Monday, September 1, 2014

Week of 09/01/2014

Hollywood’s Box Office Crisis
Hollywood has a wonderful way of blurring the lines of fact and fiction.
They know how to make the impossible possible.  Thanks to special effects and computers and stunt doubles, they can make a man fly, turn straw into gold, change time, and take us to the ends of the universe.
But what they seemingly cannot do is be honest about themselves, especially when it comes to money.
Box Office attendance is supposedly down this year.  Fifteen percent fewer people showed up at the theaters to watch a movie according to some analysts.  It’s supposedly the lowest summer attendance in eight years.  Some even claim it’s the worst ever and a sign of the cinematic apocalypse. 
Yeah, some of these Hollywood people can go over-the-top on the hysterics.
And it’s all our fault, don’t-cha know?
Yeah, apparently it’s our fault that we are not sustaining the wealth of the big studios by showing up at the theaters when their big blockbuster movies come out.  We’re not doing our part by parting with our money and sitting down for these movies when they come out.  They make the movies and we’re expected to watch them mindlessly.
Hey, I did my bit this year!  I went to see “X-Men: Days of Futures Past” in the theaters when it opened that weekend.  I didn’t wait for it to come out on DVD like I have had to do for all of the other movies I wanted to see.  I bought the tickets, got the popcorn and soda, sat through all of the commercials and trailers before the movie started, and I stayed until the end credits for that little teaser that Hollywood has been throwing in.  And I even enjoyed the movie and told folks so!  So don’t blame me for not helping out Hollywood!
Of course Hollywood also seems to think that piracy is to blame for box office failures.  That’s what some folks are saying when “The Expendables 3” failed to perform.  They blamed a leaked version on the Internet for people not showing up in the theaters to see the movie.
I’m sorry Hollywood, but you’re barking up the wrong tree with that one.  The vast majority of people out there – in other words your customer base – are not that computer skilled to search the BitTorrent streams for a movie that will be out on DVD and Video-on-Demand eventually.  They may use it to look for movies that are impossible-to-find, but not for the ones they can get by going to the local Best Buy store.
But, you know, it is my most recent trip to the movie theater that points to a more realistic reason why box office returns aren’t that great.
Let’s get brutally honest here… the reason why Hollywood’s box office returns are not doing so great has more to do with the movie experience than with piracy or the fickleness of the audience.
Let’s start with my personal pet peeve that really needs to die a horrible movie-style death.
3-D BS!  Say it with me please…
3-D is an overrated and outdated gimmick!
One more time…
3-D is an overrated and outdated gimmick!
You listening, Hollywood?
3-D is an overrated and outdated gimmick!
3-D movies had their day… in the 1950’s, right along with Smell-O-Rama and Duo-Vision.  But the fact that Hollywood is still grasping for this old and outdated gimmick shows nothing but desperation and sheer greed.  After all, theaters can charge people double for a cheap gimmick that still requires glasses in order to enjoy.
And the fact that they have translated this into the world of Blu-Ray DVDs and High-Definition TVs really makes this commentator sick, and not just from having to wear the glasses.
Yes, you still need to wear those stupid glasses!  If this was really state-of-the-art 3-D, then you would not need special glasses to view it.  It is that simple!
You want to know what is better than 3-D?  Go to your local Best Buy store and check out the Ultra-High-Definition TVs with the curved screens.  You get the same effect without glasses!  And now wait until the prices go down.
But that’s only part of the problem.  You’re not forced to watch your movie in 3-D, never mind be forced to pay double for it.  You can still watch your blockbuster movies in “plain old” 2-D.
These other two things, though, are things that the customers have no control over, other than to not go to the theaters.  These are the things that Hollywood and the movie theatres can do on their own to improve things with the very patrons they need to make their box office monies.
Commercials!  Okay, this one is a mixed bag, and what you see depends greatly on the movie theater itself.
First, I think it is great when the theater starts playing some commercials and non-trailer promotional material prior to the scheduled start time of the movie.  It beats sitting in the theater with the lights up and a blank screen in front of you and you’re just watching your watch to see how much time you have left while you drink down your oversized soda and munching on your half-barrel of over-buttered popcorn.
But when I went to see that aforementioned “X-Men” movie earlier this year, I showed up thirty minutes prior to the start of the movie and was mildly entertained by their little commercial and non-trailer promotional stuff.  But then it was the schedule show time and they never stopped airing the commercials.  By the time the movie actually started, it was thirty minutes after the scheduled start!  And, yes, I did check my watch to see how long it took.
What’s worse is that this extra delay in my movie experience were mostly commercials.  There were maybe one or two trailers, which used to be the benefit of not seeing the movie when it is scheduled.  Remember that?  There used to be maybe ten or fifteen minutes before the movie actually started when you got to see trailers for upcoming movies, which would keep you coming back to see those movies.  Now there’s a thirty-minute delay for upcoming TV programs, public service announcements, soda, cars, home improvement… everything except reasons for you to come back to the theaters.
And I need to point out to Hollywood and the theaters that people are paying for this!  You expect your audience to actually pay to sit through commercials!  Is it any wonder why they’re not so prone to come back?
And here’s the other thing that kills the whole movie experience…
The High Price Of Snacks!  Excuse me?  Seven dollars for a bag – not a bucket but a bag – of popcorn?  Five dollars for a medium soda?  You know I can go to the nearby grocery store and buy a full bag of movie theater popcorn for three bucks and a two-liter bottle of soda for less than two dollars!
I realize that this is supposedly how the theaters themselves make their money, but there comes a point where the price just isn’t worth the experience.  If I’m paying more for snacks than I am for the movie, then I’m going to wait for the movie to come out on Blu-Ray so I can watch it on my HDTV with my not-so-recent Bose home theater system with my own snacks and drinks.
Besides, showing a movie is a whole lot different today than it was back when I was a kid.  There are no projectionists skilled in on-the-spot film splicing and threading.  Everything is digital now.  You have server farms instead of film reels.  The curtains and lights are all automated and programmed.  You just need someone who knows how to play with computers in order to get the movie started.  There is more skill needed to run the cash register than there is to start the movie that people are paying to see.
While some have tried to sue the movie theaters over the intentional price-gouging, the only real remedy is what I’ve just mentioned… which is to stay home and wait until the movie comes out on Video-on-Demand or Blu-Ray and enjoy it on your HDTV with your own home theater system and your own snacks.  And that’s something that Hollywood and the movie theater people need to deal with.
And, by the way, maybe Hollywood needs to revise their need-for-greed when it comes to the movies.  Maybe they need to give up some of their fiscal largesse to support those theaters.  After all, their financial futures supposedly depend on people showing up in the theaters.  That’s what the big corporate script says, and they wouldn’t lie about their own script, would they?
You want us in the theaters, Hollywood?  Give us a reason to other than to merely support your own bottom line.
Hollywood can do a lot with special effects.  But while they can seemingly defy the laws of physics, the one thing they cannot defy is the law of supply and demand.  They may have the supply, but they really need to work on the demand.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Week of 08/25/2014

The World Dominionism Script
You know, I miss the old villains.
The guys wearing the uniforms, leading the armies ready to march on out there and take over the world.  The megalomaniacs with the glassy-eyed stare when they talk about how they are destined to rule the world and everything on it.  The kind of villains that we used to see in those James Bond movies or those cheesy 1980’s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials.
You know, the villains we used to have in World War II.  Easily identifiable.  Honest and up-front about their ambitions and their goals and in the ruthlessness they have to make those things happen.
Unfortunately for us, the vast majority of people that dream of world domination aren’t that blatant.  They don’t want to be seen as villains, even if – for all intents and purposes – they really are.  Maybe their egos prevent them from being honest about themselves.  Maybe they know that such dreams usually means putting a target on their backs.  Maybe they know that if they are honest about their dominionism that it will preclude them from having any kind of real power over others.
That’s why most dominionists are smooth and opaque in their true ambitions.  No, they supposedly don’t want to “rule” the world; just “guide” it.  Just “lead” it.  Just “save” it.  Just “protect” it from the dangers and the evils that men do.  Oh, and “they” supposedly don’t want this task.  They’re just representing a “larger entity”.  A god or a country or an institution.  It’s not “about them”, is it?  No, it is never “about them”.  Never!
Right, and if you believe their denials, then I have a bridge, some Florida swampland, and some subprime mortgages to sell you!
The best way to spot the dominionist is in their words.  It’s how they sell their quests for global domination.
The latest comes from a certain conservative columnist whining about the state of the world and how it’s all President Obama’s fault that bad things are going on.  Of course this is the same columnist that previously said that he doesn’t like the person in the White House and that he doesn’t think this person is even legally qualified to be President… even though he doesn’t come out and admit being a Birther.  (Cons and neo-cons are like that… they claim to be brave, except when it comes to their own honesty.)
Anyway, the script goes something like this: everything around the world going on today, from ISIL in Syria and Iraq, to the Hamas missile attacks against Israel, to Russia’s piecemeal re-conquest of the Ukraine, to… well pretty much to any other kind of disorder or discord in the world, all of it is supposedly Obama’s fault.  The script accuses Obama of “abandoning” the world stage and letting the world go to hell in a handbasket.  You know, because he supposedly is “apologizing to the world” (which he never did) and is supposedly kowtowing to Muslims (which is another fabricated claim).  We supposedly “lost respect” and are not “taken seriously”.  The script then says that a supposedly “qualified leader” would keep America as the so-called “global leader” and take charge so that all of these problems would either be resolved or else never happen in the first place.
And this is where I have to call out the cons and neo-cons on their scripted B.S., because that it what this script is… it is raw, unmitigated, hypocritical B.S.!
First of all, since when did the conservatives and neo-conservatives ever give a single whit what the world thought about America?  When?  Go ahead, cons and neo-cons, put up or shut up!  When did you guys ever care what the world thought of you?
They certainly didn’t give a single care what anyone thought about them when they were in charge!  They were loud, boisterous, unapologetic a-holes, and they took great pride in being that.  “Bad guys bomb us?  Bomb ‘em back!  Bomb the world!  Shock and awe!  Cart them off to Gitmo and waterboard them!”  Any of that ring a bell?
Hey, we were showing the world just how worse we could be when pissed off!  We were looking for countries to bomb and invade.  We were grabbing people everywhere and waterboarding them for any kind of supposed “actionable intelligence”.  And if a nation complained, we’d scream “Nine-Eleven” in their faces and then go find someone else to waterboard.
No, “respect” was not on the itinerary of the cons and neo-cons when their lord and savior – George W. – was in the White House, and especially not when they had control of all three branches of government!  So why is it a “concern” for them now?
Remember the last time they tried to show “leadership”?  That was when Dubya told the world that “God” wanted him to solve the issue of Israel and the Palestinians.  Yeah, how did that turn out, cons and neo-cons?  How’s that divinely-inspired peace-y thingy working for you?
Let’s get brutally honest here… when conservatives and neo-conservatives complain and whine about a supposed “lack of respect” on the global stage, what they’re really looking for is not “respect” or even “leadership”, but dominance.  They want global dominionism.
Not for “their” sake, of course.  It’s supposedly for “America”.
If they were serious about “respect” from the world, they would be doing things to earn it.  If they wanted to show “leadership”, then they would actually act like leaders.  And not just when they are in charge, but even when they’re not in power.
But cons and neo-cons don’t know how to do these things!  They only care about “respect” and “global image” when they’re not in charge.  And they certainly do not know how to show true leadership!
The truth of the matter is that the whole “world stage” bit is just a political prop that the cons and neo-cons use when they’re not in power and they want to tear down the people that are in power.  If they truly cared about what the rest of the world thought about America, then they wouldn’t be acting like boisterous schoolyard bullies when in charge.  They would be actually doing the things that would earn that respect and to show leadership.  These wouldn’t be “sometimes” things to be pulled out only when convenient and then discarded when they already have what they wanted.
It’s high time that the conservatives and neo-conservatives just stop what they are doing right this very minute and take a step back to see what they are doing to themselves and to the rest of the nation.  They need to clean up their sorry act before even considering trying to help anyone else.  The longer that they keep playing these petty political games, the more they show that they are not only unworthy of any kind of political power, but that they are behaving more and more like the very evil that we used to cross whole oceans to fight.  And at least those guys were honest about themselves and their ambitions!
I really miss those old villains.