Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘oscars

I’d Like to Thank Netflix

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Okay, so the Academy Awards weren’t quite as bad as I expected them to be, considering they didn’t have a formal host this year.

But I also used technology (my TiVo) to zoom through most of those speeches. Sorry, :TLdw!

But them not having a host got me to thinking, why didn’t the Academy just hire themselves an AI avatar of some sort to deliver a traditional opening and emcee the whole affair.

No, I’m not lobbying for OB< Watson, but hey, if we’re going to get ready for our AI overlords, what better way to prepare we humans than to take one of global culture’s most celebrated awards shows and demonstrate how computers are ready to compete for even the most highest echelon posts in society.

For your consideration: It seemed liked the fix against progress and change was still in during last night’s awards.  

Sure, Spike Lee finally got his long overdue Oscar (like, 30-years overdue), but Glenn Close got shafted for her Oscar (again) and “Roma” didn’t take Best Picture.

Not because it wasn’t a great movie (in my opinion, it was), and certainly Alfonso Cuaron (its director) won pretty much everything else.

I think “Roma” lost because Netflix is winning, and Hollywood is losing.

Hollywood has a Netflix problem, and the Academy voters didn’t want to shine any more of a spotlight on it than is absolutely necessary.

But I have a few words of wisdom for the Academy: You can’t stop progress. Hollywood is getting Netflixed the way Blockbuster did, only now it’s streaming instead of CDs, and the business model is changing. Bigtime.

I’m a good example of the problem.  I used to go to the movies roughly once a week or every two weeks.  Let’s say that added up to over $500 a year, more if you count refreshments.

Now, I spend $10.99/month on Netflix.  That’s about a quarter of what it used to cost me to go the movies.

Whatever I can’t catch on Netflix I’ll watch on Amazon, I’ll fill in either with Prime or direct rentals.

And I’m just one person.

Multiply that behavior by….millions?…and, yes, Hollywood has a problem.  At least when it comes to big budget movie-making.

On the other hand, Apple is getting into the filmed entertainment game, Amazon and Netflix are spending billions on new content, and still there’s 57 channels and seemingly nothing on.

In other words, there’s still an enormous amount of filmed content development upside (i.e., lots of demand), even for high-quality so-called “art” films like “Roma.”

But no matter how good a Netflix-financed film may have been (or may be), the Academy isn’t quite ready to give it Best Picture. 

Such a move would be to reward the barbarians storming the Burbank backlot gates, and the threatening business model they present.

But the business is going to change regardless of where the awards end up.

It won’t be long before Netflix will not only be a major global major film distributor, but its AI algorithms will be helping determine what the pipeline of those new films should be about and what countries and markets from which they will emanate and what topics they should concern.

Big data is already happening to Hollywood.  AI is on its heels.

Just don’t hold your breath for an AI Billy Crystal to host the Oscars, or for Netflix to win a Best Picture nod, anytime soon. 

Written by turbotodd

February 25, 2019 at 11:30 am

Posted in 2019

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Dont Not Look Back

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It’s a rare feat that I’ll sit down and watch the entire Academy Awards ceremony end to end, but that’s exactly what I did last evening. 

I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other about Seth McFarlane as emcee going into the evening, but after seeing the reports of his apparent Twitter lynching, I’m sure glad I stayed off social media for the most part during the event.

Of the entire evening, I have to say I was laughing way out loud in my living room at the sock puppet rendition of the Oscar-nominated Flight. Coke sniffing, tequila swilling sock puppets flying a plane upside down?  All they needed was the Pets.com sock puppet to fly in save the day (although we saw how well THAT worked out for Pets.com!)

I thought McFarlane struck a fine balance between properly insulting the Hollywood clerisy and appropriately celebrating the film arts.

On which topic, I wanted to debrief on a particularly notable celebration, the Honorary Awards, one of those awards that were awarded prior to Oscar night. This year, one of those awards went to D.A. Pennebaker, a pioneer and downright legend in documentary filmmaking circles.

Arguably, Pennebaker’s work, and the work of those he influenced, has had a resultantly more powerful historical impact than many of the celebrated filmmakers in attendance last evening.

Pennebaker, along with a small cohort that included the likes of Richard Leacock, Robert Drew, Albert and David Maysles (and a handful of others) in the form of Drew Associates helped to create the notion of cinema verite, or “truth in film.” In 1960’s Primary, Pennebaker and team documented John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey’s campaigns in the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary (and which resulted in one of the most famous “stalking” shots in cinematic history of then candidate JFK). 

With this film, Pennebaker and crew also demonstrated the power and impact that could be brought about with the synching of film and sound (using the then relatively-new Nagra tape sound recorders) on the move — that is to say, where the documentary filmmaker could “follow” their subject in the field.

Pennebaker has also been a pioneer in making a record of musical performance, starting with his filming of Bob Dylan’s 1965 English tour, entitled Dont Look Back, but also other important artists including Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie.

Dont Look Back was the first draft of the basic script for music videos nearly 20 years before they exploded onto the scene with MTV. 

And love him or hate him for it, Pennebaker helped paved the way for what came to be known as “reality TV” — one could pretty easily connect a straight line from Pennebaker’s cinema verite work to Cops — although Pennebaker’s contributions to the documentary medium have been much more substantive in terms of subject matter and thoughtfulness, and it’s a shame that the medium hasn’t evolved more broadly with the promising foundation that Pennebaker and his associates laid down fifty plus years ago.

If you’re interested in checking out his work, I would certainly encourage you to screen Primary and Dont look Back. There’s also Monterey Pop and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

And, of course, that ever campaign-insider flick, The War Room, which took us inside the first Bill Clinton presidential campaign “war room,” where the likes of James Carville and George Stephanopolous worked to keep the Clinton campaign spinning and vibrant. 

To steal from that early campaign slogan: “It’s the documentary, stupid.” 

Written by turbotodd

February 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Patents And Oscars

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This is a big day for announcements.

First, IBM announced a record 6,478 patents in 2012, patents for inventions that will enable fundamental advancements across key domains that includes analytics, big data, cybersecurity, cloud, mobile, social networking, as well as industry solutions like retail, banking, healthcare, and transportations.

These patented inventions also will advance a major shift in computing, known as the era of cognitive systems.

This is the 20th consecutive year that IBM topped the annual list of U.S. patent recipients.

Ginny Rometty, IBM’s chairman and CEO, had this to say about the milestone:

“We are proud of this new benchmark in technological and scientific creativity, which grows out of IBM’s century-long commitment to research and development. Most concretely, our 2012 patent record and the two decades of leadership it extends are a testament to thousands of brilliant IBM inventors — the living embodiments of our devotion to innovation that matters, for our clients, for our company and for the world.”

IBM’s record-setting 2012 patent tally was made possible by more than 8,000 IBM inventors residing in 46 different U.S. states and 35 countries. IBM inventors residing outside the U.S. contributed to nearly 30% of the company’s 2012 U.S. patent output.

There was also an early morning announcement from Los Angeles, this year’s Academy Award nominees.

There was another long slate of Best Film nominees, including Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.

I’ve seen five of the nine, which puts me well ahead of where I am most years in terms of what films I have and haven’t seen.

Best Actor nominations were led by Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln and Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook.  If you’ve seen Lincoln, it’s hard to see how the Best Actor Oscar doesn’t go do DDL.

On the Best Actress front, the nominations were led by Juillard-trained Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.  But don’t rule out Emmanualle Riva for Amour, or the chamelon-like Naomi Watts in The Impossible. In a crazy year, Quvenzhane Wallis could even walk away with the Oscar for her crazy good performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, one of the most unique, imaginative films I’ve seen in years.

Quentin Tarantino got a nomination for Django Unchained in the Best Original Screenplay category, but I think that one is there for the taking by Mark Boal, screenwriter for Zero Dark Thirty.

Congrats to all this year’s nominees.  As a big movie fan myself, looking at that slate of Best Pic nominees, you realize what a strong movie year it’s been.

Finally, on the topic of movies, if you’re a big movie fan, check out Stephen Rodrick’s piece in The New York Times magazine about the trials and tribulations renowned screenwriter-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Affliction, et al.) had financing and making his new film, The Canyons, which stars that ever-intemperate actress Lindsay Lohan.

Meanwhile, below I’ve included a nice video clip summarizing IBM’s 20 successive years of patent leadership, and you can learn more about IBM’s patent efforts on our Tumblr site.

Written by turbotodd

January 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Uggie And Hunter

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Well, I didn’t have the opportunity to see the entire Oscars telecast last evening, but I wasn’t surprised to waken here in Toronto to discover “The Artist” had walked away with five statuettes.

I was also pleased to hear of some of the other evenings’ winners: Woody Allen for his screenplay of “Midnight in Paris” and Meryl Streep once again for her performance in “The Iron Lady.”

I do take exception to all the negativity towards Uggie, the canine co-star of “The Artist.”  Hey, man, it’s not easy being a Jack Russell terrier in Hollywood.  If you want a friend, get a human.

But this weekend’s best performance probably should have gone to golfer Hunter Mahan, who took out Ireland’s Rory McIlroy in the last match of the Accenture World Golf Championships in Arizona 2-1.  I’ve got the match sitting on my DVR back in Austin, and can’t wait to watch the replay.

This was Mahan’s second victory in the World Golf Championship series, and the fourth of his career.  He never trailed in the championship match with McIlroy, and in fact, went his last 74 holes without falling behind in a match.

Nice to see the Accenture have an American win the trophy once in a while.

Written by turbotodd

February 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm

The Artist

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I’ve not had time to see all the films nominated for “Best Picture” for this year’s Academy Awards, and will, in fact, be flying up to Toronto next Sunday as this year’s Oscars are set to be awarded.

Will "The Artist" win this year's Oscar for "Best Picture?" Perhaps a more important question, what will companies around the globe do to avoid becoming victims of their own industries' transitional equivalent from silent to talking motion pictures?

Why is it that I’m always on a plane during these big events?  Three weeks ago it was the Super Bowl.  Reminds me of the time that Spain was playing Germany in the UEFA Euro soccer finals in 2008. I was flying back from Madrid to the States, and there were all these poor Spaniards stuck on the plane as Germany played Spain for that once every-four-year title.

The good news was, Spain won (for them…I don’t want to start any internecine football blogging wars here).

I did get out to see one of the nominated films this weekend, Michael Hazanaviciu’s “The Artist,” a mostly silent film focused on the late 1920s and early 1930s which explores the transition from silent to “talky” pictures.

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie and plan on doing so, stop reading now!

I mean it…I’m about to spill the beans!

Actually, there aren’t a lot of beans to spill.  The movie plot could just as easily haven been taken out of the radio-to-TV transition, or the broadcast-to-cable transition, or even the search-to-social network transition.

Meaning, that change is universal and inevitable. And those who choose to protect the business models of the past and to ignore the potential of those of the future are doomed to history’s sidelines.

In “The Artist,” George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the silent movie star of his time, but as he meets up-and-coming but still fledgling actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) his movie studio, Kinograph Studios, led by Al Zimmer (John Goodman), Valentin fights the rising tide of “talkies,” and soon finds himself going bankrupt during the Great Depression as silent films go the way of the dinosaur and his own last-ditch attempt at self-financing one last talkie is a failure.

It’s not without some irony that this film is, largely, silent. Yet in its own unique way, it demonstrates the power of visual storytelling, seeming to explain why silent films had their day — that a good story is, in fact, universal, no matter the manner in which is related.

As its viewers experience, it’s not until the very last scene of the film that we finally hear George Valentin speak at all, as he explains with a heavy French accent that he will do yet another take of a scene with his new co-star, Ms. Miller, “with pleasure.”

He’s had his epiphany, his denouement is complete, and Valentin seems set to become a part of the future he once denied, only this time more as dancer than actor.

He has, in short, evolved.

The object lesson in all this?

In some ways, it’s akin to Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma, in which the author outlined the opportunity and challenges of disruptive technologies and innovations.

Clayton’s basic thesis suggests that a disruptive technology is “an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network.”

If the introduction of “talking” motion pictures’ and subsequent disruption of the silent film market doesn’t fit this definition, I’m not sure what does.

This transition, of course, didn’t come without some pain, experienced both by the motion picture industry at large, and a variety of its “players.” Actors such as the fictional George Valentin (but also scores of silent motion picture actors ranging from Theda Bara to Mary Pickford to Charlie Chaplin) were impacted by the transition, often when their voices didn’t match their silent film image.

But technical challenges also abounded: New mikes and cameras had to be developed to prevent pick-up of the grinding noise that silent film cameras made as the film moved through the sprockets, and the industry had to find a way to synchronize voices properly, considering the sound head on a projector is about 10 frames away from the projected image.  Even new sound-proof sound stages had to be built, as did squeak-proof dollies.

But, ultimately, the industry and many of its players did adapt, and in the process generated a variety of  new opportunities for newly required vocations (sound editors, boom operators, voice actors, and on and on).  But, many also fell by the wayside.

As for “The Artist” and whether or not a silent movie in the year 2012 can win an Oscar for “Best Picture,” keep an eye out on the evolving social sentiment leading up to Sunday’s awards ceremony, for which IBM has partnered with the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab to bring you the Oscar Senti-Meter where we follow the Twittersphere action day-by-day.

Not Enough Ink

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I think my Oscar picks came in at around fifty percent (of those categories I picked).

Don’t worry, I won’t give up my day job.

As the Oscar ceremony wound into the start of its fourth hour, I laughed at the fact how every year they talk about making the ceremony shorter.  Yeah, right.

By the time they got to the supposed momentous event of the evening, Tom Hanks couldn’t have been more unclimactic and hurried in announcing that “The Hurt Locker” took the Best Picture award.

It went something like this: “The Hurt Locker!”…I’m outta here!

Talk about short shrift!

Kind of like CNET’s Dave Rosenberg’s recent observation about the state of the enterprise IT media.

According to Rosenberg’s analysis, major, enterprise-oriented IT firms making billions of dollars a year in revenue (Think Oracle, Cisco, IBM, etc.) are “largely ignored by business press” and that there are tech categories with enormous worldwide revenue (think storage, virtualization, etc.) that are “barely acknowledged.”

What can you say?

It’s not easy being green and efficient as big enterprise tech vendors like IBM assist companies around the globe to work smarter not harder, and helps transform their business IT operations into a value-added investment that brings their organizations new and actionable intelligence.

But then again, not everybody makes iPads or has a search engine (read Rosenberg’s analysis to learn more).

Speaking of iPads, as the availability date draws nearer and nearer, I’m having a moment of crisis and need to do a little crowdsourcing with my moral dilemma.

I owned one of the original e-book readers, and I really liked it. But my iPod Touch does just about everything I need it to do (including read books), and it’s so portable.

But, what if I could get rid of all those paper magazines that still show up in my mailbox every week, which I hate (and feel more and more guilty about) throwing out?

Take my poll and tell me what you think.

Written by turbotodd

March 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Turbo’s Oscar Party

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Most years, it seems I never get out to see enough of the Best Picture nominees for the Oscars.  And I’m a big movie fan.

This year, they have nine nominees for Best Pic, and I think I’ve seen about seven out of the nine (“Up” and “Precious” the only two I’ve not seen yet).

Of course, I just saw “A Serious Man” last evening on demand, and that one shot way up my personal list.

It’s kind of silly to try and pick just one flick for Best Picture, especially out of nine.  But if I had to, I’d still have to caveat what the criteria were.

From the perspective of pure filmmaking, “Avatar” wins hands down.  I was blown away and completely transported by that movie.  It was magical.

For sheer relentless adrenaline and edge-of-my-seat compulsion, “The Hurt Locker” wins hands down.  I’ve seen most of the movies about the Iraq war, but that one was incredibly disturbing to me and yet I couldn’t look away.

Back during the war, I used to have dreams about IEDs (all that media coverage!), and watching these guys run towards the potential explosions…that takes some serious…well, that’s a word for the audience to fill in…which was what I liked so much about Kathryn Bigelow’s direction.

I can’t rule out “Inglorious Basterds.”  Tarantino delivered probably his best pic since “Pulp Fiction.”

And “A Serious Man” is a serious movie through a riotous 1960s Jewish lens that had me laughing out loud and a surprise ending that left me wanting more.

And even “A Blind Side,” which was based on Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, touched my heart like no other movie this year, and Sandra Bullock stretched in a direction that seemed to surprise everybody.  The girl can act, get over it.

Best Picture goes to “Avatar.”  Best Director to Bigelow.

For performances, Jeff Bridge’s walks with an Oscar for “Crazy Heart.”  A great performance in a great role, written for Bridges, and a sentimental Austin favorite — much of the music for the movie was co-authored by the recently deceased Stephen Bruton, an Austin musical mainstay who wrote songs for folks ranging from Kris Kristofferson to Willie Nelson, and whose Sunday night guitar/singing gig with The Resentments at the Saxon Pub, right down the street from my house, were hilarious and foot-stomping.

“Crazy Heart” was dedicated to his memory.

I’ve not seen enough of the flicks to call the other performance categories, but my gut says Bullock takes Best Actress, Penelope Cruz, Best Supporting Actress, Christopher Waltz, Best Supporting Actor, and Barry Ackroyd, Best Cinematography.

Mark Boal wins for Best Original Screenplay (“The Hurt Locker”), Nick Hornby for Best Adapted Screenplay (“An Education”).

All the hooplah starts later this PM.  Don’t forget, this is Bawbwah Wah-Wah’s last series of pre-Oscar interviews, this time with Sandra Bullock and Monique as well as clips from Oscar interviews past.

And for you red carpet fans, though it was raining in LA yesterday, forecasters expect it to clear out so the paparazzi have a clear line of sight to the stars.

Me, I’m heading off to the movies on this rainy Sunday Austin afternoon.

Written by turbotodd

March 7, 2010 at 5:53 pm

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