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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"Who? You know, the nerd in the 'New York Times' who called the election, trumping all the bloviating blowhards on television who think a fact is something you make up. So you just don’t care. But you should. Because Nate Silver is a superstar. He’s the model for tomorrow’s musical acts, but you just don’t know it yet. Unlike today’s adolescents dominating the YouTube, SoundScan story, Silver wasn’t born yesterday, as in he’s got a history. Not only is he educated, he did stuff before the 'Times,' which signed him and where he ended up so successful he pissed everybody off.
Jealousy… That’s the heart of the baby boomer story. And now Gen X’ers, who are finally pushing fifty, too. They created the world and they believe they own it, but they don’t. Now if the 'New York Times' had a television network… Then it might have had a chance to keep Silver. But the paper couldn’t compete with the ABC/ESPN duality. As for print? Who needs it, when you’ve got the web? Yes, Silver holds on to his FiveThirtyEight.com domain, he’s the star, not the paper. And this goes against everything we’ve learned in mass media for eons. This is the oldster’s worst nightmare. Because suddenly, talent is doing it for itself. This is the story of Arcade Fire. Personally, I don’t love their music, but enough people do. Same deal with Nate Silver. Not everybody knows his name, but enough do. That’s the goal. To amass your audience and triumph." (Lefsetz)


"George Clooney, who yesterday sent his Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov to Hollywood to show Sony and Fox a first cut of their Oscar-season period film The Monuments Men, has spent most of his career navigating the challenge of making provocative movies at studios obsessed with tentpoles. While he’s won Oscars — the latest the Best Picture prize he shared with Heslov and producer-director Ben Affleck for Argo — Clooney is also the guy who kept a photo of himself as Batman prominently displayed on his office wall, as a cautionary reminder of what can happen when you make movies solely for commercial reasons. Working on post-production for his latest directing effort in Italy to ready for Sony’s December 18 release, Clooney spoke to me about his new movie and how it’s getting harder to make films like Monuments, Argo and the Smokehouse-produced August: Osage County. The discussion turned toward recent critical comments made by Third Point LLC hedge fund head Daniel Loeb and the pressure he is placing on Sony Pictures chiefs Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, centered around the under-performing back to back summer films After Earth and White House Down. Loeb, whose fund controls 7% of Sony stock, is pressing for Sony to spin off its entertainment assets and likened those misfires to historic flops Waterworld and Ishtar. Though Clooney and Heslov base their Smokehouse Pictures banner at Sony, and Loeb’s influence is growing there, Clooney has never been shy about standing up to what he feels is wrong. So, buckle up. Said Clooney: 'I’ve been reading a lot about Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund guy who describes himself as an activist but who knows nothing about our business, and he is looking to take scalps at Sony because two movies in a row underperformed? When does the clock stop and start for him at Sony? Why didn’t he include Skyfall, the 007 movie that grossed a billion dollars, or Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained? And what about the rest of a year that includes Elysium, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and The Monuments Men? You can’t cherry pick a small time period and point to two films that didn’t do great. It makes me crazy. Fortunately, this business is run by people who understand that the movie business ebbs and flows and the good news is they are ignoring his calls to spin off the entertainment assets. How any hedge fund guy can call for responsibility is beyond me, because if you look at those guys, there is no conscience at work. It is a business that is only about creating wealth, where when they fail, they get bailed out and where nobody gets fired. A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments, and he is dangerous to our industry.' Why is he dangerous? '[Loeb] calls himself an activist investor, and I would call him a carpet bagger, and one who is trying to spread a climate of fear that pushes studios to want to make only tent poles,' Clooney said." (Yahoo)


"Sony on Thursday brought on board former Fox Filmed Entertainment chair Tom Rothman to launch TriStar Productions. Rothman has a reputation as being fiscally conservative, which has caused some observers to speculate that launching TriStar with him is a move to placate activist investor Daniel Loeb, who has been badgering Sony to spin off what he calls its 'bloated' entertainment business. If Rothman focuses on making 4 to 6 inexpensive movies per year, Loeb, whose Third Point hedge fund owns about 7 percent of Sony and is its largest stakeholder, might not gripe so much to Sony CEO Kaz Hirai about Sony Pictures bombs like White House Down and After Earth, the thinking goes. But Loeb, who parlayed $3 million he collected from family and friends 18 years ago into a $13 billion hedge fund, isn’t normally satisfied with smallish moves like reviving the TriStar label, so he’ll likely stick around until he figures he’s made a hefty enough profit to sell. With Yahoo, it took him about a year before he cashed out the majority of his holdings for about a $610 million pretax profit, whereas he only began publicly agitating Sony to spin off its entertainment assets about 10 weeks ago." (HollywoodReporter)


"Paul Schrader opens his micro-budget L.A. sex noir The Canyons with lingering shots of a ruined movie theater, boarded up and dead, the spirits of cinema having plainly departed. Given that it has no connection to anything in the film, it must be a metaphor; and if it’s a metaphor, then for what? Modern Hollywood? The movie we’re about to see? The Canyons isn’t just bad, it’s rank — and it takes a peculiar sort of integrity to denude the frame of life to the point where it smells to heaven. The author of a brilliant study of Ozu, Bresson, and Dreyer called Transcendental Style in Film, Schrader has perfected a style that is miserably un-transcendent. He has help from a script by Bret Easton Ellis that centers on the decadent trust-funder Christian (James Deen); his live-in girlfriend, Tara (Lindsay Lohan); and the beefcake actor Ryan (Nolan Funk), who has just won the lead in a slasher picture that Christian aims to bankroll. What Christian doesn’t know is that Ryan — who lives with Christian’s pretty assistant, Gina (Amanda Brooks) — used to date Tara and is once more porking her. You wouldn’t think Christian would mind that much. In the opening scene, in which the four principal characters meet for ­dinner, he boasts of trolling the Internet for other sex partners. Several times a week, men and women show up at his modernist house in the hills above the ­Pacific, shrug off their clothes, and go at it (sans preamble) with either him or Tara or both. But Christian doesn’t just want to live with this magnetic sex kitten; he wants to control her, direct her, possess her. The suspicion that she has a life elsewhere makes him seethe. Schrader and Ellis are a perfect mismatch. Ellis’s spoiled zombies would only come to life with a warmer, more indulgent director, whereas Schrader’s coolly swank, judgmental gaze is better when it falls on characters with looser tongues. They bring out the anti-humanist in each other — and the amateur." (NYMag)


"As last winter’s congressional budget talks collapsed with the debt limit on the horizon, 27-year-old Luke Russert put the situation in perspective for MSNBC. 'I have never seen anything like it in my three-and-a-half years on Capitol Hill,' he declared with conviction. It was a moment teed up perfectly for Washington’s many Russert-haters, who love to point both to Russert’s lack of experience and what they see as his accompanying lack of humility. Russert was famously hired fresh out of Boston College by NBC News the same summer that his father, 'Meet the Press' legend Tim Russert, passed away suddenly—and many of his peers in the media have never forgiven him for it. 'I was Tim Russert’s wife for a really, really long time, and I don’t think I ever got the reaction that I get for being Luke’s mom,' said Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, who tweets under the handle @LukeRsMom. 'From the moment it was announced he would be working for NBC, which was his choice, but never planned for, ever, people just piled it on and piled it on and piled it on. And it was painful for me as a mother to see that.' Russert senior’s funeral, at which Luke spoke affectingly and with poise, is the opening set piece for Mark Leibovich’s This Town, which chronicles the city’s political-social strata in the Obama era. Leibovich calls Russert 'the mayor,' and writes that 'Tim possessed all of the city's coveted big-dog virtues: He was not to be fucked with. He seemed happy and excited and completely confident at all times, and why not? His killer persona combined a Guy's Guy exuberance with gravitas. Tim had a great table at the Palm and drank Rolling Rock from a bottle and ate good, manly food that wasn't drizzled with anything.'" (TNR)


"In fact, Jeremy Deller, who won the Turner Prize in 2004, is a hotshot – frequently described as one of the most important artists of his generation – and his work, which he calls 'social surrealism', is thought to have broadened the definition of contemporary art. Last year Joy in People, his much-lauded retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, included a documentary about fans of Depeche Mode; the remnants of a car bombed in a Baghdad marketplace, which Deller towed across America as a conversation piece; and a recreation of Valerie’s Snack Bar, a tea room in Manchester popular with pensioners, which was originally a float in a public procession organised by Deller to celebrate the city’s subcultures including goths, smokers and Big Issue sellers. As one admirer put it recently, Deller’s work is 'public art that has a genuine respect for the public'. At 46, he is now representing Britain at the 55th Venice Biennale – one of the greatest accolades, and challenges, for any artist ... Deemed untalented at art at school, Deller focused on art history, before attending the Courtauld Institute as an undergraduate. While there he went to an opening of a show at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery, where he met Andy Warhol, and was invited to spend two weeks at the pop artist’s Factory in New York. It was during that stay that he realised he wanted to be an artist himself and that, as he puts it, 'You could make art out of whatever you were interested in – you could run a magazine, make film, TV, prints, paintings, music production ... ' But becoming an artist took some time. 'I had no idea what I was doing basically,' he says about his twenties, when he took an MA in art history at Sussex University, lived with his parents and worked at jobs including postman, driver and shop assistant at Sign of the Times, a Covent Garden clothing shop for which he designed T-shirts featuring lyrics by Philip Larkin. For the Venice Biennale show Deller has had tote bags and invitations made which, printed in black letters on a bright pink background, read more like a warning than an advertisement: 'Please note that this invitation does not grant entry to the Giardini or guarantee entry to the British pavilion.' Deller explains it’s a joke about the exclusive, moneyed atmosphere at Venice, where it’s easy to feel like you’re on the wrong guest list or in the wrong restaurant. 'You’ve got to have a bit of fun or it overwhelms you,' he says.  'You’ll feel the weight of the country on top of you. People’s expectations of this show are huge.' A waiter arrives to take our order, and Deller orders sardines in saor (onion and vinegar marinade), followed by gnocchi with aubergine and fish. (Deller has, he says, been a vegetarian since reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals but eats fish 'when he has to'.)" (FT)


"On the eve of the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, this city’s annual media-politico-Hollywood love fest, Katharine Weymouth convened the sort of Washington power dinner for which her grandmother, Katharine Graham, the pioneering publisher of The Washington Post, was famous. Around the dining room table in Ms. Weymouth’s airy Craftsman home sat a collection of Kay Graham’s intimates and descendants: Vernon Jordan, the Clinton consigliere; C. Boyden Gray, counsel to the first President Bush; her oldest son Donald, now chief executive of the company that owns The Post; and Lally Weymouth, Mrs. Graham’s daughter and Ms. Weymouth’s mother, a globe-trotting journalist and Manhattan socialite known for both her interviews with Middle East dictators and glitzy Fourth of July Hamptons parties. At the head of the table sat Ms. Weymouth, a Harvard- and Stanford-educated lawyer, single mother of three and, at 47, a fourth-generation publisher of The Post. As her guests chatted, she gently intervened, steering the conversation, salon-style, toward the economy and presidential politics. When it was over, Mrs. Weymouth, not an easy one to please, showered her daughter with praise. 'It was a big moment,' said Molly Elkin, Ms. Weymouth’s best friend and one of the dinner party guests. 'It was sort of like: ‘I’ve passed the baton, kid. You’ve learned well, you did a good job.’' It was the kind of scene, rife with unspoken family drama, that captivates longtime Washingtonians, who have scrutinized and mythologized the Grahams for decades, much as the British do their royalty. Now, in an exceedingly difficult climate for newspapers, Ms. Weymouth is charged with saving the crown jewels. In a city and a clan filled with expectations for her, that is no easy task." (NYTimes)

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