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The Ankler 100 Finale: The Moments Hollywood Would Love to Forget
Bob I vs. Bob II, psychedelic company valuations, Netflix's worst slip-ups, and…the epic tantrum that took the year's top honor!
And we're back! The second part of those heartwarming moments that year-in and year-out make Hollywood the walking train wreck we all love so dearly.
In the first round, we heard about bottomless Zoom interviews, unfortunate gift boxes, and of course, wave after wave of exposé that leveled the mighty, or, were instead, shrugged aside.
What will Round 2 bring? In our final look back as 2021 sulks away, we double the number of misdeeds faster than you can say “omicron-at-a-New Year’s-Eve-gathering”, leaving a wreckage for the next year to clean up. 2022, it’s all yours. Enjoy and we’ll see you next week.
50. CBS' planned reality competition The Activist becomes the subject of social media blowback from both the left and right. The show challenged do-gooders to come up with wild ways to get attention for their causes, turning activism into a game show. After the public response, CBS announced it would retool the show as a documentary.
49. After 40 years of Hollywood looking the other way, a jaw-dropping compendium of Scott Rudin's greatest hits of bullying, cruelty and abuse (by incoming Ankler editor at large Tatiana Siegel) finally provokes a backlash.
48. Followed by about three seconds of soul searching on why abusive bullying is such a part of the Hollywood corporate way of life. And then more shrugs, what-can-you-do’s?
47. The Jeremy Strong interview backlash breaks all records for self-referential, hermetically sealed, all-media, on media kerfuffle.
46. The Ted Lasso Christmas episode becomes the cautionary tale of the streaming era – how in the rush to chase the buzz, even what's unique and interesting quickly becomes mawkish and self-satisfied.
45. In response to an employee uprising over the controversial Dave Chapelle special, Ted Sarandos retorts: "We have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm."
44. PR Hubris of the Year: Jason Kilar sits for a WSJ profile celebrating his anniversary on the job and “recipe for success” just hours before the Discovery deal was announced, in all likelihood bringing his recipe to a close.
43. Though Hollywood’s brave elite stayed silent, media's blanket coverage of Chapelleaquidick led to widespread predictions that this marked the end for Netflix, or a turning point at least.
By week's end, however, the lunchtime employee walk-out rally drew more reporters than protesting employees, no drive to cancel subscriptions had materialized and even Hannah Gadsby – the first performer to protest Netflix's handling of the incident most vehemently, had not pledged to leave Netflix. In other words, shrugs once again.
42. With whispers he will be housecleaned, Scott Stuber tells The New York Times that the streamer has a revolutionary idea: “If you have the budget to make 14 movies and you only have 11 great ones, let’s just make 11,” he said.
41. Steven Spielberg does an about-face on his Netflix jihad, announcing his company will make things for The Service. The announcement is received with great fanfare, including this headline below, even though he doesn't say he himself be making things...and the history of Amblin in TV productions is, shall we say, mixed.
40. Netflix scores a globe-realigning hit with Squid Game, surprising, it seemed, themselves as much as anyone. The problem, however, with the throw-a-million-shows against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks programming strategy, is there’s no developing all those other revenue streams that come out of filmed entertainment and help keep studios about water – merchandising, games, what have you – is its impossible to develop product lines for a million shows at once, especially when the 999,997 that don’t become hits will sit on the shelves. So The Service was forced to play catch up and rush some tracksuits to market only after learning their import had found a massive following.
39. After actress Carey Mulligan complained in an interview about an offhand comment from a Variety reviewer a year earlier, suggesting that Mulligan had been cast against type in Promising Young Woman, the trade journal responded by throwing their longtime freelance critic to the wolves – publicly apologizing for the piece and ceasing to give him new assignments.
38. Even after it turned out that producer Margot Robbie had expressed almost word for word the same sentiment in an interview.
37. Was Foundation the biggest flop in the history of recorded entertainment? Or was Jupiter's Legacy? Possibly either or both or neither! Thanks to streaming’s lack of accountability, we'll never know. No lessons learned. No one called to task. A techtopia of data concealment is here.
36. Scoop of the Year 1 :
35. Scoop of the Year 2 :
34. The Rust set shooting tragedy leads to a round of very public, ugly, finger-pointing, and no discernible changes in on-set safety practices.
33. The major theater chains use a year on ice to do...absolutely nothing to improve the theatrical experience, beyond calls for their exclusive window to be obeyed, now and forever.
32. Jason Kilar is revealed to have been paid $52 million to take the wheel at Warners – roughly double what AT&T CEO John Stankey was paid. Kilar was given that package to lure him to the job even though he had not held a management position for years prior to coming aboard, and that thousands were exited from their jobs.
30. The Sadness of the Auteurs 1: Despite the release of the Snyder Cut, Snyder fanboy nation remain irate and dissatisfied.
29. The Sadness of the Auteurs 2: Christopher Nolan, after incessantly browbeating Warners to release his film Tenet right into the initial explosion of the pandemic, thanks them for the effort by taking his next film to Uni.
28. Warner Bros’ Ray Fisher drama celebrates its third anniversary, making it Hollywood's longest-running story to never leave the headlines.
27. The revelation that certain child actors were not allowed to be alone with Joss Whedon, then one of Hollywood's most sought-after auteurs
26. Man of the People Press Clip of the Year. "Later, aboard a private jet back to New York, Zaslav and his lieutenants reclined in their seats and scoured the news coverage while an attendant poured some Chardonnay. Zaslav was still pinching himself. ‘How lucky are we that we get to do this, that this is our job?’ he said. ‘I really do believe this is going to be the best media company in the world.’ They raised their glasses and took a drink.”
25. Development Triumph of the Year:
24. In recognition of COVID, the Obamas cut the celebrity guest list at Barack's 60th bday to a mere 200, uninviting Larry David and Conan O'Brien, while extending open arms to close personal friends and American heroes of government and service Beyonce, Chrissy Teigen, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Bradley Cooper.
23. Valuation Nation I: Hello Sunshine, with a small handful of cable shows under its belt, and no library, sells for a package worth a billion, just weeks before its star owner joins her Time’s Up colleagues in a hasty silent exit (see #18).
22. Valuation Nation II: LeBron James' production company, whose IP vault, which consists of some slice of the Space Jam remake and an HBO talk show, claims a worth of $750 million.
21. Valuation Nation III: Netflix pays $686 million for the Roald Dahl catalog, a grab bag of titles which apart from the twice-filmed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, have been the source of more big screen disappointments than mega-hits. And special bonus: he was an anti-Semite.
20. Valuation Nation IV: A24 claims its catalog of indie film titles has been valued at $3 billion.
19. The counsel for Time's Up, the self-declared crusading, anti-harassment organization that turned out to have done very little of that, was revealed to have advised Andrew Cuomo on how to spin his harassment charges.
18. After that and a truckload of other dirty laundry made it into public view, Time's Up put itself on ice. The organization that began with fanfare and public hosannahs for its founders, many of whom rode a culture wave to burnish their own companies and careers (see #23), also provided cover for CAA to whitewash their complicity with Harvey Weinstein. Wallowing in ineffectiveness, self-promotion and side-deals, it imploded on a trajectory entirely predictable for so ballyhooed a Hollywood cause.
17. Flemingism of the Year Second Runner-Up (Tie): "Insiders at the agency said it was more complicated and far less sinister than that.
16. Flemingism of the Year First Runner-Up: "Robbins was the star of ‘Head of the Class’ and has always been looked at as an innovative, progressive executive and producer," on Brian Robbins ascension at Paramount.
15. Flemingism of the Year: “EXCLUSIVE: A bountiful American Film Market just got even better.”
14. 2021 will go down as the year Hollywood's subservient, desperate-to-please relationship with the leadership of the People's Republic of China, officially became something the bosses are no longer likely to brag about.
13. Disney provided the pantheon example of that relationship, removing an episode from the Simpsons Disney+ catalog in Hong Kong which made reference to the Tianamen Square massacre.
12. Despite his oft-stated desire to avoid a fraught, legacy-devouring departure a lá Eisner, Bob I's long, extended “How Can We Miss You When You Won't Go Away” endless goodbye erupted into open warfare with Bob II as allies scrambled to plant competing narratives in the press. The stories went into high gear particularly about 30 seconds after the retirement announcement of Bob I's press enforcer Zenia Mucha.
11. Bob II stumbles into the most hopeless battle in recent CEO-dom, when negotiations over Scarlett Johannsen's Black Widow back-end go public. Disney stuns the community when they publicly call the actress "callous" – incurring the wrath of He Who Must Not Be Angered Bryan Lourd and throwing a grenade into the middle of Marvel's pristine, gold-standard public record of talent relations, and allowing the press to turn an 8-figure movie star salary negation into a human rights issue.
10. However, after all the sturm and drang, the list of actors willing to take Scarlett's side against the Marvel-Disney machine consists of disgruntled former Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista, and Alec Baldwin who tweeted a lonely #TeamScarlett.
9. Prompting raised eyebrows about brand management in the Chapek era, Disney, the most #1 family brand on earth, breaks a taboo and makes a leap into gambling.
8. Abigail Disney warns the company must save itself, decrying out of control pay disparity between the momumental compensation at the top and the barely living wage of the tens of thousands of frontline workers.
7. IATSE narrowly steps back from the strike brink after a vote that approved the new contract on a technicality with very mixed-to-weak support from the various branches.
6. Apology of the Year 1: "These complaints do not reflect the reality of who I am." - Mike Richards
5. Apology of the Year 2: "Those emails lacked humanity, in which I like to and I do generally communicate with our teams." - Ted Sarandos.
4. Apology of the Year 3: “Mr. And Mrs. Obama, Please forgive me 4 being the ‘terrible guest’ at such a sacred event for your family. I was so inconsiderate, Thank you for all your love. What an example of ‘how NOT’ to be.” - Erica Badu (after posting a video from the former President's birthday celebration.
3. Still cowering before the tech giants, studio honchos spend another year ducking fights with the companies’ abetting of piracy, as illegal streaming becomes the dominant means of viewing worldwide.
2. As the world struggled and flailed with the fallout of the pandemic and fought on COVID battle lines, Hollywood, until recently the world's leading source of inspiration and uplift — USO, the 9/11 “America: A Tribute to Heroes” telecast — organized exactly nothing to contribute to this moment. Not a public information campaign on masks or vaccines (lest, perhaps, they offend some audiences), not a telethon in support of victims. Not a hashtag or lapel ribbon. Nada.
1. And now, our winner… pulling together all the great themes from year’s this list… Ari Emmanuel is ejected from a NY vegan restaurant for loudly complaining about the slowness of the $335 tasting menu.
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