Some younger actors just can’t find their way into the zen of talk-show banter. They try to go with it, but they can’t find the groove. All I know is that every time Kristen Stewart goes on Late Night with David Letterman, something goes wrong. And what’s with that wolf-dog and those yellow eyes?
In a 6.27 interview with the Telegraph‘s Tom Teodorczuk, I was asked to explain reasons for the success of Toy Story 3. One of them, I said, is that the film “is a love letter to how Americans like to see themselves. Toy Story 3 is all about the constants we’d like to have in our lives — loyalty, love, standing by our friends, and caring for those close to us. It’s telling us what we want to believe in ourselves whether it’s true or not. It’s delivering in a very persuasive and cool way an agreeable, comforting myth about who we are.”
If I was George Hickenlooper, I would somehow find the dough to shoot some footage of Kevin Spacey‘s Jack Abramoff working in a Baltimore pizza parlor, and use it as a bookend device. It would make an already snappy and mordantly funny film just a little bit better. For what it’s worth, I like Bagman as a title better than Casino Jack.
If you were Emma Watson and you had the pick of the litter, would you choose George Craig, a skinny, so-so looking musician (notice how the camera never gives him a close-up) with a not-very-catchy voice and a 1965 Mersey Beat haircut? And then costar in a nothing-special music video to promote his band, One Night Only, and their song, “Say You Don’t Want It”? Never sleep with a lesser — always go lateral or better. Or at least find a bird with similar feathers.
Wait a minute…what? I’ve been reading report after report about how the feds approved box-office futures last Monday and it was all good to go, and then wham — it was revealed this morning that Cantor Fitzgerald, the chief proponent of box-office futures along with Media Derivatives, is folding the futures tent in the face of a “likely government ban on such trading.”
L.A. Times staffer Ben Fritz reports that “with financial reform legislation that would outlaw trading in box-office futures headed toward final passage, the company is giving up on its plans, said Richard Jaycobs, the executive heading the effort for Cantor Fitzgerald. ‘The broader opportunity of motion picture finance is still something we have to evaluate, but we know now we’re not going to do futures contracts,’ he said. ‘The bill is quite clear.'”
Big-time Hollywood corporates have argued all along that a potential box-office futures markets could generate bad buzz for movies before they’re released, plus they “would be too easy to manipulate,” Fitz reports. “Backers have said they would be a useful financial tool for film investors.
“Jaycobs’ decision is a major defeat for Cantor, which in 2001 acquired the Hollywood Stock Exchange — an online game that lets players bet play money on box-office predictions — to help prepare for its move into real box-office futures.”
Maybe the studios will ease up now about circulating box-office tracking reports online and we can all go back to where things were before.
Elena Kagan‘s rep as a brilliant and exacting legal mind preceded yesterday’s appearance at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and now she has shown herself to be political and gracious and gentle-mannered. It’s also clear that she’s dropped a few pounds and has let her hair grow out so she looks a little less dykey — smart moves. And I love her Zabar’s accent.
I’m hearing that the People’s Republic of China has a really big problem with Phillip Noyce‘s Salt (Sony, 7.23). Not one of those “scenes must be removed before your film is allowed to play in China” problems, but a “sorry, but no amount of edits will satisfy us” problem. Meaning that Salt is apparently cinema non grata in that country until further notice — no theatrical bookings, no DVDs, no Blurays.
Which, of course, means a huge opportunity for Chinese video pirates and a huge potential loss for Sony Pictures.
I don’t know anything beyond this nugget. What is it about Salt that China finds so objectionable? It’s about a possible covert operative (played by Angelina Jolie ) — a kind of Odd Woman Out whom everyone suspects is some kind of sociopath or double-agent ne’er -do-well, or is dangerously disloyal in some way, shape or form. What her character has to do with China or its policies is a mystery to me. And to others, I gather. The shut-out hasn’t been conveyed “officially” but I’m told it’s a done deal.
One of the three big tracking companies has Salt running just a teeny tiny bit behind Inception in terms of the usual categories — awareness, unaided awareness, definite interest, first choice and top-three-choices. Inception is opening a week earlier than Salt, of course, and has been marketing fairly steadily while Salt is just turning the heat on.
Right now Inception is at 56 awareness vs. Salt‘s 54, except Salt‘s unaided awareness is at 3 vs. Inception‘s 2. Salt has a 46 definite interest vs. a 47 for Inception. Salt has a 5 first choice vs. Inception‘s 6. And they’re both sitting at 15 among the top three choices.
One significant factor, it appears, is that Salt‘s definite interest is in the strong 40s among older and younger men and women. (The Angie factor, of course.) I’m waiting for Inception breakdowns as we speak (any minute!), but one presumes that it’s probably tracking a bit stronger among men than women. That Nolan-ish thing. But then presumptions and $1.75 will get you a bus ticket.
I don’t know what to do with this Angelina Jolie interview in the new Vanity Fair. She’s as beautiful as ever with a great pedicure, and I’m looking forward to Salt as much as the next guy, etc. But everything she says here is so gracious and settled-down and serene. What are you supposed to do with a q & a like this? She’s hot, cool and fetching, and I’m not…you know, complaining. But what are you supposed to do with this?
She loves Brad Pitt in any guise, even his Old-Man-River beard. She and he might do a sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Smith. (God.) She’s aware that having too many kids might result in none of them getting enough attention. It’s great to be able to chill and stroll around in Venice and not have to worry about anything.
Why didn’t they have her talk to George Wayne ? At least he would have had the nerve to mention the tabloid stories.
The way Elliott Gould sizes up poker players in this scene makes me chuckle every time. The loose smoky vibe is what sells it. Gould mutters like a jazz musician on hemp, George Segal is nodding sagely and the pretty bartender is chuckling away. Neither she nor Segal are bothered, of course, that Gould is making simplistic assumptions based on cultural stereotypes. That’s actually what funny about it.
The Lyndon Johnson guy with the cowboy hat, the kid who’s seen The Cincinatti Kid too many times, the family doctor who doesn’t take chances, the red-coat guy who used to be a cha-cha dancer, the Ku Klux Klan guy, the Hispanic guy who talks louder than he needs to because he came from a large noisy family, the Oriental prince whose father made a fortune selling egg rolls, etc.
It’s amusing stuff in a shuffling Robert Altman context, or at least most people find it so, but if you were to write something a little bit similar to Gould’s patter in an online column, you’d soon be dealing with some very ornery talkbackers. That’s one difference between 1974 and 2010, it’s fair to say. Not that I would be so idiotic as to mention egg rolls in discussing an Asian-American.
In a piece called “Hush vs. Gush,” Variety‘s Marc Graser and Dave McNary describe the thin line that marketers for semi-secretive, big-budget, hot-buzz movies — like Chris Nolan‘s Inception — have to tread.
The trick is to dispense aroma and atmosphere and a few select details that will make everyone drool, but don’t kill the goose by revealing too much. However, “it’s getting harder than ever to keep a secret in Hollywood,” the Variety guys observe.
“The fast fingers of bloggers (professional and amateur), feverishly documenting every aspect of a film’s development and production on websites and Twitter feeds, have made it nearly impossible for studios to surprise moviegoers these days.”
The Hangover director Todd Phillips states the obvious in saying that “the word gets out very quickly now” and “that quick feedback can make or break a movie.”
A marketing exec comments that Warner Bros, marketing honcho Sue Kroll “was actually forced to veer away from the typical marketing campaign because Inception isn’t the kind of film that can be easily reduced to a single catchphrase, although ‘Your mind is the scene of the crime’ and ‘The dream is real’ certainly try.
“‘It’s really a counterprogramming campaign in the extreme,’ the exec says. ‘The studio knows it can’t position this like another tentpole, even though it is a tentpole.'”
I need to say one thing about Inception, and it has absolutely nothing to do with marketing. We all know it contains a big third-act revelation, but I don’t want to see one in which we’re told that most of much of what we’ve seen happen in Act One or Two has been imagined, as if in a dream. I don’t want any of that Dallas crap — please.
My initial thought was to avoid Eclipse altogether, considering the awful time I had with New Moon last November. But with four sources — Variety‘s Peter Debruge, the Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt, EW‘s Nicole Sperling and Lynette Rice and Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson — claiming it’s the best Twilight pic yet, I’ve decided to catch tonight’s all-media.
The reason for the uptick, they’re all saying, is director David Slade. I was down with Slade’s Hard Candy but not so much 30 Days of Night .
I’m most impressed by Honeycutt’s praise considering the fact — I need to put this delicately — that he can be a bit of a grump at times. (Like someone else I could name.) I’m figuring if a half-grumpy guy says a popcorn franchise flick like this is okay, you can half-trust him. But you can’t trust positive-minded people who smile and laugh and hug their friends and always say the glass is half-full. I’ll trust happy-face people when it comes to smaller films, the theory being that if a person with a relentlessly sunny attitude likes something that’s edgy or thoughtful or darkly trippy then it might have that open-window element that draws people in.
“While Catherine Hardwicke did a strong job establishing the franchise, Slade is by far the best director,” Thompson says. “And the story of Eclipse, adapted per usual by Melissa Rosenberg, is far more satisfying and well-structured than New Moon, [and] the central love triangle, as both men press their suits with Bella, is front and center. All three actors are comfortable with their characters, and Slade finds the right balance of action and romance; the story feels organic.”
The one “uh-oh” is Honeycutt’s line that “the CG wolves, huge creatures whose ferocity fails to mask their tenderness, are very cool.” That’s an ixnay, I’m afraid, if they’re the same size as the New Moon wolves. Those were the silliest-looking beasts I’ve ever seen in a supernatural fantasy film, bar none. And what does Honeycutt mean about “tenderness”? Wolves can’t be tender except to their own young.
Like a Gatling gun, the names of the Seven Dwarfs: Sleepy, Grumpy, Doc, Wheezy, Snoopy, Sleazy, Happy, Dopey, Bashful…wait, that’s nine.