While you were sleeping

by Paul William Tenny

I've been writing a lot of political material on Newsvine over the past week and that'll probably keep up until the November 5th election, but I'll try not to let days go by without anything being posted like that again. As far as politics go, the third and final presidential debate came and went. Snap polling afterward was the same as before, Obama won all three of his debates with McCain fairly decisively, while Biden crushed Palin. I think something like 55-57 million watched the final debate and I tend to agree with people who say this: the only true uncommitted voters left are people who don't actually vote, and attention whores.

Oliver Stone's W. biopic also came and went with surprisingly strong results and, naturally, the SAG-AMPTP stalemate is still very much a stalemate.
I was hoping the Max Payne movie would do well enough that people wouldn't dump all over it as another game->movie failure, but also because it looked pretty damn entertaining. Not a huge fan of Mark Wahlberg but he doesn't drag a movie down and not every movie needs an actor to carry it along, where if anything I'd say if an actor has to carry a film, that's a pretty good indication that the script wasn't where it needed to be and other people were covering for it.

max-payne.jpgNot that Payne looked all that strong in the script department either, but not everything has to be Oscar material to be enjoyable you know. I'll definitely be getting this on DVD, and W. too. Now they say that political films never do well and after An American Carol bombed it's hard to disagree, but for what it was, W. did very respectable business this weekend. Even though it opened in fourth place, it was in a virtual three-way tie for second. But think about what an accomplishment that is for a minute. President Bush has the lowest approval ratings of the modern era, why would anyone want to go see a movie about a guy nobody likes? It'd have to be a pretty compelling sell to get anyone to see a movie about a sitting president, but when that guy is Bush, and it's like 15 days before the election that will replace him..that's pretty impressive.

It's also worth noting that W. opened in fewer theaters than did Payne, and if they had been equal, W.'s take might have been as high as $17 million, right on par with its competition. Director John Moore had to fight with the MPAA ratings board to avoid an 'R' rating, eventually falling back on the appeals board which is comprised of studio executives, theater chain owners, and people who buy movies for theaters to show -- not the most sympathetic crowd one could hope for.

Moore won a PG-13 on appeal anyway.

Before I go on to other things though, I've got to point something out to the AP movie critic who said this:

Director John Moore ("Behind Enemy Lines") rips off John Woo with endless, hyperstylized shootouts, all in slow motion with shattered glass showering everything in a million little pieces. All that's missing are the strategically placed doves.

Movies like this tend to reveal how ignorant or simply lazy your typical movie critic can be. Max Payne is based on a game (of the same name) that came out relatively soon after The Matrix did. It was the first game to utilize the slow motion "bullet time" effect along with some other nifty things and made a name for itself by integrating these things with an otherwise great story. John Moore didn't rip off John Woo here, he faithfully adapted a game that ripped off The Matrix -- which invented the camera effect in question -- and makes Christy Lemire look like an idiot.


sag-aftra.jpgSAG has been working without a contract since July, going on two-and-a-half months now. I believe it was the negotiating committee that sent a recommendation to the national board to ask the membership for permission to strike if necessary. That vote, fyi, is for permission to strike, not the actual decision to strike. Once given permission by 75% of the membership the national board may vote to call the actual strike at any time after.

As things stand today, SAG is calling in a federal mediator to see if a government suit can bridge the gap between actors and the congloms. It didn't work for the WGA and I doubt it'll work for SAG either. I think this quote from a wire report was revealing about how the studios view the deal:

"No matter what SAG does - whether it be authorizing a strike or following a different approach - it will not change the harsh reality that currently confronts our industry," the studio group said in a statement.

They don't even bother to talk about whether the deal that SAG wants is fair or even possible, all they want to do is use the economy as an excuse not to deal at all. That's a pretty lame way to frame the impasse when each of these studios are owned by billion dollar multi-national conglomerates like GE and Viacom while the real people struggling here are individuals represented by unions like SAG. Somehow I don't think that excuse is going to fly with the mediator, but if I actually thought the AMPTP cared what the mediator thought, they wouldn't have let it get this far.


A quick note on ratings and shows on the bubble which I intend to write about more as the week wears on. The final Obama-McCain debate 56.5 million viewers which is better than anything generally exception the Super Bowl -- last year's match between the unbeaten Patriots and New York Giants sucked in 97 million people.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin dropped in for two sketches on Saturday Night Live, giving the show its best ratings since 1994 and ranking it third-best for the entire week behind CSI and Dancing With The Stars (both in the 20 million range.) Josh Brolin hosted. I didn't watch it because honestly, Palin is anything but funny.

Senator John McCain gifted Dave Letterman with his presence after blowing him off in order to take an emergency flight back to D.C., one that McCain never actually took. Letterman supposedly hammered Leno (with Obama's VP Joe Biden as guest) for the night with 6.5 million viewers but since they didn't say how many viewers Leno actually received, the margin is up for debate.

Despite Terminator still plumbing the depths of failure over at Fox, the network has given it a full season order to round out the year. It's beyond ironic into painfully stupid territory with how much slack this awful show is getting when Firefly didn't get a fraction of this treatment. Is Josh Friedman sleeping with somebody at Fox or something?
in Film, Labor, Ratings, Television


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