[Golden Boy Already - Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 for CRAZYHEART.]

The Dude, AKA Jeff Bridges Now in HIGHWATER, Wins American Riviera Award From Santa Barbara

LOS ANGELES: Sometimes a press release is so good it’s just fine art, or more specifically it’s the holidays and we’re lazy, plus this is great writing from our friends in the business. That said, we’d only put a slightly different headline on it, for the diehard hipsters. Which is “The Dude, AKA Jeff Bridges Now in HIGHWATER, Wins American Riviera Award From Santa Barbara,” whereas our more respectable writing colleagues began something like this:

JEFF BRIDGES TO RECEIVE AMERICAN RIVIERA AWARD AT THE 32nd ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Santa Barbara, CA (December 21, 2016) – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced today that Jeff Bridges will be honored with the 2017 American Riviera Award at the 32nd edition of the Fest, which runs from February 1 to February 11, 2017. Bridges will be fêted with a Tribute celebrating his illustrious career, culminating with his captivating performance in David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, a CBS Films/Lionsgate release. The film opened in August to critical acclaim. The Tribute will take place Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the historic Arlington Theatre.

French language poster had the most awesome look at Cannes.

[French-language poster for Cannes.]

For his role in Hell or High Water, Bridges has received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, as well as the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor. Bridges’ renowned career includes celebrated roles in films such as The Big Lebowski, Fearless, The Contender, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Door in the Floor, True Grit, Starman, The Morning After, Jagged Edge, The Last Picture Show, Against All Odds, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Fisher King, Seabiscuit, and Crazy Heart (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor).

“Jeff Bridges shows us in Hell or High Water that an already great artist can continue his growth.  I may go as far as saying that this is his best performance,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “It’s truly special to be able to celebrate Jeff – for he’s not only a dear friend of SBIFF – but he is a timeless legend in our industry.”

[Golden Boy Already - Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 for CRAZYHEART.]

[Golden Boy Already – Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 win for CRAZYHEART.]

A modern-day set crime western, Hell or High Water tells the riveting story of a divorced father and his ex-con older brother who resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.  The film, directed by David Mackenzie, with an original screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, also stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster. ChrisJeff16

The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Bridges will join a prestigious group of past recipients, including last year’s honorees Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo (2016), Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (2015), Robert Redford (2014), Quentin Tarantino (2013) and Martin Scorsese (2012), Annette Bening (2011), Sandra Bullock (2010), Mickey Rourke (2009), Tommy Lee Jones (2008), Forrest Whitaker (2007), Philip Seymour Hoffman (2006), Kevin Bacon (2005) and Diane Lane (2004).

The 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place from Wednesday, February 1st through Saturday, February 11th. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

BEST JEFF BRIDGES BIO EVER, PS…

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One of Hollywood’s most successful actors and a six-time Academy Award® nominee, JEFF BRIDGES’ (Marcus) performance in “Crazy Heart”—as Bad Blake, the down-on-his-luck, alcoholic country music singer at the center of the drama—deservedly garnered the iconic performer his first Oscar® for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The performance also earned him the Golden Globe, SAG Award and the IFP/Spirit Award for Lead Actor.

The film follows Blake, who, through his experiences with a female reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is able to get his career back on track while playing mentor to a hotshot contemporary country star and simultaneously struggling in his shadow. The movie, directed by Scott Cooper, is based on the debut novel by Thomas Cobb and also stars Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell. Bridges’ moving and multi-layered performance is one of many in a career that spans decades.

He earned his first Oscar® nod in 1971 for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Three years later, he received his second Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Michael Cimino’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” By 1984 he landed top kudos with a Best Actor nomination for “Starman”; that performance also earned him a Golden Globe nomination. In 2001, he was honored with another Golden Globe nomination and his fourth Oscar® nomination for his role in “The Contender,” Rod Lurie’s political thriller, co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen, in which Bridges played the President of the United States.

In December 2010 his reunion with the Coen Brothers in the critically acclaimed western “True Grit” landed him his sixth Oscar® nomination. The film focuses on fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) whose father has been shot in cold blood by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she is determined to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), she sets out with him — over his objections — to hunt down Chaney.

The same month he was seen in the highly anticipated 3D action-adventure “TRON: Legacy.” Bridges reprised his role of video-game developer Kevin Flynn from the classic 1982 film “TRON.” With state-of-the-art technology, “TRON: Legacy” featured Bridges as the first actor in cinematic history to play opposite a younger version of himself.

He will next be seen in the first animated feature film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s iconic masterpiece “The Little Prince” as the Aviator for director Mark Osborne. He was last seen in the action adventure fantasy film “Seventh Son,” reuniting with Julianne Moore and directed by Sergey Bodrov.

In August 2014, Bridges starred in “The Giver” opposite Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan. Based on the bestselling young adult novel by Lois Lowry, the film – which he also produced – was a passion project of his for more than 2 decades and was directed by Phillip Noyce.

Prior to “Crazy Heart,” Bridges was seen in the war comedy “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” playing Bill Django, a free-spirited military intelligence officer, who is the leader of a secret group of warriors in the army. The Peter Straughan screenplay (based on the Jon Ronson book and directed by Grant Heslov) is based on a true story about a reporter in Iraq, who meets a former member of the US Army’s First Earth Battalion, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions. He stars opposite George Clooney (also a producer), Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey.

Additionally, he starred in “A Dog Year” for HBO Films/ Picturehouse, based on the memoir by Jon Katz and directed by George LaVoo (who also wrote the screenplay) and garnered an Emmy nomination; as well as opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in the Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios blockbuster “Iron Man,” playing the character of Obadiah Stane.

He starred opposite Shia LaBeouf as Geek, a cantankerous and washed-up surfer penguin, in the Academy Award®-nominated “Surf’s Up,” from Sony Pictures Animation. Prior to that, he was in his second film for director Terry Gilliam, entitled “Tideland,” where he played Noah, a drug addicted, has-been, rock guitarist.

The actor’s multi-faceted career has cut a wide swathe across all genres. He has starred in numerous box office hits, including Gary Ross’ “Seabiscuit,” Terry Gilliam’s offbeat comedic drama “The Fisher King” (co-starring Robin Williams), the multi-award-nominated “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (co-starring his brother Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer), “The Jagged Edge” (opposite Glenn Close), Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” “Blown Away” (co-starring his late father Lloyd Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones), Peter Weir’s “Fearless” (with Isabella Rossellini and Rosie Perez), and Martin Bell’s “American Heart” (with Edward Furlong, produced by Bridges’ company, AsIs Productions). That film earned Bridges an IFP/Spirit Award in 1993 for Best Actor.

In the summer of 2004, he appeared opposite Kim Basinger in the critically acclaimed “The Door in the Floor” for director Todd Williams and Focus Features, which earned him an IFP/Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor.

He played a major featured role in “The Muse” (an Albert Brooks comedy starring Brooks, Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell); appeared in the suspense thriller “Arlington Road” (co-starring Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, directed by Mark Pellington); and starred in “Simpatico,” the screen version of Sam Shepard’s play (with Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone and Albert Finney). In 1998, he starred in the Coen brothers’ cult comedy “The Big Lebowski.” Before that, he starred in Ridley Scott’s “White Squall,” Walter Hill’s “Wild Bill,” John Huston’s “Fat City” and Barbara Streisand’s romantic comedy “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

[Let's not forget the heart-smashing Eastwood starrer Bridges was in in 1974.]

[Let’s not forget the heart-smashing Eastwood starrer Bridges was in in 1974.]

Some of Bridges’ other acting credits include “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” “K-PAX,” “Masked and Anonymous,” “Stay Hungry,” “Fat City,” “Bad Company,” “Against All Odds,” “Cutter’s Way,” “The Vanishing,” “Texasville,” “The Morning After,” “Nadine,” “Rancho Deluxe,” “See You in the Morning,” “Eight Million Ways to Die,” “TRON,” “The Last American Hero” and “Heart of the West.”

In 1983, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding children around the world. He produced the End Hunger televent, a three-hour live television broadcast focusing on world hunger. The televent featured Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Bob Newhart, Kenny Loggins and other leading film, television and music stars in an innovative production to educate and inspire action.

He is currently the national spokesman for the Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry campaign that is fighting to end childhood hunger in America.

Through his company, AsIs Productions, he produced “Hidden in America,” which starred his brother Beau. That television movie, produced for Showtime, received a Golden Globe nomination in 1996 for Best TV/Cable Film and garnered a Screen Actors Guild nod for Best Actor for Beau Bridges. The film was also nominated for two Emmy Awards.

One of Bridges’ true passions is photography. While on the set of his movies, he takes behind-the-scenes pictures of the actors, crew and locations. After completion of each motion picture, he edits the images into a book and gives copies to everyone involved. Bridges’ photographs have been featured in several magazines, including Premiere and Aperture, as well as in other publications worldwide. He has also had gallery exhibitions of his work in New York (at the George Eastman House), Los Angeles, London and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. In 2013, Bridges was the recipient of an Infinity Award, presented by the International Center of Photography, NY.

The books, which have become valued by collectors, were never intended for public sale, but in the fall of 2003, powerHouse Books released Pictures: Photographs by Jeff Bridges, a hardcover book containing a compilation of his photographs taken on numerous film locations over the years, to much critical acclaim. Proceeds from the book are donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers charitable care and support to film-industry workers.

In February 2015 Bridges released a spoken word/ambient album titled “Sleeping Tapes.” The collaboration was co-produced with musician Keefus Ciancia who also supplied the music. The album was released by web hosting service Squarespace as part of its Super Bowl advertising campaign, with all proceeds from the album sales going to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

In August 2011 Bridges released his self-titled major label debut album for Blue Note Records. Multiple-Grammy Award-wining songwriter, musician and producer T Bone Burnett produced the album. It is an organic extension and culmination of his personal, professional and music friendship with Burnett, whom he has known for more than 30 years. The critically acclaimed album was a follow up to his first solo effort “Be Here Soon,” on Ramp Records, the Santa Barbara, CA label he co-founded with Michael McDonald and producer/singer/songwriter Chris Pelonis. The CD features guest appearances by vocalist/keyboardist Michael McDonald, Grammy-nominated Amy Holland and country-rock legend David Crosby. In 2014 he released his first live album “Jeff Bridges & The Abiders Live” and has been touring off and on when he is not working.

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Bridges and his wife Susan divide their time between their home in Santa Barbara, California, and their ranch in Montana.

WHY YOU SHOULD DRIVE/FLY OUT THERE TO ATTEND…

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 30 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community through free programs like its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, National Film Studies Program, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. This past June, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre.  The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for program expansion and marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center to expand their mission of educational outreach.

[See HELL OR HIGHWATER via Redbox rentals, VOD and coming soon via streamers. And make sure to catch everything Jeff Bridges has ever been in, including TRON, original and remake, STARMAN, also 1974’s heart-smashing THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT.]

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and fans of The Dude, also Jeff Bridges, and his band of musicians in Santa Barbara.

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The Year Nobody Was a Pundit: Hollywood’s Shock, All Governments Lie, But Zero Days & Sparrow Shortlisted

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent [FilmFestivals.com]

Cui Bono? That’s the famous Latin line that means “who benefits,” and in the realm of conspiracy theories, this blunt tool ranks right up there with “Historian’s Fallacy” as a go-to. The term historian’s fallacy was minted by Brandeis Professor David Hackett Fischer in 1970, who pointed out the bright idea that even when someone is going through a historic event, or having experienced a historic event, said eyewitness may not have a historical perspective because they have no idea what might hit them next. So since 2016 is The Year Nobody Was a Pundit, as far as the US Presidential Election, and while most of Hollywood is still in shock at the shadow conservative vote in their midst, you’ll forgive a meandering but meaningful segue here into the Oscar Documentary Shortlist and why two films, Zero Days and Hooligan Sparrow, had special resonance. But first, Oliver Stone who executive produced a documentary on investigative journalist, I.F. Stone, directed by Fred Peabody. Unlike Zero Days and Sparrow, this is one that didn’t make the Oscar shortlist, but it’s extremely relevant this year.

unnamed-6Titled ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE, it’s based on the book that examines the influential life of investigative journalist, I.F. Stone “whose long one-man crusade against government deception lives on in the work of such contemporary filmmakers and journalists such as  Amy Goodman, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Cenk Uygur, Jeremy Scahill, David Corn, and Matt Taibbi.”

Amy Goodman, as you may know, is the figurehead of Democracy Now, a radio program and media beacon of the American Left that recently stood by the stand-down at the Dakota Access Pipeline. Goodman was even arrested there, but released with charges dropped. Laura Poitras is the filmmaker who brought us CitizenFour, the real-life encounter with Edward Snowden that brought government security to its knees, if only for a moment, while the American Public had their digital eyes peeled open. Glenn Greenwald is her cohort in this endeavor, formerly of the Guardian UK, now of his own media hotspot known as The Intercept. The other names are important, but Matt Taibbi is one journalist who stood firm in dissent as the Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” waves crashed onto voter beachheads. Taibbi is very respected because he stayed up to his ankles in the quick sand of changing poll numbers that made this American US Presidential Election the most highly rated quasi-fiasco in the history of US politics. Election 2016 is the ticket-seller that even Hollywood couldn’t come up with as a plot line: Hamburger Hillary vs The Donald. Initially this match-up looked, as one award-worthy internet troll put it, as “don’t bring a Cheeto to a knife fight” in favor of Hillary Clinton as far as the debates. But a strange thing happened on the way to the ballot box, a swirl of fake news, government reveals, and general discontent took over.

And this is why, although ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE didn’t make anybody’s shortlist, it’s an important film to watch. I.F. Stone’s legacy is the history of dissent in its modern form that we know it. He made his reputation as a journalist by flipping over the hallowed cobblestones of the American Democracy so we could get a view under the sheen of tradition. In fact, in 2015, I.F. Stone’s son Jeremy Stone was behind the release of a Knight Foundation documentary “The Legacy of I.F. Stone” produced out of Canada. According to Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, (Greenwald also has a role in this doc) I.F. Stone is known as “The Patron Saint of Bloggers,” and the first known journalist to tap “unofficial sources.”

And here’s where we went collectively, as a voter nation with the rest of the watching-world dragged with us, down a very, very, very long rabbit hole in the 2016 General Election. It was supposed to be a simple contest to determine who would become the next President of the United States, or POTUS in the shorthand. Yet the whole campaign turned into He Said, She Said, fueled by unnamed sources, hacked documents, and purported criminal activity on display.

I.F. Stone’s pioneering “unofficial sources” gambit in the Digital Age became a hellride into inter-party Spy vs Spy, a weltering clash of Anonymous vs Anonymous Global, and a final FBI Director James Comey showdown vs the CIA “counter coup.” Comey is the one whose October Surprise was a November game-changer for the Clinton campaign as it hinted at a 33,000 email-deletion related indictment imminent for her.  Oh wait, he recanted within days. Next, there was even a former US State Department operative, now a sci-fi writer, named Steve Pieczenik who began to leak YouTube videos about the “FBI soft coup” to stop Hillary Clinton, who apparently they’d been tracking for Clinton Foundation fraud, from becoming POTUS. Finally elusive global-hacktivist entity Anonymous really got into the act by flooding YouTube with “Wake Up America” type calls to action to halt the current questions over alleged “Russian” hacking into the US electoral process… exhausting, isn’t it? It’s like everyone on earth and in the media lost the plot in 2016. Even genius poll predictor Nate Silver, who called elections within percentage points in the past, had Donald Trump losing by a 67% chance even as the vote count began.

Again, 2016 is The Year Nobody Was A Pundit. But “unnamed sources” and unsubstantiated allegations, as well as hit videos ruled the day. Although it’s not what was intended by I. F. Stone (no relation to Oliver), this election year is in many ways the slap in the face that Hollywood needed too. When a real life election is more fascinating than any feature film releases on their slate, the Studios can no longer grind out the same rebooted content, folks. People still went to the movie theaters and downloaded filmed content in 2016, but the US Election was beyond gripping – and not in a good way. We’re supposed to be the nation that sets the stage for the much-touted “fair and free elections.” We’re the country that points out the polling stations cheaters in so-called “banana republics,” restores justice when rogue countries go awry and thumbs our nose at humans rights violators with harsh sanctions.

Those very attributes the United States prides itself on came into question in 2016, even the idea that we could shake a fist at corruption in other countries when we ourselves seemed pretty porous as far as scandals from within.

This political preamble is why, in my humble opinion as a critic, two documentaries – Hooligan Sparrow and Zero Days – really mattered on a world-events scale this year. Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin, the tech couple behind Lynda.com, an online tutorial empire they have since sold, hosted a very crucial screening of Hooligan Sparrow, a documentary about women’s rights in China that becomes a visual essay on the struggle for human rights and freedoms on a visceral level. Hooligan1sht16

Here’s the official description of the film:

“The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.

Filmmaker Wang risks her own life and becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, and in the process, she exposes a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets. Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.”

In covering it earlier this year, I’d asked Nanfu Wang “What is the history of protests in China? And do you think the West influenced this?” Nanfu takes a short breath, she is remarkably composed for someone who literally had to smuggle her footage out of China. “Protests are taboo in China,” she begins. Then she detailed the barriers for giving a proverbial “voice to the voiceless” in her home country. In a modest floral theme red dress, and Nanfu Wang safe in the West, it’s a disconnect to imagine the gritty street fights she’s had to face, even under the pressure of a second language here. Nanfu Wang is definitely someone to watch for more powerful visual essays on film, with Hooligan Sparrow just a first salvo, hopefully.

The connector to the next hugely impactful documentary, Zero Days, is that ripple effect, when an issue for someone like Sparrow’s activist Ye Haiyan ignites a global reaction. In Zero Days, a few watchers on the wall of technology saw something odd, shared it amongst themselves, and didn’t realize they’d discovered the tail of international espionage-made virus that could literally crash the world.

Zero Days is my personal pic for Best Documentary because it reveals the inner workings and internecine fighting going on within the highly insulated and highly secure secret world of CyberSec, including cybersecurity operatives and the divisions between “three letter agencies” which later becomes writ large in the so-called “soft coup” shoot-out between the FBI and the CIA firing back with hacking allegations even you read this. It’s a very dangerous game of Spy Agency vs Spy Agency that has shaken some truly home-grown crazy out of the American woodwork. YouTube is replete with claims and counter-claims of hacking, spying, even purporting to reveal a laundry list of conspiracy theories. Some of these “theories” – from Clinton unspeakable evil-doing to Trump’s Jesus-like magic – make David Aaronvitch’s book “Voodoo Histories, The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History” look tame. Aaronvitch makes compelling arguments that conspiracy theories actually serve a purpose in the pattern of history as it unfolds… but the 2016 Presidential Election crazy, especially where high-level official discussions and briefings included the possibility of “foreign actors” (read: Russia) hacking Democractic emails, the Election, and the polling machines, well it just went beyond rational human understanding.

Which makes Alex Gibney’s documentary on the events leading to the detection of a computer virus designed to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in order to sabotage their entire nuclear program, that much more important as an object lesson.

Zero Days stars a range of officials and high-level tech players who unravel the Stuxnet story. Starring Colonel Gary D. Brown, Eric Chien, Richard A. Clarke, General Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen, Chris Inglis, Vitaly Kamluk, Eugene Kaspersky, Gibney’s “ZERO DAYS is a documentary thriller about the world of cyberwar.” ZeroDaysPoster16

Here’s the official description: “For the first time, the film tells the complete story of Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. ZERO DAYS is the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyber warfare. Beyond the technical aspects of the story, ZERO DAYS reveals a web of intrigue involving the CIA, the US Military’s new cyber command, Israel’s Mossad and Operations that include both espionage and covert assassinations but also a new generation of cyber weapons whose destructive power is matched only by Nuclear War.”

Some of this is a recap from my earlier coverage and interview with Eric Chien this year, but there’s a lot of implied geopolitics embedded here, and again, along with the hacking component, really cements it as my Best Doc pic for 2016. Before seeing ZERO DAYS, it’s critical to understand the US’s former relationship to the Shah of Iran. Before he was deposed, the Shah of Iran received a key first piece of their nuclear program from the US. It was supposed to be used for energy generation, power plants. The Christian Science Monitor did a round-up once that put dates on the whole mess. “In 1967, under the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program launched by President Eisenhower, the US sold the Shah of Iran’s government a 5-megawatt, light-water type reactor… the foundation of Iran’s nuclear power program.” The Shah reigned from Sept. 16, 1941 until Feb. 11, 1979, when he was toppled by the Iranian Revolution. However questionable the Shah’s regime was, it’s axiomatic that something would go wrong once the largely secular world of his rule fell into theological hands as the 1980’s began.

Next things go from theological to zealot by US estimations. And then there’s 9/11. Allegations are Iran is inching its way toward the “bomb,” because it’s not a huge stretch from power-reactor fuel to weapons grade material. You can see why the US government would consider cyber war in the wake of 9/11, especially since the hardware and software for their nuclear program comes mostly from the West (read: a way in via upgrades to the tech). Plus, would anyone ever find out? Someone high up likely gambled on the wrong side of “No.” So malware was secretly engineered, somewhere, to attack the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility.

Alex Gibney’s take on it is, “I started out making a small film investigating ‘Stuxnet…’ What I discovered was a massive clandestine operation involving the CIA, the NSA, the US military and Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad to build and launch secret cyber ‘bombs’ that could plunge the world into a devastating series of… attacks on critical infrastructure, shutting down electricity… this science fiction scenario…”

That’s Alex Gibney for you, outing the whole gamut of international players from “three-letter agencies” to nation states. But then you talk to someone like Eric Chien, Technical Director of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response division, who was among the first handful to discover and name the Stuxnet virus, and it becomes clear that the message of ZERO DAYS is not rehashing old news about the perils of technology. (As in the current alleged Russian election hacking fracas, and the role of governments in controlling infighting among agencies tasked with cyber security.)

Although it is public record that Belorussian engineer Sergey Ulasen was the first responder to the then-unnamed Stuxnet virus as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) reboot over there in the Iranian nuke-related nest of computers; the message of this film is really about the knowledge gap between policy makers and digital purveyors, who, at the speed of technology, will reshape the world for us if we don’t watch out.

In person, Eric Chien is incredibly personable, a youthful exemplar of next-generation digital professionals. “We make Norton Anti-Virus,” he begins, to kind of define Symantec. He also apologies that colleague Liam O’Murchu couldn’t make it. “He had his hands on it first,” Chien adds, meaning Stuxnet. “Normally what we do, day-to-day, is we look at the latest (cyber) attacks. About one million a day. A lot of it is handled through automation, which automatically create fixes for them.”

“When we come across some big attacks, we share (with stakeholders)” pieces of the code for others to monitor or give feedback on. “Recently someone tried to transfer $1 BN from the Bank of Bangladesh,” he said, and this discovery brought back some similarities to the adrenaline of the Stuxnet discovery.

Chien mentions the possible government or shadowy players that he’s encountered in untangling the virus. “When you have black motorcycles, wearing all black following you, behind you, you start to wonder.”

On why Stuxnet wasn’t part of the Snowden leak, he casually mentions, “Edward Snowden didn’t leak this because those files are stored on a different server.” Then, ironically, Chien says he is not under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), because “we don’t have a two-tiered system. We share this information with our clients… we would never work for hostile nations.” Chien reveals that ‘zero-day’ is a term that basically means the virus is discovered at the same time the vulnerability is revealed that makes the exploit even possible. (Think of it as a hole-in-one golf shot, but nobody knew there was a hole there until the ball hit. Now you’ve got two problems.)

“Stuxnet had not one, but four zero-days in it,” he emphasizes, “even one zero day is rare, but four?” This is how “we knew nation states must be involved.” But breaking the code, finding out what this virus was supposed to do “was the needle in the haystack. I mean it had a (kill) date in it, but it was not easy to figure out.” Tying into the election theme, Stuxnet’s “kill date” mysteriously coincided with the 2012 election.

With all the current election brouhaha, the focus on Russia, Chien made a shocking remark that puts Moscow’s capabilities in perspective. “There’s something to be said for obsolesce,” he revealed. “Because when Russia tried to shut down (the gird) in the Ukraine, their technology was so old, they could actually go to each site and crank it back on by hand.” That’s not in Zero Days, but insider terms like Nitro Zeus are, and maybe what’s most important about this film is that it details the bones of contention, the lines of power, and the factions opposed to one another behind the scenes in our government agencies.

And this comes full circle to the opening focus on the current contested election results… agencies are infighting and all we can do is find our own way back up the rabbit hole, back into the reasonable margin of error that Democracy lives by.

A complete list of the Academy’s Best Documentary shortlist for the 89th Academy Award Presentation to be held  February 26, 2017, can be found on www.oscars.org

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Oscar Whiplash Likely for Damien Chazelle’s LA LA Land & Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Oh, to ruin Award Season… but isn’t that what we’re on earth for? To have our dreams shattered but then our lives uplifted, if only in the movies? Enter LA LA LAND, a singing, dancing act of pure wish fulfillment starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Wait, a musical? Don’t be fooled. This is classic cinema updated with today’s angst. Stone says “the idea of this really modern story of two artists and dreamers” hooked her immediately. Ryan Gosling admits it was “a secret wish of mine” to make classic musicals.

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LA LA LAND is the latest gift from Harvard-alum Damien Chazelle who brought us that inimitable gem, WHIPLASH. He’s the one who played drums in high school, which inspired the driven core character played by Miles Teller. In 2014, the then newcomer-director made the award show rounds for WHIPLASH. He even found himself seated on stage for AFI Fest with Tilda Swinton, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Marion Cotillard, plus other famous names. Chazelle seemed already tipped as someone who would make a mark in the movies. This may be the Rhode Island native’s Oscar year as a Best Director contender. This new movie also makes you forget he wrote 10 Cloverfield Lane, the horror thriller, but it’s just gliding on the Oscar that he is a viable screenwriter-for-hire in Hollywood too. (The connective tissue is Chazelle’s interest in demons, one’s own creative demons that drive great performances or in supernatural ones in his love of horror movies.)

AFI Fest 2014, and they already know Chazelle is a star talent.

AFI Fest 2014, and they already know Chazelle is a star talent. Far right, seated beside Marion Cotillard.

Fittingly Chazelle studied Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard, and LA LA LAND is truly a visual and environmental tableaux as far as eye candy. And of course the casting is stellar. (Does everybody know Ryan Gosling was a Disney Channel kid star with Justin Timberlake? He was.) Chazelle says he considers Gosling and Stone to be like “Bogie and Bacall” and other great screen couples. Consider it Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay – if in nominations only, if not an outright sweep of the major categories. (Except for Viola Davis, who will take the category, and absolutely dominate, as Best Supporting Actress for FENCES, hopefully.)

LA LA LAND, yes that’s three words not a compound noun as in the pejorative for Los Angeles. Think Everyone Says I Love You by Woody Allen meets Your Favorite Behind the Scenes Classic 30’s Musical. Wait. Think Hamilton-like reboot of a slick, often goofy, cloying even when iconic, genre that just found its authentic swing. That’s what LA LA LAND becomes. Chazelle has a huge advantage because his background is so deep in the nuances and heartbreaking ability of music (i.e.; WHIPLASH) that he tugs the audience along by the ear as well as the eye in this pastel colored “real-life” twinged singing, dancing triumph.

LALA1sht16Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are both “triple threats,” according to J.K. Simmons, who plays Ryan’s boss in this one and also starred with Teller in WHIPLASH (where Simmons picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Triple threat, for those of you under the age of 40, is Hollywood Golden Age lingo for the rare actors with the triple skills of singing, dancing, and acting. Remember the Dirty Dancing scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love? These two are giving new life to the idea of Silver Screen Super Couple Chemistry where Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper – who promised so much in Silver Linings Playbook – let us down hard lately, ouch in Serena, even in JOY.

Since Gosling and Stone killed it as a love pair in Crazy, Stupid, Love, they are matched like dancing shoes in LA LA LAND… now for the featurette courtesy of Lionsgate.

Here’s the insider story…

Find out more at http://www.lalaland.movie, but see WHIPLASH again in the meantime for the first jazz-musician themed Chazelle movie. LA LA LAND is his second excursion with a strong jazz focused storyline as Ryan Gosling plays a struggling jazz man who keeps running into Emma Stone’s struggling actor character. Coming off her career high in BIRDMAN (Michael Keaton), Emma Stone just keeps getting better and better. And this film makes you believe there is a place for dreaming, even in these cynical times.

LA LA LAND had a limited roll out on Dec. 9 and will no doubt go wider soon as it just received seven Golden Globe nominations, 8 Critics Choice Award nominations, after winning National Board of Review’s Top 10 Films of the Year, and Best Film from New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

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In Case You Wonder Where Warren Beatty Has Been & “Rules Don’t Apply” At AFI

 

SCREENMANCER AFI ALERT: LOS ANGELES, CA, August 30, 2016 — The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today that the World Premiere of New Regency and 20th Century Fox’s RULES DON’T APPLY — written, directed, produced by and starring AFI Life Achievement Award recipient and Academy Award® winner Warren Beatty — will be the Opening Night Gala of AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi on Thursday, November 10, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA. The cast also includes Academy Award® nominees Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Steve Coogan and Ed Harris, as well as Haley Bennett, Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Taissa Farmiga, Megan Hilty, Oliver Platt and Martin Sheen.

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For the 13th consecutive year, AFI FEST will showcase the very best in global cinema thanks to the visionary support of presenting sponsor Audi. “Warren Beatty has charmed and challenged moviegoers from his first moment on screen, and his talents as an actor, director, writer and producer have always transcended trends,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO. “AFI is honored to present the World Premiere of his newest gift to America’s cultural legacy.”

“We are launching the 30th edition of AFI FEST with a new Warren Beatty film that takes place in 1950s Hollywood. Romantic entanglements, the youthful pursuit of success and an outlandish billionaire are brought to life by a remarkable ensemble cast,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, Director, AFI FEST. “On Opening Night, the TCL Chinese Theatre, the quintessential temple of cinema in Hollywood, will shine a light on RULES DON’T APPLY.”

The 30th edition of AFI FEST takes place November 10–17, 2016, in the heart of Hollywood. Screenings, Galas and other events will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and The Hollywood Roosevelt. The full festival lineup and schedule will be unveiled in October.

Patron packages ensure reserved seats for Opening Night and all proceeds benefit the educational programs of the American Film Institute. A limited number of individual tickets to Opening Night and other screenings are also made available at no charge thanks to the event sponsors. Go to AFI.com now to purchase Patron Packages which can include access to Galas and other high-demand films and events. Individual tickets are available at AFI.combeginning November 1.

As part of their membership benefits, AFI members will receive a complimentary AFI FEST Cinepass, which allows access to all regular screenings and special offers at this year’s festival. Additionally, AFI members at the Two-Star level and above level receive a 10% discount on all AFI FEST Patron Packages and Express Passes. Information about AFI membership is available at AFI.com/membership.

Audi is the exclusive presenting sponsor of AFI FEST 2016, once again championing innovative filmmakers from around the globe through its steadfast support of the festival and AFI’s mission.

Additional top sponsors include AT&T; American Airlines, the official airline of AFI; and VIZIO, the official home theater sponsor of AFI.

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Just What Is RULES DON‘T APPLY?
An aspiring young actress (Lily Collins) and her ambitious young driver (Alden Ehrenreich) struggle hopefully with the absurd eccentricities of the wildly unpredictable billionaire (Warren Beatty) for whom they work.

It’s Hollywood, 1958. Small town beauty queen and devout Baptist virgin Marla Mabrey (Collins), under contract to the infamous Howard Hughes (Beatty), arrives in Los Angeles. At the airport, she meets her driver Frank Forbes (Ehrenreich), who is engaged to be married to his 7th grade sweetheart and is a deeply religious Methodist. Their instant attraction not only puts their religious convictions to the test, but also defies Hughes’ number one rule: no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress. Hughes’ behavior intersects with Marla and Frank in very separate and unexpected ways, and as they are drawn deeper into his bizarre world, their values are challenged and their lives are changed.

To learn more about RULES DON’T APPLY, visit the film’s official website at http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/rules-dont-apply. In theaters November 23, 2016.

Why We Love The American Film Institute (AFI)…
AFI is America’s promise to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding movies and TV series of the year; AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by AudiAFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world-renowned AFI Conservatory. For more information about AFI, visit AFI.com or connect with AFI at twitter.com/AmericanFilmfacebook.com/AmericanFilmInstituteinstagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute and youtube.com/AFI.

And Why AFI FEST Is a Fan of Audi…
A program of the American Film Institute, AFI FEST presented by Audi is a celebration of global cinema and today’s Hollywood — a showcase for the best festival films of the year and an opportunity for master filmmakers and emerging artists to come together with audiences in the movie capital of the world. Celebrating its 30th edition, AFI FEST is the only festival of its stature that is free to the public. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST as a qualifying festival for both Short Film categories for the annual Academy Awards®. This year’s edition takes place November 10–17, 2016. Additional information about AFI FEST is available at AFI.com/AFIFEST. Connect with AFI FEST at facebook.com/AFIFESTtwitter.com/AFIFEST and youtube.com/AFIFEST.

Shameless Plug for Audi
Audi of America, Inc., and its U.S. dealers offer a full line of German-engineered luxury vehicles. AUDI AG is among the most successful luxury automotive brands globally. The Audi Group delivered over 1,800,000 vehicles to customers globally in 2015, and broke all-time company sales records for the 6th straight year in the U.S. Through 2019, AUDI AG plans to invest about 24 billion euros – 70 percent of the investment will flow into the development of new models and technologies. Visit http://www.audiusa.com or http://www.audiusa.com/newsroom for more information regarding Audi vehicles and business topics.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and applaud AFI.

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When Stellan Skarsgård Calls About His New Movie In Order of Disappearance, You Better Answer

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

The first thing you hear when Stellan Skarsgård and Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland call at 8:00 am LA time for a phone interview from New York is Stellan’s unmistakable laugh. This is a far cry from the stoic Nils he plays in their new movie In Order of Disappearance that opens Aug. 26. Between the -40 celsius setting and the operatic violence, whereby Skarsgård picks off a succession of formidable enemies, including Bruno Ganz (Downfall) as lead crime boss, In Order of Disappearance plays with the fine line between horrific scenes and a comedy of criminal errors.  StellanIOD16 Not to give too much away, In Order of Disappearance (originally titled Kraftidioten or “Morons”) is mostly in Norwegian, with Danish, German and a smattering of English and Serbian thrown in, as it runs down the saga of a drug ring infesting the pristine Norwegian landscape.

Skarsgård plays a snowblower business owner (Nils), who first receives a Citizen of the Year Award only to become embroiled in the hunt for a succession of responsible parties who have killed his son, in a hit job made to look like an overdose. The blowing snow from Nils’ menacing snowplow begins to echo the powder of the drugs and gives him the power to literally bury his enemies in a white rage. And yes, there is a twist.

When asked if playing in a language more native to him than English informs the character, Stellan scoffs in a good way. “It has nothing to do with language,” he corrects. “In the Marvel films (Thor) my character was used mostly as comic relief. I am the normal center of this film.” Skarsgård also adds that his performance in BBC’sRiver,” the 2015 TV Mini-series, as lead inspector John River was also a serious turn.

Director Hans Petter Moland (Aberdeen), who has worked with Skarsgård on a succession of films, seconds the misconception that Stellan tends to play ‘with a swagger’ in English. Then the Nordic silence between sentences is almost a rebuke. Together they make a formable two-on-one tag team; the camaraderie is unmistakable. HansPetterMoland16At this hour in LA, you’re just trying to get the ‘ring’ over the right “a” in the actor’s last name because that mark is actually part of the vowel not punctuation. Meanwhile, you’re just glad Stellan is every bit as punchy and quirky as you’d hoped he’d be, but the director with him this morning, on the other hand is serious as a heart attack. A less-known quantity in the United States, Hans Petter Moland is a top director in Norway, and you hope you don’t sound like, well, a kraftidioten, two coffees later.

“I think the film is a great mix of genres, and has a lot of satirical aspects to it,” Moland, an Emerson College alum begins. “One of my ‘delights’ was to take on some contemporary issues. The fear of immigration and fear of strangers. The drug thing was very real. When I started working on this story 15 years ago, I started thinking what if someone actually did what Stellan’s character does.” Meaning take revenge instead of pursuing the conventional lines of justice.

The immigration issues Moland refers to include drug crime bosses from Serbia, Albania —  and within Norway itself in home-grown dealer played by Pål Sverre Hagen. Hagen, incidentally, was in Kon-Tiki with Stellan’s son Gustav Skarsgård.

“Pål did such a surprising take on the character, that I said it was not what I thought of — so much fun working with him,” the director notes. “(His character) is not necessarily the smartest guy in the room, but good at smelling out deceit.”

A mix of hysteria and ruthlessness, Hagen’s performance is as “refreshing,” they both point out, as is the movie itself. Upon which you mention “Fargo,” thinking Fargo-meets-Pulp-Fiction-style cruelodrama, meaning cruelty meets melodrama… to crickets. IOD1sheet16

Later you notice somebody already referenced Fargo on the poster, oops. On the call, you can almost hear Stellan Skarsgard — a film icon in America and around the world at this point — sitting back and weighing the questions being posed. He does not suffer fools, and is just as you would imagine he is from his eclectic body of work. Stellan’s a thinking actor, a fun guy who would be great in a bar fight. Moland, his friend and frequent director, the straight man on this phoner, pivots back on point to reveal that most of his filmmaking influences are American. “Films from the 70’s, also Terry Malick.” He’s warming up now.

When you ask him about one scene, where Nils’ wife leaves him and leaves a very telling note: a sealed, folded, blank sheet of paper, Moland’s ice breaks. “That was in the script that way, the screenwriter’s idea. I remember when I read it at some point — laughing out loud. But it’s hard to show nothing on film. You liked it? I’m glad it played well.” In Order of Disappearance is one of those films you watch for its own merits, but undeniably for the body of work of Stellan Skarsgård.

As in all of Skarsgård’s roles, and one of the hallmarks of the best actors, you can literally hear him listening on the phone, every word parsed, remembering your name, commenting and laughing with such ease. Until the subject of his actor children is broached. With son Alexander Skarsgård tipped to enter the A-List with Tarzan’s $120+ M USD cumulative total at the box office, the topic is timely if a bit awkward. The frost descends, as it likely should.

“I don’t care much about that actually. Four (out of eight) of them are actors, and they are all good. I really enjoy it. I’m happy that they aren’t terrible. It would have been so hard to see them suffer defeat. In this business, suddenly you are splashed on every billboard all over the world, and two years later no one knows who you are,” Skarsgård remarks.

Going back to his film, when you say “it’s probably hard to show moral ambiguity in the cold like that,” Stellan laughs that easy laugh again. “It was motherfucking cold. Yes.” Then he relates the frozen milieu to the “a naturalistic style of acting” used. Moland jumps in with “if you go back and watch the film again, in the beginning of the film — when he meets the Centrist Party member where there is no blower — look at Stellan’s face. It is actually like a frozen mask.”

Incorporated into In Order of Disappearance, the Centrist Party tangent touches on Swedish immigration to Norway, which is coupled with a look at Serbian and Albanian nationals in country. All against the backdrop of a father’s grief-revenge story with a stellar cast, director, and of course another facet of the considerable talent of Stellan Skarsgård. He’s someone who broke through to American audiences as the math professor in Good Will Hunting, and has remained versatile enough to play in the Marvel Universe and in so many interesting iterations, also the just-released movie Our Kind of Traitor where he plays a Russian gangster, with clearly more to come.

In Order of Disappearance is a great addition to Stellan’s body of work, not only because he plays the lead, but it’s fun to watch. He evens gets to beat up the head wildling from Game of Thrones, Tormund Giantsbane, actor Kristofer HivjuKristoferStellan16Director Hans Petter Moland rounds out the interview with this gem “the only thing that isn’t in this film is Stockholm Syndrome,” referring to the underage kidnapping folded into this chilly tale.

In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten), produced by Paradox and championed by the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish film institutes, and Nordisk, among others, opens in a US roll-out beginning on Aug. 26, see Magnolia Pictures and Magnet at here for more details.

(Courtesy of FilmFestivals.com)

Official Press Notes:

IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE stars Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen, Jakob Oftebro, and Kristofer Hivju.  The film was directed by Hans Petter Moland and has a running time of114 minutes. Magnet Releasing will release the film in LA at the Nuart Theater and in select other cities as well as on VOD on August 26, 2016.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and dig Stellan Skarsgård

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What Do Cheez-It™ & Remake of BEN-HUR Have in Common, Wait For It

SCREENMANCER GENIUS MOVIE MARKETING ALERT: LOS ANGELES, CA — It’s hard enough to remake a classic film like BEN-HUR, but to throw snack food Cheez-It™ in the mix really takes this movie into the future. So what’s the connection? You waited for it, here it is… Jack Huston, star of the upcoming epic action adventure BEN-HUR from Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, will drive a 2016 Toyota Camry pace car to kick off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It™ 355 at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 7.

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This will be Huston’s first time serving as an Official Pace Car drive at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event (and hopefully not Jack’s last if he doesn’t mess it up). He will also be recognized during pre-race ceremonies and will greet each NASCAR driver on stage during driver introductions.

Huston previously starred for four seasons in HBO’s hit series, Boardwalk Empire, as the sniper with the horribly disfigured face, ‘Richard Harrow’. In 2013, Huston appeared in the critically acclaimed and award-winning film American Hustle, where he played mobster ‘Pete Musane’. Additionally, he starred as ‘Young Ira’ in George Tillman Jr.’s film adaption of the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Longest Ride. [Basically, if you haven’t recognized his work by now, you’ve been living under a rock.]

 “I am excited to join NASCAR and get behind the wheel of today’s modern chariot,” said Huston.

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And folks, if you haven’t noticed from the familiar-sounding last name, Huston, we have a problem. Jack Huston is from the John HustonWalter Huston family acting dynasty including an Oscar-winning aunt from Prizzi’s Honor and X-Men uncle star. John Huston is his grandfather. Jack was born in the UK and finally took on the family business.

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BEN-HUR is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army.  Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery.  After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.  Based on Lew Wallace’s timeless novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.  The film also stars Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Pilou Asbaek, Sofia Black D’Elia and Morgan Freeman.

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Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) directed the film from a screenplay by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. Sean Daniel, Joni Levin, and Duncan Henderson served as producers, with Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, Keith Clarke, John Ridley, and Jason F. Brown serving as executive producers. BEN-HUR will be released in theaters on August 19, 2016.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen International August 4-7 for the Cheez-It™ 355 race weekend, which also features the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Bully Hill Vineyards 100, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series Zippo 200 at The Glen. Tickets for all of the action are available by calling 1-866-461-RACE or by logging on to www.theglen.com.

 Keeping You On Track

Located within five (5) hours (~300 miles) of 25% of the US population, Watkins Glen International is the premier road racing facility in North America, voted “Best NASCAR Track” by readers of USA Today. Keep up with The Glen on Facebook and Twitter. For tickets, call 866-461-RACE or visit www.theglen.com.

 

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and like to drive bone stock.

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Wayward Sons of KANSAS Learn to Stream New Tune on Billboard, Listen!

SCREENMANCER CLASSIC ROCK ALERT:  Los Angeles, CA — Anthem Rock Classic Band KANSAS has a few more tricks up the sleeve this year after the sentimental success of their 2015 documentary MIRACLES OUT OF NOWHERE. KansasBand3What is this year’s magic? The band’s “first new album in 16 years” is being advance-streamed on Billboard’s website in celebration of the “40th anniversary of breakthrough album LEFTOVERTURE,” which went “sextuple platinum.” Let’s let them tell it… “With This Heart”, a brand new song from Kansas is streaming now exclusively on Billboard.com today. The song is taken from the band’s intensely anticipated new studio album The Prelude Implicit, which will be released on September 23rd, 2016. Fans can stream “With This Heart” now. (See link above.) The song will be available for purchase tomorrow, Friday, August 5th through iTunes, AmazonMP3, Spotify, and Google Play.  Fans can also pre-order the album on iTunes, AmazonMP3, and Google Play at that time. Links to retailers can be found below:

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iTunes  http://itunes.com/kansas

Amazon http://amzn.to/2aKXIlJ

Spotify  http://spoti.fi/2b0Oi3j

Google Play  http://bit.ly/2asRFhn

In a joint statement, the band says “We are excited for ‘With This Heart’ to be the first new KANSAS song released in more than 16 years. It definitely fits KANSAS tradition.”

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The Prelude Implicit is the first new album release in 16 years for the band that has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and is famous for classic hits such as ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust In the Wind,’ to progressive epics like ‘Song for America’ and ‘Miracles Out of Nowhere.’ The album will be available on CD, double 180 Gram Vinyl and digitally on iTunes and Google Play. Fans can pre-order now by visiting Kansasband.com and on Amazon.com.

The Prelude Implicit features 10 all new tracks written by the band and co-produced by Zak Rizvi, Phil Ehart, and Richard Williams.  KANSAS’s signature sound is evident throughout the album.  It showcases Ronnie Platt‘s soaring lead vocals, David Ragsdale‘s blistering violin, Williams and Rizvi’s rocking guitar riffs, the unmistakable sound of David Manion’s B3 organ and keyboards, Ehart’s thundering drums, and Billy Greer‘s driving bass and vocals.

KANSAS returned to the studio in January 2016 after signing with Inside Out Music.  Says Inside Out founder and president Thomas Waber, “KANSAS is the biggest and most important Prog band to come out of the United States. I grew up listening to them, and their music is part of my DNA.  ‘The Prelude Implicit’ undoubtedly adds to their already impressive musical legacy.  I can’t stop listening to it, and we are proud to be releasing the album.”

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The result of the time in the studio was even more than the band imagined.  “This is definitely a KANSAS album,” remarks original guitarist Richard Williams. “Whether it is the trademark Prog epic like ‘The Voyage of Eight Eighteen,’ biting rocker such as ‘Rhythm in the Spirit,’ or mindful ballad like ‘The Unsung Heroes,’ there is something on this album for every kind of KANSAS fan.  After years of pent-up creativity, the entire band is very proud of ‘The Prelude Implicit.'”

Lead Vocalist Ronnie Platt adds, “Recording ‘The Prelude Implicit’ was an incredible experience, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. It is my hope that, knowing the intense listeners that KANSAS fans are, the continuity yet diversity of this album will be pleasing to them.”

The album title, The Prelude Implicit means, “Without a doubt, this is a new musical beginning,” explains Ehart. Tattoo artist, Denise de la Cerda, did the oil painting of the front and back cover.  “It shows a Phoenix flying from the past into the future.”

The Prelude Implicit Track Listing:

1.) With This Heart

2.) Visibility Zero

3.) The Unsung Heroes

4.) Rhythm in the Spirit

5.) Refugee

6.) The Voyage of Eight Eighteen   

7.) Camouflage

8.) Summer

9.) Crowded Isolation

10.) Section 60

KANSAS will be debuting songs off The Prelude Implicit this fall, live in concert, as part of their Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour.  More information on the tour, including tour dates, can be found at www.kansasband.com

 

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SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and jam to Classic Rock.

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From The Last Tycoon to Woody Allen’s Café Society: Why We Love Stories About Hollywood

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Woody Allen’s newest film Café Society just opened July 15, and it fits into a cinematic history of stories about Hollywood that audiences love. But Woody Allen himself has been a lightning rod for so long, the electricity generated off the attendant controversies could power a small town. That said, we’re talking about a movie, folks, not the personal life of the director. CoreyBlakeWoody16With that caveat, Café Society will also be the movie that repositions Blake Lively as one of the most faceted young talents to come forward from the shadows of her contemporaries, including Kristen Stewart who, with romantic co-conspirator Jesse Eisenberg, stars in the film about “1930’s New York and Hollywood with a kaleidoscopic cast of characters that range from movie stars to millionaires, playboys to professors, and working girls and wise guys.” That’s a press kit quote, just to set up the anatomy of the picture.

This is the third pairing of Stewart and Eisenberg, from Adventureland (2009) and American Ultra (2015). Eisenberg is Bobby Dorfman, whose screen mother is legendary comedian Elaine May’s real-life daughter Jeannie Berlin. He is surrounded by excellent performances by Corey Stoll (House of Cards) as his thug brother Ben and Steve Carell as Phil, the Hollywood honcho uncle who is the narrative pivot that brings him to Golden Era Hollywood and into the plot involving his nubile assistant Vonnie played by Kristen Stewart. Blake Lively is the proverbial “beautiful socialite” who charms Eisenberg’s Bobby into another plot twist, but ultimately redefines brand Blake Lively. CafeSocFR1sht16Three minutes of screen time and you wonder how Lively is the same floozy in Ben Affleck’s The Town made over into an ethereal layered gamine-like presence. Oh, that’s right, one of the greatest living directors in the world is the human puppet-master here. Parker Posey also becomes the scenes she inhabits as Rad, half of a sympathetic couple for Bobby Dorfman in this Jazz Age confection. But Kristen Stewart is playing closest to life-meets-art here, involved with a married older man (Steve Carell), in a doppleganger life that could have been hers off-screen if she’d married Rupert Sanders, the seducer/director of Snow White who almost ruined her career. Hey, he was the grown-up. If nothing else, Café Society should remind us to give Stewart a pass, give this very gifted performer a clean slate for not having taken the sell-out path her character Vonnie takes. KstewWoodyJesse
Allen’s only misstep here is casting his own voice as narrator, because unlike Michael Gambon who thrills as voiceover-of-God in the Coen Bros’ concurrent release Hail Caesar!, Woody has a noticeable waver that distracts from Café Society’s seamlessness. But let’s allow the director to defend his choice on this. “I put myself in because I knew exactly how I wanted the words to be inflected,” Woody Allen explains, “I figured that since I wrote the ‘book’, it would be like I was reading a novel.”

“When I wrote the script, I structured it like a novel. As in a book, you stop a little while in this movie and see a scene with the protagonist with his girlfriend, a scene with his parents, followed by a scene with his sister or gangster brother, a scene with Hollywood wheeler-dealers, and then the café society with politicians, debutantes, playboys, and the people cheating on their wives or shooting their husbands. To me it was always a story not of one person but of everybody.”

Which is the perfect description of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic 1984 film The Cotton Club, starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere — but with much more music and impasto in the plot. The Cotton Club’s Gere then shows up, years later in Chicago, a musical homaging the period once again, but with velvet tasseled camp. These are favorite elements of the genre in other words. But this is not the Fred McMurray Café Society of 1939, either, about a spoiled socialite who runs off with a reporter and finds shipboard love. Caf19381sht16Even Sunset Boulevard captures the period in its periphery, because we love the stories that tell stories about Hollywood behind the scenes. Café Society is essentially entering the horse race classics of cinema history, in other words. Woody Allen is not alone, as mentioned, the Coen Bros are also in silks this year. Speaking of George Clooney-topper Hail Caesar!, far from Barton Fink, this latest saga includes capers, kidnapping, and a Communist plot — more Busby Berkeley gets high, than the non-ironic homage that Allen offers — also more fun. Yet 40 years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Elia Kazan-Sam Spiegel film The Last Tycoon (1976), starring Robert De Niro and based on the unfinished novel, is more in the neighborhood of the kind of film Allen makes here, without the deep, rending sorrow of Tycoon.

So in a way, Woody Allen is harking back to a period he knows a great deal about, including being acutely aware of what has been produced in the past to reflect it. Referencing venue “The Cotton Club,” once located at 142nd St. in Harlem, Allen admits “that era has always fascinated me. It was one of the most exciting times in the history of the city, with tremendous theater life, café life, and restaurants. Up and down the line, wherever you were, the whole island was jumping with nighttime sophisticated activities.”

The word “tremendous” seems to be his go-to, and in the Woody Allen style of filmmaking, let’s insert a ‘knee play’ here, just to set up the backstory behind the press screening, because like a fascinating scene, it begs remembering.

On the night Café Society is screened in Santa Monica, the heavyweights, the veterans, take their scattered seats for the private showing. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times is doing his ritual pre-film separating of the pages in his archetypal Reporter’s Notebook, so the page turning won’t make noise during the show; Leonard Maltin strolls in to join his wife, who has been conducting some future business on one of his engagements on speaker-phone. The speaker-phone conversation is a mini-plot point in itself, which speaks directly to the intimacy of this gathering. There’s the venerable “sea of gray hair,” but also two younger reporters trading barbs to lessen the palpable tension. In a sense, this audience tells you everything you need to know about the difficulty in reviewing a film whose writer-director is still, shall we say, radio-active in the media.

You kind of live a story behind the story in your plush seat in a storied private Dick Clark Screening Room showing, just like the plot twists in Café Society. Woody Allen. Those two words have produced a lot of art and shaped a lot of lives, mine included, from seeing Annie Hall through Blue Jasmine to one of my favorites, Melinda and Melinda (Radha Mitchell, also with Steve Carrell).MelindaBridge16
In fact, there’s the same bridge scene locale used in Melinda in Café Society. CafeSocUS1sht16 The press kit includes every single title Allen has ever made, a gentle reminder of his gravitas. Then you make up your own mind about the whole panoply of issues, and watch for personal reasons… because you love the movies.

Café Society, written and directed by Woody Allen, is distributed by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate, for showtimes in a limited roll-out visit http://www.cafesocietymovie.com.

Café Society is A Woody Allen film

Directed and Written by Woody Allen

Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Edward Walson

Starring Jeannie Berlin, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll, and Ken Stott

 

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Director Byrd McDonald Unpacks VINTAGE TOMORROWS, His Epic Steampunk Doc

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

That director Byrd McDonald (Haunters) is from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, birthplace of Loretta Lynn speaks volumes about his path toward the making of VINTAGE TOMORROWS, a documentary about the movement known as Steampunk coming at you on July 19 from Samuel Goldwyn Films. Viewing this film is essential as part of any aficionado’s playlist. In the unpacking of facts as to why the Steampunk community welcomed Byrd as a “maker” of this film, about a very closely held movement, the Bionic Man could be a factor. Well, maybe that’s stretching things, but Lee Majors, another Kentucky connection, was the Bionic Man, who could be viewed as a proto-Steampunk Ambassador. Without the ubiquitous “top hat and goggles” of the genre as we know know it, of course. ObtainShannon16

If you’re starting to get the picture, steampunk is that odd-in-a-good-way intersection between Jules Verne and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Or, to put it more succinctly, steampunk is way beyond the common label of ‘googles on top hats’ and reflects a sentimental yearning for a time when substance and form had a fantastical quality. Think the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago, when wizards like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison wowed the public with electrical power put to practical magic applications in things crafted by hand from steel, wood, and wonder.
VTlogo16To quote the press kit, “VINTAGE TOMORROWS examines the Steampunk movement’s explosive growth, origins, and cultural significance, from its sci-fi beginnings into an aesthetic and DIY movement that influences art, fashion, design and music globally” though “interviews with the writers and artists credited with galvanizing” the term itself. But it also poses “the fundamental question: What does Steampunk tell us about history, community, and our complicated relationship with technology.”

If you’ve checked your smartphone for updates several times during this introduction, this film is for you. And it features pioneering luminaries such as Cyberpunk founder William Gibson (Neuromancer), Bruce Sterling (Gibson’s co-author on seminal steambook The Difference Engine), China Miéville, Cherie Priest, Gail Carriger; graphic novelists Paul Guignon and Anina Bennett, musicians Abney Park and Erica “Unwoman” Mulkey, artist/maker Shannon O’Hare and the Neverwas Haul gang, and “over 20 other denizens of the subculture.”


Byrd McDonald is quick to shoot down the notion that Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes franchise was an early cinematic foray into steampunk, although the film is riddled with echoes of the movement, from gadgets to pop alchemy. “Wild Wild West was like 10 years before that,” he notes, but does not endorse it. “And City of Lost Children is the film most people in the community refer to,” McDonald adds. ByrdonSetVT16La Cité des Enfants Perdus” is the French film translated as City of Lost Children that ignited the maker imagines in the steampunk ranks, but the term was coined in science fiction lore, as you will find out in VINTAGE TOMORROWS.

When Byrd McDonald first “reached out to people, there were a lot of people who were somewhat chilly because they had been approached by mainstream media before, and it never went well. They ended up on TV shows making them look ridiculous. Right now there is a steampunk reality show that makes them look ridiculous.” The fear was that this director would “want to talk about top hats” and accessories of the fashion rather than the cultural aspects. “What really broke down walls was that I was a queer kid,” McDonald shares. “That really opened the doors” because he was coming from an alternative perspective to begin with, plus “I used to do drag,” meaning he understood theatrical performance coupled with identity and a whole range of complex subcultural dynamics. “I really had to hang out with them and show them I wasn’t coming to them with any kind of agenda. I think it would be really hard for someone on the inside of that movement to make a film about that community that the general public could relate to.”

In VINTAGE TOMORROWS, a menagerie of hugely talented makers, thinker-tinkerers, and performers detail facets of their involvement, including the lengths they have gone in crafting personas as well as the bonds they have formed with like-minded individuals — who would not normally band together — but find refuge from the Digital Chill inside the incandescent glow of their imaginations applied to steampunk projects and events. Unobtain16Once displayed at Burning Man, there is actually a retrofitted fifth-wheel trailer contraption, much like a Mr. Toad wild ride house, created by the Neverwas Haul gang. And you can see the play on words there, which is very of the vein this movement has tapped.

Listen to what the filmmaker has to say here in his own words, then watch the film…

Q: How would you encapsulate yourself in Steampunk terms?

Lol!   Ahem….”I think of myself as a brass spyglass through which the curious can observe the world of steampunk.”

Q: What was your impression of City of Lost Children?

City of Lost Children is my favorite expression of steampunk in cinema, though some people might argue the film fits better under the “diesel punk” umbrella. It’s one of the most hallucinatory films I’ve ever seen. I probably love it most because it’s a mash up of horror, surrealism and steampunk.  It’s dripping with dystopian dread, but in the center of the darkness beats a very sentimental heart. It’s a gorgeous, frightening and incredibly moving film.

Q: Do you think the vintage clothing crowd and the Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang crowd merged into Steampunk or has it been subtext in Western culture since Da Vinci?

I don’t think I’ve ever thought about whether the 1400’s informs anyone about what steampunk is. Though I suppose DaVinci’s being remembered as one of the forefathers of mad invention could actually make him an extremely distant ancestor of the maker ethos.

One of the things that I found so intriguing about steampunk is the great number of avenues people took on their way to discovering it (or in some cases, discovering they already fit well within it).

In the course of interviewing so many people, we found some who really did start out as vintage clothing enthusiasts, and others who were tinkerers in their sheds who, perhaps subconsciously, were channeling the spirit of invention that Da Vinci is frequently associated with.

I think that when steampunk is at its best it combines all of those things together, creating fantastically costumed characters who are also capable of building wondrous objects. And perhaps that is why we were so drawn to groups like Obtainium Works, who are a great example of a group of people who encompass both sides of the coin.

Q: What’s the most odd/wild/unexpected aspect you learned while filming this community?

I met a lot of polyamorous steampunks.  I mean, a lot. VTLady16

 Here’s the brief history of this film from the distributorsVINTAGE TOMORROWS began its festival journey at San Diego ComicCon in 2015, released globally July 19, 2016 on VOD and digital by Samuel Goldwyn Films.  The film is currently available for pre-order on iTunes. According to Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films: “We live in a world of mass-produced product yet everyone is looking for individuality.  VINTAGE TOMORROWS showcases uniqueness of character and creativity in a fascinating world that brings the past as well as the future together in a refreshing and entertaining format.” Filmmaker Byrd McDonald stated:  “Our documentary VINTAGE TOMORROWS showcases the amazing minds and artistic creations of dozens of individuals in the steampunk community.  We are overjoyed to be partnering with an indie-doc champion like Samuel Goldwyn Films.  Their expertise in distribution will help bring this vital and relevant cultural movement to a global audience.”CoreyRaygun16

Don’t miss a chance to experience steampunk’s close-up via this film. It may draw you in to become part of the movement. Incidentally Byrd said he’d also noted the addition of Digerati to the mix, with Arduino and Raspberry Pi enthusiasts on board. Which means steampunk is set for a 2.0 in its ever-changing shape-shift toward the mainstream. Meanwhile, director Byrd McDonald will be working next on a “feminist interpretation of Chainsaw movies.” Find out more about Byrd from Porter Panther, and see Vintage Tomorrows screening schedule, downloads and more possibilities online here.

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When Content Moves Faster Than The Money: Paul Sweeting Talks DMW Rightstech Summit July 26 Event

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

On July 26, Digital Media Wire (DMW) will present a Rightstech Summit in NYC to address a digital blind spot you may not know about. If you think attribution when the term “Rights” comes up in the context of digital media, then you’re not seeing an important aspect as far as how tech breakthroughs have impacted content distribution. PaulSDMWRT16

For now, let’s chat with conference co-chair Paul Sweeting, Principal of Concurrent Media Strategies, LLC, to get a download on the subject.

But first a cheat-sheet for some of the terms used below. In 20 seconds, you’ll have a working knowledge of Bitcoin, blockchains, Merkle trees, nodes, hashing, and The DAO. (These terms are spitballed in layman’s terms here, also use links above.)

Alternative currency Bitcoin is “mined” with what can be considered a long chain of digital handshakes that verify and validate the “blocks.” There is a currency exchange to “fiat currencies” worldwide. Fiat Currency is government-backed, think Euro, Dollar, Pound.

The twist with digital currencies is to create a stable monetary standard that is not finite, like gold-backed currency was — ironically Bitcoin has a finite number attached to it (think of it the same way you would an IPO offering, limited shares hold value in place). Expansion of Bitcoin is in process, which is why there are many unanalyzed long-term facets to this digital currency concept.

Meanwhile, forget all that, just think “Smart Contracts” and listen to Paul Sweeting discuss the au courant ideas to be unveiled at DMW’s July 26 summit that have real world applications.

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Q: Most people think “rights” refers to copyright protection in terms of usage, how is the Rightstech Summit offering something different?

Well, our sort of starting premise is that much of the media value chain, meaning the way media value content is created and consumed, has been changed by digital platforms, digitally technology. That is not news, but there’s the business-to-business piece in the middle. That is, the concept of who owns the rights has not undergone the same sort of transformation.

Q: You mean monetization?

Yes, fundamentally yes — that middle piece of the pipeline is still operating under the old analog models. The result is the content moves much faster than the money. That causes a lot of stress for the industry — people who are supposed to be getting paid are not getting paid when you map out the stakeholders.

Q: Stakeholders you define as…

Content creators, artists, musicians, filmmakers, and you have the publishers of that content — whether they are book publishers, studios, record companies whomever — then you have the distributors and exhibitors of that content at the other end. But there’s that piece in the middle where the value of the content is supposed to be translated into (profit).

Q: Nobody really pays for music anymore, for one thing, right?

If you are listening to Pandora for free, Pandora is paying. They are conducting business and selling advertisers.

Q: The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is always upset about piracy, so what can the movie studios do?

The focus of what we are doing is not so much on piracy — this is on traditional digital rights copy protection. What we are talking about is, if you have a catalog of movies and some event happens in the world, a famous actor dies, and suddenly there is a demand for clips from that actor’s career, somebody owns those clips and uses of those clips. Usage of those movies have contractual obligations, all sorts of permissions are supposed to happen. If this can not happen at the same speed as things explode across Facebook, that’s an issue. We’re trying to move this mushy process at the same speed as viral media.

Q: Where is the technology for this coming from now?

A lot of this is coming out of the start-up world. There is quite a lot of interest in technology such as block chains. People are working on side-chains which operate at bigger scales and more quickly than the Bitcoin block chain, but then can be reconciled with the Bitcoin blockchain — dedicated block chains for a specific industry.

Q: Can you give an example?

Ethereum sits atop the blockchain, a second-generation blockchain. The Bitcoin chain is fairly limited in its applications; it was designed for a specific purpose which was Bitcoin. Ethereum is almost an operating system layer than can sit atop a blockchain layer and allows people to write all kinds of block-chain applications.

One of their big areas of focus are smart contracts, which are a way of embedding business rules in with a piece of content; it becomes a self-executing contract. All the terms of who is supposed to get paid is baked in — whatever the business model is. All of the business stuff that is supposed to happen behind it happens without human intercession. Blockchain payments can be automatically paid to the appropriate rights owners.

Q: Bitcoin has fluctuated so wildly, lost so much value, how does that figure into this?

One of the things it can do is shield people from currency values and fluctuations. There is a view out there that Bitcoin could become the sort of universal medium of exchange for business conducted on a block chain.

It’s still trading at about $600 USD, but not all of this needs to involve crypto-currencies. You can build apps for a block chain that deal in tokens, which sort of take the place of Bitcoin on a block chain.

Q: Like casino chips?

Sort of like that.

Q: How did the Rightstech Summit come about?

This is the first rights tech we’ve held, I mean people have held other ones, held conferences and focused on specific industries — like in the music industry around block chains, or different segments of the media industry, such as book publishers, film and video; because all of those industries are struggling with the same fundamental problems that the content can move much faster than the money. They’re all looking to the same technologies to solve that problem. Our goal is to get some dialogue going across different silos.

Q: Meaning what?

There is a whole layer of companies that are enterprise-scale rights management platforms. There are a number of companies — for example Fadel in New York, they have built an enterprise scale rights (system). FilmTrack is widely used in Hollywood. The music industry has developed Music Reports, also Pluravida, for the music industry. They do rights management for record labels, basically.

Q: Who attends, and what happens at Rightstech?

Our ideal scenario is that people who are working on rights management for photographers for instance will learn something that might be useful for them from learning how similarly situated companies are working to solve rights management in the music business or the online video business. There are certain elements of this that are generic; I mean ‘a contract is a contract is a contract.’ If you are thinking about smart contracts, how do contractual (agreements work).

Q: Is Ethereum open source?

Ethereum is an open sourced project. A lot of the block chain (development is being done).

The Linux Foundation is actually overseeing a project called HyperLedger which is hoping to create inter-operable standards around block chain. They are not focused exclusively on the media business — a lot of it is focused on the financial industry — where fintech meets copyright.

Q: How did you get into this aspect of the business and what’s your connection to Ned Sherman who runs Digital Media Wire?

Concurrent Media Strategies is my own consultancy and newsletter and blog. My background is in journalism. I wrote for Billboard and Variety. I came up with this concept of rights tech, and I needed a partner on it. I’ve known Ned for years. We kind of said ‘we should really do something together one day.’ We would have the same conversation every year. He liked it right away.

Q: To recap, when is it, and how long is it?

It’s July 26, a one-day summit. We didn’t want to do a long conference. We’ve been surprised how much interest and support there is. There’s a lot of technology being brought to bear on this problem —  (similar to) what’s happened to intermedia and tech since the BetaMax case. You need some factors aligned when you are talking about technology to better manage rights. More to the point, the creators of the content and the rights owners are on the same side as the guys coding things. That has not often been the case. Since the time of Napster they have been at odds with each other.

Q: That almost never happens, thanks Paul.

Snapshot from DMW:

JOIN US JULY 26 FOR THE INAUGURAL RIGHTSTECH SUMMIT

RightsTech Summit Hot Topics! Blockchain, Big Data, Direct to Consumer & More

From startups to tech/media powerhouses and industry associations, the 1-day gathering, which premiers in New York City July 26, is bringing together a cross-section of companies, associations and industry leaders (see list below) to meet, do deals and discuss innovation in rights management from Blockchain to Enterprise and how tech-content partnerships are helping the creative industries drive successful monetization strategies.

Paul Sweeting is a veteran business journalist and industry analyst specializing in the intersecting worlds of media, technology and public policy. He is the founder and principal of Concurrent Media Strategies, LLC, a Washington, DC-based consulting and editorial services firm launched in 2010. Prior to launching Concurrent Media Strategies, Sweeting spent 20 years as a media business journalist, writing for such leading publications as Billboard, Publishers Weekly, Broadcasting & Cable, Video Business and Variety. He was a co-author of the Movie Business Book edited by Jason E. Squire and published in 2004. From 2009 to 2015 Sweeting was chief digital media analyst for GigaOM Research and a contributor to the GigaOM website. He currently serves as editorial director of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance and its family of websites and newsletters and also edits the Concurrent Media blog. Sweeting is based in Washington, DC and is a graduate of Columbia University in New York City.

Screenmancer is a gathering place for people who make movies, digital content, and live in Merkle treehouses.

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