Last night I scored a copy of the opening episode of Bill Condon and Cynthia Mort‘s Tilda — a recent draft with the words “Tilda_April” on the top left corner. The cat ran out of the bag eight days ago, of course, when Hollywood Reporter columnist Matthew Belloni ran a combination review and legal assessment piece based on a reading of a February first draft, so there’s nothing to say that’s strictly mine except to call it hugely entertaining and so on. I’ll elaborate in a sec.
(l. to r.) Nikki Finke, Diane Keaton, Patrick Goldstein
Tilda is a forthcoming HBO series about a Nikki Finke-ish Hollywood blogger that will star Diane Keaton and costar Ellen Page. An HBO spokesperson told Belloni that ‘”the script is a fictional composite and not based on any one person.” Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. The Tilda Watski character is Finke, Finke, Finke all the way. Belloni was spot-on when he said the show should be called Toldja! instead of Tilda.
There’s also a Los Angeles Times reporter called Brian Sheen. He’s Tilda’s chief competitor for Hollywood scoops and not above a little scheming and maneuvering to compromise Tilda where it hurts (i.e., by revealing her past and probing her personal weaknesses) or at least head her off at the pass. This guy, up and down and in every possible way save for living in Silver Lake rather than Brentwood and not having a Jewish last name, is L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein.
On 4.22 Goldstein wrote about what he’d heard about the project, although he hadn’t read the actual script.
My reactions after reading the Tilda script, tapped out before going to bed around 1 am:
“What a brilliant and hilarious high-calorie, action-packed half-hour! Seriously…fucking delicious! Okay, maybe I’m prejudiced because it takes place in my figurative back yard, but it’s obviously going to be hard to keep the quality at this level for show after show.
“Action- and plot-turn-wise this easily could have been an hour-long episode. There’s a certain tempo and breadth and breathing-space element to an hour-long show (like The Sopranos, say) , and Tilda is much faster and tighter, like a caffeinated Entourage. Condon and Mort have honed it down so that every line and every beat counts.
“Whatsername is going to be totally delighted with this. She’s depicted as J.J. Hunsecker, and this show is a helter-skelter Left Coast Sweet Smell of Success meets The Player meets The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
“I mean, my God…they’ve got her having sex with someone! Not to mention smoking pot and drinking wine.
“I hope or trust they’re developing a Sidney Falco– or Anne Baxter in All About Eve-type character. Someone who’s even more craven than Tilda, or someone who’s trying to secretly undermine her while pretending to be loyal, etc. Hungrier and more desperate. If they’re not, they should.
“What’s the rat metaphor about? I’m still mulling that one over.”
Belloni wondered if Finke might sue HBO for the sheer monetary pleasure of it. The way to avoid this, of course, would be for HBO to obtain Finke’s life rights. They did the same thing with Entourage‘s Ari Gold character by obtaining clearance from WME’s Ari Emanuel. And yet Belloni reports, bizarrely, that “the net says it isn’t working with Finke.”
Belloni remarked that Finke “has to be smart enough to realize that a TV show based at least in part on her would help expose her unique brand of journalism to a much wider audience, right?” Not necessarily. But then again, maybe.
A longstanding policy at a certain studio has been to provide certain producers and production companies with box-office tracking reports as a courtesy. No big deal, been happening for ages. This morning the following e-mail was received from studio management: “Due to the ongoing debate about the potential trading of Movie Futures, [studio name] has instituted a policy that no one without a studio e-mail address will be receiving tracking reports from this department. Thank you for your understanding.” Thank you , Cantor Fitzgerald LP!
Julie Bertucelli’s The Tree, a drama about grief recovery and spiritual family nourishment, will be shown in Cannes following the closing ceremony on Sunday, 5.23. The Australian-based film, costarring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Martin Csokas and Aden Young, is an adaptation of Judy Pascoe‘s Our Father Who Art in the Tree.
It goes without saying, I presume, that Bill Condon allegedly agreeing to direct the final Twilight movie — i.e., Breaking Dawn — sounds weird. Like he’s slumming, I mean. We all have to keep body and soul together and I wish him the best. Maybe he can make something more out of a franchise that everyone turned on last November when New Moon was seen. It’s been rumored that the latest one, Eclipse, also smells.
To me, Gregg Kinnear signing to play President John F. Kennedy in an allegedly right-wing-friendly History Channel miniseries called The Kennedys means one of two things.
One, Kinnear isn’t all that worried about liberal Hollywood establishment types frowning at this decision, which some are certain to do. Or two, he really needs the work and is willing to risk offending those (like Robert Greenwald and former Kennedy confidante Theodore Sorenson) who’ve sounded alarms about the tone and political leanings of the forthcoming epic.
Rabid conservative Joel Surnow is exec producing The Kennedys. The screenplay has been written by Steve Kronish while Jon Cassar will direct. Kronish and Cassar are alums of the right-wing-minded 24, which Surnow co-created. A History Channel spokesperson told Daily Variety‘s Michael Schneider that that the mini’s script “is currently being annotated and vetted by History’s resident historians.”
Katie Holmes is also on-board, presumably hired to play Jackie Kennedy. Barry Pepper and Tom Wilkinson will also costar.
Update: Yesterday afternoon (4.28) L.A. Times columnist/blogger Patrick Goldstein claimed to have read “the scripts” (he doesn’t say how many) and concluded that they’re “pretty impressive, and certainly well within the bounds of propriety, especially considering the reams of conspiratorial, often sleazy revisionist histories that have been written about JFK’s womanizing and the Kennedy family dysfunction. The casting of Kinnear as JFK also makes it hard to believe that Surnow is doing a hatchet job, since if Kinnear is anything, judging from most of his roles, he is the epitome of someone who represents middle-American decency and idealism.”
Part Two of Robert Welkos‘ article about Hollywood Blogger Wars, subtitled “Crackpot Ratings – Nikki Finke, Sharon Waxman, David Poland, Jeffrey Wells” — went up last night. Poland is deemed the crackpot-wackiest (i.e., level 5), followed by the equally-rated Harry Knowles, Tom O’Neil and Sharon Waxman (level 4) and then myself (level 3), and then Scott Feinberg and Sasha Stone (level 2) and finally Nikki Finke (level 1).
Wait — Finke is the least crackpotty blogger-columnist of everyone in the front lines?
Significant excerpt: “As for the Hollywood blogosphere, the sad truth is that no matter how many cutting edge directors Anne Thompson of IndieWire fawns over at Cannes, or Kristopher Tapley of In Contention handicaps the Oscar race (Up in the Air breaks out of the gate and into the lead, and Precious is charging hard along the rail at the quarter-mile pole…on the backstretch, it’s Inglourious Basterds weaving through traffic…into the far turn, it’s Avatar pulling away by 24 lengths, and it’s The Hurt Locker winning by a nose!…), they will never get the eyeballs that Perez Hilton, who draws horns on Kate Gosselin and writes headlines like ‘Chelsea Handler Makes Us Pee Pee!’
“Still, you can’t ignore these bloggers. They’re growing more influential by the day, while setting Old Media back on its heels.”
In a USA Today piece about Robert Redford‘s The Conspirator, Anthony Breznican says it “follows the race to hunt down the small band of Confederate sympathizers” who helped plot to murder President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet.
And yet Breznican decides against mentioning what I reported on 4.16 after reading James Solomon‘s Conspirator script, which is that (a) the plot and the chase are handled in flashbacks and (b) the basic plotline of The Conspirator involves a young attorney (James McAvoy) being reluctantly assigned to defend Mary Surratt in her conspiracy trial.
“The main arc belongs to McAvoy,” I explained. “He starts out actively hostile, but comes to see that Surratt has been wrongly charged. But Penn, it appears, will provide the lump-in-the-throat moments.” Redford hedges with Breznican about Surratt’s guilt or innocence, but the script I read seemed fairly resolved about the matter — i.e., she may have been circumstantially guilty in a sense, but she basically got a bum rap.
Then Breznican says a curiously hostile thing — he describes the film as “Law & Order: Civil War Unit.” Which is basically a way of saying “perhaps this movie isn’t so hot with no distributor and all…it seems to me like it might be a little tepid and formuliac, kind of like a TV series.”
I didn’t detect any hint in the piece that Breznican had read Solomon’s script, so why didn’t he do so if he’s going to describe it for his readers? Solomon’s script didn’t feel to me like any Law and Order-type procedural, I can tell you. What I read felt like solid first-rate material — “a sturdily-written, high-calibre thing,” as I said on 4.16. “And there’s no missing the grace and gravitas woven into Surratt’s character.”
Breznican sounds like a bright youngish guy (which he is) half-dismissing the work of a much older guy from another era who hasn’t directed a really good film since 1994’s Quiz Show, and implying that Redford is possibly over the hill. That’s how it read to me, at least. The young getting onto the old.
Due respect paid to Award Daily‘s Sasha Stone, who posted this Allocine-generated clip from Woody Allen‘s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger before me. It’s not much, fairly standard, etc. Obviously Antonio Banderas is thinking about doing the nasty with Naomi Watts and vice versa.
Last night I finally saw Michael Winterbottom‘s The Killer Inside Me. It’s not a “bad” film, but the savage beatings of Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson are certainly sickening and easy to loathe. Most of the audience was in a lousy mood to begin with because the stars arrived so late and spent so much time on the red carpet that the film started 45 minutes late, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch to tip over into animosity.
On top of which I was strongly rooting for Casey Affleck‘s chilly-eyed psychopathic lawman to get caught, especially with his mumbled Texas accent making at least half of what he said indecipherable, which goaded me into wishing it would all end sooner rather than later.
I know the game that this movie is playing. It’s saying “are you going to be a moral milquetoast and take offense at some deeply offensive depictions of violence, or are you going to be cool and get beyond that?” To hell with that game. I am not and never will be cool when it comes to films of this sort, and I’m rather proud of that fact. And I don’t care how milquetoasty that makes me sound.
This isn’t some icky piece of exploitation or some Eli Roth butcher movie. Winterbottom has gone down the wrong path here, but he’s an accomplished director who deserves basic respect. The problem is that The Killer Inside Me is fairly flat and mundane except for the beating scenes and, okay, maybe one or two of the sex scenes. It isn’t especially scary or humorous or suspenseful or thrilling — I know that much. All it allows you to do, really, is wallow in repulsion. Okay, repulsion mixed with amazement.
Just because Winterbottom and co-screenwriter John Curran have closely adhered to the original Jim Thompson novel doesn’t mean it has some special integrity badge. All this means is that they’ve closely adhered to the original Jim Thompson novel, and so what? Thompson is renowned as a great pulp-noir writer, yes, and this movie will make whatever sense of decency you carry around in your heart melt into stomach bile and leak out your anus and dribble down your leg.
All any of this means is that various producers managed to raise the cash on the names of the three stars, and IFC decided to distribute and here we all are with Jessica Alba’s pus and mucus and blood splattered all over our laps….what did we do to deserve this?
I’m amazed, really amazed, that the producers of this thing — Chris Hanley, Andrew Eaton and Bradford L. Schlei along with exec producers Lilly Bright, Chad Burris, Randolf S. Mendelsohn, Jordan Gertner and Fernando Sulichin, co-executive producer Tricia Vam Klaveren and co-producer Susan Kirr — thought it might actually generate interest or sell tickets. Well, it did generate interest on the part of the super-ballsy IFC Films, and it’ll probably sell tickets to the nocturnal Quasimodo types.
Anyone who sees The Killer Inside Me and says to a friend or a girlfriend, “Hey, I want to take you to this cool new noir about this mumbly Texas cop who shuffles around and beats his mistress and his wife to death when things boil to a head”…the person who wants this film to be seen by others is extremely hip and fundamentally diseased. They are a carrier of some kind of spiritual plague with really, really sophisticated taste buds….ooh, yeah.
I suppose that’s a kind of selling point if you want to be perverse about it. I don’t know if it’s an Antichrist-type thing, but maybe it is. The problem is that it’s not sick-funny — no talking fox, no afterbirth. Maybe IFC could go with a slogan that says “are you fucked up enough to want to see The Killer Inside Me?” Hey, I know — maybe the Criterion Collection could release a Killer DVD sometime next fall? Get some high-falutin’ Lincoln Center-affiliated film snob to write the liner notes. The Criterion guys, trust me, are perverse enough. Because you really do need to be a terminal film dweeb and suffering from lupus of the soul to “enjoy” a film like this.
It was clear during the Glenn Kenny-moderated q & a that the audience was doing everything it could do to suppress its dislike of the film for the sake of politeness. I wasn’t convulsing with hatred for this thing, although I was certainly sickened. Here’s the irony: I had heard and read so many ugly warnings that Killer failed to live up to expectations. I was saying to myself, “Gee, this isn’t that disgusting. Well, it is but I’m able to watch it with a certain dispassion. I thought I was going to be retching in the aisles.”
Screen International‘s David D’Arcy wrote last January that Winterbottom’s “staggeringly violent” adaptation of Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel “reaches a new extreme in the cinematic depiction of a psychopathic murderer. It is hard to watch — and for some will be impossible — regardless of any psychological logic behind its many killings. Audiences up to their ears in serial killers may enter this film thinking they already know them all. Winterbottom will prove them wrong.”
The video below the first paragraph is actually part 2 but I ran it first because it leads off with Affleck talking about why he wanted to do the film. He basically said that he was impressed by the fact that both the Thompson novel and the screen adaptation offered a psychological explanation for his character’s murderous acts. Hudson decided to do the film, apparently, because she hasn’t made a quality film along the lines of Almost Famous in ten years and her name is synonymous with “empty formulaic chick flick” so she figured what the hell, do an artistically downbeat film for a change. I don’t know why Alba agreed to do this, but I’ll bet she regrets it on some level.