Three thoughts came to mind on Thursday when I read various accounts about some passionate mucky-muck involving CBS News Baghdad correspondent Lara Logan, a married US State Department contractor named Joe Burkett and CNN international correspondent Michael Ware.
The first two thoughts were (a) this is private material and nobody’s business so why don’t they leave her alone? and (b) passion is as passion does, and is no big deal.
Logan has been a feisty and outspoken reporter about the war and probably has a serious fire going in the furnace whatever the subject or concern. On top of which there’s always something strangely erotic in the air when there’s a lot of random death and danger floating about, and hence a sense of impermanence. The more ghastly or threatening the surroundings, the more likely it is that like-minded professionals of a certain age are going to get down in the heat of the moment. Remember the “terror fucking” phenomenon that happened in Manhattan in the days following 9/11?
The third thought is that Logan’s story since she’s been on the Baghdad beat would make for a good filmed drama. The considerate way to go about it would be to use the facts (romantic Baghdad triangle, emotions at a fever pitch, divorce proceeding, bullets whizzing past lovers’ heads, IEDs exploding) but with made-up names and perhaps a slightly fictionalized story line just to blur things up. Roger Donaldson‘s Under Fire, which used actual events that happened in Nicaragua, had some of this element, as I recall.
That said, it seemed disingenuous that Brian Stelter‘s 6.26 N.Y. Times story reported that CBS News has just decided to base Logan in Washington, D.C., with a new title — chief foreign affairs correspondent — rather than in London, without at least briefly acknowledging the Baghdad mess. I mean, c’mon…it happened and some of the facts made the tabloids and now she’s getting reassigned. People’s private business is their private business, but once the snake is out of the box you can’t pretend it’s not there.
We’re a few days away from a full six months having passed in the year 2008, and so it’s time to briefly assess the best, worst and in-betweens. It’s understood I’ll be leaving a few off that I should (and will) be adding to this or that category once the outraged responses come in, but these are the films that popped out when I sorted them all through. I’ve only mentioned 63 films here. There have been at least nine, I believe, that deserve to be called creme de la creme, but maybe I’m forgetting one or two.
Best So Far (in order of excellence): A tie between WALL*E and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (the latter technically being an ’07 film even though it opened on January 23), The Bank Job, The Visitor, Shine a Light, Iron Man, Young @ Heart, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Son of Rambow. (9)
Decent, Solid, Respectable: In Bruges, Stop-Loss, The Band’s Visit, Cassandra’s Dream, Cloverfield, War, Inc., The Incredible Hulk, Taxi to the Dark Side, Chicago 10, The Counterfeiters, Then She Found Me, Standard Operating Procedure, Battle for Haditha, Speed Racer (more for its ambitious and mostly unique visual design than for what it actually was), Surfwise, Encounters at the End of the World, OSS117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, The Edge of Heaven, Mongol, Irina Palm. (20)
Best Ridiculous-Machismo Action Movie of the year: Rambo. (1)
Flawed Film, Genuinely Creepy Vibe, Righteous Theme: The Happening (1)
Best Stupid-Ass Adam Sandler Attitude Comedy In Years: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. (1)
Loathsome but Respectable: Funny Games. (1)
Not Bad but Also Bothersome, Irritating: The Tracey Fragments, The Babysitters. (I need to add to this list.) (2)
Passable but Mostly Negligible (in order of preference): Be Kind Rewind, Semi-Pro, The Other Boleyn Girl, Leatherheads, Nim’s Island, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (galumph aesthetic, penis shots), 21, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (fastest fading movie of the year, death-button upon second viewing), Kung Fu Panda, Get Smart, Street Kings. (11)
Worst So Far (in order of awfulness): Wanted, Sex and the City, 10,000 B.C., Vantage Point, Mad Money, 88 Minutes, My Blueberry Nights, The Hottie and the Nottie, Chapter 27, The Love Guru, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Deception, Drilllbit Taylor, College Road Trip, Smart People, What Happens in Vegas, Reprise. (17)
Didn’t See ‘Em: City of Men, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, Married Life, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Redbelt, The Fall, The Foot Fist Way.
Thursday’s tracking predicted that WALL*E would $50 to $60 million this weekend. Well, it made $23.1 million last night and is looking at $66,441,000 by Sunday night. Handicappers will have to consider next weekend’s numbers (remember that woman at my Disney lot screening who said she was bored?) for a long-range projection, but it’s sure to at least end up in the $200 million-plus realm. A friend went to a commercial screening early yesterday afternoon and saw “plenty of kids but also a lot of adults on their own.”
Wanted — Jesus wept! — did $18,700,000 last night and will end up with $52,500,000 for the weekend. It was supposed to do somewhere over $30 million but not more than $40 million, according to Thursday’s tracking. Just goes to show that among younger males, the appetite for brutish ultra-violent degeneracy is alive and thriving. “Are there really adults who want to sit through this kind of mindless, bullying mayhem?” wrote the Austin Chronicle‘s Josh Rosenblatt. “Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one.” Sorry to be the bearer.
Get Smart‘s 2nd week will result in $20,500,000 by Sunday night — a 47% drop. Kung Fu Panda got hit by WALL*E, will do $11.7 million by Sunday night. The cume is $179.3 million, but it’s doing $3 thousand a print now and it may not make the $200 millon mark, although a $1,900,000 tally looks safe.
The Incredible Hulk will do $9.1 million for the weekend for a cume of $115 million. It’s down to $2700 a print, might squeak out another $10 million for a final figure of $125 million. Ang Lee’s Hulk did $132,177,234 at the end of the day, but then ticket prices weren’t as high five years ago.
The Love Guru died last weekend when it opened so it doesn’t matter, and this weekend it’s off 58% — $5,800,000
Indy 4 will do $4.984,000 this weekend for a cume of $299,890,000 — $110 thousand away from $300 million mark. Watch the Paramount guys goose the ads this weekend
SATC will do $3.729 million and The Happening is $3.712 million. The latter will be barely over $60 million at the end of the road. Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan will make $3.2 million. It’s currently above $90 million but down to $1400 a print and almost out of the theaters — it’s be a push to $100 million.
Iron Man will make $2.2 million by Sunday night.
Kitt Kittredge dropped 68% Friday-to-Friday in its 2nd platform week (i.e., five theatres), and will experience a 54% drop for the weekend. That obviously suggests big trouble when it goes into national release mode.
Wanted gets a 75% positive from the Rotten Tomatoes creme de la creme? Even the 64% rating on Metacritic is offensive. I suffered through this film; it gave me convulsions; I thought once about going to the head and throwing up. The Oregonian‘s Shawn Levy and New York‘s David Edelstein are good fellows who know their stuff, but what had they eaten or drunk before seeing it? After?
ABC News guy Jake Tapper reported last night that Barack Obama will travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, France and England in mid-July. The Iraq-Afghanistan portion of the trip will be in the company of a congressional delegation. Cue the Middle American xenophobes waiting to take offense.
Saturday update: The NY Times‘ Jeff Zeleny is reporting that Obama’s Middle East itinerary will include Jordan and Israel. He also says that the Iraq and Afghanistan visits will be part of a “separate trip” — presumably a reference to these visits being part of a congressional delegation tour. Zeleny is reporting no additions to Germany, France and Britain as far as the western Europe stopovers are concerned.
Gavin O’Connor‘s Pride and Glory is finally out of the distribution woods. Former New Line honcho Bob Shaye’s decision early this year to bump this exceptional New York cop film into ’09 is now null and void with Warner Bros. having just slotted a 10.24.08 release. It’s an exceptional film (I saw it in mid-April) and never should have been bumped in the first place. The question now is how wide or vigorous a release will it receive? How much of a p & a investment? How committed will the p.r. people be?
At least one other person, thank fortune, hates Wanted as much as I do — AICN’s Mr. Beaks! He says he’s been getting slammed by the fan boys because of this. Life can be hard when you say it plain. Good fellow!
“It’s a bit of a stretch, but the bullet-curving, dome-popping, morality-flouting shenanigans so kinetically depicted in Wanted could be charitably explained away as a metaphor for young male empowerment,” he writes.
“By wantonly murdering complete strangers at the whim of a fate-weaving loom (not a metaphor, unfortunately), James McAvoy‘s timid working stiff, Wesley Gibson, is simply engaging in a very bloody form of self-actualization. He’s seizing the day by squeezing the trigger.
“Pol Pot would approve. In fact, if Pol Pot were still with us, he’d probably have a new favorite movie.
“In other words, Wanted is a massive step back for cinema and, I’d argue, society. It’s mainstreamed cruelty seeking to connect with the Texas Tower Sniper in all of us. Seriously, if you identify with Wesley Gibson, do the world a favor — get castrated.”
I’m late acknowledging that Peter Bart ran a 6.23 story about the restoring of the Godfather negatives, and particularly two docs by Kim Aubry about (a) the making of the 1972 film and (b) the restoration project. Curiously, Bart didn’t mention that the guy who handled the delicate work was none other restoration guru Robert Harris, the sharpest eye and most exacting perfectionist in the business, and known for having restored Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, Rear Window, My Fair Lady, Vertigo, etc.
Harris has been forbidden from discussing the project for many, many moons. I saw a digital projection of Harris’s restored Godfather on the WB lot last November and was told I couldn’t mention it. An official press release about the Godfather restoration is going out on Monday morning, at which point he’ll be free to discuss it with whomever. The DVDs and Blu-ray discs of the restored films will be available sometime in late September. The project involved the labor of some 12 to 15 people, Harris says.
I told Harris today that most people probably won’t appreciate the differences between the currently available DVDs of the first two Godfather films and the versions he’s worked on. I think the first two films look pretty good, I told him. People don’t know what they’re looking at, he said. He also allowed that most people probably won’t be able to appreciate the improvements unless they see them in Blu-ray on a very large screen, or if the restored films are projected in a movie theatre of some size. Will the films be given a limited theatrical release? Uhhm…no comment.
Earlier today Fox 411’s Roger Friedman bluntly called Hancock, the Will Smith comic whatever that opens Tuesday, “a $150 million disaster…one of the worst family holiday weekend releases of recent memory — jaw-droppingly so. And that’s hard to do, since it clocks in at a mere wisp of one hour and 20 minutes. In such brevity there should be a reward. After all, Hancock, directed by Peter Berg, is shorter than most Woody Allen comedies. There’s nothing funny here, however, or witty or clever or even developed beyond an idea.”
WALL*E is running 88, 45, 26 — extraordinary numbers for a family/kids movie because the kids aren’t polled. Figure $50 to $60 million. Wanted, also opening this weekend, has similar numbers — 86, 44, 26 — but without the kid factor and the ceiling on violence (plus the fact that the movie is brutish and rancid) it’ll do a fairly safe $30 million, maybe a bit more. Never has a worse movie
Will Smith‘s Hancock, opening on Tuesday, July 1st, is running at 91, 56 and 19 — obviously quite strong.
Guillermo del Toro‘s Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (Universal), opening on 7.11, is running at 74, 33 and 3. That’s a little weak, no? On one hand you could say people don’t seem to want to go there again. On the other hand this isn’t looking too bad since there’s a heavy first choice on Hancock and The Dark Knight. You could say that Hancock has to open and disappoint and get out of the way for Hellboy 2 to get rolling.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Warner/New Line, 7.11) is running 73, 23 and 1. Not good. Doing even worse is Eddie Murphy‘s Meet Dave (20th Century Fox) at 49, 17 and 0 — toilet time. it opens in two weeks and it’s dead. It’s obviously a referendum on Murphy’s fan base.
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros., 7.18) is looking huge — 76, 60 and 19, and it’s three weeks away. Mamma Mia (Universal), running against the bat, is 62, 23 and 5. Obviously an older female thing. “Definite interest’ running in the mid 30s. Tracking like Hairspray.
If you’re an MSNBC junkie you’re going to feel deluged these days by two ads (i.e., advertisers) in particular — those series of singing freecreditreport.com spots starring that guitar-strumming French-Canadian guy Eric Violette, and that amusing Travelocity ad showing the young married couple trying to talk to each other over a loud drilling sound coming from the apartment above.
Here are two other Violette/freecredit ads — the pizza restaurant and driving in the beater. There’s no sign of a Violette bio on the IMDB, but one nonetheless presumes he has a Los Angeles-based agent. I’m saying this because he’s got a nice look and an easy likable vibe that would fit right into under-25 throwaway movies or Entourage or what-have-you.
I’m also running this because I can’t find an embedded copy of the Travelocity ad. It’s a very funny due to the fast timing of the Jewish guy playing the husband (“Really?”), but it’s also pulsing with emotional subtlety. Look at the wife’s face as he tries to speak to her. Is she a little bit sick of him? Could they be on the verge of a divorce? or is she just trying to quietly repress her frustration at the drilling noise? She doesn’t even crack a slight smile at what he’s saying, and he’s hilarious. I’ve seen this ad maybe 20 times and I’ve never tired of it. And who’s the guy?
“The stated goals of PUMA are to: 1. Support Senator Hillary Clinton. 2. Lobby and organize for changes in leadership in the DNC. 3. Critique and oppose misogyny, discrimination, and disinformation in the mainstream media, including mainstream blogs and other outlets of new media. 4. To support the efforts of those political figures who have allied themselves with Hillary Clinton and who have demonstrated commitment to the first three goals. 5. [Help to] destroy America by voting against their values.” — straight from the PUMA Wikipedia page.
The PUMAs feel that their candidate lost, in part, because the misogynists ganged up on her and pulled strings that led in some roundabout way to her defeat. What is a reasonable person supposed to say to such tripe? Hillary Clinton’s campaign was about arrogance, bullying, bad planning, old-school negativity, racial innuendo, taking the scummiest road imaginable, using any ruse or trick in the dirty book of politics to appeal to the dumbest people out there, playing upon gender loyalty, downing shots with beer-gut racists, crying when it suited her drama-queen purposes, trying out cheap gimmicks like the gas tax idea, implying a Muslim heritage or allegiance on Obama’s part, praising McCain over Obama, angrily saying “shame on you, Barack Obama!” when he correctly repeated her NAFTA views, etc.
In short, it was one of the most despicable campaigns in modern political history — relentless, ghastly, appalling. And yet the die-hard PUMA people, stunningly, mind-blowingly, actually believe that the people who banded together and defeated Clinton’s campaign — which her all-together-now female supporters felt was a non-negotiable historical inevitability — are in some way demonic and hateful, and that the only thing for them to do now is to support John McCain.
There is no question that the Clintons earned their rep move by move, and that they lost by their own hand. The academic woman who was fired by the Obama campaign for calling Hillary a “monster” was Joan of Arc in my mind — burned at the stake for being true to her beliefs, and to God’s radiant light. Some people say never forget the Holocaust or 9/11. I say never forget what the Clintons did and what they were each and every day during the ’08 Democratic primary campaign.