Tag Archives: News

Pop Thoughts: Big Hollywood and the War on Independent Journalism (Part Two)

This entry will be significantly shorter than my last ramble but I intend to keep this topic alive because I feel it is important.  If we hope to maintain an open and honest media, even if it is a blog that is a barely-trodden corridor of the city-sized labyrinth of Internet rags, we have to get the word out whenever we feel there is some sort of system in place that exists to handicap or even eliminate our ability to share our own thoughts on a product released by a major media corporation.

A long-time studio tactic that has been called into scrutiny more and more of late is the review embargo.  A review embargo is a prohibition on the early release of reviews and detailed commentary before a certain specified date after early screenings or pre-release copies of a product are made available to critics.  These individuals are usually your standard mainstream newspaper critic but their ranks also encompass a rollcall of columnists from other “trusted” sources.  Often coming with a written agreement to the studio’s terms and even the occasional non-disclosure agreement, these embargoes are almost always a red flag for me.

While I often prefer to avoid citing any corporate-fed media source, I think critic Marshall Fine said it best on the Huffington Post; “It’s all about controlling information — and bad word of mouth.  This kind of embargo is almost never associated with a movie which is expected to be a critical hit. (source)”  I think this pretty much hits the proverbial nail on the head.  If a movie or game is expected to rock everyone’s world, why keep them out of the loop as long as possible?  Sometimes these review embargoes can be in place up to as late as the Wednesday before the release of a film, intentionally buried in the middle of the workweek.

I stated in my previous diatribe (for lack of a better word) that as products become more expensive, it becomes more necessary to hide or silence any negative press for as long as possible to get the cash of early adopters and opening weekend addicts who want to beat the barrage of inconsiderate spoilers that will inevitably flood the Web by Saturday evening.  However, I believe this tactic is starting to lose its effectiveness.  Consumers are growing more and more savvy to the biases and manipulations of major media sources and are less tolerant than ever of being conned into buying a product that is knowingly-bad, the flaws of which being intentionally hid from them in the hopes that they will spend first and ask questions later.

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Important Pop News: Robert Wagner Named As a “Person of Interest” In 1981 Death of Natalie Wood

It was late November of 1981 when the historic Hollywood story struck the headlines.  “Natalie Wood Dead: Body found floating off Catalina” dominated the front page of the Daily News on November 30, less than 48 hours after the notorious incident.  While on a sea excursion off Catalina’s coast on a boat owned by superstar Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken, an argument broke out between Wagner and his wife, the late Natalie Wood.  After the stars were reported to have gone to sleep, a loud thud was heard from the deck and when the passengers investigated they found Wood was missing.  The following morning, Wood’s body was discovered beached a mile down shore.

The death has always been controversial, and suspicions have lingered.  Wood was known to struggle with alcoholism and painkiller addiction, and autopsies discovered she was intoxicated when she died.  However, suspicions were further fueled by the discovery of abrasions along Wood’s body, including on her arms and face.  These wounds, typical of domestic violence, led some to speculate that Wagner had attacked her during a fight and either Wood fell off the boat, hit her head and disappeared into the black water, or was intentionally thrown overboard.

30 years after the incident in 2011, the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, who was piloting the ship that night, stated he was certain that Wagner was responsible for the death of the famous actress.  However, despite the controversy, Wagner got by unscathed.  Wood’s cause of death was changed from “accidental drowning” to “drowning due to undetermined factors” and the case was officially reopened.  A recent statement by LA County Sheriff John Corina during a 48 Hours interview has sparked new life in the story in the last 24 hours.  “As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s (Wagner) more of a person of interest now,” Sheriff Corina stated during the interview. [source].

Wood was most famous for her classic role as Maria in Robbins & Wise’s musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, as well as Splendor in the Grass that same year and her childhood role as Susie in Miracle on 34th Street from 1941.  She was nominated for three Oscars and won three Golden Globes, including one for “Most Promising Newcomer” in 1957 for Rebel Without a Cause.  Natalie Wood was not a “Newcomer” when Rebel was released having appeared in a number of roles as a child on film and television. [source].

I can only speculate what truths will be revealed in the coming months surrounding this legendary case.  Could one of Hollywoods most infamous cold cases finally be solved?  Wagner, who is nearly 90 now, could finally face charges for Wood’s death after almost four decades of mystery and conjecture…

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My Thoughts On The Controversial Updates To YouTube’s Monetization Policy

Over the last 24 hours there has been a stir online surrounding a memo from YouTube regarding some impending changes to their monetization policy.  The memo in question, titled “Additional Changes to the YouTube Partner Program (TPP) to Better Protect Creators”, has received both defense and criticism from some who describe it as yet another means by which YouTube is attempting to drown out smaller channels.  This is an accusation that has be levied at YouTube’s parent company Google before as the Internet’s most popular video hosting platform has been reported as a loss leader costing possibly hundreds of millions of dollars to operate with little boost to Google’s bottom line.

One speculation ties this with a recent push by Google to feature more featured, paid content from major creators as well as the questionably-successful YouTube Red subscription service.  By that, it is reasonable to assume Google is trying everything they can to keep YouTube around and make it profitable.  It’s undeniable that Google isn’t exactly hurting for money at the moment with Alphabet, Inc. stocks on a steady incline in value, however things aren’t as simple as “They have a lot of money.”

The precarious anvil that has been looming over YouTube’s already aching head over the past few years comes in the form of controversial YouTube channels and a few high-profile creators finding themselves in headlines and hot water.  If you were to ask me, most of the outcry surrounding otherwise innocuous creators like JonTron, Pewdiepie, and most recently, Logan Paul, is a distraction at best; fallacious at worst.  It’s difficult to believe there is a massive influx of vile people on the rise in YouTube because of a few incidents (most of which were entirely overblown, yet a few were certainly questionable).  However, this argument that one has to take sides because of “reasons” utterly escapes me.

So, a quick rundown of YouTube’s policy changes indicate a few details.  First, the article points out troubling issues in YouTube that have been ongoing.  Immediately, the recent controversies about bizarre Flash animations featuring Disney characters and Donald Trump in compromising or even horrific circumstances (that are apparently part of an AI-generated video scheme to hijack YouTube’s algorithm to capture views via auto-play program), to an increase in creators advocating support for things as horrific as pedophilia both come to mind.  These are the “bad actors” that I imagine being a real sore spot for YouTube.  Even more broadly, the requirements for the YouTube Partner Program have been strengthened and now require not only 1,000 subscribers at minimum, but also a cumulative 4,000 hours of watch time over the past 12 months with a 30-day grace period.  These changes are slated to take effect on February 20th, 2018.

All of that sounds reasonable enough, but there is a spot where things start to get a little hazy.  The article refers to “bad actors”, “abuse” and “harm” but never really explains what any of these mean.  It then hotlinks to the article on YouTube’s Community Guidelines which is equally vague but at least provides some examples of what could constitute a policy violation.  To make things even more concerning, if a channel does manage to achieve the requisite subscription base and view count, these creators then have to submit their own channel for “review” to finally get permission to monetize their content.  The problem with this process takes me back to the nebulous terms like “harm”.  Is there any way a video reviewed on such a basis can be done so objectively?  From the way it sounds in their own post, even if a channel is big, whether or not the creator can monetize their own creation is entirely at the subjective whim of a handful of thus far unidentified reviewers.  I find this to be suspicious and believe it will likely contribute to much of the content that made YouTube famous leaving for good.  Some video hobbyists may be forced to reconsider whether or not it is even worth suffering the slings and arrows of the video streaming giant’s new terms to even justify putting in the effort.  As for myself, I do not know if I really even want to start going down the YouTube path.  I simply do not have the time, hence the infrequency of posts on my own damn site.

I felt compelled to weigh in on this a little bit as I want to do a little more editorializing on news and events surrounding popular culture as, while lists and reviews are certainly more fun to write, I also would like to share some thoughts about other goings on in the world of entertainment.  That said, I plan to have another review up in the next few days so here’s hoping I can keep up some momentum…

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Irene Looms…

It’s Monday and the start of the storm began to hit us this morning although it was very minor.  I hope to have a First Impressions game review posted sometime today or tomorrow.  I’m working from home today, so I’m sitting in my usual chair, hoping I do not get too bored, though I doubt I will have a chance to be.  I am going to be working on an article for the site PlaySomeVideoGames as well.  So standby despite the weekend and the freaking superstorm, by God I am still going to write!

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MoviePass Is Coming! …Eventually!

I wanted to make a quick update on MoviePass.  I did get an update from their support that there is a delay in delivery of new cards due to the large influx of new subscribers.  This is entirely understandable.  The current wait is 2-3 weeks.  Tomorrow will mark two weeks since the order was placed, so there’s a chance it will arrive sometime in the next few days.  By next weekend I should be able to give an honest review of the service.  I hadn’t lost hope and the fact that they did issue a public apology and explanation is good enough for me.

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A Note on the Coming Storm…

I wanted to make a note that there may be a delay in posts for next week.  I am currently in the path for some remnant storms from Hurricane Irene so if I am without power, Internet access or time to write, that would explain any delays over the weekend into the first half of next week.  I still plan to get some articles posted for this weekend so stay with me and I give my best wishes to everyone in the storm’s path this weekend.

Thank you…

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Trying MoviePass… Maybe?

 

On Sunday, the 27th of August, I subscribed to to the service MoviePass.  I downloaded the app, got everything ready, then all I had to do was wait for the arrival of the debit cards in the mail.  Yes.  This is an online service that still requires you to wait for snail mail.  The idea is, you go to the theater, pick your movie and time, then when you are there, MoviePass loads your card with the exact ticket cost for that ticket.  You get one per day per account at $9.95 per month.

There’s just one problem: The cards have not arrived yet.  After nearly two weeks, I’m still waiting on them to show up.  Now I chalk this up to the Labor Day weekend and the surge of storms raging from the Atlantic possibly slowing things down, as well as a known influx of subscribers after it was announced they would be changing format.  I have heard mostly-positive reviews of the service with the primary complaints being getting everything set up can be a pain.  I can empathize already and I haven’t even been able to use the service.  A second complaint about MoviePass subscriptions is it is only one subscription per person.  So, couples, friends, siblings, ect., who want to frequent theaters together will be out of luck.  At this time, MoviePass has not launched a “couples plan” per se.  Instead, if you want to share the movie experience with someone else, they have to have their own, separate paid subscription.  One post from what is presumed to be a MoviePass support agent does clarify that they “hope to add couples and family plans in the future!” (source).  I can only presume this is a delay caused by the change in format and the future addition of this plan will likely rely on the service’s success in the long run.

Now as for having to wait for the debit card to come in, I would say in an age where online transactions are ubiquitous for just about anything, the delay caused by a debit card having to arrive by mail for a service such as this is baffling and can only be explained by MoviePass not getting proper cooperation from the appropriate corporations in order to give subscribers a way to pay for your tickets online as it would require an intermediary like Fandango, for-instance.  I am hoping to see my card arrive by this weekend so I can get some use out of my plan, but I am not going to hold my breath.  Not to say I do not believe they are coming at all, but given it has taken far longer than the 5-7 business days notice, I cannot be certain they will show up in a reasonable time.

I will write up another review of the service after I’ve had the chance to use it a few times.  I don’t want to use it once, have a good or bad experience, then judge the entire service on that one subjective, anecdotal experience.  I would rather give a review of MoviePass based on a longer-term experience.  Maybe after a few weekends of service I will be ready to really judge it for what it is.

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