On a scale of 1 to 10, the slime factor is….? I would have thought the McCain team would refrain from using “the One” now that it’s been officially outed as a racial…uhm, actually, I mean evangelical code term by David Gergen. Obviously they don’t care.
Summer blockbuster fatigue is so last month. As I noted a week or so ago, if you’re a journalist in the swing of screenings of new films, it’s basically the fall now. It’s after Labor Day, jacket weather, the Toronto Film Festival starting and fall foliage is just around the corner in Vermont. The Dumb Season is over and done with so why run a groan piece now?
“Why has the summer of 2008 seemed exhausting in a way previous summers haven’t?,” asks Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek. “The summer-movie season, which used to begin in June and would be finished by the last week of July, after the release of all the big ‘event’ movies, now begins in early May and is beginning to creep well into August — the movie equivalent of the endless presidential election season.”
“This year, it kicked off with one whimper (Speed Racer) and also with one bang (Iron Man). But the movies of summer 2008 seemed to become bigger, noisier, more ambitious and more expensive with each passing week. By the time The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor limped into theaters on Aug. 1st, trailing lots of sand and dead skin behind it, audiences could be forgiven for feeling fatigued.”
Dane Cook deserves points for fearlessly ripping into Lionsgate’s My Best Friend’s Girl poster on his MySpace page, and for being funny in the bargain. “Although I’m not a marketing major, I have a bit of a trusted reputation after 18 years [of] self promoting,” he begins. “I’d like to inform you I had no say in this marketing campaign, but if I did, things would be different since it is obvious that this poster is boring / odd and has zero to do with the movie I performed in.
“Here are a few things that truly blow about my upcoming movie poster to promote the release of the film opening on September 19th:
“1. Graphics: Whoever photoshopped our poster must have done so at taser point with 3 minutes to fulfill their hostage takers’ deranged obligations. They should have called Donnie Hoyle and had him give a tutorial using ‘You Suck at Photoshop’ templates. This is so glossy it makes Entertainment Weekly look wooden.
“2. My head: The left side of my face seems to be melting off of my skull. I guess I am looking directly into the Ark of the Covenant? Are they going for the bells palsy thing here? My left side looks like Brittany [sic] Spears’ vagina. [It’s spelled Britney.]
“3. The Stare: My character apparently has fallen in love with a strand of Kate Hudson‘s hair. Kate’s mannequin is desperately in love with the inside of my right ear while Jason Biggs is half stunned, half corsage.
“4. Lips: It looks like I’m wearing Maybelline Water Shine Diamonds Liquid Lipstick. My character’s name is now Winter Solstice and I’m a hooker with a heart of gold. Jason is my floral carrying pimp, while Kate is my first trick!
“5. Fashion: My character is sporting a very high collar. I mean, damn they should be snow capped at that altitude. It’s going for the vampire lurking in the castle basement vibe. An Olympic pole vaulter would have a tough go clearing that collar. I’m also able to turn my head comfortably 180 degrees, because I was raised in an abandoned barn by a family of owls.”
“It’s sort of edgy territory, but we felt that as long as the focus was on the actors who were trying to do something to be taken seriously that’s going too far or wrong, that was where the humor would come from. [The joke is on] actors reaching for roles in terms of hopefully winning awards.” — Tropic Thunder star, director and co-writer Ben Stiller, speaking to MTV.com about the hoo-hah raised by handicapped groups over the film’s allegedly offensive “retard” jokes.
Jack Black, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr. at last night’s Tropic Thunder premiere. For some reason I was 90% certain that Downey wasn’t wearing a moustache at the Thunder press junket nine or ten days ago. I spent over 15 minutes trying to ascertain this, and I finally found a DreamWorks publicist who told me straight from the shoulder that I was mistaken.
I am very frankly not looking forward to contemplating Mickey Rourke‘s face when I get around to see Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler, which will be the closing-night attraction of the upcoming New York Film Festival. The guy used to be an acting God in the ’80s, but he’s had so much work done that there’s almost an instinct to turn away and look elsewhere when he appears in something. On my part, at least. And he used to be beautiful in a rugged, battered-Brando sort of way.
I was listening to this as I was writing and reading other stuff — half-listening, half-paying attention — and I was starting to go mad. Mad! You need to keep the energy cranked and you need to ask th0ughtful questions when you talk to smart and beautiful actresses, but a vibe in a hotel room that is all about “ho-ho!, you’re so fascinating!, so interesting!, so funny!, I never knew that!” etc., is just God-awful. I speak with guilt on my head as one who has conducted interviews along these lines, so I’m not pointing fingers.
I need a quieter, Charlie Rose-type vibe or I really can’t take it. There is nothing more oppressive or tyrannical in life than a shared feeling that the things have to stay up and perky no matter what. If you do it for too long you just want to shoot yourself.
I am a strict Roman Catholic as far as movies are concerned. To me this means that the spirit of the form — the poetry, the art, the highs, the transcendence, the sublime craft aspects, the things I’ll remember about them until my dying day and perhaps even beyond — is what matters above all. Roman Catholics don’t “like” or “enjoy” movies; they need them like food and sex and air. No idol-worshipping, no cheap crap. Total committment to the cloth.
The rest of what constitutes life in this town — the personalities, the advertising income, the politics, the unions, the arguments, the nuts and bolts, the begging — eat up much or most of our time, and are obviously necessary to keep the ball in the air and the wheels turning, but if you don’t have that Roman Catholic blood to begin with, you’re not really “of the spirit” and you’re basically just leeching off the passion of others.
The leechers are the Philistines, of course, and they, I believe, are the ones who have 90% or 95% of the big-studio jobs and almost all the jobs in the talent agencies and the big p.r. agencies. Some of my best friends are Philistines, but the cancer that’s plaguing this industry today is directly attributable to the fact that there are way too many Philistines in too many positions of power today. All they seem to recognize or respond to are remakes and cheap highs and CGI and fast money. If Irving Thalberg or Dore Schary or even Daryl F. Zanuck were to come back to earth and take a reading of this town as it really is right now, they’d be appalled. They’d be staggering around and holding their throats.
Say what you will about Harvey Weinstein, but he’s a Catholic through and through. How many serious Catholic producers do we have these days? Bob Berney is a Catholic; so are Michael Barker and Tom Benard; so are Eammon Bowles and John Sloss. There are several Catholic publicists out there (Fredel Pogodin, Michael Lawson, Melody Korenbrot, etc.), but they’re very much in the minority. Certainly if you include the ones who personally represent talent. Catholic studio execs are even fewer and farther between. Nina Jacobson was one. Michael London may have been one all along, but he didn’t seem to really walk and talk Catholic until he left his big-studio job with 20th Century Fox. Who else?
Is Quentin Tarantino a Philistine or a Catholic? He obviously began as a Catholic, but now? With plans to make Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! with Britney Spears? (Which I can’t wait to see, I’m ashamed to say.)
I’m saying this because a friend of some decades who knows the big-studio psychology backwards and forwards said last weekend that the big-studio guys are so completely Philistine in their attitudes that it isn’t funny any more. They’re a completely cloistered culture, and their values haven’t taken them any farther than caring about the next quarterly earnings report and the bonuses that will result from this. They don’t give a damn about anything except fortifying themselves, and they regard serious Catholics the way ancient Romans used to regard Christians in the days of Androcles and the Lion — as if they’re slightly touched in the head.
The climate in the big studios has always been predatory (ask Budd Schulberg or Rod Serling about that) but these days it’s really about “get yours and cash out” and too bad about the smell of lizard or elephant farts in your wake. To these guys a Catholic life is for simps and suckers. If you ask me the souls of big-studio Philistines are reflected or perhaps embodied in the absolute spiritual emptiness of so many big-ass movies today.
My friend said that corporate Philistines know only one thing — fear. Not just fear about what movies to make, but about the generational-values divide between the boomers and older GenXers and the under-35 YouTube/gamer/comic-book generation, whose leaders have their own way of perceiving the culture and have fashioned their own spiritual-religious creeds that they live and work by.
One result is that experienced filmmakers — particularly those over 45 or 50 — are terrified that they might one day be regarded as clueless or redundant by the up-and-coming YouTubers, and so they’re scampering to the tune of terror being played by the 45-and-older big-studio execs. And it’s hell — it’s an atmosphere made in hell because nobody knows what to say or do. Fear has always been an undercurrent in this town, but the vibe has reached breathtaking new levels in the 21st Century.
The Independent‘s David Usborne has written the latest piece about Jon Voight having become a kind-of poster boy for right-wing, “Friends of Abe” Hollywood, with of course a requisite mention of yours truly for that comment that I’m sick of trying to explain to the right-wing morons who don’t want to hear the specific, rational-minded truth to begin with.
A torrent of fresh hate-mails began pouring in yesterday (“you are a third rate little creep…you are eloi”) after Voight did his guest shot on The O’Reilly Factor. Here’s a portion of a transcript of what was said:
Bill O’Reilly: “Jon Voight wrote an op. ed for the Washington Times saying he didn’t trust obama on foreign policy issues among other things. We talked to [Jeffrey] Wells a few days agoand he denied that was a threat but it sure sounded like one. Joining us from Los Angeles is Jon Voight. I told Mr. Wells, this is exactly the same thing that happened in the 50’s when people who were left leaning were called Communist and blacklisted from the entertainment industry. Now what he wrote and what i have heard others say is that conservative actors run the risk of not being hired. Do you believe that?”
Jon Voight: “Well, let’s hope not, Bill. Of course, i had many friends among those people who were blacklisted and a very dark time for Hollywood. i don’t think anybody wants to go back to that. Just, you
know…all i can think of is that this fellow is a little out of line and hopefully he will recover his senses.
O’Reilly: Okay, but, you know, by putting yourself out there as a Mccain supporter and criticizing Barack Obama that this isn’t going to play very well in Hollywood. You are outnumbered about 100 to one out there.”
Voight: “I was doing an interview a couple of days ago and somebody was just very surprised that they had a conservative in Hollywood, and which is really, of course, it’s quite — it’s humorous on the one hand because obviously this is a democracy. We require dialogue and interaction and you need to have free speech and competing ideas in order for us to be healthy and grow.”
O’Reilly: “You are a little bit more outspoken. It is an emotional situation with Barack Obama. It isn’t like Kerry or Gore. It’s very emotional. and that’s what I saw from Mr. Wells, the Hollywood blogger. he admitted he got mad that you were criticizing his guy because some people, the sensitive community, but they have so much emotion tied into Barack Obama. And then in your Washington Times article you pretty much said ‘hey, look, I don’t believe the guy has got the chops to go up against the terrorists who want to kill us.’ That’s not an emotional argument. That takes it out of the emotional range.”
Yesterday 23/6 posted a mildly amusing fake interview piece with John Edwards‘ ex-girlfriend (and possibly the mother of his child) Rielle Hunter. The original footage came from an “Extra” interview session in which Hunter discussed her campaign “webisodes.” Basic truths are revealed, if you ask me. She seems a little off-the-ground. Not the brightest bulb. Certainly not the most educated. (Hey, 23/6 — what’s with the embedded video code? I pasted it down and a dead screen came up saying “no videos available”?)
Four embryonic newsorgs-slash-websites with a Hollywood foundation will be elbowing their way into the mix over the next several months, which of course will make the entertainment news world seem more zippy and exciting and at the same time increase the ad-dollar competition…great. A new Nikki Finke-ish type deal with a staff, a presumably edgy new media-gamer site and two would-be HuffPo hybrids vacuuming left and right. And all four digesting, regurgitating and adding their particular views of the Big Flashy Altogether.
(l. to.r.) Sharon Waxman, Raf Atali, Tina Brown, Bonnie Fuller.
The key element is (a) how much original content, (b) how clear and engaging will their attitude/voice be, and (c) how vigorously will they cover on a 24-7 basis? Running a news/opinion site means one thing for sure, and that’s an absence of any kind of well-nurtured, well-rounded, smell-the-roses lifestyle. It’s like managing a salt mine. If you don’t file on Saturday, don’t bother filing on Sunday.
The most intriguing (or threatening) from my vantage point is Sharon Waxman‘s The Wrap, which will launch in January 2009. Claiming that there’s “a gaping space on the entertainment landscape for smart, sophisticated news and analysis,” she’s raised$500 grand in seed money and is hiring a small staff.
Waxman & Friends intend to bang out original stories and analysis pieces that will compete with the trades, Patrick Goldstein, the New York “Vulture” guys, myself, Anne Thompson, David Poland, Nikki Finke, Stu Van Airsdale‘s dry Defamer postings, the guys at MTV.com, Kris Tapley, Sasha Stone, etc. The more the merrier, right?
Then there’s Rafat Ali‘s Inside.com, a quasi-revival of the titanically-failed entertainment website of yore, funded this time by Guardian Media and intended to cover “gaming and traditional media in addition to digital media.” Wait a minute…gaming? Ali seems to be focusing on a slightly different world than my own. (How many really good gaming sites are at the top of the heap right now? A dozen? Less?)
There’s also Tina Brown‘s The Beast, which “will aggregate news and culture”with “the backing of Barry Diller‘s InterActiveCorp.,” according to Variety‘s Anne Thompson. I think that means a HuffPo thing with an entertainment slant minus original content.
There’s also an upcoming Bonnie Fuller site aimed at women — presumably another outlet for her celebrity-driven, lower-than-low, girly-girl way of processing the entertainment realm — that she’s “still seeking funding for,” says Thompson.
Question: given the decreasing literacy levels out there as well as the instant-gratification, downward-swirl of pop culture these days, how many under-30s are hungering for another website with “smart, sophisticated news and analysis”? Does anyone “do” sophisticated any more? How will “sophisticated” play with the bulky man-beard guys who wear sandals and long shorts and backwards baseball caps?