What Are You Missing? May 9-May 23
1. The Cannes Film Festival’s major award winners were just announced, with Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives taking the Palme d’Or (and thus you can add Thailand to this chart of past Palme d’Or winners by country). Mike D’Angelo says Cannes got that right, a critics’ poll on the best and worst films had Uncle Boonme in second place, and indieWire’s film report card gave it a B+. Overall, the Cannes lineup has been judged merely so-so and distribution deals were slow to develop. The usual glamour was there, though, and there was plenty of off-screen news, from Woody Allen’s presser to Jean-Luc Godard’s refusal to explain his impenetrable Film Socialisme to protests over the film Outside the Law to outrage at Jafar Panahi’s imprisonment. With some questioning whether anyone cares about Cannes anymore, David Poland asked at the start of the festival if Cannes still matters; Eugene Hernandez answered yes, and at least on indieWIRE’s list of fifty leading festivals, Cannes is still #1.
2. Ted Hope offers 38 ways the American film industry is failing cinema (Brian Newman responds to one), plus some added reflections and thoughts on the value of cinema. A profile of indie producer Michael London explains how he’s dealing with new industry realities, and Guillermo del Toro proposes short films as an industry savior, while Mynette Louie says microbudget filmmaking is decidedly not a savior. African cinema could use a savior, as theaters are dwindling, but at least Nigerian cinema (Nollywood) is thriving, and African filmmaking was relatively well-represented at Cannes.
3. In Hollywood news, Bob Kerrey is expected to head up the MPAA, Marc Cuban is suing Paramount for millions over fraudulent accounting, and NPR featured a story on just such creative Hollywood accounting in connection with Gone in 60 Seconds. Elsewhere, Britain’s Hammer Studios plans to develop swankier horror films (figuratively and literally: Hilary Swank will be in one) and, inevitably, a 3D horror film. The latter will annoy Francis Ford Coppola, but James Cameron will say told you so. And in an attempt to foster U.S. box office success, the Indian film Kites will be distributed in two versions, one a traditional Bollywood romantic drama with extended dance sequences and the other a Brett Ratner recut that basically drops all the Bollywood bits (*sigh*).
4. A court ruled against file-sharing service LimeWire for copyright infringement, and PirateBay was briefly sidelined by court injunctions, but defiantly carries on. Nintendo is going after illegal game copiers and The Hurt Locker’s producers are going after illegal downloaders. One of those producers, Nicholas Chartier, is quite outspoken against illegal downloaders, which isn’t going over so well with some. Chartier should have a chat with British actor Peter Serafinowicz, who says he even steals movies he’s in. Steve Safran thinks maybe the only way to out-pirate the pirates is to get first-run films into our homes sooner.
5. You probably haven’t missed much of Facebook’s privacy mess, considering it even made the cover of Time. But here’s a condensation of the fallout (yes, this is a condensation; there was a lot of it): Some are responding in defense of Facebook or saying who cares or at least defending the value of publicness in some measure; writing thoughtful essays about the issues involved; demanding that Facebook as a company itself be more public and transparent; creeping us out with infographics; mocking those who don’t seem to realize that their very personal info is public (the folks featured there really need to use some privacy scan tools); working on Facebook alternatives; proposing a bill of privacy rights for social media; and calling for us to delete our Facebook accounts on May 31 or at least stay away from them on June 6. So far, Facebook has only promised to simply its privacy settings. As if the privacy backlash wasn’t enough for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to account for already, this fortnight also saw user data from Facebook and other social networks sent to advertisers without user permission; Zuckerberg embarrassed by old IMs, sparking demands for him to speak up about his current beliefs (while others say the attacks on Zuckerberg have gotten out of hand); Zuckerberg accused of securities fraud; and info leaked about Aaron Sorkin’s Facebook movie The Social Network in which Zuckerberg doesn’t come off so well (the phrase “sex maniac” certainly caught my eye). But wait, there’s more: Pakistan banned Facebook because of the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day movement. You know you’re having problems when both Pakistan and the ACLU are mad at you. Any good news for Facebook? Nike likes it.
6. Twitter has high hopes for its new advertising system, others are intrigued by the future possibilities of using Twitter for precise opinion polling, and Twitter reworked its trending topics algorithm to make it less Biebery, but Adam Ostrow said there’s more work to be done. Similarly, David Carr is frustrated by hit-generating, Google-luring headlines online. Vaguely related (I just had to fit it in somewhere): Harry McCracken has a great analysis of the word “fanboy” as a tech world put-down.
7. YouTube has turned five years old (a birthday which Conan O’Brien celebrated by picking out his favorite clips), and touts that its viewership now exceeds that of prime-time network TV. But Simon Dumenco claims that the latest YouTube sensation, Greyson Chance, owes more to TV than YouTube for his virality, while Justin.tv says it beats YouTube in time spent on the site. Across its next five years, YouTube is hoping to foster more professional and profitable content. They might want to work on more professional corporate communication, too.
8. April saw yet another plunge in video game sales, while a report suggests game companies could pick up sales by better serving older and disabled gamers. Looking for more money itself, EA Sports announced a plan to charge gamers to play used games online. Given that nearly half of gamer money spent reportedly goes to used and online games, it sounds like a shrewd move. Meanwhile, MySpace hopes that online gaming will help turn things around for them, movie studios are turning to online gaming to generate greater audience involvement, and you can help fund Indie Game: The Movie. Thinking beyond money, game companies are going green and are also being called on to support fair labor practices.
9. Last week was the worst for album sales since 1991, and last year, a mere 2% of the albums released accounted for 91% of sales. In terms of online distribution, Leor Galil is frustrated that iTunes gets so many exclusive releases, so he might be happy with the news that Google looks ready to take on iTunes, and he should also check out Mashable’s list of seven sites for discovering new music.
10. The best News for TV Majors links of the fortnight: Law & Order Acting, TV=Art, Introducing Google TV, Upfronts Summaries: NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, The CW, Sitcom Trends, Boycott Call, Content Power Ratings, Finale Advice, Lost Music, Mad Men & Women, Activities During Ads, FCC Waiver for Movie Studios