Archive for October, 2009

Dennis Hopper Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer

Friday, October 30th, 2009

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As if we needed yet another reason to do what we can to fight cancer. On top of the hundreds of thousands of cancer-related deaths the U.S. is plagued with every year, and just a short time after we lost Patrick Swayze to pancreatic cancer, The Associated Press (via Canoe) reports that two-time Oscar nominee Dennis Hopper has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The 73-year-old actor has canceled his travel plans, as well as his attendance at an exhibition of his artwork in Melbourne in order to focus on his treatment. Said treatment is said to be part of a "special program" at the University of Southern California, according to Hopper's manager, Sam Maydew, and they are "hoping for the best." That's not exactly an optimistic quote, which might not be so surprising. This news comes just days after the actor was hospitalized for "showing severe flulike symptoms" and getting treated for dehydration. If those symptoms were the cancer, that cannot be a good sign. And even if they were just the flu, that can't be good for his health and strength.

Nevertheless, we hope for the best and that Mr. Hopper makes a full and speedy recovery.

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A Sad Update On the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ Kids

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

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The winds of Hollywood move at a rapid pace, quickly replacing one drama with the next. The thing is, though, the drama doesn't go away. Earlier this year, the cinematic world was buzzing over the fate of the young kids from Slumdog Millionaire. There was the culture shock between Oscar fanfare and slum life, rumors about selling Rubina Ali for profit, and the demolition of their home.

Now The Associated Press reports that the kids could lose their trust fund. It's not a case of movie people jerkitude -- it seems that Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail is only going to school 37% of the time, while Rubina Ali only makes it 27% of the time. The claimed culprit: out-of-slum jetsetting. Trust administrator Noshir Dadrawala says: "They are constantly going to Paris and Cochin and Chennai. That's fine, but go over the weekend, not at the sacrifice of school." (For Ali, travel that's presumably for her many performances and memoir PR.) If their attendance doesn't improve to 70%, their monthly $120 stipend will be stopped, and they will forfeit the later lump-sum money they're set to receive. In response, Azhar's mother Shameen says these absences are due to the death of his father this September from tuberculosis: "He would cry often, so I kept him home from school for a while" -- and that she's determined to improve his attendance and get him an education.

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Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Like English, Spanish has a knack for neologism. Ken Ellingwood’s article in the LA Times provides a glossary of new words and phrases related to Mexican drug violence.

My favorite is encajuelado:

Encajuelado: Based on the word for “trunk,” a body dumped in the trunk of a car. This is a common method for disposing of victims of a drug hit. Often, the bodies are bound and gagged with packing tape or are encobijados, wrapped in blankets.

When something is happening enough that they made a word for it, you know there’s a problem.

Ellingwood’s glossary explains that an encajuelado is sometimes accompanied by a handwritten narcomensaje, a scrawled drug message meant to threaten rival drug cartels or government security forces. Messages sometimes take the form of banners, known as narcomantas, and are hung from bridges or in other public places to demonstrate a gang’s audacity.

As a screenwriter, you have to be careful how much of this esoterica you try to use in your script. Particularly if characters are speaking English, trying to wedge a “narcomensaje” into dialogue is going to feel forced. Yet a reference to a character being encajuelado, once explained, is chilling.

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Hulu is not dead to me

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

CNET has good interview with Eric Garland, the CEO of media measurement company Big Champagne, talking about file sharing and the future of film and television.

Most of his points aren’t new, but they’re delivered in less-hysterical terms than you often see.

The music people used to say, “How can you can compete with free?” And now you ask anybody in digital music and they’ll tell you, “I’m just trying to compete effectively with free.” They’ve embraced the very condition that up until very recently they said they would reject. I’m telling you, you are going to compete with free. Sometimes you’re even going to win, once you make the commitment to living in the marketplace as it is and not as you wish it were or as it once was.

Garland shares my sympathy for international viewers, who are often told to wait months for movies that the U.S. gets on day one. If you don’t give the audience a convenient and legal way to watch something, they’re going to find a convenient and illegal way. And it’s hard to blame them.

I have much less sympathy for users outraged that Hulu is going to start charging. “Hulu is dead to me” is the common refrain on messageboards and Twitter.

But here’s the thing: you don’t have a god-given right to free shows, just as you can’t walk into Barnes and Noble and start shoving books in your backpack. We’ve conflated the ideas of intellectual liberty and zero cost into a big bundle of entitlement.

While I disagree with many points in Chris Anderson’s Free , he makes a useful distinction between flavors of “free.” I’d argue that movies and television need to be free as in accessible — by a global audience on their timetable. But you can have that kind of free without setting the price at zero. In fact, charging for something often makes it more accessible, by making it economically worthwhile to keep the systems running.

Right now, Hulu competes very effectively with free torrents on price. But if it chooses to move to a subscription model, it can ultimately offer more content at higher speeds, allowing it to compete better with free torrents on access.

Netflix is often seen as a tremendous bargain, offering a vast selection of movies and TV on demand for a low subscription price. That’s what Hulu may morph into, and that’s not cause for alarm.

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When Not Acting, Sean Penn Hunts Down Fidel Castro

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

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Remember when Sean Penn decided to back away from Hollywood to tend to his family? Well, that didn't seem to go too well. Only a short time later in August, Robin Wright Penn filed for divorce. So much for finding familial focus. With all that freed time, one might think he'd chill with his kids, or head back to acting. Nope. Why do that when you can hunt down dictators?

TMZ reports that Penn has once again put on his part-time journalist hat and flown to Cuba to hunt down an interview with Fidel Castro for Vanity Fair. He hopped on a plane with Diana Jenkins earlier this week in Las Vegas, headed for Havana. (I'm guessing that there's a stop along the way. As far as I know, flying from the U.S. to Cuba is not exactly okay.) But there's a little he-said, she-said among the sources. Barclays contacts say he's going there to meet Castro and talk about how the Obama administration has affected Cuba. Penn's rep told the site that a meeting is possible, but there's no current appointment or plan to meet with the dictator. Methinks that's just evading the topic. One doesn't go to Cuba, have no plans to meet with Castro, yet say that a meeting is possible.

Penn has entered sticky situations before -- most notably with Hugo Chavez, who he thinks is "much more positive for Venezuela than he is negative." But is that enough to make him the first Western journalist to interview the man in three years, since Castro stepped out of the spotlight?

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Final Draft update adds highlighting, quicker PDFs

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Final Draft 8.01 adds one thing I really wanted — a highlighter right in the toolbar.

And for those frustrated by FD8 forcing you to create .pdfs through the Print dialog box, you can now make a .pdf right from the file menu. (Weirdly, the vestigial disabled Email menu item is still there.)

I’ve tested the new version for all of three minutes, so I certainly can’t vouch for its stability. And I haven’t tested its Script Compare ability at all, but it could be a handy way of created starred changes when you forget to turn revisions on.

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Monday Night Poll: Does ‘Saw VI’ Deserve An X Rating?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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Sunday over at Cinematical's sister site, Horror Squad, vigilant contributor Brian Salisbury picked up a news story from Arrow in the Head about Saw VI receiving no less than an 'X' rating for violence from the ratings board in Spain. While this might be minor news if the rating board awarded 'X' ratings to its predecessors, or even just some of the other horror films released in recent years that borrowed from the first film's gag-inducing inspiration, evidently Saw VI is the first-ever movie that has been awarded the killer rating for violence in the country's history, which begs makes us wonder what the board saw in, uh, Saw that made it so offensive?

Despite having seen only the first and sixth installments in the Saw series, I can attest that the new film is indeed gross and gory, featuring scenes like a showdown between two victims to shave off enough body mass (or maybe just body parts) to survive, and a merry-go-round fitted with six victims who more or less indiscriminately suffer from direct shotgun blasts to the chest. But personally I'm not sure that the movie is really any more violent or gratuitous than any of its predecessors, even those that I haven't seen; while one could perhaps make the argument that many of Jigsaw's victims were dubiously "guilty" at worst (or even outright innocent), making their deaths more tragic, it seems unlikely that the murkier morality of this film would earn it a harsher rating than any of the others.

Since I'm sure there are plenty of readers who have seen all of the films and are ready to weigh in with their own opinions, we'll put the question to you: Is Saw VI deserving of an 'X' rating?

View Poll

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Netflix streaming to PlayStation 3

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Sony and Netflix announced today that starting next month, you’ll be able to use Netflix’s “watch instantly” feature through the PlayStation 3. After spending its life banished to the garage office, this change might finally get my PS3 a place in the main house.

Netflix streaming is already available on XBox (Gold), Roku, and a few other devices. I’ve read interviews with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings talking about his goal of making it ubiquitous, and this seems like part of that plan.

The Nines has been streaming for a few months now through Netflix. While I don’t get viewer numbers, a scan of Twitter shows that a lot of people are watching it this way. It’s legal, legit, and actually lets filmmakers get paid.

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‘Avatar’ Controversy: Did James Cameron Steal the Story?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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While geeks the world over are eagerly awaiting Avatar, the return of James Cameron to the original sci-fi territory he's proven a master over with The Abyss and Terminator/Terminator 2, fans of obscure science fiction novellas from 1957 are being struck with deja vu. A reader tipped off genre champions io9 to the story Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson, a story that sounds remarkably like Cameron's supposedly original script that revolves around humans that use the bodies of an alien species via a mental connection as physical avatars, and proceed to use said avatars to exploit the resources of the alien's home world.

From the io9 post, "Like Avatar, Call Me Joe centers on a paraplegic - Ed Anglesey - who telepathically connects with an artificially created life form in order to explore a harsh planet (in this case, Jupiter). Anglesey, like Avatar's Jake Sully, revels in the freedom and strength of his artificial created body, battles predators on the surface of Jupiter, and gradually goes native as he spends more time connected to his artificial body."

Read the rest over at SciFi Squad

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Where’s the Line Between Fandom and Studio Rights?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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The long arm of Warner Bros. law strikes again. For many years now, the studio has been known for being quite strict with their projects. I'm not sure if any property felt that quite so much as the television world of Buffy; numerous fan sites were shut down during the run of the show, and post-finale, the uber popular Musical events were nixed. Now it's happening to fans of our favorite young, big-screen wizards.

The BBC reports that a woman planning a couple Harry Potter supper club nights for Halloween has been told to stop infringing on the studio's rights. Ms. Marmite Lover runs a small restaurant of sorts out of her home -- selling tickets and then making food for her guests, sometimes themed. For Halloween, she chose to make a Harry Potter-themed meal with a Diagon Alley entrance with password, a sorting hat, and food that includes butterbear and Fizzpop chocolate frogs. As part of their letter, Warner Bros. says: "We would therefore ask that you refrain from holding and/or offering for sale any tickets to the Harry Potter Nights and confirm to me by return email that the Harry Potter Nights will not go ahead as planned. Warner does not, of course, object to you holding a generic wizard/Halloween night at the Underground Restaurant."

She's since changed the name of the event, which is going on as planned, although I imagine Warner Bros. was probably expecting a little less Pottermania through the whole event (the Alley, hat, etc.). But how far should studios stretch their rights in cases like this?

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