He’s not a Barack-star in debates — he’s shown that time and again. But he was cool, comprehensive, explicit, sharp and unflappable tonight, and that means he won. But there’s one thing Hillary said tonight that I really quite liked. When Tim Russert asked her to name President Vladimir Putin‘s successor in Russia (whose name is Dmitri A. Medvedev), she said it was “um, Med-medvedova, whatever.” My Hillary hate evaporated when she said that. I laughed, liked her smile.
But I also love the new 2.27 Maureen Dowd column that was written just after tonight’s debate. Here’s a taste:
Hillary Clinton “has been so discombobulated that she has ignored some truisms of politics that her husband understands well: Sunny beats gloomy. Consistency beats flipping. Bedazzling beats begrudging. Confidence beats whining.
“Voters gravitate toward the presidential candidates who seem more comfortable in their skin. J.F.K. and Reagan seemed exceptionally comfortable. So did Bill Clinton and W., who both showed that comfort can be an illusion of sorts, masking deep insecurities. [But] the fact that Obama is exceptionally easy in his skin has made Hillary almost jump out of hers.
“After saying she found her ‘voice’ in New Hampshire, she has turned into Sybil. We’ve had Experienced Hillary, Soft Hillary, Hard Hillary, Misty Hillary, Sarcastic Hillary, Joined-at-the-Hip-to-Bill Hillary, Her-Own-Person-Who-Just-Happens- to-Be-Married-to-a-Former-President Hillary, It’s-My-Turn Hillary, Cuddly Hillary, Let’s-Get-Down-in-the-Dirt-and-Fight-Like-Dogs Hillary.
“Just as in the White House, when her cascading images and hairstyles became dizzying and unsettling, suggesting that the first lady woke up every day struggling to create a persona, now she seems to think there is a political solution to her problem. If she can only change this or that about her persona, or tear down this or that about Obama’s. But the whirlwind of changes and charges gets wearing.
“By threatening to throw the kitchen sink at Obama, the Clinton campaign simply confirmed the fact that they might be going down the drain.
“It’s a hard sell for Hillary to say that she is the only one capable of leading this country in a war when she helped in leading the country into that war. Or to paraphrase Obama from the debate here, the one who drives the bus into the ditch can’t drive it out.”
I missed Christine Jeffs‘ Sunshine Cleaning when I was at Sundance, but I heard almost nothing about it afterward. People were apparently underwhelmed. But now, four weeks after the festival’s end, Variety‘s Winter Miller and Anne Thompson are reporting that it’s been picked up by Overture Films for roughly $2 million. Sunshine Cleaning was “deemed a tough sell for its gory subject matter,” they comment, and it was also considered a “hard sell at Sundance because the filmmakers were trying to recoup their cost, which insiders say was about $7 million.”
Politico‘s Jeffrey Ressner is reporting that Alex Gibney, director of the Oscar-winning doc Taxi to the Dark Side, is now making a documentary about the Jack Abramoff scandal, which will involve a close look at GOP presidential candidate John McCain‘s role in investigating the affair. The film, currently titled Casino Jack and the United States of Money, will “come out later this year.”
Director George Hickenlooper has informed, meanwhile, that he’s developing a dramatic feature about the Abramoff scandal called Bagman. He says he’s partnered with producer George Zakk (a Vin Diesel associate who’s exec-produced several of Deisel’s films, including Find Me Guilty) on the project, and that the writer is Norm Snider. Hickenlooper says it’s “close to a finished script.”
Casino Jack “should give viewers a greater understanding, in a blow-by-blow way, of how the political process works, particularly with regards to lobbying,” Gibney tells Ressner. “This movie will have it all: wild international intrigue, money changing hands in unexpected places, etc. It will be fun. As someone said about an earlier picture I made: ‘It’s a comedy that turns into farce and ends up in horror.'”
McCain “of course” comes up in the film, adds Gibney, who has “put the word out” to the Arizona senator’s presidential campaign for comment. “He certainly plays a role — he ran the [Abramoff] hearings, so he’s unavoidably involved in the story. Then the questioning extends. Upon further investigation, one looks at his motives and things like that. I don’t want to say much more than that, but he is a character in the story.”
Fox 411’s Roger Friedman reported this morning that “several sources” have told him that Steven Spielberg‘s reps “and the folks at the Cannes Film Festival are in negotiations to bring Paramount’s highly anticipated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Cannes for its official worldwide premiere in May.
“The star-studded event easily would be the centerpiece of the festival, akin to the premiere last year of Ocean’s Thirteen. I’m told that Spielberg, perhaps producer George Lucas and stars Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeouf, Karen Allen and others would make the walk up the fabled red carpet at the Palais. Talk about sizzle! Sacre bleu!”
Thank God the last Clinton-Obama debate is about to happen. 12 minutes from now. A few days and no more listening to that raspy cackly witch-voice. No more looking into those cold steely eyes, or having to discern the real calculation behind those repulsively phony emotional offerings. I realize Barack has to act cool and unruffled like Ronald Reagan in the final debate with Jimmy Carter, but oh, how I would love to see some kind of serious slapdown between them, like that thing they got into in South Carolina.
Now that it’s all over….the winners! “Five Envelope pundits tied for nailing seven predix out of those eight Oscar races: Pete Hammond (The Envelope), Dave Karger (Entertainment Weekly), Mark Olsen (The Envelope), Sasha Stone (AwardsDaily.com) and Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere.com).
“Of the pundits who voted in all 24 categories, Hammond rules with 17 correct predix, followed by a score of 16 achieved by Edward Douglas (Comingsoon.net) and Jack Mathews (New York Daily News). Those who got 15 right included The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil, Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Mark Olsen (The Envelope), Karger and Stone. I didn’t bother to fill out any more than 20 categories so I placed lower. I don’t care. I did okay.
Washington apparently has Walter Mattthau‘s subway administrator role, which he probably wanted as a swing move away from his American Gangster heroin dealer. But I’d rather see him play the Robert Shaw role, which John Travolta has in actuality.
Scott can pull this and that lever and push this and that button, but this new zipped-up version will stand or fall on its own terms based on the merits of David Koepp‘s script. Peter Stone wrote the ’74 version, adpating John Godey‘s novel.
Charlie Bartlett, which opened weakly last weekend, is a smart teen dramedy about an enterprising kid (Anton Yelchin) who peddles prescription drugs and dispenses psychiatric advice on the side. It’s about the spirit of entrepeurialism in the vein of Risky Business, Rushmore and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which is to say it’s about a young lad shuffling around with the style and attitude of a likable sociopath.
Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey, Jr. in Charlie Bartlett
It was a wee bit disappointing, to me, when Yelchin developed a conscience and a sense of responsibility at the end. Even though this was the right way to go, I prefer the company of nervy rule-breakers. The truth is that for me, Charlie Bartlett is a little tame, a little too well-mannered. And Yelchin is a little too mild, too ready with the twinkly-eyed smile. He’s a skilled actor, but he just doesn’t have the heavy chemistry of a movie star.
The plot ambles along from one thing to another and eventually things reach their end point. Yelchin’s character gets tossed out of prep school (like Rushmore‘s Max Fischer), adjusts to the new rules, becomes a Ritalin dealer, makes new friends, meets a nice sensitive girl and gradually gets laid, gets caught and disciplined, re-assesses, grows up.
And yet Charlie Bartlett, mild and mitigated though it may be, never plays it overly dumb or coy and lowbrow. And the performances are all pretty solid, especially Yelchin’s and Robert Downey‘s as a screwed-down high school principal.
There are just two problems. One is that Bartlett got slapped down last Friday by 50% of the Rotten Tomato creme de la creme. The other is that the film opened sixteenth last weekend with a per-screen average of $1636.
This means that no matter how well Bartlett fared in exit polls last weekend, the game is more or less over. It’ll be gone before you know it and a Netflix title three or four months after that. It would be a better world, for sure, if worthy little films like Charlie Bartlett could be given time to find their audience. But we don’t live in it.
I had a nice chat last Thursday with Charlie Bartlett producer David Permut. Definitely a spirited conversation with a good fellow (who’s also the producer of the forthcoming Youth in Revolt, to be directed by Miguel Arteta and star Michael Cera).
I’m sorry I didn’t run the story last Thursday night or Friday, but the rigors of Oscar weekend got the better of me. And I’m sorry that Charlie Bartlett got kicked to the ground last weekend. I wish it were otherwise. You could do worse than to go out and catch it this weekend. But hurry up.
Among this weekend’s openers, The Other Boleyn Girl (being all-media screened tonight) is at 49, 33 and 7…but first-choice is in the teens with women so business could be decent. Penelope is at 52, 25 and 5….fair. Will Ferrell‘s Semi-Pro is polling at 67,35 and 8…modest
The biggest hit of the March 7th weekend will unquestionably be 10,000 BC….73, 29 and 13…pretty good, very male. Roger Donaldson‘s The Bank Job is running at 28, 26 and 1. College Road Trip is now .76, 25 and 4. On March 14th comes Doomsday, currently 30, 17 and 0, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who at 62, 32 and 4 and Never Back Down at 26, 29 and 1.
In an imaginary e-mail interview with Semi-Pro star Will Ferrell, Hoboken-based illusionist Dave Lozo, 30, pretends to criticize Ferrell for making the same movie over and over. The irony is that it hits on truths that would never be addressed, much less answered, in a genuine chat with Ferrell. Are made-up interviews preferable? Of course not, but they do seem to get down to things that real interviews sidestep.
“It seems that all your movies are the same and you have very little range as an actor, yet people continue to go to see your movies,” Lozo says. “In Anchorman, you played a dumb newscaster who takes his shirt off. In Blades of Glory, you play a dumb skater who crams his fat body into tights. In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, you play a dumb race car driver who at some point goes shirtless. All you ever do is play an idiot who shows off his sloppy body. Do you think America will ever get tired of that?”
The imaginary Ferrell says, “Absolutely not. American filmgoers are total idiots. They’ve been going to see the same romantic comedies and action movies for decades, so I see no reason to change up my formula.” And blah, blah, blah.
Lozo then asks, “If you have to summarize yourself and your career in one word, which would you pick — hack, fraud or thief?” To which the phantom Ferrell replies, “Excellent question. I am definitely all three of those things. See me in Wedding Crashers? I never stole a paycheck like I did in that one. I guess I would call myself a frauackief. It’s the only way to sum up my movie career.” Frauackief?
Lozo: “But Will, you were good in Stranger Than Fiction. An all-round solid performance, and you really convinced me you were physically attracted to Maggie Gyllenhaal. Why not take the plunge into more roles like that?
Ferrell: “Are you kidding? You know how much work that takes? After those make-out scenes with Maggie, I had to take a Crying Game shower in my trailer. Sorry, but I’ve got a good thing going here with my current crop of films. Heck, in Ricky Bobby, I didn’t even read the script. I just made up my lines as we went. I bet you didn’t know that.”
“She was a great-looking chick and whatever was in her eyes, it sure wasn’t love. Was I smart? No, I was dumb. With a capital D. Wow, was I dead wrong! I had no idea what was ahead of me. You try to figure a dame out.”
Mind Games, an Oliver Peoples sunglass ad shot as a film noir satire in luscious monochrome, is an agreeable two-minute hoot. It’s also the classiest looking plot-driven film that Robert Evans has ever physically acted in. (Voicing his Comedy Central animated series Kid Notorious doesn’t count, and neither does Brett Morgen‘s The Kid Stays in the Picture, a doc.) It certainly makes Evans seem like a better, more confident actor than he was in the ’50s when he had small roles in The Best of Everything, Man of a Thousand Faces and The Sun Also Rises.
Evans’ costar is Kate Nauta, a 25 year-old model-actress (Transporter 2, The Game Plan) with great gams. The director/style maestro is ad veteran and photographer Sinisha Nisevic.
You’re supposed to know with me telling you that Evans was a legendary studio exec and producer in the ’60s and ’70s (The Godfather, Chinatown, Marathon Man) who suffered a personal and career crisis in the ’80s only to resurge in the early ’90s as a Paramount-based producer and author (“The Kid Stays in the Picture”) while reinventing himself as a kind of iconic-ironic pop figure as the quintessential old-school Hollywood smoothie.