That headline for Sharon Waxman‘s N.Y. Times story about negative responses to Universal’s United 93 trailer is, I feel, pretty unfair. It reads “Universal Will Not Pull United 93 Trailer, Despite Criticism.” This implies that some kind of heated consensus has taken shape against the showing of the trailer, and that angry crowds are massed outside Universal’s gates. There’s resistance to the trailer, granted, or rather to the idea of seeing the film. I’ve received more than a few letters from different U.S. cities and regions since the trailer was first shown a week ago last Friday (on 3.31), and a lot of people are apparently saying “too soon!” Fine. But nobody’s carrying picket signs and no one is pressuring, much less asking, Universal to pull the trailer, and that’s why it’s unfair to try to make an issue out of Universal’s refusal to do something that nobody’s asked them to do. The notion that people are complaining about the showing of the trailer came from a currently-running Newsweek story about a manager at an AMC Loews theater in Manhattan “taking the rare step of pulling the trailer from its screens after several complaints.” The story quotes one of the theater’s managers, Kevin Adjodha, as saying “‘one lady was crying’ [and that] we shouldn’t have [played the trailer]…that this was wrong…I don’t think people are ready for this.'” Waxman reports that theatre managers at this same theatre decided to show the trailer only before R-rated films or “grown-up” PG-13 ones. A Universal spokesperson told me this afternoon “there were two [trailer] complaints reported to us.” Waxman also talks to people whose mates or family members were killed in the planes on 9/11 — David Berry, Tom Roger and Sandra Felt. Two said they were disturbed or somewhat disturbed by the trailer; Felt said “she was surprised that the trailer had disturbed some moviegoers” and that “9/11 is a fact…it happened…running away from the movie isn’t going to resolve underlying factors of why we’re upset by it.”
Onetime hot-shot action director John McTiernan (The Hunt for Red October, Die Hard, Basic) has stepped into some Anthony Pellicano wiretap crap. He is now apparently looking at felony charges for having lied to the FBI, and is scheduled for arrignment on 4.17.06. Lying to the FBI carries a maximum penalty of five years. The U.S. Attorney has charged in U.S. District Court for Central District of California that on 2.13.06 McTiernan knowingly made a false statement to the FBI by claiming he had no knowledge of any wiretapping conducted by Anthony Pellicano. The U.S. Attorney’s charge is that McTiernan in fact had hired and paid Pellicano to conduct a wiretap of producer Charles Roven, whom McTiernan worked with on Rollerball (2002). McTiernan’s attorney, John Carlton of Arnold and Porter, didn’t pick up.
Mark Ebner‘s Hollywood Interrupted site has passed along the news about former Hollywood agent Pat Dollard almost getting killed in Iraq while filming a pro-war documentary series called “Young Americans.” Last year Dollard “ditched a lucrative career as a Hollywood agent [and] took leave from his family” — this means what exactly? it makes Dollard sound a little bit like Scott Glenn‘s “Colby” character in Apocalypse Now — and went to the front lines in Iraq to start shooting the series. On 2.18 — about six weeks ago — Dollard was wounded while on combat patrol with U.S. Marines in the city of Ramadi. He “suffered a concussion, neck injuries, shrapnel wounds, a damaged leg, and severe muscle and ligament damage,” Ebner writes. “Two of the young Marines with him on combat patrol were not so lucky. They were both killed in the attack.” Yeah, war zones are tough places and sometimes the worst happens and young guys get killed…uh-huh. And the fact that Dollard got hurt pretty badly signifies what exactly, apart from the fact that a bomb had his name on it? You walk in harm’s way and you might get hurt…way of the world, right? And by the way, U.S. News & World Report‘s Paul Bedard had news about Dollard’s misfortune on March 7th.
I’ll eventually get used to the new N.Y. Times web design, but right now I hate it. The old-fogey version (i.e., the one that was up just yesterday) was totally fine for me. The new design seems opposed to the storied atmosphere on West 43rd Street or even midtown Manhattan, for that matter. It makes the Times look like a weekly newspaper out of Springfield, Illinois. You can always improve a site internally by streamlining links and improving search functions, but if it looks good and bears a comfortable resemblance to the print version and everyone’s down with it, why mess around? All that white space seems so undisciplined and purposeless. Plus the lack of compactness in the design, the lame-ass fonts down below, etc. Did the online art department want to do something that would impress their bosses…to show they’re working hard and deserving of their salaries?
I knew Inside Man might run into some trouble on its second weekend after I saw it for the second time at an all-media screening at the Avco in Westwood. A stocky African- American guy in a blue blazer was sitting with his date to my right, and providing a running commentary about the action all through the film. And then came the quiet-time final scene in the bedroom — Denzel Washington looking at the diamond as he gets undressed, and maybe chuckling at the irony — and then the screen went to black and the credits began, and this guy said to his date, “That’s it?” As soon as he said that, I knew. If guys like this feel a little bit disappointed, you’re on your way down. Inside Man suffered a 46% decline last weekend, taking in about $15.6 million for a cume of $52.7 million. It’s doing moderately well, but obviously some people are telling their friends, “Yeah…it’s okay.”
How normal is it these days for guys to not grim up and get focused on some kind of career plan until they hit 29 or 30, or even 31 or 32? Fairly normal, I think. The bottom line is that the stuff that’s funny in Kevin Smith‘s Clerks 2 is pretty fucking unfunny out there in the real world, but this is what gives good comic films their undertow.
Not a spoiler but it may read like one to someone who hasn’t seen Spike Lee’s Inside Man, so beware: A reader has mentioned a curious detail in Inside Man that’s probably nothing, but it bugged him. At the very end as Clive Owen and his colleagues drive off (and keep in mind all the discussions about Christopher Plummer‘s past and dealings with the Nazis and the profits that came from that), they’re driving away in a Volkswagen. [I haven’t verified this, but I know and trust the guy who’s passing this along.] I’ve got a copy of Russell Gewirtz‘s Inside Man script and there’s no mention of anyone driving a Volkswagen, so if this was meant as some kind of extremely dry and subtle joke it was Spike Lee’s (or his production designer’s) idea. It’s not a joke, of course, that Volkswagen AG, the German manufacturer of the first VW’s, got started with slave labor. It began around 1940 by using Polish women between the ages of 14 and 32. By 1944, tens of thousands of Ukrainian, Polish, Danish, Dutch, and Belgian citizens; Soviet, French, and Italian prisoners of war; and Jewish concentration camp prisoners were being used as unpaid slaves at Volkswagen’s plants throughout Europe. At times they totalled 85 percent of Volkswagen’s wartime workforce. Anyway, it’s either a coincidence that Owen and the gang drove off in a VW or it’s not, but of all the cars Lee and his crew could have chosen, it’s odd that they chose a car that’s famous for having been created way back when by Nazis.
“Too soon! Too soon!“….this is the mantra of people who aren’t breathing in and out, and who are basically coming from a place of emotional denial or suppression. Days pass, seasons come and go, things change and snakes shed their skin. Obviously a lot of “too-soon”-ers are talking about avoiding United 93 and/or World Trade Center…whatever. But eventually you have to move on.
Okay, okay…Tom Cruise recently said on a German TV game show that he and Katie Holmes are going to be married this summer after the birth of their baby and the release of his new movie, Mission: Impossible III. Tomkat forever…fine. What got me about the story was going to Wikipedia and learning about the game show Cruise appeared on, which is called “Wetten Dass” (i.e., “Wanna Bet?”). Airing since ’81, and broadcast live six or seven times a year with each show lasting two hours (an occasional overrun happens), it’s described as the most successful show in Europe. Hosted since 1987 by Thomas Gottschalk, the show is
about people betting whether this or that Average Joe can successfuly perform some unusual, sometimes bizarre, always difficult task. Like, for example, contestants trying to assemble a V8 engine from parts within 9 minutes, or 13 swimmers trying to tow a 312-ton ship over a distance of 25 meters. In short, fans of the show have a certain taste for the bizarre.
On Tuesday, 3.28, I wrote an item about having been told that David Fincher‘s Zodiac (Paramount, 9/22) had been retitled as Chronicles, but I also quoted a Paramount spokesperson who said “we have the rights” to use the word “Zodiac” as a movie title, which led to my observation that the rumor sounded “a tad questionable” so “don’t take this one to the bank just yet.” The next day (Wednesday, 3.29) I wrote that Fincher’s Zodiac “is absolutely going to be called that” and that Chronicles “is just what it was called during casting and shooting, apparently …as a ruse.” And now, some three or four business days later, there’s a story by Variety‘s Pamela McLintock debunking the Chronicles rumor and citing an “internet rumor” as the source of said erroneous notion.
Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim‘s An Inconvenient Truth, the global-warming documentary that knocked me and everyone else for a loop when it played Sundance ’06, is being released by Paramount Classics on 5.26 — only seven and a half weeks from now — and there’s still no website for the film. There’s nothing at the Paramount Classics site, and there are no links to a Truth site on the IMDB or Coming Soon. This is perhaps the most important documentary to ever receive commercial distribution — it’s essential that mainstream Americans (especially those who voted for Bush and who drive big fat SUV’s) see and think about the message it contains — and the lack of a website at this stage of the game seems kinda derelict…no? There’s no such thing as getting the information out too early with a subject like this. Here, at least, is the main Gore-sponsored site that runs it all down, and here’s the column page containing my review out of Sundance. (An excerpt: “I’m starting to think that Gore’s entire political career, which culiminated with his run for the White House in 2000, has been about getting people to see and fully consider this absorbing slide-show lecture movie about global warming…An Inconvenient Truth is Gore’s crowning achievement…the summation of his life…the reason he was put on this earth to become a politican and a stirrer-upper and influencer of public opinion.”) Even the Amazon page for the Rodale book version, also called “An Inconvenient Truth” and due in book stores on 5.16, doesn’t even have jacket art…amazing. Whoever is in charge of the online promotion of this film belongs in the same effectiveness category at former FEMA chief Michael Brown. He/she obviously needs to be canned, and someone more on the ball needs to be brought in pronto.
Chat-boarders have been talking about this since early January, but I didn’t care about it until yesterday. The Omen (20th Century Fox), a remake of the classy 1976 horror-thriller that starred Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and David Warner, will open worldwide on an unusual day in early June — Tuesday — because the date will be 6.6.06. A clever marketing idea, and certain to strike a chord with the wack-jobbers…I’m sorry, devoted religious righties…who believe we’re approaching the End of Days. I’ve always half-liked Richard Donner‘s original, and re-doing it sounds cool, but the director, John Moore, is…I want to put this delicately so as to not to hurt Moore’s feelings, or those of his agent….a second-tier hack. (If you doubt it, compare his Flight of the Phoenix remake to the Robert Aldrich original, and re-watch Behind Enemy Lines….I mean, forget it.) Liev Schreiber has the Peck role (the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain in the Donner version), Julia Styles is playing his wife (will Moore have her repeat Lee Remick’s falling-backward-over-the-stair- bannister scene?), Mia Farrow has the evil Mrs. Baylock part (played by Billie Whitelaw in ’76), David Thewlis performs the David Warner/Jennings part (which means Thewlis’s head is going to get sliced off by a large sheet of flying glass, right?). Perhaps the creepiest element in the Donner version was Jerry Goldsmith‘s music, and it’s worth noting that Moore’s composer, Marco Beltrami, will be sampling Goldsmith’s music in his score, and particularly his “Ave Satani” composition. (The IMDB credit says Beltrami is the composer but that “themes” by Goldsmith are part of the mix.)