“By now there have been quite enough zombie comedies to constitute a little subgenre of their own. If Zombieland doesn’t grade at the head of its class — the valedictorian still being Shaun of the Dead — this lively splatstick item is nonetheless way above the remedial likes of Zombie Strippers, to name one among many recent lower-budgeters. Benefiting from the very different but very appealing comedy styles of Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg even when the script’s wit runs thin, this should be catnip to jaded genre fans, with decent niche theatrical returns and solid long-term ancillary biz signaled.” — from Dennis Harvey‘s 9.27 Variety review.
At a press conference earlier today, the Zurich Film Festival jury wore red “Free Polanski” buttons and accused Switzerland of “philistine collusion” in arresting Polanski. “We hope today this latest order will be dropped [as] it is based on a three-decade-old case that is all but dead but for minor technicalities,” said jury president Debra Winger. “We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork.”
Festival de Cannes president Gilles Jacob, Italian star Monica Bellucci and directors Costa-Gavras, Wong Kar Wai and Bertrand Tavernier are among the signatures on a petition demanding Polanski’s immediate release. Harvey Weinstein also lent his support to the cause after being approached by Fremaux. It’s expected the Weinstein Co. boss will head up a Hollywood lobby fighting the extradition.
Didja hear that, HE tubthumpers? Time to rip into Winger for her delusional views and set her straight. And let the others know what for while you’re at it. Don’t allow twisted Hollywood mores to go unchallenged.
Of the nine up-and-comers featured in Vanity Fair‘s April 2000 Hollywood issue, only one — Penelope Cruz — has really made it in a truly stellar, top-of-the-heap way. Selma Blair has hung on visibility-wise with the Hellboy flicks and Paul Walker has done decent work here and there (like in ’06’s Running Scared). But Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Marley Shelton, Chris Klein and Jordana Brewster all seem to be swimming upstream and not really doing it. I had to go to the IMDB for find Sarah Wynter, who’s mostly been a TV actress for the last nine years.
(l. to r.) Penelope Cruz, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Marley Shelton, Chris Klein, Selma Blair, Jordana Brewster and Sarah Wynter.
I can’t imagine why any movie fan would give two hoots about Johnny Depp having said he won’t play Cpt. Jack Sparrow in the fifth and sixth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. But that’s the big hot exclusive news delivered earlier today by Cinemablend‘s Katey Rich. I mean, who wanted to suffer through parts two or three to begin with? Who in their right mind would want to see part four, which Depp is apparently willing (or thinking about being willing) to star in?
Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribbean.
“The news that Disney exec Dick Cook was leaving the company was important to the people who work in the studio itself,” Rich begins, “but the part that got movie fans concerned was Johnny Depp‘s suggestion that Cook’s absence might make him less enthusiastic to come back for a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean.
“Our regular tipster is saying that even if he makes the fourth film, he definitely won’t be back for a fifth or sixth. Given that the Pirates franchise is the only live-action property making any money for the studio, Disney execs could reach deep in their pockets to keep Depp on for #4, but they’re also preparing to replace Captain Jack with a entirely new character if he refuses a fifth and sixth film.
Depp “is well aware the second two movies sucked,” Rich writes. (How could he not be?) “That didn’t stop him from signing on for a fourth film, of course, but based on his comments last week it seems that his faith in Cook was a lot of what was keeping him on board.” Deep had faith in Cook to do what exactly? The last two Pirate movies were bullshit. Profitable, yes, but they degraded his brand.
“What this seems to mean for moviegoers is that there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations to keep Depp happy for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides, but there probably isn’t any amount of money that will convince him to stick around after that. Sounds similar to what Tobey Maguire is planning for Spider-Man 4, and probably the only appropriate thing for a guy as busy as Depp to do. But if they decide to replace Jack Sparrow for the fifth and sixth film, I predict they’d have something resembling a fan mutiny on their hands.”
In a discussion of the Polanski case, Vanity Fair‘s Julian Sancton notes that “the French, in particular, are constantly baffled at the puritanical fervor with which the United States pursue men they admire, from Woody Allen to Bill Clinton. Sexual deviance, they seem to believe, is a natural and acceptable side-effect of greatness.”
Which isn’t putting it fairly. The French may have a comme ci comme ca attitude about world-class artists and powerful politicians having certain perverse or flamboyant tendencies in their private moments, but that’s not the same thing as calling such appetites (particularly those involving minors) acceptable. Because they not.
Rich and powerful go-getter types are different from Average Joes and Janes in two respects. One, they dream bigger, think bigger and are consumed by much stronger desires to get somewhere in life (or, in some cases, to get to the very top). And two, once they’ve risen to the upper stations of whatever profession or social network they’re operating in, they’re basically told in a hundred different ways that the Average Joe, lower- or middle-station rules about what you can or can’t get away with are no longer quite as demanding and unchallengable and black-and-white as before.
Rich and powerful people tend to believe they can get away with more, and so they tend to step over the line more because life tells them they can. It really is that simple.
In a 9.28 piece called “Why Arrest Roman Polanski Now? Revenge,” Newser‘s Michael Wolff says that last weekend’s Zurich airport bust was “about the LA prosecutor’s office’s public relations.” But it really happened, he feels, because the office felt goaded by Marina Zenovich‘s 2008 documentary about Polanski, called Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.
“Prosecutors ignored Polanski for 30 years because it was a terrible case in which the prosecutor’s office and the sitting judge, in the interest of getting publicity for themselves, had conducted themselves in all variety of dubious ways,” Wolff explains. “But then, last year, a documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, came out detailing all this dubiousness. So the first motivation for going after Polanski now, as it so often is with prosecutors, is revenge — Polanski and this film makes the DA look bad.
“The second is that the documentary reminded everybody that the LA prosecutor must be turning a blind eye to Polanski, wandering freely in Europe — hence the arrest now is the prosecutor covering his ass.
“The third is — and it’s curiously the success of the documentary that made the LA prosecutor’s office realize the brand name significance of the case — press. The headlines now sweeping the world are the prosecutor’s ultimate benefit. Many careers are suddenly advanced.
“It could tell us quite a lot about the real motivations and real interest in Roman Polanski in the LA prosecutor’s office, about the sudden enthusiasm for Polanski’s capture and the convenient timing of it, if we just got the date and time — Polanski’s lawyers can certainly get this information through discovery requests — when they began to Google him, and when they set up the first alert.
“Among all media whores, there is none so greedy and mendacious as a prosecutor.”
I’m pleased to have been invited to visit London a couple of weeks hence for a 20th Century Fox/Fantastic Mr. Fox junket, so why didn’t I get invited to the now-concluded Universal/Couples Retreat junket in Bora Bora that happened over the weekend? I’ll tell you why — somebody in Universal publicity doesn’t think I’m whorey enough. I sorta faintly resent this. I can bend over as readily and willingly as the next guy.
Matira Beach in Bora Bora
Okay, my Bora Bora posts might have included zaps at this and that, but that’s what makes Hollywood Elsewhere a cool read…right? Plus I would have taken excellent photos. Couples Retreat will open on 10.9.
If you were an independent DVD retailer, would you have gone into the store yesterday and put up a special Roman Polanski standee-display near the front? Like, you know, the way stores put up special displays whenever a major actor dies? When the iron is hot, strike it. And speaking of irons, this clip from a certain Polanski film carries an echo of what’s in the air right now.
The Telegraph‘s Matthew Moore reported this morning that Wikipedia administrators have blocked filmmaker Roman Polanski‘s Wikipedia page from being changed after an ‘edit war‘ broke out following the news of Polanski’s arrest two days ago in Zurich on a 31 year-old beef that has been forgiven, to some extent forgotten (save for Marina Zenovich‘s documentary about the case) and has been clearly withering on the vine and yellow with antiquity except in the heads of L.A. prosecutors and the online moral-vengeance crowd.
In other words, the same battle that happened here yesterday has been happening among Wikipedia posters and all over the web.
Polanski slammers on Wikipedia have apparently tried to amplify the matter into a much uglier and more pernicious thing than may be fairly warranted, and his defenders have tried to frame the episode within a realistic historical and sociological realm — i.e., one unmotivated by a curiously frenzied and tub-thumping moral outrage that seems to be about something other than just the late ’70s behavior of Roman Polanski, Samantha Geimer and Laurence J. Rittenband.
What is it that is preventing the Polanski haters from easing up about this thing? Unlike Michael Jackson, Roman Polanski didn’t invest tens of millions into constructing a child-luring fantasy realm called Neverland, which obviously allowed Jackson to take certain liberties. Polanski was, in 1977 and ’78, simply a brilliant obsessive with certain wounds and bruises and perverse inclinations who one night acted like a brute and a pig and probably damaged a young girl’s psyche, although apparently not to a great extent, to judge by her own statements about the incident.
The demons in Polanski that allowed for such behavior were almost certainly sired by his traumatic World War II Nazi-evading childhood and then further exacerbated by the slaughter of his wife and unborn son at the hands of the Manson family in 1969. Does this history excuse his abhorrent behavior in the case of a young teenager who, with the aid and assent of her mother, got herself into a situation that was way over her head? Of course not. Has Polanski suffered at all for his crime, apart from going to jail for 42 days in 1977? Of course he has. The crime has been haunting his head and heart for 32 years and it has defined the political and geographical limits of his life and career for same amount of time — more than half his adult life. He’s lived as a fugitive, a restricted man, a hider in the shadows — never a good thing for anyone in a spiritual sense.
But in the minds of the haters, Polanski hasn’t begun to suffer enough. They’re determined to lash him to the rack and keep him there. They want Pilgrim justice, flayings, black caps, thumbscrews, howls and clanging metal doors.
How do the haters not understand that forgiveness and letting go, particularly after decades of natural healing and the universe having moved on, is an essential tenet of a humane and compassionate philosophy/attitude? Especially when the victim herself has been saying “give it up” for years?
I wrote this morning that there seems to be something almost fetishistic about this case for some people — a weirdly lopsided and enduring sense of vengeance that they feel a need to pursue. There’s something oddly primal going on here. Some kind of metaphor they’re reading into it.
“Why, oh, why, do so many people go so rabid over this, and not thousands of other outrages and injustices?,” Glenn Kenny wrote yesterday morning. “[The] theory that it might have something to do with one’s feelings towards an older person, etc., could indeed be relevant. My own instinct is less charitable. [The revived Polanski episode] just gives people a chance to have a good long wallow in their own inflated sense of righteousness. You should enjoy, as they say.”
Mike in Seattle urged the haters to “please understand the concept of projection. All this righteous indignation is coming from you — not the case, not him, not anything except you. Projection. This is not about what Polanski did or did not do. It’s about you and your feelings toward some older person who did you wrong in your life. Please take responsibility for your feelings.
“What is this obsession that people, especially Americans, have for punishment and revenge?,” he went on to say. “Do these events all take place in a vacuum? Is there no consideration for what happened to this man only a few years before this incident? With his pregnant wife and child brutally murdered? It would seem as fresh and raw as yesterday. So to everyone who says he must pay, does this not get taken into account at all? When a soldier fresh home from some war goes PTSD nuts on his family, would we all say he needs to pay? Or would we say he needs help, and that he surely must have been temporarily insane? Why does Roman Polanski not get just a little of the same consideration? These events do not happen in a vacuum.”
The author Robert Harris, who wrote the adaptation of Polanski’s latest film, The Ghost, said that Saturday’s arrest struck him as “disgusting treatment.” French culture minister Frederic Mitterand contendedthat “a scary America” had “shown its face,” and said it “doesn’t make any sense” for the director to be “trapped” and “thrown to the lions, because of ancient history. [Polanski] has had a difficult life but he has been able to have a family life in France with a wife who loves him and children he has brought up with great care and attention.”
Polanski’s agent Jeff Berg, speaking on BBC Radio 4, echoed this sentiment, pointing out that Polanski’s director’s “psychological makeup” may have been adversely affected by the personal tragedies he’d endured, but that he’d moved forward in his career and personal life since the child rape conviction.
In Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air, airports are cavernous antiseptic places in which people like George Clooney‘s Ryan Bingham feel very much at home. Comforted, even. That’s my feeling also. No man-made atmosphere makes me feel quite as serene as an airport. When I’m waiting for a plane, I mean. (And after I’m through the security scan.) A blissful feeling of being neither here nor there. All my cares and anxieties suspended. It’s actually kind of beautiful.
I know and accept, of course, that airport environments are no substitute for anything, least of all the real rock ‘n’ roll of life. I only know what I feel when I’m inside them. I’m in a kind of womb — a place in which the normal heave and pitch of things doesn’t happen or disturb. The appointments, challenges, pressures, deadlines — all that will surround me and more after I’ve landed. Expected, understood. But what a charmed feeling it is to be within an airport with all of that stuff outside, and with nothing to do inside but chill. I especially love three- and four-hour layovers. I adore browsing around, having a cafe au lait, leafing through magazines, looking at the hundreds of travellers. (Especially the women.)
I feel especially calmed by airports in Europe. Especially those in Germany and Switzerland. Maybe because the wifi is always fast and accessible. And because the technologies in both countries always seem to be state of the art or even ahead of the game. I guess I’m mainly thinking of Zurich Airport. I could live at Zurich Airport — live in an actual apartment there, I mean — and almost be happy. I could almost die there. Tony Gilroy used it as a backdrop in Duplicity (just an exterior shot, actually — the interiors were shot in Newark). And of course, Roman Polanski was arrested there yesterday. What a nice place to be cuffed and kept in a holding cell. I mean that.
I’ve been sensing that Michael Moore‘s Capitalism: A Love Story might break through. Maybe not in a Farenheit 9/11 way but certainly in a better-than-Sicko way. Jay Leno saying he really liked it was a tipoff. An ex-Fox News broadcaster told me a week or two ago, “A Michael Moore film that’s ‘fair and balanced’? I’m as stunned as you are. Every tax-paying American needs to see this film immediately.”
The limited opening this weekend resulted in the year’s spiffiest per-screen average — $60,000 on four screens for a total of $240,000. The Overture release has grossed a total of $306,586 since Wednesday’s opening. Next weekend’s 1000-plus screen opening will tell the tale. Indiewire‘s Peter Knegt points out that “one hopeful sign was the film’s large increase from Friday’s gross ($62,000) to Saturday’s ($95,000).”
William Safire, the witty and cogent N.Y. Times columnist and rapier wordsmith, died today at a Maryland hospice at age 79. Pancreatic cancer took him out.
The tightness and clarity of his prose was a huge influence upon my own meager scribblings. I so enjoyed his stuff (“Yamani or ya life?“) that I decided early on to forgive Safire for having been a Nixon/Agnew speechwriter. On top of which I always half-loved those withering phrases he tapped out for Agnew — “effete corps of impudent snobs,” “nattering nabobs of negativism,” etc. And like everyone else I rarely missed his “On Language” columns, also in the Times.
Robert D. McFadden‘s obit says that “unlike most Washington columnists who offer judgments with Olympian detachment, Mr. Safire was a pugnacious contrarian who did much of his own reporting, called people liars in print and laced his opinions with outrageous wordplay.”