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Jeffrey Katzenberg on recent movies: “They suck.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg on recent movies: “They suck.” (photo)

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Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech Conference, which is taking place this weekend in Aspen, Colorado, is “where the innovators of the Fortune 500 meet the next generation of leaders to shape the future of business.” It’s also apparently a place where those innovators talk pretty bluntly about the state of their industry.

One of the talks at Brainstorm Tech was a conversation between Fortune‘s Andy Serwer and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. You can find the entire transcript and video of their half hour conversation on Fortune‘s website; it includes Katzenberg talking about the state of 3D filmmaking and how he first became interested in the power of animation while working at Disney. But I wanted to share just one highlight that really stuck out to me, and that came when Serwer asked Katzenberg whether he thought social media is partly to blame for Hollywood’s recent struggles. Katzenberg disagreed, arguing that social media can be “valuable allies” in helping get the word out about good product. In his mind, the real problem is exactly that: a lack of good product.

“There is this sort of unholy alliance that has existed forever between art and commerce, show and biz. And today it’s out of balance and it’s too much on the biz, and it’s too much on the commerce and it’s too much on the marketability and the fact is that I’m pretty confident, and let’s do it, because this is supposed to be an interactive experience here, which is could we agree? Let me have a show of hands of people that would say the last seven or eight months of movies is the worst lineup of movies you’ve experienced in the last five years of your life.

[A shot of the audience shows most hands raised.]

They suck. It’s unbelievable how bad movies have been, right. I men, it’s just I haven’t seen a run of this, a crop of movies… right now today it’s a particularly dreary moment.”

Well at least he’s honest. Hollywood this summer is the snake that eats its own tail; a lot of sub-par sequels to movies that weren’t always all that great to begin with. Of the top ten box office grossers of the year, nine are either sequels, or based on comic books, or both (including Katzenberg’s own admittedly well-received “Kung Fu Panda 2”). The only truly original hit amongst the top ten movies of 2011 is Paul Feig’s “Bridesmaids,” which accomplished all sorts of rare feats, not the least of which is the fact that it’s held strong at the box office for almost three months in a marketplace dominated by bigger, flashier movies.

“Bridesmaids” is actually a good example for the way Katzenberg thinks movies should work in the Internet age. With social media you have this amazing tool for customer outreach. If something works with audiences, they’re going to tell people about it on Facebook and Twitter. Theoretically, then, it should be easier than ever to make a word of mouth hit. But in practice, those types of slow-earning blockbusters are rarer than ever. Most Hollywood movies are built for that big opening weekend then disappear from theaters in a month and a half. The studios bank on brand recognition and spectacle, but those are exactly the sort of movies that generate mehs on social media. Meanwhile a movie like “Bridesmaids” with characters that resemble actual human beings exceeds expectations because people liked it and told their friends to go see it.

So y’see, Hollywood? You don’t have to spend two hundred million dollars on prints and advertising. Reinvest in talent and let the fans do the work for you. Then maybe things will start to suck less.

Has this year at the movies been as bad as Katzenberg claims? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.