“We were kind of in a slump until I was dancing on the show. My poll numbers skyrocketed after that. Everybody saw me bust a move on Ellen, that’s all it took.” — Sen. Barack Obama to Ellen Degeneres on her show today (which was taped yesterday?). Here’s the original dancing clip from last October. The guy can cut a rug. Gotta give him that.
The independent entity known as New Line Cinema since the late ’60s is, in a sense, no more. The curtain came down today on the company that Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne built and ran for four decades when Time Warner announced that it will become a unit of Warners, maintaining separate development, production, marketing, distribution and business affairs operations.
Okay, but hasn’t New Line been operating as an independent unit of WB ever since its owner, Turner Broadcasting System, merged with Time Warner in 1996? What’s going to be different in a specific, physical managerial way?
Shaye and Lynne are out, but will staffers continue to operate out of the New Line offices at 116 No. Robertson? Or will the whole operation move over to the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank? Are there going to be massive staff whackings? Whomever steps into the top position at the “new” New Line is going to hire his/her own people in upper management, and subsequent staff changes will ripple down through. Works this way every time.
Claudia Eller‘s L.A. Times story about the announcement (posted at 2:14 pm) said “it is unclear how many people will lose their jobs as a result of the consolidation…New Line Cinema employs more than 600 people in Los Angeles and New York.”
A guy who knows things and knows people says this: (1) The only truly important property that New Line has that Warner Bros. truly values is The Hobbit, a two-picture ranchise that Guillermo del Toro will direct — everything else is secondary; (2) Warner Bros. is going to look to cut down on overhead as much as possible, which probably means eventually closing the 116 No. Robertson office and sending a pared-down New Line staff over to offices on the Warner Bros. lot; (3) Warner Bros. honcho Jeff Robinov is going to decide what’s really valuable about New Line (its employees and properties) and toss the rest; (4) “People don’t go to the movies to see New Line product…they go to movies because of the marketing or the story or the stars…the company name means nothing.”
I called every New Line publicist I know and no one (not even their assistants) would pick up. They must be having a big company-wide meeting or something. The official announcement broke about 90 minutes ago.
Esquire‘s Jozen Cummings posted a story yesterday morning about how HBO’s decision to put out “episodes on demand” of The Wire is leading to plot spoilers getting around. (Any spoiler whiners out there who don’t know what he’s referring to should stop reading this item right now.)
Michael K. Williams, a.k.a. “Omar Little” in HBO’s The Wire
“In about two weeks, The Wire — HBO’s critically-acclaimed, gritty drama about Baltimore’s drug trade and how it intersects with union labor, media, and education — will end for good,” Cummings writes. “But instead of speculating on how the show’s final few episodes will conclude, fanatics of the show are giving away its secrets, posting spoilers on their Facebook pages, logging unseen episode information into Wikipedia, and posting about it on IMDB.com’s message boards.
“Even the urban lifestyle magazine Giant features cast members of the show on the cover of its latest issue along with a cover line that says, ‘How It All Ends.’
“How is this happening? Blame HBO. The cable network makes new episodes of The Wire available on its ‘HBO On Demand’ channel a full week before its ‘official’ airdate. It’s unclear what HBO hopes to gain with this strategy. In the fall, HBO’s head of program planning, Dave Baldwin, told the media that HBO was experimenting with its schedule “so we can learn more about how our viewers prefer to watch our programming.”
Whatever happened to Kenneth Lonergan‘s Margaret, a drama shot in 2005 with Anna Paquin, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo in the lead roles? Produced by Scott Rudin and Sydney Pollack and exec produced by Anthony Minghella, it’s said to be still in the cutting room with plans to get it out sometime this year. A CHUD article posted today by Jeremy Smith sifts through various quotes, reports and indications.
Matt Damon, Anna Pacquin in Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret
I for one am scared by this IMDB synopsis, which makes the film sound like a mopey downer about coping with guilt. I’m obviously not saying it is this kind of film. I would expect otherwise, given the pedigree of the creative team. But why hasn’t it at least shown up at one of the festivals? Why hasn’t something happened?
“Margaret centers on a 17-year-old New York City high-school student who feels certain that she inadvertently played a role in a traffic accident that has claimed a woman’s life,” the synopsis reads. “In her attempts to set things right she meets with opposition at every step. Torn apart with frustration, she begins emotionally brutalizing her family, her friends, her teachers, and most of all, herself. She’s been confronted quite unexpectedly with a basic truth: that her youthful ideals are on a collision course against the realities and compromises of the adult world.”
Which Semi-Pro review do you trust? The semi-dismissive one called “Only Half Bad” by the Village Voice‘s Robert Wilonsky or the friendly valentine written by Variety‘s Joe Leydon? Or does the truth of it lie somewhere in between?
Paul Newman (l.) in George Roy Hil’s Slap Shot
“Semi-Pro‘s much better than Blades of Glory,” writes Wilonsky, “which wasn’t nearly as good as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which was a little better than Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which was almost as funny as Old School, which was better than everything else Will Ferrell had done up to that point — except maybe Dick, which nobody saw and even fewer remember.
“Seems this is what it’s come down to with Ferrell: grading his movies in various shades of enh as each one blends into the next till they’re all one giant gray blob of feh.” A beautiful line. Should be memorized, chanted, etched into stone.
I haven’t seen Semi-Pro. I know Variety is a tough rag but sometimes they take it easy when a movie is aiming low and there’s nothing to lose. I can only say that Leydon seems to be spreading the kindness butter on the toast with a passion, especially when he says that Semi-Pro is “very much in the tradition of Slap Shot, George Roy Hill‘s raucously funny and foul-mouthed 1977 laffer about the misadventures of a minor-league hockey team.”
I wrote Leydon immediately after reading this and said, “‘In the tradition,’ okay, but you don’t seem to be saying Semi-Pro is as good as Slap Shot. I haven’t seen it and it might be tolerable in the usual oafish and slovenly fashion, but I know what Ferrell’s game is. He plays preening low-life cretins over and over and over. Slap Shot was a ’70s movie — character-driven, very appealing, dryly absurdist.”
Leydon wrote back saying that “no, Semi Pro is not as good as Slap Shot. But it’s in the same vein, the same spirit. Much better film than I expected. Very ’70s in look and feel. No attempt to tamp down the R-rated stuff so the kiddies can get in.”
In his review, Leydon says that Semi-Pro “scores big laughs with the rowdy play-by-play of hard-luck hoopsters struggling for professional survival. For some auds, Ferrell doing a full-court press in a white-guy afro alone will be worth the price of admission. But the New Line release also offers most valuable playing by a first-rate supporting cast, and enough funny business to ensure enduring playoffs on homevid and cable after a profitable theatrical run.”
A big tracking bump for Will Ferrell‘s Semi-Pro since Tuesday’s numbers were posted: it was previously running at a modest 67,35 and 8, but today it’s running at 73, 40 and 23. The young-male first choice figure is about 30. Definitely the weekend’s #1 film with an easy $25 million, and it’s just another dumb Gorilla Nation sports comedy….right?
The Other Boleyn Girl was at 49, 33 and 7 on Tuesday, but it’s now 56, 33 and 13 — among women the first-choice numbers are about 20. It’ll come in second right behind Ferrell. On Tuesday Penelope was running at a so-so 52, 25 and 5; today’s it’s up to 60, 28 and 9.
Roland Emmerich‘s 10,000 BC will still be the top dog on the March 7th weekend. 73, 29 and 13 two days ago, up to 75, 41 and 15 today. Much bigger numbers, of course, will show up next week.
Three 3.21 films have begun to track: Owen Wilson‘s Drillbit Taylor at 43, 22 and 2 (needs work), Shutter at 23, 17 and 0, and Tyler Perry‘s Meet the Browns at 40, 25 and 5 — clearly the strongest of the three right now.
San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle ran a brave piece last Sunday. He admitted he hadn’t seen Blade Runner, To Kill a Mockingbird, Young Frankenstein, 2001: A Space Odyssey and An Affair to Remember, and then declared he’d watched all five on DVD and then reviewed them. He half-panned Young Frankenstein and almost totally shredded 2001, admitting “there’s something to be said for the movie’s adventurous subject matter and its vision of the future” but nonetheless calling it “virtually unwatchable, a boring, impenetrable experience that I’m glad to finally have behind me.”
The bravery wasn’t in panning Stanley Kubrick‘s 1968 classic (which will be shown at the American Cinematheque over the weekend of March 7-9 in a reportedly pristine 70mm form) but admitting he hadn’t seen five major films. Major critics are supposed to have covered the waterfront as throughly as possible before becoming major critics. They’re supposed to have 5,000 movies under their belt, know all the players past and present, know the language and the references, and pass along a certain perspective.
How the hell does a big-city film critic manage to not see 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner after a couple of decades on the beat? I don’t know but I can guess: LaSalle isn’t a big fan of futuristic sci-fi films. Just like I’m not much of a fan of 1930s and ’40s big-studio women’s films (especially anything with June Allyson), or almost any late-period film directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
Anyway, LaSalle inspired me. I’ve never admitted the following derelictions but here goes. I’ve never seen F.W. Murnau‘s Sunrise, William Wyler‘s Mrs. Miniver, Budd Boetticher‘s Seven Men From Now, Samuel Fuller‘s 40 Guns, William Deterle‘s The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Life of Emile Zola, Michael Curtiz‘s Mildred Pierce, Sidney Franklin‘s The Good Earth, Fuller’s Fixed Bayonets, Jules Dassin‘s Thieves Highway, and LeRoy’s Little Women, A Majority of One and Mary, Mary.
Which bothers me not. All but A Majority of One and Mary, Mary are on DVD so I’ve got several viewing experiences to look forward to. What does bother me are the black-hole films I’ve sat through and can’t erase. Films that have acted like siphons or poisons. Films whose running times are like shark teeth that have taken bites out of my life. That would be a much more interesting list to assemble — Ten Movies That Have Eternally Polluted My Soul.
Please re-read this William F. Buckley review of The Lives of Others, posted on the National Review site on 5.23.07. I’ve never felt so close to Buckley over my entire life as I did reading this just now. I need to face the fact that on levels I chose not to consider before, Buckley was a kind of beautiful man in addition to being a beautiful writer.
McCain: “I am told that Senator Obama would come back to Iraq if al-Qaida established a base [there]. I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It’s called ‘al-Qaida in Iraq.”
Obama: “I have some news for John McCain. There was no such thing as al-Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq. They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11 and that would be al-Qaida in Afghanistan, that is stronger now than at any time since 2001.”
There’s a new story/photo album piece by USA Today‘s Suzie Woz (a.k.a., Susan Wloszczyna) about Richard Kelly‘s The Box, and the plot details she’s revealed make it sound like the basic Richard Matheson story (which is more or less “The Monkey’s Paw” with variations) has been heavily collateralized.
It takes place in 1976, for one thing. (Why?) James Marsden‘s character works for NASA and has co-workers who wear plaid pants. Marsden is working on the Viking mission to Mars. (Who gives a shit about NASA space missions? The Box is supposed to be a moral tale about middle-class avarice and ambition. What’s going on here?) Frank Langella‘s Arlington Steward (the guy who hands the dreaded “box” to Cameron Diaz early on) has “a command module in a wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.” A command module?
In other words, imaginative conspiratorial elements involving big agencies and ’70s paranoia are being injected into the slender short-story premise. I have this feeling this is going to be Donnie Darko-ish. I can hear the sound of a jet engine crashing through the roof of a house.
The Box is based on Matheson’s 1970 short story “Button, Button.” This is also what the 1986 Twilight Zone episode was called.
The bottom line concerning Gavin O’Connor‘s all-but-abandoned Pride and Glory — a New Line film that co-chairman and co-CEO Bob Shaye doesn’t like and has decided not to distribute this year, bumping it into ’09 — is that the film might have a chance to come out this year if and when Shaye and co-honcho Michael Lynne get the boot from their owner-bosses at Warner Bros.
DHD’s Nikki Finke reported yesterday that Shaye and Lynne “may find out out as soon as this week what will happen to New Line Cinema and their expiring employment contracts at the movie studio they co-founded 40 years ago.”
Variety‘s Michael Fleming reported yesterday that O’Connor “is blaming the AWOL status of his movie on Shaye. The writer-director is so incensed that he said he will withhold Warrior, a script he’s due to deliver to the studio in the next few weeks, until he knows the fate of his film. The director is also exploring the possibility of extricating Pride and Glory after New Line told him the picture wouldn’t likely be released until next year.”
Fleming added that “New Line wouldn’t comment on the situation, but execs are in the final stages of negotiating a new deal with Time Warner and its topper, Jeff Bewkes, that could conceivably downsize the company. A resolution seems reasonable within the next two weeks.”