MTV’s Larry Carroll reported this morning that Gregg Araki‘s Smiley Face, which got a rousing reception at Sundance last January, has gotten the shaft from its distributor, First Look. The comedy will open in one lousy theatre in Los Angeles later this year and then go straight to DVD in January. Carroll is calling Smiley Face “one of the funniest films we’ve seen in 2007…it deserves better.” Tough break, tough town.
MCN’s Gurus of Gold (Scott Bowles, Pete Hammond, Eugene Hernandez, Peter Howell, David Karger, Glenn Kenny, Jack Matthews, Mark Olsen, David Poland, Sasha Stone, Sean Smith, Anne Thompson, Susie Woz, Glenn Whipp) have put up their first Best Picture rankings, and the top five are Joe Wright‘s Atonement, Joel and Ethan Coen‘s No Country For Old Men, Mike Nichols‘ Charlie Wilson’s War, Ridley Scott‘s American Gangster and Sean Penn‘s Into the Wild.
This is is the very first time that a group has gotten together this year and said, “Okay…these five.” The game from here on will be to nip away at the weak wildebeests in the herd until one or two stumble and fall to the ground and are torn apart and consumed, which is what happened last year to Dreamgirls despite wildlife park ranger David Poland trying to keep away the lions and the cheetahs and the wild dogs with his .22 Derringer.
I’m totally agreed on Atonement and No Country. Charlie Wilson’s War is obviously a strong maybe but nobody knows anything at all. I saw American Gangster last night and totally agree — it’s a very likely Best Picture nominee. And due respect to Into The Wild, which I quite admire, but I don’t think it’s quite Olympian enough to be a top-fiver (although it’s Penn’s best ever).
The two vulnerables, I believe, are No Country for Old Men (the old-fashioned crowd is going to have problems with the ending) and Into The Wild (although Emile Hirsch is a very safe bet for Best Actor). Atonement is, I believe, a total Best Picture lock-down. American Gangster ought to be a nominee and probably will at the end, but I know some are cool on it so I’m not 100% sure. And we’ll see what happens with Charlie Wilson’s War.
The challenge from this end of the cage is to try and wake everyone up, or as many as possible, to the greatness of Sidney Lumet‘s Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. The fact that only Howell, Whipp and Woz have listed it among their top ten indicates this won’t be easy.
Thank god no one’s trumpeting Tim Burton‘s Sweeney Todd as a top-fiver sight unseen (not that it has the slightest chance — Burton doesn’t “do” Academy films), although right now it has the #6 slot.
Jason Reitman‘s Juno is #7 as we speak, but it may fall away as things move into late November and December. It’s not as sharp and true as Little Miss Sunshine, and it sort of needs to be to play in this game.
Julian Schnabel‘s The Diving Bell and Butterfly is #8, but it hasn’t a prayer.
Although Paul Thomas Anderson‘s totally unseen There Will Be Blood is #9, it could obviously surge forward if the movie is great and Paramount Vantage plays its cards the right way.
Nobody I know has seen Marc Forster‘s The Kite Runner, which has the #10 spot but has recently had its release date pushed back to December.
Michael Clayton is #11, Hairspray is #12 (a show of politeness is requred), Eastern Promises is #13 (forget it), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (just wait) is #14, and In The Valley Of Elah is #15.
Here’s a link for Wes Anderson‘s Hotel Chevalier — Jason Schwartzman, a yellow and biege hotel room with a great view, Peter Sarstedt‘s “Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?“, the naked Natalie Portman (with bruises) and a great pair of lines — Portman saying “if we fuck, I’m going to feel like shit tomorrow” and Schwartzman saying “that’s okay with me.” The download is free. It’s best to have iTunes open first. It lasts 13 minutes.
If a healthy, active 76 year-old public relations legend decides to change very little in her life, much less her work habits, by giving up a CEO title with the p.r. agency that she founded, how is this news? Especially if she plans to continue to come to work? Hollywood Reporter guy Borys Kit filed this story today about PMK/HBH honcho Pat Kingsley and…yeah, so?
What this probably means (and I’m just guessing) is that Kingsley is slowing down a bit and starting to downshift, which many older people tend to do (Sidney Lumet being the noteworthy exception). She says she plans to keep working and all, but — who knows? — she may want to come in later in the mornings or take the occasional afternoon off….something along those lines. A decision to smell the roses and take a bit longer sipping her tea.
Is there any journalist out there who’s actually liked Pat Kingsley, past or present? Everyone’s always respected her, of course, and when she was in her flaring-nostril prime they all feared her and wanted to stay on her good side, etc. But nobody I knew found it in their heart, much less their experience, to like her any more than the frog crossing the river could grow to “like” the scorpion.
Kingsley was always flinty and combative when it came to dealing with aggressive frontline journalists like myself, Judy Brennan, Anne Thompson and Pat Broeske back in the early ’90s, when we were reporting for Entertainment Weekly and the L.A. Times. There’s nothing wrong with being tough in doing your job, but there was always an element of anger and irritation and haughtiness in Kingsley. I remember being told in ’92 that she said to Broeske during a contentious phone call, “You’re bad, Pat…you’ve always been bad!”
Kingsley could also be, no offense, ferocious and conniving. When I faxed a letter to I’ll Do Anything producer Polly Platt late in ’93 that I’d love to see the musical version of that film somehow or somewhere (i.e., director James L. Brooks had thrown out the songs in favor of a tune-free version), Kingsley met with Entertainment Weekly editor Mark Harris, showed him a copy of the letter and said, “Look how unprofessional one of your freelance reporters is — he’s making editing suggestions to the producer instead of just reporting on the film!”
That, in my experience, was the scummiest maneuver ever pulled by a publicist in order to “get” me. Really and truly deplorable, given that the letter was about pure movie-loving enthusiasm and wanting to see the film that Brooks had set out to make, and nothing more. But that was Kingsley for you. Back then, anyway. I presume age has made her a somewhat kinder person, but then a reporter should never presume anything.
I’ve made some mistakes in my life, but I sleep pretty well because I’ve also done a few things right. Like having watched only two episodes of the The Brady Bunch series in my entire life, and having deliberately avoided Betty Thomas‘s The Brady Bunch Movie when it came out in the mid ’90s. Admittedly, I avoided out of ignorance, not knowing at the time that the backstage shenanigans among the Brady Bunch were like something out of a Radley Metzger flick from the ’70s, or perhaps even one by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Brady Bunch costar Maureen McCormick
The closer was yesterday’s CBS News report that a forthcoming book by Maureen McCormick (i.e., “Marsha” on the series) may tell of a lesbian affair between herself and costar Eve Plumb (i.e., “Jan”). The story also says that the book’s publisher, William Morrow, is denying that McCormick will reveal an affair with Plumb, and okay, maybe the report is b.s. But if you were a 51 year-old sometime actress looking to sell some books about your one successful TV series that peaked 35 years ago, wouldn’t you be inclined to include something in your book that might actually stir interest?
The Metzger analogy comes from the combination of (a) the lezzy thing (if true), (b) Brady costar Barry Williams‘ admission in “Growing Up Brady” that he dated (and presumably was somewhat interested in boning) on-screen mom Florence Henderson as well as McCormick, and, of course, (c) the closeted gay life of Robert Reed (dad “Mike Brady”) and his death from AIDS in the early ’90s.
Some HE talk-backers have opined that ThinkFilm’s Saul Bass-y poster for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, which I posted yesterday, indicates satire or even comedy. This opinion strikes me as a little too conservative-minded, and perhaps a tad clueless. Irony posters are in short supply these days, and some people like ’em plainer, simpler…just the facts, ma’am. Nonetheless, here’s a midnight variant with a different slogan — “Loyalty. It’s all relative.” You’d have to be a total idiot to look at this and go, “Oh, a comedy!”
Saul Bass at midnight — the “other” poster for Before The Devil Knows Your’e Dead, which will be wild-posted all over Manhattan (along with the white one)
Here’s a 9.24.07 Onion story with a headline that reads, “New Wes Anderson Film Features Deadpan Delivery, Meticulous Art Direction, Characters With Father Issues.” A very rote piece for the Onion, but something about the phrasing of the headline made me laugh out loud. As I said yesterday I’m more of the LQTM type.
It’s intriguing to pick apart a generic promotion- announcement article and the ultra-generic softball quote that is always supplied by someone about the appointee, and how this can sometimes convey what some may regard as the “wrong thing.” I’m speaking of Tatiana Siegel‘s Variety piece announcing Amy Baer‘s appointment as president and CEO of CBS Films, and a quote by a former colleague, Columbia Pictures production prexy Matt Tolmach, that labels Baer as a “romantic comedy maven” with “uncanny commercial sensibilities.”
Tolmach’s observations were almost certainly meant to be supportive, but they sound at the very least like double-edged damnation with faint praise…like they came from the mouth of Niccolo Machiavelli. The “romantic comedy maven” quote suggests Baer specializes in formulaic girlie movies that aren’t that deep or soulful or probing. And the “uncanny commercial sensibilities” one seems to imply Baer wouldn’t know what to do with anything too thoughtful or art-housey or Alfonso Cuaron-ish. Girl movie ghetto!
Baer has an above-average track record. She went from being an assistant to the late CAA agent Jay Moloney (a bright, affable, mild-mannered guy who totally hid everything — he was the Hollywood-cocaine personification of “Richard Cory“) to a development gig with Guber-Peters where she “helped” develop Jumanji and Single White Female, two very respectable mainstream efforts.
She then became a Sony production executive in ’97, which led to an exec vp position the following year. The Variety story says she oversaw production on My Best Friend’s Wedding (a very smart and engaging female-market film), The Mask of Zorro (shallow shit), SWAT (awful), Something’s Gotta Give (agreeable, tolerable) and The Pursuit of Happyness (not great but okay).
Nonetheless, the message of Siegel’s piece is, “If you have a nice, tidy, well- written project that will remind almost everyone of something they’ve seen before but with a slight difference, and particularly one that will appeal to somewhat older women, take it to Baer.”
In her Year of the Dragon review in ’85, I distinctly remember Pauline Kael crediting Elvis Mitchell for the term “mood hair” — a reference to Mickey Rourke‘s sometimes gray, sometimes gray and brown, sometimes grayish-white thatch in Michael Cimino‘s crime film. Kael set a good example by reminding that if you want to use some other critic’s line or phrase in your own movie review it’s good manners to credit them. I have an experience to relate along these lines that’s hardly worth mentioning, but I’m going to mention it anyway.
In his 10.1.07 review of Peter Berg‘s The Kingdom, New Yorker critic Anthony Lane used the term “C.S.I. Riyadh” to describe a portion of the film. To the best of my knowledge I was first out of the gate with that term. On 8.5.07 I wrote that The Kingdom was “an episode of CSI: Riyadh with a totally riveting third-act that recalls the trapped-diplomat-ambush scene in Clear and Present Danger.”
Maybe someone else used it before me (it’s that that brilliant a term — anyone could have thought of it), but if I were to write my first-ever Kingdom review today and wanted to use it, I would include a tip-of-the-hat to Lane.