Louis CK Loses Millions

Someday, we'll all brag about how we paid for Horace and Pete, even though nobody's been buying the show:

As often happens with the web, there’s good news and bad news as television shifts online. The spirit of the age tells us that everyone should go it alone, that entrepreneurial individualism is more important than being part of a larger team, that we all need to unbundle.

But Louis C.K. has learned the hard way that it doesn’t always work. Even with a series that’s smart, well-acted, topical, and ambitious.

C.K.’s show “Horace and Pete” is about as close to the classic American theater of Eugene O’Neill as television offers. Taking place in a century-old, family-run Brooklyn bar, it’s a show in which politics, class, race, gender, gentrification, tradition, family turmoil, and various painful aspects of the generation gap are worked out in natural, unforced ways. The kind of conflicts and honest talk that a lot of shows wait half an hour to build to come every few minutes on “Horace and Pete.” It features actors as good as Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco, and Jessica Lange. And while it’s certainly not a comedy, it’s often funny in a kind of uncomfortable and revealing way. (The bar’s policy of charging hipsters more for their drinks is one of several brilliant bits.) It makes a barroom-set show as good as “Cheers” look shallow.

It even has an intermission.

But C.K. has apparently lost millions on the show, which costs about $500,000 per episode to make. He sells his standup performances as audio files online – you can buy his Madison Square Garden show, for instance, from his website for anything from $1 to $85. Episodes of “Horace and Pete” costs between $2 and $5 apiece. And not enough people bought them.

Vulture doesn’t sound terribly sympathetic:

Not one to suffer silently, Louis C.K. went ahead and spread his financial burdens around on The Howard Stern Show today, revealing that making Horace and Pete left him several million dollars in debt. Basically, his debt is our bad, C.K. explained, because fewer people bought the show than C.K. was (literally) banking on.

So what went wrong? According to Variety, it turns out C.K. turned down a chance to offer the show to FX – where he has a first-look deal — for financing, hoping that his own visibility on television and on his site would drive traffic. He’s one of the biggest stars in comedy, but apparently it’s not enough to make a show with sets, actors – a piece of theater – pay for itself.

Louis isn't a businessman--he's a content creator. He's really good at it! People should give him lots of money to make things! Someone should have given him better business advice. You can't leave yourself exposed like this in a business run by thieves and vicious throat-stabbing ghouls. Television is an industry where decency and ethics are killed simply because they showed up to work one day.

And it really is too bad--when someone takes a big risk, there should be a government program that kicks in and helps them out. PBS should buy Horace and Pete and run it, warts and all, and not send any notes.

I got all of those sad E-mails, asking me to buy Horace and Pete. I'm sorry! I had shit to do. I feel bad now.

Do It Yourself

Roughly $24,000 stands between you and making a feature film:
During a launch event at the DGA, the company introduced a new camera aimed at episodic series production and indie filmmaking.
Panasonic is aiming to extend its reach into television production and indie filmmaking with a new addition to its VariCam 4K camcorder line, which was unveiled Wednesday evening before several hundred guests at the DGA Theatre. The VariCam LT offers the same Super 35 sensor as the VariCam 35 but with a compact body weighing just six pounds.
The company is positioning the new model for uses including series television, documentaries and indie filmmaking, either as the main camera or a B-camera for use on a Steadicam, drone or the like. It will be available in March with a list price of $18,000, body only; or $24,000, body plus viewfinder.
It offers up to 4K resolution, variable frame rates, 14 stops of dynamic range, new dual native ISOs of 800/5000, multiple recording options, workflow tools and an EF lens mount with optional PL lens mount.
Now, add in a few lights, some accessories, some memory cards, a bag, and maybe some insurance and you're all set. The technology needed to make music at a professional level has brought the price of a home studio down considerably in the last decade or so. Got Pro Tools? You can get that for free off of someone, so set up some microphones and get ready to smooth things out. Use that to record sound while you're filming.

I'm guessing that it would take a computer and about $35,000 to set up enough gear to make a good film. If they start renting these things, the cost will plummet even further. Film students everywhere should figure out what they want to finance--a new car or a career making movies.


Worth Every Penny

Okay, then:
A photo of an Irish potato taken by a world-famous visual artist has sold for more than $1 million.
The photo of the potato against a black background was taken byKevin Abosch, a visual artist who has photographed Malala Yousafza,Yoko Ono and others.
While Abosch usually gets half a million dollars for his portraits, the photograph of the potato stood out to a European businessman who purchased it after seeing it at the artist’s Paris home.
Let's be kind and say that it's a good photo; it's a really, really good photo of an unwashed potato. Having said that, I have tons of photos I'd sell for much, much less. Indie bands? Need album covers? I got 'em coming out of my ears.

Whoring at the Smithsonian

Yeah, I hate this kind of thing:

I don't have a problem with catering to kids. I don't have a problem exposing kids to food-based exhibits and things that are purely for fun or entertainment. You don't have to learn all the time. But I am rather surprised that the Smithsonian is the go-to place for corporate whores and overpriced supermarket chains that cater to the wealthy. If you want to do a mutually beneficial exhibit, why target kids? Sounds vaguely evil to me.

Does Wegman's do good in your community? I hope so. And I'm probably just cranky today. But who the hell thought sticking an advertisement for Wegman's in the middle of the Smithsonian was a good idea?

Legacies and Film Franchises

I have to confess that I have almost no interest in seeing a James Bond film unless it's for free and unless I have nothing else to do. I feel that way about a lot of things and I suppose I can work up enough concern to talk about this:
Pierce Brosnan has likened his departure from the Bond franchise to being "kicked to the kerb".
The Irish actor starred as 007 in four films released between 1995 and 2002, beginning with Goldeneye and culminating with Die Another Day, then the highest-grossing Bond film ever.
Though Brosnan was keen to return for a fifth outing, the franchise's longtime producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli ultimately decided to take Bond in a new, edgier direction.
Pierce Brosnan is correct when he expresses outrage as to how the owners of the James Bond franchise treated him. It was shabby, but predictable. Virtually all of the actors were hired because of money and not much else. Hollywood's A-list of actors--Carey Grant and Richard Burton among many--would have required more money than Albert Broccoli was willing to spend.

And that's the thing of it--you're never going to get the actor you want. You're going to see the actor who agrees to do it for the money they're willing to spend.

That's Love

With 29 days to go, the Kickstarter campaign to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000 has already amassed a ridiculous amount of money.

We've seen successful Kickstarter campaigns in the past, but, really, have we really seen something like this? The show will be resurrected somehow, some way, and it is almost a foregone conclusion that the $2 million mark will be met and that there will be at least three new episodes if not more produced and released in the next year or so.


The BBC Has a Jeremy Clarkson Problem

Somebody did somebody wrong at the BBC:

With Clarkson being an already heavily contentious media personality in the U.K. following remarks over the past few years that have been deemed racist and xenophobic, the news has made headlines nationwide, sparking widespread debate over his future and that of the show, which airs in more than 100 countries and brings in some $220 million for BBC Worldwide.
Within minutes, an online petition calling for the BBC to “Bring Back Clarkson,” was posted online. It has been signed by more than 250,000 people as of Wednesday morning London time.
On announcing the suspension, the BBC also confirmed that the episode of Top Gear due to air this Sunday would not be broadcast. A spokesperson has now confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the following episode, the penultimate one of the current season, has also been canceled, while they haven't yet decided on the final installment. "It's a moving situation," they said.
If you were of the opinion that Clarkson is an out of control asshole who brings in hundreds of millions of dollars for his employer, you'd probably have a lot of soul mates at the BBC. They are caught between the liability this man brings to their venerable business and the profits generated by a show that, quite frankly, could be successful if the right person were to appear.

Why not do it with Jason Statham or Clive Owen? Why not give Liam Gallagher a call? Hell, you could do it with Bez and no one would notice.

On second though, yeah. They would notice. Clarkson is almost irreplaceable, giving him a lot of power. He'll come out the other side of this with offers if they fire him.

Hollywood and Middle America

The movie business is designed to sniff out dollars. It chases money better than any other industry in America. When something works, Hollywood runs it down and shakes coins out of it and then abandons the carcass as soon as there's no more cash. The next 18 months are going to be strange because the films that just made some money are going to dictate what you will see from here on in until another shift or change happens in the culture.

Hollywood just made a ton of money by putting out a film that appeals to conservative, pro-military Middle Americans. This is an audience for which the coastal enclaves (with their Fifth Columnists, of course) have a special kind of contempt. No one makes a movie that will play in rural Mississippi unless it has Transformers or Super Heroes in it, and, even then, the audience they're chasing is young, Asian and male.

Someone is going to make another version of American Sniper, and then there will be a half dozen knockoffs or films of a similar nature. They will chase the rapidly evaporating movie patron until there's nothing left of the industry. They'll do that because someone will wisely figure out that they can put on a television show that appeals to this audience and make bank.

People Are Tired of Matthew Vaughn Movies, Too

Christopher Nolan's three-film tenure as the director of Batman might have concluded, but the days of his dark, gritty style of superhero films may also be drawing to close, according to director Matthew Vaughn.

In the latest issue of SFX magazine, the Kick-Ass director, who is also Claudia Schiffer's husband, argued that audiences are turning their backs on such movies in favor of more lighthearted material.

"People want fun and escapism at the moment," he said. "Look at the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I think Nolan kick-started a very dark, bleak style of superhero escapism, and I think people have had enough of it."

The whole "superhero" motif is played out, and it was played out three years ago. The movies that Vaughn and Nolan have been making are great if you want to sell your stuff to teenagers in Asia but I wonder how artistically fulfilling that is after so many years of getting away with not having to come up with anything good.

I can see why Vaughn is taking a shot at Nolan, however. Interstellar wasn't explicitly targeted to the Chinese market and didn't have as much of that darkness he's talking about embedded into it. Nolan is trying to break away from the pack so, you know, he's the one with the target on his back.

These goddamned Marvel movies are eating everything. You have issues and super powers, I got it. I'm just not interested.

All of the Charlie Brown Animated Specials Suck

No surprises here:
The most ominous aspect of the forthcoming Peanuts 3-D Blue Sky Studio movie is not the artwork. Though, don't get me wrong, the artwork looks dreadful. Charles Schulz's cartoons varied over the years from deceptively sleek pen lines in his early days to pleasingly shaky dumpiness after his stroke, but flatness and minimalism was always central to his aesthetic—even in the animated features.
Blue Sky dispenses with that, choosing instead to turn Charlie Brown and the gang into bloated, uncanny-valley inflatables. The teaser trailer released earlier this year, in which the grandiose earth turns into Charlie Brown's head to John Williams-esque fanfare, seems nauseatingly apropos. A world so small that the grass had to be drawn in side-view and adults couldn't fit in the frame has been blown up to Hollywood proportions. It reminds me of that terrifying (NSFW) Charles Ray sculpture, where the nude toddlers are scaled up to adult size—hulking and oh-so-wrong.
So, yes, the art is irredeemably ugly and callow. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is that, in these just-released stills, everyone is smiling.
What you see above is about what you expect. The animated specials, rendered decades ago and lamented by Schultz with one hand while scooping up wads of cash with the other, have plenty of smiling and laughing in them:

Noah Berlatsky can't quite grasp the fact that the new Charlie Brown animated special wasn't intended for him--it is intended for an audience that no longer reads comic strips. Aside from collectors and a few strays, who even reads comic strips anymore? Let alone the original Charles Schultz strips?

The animated specials have always been dreadfully done. The illustration work was cheap, poorly planned and rushed. Schultz himself hated the way his work was butchered. That's how you end up with this abomination of color and slapdash arrangement:

Here, at random, is an actual comic strip. I know, I know. What the hell is this thing? Why is so good but so wrong?

The strip you see above is a casual masterpiece of planning and layout, inking and lettering, and it works because it follows basic storytelling techniques. Two pointed questions, a moment of contemplation, and a result that renders the rhetorical questions as exclamations of doubt and misery. It is the strip as it was meant to be--sullen, pissed off, and darkly philosophical. It was a fuck you to everything sunny and warm. It was as if a misanthrope with too much time on his hands decided to shit on someone's porch and set it on fire, along with the Cathy and Garfield strips that accompanied the gift.

Whatever they're doing to destroy the legacy of Peanuts is fine by me. There are no sacred cows and Schultz was about making money, hand over fist. His heirs are going to cash in on whatever they can cash in on, no matter what. We may someday see a Southpark crossover movie with the Peanuts characters done out in construction paper and felt.

If you want the joy of reading the actual work, get those damned expensive coffee table books and shut the hell up. Complaining about the greed of cheap animation is like getting mad because that Transformers movie looks fakey.

Every Film You Will See From Now On

I don't know if this is true or not, but there's a conversation out there about the future of film. There are some voices who are speaking out about the business side of feature films and the thinking is, most of the big budget films, if not all of them, are going to be produced and marketed to 19 year-old Chinese males.

That means more Michael Bay and a whole lot less David Fincher.

The business side of that makes sense--China is hungry for the soft power of Hollywood's entertainment complex and there isn't any sense in chasing an American middle class dollar that isn't there anymore. Emerging markets have a demand and, if you don't fill it, something else will.

Anthony Cumia Wanted to Get Fired

This really doesn't change anything because Anthony Cumia (and Opie & Anthony as a whole) thrives on the notoriety and shock of being fired from their gigs.  Someone somewhere is dying to hire him and pay him more money than he was making because people want to hear what he does. Apparently, the Sirius XM gig wasn't working out. Something else will.

On satellite radio, they're allowed to say whatever they want and that's okay. The culture has accepted what they do and they have been given a platform to do it. There's money in it, so someone is always going to give Cumia a job.

When the audience for this kind of thing dries up, then we'll have a news story.

Who Cares What Lana Del Rey Was Paid?

No one would ask a male singer what he was paid to sing for a wedding, so why does it matter if Lana Del Rey was paid to sing for a private event?

There is a double standard out there for performers and for the arts--it only matters if a woman is paid for something (and thus, she must be some sort of a prostitute). A male can whore himself out--and Elton John, cough cough, the entire world is looking in your direction--and no one says anything at all.

Atari Landfill

Well, well, well:
Three hours of digging with a backhoe uncovered significant amounts of Atari 2600 game cartridges - many of which were still in their original packaging.
One urban myth has turned out to be accurate. I was never much of a fan of video games. They were around, and they were available, but I never cared enough to actually buy a console or get into them. My first "video game" was Wolfenstein for the PC.

This game was loaded onto two diskettes.

The full version of Doom fit on six of them, I believe.

It was okay, I guess, but once I played a little Hexen and X-Wing, I was pretty much done with video games. I believe that these games were a form of art, albeit a very commercialized form. I think that they were innovative and ahead of the curve as far as bringing a design philosophy to a new form of entertainment.

Gawker Was the Wrong Target

I suppose that you could make the case that Gawker derived some benefit from their link to the site where the anonymously, and cowardly, posting resided but the judge in this case wasn't sufficiently impressed to allow the case to go forward. This points to a need to change the law, right? Or would that lead to more censorship.

You have to give Quentin Tarantino credit, though--he wants to create and he's running up against the tidal wave of bullshit that inhibits creation these days. Everything you say or do can be stolen in an instant and others can profit from your labors. This is rapidly becoming a world where the only creative outlets are going to be things that people do for free and walk away from. Film, as a medium, could be replaced with nothing.

Tarantino needs to go after whoever jacked his script and then burn that person. That's his only real recourse here.

The Dadventure and the Eighties Comedy

Mostly, I would agree with this list.

Well, let's look at the "dadventures" that I found in 2013 alone (besides Despicable Me 2)

1. Delivery Man
2. The Croods
3. We're the Millers
4. Escape from Planet Earth

I think the so-called "Eighties comedies" are all but dead and buried. There is no market for that kind of film anymore--these are not gentle times for anyone who has sentimentality. If John Candy was alive today, he'd be making gross-out films, not necessarily family comedies. Candy was the king of the dadventure; when he passed away before the mid-point of the 1990s, and entire genre went with him.

You can see the transformation of the movie business--the emphasis now is on less and less "family friendly" fare. You would not take your kids to see We're the Millers (too much sex, not enough actual family comedy) unless they were expecting a rather hip version of what Robin Williams did with RV. When I first saw We're the Millers, I figured, ah, someone figured out how to re-do RV. Just add hard drugs and a strip-tease.

Delivery Man is very much an 80's comedy, however. You could imagine Tom Selleck or Michael Keaton in that role.

Adventure and superhero films have pretty much replaced the dadventure. Instead of an actual family film, we get the likes of Iron Man 3 and the second Thor film.

The Demise of the E-book Market

Now that all of the book stores are gone, you mean to tell me no one wants e-books anymore?
Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone's book shop chain, has predicted that the "e-book revolution" will soon go into decline in the UK.
He told the Oxford Literary Festival printed books would remain popular for decades, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"E-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have," he said.
"But every indication - certainly from America - shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."
For the first eight months of 2013, e-book sale were worth $800m in the US, down 5% on the same period the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers.
The experience of reading a book on a device, no matter how expensive it is, still doesn't rival the actual experience of reading a printed book. The e-reader might be a permanent tool used by people who have to maintain and regularly use a lot of printed material, but the occasional reader still prefers a book. It's too bad we couldn't have saved more bookstores, however.

There may come a day when the only place to buy a book is online--from Amazon. Or in an airport. Maybe, someone will come up with a good hybrid for books and music and start a business model that will work as a retail outlet.

Bombs Away

Somehow, M. Night Shyamalan has, once again, convinced other human beings to give him large amounts of money with which to make a film that few people will ever see.

I mean, if you think about some of the biggest bombs that have gone off in recent years, Shyamalan's name has to be associated with a few of them. After Earth, The Happening, and The Last Airbender should have ended his career, right? Those three films would have destroyed the career of a lesser person.