The L.A. Times can consolidate and revamp and re-arrange the deck chairs all they want, and it won’t really change anything. The dead tree/Gutenberg empire is going down, down, down. The Rocky Mountain News will publish its last issue on Friday. The Tuscon Citizen will cease publishing on 3.21 after 138 years in business. One by one, newspapers are dropping like flies.
It is nothing short of a Biblical scourge. Frogs, locusts…the Nile turned red. It’s the green mist descending from the sky and gliding along the ground, bringing death to every publication that doesn’t have lamb’s blood (i.e., a primarily web-based focus with a lean staff and low overhead) smeared on its front door.
I forgot to ask if anyone has PDFs of these scripts also — untitled James L. Brooks, The Rum Diary and The Matarese Circle. I promise to return the favor. Update: I’ve so far received Up In The Air, The Human Factor (i.e.,Eastwood/Mandela), Imperial Life in the Green Zone, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Fair Game, Brothers, Amelia, a faded 2007 draft of Shutter Island, The Informant, The Lovely Bones and A Serious Man.
As that Pineapple Express Oscar short proved, James Franco‘s stoner character is one of the great comic incarnations of our time. He was so euphorically good as “Saul Silver” in Pineapple Express that it’s a little hard to come to terms with the idea of Franco performing in a dramatically straight, soulful and sincere vein.
Nonetheless, a straight, soulful and sincere Franco will be giving a Word Theatre performance this Sunday at Manhattan’s Soho House from 3 to 5 pm. I’ve attended several Word Theatre readings and remain a big fan. I love being part of that Word Theatre atmosphere, which is basically a classy literary salon-type deal.
I’d actually like to attend this Sunday’s thing — it’s only $25 a pop — and maybe bring my ex-wife along but there are complications. Don’t ask.
Franco will host and read from a new story by Jim Shepard. Julianna Margulies (Ghost Ship) will read a story by Amy Hempel. And Lynn Whitfield (Stepmom, Head of State) will read a story by John Edgar Wideman.
Just understand that Franco will not be wearing a hippie wig, love beads, a tie-dyed T-shirt, bell-bottoms or sandals. I for one would love to see him read the Shepard story like Saul would read it — stumbling here and there, giggling, mispronouncing this and that name, improvising, etc. But that wouldn’t be fair to Shepard, I suppose. Although it would be fine with me.
I’m looking to get hold of PDF scripts of all the prospective 2009 Best Picture contenders plus whatever shot scripts that I haven’t read or heard about that might be surprise contenders. If you don’t ask…
At a bare minimum I’d be most happy to receive Mandela/Playing The Enemy (d: Clint Eastwood), Biutiful (d: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu); Nine (d: Rob Marshall); Amelia (d: Mira Nair); Green Zone (d: Paul Greengrass); Taking Woodstock (d: Ang Lee); Shutter Island (d: Martin Scorsese); Cheri (d: Stephen Frears); The Informant (d: Steven Soderbergh); Away We Go (d: Sam Mendes); Up In The Air (d: Jason Reitman); The Lovely Bones (d: Peter Jackson); Agora (d: Alejandro Amenabar); Brothers (d: Jim Sheridan); A Serious Man (d: Joel and Ethan Coen); Bright Star (d: Jane Campion); Julie and Julia (d: Nora Ephron); The Tree of Life (d: Terrence Malick) and that untitled Nancy Meyers project that’ll costar Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.
A non-proofed review copy of Paul Newman: A Life, written by Shawn Levy, arrived today. I’ve been hearing about this sucker for a long time, and how some really good material about Newman’s early days has been dug up. I’m two pages …no, three pages in and so far it’s a very clean, smooth and easy read. It’ll be buyable in early May.
Newman never sat down with Levy, but he didn’t tell friends and colleagues not to cooperate either. It’s obviously a good time for an in-depth review of the life of Henry Gondorf, Ben Quick, Eddie Felson and Butch Cassidy. I presume everyone heard that applause during the Oscar telecast death tribute? Check out this high-school photo…amazing.
Those Leslie Nielsen Naked Gun movies did pretty well in their time — the 1988 original took in $78 million (an excellent gross for the Reagan era) and the last one, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, earned $51 million domestic in ’94. But they’re old news and they’re over, for God’s sake. There’s no room for an old-dog comedy franchise in the Age of Obama. That’s what my attitude was, at least, until a Paramount employee slipped me a PDF copy of — prepare yourself — The Naked Gun: What 4? — The Rhythm of Evil.
Would such a property have worked a year or two after 9/11? Or two or three years ago? Maybe, maybe not. But right now people are so zombie-freaked by the destruction of their stock portfolios and retirement funds and the devaluation of their homes and their sharply-reduced ability to pay for their kids’ college tuitions that they’re probably ready to laugh at really dumb stuff again. Maybe. The key element, of course, is that is has to be seriously stupid. No fooling around, I mean.
What makes funny funny? There’s no explaining the how and why (and if you do you kill the joke), but I know it when I read it. And this script, penned by veteran sardonic-comedy guy Alan Spencer (Sledge Hammer, Hexed), made me laugh. It’s funny in a dry, smart, surreal-toxic sexual way. But then I’m from Mars so what do I know?
On top of which the films that I direct in my head when I’m reading stuff like this are always underplayed in an Ingmar Bergman-esque way, and the tendency of many (if not most) professional comedy directors is to broaden and underline so the least sophisticated dolts in Mumbai will get the joke. But the best stupid comedies are never aimed low — they’re written and directed by smart guys, and played as straight as Hamlet and aimed at jazz musicians and corporate CEOs and people who donate foundation money. Because once you start winking at the audience, you’re dead.
The three lead cop characters in Naked Gun: What 4? are Det. Vince Conklin (“Look, I represent the new America, the average person on the street desperate for change… like pennies, nickles, dimes”), Police Commissioner Roy McGlade (flip, blunt, crusty but benign) and Lt. Erica Litvak (30s, no-nonsense, a looker). Nielsen’s Lt. Frank Drebin has been put out to pasture, of course — living in Florida, golfing — so it’s wide open for whatever.
All I know is that “it’s ugly out there….like a boil on the buttock of a Sumo wrestler suffering from excema.” That’s a throwaway line from page four, delivered by a minor character.
It’s not surprising to hear that Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience will clean up with a possibly $30 million (we all knew it was at least going to do Hannah Montana-level business). And learning that Slumdog Millionaire may take in a possible $9.5 million and thereby crack $110 million domestic is not exactly heart-stopping. But a decent summary of what may happen numerically has nonetheless been tapped out by Big Hollywood’s Steve Mason.
A somewhat older critic friend saw Watchmen yesterday and “dug it,” although his review will have to wait out the embargo. “As you may recall, I wasn’t a fan of The Dark Knight but I loved Batman Begins,” he said this morning. “I’m not a regular comic-book reader but have read Watchmen and felt like the film was faithful without being slavish — incredibly dark and violent, and not a comic-book movie for kids. And I thought [director Zack] Snyder‘s style was a perfect mesh with the material.
“On the other hand, I left the screening with a fellow critic (who shall remain nameless) whose first words were, ‘Did you hate that as much as I did?’ It will be polarizing, to say the least.”
Finally, a non-vested, stand-up professional critic unblinkered by geek allegiances — Variety‘s Justin Chang — has weighed in on Watchmen and more or less called it a half-and-halfer.
“Auds unfamiliar with Alan Moore‘s brilliantly bleak, psychologically subversive fiction may get lost amid all the sinewy exposition and multiple flashbacks,” Chang says early on. “Though it cries out for equally audacious cinematic treatment, the novel has instead been timidly and efficiently streamlined by David Hayter (X-Men, X2: X-Men United) and Alex Tse, who struggle to cram as many visual and narrative details as possible into the film’s 161 minutes.
“From the clues and in-jokes embedded in Larry Fong‘s widescreen compositions and Alex McDowell‘s vaguely retro Gotham-noir production design to the meticulous narrative framework and whole chunks of dialogue lifted from the novel, there’s no question that Watchmen reps some sort of ultimate fanboy’s delight. Whether it’s Dreiberg’s flying owl ship or the staggering glass palace Dr. Manhattan conjures up on Mars, the filmmakers have spared no expense in their mission to visualize every last frame.
“Yet the movie is ultimately undone by its own reverence; there’s simply no room for these characters and stories to breathe of their own accord, and even the most fastidiously replicated scenes can feel glib and truncated. As Watchmen lurches toward its apocalyptic (and slightly altered) finale, something happens that didn’t happen in the novel: Wavering in tone between seriousness and camp, and absent the cerebral tone that gave weight to some of the book’s headier ideas, the film seems to yield to the very superhero cliches it purports to subvert.
“While [director Zack] Snyder still exults in gratuitous splatter (sawed-off limbs, dangling human entrails, a very random display of adolescent vampirism), he demonstrates a less oppressive directorial hand than he did in 300, avoiding that film’s ultra-processed digital look and shooting almost entirely on carefully mounted sets (pic was shot in Vancouver). William Hoy’s editing is fluent and measured, even when it cross-cuts rapidly in an attempt to echo the jumpiness of Gibbons’ comicbook panels.
While none of the actors leaves an indelible impression, Jackie Earl Haley‘s feral, ferrety Rorschach (narrating most of the film in gravelly voiceover) makes the most of his few unmasked appearances; Patrick Wilson is touching as a man emerging from physical and psychological impotence; and Matthew Goode is appropriately fey as the self-styled Veidt. Robert Wisden appears in a few scenes as Tricky Dick himself, complete with comically elongated nose, but doesn’t quite give Frank Langella a run for his money.
“After a victorious opening weekend, the pic’s b.o.. future looks promising but less certain.”
The slogan of Movieguide, a family-friendly Christlan conservative website that reviews movies with an eye for moral worthiness in themes and storylines, is “help us bring God’s light to an industry with much darkness — protect your family.” The site is published by Dr. Ted Baehr, a self-righteous media critic and chairman of The Christian Film and Television Commission. In short, a loon.
Dr. Ted Baehr
Baehr has just written a piece for Andrew Breitbart’s right-wing website Big Hollywood called “Sean Penn and His Buddies Will Sink Hollywood.”
“The Academy Award members painted themselves as a bunch of Commie rats last night when they applauded madly during Communist sympathizer Sean Penn’s gleeful greeting to them — ‘You Commie, homo-loving sons of guns!’ — after winning an award for portraying an assassinated homosexual leader,” Baehr wrote.
That’s it, the man has no sense of grace or wit or humor. He’s the pudgy kid who used to rat to the teacher about who was throwing spitballs when her back was turned.
“In the past, Penn has expressed support for Hugo Chavez, the neo-Marxist dictator of Venezuela, and Communist dictator Fidel Castro of Cuba.”
That firms it — Hugo Chavez is doing something right.
“What Penn and other Communist sympathizers in Hollywood refuse to recognize (at least publicly) is that American moviegoers usually reject movies that unabashedly promote a Communist or socialist viewpoint.”
Baehr has a point. People do tend to support movies about stand-alone, right-thinking heroes who stand up against repressive social convention or some kind of oppressive organized force. But give me half a day and I’ll think of some exceptions.
“For seven years, Movieguide has been looking at the political content of the Top 250 English-language movies that open nationally each year in the United States,” Naehr writes. “An examination of the domestic box office averages for movies promoting an unabashedly socialist or Communist viewpoint shows that such movies averaged only about $15.5 million and $7 million per movie from 2002 through 2008.
“And that includes the pro-Communist, socialist diatribes of Michael Moore , whose success at self-promotion leaves all other lefty filmmakers in the dust!”
Good God, the man is unhinged.
Baer’s Wikipedia bio says he has a rep for having accepted consultancy fees from reps of films his website has supported. It mentions a March 2004 article by Marshall Allen in Christianity Today that claimed Baehr’s public relations company, Kairos Marketing, accepted payment for consulting and promotional activities on behalf of six movies that were positively reviewed in Movieguide.”
How many HE readers have used kosmix.com as a search engine? A 2.22 N.Y. Times story about deep web search engines led me to it. Kosmix.com co-founder Anand Rajaraman was quoted saying that “the crawlable Web” — i.e., Google world — “is the tip of the iceberg.” Kosmix, the story said, “has developed software that matches searches with the databases most likely to yield relevant information, then returns an overview of the topic drawn from multiple sources.”