A Latino Civil Rights Suit In Santa Monica Might Help Hollywood

It isn’t every day that Hollywood’s movers and shakers reap collateral benefit from a civil rights action brought by lower-income Latinos. But something like that might be happening, at least in a small way, as Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood Associat…

It isn't every day that Hollywood's movers and shakers reap collateral benefit from a civil rights action brought by lower-income Latinos. But something like that might be happening, at least in a small way, as Santa Monica's Pico Neighborhood Association forges ahead with its California Voting Rights Act suit against the City of Santa Monica and its at-large system for electing council members. Last month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos shocked…

Oscar Host Watch Continues, But It Worked Just Fine Without One

While waiting for word of the next Oscar host — an announcement would seem due any day from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — we got to wondering how, exactly, things worked on those dimly recalled “no-host” broadcasts of so…

While waiting for word of the next Oscar host — an announcement would seem due any day from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — we got to wondering how, exactly, things worked on those dimly recalled "no-host" broadcasts of some half-century ago. Based on some quick research at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library, the answer seems to be: surprisingly well. According to the record books, the Oscars survived three consecutive televised ceremonies — from…

As Movies Become Commoditized, Toronto’s Search Engine Seeks True Love

The commoditization of film continues apace. By the counts on Boxofficemojo.com, theatrical feature releases have reached 648 for the year. That’s about two films per day, a rate that promises another 98 movies by December 31, even if we don’t get a ye…

The commoditization of film continues apace. By the counts on Boxofficemojo.com, theatrical feature releases have reached 648 for the year. That's about two films per day, a rate that promises another 98 movies by December 31, even if we don't get a year-end rush. The 2018 total, if current patterns hold, would be about one-tenth of a movie short of 746, up slightly from 740 in 2017, a record for modern Hollywood. Counts from the MPAA put the numbers even higher. By the…

Few Words: Joan Didion Knew How To Report A Malibu Fire

Red dawn in Santa Monica. No, not a John Milius movie, but another fire in Malibu. The sun has color from a high smoke layer. Still, there’s no ash fall, and it doesn’t smell like a tri-tip barbecue, so the wind must be blowing out to sea.
Apparently, …

Red dawn in Santa Monica. No, not a John Milius movie, but another fire in Malibu. The sun has color from a high smoke layer. Still, there's no ash fall, and it doesn't smell like a tri-tip barbecue, so the wind must be blowing out to sea. Apparently, Malibu has to burn every seven-to-fifteen years, depending on rainfall patterns and whom you believe. When it does, the story always gets tied up with the movies. This time, the Paramount Ranch Western set in Agoura Hills…

Hollywood’s Film Academy Is Hunting For A Chief Operating Officer

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been rapidly expanding the membership rolls, may soon add a new executive position: chief operating officer. Several people familiar with the situation said this week that the academy has quiet…

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been rapidly expanding the membership rolls, may soon add a new executive position: chief operating officer. Several people familiar with the situation said this week that the academy has quietly had a search firm looking for a COO to back up chief executive officer Dawn Hudson. An Academy spokeswoman declined to comment on the search. The group hasn't had a chief operating officer since 2013, when Ric Robertson…

As We Spiral Toward The Midterms, Peter Biskind’s New Book Asks: Did Hollywood Help Put Us Here?

A synagogue massacre. Mail bombs that don’t quite blow. Massed migrants closing on the border. The Senate convulsed by high school sex claims against a Supreme Court candidate.
As we spiral toward the midterm election from hell, a week from Tuesday, th…

A synagogue massacre. Mail bombs that don't quite blow. Massed migrants closing on the border. The Senate convulsed by high school sex claims against a Supreme Court candidate. As we spiral toward the midterm election from hell, a week from Tuesday, this begins to feel less like partisan politics than a descent into chaos, orchestrated by The Joker. But maybe that's exactly what it is. Saturday's hate killings at a Pittsburgh synagogue for some reason sent me scurrying…

What Do Words Cost? For ‘First Man,’ Perhaps, Quite A Lot

What do words cost? In contemporary Hollywood, quite a bit, apparently.
If you believe those who say First Man was hurt by Ryan Gosling’s ‘globalist’ defense of director Damien Chazelle’s decision not to depict astronaut Neil Armstrong’s planting of an…

What do words cost? In contemporary Hollywood, quite a bit, apparently. If you believe those who say First Man was hurt by Ryan Gosling's 'globalist' defense of director Damien Chazelle's decision not to depict astronaut Neil Armstrong's planting of an American flag on the moon—and the Internet is crawling with those who make that claim—then Gosling's explanation cost up to $45,000 a word this weekend. First Man, from Universal and DreamWorks among others, opened to about…

Tipping Point Or Turning Point? The Next Oscar Producer Will Tell

Pity the next Oscar producer(s), if and when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gets around to deciding who’s in charge of the 91st Academy Awards ceremony on February 24. He, she or they will inherit a show that is either at a turni…

Pity the next Oscar producer(s), if and when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gets around to deciding who’s in charge of the 91st Academy Awards ceremony on February 24. He, she or they will inherit a show that is either at a turning point or at a tipping point — coming back from the brink, or going down the tubes. And the producer, who customarily has a very large part in the choice of a host, will be celebrated or condemned on February 25 for having saved…

As Los Angeles Disappears, All Those Stubborn Movie Ghosts Linger

No matter what they do to Los Angeles, and lately they’ve done quite a lot with all the traffic, hyper-development, and electric scooters, they can’t get rid of the movie ghosts. The accumulated haunt of a century-old industry, those pop up in nooks an…

No matter what they do to Los Angeles, and lately they've done quite a lot with all the traffic, hyper-development, and electric scooters, they can't get rid of the movie ghosts. The accumulated haunt of a century-old industry, those pop up in nooks and crannies, sometimes where you least expect them. There are a couple next door to Katy Perry's coveted convent-house in Los Feliz, for instance. That's where the Manson family killed the LaBiancas a night after murdering…

Should The Academy Go Ahead With That “Pop” Oscar? Let The Members Decide

Now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has deferred its proposed “Best Popular Picture” Oscar for further study, here’s a modest proposal: Why not make this an Article XI, Section 1(b) issue?
Believe it or not, there is a …

Now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has deferred its proposed “Best Popular Picture” Oscar for further study, here's a modest proposal: Why not make this an Article XI, Section 1(b) issue? Believe it or not, there is a mechanism by which Academy members — all 9,000-plus of them — can be directly included in particularly important decisions. Ordinarily, the group's 54-member Board of Governors holds plenary power. It can admit some members, exclude othe…

In A Wave Of Documentaries, Here Comes The Ghost Of Hal Ashby

Here comes Amy Scott’s Hal, one of eight, count ’em, eight feature documentaries scheduled to open in theaters on Sept. 14. This one is about the (sometimes) brilliantly off-center film director Hal Ashby, who died at the age of 59 in 1988. Already see…

Here comes Amy Scott's Hal, one of eight, count 'em, eight feature documentaries scheduled to open in theaters on Sept. 14. This one is about the (sometimes) brilliantly off-center film director Hal Ashby, who died at the age of 59 in 1988. Already seen at Sundance, it will make its commercial debut, as documentaries sometimes do, with a star-filmmaker Q & A—the session, set for that first Friday evening at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles, will include both Scott…

Welcome To The Permanent, ‘Popular’ Oscar Campaign

Here we are, 33 weeks into the Oscar season, just 19 weeks away from the new 2019 campaign cycle, and 26 weeks from the Feb. 24 Academy Awards ceremony for the films of 2018.
If the math seems dizzying, that’s because it is.
With the advent of the new …

Here we are, 33 weeks into the Oscar season, just 19 weeks away from the new 2019 campaign cycle, and 26 weeks from the Feb. 24 Academy Awards ceremony for the films of 2018. If the math seems dizzying, that's because it is. With the advent of the new best popular film Oscar—details of which have yet to be worked out—the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has joined the era of the Permanent Campaign. As with partisan strife, which now boils without respite…

“Imagineering” A Disney Takeover Of The Academy Museum

Yesterday, I was daydreaming about something weirder than Dorothy’s trip to Oz. Why not turn the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences movie museum over to Disney?
Not to own, of course. No sense losing the tax advantages of the Academy’s nonp…

Yesterday, I was daydreaming about something weirder than Dorothy's trip to Oz. Why not turn the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences movie museum over to Disney? Not to own, of course. No sense losing the tax advantages of the Academy's nonprofit status. But to manage, as an adjunct to those other theme parks, Disneyland and Disney World. Maybe they could do package pricing complete with annual hikes. One wristband gets you a weekend of fun in Anaheim and the…

Film Documentary Resurgence Relieves Political Exhaustion

For no obvious reason, the reality mini-surge continues: By next weekend, at least three feature documentaries will have sold more tickets at the domestic box-office than any documentary without pandas that was released last year. The panda doc was Dis…

For no obvious reason, the reality mini-surge continues: By next weekend, at least three feature documentaries will have sold more tickets at the domestic box-office than any documentary without pandas that was released last year. The panda doc was Disney's Born In China, which took in $13.8 million after it opened in April of 2017. That year's biggest non-panda doc was Magnolia's I Am Not Your Negro, which had about $7.1 million in sales. This year, Won't You Be My Neighb…

Make Way, Or Rather Don’t, For The Recessive Movie Male Of 2018

Will this be the year of the recessive movie male?
It’s much too early to tell with any certainty, as it only takes a few powerful contenders to set what seems to be a mood for an awards season. In the last round, it only became clear with the Producer…

Will this be the year of the recessive movie male? It's much too early to tell with any certainty, as it only takes a few powerful contenders to set what seems to be a mood for an awards season. In the last round, it only became clear with the Producers Guild of America nominations in early January that, Dunkirk and Darkest Hour aside, white men were in cinematic eclipse, as films like Lady Bird; I, Tonya; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Get Out; and, of course

Back To The Box-Office Future, As The Top Ten Films Eat Market Share

Structurally, the movie box office is pointed back to the future, but with a couple of twists.
As we approached mid-July, according to data compiled by Boxofficemojo.com, the domestic box-office take for films released in 2018 was startlingly top-heavy…

Structurally, the movie box office is pointed back to the future, but with a couple of twists. As we approached mid-July, according to data compiled by Boxofficemojo.com, the domestic box-office take for films released in 2018 was startlingly top-heavy. According to numbers posted Friday—before the current weekend is factored in—the Top Ten films, led by Black Panther, accounted for $3.34 billion, or 58.8 percent, of the $5.68 billion in sales for 362 movies. So 352 films…

A Trip To The Archive Confirms It: The New Film Academy Is Very Large

As Olive Oyl sang of Bluto in Robert Altman’s Popeye, the new Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has one incontestable quality: It’s large. Exactly how large won’t be clear for a while. But the Academy’s decision last month to invite 928 new m…

As Olive Oyl sang of Bluto in Robert Altman's Popeye, the new Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has one incontestable quality: It's large. Exactly how large won't be clear for a while. But the Academy's decision last month to invite 928 new members should push the overall membership past 9,000, depending on how many invitees accept, and how many current members died, were booted out, or otherwise fell away in the last year. That would be about 11 percent larger…

A Caution For Politically Inflamed Hollywood: Revolutions Eat Their Own

Two years of graduate school didn’t teach me much, except that I didn’t want to be in graduate school. But I did pick up one valuable lesson from a close study of modern history. That is, revolutions eat their own.
Robespierre got Danton. Stalin got Tr…

Two years of graduate school didn't teach me much, except that I didn't want to be in graduate school. But I did pick up one valuable lesson from a close study of modern history. That is, revolutions eat their own. Robespierre got Danton. Stalin got Trotsky. Someone, maybe Hua Guofeng, got China's Gang of Four, after they got any number of "bourgeois elements" during Mao's Cultural Revolution. Closer to home, Hollywood's own cultural revolution last week devoured actor Pet…

Michael Ovitz Has A Memoir, But Will We Ever Again See A Great Hollywood Book?

Heading to a book party for screenwriter-novelist Tom Epperson’s latest, a South American journalistic thriller called Roberto To The Dark Tower Came, I got to wondering: Will there ever be another great Hollywood book? You know, the kind that makes yo…

Heading to a book party for screenwriter-novelist Tom Epperson's latest, a South American journalistic thriller called Roberto To The Dark Tower Came, I got to wondering: Will there ever be another great Hollywood book? You know, the kind that makes you catch your breath, slap the beach chair, and gasp, "Did they really do that stuff?" Mostly, they did—witness the photograph of Robert Towne lounging in the sand with his naked Amazons, as he did some sort of prep for Person…

Latest Screen Queen Saoirse Ronan Promises Heady Sexual Politics In ‘Mary, Queen Of Scots’

It’s a given of the movie business that there will be a queen somewhere in the mix. Lately, we’ve seen a tilt toward Victoria, broad-minded and firm, as in Victoria & Abdul and The Young Victoria. Earlier, there was a vogue for Elizabeths, both I a…

It's a given of the movie business that there will be a queen somewhere in the mix. Lately, we've seen a tilt toward Victoria, broad-minded and firm, as in Victoria & Abdul and The Young Victoria. Earlier, there was a vogue for Elizabeths, both I and II. Cate Blanchett twice played Elizabeth I in Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Helen Mirren played Elizabeth II in The Queen. Between and around those, among others, have come The Other Boleyn Girl, Marie Antoinet…

Guns On The Playbill? Every Major Studio Has Them This Season

Down at the beach, every other trash can is wrapped in what suddenly seems an unnerving image, given the recent school shootings, including last week’s in Texas. There’s baby-faced Alden Ehrenreich, as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story from Lucsfilm …

Down at the beach, every other trash can is wrapped in what suddenly seems an unnerving image, given the recent school shootings, including last week's in Texas. There's baby-faced Alden Ehrenreich, as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story from Lucsfilm and Disney, aiming squarely at the viewer with an outsized handgun (and it is exactly that, whatever fantasy blast it is presumed to emit in the latest installment of the sci-fi epic). Just below, a smiling Emilia Clark, as…