Showbiz Sandbox 314: As Expected, The Oscars Shine A Spotlight On Diversity

In a year when the Academy Awards were faulted for a lack of diversity among its nominees, ceremony host Chris Rock addressed the #OscarsSoWhite controversy head on in his opening monologue by mixing pointed criticism with biting humor. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, brings us along as she attends the 88th annual Oscars and explains just how difficult it was to predict this year’s winners.

Mind you, award season never really ends. France handed out their own awards for last year’s top movies and we’ll tell you who won all the big prizes at the Cesars. We even look at the nominations for the Olivier Awards, the London theater equivalent to the Tonys. Literally hours after winning his first Oscar, Mark Rylance was nominated again, this time for his performance in “Farinelli and the King”.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is planning to imitate its online rival Amazon by, oddly enough, opening new brick and mortar stores. And a reissue of the Alex Haley bestseller Roots brings up everything from copyright to the question of when a book goes out of print to ebook pricing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix and other streaming services have decimated video sales, PBS will launch its own cable network and Adele tops the Brit Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 266: Sundance Becomes A Little More International

Though the Sundance Film Festival has long been one of the more important festivals held each year, it was primarily known as a launching pad for American independent films and as such international attendance was minimal. That seems to have changed over the past few years as Sundance selections started receiving Oscar nominations. Now industry professionals from all over the world show up at the festival to find the next “Whiplash”, “Precious” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.

We didn’t have to travel from halfway around the world to attend this year’s Sundance, but we are in Park City and will fill you in on all the buzzworthy films, major acquisitions and festival news.

Meanwhile, the Producer’s Guild Awards muddied the waters in the current race for the Best Picture Academy Award. While everyone assumed “Boyhood” would walk off with the prize on its way to Oscar victory, “Birdman” swept in and unexpectedly stole it. Whether this is any indication as to how Oscar voters will cast their ballots is questionable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is headed to court over his record contract, how James Patterson is promoting his new book and Mrs. Doubtfire is headed to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 236: Getting Sleep At This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

It’s the middle of May so that must mean it is once again time for the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most anticipated and prestigious annual events of the international film industry. This year’s Festival du Film is stocked with titles by auteurs considered to be the world’s crème de la crème. Whether it’s a selection from festival favorite Ken Loach or a timely political movie from Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, we’ll tell you all about the films that have been hits with the critics and attendees.

Meanwhile, cable and broadcast networks held their annual upfronts in New York last week to announce which series we’ll be watching next season (and which ones they’ve cancelled). The question is with most of the networks moving toward year round programming, are upfronts still an effective method to sell advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission finally published their open internet notice last week managing to please just about nobody. This comes as media companies continue to consolidate with AT&T announcing their plans to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, labor disputes at the Metropolitan Opera and Conan O’Brien’s contract gets renewed.

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Showbiz Sandbox 188: Remembering Roger – Personal Recollections of the World’s Most Famous Film Critic

The death of film critic Roger Ebert last week after a lengthy and public battle with cancer was followed by an endless stream of heartfelt appreciations. Arguably one of the most recognized and influential movie critics in the world, few were aware of Ebert’s generosity, especially when it came to fellow critics and journalists.

David Poland of Movie City News and Anne Thompson of Indiewire join our hosts in discussing a few of the personal memories each has of Ebert from spending time with him over the years. For instance, did you know filmmaker Michael Moore credits Ebert with helping spread the word about the his first movie? Or that Ebert was an early investor in a little web startup named Google?

Meanwhile, late night television dominated the entertainment news last week as NBC officially announced they would not be renewing Jay Leno’s contract as host of the “Tonight Show” in order to bring in the younger Jimmy Fallon. The move has been widely hailed as a boneheaded attempt to win ratings in key demos as competition increases, but in the end Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” might still bring in more viewers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” sequel, “American Idol’s” declining ratings and why take-down notices issued by movie studios are actually helping pirates, not hindering them.

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Showbiz Sandbox 110: “Transformers” Proves Mediocrity Makes Money

When “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” hit theaters over the Fourth of July holiday weekend fans of the franchise were relieved to discover it wasn’t nearly as bad ad the second film. That seems to be a fairly common response to Michael Bay’s latest critic-proof popcorn blockbuster. The highly anticipated movie made nearly $400 million at the worldwide box office in its first week explaining why studios love such formulaic dreck and all but ensuring another sequel.

Last week also saw the sale of MySpace. The once dominant social network Internet site which was once valued at $12 billion was sold by News Corp. at a loss for a mere $35 million. What may be more surprising than anyone actually wanting to buy MySpace is that pop star Justin Timberlake has been tapped to help turn the company’s fortunes around by focusing on music.

Speaking of music, NPR tried to figure out how much it costs to make a hit pop song by examining the finances behind Rihanna’s recent single “Man Down”. Apparently all it takes is $1.1 million in production and promotions costs and 12 minutes to right the lyrics.

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Showbiz Sandbox 84: A Black List Every Screenwriter Wants To Be On

Since 2005 Hollywood studio executive Franklin Leonard has compiled an annual list of the industry’s “most liked” unproduced screenplays. Dubbed The Black List, past selections have gone on to win Academy Awards (“Juno”) or be turned into critically acclaimed films (“The Social Network”). Leonard talks about the project he began on a whim and how it has grown to a point where it can help launch a screenwriter’s career.

Also joining us on this week’s show is Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times. Boucher explains how he recently broke two big stories in the film world. His first scoop was about filmmaker Jon Favreau who, after helming the first two installments of the Iron Man franchise, has opted not to direct “Iron Man 3”. Instead he’ll make a big budget film about Disneyland. That’s right… Disneyland. Meanwhile, Boucher also spoke at length with director Ron Howard who is working closely with author Stephen King to adapt the writer’s “Dark Tower” series for the big screen.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association had many in Hollywood scratching their heads this week after they announced their Golden Globe nominations. Exactly how (or why) they nominated an action film such as “The Tourist” in the Best Musical or Comedy category is anybody’s guess.

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