I’ve been my usual sloppy and lazy self in attempting to catch the the Oscar-nominated live action and animated shorts. So far I’ve seen exactly one animated entry — Josh Raskin‘s I Met the Walrus. It reminds me a bit of portions of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, which may be deliberate because it’s based on an actual tape-recorded chat with John Lennon during his 1969 bed-in for peace in a Toronto hotel. It played at Sundance and the Santa Barbara Film Festivals, and, for what it’s worth, has HE’s seal of approval to point to.
Sen. Hillary Clinton “has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she’s out,” an unidentified Democratic superdelegate tells N.Y. Times reporter Patrick Healy in a piece that will appear in tomorrow’s (Tuesday, 2.12) edition. The source adds that the Clinton campaign “is starting to come to terms with that.” Campaign advisers have also “confirmed this view,” Healy writes.
Clinton and her advisers “increasingly believe that, after a series of losses, she has been boxed into a must-win position in the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4, and she has begun reassuring anxious donors and superdelegates that the nomination is not slipping away from her, aides said Monday.
“Mrs. Clinton held a buck-up-the-troops conference call on Monday with donors, superdelegates and other supporters; [although] several of them said afterward that she sounded tired and a little down, but determined about Ohio and Texas. And these donors and superdelegates said that they were not especially soothed, saying they believed she could be on a losing streak that could jeopardize her competitiveness in Ohio and Texas.”
Yesterday The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil talked to yours truly and Envelope contributor Pete Hammond about Oscar matters. I advanced my Russian-Chinese Communist suggestion about fixing the over-the-hill membership problem and discussed a possible Michael Clayton score in one of the categories. Hammond talked about the Academy’s “dirty little secret” (i.e., a lot of members don’t watch the nominated movies, or watch them all the way through) and the topic of possible upsets.
Just as serious weaknesses and fissures are showing up in the Hillary Clinton campaign and N.Y. Times reporter Patrick Healy is about to run a story saying that Clinton aides are voicing concerns that the nomination is “slipping from her grasp,” Jack Nicholson has stepped up to the plate with some kind of radio or phone pitch on behalf of HRC’s candidacy. Sounds like it was recorded specifically to assist on Super Tuesday. If so, why wasn’t it leaked earlier?
The people running the charitable trust of Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien sued New Line Cinema Corp. in Los Angeles court today for allegedly cheating it out of at least $150 million from the blockbuster movie trilogy, which has earned about $6 billion. The plaintiffs pointed to a 1969 contract with the studio that held the original rights to the work [stating they] were entitled to 7.5% of gross receipts from the films and related products, “less certain expenses.”
L.A. Times reporter Thomas Mulligan saves the best part of his story for the last paragraph, to wit: “In addition to $150 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages, the trust seeks to terminate New Line’s rights, which would bring The Hobbit to a halt.”
So give us some! (tromp, tromp). So give us some! (tromp, tromp). Hummm, good!…hummm, good! So give us some! (tromp, tromp). So give us some! (tromp, tromp).
“To me, Roy Scheider‘s passing has far greater reverberations than the untimely demise of Heath Ledger,” New York Press critic Eric Kohn wrote this morning. “It signals the loss of a major artist whose fully developed body of work remains wholly distinct from the formulaic trajectory of so many leading men.
“He was refreshingly believable as the hardened police chief vainly attempting to guard an unsuspecting town from the monstrous creature lurking off shore in Steven Spielberg‘s 1975 classic. And yet Hollywood formula didn√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢t sit that well with him: You could find him as a pimp in Klute and Gene Hackman√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s withdrawn sidekick in The French Connection, but never a one-man army or incredulous hustler.
“The Jaws sequel was his sole miscalculation, but he followed it up with All That Jazz, Bob Fosse√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s surrealist musical that remains potent to this day. The vibrant movie concludes with the show-stopping ‘Bye Bye Life,’ where Scheider√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s Fosse-like character bodes farewell to a troubled existence with a mixture of excitement and melancholia. It could be played at the actor√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s funeral.”
The Jaws sequel wasn’t Scheiders’ “sole miscalculation” but screw it…let it go.
In today’s broadcast of The View, a back-from hiatus Barbara Walters had some advice for Hillary Clinton in lieu of her letter to NBC News president Steve Capus suggesting that David Shuster should be whacked for his “pimped out” comment: “Sometimes you say something unfortunate,” Walters said. “You apologize, [Shuster] is getting suspended, he apologized, MSNBC apologized. Drop it already! It’s okay. He made a mistake.”
Detecting the subtext? Walters would have never addressed Clinton in this fashion (i.e., calling her high-strung and lacking wisdom and restraint) if HRC wasn’t widely regarded as being on the ropes in the Democratic primary battle. Nobody will acknowledge this (cue angry retort from mutinyco), but a female politician getting shit from The View means it’s the beginning of the end.
Mark Harris, author of the just-out “Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood” (Penguin), told me a week or so ago I’d be getting a review copy. But nothing turned up and I figured I’d been blown off, especially when I read Janet Maslin‘s 2.11 N.Y. Times review online. But just as I was tapping this item out a Fed Ex guy knocked on the door and handed me a package with Harris’s book inside. Timing!
I’ll get around to writing a reaction later this week. In the meantime, the first four graphs from Maslin’s review:
“In the same year and even on the same planet, five crazily diverse films became nominees for the Academy Award for best picture in 1967. At its April 1968 ceremony the academy chose among an instant-classic vision of the brand new Generation Gap (The Graduate), a painfully dated Hollywood dinosaur (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), a fierily innovative, mythic outlaw tale (Bonnie and Clyde), a walking lecture on racial prejudice (In the Heat of the Night) and a budget-busting musical full of animals (Dr. Dolittle). The last of these, stinker that it was, appropriately had to be filmed on sets with drains patrolled by workers wielding brooms.
“It seemed to be a boom time for the movie business. When Variety, in 1968, printed its list of all-time top-grossing movies, a third of them were 1967 releases. And yet, as Mark Harris explains in a landmark new film book, ‘Pictures at a Revolution,’ the whole industry was poised on the brink of irrevocable change.
“Mr. Harris sifts through the evidence with reportorial acumen and great care, conjuring up the social and cultural history of a lost world and drawing on sharp new interviews with many of its major players. Forty years after the fact, people like Dustin Hoffman, Mike Nichols, Arthur Penn, Warren Beatty, Sydney Pollack, Robert Towne, Robert Benton, Lee Grant and Buck Henry sound as if they’re still making sense of 1967’s tidal wave.
“‘Pictures at a Revolution’ can take its place alongside top-shelf film industry books like ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,’ ‘Final Cut,’ ‘The Studio’ and ‘The Devil√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s Candy’ for qualities all of them share: the big-picture overview, the nuts-and-bolts understanding of exactly how films evolve from the drawing board to the screen, and gratifying antennae for all forms of Hollywood-related horror stories.”
There’s a remastered, double-disc, bells-and- whistles Bonnie and Clyde DVD coming from Warner Home Video on 3.25 for $39.92. A remastered presentation from the original elements (I never thought the previous DVD looked in any way degraded), a History Channel doc called “Love and Death: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” a 3-part Making of Bonnie and Clyde doc, Warren Beatty wardrobe tests, two deleted scenes (The Road to Mineloa and Outlaws), trailers, a 36-page hardcover book of behind-the-scenes photos, and a 24-page reproduction of the original 1967 press book.
The absolute best Bonnie and Clyde website (“best” meaning the one with the most sources, the most detailed histories as well as the most explicit gory photos of the bodies of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker after the ambush massacre on that country road in Louisiana) is Frank R. Ballinger‘s Bonnie and Clyde’s Texas Hideout. My favorite quote is an eyewitness to the final shooting saying that Bonnie Parker “screamed like a panther” as the bullets tore into her. (Panthers don’t scream — they yowwwwl.) The site has been running since ’97.
During a taping with The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil during yesterday’s BAFTA awards brunch on the UCLA campus, I was asked what changes I’d make if I were King of the Oscars and could do absolutely anything. Sensing an opportunity for egregious attitude, I repeated my age-old gripe about the AMPAS’s Oscar voting process being degraded by too many deadwood voters. I said that my first priority would be to take steps to weed them out.
There are, thank God, exceptions to every rule and definition, but the deadwoods, most of whom are 70 or older, tend to measure new films by the aesthetic standards of 30 or 40 years ago (or even farther back in the calendar), and don’t seem to truly absorb and grapple with the “all” of a film as much as process it by the criteria of days past and — I’m trying not to put this too harshly — a certain hardening of the aesthetic arteries.
(Two exceptions would be the Real Geezer costars Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and Marcia Nasatir — a couple of tough nuts who know what they know, feel what they feel and don’t mince words.)
Minutes before I had listened to Pete Hammond talk about how many of the older rank-and-file Academy members may not have even seen the major contenders of ’07 (There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Away From Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I’m Not There) because of not wanting to sit through a film they figured would be too violent or complex or depressing due to depictions of paralysis or Alzheimer’s disease. These are people who, according to local legend, will then turn to their friends (who may not have seen the films either for the same reasons) for guidance, or take the word of their staffs or their gardeners or whomever. It’s ridiculous and disrespectful.
AMPAS headquarters on Wilshire Blvd.
So I said, only half-jokingly, that the best way to deal with the deadwoods was to purge them in the way that Josef Stalin used to 86 apparatchiks in the Russian Communist government of the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and early ’50s.
Russian Communism lasted for 74 years and thank goodness it’s gone, but you have to extend a certain grudging respect to the old Russian commies for knowing how to get rid of undesirables. If Uncle Joe wanted a guy gone, his henchmen didn’t mess around. They’d drive the guy out to his dacha in the middle of the night and that would be that. I’m not suggesting that any kind of brutality should be introduced in Academy procedures, but I do feel that the concept of “purging” the members who just don’t get it (and are thereby dragging down the integrity of the Oscars) should be considered. Seriously.
Let’s face it — at a certain point in your autumnal flesh-sagging years you start measuring everything you see and hear by the somewhat romanticized (or at least hazy) memories of your shining youth. You’re not part of the here-and-now the way you used to be, and your likes and dislikes tend to reflect this. Not every person over 70 is a deadwooder (I sure as hell won’t be when I get there), but a certain percentage of this demographic, let’s face it, qualifies.
Moscow’s Red Square
With all due respect, bestowing awards upon great films should not be a Democratic process to the extent that it allows for doddering retirement-home taste buds to play a significant role in the selection process. The deadwoods, keep in mind, are almost certainly the ones who cast the votes that denied Brokeback Mountain the Best Picture Oscar in early ’06.
Find me the director or producer who would honestly say “yes, I want as many septugenarians and octogenarians as possible deciding whether my film deserves a Best Picture Oscar or not.”
The most incisive post-suspension comment on the whole David Shuster/Chelsea Clinton/”pimped out” brouhaha has been written by Cenk Uygur, co-host of “The Young Turks,” and can be found on the Huffington Post.
“Would anyone raise an eyebrow if Bill Maher made the same comment as David Shuster? Would HBO consider suspending him? Not in a million years. His role is clear. Provide funny, irreverent commentary that is often controversial. Shuster can’t say that religion is stupid and full of crap. Maher says it all the time.
“The problem is MSNBC doesn’t know which universe it’s in. Among cable news stations, it’s stuck between Fox News Channel and CNN. They haven’t decided what their identity is. I’m not even sure they realize they have this problem.”
May I interject? Being a huge fan of MSNBC’s nervy attitude and general feistiness, I would be hugely depressed if they made a decision in the wake of the Shuster slapdown to try and become CNN. Back to Uygur…
“Fox lets their hosts say any damn thing they want. And they have said the most damnable things. Bill O’Reilly made fun of homeless vets the other night. The man has never served, supported sending kids to die in Iraq and then laughs at them when they come back and don’t have anywhere to go (he even blames homeless folks for not watching his cable program — they don’t even have homes, let alone cable!). Yet, he is untouchable. Where’s his suspension?
“Fox doesn’t do suspensions. They chalk it up to talk show hosts doing what they do. Of course, they turn around and pretend to be a news organization the next day. But most people have caught on to their scam. And what they do is accepted with a wink and a nod. They’re the folks who can and do say anything at all.
“CNN, on the other hand, is straight news. Wolf Blitzer isn’t going to give you his opinion on a damn thing, if he has one on anything (I secretly believe that Blitzer is a robot). When is the last time Anderson Cooper said anything interesting? How about Paula Zahn? Right, they moved her out because they told her to not give her opinions and then were pissed when she lost in the ratings game to people who do — and then hired someone else to do the same exact thing.
“Lou Dobbs is the obvious exception at CNN, but he’s grandfathered in and turned crazy later in his career after it was too late to remove him (i.e. he had already gotten popular by the time they realized what he was doing). Now, they move all of the people with opinions to CNN Headline News. This is CNN’s compromise in how to deal with news/talk programming.
“But MSNBC hasn’t come up with a compromise yet. So, they have Keith Olbermann blasting away at the administration (bless his heart). They have some anchors pretending to be news folks. They have some real reporters (like Shuster, ironically) filling in as talk hosts. Then they have Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough who don’t really know what they’re doing over there.
“What is Chris Matthews? Is he a reporter? A journalist? A talk show host? A commentator? An interviewer? What is the right role for an interviewer? Can he give opinions?”
HE response: Matthews can do and should do all these things and more. He’s the greatest free-associating blabbermouth provocateur on the airwaves right now. A brilliant shoot-from the hipper, an old-school boomer newshound, a Bill Maher facsimile, a sardonic preacher, a print guy from way back, an agitator, a stalker of evasion, a carrier of the old-liberal Kennedy nosalgia flag and a bullshit spotter par excellence. Even with his mistakes and sometimes too-effusive garrulousness, let Matthews rip!