Michelle Obama “often refers to what she calls the ‘fear bomb‘ that was used against her husband in his  Senate race, as rivals questioned whether someone with his name could be elected,” wrote NBC’s Mike Memoli earlier today from Canton, Ohio.
“Today she acknowledged that it is happening again in his presidential race, and said it’s an example of why America can’t wait for a leader like him to be elected.
“‘They threw in the obvious, ultimate fear bomb,’ Obama said of her husband’s 2004 Senate race. ‘We’re even hearing [that] now…when all else fails, be afraid of his name, and what that could stand for, because it’s different.’ She said rivals use innuendo to play on fears. ‘Just as they’re saying it now,’ she said.”
Interestingly, it’s been reported that Karl Rove, a master right-wing demonizer, warned against this kind of thing at a GOP state executive director gathering in late January, where he reportedly said the safest way to refer to Obama would be “Sen. Obama.”
“The context was, you’re not going to stigmatize this guy…you shouldn’t underestimate him,” one of the executive directors told The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder. “Rove said that the use of ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ would perpetuate the notion that Republicans were bigoted and would hurt the party.”
It’s a game, right? Rove and other high-ups get to say “don’t go there” while scores of right-wing talk radio guys get to play the the fear-bomb record all through the spring, summer and fall. The lowest, most despicable card you can play. And tens of thousands of under-educated Americans are going to lap it up.
An excellent early ’70s Walter Matthau double-bill at the Aero on Thursday, March 6th — Don Siegel‘s Charley Varrick and Joseph Sargent‘s The Taking of Pelham 123.
Every now and then I rouse myself and just drive over there and line up and buy a ticket to these shows because the Aero has very high-level sound and projection standards. On top of which these films looked gritty and run-down when they were new so there won’t be any of the disappointment I always find when I go to showings of newly struck or restored films at theatres like this — disappointing because they always look much better on a DVD or Blu-ray flat-screen presentation.
No important reason for running this Burn After Reading shot of costars George Clooney and Frances McDormand. I was recently sent those John Malkovich-attacking-Richard Jenkins-with- an-axe photos from a guy with IMDB Pro, but I liked this one better. I read the Coen Brothers‘ script several months ago and had a good time with it. The movie I directed and saw in my head as I read it was very sharp and funny. It’ll debut at the Cannes Film Festival on 5.14.08 and open theatrically in the US on 9.26.08.
If I could make every last clear-plastic takeout container disappear from the face of the earth by waving my hand, I would do that. Is there anyone who doesn’t hate these things? Who doesn’t wince at that sharp loud sound that happens when you try to compress or scrunch them into a garbage can? Who doesn’t find them generally irritating and pointless and just awful? Styrofoam sandwich-and-potato-salad containers are nearly as bad, but at least they aren’t so noisy.
There’s been a quiet unconfirmed leak that Warner Home Video is finally releasing Ken Russell‘s The Devils (’71) on DVD on May 20th. Update: Warner Bros. video spokesperson Carl Samrock told me around 6 pm that there are “no plans to release The Devils per WHV.”
A cult favorite that conveys a very dark and weird vibe, The Devils is a brilliant but extremely perverse historical fantasy about medieval political persecution that starred Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave.
I was told earlier this afternoon that the DVD would run 111 minutes, which would be eight minutes longer than the 103 minute version released theatrically in the U.S. 37 and a half years ago. A moot point, obviously, if Samrock’s statement can be fully trusted.
“We were kind of in a slump until I was dancing on the show. My poll numbers skyrocketed after that. Everybody saw me bust a move on Ellen, that’s all it took.” — Sen. Barack Obama to Ellen Degeneres on her show today (which was taped yesterday?). Here’s the original dancing clip from last October. The guy can cut a rug. Gotta give him that.
The independent entity known as New Line Cinema since the late ’60s is, in a sense, no more. The curtain came down today on the company that Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne built and ran for four decades when Time Warner announced that it will become a unit of Warners, maintaining separate development, production, marketing, distribution and business affairs operations.
Okay, but hasn’t New Line been operating as an independent unit of WB ever since its owner, Turner Broadcasting System, merged with Time Warner in 1996? What’s going to be different in a specific, physical managerial way?
Shaye and Lynne are out, but will staffers continue to operate out of the New Line offices at 116 No. Robertson? Or will the whole operation move over to the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank? Are there going to be massive staff whackings? Whomever steps into the top position at the “new” New Line is going to hire his/her own people in upper management, and subsequent staff changes will ripple down through. Works this way every time.
Claudia Eller‘s L.A. Times story about the announcement (posted at 2:14 pm) said “it is unclear how many people will lose their jobs as a result of the consolidation…New Line Cinema employs more than 600 people in Los Angeles and New York.”
A guy who knows things and knows people says this: (1) The only truly important property that New Line has that Warner Bros. truly values is The Hobbit, a two-picture ranchise that Guillermo del Toro will direct — everything else is secondary; (2) Warner Bros. is going to look to cut down on overhead as much as possible, which probably means eventually closing the 116 No. Robertson office and sending a pared-down New Line staff over to offices on the Warner Bros. lot; (3) Warner Bros. honcho Jeff Robinov is going to decide what’s really valuable about New Line (its employees and properties) and toss the rest; (4) “People don’t go to the movies to see New Line product…they go to movies because of the marketing or the story or the stars…the company name means nothing.”
I called every New Line publicist I know and no one (not even their assistants) would pick up. They must be having a big company-wide meeting or something. The official announcement broke about 90 minutes ago.
Esquire‘s Jozen Cummings posted a story yesterday morning about how HBO’s decision to put out “episodes on demand” of The Wire is leading to plot spoilers getting around. (Any spoiler whiners out there who don’t know what he’s referring to should stop reading this item right now.)
Michael K. Williams, a.k.a. “Omar Little” in HBO’s The Wire
“In about two weeks, The Wire — HBO’s critically-acclaimed, gritty drama about Baltimore’s drug trade and how it intersects with union labor, media, and education — will end for good,” Cummings writes. “But instead of speculating on how the show’s final few episodes will conclude, fanatics of the show are giving away its secrets, posting spoilers on their Facebook pages, logging unseen episode information into Wikipedia, and posting about it on IMDB.com’s message boards.
“Even the urban lifestyle magazine Giant features cast members of the show on the cover of its latest issue along with a cover line that says, ‘How It All Ends.’
“How is this happening? Blame HBO. The cable network makes new episodes of The Wire available on its ‘HBO On Demand’ channel a full week before its ‘official’ airdate. It’s unclear what HBO hopes to gain with this strategy. In the fall, HBO’s head of program planning, Dave Baldwin, told the media that HBO was experimenting with its schedule “so we can learn more about how our viewers prefer to watch our programming.”
Whatever happened to Kenneth Lonergan‘s Margaret, a drama shot in 2005 with Anna Paquin, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo in the lead roles? Produced by Scott Rudin and Sydney Pollack and exec produced by Anthony Minghella, it’s said to be still in the cutting room with plans to get it out sometime this year. A CHUD article posted today by Jeremy Smith sifts through various quotes, reports and indications.
Matt Damon, Anna Pacquin in Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret
I for one am scared by this IMDB synopsis, which makes the film sound like a mopey downer about coping with guilt. I’m obviously not saying it is this kind of film. I would expect otherwise, given the pedigree of the creative team. But why hasn’t it at least shown up at one of the festivals? Why hasn’t something happened?
“Margaret centers on a 17-year-old New York City high-school student who feels certain that she inadvertently played a role in a traffic accident that has claimed a woman’s life,” the synopsis reads. “In her attempts to set things right she meets with opposition at every step. Torn apart with frustration, she begins emotionally brutalizing her family, her friends, her teachers, and most of all, herself. She’s been confronted quite unexpectedly with a basic truth: that her youthful ideals are on a collision course against the realities and compromises of the adult world.”
Which Semi-Pro review do you trust? The semi-dismissive one called “Only Half Bad” by the Village Voice‘s Robert Wilonsky or the friendly valentine written by Variety‘s Joe Leydon? Or does the truth of it lie somewhere in between?
Paul Newman (l.) in George Roy Hil’s Slap Shot
“Semi-Pro‘s much better than Blades of Glory,” writes Wilonsky, “which wasn’t nearly as good as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which was a little better than Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which was almost as funny as Old School, which was better than everything else Will Ferrell had done up to that point — except maybe Dick, which nobody saw and even fewer remember.
“Seems this is what it’s come down to with Ferrell: grading his movies in various shades of enh as each one blends into the next till they’re all one giant gray blob of feh.” A beautiful line. Should be memorized, chanted, etched into stone.
I haven’t seen Semi-Pro. I know Variety is a tough rag but sometimes they take it easy when a movie is aiming low and there’s nothing to lose. I can only say that Leydon seems to be spreading the kindness butter on the toast with a passion, especially when he says that Semi-Pro is “very much in the tradition of Slap Shot, George Roy Hill‘s raucously funny and foul-mouthed 1977 laffer about the misadventures of a minor-league hockey team.”
I wrote Leydon immediately after reading this and said, “‘In the tradition,’ okay, but you don’t seem to be saying Semi-Pro is as good as Slap Shot. I haven’t seen it and it might be tolerable in the usual oafish and slovenly fashion, but I know what Ferrell’s game is. He plays preening low-life cretins over and over and over. Slap Shot was a ’70s movie — character-driven, very appealing, dryly absurdist.”
Leydon wrote back saying that “no, Semi Pro is not as good as Slap Shot. But it’s in the same vein, the same spirit. Much better film than I expected. Very ’70s in look and feel. No attempt to tamp down the R-rated stuff so the kiddies can get in.”
In his review, Leydon says that Semi-Pro “scores big laughs with the rowdy play-by-play of hard-luck hoopsters struggling for professional survival. For some auds, Ferrell doing a full-court press in a white-guy afro alone will be worth the price of admission. But the New Line release also offers most valuable playing by a first-rate supporting cast, and enough funny business to ensure enduring playoffs on homevid and cable after a profitable theatrical run.”
A big tracking bump for Will Ferrell‘s Semi-Pro since Tuesday’s numbers were posted: it was previously running at a modest 67,35 and 8, but today it’s running at 73, 40 and 23. The young-male first choice figure is about 30. Definitely the weekend’s #1 film with an easy $25 million, and it’s just another dumb Gorilla Nation sports comedy….right?
The Other Boleyn Girl was at 49, 33 and 7 on Tuesday, but it’s now 56, 33 and 13 — among women the first-choice numbers are about 20. It’ll come in second right behind Ferrell. On Tuesday Penelope was running at a so-so 52, 25 and 5; today’s it’s up to 60, 28 and 9.
Roland Emmerich‘s 10,000 BC will still be the top dog on the March 7th weekend. 73, 29 and 13 two days ago, up to 75, 41 and 15 today. Much bigger numbers, of course, will show up next week.
Three 3.21 films have begun to track: Owen Wilson‘s Drillbit Taylor at 43, 22 and 2 (needs work), Shutter at 23, 17 and 0, and Tyler Perry‘s Meet the Browns at 40, 25 and 5 — clearly the strongest of the three right now.