Last year the Obamas penned a huge deal over at Netflix to produce “...a diverse mix of content, including the potential for scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries and features." We’ve just recently found out the six programs they’re producing:
American Factory, a documentary about life in Ohio after a Chinese billionaire opened a factory and hired 2000 local workers.
Bloom, a post WWII drama.
Crip Camp, documentary about disability rights.
Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents, a kids show about food and stories from all over the world.
And three untitled projects: one about Frederick Douglass based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by David W. Blight, An adaptation of a NYT series, called “Overlooked” and a series based on the book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy - a look at the transition to Donald Trump’s presidency through the lens of federal bureaucrats.
All set to be released on Netflix soon.
And now, the Obamas enter the podcasting business with the multiyear deal between their Higher Ground Productions and Spotify. Of course, you’ll have to be a premium (paid) member of Spotify in order to listen to any of the Obama produced material but, that’s probably to be expected. With something like 100 million paid subscribers, Spotify is certainly the place to go when producing high end podcasts.
From statements by the Obamas about the Spotify deal:
President Obama, “We’ve always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation. It helps us build connections with each other and open ourselves up to new ideas. We’re excited about Higher Ground Audio because podcasts offer an extraordinary opportunity to foster productive dialogue, make people smile and make people think, and, hopefully, bring us all a little closer together.”
Michelle Obama, “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to amplify voices that are too often ignored or silenced altogether, and through Spotify, we can share those stories with the world. Our hope is that through compelling, inspirational storytelling, Higher Ground Audio will not only produce engaging podcasts, but help people connect emotionally and open up their minds — and their hearts.”
As of today, Spotify has not yet released details on specific projects the Obamas will produce, but did state the programming will be “a diverse slate of original podcasts."
Which, to be honest - could mean, literally - anything. =)
Stranger Things, one of Netflix’s biggest hits is, allegedly - plagiarized from another source. At least that’s the claim by Charlie Kessler, a long time Netflix digital/technical operation crew member. And - I kind of buy it. After reading more about it, the lawsuit appears to have some merit. Let me break it down for you:
Netflix released Stranger Things in July of 2016; it was an instant hit. If you have not seen it, the show is about weird, macabre happenings around the small town of Hawkins, Indiana during the early 80’s, and how several twelve year olds become unlikely heroes. The main protagonist(s) of the show come from the nearby underground Military base. A Military base that performs horrible cross dimension experiments on children!
The show dripped with Spielberg, King, Gygax nostalgic lore and was both a critic darling and fan favorite.
Now, keep in mind that if a show is released in July 2016 that means it was in pre-production probably early 2015, shot principle photography mid to late 2015 and did post production visual effects, sound editing/mixing, original score recording late 2015 to early 2016. Key point there being - we know the production of Stranger Things began at least - early 2015.
BUT - you can’t go into production unless you have a completed concept. So the Duffers had to have pitched to Netflix before they went into pre-production (obviously), then Netflix had to greenlight the show, and then get money to the producers of Stranger Things (Also, at the time the show title was “The Montauk Experiment.” This is important later)
This kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, as someone who bounced around the industry, I know it takes quite a bit of time. I’m going to say that all of the pitching/accepting had to begin near the end of 2014. I think that’s a reasonable estimate.
Which, brings us to Charlie Kessler. According to Kessler’s IMDB page, he worked on Netflix productions since 2015’s Jessica Jones, before that he had some crew success on other networks and video games going back to 2005. He’s been around the biz and knows the industry. And, here’s the kicker - Kessler claims that he (and his agents, maybe) met the Duffer brothers at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and pitched them the idea for a Montauk military base / conspiracy sci-fi series based on his (Kessler’s) short film “Montauk.” Kessler claims the meeting lasted “ten to fifteen minutes.”
Well, I just looked up the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and see that it took place from April 16th to april 27th. That’s mid 2014. So the timeline for Kessler’s case works out. If he’s telling the truth, then:
Now, as you may (or may not) know the underground Montauk Air Force Base in Long Island, NY - swirls with conspiracy theories, most of which revolve around the US military conducting experiments on teleportation, thought & behavior control, black hole research, parallel universe theory and, of course - time travel. Often, these experiments were said to be using children as test subjects. Oh, and here’s a good one - even though the base shut down decades ago, no one remembers what they worked on at Montauk Air Force Base because - they’re minds were all wiped clean! =)
And if you’re thinking, “Wow, those conspiracies actually do sound just like Stranger Things” season one. Well - that’s the whole point, ain’t it? But, as you no doubt probably see - stories about Montauk Air Force Base and conspiracies surrounding it, are nothing new. And they are all similar. So, it is totally believable that, in general - two different people can have similar ideas about famous events. I buy that.
BUT - now we have a series of coincidences - there’s the timing of it all, the former show title and subsequent change, and the fact that all of this was pitched to them a few months before the Duffer brothers pitched the idea to Netflix. Again, it’s reasonable to assume that they all had similar ideas. But - it does seem suspicious. And by the way, sorting this all out is exactly what the court system is for. Right?
Now, on the flip side - the Duffer brothers say that they never, ever met Charlie Kessler and never heard any kind of pitch from him. At all. And, that he’s lying. Fair enough. Hence the lawsuit. Which has just moved forward because an L.A. judge denied summary judgement to the Duffer brothers.
What summary judgement would have meant is that, the judge could have decided the outcome of the case without a trial. Summary judgements are more likely to be held under lock and key so, for example - you and I would not have heard what the verdict and/or payout to the alleged damaged party would have been. A trial and verdict is more likely to go public. Which is something the unusually secretive Netflix didn’t want.
The Duffer brothers have been saying since day one that they came up with the idea of Stranger Things years ago. As in - back in 2010, which would have been four years before they had the alleged meeting with Kessler. TMZ even reported, “We have the emails that prove the Duffer brothers talked via email in 2010 about ideas for Stranger Things.” TMZ didn’t publish the emails but claim there are 2 from 2010 and one from 2013 where the Duffer brothers discuss the Montauk show premise between themselves. Which might suggest they didn’t steal the entire show idea.
And I will take it back to the - but two people can have similar ideas about famous world events. For example, it’s very possible that before the Duffer brothers and Kessler ever met, they all had similar ideas about Montauk. BUT, during the Kessler pitch to the Duffer brothers, it’s possible he (Kessler) pitched specific things to the Duffer’s that - ended up on Stranger Things.
That would be a problem.
The Duffer brothers, and Netflix, all say this is a meritless lawsuit and that there is definitive proof the Duffer’s didn’t steal ideas, but the judge clearly thought otherwise ruling that the Duffer’s “lack verifying evidence of the originality of their idea.”
To be perfectly honest, I suspect it’s a bit of both. I’m willing to bet that, independently of each other, both parties came up with similar ideas. Then, a pitch meeting happened between Kessler and the Duffers, coincidentally, about their similar ideas. Then, the Duffers - probably on accident - took some ideas from said pitch meeting and placed the ideas in Stranger Things. Which led Kessler to believe, “The Duffer must have taken their entire idea for Stranger Things - from my pitch meeting!”
Anyway. The case goes to trial in May.
Stranger Things season three will be released on Netflix in July, 2019.
It’s official. This weekend at the Star Wars Celebration Chicago, Disney confirmed the official subtitle of Star Wars Episode IX will be, “The Rise of Skywalker.” But, who is the “Skywalker” in question? It’s been confirmed in the previous film, The Last Jedi - that Rey’s parents were nobodies so - are we about to see JJ Abrams (writer / director of the The Force Awakens and the upcoming film, “Rise of Skywalker”) doing a slight rewrite on the previous film? Perhaps the information that Rey was told - was a lie? I mean, it did come from a dude who is full on Dark Jedi. Or, maybe it’s a literal title and that one of our old Skywalkers from the past - will rise?
Technically, Leia’s character didn’t die even though beloved actor Carrie Fisher passed away. So, Leia can’t be the Skywalker that rises. Or, maybe a brand new Skywalker baby will pop up? And, of course - Kylo Ren is technically in the Skywalker bloodline. So, there's that.
Too many questions, not enough Star Wars answers. I guess we’ll have to wait until Christmas.
Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker opens Christmas day, 2019. Featuring the return of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher (using unused footage she had previously shot for The Last Jedi) and guest starring Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian. Returning to fight in the resistance will be Rey (Daisy Ridley, Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) heading up against the First Order led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Written/directed by JJ Abrams.
Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, will bring an end to the saga of the Skywalker family.
For better or worse.
In less than a week, the final season of Game of Thrones begins. After five novels over the course of 23 years, two pilot episodes and seven seasons of the widely popular HBO TV show are finally about to see the end of winter. At least the end of winter for the TV show. And I’m okay with that. I’m not really a super fan of the show. I mean, I like the show. And I love the first three novels in the series, a lot. But books 4 and 5 were, um … long. Much, much too long.
Thankfully, the HBO series ditched a bunch of the meandering nonsense that happened in books 4 & 5 of George R.R. Martin’s beloved fantasy series. Even though that’s true, the farther the series strays from the source material, the less successful it is. And by “less successful” I’m not saying that audiences stopped watching it. No, not that at all. The most recent estimated audience for GoT is, “approx. 30 million people per episode” watch the show. So, it’s more popular than ever. I just think it’s inconsistently “good,” while occasionally being shockingly mediocre. Half the actors are perfectly cast and are considerably good in their roles, the other half of the actors are … um … okay (and sometimes they’re not.)
All that being said, Game of Thrones has certainly been a culture phenomenon far surpassing expectations for the HBO series. I would even go so far as to suggest that Game of Thrones pretty much is HBO. I have no doubt that HBO execs are ever on the lookout for the next GoT. Especially with something like five prequels/sequels in the works.
For those that are familiar with the show but have not read the novels, here is an oft repeated note that Martin’s readers all suspect - George R.R. Martin will probably die before he finishes writing the books. You see, the books are all massive, and it now takes him several years to finish one. Check out this list of publishing dates from most previous novel to the first one:
Book Five: A Dance of Dragons, published on July 12th, 2011.
Book Four: A Feast for Crows, published October 17th, 2005.
Book Three: Storm of Swords, published in 2000.
Book Two: Clash of Kings, published in 1998.
Book One: Game of Thrones, published in 1996.
You can see the time increase between publishing dates as Martin’s world and novels expand. George RR Martin is 70 years old, he’s a big man and he’s not terribly healthy. He still claims that Book Six: The Winds of Winter, isn’t really close to being done - and after that one is finished he still has a final book to write. Which, if his usual pattern continues, means that Book Seven: A Dream of Spring might be out sometime around 2030. And that’s probably not an exaggeration. I drink to Martin’s health and longevity, often. =)
I met Martin a few times back in 1999-2000, and I was able to tell him a cute story. And, boy did I not realize how accurate this story would turn out to be (a story I am about to tell you). You see, I used to work in a bookstore back in 1996, the year Game of Thrones hit the bookshelves. It was an odd looking silver foil cover with no art, it just read, “Game of Thrones. George RR Martin.”
I knew of Martin as I had devoured all of his 80’s series called, “Wildcards.” So, Game of Thrones was on my list, I just hadn’t gotten to it. And so, I’m at work one day and an old gentleman walks up to the counter. He appears to be in his eighties. I saw him the moment he walked in because he was moving very carefully. I didn’t think his movement was only because of his age, in fact - he looked as if either leg joint was injured and/or he was very ill. Or both. Hence the slow movement. So, he comes in, he walks to the Sci-Fi section, grabs the silver hardcover GoT, brings it to the counter and says, “I just finished this and, it’s the greatest fantasy novel I’ve ever read. Do you know when the next one is coming out?”
I say, “Oh, cool, you’re the first person to give me any kind of feedback about this book. I’m glad to hear it’s good because I like Martin’s other work.” Then I look up the exact publishing date of GoT, which was only the previous month. I say to him, “You know what? It looks like the hardcover was just released last month, so we’re probably not looking at a sequel for - at least a year or two.”
And this man, again, in his eighties, matter of factly says to me, “Yeah. I thought you were going to say that. I don’t think I’m gonna make it that long.”
And then he puts the book down on the counter and leaves the store. That day, I 100%, bought a copy of Game of Thrones!
I was able to relay that story to Martin sometime in 2000. There was uncomfortable laughter from him. I mean, what can you say to that story, right? Anyway, I thought his uncomfortable laughter was appropriate. But still, that old gentleman really had no idea what he was saying to me, and that was back in 1996. And Martin still hasn’t finished writing the series.
Back to the show, the GoT showrunners were given the general idea for the ending to all the storylines from Martin himself. So, as the series outpaced the novels the TV show was generally able to follow Martin’s plot. But, not really. The TV show has just transformed into something entirely different from the original novels. Characters arcs and entire storylines have been cut, or vastly changed. Some characters who are still alive in the books are now dead in the show, or vice versa. There really is no longer any comparison. A few years ago, Martin himself joked that the TV series has become more “fan fiction” than adaptation. And, as much as I love about HBO’s Game of Thrones, I kind of agree with that statement - too often the show plays out like overly melodramatic fan fiction.
But, despite its flaws, GoT is still the greatest fantasy we’ve ever had on TV. So, at least there’s that. And beginning on April 14th, 2019 - I, along with 30 million other of my closest friends will tune in to watch every single second of Season Eight of Game of Thrones. And sometime in the future I’ll probably watch every episode again.
Silly little cat videos rarely catch my eye. But the moment you mix a silly little cat video with some of my favorite films - suddenly, I’m on board. And animator, filmmaker, photoshop guru, #catdad Tibo Charroppin clearly, has my number. Tibo is the creator of the “OwlKitty” Instragram/YouTube account. It’s a thing. It might not be Miley Cyrus level popular but OwlKitty (as Godzilla) destroying cities is pretty okay in my book.
OwlKitty is the “stage name” for Lizzy, a two year old cat living with her humans in Portland, Oregon. Her humans - Tibo Olivia Boone have combined their work (animation), and their love of kitties into lots of adorable Lizzy meets Famous Film videos. There are multiple compilations. The one attached to the front page, I think, is the best, as it takes the funniest Lizzy/movie clips and mixes it with behind the scenes footage of Tibo making the, sometimes complicated videos with his kitty and a green screen.
From their website:
Lizzy (stage name: OwlKitty) is a two year-old cat living in Portland, Oregon. She stars in all your favorite movies and tv shows and gets lots of treats and cuddles in return. Offscreen, Lizzy loves her laser pointer, her adoptive mother (a 10 year-old tabby) and the taste of cream cheese. She’s never caught a bird.
So far, OwlKitty has made appearances in such classics as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, How to Train your Dragon, The Shining, Titanic, 50 Shades of Gray and Risky Business. You can also find her in Game of Thrones, Ariana Grande’s music video and Red Dead Redemption 2. (Editor’s note: The Risky Business clip is my favorite!)
Anyway, OwlKitty seems to be climbing up the charts, as they say. They even take movie suggestions to for OwlKitty placement. You can contact them here at the official OwlKitty website.
And now we return you to your regularly scheduled depressing news cycle. =)
God of War continues to kill all competitors for end of the year game awards. As of yet GoW has taken home Best Studio Game Direction / Best Action/Adventure / Best Game at the The Game Awards, it’s won an Achievement in Game Writing from the Writers Guild of America, and now it’s swept all the major awards at BAFTA (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts) which is arguably known as the most prestige game award ceremony.
God of Wars swept the five top prize at the BAFTA, winning for Audio Achievement, Best Music, Performer (Jeremy Davies), Best Narrative and Game of the Year. The only other year BATFA handed out that many top prizes to a single game was back in 2014 when The Last of Us won for Audio Achievement, Story, Performer (Ashley Johnson), Action/Adventure and Game of the Year. Which, looks to be similarly what God of War took home this year. And since I LOVE The Last of Us, I think it’s high time I gave God of War a chance, too.
As for some of the other big stories at the BAFTA: Rockstar’s heavily favored Red Dead Redemption 2 lost in all six of the categories it was nominated. Microsoft Studios’ Forza Horizon 4 was named best British game, Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn (unplayed by me) took home Artistic Achievement and Game Design, while Subset Games’ Into the Breach was named Best Original Property (also unplayed by me but now I’m totally interested!). Annapurna interactive Florence wins Best Mobile Game. And by the way, Florence is a very well done slice of life about the “possibilities in vs. the realities of” falling in love. Florence is very lovely, and very heartbreaking. I suspect adults will get far more out of it than kids. But, on the other hand - the kids will love Gods of War, so it all works out. Just sayin. And, despite just having English parents and leaders proclaim that Fortnite is too addictive (and that - someone should do something about that!), Fortnite takes home the BAFTA for Best Evolving Game.
Which, to be fair - Fortnite could be both, right? I mean it could certainly be a great Evolving Game and also be very addictive. Of games can be addictive. You know why? They’re fun to play! If the game wasn’t fun to play it would be a bloody failure of a game!
Anyway, I don’t entirely buy into the recent WHO Gaming Disorder Classification, which parents are trying to use to ban their kids from all games ever. But, even in the actual WHO classification it says:
“Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities. However, people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behavior.”
Basically, they're saying, “Um, yeah - well, not many … and by “not many” we mean “hardly any gamers at all, ever” will actually have gaming disorder. But, you know - just watch out for how much you play and maybe do other things once in a while.
Fair enough. But then, do you really need to classify it as a "disorder?" *shrugs*
For more about "Gaming Disorder" check out a 2017 article I wrote: The “Gaming Disorder” Dilemma: Game Violence, Obsession and Addiction.
For those of us comic book buffs, we might have had to take a deep breath before explaining to non buffs what just happened this year, with both Captain Marvel and Shazam hitting the theaters when they are technically the same person.
In the late 30’s Captain Marvel made his debut and was owned by Whiz Comics and Fawcett Publications. It was a competitor’s response to Superman and the comics did very well.
According to Wikipedia:
But after a series of disputes and lawsuits, Captain Marvel was semi-retired until DC Comics/National in the 1970s licensed Captain Marvel and then purchased him in the 1990s.
Marvel Comics, however, was able to secure the trademark of Captain Marvel, so DC Comics couldn’t use the Captain Marvel name anymore. So in renaming the superhero, DC Comics combined the electrical powers of Captain Marvel with the word used by the wizard’s spell, Shazam!
So rather than Billy Batson becoming Captain Marvel when he cries “Shazam”, he simply becomes, Shazam.
Shazam hits theaters April 5, 2019.
Disney and Marvel Studios have agreed to rehire writer/director James Gunn following his July 2018 firing over dozens of online statements he made regarding women and LGBT folks. So, what exactly happened (and for some folks - who is James Gunn and why should I care?):
James Gunn, he’s a writer/director of feature films who had to back to back hits with Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy 1&2 both of which were surprise hits and have combined for a total world box office of $1.5 billion. So, when conservative personalities dug up old tweets on the Trump hating Gunn, they could not wait to manufacture some fake rage. Like most things in internet outrage culture it didn’t matter that Gunn wrote the tweets ten years ago and that, while tasteless and sometimes insensitive, they were clearly not to be taken seriously. But no matter. Disney caved to the faux rage and fired Gunn from the upcoming Guardians 3.
At the time, when reporters were questioning him about the tweets, Gunn clarified his earlier comments via Twitter: "Many people who have followed my career know, when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I've developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It's not to say I'm better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it's shocking and trying to get a reaction are over."
After Disney fired him for the decade old tweets, Gunn responded: "Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all."
And if you read over the tweets some of them clearly go to far. In fact, what I thought was far more inappropriate was Gunn’s post titled, "The 15 Superheroes I Most Want to Have Sex With," which was filled with some pretty idiotic fanboy misogynist writing. ( Editor’s note: We are unable to find a link to that now deleted story, but numerous op-eds exist in which they discuss it including this one at the Marysue.com).
So, my general take on the firing was, “Gunn wrote stupid tweets, probably when he was drunk.” He should apologize, not do anything that stupid again and move on with it. And that should have been the end. Alas, Disney caved to outrage culture and so Gunn was fired. And that as they say - is that.
But didn’t you say he got hired, again?
I did. Which means that, as they say, was not that. How did Gunn get hired back? Well, shortly after the firing, a pretty obvious narrative emerged - Gunn was an often harsh critic of President Trump and so therefor - angry conservative personalities manufactured some engineered fake rage to shut him up! And it worked. It did not matter that all the movie stars that worked with Gunn on Guardians were like, “Um, this is BS. Please hire him back.”
But that wasn’t exactly enough to get him hired again. Thankfully, according to Deadline, Disney felt Gunn’s apologies were very sincere, and they were impressed with how Gunn handled the firing and how he didn’t blame the company. The other thing Disney noticed is that Gunn’s firing didn’t stop other companies from hiring him as he had signed on to direct the next Suicide Squad film. Which means, Disney probably figured, “Well, if other studios are hiring him - maybe we screwed up what with that firing thing we did to him.”
And so Gunn won his job again and is back to directing Guardians 3. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Most of those tentpole flagship franchise films are so predictably cookie cutter that the director no longer matters - that much. Obviously, you need A director. But if it’s James Gunn, or Peyton Reed, or Joe Johnston, or Scott Derrickson, or hell even Brett Ratner or Katherine Hardwick … I mean, they’re all basically the same. The idea of the auteur director is mostly gone. At least, it’s mostly gone in Hollywood franchise films.
For better or worse the Oscar ceremony is over and Green Book is now an Academy Award winning film. I understand there is some controversy about the movie but it’s gone unseen by me so I can’t really comment. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited by any of the choices for Best Picture so I kind of didn’t really care what won.
That being said, Black Panther won the awards it should have won - production, costuming and original score. Which, the “original score” was the one that shocked me. Not that I was surprised it did (or did not) win for original score, no that’s not what I meant. What surprised me was that a young, head banging, long haired white dude wrote the score for a Afro-centric film. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just wasn’t expecting it. But good for him.
Anyway, here is a list of full winners. But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. Each year there are always delightful behind the scenes moments that didn’t make it to the public eye. I’ve found a few of them.
James McAvoy (pictured): Apparently, McAvoy found a red Sharpie somewhere back stage and made a spur of the moment decision to grab it and ask lots of his famous friends to sign his shirt. He Instagrammed about it and said he would find a way to sell the shirt for charity.
Trevor Noah: Twitter has been abuzz this morning with Mr. Noah’s inside joke. At the Oscar’s he told a story on stage, “Growing up as a young boy in Wakanda, I would see T'Challa flying over our village, and he would remind me of a great Xhosa phrase. He says 'abelungu abazi uba ndiyaxoka' -- which means, 'In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.'" Of course, come to find out what the phrase actually means is, “White people don’t know I’m lying.”
Spike Lee: Perhaps my favorite “you didn’t see (or hear)” moment of the evening. Lee’s very first words upon taking the stage accepting his award for best adapted screenplay were, “Do not turn that mother f**king clock on!” Which is a reference to the time limit that winners are supposed to have. ABC, which broadcasts on a six second delay, cut the line from the live feed. Which means the live audience heard it but we at home never did.
As for the, downright coolest thing I didn’t know about and only found out about this morning - the CIA’s Reel vs Real series. Which is a super fun exploration of technology you see in movies vs. how real and / or close to reality the movie technology is. The CIA even Tweeted about it live during the Oscars, offering their readers quizzes. It’s pretty great. And, also, I guess the folks at the CIA loved Black Panther because they seem to focus on the movie a lot.
Too much insider chagrin, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors decided that four Oscar categories (Cinematography, Editing, Live Short Film, Hair & Makeup) would be announced during commercial breaks and not live for the telecast. Now, this general idea is nothing new as the entire Scientific and Technical Awards take place two weeks before the Oscar ceremony. From the Oscars.org website:
“The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honor the men, women and companies whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to motion pictures. Honorees are celebrated at a formal dinner held two weeks prior to the Oscar ceremony. The Sci-Tech Awards presentation has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season.”
Okay. So we have minor precedent that some awards take place - well, off camera. And if you wanted to assign Hair and Makeup and maybe some of the technical awards for sound and visual effects to the Sci-Tech award dinner, there may (or may not) have been as much outcry.
But … cinematography? And editing? Are you kidding me?
Well, even though my stunned disbelief went unheard; the Academy was bombarded by negative press coming from all sorts of Hollywood bigwig insiders such as the American Society of Cinematographers, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild.
The intent of the Academy’s decision was to yearly rotate different category winners to be “off camera” and then have the edited speeches quickly shown in montage format later in the show. This is all designed to save time as the Oscar ceremony tends to run more than three hours. And, I guess folks complain about that. Or, perhaps there is a contractual agreement to have the show in 3 hours or less. Either way, I find it odd. I mean, the ceremony is long. It’s always been long. Deal with it. Or, don’t watch it. Or, don’t contractually agree to make it less than 3 hours because it might be 3.5 hours. It usually is. Why feign surprise this year? You know?
Anyway. The change didn’t settle well with some big named celebrities who threw their Twitter weight around and drummed up enough bad press and negative social media buzz for the Academy to reverse course entirely with this press release:
“The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards — Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling. All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”
First there was the "Popular Film" category that everyone hated. So it was dropped. Then their was Kevin Hart as host, who the Academy dropped. And now the off camera awards - decision revesed.
What's next, I wonder?
I guess we'll find out on Sunday night.
If you’re a gamer you are already well versed in Twitch and know the name Ninja like the back of your hand, but for most folks, mentioning either will make them say, “What, who?” and “Ninja’s are cool.”
Well, I mean - obviously that’s what they’d say because ninjas are cool (and by cool I mean, totally sweet!). And also, because - Ninja’s have real ultimate power!
But I digress.
So, what is exactly is Twitch and how does one make $10 million dollars on it?
Well, according to Wikipedia:
“Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform, Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, "in real life" streams. Content on the site can be viewed either live or via video on demand.”
Um, okay. But where exactly did this Twitch thing come from?
Well, Justin.tv used to be a site where anyone could broadcast a video about … well, whatever they wanted. They idea was supposed to be - broadcast about life. And people did. And Justintv kept adding new content, eventually expanding and including all the good and bad content you can expect when you allow anyone to broadcast anything they want. Then, in 2011 Justintv added a “broadcast about your gaming experience” section, called - Twitch.
And Twitch was popular. I mean, hugely, mind bendingly popular. Far more popular than anything else on Justintv. Suddenly, Justintv exploded upwards of 45 million unique monthly viewers. The company saw opportunity and rebranded as Twitch Interactive and most of (if not all of) the content outside gaming - was shut down.
And then, megacorporation Amazon snapped up Twitch Interactive for a measly $970 million. Now, Twitch has about 27 thousand partner channels, approx. 2.5 million broadcasters, approx. 15 million daily users with about 100 million monthly viewers.
Which means it was probably a $1 billion dollars well spent.
Okay. But how does it work?
Well, you or me, or anyone - create an account on Twitch and then you play games and stream them online. And Twitch broadcasts the game. Live. And folks can watch. And then folks can choose to give you money - so you play more games. Online. So that folk can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online. On Twitch. So folks can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online - you know what? I think you see where this is going.
Basically, Twitch provides the platform for you to stream games online. And if you’re good enough, or entertaining enough, or cute enough - you can build an audience. And your audiences pays you. Or not.
And you become a success. Or not.
But that’s how you make money (or not). And Ninja (Tyler Blevins) just happens to be the number one earner on Twitch. At one point Ninja had almost 250 thousand subscribers to his Twitch account. Most of which paid him $5. To watch him play games. Some quick math tells me - that’s $1,250,000. After Amazon and Twitch took their fee Ninja still cleared over $800,000.
He’s so popular- he has advertisers. Lots of them. He has merchandise. Lots of it. And he’s sponsored by Red Bull. He’s Red Bull’s official gamer.
Now, Ninja is an extreme example. Not everyone is as popular, or makes as much money as Ninja. But still. There is actually a thing now, that’s out there where you, or me, or your kid - can make $$ - by playing video games. And, I kind of love that.
And that's not ALL because of Twitch. But it mostly is.
From their website:
“Welcome to Twitch. We are a global community of millions who come together each day to create their own entertainment: unique, live, unpredictable, never-to-be repeated experiences created by the magical interactions of the many. With chat built into every stream, you don’t just watch on Twitch, you’re a part of the show.”
So, apparently package theft is even MORE of a problem than I expected. I mean, I know it happens. It’s never happened to me yet, thankfully. But I only order online a couple times a year. It sounds like, for those that order online a lot, you can expect that your packages will just - occasionally, vanish.
According to a 2017 holiday survey by Shorr.com (a packaging company) of more than 1,000 people, if you receive 1-2 packages a month - almost 40% of responders said they had things stolen off their porch. As Mark Rober explains in the video, the police don’t really have the resources to look into a package theft so such crimes largely go unsolved, and in most cases, unreported. Because if it’s happened to you before, and you’ve called the police and they say, “Sorry, there is nothing we can do,” then you will probably not even bother reporting it if it happens to you again.
Well, crazy madman genius NASA engineer Mark Rober has something to say about this. In fact, he has a fart-bomb-glitter-spewing-over-engineered-fake-package-masterpiece to say about this. I’ll let the video speak for itself (it’s the same one on our front page).
My first thought, because I’m a cynic is - “Yeah, this is fun - but are the “thieves” in the video just actor friends of Mark’s?” After some minor Google sleuthing it turns out the answer is - probably not.
It doesn’t matter which source you look into, it sounds as if about one third of Americans report package theft. In the US alone, it appears as if both UPS and FedEx deliver approx. 7 million packages a day and the Post Office handles approx. 1.5 million packages a day (not counting mail). That sum adds up to billions of packages a year. In the US alone! And about one third of Americans report package theft of some kind.
That, my friend, is big package business for thieves. So, I do believe that Mark built his package glitter bomb and when it came time to test it out, sadly, it just wasn’t hard to find actual thieves to came up and steal his fake box. His video does not say one way or another if these people were caught and / or the information used from Mark’s fake package will be used to prosecute the thieves. So if you are looking for some justice, well - we can only hope.
So, who is this guy making said video? Well, Mark Rober is a former NASA engineer who has become an internet sensation because of this (and many other videos). His YouTube channel can be found here. His, attached video, Glitter Bomb vs. Package Thieves has garnered the most attention with more than 25 million views and counting.
Mark’s video certainly will not end package theft but it’s a nice reminder, as many have said, that “Not all superheroes wear capes.” The video is as great as you’d expect it to be.
Finally, here are five things you can do to help keep your package safe:
Movie Pass, a subscription based movie theater service exploded early last year when they offered a “$10 per month to see one movie per day” deal. Many thought it was too good to be true. And many NON subscribers to Movie Pass got high and mighty and wrote smug article, after smug article about how Movie Pass was going to crash and burn.
Well, they were all wrong. Movie Pass has actually been around for several years and it’s still here. Will it be here in five years? I don’t know. But I’m here to tell you that it’s currently still a good deal. It’s certainly not the sweetheart deal it once was, but it’s still good. And now, starting in January 2019, it’s going to get better. Again, not the sweetheart deal it used to be, but much better than the current, “Decent but kind of a pain in the ass” deal it is right now.
Movie Pass, currently, offers a subscriber three 2D movies per month for a $10 monthly fee. Which is a fine deal; however, Movie Pass chooses which movies you are allowed to see each day. And each day they offer a completely different selection. Which means you have to dig through their calendar and find the movie that you want to see. Then you note, “Oh, the movie I want to see is only being offered through Movie Pass at 4:20pm on Wed at a theater that’s 30 minutes away from me. Well, I guess that’s when / where I’ll go see it then!”
So, you will (probably) still get to see the movie you want to see. But you have to put some legwork into it. This is a far cry from their initial “You can see one movie per day for $10 per month.” So, I can understand why customers were reasonably pissed off with terms of service change after change.
But most writers are clearly not subscribers to Movie Pass. So they’re smugly writing snotty hit pieces so if Movie Pass fails they can say, “I told you so! I knew it was going to fail! That’s why I never signed up!”
Um. Okay. You go ahead and do that then. I’ll be over here saving lots of $$$ by using my Movie Pass three times a month. Here are their new terms of service starting in January.
The Select Plan ($9.99 per month): Three movies a month but your choices are restricted to selections by Movie Pass that changes each day. This is exactly what Movie Pass has been offering since August.
The All Access Plan ($14.99 per month): Three movies a month and you can see any standard 2D screening of any movie in your area. This looks to be the best deal.
The Red Carpet Plan ($19.99 per month): Any three standard 2D movies per month plus one Imax or 3D screening per month. I don’t give a damn about 3-D movies. Perhaps you do and this is the plan for you but I’ll be sticking with the All Access. (Here’s how I feel about 3-D films).
This is exactly what they should have been doing since day one. Three plans. I don’t see why it took them so long to figure this out. Now, just as Movie Pass offered last year, the best deal out of a subscription will be if you pay for the entire year up front. For example: if you sign up for the one year All Access Plan you only pay $120.00. Which is a significant discount. But, obviously, that means you have to pay the full $120 up front. Which I’m fine with but some folks might not be. You won’t be able to sign up for the plan until January but Movie Pass has them displayed at their site here for you to check out.
Finally, does this mean Movie Pass will succeed brilliantly? I don’t know. But the bottom line is this - they are currently offering a really great deal (again). Even at $15 a month, as long as you see three movies per, you are saving a ton of cash. I paid about $120 for my yearly subscription to Movie Pass and I watched about 30 movies in 2018 with an average ticket price of $12 per. That’s about $360 worth of movies for $120.
So, if Movie Pass lost $240 on me alone, how does Movie Pass make money, or stay in business? Well - that’s not my problem. =)
But to give you a general example of how they (potentially can) make money: they are investing in feature films, they are looking into building theater chains, they are advertising specific movies to the customers, they are data marketing and mining. Here is a good piece about how they (potentially can) make money if you want to spend more time reading into it.
Again, I don’t claim to know how long Movie Pass will be around. But for now, Movie Pass is still a good deal. And the pain in the ass “we change what movies you can see every day” will go away if I upgrade my subscription for an extra $5 monthly fee.
Which I will totally do as soon as I am able.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is Disney’s latest release, and not only are viewers anticipating a fairy tale story, dancing, melodious soundtrack and illuminating colors, but they are also expecting a parent to die or not be in the picture early on in the story.
It’s inescapable if you commit to emotionally investing in a Disney film. And if you look closely, it’s more often the mother.
Why? Well let’s first look at some of the classics.
1938 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Snow’s biological mother died and is replaced by the Evil Queen, her stepmother.
1941 Dumbo – our favorite elephant is parent-less in the movie.
1942 Bambi – sadly, graphic content below….
1950 Cinderella – the most famous princess to ever live is motherless in the movie and haunted by her big-footed step family.
1951 Alice in Wonderland – its been postulated Alice was orphaned and taken care of by a governess.
1963 The Sword and the Stone – Arthur is a 12 year-old orphan boy.
1967 The Jungle Book – Mowgli is found parent-less.
1989 The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s mother, Queen Athena, was killed, leaving her father Triton to raise her and her sisters.
1992 – Aladdin – Princess Jasmine is motherless.
In Tarzan's, Lilo's and The Emperor's New Groove's Kuzko, all lost their parents.
In 1994 not a dry eye was in the house during the scene in which Simba loses Mufasa in The Lion King….
1995 – Pocahontas – it’s revealed her mother had passed a while back.
And the most colorful and comical of the Disney films, Finding Nemo, wasn’t exempt either, with Nemo’s Mom being eaten in the opening scene.
Multiple theories were brought forward by Disney producer, Don Hahn, in an interview to Glamour. The first was that Walt Disney tragically lost his mother when he was younger.
In 1938 the successful film producer, young Walt, purchased a home for his parents and when the gas furnace was faulty he sent his studio men over to fix it. Unfortunately the repair was not adequate and it eventually leaked, and his mother, Flora Call Disney, soon died of asphyxiation.
It’s believed the grieving son found the interweaving of this tragedy into his work as a means to deal with his guilt.
The second theory is that Disney films wanted to mix fairy tale with the reality many children face, adding a sense of “realism” to the stories.
And final theory is Walt Disney wanted children to feel like heroes, and a film in which a child battles evil without the help of Mommy and Daddy infused a sense of empowerment to his target audience.
So the idea of celebrating the triumph of the quest of a parent-less child is probably more pervasive in these movies than the purposeful injection of a gory parental death. Although this makes Disney movies more palatable, I’m still hoping Mufasa was only unconscious and recovered off the set when we weren’t looking.