The Birth of “Imitation Movie Product”

Add "straight male" to the flavor your corporate "movie" label is complete

Add “straight male” to the flavor your corporate “movie” label is complete

by Legendary Lew

The infamous Sony Hacks and film studios’ release plans for the next five years have made it more clear than ever before: they’re not interested in movies. Instead, they are interested in manufactured product. It’s incredible how brazen they now are in showing an utter disdain for you as a viewer.

As Mark Harris astutely points out in the must-read film article of the year,

As with prepackaged food, exportability and shelf life are now primary virtues. The product Hollywood is selling right now keeps better if it contains as few organic ingredients as possible — whether organic to the place, the mood, the news, or the moment. Think of the major Hollywood studio movies you saw this year. Aside from their up-to-the-nanosecond technological razzle-dazzle, how many of them felt like they belonged specifically to 2014, as opposed to five, 10, or 15 years ago? Or, for that matter, five years from now?

And much like an insurance company visiting college grad prospects, the “movie” studios have the next five years of your life all set. Behold, their idea of movie plots:

harris-sequels-1

harris-sequels-2

You can consider some older movies to be “corn”– a la (Frank) “Capra-corn”– but these features represent the corporate farm corn to be fed to the masses all over the world. These listings prove an attempt to standardize film making to such an extent that there’s practically no deviance from any formula that would disrupt the franchise.

So I propose a solution to differentiate between indie films and these corporate franchise films: require the latter to be labeled “Imitation Movie Product” or IMP, for short.

Why not? By law, sandwich slices have to be called “cheese food” or “cheese product” to separate them from the much better stuff you would buy at a specialty shop. “Imitation vanilla flavor” is not to be confused with what you can legally call vanilla.  Film makers at both the indie and corporate studio levels can use the same tools to make the finished film–much like “cheese food” companies can use “real milk!”–but they definitely come out with different works.

So from now on, the releases listed above will be referred to, by me, as “Imitation Movie Product” or IMP for short.

I think this will clear up the confusion and “consumers” will receive better guidance as to what they are actually viewing and supporting. You’re welcome.

Dear Sony Pictures: Stop Threatening Journalists. You Brought the Sony Hacks Debacle On Yourself.

Make believe it didn't happen

Make believe it didn’t happen

by Legendary Lew

Dear Sony Pictures:

I realize you’re not having the best of holiday seasons. That’s totally understandable. This time of year is very rough on a lot of people.

You’re traveling a rocky road right now with the recently released details of embarrassing emails splashed all over social media. I admit laughing heartily while reading that Angelina Jolie was blamed for the loss of a Steve Jobs biopic from David Fincher and that Seth Rogen and James Franco were paid thousands of dollars to drive themselves to the set of their new movie The Interview.

I understand the new threats being leaked by The Guardians of Peace warning

Make believe this didn't happen

Make believe this didn’t happen

people not to watch The Interview are serious. The movie was pulled from release and now there are even reports claiming the hacks might have been an inside job. As the saying goes, it sucks to be you.

Perhaps these enduring stresses are why your PR department is in shambles. You’re demanding journalists destroy any files they’ve received under threats of lawsuits, thereby assuring The Streisand Effect. Aaron Sorkin, Seth Rogen and James Franco are going to bat for you, calling those who shared your leaked emails traitors and criminals. Maureen Dowd is openly lying to cover you. Howard Stern is erroneously comparing these leaks to those released of nude actresses, apparently because he believes an individual’s private nude photo is the equivalent to corporate business correspondence.

As a film lover, I would like to stage a sort of intervention for you, because apparently many entertainment writers seem not to be coming forward to say what you need to hear:

You helped bring this on yourself.

Do I like what “The Guardians of Peace” did? No. Am I a supporter of North Korea’s dictatorship? Of course not.

Do I think you are a creativity-averse, internet-hating, reckless, possibly felonious corporation that doesn’t care about your own cyber security or the privacy of your employees? 

Hell, yes.

Let’s take these issues one at a time:

1. Creativity aversion: You are not in the business of making movies. You are in the business of making products.

No one needs to be a North Korean spy to figure this out. All you need to do is to head on to the Columbia Pictures IMDB page listing your distributions. You can point to Captain Phillips and American Hustle with some pride, but we know it’s not your bread and butter, pre-marketed franchises are. Your own employees even know this and are pouring forth with a deluge of complaints about wasting money and time on shit like Adam Sandler movies. This corporate thinking leads to some really poor choices for creating The Interview, the movie that has supposedly led to your heartburn. Here is the red band trailer NSFW:

You guys wanted to combine This is the End with political satire, and yet your own CEO Michael Lynton had the laughable gaul to say “…the film was designed to entertain and not to make a political statement.” Really? Do you think we’re fools? Do you think we don’t remember this:

In case you need a touch-up on U.S. history, we invaded one of those countries Bush listed based on lies. Do you think a goofy, har-har, sex joke comedy approach with political assassinations and the CIA as themes is a good idea?

Let me put what I’m saying in a different and more direct way. Suppose a major film company in Russia (a superpower prone to invading countries) decided to produce and distribute internationally a giddy, frat-bro comedy about a couple of guys sent to Washington, DC  to interview President Obama and before that trip, they are approached by KGB (known to torture people) asking them to assassinate him? And they threw in a scene like this near the end?:

Now I know you guys don’t think much of Obama, but don’t you think people here would be outraged?

Didn’t it occur to you during the production of the movie that simply changing the name of the North Korean dictator character to something other than his real name could have saved you a shitload of headaches? Is there anyone there who could have spoken up saying that perhaps a dark, more straight-laced comedy is a better tone for this type of movie? We’re not stupid. I mean, for God’s sake, we still watch the greatest political satire ever made. That movie used the pseudonyms President Muffley and Premier Kissoff for leaders and it’s in your catalog!

2. Reckless: Your own security employees warned you that your lax security was a disaster in the making and you ignored them.

You should have contacted Wally Amos, the originator of Famous Amos cookies, a long time ago when he recounted that the worst mistake he ever made that led to him losing his company was not listening to his employees.

Fusion has a fascinating post that Aaron Sorkin, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Howard Stern and other defenders had better read before they open their mouths and continue putting their feet in them. Some of your former security employees –among the scant 11 you hired among a 7000 person work force to handle all your cyber security–were not surprised with the hack, given the shockingly nonchalant attitude of Jason Spaltro,  the then-Executive Director of Information Security for you during the aughts.

Spaltro practically advertised his company’s lack of security by letting everyone know that you had no alternative to safeguarding passwords beyond writing them on Post-It Notes and hiding them somewhere. One former employee stated that a stash of important passwords were all compiled on one file under the tag “My Passwords” (perhaps the lure created by someone setting up the inside job)? What happened to Spaltro after the infamous Anonymous hack of Sony Playstations exposing 77 million accounts? He stayed on the job and, in fact, he is your current Senior Vice-President of Information Security due to get a salary increase plus bonus from $300K to $400K.

3. Internet-hating, possibly felonious: You and the MPAA are willing to break the internet and possibly bribe public officials to help do it.

Plenty of bandwidth will be spent on a 25-page list of your employees complaints and frustrations with you, including pending lawsuits based on your HR department’s acquiring very private medical records.

However, I want to concentrate on a matter brought up by Mike Masnick at TechDirt. He references Russell Brandom’s article “Project Goliath: Inside Hollywood’s Secret War Against Google” in The Verge. “Goliath” is your code word for Google.

It’s no secret you, the other studios and the MPAA despise Google. But now, leaks reveal plans that the MPAA is courting the bribery of attorney generals in several states to crack down on them. Hiring Steve Fabrizio,  a powerful, highly-driven lawyer connected to the piracy-cracking law firm Jenner and Block, the MPAA with your help is trying to lure AGs into getting tough with Google, thereby making the next attempt at passing SOPA much easier:

May 8, 2014: Fabrizio to group. “We’ve had success to date in motivating the AGs; however as they approach the CID phase, the AGs will need greater levels of legal support.” He outlines two options, ranging from $585,000 to $1.175 million, which includes legal support for AGs (through Jenner) and optional investigation and analysis of (“ammunition / evidence against”) Goliath. Both options include at least $85,000 for communication (e.g. “Respond to / rebut Goliath’s public advocacy, amplify negative Goliath news, [and] seed media stories based on investigation and AG actions.”).

I dunno, Sony. Sounds like bribery to me.

So, let’s recap: your employees are complaining and warning you that your cyber security is horrendous. You allowed the production of a movie calling for the assassination of an actual sitting leader of another country, a move that even your biggest of big bosses–who rarely, if ever, gets involved with your film productions–says was a bad idea (I’m wagering that his frowning upon The Interview is a larger factor in getting the movie pulled than any real threat of human harm from North Korea). And finally, your hacked emails expose you folks as spoiled, bitchy, backstabbing, inconsiderate whiners and hypocrites ready to bribe government officials into getting your way.

And you warn journalists to not do their jobs and obey, sorta like Maureen Dowd did, right?

Fuck you.

Sincerely,
Legendary Lew Ojeda

SNL’s “Cut” Ferguson Sketch Shows NBC Knows TV’s Dwindling Importance

Kip (Kenan Thompson) and Jenny (Cecily Strong) try getting through a horrible news morning on their sunny TV show. Courtesy: NBC/YouTube

Kip (Kenan Thompson) and Jenny (Cecily Strong) try getting through a horrible news morning on their sunny TV show. Courtesy: NBC/YouTube

by Legendary Lew

This past weekend, NBC cut a sketch from Saturday Night Live that it claimed the long-running series did not have time to perform.  The comedy bit in question was the airing of a local St. Louis happy morning “news” show called “Rise and Smile St. Louis.” Co-hosts Kip and Jenny (Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong) struggle to make it through the show the morning after riots rocked Ferguson.

Although, there certainly will be buzz over whether the network was too nervous to show the sketch, its airing on television, I think, is a moot point, especially when the bit made it online to YouTube and will be eventually be watched by more people than it would have on just TV alone.

A bigger point to raise is that it did get released publicly online while Ferguson, Eric Garner’s death and further issues of police brutality are fresh in the public’s mind.  Think Progress astutely points out this is a rare instance when SNL goes for a controversial and deeply evocative emotional issue head on.  If Jon Stewart didn’t know what to say, SNL sure did and did so terrifically:

The skit reminded me of some political comedy classics recorded on vinyl back in Charlie Manna - Rise & Fall Of The Great Societythe late 1960s and early 70s, when LP’s were practically the only serious outlet for very biting social commentary like this.  One of the few examples I could find of a comedy sketch on rioting done while the memories were still fresh was “Park Avenue Riots” by comic Charlie Manna and co-written by future “All in the Family” writer Michael Ross.

In fact, the other major TV parallel example of riot satire I could think of is the famed Harry Belafonte appearance on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1968. Singing a medley of some of his famous tunes beginning with “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” the lyrics were reworked to match scenes of the the Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention and riots, which had taken place only a few weeks prior.

CBS snipped this performance from the show and eventually the Brothers’ legendary fight with the network’s censorship issues led the network to break their contract and cancel the series.

Contrast the network’s decision with today: Belafonte’s performance could not be seen for many years. The SNL skit, however, can be seen online and shared freely. NBC may be nervous about airing it on a medium with older audiences, but understands how younger viewers consume their media. This understanding is, in fact, blurted out by Jenny in the morning show when she castigates Chef Darrell (SNL guest host James Franco) for inappropriate comments he makes while cooking up a frittata:

“Too late. You said it, and now we’re all on YouTube forever.”

NBC didn’t “cut the skit” for time. They knew it would live with a longer life of its own online, and indeed it does with currently over 2 million hits on YouTube. That popularity is another indication that TV, in its traditional form, is a dying medium. It needs the reach and relevance of the world wide web to be vital to young audiences and to provide voices and views that counter the mainstream.

Why Making “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” the Worst Rated Movie on IMDB is a Mistake

Cameron will haunt your movie screens even more now

Cameron will haunt your movie screens even more now

by Legendary Lew

As of today, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas is gracing the list of IMDB’s Bottom 100 as the worst ranking movie on a site with over 2 million entries. Friendly Atheist “congratulated” Cameron for the dubious honor, gleefully boasting the movie is now rated even lower than From Justin to Kelly.

Sticking it to Cameron with this barrel bottom rating may seem like a great idea, but I think it’s actually counterproductive. I was very happy to share and laugh at the awful trailer for the movie and to share a post exposing the former child star’s attempt to rig Rotten Tomatoes. However, giving Saving Christmas the rock bottom rank on IMDB doesn’t help for a few reasons:

1. Cameron Now has a Reason to Play Victim

When he tried to rig Rotten Tomatoes, Cameron looked like a petty nincompoop.  KCSC‘s current rank on IMDB is based on the votes of less than 2000 users.  The next two ranked titles, Birdemic and Gunday, have their ratings based on 9K and 50K voters, respectively. Some of the posted reviews on IMDB for this faith-based movie were positive and others completely irrelevant, such as this one:

Ultimately if Christmas returned to its more simple religious roots (“reason for the season”), the vast economic pump that enriches, oh, Koch Industries and everyone else who keeps the religious right in power would be gone and they would, gasp, lose vast sums of money… One wonders why Cameron has made such a film when most Christians scream about the commercialism… I suppose Cameron isn’t so much saving Christmas as he’s saving the economy for his pay masters.

There had to have been rigging going on for this movie, perhaps by atheists or others who can’t stand Cameron. Yes, Cameron may go public with cries of Christian persecution, but with its current #1 ranking based on only 2000 voters, it seems unlikely all those one-star reviews were organic occurrences.

2. This Could Influence The Razzies

One of the problems I had with the last few Razzies was the voting done for what seemed like spite in some of the categories. Lindsay Lohan and Halle Berry were nominated for Razzies, I’m convinced, not for giving the worst performances, (indeed, I believe Lohan was great in The Canyons and was easily the only thing good about InAPPpropriate Comedy), but simply because they happen to be famous talents in awful films.

Saving Christmas is a very small film that would garner zero attention were it not for Cameron’s dickish ways.  The stats for the movie prove that it’s not burning up the town. So the question is, why give this movie the possibility of getting more attention by pulling a stunt that could influence Razzie voters into giving nominations for a movie that should just disappear from public consciousness? I podcast a yearly Razzies show on my website. If this movie gets nominations, that means I’ll have to watch it, and I’ll blame that on anyone who’s helped to get this movie on the IMDB Bottom 100. I don’t want to have to see Saving Christmas. Please help a guy out here.

3. IMDB’s Worst Movie is PR Gold

The best thing to happen to a filmmaker who makes a bad movie is to make the worst movie. People want to see “the worst movie ever made.” If you don’t believe me, ask Michael Stephenson, whose film career had a resurgence because of Troll 2. He even made a documentary about its cult success, Best Worst Movie. Tommy Wiseau enjoys cult stardom with every sold-out performance of The Room, the viewing experience being enhanced by his personal appearances. Had he been alive today, I’m convinced director Ed Wood could have sold-out personal appearances with revivals of Glen or Glenda or Plan Nine from Outer Space.

If Saving Christmas remains number one on the Bottom 100 of IMDB, Cameron continues extending the 15 minutes of fame that should have run out a long time ago. Add to that, he’s a grifter, using his gospel teachings to further his misogyny, homophobia and ignorance of evolution. Stephenson and Wiseau had to figure out that “worst movie” status is actually a gold mine. Cameron doesn’t have to figure that out. He already has. He gets media attention and free publicity for every crazy video he appears in.

We don’t need to feed the beast.

Welcome to The Trampling Channel 2014

Courtesy: Wonkette

Courtesy: Wonkette

by Legendary Lew

Ah yes, everyone loves a tradition, and here at The Underground Multiplex, I’m no different. So now, without further ado, are some scenes of shoppers giving thanks for cheap, slave-made goodies for Xmas. Perhaps, there’s also thanks for the ability to slap and uppercut competitive shoppers along the way. Enjoy the weekend and please try to refrain from purchasing any non-emergency items during this time. Retailers will still be around after the weekend, I promise you.

It’s all smiles and happiness over at Fox “News” with this report of white looting Black Friday.

Cardiac damage is the reason for the season at this Wal-Mart:

It’s nice to see that a major US export is now the horrid tradition of Black Friday:

Oscar-Nominated Director Lexi Alexander Supports File-Sharing & Copyright Reform in One of the Best Damn Posts Ever Written on the Subject

lexialexander

by Legendary Lew

Oscar-nominated director Lexi Alexander came out swinging in a pro-file sharing post on her blog a couple of days ago, and man oh man, is it a doozy.

Alexander does a brilliant job calling out Hollywood for its faults, while also venting her frustration with pirates who belittle the art of filmmaking. I urge you to read her entire post on file-sharing, but I want to share with you this great passage from her post:

“We’re at the point where a studio consciously makes a shitty sequel, about which the filmmaker publicly states that he knows it’s shit (I don’t have to mention his name, you all know him) but that he couldn’t give two fucks…because all those stupid people out there will go buy a ticket anyway (and they did, as we now know)…File-sharers on the other hand don’t have a dog in this fight. They just care about good entertainment. That’s what I love about torrent sites, their illegal status has one huge advantage: No studio manipulation or propaganda. Go on any legal site and you’re instantly bombarded with “a-five-star-adventure” slogan pulled from reviews published in outlets whose main income is…you guessed it: Movie Studio advertisements. You know what it takes for an indie movie, which doesn’t get the reviews or the marketing budget, to stand out from all that crap? Word of mouth. Guess who can give you the strongest word of mouth campaign ever? That’s right, file sharers. Don’t believe me? Google UNTHINKABLE, MAN FROM EARTH, INK, etc.

Oh, Lexi, I love you!

Alexander points out that she’s one of the few vocal proponents of file-sharing (thank you, Lexi, for not calling it “piracy,” a term I thought was dumb to use from the beginning). The file-sharing fight will become a major irony in a few years, because 1) some Hollywood people support her views and are closeted about them so they already exist and share files, and 2) Hollywood will have to eventually deal with the existence of a fully-functioning torrent system that can evade all attempts to shut them all down. As I’ve mentioned in the past here on TUGM, most of Hollywood doesn’t understand they are missing out on PR opportunities supporting free torrent sites instead of their “cloud”streaming ripoffs. Alexander touches on this topic as well.

The Hollywood system of production and distribution sucks and is a reason to stop watching Hollywood movies.

Here’s a clip of director Lexi Alexander speaking to MSU students:

President Obama Favors Net Neutrality; Asks FCC to Reclassify Internet to Save It from Interference

by Legendary Lew

President Obama made a great and important decision today in standing for the rights of individuals to be able to use the internet without an outside force trying to slow it down (even more) or get to decide what sites you’ll go to.

This, along with the ACA, should really be remembered as part of his legacy: he urged the FCC not to break the internet.

The President makes his argument in the context of consumers, but the importance of a free and open internet is essential to artists, performers, filmmakers and other creators as well. A reclassification under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is crucial for everyone on every level.

Progressives on the grassroots level: ask for the GOP responses and record the nutbags who disagree with the President. They will be there, rest assured. You want to get young people to the polls next time? Let them know about the politicians who favored selling the internet to the highest bidder.

If you want the FCC to make the right decision, go to this link and politely tell them you favor a reclassification of the internet as essential communication under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.