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Back to Basics!

After a long break we are back! Back to business, and back to basics! We start today with the ambition to deliver visions of the present and of the future in a clean and simple manner. We also hope to provide you with a forum for your innovative ideas and bring you to our pages through interviews, profiles, and even short documentaries. Stay tunned!

May 22, 2012 Permalink

Game of Empires – The Best TV Series of 2011

This was not an easy year for those who have not seen ’80s Italian Mafia series La Piovra. Even if we like it or not, the year’s most interesting moments in television were those related to the death of several major characters. We will not deliver you too many spoilers, but you will know what we are talking about when we tell you the name of the series: Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and least but not last Two and A Half Men, the Charlie Sheen version. Almost all the shows killed important characters in the last episode of the season. The prize for originality goes to Fringe, for a true revelation: they didn’t simply killed one of the main characters, they completely deleted him from the history! If that’s not cool, than what is?
Without many warnings about what you can see in the shows, here are the trailers and some words about the best of them.
Game of Thrones – This is the equivalent of The Lord of The Rings or Harry Potter movies for television. The most surprising aspect is that we don’t notice a big difference in production values. If that’s not enough to make you interested, let us add some other details: they kill what appeared a major character by the end of this first season, they present a lot of sex scenes with actresses like Lena Headey (known from 300 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) or Emilia Clarke, and they will have to do at least 7 season to show us the whole story from the books by George R.R. Martin, and the most impressive battles are yet to come.

Boardwalk Empire – When Martin Scorsese directs the first episode from a series created by a Sopranos alumni you know you’re in for a feast. And what a feast this is! Simply put, the best television show ever. Watching Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Mayer Lansky’s evolution is a dream come true. For all of those still fascinated with the bootleggers era, Prohibition, gambling, risky businesses, crime, mafia, and the history of immigration this is a must watch. Did I mentioned Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson? Well that’s just part of the show that’s every bit as impressive as Rome.

Breaking Bad – Considered to be the best TV show today. Well this is a position for series like Twin Peaks, The X Files, Sopranos, Lost, Prison Break. Need we say more?

Borgia – This is not the Showtime – Jeremy Irons version, but the Canal + version with unknown cast done by some of the producers of Rome. Probably the best European show of the last years. Too bad we have to watch two identical shows. It’s just the POV that is different between the two productions.

Fringe - Best season finale of the year. They simply erase a character from history.

The Big Bang Theory – Best geek comedy. This year Johnny Galecki gets the Golden Globe nomination he deserves.

Californication – Our favorite writer. We can’t write about him. You just have to watch it. Here is the trailer for the next season.

Modern Family - Ed O’Neill lives the life he just dreamed about when playing Al Bundy. Now he has the wife that’s 20 years younger and all the money he needs. Enough gags to get lots of awards.

Episodes - Matt LeBlanc’s first serious role after Joey from Friends and Joey Tribbiani. It is a short show, but one that will make you laugh a lot.

How I Met Your Mother – It’s like a soap, but addiction it’s hard to cure.

We also had to watch the last hours of some of our favorite shows, so R.I.P. Entourage.

December 18, 2011 Permalink

Comics and Spielberg [Best Movies of 2011]

This is the third article in the series about the best movies of 2011.
The time when Jack Kirby or Stan Lee were kings of the comics is gone, but their legacy will always be present on our screens. The reason is simple: as long as the studios will have the rights to their characters they will need to make movies otherwise they will loose their rights. This is why we will always have Batman or Hulk reboots.
Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby was given a new life with the help of Kenneth Branaugh, famous for the huge number of Shakespeare adaptation. The Norse god is the hero of the best comics adaptation of the year. The cast was almost perfect (Chris Hemsworth as Thors, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Natalie Portman as Thor’s love interest, and so on) and the 3D spectacular (not Hugo level, but still convincing). The 3D fights have been a delight. The only minus comes from the love story, but it’s hard to present everything in 2 hours and still be convincing. Choosing an almost unknown actor for this part was a trick that worked. We are eagerly waiting for The Avengers as Loki, Thor’s evil brother will be back on top form.

Jack Kirby’s other famous creation, Captain America shined only because of special effects and some veteran actors like Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones, while X-Men: First Class will be remembered primarily because it was one of the 4 Michael Fassbender movies that were launched this year.
The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of The Unicorn is another 3D marvel. The Herge comics adapted by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are the first serious attempt at a 3D motion-capture done by 2 great directors/producers. The next movie in the series will likely be directed by Peter Jackson. Herge himself appointed Spielberg to adapt his series after The Raiders of The Lost Ark was compared to his books. He made no mistake, but of course given the different medium, Tintin is not exactly the one from the comic books. The adaptation is not a page to page translation like the French movies that feature another similar hero: Corto Maltese (I really want to see a Corto Maltese movie done by Spielberg, but this is unlikely to happen). No spoilers here! It’s best to see it as it is! Daniel Craig steals the movie.

We can not say anything about War Hero yet, since we haven’t seen it (will be launched by Christmas), but the trailer looks great. It’s definitely one of the best movies of the year. Might even steal the cinematography prize from Hugo, even tough it’s unlikely.

Since we mentioned Spielberg you should also see another movie he produced: Super 8. Maybe J.J. Abrams ruined the ending by doing it an E.T. homage, but the movie is still easily one of the top 20 movies done this year. No spoilers on this one, as it really is best to see it when you don’t know what happens.

I know apparently you don’t see any connection between the movies that we mentioned except for the fact that some of them are based on comics, and the other ones have something to do with Spielberg, but Spielberg and comics always wanted to bring to light the best of us. And both try to speak to all audiences, from 5 to 500 years.

December 7, 2011 Permalink

We’ll Always Have Paris, City of Lights [Best Movies of 2011]

This is the second article in the series about the best movies of 2011.
We are not talking about Casablanca here, but about two special movies which definitely explain cinematographer’s fascination for the City of Lights. The quality of light was one of the reasons why Hollywood became the top spot in this industry. Anyone who read a book about the beginnings of this city knows that. It wasn’t about the gold rush, but about the quality of light. And what other city in the world could give us magnificent light at any given hour if not Paris? The fact that Woody Allen’s career was rebooted in the moment he escaped from New York (remember Match Point) is the main reason why the comedian started to travel around the globe for his next movies. Midnight in Paris is not just another Woody Allen movie set in another foreign city, but probably his best movie since Match Point, if not ever, because what he achieves here is more than a declaration of love for this city, his culture and being an expat in the ’20s in the City of Lights. It is quite possibly his best looking movie and contains what I call A Poetry of Light, the reason why movies have always been successful. Because what else are movies if not a poetry of light? Or a poetry of dark (for the horror movies or thrillers)? The dynamic shadows, the lights, the different angles from which you see the buildings, the movements, and many many other small ingredients like these that help recreate specific scenes and help you walk through that magic spaces are the ones that transform this movie into our grandmother’s cake, the best cake we ever tasted. It’s not Owen Wilson or Rachel McAdams that are worth watching in this movie, but the city itself and those shadows and lights that play over it. Midnight in Paris should at least take the prize for Cinematography if not for the Best Picture.

Now if we wouldn’t have had the other big movie set in Paris, I would have said that Midnight in Paris was the best yet, but a 3D movie coming from Scorsese can not go unnoticed. So here it is: Hugo. Like Allen, Scorsese needs no introduction. We have all seen at least The Departed and GoodFellas, if not Raging Bull or Mean Streets. When he decided to make Hugo, he didn’t do it to play with 3D, but to pay an homage to one of the first great director this art ever had (George Melies) and also because he is deeply involved in the restoration of old movies. He pushes the art further than ever before and gives us quite possibly the first 3D masterpiece. It’s bittersweet knowing that it took precisely 58 years for this to happen (believe it or not, the first 3D movie appeared in 1953!), but in the end it had to happen. If you liked movies like Harry Potter or The Bicenntenial Man, than this movie is definitely for you. Based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (yes! the nephew of that great producer), the movie tells the story of an orphan who discovers cinema and Melies automata and movies (we don’t want to spoil anything :) – this is simply a movie you have to see, if for nothing else than at least for the fact that is the first who truly succeeds into adding that third dimension to cinema). I would say Best Picture, but there are still contenders like War Horse that haven’t been launched.

While it’s not connected with Paris, The Artist is a silent movie (yes! silent movie!) done by a French director (Michel Hazanavicius) with a French star (Jean Dujardin). It’s not about Paris, but it is also about the lost art of black and white silent movie making where everything had to be transmitted through images because the titles might have been annoying. It was received very well in Cannes and it already has Oscar buzz. In fact because of this, we can almost assume this will be the year in which the Academy will offer the Best Picture Award as an homage to the grandmasters of the past.

Since the object of desire for New Yorkers seems to be Paris this year, we should mention that the best movie about New York is based on a Phillip K. Dick story and is called The Adjustment Bureau. We will not ruin you the pleasure to watch the best seduction scene of the year, and an unlikely but extremely good thriller.

So Paris is not just the City of Lights, but also the Muse for two of the most technical directors living today (I know you wouldn’t think about Allen this way, but the guy has done virtually tens of movies based on the same script – nevrotic Jew writer who lives in New York and has problems with women – until he diversified in the last ten years). Must be something with the light. It’s definitely the light. Can’t be something else. We are talking about real cinema here. And from the Lumiere brothers and Melies until today’s Allen or Scorsese, we can sincerely say that thanks to the cinema we’all always have Paris.

December 4, 2011 Permalink

Drive at the Movies [Best Movies of 2011]

This is the first in a series about the best movies of 2011.
This is not the best years at the movies, but even so it has his highlights. Obviously one of the trends worth exploring was driving. Unfortunately no 3D racing movie won our hearts and there was no Need for Speed movie yet, but that’s not a problem. The Fast and Furios franchise continues. As we remember it even delivered its best episode since the first and the first blockbuster of this summer (not that it was a great summer, but still). For a 10-year old franchise it’s quite an achievement. Many franchises die at their 2nd or 3rd trial. Not in this case. Which is nothing short of a surprise since the original was a sort of remake of the Keanu Reeves / Patrick Swayze vehicle: Point Break, by Kathryn Bigelow (the first woman to take a Best Director award). The addition of The Rock to a star crowded cast that already has Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Gal Gadot and others, transformed this into the next The Expendables (even more so if we have Michelle Rodriguez back and Jason Statham on board in the next movie), but unlike that movie it was loaded with lots of humor. It was maybe the best of the series because it moved from fast cars to heist movies, and we always adore the likes of Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job. Fast Five is definitely one of the best movies of 2011, and probably the only action movie that deserves to be on the list of the best movies.

If we included Fast Five on the list it was only for its action packed scenes. Another serious movie delivered the art. Drive, the Ryan Gosling / Carey Mulligan vehicle presented us with an almost Clint Eastwood Man with No Name character, that rarely speaks and drives like a mad man. It just happens that the look of the movie is somewhere between Stanley Kubrick and Michael Mann, which is enough to add it to this list. It reminds us of the L.A. from Collateral. The city is a silent character, just like the driver. And if we add some unfinished business with the mob and some scenes that pay an homage to the ’70s and the ’80s unfinished mafia business movies, we got ourselves with a recipe for something worth watching. You might not like it, but the visuals are between the best ones we have seen this year. We already mentioned Kubrick. That should be enough. Go see it! Gosling might get an Academy Award nomination for his part.

Cars 2 is not as funny as the first part, but it is a Pixar movie, so we will add it to this list since it is one of the best driving movies of the year. It also leads us to the next set of movies. Can you guess what they contain?

December 3, 2011 Permalink

The Issue of Intellectual Property and The Free Culture

Motto: “From the earliest days at Apple, I realized that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software, we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected, there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to disappear, creative companies will disappear or never get started. But there’s a simpler reason: It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.” (Steve Jobs, as quoted in the biography by Walter Isaacson)
We are safe to assume that Bill Gates has the same philosophy when it comes to Intellectual Property for the simple fact that he made a fortune from IP. And many other Internet or media moguls do. The issue is not however as simple as Jobs described it for the simple fact that the Internet changed all the rules of the game when it comes to IP in some spaces.

Coca-Cola - original bottle patent

Coca-Cola - original bottle patent

Culture and Entertainment. In the cultural spaces, for example, the assumption from which most people start when they consume culture today is that culture should be free. Free open-air concerts, pirate websites and free content available on the Internet have created an idea in people’s minds that anything related to culture should be free. While in theory we can agree with this, there will always be the question of who’s paying the creators? Creating quality content takes time, talent, and dedication. The authors might have spent maybe years trying to create something valuable, but they are not able to cash. The solution is never free culture. It also can not come in the form of overpayment. How many of the movies you have seen lately were worth the price of admission? Regardless of the quality most of the DVDs cost almost the same. Let’s examine the case of the movies a little bit. I’ve just checked for some prices on the street and on-line and guess what I found? The last asian gore, a classic Dolph Lundgren feature, a simple chick flick and the last Tarantino costs the same. While this might be good news for somebody collecting movies in huge quantities regardless of the genre, in general it’s just a fact that helps the piracy even more, because some of the afore-mentioned movies might be of interest for purchasing just for the fans. Renting them on or offline is the usual solution, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The solution is deceptively simple: change the pricing and purchasing options. But how? Charging for quality is subjective (you never know how much somebody would pay for a certain movie) and also against the free culture mantra by all means, even tough it’s common practice (please check the pricing for the movies that won Oscars against those who haven’t, what do you notice?). This will remain an open problem, but purchasing options are definitely changing: from iTunes to Amazon and Hulu, entertainment and culture are available through all channels. We will not dive further into the pricing problem that is faced by the entertainment industry now. We will explore it with another occasion. One thing is clear: the desire for Free Culture and the mass adoption of piracy was not the public saying that they don’t want to pay for something, but rather the public saying that they are tired to eat crappy content and to search for years for certain albums or movies for the simple fact that the entertainment giant refuses to re-edit them. In certain countries where the payment was low and there was also a cultural gap (see former communist countries, for example) piracy flourished because publishing giants were ignorant when it came to their countries.
What happens to the software industry? Be warned that industry people and common people might understand different things through free software. As defined by Richard Stallman, Free Software is open software, software that comes with the code, but not really unpaid software. If you want you can have free software for which you pay. How does this sounds? Counterintuitive for sure. Free software is also software offered for free legally, software for which you don’t pay money. And of course, while we don’t like it, illegal software is also free, but nobody responds for it. Now here lies the true value: who responds for this software? Who responds if this software ruins my computer? If nobody does it, then you shouldn’t be using it because you don’t know if it’s safe to use it.
Intellectual Property at its strongest: Patents. Well this year was all about patents. Every major company had to fight at least a dozen process against patent trolls, but also against other major companies. It seems like nobody plays fair anymore. Without patents there will be no protection for new ideas, on one side, but also no source of income for inventors. And as we noticed already, it takes time and money to do something well. Patents are the real engine of the economy. They stimulate competition. Without them we will all be a bunch of copy/pasters, reduced to what the establishment already offers us, without any real capacity to bring disruptive ideas to the market. And yet even leading companies choose to eliminate it from their practices. We should all consider a patent as a recognition of his creator, an homage, as well as a guide to the invention.
Free Culture or Fear Culture? Free Culture is a recipient for disaster in any space. Can you image tourism thriving in a world of Free Culture? Not really. There is however a thriving fear culture that prospers in the shadow of Free Culture, a Fear Culture, a culture of people that are so scared by new ideas that they prefer to steal instead of experiment.

November 3, 2011 Permalink

Net Original Video Content – More Than A Trend

For many years it was enough for cable companies to redistribute the same content as the national TV networks and the same movies. That was until a company called HBO provided something different: original programs. By doing so they created series like Tales From The Crypt, Oz, The Sopranos, Sex and The City, Rome, Entourage or Boardwalk Empire and inspired a whole industry to follow their model. Even cable networks that were specialized in movies like TNT(now producers of Dallas) or AMC(Mad Men) joined the trend.
The Internet more or less seems to follow the same trend. Of course for big retailers like Amazon producing their own content is not a necessity, but for smaller brands every bit of original content posted on the Internet can mean new fans.
Let’s examine a little bit what are the options in the space of original video content for the Internet:

  • Webcasts – online transmissions of actual live events.
  • Webisodes – short episodes (usually few minutes) connected to TV series like Stargate, Lost, etc.
  • Short video clips – you all know what YouTube offers you. Also any respected singer, band, brand offers you a collection of its best videos. It is even recommended to put full HD tunes online.
  • Videoblogs -The video alternative to blogging.
  • Series – These are not yet on par with the TV ones, but they are definitely growing.
  • Animation – Here there is a lot of space for growth. Especially since short clips are always redistributed and almost always viral.
  • We already have more content online than we have on traditional TV. The beauty of it comes from the fact that it’s available to watch at any time (except for the webcasts, of course). Since we are witnessing a shift in advertising funds towards the Internet, we should be prepared for even more original content. In the next weeks we will present you several companies that are focused around building great Original Video Content for the Internet.

    October 25, 2011 Permalink

    One More Thing… A Biography

    OK folks! That’s the last one about Jobs. We had enough in the last months and weeks. We respect him, but it’s time to move on. He would have wanted this. Otherwise he wouldn’t have given us his famous Stanford speech.
    The reason we wrote this is to announce you that today is the official launch of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. Isaacson wrote several successful biographies like those of Einstein and Franklin when he was approached by Jobs in 2004. The difference this time was that he was able to meet his subject and talk to him for many years and at least 40 times.

    October 24, 2011 Permalink

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