British director Roger Michell being in negotiations to direct the next Bond movie for Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli is, I feel, a really bad thing for a good guy like Michell to get into ….except for the conpensation. Make a deal with Wilson-Broccoli and all bets are off. They’re chumps. (I was told that the Michell deal was in the works when I was at the Paramount Vantage-Al Gore party in Cannes two months ago, but it seemed so unlikely — bizarre even — that I didn’t touch it.)
Reuters’ Bob Tourtellotte on movies about GenXers putting off serious career moves until their early to mid 30s, in the vein of my 7.13 “Party On” piece.
Time‘s Richard Corliss goes kind of easy on M. Night Shyamalan and Lady in the Water. Or gets oblique or sheathes his sword or something. You could cherry-pick the critical parts and call this a hit piece, but it reads to me like Corliss and his editors heard the wolves snarling for Nights’ blood and decided to try to cut him a break by writing and structuring the piece just so.
A longtime St. Louis reader named Josh Capps has a fiance named Nadine, a PhD student who recently went to Lebanon to visit her mom and is now having trouble getting out due to the hostilities. He’s gotten his fiance on the evacuation list, though she’s behind a lot of others. Capps is asking me to pass along requests to readers to contact their House reps and Senators with the specific request of broadening the parameters of the evacuees to include special-case permanent residents and student visas. For what it’s worth…
“I’m so tired of thinking about myself…I’m kinda sick of myself,” the 42 year-old Brad Pitt said on the “Today” show this morning. That’s good….I like it when movie stars say stuff like that. He’s not voicing despair (he’s just starting to see beyond his personal crap so he can focus more on his kids), but it put me right into the opening lines of Bob Dylan‘s “Queen Jane Approximately” anyway. Being sick of yourself is a very healthy place to be — a very significant philosophical touchstone. Because once you get there, you can then move on to someplace else.
Every now and then a distributor will get a little side-steppy about showing an upcoming film, like Focus Features was earlier this month about showing Hollywoodland (9.8). To guys like me, I mean. They had long-lead screenings of Allen Coulter‘s film in early June, and then a screening last Friday that a columnist colleague went to. But now it’s looking like I’ll catch it sometime in late July. Great…I’ve been following this film for about four years now.
Here’s a piece I wrote in August 2002 about the Polish Brothers and the version they were hoping to shoot at the time (Paul Bernbaum’s script was then called Truth, Justice and the American Way), and their interest in casting Kyle MacLachlan in the Reeves role.
Four years in the making, and Hollywoodland finally opens in seven weeks, and yet there’s no offficial website. And no decent photos of Ben Affleck as Reeves, or Affleck in the blue Superman suit. Or sizable photos of any kind from the film on the web. What’s up with all that?
Obviously an order has gone out to keep Hollywoodland under wraps until a certain date in (probably) early August, so I guess it’ll be like that next-to-last scene in The Wild Bunch with everyone sitting around until a deep-voiced publicist from Focus finally calls and says Bill Holden-style, “Let’s go.”
Hearing from two journo pals doesn’t constitute a consensus, but June Guy and Friday Guy both like and admire Hollywoodland. Friday Guy is saying that Affleck’s performance as the doomed George Reeves is a kind of breakthrough for him. He didn’t exactly say it’s the best performance he’s given since Changing Lanes, but it sounds like it may be. It’s a supporting role. Affleck’s scenes are all flashbacks, as the film is mainly about a shamus, played by Adrien Brody, looking into Reeves’ apparent suicide.
Friday Guy says Affleck “has made some questionable choices in years past, but Hollywoodland shows how good he can be in the right part and in the right film, and with a very good director like Alan Coulter.” They both say it’s basically Brody’s film, but that Bob Hoskins and Diane Lane, as an MGM studio chief and his unfaithful wife, are also quite good. Robin Tunney, Joe Spano, Molly Parker and Dash Mohok also star.
“Why review [movies]? Why not let the market do its work, let the audience have its fun and occupy ourselves with the arcana — the art — we critics ostensibly prefer?,” asks N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott. “The obvious answer is that art, or at least the kind of pleasure, wonder and surprise we associate with art, often pops out of commerce, and we want to be around to celebrate when it does and to complain when it doesn’t.
N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott
“But the deeper answer is that our love of movies is sometimes expressed as a mistrust of the people who make and sell them, and even of the people who see them. We take entertainment very seriously, which is to say that we don’t go to the movies for fun. Or for money. We do it for you.”
Not me, Tony. I like writing stuff that people read and respond to, sure, but I mainly write this column out of feelings of profound reverence and worship. Hollywood Elsewhere is about monk-like servitude and grovelling. The movie theatres of today aren’t as cathedral-like as they were in the 1920s and ’30s, but the faith endures. Every time I walk into a plex or a screening room it’s like entering St. Patrick’s on Fifth Avenue or Sacre Coeur in Paris. If you’re not feeling awe as you enter a theatre, why go? What is moviegoing if not a ritual about great possibility? The chance that something jolting or transcendent might happen?
I don’t think typical Pirates 2 fans have the same attitude. Some may see going to a just-opened movie as a kind of cathartic Southern Baptist service (talking back to the screen, letting it all out, etc.), but most people probably see movies as a kind of sporting event or mass video game or amusement ride.
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard’s golf shot on the moon — February 1971
There’s an analogy between what I’m saying and Norman Mailer‘s feelings of reverence about the moon. During a 1971 promotion tour of his book “Of a Fire on the Moon,” and particularly during a visit to “The Dick Cavett Show”, Mailer sharply criticized astronaut Alan B. Shepard for hitting three golf balls on the moon’s surface during Apollo 14’s expedition, calling it a desecration of holy ground and a demonstration of American arrogance.
I think that today, 35 years hence, American moviegoers probably have more in common with Shepard’s attitude than Mailer’s. Movie plexes are a place they visit for temporary go-go diversion — places to meet friends in and eat popcorn and swallow soft drinks and check their text messages as they wait for the latest audio-visual blast-ride to begin. Nourishment, contemplation, meditation…? Dude, what are you on about?
What’s with the Hispanic heritage of the four top-billed stars of Asylum’s Snakes on a Train — Alby Castro, Ryanne Ruiz, Giovanni Bejarano and Al Galvez? Obviously Asylum’s looking to steal some of the heat from New Line’s Snakes on a Plane (8.18) by releasing their straight-to- video knockoff three days earlier (Tuesday, 8.15). But any cheapo outfit making a ripoff DVD knows that spreading around the ethnicity of the lead actors — a couple of Anglo leads with one or two African-American and Hispanic actors rounding things out — broadens the commercial appeal.
The reason for director Peter Mervis ‘s decision to cast four Latino leads is all about the Snakes on a Train milieu — a Mexican train headed for the U.S. Eric Forsberg‘s screenplay is about a Mexican woman coping with “a powerful Mayan curse” that has caused little snakes to be hatched inside her (“slowly devouring her from within”), and so she takes a train heading for “the border” and into Los Angeles to get the help of a shaman who will provide an antidote. Except the snakes — flesh-eating-vipers — somehow crawl out of her and start terrorizing the passengers.
The problem is that the copy on the poster says “100 trapped passengers — 3,000 venomous vipers.” (Wait a minute….is it 2000 or 3000? The copy is too blurry to read.) One little Mexican woman has 3000 worm-sized snakes inside her, and then they instantly hatch and grow into full-sized fearsome creatures once they’ve slithered out of the womb-like body? Even a ludicrous tongue-in-cheek monster movie (my all-time favorite is Tremors ) has to make some kind of stupid sense.
Mervis’s last Asylum knockoff was The DaVinci Treasure, which apparently opened in theatres last May on the heels of The DaVinci Code. It starred C. Thomas Howell, Lance Henriksen and Nicole Sherwin. A IMDB poster from Israel named “ruberoid-tk” called it “the most cheap, cheesy and useless movie [of the] last decade.”
Director/writer Mike Binder (Reign O’er Me, The Upside of Anger) didn’t want me writing that he wrote most of (significant portions of?) Owen Wilson‘s scene in front of that classroom of eight year- olds in You, Me and Dupree, a.k.a.”the Mothership scene” But I guess it’s okay to report this now that Wilson has told USA Today‘s Susan Wloszczyna almost the same thing. “Take the scene where Dupree speaks before a grade-school class on a career day,” she writes, “Wilson was supposed to give a spiel about being a copy-machine salesman. Instead, he and pal Mike Binder spent an afternoon brainstorming on a speech.”
Screenings of Oliver Stone‘s World Trade Center (Paramount, 8.9) are happening soon for NYC policemen and firefighters who risked their lives on 9/11. I was kind of scratching my head, though, when I read this USA Today quote from a spokesperson for “the union representing Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officers,” warning that “ground-zero rescue workers [should] be aware that watching [World Trade Center] could cause post-traumatic stress disorder.”
I guess any film that takes 9/11 veterans back to that day is going to be upsetting. The first 20 or 25 minutes’ of World Trade Center that I saw in Cannes felt solid, realistic and urgent, but I haven’t gotten the idea that it rocks audiences in the same way that United 93 did. (A fair portion of it happens inside a dark hole.) But maybe not. A NYC friend who’s seen it says that “for some of these guys who were on duty that day, maybe. The magnitude of it is different than that of United 93. A lot of it take place at night…that’s when they were finally dug out. And that makes it kind of eerie. And there’s the claustrophobia factor, and above ground a lot guys running around, what’s going on here…a lot of confusion. I could see it being a fairly unsettling thing for anyone who was down there that day.”
Here’s the best story I’ve read about how the Pirates 2 CGI guys — visual-effects supervisor John Knoll and a crew from Industrial Light & Magic — created Billy Nighy’s Davy Jones. Knoll & Co. will probably receive awards and nominations down the road for their work, although I don’t think the Academy hands out Oscars for Best Gross-Out CG Villain.