Universal chairwoman Stacey Snider is almost certainly going to take “a significant pay cut” to run the Paramount-based DreamWorks, with a task of overseeing four to six films instead of the sixteen to eighteen she watches over at Universal each year. And she’ll be able to spend more time with her two daughters… great. But who really cares about this development, outside of those whose jobs and movies will be affected? A nice woman is going to switch jobs…big deal.
When it comes to burning one’s flesh, context is everything. In Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O’Toole‘s willingness to singe his fingertips indicates a curiously likable apartness…a certain charisma…especially when he says that the trick is “not minding” that it hurts. When Hal Holbrook talks about Gordon Liddy having held his hand over a candle at a Washington party and offering the same answer when someone asks “what’s the trick?”, it indicates a slight nutter mentality — somebody you don’t want to get too close to.
The Guardian‘s Sharon Krum takes another look at how women directors are faring these days, or rather the view of same by “guerrilla girls” (www.moviesbywomen.com) Kathe Kollwitz and Tara Veneruso.
I missed this yesterday, but Ain’t It Cool’s “Quint” is hearing that Eric Bana is in negotiations to play the Van Heflin role (the good guy) in the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, in which Tom Cruise is reportedly hot to play the Glenn Ford villain role. A few minutes ago I asked director James Mangold whether the Bana thing is likely or half-true, but he didn’t answer my Cruise question yesterday so I guess we’ll have to wait for Variety‘s Michael Fleming to announce it.
Zap2It‘s Daniel Fienberg again, this time about my riff about industry attitudes and hurdles commonly thrown in front of women filmmakers: “You’re gonna get plenty of angry e-mails regarding your comments about female directors, but the point is this: white male filmmakers don’t need to go out of their way to tackle issues important to white males, because there are oodles of films out there showing just how darned difficult and complicated it is to be a white male. Somebody like Curtis Hanson can step outside of his personal interest group to direct an In Her Shoes because he can sleep knowing that his issues as a white male are being adequately represented by many other films. But if Jane Campion went to somebody at Paramount and said, “I want to direct a Jim Carrey movie,” they’d say, “Well, we already have a certain Generic Male Director interested, but we have this Mandy Moore movie where she gets cancer, if you want it.” At that point could you blame her for preferring to just go make her own movie? It’s much more difficult being a female director than even an African- American filmmaker. It’s taken decades to get to the point where a black filmmaker can make a movie without African- American themes. When a Spike Lee gets to make an Inside Man or F. Gary Gray makes an Italian Job, that’s a step forward. Heck, John Singleton doing Without Remorse is a sign of progress.”
Congrats to Hollywood Reporter columnist and blogger Anne Thompson for landing an Oscar-day gig as an ABC red-carpet chit-chat commentator (along with Leonard Maltin and Joel Siegel) during the network’s pre-Oscar coverage, which will start sometime around 3 pm on March 5th. ABC wanted a woman critic and general industry know-it-all to round things out with Maltin and Siegel, and Thompson is a perfect choice. I’m told the producers first went to N.Y. Times film critic Manohla Dargis but the notoriously camera-shy scribe begged off.
David Germain‘s AP story about Brokeback Mountain fading and Crash looking more and more like it might actually take the Best Picture Oscar gets your blood going a little, but it seems to me like a Big Reach. If it happens, I know a lot of people who will scream and shout and throw things and punch the refrigerator. But not me. Brokeback is a breakthrough movie of lasting importance and impact. It’s already “won” in so many different ways that not winning the big Oscar prize won’t hurt all that much, although there will be those who will strongly disagree. A Crash win will have a bigger hand-grenade effect than Shakespeare in Love‘s taking the Best Picture trophy from Saving Private Ryan.
“Just saw V Is For Vendetta (Warner Bros., 3.17) at an A-list screening [in Manhattan] and you can tell the crowd thinks the conservative-values, government-allied network is Fox News,” a New York critic confides. “And the Bill O’Reilly stand-in gets it in the shower. The movie, for me, is a really great ride at the beginning and the end but there’s way too much in the middle. I don’t know what I would take out — the torture scenes are great even if the payoff is obvious — but there’s a lot of long exposition. And you have to agree what starts out as cool nods to anti-government sentiment, homosexuality, liberal thinking, etc., turns pretty ham-fisted by the three-quarter turn. The most obvious thing this movie proves is what a horrible Natalie Portman-director George Lucas is. A lot of V-heads will see this thing over and over again, but the rest of us? Not sure.”
At the start of her column piece about Don’t Tell director Cristina Comencini, who is the only female director behind all of this year’s Oscar-nominated films, Anne Thompson asks, “What is it with Italian female directors and the Oscars? In 78 years, only three women — Italy’s Lena Wertmuller (Seven Beauties), Australia’s Jane Campion (The Piano), and Hollywood’s Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) — have been nominated for best director.” (The New Zealand-born Campion apparently comes from Italian stock — I know she went to Perugia as a young woman to learn to speak Italian.) The reason more female directors haven’t been nominated for Oscars, for openers, is because a lot of their scripts don’t get past the male readers and gatekeepers and greenlighters, and a key reason is because women directors (and I’m sure there are many, many exceptions to this prejudicial belief) are seen as being in thrall to stories about personal growth (i.e., politically-tinged stand-up-and-throw-off-the- yoke-of-male-oppression material, which red-state females don’t relate to as intensely as their blue-state, urban-residing counterparts, and which don’t tend to exude strong story tension), or delicate emotional-growth or emotional-passage issues, which tend to make guys (especially younger guys, the lifeblood of the movie business) nod off. Women may throw tomatoes at me for this, but they know as well as I do that male producers and studio execs have always felt queasy about greenlighting nest-tender movies about feelings, being hugged by sisters or former enemies or good friends in the third act, caring for sick parents or errant kids, restoring homes, trying to be a good single mom while putting up with sexist- abusive ex-husbands, dads and employers. (And this is being written by a guy who worships In Her Shoes and Whale Rider, and at least respected the craft that went into North Country.) Thompson says that Don’t Talk is “one of those rare movies that reflects a particularly feminine sensibility” and that it’s about “a brother and sister dealing with child abuse as adults, after their father’s death… they were trying to understand what happened in a detached way [and] they got through that and recovered.” Don’t Tell is obviously a smart and emotionally mature drama, made by a filmmaker of taste and sensitivity, but c’mon…you have to pinch yourself to stay awake through it. The fact is that smart aggressive women who are tough and shrewd enough to make it in the film industry are to some extent hobbled by their passion for making films about women’s issues and experiences, etc., and don’t seem as interested as certain high-end male directors seem to be in making films with common universal themes that transcend gender politics. I truly wish there were more women directors out there making vital movies and winning awards, and we’d all be better off if there were more diversity in the movie world, but at the same time I understand the reticence that male execs and producers feel about “women directors.” Okay, here we go…
Latino Review‘s Kellvin Chavez is reporting that Joaquin Phoenix has to pay the bills like anyone else, and has therefore agreed to play the lead in John Singleton‘s Without Remorse for Paramount Pictures. Pic will be an origin story thriller about how an Elite Navy Seal Commando named John Kelly becomes the C.I.A. operative known as Mr. Clark, the pivotal recurring character in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan books who was played by Willem Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger and Liev Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears. No offense, but with Singleton directing there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Remorse will even approach the quality of Clear and Present Danger. Singleton is Singleton (and I was okay with Four Brothers — I went with it) and that’s fine, but he’s not in the class of the great Philip Noyce. I don’t mean to be blunt but the thing for Pheonix to do is hold his nose, do the job and move on like a man.
Roger Ebert is offering positive and thoughtful reasons for his prediction that Crash will take the Best Picture Oscar, but in my mind he’s essentially predicting that older-Academy- member homophobia is going to ultimately call the tune. I think it’s a tiny bit derelict of Roger to not at least acknowledge what I’ve been referring to as the Tony Curtis factor. The 81 year-old actor was widely quoted as saying he “hasn’t seen the heavily Oscar-nominated picture and probably won’t, and the same is true for other Academy members,” adding that “Howard Hughes and John Wayne wouldn’t like it.” And surely Ebert has at least glanced at or heard about Nikki Finke‘s 2.2 L.A. Weekly column that said “this year’s dirty little secret is the anecdotal evidence pouring in to me about hetero members being unwilling to screen Brokeback Mountain…for a community that takes pride in progressive values, it’s shameful that Hollywood’s homophobia may be on a par with Pat Robertson’s.” I’m not trying to boil it all down to a single us-vs.-them issue, and I assume readers understand I’m not saying it’s homophobic to vote for Crash over Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture. But talk to people with older dads and uncles in the Academy, and they’ll tell you that the World War II generation has indicated they have problems with Brokeback along these lines. It’s also widely acknowledged that Crash, as a certain pundit put it to me a while back, is “the middle-class choice for Best Picture.” Middle class as in “ohh, I don’t know if I want to sit in a theatre with my wife and watch that pup-tent scene.”