So what’s with the Great Variety Blackout? The trade’s website has been down since sometime around 9 pm or so, possibly earlier. I’ve been zapped by technical problems four or five times since launching in August 2004, but never for twelve hours. Well, maybe once. Update: Variety has been up since the late morning, but it feels sluggish. Something definitely “happened.”
In a Huffington Post piece called “No Country for Batmen,” Washington Post editorial assistant Alex Remington says that “it turns out [that The Dark Knight is] closer to the bleak Westerns that cleaned up at the Oscars this winter than to the candy-colored creampuffs that we’re used to seeing in July, a bleak cry of despair cloaked in the garb of a comic book action movie, No Country For Old Men with a Batmobile.
“In many ways, it’s the feel-bad movie of the summer: it’s hard not to stare into Ledger’s eyes and come away profoundly shaken. Though in the end good emerges at least slightly victorious — a temporary armistice against the forces of darkness — it’s one of the least happy endings for a mainstream American action movie in quite a while.”
Terry Gilliam‘s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which will open in England and Australia in early ’09, will contain the shards of Heath Ledger’s very last performance, although his character of Troy will also be played by three other actors — Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Nonetheless, and no matter how Gilliam-esque Parnassus turns out out to be, Ledger’s name on the marquee will certainly boost business. Especially given the excitement associated with his Dark Knight/Joker performance.
And yet Gilliam has told The Telegraph‘s Tim Walker (a.k.a. “Mandrake”) that the idea of a Ledger Oscar campaign as “nothing more than a cynical publicity stunt” by Warner Bros. Has Gilliam lost his mind? A Best Supporting Actor Oscar campaign on Ledger’s behalf would probably be the best commercial godsend that could happen to Dr. Parnassus. And Warner Bros. wouldn’t be mulling a campaign if the support wasn’t there among fans, press and industry. What could Gilliam be thinking?
Warner Bros. “will do anything to publicize their film,” Gilliam told Walker. “That’s just what they do and you can’t get upset because it’s bullshit. They’re like a great white shark which devours whatever it can.”
Gilliam directed Ledger in some outdoor London scenes for Dr. Parnassus just two or three weeks before the actor’s accidental death last January.
“One more example of Chris Nolan‘s squeaky-clean ineptitude [is The Dark Knight‘s] Hong Kong subplot that culminates, after much zigzagging between HK and Gotham, with a corrupt corporate executive being hauled back to the states by Batman (Christian Bale), then kidnapped by the Heath Ledger‘s Joker, who sits with him on top of an enormous pile of money the Joker stole from a bank in the opening sequence.
“The Joker slides down to the bottom, douses the cash with gasoline, and there isn√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢t so much as a cut from Nolan√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s camera back up to the man who√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s going to be burned alive. No reaction shot, no futile attempt at escape, not even an off-camera scream, lest we be made aware a life is being taken. The Dark Knight, with its sanitized, hollowed-out approach to the most outre violence, would seem to be the movie that Bush√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s Abu Ghraib America deserves. ” — a portion of the most scathing Dark Knight review I’ve so far read, written by Movies Into Film‘s N.P. Thompson.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has told Der Spiegel that he supports Barack Obama‘s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months. “We think [that] would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” Maliki said. And that’s it — the tide has fundamentally gone against John McCain. He’s been basing his candidacy on toughing it out and staying the course in Iraq, and now what does he say?
The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder has written that this “could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq’s Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there’s no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot.”
Ambinder also quotes an e-mail reaction sent by “a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign , [saying] simply, ‘We’re fucked.'”
Time‘s Joe Klein is basically agreeing that McCain has been dealt terrible cards with this statement, and that it’s hard to imagine how it won’t hurt him big-time. In a piece called “Big Deal? No…Bigger,” TPM’s John Marshall has written that “Maliki has cut McCain off at the knees in a way I’m not sure his campaign strategy can recover from.”
Update: A CNN report says that “a spokesman for al-Maliki said his remarks ‘were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.'” As Charles Durning ‘s politician sang in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, “Oooooh, I like to do a little sidestep!”
“Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush.
The following graph appears in the original Der Spiegel interview: “Maliki was careful to back away from outright support for Obama. ‘Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement…who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business,” he said. But then, apparently referring to Republican candidate John McCain’s more open-ended Iraq policy, Maliki said: ‘Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems.”
I used to recreate with drugs (pot, hallucinogens, opiates) in my 20s, I had a vodka problem in the early to mid ’90s, and I had an alcoholic dad who passed along a good amount of emotional misery before joining AA in the mid ’70s, so I know a little something about substance-abuse pitfalls. Addiction is the banshee that could have taken me to hell but shrugged and gave me a “get out of jail” card instead. I was spared, grew past it, whatever…and yet there but for the grace of God.
I’ve therefore been very interested for some time in reading a forthcoming book by N.Y. Times columnist David Carr called The Night of The Gun, which is about his former life as a drug user and coke dealer (in the ’80s), and his struggles with alcohol addiction more recently.
Night of the Gun (Simon and Schuster) has an Amazon.com publishing date of August 8th.
I got the book yesterday and read most of it right away. If you know Carr’s media column or his Oscar-season writings as “the Bagger,” it should come as no surprise that it’s exquisitely written. I love Carr’s voice, which is at once flip and candid and yet elegant and wise. But the book is also a gripping, dead honest and well-reported confessional. And at the same time — no mean feat — dryly entertaining.
Night of the Gun is one of those “I did this and whoa…I’m not dead!” books, but of a much higher calibre. Much. Carr is a man of immense steel balls to have written this, and particularly to have gone back into the damp muddy tunnels of the past and fact-checked everything for three years. He did some 60 interviews with the witnesses and participants. He pored over the depressing documents (arrest reports, medical sheets) that all drug-users accumulate sooner or later. It must have revived nightmares. But Carr went and did it and bravely wrote this book, and did a bang-up job of it. Hat off, head bowed.
Carr offers this succinct sum-up on page 16: “WHAT I DESERVED: Hepatitis C; federal prison time; HIV; a cold park bench; an early, addled death. WHAT I GOT: A nice house, a good job, three lovely children. WHAT I REMEMBER ABOUT HOW THAT GUY BECAME THIS GUY: Not much. Junkies don’t generally put stuff in boxes; they wear the boxes on their heads, so that everything around them — the sky, the future, the house down the street — is lost to them.”
A truly first-rate website has been put together to explain the book and the story and the whole thing. Tomorrow’s N.Y. Times magazine (in the 7.20 Sunday edition) will contain an excerpt from the book titled “Me and My Girls.”
Carr’s book reminded me of the “farewell, my dignity” aspect of drug use. Constant assaults on your self-esteem, stains on your sheets and your soul, humiliations unbridled. One way or another, if you do drugs you’re going to be dragged down and made to feel like a low-life animal. Because that’s what you are as long as you let drugs run the show.
Drugs didn’t exactly “run the show” when I was 22 or 23, but they sure were my friends. I saw my life as a series of necessary survival moves, spiritual door-openings, comic exploits, adventures, erotic intrigues — everything and anything that didn’t involve duty, drudgery, having a career and mowing the lawn on weekends. Pot, hashish, mescaline, peyote buttons, Jack Daniels and beer were my comrades in crime.
(I’m going to leave aside discussions of my Godhead Siddhartha discoveries with LSD, and I’d just as soon forget my relatively brief encounters with blithering idiot marching powder from the late ’70s to mid ’80s.)
The particular story that David Carr’s book brought back was me and my upper-middle-class friends’ flirtation with opium and, for a brief time, heroin. The way we saw it, smack was much hipper than your garden-variety head drugs. Opiates were more authentic, we figured, because guys like William S. Burroughs and Chet Baker did them. Where today I see only the danger, the depravity and the recklessness, back then we saw only the contra-coolness.
I was never much of a user, but I did flirt from time to time. I was a candy-ass in junkie circles because I confined myself to snorting and smoking the stuff. One thing I learned pretty quickly is that “chippers” (casual users) have to be careful because heroin will make you throw up if you smoke or snort too much because your body isn’t used to it. Which mine never was because I wasn’t…you know, dedicated.
I was living in a crash pad in Southport, Connecticut. My sole source of income at the time was working part-time for a guy who ran a limousine driver service. Business guys looking to go to Kennedy or LaGuardia or Newark airports would call and I’d come over and drive them to the airport in their car, and then drive it back to their home. Doesn’t sound like much of an idea, but there were definitely customers calling from Westport, Weston, Easton, Wilton, Georgetown, Redding, Southport and Fairfield.
My deal with my boss, Peter, was to be on call at all times. A guy leaving for the airport in a couple of hours would call Peter, he’d call me, I’d drive over and so on. So one afternoon — a Sunday, possibly — a friend and I happened to have some of that snort-smoke stuff, and had retired to a barn out back for a little indulgence. We rolled a nice fat joint and soon I was royally Baker-ed. But just as we got back to the house the phone rang. It was Peter telling me to dress nicely and be at a certain client’s home in 45 minutes if possible, certainly no later than an hour. A trip down to Kennedy.
If I were less of a fool I would have said then and there, “Sorry, Peter — no can do.” But I was broke and needed the money. Go for it, I told myself. I figured I’d take a quick shower, change into a dress shirt and sport jacket, and be relatively straight by the time I got to the client’s house. But the shower didn’t help and I looked like a wreck. My pupils were little black micro-points. So I put on a pair of deep-black shades and then had the inspiration to put on a cowboy hat, the idea being that the manly-conservative cowboy vibe might rub off and make me look less drugged out.
But I was feeling way too wasted as I got into my car so I got my friend to drive me over in his. I figured the stuff would wear off sooner or later and I’d be okay.
I started to feel more and more nauseous as we drove over. When I realized with a jolt I was going to be sick, I rolled down the window and lurched halfway out and spewed. Except we were moving at a good clip — 40 or 45 mph — and so the vomit splattered along the side of my friend’s bright red car.
You need to imagine yourself raking leaves on the front lawn of your beautiful Southport home, blue sky, your toddlers playing nearby, birds chirping in the trees, when all of a sudden you see this ratty red Impala rolling along with some guy leaning out the passenger window and spraying clam chowder. You have to think of it in those terms.
It was all we could do to keep the client from calling the police once he saw me — pasty-faced, straw cowboy hat, unable to stand straight, slurring my words, flecks of vomit on my sport jacket. I was screamed at and, of course, fired by Peter. Never before had I felt like such a piece of detritus, and nothing has happened since to equal this. It was so humiliating that the opiate-usage thing ended very soon after. I told myself I was the rebellious but capable son of suburban middle- class parents who led productive, organized, reasonably moral lives, and here I was acting like a complete degenerate.
The purple rage on Peter’s face, the look of contempt in the client’s eyes, my own self disgust. If these things didn’t wake me, nothing would have. But they did.
It’s looking like it might be prudent to back away — for the time being, at least — from today’s 7.19 report by Fox 411’s Roger Friedman that Tom Cruise won’t be doing that Edwin A. Salt movie with Philip Noyce, from a script by Kurt Wimmer. Freidman is saying Cruise has “apparently” bailed “because of money” and that Will Smith has now stepped into the role. Not so, says a well-placed source who’s focusing on the creative side.
Freidman’s story more or less claims that the Salt producers haven’t offered Cruise his usual massive salary because they feel he isn’t the same box-office powerhouse he was five years ago…which of course he isn’t. But my guy says the Smith story is complete horseshit, and that Cruise’s issue isn’t the money (as far as he knows) but the Wimmer script, which has given Cruise concern because the Salt character is too much like Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt, whom Cruise has played three times.
“Cruise is waiting for the new [Wimmer] draft which is coming out in the next couple of weeks,” I was told this morning. “He’s never been officially attached to the film…never said that he absolutely wants to do it. The main concern is about the character being too close to Hunt.
“He’s always had this concern about repeating himself. Salt is a character working for the CIA, being extraordinary at disguise and athletic…there are a whole lot of similarities there. It’s possible that salary discussions may have taken place, but that’s not my area. All I know is,we’re waiting on a new script that will arrive in a week or two.”
What’s the motive of the people feeding the Cruise-is-out story to Friedman? “Everybody wants to bring down Tom Cruise,” my source said. “Except everyone associated with Edwin A. Salt would like Tom to be in it.”
It’s nighttime in Afghanistan now, and the temperature in Kabul is 81 degrees (according to the iPhone weather thing). I’m imagining sitting on an outdoor terrace in eastern Afghanistan, sipping from a warm can of Coke and hearing very faint sounds of rifle fire coming from somewhere beyond the hills, as well as local men talking in a nearby cafe…walla walla, mullah mullah.
At Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (l. to r.): Afghanistan U.S. ambassador William B. Wood, Senator Chuck Hagel; Sgt. Maj. Vincent Camacho; Obama, Senator Jack Reed; and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser.
“Im more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking,” BHO told reporters before leaving the States for his MIddle Eastern/European visit. “And I think it is very important to recognize that I’m going over there as a U.S. senator. We have one president at a time.”
Payback humor at its absolute best. Every time I see this…hell, every time I think of this scene, I chortle. Gregory Hines vs. a charming Spanish-American couple in William Friedkin‘s Deal of the Century, which I realize was otherwise a problematic film. If only Josh Brolin and Jeffrey Wright…naaah, let it go.
I’m sorry if this sounds insensitive, but the images of Annette Bening and especially Meg Ryan in this poster for The Women (Picturehouse, 9.12) simply don’t resemble the actresses in their 21st century incarnations. Bening, bless her enormous talent and sense of class, had been made to look like her Bugsy or American Beauty self, and Ryan…c’mon. Did she ever look like this? What happened to the Botox lips that nearly killed her career? It’s all the doing of the art person behind the poster, of course. A simple case of over-sweetening.