There are so many newspaper buyouts, layoffs, firings and salary rollbacks these days that every time I see a flurry of fresh reports along these lines, I write anyone I know who’s working for one of the beseiged publications and I say “how goes it?” I wrote this to two friends today. One of them wrote back with the following: “Am I okay as in ‘do I still have job security’? Yeah. Am I okay as in ‘how do I cope with an 11.5% paycut’? Remains to be seen.”
In an essay that introduces Newsweek‘s Paul Krugman-profile cover story, titled “Obama Is Wrong,” editor Jon Meacham notes that “every once a while, a critic emerges who is more than a chatterer — a critic with credibility whose views seem more than a little plausible and who manages to rankle those in power in more than passing ways.
“As the debate over the rescue of the financial system–the crucial step toward stabilizing the economy and returning the country to prosperity–unfolds, [Krugman] has emerged as the kind of critic who, as Evan Thomas writes, appears disturbingly close to the mark when he expresses his ‘despair’ over the administration’s bailout plan. …
“There is little doubt that Krugman — Nobel laureate and Princeton professor — has be come the voice of the loyal opposition. What is striking about this development is that Obama’s most thoughtful critic is taking on the president from the left at a time when, as Jonathan Alter notes, so many others are reflexively arguing that the administration is trying too much too soon.
“A devoted liberal, Krugman hungers for what he calls ‘a new New Deal,’ and he prides himself on his status as an outsider. (He is as much of an outsider as a Nobel laureate from Princeton with a column in the Times can be.) Is Krugman right? Is the Obama administration too beholden to Wall Street and to the status quo, trying to save a system that is beyond salvation? Does Obama have — despite the brayings of the right — too much faith in the markets at a time when prudence suggests that they cannot rescue themselves?
“We do not know yet, and will not for a while to come. But as Evan — hardly a rabble-rousing lefty — writes, a lot of people have a ‘creeping feeling’ that the Cassandra from Princeton may just be right. After all, the original Cassandra was.”
The Film Forum’s 12-day Jules Dassin retrospective began yesterday. I’ve never seen Night and the City (Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, 1950), and so I’ll be catching the 5:40 pm show. I’ve never seen Dassin’s Up Tight! either, but the rep on this one — a militant black revolutionary riff on The Informer — is pretty bad. Such that it’ll probably never make DVD. I’m guessing that another late ’60s black-militant melodrama, Robert Alan Aurthur‘s The Lost Man with Sidney Poitier and Joanna Shimkus, will never see DVD either. Like they never existed.
Posters for Dassin’s Up Tight!, Authur’s The Lost Man.
Eight days of play and Tony Gilroy‘s Duplicity, by any measure an above-average, extremely satisfying film on the terms that it lays out and works with, did $2.3 million yesterday, and will probably end up with $6 million and change by Sunday night. That’s a greater-than-50% drop from its opening weekend tally of $13,965,110, which wasn’t that great to begin with. Which basically means over and out.
Gilroy’s Michael Clayton cost about $26 million to make, and took in $92,991,835 worldwide not counting DVD and whatnot. Duplicity was much pricier — a guy in a position to know told me $80 million, give or take — and will probably finish with less than half of Clayton‘s take, ancillaries aside.
I’m sorry. Life is unfair. Gilroy did as good a job as anyone could have with a sophisticated corporate-suspense brain teaser such as this. And it certainly got the reviews. But Julia Roberts is over and that’s the bottom line. Both my kids, 19 and 20, have told me they don’t like her at all. Even my ex-wife says she doesn’t harbor any affinity. J.R. still has plenty of juice as a feisty lead or character actress as long as she drops her price sufficiently. She had her run. She’s worth $400 million or thereabouts. She’ll obviously be fine.
I’ve been fuming all my life at the martian-head rule that dominates each and every full-body statue in every corner of the world. A naturally proportioned full-body statue will create an impression, viewed from below, of the figure’s head being too small. The age-old solution has been a rule that all statues must have disproportionately large heads. Except every sculptor in the known world has over-submitted to this rule, and — this is the odd part — to the exact same degree. I’m talking 100% uniformity.
The bizarre result is that every statue in the world, from Beijing to Bangor to Timbuktu, seems to have a genetic commonality in the same way that people afflicted with Down’s Syndrome seem to have the same kind of slanted eyes and doughy bodies. Every statued figure in the world (including John Wayne on his horse at the corner of Wilshire and La Cienega) looks like a space alien with a strangely swollen cranium.
This has been driving me insane for years. I know this rule will hold throughout eternity because the standing-statue mafia is too dug in, and that no one will ever listen, and I’ll be alone with this for the rest of my life. But I’m right. It almost seems like a deliberate provocation on the part of the powers that be. We’re going to put martian-head statues in every city around the world, they almost seem to be saying, and we want to see how far we can push it. Or rather, we want to see if anyone will have the spirit to say anything about this, or if people will just accept it like they accept everything else.
I know that every time I come upon a standing statue (most often in Europe), I mutter a tiny little “fuck you” under my breath. It gets me every time.
In the early ’80s I pitched a monthly column idea to two or three publications called “Hollywood Weltschmerz: The Celebrity in Pain.” The idea was to interview Hollywood luminaries about hurtin’ stuff they’d recently gone through. I didn’t just love the idea because it was wholly original and would have gotten lots of attention, but because there would be endless amounts of material. I mean, actors, for God’s sake…are you kidding?
But the powers-that-be thought it was too strange, and suspected that actors plugging movies probably wouldn’t want to go there with a journalist, or that their publicist would object if they didn’t. (Weltschmerz is pronounced veltschmerz and defined by Websters as “sorrow that one feels and accepts as one’s necessary portion in life; sentimental pessimism.”)
Here it is nearly 30 years later and somebody — The Wrap‘s Eric Estrin — is finally having a go at a similar kind of thing, called “Hard Knocks.” Unless it’s not a column and just a stand-alone piece. (The layout art doesn’t convey the intent with 100% clarity.)
Estrin’s “artist in pain,” in any event, is comic Kevin Nealon , and he says something toward the end of the article that hit home.
“For me, I think, love has always been my biggest obstacle in this business,” Nealon writes. “I lost a considerable amount of weight after that. I was depressed, but I still went on and did standup no matter how gaunt I looked and sick I looked. People thought I had AIDS because I was so depressed.
“But I would get up on stage, and I found that being onstage was kind of an escapism type of a thing. It’s like going to Disneyland. You kind of forget about your troubles and you’re just onstage, doing your act. And then once you step offstage again you’re back into real life. But the more I performed, the more I would get over my distraction of being heartbroken. That was how I handled it.”
That’s precisely how I feel about writing this column. It’s hard work but living in it is also a kind of vacation. For eight or nine or ten hours daily I live in HE world as opposed to the one outside the window. There’s no ambiguity about which one I prefer.
It’s obvious within seconds of looking at clips from Little Ashes (Regent, 5.8.09), a drama about the young Salvador Dali, that it’s going to be received as a major embarassment. Particularly for Twilight star Robert Pattinson, who plays Dali. And I’m not gloating about this at all.
I’m not trying to be an obnoxious know-it-all here, but Pattinson looks flat-out silly in that upturned wax-stache. (Not in the poster portrait, which someone has Photoshopped so as to trim the upturned tips.) Look at the footage and there’s no accepting it. It looks like a cheap paste-on — a joke, a mistake.
If I’d been hired to replace director Paul Morrison the first thing I would have said when I walked on the set was, “Look, we all know that Dali is famous for the big wiry upturned moustache, but we can’t go with it because because it makes Robert look foolish. So as far as we’re concerned Dali’s upturned ‘stache didn’t kick in until he got older. Which there is ample photographic evidence to support. When he was younger he wore a Clark Gable ‘stache. End of discussion.”
(l.) Salvador Dali in his 20s, (r.) in his late 20s or early 30s. No upturned stache in either shot.
I haven’t read any first-hand reports about day-to-day Baghdad realities in a long while. I think I stopped being interested after seeing No End in Sight, which convinced me that Americans had screwed things up so horribly they needed to just get the hell out and never come back. But today I read a piece about here-and-now Baghdad that got me.
It’s called “Baghdad in Fragments” and was posted today by freelance journalist Michael J. Totten, who supplies his own half-decent photographs. It’s good reporting. He needs Pay Pal contributions. I’m going to send him one next week when I get some more money in.
Here’s a sample….
“Iraqi Police officers still routinely fire negligent discharges in the stations.
“‘I forgot my AK was loaded,’ one of them said to me recently after he damn near shot his foot off,” Lieutenant Kane said. “I asked him why he was carrying it by the trigger. ‘That’s how I always carry it!’, he said.”
“Lieutenant Kane rolled his eyes.
“‘They’re like Keystone cops,’ said another soldier.
“‘Some go out of the station with their helmets on the back of their heads and their shoes untied,’ Lieutenant Kane said. ‘They’re like kids.’
“‘Just wait until they’re running this place by themselves,’ I said.
“‘I don’t even want to get into that,” he said. ‘Some of these guys completely freaked out last week when Iraqi Army soldiers fired a warning shot near them. Their eyes got huge, and they were like, whoah.’
“‘This is Iraq,’ I said. ‘They aren’t used to that yet? I’m used to it and I don’t even live here.”
“‘Then there are other people,’ he said, ‘who shrug when bombs go off in their neighborhood as long as their windows don’t get blown out. They say ‘Oh, it’s just a bomb, it’s not a big deal.'”
does this signify? Any shot at a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination is most likely dead, for one thing. It certainly doesn’t mean any less box-office dough.
JoeMo says “see it only if you need a retro-monster fix, and in 3-D to offset the no-D script.” Lou-Lou calls it “a clunky and wildly unimaginative” film that “really doesn’t have a clue what to do with the 3D technique.” And yet the Village Voice‘s Robert Wilonsky gave it a full thumbs-up, calling it “a milestone,” and the Oregonian‘s Shawn Levy gave it a near-rave.
Monsters vs. Aliens “has bells and whistles, superb technical sophistication and dazzling visual effects, sound, fury and Reese Witherspoon,” wrote Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday. “What it doesn’t have is heart.
“At a recent Saturday morning screening full of youngsters and their adult charges, nary a giggle or delighted gasp could be heard, maybe because references to Dr. Strangelove are lost on the SpongeBob SquarePants set. Either that, or even little ones appreciate a good story. And that’s precisely what’s missing from Monsters vs. Aliens, which is nominally about a bunch of government-sponsored monsters that do battle with an evil alien squid craving world domination.
“That’s plot, not a story. And too often, Monsters vs. Aliens is about things, not characters. One exception is B.O.B., a forgetful blue gelatinous blob that, as voiced by Seth Rogen, not only elicits but earns his laughs. As for the rest of the movie, it will recede into your own B.O.B.-like memory bank, dissolve quickly and disappear forever.”
A just-received e-mail from Fandango.com’s Harry Medved reports that Monsters vs. Aliens is accounting for 57% of advance ticket sales. The second-place The Haunting in Connecticut is only tallying about 10% — dud. I Love You, Man is third at 5%, and the awful Knowing is fourth at 4%.