Today Variety‘s Dave McNary and Tatiana Siegel ran a story about the collapsing of New Line Cinema that said “the emerging consensus is that at least 75% of the slots will be axed in the coming months while a bare-bones staff stays on” and “that New Line will vacate its New York office and its West Hollywood HQ and move operations onto the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank.”
Last Thursday I ran a quote from a guy who knows the way of things about the likely fate of NL employees and their Robertson Blvd. headquarters. It said that Warner Bros. “is going 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.”
What ’08 films at this time next year will almost everyone be sick of talking and writing about due to their having recently won the top five Oscar awards? Right now eight are considered the most likely Oscar contenders, but what are the dark horses that no one’s spotting right now? There are always three or four sleepers that seem to suddenly arrive and catch on big-time.
Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.
The top eight, I suppose, are (1) Baz Luhrmann‘s Australia (20th Century Fox) with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman; (2) Steven Soderbergh‘s The Argentine and (3) Guerilla (Focus Features) with Benicio del Toro; (4) Gus Van Sant‘s Milk (Focus Features) with Sean Penn; (5) Gabriele Muccino‘s Seven Pounds (Sony) with Will Smith; (6) David FIncher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount/Warner Bros.) with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; (7) Joe Wright‘s The Soloist (DreamWorks) with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.; and (8) Ridley Scott‘s Body of Lies (Warner Bros.) with Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.
My money’s on the Fincher, the two Soderberghs, the Wright and the Luhrmann.
Also in the mix: Sam Mendes‘ Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage/DreamWorks) with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; Clint Eastwood‘s The Changeling (Universal) with Angelina Jolie; Ron Howard‘s Frost/Nixon (ditto); Joel & Ethan Coen‘s Burn After Reading with George Clooney and Tilda Swinton (almost certainly not an Oscar movie); John Patrick Shanley‘s Doubt (Miramax) with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman; Fernando Meirelle‘s Blindness with Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo; Ed Zwick‘s Defiance (Paramount Vantage) with Daniel Craig; Saul Dibb‘s The Duchess (Par Vantage) with Keira Knightley; Bryan Singer‘s Valkyrie (MGM-UA) with Tom Cruise; and Stephen Daldry‘s The Reader (Weinstein Co.).
Leonardo DiCaprio in Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies.
A British Broadcasting Corp. documentary airing tomorrow will report that Mick Jagger escaped an assassination plot in late 1969 by the Hells Angels. The Rolling Stones singer “had vowed not to use Hells Angel members as bouncers following the death in December 1969 of an 18-year-old fan at a notorious free performance at Altamont Speedway in Northern California” so gang members decided to kill Jagger at his holiday home in Long Island, the BBC show reportedly claims.
So what happened? The Angels lost their will to kill? They couldn’t get past Jagger’s security people? Something tells me that your garden-variety Hells Angels psychopath of that era didn’t have the stealth or the smarts to pull off a celebrity hit like this.
Eons ago some friends of mine had to deal with a second-rate motorcyle-gang psychopath who went by the name of “Wild Bill.” It was 1:30 am in a small apartment that three of us were staying in next to a performance bar called Fat City in Wilmington, Vermont. And somehow Wild Bill muscled his way in and wouldn’t leave. (I was asleep in the bedroom.) He was fried and dangerous, they said. You could feel the boiling rage. He wore a chrome-plated Nazi helmet. My friends decided to humor him. It was that or maybe get knifed.
Wild Bill got his switchblade knife out soon enough, and my two friends and he began to throw it at the kitchen door. Except Bill began to get more and more angry that his knife-throws weren’t sticking. (My friend was better at this than Bill was, but he felt he had to deliberately miss so as not to enrage Bill all the more.) Then a new game started with Bill putting a wad of cocaine into a rolled-up dollar bills and then blowing it into a recipient’s nostrils, like a dart gun. Each friend took a nose blast or two.
It went on and on like this until at least 4 am. I missed the whole thing, thank God. I wouldn’t have been very good at the humoring part.
I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m getting this vague sense of slight Barack Obama slippage. Something along the lines of what happened in New Hampshire. Women rallying ’round, yahoos buying into the red-phone bullshit, the hate, the beginnings of the ’08 swift-boating. I’m not saying Hillary Clinton will take Texas (Obama will almost certainly finish with more Texas delegates, no matter how the vote tips) but Hillary’s possible winning margin in Ohio — 5% or 6%? — is starting to scare me. And if she stays in and it goes to Pennsylvana the old James Carville definition of that state — “Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west and Alabama in between” — is also unnverving.
I can’t offer a link, but somebody (Joe Leydon?) recently quoted Pauline Kael as having said that she could tell if a movie blew by watching the first ten minutes. I’ve always been able to tell in less than five. Like with people, there are dozens of ways that movies give the game away early. In House of Games Joe Mantegna called them “tells.”
Owen Wilson in Drillbit Taylor
Sometimes I can smell trouble from an opening-credit sequence. Any comedy or relationship movie from a big studio that opens with a helicopter shot of a major city (you know the kind of shot I mean…swooping in over the bay, moving under a bridge) is almost certainly going to cause pain.
I’ve actually moved beyond credit sequences. When it comes to films I haven’t read the scripts of or heard stuff about, I can all tell a lot by just skimming an Entertainment Weekly preview blurb. I read it, other stuff kicks in, I get a fix. Here’s a rundown on the whole spring season, based partly on the EW article in last week’s issue (#980), partly on screenings, partly on film-festival buzz, partly aroma, partly knowing the directors, partly talk, partly insect antennae.
Out of 33 films, 12 are either known or suspected of being very good, good or decent second-raters.
High Calibre, Certainly Worth Seeing: Roger Donaldson‘s The Bank Job (3.7); Kimberley Peirce‘s Stop Loss (3.28); Martin Scorsese‘s Shine a Light (4.4). (3)
Promising but No Promises: Ira Sachs‘ Married Life (3.7 — good festival buzz); George Clooney‘s Leatherheads (4.4); David Mamet‘s Redbelt (4.25); Noam Murro‘s Smart People (4.11); David Ayer‘s Street Kings (4.11); Marcel Langenegger‘s The Tourist (4.25); Helen Hunt‘s Then She Found Me (4.25); Bill Maher‘s Sleepwalking (3.14); Thomas McCarthy‘s The Visitor (4.18). (9)
Richard Jenkins (l.) in The Visitor
Possibly Tolerable: Steven Brill‘s Drillbit Taylor (3.21 — mild slapstick, Owen Wilson featherings); Roland Emmerich‘s 10,000 B.C. (cheap sabre-tooth thrills); Michael Haneke‘s Funny Games (sadistic perversity); Robert Luketic‘s 21 (3.28); Carter Smith‘The Ruins (4.4); Michael McCullers‘ Baby Mama (4.25). (6)
Caveat Emptor: Bharat Nalluri‘s Miss Pettigew Lives for a Day (3.7); Zak Penn‘s The Grand (3.21 — best-in-show poker movie…meh); Wong Kar Wai‘s My Blueberry Nights (saw it in Cannes, big disappointment); Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin‘s Nim’s Island; Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg‘s Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (4.25); Jon Avnet‘s 8 Minutes (4.18); ; Nicholas Stoller‘s Forgetting Sarah Marshall (not with that title); Gus Van Sant‘s Paranoid Park (3.7); David Gordon Green‘s Snow Angels (3.7); Masayuki Ochiai‘s Shutter. (10)
No Way in Hell: Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns (3.21 — obvious reasons); J.P. Schaefer‘s Chapter 27 (3.28 — Mark Chapman stalks John Lennon, delayed forever, said to be rough going, fat Jared Leto + Lindsay Lohan); Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino‘s Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who (3.14); Nelson McCormick‘s Prom Night (4.11); Craig Mazin‘s Superhero Movie (3.28). (5)
An absolutely idiotic notion is cleverly illustrated here. If Star Wars had been released in 1957 instead of ’77 and if George Lucas had hired Saul Bass to do the main titles, this is how it would have looked. Right. Bass would have ignored the celestial adventure aspects and sought to invoke an urban jazzy vibe, going in the exact same direction as the main title sequences for The Man With the Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder.
I’ll admit that in its own nonsensical way it’s a pretty good Bass knockoff. Bass was great. His main-title sequence for Walk on the Wild Side (’61) was widely praised as being better that the film that followed. The same was true for his Man With the Golden Arm sequence, even though the brassy big-band jazz music feels a little too forced.
Two days ago, the Hollywood Reporter‘s Carl DiOrio reported that Semi-Pro “looks like it could be a full-on hit,” predicting that it “will open at least half as well” as Talladega Nights did on its opening weekend, i.e., half of $47 million being about $23.5 million. DiOrio also said that “with solid interest among men and women, something closer to $30 million isn’t out of the question.”
As we all know, Semi-Pro did around $15.4 million. DiOrio’s numbers were whackier, yes, than my prediction that it would take in an “easy” $25 million, but they were nowhere near as loop-dee-loopy as Steve Mason‘s prediction of $40 milion plus. How may others were predicting $25 million-plus grosses? A lot, I’ll bet.
Mason’s reply to Saturday morning’s box-office story said that “audience surveys from the various industry tracking firms don’t always accurately represent what’s really happening in the marketplace. They suggest what may happen, but there is no guarantee of a certain performance. This isn’t unlike what happened in this year’s New Hampshire primary where Barack Obama was shown to have an insurmountable lead in pre-election polls and even exit surveys prior to Hillary Clinton‘s victory.”
Last night’s Saturday Night Live Ohio debate-parody sketch was curiously partisan — a hooray-for-Hillary! thing that was unfunny, repetitive and tepid to boot. (And seemingly inspired by Hillary supporter Tina Fey‘s “Weekend Update” performance last week.) The guy doing Brian Williams (spent several minutes trying to discover his name) was pretty funny, though. And the real Hillary Clinton‘s appearance at the end (supplying “editorial response”) was appealing. But SNL has, in a sense, slit the throat of its own comedic integrity with this piece.
And this vote-for-Hillary ad is the end of Cool Guy Jack. He’ll never again be the sly nocturnal hipster he was for so many decades, not after this. Take my advice and vote for a hated-by-the-press race-baiter who’s run one of the most arrogant and mis-managed primary campaigns in history? Sure thing, Jack. But the spot itself is a pro-level job — clean and concise, well-chosen clips.
“There is nothing on this earth — believe me, gentlemen — than a woman you have to salute every morning.”