There are five post-Pirates wide releasers I’m especially interested in seeing this month (or seeing again for the second or third time): Michael Mann‘s Miami Vice (Universal 7.28), Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ‘s Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight, 7.26), M. Night Shyamalan‘s Lady in the Water (Warner Bros., 7.21), Kevin Smith‘s Clerks 2 (Weinstein Co., also 7.21), and Woody Allen‘s Scoop (Focus Features, 7.28). I don’t know what to feel yet about Universal’s You, Me and Dupree (7.14). The intriguing moderate and small-timers include Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (7.7), Edmond, The Groomsmen, Mini’s First Time and The Oh in Ohio (7.14), and Ray Lawrence‘s Jindabyne (7.20). But somehow I’m getting a premonition that Columbia’s Monster House (7.21) is going to be the only mid-to-late-July wide release besides Vice to really pop through.
I called my New Line pallies and apparently this is the approved wide-release poster for Snakes on a Plane (as opposed to the teaser poster). I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make it. It’s not dry or hip enough. In fact, it seems to be trying to make the movie look un-hip by appealing to the Rhodes scholars who need to be told there’s a satirical element…those who haven’t visited Snakes on a Blog or listened to any of the theme songs or watched any of the video spots.
And wipe that steely smile off Samuel L. Jackson’s face …please. And dump that “Sit back…relax…enjoy the fright” slogan. A poster that winks this broadly is totally the wrong way to go.
The only way to sell this movie is as a straight thriller. If you’re making a thriller with yucks and smirks, fine…but never ever say to an audience that this is what you’re doing. Conceal your motive and your agenda at all times. Let the audience discover it (and they’ll love you for it). If there’s something to laugh or chuckle or smirk at, they’ll decide.
Unless it’s already been mass-produced and mailed to theatres, the fact that this poster sucks isn’t the end of the world. New Line marketers just need to suck it in and admit fault and send the art guys back to the drawing board. Wait a minute…a guy named Colin just wrote in and said he saw this poster hanging in a theatre near Union Square.
I somehow missed this 6.30 announcement about Super Size Me‘s Morgan Spurlock‘s Warrior Poets cutting a deal with Hart Sharp Video’s Joe Amodei to deliver four to six docs per year. (Spurlock will “pick” and presumably fine-tune the docs, which have been/will be made by other filmmakers.) Spurlock will release a doc sometime in the mid-fall about commercialization of Christmas (not his own) and his TV series, 30 Days, will soon begin its second season on FX.
If there’s one central message conveyed in Boffo, a slick, agreeable and insightful doc about success, failure and mainstream filmmaking now playing on HBO, it’s contained in the answer to this question:
What’s the one thing that seems to lead to the making of a hit — more than a good script, a perfect cast, the right director, etc.? Or rather, what’s the one voice that a producer or a studio chief needs to listen to above all the others? The answer is, “The one from the gut.”
As producer Richard Zanuck says halfway through Boffo, “Your head can talk you out of a lot of things, but your gut always tells the truth.”
Here’s the first three or four minutes of Boffo. The speakers are (in precisely this order) Danny DeVito, Peter Guber, Peter Bogdanovich, Jodie Foster, producer Brian Grazer, 20th Century Fox chief Tom Rothman, Sydney Pollack, Morgan Freeman, Zanuck and fellow Jaws producer David Brown, and finally George Clooney .
Boffo was directed by Bill Couterie and produced by Variety editor Peter Bart, and is being billed as a celebration of Variety‘s 100th anniversary, but aside from several Variety headlines being shown, the promotional element doesn’t feel all that persistent.
Boffo is very smooth, engaging, and well-produced. However, I have two or three beefs:
(1) Boffo seems more interested in being chummy with its celebrity talking heads and paying tribute to their past successes and being supportive of the industry’s potential for making new successes, and less interested in exploring the whys and wherefores of failure. (There’s a fascinating moment when Morgan Freeman is asked what went wrong with The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Freeman barely answers. His body language and facial expressions, however, speak volumes.)
(2) While it only deals with the monumental failures ( Howard the Duck, et, al.), Boffo doesn’t even mention Last Action Hero…surely one of the most grotesque wipeouts of the last 15 or 20 years. It’s not even a blip on the screen.
(3) Boffo doesn’t deal at all with questions about why and how certain films have failed. It doesn’t get into the word-of-mouth mystique and how various producers and studios have responded to it, or into research screenings and whether or not that’s good or bad or a mixed bag, and it doesn’t mention how bad-buzz spreading through the media has contributed, fairly or unfairly, to the failure of this and that film, and, in line with this avoidance, doesn’t mention how bad buzz on this and that film moves much faster these days via the internet and text-messaging among the under-20-somethings.
A third big gun — L.A. Times critic Carina Chocano — is bitch-slapping Pirates 2 for being tedious, unfocused and overlong: The film “is unsure of what it wants, so it takes the omnivorous approach, and all of the story lines suffer for it. Intermittently fun and high-spirited, Dead Man’s Chest sags under the weight of its own running time, which clocks in at about 2 1/2 hours. That’s a lot of time to commit to watching people chase one another around, turn, and chase one another the other way. At half the running time, it would have made for an amusing time-killer; as it is — no matter how clever, energetic and beautifully designed — it borders on waste.” (Apologies for the Turan boner earlier this morning….haste makes waste.)
There’s a fascinating, well-put thought from screenwriter William Goldman on one of the commentary tracks on the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid double-disc DVD that came out three or four weeks ago. I didn’t transcribe it but I remember it pretty well: “We were lucky with Butch. We had a great director [George Roy Hill], and we had Connie Hall‘s phenomenal photography and a great crew and a solid script and a neat story and the casting was perfect. But if just one of these elements didn’t happen…it tells you that a good script and a good director and the right cast aren’t enough . The photography has to be right on, ditto the score and the editing…and if just one of these elements isn’t exactly right, you are dead. Nobody realizes how important the editing is, or how important the composer is…and there’s no reason for people outside the movie business to realize this, that movies are so fragile and anything can screw them up.”
Enron ogre Kenneth Lay died this morning in Aspen. The cause printed in the N.Y. Times was a heart attack, which it may have clinically been. Of course, the dramatist in all of us can’t help but imagine-presume that what really brought his curtain down — a combination of stress, the shame-horror of doing prison time and, of course, not wanting to die in jail.
Lay was found guilty several weeks ago on six counts of fraud and conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud, and was looking at a very long sentence, and having lived a cushiony lifestyle for so long, he must have been filled with dread at what lay ahead.
I don’t mean to sound heartless about this, but Lay was one of the most heartless corporate pricks of all time, a major conniver whose venal spinnings and maneuver- ings resulted in the ruining of many lives. Take a look sometime at Alex Gibney‘s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and tell me I’m wrong. If anyone deserved the label of “bad guy,” it was certainly Kenneth Lay.
So let’s be honest and admit that Lay’s death this morning is dramatically satis- fying. If anything he got off easy. Aspen is a very beautiful and soothing place and a good place to breathe in mountain air, lie down, close your eyes and bid farewell. A better point of departure, certainly, than some prison cell in some federal facility.
For some reason I’m thinking of that moment in Casablanca when Ingrid Bergman laments that if Humphrey Bogart’s Rick doesn’t help Victor Laszlo by selling him the fabled “letters of transit” that he’ll die in Casablanca, and Bogart snaps, “So what? I’m gonna die in Casablanca. It’s a good spot for it.”