mfioretti: movies*

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  1. The deal puts Fox's movie studio, 20th Century Fox, under the Disney umbrella, bringing with it the studio's intellectual property. Having 20th Century Fox's "X-Men" and "Avatar" under the same roof as Disney's "The Avengers" and "Star Wars" could have huge ramifications in both the streaming world and the film industry.

    Disney announced in August that it will pull its content from Netflix, effectively ending its relationship with the streaming service to start its own in 2019. This means Netflix users will no longer be able to watch content from Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and Disney Animation.

    The deal between the two media giants means that Disney's streaming service will include its own deep vault of intellectual property, as well as Fox's decades of popular franchises, which would most likely get pulled from streaming competitors. As much as this deal is about the content that Disney would be getting from Fox, it's also about content competitors like Netflix would not.

    The deal also means Fox's stakes in Hulu now belong to Disney, which already has an equal stake along with Comcast. With a majority stake in Hulu, Disney could change the award-winning streaming service's offerings.

    "A 'Disneyflix' with Lucasfilm + Marvel + Pixar + Disney Animation + Disney Channel + ABC + 20c Fox + FX would be ... attractive," tweeted Derek Thompson, a writer at The Atlantic, last month.
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  2. Extreme fitness programs can be dangerous in a variety of ways: They are bad for your body, decrease life expectancy, and are associated with a high rate of injury. As fitness instructor Erin Simmons argued in a 2014 article on CrossFit, crash exercising can be a gift to doctors because it “means job security for medical professionals.” Simmons spoke with a number of “strength and conditioning coaches” about the rise of regimes like CrossFit and “not a single one of them” would recommend it. She continues, “These same athletic trainers warn every single athlete against CrossFit and tell them the health risks of being involved in it.”

    With the extreme risks and financial burden associated with looking like Steve Rogers, it’s worth asking: Is this emphasis on getting big at all costs making us any happier? In 2015, a BBC report noted that “bigorexia” (more accurately known as “muscle dysphoria”) is on the rise in young men. Rob Willson, who serves as the president of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, told the BBC: “We know about 10 percent of men in the gym may have muscle dysmorphia.” Dr. Michele Kerulis of Adler School of Professional Psychology told The Daily Mail that rate may be even higher: She claimed as many as 45 percent of frequent male gym goers male suffer from disordered body image.

    That estimate seems very high, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that male body standards have changed dramatically since Superman looked like George Reeves, rather than a human action figure.
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  3. We reached Peak Sequel, though, with The Force Awakens. I'm unclear whether the title refers to George Lucas' midichlorinated mumbo-jumbo or the slumbering merchandising colossus that recently produced Star Wars-branded fruit (not called "Bananakins"', sadly). But whichever it was, the Force is here to stay as we enter 2016.

    The fault is mostly ours, because we'd rather watch another Batman flick (Vs Superman is coming in 2016) than take a chance on a great local film like Predestination, which accumulated 84 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, and about $84 locally.

    We'll even reward a terrible addition to a beloved series, which is why I watched Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.

    This sequelmania is not limited to our screens. Once, deposed politicians would exit gracefully to boardrooms and embassies. Now they wait to be unleashed, wheezing ominously, upon the galaxy once more.

    Kevin Rudd showed us that waiting for sweet revenge can bear fruit, at least temporarily. And hanging back until your rivals stumble is working as well for Malcolm Turnbull as it did for Steven Bradbury – and John Howard.

    I presume Tony Abbott is sticking around because he's seen that, to use his evocative if confusing phrase, leaders have to be dead, buried and cremated before they're truly done.

    In the US, Clinton II seems a forgone conclusion for the primaries and probably the Presidency, which seemed impossible when Hillary was shoved aside by a young senator from Illinois back in 2008.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2016-01-03)
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  4. We watch movies on YouTube, less as immersed audience members than as distanced critics.

    In real life there’s almost never a sigh of ultimate relief.

    That’s why traditional sitcoms and hour dramas with weekly happy endings gave way to stories broken up into lots of little pieces, or serialized over years. The Simpsons was written for the channel surfer. We don’t care about whether Homer gets out of the nuclear power plant before it blows up; we are watching the show scene by scene, trying to recognize which commercial, movie, or other show is being satirized. It’s like Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the satisfaction comes not from getting to the end, but getting the reference. The implied hyperlink.

    Meanwhile, premium channels like HBO are filled with shows that don’t ever really resolve. We don’t watch Game of Thrones to see who is going to win the war, but to watch the game in progress. Look at the opening titles over a map of the seven kingdoms: It may as well be a fantasy role-playing game or World of Warcraft. The object of such a game isn’t to win, because that ends the play. It’s to keep the game going.

    Likewise, our real lives in the digital era have become less traditionally structured.

    LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman tells us to dispense with the notion of a career, and to think in terms of 18-month gigs and a constant search for new opportunities. You never get to the promised land. There is no end. The only ones still left hawking a story with an ending are VCs pushing the millionaire-minting “exit potential” of their startup
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  5. Some time in the middle of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I came to terms with the fact that there will never be any more decent Marvel movies. In fact, there can’t be.

    Some of what I have to say is going to read as genre snobbery. So let me get this out of the way: I fucking love stupid popcorn movies. They can be about superheroes, dinosaurs, aliens, a bus that can’t slow down; I’m not picky. Movies are unparalleled in their ability to portray scale. If you have a giant screen, huge speakers capable of blasting everyone with earth-shattering noise, and hundreds of people gathered together in the dark, you can — and should — occasionally use those tools to provide pure, overwhelming spectacle.

    What I really dislike about Marvel is what they’re doing to stupid popcorn movies. This is a genre I care about, and they’re fucking it up.

    Marvel’s most profound failing is that it just plain doesn’t care about people. Age of Ultron is the clearest demonstration yet of the problem. And you should care about this problem. Because it’s getting worse, and because you can’t get away.

    I know Joss Whedon can make a good popcorn movie. In fact, I know he can make a good popcorn movie about the Avengers: That first movie is a stone-cold classic. Therefore, I’m disinclined to blame the badness of Age of Ultron on Joss Whedon. If you’ve watched someone throw a ball fifty times, and then, the fifty-first time, he just drops the ball at his feet and stands there motionless, you don’t assume that he can’t throw. You assume something is wrong.

    When you look at the formal requirements imposed on Whedon’s script by Marvel, it’s clear that AoU actually couldn’t have been good—that Marvel, not knowing or caring how good movies work, mandated that Whedon make a bad one. To name just a few of those requirements:

    •Too many characters. This is standard Marvel strategy — they go by the premise that all it takes to gratify their base is dropping a name that’s familiar from the comics, and so far, it’s paid off — but the never-ending quest to “improve” each movie by adding a sidekick, and another sidekick, and three villains this time, plus that other superhero you might know about if you read every Avengers comic from 1971 through 1973, has resulted in a movie with,

    by my count, fourteen central characters. The movie is only 141 minutes long; that might seem lengthy, but if you were to somehow divide it up so as to give each character an equal amount of uninterrupted focus, you’d only have around 10 minutes for each character. In practice, you get less than 10, because…

    •No matter what, Marvel’s structure mandates at least one fight scene every 20 minutes, and most of the time, those characters aren’t having in-depth discussions while they fight.


    So, once Marvel’s formula has deprived the movie of (a) time for the characters, (b) the potential for the story to unfold in a surprising way, and (c) meaningful consequences, we then get each character’s maximum 10 minutes of focus (which is now more like five or six) cut down even further, with ads for other Marvel products.

    Don’t let anyone tell you that silly popcorn movies don’t matter, or that they can’t be smart or beautiful or profound. A silly popcorn movie can change your life. All it has to do is create characters with identifiable, human problems, and let them work out those problems over the course of the story. Stories are about change, and about people, because ultimately, they are about you, the person sitting in a dark theater, working out your baggage by projecting it onto CGI cartoons of overly handsome actors.

    Here’s another way to put it: The extent to which a movie invests in character-based, character-driven storytelling is the extent to which it recognizes, appreciates, and honors the humanity of its audience.

    So when Age of Ultron doesn’t invest—when it goes by the assumption that the formula, and the formula alone, is enough to appease the popcorn-eaters—it says something pretty bad.
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  6. How a silent film featuring an all-Native cast came to be made, lost (seemingly forever), discovered nearly a century later (in shambles), then restored and shown to the cast’s descendants is one of the most fascinating stories in the annals of American filmmaking. The Daughter of Dawn, which had its world premiere in June at the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City, may be the only all-Native cast silent film ever made.

    In the autumn of 1919 Norbert Myles was hired to direct a film for Richard Banks, owner of the fledgling Texas Film Company. Banks, who had written the story for his new project, was looking to make an adventure film in Oklahoma. He had met Myles a few years earlier on a California movie set and was impressed by the ambitious upstart. Myles, who had been a vaudevillian, a screen actor and sometime Shakespearean actor, had fallen out of favor in Hollywood and had turned to screenwriting and directing.

    Banks drew on his 25 years of experience living among the Indians and his knowledge of what he called “an old Comanche legend,” to lend authenticity to the film. He decided to shoot on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, a national reserve known for its mountains and grassy plains spread across 60,000 acres in southwestern Oklahoma. This was an attractive setting for several reasons, including the fact that in 1907 a program to reintroduce the nearly extinct bison to the Great Plains was launched. Under the auspices of the American Bison Society, 15 of these American icons, plucked from New York City’s Bronx Zoo, were sent by railway to grasslands in Oklahoma, and in little more than a decade, they flourished and were an enormous herd.

    Banks must have also realized that shooting there would provide not only the perfect backdrop, but would also afford him an abundant source of American Indian talent.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2015-05-17)
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  7. this is what’s ruining studio movies. It’s not actually the adaptations or the reboots of dormant properties or the wholesale remakes of old ones that is sucking our souls. It’s the vomiting of resources onto unnecessary big-budget sequels that could have been used to fund better, smaller ideas—or the occasional ultra-expensive awesome one
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2015-03-21)
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  8. If 2013 was the year of the selfie, then 2014 was the year the camera turned outwards and revealed a devastating gender bias both in how our modern culture frames women and within the industry that manufactures that culture.

    Over the past year, companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have announced comprehensive plans to close the gender gap, appearing to be serious about the idea that the low percentage of women in their ranks reflects a bias in their culture and limits the scope of their projects. This leaves many women working in visual effects, an industry faced with the same kind of gender disparity, wondering why we are not having a discussion nearly as thoughtfully or even loudly.

    The discourse surrounding women in VFX has only been briefly broached and largely dismissed in a few industry-specific blogs and trade magazines. Do chauvinism and misogyny have to be elevated to the level of personal harm on public forums in order for Hollywood to have a meaningful conversation about gender?

    Much of the media discussion about VFX in recent years has revolved around its subsidies-driven business model, which has given rise to a culture of perpetual instability, as VFX houses struggle to stay in the black. Hundred-hour weeks, three-month contracts in which an artist may work in Vancouver, Singapore, London and New Zealand all in one year have so numbed employees to the punishing lifestyle that many have internalized the idea that they must work 16-hour days for weeks on end or they aren’t essential to the process.

    Yet, in spite of the financial woes of individual companies, VFX-driven movies have come to constitute the overwhelming majority of blockbusters
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-02-03)
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  9. I don’t think there was any clue about what was actually being erased in the first place. And in that cluelessness lays the problem with American Sniper.

    In the years to come, Eastwood and Cooper’s film will surely be held up as a paragon of filmmaking craftsmanship, and the argument around it as being indicative of a specific time in our collective experience. It’s a solid, well-made film, and Cooper, with that great Texas drawl and those heavy eyes, knocks it out of the park.

    This isn’t the defining film of the Iraq War. After nearly a quarter century of war and occupation in Iraq, we still haven’t seen that film. I’m beginning to think we’re incapable as a nation of producing a film of that magnitude, one that would explore the civilian experience of war, one that might begin to approach so vast and profound a repository of knowledge. I’m more and more certain that, if such a film film ever arrives, it’ll be made by Iraqi filmmakers a decade or more from now, and it’ll be little known or viewed, if at all, on our shores. The children of Iraq have far more to teach me about the war I fought in than any film I’ve yet seen — and I hope some of those children have the courage and opportunity to share their lessons onscreen. If this film I can only vaguely imagine is ever made, it certainly won’t gross $100 million on its opening weekend.

    The biggest problem I have with American Sniper is also a problem I have with myself. It’s a problem I sometimes find in my own work, and it’s an American problem: We don’t see, or even try to see, actual Iraqi people. We lack the empathy necessary to see them as fully human. In American Sniper, Iraqi men, women, and children are known and defined only in relation to combat and the potential threat they pose.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-01-26)
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  10. Along with the official U.S. and Oscar screener release dates, I include the leak dates for each major way that films typically find their way online:

    Cam. The old standby, a handheld camera in a theater. The worst quality, and increasingly uncommon.
    Telesync. Typically, a cam with better audio, often from headphone jacks in theater seats intended as hearing aids.
    Telecine, R5, PPV, Webrip, and HDRips. The terminology and sourcing’s changed through the years, but these are all high-quality rips with solid audio and video.
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