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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.