This Friday’s opening of George Romero’s Land of the Dead (Universal, 6.24) has stirred an observation about pedestrians in the touristy areas of Manhattan. This is nothing new, but out-of-towners always seem to walk the streets without the slightest hint of spunk or urgency in their step, like they’re making their way from the bedroom to the refrigerator at 2 ayem in their pajamas and nightgowns. And they’re always wearing those dead-to-the-world expressions. (Writer Fran Leibowitz has described the shuffling gait of tourists as the “mall meander.”) Every day I’m walking along at my usual spirited pace and these Jabbas and sea lions are always walking ahead of me in self-protecting groups or, worse, three abreast. The idea that they might be blocking people, much less defying the basic transportation law of going with the flow, doesn’t seen to occur to them. Then again, the flow in Jabba tourist areas (Times Square, Rockefeller Center) is very zombie-paced so it probably feels right from their perspective. I don’t mean to sound overly misanthropic — it’s just the Romero/zombie thing that brought this to mind.
Just so it’s understood: the zombies in George Romero’s Day of the Dead still slowly shuffle around. They do not do the zombie sprint (i.e., running toward their victims like Olympic athletes) as witnessed in 28 Days Later and the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead. Romero’s zombies are still taking their time because, according to Romero (or rather a Universal publicist who says Romero has said this), zombies are “more spooky” when they’re lumbering rather than running.
Read David Poland’s “Hot Blog” comments about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes…just read ’em…very blunt, very hard-nosed, very this-is-what-it-is…a tiny bit wimpy at the very end when he gets “moral” and says no more TomKat reporting, but don’t mind that. The only thing I choked on was his description of how publicist Cindy Guagenti’s handling of the Pitt-Jolie entanglement as “just good, solid publicity management.” Is that what they call lying through your teeth these days?
A very smart and thorough take by the Hollywood Reporter‘s Anne Thompson about the over-35 adult audience, and how they still show up for solid adult-angled movies when the calibrations are right (like they were with Lion’s Gate’s Crash). The piece also observes how the mainstream studios have failed to nurture this audience and in fact have done what they can to systematically alienate them. Good work, guys!
I love it that Lion’s Gate’s Crash, that piercing L.A. drama about racism and criss-crossing fates from director Paul Haggis, has hung in there ($44 million since it opened 5.6 on 1,500 screens) and keeps on chugging. I realize the same thing might not happen with Palm Pictures’ Cronicas (opening 7.8) and also that Sony Classics’ The Beautiful Country (also 7.8) is also facing an uphill ordeal, but I’d sure like to see them both do better than expected.
Besides being a wonderfully inventive remake of James Toback’s Fingers, meaning that it fully honors the Toback while creating its own French-ified fissures and peculiarities, Jacques Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Wellspring) has a track that plays over the closing credits that I can’t get out of my head. It’s by The Kills and is called “Monkey 23” and is off their Keep on Your Mean Side album. It’s purchasable for 10 cents at www.allofmp3.com, or you can click on this Randall Pullen link and download it.
Well, at least there’s one thing that works in Bewitched (Columbia, 6.24), and that’s Steve Carrell‘s third-act cameo as Paul Lynde’s “Uncle Arthur.” If only director-cowriter Nora Ephron had decided to weave Carrell into the film as a major character, things might have turned out differently. Lynde played the Uncle Arthur character (as a bitterly witty gay warlock, natch) on the original Bewitched series off and on from ’65 through ’71, and Carrell does Lynde quite well. Known mainly as an off-and-on Daily Show correspondent as well as one of Will Ferrell’s better friends (he previously costarred with Ferrell in Anchorman and Melinda and Melinda), Carrell has an obvious knack for playing acutely hyper alien-visitation characters. He’s the star of Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year-old Virgin (Universal, 8.19) and is currently shooting Little Miss Sunshine. Apparently those reports about him starring as Maxwell Smart in a feature version of Get Smart have some basis in fact.
Two Tom Cruise items have just broken that are going to enrage certain parties. Radar Online is reporting that Cruise made repeated calls and made certain overtures to Scarlett Johansson “weeks” before he began his relationship with Katie Holmes. (Johansson was reported by Upcoming Movies as being firm to costar with Cruise in Mission: Impossible 3 in July ’04.) The item, which quotes Johansson directly and says her publicist didn’t respond to calls or e-mails seeking confirmation, claims Johansson not only declined Cruise’s offer of a Scientology-fortified relationship, but that Cruise then made similar relationship pitches to Kate Bosworth (22) and Lindsay Lohan (18) “before settling on the 26-year-old Holmes.” The other item is from N.Y. Daily News gossip columnist Ben Widdicombe(i.e., “Gatecrasher”), and it says the following: “So here’s what I’m hearing about that relationship. A source VERY close to the deal is saying there’s a contract. It’s worth $5 million. It’s for five years. There will be no sex. The deal was sealed June 7. That’s what I’m hearing.” Hold on…only $5 million for five years? If I were repping Katie I would insist on at least $2.5 million per year (more?) with all kinds of extras and stock options and you-name-it.
It’s possible that Martin Scorsese’s The Departed won’t work, but it appears as if all the elements for a genuine Scorsese comeback are in place. An urban crime movie (Marty’s home turf), a terrific cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga) and a really fine script.
This is probably Scorsese’s last chance to raise himself back up to the level of Goodfellas or better. If he screws this up he should just throw in the towel.
Slapdash pseudo poster art for The Departed that I would normally be too embarrassed to put up, but I can’t find anything else.
I’m saying this because I’ve finally read William Monahan’s script for this remake of Infernal Affairs, a 2002 Hong Kong crime flick about a pair of moles infiltrating the mob and the police department at the same time. Frankly? I saw it in Toronto and I found it too complex and hard to follow.
Monahan’s version is much more clearly plotted, not to mention tight and slangy and gritty in the good old east-coast street fashion. It’s also a well-constructed suspense piece.
The two moles, Billy and Colin, are respectively portrayed by DiCaprio and Damon. Billy is an angry undercover cop infiltrating the mob; Colin is a calm and collected mob guy serving as a police detective.
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Jack Nicholson is playing Costello, a ranking mob boss Billy is trying to take revenge upon for an old family wound, one that’s fairly close to what drove DiCaprio’s character in Gangs of New York.
Just as DiCaprio’s Amsterdam Vallon won the affection of Daniel Day Lewis’s Bill the Butcher by being extra-snarly and game for anything, Billy wins Costello’s trust by being exceptionally loyal, smart and ferocious.
Damon’s Colin works his way up the ranks of the police department and eventually lands a job as the head of Internal Affairs and is given the job of trying to find out who the mob mole is — i.e., himself.
Costello knows there’s a mole somewhere under him, and to uncover the truth he leans entirely on Colin, whom he’s known since the latter’s childhood. All kinds of stuff goes down, and yet DiCaprio and Damon never face off until the last 15 or 20 pages.
The Departed costar Vera Farmiga
The only thing vaguely dismaying is the fact that Farmiga has the lead female role, that of a therapist who’s has sessions with both Billy and Colin. Farmiga is a very good actress (last in The Manchurian Camdidate) but she does nothing for me chemically. She’s one of those obliquely attractive museum-pretty types that everyone loves except for regular guys who buy burritos at the 7-11.
A good part of the flavor of The Departed, apart from the bounty of Monahan’s rich and robust dialogue, will, I presume, come from the performances of supporting actors Peter Mullan, Anthony Anderson, Winstone and Baldwin. These guys are aces every time out so…
Warner Bros. will release The Departed sometime in ’06. It reads like a fall movie, but it’ll probably be finished in editing by mid-fall ’05 so maybe it’ll come out sooner.
I’ve got three other scripts I’m going to try to read this weekend:
* Russell Gewirtz’s Inside Man, a bank robbery-hostage drama that Spike Lee will be shooting in Brooklyn this summer, with Denzel Washington, Jodi Foster and Clive Owen in the lead roles. Universal will release it in ’06.
* Terence Winter’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the drama based on 50 Cent’s struggle to leave behind a drug-dealing life and become a successful rapper. The great Jim Sheridan (In America) is directing. 50 Cent is playing himself, and the costars include Viola Davis, Bill Duke and Terrence Howard (who stars in his own film about an underworld type trying to become a musician, Hustle and Flow, this summer).
* Terrence Malick’s The New World, about explorer John Smith (Colin Ferrell) and the clash between Native Americans and the British in 17th century Virginia. The subtitle is “Story of the Indies.” New Line is releasing on 11.9.
Rock My Wordsoul
Every time I get on the subway I get out my new copy of “The Rock Snob’s Dictionary” (Broadway Books), a very snide and tidy little sum-up guide about the who, what, when and why of rock-music elitism.
Last night I pulled it out on the R train going downtown from 42nd Street and when I looked up we were pulling into Cortland Street, about five or six stops farther than I wanted to go. I wasn’t very happy about that, but at least this tells you how much fun this thing is to flip through.
I read this 148-page paperback whenever I can because it’s so exquisitely written. Every sentence is a Hope diamond, chiseled and honed and phrased to perfection with just the right seasoning of know-it-all attitude…aimed, naturally, at the snobs who initially created it.
I don’t get rock music as fully as I do movies, but I understand it well enough to recognize that the authors, David Kamp and Steven Daly, who both write for Vanity Fair, know it over under sideways down.
Their definition of a rock snob, found on the book’s front cover, is “the sort of pop connoisseur for whom the actual enjoyment of music is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge about it.”
Just go to the site and read their writing samples (which Kamp is a bit more responsible for than Daly, being the editor between them) and you’ll see what I mean.
If you care about rock music at all, you have to get this thing. I’m serious. It’s so sublime I’ve read it through twice. And there’s a nifty English school-book quality to the hand-drawn illustrations by Ross McDonald.
Why am I writing about this, apart from the fact that it was a much-appreciated gift from departing Doubleday/Random House publicist Marc Winter, who’s moving into film producing? Because Kamp and Lawrence Levi have written The Film Snob’s Dictionary, which will come out in February ’06, and this is something I imagine readers of this column will want to have.
The preview page for this book on the Random House website describes it thusly: “By helping to close the knowledge gap between average moviegoers and incorrigible Snobs, the Film Snob Dictionary lets you in on hidden gems that film geeks have been hoarding (such as Douglas Sirk and Guy Maddin movies) while exposing the trash that Snobs inexplicably laud (e.g., most chop-socky films and Mexican wrestling pictures).”
Mexican wrestling pictures? Somebody help me out here.
I called Kamp yesterday morning to talk about the currently available Rock Snob’s Dictonary ($12.95). I tried to reach him through normal channels but it was taking too long so I just found his number and called and he picked right up.
“Whenever you talk to rock people or when you read the rock press, there’s this curve that pretty much goes unexplained,” Kamp said. “People refer to Brian Eno or Televison without any acknowledgement of what these terms mean.”
Their book, obviously, intends to close the gap between snobs and Average Joe’s.
“It’s a very simple idea,” he told another interviewer who was better at asking the right questions. “Just put some things in boldface and define them: these terms that make up this code you can’t quite crack when you’re reading rock magazines or discussing music with people in your dormitory.”
Kamp and I had a nice conversation but it was kind of boilerplate (my fault) without any really great quotes coming forth.
He did tell me, however, that other Random House snob books are being worked on. He’s preparing a wine snob book now with a guy named David Lynch, who works as the wine director at Babbo, the Italian restaurant on Waverly Place. There’s also a food snob and a football snob book coming up.
The Rock Snob’s Dictionary originated as a feature in Vanity Fair, as did some of the Film Snob material.
“I would say that [this] particular condition of rock snobbery is probably a lack of sexual intercourse,” Daly told an interviewer last month.
“Think of when a person becomes interested in rock music: the teen-into-college years,” Kamp has explained. “Politically, that’s when you’re going to change the world. It’s also when you have your most strongly held taste convictions. So you take everything very seriously, you’re very territorial. You really think these bands are the most important bands.
“At the same time, you don’t want them to be too well known, because then they wouldn’t be yours anymore — they’d be sellouts. So there’s this whole proprietary quality to rock snobbery that isn’t there even with film snobbery.
“To me, actually, film snobs are more insufferable. But rock snobs are the most, ‘this is my turf, keep off!'”
Lexington and 61st, during Thursday’s (6.16) rainstorm around 3:30 pm.
Last Days star Michael Pitt following round-table journalist chit-chat — 6.16, Regency Hotel, Park and 61st, 5:25 pm.
Marquee of Bernard B. Jacobs theatre, 242 W. 45th Street — 5.15, 10:25 pm.
L train heading east to Williamsburg, Brooklyn — Thursday,6.17, 11:15 pm.
Rainwater and plastic detritus flowing into drain at corner of 2nd Ave. and 62nd Street — Thursday, 6.16, 6:10 pm…during Thursday afternoon’s rainstorm.
Exterior of Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th Street — Wednesday, 6.15, 10:12 pm.
Tom and Katie
“Isn’t this whole Tom/Katie thing just totally creepy? I don’t fault her – she’s been swept up into his celebrity and personality, although you’d think a woman of 26 would be a bit more cautious. But Tom’s creep-out factor is through the roof!
“I’m not a fan of his as an actor but he certainly has his niche in the movie world. Still, why suddenly all of these public declarations and displays of love from this man who sues anyone who dares to encroach on his privacy in even the smallest way? And the Scientology thing just makes it all more discomfiting.
“I believe that every move Tom Cruise makes, every minute of every day, is calculated and planned. The man does not have a spontaneous bone in his body, so all of the leaping and shouting and kissing is just…icky because it seems so orchestrated.
“I usually find these high profile celebrity relationships nothing more than light entertainment, because they normally play out in a predictable and harmless way. This one is just plain disturbing because Tom Cruise is so weird and Katie seemed so normal …until recently. Let’s hope the frog realizes the water is close to boiling and hops out before it’s too late!” — Lisa in Denver
“I like Tom Cruise. He’s made some good films and I applaud him for some of the roles he’s taken on. I have to confess I don’t know much about Katie Holmes, but she seems like a nice young lady. I wish them both all the best. But when you add the Scientology aspect to the mix, things start to get very strange.
“I’m all for religious freedom and tolerance, but this so-called religion strikes me as more than a little weird. My skepticism automatically kicks in because the founder of Scientology was an author of science fiction. Scientology may actually help some people handle this crazy life, but any religion that requires you to pay for the various states of enlightenment increases my skepticism.
“And then to add a Scientologist shadow (i.e., Jessica Rodriguez) to follow Ms. Holmes around, and things are certainly getting curiouser and curiouser.” — Edward Klein.
“As a pretty unapologetic Scientology basher, I can’t help but wonder how the 26 year old Jessica Rodriguez is OT-IV. Have you any idea how much money that takes? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of anyone getting past OT III before their 30th birthday, and it takes several $100K more, plus time, to get to OT IV. Not that it really matters, but it doesn’t really jibe.
“Why, in any event, is the ‘serious’ entertainment press afraid to touch this with anything resembling a magnifying glass?
“Cruise’s publicist sister is a pussy compared to Pat Kingsley. Tom Cruise is actively proselytizing for a government recognized cult! He fired Kingsley when she disagreed with his desire to speak out about $cientology, and now he’s spitting out their ridiculous lies (Carl Jung was an editor for the Nazi papers in World War II, methadone was originally called Adolophine and named after Adolf Hitler, etc.) and being quoted in bold in major wire stories.” — Joel Sadler
“Congratulations to Cruise for finally finding love…even if it is with a woman who seems less extraordinary, magnificent and especially less of a woman than Cruise has proclaimed her to be. Holmes’ way of responding to questions reminded me of a 13 year old, but the heart wants what it wants and I’m sure Holmes isn’t on the rebound at all after calling off a five-year relationship including some years of
“I’m not buying George Hickenlooper’s explanation that Holmes rejected the role of Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl because of her obligations to the promotional tour for Batman Begins. The Bat movie is an already-hyped big movie with its own in-built fan base. Holmes’ role doesn’t serve as any kind of crux in the story line, and the bottom line is her role in the movie is not big enough to require her to be a key part of the promotional tour. Choosing to make a movie like the Sedgwick project or going on a promotional tour for Batman is certainly a no-brainer.
“I wonder if Cruise was under a rock during Bennifer or if he believes that he is likable enough for people not to care too much about his very public relationship.” — Akilis.
“My gut feeling is that while Russell Crowe’s phone tag incident certainly didn’t help matters, I can’t imagine some guy in Gary, Indiana, refusing to see a movie because Crowe is a hot-head. Maybe some concerned soccer mom in Denver, perhaps, but I don’t think that would be the rule.
“If anything, Cinderella Man‘s embarrassing returns probably have something to do with the title, for one. You’ve got tough guy Russell Crowe in a boxing film and you call it Cinderella Man? Why not just call it Girly Man? I can see that guy in Gary, Indiana, saying to his buddies, `Hey, wanna go see Cinderella Man?’ and them saying back, `Cinderella what?’
“The second and biggest thing is that Cinderella Man has the unfortunate timing of following another critically acclaimed boxing movie, directed by a respected Hollywood veteran. Million Dollar Baby was a tough sell (as are most boxing films, it could be argued), but it won out commercially and critically because the quality was there.
“You and I know that a great film is a great film, no matter what the concept is, but to an average filmgoer out on a Saturday night, the quick and easy appraisal of Cinderella Man is: “Hey, didn’t we just see a boxing movie? Let’s go see Brangelina!”
“Sad, but true.” — David Scott
Wells to Scott: You’re describing or hypothesizing the behavior of a group of people committed to an instinctual, submental, “what, me read reviews?” approach to seeing movies. You’re talking about people who are flat-out refusing to use that arcane skill they were taught early in life called “reading” or deploy that trait known to many thousands of us called “curiosity” and take five minutes and go online and look into a new film.
I know…that’s out, can’t happen, forget it. But as long as it’s Gorilla Cage time out there, movies will rise or fall for gut-response reasons, and trailers and TV spots will continue to be the propelling factor in spurring people to see or not see a film, and the quality of mass-market movies will get more and more abysmal.
“I have a tough time believing that Russell Crowe’s recent headline-grabbing fracas had much at all to do with the box office slip of Cinderella Man. My guess is that those that were inclined to see it (and I’d imagine a fair share of blue hairs were in this bunch) jumped on it the first weekend, especially considering the drought of decent flicks at the local ‘plex. Nothing new here. The thing just didn’t have legs. Tweens and teens couldn’t care less, and the core audience already paid their $8.50.
“I think another big issue is the fact that the film, however well crafted, is simply predictable. We all know how it’s gonna end. It’s an age-old story we’ve all seen a hundred times. No surprises. Why bother?
“I’d venture to guess a vast majority of the paying audience doesn’t pay to see a movie for nuanced performances or beautiful picturesque cinematography or finely crafted period production design. The across-the-middle crowd just wants to be entertained and sometimes surprised. My guess is there is a huge cross section of audience that when push came to shove, wavered on seeing it because they already knew how it ends. I know I did.” — Jeffrey Wright
Wells to Wright: From my perspective, from any perspective that presumes a certain awareness on the part of the general public (which may be a mistake, I realize), there was simply no glaring negative attached to Cinderella Man other than Crowe’s phone-throwing incident. That was and remains the only downside to this film in actuality, dumb-ass presumptions and suspicions aside.
“Cinderella Man isn’t just entertaining, but quite touching. It isn’t depressing unless you’re a complete idiot. It uses a gloomy 45-minute setup as a springboard into a soulful, feel-good payoff that lasts for over an hour. It’s a somewhat predictable tale, yes, but most people over the age of twelve or thirteen realize that there are only so many stories out there and what really matters is the singer, not the song.
C’mon…to not see a movie because you know how it’s probably going to end is absurd. The percentage of movies that knock you flat with a surprise ending or twist of some kind is very small, and everyone knows that. What counts is how good the ride is along the way.
“It is not necessarily the culture of tabloid, as New York Times writer Caryn James has stated recently, that somewhat causes the movie experience to be tarnished due to the burring of the line between the art itself and the offscreen exploits of the actor playing the character.
“The actor as well as the film industry is arguably at fault for much of this. Many of them simply enjoy the attention for whatever narcissistic reasons they have. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Angelina Jolie on Actor’s Studio talking openly about things that are completely insane. It’s as if these people feed off the system.
“You even said yourself that maybe they think they can follow different rules than ourselves. Christian Slater and his late-night ass-grabbing, for one example.
“For what it’s worth, if someone self-destructs there is always another fine performer to replace the burnout. Sure, some very good films may be damaged by the offscreen antics, but other movies are always there. But in general, I’d say it really doesn’t matter that a film is damaged by such activity and causes it to be dismissed. No one has to watch a film and if they do not want to view it because of the actor’s political beliefs, their criminal record, or they don’t like people with red hair, so be it. Heck, I wouldn’t choose to view a chick flick even if it did get four stars…there really is no difference.” — Phillip C.Perron.
“I saw Cinderella Man last Friday night and it was obviously first rate, if a little schmaltzy. My father loved it in a way I’ve never seen him like a picture before. But he’s 73, not exactly anyone’s target audience.
“Anyway, I think the picture became a commercial disappointment for the following reasons:
1. Bad title. Yeah, I know that this was Braddock’s nickname, but so what? It’s obviously a turnoff for some.
2. Period Pieces are Tough Sells, and this period in particular — the Great Depression. And yes, the film is emotionally wrenching at times and some may think a bit depressing (that is, if they haven’t seen it). My sister is ill and hasn’t been to a movie in 18 months. Feeling well enough to go yesterday, she thought about CM, but thought it would be too depressing. She went to see Brad & Angie instead (and loved it, as did my other sister and her female friend).
3. Summer Release — Big Mistake. This would’ve been the perfect fall release, lining it up right timing-wise for year-end awards. Do you think it’ll get any now? Universal’s Nikki Rocco and Mark Schmuger must be reeling, not to mention Grazer and Howard.
4. Russell Crowe — This guy is a great actor, but his own worst self-destructive enemy. A colleague of mine, a first rate assistant director, did a picture with him years ago, before he was a star, and said he was a total prick. And my buddy gets along with everyone!
“Looks like a perfect storm of negativity. Too bad, because it really is a good picture. So is The Lords of Dogtown, which most thought would do some business. But it really tanked…hard. Don’t you love the movie biz?” — Dixon Steele, Hollywood, CA.
“I think they made a strategic mistake in opening it simultaneously with the first wave of big summer films. I believe you can open an essentially serious, quality-level picture in summer. But I think they missed the crucial lesson of Seabiscuit‘s success, which was that you open such a film mid-summer, after even the dimwits have begun tiring of the big-budget crap and are willing to search around for something with a slightly different flavor. I truly believe if Universal had waited a month, they’d have been in much better shape with this one.” — Todd.
“To suggest that Russell Crowe’s career is in trouble after the phone incident and the poor second-weekend box office returns of Cinderella Man is premature. Who would we replace him with, Brad Pitt?
“This is not condoning his actions in NYC, for which he has already apologized for and undoubtedly will have to suffer consequences. But in the end he will survive this and continue his unparalleled work. Universal should take the blame for releasing Cinderella Man at an inappropriate time. Why release the film here in June while releasing it in the fall in the rest of the world? Which marketing genius took the credit for that?” — Tommasina Papa-Rugino.
“I saw your column on the murphsplace site and noted the comment from one journalist about the possible loss of an Oscar nomination for Russell Crowe. As your column is widely read do you think you could do a favor for those of us who belong to the more fair-minded part of society, and remind the Academy’s members that they are…
“NOT PERMITTED to vote on moral grounds but only on the basis of what they have seen and heard in the cinema not what they read in the gossip columns or seen on the chat shows, and NOT QUALIFIED to sit in moral judgment of anyone (let he who is without sin cast the first stone, as a much better man than any of them once said.
“Whilst on this issue you might also try reminding your readers of the concept of the Presumption of Innocence, and how important that right is — particularly your fellow journalists who happily crucified Russell Crowe on the front pages of their newspapers without once bothering to ask whether or not he should even have been arrested.
“As to the arrest itself, let’s try for a few facts, just for a laugh…
“1. Russell Crowe was paying the better part of $4,000 per night for the use of a room which was supposed, among other things, to contain a working international telephone.
Soho’s Mercer Hotel on Prince Street.
“2. By the time of the disputed incident he had been staying there for a week and the telephone had not worked properly in all that time.
“3. The hotel had failed to address the problem in any way, despite by this point having taken nearly $28,000 from Russell.
“4. After finding the phone to be no use for making an international call yet again Russell tried calling down to Reception to sort out the problem for the 7th time.
“5. Apparently being unable to make himself clearly understood he disconnected the phone, which he was entitled to do as its licensed user having given valuable consideration (nearly $28,000) for the duration of his booking, and took it downstairs to prove that it was not working.
“6. The receptionist was apparently unhelpful and rude, to the point where Russell lost his temper, (what on earth did the man say to get such a reaction?!), and threw the telephone at the wall, from where it rebounded and hit the recalcitrant clerk. This DOES NOT constitute assault in the 4th or indeed any other degree as again there is no evidence of intent to cause injury – an absolute prerequisite when bringing a charge of assault. What it does constitute is disorderly conduct and possibly criminal damage.
“7. Why was the receptionist so rude to a man known to have a short fuse, and at a time of day (4.20am) which repeated academic research has shown to be the lowest point of the human psyche?
“8. What if any training policy and customer service policy does the hotel have and did the receptionist comply with them?
“9. Why did the hotel make no effort to provide a working telephone after receiving complaints every day for a week? What is the hotel’s equipment replacement policy and did the hotel’s staff comply with it? The Mercer’s contract with Russell included the use of a working telephone for which, and for other services including common courtesy from the hotel’s staff, he had paid nearly $28,000.
“10. Where has the figure of $1,000,000 in damages come from? No jury, American or otherwise, is going to award such a sum for a 1” long cut, which has caused no permanent damage of any kind and which will be invisible to the naked eye in six months’ time. If a jury did make such an award it would be struck down on appeal for being a perverse award, as the law requires.
“Moreover, Russell has an overwhelming case for a counterclaim of contributory negligence which could reduce any award by as much as 50%.” — Amelie Smith, London, England.
“Russell Crowe is the best actor alive today, and the unfortunate incident at the Mercer Hotel doesn’t change that. To be fair, why don’t you remind folks of Johnny Depp’s drug arrests before his Tim Burton movie opens this summer? Or Sean Penn’s…?
“At least Mr. Crowe was just trying to get in touch with his family, and had the character to own up to his mistake.” — L. Steinberg.
“With regard to those bad-collar shirts at Banana Republic, you need to understand that 90% of post-college, under-35 men have to wear these things because instead of getting raises and job security, most of us work for companies that would rather let you wear khakis and golf shirts to work rather than having to pay you.
“Some of them must be aimed at an urban gay group, but the rest of us are just simply left with nothing else to wear to work. Chalk it up to trying to find pants and shirts that don’t make you look like you work at radio shack. ” — Evan Boucher.
“I had no interest in seeing Mr. & Mrs. Smith when I first heard about it and would have happily passed on it except my wife wanted to see it and it was our anniversary, so I decided it wouldn’t kill me and besides, if I take her to see the films she really wants to see I can then get her to go to films I want to see — the give and take of marriage.
“While I didn’t loathe it quite so much as you did, it wasn’t a complete waste of our time and money. The stars were decent and it had moments. The first quarter of the film wasn’t bad, but it did get bad…very bad. After it was over we chatted about the pointlessness of it all and the stupidity of the gunfight in the store and why it had to be so over the top.
“There was a kernel of an idea in the film; it could have been something fun and maybe inventive. It seems that Doug Liman had no choice in making something good. He had lots of money thrown at them and the studio wanted something expensive big, loud and stupid. I have to wonder how much control a director has in today’s Hollywood. And why anyone would want to make something like Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
“Why couldn’t Liman have said he could save the studio some money and re-tool the script cutting out the crap and trying to make something reasonably clever and original? Obviously there was a fat paycheck involved, but don’t directors ever read these scripts and have some input on what the final product is? In this case the answer was a big no.” — Edward Klein
“I always enjoy your stuff, but please get a grip about Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
“I saw it last weekend largely because of the positive reviews from Kenneth Turan and Desson Thomson, two movie critics that I have tremendous respect for. I am a woman, but I do not read tabloids, so I’m not quite the demographic that you denigrate for flocking to the film this weekend. I wanted some adult summer fun that received pretty decent reviews, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith fit the bill.
“I also saw the heartwarming Mad Hot Ballroom this weekend so it’s not like I lack for taste.
“So keep up the good work with your website and chill on the Mr. & Mrs. Smith vitriol. Far worst things have happened to the movies.” — Quin.
Wells to Quin: Ahah…Freudian slip! “Far worse things” have happened to movies, eh? Then you admit Mr. and Mrs. Smith constitutes some kind of bad thing, right? That’s because you’re basically an honest woman and you know deep down, even though you “liked” watching it for the “summer fun” element, that movies of this type are not just bad but aesthetic pollutants…the spiritual movie-aura equivalents of pesticides in the water table.
I am telling you, Quin, that if there is any aesthetic justice in the after-life, Liman, Pitt, Jolie and the New Regency guys who produced this thing will eternally roast on a spit for their contributions to this film.
Last Days director-writer Gus Van Sant at start of one-on-one interview at Manhattan’s Regency Hotel — Thursday, 6.16, 4:15 pm.
Several men execute a daring hostage-taking scheme aboard a New York subway train in order to persuade the city of New York to pay them one million dollars. Wasn’t this a joke in one of the Austin Powers films?
Exterior of Barrymore Theatre, 242 W. 47th Street — Wednesday, 6.15, 10:20 pm.
Last Days guitar picks…I grabbed at least five or six.
Soon-to-be-destroyed Beekman Theatre prior to all-media screening of the not-very-good but relatively inoffensive Bewitched — Thursday, 6.16, 6:25 pm.
I read the hardbound version of Steve Martin’s original Shopgirl sometime in ’03 (I think) and found it concise and well observed and psychologically probing. The sadness of it — the bittersweet stuff — stayed with me. Martin wrote the screenplay, and if the movie (Touchstone, 10.21) is half as good it’ll be a fairly absorbing piece. What finally makes it, for me, is the casting of Jason Schwartzman (and not, thank God, Jimmy Fallon) as the younger guy who muscles in and makes a play for Claire Danes and basically ushers in an end to her relationship with Martin’s character, who is partly exploiting her youth and vulnerability but at the same time feels genuine tenderness and caring. The trailer isn’t up yet, but here’s the Touchstone site…just click through.
I’m a little slow at times and maybe that’s why I’m not quite loving this first-anywhere gallery of Elizabethtown cast photos that just appeared on the film’s official site. If Cameron Crowe’s film is anything like the script (which I’ve read), Elizabethtown (Paramount, 10.14) will be a well-honed, colorfully layered story of romantic restoration on top of a quietly penetrating family ensemble piece. The idea behind these photos — a series of portraits of the principal actors in character (Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Bruce McGill, Alec Baldwin, et. al.) — is to say, “Hi, guys…we’ve got a really nice ensemble piece here.” What I’m saying is, if you’re giving people some visual first impressions of a film, shouldn’t you be trying to convey the emotional angles, the penetrating points, the underlying mood or tone…and not just a bunch of, you know, class photos?
That allegedly first-hand description in the Star of Angelina Jolie sounding like a “wounded animal, like someone being killed” during a gymnastic whatever during their stay at the Alfajari Villas beach resort in Kenya…man, I love that, and I don’t care if I read it first on Defamer. Item says the security guys became concerned, “grabbed their weapons,” rushed to Pitt and Jolie’s suite and “hammered furiously on the door with their clubs.” The screams suddenly stopped and a guy’s voice said, “Everything is cool guys. You can leave — we’re okay.”