That “All Things Considered” interview I did with NPR media reporter David Folkenflik two days ago will be linkable online by roughly 7 pm this evening. It’s not just me talking — it’s three or four movie critics including, I think, former N.Y. Daily News critic Jack Mathews. The piece is called “Movie Critics Disappearing from Newsrooms.”
In early April I wondered if anyone cares enough about Carol Reed‘s Outcast of the Islands (1951) to put it out on DVD. Those dedicated wackdoodles at the Criterion Collection, say. Well, hail hail rock ‘n’ roll because Outcast will air on Turner Classic Movies come Friday, August 22. August is traditionally TCM’s one-star-per-day month and that day will be devoted to Outcast star Trevor Howard. The complete August schedule (with some other interesting rarities) is viewable here.
After reportedly trying to forge some kind of amicable, foward-looking merger between Picturehouse and Warner Independent, Warner Bros. management has suddenly thrown up its hands and is getting out of the “dependent” business altogether, it was announced about an hour ago.
WB president & COO Alan Horn released a statement that seems to translate, when you boil the snow out of it, into the following: “Sorry, but we’ve come to realize that running a Fox Searchlight- or Paramount Vantage-type operation just isn’t our bag. Our hearts were sort of into this, but now they aren’t. Things change. Besides, we’ve got New Line for the smaller stuff. We’re into maximizing revenue and building broad genre franchises, and…you know, making or releasing movies for people who read reviews and enjoy provocative subject matter just isn’t worth it to us.”
The actual statement reads that “with New Line now a key part of Warner Bros., we’re able to handle films across the entire spectrum of genres and budgets without overlapping production, marketing and distribution infrastructures …after much painstaking analysis, this was a difficult decision to make, but it reflects the reality of a changing marketplace and our need to prudently run our businesses with increased efficiencies. We’re confident that the spirit of independent filmmaking and the opportunity to find and give a voice to new talent will continue to have a presence at Warner Bros.”
So except for Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino and the occasional lucky-accident movie that may rank as award-worthy, Warner Bros. seems to have basically taken itself out of the quality-driven prestige movie business.
I wonder what really happened? What led to the breakdown of the merger talks?
It turns out that Defamer‘s Stu VanAirsdale was fairly close to the money when he reported that Picturehouse may soon be shut down, and that Anne Thompson‘s Variety story about the same situation was less correct, especially in reporting that Picturehouse chief Bob Berney and Warner Independent prexy Polly Cohen are “likely” to accept a bicoastal power-sharing arrangement that will preside over a merged operation,” i.e., Warner Indiepicturehouse.
Glenn Kenny, one of the country’s finest film critics and a brilliant writer to boot, has been cut loose by Premiere.com. “What this means for this blog is still up in the air,” he wrote this morning. “I’ve got meetings this afternoon in which such things are to be negotiated. In any case, I now join the ever-growing ranks of film critics without staff positions. I very much hope to keep this blog going…and get some good freelance work, quick. Anybody with ideas in this area should contact me at email@example.com. Hope to be in touch again soon. Thank you, you’re the best goddamn audience a blogger could ever have.”
Speed Racer (opening Friday) is running at 90, 29 and 16, which looks to me like $25 to $30 million, at best. (Normally a 16 first choice means $15 to $20 million, depending on the demographic, but the family-trade current will kick this one up.) What Happens in Vegas is running at 87, 32 and 18. David Mamet‘s Redbelt is going wide this week with 20 general, 24 definite interest and 2 first choice. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (opening 5.16) is at 96, 42 and 14. Sex and the City (New Line, HBO, 5.30) is at 84, 23 and 6, but among over-25 women the first choice is 14, so it’ll probably play The Devil Wears Prada.
“In a heated phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late last month, Hillary Clinton supporter Harvey Weinstein threatened to cut off campaign money to congressional Democrats unless Pelosi embraced a new plan by the movie mogul to finance a revote of the Democratic presidential primaries in Florida and Michigan, according to three officials who were briefed on the contents of the conversation.” — filed this morning by CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry.
Yesterday’s Grand Wizard award went to Hillary Clinton for blatantly using the term “white Americans” in a USA Today interview written by Kathy Kiely and Jill Lawrence. “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said, citing an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
”Bush may turn out to be the worst president in history,” W. director Oliver Stone has told Entertainment Weekly . ”I think history is going to be very tough on him. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a great story.
Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks as George and Laura in Oliver Stone’s W.
“It’s almost Capra-esque, the story of a guy who had very limited talents in life, except for the ability to sell himself. The fact that he had to overcome the shadow of his father and the weight of his family name — you have to admire his tenacity. There’s almost an Andy Griffith quality to him, from A Face in the Crowd. If Fitzgerald were alive today, he might be writing about him. He’s sort of a reverse Gatsby.”
Again, my reactions to Stanley Weiser‘s fine script.
I wasn’t going to say anything and just wait until the 5.18 screening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in Cannes, but since Ain’t It Cool has run a neg review from “ShogunMaster” (and since Hollywood Wiretap has linked to it), the cat is out of the bag and I may as well share something of my own.
Last night I heard from a guy I’ve known for years who’s quite friendly with an exhibitor from the southern region, and this guy passed along some comments after seeing an exhibitor screening two days ago. The exhib’s taste in movies tends to be fairly generous and populist (enjoyed Iron Man, even liked Speed Racer), but he wasn’t especially taken with Indy 4, my friend says.
The most interesting thing my source passed along was his friend’s sense that “the only ones who liked it were the older guys.” This ties in to an older-younger, march-of-time theme that is certain to seep through. Harrison Ford‘s Indiana Jones is obviously older, Steven Spielberg is an older guy who is proud of shooting and cutting action films in a somewhat old-fashioned (i.e., classic, non-Matrix-y) way, and now — maybe — a hint that the film itself may play older, or on some level embody older-ness. Cool.
A Hollywood screenwriter guy is telling me that “people” — he didn’t say younger or older, but let’s presume the latter — “are really liking it.” He claims there was another exhibitor screening last week, and that some feel “it’s the best of the sequels.” It has, he’s been told, a kind of reflective, summing-up quality that has echoes of Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade.
I love this. Especially having been pummelled by Speed Racer last night. I would love it, I mean to say, if Indy 4 winds up providing a window into the Spielberg- Lucas-Jones mindset — i.e., we’re obviously grappling with the world as it is and giving it hell, but we’re still older guys and very comfortable, thank you, with doing things in our own tried-and-true way.
Let’s leave it alone for now, but the two downbeat responses suggest that a Da Vinci Code-like mauling could happen — maybe, possibly — when Mr. Jones turns up at the Grand Palais on 5.18. I’m thinking again about the statement that producer George Lucas gave to USA Today‘s Scott Bowles, the one about it “not” being “the Second Coming…it’s just a movie, just like the other movies.”
This may turn out to be a good thing, in a way. If this talk keeps up expectations will be slightly lowered by the time it shows in Cannes (and in domestic media screenings) on the Sunday after next, and the responses may therefore fall under the heading of “pleasant surprise.”
“The big question if Clinton stays in the race is this: Just how will she campaign? Yesterday, there were no negative TV ads or attack mailers. But Clinton did stress that she can win the general, implying that Obama might not be able to.
“‘I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,’ she told USA Today, citing her support with white working-class voters. It’s comments like that one that might drive more supers toward Obama pretty quickly. Why? Because they know the math, but they don’t want her to spend three weeks making a case that Obama can’t win. It will only weaken him.
“Here’s what Obama backer Chris Dodd said yesterday, per NBC’s Ken Strickland. ‘You’re going to be asking a bunch of people [in West Virginia] to vote against somebody who’s likely to be your nominee a few weeks later? And turn around and ask the very same people a few weeks later to reverse themselves and now vote for [Obama] on election day?'” — from this morning’s edition of MSNBC’s First Read.