Starts off slowly, ambles along, not bad, heard it before, etc. And then during the last minute or so, it all comes together and suddenly people are on their feet. [Taped today — 3.21.08 — in Salem, Oregon.]
The labelling of Obama by the fear machines of both the Clinton campaign and right-wing broadcasters has been vile, and yet here I am thinking along these lines myself. I’m referring to the fact that Barack’s candidacy has made me feel more in league with the African American community than at any time before in my life. And then I think about the continued success of Tyler Perry‘s films, largely due to support by black audiences, and I go, “What the…?”
I was told a couple of hours ago that Bryan Singer‘s Valkyrie (MGM, 10.2), the Tom Cruise thriller about the plot by German officers to kill Hitler, is about to start two full weeks of extra lensing. The guy who told me this (a seasoned filmmaker) pointed out that two extra weeks of shooting is, like, a lot. Most of the time extra shooting takes two or three days. Okay, sometimes four or five.
I wrote my MGM publicity friends and they didn’t deny it. Kristin Borella said the task at hand “is the big battle scene that was always intended to be shot that didn’t occur in Berlin. These scenes took place in North Africa so they could not be shot in Berlin obviously. So they are not reshooting, but rather [shooting] additional photography.”
Publicity-marketing chief Dennis Rice added, “This is not new news. We have always planned to shoot a couple scenes in the first quarter of this year. These are scenes which were always part of the original screenplay and shooting script. Because of the nature of the scenes, they were never intended to be shot in Berlin.”
Okay, “big North African battle scene,” I wrote. And it’s additional photography. You know something? I don’t really care what it is. “Extra shooting” just means the film is probably going to be that much better, so why should anyone give a hoot? I don’t. I’m just looking to post stuff (reportage, attitude, opinion) for this column.
“So is two weeks’ worth then?,” I asked again. “Is it shooting in Africa or the California desert? If it’s shooting here, may I drive out and visit?”
A guy dropped by Panavision headquarters on Selma Avenue in Hollywood yesterday, and visited briefly with Oliver Stone as he was testing looks for Josh Brolin as George W. Bush in the movie known as either Bush or, according to the drop-by guy, W.
Josh Brolin; George Bush
“When i walked in, I thought some stand-in that looked an awful lot like young Bush was under the lights,” he says, “but it was Brolin, very skinny and looking amazingly like Bush. The hair was perfect. This may be a home run.” Visually, he means. Obviously.
“A new poll from Fox News, the first major poll taken since Barack Obama‘s big speech on race relations, shows that the effect of the Jeremiah Wright flap might not be so bad after all. By a 57%-24% margin, registered voters do not believe that Obama shares Wright’s controversial views.
The internals show only 17% of Democrats saying Obama shares Wright’s ideas, along with 20% of independents and 36% of Republicans.”
It’s still a little bit scary that almost one fifth of Democrats — 17% — believe, they’re saying, that Obama is a closet sympathizer with Wright’s wackjob proclamations. That’s pretty damn ignorant and rednecky. Plus those 20% of independents who say they believe the same thing. Earnestly. Whew.
“One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning,” Politico‘s Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen wrote earlier today.
“Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.
“Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.
“People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.”
It’s hard to hear this, but it starts with girl asking a guy if he wants to see a movie with her and a girlfriend. And then the guy says what he says. It’s a very audacious line of dialogue to use in any film, especially one in which the lead actor speaks in a drawly Southern accent. Guess the name of the film. Hint: it’s not out yet, but it played at Sundance ’07.
Let’s review the Judd Apatow comedies yet to come out and arrogantly spitball which ones seem more likely to downgrade or upgrade the brand. We know Drillbit Taylor has gotten slammed and put the brand in a position in which it needs (in the view of guys like me ) to be restored. When will that happen, and what kind of bumps in the road lie ahead? Five Apatow-produced or co-written comedies will open over the next 15 months, and an Apatow-directed and co-written comedy will open in late ’09.
Obviously we’re speaking of films Aptatow has produced, co-written or directed (or plans to direct) that haven’t come out yet. All of them delivering standard Apatow attitude humor, always with the clever stoner-slacker guy, or the space-case or the dork-dweeb or the absurdist cavemen with the one-liners, and always with these guys not only scoring with great-looking women — girls who wouldn’t spit on these guys in real life — but getting into good relationships with them and so on.
Next up, of course, is Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal, 4.18), which I mostly hated but which easy-lay under-40 types are apparently going for. Suspicion: Definitely not an upgrade but maybe, in the view of most, not a downgrade either. Call it a maintainer, a non-boat-rocker. I would have liked this film a bit more if it had been called Eating Sarah Marshall. I just like that title. Not the lewdness, but the nerviness.
On June 6th (i.e., 48 days later ) comes You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, an Adam Sandler comedy about a Mossad agent who “fakes his death so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist.” Apatow only cowrote with Sandler, meaning this is basically a Sandler-brand comedy. Apatow, however, did pitch in creatively and if it turns out to be pretty good and/or popular (the word is positive), it will make Judd look like he’s definitely still got it. Prediction: Faint upgrade. (Dennis Dugan, a longtime Sandler stooge, is the director.)
On July 25th Step Brothers (Sony/Columbia), an Apatow-produced comedy with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, will open nationwide. Written by Ferrrell and Adam McKay, it’s about “two spoiled guys become competitive stepbrothers after their single parents get hitched.” I know zip but a voice is telling me it’s an underwhelmer. I’m mostly just sick of Ferrell these days, and I’m figuring others are feeling this way also. Prediction: possible downgrade, possible maintainer. My sixth sense says “cuidado!.”
Two weeks later, on August 8th, comes Pineapple Express (Sony), which Apatow produced and wrote the story for. Everyone seems to agree (including one guy I know who’s actually seen it) that this Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy, directed by David Gordon Green, is going to be a hit. Prediction: Upgrade.
Oddly, curiously, there will no fresh Apatow product all through the ’08 fall-holiday season and through the winter and spring of ’09.
On June 5th Harold Ramis‘s Year One, a caveman comedy (10,000 B.C. with laughs) that Apatow produced but didn’t co-write, will open. It costars Jack Black and Michael Cera. The writers are Ramis, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky. Any time you have lots of special effects, lots of physical comedy and actors wearing animal skins and sandals, the hah-hah factor goes down. Special effects are humor killers. Any scenes with Black and Cera running from saber-tooth tigers and mastodons won’t be funny. Any scenes with Black and Cera clubbing women and dragging them to their cave by their hair won’t be funny. Any humor involving Ancient History or Biblical material won’t be funny. A stunt comedy. Dicey. Prediction (subject to change): Downgrade.
Finally there’s an untitled Aptaow/Adam Sandler project that will shoot later this year and come out sometime in ’09. These two working together obviously sounds promising. Prediction: Upgrade.
Out of the six forthcoming Apatows, I see two and a half upgrades (Pineapple, Apatow/Sandler Untitled and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan), two downgrades (Step Brothers, Year One) and one maintainer (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Obviously you need to add an extra downgrade if you include Drillbit Taylor.
Capsule summary: the Apatow brand will not be enhanced between now and June, get a little bump from the Zohan, take a possible hit from Step Brothers, rise again big-time with Pineapple and stay there for eight months. It may take some animal-hide damage in the summer of ’09, but it will probably bounce back when the Apatow/Sandler comedy bursts on the scene (unless it sucks).
Am I missing something?
There’s something about pronounced sexual content, flagrant floozies and B-movie tawdriness that seems to go down well with N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis. Which is one of the things I like about her — she has some kind of a soft spot for this stuff and is honest about it, and, being a talented writer, says so with flair and style. But the more you read about Boarding Gate, which I’ll see on a disc sometime this weekend, the more you go “hmmm.”
Calling it “a casually beautiful, preposterously plotted, elliptical thriller,” Dargis admits it “earned little love last year when it played at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was shown out of competition.” (I was there and nobody even mentioned it, much less told me to check it out. I didn’t risk seeing it because of Asia Argento-Michael Madsen casting, which indicated a possible ick or groan factor.)
Plus “it didn’t do much for [director Oliver] Assayas‘s reputation,” she writes, “at least among some critics, who had been just as eager to dismiss his other recent films, among them Clean (’04) and the much-maligned demonlover (’02).
“What Boarding Gate did do was reconfirm Ms. Argento as one of contemporary cinema’s most fascinating creatures. Her on-screen ferocity is now generating as much interest as her tattoos — an angel hovers above her pubic bone, and an eye stares out from one shoulder — or the ease with which she sheds her clothes, which explains why I can describe those tattoos with confidence.”
Poor Bill Hayward — son of Leland, brother of Brooke, a producer until the mid ’80s — shot himself almost two weeks ago in Castaic, California (a little vacation area north of LA, halfway to Bakersfield), and the AP report only just broke. He passed on March 9th.
We all know that people are less likely to off themselves if they’re married and have children. It also helps to gave a community of friends at work or near their home(s), and having a dog or a cat doesn’t hurt. Ditto parrots, lovebirds, aquarium fish, pet snakes…anything living that you need to feed and care for.
Hayward’s last produced film, Blue City, came out 22 years ago. His wangled producing gigs on three films starring or directed by by Peter Fonda (whom he knew at least partly through Dennis Hooper, who was married to his sister from ’61 to ’69) — Easy Rider, Idaho Transfer and Wanda Nevada.
Hayward appeared in a 1999 DVD doc called “Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage.”
Drillbit Taylor has a 10% positive rating from the Rotten Tomatoes creme de la creme. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the paying customers after they’ve seen this thing. There’s a very weird climate inside a theatre when audience members starts to slowly realize they’re being burned. I know a guy who says he enjoyed it, but I would imagine that most viewers will mutter to themselves, “They charged me money to see this?”
If I were Judd Apatow I would do the old Desert Hot Springs hideout routine for the next couple of weeks. Slip on a pair of shades and one of those celebrity fishing hats with the brim pulled down and get into the Prius and hightail it.
“As an admirer, mostly, of Mr. Apatow’s oeuvre, I was inclined to believe that Drillbit Taylor was a cheap knockoff, that the producer credit Mr. Apatow receives at the beginning was akin to the Rolex insignia on the watch I bought for $20 on Canal Street a while back,” writes N.Y. Times critic Tony Scott.
“But it makes more sense to think of this dumb little picture, with Mr. Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann, in a supporting role, and Seth Rogen, one of his alter egos, sharing credit for story and screenplay, as part of the Apatow discount line. ‘You get what you pay for,” the tag line on the advertisement says. I saw it free, and I still feel cheated.”
Scott also mentions “risks of backlash and brand dilution.” I may as well repeat my agreement with this, which I stated a couple of days ago, to wit: “On top of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, another Apatow comedy that I’ve yet to review but which I felt kind of badly about, this is probably the beginning of a temporary downgrade in the brand.
“It’ll be restored in August with Pineapple Express, and it may be turn out that Marshall will do okay commercially. But the notion of the Apatow seal being some kind of dependable assurance of a rollicking good time is, for now, out the window.”
The most reasonable-sounding plot rumor so far concerning Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino (certainly more palatable than yesterday’s near-ridiculous return-of-Dirty-Harry idea, which was floated by an AICN guy who claimed a certain inside knowledge due to a car deal that went south) has been posted by Film Jerk’s Edward Havens.
He’s heard it will be “a simple, quiet and compelling drama about Walt (Eastwood), a rural bigot who finds his outlook on life changed after a family of Hmong immigrants move in to the home next to his own, striking up a friendship with Tao, the family’s teenaged son, over the older man’s classic car.”
Right off the top this sounds like a near-perfect Eastwood film — quiet, soulful, moralistic, dealing with redemption — and exactly the sort of thing that will do well in the ’08 awards derby. I love the fact that the fast-moving Eastwood hasn’t even shot this thing yet, and yet plans to have it out by December a la Million Dollar Baby.
The terms Hmong and Mong refer to an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of southern China. Hmong currently live in several countries in Southeast Asia, including northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.