Just a place to dump my rants into, for better or for worse.

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I've just been HULU'd.

3/20/2008 3:09:36 PM permalink

The grandmother to my lovely wife, being from Coal Miner's Daughter
country, has shared many stories of her fascinating past over the years,
complete with rural jargon that you'd not find anywhere else.
One of my favorites is, "You're not gonna hoodoo me!"
When I first heard it, I had no idea what it meant.
She explained that it was her way of saying "Don't be pulling
my leg" or "Don't be making a fool out of me."
May I submit to you the idea that the definition of hoodoo be applied to HULU.

I say this because of my first movie watching experience over at  
the new video website HULU, brought to you by NBC, who knows what it takes to ruin
television in new and exciting ways. Leave it to NBC to support
a show that sucks (see Bionic Woman), and cancel others that
were genuinely intrigueing and well written (see Journeyman/The Black Donnellys/Surface).

After registering to the site, I perused through the movie list,
and decided to watch a film I had yet to see. The fact that it was
free to watch should have given me a first clue that it was too
good to be true. I watched SIDEWAYS with the excellent Paul Giamatti,
and Thomas Haden Church. Both should have been up for Oscars for
their roles, and deservedly so, but only THC got the nod. 
I haven't laughed so hard from watching a film in a long time. It was brilliant.

However, I was seriously HULU'd.

At the onset of watching the movie, a black screen appears,
notifying me that "the following is intended only for mature
audiences. Viewer discretion advised. Rating: R". I then braced
myself for moments of colorful language and explicit displays of

...after the movie was over, I wanted to go back and tell the
NBC-staffed folk for Hulu that there was NO WAY that movie could
have been rated R. PG to PG-13 at best, but not R.  

Scenes of lewd dialogue were badly overdubbed with replacement words.
Asshole was replaced with, of all things, ASHCROFT. The grand
daddy of all curse words, the F word, was replaced with FOOL,
or SCREW. Almost the entire movie was like this. I then looked
down to the reviews left by other Hulu users who HAD seen the film
in theaters, and all of them were livid that so many scenes were cut out.

Therefore, not only was this movie butchered and severely edited,
it was censored to a ridiculous level, making me want to adopt the
word Ashcroft as my new cuss-word to ingrates who fail to use their
turning signals when changing lanes on the highway. (I hate that.)

Bar none. This movie was hilarious. I busted out laughing about
five or six times, with my sides hurting. I also noted that the
film's dramatic moments were spot on, and I found myself identifying
all too easily with the character of Miles, his bouts of doubt
and frustration with being a nobody, and his lack of encouragement
and nurturing from others towards his gifts of writing.

I even loved the way the movie ended: [mini-spoiler]

with a knock on the door, and a grasp at a chance to hope again,
love again, and maybe, be someone special to another that would
regard him as such.

Now I have to see this movie AGAIN, and I'll need to get the DVD
and see it uncut, unbutchered, and in WIDESCREEN.
I detest pan & scan, which was how Hulu chose to deliver this fine film.

Shame on them.

But you want to know something ironic? Though the cursing was
terribly overdubbed with innocuous banter, I found it really fun
and funny to hear, and it didn't take away from the film.
For myself, it was nostalgic, recalling the days of network TV showing
rated R films way back when. For others, I'm sure, it's irritating.

The Hulu reviews listed beneath the Sideways page was all too clear on that point.

Regardless, I honestly felt that I was lied to. It left a bad
taste in my mouth, like an unforgiveable Merlot so sour and dry
I wouldn't dare pour it out over the gravesite of my homey.
It would be insulting.

In short, Hulu has lost my respect for them as quickly as it was
lost for NBC overall. At least now, if I do watch anything on that
below-par knockoff of the superior Youtube, I can be better prepared
that I'll be watching a sub-par offering of a movie/episode.
I'd rather go knowing what I was getting at the start, than be
made a fool of.

And in my view, that makes Hulu the biggest ASHCROFT on the net today.

Tags: movie, review, nbc, hulu, sideways, website, lie

No TV pilots? No surprise.

2/18/2008 10:33:41 AM permalink

Now that the WGA strike is behind us, and Hollywood is frantic
to put several dozen programs back on the air with new episodes,
I recalled a news bit about some of the studios shutting down all TV pilots,
including some that were either in mid-development,
or lost in development hell. It seemed to me that they took this strike
as an opportunity to trim the fat of their production line,
and run a leaner Hollywood, if that's possible.

I've always had a rantish bone to pick with the business side of Hollywood
(aka Hollywood execs, grrr), and being one to have a far more
creative bent than a business one, I always sided with arguments
that spiked against the work of telling a story in a film.
However, this strike has taught me a few things that puts them
in a slightly less stereotypical villianous light, while learning
other things that served to justify further my objections to their
mishandling countless film productions.

It was as if the strike suddenly allowed Hollywood to let down
it's curtain, revealing all the blinking lights and gears, sores and bumps
that it really has. Kind of like when a park ride shuts down,
and instead of being lost in the magic of the rollercoaster,
you get to watch passengers get rescued, and maintenance men
quibble over broken down parts. The resulting killjoy leaves
the rest heartbroken, frustrated, and left standing in the dust of hard reality.

During this 3 month window, several things were revealed to me. 
One, that film studios not only are about money, they are increasingly
cautious with their faith in others. Example- few directors may
have a track record that affords them full freedom to work their craft
with little need for a suit to look over their shoulder. (Spielberg?)
But the rest? God help them. If an exec has little to no faith
in the work, story or director, then it becomes trial by fire more akin
to a special circle of hell than an opportunity for the director to learn from
a mistake.

And whenever the exec gets in the way, the stories ALWAYS suffer.
And not to be too biased on this theme, I'd personally like to know
a list of incredibly successful films where, thanks to the
business savvy of finance-minded Hollywood executives, their
intervention saved a film that was at first a travesty, or a
confusing mess.

Know any? Does such an idea exist where the Hollywood exec is the
hero instead of the villian? It would almost be akin to a standard
John Grisham lawyer with a heart of gold, instead of the typical
connotation lawyers get (Google "lawyer jokes" if you don't believe me).

Two, I learned that Hollywood execs have their
minds on all facets of business, not just on how well a film is being
shot. Therefore, when the WGA talks first happened, then fell apart
days later, I was surprised to hear how not only were they looking
for their own interest, AND debatably for the interest of the writers,
but also for other levels of business so affected.

As the strike continued to drone on, the studios were treating
their businesses like Apollo 13 spaceships, getting rid of dead weight,
and making square pegs fit into round holes. TV pilots were
being curbed, leaving us to scratch our heads and wonder if we'll
see new TV shows, ever. Thousands of pink slips were handed out.
Reality shows boomed. And while all of this was happening,
news bites and quips from studio heads reported them calmly smiling,
saying all is well, and that they would have nothing to worry about
for several months, and damage to network productivity would be minimal.

I'd be very interested in the stories to come about since those jobs were cut.
Were any recovered? How many returned to work? How much damage
was done by the strike that's left too far gone to mend?

As the title suggests, the cutting off of TV pilot development
is not surprising to me. From their perspective, and on the surface,
it was just wise business sense to do it. But underneath, who can
say what other reasons there were? I'm curious to know.

Now, if one studio had done this, it wouldn't have bothered me.
However, a sloo of studios doing this, all at once? Hmm.
A strike tactic? Or something deeper? Was it strictly financial?
Or was there a legal issue being avoided?

Or, and this idea makes the most sense to me, were they clearing
the slate to give fresher, newer ideas a chance to shine?

Whithin the next few weeks, and by the end of the summer,
most of those questions will be answered. But as I wait,
I will continue to keep a wary eye on the business side of
Hollywood. Once the dust settles, we'll all know if they were
right in their actions, or if there be a greedier and far insidious
alterior motive to their dark purposes.


P.S. - And even if this blog entry reveals how little I know of how business is run in Hollywood, I'm open to that. I'm always willing to own up and learn. However, don't ask me to hold my breath.

Tags: movies, tv, future, wga strike, execs, business

Has the luster of CGI died?

2/14/2008 11:58:13 AM permalink

Over the last few months, I continue to see a growing trend of criticism
to new films coming out - especially in regards to the use of CGI.

Was it so long ago that we were pretty much WOWED with efforts accomplished
via the digital format of special effects? From Jurassic Park to the Matrix to the
Pirates films for bombastic eye-candy delivery, to the more subtle uses of it such as
in the Sixth Sense, Forrest Gump and Amelie, CGI was primed to impress, and in
many ways it still does, but now we have become jaded with it. Why?

It reminds me of a book I read that taught you how to juggle.
It made a point to say that, even if you master the art of just juggling 3 balls
in the air, after a few minutes, your audience will get bored. Soon, they'll ask,
"Can you juggle four?"

Despite the limitlessness that CGI offers to the imagination for most movie makers,
more and more fans are growing a bit bored with the format, I think.
It has very quickly passed from the "been-there-done-that" attitude, to
now looking at CGI as a cheap way out to make a scene work.

Recently I noted responses for some recent trailers for Iron Man
and for Indy 4. Within seconds, comments erupted saying "Oh yeah. That bit was
definitely CGI." And the disappointment in its tone was clearly unmistakeable.

What would it take to WOW a movie goer nowadays?
Just a few months ago, I read of reviews for I AM LEGEND reporting complete
amazement at the first act of the movie, which transforms Manhattan to a city
slowly being reclaimed by the earth with flora and fauna.
It had that "how did they do that?" factor going for it, until the monsters appeared
later in the film, and the wow factor fizzled quick.

Transformers delivered in a spectacular show of CGI like never before, but alas,
how long will it be before that too instills a yawn factor to an ever demanding
movie goer?

I remember showing the movie the Ten Commandments to my kids, and I took
note of the special effects used in that film. I hadn't seen the movie in over a decade. No CGI, and yet, it still impressed the heck out of me.
Thanks to the over-exposure of information for just about anything
these days, I could easily learn what methods they used to do the special effects
during the fire and brimstone sequence, or for the parting of the Red Sea.
But still, there was a "reality" element to it that did not fail to fascinate.

So, what's changed? Has the wonder of CGI long died off?
Has the idea of "movie magic" become a thing of the past?
Can we watch a movie without nitpicking over each scene that is or isn't CGI'd?
Couldn't we just sit back and watch a movie on its own terms without doing so?
Even if the CGI looks no better than an aging Playstation 2 FMV (from a Final Fantasy
game, let's say), should we still demand better from any given movie?
If you watched the movie Tron today, would the CGI put you off?
If it was remade today, what expectations would you have for it?

Why have so many suddenly become critical of the film product in recent years,
when it wasn't so for decades?
Why has our expectations for a film changed in that respect?

I have often believed that, before CGI arrived in theaters,
and even before the whiz-bang effects from the Golden Age of Hollywood hit the
cinescopes and widescreen epics, PEOPLE were the greatest special effect.

Directors like Bergman were fascinated so much with the human face,
they very often they filled the screens with it, showcasing facial gestures and
inflections that added to the story, sometimes in such profound ways,
once the credits rolled, you'd be left affected and even a touch wiser for it.

Sadly, this little belief of mine appears all but dead in most films.
People are no longer the special effect, only the delivery system for a plot point,
and regrettably, a predictable one at that.

Sorry if this rant is about as interesting as tepid coffee.

But some of the comments to the trailers articles had me thinking.
And, well, there you go.



Tags: movies, cgi, criticism, jaded, digital age, expectations

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Date Joined: November 13, 2006