In the opening of Joshua Green‘s “The Front-Runner’s Fall” on theatlantic.com, it’s reported that Hillary Clinton’s adviser/pollster Mark Penn “conducted a poll just after Clinton’s Senate reelection in November 2006 that showed her running a very distant third [in Iowa], barely ahead of the state’s governor, Tom Vilsack. The poll produced a curious revelation: Iowans rated Clinton at the top of the field on questions of leadership, strength, and experience — but most did not plan to vote for her, because they didn’t like her.
“This presented a basic conundrum: Should Clinton run a positive campaign, to persuade Iowans to reconsider her? Or should she run a negative campaign that would accuse her opponents of being untrustworthy and under-qualified? Clinton’s top advisers never agreed on the answer. Over the course of the campaign, they split into competing factions that drifted in and out of Clinton’s favor but always seemed to work at cross purposes. And Clinton herself could never quite decide who was right.
“Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence — on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.”
A few hours ago Michael Fleming‘s story announced that Angelina Jolie will be taking what was previously thought to be Tom Cruise‘s role in Columbia’s Edwin A. Salt, a high-toned spy thriller that Phillip Noyce will direct. As soon as I saw it on my iPhone, around 4:45 pm today, I e-mailed Noyce to offer congratulations.
It turns out this was Noyce’s first notification that the deal between Jolie and Columbia was signed, sealed and delivered. It took three days to work out the particulars, which is quite fast by Hollywood standards. Deals can take months to cobble together, obviously depending on the particulars. The title will now be “something A. Salt” — the female first name obviously not yet decided. The shoot will hopefully begin in February ’09.
Cruise had actually lost interest in the Salt part because he felt it was too close to his Mission Impossible character of Ethan Hunt.
I’m trying to think of other parts written for guys that women wound up playing, and all I can think of is Rosalind Russell playing Hildy Johnson in Howard Hawks‘ The Front Page.
Why isn’t Barack Obama farther ahead of John McCain in this, a big-change election year? “The commentariat has countless answers,” writes New York‘s John Heilemann. “Obama is aloof, elitist, lacks the common touch. He has failed to put forward a powerful economic message. He is cut from the same cloth as past Democrats seen as too weak, too effete, too liberal. His calculated dash to the center has left him looking, in the words of GOP consultant Alex Castellanos, like ‘an ever-changing work-in-progress…as authentic as a pair of designer jeans.’
“Yet, as Castellanos admits to me, all these explanations ‘leave many things unspoken.’ Or perhaps just one big thing. Obama, after all, isn’t having trouble with African-American voters or Hispanic voters or young voters. Where he’s lagging is among white voters, and with older ones in particular. Call me crazy, but isn’t it possible, just possible, that Obama’s lead is being inhibited by the fact that he’s, you know… black?
“‘Of course it is,’ says another prominent Republican operative. ‘It’s the thing that nobody wants to talk about, but it’s obviously a huge factor.’
“What makes Obama’s task of scoring white votes at Kerry-Gore levels so formidable is, to put it bluntly, racial prejudice. Difficult though it is to measure, the exit polls from the Democratic primaries offer a sense of the degree to which anti-black animus hurt Obama in his battle with Hillary Clinton. In a number of key swing states, the percentage of voters who backed Clinton and who said that ‘the race of the candidates’ was ‘important’ in their decision was alarmingly high: in New Jersey, 9; in Ohio and Pennsylvania, more than 11.
“The writer John Judis reckons, therefore, that in the general election (where the voting population is markedly less liberal than in the primaries) in those states, ’15 to 20 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents may not support [Obama] for the same reason.'”
“What’s clear is that among older, less-educated white voters, there is a pronounced, albeit inchoate, unease with Obama’s ‘otherness’ — one that the McCain operation is moving swiftly to exploit, with what promises to be an increasingly race-freighted campaign.
“The images in its recent ads are ingeniously coded, and thus easily misread (or denied). The Paris Hilton-Britney Spears commercial, for instance, was interpreted by many on the left as raising the specter of miscegenation. But the real subtext of the ad was to paint Obama as a featherweight figure whose fame is undeserving, the result of ‘natural’ gifts as opposed to hard work or skill.
“As Adam Serwer argued in The American Prospect, ‘the ad never mentions Obama’s race as the source of his celebrity, but it doesn’t have to — it’s been part of the campaign long enough for the point to be implicit. In short, this ad is Geraldine Ferraro’s attack done `right,’ in the sense that it does not directly implicate the McCain campaign as exploiting racial tensions.'”.
Given director Chris Columbus‘s well-known tendency to go soft or sentimental, it’s hard to see how his forthcoming biopic about Robert F. Kennedy‘s 1968 presidential run, based on Thurston Clarke‘s “The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America,” will be sufficiently averse to the natural heart-tug of Kennedy’s sad story. The telling of it has to be honest, specific, tough-minded. And I don’t think Columbus has the courage to trust the audience to feel it on their own.
The other pitfall is casting. It’s not the material or even the script (although that’s obviously an important factor) as much as the actor who’ll play RFK that will spell the difference between success or failure here. The actor would have to be someone in his early 40s with the right look, the right voice (without resorting to any kind of Bugs Bunny-with-a-Boston-accent delivery), the right size, the right hair…everything. It’s a very tall order.
It’s safe to presume that one of the emotional high points of the film will be the scene in which RFK announces the murder of Martin Luther King to a crowd in Indianapolis, Indiana. But if Columbus has any balls at all, he’ll figure a way to use a cut of “Wild Thing” by Senator Bobby. Seriously.
Playboy.com‘s Jamie Malanowski attended a special screening last night of Oliver Stone‘s Nixon at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York, and then listened to Stone talk discuss this under-appreciated 1995 film as well as W, his forthcoming drama about the interiors of George W. Bush.
“Why return to the subject of the presidency?,” Malanowski or someone else asked. “‘George W. Bush is a different souffle,’ Stone answered. ‘The film will be more fun [than Nixon]. Bush is dangerous, but he is also goofy, awkward and endearing. A lot of people still like him.’
“Presented with the ultimate question — which man would he prefer be on a long car trip with — Stone unhesitatingly chose Nixon over Bush. ‘He was more intelligent. Bush has done outrageous things, and he has no guilt. He is a backslapper and a salesman. He’s not very deep.”
“Stone, however, says both Nixon and W. ask the same question: ‘Why do we keep going to war? Why do we keep creating enemies? Bush is the latest and perhaps the most dangerous manifestation. Vietnam was a nightmare. It’s amazing that the same characters have returned and sold us another war.”
Stone said he “now believes that 1995 was an unfortunate time to have made Nixon, and believes that if the film had come out in 2006 “with all its parallels” to our current political predicament that it would have done much better. He says that it’s interesting to see Nixon now. “We view him in a different context. He seems almost harmless compared to the current administration.”
Stone was there to promote a new director’s cut DVD of Nixon coming out on 8.19 in regular DVD and Blu-ray. It will feature “more than 20 minutes of new material,” writes Malanowski, including an eight minute scene featuring Sam Waterston as CIA director Richard Helms.
Why, then does the DVD jacket art claim that “28 minutes” have been added? The original theatrical cut was around 190 minutes so extra 28 minutes would obviously make the new running time 218 minutes, and yet the Amazon listing says it runs 213 minutes. What gives?
Anton Yelchin as Chekhov in JJ Abrams‘ Star Trek flick (which comes out next May)? Okay, I guess so, whatever, but I’ve never gotten a vibe from Yelchin that was about anything except light-hearted whimsy or puppy-dog sadness. He’s like a little kitten with a bowl of skim milk. The other Star Trek character posters, first revealed at ComicCon, feature the vaguely pudgy-faced Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu and Karl Urban as McCoy.
Bottle Shock‘s Chris Pine is Kirk, of course, and Zachary Quinto is Spock. Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana and Winona Ryder costar.
The source of the story/rumor about Paul Greengrass being attached to direct The Trial of the Chicago 7 movie instead of Steven Spielberg is a two-day old posting (8.9) by Film School Rejects guy Neil Miller. He based his info listing about the project in Production Weekly.
I wrote some Dreamamount folks to see if the Greengrass story is true, but they haven’t responded. If it turns out to be so, great. Greengrass understands anger and radical politics in a way that Spielberg never could and never will. On top of which Greengrass is in his full-powers mode right now, and Spielberg’s best days are obviously behind him. (The first death knell was Always, the second was Amistad, and the third was when he decided to let Tom Cruise‘s teenaged kid live after diving into that alien battle in War of the Worlds.) Which is why Spielberg needs to be gently dissuaded from directing anything of a complex, adult or political nature ever again.
Which is why (not to beat a dead horse) he also needs to bail on the Abraham Lincoln project that he’s been avoiding for the last three or four years. I haven’t read Tony Kushner‘s screenplay, but the subject matter itself is way beyond Spielberg’s comfort zone (adolescent kid stuff, thrillers, aliens, Nazis.) If he directs it he’ll screw it up one way or the other — trust me. He has no natural gut investment in Lincoln, like he did when he made Schindler’s List. He really has become that 60ish bearded suburban guy poking around a high-end hardware store looking to buy weed killer.
Howard Deutch is by all accounts a very bright, likable and dependable fellow. But the words “directed by” above his name on a movie poster is not a good thing for people like myself. It’s an assurance, I’ve learned over the years, of a kind of middlebrow hacksmanship that always results in a feeling of being faintly drugged while watching one of his films. It also tends to lead to leaning forward in your seat, to placing your head in your hands and spreading your fingers apart and over your eyes, and to mild groaning and bathroom breaks.
On top of which I’ve had nothing but bad or underwhelming times with Dane Cook — the man is an animal, a three-toed sloth — and Kate Hudson has proven beyond a doubt that she has no taste in movies whatsover, Almost Famous being her one lucky fluke. I liked Jason Biggs in Woody Allen‘s Anything Else so I’d rather not bash at this point in time.
But of course, My Best Friend’s Girl (Lionsgate, 9.19) is aimed at the under-30 girlies who know zip about movies, who have nothing in the way of cultivated taste about anything except what kind of makeup to use, who don’t read reviews or online columns like this one, and who shriek and convulse with laughter when they get together in groups of three or four at Starbucks or Coffee Bean or Seattle’s Best.
Per suggestions from Apple, I updated the iTunes software and also the iPhone software. Except the iPhone update stalled — it kept trying to verify that the newly installed data was working — so I hit the restore button, and then that process stalled. So I called the Apple guys for “help”….hah! 45 minutes later the iPhone was unrestored and still unusable.
I now have a 3 pm appointment with the Genius guys at the Apple store at the Grove to try and get this stupid issue resolved. I have no choice but to do this. Thank you, Apple, for ruining 90 minutes of my morning, and causing me to lose another two hours this afternoon.
Aint It Cool‘s Massawyrm hates, loathes and despises Star Wars: The Clone Wars as much as Harry Knowles does, except Harry took his review down last night after Lucasfilm insisted that embargo review dates be respected. So if AICN is temporarily pulling its Clone punches, why is Massawyrm ripping it to pieces?
“Do the fanboys REALLY want a bunch of scenes of characters whose destinies we already know fly through a series of dogfights so their pretty ships can go PEWPEWPEW against lifeless moronic droids so incompetent you question the tenacity of anyone that would put them into service let alone fight a war with an army of them?,” he said in a posting that went up this morning at 9:12 am.
“Do the fanboys REALLY want to spend the next 20 years of their lives arguing that the movies they love don√Ç‚Äôt, in fact, suck the hair off of a nutless monkey?
“Do the fanboys REALLY want an animated television series not written for 30-year-old men, but easily amused 8 year olds on Saturday morning between bites of soggy Corn Puffs? Because that√Ç‚Äô’s what they√Ç‚Äôre fucking getting with The Clone Wars.
“This. Is. Shit-ty.”