A member of the W. team who’s been on the set of the Oliver Stone film says that Josh Brolin, who’s playing George W. Bush, “is giving a stellar performance — acting without a speck of irony, a purely interpretive performance. I also think that Elizabeth Banks, as Laura Bush, will turn some heads.” He wrote because W. is “presumed to be a comedy in some quarters, which it isn’t. Yes, it is rife with black humor here and there — how could it not be? — but it is not a lampoon of Bush, but an exploration of the man√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s psyche and an attempt to capture his essence.”
A friend saw Andrew Stanton‘s WALL*E (Disney, 6.27) and says it’s (a) sort of an animated Jacques Tati film in the vein of Mon Oncle, in part because there’s almost no dialogue for the first 45 minutes or so, (b) it’s a kind of companion piece to An Inconvenient Truth in that it’s a strong message movie, set in a ruined post-apocalyptic world, about how we’re killing our world with poisons.
You might think from the trailers that it’s basically a robot love story, but that ain’t the half of it. It’s “not your typical wheee, happy, up-up-up animated family entertainment,” the friend says. “Once again, Pixar is pushing the buttons. It has a lot more on its mind.”
WALL*E is this little robot going around in this huge junkyard that used to be the earth, now inhabitable due to some toxic poisoning, saving remnants of what life once was. He’s obsessed with Barbra Streisand‘s Hello Dolly and plays these clips over and over,” he says. “The story later shifts its base to this massive shopping-mall space station, a floating planet of some sort with all these overweight fat people who can’t walk on their own, moving through a giant mall…an exaggeration of our culture today.”
I don’t what’s so red-bandy about this Wanted trailer. The only concern I have at this point is that I’m getting really tired of Morgan Freeman delivering one phone-in performance after another for another fat paycheck. I love his mellow zen quality but he’s done the wise old smoothie thing too much and it has to stop. He’s becoming Robert De Niro.
What a shock about Tim Russert…good God. The 58 year-old Meet The Press host was recording voiceovers for the upcoming Sunday show earlier today when he collapsed and died. I’m not finding the cause but I would guess a heart attack. The NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press, shrewd and whip-smart and always with the smile and the charm, was 58.
Former NBC anchor Tom Brokawmade the on-air announcement around 20 minutes ago — 12:40 pm Pacific. He reported that Russert had collapsed and died early this afternoon while at work. Russert had just returned from a brief vacation in Italy with his family.
Russert was large and beefy but was far from what anyone would call “a guy with a major weight problem.” Very strange and shocking. Boomers with weight issues are probably convulsing coast-to-coast right now, wondering what they should change about their diet or their life. Sometimes your number is just up. Death knocks, the door opens and you’re gone. No time for a farewell note or goodbye wave…bam.
A N.Y. Times account says that Brokaw said “this was one of the most important years in [Russert’s] life, with his deep engagement in the network’s political coverage” and that he “worked to the point of exhaustion.”
Russert became Meet the Press moderator in December 1991. In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Jesus…now Russert will never know how the election will turn out — what the margins will be, which states will break for Obama, etc. Wherever he is, I’ll be he’s at least a little bit pissed about this. I would be if I were he. The force on the other side of the river who pushed the button on Russert should have at least waited until after November. Bad form, Mr. Death.
I’m also half-persuaded, however, that once you’re gone you’re on a cosmic plane that is so far above and beyond the day-to-day of the planet Earth that such thoughts never cross your mind, if your post-death consciousness can be said to be graspable by a “mind,” which is probably not the case.
I’m watching NBC’s Andrea Mitchell talk about Russert and how he began to address her one day by her nickname of “Mitch,” and she just crumbled a bit. She held onto her composure but her voice cracked and her eyes watered over.
Last night’s AFI Warren Beatty tribute at the Kodak theatre, which lasted three and a half hours, was an exceptional evening even by the emotionally gushy standards of such affairs. Or so says Pete Hammond, who’s been to several of these shebangs over the years. A fantastic list of A-level talent and heavy-hitters, and much eloquence and with and warmth.
Here are some random notes which I’m not going to even try to shape into an article. This is just one recollection, and I’m not going to call over town to verify every last detail but most of this is probably on the money.
“Taped tributes from Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Mike Nichols, James Toback, Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie and John McCain were played. There were specially shot clips of Beatty talking about his career that ran all through the show.
“The old legendary girlfriends from way back weren’t there, live or on tape — no Leslie Caron, no Michelle Phillips (or at least, I didn’t see her), no Britt Eklund, no Joan Collins. Poor Natalie Wood is dead, of course.
Nobody mentioned or even privately discussed Peter Biskind‘s long-gestating book about Beatty, Hammond said, so I called Biskind to see how things are going. Fine, he said. He’s finished Part Two, which starts with the making of Shampoo and obviously moves on to the present. Part One — early life, starting out, early career — is tougher because so many people who were around are dead. But the plan is to have it out by the fall of 2009.
“Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Diane Keaton, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Towne (who once showed me a “fat farm” version of a script he wrote for Beatty’s Love Affair that was much better than the version that was ultimately shot) and Halle Berry delivered live remarks,” Hammond reports.
“The show opened with Earl Scruggs and some bluegrass banjo players, in tribute to Bonnie and Clyde. The first person on, I think, was Jane Fonda. She never made a film with Beatty but said that Warren and she “did a screen test together for a Joshua Logan film that was never made.” Nicholson showed up in shades a long black coat, looking a little tattered. Pacino presented the actual award to Beatty. Keaton said that of all her screen moments, she was proudest of the “don’t leave me” train station scene from Reds.
“George McGovern was there, Bill Clinton was there, Gary Hart was there. it was kind of a McGovern campaign revival. Warren Christopher, Jerry Brown. Clinton came on, looked great and gave this amazing speech, mentioning Bulworth as an important film to him. USA Today’s Anthony Breznican and Variety‘s Anne Thompson were there.
“Near the honoree’s table, Beatty hugged sister Shirley MacLaine for the longest time…they just stood there and hugged and didn’t let go.
“Somebody — it may been Don Cheadle — somebody came out and said that as directors, Clint Eastwood and Warren Beatty are together typically require 140 takes per scene — Eastwood does one and Warren does 139.
Tarantino, whom Beatty blew off as far as playing the lead role in Kill Bill was concerned, “said W.B. represents the kind of thing that Hollywood isn’t any more,” says Hammond. Dustin Hoffman went on forever. Michael J. Pollard came up and said something colorful and incoherent, which was kind of cool.
The gift bag “was a collection of Beatty movies on DVD” and one of those video table frames that runs a slide show of different shots.
There was one clip shown from The Fortune. Lee Grant, who at one time was apparently working on a documentary portrait of Beatty, was not there. Ishtar director-writer Elaine May, says Hammond, was there also.
Nobody mentioned Barack Obama the entire night. What…out of deference to Beatty’s friendship with John McCain?
Beatty thanked the film industry for leading him to wife Annette Bening, “who has given me the most important thing of all, which is her love.” He said he was “particularly humbled by the presence” of McGovern, Hart, Brown and Clinton, and at one point described himself as “an old-time, unrepentant, unreconstructed, tax-and-spend, bleeding-heart, die-hard liberal, liberal, liberal Democrat.”
The event was a drinks-and-dinner deal that involved unscrewing and removing most of the seats in the orchestra to make room for tables. A much abridged version of the Beatty tribute — what, 90 minutes’ worth? — will air 6.25 on the USA Network at 9 pm.
I was mildly jolted by a paragraph in Katherine Q. Seelye and Julie Bosman‘s 6.13 N.Y. Times piece about allegations of a sexist slant in the coverage of Hillary Clinton‘s campaign, to wit: “The cable networks do not reach as many viewers as the broadcast networks — 2.6 million per night for prime-time news programs on cable compared with 23 million for broadcast — but their coverage runs in a continuous loop, is amplified by the internet and is seen by many people involved in politics.”
It felt comforting on some level to spot my little Olympus digicorder in this shot taken during a news conference aboard Hillary Clinton’s plane.
In other words, the cable-satellite TV information world that I and everyone I know lives in — MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, CSPAN, etc. — is absorbed by only one ninth of the viewing population. One viewer out of nine. So the vast majority out there are…what, people who watch TV in their kitchen or bedroom with a roof antenna or a metal coat hanger for reception? Who are watching…what, Fox News, The View, Access Hollywood and their local Stepford news hour for updates?
How much smaller is the percentage of those who (like me) constantly keep up with the news cycles online via laptops and handheld devices compared to the average 20th Century slow-boater living in Nickleodeon world and driving a car that needs a new muffler? People who go to their kids to look at this or that online but otherwise haven’t a clue? (John McCain admitted a day or two ago that he doesn’t know how to use a computer.)
Every time you take a hard look at things it comes down to the same equation — a small percentage is paying real attention to what’s going on, and the vast majority is walking around in a kind of narcotized broadcast-media head space. What happened to the idea of a 21st Century information revolution and the resultant strengthening of our democracy? It can’t begin to happen with the levels of relative ignorance being what they are these days.
It would be one thing if, say, half the population was absorbing cable and wireless news sources and the other half constituted the media underclass, but when you’ve get eight out of nine still watching broadcast TV and shuffling around the house in their hush puppies…good God. And people wonder why this is essentially a Red country with tiny little Blue nerve centers in and around the big cities.