Thursday Film Links

Ted Hope has a short, pointed response to MovieMaker Magazine’s list of 50 Best Websites for Moviemakers 2009. The list includes a number of terrific resources, although the list seems uneven, especially when it comes to naming Hollywood journalists.  Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily is fine, I suppose, but there are several other journalists and observers (Anne Thompson, Dave Poland, etc) I’d rather read.  Obviously, as Hope points out, some of this is the politics of competition, but Hope’s response to the omission of his own blog, Truly Free Film, a blog that consistently helps me think through the challenges and possibilities of digital cinema, opens up some of the questions that I have about these top ten or top fifty lists and the criteria behind them.

Because The Karate Kid was the first movie my family ever owned on VHS (and because it is, in fact, a hugely entertaining and well-made movie), my sister and I wore our copy out to the point that it was virtually unviewable, something beyond grainy.  With that in mind, I really enjoyed Craig Simpson’s blog essay about the film on The House Next Door (part of a longer series on films from the summer of 1984).  The essay succeeded in evoking my nostalgia for the film and even helped me to see it slightly differently.  And Simpson also points out what I regarded, even as a neophyte cinephile, as a couple of the key gaps in the film’s storytelling logic.  It’s a fun little diversion, even if I don’t quite feel the need to see KK again (while also reminding me of why I’ll skip the planned Jackie Chan remake).

David Poland offers a welcome corrective to the hype over the new independent production company, DF Indie.  I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s post, but the launch seemed a little hollow to me, and Poland offers a clear diagnosis for why something like DF Indie is so enticing for those of us who like smart, engaging films: “Because everyone is drooling over the possibility that someone somewhere has The Answer. And so false prophets are made real overnight, as the industry prays that its savior has arrived.” It’s in my nature to be cautiously optimistic about the possibility of a more vibrant indie film culture, and DF Indie simply represents the newest, shiniest possibility for that, but Poland’s right to call for some skepticism.

Scott Kirsner has links to two LA Times articles about what he calls the “digital media future.” First, a report that Hollywood has “hit the stop button” on investment in “high-profile” web video, complete with a sidebar story on web video businesses that have failed.  Second, Scott links to his own op-ed, in which he discusses potential business models for the web.  Scott sensibly compares the current economic crisis, in which revenue models remain hazy, to past crises, including the introduction of of television in the 1950s, and cites a couple of web-based success stories, such as Lance Weiler and Robert Greenwald and the guys at Jib Jab.  But I think he overstates his case a bit when he concludes, “Business models for content on the Internet are still evolving. But it’s already becoming clear that $100-million movies like “Land of the Lost,” or even $10-million independent films, may not represent the future of the industry. And new technologies like YouTube, the iPhone and next-generation gaming consoles are opening up all sorts of new, creative possibilities.”  I think he’s completely right to point to all of the new storytelling models that web video, iPhones, and their techy friends open up, but it’s hard not to see Weiler, Greenwald, and a few others as exceptions sometimes (or else these lists would be a lot longer).  I think it also underestimates how integrated the $100 million transmedia spectacle (like Land of the Lost) already is within these web video networks.  In fact, if anything, web video makes it easier for studios to immerse fans in the expanded worlds created by the major studios.

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