You never cared about this stuff, and you really couldn’t care less from wherever you might be now, but I’m profoundly pissed about the Oscar producers not giving you a special tribute reel of your own last night. Pissed and ashamed and a little bit disgusted.

Marlon Brando

There’s no question you were the most influential actor of the 20th Century. No one had the same impact-grenade effect…nobody. You’ve been among the deity of reigning pop icons for as long as I can remember (along with Humphrey Bogart, Elvis Presley, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, et. al.), and you’ll still be there 50 years from now. You rewrote the damn book.

But you were a bad (indifferent?) politician and a bit of a self-loather, and you let your unresolved screwed-up stuff define too much of your life and image over the last 45 or 50 years, and Johnny Carson, whose departure happened just recently, was better liked by the industry and public, and he was a sublime Oscar host all those years.

And so Oscar show producers Gil Cates and Lou Horvitz took the politically easy road and revealed their personal colors, not to mention the industry’s basic value system, in their decision to pay a special extended tribute to Carson and not you.

Cates and Horvitz lumped the great Marlon Brando in with all the other dear and departed during last night’s “In Memoriam” tribute…all right, they gave you the last slot at the end of the montage and used four stills instead of one or two…but it was like someone saying matter-of-factly, minus any sense of sufficient sadness or reverence, Marlon Brando is merely dead.

The Brando tribute reel that Cates and Horvitz didn’t show (and probably never even cut together) should have proclaimed — trumpeted — that Marlon Brando lived.
He lived and screamed and wept and re-ordered the universe as people knew it in 1947 in New York City, and then rocked Hollywood in the early to mid ’50s, and left them both in a state of permanent shakedown and reexamination by the time of his effective departure from creative myth-making in 1954 or ’55….and then shook things up again when he briefly re-emerged as The Man in the early ’70s.

And all the Academy could muster was a more-or-less rote acknowledgement that he left the room in 2004.

In Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s Cleopatra (1963), a Roman officer quietly informs Roddy McDowall‘s Caesar Augustus that Marc Antony (i.e., Richard Burton) is dead.

“Is that how one says it?,” McDowell replies. “As simply as that? Marc Antony is dead…Lord Antony is dead. The soup is hot, the soup is cold. Antony is living, Antony is dead.

Shake with terror when such words pass your lips for fear they be untrue, and agony cut out your tongue for the lie! And if true, for your lifetime boast that you were honored to speak his name even in death. The dying of such a man must be shouted, screamed…it must echo back from the corners of the universe. Antony is dead! Marc Antony of Rome lives no more!”

That Aside…

Hooray for Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Spotless Mind inventor-screenwriter Charlie Kaufman…and the great Virginia Madsen, her loss notwithstanding.

Everyone was absorbing this last night, but let’s say it anyway: it was a vaguely boring, way-too-predictable show.

I didn’t hate it, didn’t love it…I just watched it, amazed at how precisely it all went according to plan. No surprises meant anything except the Best Song going to that beautiful tune from The Motorcycle Diaries, and yes, of course, the producers should have let the Argentinean composer perform it instead of Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana.

Oscar host Chris Rock, award presenter Adam Sandler during last night’s telecast.

Chris Rock’s best bit was his interviewing-the-moviegoers routine on tape from L.A.’s Magic Johnson theatre….especially Albert Brooks saying emphatically that White Chicks was the best film of the year.

But otherwise…I don’t know, the fireworks didn’t exactly go off. Rock aimed most of his stuff at the African-American viewing audience first, and the Academy crowd second. Somebody wrote this morning they should go back to Steve Martin and sign him up for five years. They should.

Those clips of Johnny Carson letting go with three or four zingers on those ’80s Oscar telecasts reminded me how sublime it can be when a host really knows the industry political stuff and how to tweak the pomp and proceedings just so.
As the show unfolded I heard these words in my head: “It’s tired…it’s fading…it’s not electric or essential…the only thing working for it is the familiarity.”

The best thing on the whole show was the CG-ed Pepsi commercial early in the show that used the “I’m Spartacus!” scene from Spartacus. Brilliantly cut and exquisitely CG’ed, and that final edit in which it appeared that the tear rolling down Kirk Douglas’s cheek was over the Roman officer drinking the Pepsi instead of Douglas….perfect. I’d like to think Stanley Kubrick enjoyed this from wherever he is. He would have respected the wit and the craft.

I understood Sean Penn jumping to the defense of Jude Law after Rock joked about his being in so many films last year, etc., but why did Rock even go with that gag in the first place? Everyone (including Law himself) was joking about his five or six movies in a row last fall. Comedy is all about timing, right?

Clint Eastwood, director-producer of Million Dolar Baby and winner of the Best Director Oscar.

Congrats to the winners of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, for Born Into Brothels…but wasn’t this award mainly about the compassion and activism that Briski showed for those Indian kids who showed promise as photographers, and secondly for the film itself?

It’s really too bad that Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby score didn’t get nominated — his simple and elegant music in that awesome film got me more than any other composition this year. The second most impressive score of the year was James Newton Howard’s for Collateral, which wasn’t nominated.

Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron’s cinematography for Collateral was legendary from the time that Michael Mann film began to be screened late last summer. People who love film and urban noir imagery will be talking about their photography for decades to come.

No disrespect to Bob Richardson, the winner of the Best Cinematography Oscar for his work on The Aviator, but what he did wasn’t drop-your-socks awesome. It was just good professional craftsmanship.

Morgan Freeman’s Million Dollar Baby performance was Bhagavad Gita-like in its centered-ness, but I still wish Sideways‘ Thomas Haden Church had won for Best Supporting Actor. I’m glad he got the IFP Spirit Award on Saturday, and I was touched by how much he was touched.

And hooray for Sideways creators Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. It couldn’t have happened to a cooler couple of guys.

Sideways director, co-screenwriter Alexander Payne (l.), and co-writer Jim Taylor at Saturday’s IFP Spirit Awards, in the press tent after winning their Best Screenplay award.

Really Big Change

Somewhere down the road, movies will probably open simultaneously in both theatres and on rental-only DVDs. Or maybe through some kind of broadband download service. And I’m not just talking across the U.S. but worldwide.

Maybe not all the movies at first, but some and then eventually more. Mostly on the part of the big distributors, and especially when it comes to the big dumb CG flicks.
This day-and-date idea has been kicked around for years, and now I’m hearing it again. I don’t like it much. It would certainly devalue and demythologize the ritual of going out to a new film on a Friday night, but I can see it happening.

Once this starts picking up steam you’ll hear a lot of squawking and a lot of (older) people exclaiming “no way!” and “are they insane?”…but just wait.

The cold, brutal fact is that the old romance of going out to the Bijou and sharing a big-screen experience with other moviegoers has been gradually diminishing among the hoi polloi for a long while.

Theatrical attendance continues to drop year after year, new ways of offering and seeing movies through new technologies are going to continue, the world is getting smaller and new distribution strategies are inevitable.

I’m not saying that people like me or the readers of this column are disconnecting from the communal thing, but people seem to be vegging out more and more, and DVDs being a bigger business these days than theatrical supports this.

Once the DVD/theatrical day-and-date strategy catches on, DVDs will be like CDs, and films playing in theatres will serve the same promotional function as bands going on tour and playing clubs and stadiums…revenue generators, for sure, and obviously offering a much more intense and exciting way of experiencing a film, but mainly serving as market-boosters for DVD sales.

Remove the day-and-date scenario, some say, and this is pretty much the case right now.

“Movies have become giant advertisements for their own DVD,” says screenwriter Scott Frank (The Interpreter, Get Shorty). “Just a few years ago DVDs and foreign business were considered ancillary,” Pollock adds. “Now they’re where most of the money is coming from, and [domestic] theatrical is ancillary.”

Think of all those couch potatoes and senior citizens (like my parents, who go out to movies maybe three or four times a year, if that) who would suddenly be part of the opening-weekend community if this idea were to happen.

The big motive for going day-and-date is that distributors would be able to slash marketing costs. They spend $30 to $40 million to open some movies theatrically (and even more for certain tent-polers), and, I’m hearing, some fairly hefty amounts to promote the DVD release of some of the bigger films (like Spider-Man 2 or Ray), so combining the two campaigns would be an obvious cost-cutter.

Variety home video editor Scott Hettrick, also the editor in chief of DVD Exclusive, says marketing budgets for DVDs can run between $1 to $5 million. But I’ve heard elsewhere that marketing budgets for super-titles, either hard cash investments or some sort of trade-barter arrangements, are much larger. The video industry is fairly secretive about the particulars.

Day-and-date releasing would also, I would think, cut heavily into video piracy revenues, especially if new films get released on DVD worldwide.

The Motion Picture Association of America has estimated for the last two years that mainstream Hollywood loses $3.5 billion in overseas revenue every year due to piracy. This figure is an estimate of the money made from the sale of bootleg DVD’s and VCD’s (i.e., video compact discs), which are available mainly in Asia.

It’s reasonable to guesstimate that out-maneuvering the pirates day-and-date with higher quality DVDs of brand-new films would result in an extra billion or two each year in revenue. Or would Asian consumers used to watching crappy-looking bootlegs not care all that much?

(According to a recent New York Times story by Ross Johnson, a reliable estimate of the 2004 revenues Hollywood earned from the sale of legitimate DVDs, as tabulated by Screen Digest, a British data company, is $11.4 billion. This is wholesale revenue drawn from an overall figure of $24.6 billion “that overseas consumers spent buying and renting home video products in 2004,” Johnson reported.)

The day-and-date rental income could be huge. As tickets in the big cities these days are $10, video store rentals for just-opened films could probably also be $10.
Video stores could even give vouchers to people renting brand-new movies and credit them with a $10 discount when and if they purchase the DVD after, say, a three-month window.

Imagine the Variety headlines about opening-weekend video-store rental numbers on top of the usual theatrical earnings…imagine $100 million dollar opening weekends for certain big titles, or higher. I’m just spitballing, but it sounds plausible.

And with a massive worldwide DVD and theatrical break, studios could probably make out better with big-budget duds like Catwoman or Alexander than under the current system, since the word-of-mouth factor would obviously count for a bit less.

And of course, not every film would necessarily be released this way. The kind of movies that would benefit from a gradual theatrical break by relying on word-of-mouth could stick to that. But theoretically, day-and-date could be a boon to the big CG movies. Especially the lousy ones.

I sound like a vp of sales making a pitch at a board meeting. And for an idea I find repellent. Day-and-date DVD and theatrical will just be one more reason for millions to stay indoors and stay clear of the hurly burly.

The idea of distributors deliberately destroying the wonder and mystique of going out to a new movie with a big crowd and enjoying the experience en masse sounds pretty close to appalling.

Okay, so theatrical releases have primarily become promotions for DVD releases…fine. But isn’t the main reason people pay millions to rent or buy DVDs because their appetite has been whetted by all the theatrical release hoopla a few months earlier — reviews, ads, word-of-mouth, etc.?

Some guys are telling me naaah, won’t happen, forget it…the studios will never cannibalize their theatrical market and kill the golden goose.

But all those plusses — reduced marketing costs, cutting into the piracy dollar, massive worldwide burn-throughs in a weekend or two, lousy movies cleaning up bigger without word-of-mouth screwing things up — probably sound enticing to bottom-line types.

The combined advertising and distribution costs in pulling off a worldwide DVD and theatrical release would, I’m assuming, be astronomical.

The last time a big studio tried to grab opening-weekend revenues from the home video market was 22 or 23 years ago when Universal offered The Pirates of Penzance on a nationwide pay-per-view basis, concurrent with the theatrical opening. The fact that no big studio has tried this since (unless I’m forgetting something) indicates something, I think.

And yet a week or two ago on Peter Bart and Peter Guber’s AMC talk show “Sunday Morning Shoot-out,” Sony honcho Michael Lynton was talking with some enthusiasm about a hypothetical super-tentpole title (Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, let’s say) as a one-time pay-per-view opportunity. He speculated that such a venture could bring in the vicinity of $100 million in a single evening .
An agent told me yesterday that Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, the guys behind 2929 Entertainment, an outfit that includes HDNet Films and Magnolia Pictures and is all about creating new pipelines and delivery systems, have been talking about releasing films simultaneously on DVD and theatrical.

I tried to speak to Cuban (or at least trade e-mails) about this yesterday through his publicist, but nothing happened.

Jeff Arnold, the founder of WebMD and head of a technical venture called The Convex Group, tried a new-fangled way last November of distributing that gauzy-looking Chaz Palmintieri film called Noel. Arnold called it a “trimultaneous” release strategy.

After opening in a limited number of theaters in mid November, Noel was sold on a “Mission Impossible” disposable DVD (unwatchable after 48 hours) for $4.99. Then it had a one-night-only airing on TNT on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The only problem, in the view of a colleague, is that “nobody gave a shit.”

Any way you slice it, the DVD audience is getting bigger and bigger, the number of theatre admissions is declining every year (the increased earnings are due to higher ticket prices), and sooner or later we’ll be in a different world and the old communal way of seeing movies will become less and less a part of the way people live and entertain themselves.

I don’t like it, but I don’t see how to stop it. It’s the way things are going. Am I wrong?


The Sideways sweep at Saturday’s IFP Spirit Awards — Best Feature, Best Director (Alexander Payne), Best Screenplay (Payne and Jim Taylor), Best Actor (Paul Giamatti), Best Supporting Actor (Thomas Haden Church) and Best Supporting Actress (Virginia Madsen) — was richly deserved. I mean, I would have voted that way.

I spoke to some journalists at the after-party who felt there was something a little too rote about Sideways winning everything, but naaah…it’s a great film.

Sideways costar and winner of the IFP Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor Thomas Haden Church

I was especially pleased about Giamatti winning for Best Actor, after not even being nominated by the Academy. If only Miles hadn’t stolen that money out of his mother’s bedroom bureau drawer…who knows?

And it was touching, naturally, watching Haden Church get more than a little choked up at the podium and trying to keep his composure. I’ve loved every beat of his performance from the first time I saw it — he gave the most accurate and lived-in portrayal of a confirmed hound in the history of movies.

Eight or nine cheers to Maria Full of Grace‘s Catalina Sandino Moreno for her Best Actress win, and to Maria‘s writer-director Joshua Marston for winning the Best First Screenplay award.

Sideways costar and winner of the Best Supporting Actress Spirit Award Virginia Maden (r.) with her son, who told me in the press room that he has the same kind of digital camera.

Maria Full of Grace star and winner of the Best Actress Spirit Award Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Extremely hearty congratulations to Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for winning Best Documentary award for Metallica: Some Kind of Monster…which the Academy didn’t even pre-qualify, much less nominate.

And I laughed at the bathroom joke that Garden State writer-director-star Zach Braff, honored for having made the Best First Feature, told in the press room. Q: Why did Piglet look in the toilet? A: He was looking for Pooh.

Three of the winners of the IFP Spirit Best First Feature award for Garden State in the press room: producer Pamela Abdy, star-writer-director Zach Braff, and producer Dan Halstead.

Pepsi Kubrick

“Jeffrey, sometimes you make no sense. That Spartacus Pepsi ad was another horrific hit on film, reducing powerful emotional scenes to branding madness.
“If you want a generation of filmgoers to equate classic movie moments with this soulless advertising, don’t complain as product placement reaches new awful levels.
“No, Kubrick would not be proud. Reducing a slave rebellion to a choice of Pepsi is the opposite of film art.” — Christian Divine.

Wells to Devine: It may be the opposite of film art, but it was very clever and a superbly rendered act of artistic defacement.


“Ben Affleck is nowhere near as bad as many complain. I think he’s just become one of the targets of choice. I mean, how dare he win an Oscar so young, make lots of money, boink beautiful babes, and get to be a movie star/presence…gosh, he must be some kind of dickwad.

“Sure, he’s made some dogs — but so has Robert deNiro…and while Bobby D is a convincing screen presence…he’s not that different from one character to the next. Much like Affleck. But for whatever reason, DeNiro gets a pass and Affleck gets the bitchslap.

“In short…cut Affleck some slack. Even if he doesn’t do much else in his life, he co-wrote Good Will Hunting, which was a damn fine film. Most of Affleck’s critics could never create something as moving. ” — Roy “Griff” Griffis.

“Shouldn’t you probably hold off pronouncing ‘the return of Ben Affleck’ until after Truth, Justice and the American Way is actually made and shown?

No one knows as yet how he will do. He could very well tank, you know. Just because he is getting a smaller paycheck (although $500,000 is nothing to sneeze up) compared to his last one does not mean he will suddenly become a critically acclaimed actor or turn in a mind- blowing performance.

“As you wrote yourself, he, like George Reeves, is an ‘amiable, modestly talented actor’ and yes, it is true that Affleck excelled best in playing himself on film.
“Still, one wonders if he can pull this role off. He does not possess the gravitas and while he can sometimes give a decent performance, his problem is his inability to sustain one for the entire length of the film. Which is why his best performances are in films where his role is very small. He is definitely not leading-man material. This has been proven by his string of box office flops.

“Honestly, my concern is that the minute his career shows a little sign of life, he will again be shoved down our throats a la Bennifer style as he is such a tabloid magnet. He seems to like the spotlight too much, even after the Bennifer fiasco. Otherwise, why show up at Boston Red Sox games with latest girlfriend in tow?

“For this reason alone, I wish he would just disappear or change career and go become an insurance salesman or something. Anything so that we do not have to see him on TV or the newstands again. We so do not deserve another round of that.
“And if only he could take J. Lo with him. This one is 100 times worse. It is a multi-front attack! How many bad films and bad albums and bad clothing lines do untalented multihyphenated stars have to do before they sink out of sight?” — Fearful Quebecer.

“I have no particular interest in either keeping Ben Affleck a movie star or packing him off to the place where Michael Sarrazin and Craig Wasson went after seeming to be names, but I’m kind of appalled at the lazy attitudes displayed toward his career by the Hollywood insiders you quote.

“If Affleck ever had something, then can’t these supersmart and savvy folks imagine that one good script would give it to him again? And if he didn’t ever have it, what the hell were they doing writing him $12 million checks?

“Is Quentin Tarantino the only guy in the whole city capable of looking at John Travolta and Bruce Willis and imagining great parts for them instead of having Staying Alive and Hudson Hawk brand them for life? (He, rather than their agents, should be collecting 10% of every job they’ve had since.)

“The herd mentality on display in your piece is everything that’s wrong with Hollywood. I kind of do hope Affleck turns it around now, just so he can stick the same geniuses for another $12 million when he’s hot again. ” — Mike Gebert.

“You ran a line about Ben Affleck `being adaptable enough to take only $500,000 upfront for playing George Reeves, the amiable TV actor who shot himself over career problems in 1959, in Focus Features’ Truth, Justice and the American Way.'”
Only” $500,000? Only in Hollywood. Foreign films rarely pay their stars anything like even that “modest” sum. If this one doesn’t arouse a pile of mail, I’ll be both surprised and very disappointed.

“I keep thinking of him as `Been Affected,’ although my old English profs would probably have preferred `Affectless.’

“If you recall, George Reeves played Waylon (Malon?) Stark, a soldier who’d had a previous affair with Karen Holmes, the Deborah Kerr character, and tried to sum up her sexual allure to Burt Lancaster in a key scene that oozed sleaze and showed a side to Reeves’ acting talents that his subsequent work never capitalized on.” — Richard Szathmary.


“A thought about your criticism of actors performing imitations rather than originals (i.e., Jamie Foxx doing Ray Charles and Cate Blanchett doing Hepburn.)
“This is a common criticism of actors, and yet I would submit that this criticism is merely a recent fad among middle-to-highbrow American media types. Not only do the overwhelming majority of quote-unquote ‘ordinary people’ find imitations perhaps the most thrilling and delightful kinds of performances (when the imitations are truly inspired), but Aristotle and Plato each argue that the craft of imitation (‘techkne’) is at the very heart of art-making.

“When actors, writers, and directors are imitating out of pure love for their subjects, with their soul fully inflamed, the best and most primal art is created. Imitation is not some hackish craft best left to Vegas lounge acts. Imitation — even theft, as some artists freely call it — has been responsible for some (if not most) of the greatest art of our, or any, time.

“Johnny Depp admitted happily that his Oscar-nominated (and, more importantly, universally-adored) performance in Pirates of The Caribbean was simply a Keith Richards impression. And it isn’t that Depp brought more to his performance than merely an imitation — Depp simply loves imitating Richards, and he should: he’s brilliant at it, and it makes us all laugh hysterically, even if we don’t know he’s doing Richards, or know who Keith Richards is.

“The crucial currency in the performance — that which is transmitted from artist to audience — is the artist’s love of imitating the subject. ‘Doing’ Richards wasn’t a copout for Depp — it engaged every ounce of his artistry. Interestingly, Depp’s performance was never impugned the way that Foxx’s or Blanchett’s has been, because Depp’s imitation was not overt — it was smuggled in and reappropriated.

“Why is Jim Carrey so much less inspired in his dramatic performances than in his comic ones? Because he has bought into the fallacious myth that he must create an original performance in order to become a real actor. He couldn’t be making a bigger mistake. By stripping the ecstatic mimicry out of his performances — and he is indisputably one of the greatest screen mimics of all time — he has sapped his work of its primal joy. The effect on his work has been stultifying.

“There’s no shame in imitation; far from it. As Godard once said, it’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.” — Josh Shelov , screenwriter of the forthcoming Holligans, starring Elijah Wood.

Good Moves

“I disagree with Stephen Silver about Arthur Penn’s Night Moves being an all-time genuinely depressing movie. (For that, I nominate Bergman’s Cries and Whispers). What was depressing about Night Moves was its lack of recognition.

“It makes, in fact, my list of top American detective movies (in order: The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown, Night Moves, LA Confidential, Harper and The Long Goodbye) and is an outstanding example of top-rate talent (Penn, Gene Hackman, Harris Ulin, James Woods) at work.

“It has one of my all-time favorite lines. The just-caught-en-flagrante wife Susan Clark turns off the kitchen garbage disposal as it crunches on a glass, saying ‘I can’t hear myself think,’ to which the roiling husband Hackman replies, ‘Aren’t you lucky?’

“It also has a very distinctive use of music — there is a long brilliant sequence of scenes near the start of the movie, as Hackman starts to get into the case, where the music seems to stamp each successive scene as a stanza or as a chorus within a single ongoing composition.

“Finally, it also includes nude or semi-nude scenes with Clark, Jennifer Warren and Melanie Griffith.” — A Night Moves Fan.

Wells to Fan: Not to mention that Hackman line to Clark that watching an Eric Rohmer film is “like watching paint dry.”


“That was an excellent piece on day-and-date DVD releases, but I don’t think you went far enough. You alluded to new technologies and delivery systems, but I think that’s the whole ballgame.

“The future is in broadband, on-demand delivery and Digital Video Recorders (DVR). And unless something changes in the near future, the studios are about to assure that’s the case.

“As you’re probably aware, a VHS/Beta-type war is brewing over the next generationpf hi-def DVDs. Roughly half the studios (with Sony as the team leader) are supporting Blu-Ray; the other half (led by Warner Bros.) is supporting HD-DVD.

“Most consumers probably won’t make the switch right away, especially since both systems are backwards compatible with current DVDs. But the format war, if it is drawn-out enough, will likely scare off the ‘early adopters.’ This will further delay penetration of the new technology into homes.

“In the meantime, broadband compression technology will improve, and companies like Microsoft and Sony will increase their drive towards developing an all-in-one box that will act as the complete entertainment/information center for the home. We’re almost there now, anyway. Once that technology is set, distributors will be able to offer a much wider variety of on-demand films, most likely in HD.

“And if the computer is integrated with the television, you’ll also be able to download additional content like that found on a DVD. That will all be stored on a DVR for use whenever desired.

“As the I-Pod has vibrantly shown, consumers no longer need to possess intellectual property in media form. They will be perfectly happy to maintain their movie library on a hard drive, especially if those movies are available to view online at any time.

“In my opinion, DVDs have already seen their peak. Within 10 years, they will be as useless as record albums.

“The theater experience is also dying. Last night, I saw a 54” widescreen Sony LCD TV at a warehouse store for less than $2,500.00. That means even now the average consumer can put together a widescreen HD home theater experience, with Dolby Digital surround sound, for less than $3,000.00. And the prices are only going to keep dropping.

“Why pay $10 plus parking to see a movie on someone else’s schedule, in minimal comfort and at the mercy of the movie critics and ninny-nannies sitting around you?

“Besides, the media giants already have a solution for the communal experience you discuss. Microsoft runs an “X-Box Live” site, where you can play multi-player
games simultaneously and audio link via headsets.

“How hard would it be to adapt this technology so that, if you desired, you could join a film chat room with any number of people watching the movie at the same time? And you could set your own level of interraction. Just want to hear general ambient laughter or screams? That’s one setting. Want to be able to comment to the guy next to you? That’s another setting. But you’ll never have to deal with a
screaming baby or a ringing cellphone again.

“And that brings me to another issue beyond the scope of your article. The next generation may not be satisfied with simply passively absorbing a movie. Isn’t the gaming industry already bigger than the movies? Why pay James Caan $2 to 3 million to appear in a Godfather sequel when you can pay him a few thousand to do voiceovers for the Godfather video game?

“People are always going to need a place to go out on the weekends, especially young people, so I doubt the theater experience will ever totally die off. Broadway still thrives, even with all the alternate choices. But the Hollywood model as it exists today, and certainly as it existed 10 to 20 years ago, is already on life support.

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Mr. Ebert — it tolls for thee.” — Rich Swank, Orlando, Florida.


I’m a tiny bit late to the party on this one, but I agree that the beatific expression and that black glove on Depp’s left hand and the cut of his hair and the fairy-tale vibe reminds me of a certain world-class creep who lives in a self-created world north of Santa Barbara. My favorite comment so far, taken from a Movie City News chatboard: “Hunter S. shot himself when he saw Johnny in that pub still.” Director Tim Burton has always operated according to his own muse, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros., 7.15) may have something to cope with…maybe.