Hollywood Playbook: Friday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Friday's Top 5 News Items

Ralph Waite Dead at 85: One Magnificent Actor

For as long as I have been alive (and that’s a long time) Ralph Waite has enjoyed a fruitful big-and-small screen acting career. His first feature film was the 1967 masterpiece Cool Hand Luke. He was 39-years-old. Ever since, he has been a reliable, welcome, and constant presence on our television and film screens.

Waite was a character actor, best known for his role as the patriarch in nine seasons of the The Waltons. In his signature role, Waite proved that his ability to portray iconic decency was second-to-none. Just as impressive, though, was Waite’s ability to portray evil in the most frightening way: realistically.

Waite’s rapist slaver in the seminal 1977 television miniseries Roots (“Care for a belly warmer, Captain?”) would win him his first Emmy nomination. He lost to Ed Asner (the aforementioned Captain) but shouldn’t have. There is no question Asner was terrific as the conflicted Christian ship’s captain who knows this job has cost him his soul. It’s a showy role.

With almost nothing to work with, though, Waite manufactured miracles with his First Officer role. Deferential, and even charming on the surface, below ground and out of sight sat the tightly wound coils of depravity and hate that were always ready to pop. You can’t write or direct those qualities into a character. It is all in the acting.

Gary Oldman has this quality. So do Alec Baldwin and James Woods. The ability to wordlessly create a delicious tension using only your presence is a very rare and precious quality.  

In two underrated Charles Bronson 70’s classics — Chato’s Land (1972), andThe Stone Killer (1973)  — Waite again showed extraordinary range portraying memorable characters wildly different from the one that would make him a national icon just a few years later – the uncommonly decent John Walton Sr.

Waite never won an Emmy and was never even nominated for an Oscar. His mistake, I think, was making it look too easy … too natural. Too many Hollywoodists love to SEE the acting, the strings, the technique… How else to explain the increasingly awful Meryl Streep’s ongoing Academy love.

You never caught Waite acting.

Terrible loss.


Peter Bart to Studio Exec: ‘Avoid Sympathetic Characters’

In a column filled with unsolicited advice to Universal exec Donna Langley, Variety‘s Peter Bart (a former Paramount exec himself) offers this load of crap:

It seems prudent to avoid making films with sympathetic protagonists. Filmgoers have grown accustomed to the sorts of characters who populate “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “American Hustle,” possibly because they represent the 1% that everyone wants to dislike.

Say what?

Two clicks over at Box Office Mojo prove that this is the advice of an 81-year-old man working a little too hard to come off as edgy.

Sure, Hustle and Wall Street edged past the $100 million mark but… Uhm, this.


‘House of Cards’ Showrunner: Media Can Dish it Out, Can’t Take It

Beau Willimon, showrunner for Netflix’s House of Cards (season two was just released) reveals that some in media don’t care for the way his show portrays the DC media, which is personified in an unethical female reporter, Zoe Barnes, who whores herself out in ways both literal and figurative to fuel her ambitions.

After the release of the first season, there were complaints about this character in certain corners of the media.

Thin-skinned, entitled crybabies are even less attractive than Zoe Barnes.


Interesting Look at Streaming Business Plan

The Wrap kind of buries the lead in a toss-off about the number of viewers watching Amazon’s new pilots via their streaming service. The ridiculously cheap service (free with a $79 Amazon Prime subscription) not only offers all kinds of great content produced elsewhere but is diving in with an impressive slate of original content:

Amazon began streaming its latest group of prime time pilots – the ones for adults – on Feb. 6. They include three comedies and two dramas, a quintet of shows from the likes of “Six Feet Under” writer Jill Soloway, Ice Cube and “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter.

Streams of those pilots increased 100 percent over Amazon’s first batch, which included two shows Amazon picked up for full seasons – “Alpha House,” a political comedy starring John Goodman, and “Betas,” a comedy set in Silicon Valley.” Amazon’s new kids pilots fared even better, as streams of those five pilots increased 200 percent over the kid’s pilots from last year.

And here is the data Amazon uses to determine what is and is not successful:

The company selects which pilots it will pick up for series based in large part on the number of streams each show gets, and the percentage of viewers that finish the pilot. Amazon, like Netflix, has declined to release ratings because it doesn’t need to appease advertisers. Its originals are for Amazon Prime subscribers, and at this point they are more a bonus for people who want free shipping more than a reason to subscribe to Prime.

Amazon does, though, need to do a better job of getting the word out about its original series. This is the first I heard about them.

Binge-viewing. No commercials. Seven dollars a month. No need to buy a ridiculously overpriced cable package. Watch anywhere. Watch anytime. And nationwide distribution without having to build any kind of infrastructure.

I remember our first color TV. It had vacuum tubes.

It is a whole new world.


Why Hollywood Is Bigoted Against Blacks, Hispanics

A new study shows that non-whites make up 36% of the American population, but only 11% of 172 films studied featured non-white leads.

I think this has less to do with racism than it does with the American entertainment industry’s ongoing jihad against masculinity.

White male metrosexual film actors sprout like weeds in Hollywood, and Hollywood obviously loves them — which is why so many movies today are populated with man-children. But this quality is not as present in black and Hispanic actors, who come from cultures much less willing to give up their masculinity.


Quick Hits

Chris Pratt and Danny McBride In Talks for ‘Knight Rider’ Film

Glorious Restoration of Todd AO 30-Frame Oklahoma!

Oscars: 45 First-Gig Acting Nominees

‘Made In Hollywood’ Awards Struggle To Find Oscar-Nominated Movies To Honor

Olympic Viewer Ratings Down Over 2010



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Follow  John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC