You can always count on the flatter, slightly less-affluent sections of Los Angeles if you’re looking to absorb a profound sense of emptiness while taking an evening walk after dinner. They just give you that feeling in waves, in torrents. It’s Flotation Land, and it seeps into your soul. L.A. isn’t as despairing a place as Honolulu or Houston, agreed, but it’s up there.
Variety‘s Adam Dawtrey on Curb Your Enthusiasm helmer Robert Weide planning to direct a Vanity Fair version of Devil Wears Prada. The feature, Weide’s first, will be based on Toby Young‘s “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People“, about his none-too-politically-successful stab at working for VF as a contributing editor in Manhattan several years ago. Shaun of the Dead‘s Simon Pegg will play Young; the part of VF editor Graydon Carter — the character will be called Clayton Harding, an editor of a fictional monthly called Sharps who will presumably share certain Type A characteristics with Meryl Streep‘s fashion magazine editor — isn’t yet cast. I missed a party for Young thrown by the L.A. Press Club three or four weeks ago, and I haven’t read his book either. The script adaptation is by Peter Straughan. The producers are Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen of Number 9 Films.
A Summer It Was
August is toast in two and a half weeks so I guess it’s time for a summer ’06 wrapup piece. I don’t feel like doing a typical why-they-failed-or-succeeded analysis, so I’m just going to run a listing of the stories that felt like standouts in terms of my weekly Elsewhere agonistes. There were 25 punchers in 14 weeks.
I will, however, reiterate what I felt was the most welcome and most dramatic story of the season: the out-of-the-blue “just say no” decisions of some big-studio chiefs about some hugely expensive big-star vehicles & fee deals (Used Guys, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not), which may be harbingers of a trend.
This felt welcome because big budgets always diminish the entertainment factor, on top of which this seemed like the first breath of upper-level fiscal sanity in this business in a long time. To me it felt analogous to the chain-reaction topplings of socialist governments in 1989. Suddenly studio honchos seemed to be saying, “Sorry, dudes, but you’re going to have share more of the risk and make do with two vacation homes instead of three or four.”
This attitude is also part of the industry cutbacks and contractions going on right now, at least tangentially, and of course this has everybody terrified or at least biting their nails. And I say this: Fear is not a pleasant thing but it’s a good thing to wade into every so often. It cleans out the blood, sharpens the mind and usually results in needed change and discipline and re-thinks.
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Hollywood’s summer begins in late April these days, but let’s kick back and be liberal and call it April 8th so I can link once more to that Flags of Our Fathers piece I ran just over four months ago.
1. What Is Flags of Our Fathers, and How Will It Play? (“Regarding Fathers“, 4.8)
2. HE Inaugurates Reader-Comments Feature, which was up and rolling as of 5.3. One of the liveliest and most enjoyable things to happen to this site in a long time.
3. The End of Super-Tom as signalled by the un-terrific domestic grosses for Mission: Impossible: III The piece was called “The Upside of Taps“, and it ran Sunday, 5.7. The next day came links to Nikki Finke and Mark Ebner‘s stories about scientologists buying up M:I:3 tickets. Still later came news that the South Park Cruise-in-the-closet episode had been Emmy-nominated, which never would have happened if Cruise wasn’t perceived as vulnerable and not-the-man-he-was five years earlier.
4. Runnng With Babel, first in a 5.14 interview with Alejandro Gonzalez Inna- ritu called “Bullet Time” and then in a 5.23 Cannes Film Festival review of the film.
5. The DaVinci Code Blows, as conveyed in “Hissing Balloon“, a Cannes Film Festival review than ran on Tuesday, 5.17. Not that anyone cared. It was soon after kicking worldwide box-office ass, and it didn’t quit until early August. The U.S domestic tally alone was $216,385,837 by late July.
6. The Bitch-Slapping of Southland Tales at Cannes Film Festival, as sadly reported in this 5.21 review/article called “California Dreamin“. A regrettable thing because I know director-writer Richard Kelly slightly and consider him a good hombre.
7. The Booing & Despising of Marie Antoinette at Cannes, as contained in a review that than ran Wednesday, 5.24, called “Blood of a Lady“.
8. Surprise — The Break-Up Isn’t Half Bad (Saturday, 6.3). I’m not sure that running a positive review helped mitigate my running tracking numbers that were accurate as far as they went but which forecast the wrong financial future for this film. This episode highlighted, properly, the less than 100% reliability of tracking, certainly without understanding timing isses and demographic factors in their right proportion.
9. The Up, Down & Really Down Ride of Superman Returns, starting with my initial 6.19 review, written from my Las Vegas hotel room while visiting Cinevegas. Followed by a Superman Returns may-actually-be-a-little-long piece. Which was followed by a 6.30 piece about Superman Returns fighting for its life and possibly being in trouble. The whole cycle was over in the space of less than three weeks
10. Nacho Libre Ain’t Half Bad Either (Mexican Goof Ride” on 6.13).
11. The Devil Wears Prada is a Smart, Above-Average Chick Flick with Two Especially Good Performances (“Fashion Abrasion” on 6.25).
12. Pirates 2 Eats It (“The Big Empty” on 6.29). Which mattered not, of course, as acknowledged in this 7.8 item.
13. Little Miss Sunshine is the Best Comedy of the Summer (“Sunshine Is It“, Monday, 7.3)
14. The De-Hippifying & Dumbing-Down of Snakes on a Plane Hype (the dumbed-down U.S. one-sheet, 7.5 — the dumbed-down Euro one-sheet, 7.6 — The Fun’s Over, 7.23 — Snakes Checklist.
15. Dupree and the GenX Arrested-Development Syndrome (“Party On“, 7.6 — “The Legend of Owen Wilson, a True Original“, 7.9 — “Down on Dupree“, 7.12.
16. M. Night’s Confession and the Subsequent Drowning of Lady in the Water (“Feel Night’s Pain“, 7.9 — “Soggy All Over“, 7.20).
17. Love and Respect for Miami Vice (“Nice Vice“, 7.11) — although the public pretty much said ‘fuck this’ — “Vice Aftermath“, 8.6)
18. Talladega Nights Is Okay, Even If It’s Not Funny (“As I Lay Dying“, 8.3)
19. A Surprisingly Strong Sandler Film Surfaces… (“Men Apart“, 7.24) …And Is Soon After Bumped Into ’07 (“Why Reign Is On Hold“).
20. The Official De-Oscarfying of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (“Forget the Toronto Film Festival“, late July)
21. The Gibson Mess (“Goony Bird“, 7.28 — “Terrible News“, 7.29). I wrote so much stuff about this that I’m sick of it now and don’t feel like linking to each and every item.
22. The Solid Crafting of Oliver Stone (“Comfort Blanket“, 7.31).
23. Robert De Niro and Eric Roth’s De-Wackifying of James Jesus Angleton (“Sussing Shepherd“, 8.9).
24. The Proceed-With-Caution History Boys Campaign (“Art of the Dodge“, 8.11).
On the occasion of Madonna‘s having announced that she’s given up acting, let me say once more that she was pretty close to impressive in Alan Parker‘s Evita (’96).
I respect that film enormously — it’s my favorite Parker flick after Mississippi Burning and The Commitments — and I think it works in part because of Madonna’s singing, which is fairly soulful and stirring. (Perhaps not up to Patti Lupone‘s level but she holds her own). She was as good in Evita as her talent allowed her to be. All she had to do was punch out the tunes and weep and glare and hit her marks, and she did that pretty well, I thought.
And we all agree she was also pretty good in Susan Siedelman‘s Desperately Seeking Susan (’85). And I liked that blowjob she gave to a water bottle in Truth or Dare.
Variety‘s Gabriel Snyder reports that three super tentpolers will be released within a four-week span next May — Sony’s Spider-Man 3(5.4.07) , Dreamamount’s Shrek the Third (5.18.07) and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End (5.25).
Obviously, if any of these films are going to take a hit (i.e., be hurt) it’ll be Shrek the Third, but then it’s a family film and isn’ really going mano e mano against the other two. Somewhat but not really.
After this comes a ten-week stretch in which a big-studio tentpole will launch every weekend from June to August: Warners’ Ocean’s Thirteen (6.8), Fox’s Fantastic Four 2 (6.15), U’s sequel Evan Almighty (6.22), Pixar /Disney’s Ratatouille (6.29), Dreamamount’s Transformers (7.4), WB’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (7.13), a Universal Adam Sandler comedy We Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry(7.20), Fox’s long-awaited The Simpsons Movie (7.27), Universal’s The Bourne Ultimatum (8.3) and New Line’s Rush Hour 3 (8.10).
Of all these films, I am interested in seeing exactly two — The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Thirteen. I am vaguely interested in Spider-Man 3 in Evan Almighty. I spit on all the rest of them, especially thePirates 3 (the prospect of seeing Keith Richards in pirate garb grabs me not), Rush Hour 3, the Harry Potter, the Michael Bay, etc. More of the same old crap.
Hey, whatever happened to a U.S. release of OSS 117: Nest of Spies? The French-made period espionage spoof, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, was a big hit in France after opening there in mid April. It then won the “Golden Needle” audience award for Best Film at the 32nd annual Seattle Film Festival awards in mid June. If there’s a U.S. distributor or plans for any U.S. release, I can’t find it.
We all need to bow our heads and observe a moment of silence for the dear & departed title of Clint Eastwood‘s second Iwo Jima movie, which up until recently was called Red Sun, Black Sand. It now has a much blander title — Letters from Iwo Jima.
The title change is revealed on page 64 of this week’s Entertainment Weekly (a “Fall Movie Preview” issue with Daniel Craig on the cover), and was confirmed this morning by a Paramount staff publicist.
The original title had a poetic tint with allusions to the flag of Japan and the black sand on the beaches of Iwo Jima. The new title uses the words “Iwo Jima” — very clear, that — but it has no alliteration and no sense of mood or tone. It could be the title of a PBS documentary about an American mother in Iowa receiving letters from her son Caleb. It suggests dullness, softness…and gives no hint that it’s a film with an all-Japanese cast. Which, of course, is a very scary concept for typical American filmgoers.
Based on a story by Paul Haggis and Iris Yamishita and a script by Yamashita, Letters from Iwo Jima was made as a kind of mirror-companion piece for East- wood’s Flags of Our Fathers (Paramount, 10.20), which is about the legacy as well as the reality of American troops fighting on Iwo Jima. Letters, which Warner Bros. is distributing domestically (Paramount is handling it internationally) in January ’07, deals with the battle for Iwo Jima as experienced by Japanese troops. It stars Ken Watanabe (Memoirs of a Geisha) as General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who led the battle against American troops for several weeks.
The new title probably alludes to the details of the conflict being revealed by letters written by Japanese soldiers to loved ones back home. The Japanese translation of Letters from Iwo Jima, as provided by the IMDB, is Iou Jima kara no tegami. It sounds sucky either way.
Nothing happens on a Clint Eastwood movie without Clint’s approval, but this has the whiff of something pushed along by Warner Bros. marketing. I called Haggis this morning to get the scoop (no reply so far), but five’ll get you ten some- body at Warner Bros. thought Red Sun, Black Sand sounded vague and arty, or they tested it and Average Joes said the same thing.
I could also suppose that the WB marketers may have appealed to Eastwood by reminding him that a similar- sounding film that he directed and starred in — 1990’s White Hunter, Black Heart — bombed.
This is the same kind of bottom-line marketing call that led to Taylor Hackford‘s 1984 remake of Out of the Past being retitled as Against All Odds. The movie-title mantra is always “make them simple and plain — metaphor and alliteration have no currency any more.”
Don’t call that Alfred Hitchcock-Cary Grant movie North by Northwest — call it Framed Innocence or Run For Your Life. If that 1959 classic never existed and a producer wanted to use that title for a new movie today, the marketing guys would test it and people would probably scratch their heads and say, “North by northwest of what? I don’t get it.”
In such an environment what chance does a title with the words “red sun” have? I don’t know if Red Sun, Black Sand was tested, but if it was I’ll bet 95% of the people who responded said, “What does that mean? The movie takes place in a desert or something? But hold on…what kind of desert has black sand? I’m confused.” And I’ll bet 99.5% of the people out there don’t know or care what Japan’s flag looks like. Don’t kid yourself — we live in Moron Nation.
Ask Jay Leno about this. I saw him do a question segment with people on the street on the Tonight show a few years back, and he asked a young girl to give the last name of a recent president whose first name was “Jimmy.” She didn’t know. “He used to be a peanut farmer…” Leno hinted. The woman still didn’t know but she took a stab. “Jimmy Peanut?”, she said.
Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike, but particularly to Hollywood Elsewhere loyalists, that starting today & forever after everyone is going to have to register in order to post comments to articles. I’ve done it and it’s a relatively quick and simple process. HE’s webmaster Jon Rahoi tells me it’s safe and anonymous — you won’t even have to leave your e-mail address. I had to do this because some moronic spammer posted 52,000 comments yesterday and shut down the reader-response capability for two or three hours.
Step Up (Disney), Friday’s #1 film, dropped 20% on Saturday so Talladega Nights (Columbia) rushed in like a fool and took the #1 slot with $22,404,000. That’s a 52% drop from last weekend due to high-octane word-of-mouth.
Step Up could’ve been the champ but its teenage-girl supporters got most of their rocks off Friday when it made $8,499,000. The take dropped on Saturday to $6,834,000 and so the film will wind up with something close to $20,007,000 as of Sunday evening.
World Trade Center was being projected yesterday to end up with about $25,700,000 for its first five days (it opened on Wednesday, 8.9) but it did a little better on Saturday than expected — $18,274,000 for the three-day weekend — so the five-day cume is now $26,075,000. Not bad, but not exactly cause for popping open bottles of Dom Perignon.
The fourth-place Barnyard will end up with a weekend tally of $10.082,000. Pulse (#5) will finish with about $8,200,000, Pirates (#6) with $7.367,000, Miami Vice (#7) with $4,547,000, Zoom (#8) with $4,477,000, The Descent (#9) with $4,452,000 and Monster House (#10) with $3,444,000.