By all means read this fascinating piece by Ivor Davis about the challenges faced by Steven Spielberg in the making of Munich (Universal, 12.23), which a source who worked on the film in Europe calls “Steven’s Passion of the Christ.” I’m going to dig into the ramifications in a column piece this after- noon when I return from my Rachel Weisz sit-down at the Peninsula, but I can at least say that Davis delves into a concern in the Jewish community that Munich might be a little too humanistic in its portrayal of the Palestinian terrorists who perpetrated the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre, since it is reported that Spielberg hired play- wright Tony Kushner to, in part, “soften” the portrayal of said characters. What Spielberg was facing in making this film, Davis explains, was a damned-if-he-does, damned-if-he-doesn’t conun- drum. If anyone has any reactions to Davis’s piece, send ’em along and maybe I’ll incorporate ’em into my thing this afternoon.
Will someone at 20th Century Fox please do something to save The Family Stone? Are they planning on at least sneaking it in theatres nationwide on the weekend after next (12.9 to 12.11, which is the weekend before the 12.16 opening)? I’ve tried not to oversell it but it shouldn’t be undervalued either. The Family Stone is one of the cleverest, warmest and most likable films of the holiday season, as well as the best home-for-the-holidays flick ever made. But (and here’s what makes it so fresh and alive) it’s also one of those delightful in-betweeners — not exactly a comedy, not precisely a drama. And yet people keep asking, “Is it a comedy or a drama…which is it?” and I’m really starting to lose it over this. It’s both, genius brains! You know…the way life itself tends to be? I’m also fretting because Stone‘s latest tracking figures haven’t shown signs of improvement. First choice is 1% (which is terrible for a film opening in two weeks’ time…a decent number would be 5 or 6), definite awareness is 24% (it should be in the 30s by this point) and general awareness is at 45 (it should be in the 60s). You can pay some attention to that teaser-trailer that’s been showing for months that suggests the film is some kind of Sarah Jessica Parker-ish relationship comedy…obviously an attempt to grab SJP’s Sex and the City fans. It’s partly that but it’s so much more.
A solid story by New York Times reporter David Halbfinger about Emilio Estevez’s Bobby, the 43 year-old actor-director’s upcoming film about Robert Kennedy’s last active day of his Presidential campaign in 1968..a day which ended with his shooting in a kitchen passageway inside L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel. And yet Halbfinger has it wrong when he says that Estevez’s Rated X, Estevez’s film about the San Francisco porn entrepeneurs Jim and Arnie Mitchell, “fared well at the 2000 Sundance festival before being picked up by Showtime.” Obviously, if the film had “fared well” the producers would have found some kind of theatrical release deal and not just sold their film straight to Showtime. I watched Rated X at the Eccles and I could feel the vibe in the air as it played, and I think I’ll leave it at that.
A couple more of those films I listed in that earlier “tipped for Sundance” item (the source of which was a Film Finders document) have turned up in the Sundance ’06 Premieres section. Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential and Nicole Holofcener’s Friends with Money, to be precise. Holfocener’s film having been chosen as the festival opener raises red flags. As everyone knows, opening-night Sundance flicks have a historical record of being either a bit soft or lacking in provocation or too emotionally simplistic or even mainstream mushy.
My stay in Brooklyn last summer happened because of an apartment swap deal I arranged with screenwriter Michael Arndt. And now Little Miss Sunshine, the film that Michael wrote that was filmed in and around Los Angeles last summer, has been announced as one of the premieres at January’s Sundance Film Festival. A heart-warmer about a family supporting their young daughter in the finals of a Junior Miss type beauty pagent, pic costars Gregg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin. Johnathan Dayton and Valerie Faris directed.
Blockbuster has had a rough year and its execs are feeling blue. That’s a good thing, right? Aren’t they the bad guys?…the Wal- Mart of home video?…corporate thugs?…Orwellian homogenizers and discouragers of too-particular tastes?…the great film culture Satan?
Congrats to Bennett Miller’s Capote and Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro’s Murderball for being named Wednesday night as the year’s Best Feature and Best Documentary at the annual Gotham Awards. Miller also received the org’s “Break- through Director” award.
I realize this will put a dark cloud over Kris Tapley’s world and I’m not entirely sure how industry-significant this may be in a heavy-duty sense…it is signficant in and of itself, of course, and good for the good guys and all that…but last night the British Independent Film Awards (sort of the London Spirits…right?) gave Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardender its Best Film prize, plus a Best Actor and Best Actress award for the film’s two stars, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. Weisz and Meirelles weren’t in London to accept as they’re here in Los Angeles to push Gardener with journos and keep it as front-and- center as they can with all the awards-season crap heating up right now.
Karyn Kusama’s Aeon Flux (Paramount, 12.2), the superhero action chick flick with Charlize Theron, is opening without any critic or all-media screenings whatsoever. Quality! No word-of-mouth, no tell-your-friends…just a shitload of ads and a wing and a prayer. And yet Kusama’s last film, Girlfight, showed lots of personality and emotional focus. It was a tight little character-driven film about a female boxer with its attitude completely worked out. And so what happens? Kusama moves up and takes on a big-budget popcorn movie and wham….a flurry of jabs and body blows…right cross, left hook…down for the count.
It’s King Kong night in Manhattan tonight (Wednesday, 11.30)! Peter Jackson’s three-hour ape flick is showing to junket press at Leow’s Lincoln Plaza (i.e., the one with the big IMAX screen) right about now (7:40 pm NY time). I’m told that members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are also attending. Working New York press screenings will begin in Manhattan next Monday, as they will in Los Angeles at the Arclight. The very first Los Angeles Kong screening will actually happen Sunday night (12.4) for Academy members, at the Academy theatre on Wilshire and La Peer.
Here are the Spectrum, Frontier and Midnight selections for the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, as passed along by IndieWIRE. Two Spectrum selections have caught my eye: (1) Stewart Copeland’s Super 8 documentary about the adventures of The Police in the ’80s, “from CBGB’s to Shea Stadium,” and (2) Brent Hamer’s Factotum, the latest indie feature about the honestly grimy, up-and-down adventures of L.A. poet and ribald boozer Charles Bukowski (called Henry Chanski in the film, and very well played by Matt Dillon). I saw Factotum in Cannes last May and it’s a definite recommend. Lily Taylor, Fisher Stevens, Marisa Tomei