Warner Bros. is telling me they still haven’t decided when to release Clint Eastwood’s second Iwo Jima movie — the Japanese language Letters from Iwo Jima. Despite what Variety editor Peter Bart wrote on 9.3.06 with Clint’s apparent input (i.e., that Flags of Our Fathers “will open Oct. 20” [and then] Letters From Iwo Jima will open two months later“), I’ve been told that senior Warner Bros, distribution execs intend to open Letters sometime in January ’07, or perhaps even later…but they aren’t sure when.
All I could get from a Warner Bros. publicity rep today was two things: (a) “I know absolutely nothing …as soon as I do I’ll call you” and (b) an acknowledgement of a possible difference of opinion between the Eastwood camp and the Warner Bros. team about when it would be best to open Letters.
I asked why Bart, who’s friendly with Eastwood and clearly seemed to have spoken to him before writing his piece, would write that “Letters will open “two months later” following the 10.20 Flags debut — or roughly 12.20. “Sometimes the wishes of the filmmaker aren’t the same as the wishes of the studio,” came the reply.
WB distribution brass screened Letters last Wednesday, I’m told, and presumably met not long after to discuss their plans for the film’s distribution. They’ve now had at least three business days to think things through, and yet there’s stll no decision. How many days do they need?, I asked. Do they need to go up to the wilds of eastern Utah and camp out and talk about it a few more days? Why don’t they just decide and pull the trigger already?
The idea in releasing Letters from Iwo Jima in early ’07 is that it might split Best Picture votes away from Flags of Our Fathers. Trust me, the odds against that happening are very high. Call it xenophobia or call it native loyalty, but a Japanese-language, Japanese-soldier movie meant to be considered alongside an American war movie about American soldiers in the same theatre of battle s going to be regarded as strictly backup .
I wrote a couple of days ago that Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima “are joined-at-the-hip movies — same war backdrop, same battle, same director, same color scheme. Some of the same incidents, according to Peter Bart’s 9.3.06 Variety piece, are depicted in both.
“How, given all this, can they not be considered as a single unified work? What person with any respect for what Eastwood has apparently constructed here would argue for Flags to be released on 10.20.06 and Letters to be released in January ’07, which would mean that the latter wouldn’t qualify as a ’06 Best Picture candidate? Especially given one guy’s view that the Japanese film is the ‘better’ work?”
“The humiliating box office returns for All the King’s Men may have trickled in over the weekend (a pathetic $3.8 million), but the death knell sounded almost a year ago and unintentionally came out of its producers’ mouths. When Sony Pictures announced, just two months before the film’s planned Christmastime release, that its opening would be pushed into the next year, the official reason was that more time was needed to complete the editing and score.
“But the unmistakable message sent to savvy audiences (that means everyone now) was: This movie is in trouble,” begins a 9.26 Caryn James piece in the New York Times.
“The studio ignored one of the harshest realities of movie marketing today: It’s almost impossible to recover from bad buzz. Studios wield their marketing campaigns as they always have, priming audiences to expect the best. But with the media following every twist of a movie’s progress, viewers head to theaters loaded with behind-the-scenes information. A current television spot for the Ashton Kutcher-Kevin Costner action film, The Guardian (opening Friday), actually flaunts its preview audience test scores, calling it ‘one of the best-playing and highest-scoring movies in the history of Touchstone Pictures.'”
“Even insidery advertising campaigns, though, can’t change the fact that blogs, television infotainment and mainstream entertainment reporting can amount to an anti-marketing campaign, priming audiences for the worst.”
And I love this graph….
“Desperately trying to spin viewers with higher expectations, All the King’s Men set itself up for failure because it is impossible to forget a year’s worth of factoids. When Sean Penn first appears on screen in the film, as the self-described hick and soon-to-be-political-savant Willie Stark, his short-sided period haircut may jog your memory: that’s the funny haircut he had at the Oscars two years ago.”
When Columbia decided several weeks ago against putting Mike Binder‘s Reign O’er Me into the derby by opening it in early December, one of the factors, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, was that “Columbia had a heavy fall/Xmas slate (four films) and they didn’t want to add another film to that list in the first place,”
Those films were All The King’s Men, Running With Scissors, Stranger Than Fiction and The Pursuit of Happyness.
It’s funny how things change so quickly. Here is it only late September (four or five weeks after writing that short article) and two of those films — King’s Men and Fiction — are dead in the water as far as Oscar aspirations are concerned, and a third — Running With Scissors — is looking…well, I don’t know how it’s looking, but not sending it to Toronto was some kind of hint.
That leaves only Gabrielle Muccino‘s The Pursuit of Happyness, a kind of Kramer vs. Kramer father-son heart-tugger in which Will Smith costars with his son, at a stand-out contender of any kind. And you never know with a Will Smith movie. No matter the vehicle, he has to be the “movie star” and that means endless opportu- nities for “charm”, cloying-ness and Smith-schtick.
Another reason weighing against Reign opening in December, I wrote, was the fact that Columbia “already has two funny guys giving dramatic performances — Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction and Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness — so do the math.” Even with Ferrell out of the picture, the Smith vs. Sandler equation still stands and this, I believe, is finallly why Reign was bumped into March-April of ’07.
Columbia wanted the playground free and clear for Smith’s presumed (i.e., hoped for) Best Actor nomination. They didn’t want another Sandler’s Reign performnace getting in the way, even as a vague competitive possibility.
Sharon Waxman‘s latest N.Y. Times piece (dated 9.25) is about Jim Carrey ‘s recent decision to leave UTA agent Nick Stevens and how the move “rumbled through Hollywood like a storm [and] signaled changing times for a tight network of stars who have dominated Hollywood comedies for several years — Carrey, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn, Steve Carell and writer-directors Judd Apatow, Adam McKay — and how the key to this web of interwoven talent has been Stevens and his deputies at the United Talent Agency, and the talent managers Jimmy Miller and Eric Gold, who represented most of the artists — and how that may be coming to an end, amid accusations of back-stabbing and character assassination.”
Waxman’s story isn’t as dishy as Nikki Finke‘s 9.20 L.A. Weekly story, but it frames the new situation — is the UTA/Gold-Miller Kings of Comedy house-of-cards about to crumble? — in tight dramatic terms.
There are implications of laissez-faire rich-girl posturings in Sofia Coppola‘s decision to stroll around Paris with a New York Times photographer (who, I’m told, is a personal friend of Coppola’s) and pose for shots here and there. Coppola is female and fairly young and a lover of the alluring eyefuls one normally finds in the shops and parks and museums of Paris, and that’s fine…but the montage provides an echo, for me, of the rank emptiness (i.e., the constant regarding of 18th Century surfaces) in Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette. The shots by the Times are appealing and some are exceptional, but I shoot stuff like this all the time when I’m in Paris, and I think my choices — group #1, group #2 and group #3 — are more atmopsherically intriguing.