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Monday, January 9, 2012

Has Romney forgotten that the president is the Commander in Chief?

"I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first. He criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat. Like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They're not asking what political affiliation the president is." 
- Jon Huntsman, Republican Presidential debate, 01/08/2012.

Techies Descend On Las Vegas For CES

Thousands of companies converge on the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, hoping to snag some attention for their gadgets. This year, many of them are promoting new ways to watch TV or access information on the cloud. One notable change this year: It's Microsoft's swan song at CES. Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Steve Henn.

Facial recognition for televisions and other appliances allow for the product to anticipate what you want in advance, allow for blockage of use by kids or others, and also allows the products to "phone home" and provide consumer data to the products manufacturer or whomever they sell it to. This will increase targeted advertising and product "impovements."

Microsoft, which have long dominated fist day speakers, announced that this will be its last year participating in the show. Apple pulled out almost two decades ago, in favor of stand alone meetings, conventions and announcements.

Apple TV. CES, Unions and a new model for "live" entertainment

Industry News

Actors, directors, producers and the new target of the Consumer Electronics Show, which in the past has been for consumer electronics buyers and marketers. Both will co-exist, but a strong focus this year will be on the Entertainment industry.

Apple TV is not being launched this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but it is the talk of the show. A sleek design with Superior picture and sound were you can talk to the TV and it will respond. "Show me 'Law and Order" season 3" and up it would come. "Football on now" and up would come the options. The device would be full Internet and possibly a full computer.

Internet, wi-fi and blue-tooth for televisions, and most all home and mobile consumer electronics are the highlight of the show,  unveiling ways to get consumers in a recession  to spend on consumer "must have" gadgets, and companies to upgrade in areas of their corporate needs (part of this is the motion picture industry focus).

Entertainment unions are banning together in ways not seen since the 1970's. The unions see an economic and multi-national corporate attack on unions and on workers as a threat to the  qualified professional talent that make Hollywood a leader in the world entertainment and information industries. Merger efforts of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Radio and Television Artists are just a part of a much larger effort, led by the AFL-CIO, to bring unions closer together by industry and help defend an overall erosion of workers rights, pay and benefits by politicians. It is important to note that the Screen Actors Guild does not support or finance any candidates, parties or programs, other than select legislative lobbying in areas that benefit the membership.

Tom Cruise is back thanks to Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol. Cruise was regarded as "trouble" and was pushed back from the spotlight for a short period, but he managed to push himself from a small role for his character to a film dominating star in Mission 4.  Knight and Day and other projects were box office failures and his personal politics and religion impacted his career, but only for a short period of time. He is a star and one that keeps shining at the box office.

Spiderman Turn Off the Dark hits an all time high on Broadway. It is out-grossing Wicked, Book of Mormon, Lion King, Hugh Jackman's show and other headline shows. It remains a troubled show, helped in part by the largest venue on Broadway, over 1900 seats, and high ticket prices.

Oprah Winfrey's show breathes new life into OWN. Her poor ratings on her own and other cable networks are now reversing and she continued to commit to her network.

Louis CK's successful self-produced, self-distributed comedy special "Live at the Beacon Theatre on Broadway." He charged $5 to watch the show live on the Internet and raised well over one million dollars for one performance. He is sharing his profits with his staff, charity and new artist, keeping only a very small amount, making up for his part in putting the show together.

The Simpsons Take On Fox News And Glenn Beck

From Mediaite (click here for the story and video). 

On this week's episode of the The Simpsons, the writers took no prisoners in a brilliant excoriation of the cable news industrial complex, with Homer Simpson hosting a Fox News-esque political opinion show Gut Check and tweaking Glenn Beck‘s over-the-top persona in the process.

The premise of the episode is that Homer has become a viral internet video sensation after Bart uploads footage of him having an Alec Baldwin-esque airplane meltdown.

RELATED: The Simpsons Takes Swipe At Fox News: ‘Not Racist But #1 With Racists’

His YouTube stardom earns him a spot as a commentator on cable news show HeadButt, with commentary from Adriatica Veljohnson (a not-too-subtle jab at Arianna Huffington). Homer goes off script, and claims to speak for “those real people out there who buy their coffee from the mini-mart and grab enough sugar packs for a week. Honest, hardworking, sugar-stealing Americans!”

Cable news executives are so endeared by Homer’s folksiness — saying he is the “ill-informed gas bag that networks cannot get enough of” — that they decide to give him his own show, Gut Check!

“I’m not just another loudmouth!” Homer exclaims on his program. “I’m a loudmouth who says things you’re afraid to say, but not racist things!”

In a spot-on, cheeky parody of Beck, Homer ostentatiously sobs crocodile tears as he laments a high school in Nebraska replacing football with soccer as a team sport.

Watching Homer’s show from Moe’s Tavern, Carl wonders if it’s a little weird how much he cries. “No way!” contends Lenny. “When a guy who loves America cries, it makes him super straight!”

The Simpsons‘ writers have outdone themselves tonight, with this no-holds-barred parody of the over-the-top bloviating shenanigans of some cable news personalities.
Watch Homer Simpsons’s cable news show below via Fox:

(h/t Whitney Jefferson at BuzzFeed)

MLK, Champion of Workers and Unionism

This week in labor history: Martin Luther King, Jr. born -- 1929

He died fighting for workers rights. How has he inspired you?

I broke it, You fix it...and if you don't it's your fault!

How politics is killing our Democracy

One minute for statements for thirty seconds for rebuttals is the fodder of sound bites and platform language, not debates. So the question is, have we had too many debates among the Republican candidates or no real debates at all? Has the American public's attention span slipped so far that substantive statements and responses are too long and too boring for us to pay attention to? Also, since when did the public service of political debates have commercial interruptions, or have these debates become reality television for political junkies?

Image has become so important that we "cast" our politicians, looking for hansom, thin, young, with beautiful or handsome spouse, cute children and the all white expensive smile. Studies show that Americans are so sold my marketing that they equate thin and beautiful or hansom to smarter, brighter and more able to accomplish things. Thanks to our media and our own gullibility, youth is better than age, aggression stronger than compromise, energy better than wisdom. How can we return to the society of centuries of history, where age was valued, speed was foolhardy and knowledge was power?

Language is an interesting thing. "Tough Decisions" are no longer have dilemmas that cause pain and loss to those making the decision, but only decisions that hurt the middle class and poor. Yet politicians talk of "tough decisions:" and "tough choices" without voting to impact their own pocket-book or standard of living. As we enter the all politics all the time year, we will see a barrage of e-mails, slogans, sound bites and claims reminiscent of George Orwell and 1984. People believe what they hear, over and over again, and the marketing instead of  thinking about what the words really mean. And as our vocabulary shrinks, Orwell's prophetic book becomes increasing true, because the only way to truly think and protect democracy is through a strong vocabulary. Can true democracy, as Thomas Jefferson envisioned it, survive?

Child Abuse in Hollywood. Annimation takes on prime time and late night. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy rising above art house to mainstream hit. Horror rules weekend box office.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for industry news.

Not a pretty picture. Children come to Hollywood to pursue dreams of stardom every day. Sometimes that chase for glory can put them in contact with unsavory characters who have different motivation. The Los Angeles Times provides an in-depth look at how some child sexual abuses cases have rippled through the industry and could lead to tougher rules when it comes to determining who works with kids.

Nothing to say. The nation's broadcast networks are in the midst of promoting their spring shows to critics at the semi-annual Television Critics Assn. press tour. Usually, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW hype not only shows, but hold press conferences with executives to discuss strategy. This time around, though, CBS has critics miffed because its entertainment chief, Nina Tassler, will not take to the stage. That doesn't mean Tassler is ducking, as she will be at the event all day for interviews and chats, but that isn't good enough for critics who were griping over the weekend at not being able to put her under the lights. Last winter's Tassler press conference lasted all of 20 minutes.

Getting more animated. News Corp.'s Fox, which has relied on animation programming for its prime-time schedule almost from Day One ("The Simpsons," "Family Guy") is now going after NBC's "Saturday Night Live" with cartoons. The network said it is going to create a block of cartoon programming for late night on Saturdays that will debut in 2013. Fox is also going to create a digital platform to feature animation content online that could one day become the seed of an all-cartoon cable network. More on Fox's plans from the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg.

One of the media industry's more demanding jobs -- top lawyer for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. -- has been filled. Gerson Zweifach, 58, most recently a partner at the white-shoe law firm of Williams & Connolly, has been tapped as senior executive vice president and group general counsel for News Corp., the media giant whose holdings include the Fox network, movie studio 20th Century Fox, cable channel Fox News and newspapers here and abroad. Zweifach, who signed a three-year contract, will be based in News Corp.'s New York headquarters and will report to Murdoch. "Throughout his distinguished career, Gerson has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s leading litigators and a staunch protector of the First Amendment," Murdoch said in a statement. Zweifach will get his hands dirty quickly in his new job. News Corp. is under assault by British lawmakers over a phone hacking scandal at its now-shuttered News of the World tabloid. The U.S. Department of Justice has also been conducting its own probe into whether there is any evidence of wrongdoing by News Corp. papers here.

The hire fills a big hole at News Corp. The position has been open since the surprise resignation of previous general counsel Lawrence "Lon" Jacobs last June. Jacobs, who was one of Murdoch's most trusted advisors for many years, left after clashing with executive vice president Joel Klein.
Klein, the former head of education for New York City, joined the media giant last year to head education initiatives. He is a lawyer himself and a former antitrust chief at the Justice Department and bumped up against Jacobs in the corridors of News Corp.

Jacobs' position was being temporarily filled by Janet Nova, News Corp.'s deputy general counsel. It was Nova's quick thinking that prevented Murdoch from getting his face covered in pie when he appeared before Parliament last summer regarding the hacking debacle at News of the World. Nova stuck her iPad in front of Murdoch's face, which blocked a cream pie that was thrown by comedian and rabble rouser Jonnie Marbles, while the mogul's wife threw a punch at the attacker.

Slaying a giant. Low-budget horror flick "The Devil Inside" pulled its own Tim Tebow-like upset by shocking the heavily favored "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" at the box office last weekend. "The Devil Inside" took in about $35 million, which is double what the industry thought it would deliver -- once again proving that when it comes to Hollywood (and Tim Tebow), nobody knows anything. Yes, I know that line was delivered by screenwriter William Goldman and that I didn't come up with it on my own. Box office coverage from Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had a strong weekend at the box office

The dense spy thriller "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is moving beyond the art house toward commercial success. The film, adapted from novelist John le Carre's 1974 bestseller, expanded from 57 theaters to 809 this weekend and grossed $5.8 million, according to an estimate from distributor Focus Features. That gave the movie a per-theater average of $7,129; by comparison, "The Descendants," had a $5,000 location average when it recently opened in around the same number of theaters. Jack Foley, president of domestic distribution for Focus, said he was surprised by how well the film was playing in a variety of markets. While the largest number of ticket sales came from a theater in Lincoln Square in New York, a cinema in a suburb of Oklahoma City was also among the top five.

“That theater is in a suburb like you would expect to find out in middle America, so the demographic is really diverse,” said Foley. “This is a challenging film for a lot of audiences, but this weekend proved it can be commercial in a national way.”

Foley said Focus decided to expand the picture this weekend because of the lack of competition from other new releases. The studio has not yet decided how many theaters it will add in the coming weeks, a figure that may be contingent on the Academy Award nominations.

“Academy recognition would be great, but at this stage we’re taking the money,” he said with a laugh.

Carney hitting the road? M T Carney, the Madison Avenue marketing executive that Walt Disney Co. brought in about 19 months ago to oversee promotion efforts for its movies, may already be looking for flights back to the Big Apple. Carney, whose future has been a subject of speculation for many months, has had trouble fitting in at Disney and in Hollywood, reports the New York Times. On the plus side, as readers of this story will learn, she does wear nice shoes.

Finally getting together. The long-rumored marriage of production companies Lions Gate and Summit appears to be finally happening. The merger will bring together the producer of Tyler Perry movies and the cult television hit "Mad Men" (Lions Gate) with the makers of the "Twilight" movies (Summit.) Charlie Sheen's new show "Anger Management" is also from Lions Gate, so you can bet that the party for the closing of the deal will be rocking. Details from Deadline Hollywood and the Los Angeles Times.

Waiting game. Warner Bros. is planning on making Netflix and other DVD distribution companies wait eight weeks before allowing their DVDs to be rented. The move, of course, is aimed at trying to bolster the sale of DVDs. Netflix will play ball but Redbox and Blockbuster will not, which means they will go out and buy DVDs themselves from retailers to sell. Analysis from the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

Week in Vegas. It's time for the Consumer Electronics Show, where the tech industry hypes all its  new gadgets and platforms for the year ahead. Since many of those gadgets and platforms count on movies and TV shows to make them valuable, lots of Hollywood players will be there too. A preview of the convention from Variety.

Peace accord. Mild-mannered commentator Keith Olbermann, who usually goes along to get along when it comes to working with others (that's sarcasm, folks), has reached a something of a peace treaty with Current TV, the cable network that is home to his political talk show. Olbermann had been fighting with the network over his role in its political coverage. Olbermann, of course, has famously feuded with other networks he has worked at, including MSNBC, ESPN and Fox Sports. More from The Hollywood Reporter.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Dawn Hudson, the relatively new head of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, is under fire and there are already rumblings that she needs to be replaced.

-- Joe Flint
Follow me on Twitter. Like Tim Tebow, it's not always pretty but I get it done.
Photo: "The Devil Inside." Credit: MCT