On the same day (11.14) N.Y. Times DVD columnist Dave Kehr reviewed a spiffed-up 50th Anniversary version of Henry King‘s Carousel (just released as part of a new Fox Home Video Rodgers & Hammerstein box set), The Fountain star Hugh Jackman told Coming Soon’s Heather Newgen that Fox 2000 is “looking for a writer and director” for a Carousel remake, in which he’ll play the egoistic, self-destructive big-mouth Billy Bigelow.
Gordon Macrae, Shirley Jones
Except something’s wrong here: Variety‘s Michael Fleming announced that Fox 2000 and Jackman’s partner John Palermo were trying to make this happen on August 1 — two and a half months ago. You can bet they were hunting around for a writer for several weeks (if not months) before that. That means that various parties aren’t on the same page — Fox 2000 wants this, Jackman wants that — and they’re going round and round. Otherwise they would have found the right director and writer and begun work. Too bad — Jackman is a talented song-and-dance man, and he’d probably be great in the part.
As long as we’re talking about this musical yet again (mainly because it’s the only Rodgers & Hammerstein musical I can stand, because it’s the only one with a tragic story and dark undercurrents that make for an unusually touching effect), here’s that Frank Sinatra“Soliloquy” track that was recorded but never used because Sinatra bailed on the 1956 film and was replaced by Gordon MacRae.
In the agent community a job that your client lucks into is called “a fly ball” — all you have to do is look up and spot it and put your glove out. Ralph Fiennes caught one when Steven Spielberg happened to see him as Heathcliff in a British TV version of Wuthering Heights and said, “I want that guy to play the evil Nazi in Schindler’s List.” Wolfgang Petersen‘s career was on a low flame when Clint Eastwood decided out of the fucking blue, “I want the guy who directed Das Boot to direct me in In The Line of Fire.” The agents repping Italian director Gabriele Muccino (the original The Last Kiss, called L’Ultimo bacio) had tried and failed to to get him a directing gig for two or three years and nothing, and then Will Smith happened to see L’Ultimo bacio and said, “I want that guy to direct The Pursuit of Happyness.” Serendipity, luck…God’s grace.
All due respect to Brian Wilson biographer and legend-protector David Leaf, but I think he’s too close and too invested to help render a warts-and-all Wilson biopic for producer Mark Gordon. On top of which Wilson’s managers Ronnie Lippin and Jean Sievers are also part of the deal…forget it.
The only way to make a biopic of an eccentric rock genius work is to have the freedom to be absolutely merciless. People invested in your continued well-being are obviously incapable of this; every time there’s a family member or trusted friend involved the biopic turns out to be dreck, or at least overly soft. Leaf and John Scheinfeld ‘s The U.S. vs. John Lennon was made with Yoko Ono‘s involvement, and look what happened — one of the biggest rock doc crocks ever made.
The cool part, if and when the script pans out and they get a green light, will be in the casting. That obviously means they’ll have to find a tallish, pasty-faced actor who not only looks like Wilson, but can put on lots of weight (or stand still for a heavy prosthetic blubber-gut make-up job).
Wilson’s story has already been told, of course — and very movingly — in the 1995 Don Was doc I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.
Gordon told Variety‘s Michael Fleming that “Wilson’s willingness to include the rough spots in his life, and the guidance of Beautiful Dreamer filmmaker Leaf (who’s known Wilson for 30 years), gives the movie its core” — bunk.
“I admire Brian for his willingness to tell his story truthfully,” Gordon told Fleming. “It’s complex and there is a lot to be learned from what he went through. It’s easier to tell that story when you’re in a good place and you have a happy ending. Brian has that now.”
It can’t and won’t work. Not with these guys at the helm. The only chance at success is to hire a director who’s totally un-invested — somewhat respectful but fundamentally indifferent to the Wilson legend. You obviously need someone who gets Wilson and his music and knows Pet Sounds backwards and forwards…but it can’t be an American who was into the surf-and-frolic thing as a teenager. Gordon needs to hire someone from a gray, foggy country like England or Germany to direct it — Perfume helmer Tom Tykwer, say, or The Lives of Others director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck .
In short, it’ll take a strong visionary outsider to stand up against the Leaf-Lippin- Sievers alliance, which will have one goal and one goal only — to keep the finished film from hurting Brian’s feelings.
The final Best Feature Documentary short list is out and yes, it’s true — Sydney Pollack‘s Sketches of Frank Gehry, Christopher Quinn‘s God Grew Tired of Us, and Christopher Creadon‘s Wordplay have been given the shaft.
Every year pedestrian docs are put on the list and some really exceptional ones are blown off. We can only assume this is because those who choose the finalists aren’t all that hip or perceptive. If not, what are we to assume…the opposite? People have been snickering about these guys for a long time. They earned lifelong notoriety for blowing off Grizzly Man last year.
I can say for sure that there are three respectable so-so’s (and in my opinion films of a much lesser calibure) among the finalists: (a) Blindsight, Lucy Walker’s perfectly fine but obvious doc about six blind Tibetan students tryign to ascend Mt. Everest; (b) Stanley Nelson‘s Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple, which, in my view, pulls too many punches (“What happened in Jonestown was NC-17, but Nelson’s doc is strictly PG-13…there’s no anger or fire in it…no ghastly details, none of the horror, not enough particulars about Jones’ sleazy seducer tendencies”); and (c) Barbara Kopple‘s Shut Up & Sing, the Dixie Chicks vs. conservative Bush-lovers doc, which is only pretty good.
The other short-listers are Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, Deliver Us from Evil, The Ground Truth, An Inconvenient Truth, Iraq in Fragments, Jesus Camp, My Country, My Country, Sisters in Law, Storm of Emotions, The Trials of Darryl Hunt (the Bend Film Festival double-winner!), An Unreasonable Man and The War Tapes.
This Michael Fleming description of Matthew Carnahan‘s Lions for Lambs, which Robert Redford will direct and co-star in for Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner‘s revived United Artists, is more intriguing that the one I read in his Variety column in mid-October.
It’s basically three intertwining, almost Babel-like storylines: Cruise as “a congressman who interacts with a journalist (Meryl Streep); Redford as an idealistic professor who attempts to inspire a privileged student in his class; and a third storyline about a pair of American soldiers wounded in enemy territory, one of whom is Redford’s former student.” I can see this…it sounds good.
The third storyline takes place, if I recall Fleming’s earlier summation correctly, in Afghanistan. I think now is the time for everyone to remember that in The Hot Rock, the 1971 caper flick which Redford co-starred, the words that trigger a state of instant reactivated hypnosis in a safe-deposit-box manager are “Afghanistan banana-stan.” Think about that.
If I were an insolent, lazy-assed Mercer Hotel employee or Naomi Campbell‘s maid, I would much rather duck an oncoming flying table phone (i.e., lightweight plastic, not that dense or heavy) than a Cruise-missile like cell phone. Cell phones are small, hard and dangerous, and if you get squarely beaned by one I imagine it would hurt like hell. Then again, it depends on the celebrity’s throwing arm and how angry he/she is.
“I saw The Fountain yesterday, and I have to say it’s just about the trippiest film since 2001. They should hand out bongs to every patron because this puppy demands to be seen stoned. It’s kind of a mess, but I admire Aronofsky’s chutzpah and the essential message that loves survives death. And those last 15 minutes? I felt like I was having an acid flashback.
“Sitting behind me, incidentally, were the geezer triumvirate of Jeffrey Lyons, Rex Reed and Susan Granger. The film ended, and they collectively gasped ‘what was that about?’ They need to chow down on some hash brownies.” — Manhattan-based film journalist Lewis Beale.
“I have real issues with how the Village Voice writes about film,” former New York Press critic Matt Zoller Seitz has told The Reeler‘s Stu VanAirsdale in a piece about the woes of that once great downtown weekly. “The language they use; the tone that they take; the political attitudes that are infused into almost every single piece that runs.
“But the breadth of their coverage? Nobody can touch it. It’s the gold standard. Nobody comes close, not even the New York Times, because the New York Times won’t bust out some little off-the-wall, American independent film. They won’t run an 800 or 1,000-word feature on a filmmaker from Asia or Europe just because they think they’re interesting.
“The Voice has been traditionally the only game in town; they’re the guys who have been holding down the fort for eclectic filmgoing. And either they’re going to continue to do that or they’re not. The tone that the writing takes is secondary to the breadth of the coverage, and that’s what I’m going to be looking for.”
“Curse of the Golden Flower (Sony Pictures Classics, 12.14), Zhang Yimou‘s strangest and most troubled film, abounds in hysterical, mannered Tang Dynasty-era palace intrigue and dehumanized CGI battle sequences,” declares Variety‘s Robert Koehler. “Zhang captured a rich wife’s sequestered life poetically in Raise the Red Lantern, but a similar sense of isolation in Curse turns almost suffocating, as royals tear themselves apart with much actorish emoting along the way. Despite superstars Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li leading the lavish enterprise, pic is unlikely to approach international B.O. numbers of Zhang’s far more vigorous period epics, Hero and House of Flying Daggers.”
Harvey Weinstein has made an exclusive DVD deal with Blockbuster Video — the Orwellian anti-Christ of DVD retail — by which all Weinstein Co. releases will be solely available at Blockbuster beginning in January ’07. The four-year agreement cuts out Netflix, Movie Gallery and I don’t know how many others.
The piece says that the Weinstein Co. has “also been strengthening ties” with Wal-Mart. I guess that means that Wal-Mart will have lots of “for sale” copies, I guess.
The basic offshoot is that if you want to rent Factory Girl, Shut Up & Sing or Bobby next spring, you’ll have to hold your nose and visit a Blockbuster store, which I refuse to do on general principle. The deal must have been really sweet for Harvey to have done such a thing. It must be a cash-flow issue that needed fixing. Variety‘s Steven Zeitchik provided the scoop.
I would normally have Thursday night’s All The President’s Men 30th anniversary screening at the Academy (which will include a chat between producer-star Robert Redford and Newsweek critic David Ansen) at the top of my list, but there’s a big-deal Children of Men screening in Westwood with an after-party that Alfonso Cuaron and Clive Owen are attending… so that’s that.
I’m not all that heartbroken because I felt I’d connected with the All The President’s Men mystique and present-tense relevancy factors after watching two brilliant mini-documentaries last Fenruary that were part of Warner Home Video’s All The President’s Men double-disc special edition DVD. (Which I briefly mentioned at the time.) Both were made by Los Angeles-based documentarian Gary Leva .
The docs — an 18-minute piece called Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire and another called Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat — are especially valuable and noteworthy because they’re serious looks at the state of U.S. journalism today rather than typical celebrate-the-movie puff pieces. They’re basically about how journalism has gone downhill since the days of Watergate and, by implication, how attempts to muscle journalists under the Bush administration are just as bad if not worse today than they were under the Nixon administration in the early ’70s.
The Academy people should make video-audio recordings of tomorrow night’s event and put them up on their site.