In recognition of the ongoing celebration of the 20th anniversary of Sony Pictures Classics as well as the generosity of the current principals, an earnest thank you from Hollywood Elsewhere. I’ll use it this weekend for my trip to the Savannah Film Festival.
Focus Features needs to get the lead out and start selling Tinker Tailor Solder Spy baseball cards with a little rectangle of pink chewing gum inside each package. Sell them at newsstands and at Starbucks and Best Buy stores and 7-11s. Because that’s exactly what these iTunes image profiles look like. There are at least 18 or so characters in Tomas Alfredson’s film, which comes out in December, so it would take a while to collect them all.
I would buy all I can and keep them in a shoebox and trade them with my friends. “I’ve give you two of my extra Jim Prideaux cards if you’ll give me your one extra Peter Gulliam. C’mon…what are you going to do with the extra? Okay, the two Prideaux cards plus $10 bills. You still won’t trade? Jesus…what are you looking for?”
I’ve learned three or four things since posting last Saturday’s story about that uttterly ridiculous fade-to-black mistake contained within the overture sequence in the forthcoming West Side Story Bluray, which will street on 11.15. The error was spotted last week in the British Bluray, which came out on 10.17. It was discussed at length on Home Theatre Forum starting last Friday or thereabouts.
Here’s what I’ve been told so far:
1. Fox Home Video is the distributor of the West Side Story Bluray but it had nothing to do with this recent high-def mastering of this 1961 film. That was the responsibility of MGM Home Entertainment, which owns the rights and handled the mastering and authoring, etc. Update: I’ve since been told that the compression & authoring of the Bluray/DVD was done by Fox Home Video.
2. I’m told that Fox Home Video knows about the issue but will not recall the title. it will instead implement what’s being called a “running fix.” This means that if anyone wants to send their West Side Story Bluray back Fox Home Video will accept it and send them a corrected disc down the road. “We are looking to fix the issue on future discs,” is what I was told.
3. MGM Home Entertainment senior vp publicity Michael Brown declined to respond to calls and emails, but one person at that company who is at least partially responsible for the error is Yvonne Medrano, vp technical services. She also declined to respond to calls and emails. I explained to her and to Brown what I understood to be the history of the situation and asked if they could illuminate further or explain any errors or misunderstandings. Silencio.
4. As I understand it, the high-def scanning of West Side Story was done by HTV Illuminate CEO Jim Hardy. Update: In the comments section restoration guru Robert Harris has stated a belief that the fade-to-black problem happened during the high-def scanning phase, indicating that Hardy is the likely culprit. Here are some recent comments that Harris posted on HTF.
5. Mistakes happen, of course, but it’s mind-blowing to consider that each and every MGM Home Entertainment staffer who was involved in the delivery of the West Side Story Bluray didn’t catch the error. It was a matter of simple ignorance, and not just on the part of Ms. Medrano. No one who looked at it before sending to the duplication plant knew that the overture isn’t supposed to fade to black at any point…ever.
This is what happens when you let monkeys run the factory.
Here’s how HTF member Adrian Turner described the problem last weekend. “There is a complete fade-to-black [during the overture] just before the pull-out to reveal the main title,” he writes.
“The overture plays from the start as it should do and the Bluray image is very sharp. At the climax of the overture, the moment when the music changes tempo and the color should switch to blue and the zoom-out, there is a quick fade to black.
“And then we get the final section of the music and the blue image. This image is very fuzzy indeed and then it clears and becomes sharp with the zoom-out to reveal the title WEST SIDE STORY. The dissolve from the Saul Bass design to the live shot of New York is just as it should be.
“I don’t know why [the parties responsible] have chosen to alter the film and have ruined this most dramatic moment. It’s a total travesty.”
Bluray.com’s Josh Katz ran a linked summary of these developments on 10.26.
Given what I’ve been hearing for years about widespread ignorance among GenX and GenY’s about American history, the possibility that a significant percentage of under-40s or certainly under-30s not having clue #1 about who J. Edgar Hoover was doesn’t sound like a huge stretch. So I would guess Warner Bros. marketing is facing a slight hurdle in selling Clint Eastwood’s biopic to this demographic.
Once upon a time the brainiacs out there might have assumed that J. Edgar Hoover founded the Hoover Vacuum company back in the ’20s, but…well, maybe some do think that.
The Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer opens on 11.9.
Don’t kid yourself — more and more citizens living outside the big cities don’t know shit from shinola when it comes to basic historical data.
Ask Jay Leno about this. I saw him do a question segment with people on the street on the Tonight show a few years back, and he asked a young girl to give the last name of a recent U.S. president whose first name was “Jimmy.” She didn’t know. “He used to be a peanut farmer…” Leno hinted. The woman still didn’t know but she took a stab. “Jimmy Peanut?”, she said.
In a survey conducted in 2008, about 25% of 1,200 17-year-olds “were unable to correctly identify Adolf Hitler as Germany’s chancellor during World War II, instead identifying him variously as a munitions maker, an Austrian premier and the German Kaiser,” according to N.Y. Times piece that I’ve lost the URL for.
A CBS News story by Francie Grace noted that “allmost three out of four fourth-graders could not name which part of government passes laws. Most students thought it was the president. (It’s Congress.)
“About three out of four fourth-graders knew that July 4 celebrates the Declaration of Independence. But one in four thought it marked the end of the Civil War, the arrival of the Pilgrims or the start of the woman’s right to vote.
“More than half of 12th-graders, asked to pick a U.S. ally in World War II from a list of countries, thought the answer was Italy, Germany or Japan. (The correct answer was the Soviet Union.)”
“It’s been more than a bit surreal watching the media grapple with Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, Ad Age‘s Simon Dumenco wrote on 10.24. “A month ago you could tell that many big media organizations were kind of hoping, or at least expecting, that the movement would quickly fade away.
In a 9.23 piece titled “Gunning for Wall Street, With Faulty Aim,” N.Y. Times “Big City” columnist Ginia Bellafante zoomed right in on the flakiest protesters she could find and then made fun of them (with precise aim), starting with a takedown, in her very first sentence, of ‘a half-naked woman who called herself Zuni Tikka.’
“She went on: “A blonde with a marked likeness to Joni Mitchell and a seemingly even stronger wish to burrow through the space-time continuum and hunker down in 1968, Ms. Tikka had taken off all but her cotton underwear and was dancing on the north side of Zuccotti Park.”
“Elsewhere, Bellafante criticized ‘the group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably.’ (The columnist had actually telegraphed her intention to belittle and dismiss Occupy Wall Street in a tweet two days earlier: ‘The Wall Street protesters: passion, pizza, horns, toplessness. I fear favorable tax treatment of private equities will continue unimpeded.’)
“Fast forward to Oct. 8 [when] The New York Times editorial board pointedly endorsed the movement and its inchoate rage: ‘It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself.’
“And on Oct. 16, when op-ed columnist Paul Krugman wrote of the early ‘contemptuous dismissal’ of Occupy Wall Street, it almost could be read as a rebuke of what the Times itself had been engaging in just a few weeks earlier.
“The New York Times ultimately had no choice but to take the Occupy movement seriously because it’s gained astonishing momentum in record time — the Washington Post tallied Occupy-themed protests in at least 900 cities around the world so far — and it’s become politically mainstream.
“According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, New York City voters say they agree with the views of the Wall Street protesters by a 67% to 23% margin. And a national Time magazine poll says that the Occupy movement is twice as popular as the Tea Party movement (with favorable ratings of 54% vs. 27%).”
Herman Cain‘s…I mean, Mark Block‘s recently surfaced web ad is an absolute howl because of how it ends. After saying that “I really believe that Herman Cain will be ‘united’ back in the United States of America” and “if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be here” and “we’ve run a campaign like no one’s ever seen,” Block sucks in a lungful of cigarette smoke.
Obvious message: If individual voters or small business owners or corporate chiefs want to act in some kind of irresponsible or unhealthy way, President Herman Cain will not give them grief for that because this is a free country. In a way the cigarette finale is almost brilliant. Hah!
“When have there have been so many alleged GOP frontrunners whom we all know haven’t a prayer of being the nominee of their party?,” a filmmaker friend asked this morning. “Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, the Hermanator. Cain is one of the strangest men to ever run for President (up there with Ross Perrot but not as qualified). If he does become the nominee you can expect Obama to win forty-five states.
My response: Cain is building a political-celebrity business. He wants his own Fox News show…that’s all. And to stay on top of the public-speaking circuit. He’s a total hustler and a total animal. He’s in this game for what he can get. Romney will almost certainly be the nominee.