Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Last Weekend: A Masterpiece of Contemporary Cinema by Tom Dolby


I don't often write criticism, especially on films, but this exception has to be made. Not only is "Last Weekend" one of the best films I've seen in a very long time, but I'm appalled to see that it has received poor reviews. This speaks volumes about those who review films these days and very little about this fantastic movie by writer and director Tom Dolby.

It feels intellectually snobby of me to suggest that the problem is our shallow contemporary culture, but I can't help but feel that this is the issue to some extent. When reading the review by Peter Sobczynski on RogerEbert.com, I have to question his interpretation of this film. Did he understand it at all? One of this reviewer's chief complaints about the film is that it doesn't provide us with a good reason for watching, an "answer" as to why the film might be important. This, of course, is precisely what makes the film a contemporary masterpiece. There is no real answer or ending, and yet, it's not one of those films that has no ending to try and prove something - think French cinema.

This review goes on to criticize the film for being "top heavy" in characters. Seriously? Have things become so bad that we cannot handle a cast of eight characters? These criticisms are superficial and shallow. As I said, revealing ignorance on the part of the reviewer more than uncovering any verifiable weaknesses in the film.

Yes, this film is complex. Yes, this film requires intellect and some brain power to understand and enjoy. Yes, you might have to lay off the maryjane while watching. How terrible that someone attempted to make art and a movie all at once. The casting was superb with Patricia Clarkson and Devon Graye easily outshining the rest. Clarkson is nothing short of a genius in this role. Graye's unspoken acting is subtle and yet powerful and natural. And, indeed, he is the "unknown prince" of the film, as revealed by his shower scene where he bellows out a tear-jerking rendition of Nessun dorma.

In precis, Last Weekend is a highly successful attempt to put a little slice of life onto the big screen. Life doesn't have neat plots with easily understood themes or a simple casts of characters. Life is complex and beautiful and unknowable. This film not only captures that, but it does so better than any film in recent memory.

The interplay between the rich and not so rich is fresh in this film. It is an age old literary conflict, but is often overdone - not here. The fragility of life and the power of nostalgia is also present in subtle and beautiful ways. The dialogue is authentic and this lends credibility to the themes which the film takes on. In all, it is a well-written screenplay.

Good cinema is not for the masses, like good poetry or good wine. The success of Reader's Digest and American beer are a testament to this certainty. Therefore, I am not surprised that this film didn't have wide appeal. That doesn't mean, however, that it is no good. Indeed it is good, better than good. Last Weekend is real cinema.

So, if you have a brain, can handle more than four characters in a cast, and don't need someone to write an ending on the wall for you, give Last Weekend a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

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The MovieFilm Podcast: Trailer-palooza! Star Wars, Batman v. Superman + More!

The Fandom Awakens! For this week's show, we're joined by a special guest, award-winning documentary filmmaker Ray Nowosielski, and we go through the big batch of trailers that dropped in the last few days, including Terminator GenisysJurassic WorldBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But that's not all! We also talk up new releases such as horror thriller It Follows and the Netflix original series Daredevil, plus news that Netflix has a Full House sequel series on the way as well. You can listen in via the embed below, or stream at iTunes or Stitcher. And make sure you let us know how we're doing at our Facebook page!

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Gina Rodriguez's Wonderful Wisdom On Body Image

Like any actress, Gina Rodriguez can't always escape the pressures of Hollywood beauty standards. But she's well-prepared to deal with them constructively, she told HuffPost Live.

The breakout star of The CW's "Jane The Virgin" has struggled with thyroid disease since she was 19, and last year she was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, both of which affect her metabolism. Rodriguez, 30, described hearing that diagnosis -- particularly as she aspired to an industry where waifishness is front and center -- to host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani.

"It was very interesting at a very young age to be told that was something I was gonna deal with -- weight control," Rodriguez said. "It wasn't going to be easy to be 'tight is right' -- as tight as possible."

That concern has followed the Golden Globe-winner through her recent success. She opened up to People last month about working in an industry where she is "constantly being told, 'You're not skinny enough. You're not tall enough. You're not ethnic enough.'" But Rodriguez told HuffPost about the positive perspective on beauty handed down to her by her father.

Beauty was very much on my mind. I had a father that would -- we would look up at billboards and he would say, "That's one version of beauty. You're another version of beauty. And she's a version of beauty. And that girl? She's another version of beauty." He always said that beauty came from within, and as much as you're younger and you're [sarcastically] like, "Yeah, beauty comes from within" -- no, beauty does come from within. I've met some of the most beautiful people, and sadly their heart is just not smiling, and that destroys it all. And then other people that aesthetically aren't considered as beautiful are the most gorgeous people I've ever seen in my life.

And the clincher: "We live in an industry where the desire to be something that you're not sells. But why can't we make the desire to be what you are sell? Why can't we make that profitable?"

Rodriguez 2016, please.

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Gina Rodriguez here.

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You Probably Won't See Danny Tanner On 'Fuller House' (No, Not That Danny Tanner)

"Full House" is officially coming back with revival "Fuller House," and Netflix is trying to get everyone to return. We're talking Uncle Joey, Uncle Jesse, the milkman, the paperboy and the evening TV. But there's one character you probably won't see: Danny Tanner.

No, we're not talking about Bob Saget. We mean the original Danny Tanner: actor John Posey.

Image: Yahoo

Wait, what?

It's true. "Full House" almost had a totally different Danny Tanner. Just watch how the opening sequence looked before Saget joined the show, and prepare to have your mind blown:

Weird, right? Saget was reportedly sought after by ABC, but he only came on board after the network had shot the entire pilot with Posey as the Tanner patriarch. And the remake was pretty much shot-for-shot:

tv show gifs
Image: YouTube Full House Opening/Pilot

(Those Olsen twins were probably some confused little girls.)

Posey recalled the experience to Yahoo TV:

I get a phone call, go to the phone booth, as we used to do in those days [laughing], returned the call, and it was my agent saying, "I don't know what's going on, but for some reason they're testing Bob Saget." And I said, "What are you talking about? Why would they do that?" I didn't know at the time that he was the guy that they originally wanted, that he was just unavailable ... And I guess the executive producer talked ABC into allowing him to re-shoot. So that was the end of that.

Things worked out for everyone in the end. "Full House" went on to be a colossal success and Posey would appear in a number of shows and projects of his own. He's also the father of "Teen Wolf" star Tyler Posey, so talent (and perhaps werewolf genes) seems to run in the family.

It's crazy to think how close the show was to being very different, but it's hard to imagine Danny Tanner as anyone else but this guy:

Image: Giphy

Posey did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post about his status for the "Full House" revival.

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5 Keys to Consider with a Label Deal in the Music Industry

As a child, somewhere in pages of a fairytale book, we would discover adventures that revealed a pattern for the characters in the story. The innocent-but-flawed hero eventually faced various challenges and villains to which perseverance and the eternal hope of good over evil would somehow manifest in the end. The storylines and adventures within these books were intentionally and thinly veiled parables for life to the mature reader. Even as an adult and many cobweb memories later, we deep down hope to experience a life that is worthy of an epic tale that with the right amount of embellishment could join that library of classics.

To some extent, the music industry is full of similar stories we've come to reference as the way it should be for the lowly and heroic emerging artist. Seemingly everyone I've met -- including myself -- trying to make their way in the music industry has an internal compass pointing to the fairytale North Pole of happy endings that drive them to continue. The catalog of music industry stories we cite in order to justify the tenacity to keep trying is riddled with enough hope to sometimes throw us off track to the reality of the business side of the music industry. We sometimes focus on the big payday and fame and forget that both of those are fleeting spoils of the war of making a living in the business. More importantly, we can get lost in the excitement of a label that shows interest so much that we overlook the fine print buried within flowery words of small novel called a "record deal" contract.


Now, I've spent the better part of my adult life negotiating sales contracts in various industries, including the fun of drafting them and having lawyers red-pen them many times. I'm not a lawyer, but the process of reading through these intimidating documents can be overwhelming to most. So for the sake of lending unsolicited advice to my reader, I figured to point out the top five issues to consider when entering discussions with a label of any size. These are not necessarily in priority order for every case, but they are in my personal preference order of importance when I have considered them for Spencer's career.

1. The Investment From The Label
The most important relationship matter to understand between an artist and label is that of the artist being a small business and the label acting as a managing investor in that small business. It is simply that easy. The label is investing in that artist and expects a return. As such, it is extremely important for the artist to look at a very detailed blueprint of WHAT is being invested, WHEN it's being invested, HOW it's being invested, WHO is investing it and WHERE it's being invested. These are standard questions to ask and understand clearly before entering the agreement. Too many artists regret signing a record deal because they didn't understand the investment structure in the light of these. In most cases, a label won't include an actual dollar amount they will invest or when. They will often verbally say they will do this and that, but when it comes to the actual contract, an artist should be comfortable that the wording holds them accountable to the investment plan you verbally discuss. It will be a critical part of whether they can succeed with helping the artist's career reach the levels both parties expect.

2. Term Of The Contract
It's also very critical to understand how long an artist is bound by the contract being offered. Be extremely careful to not miss sections of the agreement that are worded so that even when the term of the agreement is legally finished, some rights of ownership may extend after the label and artist part ways. Things like use of artists music, likeness, name, etc., may affect the artist down the line. Certainly anything that has financial upside for the label may appear as something that extends beyond the life of the agreement. Be very careful to find these sometimes less than obvious clauses within a contract.

3. Creative Control
One of the more difficult areas an artist faces is the reality that once a label invests in them, they essentially lose creative control over their music. The label can simply veto the artist's preference in their sound, style, lyrics, mix, live show, etc. Simply, when the artist signs the agreement, they are signing away their creative rights to the label's management team who can preference making profit over the artists desire to be unique in the marketplace. It may not be possible to word an agreement to protect the artist's creative rights, but I certainly recommend they try. A good entertainment lawyer may provide some practical language to help the artist have a voice in creative decisions.

4. Label Ownership
Face it, unless you're dealing with the big three labels like Universal, Sony or Warner Brothers or their direct subsidiaries, you're likely dealing with an independently owned label. Making sure you understand WHO is on the hook to enforce the contract is absolutely critical. Just because you may have a good relationship with the A&R or label representative, the fact is that people come and go and you may have to live with their replacement who may not have knowledge of the verbal conversations you had when negotiating your deal. Knowing the ownership as best as possible is critical. Do your homework and investigate them. Research any public records and get referrals from anyone in the industry who may have dealt with them before. Most importantly, if possible, make sure they have the financial wherewithal to uphold the agreement they are making with you.

5. Day-to-Day Support Staff
In today's music climate, many labels are creating 360 deals where they are entitled to a piece of many of an artist's income streams. While the artist may be ok with this financial model (which is a tough pill to swallow sometimes) the support of the artist in the areas the label is benefiting from financially should be carefully understood. If, for example, the label is getting a percentage of an artist's tour and merch income, they should be equally required to provide administrative staff and support for the artist in exchange for them participating in the income from those areas. In the most traditional sense, a label is an investor in producing and distributing music. Their sole income should be coming from music sales. When a label extends their income areas from other areas of an artist's income streams, they need to provide an equal investment against receiving that income in a tangible way like staff support.

I'm certain that another person's list may have other priorities to consider, but after now reviewing and experiencing nearly a dozen label offers the past four years with Spencer's young career, I've learned to ask a lot of questions and spoken with a lot of industry veterans on both side of the contract in order to gain valued insights into the potential pitfalls facing both.

A fairytale ending can certainly happen for an artist in the music business, but it usually comes in the form of having a wise and learned advocate who can point out the dangers that lie ahead in hopes of helping them navigate the landscape -- call it a good entertainment lawyer or a collective set of advice from those who have been there, done that. Either way, having a set of priorities planned before finalizing negotiations is the real formula for a happy ending.

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The New 'Little Prince' Trailer Will Make You Want To Be A Kid Again

Don't grow into a boring adult, little children.

If the growing-up ship has already sailed for you, the first English language trailer for the upcoming animated version of "The Little Prince" will at least remind you to keep your childish wonder alive. Featuring the voices of Rachel McAdams and Jeff Bridges, among other notable actors like James Franco and Paul Rudd, the film will debut at the 2015 Cannes film festival.

Check out the trailer, and then retire your life plan and learn to just, like, live.

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YouTube Is Killing Its App On Old iPhones, Other Devices

Your aging "smart" devices are about to get a bit dumber, thanks to a YouTube update.

Starting in May, the YouTube app won't work on devices manufactured before 2013. This means iPhones, Apple TVs, iPads, streaming video devices, Blu-ray players, video game consoles and smart TVs that are more than a couple years old will be unable to access their pre-installed version of the popular video app, according to a recent announcement from Google.

Google says it's necessary to shut down the older apps in order to introduce new features to the latest versions of YouTube.

According to MacRumors, individuals using devices old enough to be affected by the change are starting to see a discontinuation video at the top of any search they run on the YouTube app. The video explains that "YouTube is upgrading to a newer version, which is not supported by this device or app" and encourages viewers to visit http://ift.tt/18HmWfs for more information.

Here's that video:

You're not totally out of luck if you haven't upgraded to a new gadget in a few years. If you're using an older iOS device that supports iOS 7, for example, you can simply update the software and download the new YouTube app. The third-generation Apple TV, as well as certain streaming video devices, will also be able to get the new YouTube app following an update, according to Google.

If all else fails, you can try bypassing the defunct app and watching videos on YouTube's website within your device's web browser.

Still, this stands as a good reminder that even if your hardware seems fine, software might outpace it. For example, last year Apple's FaceTime video chat app stopped working for iDevice users who were behind on their software updates.

There are over 1 billion YouTube users worldwide. Hopefully, most of them are on shiny new devices.

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