If you want to see a noble effort doomed for failure, look no further than last week's announcement aimed at keeping "Chicken Little" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" out of the hands of street vendors in Kuala Lumpur.
For anti-piracy reasons, The Walt Disney Co. is mailing out encrypted DVD "screeners" of the movies it's pushing for Oscar consideration. These discs can only play on a special player developed by a Dolby Laboratories unit called Cinea.
These are the same DVD players, called the SV300, that have been gathering dust in Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members' garages since they were sent out last year in an effort that was aborted due to production delays.
The Cinea device works like a key to unlock the movie so it can be viewed, and any bootleg versions can be traced to the machine that played it. It goes beyond the watermarking method that can help track leaks via an electronic fingerprint.
All you have to do to set up the player is plug the thing in, then register it online or via phone.
That sounds easy, and it probably is. But it violates one basic entertainment industry rule: don't ask people in Hollywood to do the kinds of tasks most of us accept as routine.
In Hollywood, your stature is inversely proportionate to your everyday drudgery. Always make an assistant place every phone call. When vacationing with children, adhere to the No Nanny Left Behind rule.
To its credit, Cinea is trying to make it as easy as possible. If you are afraid of electrocuting yourself when you reach for the electrical octopus behind the TV, there are tech support people you can call. They promise they can get someone out to assist you in 24 to 48 hours, faster than any cable guy I've dealt with.
But one can envision the scenes playing out in Bel Air and the Malibu Colony, where people vote absentee so they don't have to drive to the polls like the rest of us. To register your machine, it must be readily available to you "as this is a time sensitive process," the instructions say. Uh-oh.
You need to have the remote control handy, and "if the player is not in the same room as the computer you are working at you should have a pen and paper available." And, "if the player is not in the same location as you, you will need to complete registration another time, from that location."
Let's chuck it and drive to the ArcLight.
Getting a critical mass of these folks to hook up another DVD player, let alone register it, just to watch a limited pool of screeners seems a stretch.
Factor in some laziness, technophobia, a relatively old demographic and a desire by many academy members to screen the films while in Aspen or St. Bart's on vacation, and a studio Oscar campaign turns into Dennis Kucinich trolling for votes.
So why would Disney stick its neck out? It might not be such a tough question.
Some rivals suggest the Weinstein-less company doesn't seem to have a deep well of Oscar-level films this year, which Disney denies.
But the studio has no big CGI classic from Pixar, and the Disney announcement doesn't include films from its Miramax group, which usually provides the company with most of its Oscar juice each year.
In addition, technology is now the Disney mantra under new Chief Executive Bob Iger. Disney wants to take every opportunity to show it is a tech-friendly guardian of the sacred copyright.
Cinea says other studios will join in, but my admittedly unscientific poll found little enthusiasm. Some studios quietly canvassed academy members, and concluded not enough will bother hooking the machine up.
Cinea Vice President Laurence Roth counters that registration is strong for the 12,000 players sent out, but won't give numbers. As an incentive, the academy also mailed copies of last year's Oscar-winning animated short film "Ryan" — copies that will only play on a registered Cinea machine.
Roth said he hopes more studios will join Disney by the time the Oscar season is in full swing. But with the first batch of screeners going out it already seems too late.
You won't hear studios trashing Cinea's efforts out loud because being against any effort to combat piracy in Hollywood these days is like saying people shouldn't be allowed to drive a Prius alone in the carpool lane. But some studios are quietly exploring other alternatives.
Also, there are a lot of people — directors, purists, critics and some influential academy members — who never liked the campaign-via-video trend and believe "March of the Penguins" plays better at the multiplex. In a letter to academy members last week about the Cinea system, President Sid Ganis ended with the line "P.S.: The DVDs are fine...but go to the movies, it's even better."
My guess is the bigger reason the Cinea system won't catch on is because of the role screeners play in Hollywood. Ostensibly they exist so you can more easily watch Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote" to see what the fuss is all about.
In reality, they let you build up for free a great home film library to play on your own private DVD machine. And if there's anything that's really sacred in Hollywood, it's freebies.
He won't be back: He's one of the best-known members of the Screen Actors Guild, but don't expect to see Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at SAG's annual awards ceremony in January.
According to SAG insiders, politicians such as governors don't routinely score invitations (although don't be surprised to see Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa).
Not that Schwarzenegger is popular with the labor guild these days, given his bitter fights with the state's public employee unions.
It's apropos that Oscars are gold, since winning one can make a fortune for talent or a studio. This column will look at the business of Hollywood's awards season, and what all that money being spent really buys. Send your ideas, comments, criticisms, tips and pontifications to James.Bates@latimes.com.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times