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Canon Of Film: ‘Playtime’

In the second edition of Canon Of Film, we take a look a Jacques Tati‘s ‘Playtime’. For the genesis of Canon Of Film, you can click here.

Playtime” (1967)

Director: Jacques Tati

Screenplay: Jacques Lagrange and Jacques Tati; with addition English dialogue by Art Buchwald

Jacques Tati’s ‘Playtime‘ is clearly a masterpiece, but I think almost nobody can actually master it. According to film scholar Noel Berch, ‘Playtime‘, doesn’t have to just be seen multiple times, but has to be seen from several different points in the theater itself. The movie is all action. Not the way we normally think of action, but “action” in terms of filling up the screen. To watch one thing – usually in the foreground – means you’re missing many things happening in the background, and vice-versa.

The most expensive French film made at the time, the film’s box office failure would eventually bankrupt Tati.
See full article at Age of the Nerd »

The Italian Job: how studio accounting reckoned it made a loss

Simon Brew Jun 26, 2017

The 1969 classic The Italian Job also highlighted the peculiarities of movie studio accounting...

It’s hard to find something close to precise figure when trying to ascertain just how much money the 1969 classic The Italian Job has brought in, but the film is widely regarded as a very successful one, Starring Michael Caine and Noel Coward, and with Peter Collinson directing, the movie was first released in June 1969.

On its original box office run, its receipts were said to be just shy of $10m. The film was a big success, although it struggled to hit in America. In fact, it failed to do so, instead garnering its sizeable support primarily in the UK, and across Europe.

Still, it’s enjoyed theatrical re-releases, a belated tie-in computer game, sizeable sales on VHS and DVD, and at the last count, two remakes. In 2003, F Gary Gray directed the
See full article at Den of Geek »

Attorney Mark Litwak on Creative Accounting

Filmmakers and profit participants often complain about distributors that engage in creative bookkeeping. This is one area where filmmakers concede the studios are sufficiently imaginative in their thinking. A frequent criticism is that distributors devise new and ingenious ways to interpret a contract so that all the revenue stays with them. Filmmakers believe that net profits are often illusory. Rarely does a share of net profits actually result in money received.

I have been involved in many creative accounting disputes and recovered millions of dollars for filmmakers cheated by distributors. As a result of my experience, whenever I negotiate a distribution deal, I always try to tightly define and limit expenses that are recoupable to those that are “direct, auditable, out-of-pocket, reasonable and necessary.” This means the distributor has to produce a receipt showing a legitimate payment to a third party in order to deduct that expense. Less precise wording can leave enough ambiguity for a distributor to argue over which deductions are proper.

I recently won an award from a distributor that engaged in many of the typical tactics used to defraud filmmakers. Even though the distribution deal clearly prohibited the deduction of overhead, interest or legal fees, an audit revealed that the distributor had deducted those expenses. The distributor even tried to claim its own attorney fees for negotiating the initial distribution deal with the filmmaker, as well as payment to his lawyer contesting the filmmaker’s right to terminate the agreement. The filmmaker was clearly within his rights to terminate the agreement, after the distributor repeatedly failed to provide producer statements and payments due.

The distributor tried to write off wages paid to staff members from ranging from executives to interns, and also deducted charges for cell phone calls, meals and entertainment and even staff parking. Perhaps most outrageous, the distributor paid fees to one of its own top executives and attempted to hide this payment by making the payment to a company owned by the executive that had ostensibly provided marketing services for the film. Since producer statements are summaries lacking in detail, none of this misconduct was revealed until an audit was undertaken.

Distributors have attempted to hide their misconduct with missing or incomplete records. However, in cases where records essential to proving damages are in a distributor’s exclusive control, the courts have shifted the burden of proof to the distributor, to prove that their deductions are legitimate.

No doubt, there are numerous instances where producers or distributors have cooked the books to avoid paying back-end compensation to those entitled to it. Expenses incurred on one movie might be charged to another. Phony invoices can be used to document expenses that were never incurred. Some ruses are more subtle, and not readily apparent to the uninitiated.

Various court decisions have held that distributors have a duty to exercise good faith and fair dealing toward filmmakers. In Celador Int’l, Ltd. v. Disney Co., the court held that when a party has an interest in profits from a business, the person managing that business has to act in such a manner as to protect the interest of the profit participants. Celador created and executive produced a show entitled “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which was highly successful in the United Kingdom. Celador later entered into an agreement with ABC and Buena Vista Television (both Disney subsidiaries) for a version of the Series to be produced for distribution in North America. Under the agreement negotiated by the parties, Celador was entitled to 50% profit participation. Celador alleged that Disney breached its implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing because Disney assigned production of the Series to Valleycrest Productions, Ltd. (“Valleycrest”), a subsidiary of Disney, rather than seeking competitive deals from third-party producers. According to Celador: “ABC agreed orally to license the Series for an ‘imputed per-episode license fee equal to Valleycrest’s per-episode production costs’.... As a result, the network exhibition of the Series could never reach profits after production costs, distribution fees, distribution costs, overhead, interest, etc. were deducted from any gross receipts.” Consequently, the Series never generated any profits for Celador while Disney benefited in the form of cost savings and increased profits to Disney affiliates. As a result of decisions like Celador, filmmakers often try to restrict the distributor from making deals with affiliated companies or sub-distributors, unless the filmmaker consents to such arrangements.

It is important to understand that the major studios determine profits for participants using their own special accounting rules as set forth in their net profit definitions. The accounting profession has generally agreed-upon rules called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (Gaap). There are special guidelines for the motion picture industry called Financial Accounting Standards Bulletin 53 (Fasb 53). These rules provide, among other things, for the accrual method of accounting. Under this method, revenues are recognized when earned, and expenses are recognized when incurred. But distributors do not necessarily follow these rules. They may use Gaap and Fasb 53 when accounting to their shareholders, or reporting to their bankers, but they often resort to their own Alice in Wonderland-type rules when they calculate net profits for participants. They may recognize revenue only when it is actually received, while taking expenses when incurred. So if the distributor licenses a film to a television network, the distributor may not count the license fee as revenue until they actually receive it. Even when they receive a non-refundable advance, they might not count it as income until the time of the broadcast. Meanwhile, they count expenses immediately, even if they have not paid those expenses yet. This mismatching of revenues and expenses allows the distributor to delay payment to participants. It also allows distributors to charge producers interest for a longer time on the outstanding “loan” extended to a producer to make the film.

The Art Buchwald case illuminates some of the devices Paramount used to deny payment to net profit participants. Art Buchwald was a Pulitzer Prize winning author and syndicated columnist who alleged that Paramount Pictures stole his script idea and turned it into the 1988 movie "Coming to America." Although the movie generated more than $288 million in worldwide box office revenues, according to Paramount it had earned no net profit according to the profit definition in Buchwald's contract. The trial judge found many of Paramount’s accounting practices to be unconscionable and refused to enforce them. Paramount appealed, but the case was settled before the Court of Appeals could issue a definitive ruling on the issue.

If Buchwald had won the appeal, the precedent could have caused severe repercussions for all the major studios. That is because Paramount’s “net profit” definition was virtually identical to the definitions found throughout the industry. If Buchwald’s contract was invalid because it was unconscionable, then many other contracts could likewise be contested.

However, Buchwald could have lost the appeal. The trial judge in Buchwald used the doctrine of unconscionability to invalidate a contract that Buchwald was trying to enforce. Courts have traditionally embraced this doctrine only when it was used as a defense, or shield, against enforcement of an unfair contract, rather than as a sword to enforce the terms of a contract against another. Courts have typically relied on the doctrine to protect uneducated people who have been taken advantage of. If an unscrupulous door-to-door salesman sells a refrigerator for an exorbitant price to a poor, illiterate consumer on an installment plan using a boilerplate contract not open to negotiation, the judge might refuse to enforce the contract because it “shocks the conscience of the court.”

Buchwald, however, was hardly a poor, defenseless victim. He was an intelligent, wealthy, and acclaimed writer represented by the William Morris Agency. If a judge was willing to rewrite his contract because it was unfair, then why not rewrite thousands of other writer contracts? Indeed, why not rewrite any unfair contract? Where does one draw the line? If any contract can be contested simply because it is unfair, then how can anyone safely rely upon the terms of a contract? And how can one conduct business if you cannot be sure your contracts will be enforceable?

Under long-established precedent, courts refuse to invalidate contracts simply because they are unfair. Law students are taught the principle that even a peppercorn—something worth less than a penny—can be valid consideration. This means that if you are foolish enough to sign a contract to sell your $200 bike for a dime, do not expect a court to bail you out of a bad deal. Absent fraud, duress, or some other acceptable ground to invalidate a contract, courts do not second-guess the wisdom of what the parties agreed to.

While the trial judge in the Buchwald case thought the doctrine of unconscionability could be invoked to invalidate a net profit definition, it bears noting that another Los Angeles Superior Court came to a different conclusion. In reviewing the accounting practices of Warner Bros. in the "Batman" case, the judge found that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the studio’s net profits definition was unconscionable. The court noted that one of the plaintiffs who had negotiated the Warner Agreement was a former general counsel and senior executive of a major motion picture studio who “knew all the tricks of the trade,” and was knowledgeable about how these agreements worked.

Regardless of whether the Buchwald decision would have been upheld on appeal, the dispute has had an impact on the industry. The major studios have rewritten their contracts, replacing the phrase “net profits” with such terms as “net proceeds.” They want to avoid any implication that the back-end compensation promised participants has anything to do with the concept of profitability.

As a result of many highly publicized creative-accounting disputes, anyone who has clout insists on receiving either large up-front payments or a share of gross revenue. Distributors have consequently lost the ability to share risk with talent. Budgets have escalated to accommodate large up-front fees, with major stars now demanding $20 million per picture. Moreover, stars and directors have little incentive to minimize production expenses, since it doesn’t affect their earnings.

Not all complaints about creative accounting concern accounting errors. Many grievances reflect the inequality of the deal itself. The studio uses its leverage and superior bargaining position to pressure talent to agree to a bad deal. The distributor then accounts in accordance with the terms of the contract and can avoid paying out any revenue to participants because of how net profits are defined. The contract may be unfair, but the studio has lived up to its terms. It is only after the picture becomes a hit that the actor bothers to read the fine print of his employment agreement. This is not creative accounting. This is an example of a studio negotiating favorable terms for itself.

Keep in mind that there is no law requiring distributors to share their profits with anyone. Indeed, in most industries, workers do not share in their employer’s profits. Moreover, when a major studio releases a flop, losses are not shared; they are borne by the studio alone.

More on Mark Litwak:

Mark Litwak is a veteran entertainment attorney and producer’s rep based in Beverly Hills, California. He is an adjunct professor at USC Gould School of Law, and the creator of the Entertainment Law Resources website with lots of free information for filmmakers ( www.marklitwak.com). He is the author of six books including: Dealmaking in the Film and Television Industry, Contracts for the Film and Television Industry, and Risky Business: Financing and Distributing Independent Film. He can be reached at law2[At]marklitwak.com

Mark will be conducting an all-day seminar in New York City on April 24th, 2015 called "Self Defense for Writers and Filmmakers" with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
See full article at SydneysBuzz »

Champs Elysees Film Festival: Winners and No Losers

Paris! What could be better than to be in Paris, when it sizzles and drizzles, with spectacular lightning, and an evening view of the Arc de Triomphe every night as the participants of the Champs Elysees Film Festival, U.S. in Progress and Paris Coproduction Village drink champagne and eat exciting and uniquely presented hors d’oevres.

Even as we left for the airport after our five nights at the festival, at 6 am we were treated to a full moon and the Eiffel Tower on our right, still enveloped by the navy blue night and on our left, the Seine River and the sun turning the sky rose with its long fingers of dawn.

The beautiful and erudite Jacqueline Bisset, Bertrand Tavernier, Agnes Varda, Keanu Reeves, Whit Stillman and Mike Figges were all here in this intimate and quintessentially Parisian film festival, being celebrated and giving master classes to a public which is eager to soak in American films and French films in the only film festival in Paris.

The American films showing here are indies, relevant, funny, and all special. The Official Selection of American features include Sundance premiere films “Obvious Child” which also screened in Rotterdam and is now playing in U.S., “See You Next Tuesday”, “American Promise”, “Rich Hill” (also played in Hot Docs) and “Test”; the Toronto hit about the French photographer of U.S. street scenes in 1940s and ‘50s U.S. “Searching for Vivian Maier”; Tiff’s “Fort Bliss”; Urbanworld Ff’s “The Magic City” the debut film of R. Malcolm Jones; the critical hit “Locke”; last year’s U.S. in Progress and Tiff films “ 1982”; “Summer of Blood” which went on to play in Tribeca and “Sunbelt Express” in its world premiere.

I have to mention that very relevant French films, both new and classic, are also showing. For me the standout is Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” with English subtitles by Art Buchwald which came out 1967 to the great surprise and delight of the American public lucky enough to see it. In this adventure, Monsieur Hulot has to contact an American official in Paris, but he gets lost in the maze of modern architecture which is filled with the latest technical gadgets. Caught in the tourist invasion, Hulot roams around Paris with a group of American tourists, causing chaos in his usual manner. (Written By Leon Wolters <wolters [at] strw.LeidenUniv.nl>)

Writing this after “Fort Bliss” won the Audience Award is great because I loved that film.

That it could avoid the clichés expected to abound in a film about a beautiful young mother who enlists not once but twice to serve in Afghanistan was a feat of expert script writing and filmmaking.

Between the two stints in the Army, Maggie Swann must renew her relationship with her five-year old son, adjust to her ex-husband’s new live-in and establish a new romance with a blue-eyed Mexican car mechanic, played by Manolo Cardona, who played Santiago in “Contracorriente” (“Undertow”) and is heart-throbbingly gorgeous.

Michelle Monaghan who played Maggie Swann reminded me a little too much of Sandra Bullock though she is a good actress, playing the two ends of the emotional spectrum so well that I actually cried with her. Returning home and to Fort Bliss in Houston Texas after a horrendous stint in the army where she served as a medic, unable to sleep much and determined to take back her son, she plays the stoic decorated U.S. Army medic that she has become and yet, to win back her son and establish any other loving relationship, she must (and does) allow her emotions to rule in the end.

The director, Claudia Myers, who also wrote the screenplay was at the screening answering numerous questions afterward in both English and French. She is American but grew up in France. She worked extensively with the military making training movies and wanted to write a story about a woman with a career and family. This extreme situation of a career in the military also appealed to her because the woman had to play such emotional extremes, from not showing emotion in the worst circumstances of war to allowing her emotions for her son and for her lover to have free reign. This is the second feature she has directed after the 2006 Showtime movie, “ Kettle of Fish”.

The film premiered at Toronto Film Festival 2013 and is being sold internationally by Voltage who has sold it for Showgate for Japan and Umbrella for Australia), and Phase 4 for North America.

If only there were a family-friendly version, I would take my young grandson and his mother to see this as I think a child would empathize with the little boy, played by if the two very hot (and very meaningful) sex scenes were edited out for a family-friendly version. The sex scenes, however, were great in that each showed the psychological needs of a long emotionally-suppressed military woman and latter the sad and determined lust of her and her lover. That was one cliché less: instead of showing the usual dreamy and loving sex motives of most films, sex revealed the emotional states of people under pressure. The second cliché avoided was the emotional bond between mother and son. It was a film even a child could respond too, much the way children respond to the story of Bambi on film, and yet it avoided any sappiness. And the Army wants to see this story told, despite it showing troubling subject matter like Ptsd, reintegrating into society and sexual assault -- but to their credit they have supported it and helped the film get made in terms of accuracy.

The credits offered thanks to the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss,

American Legion, American Red Cross, Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, CA, Patriot Guard Riders, U.S. Army Public Affairs, Union Editorial and the United Service Organizations (Uso).

Also playing were my favorite Tiff film “Searching for Vivian Maier” and “1982” which we (the jury) voted Best Film of Us in Progress last year in Paris and which also went on to play in Toronto. We’re waiting to see how Tommy Oliver releases it. He is now producing two other films: “ Halfway” and “Black Eyed Dog”.

Watch this moving picture of Tommy Oliver lighting up for the Us in Progress organizer Ula Sniegowska, Trust Nordisk’s Silje Glimsdal and others last year in Paris at the Champs Elysees Film Festival

My other personal favorites and wonderful discoveries were “Sun Belt Express” and “Summer of Blood”. The next blog will be about these two films and their filmmakers.

The Champs Elysees Film Festival: American Independent Film Competition

My runner-ups to the Audience Favorite, “Fort Bliss” are “Sun Belt Express” and “Summer of Blood”.

Sun Belt Express” was named in 2012 as the Indiewire Project of the Day as it began its trajectory by raising money on Kickstarter.

See the article Here

"Sun Belt Express" is a funny movie about illegal immigration, set to the south of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert. The story follows Allen King, an offbeat ethics professor who ends up on a run across the Mexican border with his conservative teenage daughter in tow - and four illegal immigrants in the trunk. What follows is a family road trip where anything that can go wrong – does. Set on both sides of the border, the film is a testament to the enduring power of humor, even in the most trying of situations.

My interview with the Writer – Director Evan Buxbaum and the Producer Noah Lang took place at the Hotel Marceau, not far from the Champs Elysees where seven theaters were showing films from the Champs Elysees Film Festival, put on for the third year by Sophie Dulac – producer, distributor, arthouse exhibitor and vice-president of family-founded, Publicis, the third largest advertising agency in the world.

Women to Watch: Sophie Dulac and the Champs Elysees Film Festival

Evan Buxbaum started life as a totally unexposed-to-the-world upper Westside (NY) Jewish boy. He didn’t even go to film school. He studied political science and political conflict resolution at Swarthmore. He graduated in ’06 and learned filmmaking by making three or four shorts at the same time as he tended bar.

His “barback” (that is the busboy for bars) Gregorio Castro, shared his story of how he came to U.S. As they became better friends, Evan met other Latinos who had some insane stories about crossing the border which were oddly uplifting. They always showed an indominable spirit in telling these tough stories; they always laughed. It was a unique way to approach life with such a sense of humor.

He and Gregorio set about writing a script and made a 10 minute short, “La Linea” about people in the trunk of a car, as a test of the concept, to see if it would resonate in the way they wanted. They wanted to create a film in a space that didn’t exist. Terrible things happen on the border and the film gave him the opportunity to explore humor in adversity.

The short played in a lot of festivals and some people wanted to finance his feature and so his life was shaped over the next five years (from ages 20 to 30).

Producer Noah Lang -- who incidently is the son of actor Stephen Lang, who played a cameo in this film and was the bad guy in “Avatar” and will be again in “Avatar” 2, 3 and 4 – also went to Swarthmore but did not know Evan there. Noah was working at Cinetic when he went to Headsets and Highballs, a networking operation in NYC where a producer, telling a funny story, got him interested him in reading the script. Over the next four months, while working at Cinetic, he helped out in the development of the script and subsequently left Cinetic to produce independently and subsequently was accepted into a program The Dogfish Accelerator. There he met one of the producers and got involved. That was two years ago…and he didn’t grow broke.

A first feature is usually sheer blindness, stupidity and luck. Financing began with Kickstarter to raise seed money. That was the most difficult part of making the movie. Kickstarter is a great platform to make you do something! They had 650 donors and raised $40,000 to hire actors, an attorney, asting director and location scout. Kickstarter also created a big following. From crowdfunding they moved to private equity and cash flowed through New Mexico tax credit. They raised some money from Indiegogo for post-production and their very rough cut won the Us in Progress prize in the fall of 2013 in Wroclaw, Poland, sharing with “Lake Los Angeles ” for color, sound, foley and a full music mix. They will still use the Polish Us in Progress prize to do a final print mix and color pass and get a Dcp.

Says Noah: “This account of how we raised money is not a replicating model. The first film is a constant bargain for what you can do.”

The creative notes they received during Us in Progress were very important. It was the first time they knew what they needed to do.

“In editing you’re blind. The emotional connection is very powerful, the process however is a slog, filled with doubts,” Evan says.

The speed dating model of networking gave Evan and Noah a way to approach problems.

One French distribution company showed interest in the film and lots of international sales agents gave them advice. Some told them that the film would do well in U.K. and Russia, but would not play to a French audience.

Here in Paris, however, many people gave them their cards for French distribution. The French audience was very good and made them optimistic as their reception was overwhelmingly positive, in fact some in the audience were very passionate about the immigration issue.

“And this was supposed to be the difficult audience”, they said.

Even the French international sales agents had underestimated the French audiences. The strength of this well told story was in dealing with the issue of transplantation in a humanized, humanitarian way. The audience was very emotional and spoke of their own or their great-grandparents’ coming to France. I noticed questions were asked by Africans and North Africans as well as by French.

They are now in talks with sales agents and a domestic distributor. Stay tuned!

They have several projects jockeying for priority now. One is to work with the “Summer of Blood” team on a coproduction. This is still pre-script stage. More on “Summer of Blood” and their team to follow. Both the investors in “Summer of Blood” and “Sunbelt Express” are interested in continuing.

For more information, go to SunBeltExpressMovie.com.

Based on Noah Lang and Evan Buxbaum’s recommendations and on the fact that like it had also been in Us in Progress and in Tribeca Film Festival, I went to see “Summer of Blood” and was not disappointed.

In fact, I was surprised by the humor of this so-called “mumble gore” movie which Mpi is releasing in the U.S. The best of it all was the presentation and post screening Q&A by the director and star Onur Tukel, a Turkish Woody Allen. This is a New York story of a guy who is afraid to commit and becomes a vampire and is still afraid to commit but has a great time having sex until he realizes his former girlfriend is still the one he loves.

Onur, a Turkish guy who grew up in North Carolina, and his producer Clifford McCurdy were in Paris with “Summer of Blood”. The two could not appear more disparate. One loose, dresses in plaid shirts, has a beard and long hair, the other straight-laced, short haired, reserved. When Onur begins talking, you don’t know if he is serious or joking and he gets pretty outrageous. He says this film is a cross between “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “True Blood” and it is very Woody Allen. One of the actresses, Juliette Fairley was also there. She was sexy, drole, perky and funny in the movie. Her mother – French Jewish, her father African American met when he went to France during World War 2. She has a script about it which she is also beginning to show people. At one point in the Q&A, someone in the audience asked how Onur could be so brazen about how he portrayed his Jewish landlord or the African American date in one scene (Juliette) and he had no shame or trace of bigotry in his answer. As a Turkish American growing up in North Carolina, he had never met a Jew until he moved to New York and his landlord was actually like the landlord in the movie…why not? The question was made to seem like one in “Sunbelt Express” when the daughter asks her father how he can dare to call these people “Mexicans” and he replies, “but they are Mexicans”. The fun of poking holes in peoples’ politically corrected prejudices make both of these comedies subversively funny.

See the movie when Mpi releases it. As for “Sun Belt Express”, you’ll have to wait until they sign a distribution deal.
See full article at SydneysBuzz »

The Essentials: John Landis – King of Comedy

Few movie genres date with as much fluctuating unpredictably as comedy. What is hilarious to one person is humourless to the next. What is daring and boundary-breaking to one will just be in poor taste to the other. Some comedies are so reliant on contemporary social mores that the laughs are whittled away over time. Does anyone really still think that Will Hay’s comedies are hilarious, or Abbott & Costello’s, say?

The maturation process whereby movies pass through opprobrium, obscurity, rediscovery and reassessment is especially tortuous for comedies. A joke has to be pretty strong to withstand thirty or forty years of scrutiny, and the film must withstand repeated viewings and still retain the ability to amuse. I can’t imagine anyone, not even the people who made it, will remember Epic Movie or Meet The Spartans in 2044.

It’s one of the great touchstones of maturity when you
See full article at HeyUGuys »

Judy, Judy, Judy

I only met Judith Crist once, but her career had an enormous role in shaping the world of the movie critics who followed her. She was the first full-time female movie critic for a big American daily newspaper, but set aside her gender: By her success and fame, she created jobs for movie critics where there were none before.

When she went to work for the New York Herald-Tribune in the 1940s, few newspapers had movie critics writing under their own names (the New York Times was an exception). The movie reviews were considered a "house column," farmed out on a film-by-film basis to assorted reporters, who wrote under such punning bylines as "Kate Cameron" (New York Daily News) and "May Tinee" (Chicago Tribune). Crist was fearless, acerbic and merciless--"Hollywood's most hated person," it was said.

She wrote a sensational pan of "Cleopatra," saying Elizabeth Taylor's acting "often rises to fishwife levels.
See full article at Roger Ebert's Blog »

Celebrate the Fourth of July with 'The Godfather,' 'Coming to America' and other great immigrant movies

"The Coneheads" (1993): They may come here as invaders but wind up living the classic American immigrant story -- even if they are visitors from another planet. Oops, make that France, as they like to say. Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin, with their bullet-shaped, bald skulls, are hilarious in one of the very few skits from "Saturday Night Live" that actually shines as a movie. It perfectly captures the usual worries of new Americans -- problems with green cards, children who forget cultural traditions and fitting in with new neighbors.

"Coming to America" (1988): Prince Akeem of Zamunda (Eddie Murphy) turns 21, and as is the custom of his fictional country, needs to find a woman who can bear his heirs. Judging by names alone, the prince thinks he can find one in Queens. The film shines with Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones and John Amos. An interesting behind-the-scenes factoid
See full article at Zap2It - From Inside the Box »

Remembering Mike Wallace - A Legend With a Dark Secret (Video)

  • The Wrap
Remembering Mike Wallace - A Legend With a Dark Secret (Video)
I met Mike Wallace on a waning summer afternoon less than a decade ago. He was golden brown, stripped to the waist and came crashing through the back door of Art Buchwald’s porch on Martha’s Vineyard. “Hi, I’m Mike!” he said, extending a hand, his white teeth flashing. The man was a legend, and I shrunk back instinctively. But instead he proceeded to grill me about who I was, why and where I was a journalist, my next career plans and did they make any sense. Also read: Mike Wallace Dies at 93:
See full article at The Wrap »

Pierce O'Donnell Accepts Plea Deal in John Edwards Contributions Case

  • The Wrap
Pierce O'Donnell, the lawyer who represented Art Buchwald against Paramount Pictures in the case that exposed studio accounting practices, has accepted a plea deal for illegally contributing to John Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign. Under the agreement between O'Donnell and federal prosecutors, O'Donnell will receive 60 days in prison, a year of supervised release, 500 hours of community service, plus a $20,000 fine. Also read: John Edwards Indicted; What Does it Mean for Sorkin's "The Politician"? The agreement still needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge S. Otero. In November, Otero shot down
See full article at The Wrap »

'Coming To America' Litigator Loses One

Pierce O'Donnell gained showbiz prominence as the crusading Los Angeles litigator who represented newspaper columnist Art Buchwald against Paramount over the movie Coming To America and sought to expose the Hollywood studio practice of "creative accounting" on net profit statements. And he very ably represented me when Disney and News Corp tried to unfairly punish this journalist for reporting the truth about Big Media. I consider Pierce both a loyal friend and great attorney. So with a heavy heart I convey that O’Donnell pleaded guilty today to two misdemeanor charges of making illegal campaign contributions to John Edwards' presidential campaign in March 2003. In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, O’Donnell agreed to serve six months in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for November 7th. O’Donnell specifically admitted that he reimbursed some employees of his law firm and at
See full article at Deadline Hollywood »

David Wolper obituary

Television and film producer known for Roots, The Thorn Birds and Willy Wonka

David L Wolper, who has died of heart disease aged 82, called his 2003 autobiography simply Producer. The modest, unadorned title gives no hint of the long and varied career it covers. According to Wolper: "A producer is a person who dreams. Good producers make dreams come true."

The word "producer" evokes thoughts of a crass, cigar-chomping entrepreneur, more interested in profit than art. Wolper both conformed to the stereotype and confounded it. His flamboyant showman side was on display with his staging of the spectacular Hollywood-style opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, which consisted of a four-hour musical extravaganza, with 84 pianists in white tuxedos who played George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on white grand pianos, surrounded by 300 dancers. In 1986, he produced a celebration of the 100th anniversary and restoration of the Statue of Liberty,
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

David Wolper obituary

Television and film producer known for Roots, The Thorn Birds and Willy Wonka

David L Wolper, who has died of heart disease aged 82, called his 2003 autobiography simply Producer. The modest, unadorned title gives no hint of the long and varied career it covers. According to Wolper: "A producer is a person who dreams. Good producers make dreams come true."

The word "producer" evokes thoughts of a crass, cigar-chomping entrepreneur, more interested in profit than art. Wolper both conformed to the stereotype and confounded it. His flamboyant showman side was on display with his staging of the spectacular Hollywood-style opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, which consisted of a four-hour musical extravaganza, with 84 pianists in white tuxedos who played George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on white grand pianos, surrounded by 300 dancers. In 1986, he produced a celebration of the 100th anniversary and restoration of the Statue of Liberty,
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

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