Sepinwall gives it a nice write up, and today Jaime Weinman does up another one of his most excellent 'Better Know a Writing Staff' pieces over at TV Guidance.
And to ensure the cool factor award, it's packaged in a classy silver and black flip-top case...you know, like a Zippo lighter. Mmmm....Beavis has got himself something hot to watch this summer.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Thanks much to John August for his very informative yet terribly sobering wrap up to his journey that was The Nines. And because his feature directing debut and its subsequent theatrical/DVD release was so firmly rooted in the world of the small independent film, thus making it like pretty much all Canadian feature films, I thought it worth excerpting some of Mr. August's wisdom.
A quote from Mark Gill in the LA Times last week would seem discouraging for independent filmmakers:Of the 5,000 films submitted to Sundance each year — generally with budgets under $10million — maybe 100 of them got a U.S. theatrical release three years ago. And it used to be that 20 of those would make money. Now maybe five do. That’s one-tenth of 1%. Put another way, if you decide to make a movie budgeted under $10 million on your own tomorrow, you have a 99.9% chance of failure.
There are lots of ways to criticize his logic. For starters, most Sundance movies are way under $10 million. Many are under a million. And he seems to omit a figure for how many indie films are getting a theatrical release now as opposed to three years ago.
We need to ask, “Failure for whom?” Even a movie that doesn’t earn its budget back will likely make money for its distributors, once you factor in video and TV sales. More crucially, a good indie film generates future work for its stars and filmmakers. So there’s a lot of success to be found in that 99.9% failure.
All that said, he’s kind of right.
He's kind of right...shiiiit. That's some bad odds. August goes on to say that his movie turned out just the way he wanted, but the release of the movie was deeply disappointing. Thankfully though, he doesn't do a lot of finger pointing but instead lists several crucial stages in the The Nines release, from Sundance screenings to the DVD hitting the shelves, and then explains what he might have done differently at each stage vs. what actually went down.
Take Sundance for example --- August lists all the other films in addition to his that had buzz when he was there, and then lays out how they ultimately performed.
Eighteen months later, it’s fascinating to see how little the festival buzz mattered. Prices for these movies — a key component of buzz, as in, “Did you hear how much it sold for?” — were all over the board, from the low six-figures to $7 million for Son of Rambow.
But it made no difference. They all pretty much tanked.
Waitress sold quickly, was released quickly, and made the most by far at the box office ($19M).3 Second place was Under the Same Moon ($12.5M), followed by Once ($9M) and How She Move ($7M). Son of Rambow will likely end up in fifth. It’s currently in release, and made $8M overseas.
In terms of box office, none of these are hits in the way Little Miss Sunshine was. But you’d be happy being any of them, because beyond those five, the other movies on the list fell off a cliff. None of them made a million. In fact, most didn’t make it over $100,000. The Nines didn’t, despite opening well.
But at least we opened. At least we sold. For our year, 3,287 feature films were submitted to Sundance, of which 122 played. Roughly 20 played in theaters.
Wow. That's some kind of seriously depressing numbers game going on. And here I was last week criticizing Canadian release Young People F**king for only mustering up around a 300,000 gross over the past month (this considering all the free publicity surrounding the film and Bill C-10) ...but damn, perhaps I was a little harsh.
Or maybe, as August says later in his post, "(for the small independent feature)...theatrical release is kinda bullshit."
I get a lot of questions every year from students or up and comers about why does the Canadian feature film biz suck... or why aren't more Canuck features in theatres... or how easy or hard is it to make a low budget feature film... and the takeaway is it's really f**king hard for everyone. And then you have to try to get people to see it, which in many ways can be even harder than making the damn thing.
Thanks for sharing John...the post in all its honest and straightforward entirety is entitled 'Sundance, The Nines, and the Death of the Independent Film', and you can read it HERE.