DID YOU READ

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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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