Archive for the ‘HOLLYWOOD’ Category

The Oscar Telecast: Worse Than Ever? Gee I Think So, it Truly Sucked


Call me an eternal optimist. At this time of year, I always find myself hoping against hope for two things: that (1) somehow this will be the year that the Cubs win the World Series and (2) maybe this will be the year the producers of the Academy Awards successfully reinvent the world’s oldest awards show.

We’ll have to wait till October to see if I’m right about the Cubs, but as far as the Oscars go, it was another huge disappointment, a colossal missed opportunity. Right from the start, the producers seemed unable to re-imagine the show as something other than a glitzy, painfully earnest version of the same cobwebby variety show we’ve been watching for years. I mean, there’s far more inventiveness going on in ABC’s “Modern Family” than there was on the Oscar stage last night.

Where to start? Oh, yeah, the hosts. I love Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, but watching them trying to coax laughs out of the wheezy one-liners they were given was painful. It was a buddy comedy gone wrong, a lot like watching Tracy Morgan and  Bruce Willis flail around in “Cop Out,” hoping to make a scene work without any good material to draw on. Oscar hosts don’t do improv. They need a good script and Bruce Vilanch (and whomever else was crafting material this year) let them down. 

The direction of the show was especially awful. It felt like whenever there was a potentially dramatic moment happening on stage, Hamish Hamilton, the show’s director, managed to miss it, starting with seeing Jim Cameron’s reaction to Kathryn Bigelow winning best director. Hamilton did an especially inept job of shooting the John Hughes tribute, which felt surprisingly flat and unemotional, in large part because it was staged so awkwardly, with Hughes’ old actors (now actually starting to get old) lined up on stage like beauty contestants. And when Mo’Nique finished her full-throated supporting actress acceptance speech, Hamilton cuts away to — ouch! — Samuel L. Jackson, who had nothing to do with the movie and presumably was picked for a cutaway after someone in the booth yelled, “Find me a black person for a reaction shot!” 

As soon as Jackson was on camera, he started derisively rolling his eyes, as if to say that he thought Mo’Nique’s speech was totally over the top, forcing another awkward cutaway, since having a big-time actor being underwhelmed by an acceptance speech would clearly spoil the moment.

And when it came to spoiling the moment, nothing was worse than having Barbra Streisand present best director to Bigelow. First off, Streisand was clearly picked after the producers knew Bigelow had won as some sort of symbolic passing of the torch moment although, once again, the producers couldn’t manage to find any drama in the moment. Even worse, it was demeaning to women directors everywhere, since Streisand was clearly chosen for her star power, not her directing chops — I mean, this is the woman whose last two films were “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and “Prince of Tides,” which would put Streisand about No. 47 on the best women director’s list.

I won’t even touch the Neil Patrick Harris opening number, since others have weighed in with far better assessments, the best being from Emmy-winning TV writer-producer Ken Levine, who wrote in his blog post: “The Oscars were very elegant this year all the way up to the opening number. Then Neil Patrick Harris sang about sodomy, masturbation and prison and Hollywood’s classiest night was underway.” 

And how about that horror-movie tribute montage? First off, why horror movies? I mean, in a year when we had, for the first time ever, two sci-fi movies among the best picture candidates, why not do a sci-fi montage sequence, which would’ve far more timely? And why have two young pups introduce the horror segment (and yes, I get the “Twilight” young demo tie-in) when you could have had two great scream queens do it, like Jamie Lee Curtis and Kathy Bates, who could have offered a couple of funny anecdotes about the glories of low-budget horror filmmaking?

I could go on and on. The show had a few nice moments — Ben Stiller made me laugh, the hosts had a couple of good zingers and it was especially apt to have James Taylor play such a lovely version of John Lennon’s “In My Life” over the In Memoriam segment. And yes, Sandra Bullock’s acceptance speech was a pip, more than making up for Jeff Bridges’ interminable, Dude-like ramblings. 

I hear the early reports say the show’s ratings went up as much as 15%, but considering the presence of “Avatar,” the world’s biggest-grossing movie, that still has to be cause for some concern, since it was just a month ago that the Grammy show was up 35% over the previous year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — what the Oscar telecast needs is real TV producers, since they actually know how to put on a TV show.

My first choice remains Tommy Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin, since they bring built-in writing and directing talent with them, but there is plenty of other savvy TV talent to choose from. It’s time the academy realized that a few patches here and some fresh paint there won’t do the trick. This is a show that needs a complete makeover.

Photo of Neil Patrick Harris (fourth from left) and Oscar dancers by Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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Infographic: Film Industry by the Numbers

On Location: Dutch Director finds L.A. Film Crews Best in the World


Sometimes it takes a foreigner to point out what the natives take for granted.

Just ask Hein Mevissen, director of commercials for John Doe Productions in Amsterdam.

Mevissen was hired by a Netherlands ad agency to direct a commercial for a Dutch horticultural association, De Nederlandse Tuinbouw, touting the global reach of Holland’s fruits and veggies. Apparently, Holland’s agriculture business has more to boast than just tulips.

But instead of filming the ad in northern Europe, where the commercial will be aired, Mevissen took a detour: He opted to film the bulk of the $500,000 commercial in the Los Angeles area.

Although the commercial’s star is a 40-foot beanstalk (the metaphor: Holland spreading its agricultural roots around the world) much of the commercial was shot with a California crew of about 40 people, along with 60 Los Angeles-area extras and English- and Dutch-speaking actors.

In one scene, producers converted Gigi’s Bakery and Cafe on West Temple Street into a Dutch cafe, selling healthy fruits instead of the greasy fried food typically found in Dutch snack bars. Downtown buildings were used to depict scenes set at a warehouse in Spain and a board meeting in South Korea that erupts into mayhem when the ubiquitous monster plant bursts up through their table. Even the sprawling Tejon Ranch 60 miles north of L.A. had a role, standing in for Tanzania in East Africa.

So why did Mevissen travel across the Atlantic and U.S. to film a Dutch commercial? After all, he might have saved money by shooting in Budapest, Hungary, or Hamburg, Germany, which are closer to Amsterdam and offer hefty tax breaks to boot. Although California has a new film incentive program, commercials aren’t covered by it.

The weak dollar, which makes filming here relatively cheaper, was a factor, Mevissen said. But so was the diversity of locations, good weather and experienced crews.

“I shot a few times in L.A., and it has the very best professionals here and the best crews in the world,” he said.

Nicholas Simon, the producer of the commercial, added: “Where else can you find the breadth of locations that you have here?”

Such testimonials are music to the ears of local film promoters, who are developing a plan to market the area's film industry. There has been an uptick in activity because the economy is improving and overall production is increasing, but the long-term trend has shown Los Angeles losing market share to other areas.

Southern California’s share of all commercial production fell to 48% in 2008 from 54% in 2007, with projects increasingly migrating to other states such as New Mexico, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, according to a recent report from the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers. Data for 2009 are not yet available.

For his part, Mevissen says he’s already planning to shoot his next commercial — his client won’t let him divulge what it is —  in Southern California.  “You can always go someplace cheaper, but I don’t think it’s always better,” he said. “When you shoot in L.A., everything goes really smooth.”

For Angelenos, such praise could only come from a foreigner.

— Richard Verrier

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Panavision Cameras Being Taken Over by Creditors – One More Sign of How Bad Production is in Hollywood


By Richard Verrier

March 2, 2010

Ronald O. Perelman is handing over Panavision Inc., the debt-laden camera rental company that is suffering from a steep downturn in movie and TV production, to its creditors.

Perelman’s holding company, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., has reached an agreement in principle with a group of creditors — including Cerberus Capital Management, the former owner of Chrysler — for the billionaire investor to give up his controlling stake in the camera maker that has been a fixture on movie sets for decades, according to people familiar with the matter.

The financial restructuring would cut Panavision’s debt by $140 million and give it an additional $40 million in new financing. After the deal, Perelman would no longer have any equity in the company.

“This will ultimately benefit Panavision by reducing its debt load and providing fresh capital for growth,” said a person close to the situation who requested anonymity.

Panavision had been seeking to refinance $285 million in loans that mature in March 2011 in the face of a severe slowdown in camera and equipment rentals for feature films and commercials.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Panavision’s corporate debt rating last September, citing “weak liquidity” and concerns about the state of its core camera business. The restructuring would extend the maturity on the loans to 2014.

Perelman, best known for his controlling stake in cosmetics giant Revlon Inc., took control of the company in 1998 in a complex deal that saddled Panavision with nearly $500 million in debt.

Three years later, the financier attempted to have another company he controlled, M&F Worldwide Corp., buy his 83% stake. But minority M&F stockholders opposed the move, fearing that it would dilute the value of their shares.

Like prop houses and other companies in the Hollywood supply chain, Panavision has been hammered by the sharp drop in production that began during the 2008 Hollywood writers strike and the subsequent standoff between the major studios and the Screen Actors Guild. Then just as Hollywood began to regroup after the strike, the recession hit, leading studios to make fewer movies and advertisers to cut back on making commercials, slackening demand for filmmaking equipment.

People close to Panavision say camera and lens orders for feature films, which account for most of the company’s revenue, fell about 15% last year. The company’s annual revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, was about $260 million, according to Moody’s. The privately held company does not disclose its finances, but one person with knowledge of the company’s finances said it still generated an operating profit.

Panavision, which employs 1,200 people, including 300 in Woodland Hills, manufactures cameras, lenses and accessories, but it doesn’t sell them. Instead, the company leases them to studios as well as film and TV production companies through a network of distributors.

Although Panavision remains the market leader, it faces mounting competition from upstart rivals such as Red Digital Cinema, a company that makes low-cost digital cameras.

The pressure to improve results has led to a series of management shake-ups.

Last year, Perelman ousted Bob Beitcher, who had been chief executive since 2003, after the two sparred over how to turn the business around.

Beitcher, in turn, was succeeded by Billy Campbell, a former president of Discovery Networks. But Campbell was on the job for just a couple of months before Perelman replaced him in June with the current CEO, William C. Bevins, a longtime associate of Perelman’s.

A former chief financial officer for Turner Broadcasting System Inc., Bevins also previously ran New World Communications Group Inc. and Marvel Entertainment Group Inc.

Bevins is expected to remain at the helm of the company.

Perelman’s Hollywood holdings also include Deluxe Entertainment Services Group Inc., a provider of production and post-production services, which is not affected by the financial restructuring.


Copyright � 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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Suicide Shuts Down Area in front of Kodak Theatre

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment

LAPD blocks off the area in front of the Kodak Theatre | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist

Word quickly spread on Twitter this afternoon after a person committed suicide in front of the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center. At 3:10 p.m., police were notified of someone attempting to commit suicide by jumping from the fourth floor outside Sun Taco. Tourists and locals all twittered about helicopters and police swarming the famous boulevard, effectively shutting it down for several minutes. According to various witnesses, it was an elderly black man.

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On Location: Scary Film Business in L.A.

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Dec shoots

Call it the Paranormal Activity effect.

“In the Darkness,” a low-budget indie film about a detective in pursuit of a missing college girl, begins filming this week the Antelope Valley.

“It’s a suspense thriller with an ‘X-Files’ vibe,” explains first-time producer Jeremy McGovern of  Burning Bridge Entertainment. “It’s creepy.”

Hoping to draw a page from the hit Paranormal, which was shot in a week with a budget of $15,000, “In the Darkness” will be filmed over 10 days in Palmdale and Acton with a threadbare crew and a budget of “less than $100,000,” McGovern said.

His producing partner, Jenna Edwards, and the film’s writer and director, Andrew Robinson, previously worked on “April Showers,” the feature about the Columbine tragedy.

“We’re trying something new and quick,” McGovern said. “We want to make a good feature film.”

Whether audiences will ever get to see “In the Darkness” is another question. Like many indie films these days, it is being self-distributed, McGovern said.

In a scary sign, “In the Darkness” is among a handful of mostly indie films that are shooting in the LA region. Only a few major studio films have been filming locally, including “Green Hornet” from Sony Pictures and   the DreamWorks/Universal Pictures’ comedy “Little Fockers.”  Warner Bros.’s “Due Date” wrapped in Brentwood on Monday. The film, starring Robert Downey Jr., was mostly filmed in New Mexico and Georgia, which offer more generous film tax credits than California.

On-location filming for features, which has sagged this year because of out-of-state film tax incentives and studio belt tightening, fell 16% last week over the same time a year, according to FilmL.A. Inc.  Overall filming, including shoots for commercials and television, dropped 35%.

-Richard Verrier

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Is Hollywood Afraid To Be 'Anti-Polanski'?…UH Yeah, the only reason I can say what I want is I am Anonymous..kinda sad!!

October 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Is Hollywood Afraid To Be ‘Anti-Polanski’?

by Jessica Barnes Oct 2nd 2009 // 8:02PM

Filed under: Celebrities and Controversy, Politics

If you’ve been arguing with your friends and family about the arrest and detainment of Roman Polanski in Switzerland last week, don’t feel bad — you’re not the only one with an opinion. There’s a debate brewing in Hollywood over the acclaimed director and his current legal predicament, and everyone has jumped into the fray. Polanski fled from the US after a conviction for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor back in 1978, and with his recent arrest some of the biggest names in Hollywood have been publicly showing support. Recently, filmmakers like Michael Mann, Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam, and Woody Allen (ahem, yes, even Woody Allen) signed a petition demanding the filmmaker’s release from a Zurich jail. On the other hand, there is a very real possibility that not everybody is on board the love train, and the problem is that those people aren’t talking.

Hollywood is a business, and just like in any other business, reputation can be everything. If you think of Hollywood as the world’s biggest high school, then you can see how nobody wants to be excluded from the ‘cool table’ — and it doesn’t help that the pro-Polanski faction has Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, and the opposition has Sherri Shepherd and ‘Nellie Olsen‘. In a piece for the LA Times, independent producer Melissa Silverstein said, “I think people are afraid to talk in Hollywood. They are afraid about their next job.” Sure, that might sound slightly paranoid, but power players like Harvey Weinstein are writing op-eds in support of the director, so maybe she’s not completely off the mark.

After the jump: making excuses and Hollywood vs. Middle America…

In the past weeks I have marveled at some of the rationales for Polanski’s ‘choices’ 31 years ago, but I shouldn’t be that surprised. Even if you take the fame factor out of the equation, as a society we’re still pretty comfortable with blaming victims and looking for excuses when it comes to sexual assault. No matter what you think about Polanski, you can’t tell me it’s not disheartening to see sexual crimes against a minor described as a “case of morals” or hear a daytime TV host sum it up as “not rape-rape“.

The media has been pitting Hollywood against so-called “Real Americans” for as long as I can remember. With the Polanski case, journalists have gone full steam ahead with the image of Liberal Hollywood being out of touch with moral god-fearing folks in the rest of the country — which is not only simplistic, it’s insulting. In the end, this is no longer about what you think Polanski might have (or might not have) done, because whether we like it or not, moralizing and hand-wringing is not going to change what happened. While the petition made clear that support of the director is because of the issue of freedom of expression for filmmakers traveling abroad, the irony of it all is that in this discussion about “freedom of expression across the world”, the only expressions being made are ones that are in line with the status quo.

So what do you think? Has Hollywood truly fallen in line in support of the director, or do you think that celebrities are afraid to speak out to protect their paychecks? Sound off below…

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