This week’s New York is largely devoted to a collection of short articles by Claude Bodesser-Akner about celebrity money. Shorter Brodesser-Akner: They make more but they have loads of expenses, the smart ones exhibit restraint, and most of them funnel their earnings through tax-friendly “loan-out” corporations. Oh, and Brangelina’s combined portfolio is worth about $270 million. And Zooey Deschanel lives reasonably .
I didn’t file last night about the SAG winners because (a) I genuinely love and worship great filmmaking and revel in the celebration of same, and therefore (b) I don’t care at all whether Pleasing But Overpraised Movie #1 (i.e., The Artist) now has a slight chance of losing the Best Picture Oscar to Pleasing but Overpraised Movie #2 (i.e., The Help).
The Spirit of 2011 (as represented by the final Oscar favorites) is virulently opposed to the Spirit of 1999 — I know that much. The two-headed Artist/Help shrek gollum isn’t fit to shine the boots of Election, Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, The Insider, American Beauty, The Matrix, etc.
The final indignity came when SAG gave its Best Actor prize to The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin over The Descendants‘ George Clooney. Lord knows it’s not easy to smile and grin and tapdance like Dujardin did in The Artist, and then turn on a dime and exude anguish and depression and grow a seven-day beard as his character’s movie career goes downhill. What are Clooney’s expressions of 21st Century grief, uncertainty, vulnerability and fear in the face of death compared to that?
None of my faves are in play here, and we are in the last throes of one of the weakest, shallowest and most profoundly embarassing Oscar years in motion picture history. Did last night’s SAG wins by Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Greatest Show on Earth indicate a real possibility of it beating Mike Todd‘s Around The World in Eighty Days for the Big Prize, or is this just a fool’s dream? Either way you can bet your boots that Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil is keeping track of every last shift in intuition and sentiment among key prognosticators.
I just want to find a nice bucket at a nearby hardware store and keep it with me just in case.
This morning Movieline‘s Stu Van Airsdale posted the following: “I don’t have much outrage left about this year’s Oscar class, but just watching another goddamn tired Albert Nobbs clip and seeing Tilda Swinton‘s gracious recognition of her own SAG nomination and thinking about Swinton and Charlize Theron and Kirsten Dunst and Elizabeth Olsen and at least three or four other actresses more worthy of Close’s Oscar nomination and what could have been had me so irretrievably embittered all over again. What a bunch of bozos we’ve built this beat around. Or maybe we’re the bozos. Either way, it’s a waste.”
I’ve heard all the tales about certain old-time Hollywood stars preferring same-sex encounters that everyone else has. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Cole Porter, Montgomery Clift, Randolph Scott, George Cukor, etc. But I’d never heard, frankly, that Walter Pidgeon and Spencer Tracy played in this pool, and I never knew that Vivien Leigh may have been somewhat lezzy.
(l. to r.) Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Walter Pidgeon, Spencer Tracy.
There are many such stories, in any case, in a new Old Hollywood tell-all book called “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” which was profiled in a 1.29 N.Y. Times story by Brooks Barnes. (It was also described in a 5.20.11 Entertainment Weekly piece by Adam Markovitz.)
Based on the recollections of 88 year-old Scott Bowers, a one-time arranger of sexual services (some straight but mostly gay) from the late ’40s to the early ’80s, and written by Lionel Friedberg, the memoir is being published by Grove Press and is set for release on 2.14.
The last book to explicitly spill in this fashion, to my recollection at least, was Kenneth Anger‘s “Hollywood Babylon,” which was published in 1981.
“A lot of what Mr. Bowers has to say is pretty shocking,” Barnes writes. “He claims, for instance, to have set Hepburn up with ‘over 150 different women.'”
The book sounds like it might be credible. Barnes quotes Vanity Fair writer and documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) saying the following: “If you believe him, and I do, he’s like the Kinsey Reports live and in living color.” Barnes himself writes that “perhaps it’s hard to look at Mr. Bowers today — an elderly man with sloped shoulders and a shock of unruly white hair — and believe that a half-century ago he was sought out by some of the most handsome men to have ever strutted through Hollywood. But after some time with him, the still-sparkling blues and the impish smile help convince you that he could have definitely had seductive powers.”
Bowers’ story “has floated through moviedom’s clubby senior ranks for years,” Barnes writes. “Back in a more golden age of Hollywood, a guy named Scotty, a former Marine, was said to have run a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual men in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, George Cukor and Rock Hudson, and even arranged sexual liaisons for actresses like Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn.
(l) 21 year-old Scott Bowers in 1944, and (r.) the 88 year-old 2012 version.
“A $20 bill, given as a tip, according to Mr. Bowers, bought his services in the beginning. That was 1946, and he was 23. As Mr. Bowers tells it, he stumbled into his profession by accident. Newly discharged from the Marines after fighting in the Pacific during World War II, Mr. Bowers got a job pumping gas at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, not far from Paramount Pictures.
”’One day Walter Pidgeon (Mrs. Miniver) drove up in a Lincoln two-door coupe, according to the book, and propositioned Mr. Bowers, who accepted.
“Soon, word got around among Pidgeon’s friends, and Mr. Bowers, from his base at the station, started ‘arranging similar stuff’ for some of Bowers’s more adventurous friends.
“Mr. Bowers writes that, in addition to his gay clients, he also gained a following among heterosexual actors like Desi Arnaz, who used him as a type of matchmaking service. Mr. Bowers, who says he personally ‘prefers the sexual company of women,’ says he never took payment for connecting people like Arnaz with bedroom partners.”
Here are some Amazon-provided excerpts from the opening pages:
I realized during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival that not wearing facial stubble is no longer an option for lead actors. Obedience was demanded and every single actor in every single film I saw in Park City complied. And we the ticket-buyers are probably stuck with glistening follicles for the next 10 to 15 years. Or longer. Fashion dictates, monkeys salute and no one resists. Probably because of surveys like this one.
Today’s Oscar Poker podcast touched on the somewhat surprising success of The Grey, the underwhelming response to Haywire (which I find deeply depressing) and the blah-blah-blah-blah Oscar season as things now stand. It was a threesome today — myself, Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone and Boxoffice.com‘s Phil Contrino. Here’s a stand-alone mp3 link.
Longtime Oscar-watcher and chronicler Damien Bona, co-author (with Mason Wiley) of Inside Oscar and sole author of Inside Oscar 2, has died of a heart attack at age 57. His passing was announced by Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone a little while ago. Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Damien Bona (3.18.54 – 1.29.12)
If I was the Hollywood Reporter editor in charge of dreaming up headlines for the magazine, I’d have a problem with “Being Brad Pitt.” It’s kinda lame and generic sounding, like something Interview might use. HE alternate #1: “NOT GONNA WIN…and That’s Cool.” HE alternate #2: “RICH SCRAGGLY BEARDO & The Performance of His Career.” HE alternate #3: “LONG TIME COMING: Brad Pitt’s Career High.”
Last night’s DGA Award win by The Artist‘s Michel Hazanavicius took the wind out of my sails. The last hope of the anti-Artist crowd was a surprise win by Hugo‘s Martin Scorsese, and now that’s dashed. I don’t know if I even want to watch tonight’s SAG awards. It’s certainly possible that The Artist will win Best Ensemble, and that’ll be one more stone in the bucket.
It’s time for a perfectly rendered Criterion Bluray of Carol Reed‘s Odd Man Out (’47), one of the most sadly emotional and tragic noirs of all time. I saw it a couple of times on laser disc in the mid ’90s, and I have indelible memories of a sweating, barely conscious James Mason (as IRA combatant Johnny McQueen) and of constantly falling snow in a darkened Belfast. I would have them again in high-definition.
The exquisite photography is by Robert Krasker, who also shot Reed’s The Third Man.
The harbor finale with Mason and Kathleen Ryan leaning against the iron fence with the cops slowly approaching in the snow…wow. And Robert Newton ‘s performance as the gesticulating alcoholic painter…forget about it.
Odd Man Out was Mason’s breakout film, of course, but he’d been acting since 1933 or thereabouts, when he turned 24, and was 37 — no spring chicken — when Reed’s film was shot in mid ’46.
The Wiki page notes that Roman Polanski has “repeatedly cited Odd Man Out as his favourite film,” and that he feels that Odd Man Out is superior to The Third Man, generally thought to be Reed’s masterpiece. “I still consider it as one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and a film which made me want to pursue this career more than anything else,” Polanski has said. “I always dreamt of doing things of this sort or that style. To a certain extent I must say that I somehow perpetuate the ideas of that movie in what I do.”
The other day I agreed with Self-Styled Siren‘s comment that Alfred Hitchcock‘s Lifeboat (’44) is “very unappreciated” — I assumed she meant “wrongly” — by saying that Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Hume Cronyn, Henry Hull and Walter Slezak are excellent and that Hitch’s studio-water-tank simulation of the North Atlantic easily out-verisimiltudes Waterworld.
The discussion began with my mentioning the forthcoming Masters of Cinema Bluray version, due in mid April.
Siren said that Lifeboat is “a good example of our mutual pal Glenn Kenny‘s argument that a confined space can still be very cinematic.” Or my view that any limitation (including not having enough money) always encourages creativity. Lifeboat is the first of Hitchcock’s four confined-space films, the others being Rope (’48), Dial M for Murder (’54), and Rear Window (’54).
There are two great moments in the above clip. The first happens at 2:20, just after Bankhead has lost a priceless diamond bracelet after she and the others have tried fishing with it (“I can recommend the bait…I should know, I bit on it myself”). The second happens at 8:55 after a young German sailor, pulled aboard after his ship has gone down, is disarmed after pointing a gun at the lifeboat crew. And Hodiak says, “What are you going to do with people like that?” Cronyn says, “I don’t know…I was thinking of Mrs. Igley and her baby…and Gus.” And Bankhead says, “Well, maybe they can answer that.”
The writers were John Steinbeck, Jo Swerling, Ben Hecht, Alma Reville, MacKinlay Kantor and Patricia Collinge.
Lifeboat is one of many hundreds of films made since the early 1920s that are sharper and deeper and of more lasting value than The Artist. Don’t get me started.
Last night Christopher Plummer sat for a Santa Barbara Film Festival Modern Master tribute at the Arlington theatre. Plummer said he was unsure if the audience wanted to sit for the whole thing, but it was a pleasure from start to finish with Pete Hammond interviewing, and many — well, about 20% — of Plummer’s films getting the once-over.
The above clip was taken by yours truly as I leaned against the theatre wall about 15 rows back. It’s Plummer talking about playing Mike Wallace (“He was a cruel guy but a great TV newsman’) in Michael Mann‘s The Insider (’99).
Plummer is going to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, of course. I pretty much called this four months ago in Toronto, declaring that he had the Oscar more or less “in the bag” and “is going to be awfully hard to beat.”
The general rule is that alcohol abusers, which Plummer has freely admitted to being for two or three decades, tend to pay the price later in life. But not Plummer. He’s 82 and obviously sharp and lucid and in great shape — he ran across the stage last night to accept his SBIFF award. It all comes down to genes.
As of 8:42 pm this evening, the 2012 Sundance Film Festival had given two awards to Ben Lewin‘s much-praised The Surrrogate — the Dramatic Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Acting (a tip of the hat for costars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt). The film was acquired for distribution during the festival by Fox Searchlight.