The plug has been pulled on the 2010 CineVegas Film Festival, Indiewire‘s Peter Knegt reported earlier today. The Great Recession has turned Las Vegas into a City of Hard Times, and it would seem that festival chiefs Robin Greenspun and Trevor Groth were basically told “sorry, guys” by the Palms Resort & Casino, which has hosted the festival for the last several years. I could tell that the festival was trimming back slightly in ’08 and a bit more so last June. I hope that things rebound.
Cinemascope‘s Yair Raveh is reporting that the Israeli academy has chosen Yaron Shani and Scander Kobti‘s Ajami as the Israeli Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Feature. So that’s all she wrote Academy-hoopla-wise for Samuel Moaz‘s Lebanon, which Sony Classics recently acquired.
A just-announced winner of five awards at the Ophirs (i.e., the Israeli academy awards), Ajami is described by Raveh as “a gritty crime drama about Israeli and Arabs in the Ajami neighborhood in Jaffa.” The closing-night attraction in the Director’s Fortnight program in Cannes last May, Ajami won Ophirs this evening for Best Picture, direction, screenplay, editing and music. Lebanon was the second biggest winner with prizes for supporting actor, cinematography, production design and sound design.
With its supporter and friend Dick Cook out the door, Miramax Films is rumored to be in some jeopardy at Disney, according to L.A. Times entertainment reporter Claudia Eller. “Miramax has never appeared to be a priority for Disney CEO Bob Iger,” she writes, “nor does it fit his strategy to focus on Disney’s ‘branded’ mass entertainment,” etc. A studio spokesperson tells Eller “we have no plans to sell Miramax…as we have stated before, we continue to look at the best way to run our lines of businesses most efficiently.” In my experience rhetorical references to “efficiency” by management are usually cause for concern.
The reason Glenn Beck connects with his audience is not just his bulldog attitudes but that he blurts them out without editing. But when asked by Katie Couric to define what he meant by the term “white culture,” Beck had no choice but to shimmy all over the place.
If I were Beck in that moment I would have tried humorous deflection by referring Couric to a 1972 National Lampoon article called “Our White Heritage,” by Henry Beard, Michael O’Donoghue and George W. S. Trow. It appeared in issue #30.
Beck: “I’m not going to get into your sound byte gotcha game, which we already are. We already are.”
Katie: “No, actually, this is completely unedited, so if you felt like you wanted to explain it, you have all the time in the world.”
Katie: “No? Don’t want to go there? But basically, you stand behind your assertion, that in your view, President Obama is a racist?”
Beck: “I believe that Americans should ask themselves tough, tough questions. Americans should turn over all the rocks, and make their own decisions.”
The sight of a conspicuously planted product in a contemporary film is always jarring. It always says “the people who made this movie are on the take.” And yet brand names are inevitable in any contemporary setting. Products in a film should appear in the same way most products appear in real life, which is never in a way that pops out of the constant corporate stream-blur. My eyes glaze over when I see big-brand ads on a street or a billboard, and it shouldn’t be otherwise on a movie screen.
The attitude of the camera should always be, “Yeah, okay, a medium-sized Starbucks coffee is being sipped by the star of the film, but so what? Pay it no mind and listen to the dialogue.” It should be, at most, a tiny bit more than subliminal. Because once the appearance of a product registers, even for a second or two, the spell of the film is faintly disturbed because someone, you sense right away, has cut a deal.
I’m thinking about this because of what Brett Ratner said two days ago at an Advertising Age gathering about putting products into movies. The philosophy behind his company, Brett Ratner Brands, is to use “creativity and connectivity” and keep branding organic. Rather than trying to shoehorn a product into a scene, Ratner said the process needs to work the other way around, etc. But would Ratner even have a company like this or be talking to advertisers if he was really an advocate for keeping things sly and glancing and unobtrusive?
When did conspicuous product placement start appearing in films? I haven’t done the research but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was proven to have mainly begun in the ’80s, when TV executives began to migrate into producing features and running studios. Or in the ’90s, when the mentality of bottom-line corporate-think began to manifest more and more in films. I know that it was fairly unusual to spot a noticable brand of anything in movies of the ’70s.
“The American dream is not totally dead, but it’s dying pretty fast. We’re not in good shape. On bad mornings I wake up and think that we’re turning into a Latin American country. But on good mornings I think, well, this is America. We’ve always in the past managed to turn ourselves around, and there is an FDR just around the corner if we could only find him. I was kind of hoping Obama might be FDR, but maybe not.” — N.Y. Times columnist Paul Krugman speaking on last night’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
And Maher says in a 9.25 Huffington Post-ing: “I don’t care about the president’s birth certificate, I do want to know what happened to ‘Yes we can.’ Can we get out of Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. Fix health care? No. Close Gitmo? No. Cap-and-trade carbon emissions? No. The Obamas have been in Washington for ten months and it seems like the only thing they’ve gotten is a dog.”
There was a rumble a while back about Weinstein Co. theatrical chief Tom Ortenberg leaving the company, but it was flatly denied so I let it go. Yesterday his resignation (for “personal reasons”) was officially announced, on top of news that the company had cut loose another 35 employees on Wednesday. Ortenberg, a good guy, will be announcing a new business endeavor in two or three weeks, I’m told. Here’s a Wall Street Journal assessment of upcoming Weinstein Co. releases. Bottom line: Nine‘s gotta do it or else.
Released 13 years ago to considerable acclaim and home-run financial success, Jerry Maguire remains Cameron Crowe‘s finest film. It’s easily one of the most soulful and emotionally affecting movies about a troubled, emotionally-repressed, elite-business-class, fraying-at-the-edges white guy ever made. The writing is robust, sharp and knowing, the secondary characters are tangy and angular, and there’s still no question that it contains Tom Cruise‘s career-best performance.
But something in me slightly winced when N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott included two of the film’s three classic lines — “You had me at hello” and “You complete me” — in this Critics Pick video piece. (Thankfully he didn’t include “show me the money.”) Because as spirited and resonant as these lines seemed in ’96, they’ve been repeated to death since, and it’s pretty much impossible now to “let them in.”
Which is a way of saying that whenever a movie catches on too well with mall culture, something is gradually lost. Jerry Maguire will always sit on my DVD/Blu-ray shelf, but seeing it fresh at the Jimmy Stewart theatre on the Sony Studios lot a few weeks before it opened in early December ’96 was, for me, one of those truly special encounters that can never be re-lived or re-savored. It was what it was back then, but it became too popular and too sentimentally branded in a People magazine sense, and now it’s something else, which is to say an overplayed vinyl record. You can go home again by re-watching Jerry Maguire from time to time, but not really.
Which reminds me — whatever happened to Crowe’s Hawaiian “volcano romance” movie that Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon were going to costar in, but which was withdrawn for a rewrite/re-think?