Sunday, October 26, 2014

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Australian Film Industry

One thing I'm becoming more aware of as I get older and the world shrinks ever more is how much of my perspective is an illusion of circumstance.

 Take, for instance, this article about the Australian film industry in the Sydney Morning Herald.  It's an interesting read, but it contains some sentences that floored me:
Homegrown films are likely to account for less than 3 per cent of the domestic box office in 2014.
To translate that into American, that means that Australian films account for less than 3% of the Australian box office.  What the hell?

I thought they had a film industry down there.  All these Aussie actors, all these big movies being filmed down there.  But I had it wrong. The Aussie actors move to America because there's no work back home, not because they're cultivated from a thriving film culture.   (You know, like our beloved Brits.)  

The big Hollywood films being produced down there?  It's not because their film infrastructure is cheaper, per se.  It's because their film infrastructure doesn't exist.  It's an untapped resource, the tar sands to L.A.'s depleted oil pump.

The article has more:
It has become a truism recently to say Australians are staying away from Australian films at the cinema.
As an American, this is almost inconceivable to me.  I mean, I've seen a lot of foreign films, but for every film you

Hollywood has truly colonized the planet.

The article goes on to explain some of the reasons Australians don't like Australian films.  They're too dark, they're too stereotyped (or the wrong stereotype), too critically disdained, too limited in their release.

But eventually it gets to, for me, the most interesting part:
Australian films generally hit the cinemas, garner whatever scant attention they can, then disappear. Around 120 days later, they crop up on DVD, Blu-Ray or on iTunes or video on demand (VOD) platforms. But by then, the audience has moved on. For many in the industry, closing this release "window" so that titles are available to view at home on or very close to the day they hit cinemas is the best, perhaps only, chance many Australian films have to succeed. Expect to see some major developments in this area soon.
The ultimate point there....don't go long on Australian theater stocks.  I can be honest about this:  That release window is the only thing keeping theaters alive.

As a business, they are too stuck in their ways, unwilling to change, or --like so many other businesses struggling in this day and age-- unable to change.  Oh, they make a good show of it:  building all the 24-screen multiplexes in the 90s, introduced flashier sound systems, better seats.  Now we have digital projection and, more importantly from a business perspective, digital film distribution.

The release will inevitably shrink, and when it's gone...the multiplex theater will follow.


Light blogging as of late.  You'll have to forgive me.  I've been hiding in my crawlspace, avoiding not just ebola but offensive Halloween costumes and the pot candy police are saying people will be handing out this year.

By the way, if you hear someone worry about pot candy being handed out on Halloween, you should be comforted by this fact:  That shit is expensive.  We're talking, like, five bucks per gummy bear.  No one's going to be giving out pot candy this year, at least not on purpose.  Don't be silly.

And now, the rest of the story.

Received Wisdom I'm Not Sure I Buy

From a review of Amy Poehler's new memoir:
(Tina) Fey reportedly netted a near-$6 million advance for her book, and (Lena) Dunham more than $3 million; Poehler’s fee is undisclosed, but she fits the bill. Women are still underrepresented as writers, directors, and stars of comedy, but the few women who have clawed to prominence on TV can find a comfortable perch in the publishing world.
This "women are still underrepresented" stuff is starting to take the sheen of old or bad information that just keeps getting passed around unchallenged.  I suppose it might come off as a little sexist to ask, "But are they really?"  I mean, I won't pretend to have an answer.  I'm not sure exactly what the acceptable level of representation is, so I can't say if women are "underrepresented" or not, but this is getting a bit absurd.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler "represented" about half of NBC's valuable and highly-rated Thursday night block for, oh, I dunno, years.  Shonda Rimes is on her way to "representing" Shondaland 7 days a week over at ABC.  Show me the 28 year old dude who is writing, directing, and starring in the third season of his HBO show.

In other words, if you're saying "women are still underrepresented," it's not because you've run the numbers.  It's because you haven't been paying attention.

Why We Need Net Neutrality

A lot of supposedly smart people say we don't need net neutrality policies.  This from Matt Yglesias points to why that might be a bit naive:

Over the past year, the company reports that it lost about 155,000 pay television customers. But during this same period revenue from pay television customers actually rose one percent due to higher prices. That's a sign that Comcast isn't really trying to save pay television as a long-term business proposition. The company isn't lowering prices to try to beat reduced customer demand, it's accepting that this will keep shrinking and they're simply trying to squeeze the customer base for all their worth.
I mean, at what point will these economic theorists pull their noses out of their textbooks and see for once and all that these telecom companies don't want to innovate or compete with each other.  They can argue for a "de-regulate" approach all they want, but it's the regulations that are keeping these companies honest.  Not market discipline.

And finally, some wisdom from David Simon, creator of The Wire.
Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and until very recently American television didn’t plan the end. You just tried to keep the franchise going for as long as you could. That lent itself to mediocrity eventually, because you need to be thinking about your last page as soon as you start filming your first.
Damn straight.


This is a reflection of a lack of effort more than anything, but my primary source of "new music" these days is commercials.

This song came up on a Youtube ad, and bam....loved it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Best Team in the NFL

Last year's Super Bowl notwithstanding, it's a great time to be a Bronco fan.  Week to week, if you're watching Broncos games, you're watching some of the best football on the planet. 

Sure, there's hype.  But it's good hype.
It's only October, but the Broncos are the best team in the NFL because of their balance. Look at their roster and then look at their resume. They have dispatched half of the best teams in the league: Indianapolis, San Francisco, Arizona and now San Diego. Denver has arguably faced the toughest schedule in the league, they are 6-1, and they are only getting better.
I like it.

I would also like to note that one of my competitors in my fantasy league made an incredibly smart play when he denied a trade offer I made this week.  I offered Golden Tate and his solid numbers for Immanuel Sanders and his clutch plays. 

Until last week, Sanders hadn't scored any touchdowns, which is why I thought the trade would work.  Oh, he'd catch the third down conversion or inexplicably pick up the long ball with two defenders on his back, but he wasn't scoring. 

Last night, he scored three touchdowns.  And they should have been mine!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Radley Balko is Mostly Useful

So I'd like to formally apologize to Radley Balko.  I wrote a post once that he picked up on his Twitter feed and some of his followers trolled me.  It was all good fun.

Since that time, I've run into people who absolutely adore the guy and I must say the quality of his work has improved since he joined the Washington Post.  I think we would still disagree on a lot of  things, but he's working a beat now, and the man has got it covered.

So, dude, I'm sorry.  You're mostly useful, which means you're not useless at all.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Found on the Web

A video called Animal Kills People 2014.

The description is simple:  Animal Killing The People

It's a "running of the bulls" and as far as I can tell, no people actually got killed.  But Animal Killing the People is my new band name. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Doing it Wrong

The biggest difference between me and the average liberal is that I think there should be some correlation between the goals you have and the actions you take.

For instance, occupying a park will not actually result in bank reform.

Likewise, getting a TV show canceled will not actually result in equality of the sexes.

I mean, I haven't seen Stalker so I don't know if it's a show that "hates women," but such a thing strikes me as rather unlikely.  More likely, it's a show that doesn't conform to feminist expectations, like so many shows out there, and that's why they want to "burn it to the ground."

Try this:  Watch something else.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Asked and Then Answered

In my previous post, I asked:
Will we allow (the NFL), despite their visibility and influence, to remain an organization devoted to the game of football or shall we demand that they be advocates for the social issue of the day?
In a post that attempts to explain why we should go ape-shit over Ray Rice, but not Hope Solo who is also accused of domestic abuse, that question is answered:
Why exactly do we care about domestic violence in the NFL? It’s not because football players are our nation’s leading batterers of women. (In the Atlantic last week, Conor Friedersdorf nominated police officers for that honor.) It’s because domestic violence is a problem bigger than football, one too easily perpetrated in homes across America and excused by law enforcement, and one that is (again) overwhelmingly committed by male partners who exert physical, social, and financial control to keep their victims in their power. Meanwhile, no institution rivals football in its power to exert social and financial pressure on American men and boys. That makes the NFL an awfully convenient perch for tackling this issue.
What utter horseshit.

Just because football is, for the moment, "an awfully convenient perch for tackling" the domestic violence issue does not mean it's an effective one.  Maybe this is one of those situations, like junk food or credit cards, where the convenience of a thing obscures the fact that it's not actually very helpful.

More horseshit:
Domestic violence also serves as a powerful symbol of the toxic masculinity and devaluation of women that football promotes: This is a sport where men are rewarded for beating other men until they can’t even walk or think anymore while women appear solely as sexual objects (a task they perform for a criminal sum) and are systematically underrepresented (to the point of nonexistence) as executives, journalists, coaches, and referees.
Before accepting a premise, one should attempt to challenge it.  It's not clear that the writer of this piece has made that attempt.

What exactly is "toxic masculinity?"  How is "toxic masculinity" different from regular masculinity?  Does football actually promote it?   Can we fairly describe the cheerleaders on the sidelines and the all-male referee crew as "promoting the devaluation of women" or is that just feminist rhetoric?

Frankly, I take issue with the description of football as "a sport where men are rewarded for beating other men until they can’t even walk or think anymore while women appear solely as sexual objects."  Does this demonstrate a keen understanding of the game, or does it demonstrate the exact opposite?

Furthermore, is this misunderstanding the reason why she thinks football is "a convenient perch for tackling the domestic violence issue?"  If she understood football to be the competitive contact sport it is, would she think it so easy to plug domestic violence's square peg into the NFL's round hole?

Probably not.  You have to read all the way to the piece's end to realize it's hopeless.  It's all just bitterness and bad faith and double standards:
(S)pare the indignation about how women’s soccer is somehow doing worse on domestic violence than the NFL. If you believe that, you’re either a raging football apologist, or the commissioner of the NFL.
A raging football apologist?  Hey, if the shoe fits....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stuff to Think About

Undeveloped thought I must think about more:

Could the NFL's October "Breast Cancer Awareness" pink-fest be a contributing factor to its current "problem with women?" 

That is, by volunteering to engage in non-football related advocacy, has the NFL now claimed responsibilities beyond the scope of football?

The size and scope of the NFL does tend to convey upon it certain social responsibilities.  Players are, for better or worse, role models, and the NFL cannot claim no responsibility to the prevailing winds of social discourse.  If Michael Vick is killing dogs and Richie Incognito is hazing teammates, the NFL must respond.

But do they also have to become an animal-rights or anti-bullying advocate as well?  Will we allow them, despite their visibility and influence, to remain an organization devoted to the game of football or shall we demand that they be advocates for the social issue of the day?

It seems to me that there are natural limits as to what the NFL can accomplish when it comes to domestic violence or breast cancer or animal rights.  Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment when our approach to social issues resembles a PR campaign?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back To the Drawing Board

I was reading an interview with David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) about his new book, The Bone Clocks, and a phrase kicked me in the gut.
"the murderous feud between two circles of shadow immortals"
I read that and thought, Oh, you motherfucker.

A story I've been working on, as currently conceived, could be fairly described as being about "the murderous feud between two circles of shadow immortals." 

Now I'll have to read the book to see if I must come up with a new idea.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thanks For the Clarification

Alyssa Rosenberg says:
Nobody is asking that Marvel and DC stop making movies and television shows about male superheroes until we have enough Black Panther, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Wonder Woman movies to constitute parity or proportional representation. Instead, the request is that, in a market where the appetite for superhero movies seems to be infinite, a few of these non-white, non-male characters get some of the slots in an ever-expanding roster that may stretch as far out as 2028.
The ignorance and naivete of this statement boggles my mind.  I don't even know where to start.

*  "In a market where the appetite for superhero movies seems to be infinite..."

Things are often not what they seem.  The appetite for superhero movies is, obviously, not infinite.  It's a trend, one that's been going for a while now, giving it the illusion of permanence, but it's a trend nonetheless.  The comic book A team is already in the reboot and team-up phase, and it's only a matter of time before the B team is exhausted, too.

No golden age lasts forever.   Just ask the good ole reliable Hollywood western.

*   "Nobody is asking that Marvel and DC stop making movies and television shows about male superheroes"

Well, that's nice, but you have to understand the nature of your request.  We are, despite the "ever-expanding" rhetoric, talking about limited resources.  A movie studio is only going to put out X number of pictures a year.  Depending on its size, that number could be very low.

Would it hurt, in such a zero sum game, to have more stories featuring "non-white, non-male characters?"  Hell no.  Done properly, it would be great.  But this is what I don't get:

If you want to pursue stories about "non-white, non-male characters," why would you mine a canon that contains almost exclusively white male characters?  Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America.  You pick a stable of white male characters and then "request" the complete opposite?

It makes no sense!

Alright, so now that the ranting is done, I will say I agree with (some) of her premise.  But something about it bugged me.
Maybe this is a period of adjustment, and flag-flying geeks and nerds will emerge from this upheaval in a better place. Maybe people will see that the video game industry can survive both expansion and criticism. Maybe “Game of Thrones” fans will recognize that the show’s essence will survive even with fewer naked, threatened women on screen. Maybe the bomb threats will stop.
 She doesn't seem to understand that when people are talking about the "geeks and nerds," they're talking about people like her.  People who get all pissed off at Sons of Anarchy because it doesn't play as an afterschool special. 

I mean, bomb threats?  That's ridiculous.  But some of this "criticism," that is too.
"Maybe "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize that the show's essence will survive even with fewer naked, threatened women on screen."

The show's essence?  R-rated adult content, sex and violence and the F word?  Or are we talking about some other essence?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Does the NFL have a "Woman Problem" or do Women have an "NFL Problem?"

Am I getting old or is our culture getting dumber?   People don't like to think of themselves as herd animals, but Jesus Christ, we're a bunch of cows.

Item:  Ray Rice

In case you've been living under a rock, Ray Rice punched his then-fiance/now-wife, then dragged her unconscious body through a hotel.  There's video.  You've probably seen it more than once.

If that leads you to think that Ray Rice is a piece of shit, a failure of a man and a generally horrible human being, then you're onto something.  It should not, on the other hand, lead you here:

Can you believe in women's rights and enjoy football? Can you be angry about Ray Rice and the NFL's inadequate handling of him but still feel okay about watching the game? The answer, to both, is no.
 A couple things:

1)  Liberals need to figure out just exactly why they hate the NFL and then stick with it.  Is it because of concussions?  Is it because of racist team nicknames?  Is it because the NFL is "awful to women?" I get that liberals want Roger Goodell's head on a spike, but they need to come up with a good reason.

Not 10 dumb ones.

2)  "Can you believe in women's rights and enjoy football?"

It is not as obvious to me as it is to Dr. Peggy Drexler that the answer is "No."  Millions of women, it seems to me, are quite capable of simultaneously believing in women's rights and also enjoying the game of football.  To suggest they are not should be as insulting as the idea that women must choose between their careers and having children.

3)   "Can you be angry about Ray Rice and the NFL's inadequate handling of him but still feel okay about watching the game?"

Again, I don't see why not.  Ray Rice is one man on one team.  And while I agree the NFL's handling of the Rice situation was initially inadequate, shouldn't the later response --rule changes and banishing Rice from the league-- have any influence over our thinking?

Me, I'm going to watch as many games as possible today, comfortable in the knowledge that Ray Rice won't be playing in any of them.