Does raunchy, power-chord rock music kick and wail no matter how old the performers, the audience and the guy shooting the concert documentary are? Screw the calendar — rock is a state of mind. But there’s something creepy about grey-haired, turkey-necked, pot-bellied rock musicians getting down on-stage with a sea of AARP fans stompin’ and hootin’ and whatnot. There’s something just “not right” about this.
Part of the solution (and I know this sounds shallow) lies in dieting, daily workouts, hair dyes and face-lifts. You’ve got to try and look the part of a rocker or a rock- music fan, and by that I mean a person who doesn’t look too sedate or retiring or anesthetized by too much wealth or food. Someone with a passing acquaintance with the biological vitality of life…who takes walks, gets around, owns a bicy- cle and is out there plugging, etc. Someone who doesn’t look like an escapee from a managed-care facility.
The only older rocker who hasn’t creeped me out is Mick Jagger, who was fantastic when he gave a brief live show at L.A.’s El Rey theatre in ’01 — rail-thin and dark-haired and throttling the entire room with the energy of a 20 year-old. (His performance of “God Gave Me Everything (I Want)” was legendary.) I’m asking this because a few days ago Martin Scorsese, 64, shot a Rolling Stones concert at Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre with Jagger, 63 and Keith Richards, 62, blasting away and Bill Clinton, celebrating his 60th birthday, hootin’ and yellin’ in the orchestra.
Bottom line: rock out in the privacy of your own home (or inside your IPod earphones) until you’re dead, but rock is a young person’s game and there’s just something not cool about rocking out in public if you don’t exude at least a semblance of the elan of youth. I think that’s putting it fairly…no? Roger Daltry, cool. David Crosby…liposuction.
Loathing of corporate-formulaic animated talking-animal movies is building, building…a very healthy development. It basically means that even compassionate people of moderate dispositions have a breaking point and that those who maneuver and profit within the quiet corridors of power need to listen up. I cite two examples as proof:
(a) On 9.19, I printed the exasperated comment of a hard-working director (initially conveyed to his manager-producer), to wit: “If I see one more bus ad for one more fucking animated movie with fucking animals in it, I’m going to start screaming.”
(b) Now it’s 11.2 and MSNBC’s Dave White is ranting about essentially the same thing. “Why weren’t Antz and A Bug’s Life enough? Why did we need Ant Bully too? Were there not enough ant-centric films on the pop culture landscape? Did all the DVDs of those other two movies turn to dust, creating an aesthetic void? Why did Doogal get made? What was it even supposed to be about? Why was Jon Stewart a talking coiled spring? Why would I rather watch someone get beheaded on the internet than sit through another one of these stupid, cheap, insulting, corporate toy commercials? When will the eyeball-scorching awfulness end?”
“Studio management by creative talent” was the idea when Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith formed the old United Artists on 2.5.19, and now the same deal is in effect with today’s announcement that Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner are taking over UA and running the creative-greenlight side of the business “subject to certain parameters,” with the partnership and support of MGM chariman and CEO Harry E. Sloan.
Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner; MGM CEO Harry E. Sloan
Crazy Tom, Crazy Harry and Paula Wagner! This is definitely a Cruise + Wagner rebound that eliminates all the spiritual residue of Sumner Redstone‘s harsh decision to boot their production company off the Paramount lot last summer (especially with the story being recounted in the December Vanity Fair), and a nice little maneuver by Sloan that makes UA sexy again. But we’d all like to know more details.
Wagner “will serve as Chief Executive Officer of United Artists, overseeing the day to day operations of the studio alongside her longstanding producing partner Cruise, who will star in as well as produce films for United Artists and also be available to appear in film projects for other studios,” the release says.
How many films per year will the new United Artists be looking to produce? What are the financial parameters? Will they be acquiring at all? Cruise’s fame and box-office potency is obviously the fulcrum of the deal, but the last eighteen months have made it clear to everyone that his currency has been devalued. But there’s opportunity that comes with this. One game ends, another begins.
Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are so taken with a recently viewed final cut of Curse of the Golden Flower (opening 12.22) that they’ve decided to launch Oscar campaigns for the two principal talents — star Gong Li for Best Actress, and helmer Zhang Yimou for Best Director.
Flower reunites these legends of modern Chinese cinema for the first time since the mid ’90s following their collaboration on films such as Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, To Live and Shanghai Triad (all but one made during their passionate and very public extra-marital love affair that lasted about six years). “They’re now working together at their peak of their talents,” Barker has told The Envelope’s Tom O’Neil. “They’ve created a film of great dramatic tension and visual splen- dor…we’re really excited.”
Nikke Finke paints the South African diamond industry with an appropriately dark brush in her latest L.A. Weekly column, called “Throwing Precious Stones”:
“All along, the real question behind the scenes of Blood Diamond — an action-adventure pic set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in the diamond-mining center of 1990s Sierra Leone, starring Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou, directed by Ed Zwick and produced by Paula Weinstein — is not whether it will be an Oscar contender (probably) or a critics’ favorite (possibly). It’s just how much mud the World Diamond Council and its flacks and flunkies and friends are planning to throw at the well-intentioned film and its too-liberal-for-the-room credits.
“Now the answer is clear: a lot, more than enough to dirty its awards chances. It’s rare in Hollywood, home to most things horrible, to have good vs. evil play out offscreen as well as on. (As opposed to seeing this as a level playing field where the really rich are ganging up on the really rich, so, in on sense, they deserve each other.) Yet here, the tactic of choice, already evidenced, is to smear the film’s production by accusing everyone involved of exploiting the Africans in much the same execrable way the diamond industry has done for decades.”
As Wired‘s Steve Silberman begins in a Darren Aronofsky profile, “Perhaps the most surprising thing about The Fountain (Warner Bros., 11.22) is that the director was able to finish it at all.” Due in no small part, as he gradually explains, to the abrupt withdrawl of Brad Pitt from the Hugh Jackman role in a much more costly and elaborate version of The Fountain than the one coming out three weeks from now.
And yet the scaled-down, present-tense version has a kind of purity, a spirit…a feeling that transcends scale, stars, special effects and all the other trimmings.
“Just before the scheduled start of shooting in 2002, Pitt abruptly bailed,” Silber- man begins. “Costar Cate Blanchett left shortly thereafter. At various points in the production, Aronofsky’s backers pulled out, studio executives questioned his sanity, and the script went through a radical reincarnation. The Fountain — an allegory about the promise of eternal life — died several ugly deaths on its way to the screen.
Like all grandiose dream projects, The Fountain had an exciting beginning. “[Aronofsky] sent an early copy of the script to Pitt, who was already an Aronofsky fan. Fifty pages into the script, the actor phoned Aronofsky in tears; the director told him to finish and call back. In June 2001, the press announced that Warner Bros. had ‘fast-tracked’ Aronofsky’s new film, with Pitt and Blanchett as the A-list leads.
“The budget for Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream had been a paltry $5 million. Backed by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures — the company that financed The Matrix — The Fountain was budgeted at $70 million. Elaborate sets, including a pyramid 10 stories high, were mounted on the Gold Coast of Australia. A huge crew was assembled there, and the former indie filmmaker suddenly found himself choreographing epic battle scenes and massive f/x sequences. As the director schemed to fly in hundreds of Guatemalan warriors to fight Pitt, the film’s bottom line was stretched to the breaking point.”
But eventually Pitt “began demanding extensive script revisions during conferences at his house in the Hollywood hills. The studio was asking for its own rewrites as well. In mid-2002, after endless script wrangling, Village Roadshow announced that it was withdrawing its support. Everyone on the project was immediately laid off. Weeks passed. Eventually another production house, New Regency, stepped in, and set construction recommenced down under.
“Then, just seven weeks before the first day of shooting, Pitt called Aronofsky and told him he was pulling out. ‘After working together for two and a half years, Brad lost trust in me and faith in the project,’ Aronofsky admits. ‘He told me he felt like he was breaking up with a girl.'”
If there’s one thing the world really needs now, it’s a pumped-up Wachowski brothers feature based on a 1960s-era Japanese anime TV series. Is there a subtext to Speed Racer that I’m missing or overlooking? Someone besides producer Joel Silver is presumably into the idea of the Wachowski’s doing a family-friendly, PG-13 fast-car movie. To me, the nothingness of the concept is close to astounding. The boys will reportedly shoot next summer and release it in ’08.
Her performance is stunningly balls-out, but the chances of Annette Bening winning a Best Actress Oscar for her Running With Scissors performance are zilch…sorry. There’s such a thing as being too convincing as a wackjobber, and if the movie is tanking on top of that…forget it.
Of course, if you’re a Reuters writer trying to convey the same thing in a Bening interview piece, you have to go all namby-pamby and use the word “may”, in the same chickenshit way that the N.Y. Times relies on its stock phrase “remains to be seen.” Bening’s “losing record at the Oscars epitomizes an old saying — always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” the article begins, “and a big question this season is whether she may suffer the same fate again.”
The bottom-line on Brad Pitt‘s knickers allegedly being in a twist about his being on the new Vanity Fair cover without prior approval (per TMZ) is that the magazine was well within its rights. Reps for the Conde Nast publication have told TMZ that Pitt “posed for a Robert Wilson video portrait, and in the photo release (signed by Pitt), agreed to allow Wilson to use the portrait or any images from that sitting in connection with any publicity on Wilson’s video project.”
Vanity Fair thereafter “decided to do a story on Wilson’s video portraits and obtained rights to the entire collection of photographs from those sittings, which included Pitt’s.” Mag reps also state that “in a letter dated 10.5.06, and sent to Pitt care of Brillstein-Grey [Pitt’s managers], Wilson informed Pitt that a still image from his portrait was going to be featured in the December art issue of Vanity Fair.” A source told TMZ that Pitt “never saw the letter” — isn’t that in the same ballpark as “the dog ate my homework”?
“Barack Obama — delivered feet-first on Oprah’s couch and tickled on Meet the Press and then highly buffed by New Yorker editor David Remnick before the magazine editors of America — has enjoyed the best-orchestrated product reveal since the iPod,” begins a New York Observer piece by Choire Sicha and John Koblin.
“Now Mr. Obama is the only author with two books among the top 50 sellers on Amazon.com. Two weeks after the release of The Audacity of Hope, it is in its sixth printing, with 725,000 books in print. America can’t tell the difference between the book and the candidate. That may be because the book itself is the perfect campaign speech, and is one of the reasons why everyone keeps talking about Mr. Obama and ’08.
The phenomenon is deftly iportrayed in this here-comes-Obama piece, by the Toronto Star’s Tom Harper.
“Primaries are 13 1/2 and 14 months away, and there are full teams in New Hampshire and Iowa already,” says pollster John Zogby. “And Hillary, who is a household word, and Kerry and Edwards and Gore, who have run before — this is the time to get the word out, and this is the trial balloon.”
“The Obamamania trial balloon has gotten oohs and ahs from wonks and dreamers alike. But, with so many donors locked down by Hillary Clinton, and with a few hopelessly devoted to various non-celebrity candidates, is there affection — and wallet — enough for Mr. Obama to raise real money for a campaign? Why, yes! Yes, there is. Sort of.”