Given director Chris Columbus‘s well-known tendency to go soft or sentimental, it’s hard to see how his forthcoming biopic about Robert F. Kennedy‘s 1968 presidential run, based on Thurston Clarke‘s “The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America,” will be sufficiently averse to the natural heart-tug of Kennedy’s sad story. The telling of it has to be honest, specific, tough-minded. And I don’t think Columbus has the courage to trust the audience to feel it on their own.
The other pitfall is casting. It’s not the material or even the script (although that’s obviously an important factor) as much as the actor who’ll play RFK that will spell the difference between success or failure here. The actor would have to be someone in his early 40s with the right look, the right voice (without resorting to any kind of Bugs Bunny-with-a-Boston-accent delivery), the right size, the right hair…everything. It’s a very tall order.
It’s safe to presume that one of the emotional high points of the film will be the scene in which RFK announces the murder of Martin Luther King to a crowd in Indianapolis, Indiana. But if Columbus has any balls at all, he’ll figure a way to use a cut of “Wild Thing” by Senator Bobby. Seriously.
Playboy.com‘s Jamie Malanowski attended a special screening last night of Oliver Stone‘s Nixon at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York, and then listened to Stone talk discuss this under-appreciated 1995 film as well as W, his forthcoming drama about the interiors of George W. Bush.
“Why return to the subject of the presidency?,” Malanowski or someone else asked. “‘George W. Bush is a different souffle,’ Stone answered. ‘The film will be more fun [than Nixon]. Bush is dangerous, but he is also goofy, awkward and endearing. A lot of people still like him.’
“Presented with the ultimate question — which man would he prefer be on a long car trip with — Stone unhesitatingly chose Nixon over Bush. ‘He was more intelligent. Bush has done outrageous things, and he has no guilt. He is a backslapper and a salesman. He’s not very deep.”
“Stone, however, says both Nixon and W. ask the same question: ‘Why do we keep going to war? Why do we keep creating enemies? Bush is the latest and perhaps the most dangerous manifestation. Vietnam was a nightmare. It’s amazing that the same characters have returned and sold us another war.”
Stone said he “now believes that 1995 was an unfortunate time to have made Nixon, and believes that if the film had come out in 2006 “with all its parallels” to our current political predicament that it would have done much better. He says that it’s interesting to see Nixon now. “We view him in a different context. He seems almost harmless compared to the current administration.”
Stone was there to promote a new director’s cut DVD of Nixon coming out on 8.19 in regular DVD and Blu-ray. It will feature “more than 20 minutes of new material,” writes Malanowski, including an eight minute scene featuring Sam Waterston as CIA director Richard Helms.
Why, then does the DVD jacket art claim that “28 minutes” have been added? The original theatrical cut was around 190 minutes so extra 28 minutes would obviously make the new running time 218 minutes, and yet the Amazon listing says it runs 213 minutes. What gives?
Anton Yelchin as Chekhov in JJ Abrams‘ Star Trek flick (which comes out next May)? Okay, I guess so, whatever, but I’ve never gotten a vibe from Yelchin that was about anything except light-hearted whimsy or puppy-dog sadness. He’s like a little kitten with a bowl of skim milk. The other Star Trek character posters, first revealed at ComicCon, feature the vaguely pudgy-faced Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu and Karl Urban as McCoy.
Bottle Shock‘s Chris Pine is Kirk, of course, and Zachary Quinto is Spock. Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana and Winona Ryder costar.
The source of the story/rumor about Paul Greengrass being attached to direct The Trial of the Chicago 7 movie instead of Steven Spielberg is a two-day old posting (8.9) by Film School Rejects guy Neil Miller. He based his info listing about the project in Production Weekly.
I wrote some Dreamamount folks to see if the Greengrass story is true, but they haven’t responded. If it turns out to be so, great. Greengrass understands anger and radical politics in a way that Spielberg never could and never will. On top of which Greengrass is in his full-powers mode right now, and Spielberg’s best days are obviously behind him. (The first death knell was Always, the second was Amistad, and the third was when he decided to let Tom Cruise‘s teenaged kid live after diving into that alien battle in War of the Worlds.) Which is why Spielberg needs to be gently dissuaded from directing anything of a complex, adult or political nature ever again.
Which is why (not to beat a dead horse) he also needs to bail on the Abraham Lincoln project that he’s been avoiding for the last three or four years. I haven’t read Tony Kushner‘s screenplay, but the subject matter itself is way beyond Spielberg’s comfort zone (adolescent kid stuff, thrillers, aliens, Nazis.) If he directs it he’ll screw it up one way or the other — trust me. He has no natural gut investment in Lincoln, like he did when he made Schindler’s List. He really has become that 60ish bearded suburban guy poking around a high-end hardware store looking to buy weed killer.
Howard Deutch is by all accounts a very bright, likable and dependable fellow. But the words “directed by” above his name on a movie poster is not a good thing for people like myself. It’s an assurance, I’ve learned over the years, of a kind of middlebrow hacksmanship that always results in a feeling of being faintly drugged while watching one of his films. It also tends to lead to leaning forward in your seat, to placing your head in your hands and spreading your fingers apart and over your eyes, and to mild groaning and bathroom breaks.
On top of which I’ve had nothing but bad or underwhelming times with Dane Cook — the man is an animal, a three-toed sloth — and Kate Hudson has proven beyond a doubt that she has no taste in movies whatsover, Almost Famous being her one lucky fluke. I liked Jason Biggs in Woody Allen‘s Anything Else so I’d rather not bash at this point in time.
But of course, My Best Friend’s Girl (Lionsgate, 9.19) is aimed at the under-30 girlies who know zip about movies, who have nothing in the way of cultivated taste about anything except what kind of makeup to use, who don’t read reviews or online columns like this one, and who shriek and convulse with laughter when they get together in groups of three or four at Starbucks or Coffee Bean or Seattle’s Best.
Per suggestions from Apple, I updated the iTunes software and also the iPhone software. Except the iPhone update stalled — it kept trying to verify that the newly installed data was working — so I hit the restore button, and then that process stalled. So I called the Apple guys for “help”….hah! 45 minutes later the iPhone was unrestored and still unusable.
I now have a 3 pm appointment with the Genius guys at the Apple store at the Grove to try and get this stupid issue resolved. I have no choice but to do this. Thank you, Apple, for ruining 90 minutes of my morning, and causing me to lose another two hours this afternoon.
Aint It Cool‘s Massawyrm hates, loathes and despises Star Wars: The Clone Wars as much as Harry Knowles does, except Harry took his review down last night after Lucasfilm insisted that embargo review dates be respected. So if AICN is temporarily pulling its Clone punches, why is Massawyrm ripping it to pieces?
“Do the fanboys REALLY want a bunch of scenes of characters whose destinies we already know fly through a series of dogfights so their pretty ships can go PEWPEWPEW against lifeless moronic droids so incompetent you question the tenacity of anyone that would put them into service let alone fight a war with an army of them?,” he said in a posting that went up this morning at 9:12 am.
“Do the fanboys REALLY want to spend the next 20 years of their lives arguing that the movies they love don√Ç‚Äôt, in fact, suck the hair off of a nutless monkey?
“Do the fanboys REALLY want an animated television series not written for 30-year-old men, but easily amused 8 year olds on Saturday morning between bites of soggy Corn Puffs? Because that√Ç‚Äô’s what they√Ç‚Äôre fucking getting with The Clone Wars.
“This. Is. Shit-ty.”
Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics and a columnist for washingtonpost.com’s On Faith, has written a clueless editorial that slams Tropic Thunder for its retard jokes regarding Ben Stiller‘s “Simple Jack” character.
Which, incidentally, is quite funny. And yet funny within Thunder‘s satirical context, which is all about dissecting actors and their massive egos, and the Hollywood hot-shots who pay, flatter, kowtow to, represent, cajole and undermine them.
The bit between Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr. about the pitfalls of “doing full retard” refers to the fact that only one Hollywood actor has played a mentally handicapped guy in a thoroughly realistic full-retard way — Sean Penn in I Am Sam. That means without throwing little extras and grace notes into the performance that charm the audience in to thinking, “Ahh, he’s only half-retarded — the other half is pretty smart or clever or even genius-level.”
“I have not been given the chance to see the movie,” Shriver writes. “But I’ve seen previews, read about it and read excerpts of the script. By all accounts, it is an unchecked assault on the humanity of people with intellectual disabilities — an affront to dignity, hope and respect.”
Shriver’s editorial is just another arched-back, not-very-hip response by a Stalinoid wonk to an artist who had the gall to ignore p.c. standards in order to make a point or tell a joke.
As HE reader Christian Hamaker says, “This poor guy’s position requires some sort of outrage, but he hasn’t seen the film and is basing his reaction to words on a page. Seeing the ‘retard’ exchange in print, without the context of two preening actors discussing their craft (one of whom has had his skin chemically altered to resemble and African American), is a disservice to the movie.
“I’m not sure the audience I saw this with wasn’t howling because they find discussion of ‘retards’ funny, but I’m guessing that most of the laughter had to do with the ‘inside’ actor talk about what does, and does not, constitute legitimate Oscar bait.” I know that’s why I was laughing, in any event.”
No one watching this classic 1959 film has ever paid attention to Martin Landau‘s offscreen dialogue once Eva Marie Saint spots the matchbook. Go ahead — try to pay the slightest attention to Landau’s words: “There he is. He’s heading pretty far out on the north leg and awfully high. I guess he’s going play it safe with a long slow descent. Hmm….couldn’t ask for a better night than this. Ceiling and possibilities unlimited. Ahh, there he goes, starting his turn. Well, we’d better get moving. He should have is wheels on the ground inside of three minutes.”
Politico‘s Mike Allen has written a mini-preview of a “blockbuster” Atlantic article called “The Front-Runner’s Fall,” and in so doing reported that Mark Penn, the widely loathed campaign strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s campaign, advised that Barack Obama should be portrayed as having a “limited” connection “to basic American values and culture.”
In short, Penn advised Clinton to portray Obama as an “other,” which is more or less what her campaign implied from time to time anyway and is certainly what John McCain‘s campaign is implying now.
Atlantic senior editor Joshua Green reports that Penn “suggested getting much rougher with Obama in a memo on March 30, after her crucial wins in Texas and Ohio: ‘Does anyone believe that it is possible to win the nomination without, over these next two months, raising all these issues on him? Won’t a single tape of [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?”
Green also writes that “major decisions during her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination would be put off for weeks until suddenly Clinton ‘would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire.'”
“Green reports that on a staff conference call in January where Clinton received ‘little response’ or ‘silence’ to several of her suggestions for how to recover from the Iowa loss and do better in New Hampshire, ‘Clinton began to grow angry, according to a participant’s notes,’ Green recounts. ‘This has been a very instructive call, talking to myself,’ she snapped, and hung up.”
The eight-page article “draws on internal memos, e-mails and meeting notes to reveal what the magazine’s September issue calls ‘the backstabbing and conflicting strategies that produced an epic meltdown.'”
Penn, the presidential campaign’s chief strategist, wrote in a memo to Clinton excerpted in the article: “I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
“A key take-away from the article,” says Allen, “is that Clinton received a lot of accurate advice, including from Penn. He wrote a remarkably prescient memo in March 2007 about the importance of appealing to what he called ‘the Invisible Americans,’ specifically ‘WOMEN, LOWER AND MIDDLE CLASS VOTERS’ — exactly the groups that helped Clinton beat Obama in key states nearly a year later.
“But no one synthesized and acted on the good advice.
“‘The anger and toxic obsessions overwhelmed even the most reserved Beltway wise men,’ Green writes. ‘[H]er advisers couldn’t execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. [S]he never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel.
“What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make.”
There has been, I’m told (and this is no big deal), an effort by Universal to lure Judd Apatow and the gang away from Sony. So in order to seduce everyone into feeling warm, happy and soothed about their relationship with Sony (as well as extend thanks for Pineapple‘s $40.4 million earnings since Wednesday), Sony chairman Amy Pascal has, I’m told, gifted Apatow and nine others with brand-new, straight-out-of-the-showroom Lexus hybrids.
I’m not 100% sure about any of this or, if it’s true, if ten Lexus hybrids were in fact purchased. (A reliable well-placed source called and told me so, is all.) But I’m told that on top of Apatow the new-car owners are Pineapple costars Seth Rogen and James Franco and — here’s a mild eyebrow-raiser — Columbia co-presidents Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, who were given their power-sharing posts about ten or eleven weeks ago.
Lexus hybrids (the precise name is Lexus LS 600h L) were going for $104,000 a pop last year at this time, so the cost of ten would obviously be roughly $1,040,000, not including tax and license fees. This is good. Spending is always good. Spread it around. Uncork the champagne.
We all remember Steven Spielberg gifting Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman with brand-new Mazda Miatas when they all finished shooting the execrable Always. (Nineteen years ago…wow.) I haven’t heard about any other car-gifting sprees by studios, but it probably happens from time to time.