Wait, did we just see the same thing? Art that’s subject to interpretation

Posted in theater by Diane on March 29, 2010

You don't wanna know what's going on inside

I’m all for ambiguity in art, but sometimes I get startled by how differently people interpret the same movie or play. Last Saturday, for example, my friend and I saw “Forgiveness” at the tiny Black Dahlia Theatre on Pico. The play was very good; we both agreed about that. But what, exactly, was going on between the father and step-daughter?

Was history repeating itself or were we flashing back? Both? The similarities between daughter and step-daughter added to the murkiness — and the foreboding.

Does it matter which way you interpret those final scenes? Prolly not. Either way, you worry about young Jillian in that house; the actual act is secondary to the fallout that has already occurred or may repeat itself. David Schulner grapples with religion, addictions and forgiveness; he is less interested in sin itself than the struggle to make peace with human frailties.


Let Us Now Praise: Sara Gilbert on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Posted in Let Us Now Praise, TV by Diane on March 29, 2010

Sure, he's tormented, but what about the dying girl?

Yes, I know it’s not cool to watch “Grey’s Anatomy” these days, let alone single it out for praise. But I must salute the writers for the Dying Cancer Girl storyline and Sara Gilbert for her performance as said patient.

Dying Cancer Girl has made her peace with death wants the doctors to grant her Physician Assisted Suicide. As usual, the case is used for character development of a series regular: While Iraq war veteran Teddy is fine with the request, Owen Hunt is not. Turns out he never got over the time he went along with a similar request on the battlefield.

This aspect was all very moving, but it was nowhere near as compelling as the patient’s plight. D.C.G. spoke exactly like my father did near the end of his long struggle with the Big C. He did all that he could to beat it, railing when the doctors at Sloan-Kettering told him there was nothing more they could do for him, but eventually he, too, made his peace with death, and did all he could to prepare us for it.

Owen’s guilty torment seemed a tad overwrought in comparison to Dying Cancer Girl’s concerns. Almost intrusive. Nothing like a Life or Death struggle to put things into perspective.

Blockbuster brags about its windows. But will they help it survive?

Posted in Blu-ray, DVD, Netflix, Redbox, rentals, VOD, Warner by Diane on March 23, 2010

Armed with an updated (presumably) revenue-share agreement with Warner Bros., Blockbuster is squaring off against Netflix and Redbox.

The ailing chain is touting today’s availability of “The Blind Side” at Blockbuster stores, by mail or on demand. Netflix and Redbox, which recently agreed to a 28-day rental window in exchange for improved terms, does not yet have access to the movie, which notched an Oscar win for Sandra Bullock earlier this month.

The question: How much will this new window help the chain, and rental stores in general, compete against popular Netflix and Redbox? Blockbuster is making a big deal out of the fact that it’s the only “multi-channel provider” with access to big movies on street date. But is it really that great a selling point with consumers?

Studios would prefer consumers buy their movies on disc or via download. Barring that, they would prefer consumer rent  movies on demand or at a Blockbuster; the economics are better that way. (Netflix operates on a subscription-based model; Redbox’s bargain pricing is considered a threat to sales, VOD and revenue-sharing rental chains like Blockbuster.)

As for digital: The release carefully notes that existing deals remain in place. The updated deal only applies to DVD and Blu-ray.

So no, bloggers, the studios aren’t really giving Blockbuster scandalously preferential treatment. They’re just agreeing to continue supplying the ailing chain with discs at a time its future looks shaky.

UPDATE: LATimes reports that the new revenue-sharing arrangement improved terms for both parties.

Blockbuster release (via paidContent)


What are film libraries worth these days?

Posted in digital media, DVD, movies, VOD by Diane on March 18, 2010

Who really wants MGM, and what are they willing to pay for it? Six years ago, the Sony-led consortium that bought the Lion overpaid for a library that had already been mined exhaustively. Not that many  people were willing to admit it at the time.

Now that the DVD bubble has burst, however, people are taking a closer look at the troubled asset. Drowning in $3.7 billion debt, it is unlikely to draw anywhere near $5 billion it last commanded.

The next round of bids are due tomorrow, with Time Warner apparently still in the hunt. Relativity Media’s hedge fund backer Elliott Associates is apparently out, though it’s not clear to me how interested it was in the buy.

The bigger question is what film libraries are worth these days. The DVD glory days are over, with more people opting to rent rather than buy movies on disc. Video on demand is growing, but still very small.

Will VOD and other movie delivery technologies help make up for DVD declines? The future’s still unclear, the experts admitted at the Film Finance Forum earlier this  month. But they also said that companies overreacted to the DVD decline, slashing valuations of individual film earnings too far.

Which leads me back to my original question: What, then, are film libraries worth?

More on expected MGM bids: Deadline Hollywood, Bloomberg, The Wrap, WSJ


Catching up: Linkage

Posted in awards season, books, box office, indie film, movies, Variety by Diane on March 17, 2010

Been remiss in posting links to various stories that have kept me busy the past few months. In no particular order: Here are two stories I did for ShoWest, one on this summer’s tentpoles and the other on potential sleeper hits. (Attempting to answer, in other words, what this summer’s “Devil Wears Prada” might be.)

I did a story on successful mystery novelists that may finally be emerging from Hollywood development hell. Maybe. One of those profiled: Fellow Lord Jeff Harlan Coben. His book “Tell No One” was finally made into a movie in France and now in the process of being remade by producer Kathleen Kennedy.

Four of the best picture nominees dealt with infidelity of one form or another. So I wrote about it, comparing cinematic cheating to the reaction to Tiger’s marital woes. Also did a report on the Film Finance Forum earlier this month (harder than ever for those without domestic distribution to get financial backing they need to make the film in the first place) and ongoing shakeout in the PR ranks.

What else? The tension between creativity and client control in branded entertainment, that’s what.