In a 4.1 article, New York critic David Edelstein has written that “it was wrong to finger [Harvey] Weinstein for pulling [the late Anthony] Minghella‘s strings” in a 3.25 blog piece.
Here’s how Edelstein synopsizes the original thing: “I said that Minghella, who died suddenly following surgery, never lived up to the potential of his first feature, Truly, Madly, Deeply, and I suggested that his career trajectory had a lot to do with Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein pushing him in the direction of tony Oscar-bait material following the slew of Academy Awards for The English Patient.”
“Yes, it’s a minority view that those films were artistically compromised. But even allowing for their considerable merits (and my reviews of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain were largely positive), it’s a pity that unlike, say, Neil Jordan, Steven Soderbergh, or Stephen Frears, Minghella didn’t also make smaller and more personal projects that were as adventurous, as sui generis as Truly, Madly, Deeply.”
Edelstein says that I wrote in this column (on 3.26) that Minghella, whom I knew slightly from having interviewed him once and run into him at a couple of parties, “liked living well and making high-profile pictures.” Well, not quite. I qualified and mushed up my statement a bit more than that.
“My sense of Minghella,” I wrote, “is that on some level he was at least half-comfortable with not being the most prolific filmmaker of all time.” That also means, obviously, that Minghella may have been half-uncomfortable with not having made more films. And when you say you have a “sense” of a man you’re saying it’s obviously from a certain distance. Otherwise you would say, simply, that you knew him.
I also said “he was a beautiful man in many respects, but I think he liked to live well.” That’s plain enough, and not that controversial — every person with money develops a strong affection for the lush life that comes with it. I also said that Minghella “loved the aromas and textures and ecstasies of day-to-day living as much as (and perhaps a tiny bit more than) the rigors and tortures of creation.” All in all, I think that was fair observation. Writing is a bitch. Directing too. Life is hard.
A few days ago I mentioned a passing interest in wanting to read the script of Down and Dirty Pictures, an adaptation of Peter Biskind‘s 2004 book about the indie movie heyday of the ’90s. A couple of days later a guy sent me a draft of it, written by Joshua James and Dean Craig, undated, 121 pages, based on a story by James and Ken Bowser. u
And I have to say the following: the movie, which PalmStar Pictures is going to shoot in September, may turn out well or not. But the script isn’t half bad. At the very least it has a certain bold, punchy recklessness. It’s a movie within a “movie” with lots of yelling, arguing, maneuvering, jousting. It breaks down the fourth wall with characters talking to the camera. I muttered the word “Fellini-eseque” to myself at one point. It also reminded me at times of American Splendor. And it’s pretty funny at times. Especially the Bingham stuff.
The script could use a little refinement. The tone is a little too belligerent. It needs some meditation, quiet, stillness. But it’s a lot better than I expected. Here’s page #1, page #2, page #3 and page #4.
It’s basically a series of scenes showing some famous indie players — Bingham Ray, Harvey Weinstein, Jeff Lipsky, Quentin Tarantino, David Dinerstein, Cassian Elwes, Robert Rodriguez, Jeff Katzenberg, Tony Safford, Amir Mailin, Scott Greenstein, Allison Anders, Kevin Smith, Tim Roth, John Schmidt, Linda Lichter — trying to out-do or out-finagle or out-bullshit each other. Arguing, sniping, boasting, bellowing, boasting, bitching, whining, moaning. It’s pretty much Biskind’s book — all the good parts, I mean — minus the narrative padding and commentary and windy perspective.
You know the story if you’ve read it. It’s about how indie films became cool and happening in the late ’80s and early ’90s, how some titles caught on or exploded commercially, how the corporate guys bought some of indie operations and their operators and slowly, gradually co-opted and corporatized the “movement,” as it were.
The best characters, for me, are Bingham and Harvey — partly because they’re the most outsized and bellicose. It begins and ends with Bingham. Lipsky, Ray’s former October Films partner, figures prominently.
The problem, of course, is that the “characters” will be played by actors, which will probably feel strange. (To me, anyway.) The other obvious problem is that audiences haven’t exactly flocked to inside-the-beltway films about the film business.
I talked earlier today with PalmStar’s Kevin Frakes about the script and the shoot. He sounded like an intelligent, fair-minded guy. The film will not be “micro-budgeted,” he said, but will cost less than $15 million, he said. Name actors will we cast, he said. The shooting, which will happen during September and October, will shoot in Toronto (“Toronto for itself and Toronto for New York”), Park City and a couple of days in the South of France.
The very first copies of the revised script were sent to Harvey and Bingham, he said, right before the start of the WGA strike. Weinstein “told us to get somebody good to play me…that’s a quote,” he said. He didn’t share Ray’s reaction, whatever that was or is. Ray didn’t return my calls about the script. I also called Biskind — zip. My former boss Kevin Smith has yet to return also. Presumably they feel chagrined or rattled or at the very least guarded about it.
Something is telling me that Down and Dirty Pictures would work best as a six-hour HBO miniseries. The story covers a ten-year period and needs room to breathe. The PalmStar script is pretty good, but it feels a little too compressed.
N.Y. Times media columnist David Carr considers the recent disappearance of all them film crickets — Newsday‘s Gene Seymour and Jan Stuart, the Village Voice‘s Nathan Lee, Newsweek‘s David Ansen plus critics “at more than a dozen daily newspapers (including those in Denver, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale) and several alternative weeklies who have been laid off, reassigned or bought out in the past few years, deemed expendable at a time when revenues at print publications are declining,” etc.
Carr quotes Defamer/Reeler columnist Stu VanAirsdale, MCN’s David Poland, Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman, Sony Classics co-chief Michael Barker, Village Voice executive editor Michael Lacey, ThinkFilm’s Mark Urman, etc.
“Given that movie blogs are strewn about the web like popcorn on a theater floor, there are those who say that movie criticism is not going away, it’s just appearing on a different platform,” Carr writes. “And no one would argue that fewer critics and the adjectives they hurl would imperil the opening of Iron Man in May. But for a certain kind of movie, critical accolades can mean the difference between relevance and obscurity, not to mention box office success or failure.”
And for certain kinds of readers, critical huzzahs will never be fully real unless…I’m tired of saying it.
ABC News entertainment writer Marcus Baram has profiled Stanley Weiser‘s W screenplay, which Oliver Stone will begin shooting later this month, in some detail. At the end of the piece he quotes Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleisher (who denies, amazingly, that Bush used salty language), myself and University of North Carolina at Wilmington history professor Robert Brent Toplin, who wrote “Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11: How One Film Divided a Nation.”
Two articles about Hillary Clinton‘s Bosnian tall tale, written with gleaming steel scalpels by two highly respected essayists, the N.Y. Daily News‘ Stanley Crouch and Slate’s Christopher Hitchens, appeared yesterday. The latter is especially searing regarding the Clinton administration’s Bosnia policy in the early ’90s.
They both use the term “White House” in statements of a similar context. “For all of the sound and the fury, I do not think that the Clintons will destroy the Democratic Party,” Crouch writes. “And they will not ensure the victory of McCain. But I think that they have destroyed any possibility for themselves of returning to the White House.” Says Hitchens, “Let the memory of the truth, and the exposure of the lie, at least make us resolve that no Clinton ever sees the inside of the White House again.”
My Earthlink e-mail messages stopped coming in last night around 9 pm Pacific. The whole network is down as we speak. It took me 45 minutes this morning to pull this priveleged information out of the Earthlink tech support team in the Dominican Republic. With a pair of pliers. I went through through three very friendly guys who were reluctant to own up. If someone has an urgent message try me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The D.R. guys said the Earthlink network would be back up in one or two or three hours. In other words, possibly by midnight tonight.