Bye, Bye, Roy

Roy Scheider passed away yesterday after a lengthy bout with multiple myeloma. At seventy-five, Scheider had proven his mettle on both stage and screen, and as both leading man and character actor. He was 75 years old:

Roy Scheider, a stage actor with a background in the classics who became one of the leading figures in the American film renaissance of the 1970s, died on Sunday afternoon in Little Rock, Ark. He was 75 and lived in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
Mr. Scheider had suffered from multiple myeloma for several years, and died of complications from a staph infection, his wife, Brenda Seimer, said.
Mr. Scheider’s rangy figure, gaunt face and emotional openness made him particularly appealing in everyman roles, most famously as the agonized police chief of “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg’s 1975 breakthrough hit, about a New England resort town haunted by the knowledge that a killer shark is preying on the local beaches.

Apologies to Spielberg, but Scheider’s brilliance didn’t exactly get a lot of notice in Scheider’s most famous film of the time, playing against a mechanical shark. (Neither did Richard Dreyfus or Robert Shaw, for that matter; what a cast that film had!). He had already established himself as a powerful presence in Klute and The French Connection before Jaws.
The film that put all of Scheider’s talents and energy on display came not long afterward was Bob Fosse’s megalomaniacal tour de force, All That Jazz. Scheider essentially played Fosse, whose attempt to stage the musical Chicago — and his excessive life — nearly killed him. Scheider had to rely on his stage instincts, singing and dancing, while providing an absolutely gripping and sympathetic performance as a man who was difficult to like. The film culminated in a 20-minute death scene extravaganza with Ben Vereen, a dance number based on the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love”, transformed into a Vegas-style number called “Bye Bye Life”.
It’s one of my favorite films, despite its excesses, or perhaps because of them. Scheider somehow made the excesses seem real. He could do that; he provided grit as an antidote to glitz. In later films, like 52 Pick-up and 2010, and as a supporting actor in RKO 281, Scheider’s realistic and impassioned portrayals made the films compelling. IMDB lists two films in the can for release this year, Iron Cross and Dark Honeymoon. I’m looking forward to seeing both.
Bye, bye, Roy. You gave us everything you had, and we thank you.

Expelled: The Movie

The bloggers at CPAC received an invitation to screen a new documentary on academic intolerance called Expelled: The Movie this evening. The documentary features Ben Stein on a quest to understand the near-hysteria caused by scientists who so much as broach the idea of intelligent design in papers or in research. It follows Stein as he interviews professors denied tenure, editors fired, and journalists shunned for touching the subject even at its most innocuous levels.
Before discussing my feelings about the film, which is still in post-production and will not go into release until April, I should explain my approach to the ID/evolution debate. I believe evolution is demonstrably proven in enough examples to say that its effect on variation in species cannot be denied. The example I used tonight in discussing this with another viewer (certainly not the only example) is antibiotic effects on bacteria. Antibiotics that kill 99% of bacteria eventually promote the survival and the expansion of the 1% that resist them, created superbacteria that require another set of antibiotics to cure, and so on.
That said, evolution does not interfere with my faith in God. God certainly could have created the universe with a design that included life. The rational laws of nature would include evolution, as well as the myriad of other rational and mathematically provable mechanisms that undergird nature. In fact, the impulse of man to discover the rational laws of nature began with the belief in a rational God, as scientists understood nature’s rationality to reveal an intelligent Creator.
I’d go deeper than that, but Dinesh D’Souza covers it nicely enough already in his book What’s So Great About Christianity, and it’s getting late enough as it is. Suffice it to say that evolution doesn’t present a threat to my worldview.
Rationally, we have to admit that some use ID as an excuse to teach the more literal form of Creationism that has been used to argue against evolution entirely, especially against teaching evolution in primary-school classrooms. That admission does not appear in Expelled, which is a glaring omission. It tends to take out of context the frustration some scientists have about ID, and its place in polarizing the debate over its use. Properly framed, ID accepts all of the science without accepting its transformation into its own belief system.
What do I mean by that? In this, the film does an excellent job of demonstrating atheism as a belief system. Atheism as represented by Richard Dawkings and others in this film gets exposed as exactly the kind of belief system they claim to despise. They can’t prove God exists — and they can’t prove God doesn’t exist. They make the common fallacy of arguing that absence of evidence amounts to evidence of absence.
But in a way, this is all secondary to the real issue of the film: academic intolerance. The debate over ID vs Darwinism sets the table for a truly disturbing look at academia. Science should be about the free debate and research of ideas and hypotheses for duplicable results and provable theorems. However, as the examples Stein and the film provide amply show, the Darwinist academic establishment will brook no dissent from the orthodoxy — and scientists have to be shown with hidden faces to speak to the issue for the film.
Amusingly, Stein asks people how the first cell came to be. None of the scientists could give him a straight answer. Dawkins himself admits he doesn’t know and that no one else does, either — but postulates that aliens could have brought life to this planet, and then postulates that another alien civilization could have brought life to that planet, and so on. He then concedes that one entity could have been the original source … but insists that entity could not possibly have been God. For this he gives absolutely no evidence at all, relegating it as a belief system somewhat akin to Scientology.
All of this is extremely effective, as are the many allusions made to the Berlin Wall during the film. The theme runs throughout, and it explicitly refers to the defensive academic establishment as having built a wall that tramples on freedom of thought and discourse. Less effective is the heavy references to the Nazis in the movie. Although emotionally affecting for some obvious reasons, the fact is that while the Nazis were mostly Darwinists (along with a lot of other things), the vast majority of Darwinists aren’t Nazis. Certainly the eugenicists in Nazi Germany were mightily influenced by Darwinism, but America had its own eugenicists, which the film points out.
I should point out that the film has not finished production, and that changes will be made between now and its release in April. The filmmakers just completed an interview with Christopher Hitchens and will include it in the final cut. I believe other changes may be made which could address some of the criticisms I’ve written here.
Overall, though, the film presents a powerful argument not for intelligent design as much as for the freedom of scientific inquiry. If scientists get punished for challenging orthodoxy, we will not expand our learning but ossify it in concrete. Expelled: The Movie is entertaining, maddening, funny, and provocative. Keep an eye out for it in theaters in two months.

Gunny Scarlett

In the credit-where-credit’s-due department, give a cheer for Scarlett Johansson, the Hollywood film actress and Bush-administration critic. She shelved her political positions in order to brighten the day for a lucky group of Marines, and got a set of stripes for her visit:

If anyone has wondered what can make a battle hardened Marine act like a love-struck high-schooler, the answer is simple—a meet and greet with Scarlett Johansson.
The 23-year-old bombshell met with nearly 600 service members at Camp Buehring, Kuwait Jan. 20 during her five-day United Service Organizations (USO) tour to the Gulf region.
Hundreds of Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit put on their best smiles as they waited anxiously to get a glimpse of the Hollywood actress.
“I’m a huge Scarlett fan,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan Long, a calibration technician with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (REIN), 11th MEU. “When I found out she was coming, I couldn’t believe it. All I thought about was that I needed to meet her.”

Plenty of celebrities put aside partisan politics to support the troops through the USO. It’s good to see Johansson join in keeping morale high among our volunteers. Some of the others may not generate the same kind of morale boost but should also be noted:

Recent USO tours have featured Robin Williams, Drew Carey, Toby Keith, David Letterman, Charles Barkley, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson, Leeann Tweeden, John Elway, Rascal Flatts, Gary Sinise, Ludacris, James Avery, Tito Puente Jr., Wayne Newton, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, James Gandolfini and Morgan Freeman.

Thanks to all of them. And the Marine with a lipstick imprint on his cheek in the Corps’ picture gallery may have some explaining to do when he rotates homeward …. (via Michelle Malkin)


Tired of the political season already? Need a break from the seriousness and the foolishness? If you’re looking for a few laughs and you don’t care whether they’re lowbrow, try renting Idiocracy or catching it on cable. From the creator of “Beavis & Butthead” and “King of the Hill”, Idiocracy tells the story about a very average man who gets inadvertently thrust forward five hundred years, when the entire planet has become … well, pretty damned stupid.
How did that happen? Here’s the beginning of the film, which explains it:

This is no Citizen Kane or even There’s Something About Mary, but its depiction of politics in 2505 will leave you in tears from laughter, and perhaps with some sense of familiarity. It may not take 500 years for that particular part of the dystopian view to become reality.

Maybe It Would Just Last An Hour

The writers’ strike grinds on in Hollywood, with no end in sight for the work stoppage in the entertainment industry. As the days pass, some wonder whether the strike will affect the Oscars — and if so, what the effect will be. What would an Academy Awards show do without writers?

No official cancellation announcements have been made, but with three prominent award shows just around the corner — the Golden Globes airs in January, the Grammy’s in early February and the Academy Awards just a few weeks later — industry insiders have been speculating about how the shows will air without a team of writers in place to craft the monologues and introductions.
Former head writer for the Oscars Bruce Vilanch told Variety that an Academy Awards ceremony sans writers would certainly make for interesting — if not dull — television.
“There might be an Oscar show, but I fear that it will look more like your high school graduation than it ever has before,” Vilanch told the trade publication.
But those close to the awards are carrying on business as usual, despite the dark cloud that continues to linger over Los Angeles.

Emily Friedman must have just moved to LA to have written that last statement. Emily, kid, that dark cloud doesn’t come from the writer’s strike. It’s called smog, and it’s been lingering for decades. You’ll be fine as long as you don’t breathe.
As for Vilanch, he obviously hasn’t watched the Oscars since Johnny Carson stopped hosting them. Although I have watched the Oscars since I was a youngster, no one really thinks that the show is anything but dull television. From the sappy and predictable introductions to the unfunny “ad libs” of the sacrificial lamb, er, host,the Academy Awards honors its notables with a show that looks and sounds like a middle-school graduation. Vilanch’s analysis promises an upgrade.
And maybe without all of the self-congratulatory speeches and introductions provided by the writers in this case, the show might take less time than a Super Bowl for the first time in long memory. It certainly is worth a try. Hopefully the writers and the studios can reach an accommodation on the issues, for which the writers have a good case. If they’re expecting us to believe that their absence could make the Oscars worse, though, they’re not going to find much sympathy there.

Hollywood’s Messaging Meltdown

Hollywood studios have offered Americans a steady diet of antiwar messaging, but Americans aren’t biting. Major releases have tallied less than independent documentaries in US theaters, while family fare and more mainstream films profit from their collapse. Investors Business Daily wonders whether Hollywood has gotten the message on messaging:

Why doesn’t Hollywood cut to the chase the next time it wants to insult the public with a new war-on-terror film and just call it “Bombs Away”? As movies depicting U.S. troops as bad guys and terrorists as sensitive, misunderstood souls continue to crank out, the industry needs to take its puny box office returns as a wake-up call from the public.
Despite top star billings, big-foot directors, the best publicity money can buy and critical acclaim, the public just isn’t biting. The problem is the content.
“Redacted,” gave us the Christmasy theme of Iraqi rape starring U.S. troops as rapists. It drew just $10,039 over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo, and $34,000 at its open.
Meanwhile “Rendition,” which showed terrorists as pensive souls, bombed too. “A Mighty Heart,” depicting terrorists’ war on the West as “understandable,” was a dud. “Syriana,” portraying U.S. intelligence officers as crooks in bed with Big Oil, also fared poorly. “Lions For Lambs,” a long anti-war monologue, bored people out of the Cineplex.
Critics say the lousy returns show the public is fatigued with the war. But name one film supportive of the U.S. war in Iraq, making heroes of the war’s real heroes, such as our troops or even Iraq’s democrats. Name one that portrays al-Qaida terrorists as the cold-blooded Islamofascist killers they really are.
The public isn’t sated on good Iraq films; in reality, it’s famished.

Part of the problem lies with quality as well as the messaging. Brian DePalma made Redacted, and DePalma is one of the most overrated, self-conscious directors in Hollywood. Almost everything he makes sits on the sharp edge of camp, and his latest effort apparently goes way over the edge. Lions for Lambs got panned more for its droning dialogue and dreary pace. A Mighty Heart should have gripped audiences, but the movie drifted away from its central purpose — recounting the bravery of Daniel Pearl and the death he suffered because of it — to musing on the moral relativism Hollywood sees in terrorism, a theme explicitly covered in last year’s Munich.
IBD says that the success of films like Enchanted shows the market supports films without an anti-US note in it. I’d argue that IBD compares apples and oranges. The film market is broad enough to support a wide range of themes, as long as the filmmakers produce well-made movies in those themes. Enchanted has its messages, too; it pushes back against the hip, cynical attitude of Americans in a more subversive way than some might think. American Gangster explores the underside of American society, and it has proven very popular with filmgoers.
What people find objectionable is the obvious effort put into political messaging this year by Hollywood. It’s not that they don’t recognize an audience exists for stories about heroes like Paul Smith and Michael Murphy; it’s that they appear so contemptuous of that audience. Instead of producing films that address those parts of the War on Terror, they pander to the antiwar political factions — and as happens with most pandering art, produce mediocrities or worse.

Movie Review: Enchanted

What would happen if a Disney princess got unceremoniously dropped into real life? As the grandfather of a five-year-old girl who practically lives in Disney Princess motif, I have to admit the thought crossed my mind more than once. It also crossed minds at Disney, and the new film Enchanted and its cast fulfills most of the promise of the premise.
*** A few mild spoilers exist in this review. ***
Minnesota-based Amy Adams plays Giselle, a very limited young lady from an enchanted-forest cottage who only dreams of True Love’s Kiss. James Marsden plays her equally benighted young prince, Prince Edward. When Edward’s wicked stepmother Narissa (voiced and played deliciously by Susan Sarandon) reckons that the marriage of the two will strip her of her crown, she pushes Giselle down a wishing well that sends her out of a New York City manhole — and into the path of Robert and his young daughter Morgan. As Edward, his footman (and Narissa’s secret henchman) Nathaniel, and talking chipmunk Pip attempt to find Giselle, all Andalasia breaks loose in the Big Apple.
The movie moves in predictable but entertaining directions. Giselle transforms the people around her, rescuing people from their cynicism with her fetching naivete and earnestness, especially single father Robert, played by Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey rarely finds himself in Prince Charming roles, and even here he fights against it for most of the movie until forced into the position. Everyone will know that a Happily Ever After lies at the end of this movie — and maybe more than just one — but the journey is, well, rather enchanting.
The excellent cast keeps the film from drowning in its conflict between treating fairy-tale conventions as both ironic and as straightforward plot points. The audience might miss the symbolism of Giselle biting into a Big (Poisoned) Apple, but it’s there. Giselle can charm New Yorkers into a show stopper of a song-and-dance number, while Edward seems less adept at figuring out New York City and its denizens — attempting to liberate dozens of people from a metal “beast”, and getting stampeded when he attempts his own musical number. Giselle and Edward remain true to themselves as characters, but find some wisdom and love in unexpected places, and Adams and Marsden make it feel honest, especially the underappreciated Adams (Junebug, Catch Me If You Can, Psycho Beach Party).
The climax may be a little too intense for young viewers; Sarandon’s transformation would have had the Little Admiral hiding behind a chair if she had been there last night. Otherwise, the film has plenty of enchantment for viewers of all ages. If you’re looking for a family film with a little bit of magic and a good deal of heart, Enchanted would make an excellent choice.

Writers Guild Strike: Another Perspective

Shawna Benson wrote a lengthy comment on my previous post — and in many ways a better argument than Douglas McGrath made in Newsweek or Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post. I’m going to highlight it as its own post.
I’m dismayed that so many people lack understanding of the issues involved. I am a conservative living in Hollywood, an aspiring TV writer, and believe me, I’m no union lover. But, consider the following:
* Not every writer sells work every year. Yes, there is the MBA (Minimum Basic Agreement) for works sold to studios, and many writers make more than the MBA on a screenplay sale, but often that screenplay is the result of a year or more in writing. The contracted minimum for a screenplay today is between $53,000 and $99,000. TV writers, who often only write one or two scripts in a season, can make up to $30,000 for an hour long episode (story and teleplay). Because staff writers are on salary, this is often counted against their salary. Meaning, that in order to make more than $50,000 a year, you’d have to write at least 2 TV scripts in full. Usually the only people making more than the minimums are the head writer (showrunner) who is also a producer and a handful of the exec-producer or co-producers.
* If a songwriter sells a song or a novelist publishes a book, should they not be compensated based on the sales of those works? TV and Film residuals are no different than the royalties other writers receive for their published works.
* Many TV shows today do not get re-run. ‘LOST’ episodes don’t re-run well, and so the network has decided to run the episodes consecutively with no repeats. Without a repeated episode TV writers are not compensated as they used to be.
* Recording a program on a VCR is NOT like downloading or streaming on the internet. The networks sell the broadcast programs for advertising. Those advertising dollars are then used to pay the writers, actors, directors. The studios are selling advertising on streaming video and are selling shows directly to consumers on platforms such as iTunes. The writers receive NO COMPENSATION from these methods of sale. In short, the studios are keeping all of the profits from these distribution methods and are not paying writers at all. Nick Counter, the lead negotiator for the studios stated at the end of the contract talks that shows streamed online or available through paid download services were considered “promotional” and therefore not subject to the residual formulas for DVD, and they do not know how profitable the internet will be for them. By the studios own talking points to their shareholders, however, they sing a different tune.
* The $200,000 average is a misleading indicator of most writers. There are 12,000 Writers Guild members (and I’m not one of them), The MEAN income of a guild member is $4,000 a year. Yes, that means there is a very large distribution. There are the A-list writers who make a lot of money, there are writers making the minimum, and there are writers who aren’t getting paid at all because they sold nothing in that calendar year.
* You may not watch a lot of scripted television today, but consider that the DVD formula applies to older shows you may watch and enjoy. 4 cents for every DVD sold. And that’s for films. TV is an even more convoluted formula. Ken Levine, a writer on MASH and other shows, stated the following on his blog: “The producers say we already receive royalties from DVD sales. There are no less than fifteen box sets of TV series with my scripts in them. I haven’t received a dime. I have gotten $0.19 from American Airlines for showing eight of my episodes on maybe 10,000 flights.”
Sorry for the long post, but this isn’t a Dem vs. Republican issue. And it isn’t a ‘big evil corporations’ issue, as some would frame it. The business model is changing, and what you are seeing is an industry that is grasping desperately at the remains of the old way of business. As far as the new way go, they fear making a deal with talent to share the wealth, because of uncertainty as to how much wealth they will have. The writers are looking at this form a standpoint of “Won’t Be Fooled Again.” In 1985 the studios pleaded with the unions that they didn’t know how much money was to be made from home VIDEO. They promised that if the guilds agreed to a lower residual rate on video, they would ‘make good’ on it at some point in the future. 20 years later, the writers, actors and directors are still waiting.
I have a few points to make in response. Writers earn their living in a free market, and so of course compensation will have a large distribution curve. Show me an industry where that does not apply for those who work in free-lance markets. If the compensation for the work truly does not match the labor, people wouldn’t take compensation risks to enter the market.
We still have not heard what the residual rates are for other participants, and how they relate to the writers. One commenter says that the cast gets 12 cents per unit to split among them, which makes the four cents for the writers’ split seem rather reasonable, since the performers are also selling their likenesses — and with most casts, the individuals will likely get less revenue than the individual writers on a show.
That being said, I agree that writers for TV and film should have some participation in secondary publication of their work. I also believe that they have the right to organize to secure better working conditions (including compensation), and that they have the right to strike when they feel that they need to do so. However, I’m having a great deal of trouble sympathizing with either side of this dispute, considering the volume of revenue this industry generates now and will in the future. It seems that neither side has reasonable people working on a rational method of compensation, and the strike is a failure by both sides to split an avalanche of cash.

How Many People Care About The Writers Guild Strike?

The Writers Guild went on strike earlier this month, suspending television and film production in Hollywood while they tussle with the studios over residual payments. So far, this has received significant coverage in the media, and today, Newsweek offers one writer the opportunity to explain the reason the writers walked off the job. What Douglas McGrath fails to provide is a reason to care about the issue:

When video came into being, a new accommodation was made, allowing a small residual for tapes and then DVDs. I am not being hyperbolic when I say “small.” For a DVD sold for $19.99, we are paid 4 cents. To put that in perspective, that means that to pay for one tank of gas, a writer needs to sell 1,500 DVDs. To put it another way, it’s a penny less than if we returned an empty can of Coke.
We negotiated this formula for DVDs back in 1988, and I think most members of the guild agree that in terms of desired do-overs, it ranks with President Bush’s decision to award L. Paul Bremer the Presidential Medal of Freedom. We had been asked by the studios to take a smaller share than we wanted because the video market was new and uncertain and our doing so would help grow the industry. (It sure did. That sector of the industry has boomed, helping many studios coast through bad years on the strength of their video libraries.) To redress what most writers feel was a bad deal, we have asked in this negotiation for 4 more cents per DVD—requiring only the sale of 750 DVDs to fill our gas tanks.
But there is a much bigger issue at stake, because it concerns where the future—and a good deal of the present—is: the Internet. The studios can now sell you a movie, or an episode of a TV series, or a whole series of series, right over your computer. Not only is it convenient for you, it has dramatically reduced the studios’ costs: they need not make a videotape, with its plastics and tape and spools and boxes. They need not print and package a DVD, with their team of overzealous shrink-wrappers that make your average DVD harder to get into than Princeton. They have no shipping costs, no storage costs, only the movie or TV show that already exists.
With their costs substantially reduced, this would be the right time to correct the old imbalance of the DVD rate and give writers a share more fairly in line with the level of our contribution. But the studios are not looking to find a more equitable residual rate—it seems they are hoping that the new media will allow them to do away with the idea of residuals altogether.

First, it helps to put those numbers into a little more perspective. Home video sales accounted for more than $24 billion in 2006, according to the industry trade group EMS. That works out to $960 million in residuals for the writers in that same period — a single year. That fills an awful lot of gas tanks. [See Update II below.]
McGrath also leaves out of the calculation the residual rates for the other participants in the industry. On one DVD, how much do the actors get? How much do the directors get? How far out of line is four cents per unit? Is it half of the director’s residual, or a tenth? What should the formula be? The context of the residual structure matters more than the unit fee. All we hear is that the writers want it doubled, and the only explanation forthcoming is that they want to fill their gas tanks twice as often.
That doesn’t make for a very compelling argument, unless one wants the sympathy of the oil companies. It causes one to suspect that they don’t have a very compelling argument, considering that McGrath writes for a living and he had a golden opportunity to make the case in a national news magazine. The writers may have a great case to make, but so far they haven’t made it here or anywhere else.
McGrath doesn’t give entertainment consumers much reason to care about this strike. It’s not about working conditions or the quality of the product. So far as any of us can tell, it’s a typical entertainment-industry strike, where both sides work against their own interests in failing to come to a reasonable formula to divvy up an avalanche of money. We see it in professional sports and in TV and movies, and quite frankly, we find it even more boring and formulaic than 80% of what all of them produce. Call us when everyone’s lost enough money to find their motivation to go back to work. (via Memeorandum)
UPDATE: Harold Meyerson makes a better case in the Washington Post:

The problem for the people who write the shows is that, at present, the studios aren’t bound to pay them anything for material that goes out on the Internet, and the studios are pretty much trying to keep it that way.
“Our current bargaining agreement doesn’t give us jurisdiction over content written for new media,” says Tony Segall, general counsel of the Writers Guild of America West. A side letter appended in 2001 to the guild’s contract with the studios exempted the studios from having to bargain with the union over the paychecks of writers turning out material for the Web, which the insufficiently futurist leadership of the guild (since replaced) apparently viewed as a distant prospect.
Last year, however, NBC-Universal asked the writers of “The Office” to create two-to-three-minute “webisodes” of the series for the Internet. Though the webisodes drove up the show’s ratings, the studio paid the writers nothing for their work. The writers, not surprisingly, ceased their webisode writing; the guild sought to negotiate for them with NBC-Universal and got nowhere fast; and the issue of the writers’ right to bargain collectively for Internet work became the crux of the writers’ conflict with the studios.

That is more of an issue. The Guild wants a percentage of revenue, and the producers and studios want a flat rate for Internet-distributed entertainment. If you want to access entertainment through the Internet, the dispute will have some interest.
UPDATE II: I made a pretty large error here; the writers get four cents per unit, not four cents per dollar. Given the heavy discounting on DVDs, the average price is certainly lower than $20 per unit, but even using $15 per unit, that would make the writer’s residuals in 2006 around $72 million, not $960 million. At 12,000 members, as Stephen J notes in the comments, that’s around $6,000 per year each in residuals. That’s still not insignificant, and McGrath still doesn’t explain where the writers fall in the overall residual schedule, which would give this the context it needs. It’s also important to remember that writers get their primary earnings from writing, not residuals.

In The Valley Of Ennui

Hollywood came under criticism since 9/11 for ignoring the war on terror, going out of its way to avoid making films that tell stories of American fortitude. With a few exceptions like United 93 and World Trade Center, the cinema remained devoid of any meaningful representation of the war. That changed this year, but not for the better, as Hollywood instead began churning out politically-motivated anti-war films. Given the supposed anti-war mood of the nation, it sounded like a sure bet for financial success and a critical slap at the military and Bush administration.
Fortunately, Hollywood appears to have lost its bet (via Instapundit):

It doesn’t matter how many Oscar winners are in front of or behind the camera — audiences are proving to be conscientious objectors when it comes to this fall’s surge of antiwar and anti-Bush films.
Both “In the Valley of Elah” and, more recently, “Rendition” drew minuscule crowds upon their release, which doesn’t bode well for the ongoing stream of films critical of the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s wider war on terror.
“Rendition,” which features three Oscar winners in key roles, grossed $4.1 million over the weekend in 2,250 screens for a ninth-place finish. A re-release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” beat it, and it’s 14 years old.

We’re not through the Valley of Ennui yet. For an industry that studiously avoided the war for five years, if you’ll pardon the pun, Hollywood has given us a glut in 2007. Coming up will be Lions for Lambs, a film that trailers suggest features Tom Cruise and Robert Redford making speeches at each other. Redacted comes out in December, although its Cannes screening has already created controversy over Brian DePalma’s heavy-handed treatment. John Cusack will indulge his well-known political views in Grace is Gone next month.
With all of these agenda films, one might think Hollywood could produce some balance. Why not make a movie about Sgt. Paul Smith, who gave his life for his comrades in Baghdad? A film about the heroism of Lt. Michael Murphy might make for a stirring motion picture. Americans might want to see the stories of Medal of Honor recipients. They obviously don’t have much interest in sitting through lectures by Hollywood celebrities.
Eventually, even Hollywood has to acknowledge the market forces that drive ticket sales. If moviegoers refuse to watch ham-handed political screeds, investors won’t put any more money into them. They will have to either start providing more balance to their offerings or go back to ignoring present-day reality again. I can’t wait for another movie where Tom Cruise doesn’t battle aliens.
UPDATE: Ace suggests an over-the-horizon redeployment for Hollywood. And the reference to Cruise in the last paragraph is for the movie War of the Worlds, in which we see two hours of Cruise running away from aliens while the American military fights them despite desperate odds. I’m beginning to see that as an analogy for Hollywood in general.