N.Y. Times contributor Stephen Farber on the difficulty of getting Hollywood distributors to wake up to older moviegoers, and the resulting struggles that have occupied the makers of Boynton Beach Club Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont and Ladies in Lavender. The best quote is from Richard Zanuck, producer of the hugely suiccessful older-folks flm Driving Miss Daisy. “After the movie succeeded,”Zanuck tells Farber, “one executive told me that Driving Miss Daisy was a ‘nonrecurring phenomenon.’ Millions of people went to the theater to see it. Why is that nonrecurring?”
“In several interviews, sounding variously weary, wounded and either self-deprecating or defensive”, Oliver Stone recently told N.Y. Times reporter David Halbfinger that “his days of deliberate provocation were behind him.” As Stone simply puts it, “I stopped…I stopped.”
World Trade Center (Paramount, 8.9), which Stone has directed, is “not a political film. That’s the mantra they handed me. Why can’t I stay on message for once in a while? Why do I have to take detours all the time?” Halbfinger brings up Paul Haggis‘s adapation of Richard Clarke‘s Against All Enemies, which is mainly about the governmental myopia that led to Al Qeada operatives pulling off the 9/11 attacks — obviously the sort of film that used to be Stone’s stock-in-trade. Stone scoffs at the notion: “I couldn’t do it. I’d be burned alive.” Truly, sadly, this is one U.S Marshall who’s turned in his badge, holster and six-shooter . He’s Gary Cooper in the first few minutes of High Noon, but without Grace Kelly or a wedding ring or a ceremony. What Stone needs is for Frank Miller and his gang to come looking for him…a situation like this will get his heart pumping again.
Bilge Ebiri has read Michael Bamberger‘s “The Man Who Heard Voices”, which everyone knows as the M. Night Shyamalan book in which the famed director bashes Disney (i.e., production prexy Nina Jacobson in particular) for not loving his Lady in the Water script enough. “I don’t understand why the critical world seems so eager to pounce on a guy who’s actually taking some artistic risks at a point in his career when he could coast pretty easily,” Ebiri says. “Lady isn’t opening for three weeks, and here’s Slate ‘s Kim Masters…positively gloating that the film has bad buzz (never mind the fact that it isn’t true — ‘buzz’ is simply what the writer wants to believe). And that’s just the stuff that’s been published. You should hear my fellow critics rubbing their palms, waiting to pounce on this thing.” Bamberger’s book is the focus of much of the venom. “There’s been a lot of nonsense published that the book is Shyamalan ‘lashing out’ at Disney execs,” Ebiri notes. “First of all, anyone who publishes that tripe has not read this book….certainly not all the way. (A recent Observer article was particularly stupid, Ebiri says, since it suggested that the break-up with Disney is the book’s ‘culmination’ when it’s actually in one of the opening chapters.) I can’t say too much about the book — I read it for a review in another publication and it would be wrong of me to trump it with this post — but, despite the fact that Bamberger’s subject is an all-access portrait of M. Night at work, it’s simply false to label this some kind of tell-all revenge piece. Indeed, as he continues working on his film in the book, Shyamalan actually admits that the Disney execs were right — that the script they read did, in fact, need much more work. Which, incidentally, he gave it. And Bamberger even gets to interview Jacobson to get her side of the story.”
Has the fate of Superman Returns been decided already? Or are the judges still evaluating the boxing match of emotion and opinion that’s happening in the ring as we speak? There’s a lot of love out there, a lot of passion…but the naysayers keep nipping away. I can’t quite tell what’s happening, but it feels iffy.
A clearly eccentric middle-aged guy was in Tower Video’s Sunset Strip store yesterday ranting about what a piece of shit it was (he’d seen a Wednesday noon show) and that the ’78 Donner version was far superior. Older guys are always saying that older versions are better, so why am I even mentioning what this douchebag said? Because the guy wouldn’t shut up — he was deeply turned off. I looked out the window and thought to myself, “Superman is fighting for his life out there…right now.” A rival studio extimated that Superman Returns did $14.7 million on Wednesday, give or take. If that’s half-accurate, Thursday’s $11 million-plus earnings means a $3 million-plus dropoff. I’m still predicting $100 to $110 million by the evening of 7.4, and earnings somewhere in the mid to high 20s over the 7.7 Pirates 2 weekend, and then diminishing returns over the remainder of July. Hello, Paris, Madrid, Rome, London…Helsinki!
Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson credits Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler for helping to steer The Devil Wears Prada away from the usual-usual, away from being “over the top or silly” (as screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna puts it), away from the turf of a typical “broad romantic comedy, where the plucky young heroine not only lands the guy in the end, but gets back at her wicked, evil boss.” And amen to that. I mean, at least Prada went in a slightly more urbane and grown-up directon.
That qualifying statement I threw in with those tracking figures that ran yesterday (i.e., that they only reflect the impact of theatrical trailers, and that the numbers might uptick once TV advertising kicks in) wasn’t enough, I’m being told. One, statistical analysis has shown that people focus on super blockbusters. By extension, numbers for movies that follow are naturally suppressed so films like You, Me and Dupree or Clerks 2 or Lady in the Water aren’t going to register that heavily with here-and-now behemoths like Pirates 2 and Superman Returns hogging all the attention. (“All these numbers may look very different once Pirates has opened,” a studio insider points out. “Once they’ve seen Pirates , then what will they go see?”) Two, sometimes one needs to look more closely at quadrant and demographic strength to have any chance of gauging a movie’s likely success. For example, one quadrant — older women, say — can be cool on a film like Clerks 2 while another quadrant — younger males — can be very keen on seeing it. African-Americans or Latinos or kids may have a strong affinity for a film like Little Man that can go under-reported. These kinds of imbalances aren’t reflected in overall numbers so a distorted picture can result. Four, sometimes the tracking is just wrong, like when NRG numbers indicated Universal would take some kind of opening-weekend bath with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift when it wound up doing $23,973,840 after debuting on 6.18. And five, tracking itself is a very inconsistent science and a lot of anecdotal stuff that ought to be factored in sometimes isn’t factored in, so at the end of the day you have to stand back and take it with a grain.
In her story about a theoretical economic revival that could happen if Hollywood invests big-time in 3D features, London Times reporter Dalya Alberge writes that “the latest 3-D technology boasts an unsurpassed clarity, making audiences feel that they are in the picture.” That’s blather. 3D is more developed these days than it was in the ’50s, but I’ve never seen 3D footage that wasn’t marred by some glitch aspect…blurring around the edges, ghosting, headaches. Alberge doesn’t say what she specifically means by “latest 3-D technology” but if she’s referring to the the process of creating 3D images out of flat images (the process behind the 3D IMAX prints of Superman Returns), the images are obviously grabby but they aren’t fully “there” yet. Titanic director and 3D proponent James Cameron, who spoke to Alberge for the piece, emphasized this when he said “I’m not a big fan of the dimensionalising process. If you√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢re making a film now, just shoot it in 3-D — not as an afterthought.”
TMZ.com reported exclusively yesterday that Angeline Jolie‘s brother James Haven was the unwitting source of those Brangelina-Shiloh baby shower pics that were stolen. Reading about this made me feel better about my own absent-mindedness because at least I can say, “I’ve never done anything as dumb as what Lurch did.”
Haven took pictures of his sister, Brad Pitt and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt at the baby shower in Namibia. But his camera broke soon after and when he returned to Los Angeles he took it to a Best Buy outlet (where be bought it) and asked them to fix it under the warranty. Best Buy sent the camera to Precision Camera and Video Repair in Enfield, Connecticut, and two Precision employees — Bill Keyes and Adam Beckwith — ID’ed the photos, downloaded them, tried to sell them and were busted by the FBI and Massachucetts authorities. For whatever reason it didn’t occur to Haven to — hello? — remove the digital card containing the photos before handing it over to Best Buy.
Whether or not this rumor about Johnny Depp joining I Am Legend turns out to be true, I’ve never been able to muster a shard of interest in this upcoming Warner Bros. sci-fier, which will shot in September with Will Smith toplining. The basic rundown — the last non-toxic guy in L.A. following a biological war has to fight off hordes of nocturnal mutants — indicates another bleak-ass, the-world-has-gone-to-shit zombie movie with this or that variation. The fact that Legend is being directed by Constantine‘s Francis Lawrence ony makes it sound grimmer. I started to read Mark Protosevich‘s script three or four years ago (was it farther back?) and gave up. And I never cared very much for Omega Man, a 1971 adaptation of Richard Matheson‘s original novel with Charlton Heston.
So Keith Richards has definitely agreed to do a walk-on in the third Pirates movie…break out the Dom Perignon. This completes the circle in that Johnny Depp has always said Richards was his inspiration in portraying Cpt. Jack Sparrow. Richards will almost certainly play Captain Jack’s dad or eccentric uncle…a mentor of some kind.