This is not for the faint of heart, the weak of will, the mild of humor.
WHO IS THE ROBOTARD 8000?
It refers to itself as “we,” so it could be two people or 12. If it’s 12 people, they’re all idiots. We know that whoever they are, they are represented by two of the bigger agencies. Well, they claim they are.
Robots don’t lie, though.
They’ve written a screenplay. They’ve called it “Balls Out.”
I’ve read the screenplay.
Here’s what I had to say about it: ”Balls Out isn’t safe, it isn’t family friendly and it might be illegal. But it made me laugh. Out loud. A LOT. Good for them/he/she/it.”
That’s true. But what’s also true is that the script got great quotes from Derek Haas, Scott Frank, Larry Doyle, Tim Herlihy, James Vanderbilt and lots of other big shot type names.
It’s out there. It’s definitely out there. It is, one might say, balls out there.
It’s a wonderfully sloppy hot mess of a funny movie that just might make you hate The Robotard 8K, but you also might end up loving The Robotard 8K. I wanted to hate it, but I couldn’t. God help me, I couldn’t…
Check out their website, which is easily one of the ugliest, most poorly-designed pieces of crap ever enshrined in HTML.
Unless you like Gamera.
Then it’s awesome.
I’ll get to the WGA soon.
Right now, I want to talk about film critics–and where they are failing miserably.
First, let me say that this isn’t a revenge piece for bad reviews I’ve gotten. Lord knows I’ve collected enough of them. I’ve also gotten plenty of good reviews (shocking, to be sure). Unfortunately, I have to lump them all into a big pile labelled “Irrelevant.”
The most popular sort of film criticism is really “film grading.” In film grading, the reviewer briefly summarizes the movie and then gives it a grade. I believe this kind of film criticism is absolutely useless.
Why? Because any individual’s opinion on a film is a reflection of their individual taste, and even if you want to make the argument that some people have better taste than others (true), it’s all-too-easy to point out that people of equally impressive taste often disagree about films. Violently, at that.
I directed a film called The Specials. Variety labelled it “Grade Z entertainment.” The LA Weekly named it one of the ten best films of the year. Was it either?
The truth is that grading critics are no more useful to me than my friends. Hell, less useful. My friends are all pretty smart, many of them are filmmakers…so I actually feel more informed by their opinions than those of critics. But let’s say you don’t have filmmaker friends. Let’s say you’re just a guy in a small town somewhere.
It’s just as likely your taste will not intersect with those of the film critics as it will.
And since they often disagree with each other anyway, who needs ‘em?
You could use one of the grading aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, but again…what’s the real value there? For instance, some movies get a 50 on Metacritic because most critics find the film mediocre. But some movies get a 50 because half the critics loved the movie and half hated it. Different story.
Rotten Tomatoes just tells you what percentage of critics seemed to like a film. Similar problem. Some movies are polarizing and end up with a big splat.
But let’s presume for the sake of argument that there’s a consensus. The grading critics all love Slumdog Millionaire, and they all hate Meet The Spartans.
Who cares? Of what value is there when there’s a consensus among graders? I don’t think those consensuses really move filmgoers to movies. Either they see ads and talk to friends and reach their own matching consensus…or they don’t.
The grading critics can serve a purpose by championing unreleased films. I grant this. But once a studio has decided to distribute Slumdog Millionaire, you know how they’re going to get people to see Slumdog Millionaire?
By advertising Slumdog Millionaire.
There’s a reason studios read all those wonderful reviews and still spend 30 million dollars on marketing.
Patrick Goldstein fell into a grading trap this week. He wrote an opinion piece about “Knowing,” and the basic gist of it was: “All the critics think Knowing is a piece of crap, so let’s try and unravel why audiences were stupid enough to see it.”
Couple of problems.
First, not all critics thought it was a piece of crap. Roger Ebert thought it was one of the greatest sci-fi films he’d ever seen. But more importantly, Patrick assumes that the general consensus of the grading critics is actually meaningful.
It is not. Just as the IQ test famously measures the ability to do well on an IQ test, the consensus of the grading critics is at best a vaguely relevant insight into the actual Quality of the film, and at worst is a distortion resulting from a flawed sample.
In the age of blogging and Facebooking and twittering, the grading critic will become more and more irrelevant.
What sort of film criticism should take its place?
Well, maybe instead of the “consumer reporting” model of film criticism, replete with calorically empty snark, film critics could actually spend more time on film analysis. Sure, it’s easier to just squat and poop, but then how are the reviews any better or less lazy than some of the movies they rip to shreds?
Or applaud, for that matter?
I don’t say this as a filmmaker (which ought to relieve some critics, who must be thinking, “Really? I’m getting lectured by the Scary Movie 7 guy?”). I say this as an audience member. As a filmgoer.
As a guy who has completely stopped reading criticism of films.
Well, not all of it.
A screenwriter pal of mine sent me a link to an article that represented a lovely ray of hope.
Here’s a bit of film criticism that I found intriguing and smart and insightful. Does it grade Marley & Me? No. Because honestly, who cares?
What it does do is talk about that film and its counter-relationship to a predominant theme in filmed entertainment: the belief that if we dream, anything is possible.
That’s a smart piece of film criticism. And while it’s as arguable as anything else, it’s about IDEAS, not nonsense. I don’t need the critics to tell me they hate the latest Adam Sandler movie. We know. We get it. And obviously, the audience disagrees and doesn’t care, so why keep bothering?
Instead, film critics, read that piece on Marley & Me, and ask yourselves this: could you write something as interesting and thoughtful as that about why Adam Sandler movies fail for you?
Eh, don’t bother answering. We know you can’t. And there are so many of you, we don’t even bothering listening to your individual points of view. We run you all through a duck press, shrug at the result…and then see whatever damn movies we want to see anyway.
Buried with work right now, but working on a story involving the Guild, the layoffs, our financial situation, what it means, where we’re going, etc.
Nikki Finke is pro-Membership First. We get it. And that’s fine. She’s never held herself out as an unbiased reporter of facts. She’s an editorialist.
But in her zeal to defend the MF position at SAG, she’s made a few logical leaps of late, and I’d like to offer my counter-perspective.
First, in a recent article she suggests two things: that the SAG moderates are capitulating because all they’re holding out on is a better end date for the contract, and the SAG moderates are “squandering” the power of big A-listers like Tom Hanks and George Clooney, because they’re not using those two to try and improve the rest of the deal.
This is fairly easy to unspin. Everything we’ve seen and heard from Clooney and Hanks tells us that they agree with the U4S strategy, which is to close a reasonable version of the deal that the DGA and WGA and AFTRA got. It’s only squandering if Hanks and Clooney are willing to argue with the AMPTP that SAG should get a better deal than everyone else, aka the failed Membership First strategy.
It doesn’t appear that they are. Clooney and Hanks aren’t being squandered. They just don’t want to do what Membership First wants them to.
Nikki refrains from mentioning that U4S has already improved on the last offer Membership First was able to get. In my opinion and the opinion of many others more intelligent and informed than I, the contract terminus is the only remaining issue that can and must be improved. Everything else is done and has been done for months, regardless of some of Membership First’s delusional thinking to the contrary.
I understand it’s not always popular to say, “We deserve X, but we can only get Y. Let’s take it.” Sounds cowardly, right?
Unless it’s true.
And then it’s brave.
Here’s another Nikki article that’s seems a bit confused about how management-labor relations actually work. In it, Nikki advances false arguments that I presume are coming from Membership First folks.
She claims that if SAG doesn’t officially respond to the “last, best and final offer” from the AMPTP, the companies can unilaterally impose the terms of that offer on SAG.
This is true. But I doubt it will happen, and if it does, actors will actually start getting paid more.
In order to impose a LBFO, negotiations must first be declared at an “impasse.” In the case of management-labor negotiations, “impasse” doesn’t simply mean the parties are stalemated. There is a rather large and complicated series of criteria that must be met before an impasse can be declared, and the National Labor Relations Board has to get involved and determine if it ought to be. As you can imagine, that wheel doesn’t exactly turn quickly.
But even if that weren’t the case, why would the AMPTP bother to impose their LBFO on SAG? Their LBFO is better than the terms under which SAG actors are working now. Dig? When a contract expires, the basic terms still apply. SAG is working under the old contract, the one with no terms for EST and streaming. Why would the companies impose a deal that costs them more?
It couldn’t possibly be to lock in the terminus they’re currently proposing. The whole point of that odious term is to try and prevent a SAG/WGA joint strike when the WGA expires. But if the AMPTP imposes this deal (which cannot legally include a no-strike provision), they would be guaranteeing a SAG strike, right? Who wouldn’t support one at that point?
I’d be banging the drum as loudly as anyone. The AMPTP has never imposed a contract. The precedent would be toxic, to say the least.
This leads me to the bigger question, which is: why are Membership First people inventing outrage over this?
Here’s what they want. They want a contract that the majority of the Board doesn’t like (including the LBFO, with its unacceptable terminus) to go to the membership. They want to say, “Look. None of us like this. Vote against it.” Then they want to strike. That’s their very naked ambition. In order to do that, they have to try and derail (by any means necessary, including disinformation and fear) the likely alternative.
The likely alternative is that this is not their actual last, best and final offer (the AMPTP is infamous for crying wolf about that), and U4S succeeds in getting the terminus shifted, just as they succeeded in killing French hours, the removal of protections against force majeure, etc. When that happens, the Board will send the contract to the membership. The majority of the Board will support it.
It will pass, and the Great Membership First Hunger For A Strike will go unsatisfied.
For a couple of years, at least.
In the meantime, Membership First will claim that anything U4S does is some combination of stupidity, insanity, treachery, fascism, devil worship, capitulation, appeasement, etc. It’s a lot of noise, but it’s up to us all to parse out the signal.
In this case, the signal’s the same old song.