Monday, September 29, 2008

Remember when I gave advice…?

Okay. SO, last week I wrote a little about the Emmy Awards. It was fun and breezy and was honestly was fueled a little by the previous evening's... celebrating. [notice the time the Emmy's finished and what time I posted the next morning to get an idea.]

I even felt cocky enough to give advice about parties, behaviour and required looks in the mirror. All it is still very true, please trust that. But after seeing pics of me from that evening, understand that I definitely got what was coming to me. The only picture of me I have is, in a word, awful. It's not flattering to me nor is it to all of my hard work at the gym in any way, shape or form. At all! Even my good attributes look bad in this picture! WHAT?! There is one disclaimer: This picture was actually taken before the party started, and before I imbibed even one sip of alcohol! That just makes it even worse. See, this is what it can be like in real life: you can be excited about a party, get all dressed up, take pictures and look bad. Forever!

And now the real advice about these parties [dare I tempt fate again…?] If the party is small enough, you can ask the photographer to see the picture he just took. If you look awful, politely ask if he would take it again! That sounds totally needy, controlling and manipulative, but who cares?! With the internet, these pictures really can follow you around forever! Some events will be too big to take pictures twice, so I seriously suggest that you take the time to practice posing in the clothes you plan to wear at home, like I should have! I know that's very teenage girl, but fuck! If it can prevent pictures like this then I will practice every single time! Apparently, I have learned, this is what everyone else does! And apparently, I didn’t get the memo. [but I would like to thank the little bird who gave me that suggestion for the next time.] I am including the pic so y'all know how bad it can get and to put a scare in you. You have been warned!

At least my eyes are smoldering? That's what we're calling it. Smoldering.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.
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Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Round Up : September 28, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estimates:

1. Eagle Eye $29.2 million
2. Nights in Rodanthe $13.6 million
3. Lakeview Terrace $7 million
4. Fireproof $6.5 million
5. Burn After Reading $6.2 million

9. Miracle at St. Anna $3.5 million

14. Choke $1.3 million

Well, that’s a pretty decent weekend! I’m sure that everyone over at DreamWorks (both employees) is extremely happy with Eagle Eye’s opening weekend performance, especially since everyone has been paying close attention to the studio in the last few weeks. It’s also testament to Shia LaBeouf and his general box office power. Obviously, he’s had bigger opening weekends with Transformers and Indy 4, but this is his biggest weekend to date on a movie that didn’t come from a recognizable property. Way to go!

I’d have to assume that some people at Warner Brothers are wishing that Nights in Rodanthe performed better than it did. But even with $13.6 million this weekend, it’ll probably make everything back during it’s theatrical release. I wonder if it’ll have some legs over the next few weeks. I could see this being a sleeper hit thanks to word of mouth. People really do like to see Diane Lane and Richard Gere in pictures together. I was in an elevator at the Grove, where there was a Rodanthe one sheet hanging. The two women riding with me immediately started talking about it, ultimately saying that they’d go to anything the two of them did together. I understand too, Diane Lane and Richard Gere have chemistry. Are you listening, Warners? You should be feeling pretty good about that.

Lakeview Terrace holds over at number four, losing about 50% of it’s previous weekend’s audience.

Fireproof, the movie starring Kirk Cameron round off the top five. Kirk Cameron is back, y’all! But seriously, Kirk Cameron is back. I have a feeling that he probably decided to get back into acting if he could do movies with a good “message.” This one’s about a hero firefighter who’s letting his marriage burn to the ground. The movie’s tag line is “Never Leave Your Partner Behind.” Talk about a message. I have to congratulate Mr. Cameron on being number five, and for getting this movie made and released in theaters because movies like this are very difficult to get made at all. Movies like this are generally straight to DVD. It is telling that even in the preview, five production companies are slated. Five! I guess that’s their lucky number…

Miracle at St. Anna comes in at number nine, unfortunately. This is the new Spike Lee Joint about African American soldiers in WWII. I wonder how big the marketing budget was for this movie. I was well aware that Spike had shot this movie, but had no idea that it came out this weekend until last week. It sort of came out of nowhere – which is always bad news for movies if you ask me.

Sailing gently into number fourteen was Choke, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk [Fight Club] and starring Sam Rockwell. It’s only on 435 screens right now, yet somehow I expected it to do much better than it did. This picture had ads online everywhere. Everywhere! I guess we’ll have to keep watching it over the next few weeks to see where it goes.

I’ve said before that The Dup isn’t really about this, but I may be wrong. Or I may only write about these kinds of events when I feel that can’t not write about them, or when not writing about them wouldn’t feel honest. We’ll take it as it comes. Friday, Paul Newman died of lung cancer at the age of 83 in his home in Westport, Connecticut. Joanne Woodward was there to the end. There is no way to overstate the fact that Paul Newman was a great, and that the motion picture industry would not have been the same without him. Looking back at his movies, so many of them were a favorite of mine at one point in my life. Pixar’s Cars, Road to Perdition, The Hudsucker Proxy. Hell, he won an Oscar for a role in a sequel, he’s that money! Plus, he directed and starred in the single best staging of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Shit, I had read that play and seen it performed a few times and his was the only one that made any sense. Back in elementary school we were shown Cool Hand Luke as a way of looking at life in the sixties and understanding prison life as well. I was blown away even then. As a performer, I didn’t know what I had just seen, I just knew I had to do that. Paul Newman is one of a couple of people I wish I had gotten the chance to work with. My hat it off to you, Paul. You really were something else.

That’s the weekend.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Economic Realities

I know many people think that Hollywood is some strange kind of fantasy land, populated by humans yet somehow isolated from much that is real about living on this planet and in this country particularly. Well, I can say that’s pretty true, yet also strangely not true. The events of the past few weeks surrounding the economy were catastrophic, but not a complete surprise to us living and working in the entertainment industry. The writing’s been on the wall about the economy for quite some time here in Fantasyland – and in a few ways. The most obvious clue was when sales at the major coffee outposts (Coffee Bean and Starbucks) in SoCal began to fall. Southern California and LA especially is full of people who will pay premium prices for anything. Valet your car at the mall, it’s only ten dollars! $4350 for a purse? Only if I can buy a $2000 miniature replica as well to put inside the big one so I can use it as a wallet! It doesn’t matter what my car can do it just matters that you know how much I paid for it! So when people decide that they can no longer afford to regularly spend five dollars on coffee we should all know that something is going on.

Last year’s writer’s strike was another ringing bell that no one seemed to pay attention to and not in the way you think. Before the strike many writers and showrunners had deals set up with studios. In the most basic sense, those deals generally mean that writers get paid to write, have an office on the lot, and the studio gets to make their work. It’s a good deal for everyone, generally. But when the strike started, most deals were cut off citing a force majeure clause in the contract. It was expected, so most weren’t frightened by it. What frightened people the most was the fact that each of those deals weren’t brought back after the strike was over.

The absolute biggest canary in the mine for the economy (if Hollywood was the sole canary, yada yada) had to do with our friends at DreamWorks. (at MD TOTAL, we love DreamWorks.) They brilliantly decided that they wanted to leave Paramount, and since Brad Grey ain’t trying to make any enemies he’s allowed it to happen even quicker than it took to buy it. DreamWorks put the feelers out and had some offers, finally settling on Reliance Media from India. Together, DW and RM decided that they would then get a revolving credit line based on the strength of the Reliance’s initial investment. That’s a seriously long story short, but you get the idea. But here’s how it got tricky – DreamWorks and Reliance had a difficult time securing the second half of the financing due to the facts that banks are on the strugs worldwide. A studio that will be run by Spielberg and has half a billion dollars in cash(!) from the deep pockets of Bollywood had difficulty getting loans? What the fuck is going on in banking on this planet? That’s how bad it is.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Random Randomness

Radiohead just got trippy! Well, I guess they’ve always been trippy. [Everything in it’s Right Place, anyone? I was playing that song once and my mother actually thought the CD player was breaking. Once I told her the song is meant to sound like that she asked me if he was singing about math. I really, really love my mom!] I was surprised to see this on Variety. It’s time lapsed HD video of footage shot in Telluride, Colorado during the Telluride Film Festival. It’s a relaxing romp through the mountains and the city set to the Radiohead song “Nude,” from In Rainbows. It’s fun and goes really well with a cup of coffee or tea. I’d also like to congratulate Radiohead for donating the usage of this song for the festival, it’s rare for artists to just give it away for free. Thanks to Variety for putting this up.

It’s always nice to remember that sometimes music paired with film can make you feel. I wanted to post the video here, but their embeddable player was freaking out once I published. Heads up, Variety: get this figured out. I am giving you a link [gasp!] in the video's absence.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Evening in Pasadena!

One of the best things about living in Los Angeles is that there are so many events to attend throughout the year. As we know, there are many events centered around the opening of a movie, the premiere of a TV show, or the opening of a new chi chi restaurant but there are also many events centered around charitable giving in the arts and medicine. Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a benefit for Lineage Dance Company, their Gala Event.

I never have any problem getting dressed in black tie when it’s for a good cause, and this event was well worth it. Benefits are often stodgy, low energy affairs with a silent auction and a dinner. Lineage brilliantly chose to have the opposite. Instead of the event being held in a hall at some five star hotel, their Gala was held on the roof of the Pasadena Museum for California Art. The weather in the Sounthland is the perfect balance right now for entertaining outside in the evening; women in sleeveless dresses won’t be cold and men in tuxedoes won’t be hot. Which reminds me, you know when women are wearing little more than lingerie then complain about being cold? "But you don't understand," they tell you. Just gently remind them that they’d never be cold while wearing a suit, ask Fran Liebowitz. Or Diane Keaton. But I digress.

The cocktail portion of the evening was fun and allowed people to mingle with old friends and make new ones. Being in Pasadena immediately makes everything much more relaxed than in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, patrons have far less ego going on and you can actually get to know one another. They even hired a high school student to play piano, and he played the hell out of some Beethoven!

Next up was a live performance by the Company. I’ve been to a few Galas specifically for dance companies that only showed filmed performances [City Ballet? What?] or chose to not have a performance at all, but a fashion show [Atlanta Ballet! Again: what? I guess you can do what you want when you’re the longest continually running Ballet Company in the country, huh?] Not only was it a nice change to see a live performance, but in an intimate space. We all were so close to the action that not only could we hear the dancers breathing, but could feel the breeze as they would fly past us. This particular performance was the World Premiere performance of Lineage’s Quasi una Fantasia and is set to the Beethoven sonata of the same name. Most know it as his Moonlight Sonata, and was choreographed by artistic director Hilary Thomas. Fantasia’s choreography showed a strong ballet base, but carried a much more athletic and contemporary feel. It was in a word, fantastic. I can’t wait until their next performance to go, check them out on youtube.

After the performance was the auction and then the dinner. The auction was fun – it’s always strange to be buying things in such a polite and mannerly way in public. It's very olde worlde, patiently waiting for the next paddle to be raised. This was no screaming match/fistfight kind of auction, these were theatre patrons. But, it did kick in as people all of sudden decided that they simply must to go to Hawaii and everything becomes fun and lively.

Having dinner after the performance and auction may have been the smartest choice of all. Whenever I have been to benefits with auctions and performances, they always happen after dinner is finished when food is digesting and people get sleepy which is never a catalyst for buying expensive things. Having dinner after everything takes the pressure off the evening, you’ve already bought stuff! You can just relax and get to know the people at your table and not feel bad when you get up for a second cupcake. There’s not much worse than slyly taking a second gingerbread cupcake and having the auctioneer think you signaled him to buy that bejeweled necklace that used to be owned by Gloria Swanson. It happens!

Most of all, the best part about events like this is knowing that you’re giving back to the community in a way that was important to you as you grew up. It’s fulfilling in a way that nothing else is and I highly suggest remembering what you loved to do as a kid and see if there’s a way that you can help bring that to kids growing up now, especially if it has anything to do with art and/or music. We make things happen!

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

The 60th Primetime Emmy Awards

Stage One of the Process has begun! (okay, that’s an obscure quote from Tim Curry’s voice/over at the intro to the Alien Encounter attraction at Walt Disney World. Anybody? Nobody.) That’s just my dumb way of saying Award Season has begun with a bang!

The red carpet is an unbelievably strange phenomenon, and it shows on television. There’s no easier failure than wearing formal attire, being nervous, with klieg lights glaring down on you and reporters with TV cameras asking you questions at three in the afternoon. Easy! I am still stunned at how good Kate Walsh is at it while being actually natural, and looking stunning to boot. Shoutout to Tina Fey who must not have breathed all night in that phenomenal gown, it’s the best she may have ever looked in her whole life, and for a sexy librarian that’s saying something. I must ask why the hell Glenn Close refuses to put away those awful sunglasses she has been wearing for twenty years. They were awful even in 1988, Glenn, if that hint means anything to you!

One more word of advice: If you’re a nominee who is married to another famous person, do the entire red carpet together - you're good. If you’re married to someone who, say, works at a button factory; then you can walk the carpet together but limit their question answering. If you just have a hot girlfriend, Gabriel Byrne, then do photos together but answer everything yourself. Guess what? We don’t care about your ability to get a hot girl or even if you are straight – just answer the questions!

Sometimes you wonder what kind of thought was put into that portion of the evening. I know that people who are too cool for school would like to pretend that the red carpet doesn’t matter, but they’re just being mean to the viewers. They are aware that they’re trying to sell their shows to the viewers, right? I know that most men want nothing to do with makeup in real life but if you have pockmarks the size of craters, slap some on. For the viewers!

The 2008 Emmys were the first major televised show at the brand spanking new Nokia Theater. And it looks good! The Nokia Theater is part of the new expanded Staples Center complex. It’s got the arena, the convention center, the Nokia, condos, a hotel, shopping and an outdoor plaza as a nice open space for the people. Not bad, and the acoustics are amazing if you ever get a chance to see a concert there.

Congratulations to Tina Fey!!! I am a big supporter of 30 Rock, it might be my second favorite sitcom of all time. The show deserved to win, and so did Tina and Alec Baldwin for acting! The two are an uncannily amazing comedy duo, it seems weird to remember how many of us were astonished at his being cast opposite her on the show. That was definitely on my mind grapes at the time.

Also, congrats to Mad Men! I also personally thought Jon Hamm was robbed! I rarely feel that way, but damn he is good on that show. I had no idea that this win is Dianne Weist’s second Emmy! She is a phenomenal actress at drama or comedy and her Emmys, Tonys and Oscars prove it. Many people don’t think that there should be a reality show award, but as long as The Amazing Race keeps winning, then I’m cool. As soon as Survivor gets one (if ever), I’m writing a pretty dark and heavy letter to the Academy. That being said, Jeff Probst actually is a very good host, but for my money he’s no Tom Bergeron. No one can handle live television, be funny and spontaneous like Bergeron. He’ll get one some day, and he will deserve it.

I have to give a Shoutout to Audra McDonald who is an amazing actress, nominated for A Raisin in the Sun [which was shut out completely, strange…]. Many people only know Miss Audra as Kate Walsh’s best friend on Private Practice, but this is her second Emmy nom. She comes from Broadway, where she won four Tony Awards by the time she was 33, beating Barbra Streisand’s record! Just in case you didn’t know…

I did not attend any of the big studio parties, but did attend the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Emmy Party. [Tisch is my alma mater.] It was fun, and refreshingly low-key. I knew that we’d have to do arrivals [that’s what the red carpet is called from this side of the camera, and truthfully this one was on concrete.] so I was prepared. Like I said earlier, it is strange. Taking your picture in front of some branded backdrop is the only place you are expected to pose while a crowd of people stare at you. Don’t forget to look good! These kinds of parties are nice because you actually know people there and get to toast their nominations and wins to their face, not by email or flowers or phone. You can shake the hand of the guy you got wasted with the first weekend of college and reminisce about old times. “Remember when we were thrown out of that restaurant, then took the party back to the dorm, stole food from the dining hall kitchen and you passed out in the hall by your room because you were too wasted to remember how to use a key to get in?! Congratulations on your win, buddy, you deserve it!” It’s all about balance. Normally I don’t give away too much about these parties but not today! I will say that many people got drunk (not just buzzed). One unnamed winner stopped a server holding appetizers on a tray, ate one, loved it, and kept her there while he proceeded to finish the entire tray! In less than two minutes. Now those appetizers were good, but damn! Have some self control, man! You can seriously burn the hell out of your mouth on those mini pizzas! Some of us were convinced to sing at the piano. Really. And there’s nothing like getting to some remote place in the venue to find people separating immediately like teenagers caught in the act!

A word to the wise at these parties. If you’re not a nominee or winner, then start out the night with the intention of being on your best behavior. When the mood is celebratory, with an open bar and free food, things will quickly get out of hand. Which reminds me, always make a trip to the bathroom, if only to take a real look at yourself in the mirror. This goes for the men, because women already know this. As the night goes on, and drinks are imbibed, your look has inevitably changed. Tuxedo shirt untucked, hair in disarray, a napkin hanging out of your jacket pocket and your face greasier than that tray of mini pizzas you just ate. And you’re likely to have your picture taken on the way out! Yikes!

And so it begins! Stay tuned here for award season coverage all the way through the Oscars.

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The DUP : 9.21.08

Before we get started, Soccerboy is giving a shoutout today to the original OG, RCL. Burn it down!

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estimates:

1. Lakeview Terrace $15.6 million
2. Burn After Reading $11.3 million
3. My Best Friends’s Girl $8.3 million
4. Igor $8 million
5. Righteous Kill $7.7 million

8. Ghost Town $5.2 million

This weekend was lackluster by most standards, and was down almost nine percent from the previous weekend. Not to anyone’s surprise, Lakeview Terrace won the weekend with Burn After Reading coming in at a solid number two. I can't believe I didn't know this was directed by Neil LaBute. So that's how they got Patrick Wilson! The Dane Cook/Kate Hudson romantic comedy came in at number three, despite recent reports suggesting that it was tracking much higher. In the past week, Lionsgate had begun to think that it would win the weekend. Dane Cook blasted the movie’s poster on his Myspace blog which got enough hits to suggest actual buzz. That’s a problem with the internet, many people will talk about something for a week and create an insane amount of buzz, which rarely translates into actual dollars at the box-office. (Snakes on a Plane? Anybody?) That’s something we still haven’t figured out on the innerweb. We can get people talking at the watercooler, and get them to ignore the work they are paid to do, but once they have to pony up cash at a movie theater they’re at home. On the internet.

Igor placed fourth with $8 million, on 2200 screens. Let’s hope it does well on homevideo.

Ghost Town opened at number eight which is about where I expected. It was a real test of an adult movie without any proven bankable talent, so the real answer will be on DVD. I bet that this will connect with a wider audience when they are unable to rent whatever is sold out at the time. I’m not being funny, that’s is exactly how many movies become successful on video. When your town has an eight day rainstorm and the big movies are all rented, that’s when you settle for your second or third choices. C’mon! You know it’s true.

It deserves to be mentioned that The Duchess, the period piece starring Keira Knightley opened in 28th place with $203,000. It may not sound like much, but it’s only on seven screens and pulled in $29,000 a screen! That kind of per screen average is no joke. Way to go, Paramount Vantage. We’ll see how that continues to grow as they add more screens.

And that’s the weekend!

Post Script: I just wanted to take a moment to express that my thoughts and prayers are with Travis and Adam and the families of those killed in that fatal plane crash in South Carolina. Let’s hope that the two survivors are able to pull through completely.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008


Pop the champagne! This marks Soccerboy in LA’s fiftieth post! Everybody at MD TOTAL is feeling pretty proud of what’s been accomplished here since July Eleventh! Even I didn’t imagine I would have had that much to say in two months, much less publish it for the world to see. I will admit it’s an extremely fun process that is wonderfully difficult.

This magazine is published five times a week on average. Some weeks are all seven days, and some weeks have consecutive days off. Generally, I figure out what I’m going to write about, write it, rewrite it, edit, rewrite again, edit again and publish all on the same day. As an artist, I rely on a strong process to get this accomplished. Some features require more time for me to establish a point of view, so I chew on those ideas, writing for a few days at a time before I publish them. I will say this: it is surprising even to me what features take a long time to get out of me. Luckily, I have a process. Though I must say, the best part about reaching Fifty is that I get to thank you.

Thank you for reading this magazine! :)

It’s great that you guys show up at all, and that you feel comfortable enough to join in on the discussion. It’s fulfilling. Speaking of, now would be a good time to give a shout out to our readers in Rhondda! And Panang! I never dreamt that Soccerboy in LA would be read as far as Wales and Thailand, but dag y'all… Thanks for showing up! And tell a friend to drop by! [shameless plug] New Visitors are always welcome!

We’re nearing the end of the second cycle, and it’s a crazy/amazing feeling just to be here and know that we’re moving forward! Cycle Three is looking to be pretty cool and should take us through the New Year. We’re working on some things that are pretty exciting if I say so myself. The feel will be the same and the recurring features will still recur, we’ll just get some new ones as well. That’s all I can say!

Pop the champagne and celebrate Soccerboy in LA’s Fiftieth Feature and give a toast to your good sense for reading it!

Keep it Real.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Silver Bullet

What a day! Today was one of those days where everybody in town who works in the industry was all talking about the same thing. Days like these are when it really feels like high school again, in the good way. At your first break between classes you email/call/text/facebook your BFF to find out what they know!

What exactly went down? Today, on the Warner Brother’s lot, there was a shakeup at Silver Pictures. You remember Joel Silver, the head of Silver Pictures, right? He’s who brought us The Matrix (yay!) and most recently Fred Claus and Speed Racer. (ouch.) Now would be a good time to remind everybody that the entire industry thought something like this would happen as soon as we saw Speed Racer’s opening night grosses. What could seem less than interesting to some civilians, is like candy to a crackhead when you’re in the industry.

What’s a shakeup? In this situation, it involves two of the top executives at Silver Pictures resigning from their post. One of the executives, Susan Downey told Silver that she would not be renewing her contract when it expires in February. The other exec, Navid McIlhargey, asked Silver to get out of his contract so he could become a senior vice president at New Regency, which Silver agreed to. The big question in town is what is Downey going to do next, she’s been there for ten years?! Set up her own production company with her husband? (She’s married to Robert Downey Jr.) That’s the current talk around the lockers.

One thing this shakeup does for sure is put even more pressure on the new Guy Ritchie movie, RocknRolla. We all know what’s been said about Ritchie (we also know what I said too) and even though all critics seem to love this pic, it still has to capture the attention of the public and convince them that they care about seeing it in the movie theater. As if this movie needed more pressure! That’s like finding out that the AP Chem test you're taking in three hours also decides whether or not you get into college at all! JK!

Worse – the cliques at the commissaries are beginning to make up nasty rumors about the future success of Silver Pictures. I will say this: Often times, when a company has an excellent track record then endures a couple of misfires, they re-jigger their organization. They rethink what positions are needed, what duties those positions will have and what kind of people are best suited for those positions in the company. Joel’s Silver’s company has been on the lot at Warner’s for 22 years! I for one fully expect that this shakeup will allow Silver Pictures to run in a leaner, more efficient way and will also allow fresh, modern ways of thinking. This company will come out on top because at the end of the day, they’re still here because they know what their doing.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Happened to Date Night?

Lately in the zeitgeist, there has been an emphasis on the terms “chick-lit” or “chick-flick.” Back around the turn of the century when “chick-lit” became a genre, I sort of understood it. The books that got labeled this way were obviously geared towards women, and they weren’t just the latest offering from Oprah’s Book Club. These books were full of women, and the things women are interested in. If you were to write a book about make-up, dresses and tampons; that would satisfy a certain population of and it would be somewhat fair to label it chick-lit. Somewhat fair. Somehow this term has become the standard for any piece of literature whose main character is female. I am a real guy and this shit is obvious even to me!

Why does a book having a female main character mean that it is geared towards women? This labeling is… ugh. It’s ridiculous, just ridiculous. And now, thanks to so many of these “chick-lit” titles becoming successful, we get to see them all as movies that are of course geared towards women. This way of thinking has become so pervasive that it’s accepted.

WHAT HAPPENED? These pictures may have women as main characters, but there is no reason that guys shouldn’t have a good time too – in the right situation. No, I don’t expect a pack of straight men to line up to see The Devil Wears Prada, but they would have an awesome time if they were on date with their other! That’s what most of these are: DATE MOVIES. Hell, that’s even what we used to call them. Movies that are romantic and/or emotional or about actual growth as a person are perfect for embracing the one you’re interested in. That’s what they’re for!

This phenomenon is so ridiculous that even the most popular “guy’s movie” director has even figured it out. That’s right, Judd Apatow knows what actually makes guys tick. Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Date Movie. Pineapple Express? DATE MOVIE! Hell, I’d even call that movie a bro-mance, there was that many romantic dealings going on.

What’s my point? We need to reclaim our movies from marketing people. The best example from this year is what most consider to be the biggest chick-fest of all time: Sex and the City. I will go on record saying that this is a very good movie, regardless of the TV show. And, ironically because of the TV show, this movie’s audience missed the mark. Groups of women (and gay men too, let’s keep it real) went to theaters in hordes together to celebrate this event. Some theaters even put on parties with drinks inspired by the movie. Apparently the audiences enjoyed it, but I venture to that they may have missed the point. That movie, while having four female lead characters, is at heart a date movie. I won’t spill into the plot, but we know it’s about romantic relationships and for my money that’s the kind of picture that makes me want to hold my baby’s hand.

Let’s bring back the tradition.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Round Up : 9.14.08

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estmates!

1. Burn After Reading $19.4 million
2. The Family That Preys $18 million
3. Righteous Kill $16.5 million
4. The Women $10.1 million
5. The House Bunny $4.3 million

Alright, alright. So last week, I said that I was looking at The Women being the number one movie this weekend. Forgive me, apparently it had slipped my mind that three other movies were opening as well. At $10 million, people will inevitably say The Women’s grosses makes it a failure but it was made for $16 million so it will make it’s money back in the next week. What I am interested in is whether or not it will pick up word of mouth and grow form there. Whatever happens, it’s Picturehouse’s best opening ever! Way to go.

At $16.5, Righteous Kill is also the biggest success for Overture Films. I would have to say that I was surprised that Overture decided to release this picture so early in the fall season. Police dramas tend to do well once the weather seriously for some reason. It could easily have won the weekend sometime in October. Especially with Robert De Niro playing Al Pacino, and Pacino playing De Niro. What could be better?

Tyler Perry truly has got his eye on his audience, yet another movie of his is a hit. He also traditionally does not do screenings for critics. Generally, when a movie is not screened for critics it is because the studio doesn’t have confidence in the picture. Tyler Perry is definitely an exception to this rule. He says that he does not do critics screenings because he lets the audience be his critic. This is a brave man. Best of all, the audience is giving him raves – every single movie of his has been a hit!

Burn After Reading won the weekend with $19.4 million! I was hearing that some tracking experts were expecting the mid 20s range. I would have been surprised to see those results, but $19 mil makes it the highest grossing debut weekend for any Coen Brothers movie. Congratulations!

All in all, this was a surprising start to the fall, with the general receipts being up about 35% from last year. I think that for the first time in a while there were a lot of fresh choices with a wide array of movie stars to choose from. Clearly, people wanted to go to the movies.

And that’s the weekend!

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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Friday, September 12, 2008


It’s likely that if you don’t have a ten year old child then you’ve never heard of Fred. Let me be the first to tell you that Fred is the coolest person you’ve never heard about. He is a 14 year old kid from the Midwest with access to a video camera. In his videos, he plays a six year old kid who is HYPER. In the videos his voice is chipmunked, just to warn you. (if you’re hungover, just wait until after the hair of the dog to watch.) Oh yeah, he has a weekly show on youtube. Saying that kids love him may be one of the biggest understatements of the year. His videos regularly surpass 300,000 views in the first hour they’ve been uploaded and often end up hovering around 5 million views total, some are past 8 million views. Each! For lack of a better phrase: That shit is crazy! To give perspective, five million views means that two weeks ago he would have been the most watched show on cable. Again: Crazy. I bet you’re wondering how a large city’s worth of kids passed right by you like a ship in the night. Fred doesn’t use advertising (obviously) it’s completely word of mouth.

He really got this many views just from one kid telling another kid, then another, then another and so on. Why? Because this kid is hilarious! Stupid? Most definitely. But somehow, it’s pretty easy to fall into the charm even if you’re a full grown adult. I’m including one of my favorites here just so you know what’s going on in the world of kids. Feel free to laugh your ass off but beware: this kid is cr-zazy.

Hackin Awesome. I’d also suggest Fred Goes to the Dentist and Fred Goes Swimming (once you’re in it.)

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Titanic’s wake

It’s been over ten years since Titanic was released, and it is still the highest grossing movie of all time. Everyone knows the numbers, it cost $200 million before prints and advertising, and made about $1.8 billion worldwide. Good business model, right? I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I see that it was/still is a HUGE success that is also still a relevant pop culture phenomenon. It also established the idea of a tentpole movie. A tentpole is a property that a studio will give a much bigger budget than their other movies will come close to. The idea is that a high performing tentpole will make enough money to cover their smaller movies and financial failures. Take Warner Brothers for example, the success of The Dark Knight will completely write-off the failure of Speed Racer. It’s an understandable way of thinking when that is the idea. But for some reason since Titanic, tentpoles have been covering the costs of more tentpoles (See: Dark Knight and Speed Racer again) which has done more damage than you could imagine. It has killed the mid-level movie.

Before Titanic, most movies cost in the $20 to $40 million range. And guess what, there were more successes then, because it’s much easier to make back $30 million than $200 million. These were all kinds of movies; comedies, dramas, ensemble pieces, romantic comedies, period dramas and dark comedies. Nowadays, it is not abnormal for a studio to spend more than $50 million on a comedy (Wild Hogs, anyone?). Also, independent movies were cheap, definitely less than $5 million. (we can still make them super cheap now btw, see BRICK: $500,000 budget.)

Since Titanic, studios have mostly been interested in event movies, and independent films were left to take up the slack. And they did, and won many awards in the process. Now at this point, name actors began to realize that if they want to do meaningful work (or win an award), they better get their ass in a good indie flick. And they did.

To combat their newfound lack of award recognition, studios were forced to open their own smaller shingles so that they could again make small, intimate pictures to compete with indies. (See: Paramount Vantage, New Regency, Focus Features, etc.) Since these shingles were “independent” but attatched to a larger studio these movies’ budgets could rise a bit. This forced independent filmmaker’s hands. Luckily, this came at a time when the nouveau riche were finding it cool to invest in independent film. And it’s been this way for a while.

Now, we’ve got $20 million independent films! (see: The Women. A movie full of name actors, not one of which is male that is independently financed for $16 million?! We’ll talk about that tomorrow) I guess that’s just the way the cycle goes? Studios spend more, indie filmmakers have good stories which attracts talent, studios spend less in a different way to get actors/awards, indie peeps then spend more to get actors back, which they do. For some reason, I inherently feel that if you’re making a movie for $20 mil then you’re not really indie, no matter where the money comes from, and that’s a prejudice I know. I also know that there are still small somewhat cheap indie movies being distributed, but there are just far fewer than in the past. It raises a question: Does the next generation of independent filmmakers come from the internet? Is that the new independent distribution? Is that our only option now?

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just Got Made

So by now, you must have run into an article or two in the entertainment section of your local newspaper about Russell Brand, who was this year’s VMA Host. Apparently, some people found him to be controversial, which I find surprising/not surprising. I’m not surprised because America is clearly more Puritanical than we’d all like to believe, surprised because he hosted the VMAs. Aren’t the VMAs supposed to be the big finger to the establishment? Then I realize this response proves that finger was received.

First of all, Russell Brand was funnier than all get out. (see, even I can keep it clean sometimes.) The fact that he is generally unknown in the States was the main impetus for his freedom. His stream of consciousness style managed to be both crazy and focused; he was always on topic. Crikey – he made two Jonas Brothers jokes that were hilarious, and then had a third that proved the first two were merely setups for the third joke’s punch! Way to go, Brand. Way to go.

And that brings up another problem many people had with Brand’s jokes. People are up in arms about his jokes about the Jonas Brothers’ “promised virginity.” Huh??? I’m pretty sure that if the Jonas Brothers sent out a press release telling of their promise rings, then they’re comfortable being talked about in general whether in support of their rings or not! This even got a live response during the show itself. Jordan Sparks was presenting an award with John Legend when she vocally supported the Brothers’ promises by agreeing “Not everyone wants to be sluts!” WHAT? Why is that the only other option? Is that what we’re telling the kids nowadays? You can either be a virgin until marriage otherwise you’re a slut? That doesn’t even mention the hypocrisy of Proud Compassionate Christian Jordan Sparks calling people sluts, because that above all is definitely what compassionate people do regardless of religion? This may be exactly the problem! The oldest Jonas Brother is almost 21 years old! I’d have to say that if you’re 20 and having consentual sex with a committed partner then that is nowhere near the definition of a “slut.” The point is this is obviously not working. Take a look around! Maybe more teenagers than ever are becoming pregnant because they haven’t been alerted to any other options than virgin/whore!

But I digress, this space here is not political. It just gets tricky when entertainment arouses political ideas. Speaking of, Brand also took a lot of flack by pleading for America to elect Barack Obama. People are angry that a Brit would even suggest a candidate, which tells me they transparently ignored his statement. To be fair, Brand said “Do the World a favor and elect Barack Obama.” Damn. Do the whole World a favor? That’s not even a slight exaggeration about how the rest of the real world feels. The people who are angry that he said that are simply afraid to have the debate about why the rest of the planet feels that way. (remember? It ties into the whole “Haters are jealous” theory.)

I guess I should say it again, this here space is not organically political. Sometimes, quality entertainment makes us think about what’s going on. And I am grateful for that. At the end of the day, I’m just happy that a VMA host has people thinking! Has that ever even happened before? I’m just saying…

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

whatever makes you break

I’d have to honestly say that the 25th Anniversary MTV Video Music Awards were the best that they’ve put on in memory. In the last decade I’ve been disappointed, partially because the last decade is when MTV stopped being a channel about music videos. And the last decade’s VMA ratings have shown a similar downturn. I always thought is was “funny” that MTV was all up in arms about the VMA’s having ever lower ratings when they show fewer music videos every year. Hello! Show more videos and the VMAs will be reputable again! Reputable is questionable I know, but throw me a bone.

SO – A few months ago when I was told that this year (the 25th anniversary) was going to be held on the Paramount lot here in Hollywood, I was astounded. Why would they go from an arena like Staples to a soundstage??? Was it the end of an era? Yikes! I just couldn’t comprehend the choice.

I was wrong. Really, really wrong. MTV used a soundstage as the mainstage and that looked good. Soundstages are very controllable, that’s why they were invented. But they ventured out from there. The Jonas Brothers performed on an “NYC stoop” which pulled apart to a “street performance” on Paramount’s New York City backlot. That reveal was more creative than most performances that have been on the show previously! Pink used the same back lot, but started in an upstairs apartment, and continued downstairs and outside onto the city streets, up to a stage where she killed it! I won’t digress into a gushing review of the show because there is a point: This show was seriously creative. It managed to combine the best of what we love about music videos (admit it, everybody loves good music videos) with the best of awards shows. If you don’t believe me, check it out yourself, MTV has all the performances online and we all know it’ll be re-run over and over for the next three weeks and the weeks leading up to next year's awards. And we know we’ll watch them then, even though we know better.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I’m completely spent, out of words. I tried to figure out what to write about today, but came up emptyhanded. This is the only thing on my mind right now. As I said, the musical RENT closed on Broadway yesterday. I was here in LA but really went through it with them all, emotionally. I just love storytelling, it’s a way of sharing ideas about life with whomever chooses to listen. This musical came around when I first “officially” started studying storytelling as art and what it means to be an artist. This show is about love, and expression and selling out (and what does that mean exactly?), family and most importantly living every moment fully because absolutely nothing is promised. That’s one of many poignant things about Jonathan Larson dying the night before RENT’s first preview Off-Broadway. He wrote a show about the importance of being present, and then died before he ever saw the first public performance.

It’s hard to remember that before RENT, there wasn’t really a show that combined so many relevant issues to so many people all at once. And it did it in a popular musical style. It had rock music, artists, gay people, AIDS, death, suicide, the homeless, drug addiction, ideas about artistry/selling out yet more than anything manages to be about love and optimism. That sounds like life to me.

So yeah – I’m mourning the end of its era. I understand this is its time, and that makes me more reverential. I lit a candle yesterday, this show deserves it. It changed who I was – forever.

No. Day. But. Today.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Round Up : 9.7.08

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estimates!

1. Bangkok Dangerous $7.8 million
2. Tropic Thunder $7.5 million
3. The House Bunny $5.9 million
4. The Dark Knight $5.7 million
5. Traitor $4.6 million

This was not a good weekend for Hollywood, with the cumulative total being down by just about 30% from last weekend, not including the holiday itself. In fact, every single movie in the top 20 was down compared with the previous weekend. The number one movie didn’t even clear eight million and won the weekend from Tropic Thunder (who had been the number one four weeks in a row!) only by $.3 million! WTF? I know Nic Cage has had some difficult times lately, but dag. This is bad even for a one of his movies. Many people I know say that the weekend after Labor Day is traditionally the beginning of a slow period for the box office, and any big budget movie that was released that weekend was dumped there.

Can’t wait to see what coming up next weekend. We at The Round Up expect The Women to be the top movie, but we'll have to wait and see. Though it's nice to see a movie based on a good play out there. It sticks to the original conceit, there's not one Y chromosome on that screen at all during the movie.

Speaking of upcoming movies, Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla got a great review in Variety, having just screened at the Toronto Film Festival. Reviewer Joe Leydon says that Ritchie is back in top form, and calls the movie “a cleverly constructed, sensationally stylish and often darkly hilarious seriocomic caper.” Well done, Guy. I can’t wait till it comes Stateside. I know a lot of people will say that the “British Caper Movie” is the only genre he can do, as a way of knocking his talent. Let me tell you, haters are just jealous. Anyone who makes movies is lucky to do so, and as long as Ritchie keeps making movies of that genre, I’ll keep going to see them. I believe, and I’m sure Guy will agree that it sure as hell beats working at the Dairy Queen.

And that’s the weekend? Ouch.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

No Day But Today.

I’m not going to pretend to be coy about this. RENT is easily and by far my favorite musical, and it closes on Broadway this weekend. It will be the seventh longest show in Broadway History, ultimately having played 5,124 performances and 16 previews. I’m finding it difficult to put into words what it was like living in New York City back in 1996 and experiencing this phenomenon take place. There was an electricity about it, you could feel that this was history in the making.

For those who have forgotten, here’s a recap. Back in January of 1996, Jonathan Larson’s musical RENT was opening Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop. After the dress rehearsal, book/music/lyrics writer Larson did an interview for the NY Times, went home, put on a pot of tea, collapsed and died of an aortic aneurism. His untimely death immediately gave the show an immense amount of publicity and many believe that event gave the production its transfer to Broadway. I have to agree that the show’s transfer to Broadway the next month was because of the publicity Mr. Larson’s death received, but I firmly believe this show would have gotten to Broadway anyway. It did win the Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, Best Score of a Musical and Best Musical. Jonathan Larson also won the Pulitzer Prize for literature that year, and the show is still one of a handful of musicals to do so.

It was strange and interesting time to live in New York, it had been so long since one show got everyone talking. The entire city was talking about it, all the time. The actors were everywhere, on posters, magazines, making appearances, you couldn’t get away from the show.
Adam Pascal and Daphne Rubin-Vega were on the cover of Newsweek! There was even a Rent boutique inside Bloomingdales featuring clothes inspired by the show, which is unheard of. Not only were so many people just loving the show and talking about it everywhere, it was impossible to get tickets to. The producers brilliantly came up with an idea, they would put the first two rows of the orchestra on sale two hours before the show for $20! Students could finally see a show and be able to afford it. Back then before they put a lottery system in place, people would line up the night before for these tickets, and sit in line overnight to get in. It sounds a little crazy, but it was an incredible bonding experience. You’d be camping on a street in Manhattan and get to know the other 20-30 people in line with you. You’d be exhausted by the time you’d get your ticket in hand but you’d all would be friends. And then two hours later, with no sleep and adrenaline pumping you’d see, no… experience this incredible show about love and living in the present from the front of the theater with the actors onstage often breaking the fourth wall and singing to you directly.

It was amazing.

I am much more torn up about this show closing than I ever expected, that’s how effective it is. It’s spent twelve wonderful years on Broadway, so it hasn’t been cut short in any way. It’s simply the end of an era. If you’re a fan of the show, then tomorrow let yourself be a little sentimental and light a candle for the show.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Man With the Voice

“In a world where diamonds mean more than money…”

“In a world where Pirates still rule the sea and pillage our beauties…”

“In a world where he is the last man of his world…”

We have heard one voice in the trailers for so many movies. So many trailers that we have moved past the annoyance of the overuse of this phrase, and now let it bring us into the story quicker. In a movie trailer, there’s not much time to get a lot of info across, and the “In a world where…” line sets the scene in an extremely efficient way.

You may not know his name, and definitely don’t know his face, but all of those trailers were performed by a man named Don LaFontaine. Yesterday, Mr. LaFontaine passed away here in LA. He really was in every trailer, that’s the most efficient to account it. When I first joined the unions, I was told on no uncertain terms that I could forget about doing voiceovers for movie trailers, there was already a guy who did them. I knew that they all sounded so similar, but was astonished to find out that a very large percentage was performed by one man. Even the ones he didn’t perform tried to sound like him! Best of all, he fell into this accidentally. Mr. LaFontaine was a recording engineer producing radio spots in NYC when an narrator didn’t show up to record one day (in 1965) and LaFontaine performed the copy himself for the MGM picture “Gunfighters of Casa Grande.” The executives at MGM loved his performance, and the rest as we say, is history.

This man went on to record more that 5,000 voiceovers in his career and became the head of the trailer department at Paramount! After many years at Paramount, LaFontaine struck out on his own and started his own production company. This change allowed him to work for everyone and established him as The King Of Voiceovers. He was so successful that he even played himself in a series of Geico commercials (rare for him to appear onscreen!). Remember? “In a world where both of our cars were totally underwater…” That was him!!! He also was the voice for the Academy Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Mr. LaFontaine is thought to have signed more SAG contracts than any other actor.

Don LaFontaine will be missed.

In a world where they’ve lost the man who told what was going on, who the hell will set the scene now…?

© MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Monday, September 1, 2008

American Boy

August in LA was especially interesting this year. Many Angelenos who would normally go on a trip for their vacation, opted instead for a staycation because gas and airfares are so expensive right now. Most of Western Europe has the entire month off, so August is when they all travel. Many head to the places you expect – Ibiza and Northern Crete (If you’re a Brit), Corsica and Sardinia (if you know what’s what), Mykonos and Positano (if you’re a little ahead of the curve), St. Tropez (if you’re rich) and Nice (if you’re not). But with the current exchange rate, more and more Europeans are Coming to America for their holiday. And LA was full of Europeans this past month, in the best way. Not only are many of these people super polite, but I got to speak French on a daily basis. Speaking French is not something that I get to do everyday, but in August it’s multiple times a day. You can visibly see the relief on their face once they realize that they’ll be able to rest their brain and speak in their home language. What’s nice about it all is that it’s usually a good starter to an interesting conversation that we then conduct in Franglais. Giving directions is a big one. Suggesting places to go and what to avoid, but I also found myself telling people how to get to The Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas! Even San Francisco! For that one I actually told a person in French how to get there from where we were standing while his girlfriend wrote it down on a napkin. I suggested purchasing a map but they declined, saying that if they got lost they’d buy one then! I’ve never lived like that, especially since MapQuest came around and definitely not now with Google Maps. It felt liberating just imagining it. It’s great to talk with people from other places, and hear what they have to say. I did not get out of the country this summer to experience other cultures so I’ll have to take it where I can.

What blew me away is how much shopping they are doing. The exchange rate is so good for them that they literally come to LA with empty suitcases that they plan to fill entirely with the clothes that they’ve bought! When I tell them about the outlet shopping that’s within 100 miles, you can feel their excitement rising. Plus, they’re not even staying at some cheap motel, they’re at the Beverly Hills Hotel or the W and renting a Mercedes! What’s going on? I knew that the dollar has been tanking, but I simply had no idea it was like this. Oh well, I guess that’s why today is called Labor Day, huh? (not really) Time to shake the summer sand from myself and get back to making money! Hmmm… I wonder if there’s a way to start making money in pounds…

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.