It is not enough for Barack Obama to have won the Iowa caucuses on the Democratic side, which he’s now done. Hillary Clinton also needs to come in third, which is where she is right now, just a hair behind John Edwards.
“Even if your candidate didn’t win tonight, you have reason to celebrate…we all do,” Arianna Huffington wrote a little while ago. “Barack Obama’s stirring victory in Iowa — down home, folksy, 92 percent white Iowa — says a lot about America, and also about the current mindset of the American voter. Because tonight voters decided that they didn’t want to look back. They wanted to look into the future — as if a country exhausted by the last seven years wanted to recapture its youth.
“Obama’s win might not have legs. Hope could give way to fear once again. But, for tonight at least, it holds a mirror up to the face of America, and we can look at ourselves with pride.”
A director-writer hyphenate is telling me that the WGA membership is not 100% behind the WGA negotiators. His crowd would like to get back to work, he says, and would like to see Patrick Verrone & Co. be a little less Sonny Corleone and a little more Tom Hagen and approach this thing as a business deal that needs to be made. He says the dissenting writers would publically express this view but they’re keeping silent because they’d just get shouted down by the hard-liners.
He’s also saying he wants the WGA to follow the lead of whatever deal the DGA comes up with, which he thinks will happen within a week or two.
“I write because I didn’t want to work with a shovel,” he says. “I write because I like to sleep in late. Because I love movies and wanted to do what I wanted to do in life. No one ever asked me to be a writer. It’s a cushy job. If I couldn’t make a living doing it, I’d get a real job or figure out something else out, but that’d be second choice.
“Do what the production staff, or IATSE guys do? No way, that’s hard work. If I couldn’t make a living I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time whining about it though. I’d be glad for the time I got to be a writer, and if I really still loved it, I’d write short stories for myself and my friends. Or I’d rack my brains to come up with new ideas.
“Sorting this through in my head has led to me to a conclusion about what’s happening now with the strike, and I have to confess I’m not thinking as lockstep as some of you might want me and others to be, so get ready for a dose. I’ve also been influenced by watching The Godfather recently and considering the words of Robert Duvall‘s Tom Hagen, consigliere for the Corleone family, when he said to James Caan, “It’s business, Sonny…not personal.”
“A lot of the ‘writers’ need to get honest fast,” he says.
“No one ever asked us to be writers. This is a choice we made.
“All the talk about the ‘little guy’ that the WGA fights for is sad when you think how little most of the writers care about the ‘little guy’ who is out of work right now, along with the crew members and the office staff.
“This is a good two-way disagreement with true greed on both sides, but the ‘writers’ need to get real about our side of the landscape here.
“There’s a lot of talk about ‘creators’ and how ‘important’ writers are. Thing is, ‘creators’ are paid well. Really well. More than most studio execs in fact. Way more. Hired writers on shows are paid well too. Just not as well. That’s life, but the top dogs in our union are making sick money. Peter Chernin sick. Don’t think they aren’t. They have every right to (and it’s really the reason most of you are in the TV business).
“And we aren’t ‘forced’ to give away our copyrights, people. We sign the contracts willingly. Why? Because we want the money. We want to be in business with the people that are giving us the check. No one puts a gun to our head. You want to keep your copyright? Don’t take the check. I’ve taken the check and I’ve had to think about giving my ownership away and it hurts and when I couldn’t, I didn’t. You want the copyright? Figure out how to get it or write a novel. A play. This is a different medium and as writers sometimes we’re having a hard time accepting that.
“I appreciate what the union has done in the past. We should be proud. But the people who are hijacking it and whipping the town up right now shouldn’t be all that proud. They’re hurting a lot of innocent people in a very tough time for this town. It’s very selfish.
“Get back in there and negotiate for the internet but everything else is a powerplay. Animation? Reality? Let them strike on their own if they want to be in the union. It’s all so sad. Our people are like sheep, they get so whipped up. Do we really just want to be mad so we listen to these people? Why aren’t we just as mad at them? You really think the consensus is so unanimous? Wrong. Those of us who don’t agree with you don’t bother to go to meetings to get yelled down.
“I play poker with a guy in the WGA committee. A guy who hasn’t sold a script in a lot of years by the way. He calls it ‘war’. ‘We’re at war. It’s not ‘war’. It’s business. Figure out a way to make a damn deal.
“You love to ride down the DGA and call them pushovers. IATSE, Tom Short are pushovers? Anyone that doesn’t see it your way is a ‘pushover’ or a ‘shill’.
“You know what the DGA did? They did their homework. That’s not a pushover. They want to make a deal that keeps their people working. Their concern isn’t the power of their union. It’s getting a good deal. It’s keeping working. Keeping our families fed. It’s business.
“Face the facts: when the strike is over staffs are going to be smaller, and there’s going to be less development. Less scripts purchased. We have not helped. In the long run, we have hurt. We have cost jobs and money. We have not and will not have gained in any way, and that is the only fact that matters.
“We need to get rid of the people doing the negotiating. Whether they’re good or bad, they couldn’t make a deal. Out. Move along. Get fresh faces in there, pare it down to what’s real, and then call the AMPTP in. The rest is just ego-fed power play. Trust me folks, this union head they hired is taking a check home every week of the strike.
“I’m not down for fighting ‘war’ when it’s really just business. There’s enough real war out there.
“There are pigs on both sides of the troft. The producers and studio people who don’t agree with the AMPTP hard-liners need to get into their faces and make them negotiate. (Are you listening Steven Spielberg, Brad Grey, Les Moonves?) But we need to get it together as well. This is not a battle between good and evil. It’s not black and white. You can kid yourself that it is, but it isn’t. They are not storm troopers and we are not the sweet-faced rebellion. Many of us are lazy, greedy, wrongheaded and power hungry. Just like the other side. I know the good-evil thing is more fun and easier to swallow, but it’s not true. It’s a common- sense business negotiation and nothing more. Both sides need to get that.
“The WGA and the loudest of the cattle-drivers don’t want a dissenting opinion. Yet it is a void that needs to be filled. They don’t want to break ranks. Talk is always of the fear of ‘breaking ranks.’ Why is that? Why are they so afraid of breaking ranks? Because they need to keep the group marching. If they slow it down, there may be time to listen to some common sense and realize that they’re mad, but not that mad… not go-to-war mad.”
Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon‘s expressions capture the way I tend to feel whenever I read a box-office assessment story quoting Media by Numbers president Paul Dergarabedian. A dependable, well-liked guy, but he zones people out. Not sassy or colorful enough. We need a movie stats guy who talks like Yogi Berra.
One Missed Call (opening 1.4) is tracking at 51, 27 and 6…very modest. Five films are opening on Friday 1.11. The Bucket List (opening wide) is at 74, 30 and 5. First Sunday— 43, 30 and 3. Name of the King — 31,19 and 1. The Orphanage — 18, 24 and 1. The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie — 39, 19 and 1.
3 films opening on Friday, 1.18.08: 21 Dresses — 56, 27 and 5. Cloverfield — 39.37 and 6. Mad Money — 57, 22 and 0.
4 films opening on Friday, 1.25.08: How She Move — 18, 15 and 0. Meet the Spartans — 31, 19 and 1. Rambo — 62, 23 and 5. Untracable — 22, 18 and 0..
Sorry to be this way, but there seems to be reason to not only dislike but resist Michel Gondry‘s Be Kind Rewind (New Line, 1.25). The plot is about a video-store clerk (Mos Def) and his eccentric best buddy (Jack Black) have to reshoot dozens of popular movies after Black’s accidentally erases the store’s entire inventory of VHS tapes. Uh-huh. I know…forget naturalism and just go with it like we did with Human Nature, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotlesss Mind and The Science of Sleep.
Except I’ve chosen to not go with it this time, and I don’t care if dissing it sight unseen makes me sound small-minded or whatever. The plot sounds irritating as hell and, in the words of David Mamet, I say “no” to that.
Flight-of-fancy movies are Gondry’s signature, of course, but for any present-tense film to even half-work it has to half-resemble some fundamental aspect of the real- time world, especially if has anything to do with technology, old or new. I realize how groaningly literal-minded it sounds for someone like myself to say “no one except backwater Luddites watches movies on VHS tape these days, and finding a store that stocks only VHS is next to impossible.” But these two statements happen to be true, dammit. If I could make this awareness go away for Michel Gondry’s sake by clapping my hands, I would do that. But it won’t.
This is a movie that might have worked ten years ago, maybe. It seems so fanciful-flimsy it already feels like a mosquito buzzing around my ear. Part of me has always been vaguely irritated with Gondry, and now may be the time to slap him down like a drunk needs to be shaken hard and made to sober up with green tea or black coffee. I’m not saying I intend to trash Be Kind Rewind when it plays at Sundance, which would be stupid. But I’m halfway there.
Major differences between National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets and the trailer, according to N.Y. Times technology columnist David Pogue. “Just how different can a trailer be,” he asks, “without becoming false advertising?” My standard complaint is that trailers tend to make the films they’re selling seem much dumber and more primitive than they actually are. Deliberately, of course, because they’re always aimed at the slowest folks in the room.
Does the idea of Steven Spielberg directing a movie about the Chicago 7 sound like a synch-up to anyone? Spielberg isn’t Costa-Gavras, Oliver Stone, Steven Soderbergh or Bryan Singer. He’s never had an up-the-establishment attitude about anything. His personality is essentially that of a kid looking at something exotic and glowing with his nose pressed against a window pane. Maybe he’ll bring something fresh to this dusty counter-culture saga, but it feels like a very strange fit. Like Todd Solondz looking to direct a live-action Snow White movie.
(l. to r.) Steven Spielberg, Abbie Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Smith
What’s happened to Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln biopic? Why does he keep pushing this project back? Poor Liam Neeson must be going nuts.
Spielberg is essentially an aging geek who became a liberal political contributor- slash-dilletante late in life. He’s not one to grasp the political altogether except when it comes to creative control and getting paid. If Spielberg was any kind of politically astute fellow he would have thought twice about the Darfur aspect of his alliance with the Beijing Olympic Games organizers on his own without Mia Farrow having to give him pause with the “Leni Reifenstahl of the Beijing Games” taunt.
His interest in the Chicago 7 saga is perhaps an attempt to atone for being off on his own nascent-filmmaker beam and pretty much disinterested in revolutionary ’60s politics when he was in his early 20s. The whole world was on fire back then and Spielberg probably feels he missed out on some level, so the film could serve as a dialogue with the ghosts of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and William Kunstler with Spielberg saying, “Hey, guys…I’m 62 and I get it! Forty years after the trial, okay, but I get what you were doing back then with all the political theatre and I’m with you now. Brothers at last! Wait until you see how I portray Judge Julius Hoffman! Rest assured that subtlety will not play a part.”
The only aspect of the Chicago 7 story that Spielberg might understand is Abbie Hoffman, the street prankster, personality and revolutionary Borscht-belt comic who was one of the defendants. Spielberg might have a feeling for Hoffman’s impish sense of humor, but a voice is telling me that if Hoffman (who committed suicide in ’89) was around today he might say about Spielberg what Woody Allen reportedly once said about Harvey Weinstein in the mid ’90s, which was that “he’s not my kind of Jew.”
Spielberg allegedly wants Sacha Baron Cohen to play Hoffman, but he’s about a foot too tall. Hoffman might have been 5’6″ with boots on. If you were looking for someone to play Abraham Lincoln would you cast an actor who’s just over five feet tall? Of course not, so why cast a guy who could be a basketball player to play a ’60s activist who was built much more compactly?
The only semi-interesting casting news so far says that Spielberg wants Philip Seymour Hoffman to play Kuntsler. (No resemblance whatsover, but Hoffman can nail anything.) Taye Diggs as Bobby Seale? Maybe, but please, God….not Will Smith. Kevin Spacey and Adam Arkin are said to be in consideration for other roles.
Released this morning, a genuinely final, end-of-the-Iowa-road Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll showing Hillary running third.
And a genuinely unwise endorsement of John Edwards by Michael Moore — unwise given the dead certainty that the Republican attack machine will let slip a certain troublesome dog in the extremely unlikely event that Edwards might win the nomination, so what’s the point?
One of these months, Kyle Newman‘s Fanboys — a tragic period comedy about a group of Star Wars fans who attempt to break into George Lucas‘s Skywalker Ranch so a sick friend can watch The Phantom Menace before he croaks — will open in theatres, or at least on DVD. The MGM/Weinstein Co. team was going to have it out by 1.18, but that has apparently fallen by the wayside. An Exhibitor Relations list indicates that the Weinsteiners may have dumped the film altogether. Am I missing some piece of news?
You can just about smell the stench of over-acting from this Fanboys still alone…particularly the coarse emoting of Dan Fogler (middle)
Any film starring the animal Dan Fogler is a potential problem, and any film with this storyline that doesn’t deal at least semi-honestly with the content of The Phantom Menace — a shattering spiritual and emotional comedown for thousands of Star Wars geeks the world over when it opened eight and half years ago , despite the odd fact of it having made obscene earnings — has to be reprehensible on some level. One of the last things a dying geek does is watch the screen debuts of Jake Lloyd and Jar-Jar Binks? That’s sickening.
Rob Burnett‘s Free Enterprise excepted, geek culture movies always seem to run into problems. Whatever happened to Patrick Read Johnson‘s 5.27.77, another Star Wars fanboy flick film that has been in post-production for three or four years without a release?