“In modern American politics, Michelle Bachmann is exactly the right kind of completely batshit crazy. Not medically crazy, not talking-to-herself-on-the-subway crazy, but grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy — crazy in the sense that she’s living completely inside her own mind, frenetically pacing the hallways of a vast sand castle, unable to meaningfully communicate with the human beings on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies.” — from Matt Taibbi‘s “Michelle Bachmann’s Holy War” (Rolling Stone, posted 6.22).
So Monday’s guess/presumption was right: Warren Beatty‘s just-announced Paramount film, which Deadline‘s Michael Fleming said would be a comedy, will be about Howard Hughes. The 74 year-old Beatty will play the withered mogul with “part of the plot involving an affair he had with a young woman in the later years of his life,” says Fleming. The woman might be played by Evan Rachel Wood or Rooney Mara. Other possible costars include Andrew Garfield, Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Shia La Beouf and Jack Nicholson.
I had a persistent thought while watching Chris Weitz‘s A Better Life (Summit, 6.24) that Damian Bichir has given the best male lead performance I’ve seen this year. Yes, better than Brad Pitt‘s permanently-pissed-off dad in The Tree of Life and as strong and winning as Paul Giamatti‘s small-town wrestling coach in Win Win. Most of the award-worthy performances will emerge after Labor Day, of course, but Bichir is a contender right now.
He portrays a Los Angeles-based illegal alien who works as a tree surgeon and has a son (Jose Julian ) who pities and half-despises his father for living such a marginal, hunched-over life, and who’s dealing with the theft of a pickup truck he’s just bought with borrowed money.
I knew Bichir, whose performance as Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh‘s two Che films I also admired, had dug into the heart of this sad but dignified character. And that he certainly looked the part with his tattered work duds and slightly beefy physique and half-bearded face and baseball cap and look of exhaustion. But what really convinced me was Bichir’s appearance as he entered the J restaurant and lounge on South Olive last night. He looked much lighter (having gained about 15 pounds for the role) and was wearing a perfectly tailored all-black tuxedo, and basically looked like an Italian GQ model.
We did about a six- or seven-minute interview on the outdoor patio while the party raged inside.
(l.) A Better Life star Damian Bichir at last night’s after-party (6.21.11); (r.) in A Better Life.
“Life keeps jabbing and slugging Bichir’s character — bitchslapping him, kicking him in the shins and delivering one form or another of trial and humiliation,” I wrote on 6.8, “but he keeps on plugging and holds onto his dignity and humanity. In the end he wins your respect and affection.
“He also manages to win the respect and love of his son, who’s regarded him with mostly pity and contempt throughout most of the film. This achievement is pretty much what the film is about. Like Vittorio De Sica‘s The Bicycle Thieves, A Better Life is not about winning or beating the system or lucking out.
“Bichir and Julian’s performances are as solid and open-pored as it gets. They share an emotional confession scene near the very end that pretty much ties the whole film together.”
I finally didn’t meet Kristen Stewart last night at the Los Angeles Film Festival’s post-screening party for Chris Weitz‘s A Better Life. But I did get to say “hi” and thanks after taking a shot of her and Weitz. She asked me to thank LexG for all the foot-worship and support…kidding. She was wearing blue canvas sneakers with white trim. Weitz looks bombed but he wasn’t — he just made the mistake of holding a drink as I took the shot. Always put the drink down, I’ve learned.
(l.) Short-filmmaker Frank Reina (Star Tailz) and A Better Life costar Jose Julian at J restaurant & lounge, 1119 So. Olive, Los Angeles.
TheWrap‘s Tim Keaneally is reporting that Jackass star Ryan Dunn had a blood-alcohol concentration of .196, or more than double the legal limit, when he bought the farm in a flaming car wreck in Pennsylvania on Monday morning.
(l.) Roger Ebert; (r.) the late Ryan Dunn.
Roger Ebert apologized yesterday to Dunn’s friend Bam Margera and other tweeters who jumped all over him for criticizing the stupidity of Dunn driving under the influence, and for saying “friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.”
Ebert needs to go right back on Twitter right now and tell these guys that venting rage over allegations that Dunn killed himself by driving bombed — which has now been all but proven — is an act of infantile denial, and that they need to be men and face the truth of it and take a look in their own mirrors they next time they start throwing down doubles before driving home.
Deal with it, Margera, if you’re reading this. Your good friend not only killed himself but also his passenger, Zachary Hartwell, because he was stinko. Instead of yelling at Ebert, you should be down on your knees and thanking God or fate that your wonderful responsible friend didn’t kill anyone else.
George Clooney and Elisabetta Canalis have parted ways, most likely because two weeks ago Canalis said in Italy’s Chi magazine that “for the time being I am happy” but “I am a firm believer in marriage” and “in the future I will be married.”
When Canalis said “for the time being” what she really meant was “I’m getting fed up with this shit, if you really want to know” and “the time is fucking nigh.” And one way or another this came out in private discussions with George and that was all she wrote.
Sooner or later all stunningly beautiful, high-maintenance girlfriends going out with rich and famous boyfriends get dumped or take a hike if the marriage thing is pushed off the table. 98% or 99% are looking to seal the deal, sign the contract, lock things down and create some kind of fortified nest. They’re genetically wired to do this in the same way guys like Clooney are wired to be tomcats. Only 1% or 2% are Isadora Duncan types who are cool with just existentially floating along on a come-what-may, live-and-let-live basis.
The legend of Clooney is that his “I’ll never get married” rule has led to a life of total hound-dogging. But he’s only had three serious girlfriends since his ’93 divorce from Talia Balsam — off-and-on with Lisa Snowdon from ’00 to ’05, steady with Sarah Larson from ’07 to ’08 and then Canalis from ’09 until a week or two ago. He’s only 50 so I’m figuring he’s got another five to seven years of catting around…okay, maybe eight or ten. But by the time he’s 60 mortality will be knocking loudly on his door and he’ll eventually relent.
It’s generally agreed that the Academy’s new Best Picture tabulation system (i.e., a film must earn at least 5% of the first-place votes to earn a Best Picture nomination) does no favors for those “very good but not quite creme de la creme” contenders that might have landed Best Picture nominations in ’09 and ’10 as one of the “lower five,” so to speak. Movies like A Serious Man or Blue Valentine or The Kids Are All Right or Up In The Air.
TheWrap‘s Steve Pond has now proven the point by measuring the strength of various Best Picture nominees from ’09 and ’10 within the new rules framework. The smaller, less mainstreamy films that might have become one of the bottom-five Best Picture contenders under the “old rules” are now facing a tougher situation. You could even call it a stacked deck. According to Pond, a bit less than 30% of all the 2011 Best Picture nomination ballots won’t even count because their first-choice picks probably won’t result in a 5% tally.
“Using the old system, my 2010 simulation” — using critics votes from Movie City News — “took 11 rounds to produce 10 Best Picture nominees,” Pond writes. “At the end of those 11 rounds, only 10 ballots (six percent of the total) had been discarded, because those critics opted entirely for films that ended up out of the running. The new system, though, uses just one round of counting and redistribution to come up with the nominees. Using that system, a full 43 ballots, representing almost 28 percent of the total vote, ended up having no impact on the slate of nominees.
“Critics who voted for The King’s Speech or The Social Network [in the simulated vote] helped their top choices get nominated. Ones who went for Biutiful or Shutter Island had their ballots redistributed to help out another pick. But the ballots of critics whose top picks were True Grit, Blue Valentine, The Kids Are All Right and 17 other films were left sitting on the table. That’s because they voted for the 21 films that fell into the gap between one and five percent of the vote.
In other words, “Because they voted for films that narrowly missed being nominated, they were unable to influence the outcome the way they would have under the old process, when those films would eventually have been eliminated and the ballots redistributed to help each voter’s other selections.
Pond did the same kind of simulation with MCN’s 2009 critics’ lists “and the results were similar,” he says, “with the number of unused ballots going from well under 10 percent to more than 25 percent.
“Certainly, you can’t draw direct comparisons between tallying 156 critics lists and 5,000 Oscar ballots; the critics, for one thing, are more likely to champion obscure films than Academy members, which might well lead to higher levels of unused ballots. And Davis insisted that Academy figures place their number of unused ballots at less than 10 percent under the new system. But my demonstration makes it clear that stopping after one round will increase the number of Academy voters whose ballots don’t affect the results, and Academy [honcho] Bruce Davis did not dispute that finding.”
Star‘s Dylan Howard is reporting that Brad Ruderman, a junior-league Bernie Madoff now doing time for bilking investors out of $25 million with a ponzi scheme, lost $311,300 to Tobey Maguire in a 2007 high-stakes poker game, including one losing hand of $110,000.
And now Maguire is being sued by lawyers for clients whose funds were embezzled by Ruderman “in the hope of recouping some of their lost savings,” the story says. Others being sued over this same issue include The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes and Welcome Back, Kotter star Gabe Kaplan.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have also played in these once-active Texas Hold ’em matches, which had a buy-in of $100,000. This particular game reportedly stopped happening in ’09. DiCaprio, Affleck and Damon are not being sued, Howard reports.
The amusing part of the story is the assertion that private high-roller poker games are “illegal.” Bullshit and beside the point. If a bunch of rich guys want to to get together for a poker game and lose or win money, it’s nobody’s damn business. As Burl Ives‘ Rufus Hennessy says in The Big Country, “They’re full-growed and can take their lickings.” It’s their money and the government has nothing to say about it. Poker games are about balls and honor and character and nerve. If you’re a man and you put up money (ill-gotten or not) and you lose it, tough shit all around.
“Maguire won as much as $1 million a month over a period of three years,” one source told Howard, meaning the Spider-Man star “could have made up to $30 to $40 million from these games.”
Howard passes along an observation from a participant in the games that Damon “never won” and that DiCaprio “is a tight-ass…when he lost $50,000 the look in his eyes was obvious [that] he was crazy.”
One of the reasons I’m a bad poker player is that I can’t tolerate the idea of losing a lot of money. I’ve worked and slaved so hard for it and some guy with a better hand is going to just take it from me? Yes, jerkwad — he can do that because those are the rules. But when I lose a big hand I quietly freak out and burn through so much internal anger that I can’t think straight. I’m not the only one, and some are worse than me. I’ve heard of guys who’ve ripped their cards into shreds when they lose. I’ve heard of guys who get up from the table when they lose and go into the kitchen and punch the refrigerator so hard that they leave a dent.
It seems almost shocking that this film came out 28 years ago. I’m extremely sorry that so few director-writers these days (including the present-day incarnation of James L. Brooks) seem to know much about mixing refinement, uptightness and understated bawdyness to just the right degree. The look in Jack Nicholson‘s eyes when he says “a lot of drinks” is pure elation. Indiewire columnist Anne Thompson was the unit publicist on this film.