Yesterday I intended to discuss Sharon Waxman12.4 piece contending that Mel Gibson‘s Apocalypto has created some confusion and tension among Academy and DGA voters who had wanted to just ignore Gibson’s film due to his anti-Semitic outburst last summer, but are now torn about this due to the film’s alleged excellence, which they may feel obliged to honor with a nomination or two. I tried to get into it but I so radically disagreed with what she’d written that I felt tongue-tied on some level.
As I explained in last Friday’s review, Apocalypto very well made but there are far too many slit throats, chest-cavity guttings and bouncing severed heads for anyone to take it seriously as any kind of awards contender. (I’m sorry, but a\ny scene about the chewing of recently-killed tapir testicles has to be considered one too many in that vein.)
The bottom line is that the only DGA and Academy members who may feel torn about whether or not to nominate Gibson for Best Director or Apocalypto for Best Picture are people, in short, who either (a) have no taste, or (b) share Gibson’s diseased obsession with the clubbing, throat-slicing, head-severing, disembowelling and general torturing of human beings as a subject deserving prolonged meditation.
Howard Burns, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, unknown to probably 99% of HE’s readership, has packed his bags and left the room. L.A. Observed wrote that he said to the staff at a meeting yesterday, “If I told you this was voluntary, I’d be lying.” Burns was, in fact, whacked by THR publisher John Kilcullen for the same reason that lions who’ve moved in on a new lioness usually kill her cubs so make way for their own brood.
Publisher/editorial director Robert Dowling made Burns editor after Anita Busch resigned in May 2001. Several months ago Burns was named editorial director so Cynthia Littleton could be made editor — she’s been running things at THR for some six months.
After Dowling left the paper a year ago due to illness, Tony Uphoff, his second-in-command, was named publisher. The Dutch-owned VNU, which owns the Reporter, was sold to a consortium of investors after this. The investors hired a guy from GE named David Calhoun to take over the list of properties — including A.C. Nielsen and several trade papers (including THR and Billboard) and trade shows. The star and cash cow is the Hollywood Reporter, but ad sales didn’t meet projections last year so heads had to roll. Bob Krakoff (formerly with Reed Business) replaced Mike Marchesano as head of VNU business, and he replaced Uphoff with VNU veteran Kilcullen, who has turned Billboard around. So Kilcullen is the new publisher and he’s reorganizing his team.
Picturehouse chief Bob Berney (r.) and Washington Post/N.Y. Times freelance contributor Laura Winters (l.) at Monday night’s New Line/ Picturehouse party at Del Posto, a huge, two-story Italian restaurant located on the 10th Avenue “foodie corridor” — Monday, 12.4.06, 8:35 pm pm; apologies to International House of Publicity chief Jeff Hill for running this not-all-that-unflattering shot of him (i.e., his eyes were blinking), Mark Rabinowitz (l.) and journalist and “Reeler” blogger Lewis Beale (r.) at the Picturehouse party; Movie City News columnist Stephen Holt (l.) and 19 year-old theatrical wunderkind whose name escapes me…sorry; The luxurious, beautifully decorated Blue Water Grill at Union Square and 16th Street, where I lunched yesterday with Little Children costar Phyllis Somerville and who plays the film’s most compassionate and grounded character (i.e., Jackie Earl Haley’s mom) with great spunk and conviction, which has incited Best Supporting Actress talk; Spring Street grocery-liquor store somewhere to the east of Broadway — Monday, 12.4.6, 6:25 pm.
Patrick Goldstein‘s annual “early betting line” column about Best Picture contenders gives the best odds (4-1) to Dreamgirls. His only qualifier is that “its chances of a best picture victory depend on whether the academy, which has a soft spot for showbiz stories, will embrace a crowd-pleaser that isn’t daring or original. In other words: Does the soul outweigh the schmaltz?”
Goldstein doesn’t mention the well-known fact that there are some out there — maybe a few, maybe a lot — who are foursquare against Dreamgirls. A Manhattan publicist told me last night there are a lot of people “in the closet” about it — they don’t like it but don’t feel secure enough to go up against the gay media-industry mafia by saying so with any conviction.
I’m mixed on Dreamgirls — I like the pizazzy song-and-dance stuff but feel it zips along too fast and that there ‘s not enough emotional particularity or undertow, and that it lacks connective story-telling tissue. But for me, it’s not Chicago or Munich — if it wins I’m okay because the parts of it that I genuinely admire are fairly kick- ass, and because director Bill Condon has delivered genuinely admirable work in the past (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) and will again.
The other thing that Goldstein omits is another awesome foreign-language Best Picture contender besides Pedro Almodovar‘s Volver. I’m referring, of course, Florian von Henckel Donnersmarck‘s The Lives of Others. I’m sorry, but Goldstein not even mentioning this film as at least a very long shot seems like dereliction of duty.
There is no avoiding the fact that this Sony Pictures Classics release has the the stuff that penetrates and lifts up and lasts — a riveting paranoid thriller, two kinds of love stories, superb acting (Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck), tangy adult sexuality and a truly stirring finale. I’m pretty cynical about the Oscar race, but is any aspect of the Best Picture race about nominating those films from whatever nation and spoken in whatever language that really and truly knock your socks off? If so, there is simply no way to keep Others out of contention.
Goldstein gives lousy 18-1 odds to Volver. “If there were ever an endangered species in the best picture race, it’s the foreign film, which, like animation, has been ghettoized in a separate but not equal category,” he says. “Sony Pictures Classics has made a big push for this…film, but it doesn’t look to have the depth of support needed.” No depth of support for one of the all-time great Pedros? Is everyone on Ritalin?
“We realize it never goes away. Life is always going to be a battle. You expect it to get easy as you get older, and It doesn’t. [And so the movie is about] how does he cope, how has he tried to put together new friends? He’s starting out without his wife. He’s full of grief. But [what he goes through and comes to] is like a rebirth. Certainly not the way he was in Rocky but an older, wiser guy.” — Sylvester Stallone talking to AP sports writer Dan Gelston about Rocky Balboa (MGM, 12.2).
Weinstein Co, publicist Liz Biber told me this morning that George Hickenlooper‘s Factory Girl(Weinstein Co., 12.29) will definitely screen “several” times this week for the benefit of New York and Los Angeles critics, as well as the Hollywood Foreign Press. (The National Board of Review saw it yesterday afternoon.) She said she’ll be contacting everyone on both coasts today and giving them screening dates and times between now and Saturday.
This despite the last-minute, down-to-the-wire additional shooting last month and the re-editing and re-mixing that Hickenlooper finished only yesterday morning (with more tweaks to come over the next week or two), and despite some critics (including a couple of influential ones from the LAFCA and NYFCC orgs, which will decide their annual awards this coming Sunday and Monday, respectively) complaining that the Weinstein Co. doesn’t have its act together and that showing a would-be contender this late in the game makes it difficult all around.
The odds that anyone will jump up and down about Factory Girl or even the performances are not high at this stage of the game — let’s face it. But you have to admire the spirit of HIckenlooper and the Weinstein Co. to somehow make it work despite the pressure and general insanity.
Biber wants it understood that there are still a few polishings and smoothing yet to be done on the version that will show this week. Those are curious terms when it comes to this film because Factory Girl has a deliberately raw, unpolished, Warhol-of- the-late-’60s visual scheme, which naturally synchs with the story and the era in which it happens.
Since running an early review last August, I’ve been waiting for the big end-of-the- year moment when it would finally start screening for the big-gun critics. Having pretty much done cartwheels over Sienna Miller ‘s performance as Edie Sedg- wick (and Guy Pearce‘s as Andy Warhol), I wanted to know if I’d be joined by several others or be all alone on an island.
I spoke to Us critic and NYFCC Thelma Adams this morning about this whole magillah, and she said that “several screenings at this stage of the game are not good enough for me right now.” But NYFCC members vote next Monday and the screenings start tomorrow, I countered — you have four or five days to see it. “This is very last minute,” Adams said. “I’m a mom, I have to commute into town…if they sent me a DVD I could maybe watch it.
“I’d like to see it, I’m curious to see it…but it’s the deluge factor right now. They’re screening Letters From Iwo Jima and The Good Shepherd this week, to name but two. This has been a good year and I could easily fill a top ten list right now, and you have so many Best Actress contenders already in place. .Sienna Miller doesn’t stand a chance unless she’s drop-dead brilliant. Bless their hearts” — she meant the Weinstein Co. — “but they’re pushing too much, too late. It almost seems to do a disservice to the film to put it out this way.”
I’ve been expecting to hear about bicoastal memorial tributes to Robert Altman, who passed just before Thanksgiving. Having attended DGA-sponsored tributes for Hal Ashby and Stanley Kubrick some two or three weeks after their deaths, I was presuming it would happen sometime this month.
But Altman’s widow Kathryn Reed is calling the shots, and her husband’s sudden departure (Picturehouse chief Bob Berney, the distributor of Altman’s final film A Prairie Home Companion, told me last night that he and wife Jeanne Berney were partying with Altman into the wee hours only a few days before his final visit to the hospital) has left her in a shattered state and unable(or simply disinclined) to immediately jump right into the organizing of two big farewell events.
There’s a notion afloat that staging the Altman memorials in early January, say, might conceivably nudge DGA or Academy voters into offering the Prairie Home Companion helmer a tribute nomination for Best Director, as a kind of official acknowledgment of his historical greatness and profound influence. But the word is that the N.Y. and L.A. tributes won’t be happening until late February.