The Walk the Line DVD came out two days ago (Tuesday, 2.28) and has sold more than 3 million copies already. I don’t have the regional stats but I’ll bet that a significant portion of the buys happened in Middle America. If James Mangold‘s film had been Oscar-nominated for Best Picture (as it damn well should have been), ratings for Sunday’s Oscar telecast would probably be higher due to red-state tune-ins.
Zack Braff‘s Garden State was shot in the winter-spring of ’03, went to Sundance in January ’04 and then was released by Fox Searchlight later that year. Braff did a Chicken Little voice-over and acted in Scrubs and then in Tony Goldwyn‘s The Last Kiss (due later this year from Paramount) but helming-wise it’s been All Quiet on the Western Front. Now, finally, Braff is about to direct again — a remake of Susanne Bier‘s Open Hearts for big Paramount. (Paramount exec Pam Abdy, a Garden State producer, will “shepherd” the untitled pic with Brad Weston.) The infidelity drama will shoot in New Jersey sometime this summer. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit have written the story “revolves around two couples whose lives become intertwined after a devastating car crash.” That’s putting it obliquely. If Braff’s film is anything like Bier’s, it’ll be about a doctor having an affair with the wife of a guy who’s become a quadraplegic after an auto accident in which the injuring driver was…hang on…the doctor’s wife. The affair is hot, mad and reckless…not to mention shameful and humiliating for the doctor after his wife gets wind of it along with his kids, leading to a complete mess all around. And then quadraplegic’s wife changes her mind and blows him off. Unless Braff is just taking the bones of the Bier film and making it into something else entirely, forget those signature elements you liked so much in Garden State (“winsome,” “charming,” “GenX quirky”). This has the appearance of an artistic growth project for Braff…and I for one am very keen to see it.
“This is a very odd year. The East Coasters love it because it’s so arty, and the Left Coasters hate it because it’s so arty. Here, it’s considered a year for the ‘classics’ divisions of studios, which exist for prestige, to attract filmmakers, and for the occasional breakthrough hit. On that score, Brokeback Mountain has been the subject of many a wager. As in, ‘No way this movie will ever do over $40 million, no matter what.’ (It’s taken in more than $100 million worldwide.) They’re not races at this point so much as duels: the golden girl (Reese) versus the she-man (Felicity), the political martyr (Rachel W.) versus the domestic martyr (Michelle W.). It is not a big year for the studios. The huge campaign by Sony for Memoirs of a Geisha backfired, and all the Geisha perfume and merchandising sits in stores collecting dust. Meanwhile, their picked-up-by-accident-from-a-fire-sale- at-MGM/UA Capote collects kudos. In many ways, it is the Battle of the Tinies. This is the year the Oscars turned into the Independent Spirit Awards, when no one can really learn or generalize from anything that happens so everyone is sort of depressed and disengaged, because it’s not like they can go back to their studios after the ball and make Capote. They are depressed and disengaged because, of course, they fear their audience is disappearing or their studio head is disappearing or their job is disappearing and they may not be wrong.” — Producer Lynda Obst in her back-and-forth Oscar chit-chat with critic David Edelstein in New York magazine. There have been two postings from each so far — the next posting happens Sunday afternoon (3.5).
“The scariest days of my life are the days that I’m filming…scary because I’m scared of failure. I’m scared I’m not going to satisfy not just myself, but satisfy my film family, my larger family. I want people to like what I do, and I’m scared that I’m going to fail in doing that. So that’s why every morning when I wake up, I’m always bolt upright five minutes before the alarm clock, whether I’ve had one hour’s sleep, two hours, ten hours…I don’t get ten hours’ sleep, my max is about five…I’m always bolt upright in fear, in fear of failure, in fear of not actually making my mark, in fear I haven’t been able to execute what I wanted to do creatively as good as I could have done it. I think it’s healthy to have that fear. I wake up with that same fear whether I’m doing a commercial or whether I’m doing a major movie.” — Tony Scott talking on the Domino DVD commentary track. This is a stunningly honest statement. I don’t know any driven creative person who doesn’t feel more or less the same way. Is the difference between true creative types and people who want to be creative but haven’t quite made it happen..is the difference that the hard-cores are able to handle that waking-up-scared thing each and every morning, and the others can’t? Or does everyone all over the world wake up with the same feeling, no matter what they do?
“Anyone who claims to take pride in a film not doing as well as its supporters hoped it would is, simply, pathetic,” David Poland has written, obviously referring to yesterday’s Wired item about my feeling a wee bit proud about helping to stop the Munich Oscar train in some small way. Poland has gone after
films and filmmakers and fellow journalists, even, and hurt them to some degree (I still carry the scars), so let’s not have any high-minded judgments about pathetic vendettas. I’m much more of an amiable, shoulder-shrugging, comme ci comme ca type of guy than Poland is any day of the week. My confessing to a twinge of pride in helping to stop Munich (not the film, a tolerably flawed thing that hasn’t aged very well since last December, but the Moses-down-from-the-mountaintop Oscar-campaign attitude generated by that Time cover and “we’re letting the film speak for itself” and Poland’s early proclamation that Munich is the presumptive front runner, etc.) is just a little feeling that I let out. I’m not taking out trade ads…big deal.
I’ve read these stories about the battling Crash producers three times now — Sharon Waxman and John Horn‘s, I mean — and both are written so impartially that I can’t tell what’s really going on, but it seems to boil down to this: (a) Bob Yari, the former real-estate mogul who’s moneyed his way into the upper ranks of indie film producing over the last two or three years, has sued the Motion Picture Academy and the Producers Guild for denying him producer credit on Crash, (b) Crash wouldn’t have been made if Yari hadn’t put up a reported $7 million bucks (director-writer Paul Haggis has said as much) but the Academy and Producer’s Guild people who blew him off have seemingly said to themselves (by way of my extraordinary powers of perception), “He’s just an oily operator and a money guy and therefore not ‘one of us’, and we have a solemn responsibility to honor the hands-on producers…the people who really produce the movie on a day-by-day, task-by-task basis…so too bad for Yari but he’s rich so let him cry all the way to the bank“; (c) Yari has produced a lot of films recently that have been weak box-office performers (Prime, The Chumscrubber, Winter Passing, Thumbsucker, A Love Song for Bobby Long…otherwise known as “Bobby Way-Too-Long”) and perhaps he’s looking to do a little make-up bookkeeping, which, if true (and I’m not saying it is), could be a factor is his being acccused of hoarding his Crash profits. Cathy Schulman, a hands-on Crash producer who’s one of those lucky few who will be up on stage at the Kodak theatre Sunday night if Crash wins the Best Picture Oscar, recently filed a lawsuit (which I hear makes excellent reading, but unfortunately is not on The Smoking Gun) accusing Yari of acting from “greed and ego” in failing to pay at least $2 million in producing fees to her and partner Tom Nunan. So that boils it down, I think…Yari wants respect as a real producer and not just a financier but the Producers Guild isn’t buying because they see him as just a guy who writes checks and so he’s sued them to make them pay for this condescending attitude, and Yari seems to be a bit of a skinflint when it comes to paying people who think he owes them money…”seems” being the operative term. The man’s name ends in a vowel and he wants respect. If it were my call, I would give him a producer credit and let him take the stage with Schulman. He’s a player…he’s out there plugging and trying to make a dent…he had the moxie to write the check that made the film possible…c’mon.