A Brief Assessment of the Disney Options on Netflix Instant

In a move that was hailed as a “game-changer” and a company saving grace and probably some other hyperbolic PR-type language, and much to the delight of subscribers nostalgic for a lost youth, Netflix will begin streaming Disney movies on its Instant Watch service. The bulk will be available in 2016, but a handful of titles are already available for your hung-over viewing or emergency activities if you ever find yourself in charge of a bunch of kids for a prolonged amount of time. But is it enough to get hyped about now?

At least two-thirds of the “Disney” page on Netflix Instant consists of the tween films and TV-to-feature-length adaptations that I know absolutely nothing about and therefore cannot assess, which makes sense because this decision was clearly made for Disney’s actual demographic and not young professionals in deep nostalgia K-holes. There’s also a pretty large collection of Air Bud sequels (and yet, not the original): Seventh Inning Fetch, World Pup, Air Bud Spikes Back—did you even know they made an Air Bud sequel about volleyball? Because they did. And you can watch it, and if you pitch it to the right Internet content place and make GIFs of it, they will probably pay you money to do that. Sequels make up the bulk of the collection, actually—you’ll find The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, but not The Brave Little Toaster

“But what about the films of my youth?” you ask. “What about the ones with the songs I can still recite?” The handful of Disney Vault-grade animated features mostly predate that hot streak the studio had in the early ‘90s, so you’ve got The Rescuers Down Under (but not The Rescuers), Pocahontas, The Fox and the Hound and The Great Mouse Detective, which features Vincent Price as an evil rat professor, so that’s pretty alright.

The selection of the old-school ‘classics’ is slim, with the still lovely and frightening Alice and Wonderland, The Aristocats (not to be confused with a less safe for children movie) and Dumbo, which will launch many a good, cathartic cry-fest for old time’s sake, at least among people who can watch the movie without being bothered by all the insane and now super obvious cartoon racism happening. Outside of the “traditional” Disney animated sphere, the most exciting options are The Nightmare Before Christmas (at least among your ex-Hot Topic-goth classmates), the pretty-underrated James and the Giant Peach and The Muppet Movie.

Of course, if you’re in the mood for something of more mature taste less nostalgia-happy, the Netflix Instant ‘recently added’ section includes other things worth watching that aren’t from the Walt Disney animation house. If live-action nostalgia is more of your thing, Flashdance, Half-Baked and Bad Boys II (because in this day and age, I’m not going to be totally surprised if someone is nostalgic for a movie that was released less than a decade ago), and more recent critical favorites like The King’s Speech and the underappreciated Young Adult. And O.B.A.M. Nude, which of all the bizarre presidential slam jobs that made it into actual film festivals, seems just about the most bizarre, so if you’re one of those people that searches subscription film-streaming sites for movies that destroyed political careers, here you go. 

Harvey Weinstein Is So Baller He Will Diss You With References To His Own Movies

There’s baller and then there’s baller. And you know you’re baller when you diss someone — say, Mitt Romney perhaps — with a reference to the supposed failure one of your own multi-million dollar films. This is how Harvey Weinstein rolls.

The Weinstein Co. honcho appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on Friday to discuss the fundraising gap between Romney and President Obama. The tl;dr is that rich folks are giving Romney money hand over fist, while hippies like me have to choose between buying ourselves another latte or donating that $4 to the Obama 2012 campaign. But Weinstein doesn’t give a shit about fundraising numbers. He told Maddow:

"I’ll give you an example of two movies that I distribute, I spent the exact same amount on both movies. One movie was called The King’s Speech. It grossed $140 million, won a few Oscars including best picture, and did sensational based on its budget. The other picture was called Our Idiot Brother. And we spent the same exact amount of money on it and it grossed $25 million. To me, Romney is Our Idiot Brother, and Obama is The King’s Speech. You can spend all the money in the world. If you’ve got a bad product, it doesnt matter."

Oooh. Burn! And point taken.

But you wash your mouth out with soap, Harvey Weinstein. How dare you call Our Idiot Brother "a bad product" and compare Mittens, in any way shape or form, to Paul Rudd!

Of course, Weinstein didn’t just go on Maddow to toot his own Oscar-winning horn. He also accused Republican donors of seeking a little quid pro quo — big donation now for a tax cut later —and pronounced Romney fundamentally "not capable to run the United States."

Spoken like a true Hollywood liberal elite, eh?

‘Young and Hip’ Oscars Anything But

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that last night’s Oscars were something of a disaster. Absolutely nothing unexpected happened awards-wise, with the Oscar bait-y (but great!) The King’s Speech cleaning up in most categories. James Franco and Anne Hathaway weren’t great — but they weren’t terrible! James Franco was totally stoned. At least we have that. And Gwyneth Paltrow sang/bleated, something she does a lot these days. After the jump, some quick analysis of this year’s un-young and un-hip show.

It’s not that the Oscars being stodgy and old (like, really old: Kirk Douglas presented an award and there was an extended homage to Bob Hope) is unusual or bad. It’s just that they were trying so hard to make it seem young. Just be you, Oscars. Having Anne Hathaway make multiple references to the “young and hip Oscars” doesn’t make it so.

Hosts Okay. I expected a lot more out of them, but I’m in the minority there. For some reason I thought the choice of Anne Hathaway, who is not funny, in combination with James Franco, who is unintentionally (?) funny, was so counter-intuitive that it would just magically work. Nope. Every bit they did just kind of clunked right to the floor. The opening montage of visiting all the movies worked, but that was thanks to Alec Baldwin. James Franco disappeared for what seemed like forever to take bong rips backstage, leaving us with the specter of Anne Hathaway channeling Liza Minnelli. Then he came back in drag. It was a mess.

Presenters The highlight (or the lowlight — I’m going with the lowlight) was Kirk Douglas/Father Time, who presented Best Supporting Actress. It seemed kind of gratuitous, like, “Look what a big show we’re all putting on about respecting our Hollywood elders!” Then Melissa Leo came onstage, said a swear, and tried to take Douglas’s cane. Most interesting five minutes of the show. Also notable: Sandra Bullock addressing Jeff Bridges as “Dude,” as if it’s an original thing she came up with.

Awards The King’s Speech won the night. Totally expected but not undeserved. Black Swan was robbed, but I’ve been saying that since the Golden Globes. I’m just relieved that The Social Network didn’t win Best Picture. That movie was simply The West Wing blown up to movie size and cast with computer nerds instead of politics nerds. Natalie Portman nabbed Best Actress, Colin Firth a well-deserved Best Actor, and Melissa Leo and Christian Bale’s beard swept the Supportings. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails won Best Original Score for The Social Network, causing everyone on Twitter to make an “I want to thank the Academy like an animal” joke.

Creepy Montages The dead people montage this year was particularly hard to bear, as it was accompanied by Celine Dion singing a song that seemed to have but one word: “Smile.” Appropriate.

Performances Best: Randy Newman, but what else is new? Worst (but also kind of best): Gwynnie. She changed into a Dancing With the Stars outfit just for the occasion. (I’m not a fashion critic, but what is up with the preponderance of blush/nude sparkly gowns? Halle Berry has worn one every year since I can remember.)

Grand Finale A troop of Staten Island fifth-graders stormed the stage to perform “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” All of the Oscar winners marched forward from the back of the stage in unison, brandishing their statuettes. Everyone kept a straight face.

Anyway, it’s over for another year. Wasn’t half as entertaining as the Grammys, or the Golden Globes obviously, but the Oscars never really are. Could have used a lot more Ricky Gervais.

Oscar-Nominated Writer David Seidler Discusses the Story Behind ‘The King’s Speech’

“If you get reincarnated, don’t volunteer to be the kid who stutters,” says David Seidler, who, this Sunday, will discover whether he’s the next writer to win an Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. Seidler wrote The King’s Speech, a film about King George VI (Colin Firth) and his fraught journey to the top of the British monarchy after his brother, King Edward, abdicated the crown. Clearly, Seidler followed the old dictum and wrote what he knew: Like George, Seidler suffered from a terrible speech impediment. “I stuttered from age three basically to sixteen,” he says. “it’s not a lot of fun.”

Seidler crafted a beautiful screenplay about tackling your own fears head on; putting your faith in another person when you have lost faith yourself. His work paid off: The film is up for a whopping twelve Academy Award nominations. Here’s Seidler on Colin Firth, Lionel Logue’s letters to the King, and his own correspondence with the Queen of England.

Was your own battle with stuttering the driving force behind writing The King’s Speech? Absolutely. I was basically writing my story. I don’t like to write directly about myself because I can’t conceive why anyone would be interested in me. However, I was able to write my stuttering experience through a parallel story about the King of England and people do care about him. He was King at a time of war where the country needed him to speak and he couldn’t do it. The stakes get pretty high and it makes it more dramatic.

How did you conquer your own speech impediment? Did you have a speech therapist? Yes, but they were not particularly helpful. I learned some mechanical techniques, which are helpful once you have turned the corner emotionally. Most speech therapists will now agree with me on this that mechanical techniques that are taught do not control the stuttering. Once you have made a psychological turn, they become extremely helpful in giving you fluency. I still stutter, but you don’t hear it because I know all of the mechanical techniques – the slides, taking a breath, etc. I was not able to use those techniques until something internal had changed. I reached sixteen years old and the hormones were raging, but I didn’t ask girls out on dates because what was the point? We couldn’t talk! I got a little depressed and then I got angry. I made the psychological turn that I was going to speak even if I stuttered. After making that turn, the stutter melted away in a couple of weeks and I auditioned for the school play and got a small role. I had my stutter under control. In the movie, Bertie [King George VI] is so brave because he is doing this as an adult.

In the 1970s, the King’s widow, Queen Elizabeth, stopped you from doing this project. Tell me about that. I started reading heavily about King George VI. I continually came across these little blips on the radar screen about Lionel Logue [played by Geoffrey Rush], but not much was written about him. Probably because the royal stutter was a source of embarrassment and a sign of weakness. In those days, stuttering was called a “speech defect.” If you had a speech defect you were by definition a defective person.You couldn’t have the King of England be a defective person, so it was ignored and swept under the royal carpet, as it were. I knew about Logue and kept seeing brief references to him – that he wasn’t really a doctor and didn’t have training or credentials. I thought that was the story!

I had a friend in London who I asked to do some detective work and that person came up with the name of a surviving child of Logue’s. I wrote to him and he replied. He told me that if I came to London, I could talk to him and he’d show me the notebooks his father kept while treating the King. Wow, I thought, I hit the mother load! Then, he told me that he would only do that if I got written permission from the Queen Mother. I wrote to her and got back an answer in lovely cream-colored stationary, basically saying please Mr. Seidler, not during my lifetime, the memory of these events are still too painful. I understood what she meant. The Queen was still very grief-stricken and angry at the premature death of her husband. She blamed this on the fact that he had been forced to become a reluctant King. He wasn’t trained for it, suited for it, and had a speech impediment. He was fragile and she felt it had killed him at a very early age and didn’t want to be reminded of it. I felt that I had to honor that request and, besides, I didn’t think I had to wait too long because she was a very elderly lady. Well, twenty-five years later just shy of 102 she left this mortal realm, so I did have a long wait. image

You painted a portrait of a beautiful friendship between Bertie and Logue. What did you draw upon? The bedrock of Logue’s technique was his absolute insistence on informality and equality in the consultation room during the sessions, which clearly points to what he was doing with this man. Logue was trying to break down all of the reserves and pretense and relate to him on a friendly, confident basis. Friendship was one of the main ingredients of the fix.

What was the most difficult part of writing the script? Probably getting it down to the right length. I have a tendency to overwrite at first. I think in its final form it was 92 pages long, but it didn’t start out that way.

Besides the cursing (used only to help Bertie’s stutter of course), there’s no sex, violence, or nudity in your film – certainly not the norm for movies in 2011. Are you surprised at how well this film has done at the box office? Yes and no. I am certainly surprised at the huge numbers. This past weekend we passed $100 million dollars in the US and we are already over $200 million worldwide. It’ll end up at least $300 million plus. These are huge numbers and that’s nothing I had anticipated. But the fact that it did well was not a total surprise. Sure, I was nervous that maybe it would flop, nobody would go and see it and it would be a complete dud. But most of me was saying I think this is going to work. What I am very moved by is that not only is it doing extremely well in the big cities where you would imagine it would do well, but I read on the Internet that it’s doing astonishingly well in small American Midwestern cities. These are places where people not only don’t go and see art films, but they don’t have theaters that even play them. They don’t go to see British movies and yet they are flocking to see this film and it’s very gratifying. The other thing I really love is that the same thing is happening in certain cities and districts that have a very heavy black population. It’s doing very well there. I find that wonderful and I am so pleased.

When you were writing the script, at any point did you have Colin Firth and/or Geoffrey Rush in mind for the roles? Geoffrey Rush was always in my mind from the very first word. I always saw Geoffrey as Lionel Logue. As for Bertie, there were many more possibilities floating around in my head and Colin was one of them. I have to admit that he was not one of the foremost choices, mainly because he didn’t look like Bertie. Later on, I realized who cares, because nobody under sixty knows what Bertie looked like except a couple of stamp collectors. I was lucky to get Firth. He’s magnificent and nailed it. I hope he gets the Oscar that he richly deserves.

You chose a very interesting time period to cover. Are you a history buff? I enjoy history a great deal. Remember, if you don’t study history you’re doomed to repeat it.

Tell me about your writing process. The longest and hardest part is the early stages – the research, organizing the 3×5 cards into a structure, etc. I always write a treatment, so I know where I am going and what I am doing. Then, I write the script, of course.

Do you put some of yourself in the characters you create in your films? Well, if not myself at least something I have experienced or known. Or, people I have known who resonate through that character.

The King’s Speech has received countless stellar reviews, but how did it feel to get the thumbs up from Queen Elizabeth II? It was a huge relief. I expected to be dragged off to the Tower of London. It was very nice that she was moved, and I was moved that she was moved. I assume HM clearly understood that this script was written with a great deal of love, reverence, and admiration for her father.

At this point in your career, what does it mean to be finally Oscar-nominated? It’s wonderful and it certainly has changed things. It’s a terrific victory lap. I’m still the same jerk I was a couple of months ago, but everyone takes me a great deal more seriously now. I supposed the key is not to take myself so seriously.

Afternoon Links: Kiefer Sutherland Returns to TV, Derek Jeter Builds a Palace

● Kiefer Sutherland is officially returning to TV with the Fox pilot Touch. It’s about a man whose son can see into the future, and to honor the occasion, here’s Sutherland diving into a Christmas tree, because it never gets old. [Deadline] ● Rolling Stone has a written preview of six tracks off the new Lady Gaga album, because this is the biggest deal since the invention of water. [Rolling Stone] ● Yikes. Melissa Leo is backtracking on those horrendous ads that might have cost her an Oscar. We haven’t seen a fiasco this ridiculous since the invention of water. [Daily Beast]

● There’s photographic evidence that The King’s Speech was partially shot on the same set as a gay porn movie, which reminds me of the time a gay porno movie was shot on the set of my bedroom. [Gawker] ● Drew Barrymore apparently has a new boyfriend, who’s being described as “a socialite type and a playboy.” So she’s dating Khloe Kardashian? [Us] ● Have a look at the $7.7 million mansion Derek Jeter built for himself in Tampa. It’s the same mansion Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner recently criticized him about, and the same mansion I hope to one day lose my virginity in. [TMZ]