Sunday, August 26, 2012

Three Reasons This Movie Laid An Egg

This turkey laid an egg

Everybody loved the concept. I mean, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Scott Rudin. You know, everybody.

Everything looked great on paper as well. There were no less than EIGHT A-list writers on the movie, not including the original guy who wrote the comic book that inspired the movie. But it was a huge disappointment and slipped off the charts into cable television soon after theatrical release.

Why happened?

Reason #1: With four credited writers and another four A-list writers working on the project, I suspect the script was being written up to the moment the cameras began to roll.

But it had Harrison Ford!

Reason #2: Harrison Ford is a leading man who mostly plays himself. Daniel Craig, by comparison, is an exceptional character actor, because he’s done that kind of acting for 20-plus years before he was James Bond. The same can be said for Sam Rockwell. These guys can act. In fact, the entire supporting cast were worthy of being cast in a reprise of the Wild Bunch.

Aren't you being a little harsh on the movie?

Reason #3: Maybe comic books don’t need a third act, but movies generally do. C&A didn't have a third act.

Consequently the audience was deprived of seeing how the characters were going to redeem themselves in a sweeping heroic and climactic battle. There is no better than in Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch shootout that established the western for all time.

In Cowboys & Aliens, nobody won the final battle. The audience was deprived of seeing the Apache kick some alien butt.  The Apache never took a scalp or shot the monsters full of flaming arrows. It would have been cathartic. This is what Apache do.

Instead of a final battle, there was Ford delivering some sappy exposition, followed by cheesy special effects to mask the fact that the director had run out of story at the Act II reveal.

But it was a feel-good western ending, right?

If you actually paid to see this, you’d feel cheated and bloated. Daniel Craig left town pretty much the way he arrived. The townspeople returned to their old ways as if nothing had ever happened.

Was there anything good to say about the movie?

The trailer was pretty good.

Is that all?

There won't be a sequel.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Is Really Going On In Rio ?

Julia Michaels
Julia Michaels, an American journalist who has lived in Rio de Janeiro for 30 years, began writing Rio Real as a way of monitoring Rio’s revitalization as it prepares for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. 

She’s worn out shoe leather and fought Rio's nightmare traffic getting to numerous civic meetings. Sometimes she takes transit that breaks down. Or she has to climb up the rotting staircases honeycombing the unpacified favelas, sometimes late at night.

An intrepid writer, the petite journalist attends as many meetings as she can to ask the tough questions. She doesn't want to miss anything. This is the first time in the city's history where citizens will have a voice in their future. People are turning up at meetings. because they now have a voice in the planning process. 

Writing her posts in both Portuguese and English with an ironic, yet compassionate tone, Julia spends a lot of time sorting through the press releases for stories among the debris of hyperbole from the sponsors and politicians. Then from her own research she writes what people need to hear about: what is really going on in Rio.  

Rocinha's favela was only recently pacified
While the international media focus on Rio’s delays in getting ready for the Olympics, Julia’s reporting focuses on what happens to people when their homes are destroyed and they are relocated to make way for for new roads, housing and stadiums.

Cranes dominate the landscape in preparation for the 2016 Games
Underneath the glamour of the sporting events, there is a much larger question that needs to be answered, Julia says. "Will the enthusiasm for solving social issues continue as well?" 

"I want it to," she says. Far too often she’s seen plans die on the beaches of Rio. With so much at stake, she wants to play a role to see that the current positive transformation does not stop once the new buildings, stadiums and roads are finished.

Writing from the core of the revitalization, Julia is witnessing deep social changes. 

"I see things in Rio that are beginning to reveal a new tolerance, concern and solidarity. Vai durar?"

Saturday, August 11, 2012

MANU Fails To Score on IPO

MANU, the trading symbol for Manchester United Football Club, got a chilly reception from investors on Friday (August 10, 2012).

Opening on the New York Stock Exchange at $14, the club’s massive fan base of 660 million could do little to leverage the tepid stock to $20 a share.

English Premier League teams rarely make the profit column. These clubs earn annual revenues equivalent to a modest British supermarket chain. 

Manchester United derive its revenues from ticket sales, replica souvenirs and broadcast rights, hardly enough to pay for on-going operations and pay down more than $600M in debt, much less pay for a Brazilian in the transfer market.

Critics have pointed out that few European teams earn a profit, making them poor investment choices, even those team that finish high. To its credit, Manchester United  regularly finishes first or second in the Premier League and pays the highest average salaries to staff and players -- without paying out uber salaries in the transfer market.

The MANU IPO may yet enable Manchester United to dabble in the transfer market or pay off its lumbering debt, but not both. This season it is expected that the top ten transfer players collectively will receive payouts of $332M, putting a strain on any club's budget.

Manchester United's star forward, Wayne Rooney

Given that Manchester United will probably finish in the top two again -- even without mega-star transfer players-- wouldn’t it make more sense to find a quality discount player (s) from places like Bolivia, Honduras or Belorussia? Seems like a better option that an IPO.  What do you think?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pussy Riot Grrrrrls Jailed in anti-Putin Protest

Since his return to President, Vladimir Putin has changed. He's not a kinder, gentler Putin, but rather a buff Putin. It's not difficult to find a photo of him without a shirt and doing manly things like shooting guns and fishing in freezing waters. 

Putin is also becoming cranky with western leaders and defying their diplomacy.

In Russia, he's gone back to his roots and jailed hundreds of people for protesting his election. He's rounded up the usual suspects for crimes against the state.

Recently, several young women put on a punk protest of Putin's governance. Now they are facing a prison sentence, according to the New York Times

Maria Alyokhin, left, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested last weekend for belonging to a feminist punk band conspiracy. 

They were caught on video to illustrate their crime for all to see. Rough justice from a bully, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bill Maher: U.S. Now A Banana Republic

Bill Maher

"The greatest thing about America was that you could come here with nothing and, purely by hard work, become fabulously wealthy.

But this isn’t happening anymore. More and more money is concentrated in the super-rich while wages for the middle-class are stagnant and the poor are, well, if they’re lucky they might get some cheese and a flu shot.

The worst part is, while America is turning into a banana republic, actual banana republics are starting to turn into what America used to be.

I don’t know much about Brazil, other than that they do amazing things with wax. And have you seen the carioca? It’s not a foxtrot or a polka. There I go quoting 1930's show tunes again.

But it turns out that Brazil, which used to be the most unequal nation on earth, may soon become more equal than the US."


The U.S. as a banana republic?

I agree with Bill Maher that Brasilians do astonishing things with wax. I would add that the U.S. will never be able to  match Brasil's futbol teams as a banana republic.

For more on Brasil's economy : Bill Maher's Real Time Blog.

What isn't well known in America is that Brasil's economy was built with a strong sense of social democracy in the public sector and a regulated private economy. As a result, Brasil was not disabled in the recent global economic crisis. In fact, the middle class began to prosper for the first time in the country's history.

Brasil had once before lent its economic insights to America when Brasil's president, Fernando Henrique Cardosa, met with Bill Clinton to discuss economic and monetary policy during a period of unprecedented economic growth in America. The two men became good friends and their discussions are documented in President Cardosa's excellent autobiography,  "The Accidental President of Brazil". Bill Clinton wrote the foreword to the book.