Tomorrow’s Star is reporting that Al and Tipper Gore‘s marriage broke up because Al has been doing the nasty with Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David, the ex-wife of Larry David, for the last two years. Most guys would say this wasn’t too bad a deal for Fat Al, considering the hotness gap between Tipper and Laurie. The story also, if true, “humanizes” Al — he’s been seen all his life as a bit of a stiff. It’s also a Hollywood-seduces-Washington story if I ever saw one.
The story may be bogus — N.Y. Daily News reporter Helen Kennedy reports that “Gore’s friends called the story utter nonsense” and Laurie David’s rep is also denying — but at least it sounds like a recognizable human scenario, which is more than you could say for the initial reports that the Gores were splitting up because they’d simply “grown apart.”
If the Al-and-Laurie thing is accurate, I’d like a little credit for writing eight days ago that “older couples don’t break up unless one of the parties is seriously fed up and wants out…something has to be pretty damn intolerable to upset a comfortable 40 year-old apple cart. And most of the time — let’s face it — it’s about the husband wanting to pick up that spear and feel like a hunter again.”
The Enquirer‘s report on the matter allegedly “blame[s] Tipper’s unfounded suspicions of affairs,” according to Kennedy’s story. “Tipper’s jealousy was putting stress on their marriage” and “Al finally told her their relationship was over because he couldn’t stand her jealous rages anymore.”
That’s so Warren Beatty-in-Town and Country if the Star story is true. Guys who are guilty of catting around usually follow Lenny Bruce‘s advice — deny it, deny it, deny it. The devious ones always turn it around and try to blame the trouble on the jealous wife.
A director-writer whom I’ve known for 16 or 17 years began telling me in the early aughts that the quality of the producers and studio-based film executives he was dealing with in terms of intellectual heft and seasoning and life experience had plummeted sharply. The guys getting behind this or that project didn’t know anything except how to be blustery and obsequious and predatory, he used to say, and “they’re getting worse by the minute. They’re fools…I used to think the ’90s generation was bad but these guys are ridiculous.”
Which is why I found this 6.15 Claude Brodesser “Vulture” piece about the alleged return of (i.e., purported interest in) original ideas so hilarious.
“Conventional wisdom in Hollywood of late has said that you should stick to familiar brands when making movies. It could be a sequel or an adaptation of an old TV show, board game, toy, or crumpled candy wrapper, just as long as people already know it. So how’s that working out?
“In a summer season where only three out of the fourteen major releases so far have come from a new idea, attendance is down 13.3 percent from last season. Even with The Karate Kid‘s surprise bounty, box-office revenue is down 7.5 percent, according to the National Association of Theater Owners…and that is skewed more by 3-D gouging than anything else: Since the summer of 2009, ticket prices have actually gone up 8 percent.
“That’s why studio execs at Warner Bros., Paramount/DreamWorks, and Universal are now madly pinging agents and managers with an uncharacteristic, desperate, and welcome request: Send us your fresh material!
“‘We’re on a lot of calls with people at the highest level [of production], and they’re just nervous,” one agent tells Vulture. ‘They’ve been telling us, ‘We have our movies for next year, but attendance is down, so, guys, you know what? Get us the original material. We need some original shit, because now our bosses are on us.'”
“It’s no wonder panic is in the air, considering how moviegoers are rebelling.
“‘[Moviegoers] are feeling marketed to as opposed to catered to,” says JC Spink, a partner in the management and production company Benderspink and one of the executive producers of last summer’s surprise original hit, The Hangover. “I think we’ve all gone a little bit overboard as an industry. There hasn’t been room for original material for a little while now. It’s a shame, because I don’t think it’s what anyone [who works in the business] came out here for.”
I wrote my director-writer friend about this whole thing, and he said the following in his reply: “I do remember that in the year 2000 I said something to you about this issue, to the effect that Hollywood decision makers are ‘getting dumber and shallower by the minute.’ Well, Jeff, approximately 5,256,000 minutes have transpired since June, 2000. Does that give you an idea as to the state of things?”
I too believe that Barack Obama’s oil-spill speech this evening at 8 pm is as important to his Presidency as his Reverent Wright speech in Philadelphia was to his campaign. The country has experienced something akin to a 9/11 reaction to the spill, and tonight may be Obama’s last chance to stand up and be FDR or LBJ and look the corporates in the eye and say “enough of this…BP isn’t handling it to our satisfaction and we’re taking the reins.”
My sense all along is that Obama hasn’t wanted the apparatus of government to seem overly assertive by wresting the controls from British Petroleum for fear of the right-wing crazies calling him a big-government socialist. It’s not quite that cut-and-dried, perhaps. I understand that there’s no magic-bullet solution to a hugely complex technical problem.
But I know that Obama has this annoying tendency to be thoughtful, conciliatory and mild-mannered, and that he’s got something in him that hates going eyeball-to-eyeball with adversaries. And that “mild-mannered” doesn’t get it this time because there’s been an appalling lack of coordination all along in this effort.
Obama really does need to “send in the troops,” so to speak, in order to coordinate the effort to somehow plug BP’s underwater gusher and tell those “drill baby drill” nutters that corporate power in this country has become arrogant, poisonous and psychopathic, and that enough is enough.
“The Deepwater Horizon tragedy will rival or eclipse health insurance reform as one of the life-altering events of the Obama era,” Peter Daou, a HuffPost op-ed contributor, recently wrote. “This, the greatest man-made environmental disaster in our history, is the mother of wake-up calls.”
I’ve been so exhausted a couple of times that I’ve been barely able to stand, but even in my most sleep-deprived state I could have held it together, I think, in a room full of people and press while listening to Sen. John McCain speak in front of TV cameras. I would have somehow gotten through that and then collapsed in a nearby hallway or the bathroom.
“We are in the midst of a profound cinematic change,” N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis wrote about 25 days ago, in the immediate aftermath of Cannes, in an article called “Cinematic Change and the End of Film.” Yeah, change hurts — it feels scary, traumatic — but I’m fairly happy with most of today’s digital makeovers. Not entirely, of course, but you can’t have everything perfect.
Dargis was repeating a familiar lament about celluloid’s vinyl-like delivery system — the technology and mythology of cameras and projectors, splicing tape and editing tables and skanky projection booths, Xenon and carbon-arc lamps, eight-at-the-gate and that little ding-ding-ding sound when a reel is about to expire — giving way to digital shooting (Monte Hellman and the Canon 5D Mark II!) and digital projection — i.e., the equivalent of CD/mp3/iTunes. And implying that the film-treasuring culture that was born, grew and thrived under celluloid is being somehow altered or undermined, and that this makes Dargis feel funny.
I get that. I don’t like the feeling of ground moving under my feet any more than the next guy. But what exactly will we be losing with the gradual evaporation of celluloid and all of that Thomas Alva Edison-era technology with it?
Not all that much, really. Because today’s theatrical presentations are much, much better today than they were in the bad old analog days, for the most part. It’s not pleasant to recall all those dozens and dozens of times that I would complain to theatre managers in the ’70s and ’80s about movies being shown with weak illumination or with the wrong aperture plate in the projector or with sound that was so tinny or muffled that I had to cup my ears to hear the dialogue. That still happens occasionally, but not as much as it used to.
And because an enterprising filmmaker can shoot and present a movie in the fashion of Two-Lane Blacktop or Breathless or The Outfit or The Big Heat even, if he/she is so inclined. If you want to make a film that looks and projects as if Fritz Lang or ’60s-era Sam Peckinpah or Samuel Fuller shot it, a filmmaker can do that quite easily after capturing his/her film digitally. They just have to be careful not to allow those tell-tale digital photography signs (those “splotches of yellow in white images” that Dargis speaks of, or those inky splotches of digital blacks and blues that appear when deep shadows are part of the compositions).
I’m not saying I know for a fact that you could go out to Spain’s rugged country and the Jordanian desert and re-shoot a new Lawrence of Arabia that would contain the same exquisite 70mm values that the original 1962 film had, but I’m persuaded that you can almost capture the same thing with digital cameras these days, and that the cameras that’ll be available three or five years hence will be able to do an even better job of it.
90% if not 95% of the films I’ve seen projected the old way over the last ten years or so have not impressed me. With my fervor for film and reasonable journalistic access, I’ve experienced and been delighted by top-grade celluloid projections at first-rate houses for the last 25 years or so. But the general public has never experienced this level of projection. A relatively small culture of cinefans watch new and older films at places like the Academy theatre or the Steven Ross theatre on the Warner Bros. lot or the Arclight or the American Cinematheque in Hollywood or Santa Monica, but Joe and Jane Popcorn have never been invited and probably wouldn’t show if they were.
But now, due to digital, viewers in Bumblefuck, Colorado, are seeing films that look much brighter and sharper with rich and precise sound.
Every other time I see a classic film projected at the Film Forum (which Dargis praises for informing its patrons whether or not they’re seeing a real film or a digitally-projected image that isn’t, she says, much different than showing a Bluray disc) I feel mildly irked and let down. The image isn’t sharp or clean enough, the sound is muffled or squawky, and the black-and-white films, instead of presenting that silvery velvety sheen, look murky or sludgy. I hated the way Preston Sturges ‘ Christmas in July looked and sounded when I saw it there last fall. Ditto Nicholas Ray‘s Bigger Than Life, which I enjoyed much more when I watched it on Bluray at home.
So I’m sorry but the big changeover, from my perspective and on balance, isn’t that bad a thing.
As L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein has reported, producer Cotty Chubb is delighted that Unthinkable, a torture-the-terrorist melodrama with Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Sheen and Carrie Ann Moss, is the hottest flick of the moment in terms of searches by IMDB users, but also pissed and flabbergasted that a stolen copy of the film has been watched illegally by God-knows-how-many-thousands since it appeared last month.
DVDs and Blurays of Unthinkable are purchasable online and in stores today, but did the scumbag community (pirates and downloaders alike) wound the goose before it was hatched? Or will the online exposure led to increased DVD/Bluray sales?
The usual response is to claim that the scurvies who illegally download movies are never going to pay for a DVD/Bluray — it’s just not in their blood — but a film that’s become a hot topic due to online exposure will sometimes benefit when it becomes legally available. But has this ever been statistically proven or indicated? Did Michael Moore‘s decision to release Sicko for free result in better-than-expected home video sales? I’m asking.
“I always saw [Unthinkable] as a ticking-bomb movie,” Chubb tells Goldstein. “The one time we previewed it in Pasadena, positioning it as a suspense picture starring Sam Jackson, basically saying, ‘How far would you go to defend your country?’ we recruited 350 people and turned away another 250 at the theater. That told me it was a picture people would go to see.”
“So I’ve been unbelievably torn over the whole thing. It’s tremendous to see that our IMDB user rating is 7.3, which is the highest rating of any movies in the current Top 10. But on the other hand, while everyone is debating all these important moral questions, I want to ask them another important question — hey, guys, what about the morality of watching this movie on the internet for free?
Goldstein includes a condensed version of a statement Chubb made on the IMDB message board:
“I’ve heard a lot of reasons why streaming or downloading movies is a good idea, why everyone concerned should be happy with the attention (and in fact I am grateful for it), and how it’s the new real world, but I haven’t heard how the folks that paid for the picture are supposed to make their money back.
“So here’s one question, expressed a couple of different ways: Is there a fair price, fair in your eyes, that you would pay for a download? ‘Hey, take a chance, it’s only a buck?’ ‘People tell me it’s great, I’ll drop two bucks?’ ‘Here’s three bucks, I can afford it and it’s only fair?’ What number seems right to you? ‘Or is it ‘zero, screw it, I don’t care?'”
“We’ve got to come up with a new model, because the old one just isn’t working anymore,” Chubb concludes. “You just can’t fight against a model where the movie is available for free. People clearly want to download movies online, so it’s time we figured out how to get some money out of it.”