A New York-based publicist wrote with the usual questions about my planned activities at the Toronto Film Festival. I said I’ll seeing and doing everything I can for 18 hours daily for nine or ten days, Wednesday, 9.3 to Friday, 9.12. “Big essential screenings aside, I tend to improvise and shuffle around as the mood directs,” I said. “I absorb every film, every event and every person I meet. I take pictures, I record interviews, I shoot video, I review films, I report reactions, I eat free food at parties and sip the free white wine,” blah, blah. As ever.
The subject turned the other day to movies that were barely seen when initially released, and will almost certainly never be seen by anyone on DVD and therefore never remembered by anyone, ever. Dead, buried, finito. And I came up with one — Saul Swimmer‘s The Black Pearl (1978), which you can’t find on VHS and never was issued on DVD.
It starred Gilbert Roland, Carl Anderson and Mario Custodio , and was basically about a hunt for a large black pearl located off the Baja California coast. The money scene was about the young hero having to grapple with a giant manta ray that guards the treasure.
The reason I remember The Black Pearl is not because I liked it all that much. It’s because I was close with a lady who lived on West 13th Street named Elaine who told me something about a certain producer of The Black Pearl — he was young so maybe he was just an associate producer — that has always stayed in my mind. And only now, nearly 30 years after the fact, can the story finally be told.
Elaine and I were boyfriend-girlfriend for as little less than a year, sometime between mid ’78 and early to mid ’79. We remained semi-friendly after we broke up, and she told me one night that she was going out with a guy named something Harris, who’d produced or co-produced The Black Pearl. I’d seen her having a drink with him at the Village Bistro — nice looking, dark hair, nice sweater — and asked her a day or two later if he was a nice guy and she said yes, etc.
And then somehow I managed to get her to tell me how their first night of amour had gone, and she told me that they’d hardly slept at all due to his having made love to her eight times from midnight to the crack of dawn. Wow, I said, and let it go at that. And yet deep down I was impressed. A night of typical grand passion might include three or four go-rounds, but eight? Harris was either very athletic or very full of feeling, or a combination of the two.
The take-away thing is that Elaine got a little bit angry with me the next time we spoke because — I was actually being respectful in a roundabout way — I referred to the Black Pearl producer as “Eight Times Harris.” She was actually more like half-pissed and half-laughing. But that “Eight Times Harris” remark is the reason I still remember The Black Pearl.
And now there are a few more in the world who will forever remember this film. Right? If I hadn’t written this The Black Pearl would be the same dead movie it’s been for the last 28 or 29 years, but now there’s something to remember it by. Am I right or wrong?
A friend asked me to suggest a nice PG-rated disco movie for her daughter’s 10th birthday party because (a) her daughter likes disco and (b) Saturday Night Fever is rated R and considered too adult by some of the parents of the girls coming to the party. I sent her an A.V. Club posting with with a piece called “Six Films That Helped Kill Disco,” and then I added the following:
“Disco is bad for the soul — then, now, forever. You’re fine with [your daughter] and her friends revelling in the most soul-less and mechanistic mainstream music ever created in the history of civilization, but you want to shield her from semi-adult content at all costs. You’re basically telling her, ‘Empty plastic entertainment is fine, but anything that smacks of artful depictions of actual reality…well, that may not be appropriate.’
“My boys were into the worst TV garbage imaginable when they were 9 and 10 and 11 years old, but I always told them they were polluting their brains with that stuff and tried to get them to sample good movies every so often. And they finally grew out of their garbage phase. [Your daughter] is in a girlie-synthetic phase now. That’s what being ten is about (i.e., early tweener) but you’re doing her no favors by facilitating a disco party.
“My basic point is that there are things that are far, far worse than honest ‘adult content,’ and disco music is certainly one of them.”
While writing this I was playing the Who’s Sister Disco in my head.
The final list of Toronto titles will be announced six days from now — on Tuesday, August 19th — so today’s list of Special Presentations is not the be-all and end-all. The word from one Toronto insider is that TIFF is cutting down on the overall number of films being shown, which last year was around 300. Variety and others have complained that Toronto is a crap-shoot because they show too many films, so they’re trimming the tally back to 280, give or take. But a whole lot of titles are going to be announced next Tuesday.
Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler will make it there in addition to its NY Film Festival showing. My facial-trauma Mickey Rourke moment is definitely coming and I’d better toughen up and get ready for it. And Steven Soderbergh‘s slightly shortened Che (4 hours and 5 minutes, give or take) will be presented as a single entity with a 15-minute intermission as well as two separate films — they were once called The Argentine and Guerilla but who knows what the current thinking may be? — being shown at different times.
Clint Eastwood√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Changeling will be the centerpiece of the New York Film Festival, but Angelina Jolie wouldn’t commit to attending so forget Toronto.
Other top-tittie titles include Kevin Smith‘s Zack and Miri Make a Porno with Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks; Guillermo Arriaga‘s The Burning Plain with Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger; Barbet Schroder‘s Inju; and Charlie Kaufman‘s smartly written but deeply morose and deterioration-obsessed Synecdoche, New York.
Other highlights of today’s announcement include Rian Johnson‘s The Brothers Bloom with Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximilian Schell and Robbie Coltrane; Stephan Elliott‘s Easy Virtue with Colin Firth, Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Barnes; Christophe Barratier‘s Faubourg 36, Michael Winterbottom‘s Genova with Colin Firth, Catherine Keener and Hope Davis.
As well as John Crowley‘s Is There Anybody There? with Bill Milner and Michael Caine; Bruno Barreto‘s Last Stop 174; Stephen Belber‘s Management with Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn and Woody Harrelson; Richard Linklater‘s Me and Orson Welles with Zac Efron, Claire Daines, Ben Chaplin and Christian McKay; Danny Boyle‘s Slumdog Millionaire; Marc Abraham‘s Flash of Genius with Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney and Alan Alda.
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.
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.”
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »