If you're going to market your movie to me, have fun with it.
That's really all I ask. I think the key to great movie marketing is that you have to figure out what movie you've made, and then crack the way to present that film to the public. Don't lie about what movie you've made. Don't hide the movie you've made. Don't shroud the thing in mystery so completely that no one knows what the movie is. And for god's sake, don't ruin it as you try to sell it to me.
So far, I think Fox has done a fairly masterful job with the actual materials they've released from "Prometheus." Their one sheets are interesting. The trailer that evokes the original 1979 "Alien" trailer without ever explicitly saying "Alien" anywhere on it is effective. They're trying.
And today, there's a very cool new puzzle piece that they've dropped in the form of a fake TED talk. Luke Scott directed the piece, which was conceived and designed by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof. You'd barely know that from the actual TED page, though, which plays it all very straight-faced.
If you're going to market your movie to me, have fun with it.
I must confess that I am fascinated by the new film "Project X." It's not a particularly complicated film, in either concept or execution, but maybe that simplicity is what I like about it. At heart, "Project X" is a John Hughes movie from the '80s, right down to its final shot, but it's wrapped in a level of chaos and decadence that sums up the career of producer Todd Phillips with a gleeful degree of anarchy.
This may be the biggest budget found-footage film I've seen so far, and this and "Chronicle" both suggest that the language of found-footage is finding its way into the mainstream in a very real way, and that there are ways to crank it up. This is the story of Thomas Kub (Thomas Mann) and his 17th birthday party, as thrown by him, his friend Costa (Oliver Cooper), and their friend JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown). It is strictly forbidden by Mom (Caitlin Dulany) and Dad (Peter Mackenzie) before they leave town, but Costa browbeats the much more pliant Thomas, convincing him that this is for his own good. Costa overplans this thing on a scale that is like mounting a full-sized D-Day to take control of a playground. This party isn't just big. This party isn't just crazy. This party is the end of the goddamn world.
Danny De Vito is a hardcore fan of home video, and has been for at least 20 years, so it's good to hear he's preparing Blu-ray special editions of his films "Hoffa" and "War Of The Roses" right now.
I met DeVito for the first time when I was working at Dave's Video in the early '90s. There were three customers at that store who bought everything that came out, and I'm not exaggerating. Danny DeVito, Ivan Reitman, and Steven Spielberg were voracious fans of laserdisc, and they all had the same standing order with the store. Whatever we ordered, we were to order them copies for purchase as well. I can't even imagine what DeVito's laserdisc collection must have looked like, but I know he took it seriously.
When it came to transferring his own films, he went above and beyond. Both "Hoffa" and "War Of The Roses" got the deluxe treatment from Fox at the time, and when we sat down to talk about his work in the new film "The Lorax," I couldn't resist asking him about Blu-ray, and he told me that he's getting ready to bring those films out again, with new features added just to take advantage of Blu-ray.
There are days where I think the Internet is one great big snark machine designed to take everything and transform it into this non-stop barrage of one-liners and attitude and irritating self-satisfaction, and I'm sure I'm as much a part of that as anyone, and then there are days where the Internet coughs up something so human and wonderful that it wipes away any complaint I might have.
I didn't see this until yesterday, but it's actually been bouncing around since Friday, and I think author Harry Turtledove might have just won me as a fan permanently.
By now, we've become used to the idea of Make-A-Wish and the way they reach out to help people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. I've seen some pretty remarkable acts of giving since I moved to LA from people who were deeply moved by their encounters with the kids they came in contact with, and I think if you're in a position to help someone whose life is about to be cut brutally short, there's an obligation to try and do it.
3:00 PM: "Drew, I'd like for you to live-blog the Oscars."
That was the e-mail this morning. "Oh, no," I thought. "I just RT'd my link from last year about why I don't report on the Oscars or watch the Oscars or anything. Besides, with both Awards Campaign and In Contention in the HitFix family, we've got awards covered like crazy." I was filled with a sudden dread at the idea that I might have to eat some crow and suddenly spend my day reporting on this thing that I so studiously avoid all year long.
Then there was a knock at the front door. HitFix is, of course, positively swimming in it. I mean, look around the website. Swanky, right? I had no idea how dedicated Greg Ellwood was to the idea of me doing Oscar coverage until I opened the door and found his ultimate weapon waiting there for me. He arranged for Apple to deliver a prototype Apple TV to the house for me to watch the show. And I'm not talking about the box you hook up to your existing HD screen. I'm talking about the long-rumored but not-remotely-confirmed actual 70-inch all-included HD television that Apple's developing. I'm not sure how he got it delivered, but an Apple representative, dressed like a Secret Service agent and built like a cartoon superhero, informed me that he was going to have to stay and take the device back at the end of the show.
But for now, I figure I have no choice. I just got everything hooked up in the playroom and turned it on. There are so many apps and possibilities in the programming on this thing that just finding the channel for the Oscars is a bit of a science project. I found one onscreen icon that has a picture of the E! logo and "Alternate" written underneath it. I figure anything that is established as an alternative to the sort of coverage that drove me away from watching the Oscars in the first place is a good thing. And since the whole set appears to be driven by Siri controls, all I had to say is "Alternate, search Oscars," and about ten seconds later, I was watching a red-carpet feed.
I was surprised to see Albert Brooks as the first face I recognized on the red carpet. Surprised, but pleased. I didn't realize he'd be at the show even without his nomination. What was stranger was seeing Lars Von Trier behind him on the carpet, being interviewed by someone else. And it looks like Kirsten Dunst is with him. So... what the hell?
One of the uncomfortable truths of being an artist working in any media is that many times, you have an "expired by" date on your work, whether you like it or not. It is far more common for someone to have a brief period where they are productive and part of the larger cultural conversation and then that period ends and they drop off the face of the earth than it is for someone to have a career that lasts for decades and decades and decades with them always successfully producing work and reaching their audience.
When Sinead O'Connor released her first few albums, I was as onboard as a person could be. I still think "The Lion and the Cobra" and "I Do Not What What I Haven't Got" are two of the best records from my teenage years, and I've worn out or lost more copies of both than I can count. There was a time when I was far more attuned to what was going on in music, and I've had to make my peace with never going to see live music in LA because I have a mortgage and am not prepared to pay scalper prices for every single thing I want to see. Back in the '90s, I saw Sinead play a few times, and she was always impressive live, with pipes that were as good as they were on her albums if not better.
Making a second film can be more difficult than making a first film in many cases, and for reasons that are almost exclusively different in each case. With a first film, you're trying to prove yourself in general. You're simply making the case that you can, indeed, finish a film. You can wrestle something up onto the screen. Good, bad, whatever it is, you can do it.
If you are able to make that first film, getting it seen is a second fight, something almost totally separate from the making of the thing. If you are fortunate enough to not only make your film but also get it seen, that's a win no matter what the film is. And if you get it made, get it seen, and it's actually good? Well, the world's your oyster at that point, right?
Not necessarily. Sometimes, you set up expectations, and those expectations become a trap, and sometimes you find yourself either living up to something or living it down, but either way, you're struggling against something that can lead to real frustration, both for you and for the people you're asking to spend money on your films. With Marston, I'm not sure what happened. He made his breakthrough feature "Maria Full Of Grace" in 2004, and then worked a few times for TV and made another couple of shorts and did a little more TV, but It's taken until now for him to get a second feature made. What's apparent from this second film of his is that he has a real voice and a very particular sensibility and we would certainly be better off if he was working more often.
I am a "Gambit" pimp.
For those of you unfamiliar with the film, you can go ahead and start writing me the "thank you" note you'll eventually send to me right now, because "Gambit" is one of those movies that people get passionate about after they've seen it. I was the same way. I'd never heard of it until QT Quattro, the fourth of Quentin Tarantino's film festivals in Austin where he would take over the Alamo Drafthouse for a week or more and just show prints that he owned. It was February of 2000 when I attended the festival where he showed "Gambit," and here's what I wrote about it afterwards:
I’ve never seen GAMBIT before. In fact, I’ve never heard of it. No matter. I’ve seen it now, and I’m totally taken with it. It’s one of the most consistently clever heist films I’ve seen, and there’s a wonderful balance between the plan the way it should work and the way it finally does work. Herbert Lom and Michael Caine are both excellent in the film, delivering wry comic work, fully engaged by the whole cat and mouse of being thief and target. I have to reserve special praise for McLaine, though. When I was a kid, she was already starring in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, so that’s the image of her I had first. It’s hard to reconcile the wicked funny f**k bunny of THE APARTMENT and this film with her New Age grandmotherly self, but there’s no denying her appeal in this film. She’s such a confident comedian, so knowing, so in command of herself physically, that she energizes the first 20 minutes of the film without saying a single word.
It’s funny what can distract you from a picture. For me, the one thing that jarred me (pun fully intended) in GAMBIT was the score, written by the wonderful Maurice Jarre. The main theme of the film is quoted directly from his own LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It’s a major quote, and it would pull me out of the movie for a moment each and every time it happened. That’s a minor quibble, though, not even a real complaint. The day I complain about watching a great film while listening to Maurice Jarre music, you should remind me to quit doing this. This film is a long con from the moment it starts, and not just for the characters. Sargent and Neames work with confidence and poise to hoodwink the audience, and when we all realized exactly how we were being played, the audience went nuts, cheering wildly at the sheer skill. From that moment on, the film had a blank check of goodwill from me. Thankfully, it’s much more than just one clever moment. It keeps working overtime to the very last frame, which should leave you smiling from ear to ear if you have any affection at all for the genre.
Now, twelve years later, I've seen the film five or six times, and I've grown to love it even more. I have spent those twelve years doing everything I can to motivate other people to see it, which was complicated by the fact that it wasn't on video for the longest time. Right now, it's available for purchase exclusively from Amazon, as part of their Universal Vault Series, but it's also available streaming through Netflix Instant.
One thing that's going to be fascinating to watch unfold in the next few years is the ways films are distributed. We live in an age where the landscape seems to shift daily, and as a result, the people who will be best suited to succeed are the ones who are willing and able to embrace new ways of thinking and who are willing to try new models to deliver movies to people, both theatrically and at home.
On March 1, 2012, next Thursday night, there will be a one-night-only theatrical engagement for the new documentary "No Room For Rockstars," which traces the history of the Vans Warped Tour. Directed by Parris Patton, the film features many of the bands who were featured on the tour over the years.
In addition to showing the film, the event (you can find out which theaters are participating at the film's official website) will also feature a panel discussion with producer Stacy Peralta, director Patton, and several other people including the band Suicide Silence, conducted live from the Santa Monica Laemmle's Monica 4-plex. The film played at the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival, and it will also play at next month's SXSW fest in Austin, before arriving on iTunes on April 2 and DVD on May 15. Festivals, one-night live simulcasts, and then an iTunes release before DVD? That's certainly not the way I'm used to seeing a film get released, but that's good. I like that small films can find their own way these days.
There are very few TV shows from the '90s that have had as big an impact on film comedy today as "The State," which is kind of amazing considering how much of a cult item that was when it was still on the air. Almost everyone from that show has gone on to have a healthy career playing parts in comedies, both mainstream studio fare and edgier indie material. David Wain has been able to carve out a career for himself starting with the well-liked "Wet Hot American Summer," and his last film, "Role Models," was a charming low-key gem.
One of the things that bugs me most in a comedy is that moment that occurs when the laughs stop and the plot kicks in, and "Wanderlust" is guilty of that in a big way. It's a shame, too, because there's a lot of the film that is genuinely funny. The film tells the story of George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston), a married couple who are just taking the big step of buying their first apartment in New York City, and they manage to do so just as the bottom drops out of things. When George loses his job and Linda can't sell her documentary, they begin to suspect they've got to come up with a plan B, and unfortunately, that involves George's psychotically competitive brother Rick (Ken Marino) in Atlanta. As they're driving down to move in with him, they have to stop for the night, and that's how they find Elysium, a commune that's a holdover from the '60s.