Saturday, January 7, 2012

WE ARE LUCKY. WE GET TO MANUFACTURE MAGIC AND, IN SO DOING, PRODUCE A PRODUCT THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE:  Somewhere in the deep recesses of your memories, you may recall hearing of a "Katzenberg memo" which was a big deal in the movie industry about twenty years ago, a manifesto faxed all over town for its decrying a “tidal wave of runaway costs and mindless competition,” calling for Disney to turn away from blockbusters like Dick Tracy and from paying excessive fees for celebrity talent. ("It is a performer’s talent that can make a film a success. Celebrity can be an important bonus, but celebrity is really all about timing.") A memo which became so notorious that it prompted a young, more hirsute Alec Baldwin into calling Katzenberg "the eighth dwarf—Greedy."

Letters of Note has reprinted the 28-page Jeffrey Katzenberg memo dated January 11 1991, "Some Thoughts On Our Business." It's a great longread:
In the dizzying world of moviemaking, we must not be distracted from one fundamental concept: the idea is king. Stars, directors, writers, hardware, special effects, new sound systems… all of these can have a role to play in the success of a film, but they must all serve as humble subjects to the supremacy of the idea....

This is the key for controlling our destiny -- to have the courage to search out authentic, great ideas… and then have the steadfastness to control the material that is subsequently developed.

If the idea and the screenplay are strong, then it is possible to hire a less established star and a less established director and as a result be less of a hostage to the marketplace. Or, conversely, an idea and a screenplay can be so great as to attract major talent, who will be sufficiently excited that they will agree to terms that are acceptable to us.
The irony, as the above LA Times story notes, is that if anyone succeeded in this path it wasn't Katzenberg's next venture, Dreamworks SKG, but rather Pixar ... which Disney acquired.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A RECAP OF A SHOW I'VE NEVER SEEN: Last night, or perhaps some night prior or subsequent to last night, marked or will the debut of hit network comedy Work It, which ABC loves so much that it stuffed Cougar Town in a trunk and buried it under the basement. I didn't watch, but I think I've seen enough in commercials and TV criticism to offer this guaranteed 100%-accurate review:
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY PLAYLIST: We haven't done one of these in a while, but a reader made the request via Twitter: "On ALOTT5MA Music Friday, could I request a list of Positive Songs, in honor of the new year?"
WE SAY HALLOWED BUT ALLOWED: A 1922 poem by Gerard Nolst Trenité called "The Chaos" is making the rounds:
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
It keeps going.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

DOES THE LADY CHABLIS APPROVE?  The Girl Scouts will be adding Savannah Smiles cookies to the mix this year, "a lemon-wedge shortbread cookie dusted with powdered sugar ... cool and crisp, with just the right number of lemon chips to deliver tiny bursts of flavor." CSM notes:
Not all cookie varieties are quite so successful. The Girl Scouts have discontinued scores of cookie varieties during the program’s run, including Aloha Chips (with macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips), Apple Cinnamons, Double Dutch (chocolate cookies with chocolate chips), and the raspberry jam-filled Ice Berry Piñatas.

Despite Girl Scouts' efforts to make their cookies healthier (in 2007, several recipes were reworked so that they had zero trans-fat), the health-minded cookie offerings sell terribly. Many sugar-free and 100-calorie cookies have been briefly available, all disappearing quickly. Daisy Go Rounds, a 100-calorie replacement of the retired Cinna-Spins, only lasted two years (2009-2011).
Here's our previous discussion of the Core Six cookies.
IT HADN'T BEEN YOU:  Linda Holmes would like a disclaimer system in place to let us know when music has been replaced in streaming and dvd releases of tv shows and films because of rights restrictions. While watching When Harry Met Sally via Amazon digital download, she notes with regret how the ending is butchered:
We briefly reunite with the original soundtrack for Connick's plinking piano on "But Not For Me" and a quiet "Isn't It Romantic?" And then back to "But Not For Me," and then ... and then in the movie, there is a climactic moment when Frank Sinatra kicks in: "It had to be you." This is the moment that drives the entire concluding sequence of the film. Frank Sinatra is it. The alpha and the omega of love in New York on New Year's Eve, and instead of freaking Frank Sinatra singing a standard, the digital download gives you ... generic saxophone noodling.

It's pretty much an entirely different sequence, without any of the sense of inevitability and destiny — not to mention, you know, romance — that you get from Frank Sinatra kicking in.
WHO IS KAREEM ABDUL-JABAAR?  We've discussed a few of these before, but Mental Floss's 10 Classic Moments on Jeopardy! compilation nicely includes them all in one place.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

PAGING GUS AND HERA FROM THE AMAZING RACE: Via sconstant, Ikea instructions for the Hadron Collider.
THE THING WITH THE ESCAPE FROM THE PLACE THAT TIME: The long-gestating Broadway musical Houdini (which has been through several book writers, including Kurt Andersen, and several score writers, including Danny Elfman) allegedly is finally moving forward with Hugh Jackman (who's been attached for quite some time) as Houdini, a new score from Stephen Schwartz (his first since Wicked, and somewhat surprisingly, he doesn't have a Tony--Wicked lost to Avenue Q, Pippin lost to A Little Night Music, and Godspell lost to Annie), and a book from Aaron Sorkin (looking to leave himself with only a Grammy to go EGOT).
ON WATCHING AND REWATCHING THE WIRE: Just a few procedural comments for people approaching the series with some trepidation (which surely you are, since something had to keep you from the #1 prescribed television show of the last decade):
GOT TO. THIS IS AMERICA, MAN:  Even if I had never read a word about The Wire before watching its pilot episode, "The Target," I'd probably recognize (I hope) that this is not a world in which it's likely that McNulty is going to decimate the Avon Barksdale drug ring, become a hero, and live happily ever after. (Maybe I'm wrong: don't spoil!)

Compared to Homicide: Life on the Street, with much of the same crew in front of and behind the camera, everything and everyone feels more worn down, stuck. No showy camera moves (save the flashback) no chase scenes and dramatic interrogations in The Box; what we see in "The Target" instead is a lot of meetings and hierarchies of power. On Homicide, Giardello was clearly in charge and powerful from day one; I don't see anyone that commanding on the police side in this Baltimore, thus far.

This is a Baltimore in which no one's bothering to look at the strippers anymore; life just keeps going on, with little incentive to get too excited. The guy who steals money from the craps game every week keeps playing, because petty theft is tolerated as long as there's a decent ass-whuppin' to be had, just like not-cleared murders aren't something to raise a fuss about even when a Judge asks you about them, just like it's okay to shoot a mouse when you have to get rid of a mouse, just like how the police still don't have computers instead of typewriters.  And if someone thinks Alexander Hamilton was a President, it's not worth fighting him too hard on it. Givin' a fuck when it ain't your turn to give a fuck is not tolerated in Baltimore.

A pointer from Alan Sepinwall, from his essential "Wire for newbies" recap:
[F]or the most part, "The Wire" took a very different approach to narrative from any series in American history, so much so that it essentially had to teach you how to watch it. The cast is huge -- and the season one cast is tiny in comparison to later seasons, which would bring in new characters from the Baltimore docks, City Hall, schools, newspapers, homeless community, etc. -- and almost everyone you meet will play a key role in the unfolding storylines.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING WITH THE HELP OF AUTOTUNE? After much jockeying, the final two big parts in Les Miserables have apparently been cast. Amanda Seyfried (who warbled credibly in Mamma Mia!) has been offered Cosette, and Taylor Swift has been offered Eponnine. Not sure what this means for the film's artistic prospects (beyond being a sure bet for a mess of Golden Globe nominations), but certainly would not seem to hurt the commercial prospects. Cast already includes Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (as the Thernadiers).
IT'S A DOGGY DOGG PRICING GAME:As Our Friend Linda Holmes put it, "If you woke up this morning thinking, 'What I need is a clip of Snoop Dogg hanging out on The Price Is Right helping a lady win at Plinko,' then you are in luck." Indeed you are. Later this week, according to the article--appearances from Jenny McCarthy, Chris Daughtry, Heidi Klum (who I'm sure will remind the TPIR models that zis is also a competition for you too as well), and NPH.

Monday, January 2, 2012

ALSO, BE MORE SMARTER: It's January 2, which means that I'm a day late asking you what your resolutions were? Remember, write them down -- that's what makes them come true. Or something.

Mine: (1) build a desk for my office, to be ready when my firm moves to the new space; (2) the usual lose-5-to-10-pounds; (3) maintain three-star status on all (non-Facebook-only) updated levels of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio.
RATE YOURSELF AND RAKE YOURSELF AND RUN BETTER RUN, FASTER THAN MY BULLET: Philadelphia's adult-alternative WXPN 88.5 FM has placed two songs ahead of the two Adele songs in its year-end top 100.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A WORLD IN WHITE GETS UNDERWAY: Randy ranks the ten songs which topped the Billboard charts on New Years Day in each year of the 1980s. Seriously underrates "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)", and as for "Say You Say Me," well, I've got a problem with that tune.
WHEN DID THESE GET DECLARED? A (likely incomplete) list of Wars you can view on your television screen over the next few weeks (at least according to my searching):
  • Parking
  • Cupcake
  • Storage (both ordinary and Texas versions)
  • Shipping
  • Star (Episodes IV-VI)
  • Prom
  • Monster Bug
  • Border
  • Swamp
  • L.A. Gang
  • Mexican Drug
  • The Clone
  • Sex