Randoms

Cosby Admitted As Much Ten Years Ago

Earlier today the Associated Press reported that Bill “While You Were Sleeping” Cosby testified in 2005 that he bought quaaludes to give to women he intended to have sex with. Tonight a pair of Cosby’s victims, Barbara Bowman and Joan Tarshis, told CNN’s Don Lemon that the report is a “game changer” and “huge.” In a personal vindication sense, they presumably meant, as there’s no way for Bowman or Tarshis to nail Cosby legally with the statute of limitations having expired long ago. “I’m feeling really great…I never thought this day would happen,” said Tarshis, who first posted her rape allegations against Cosby in an 11.16.14 essay on this site.

Took Long Enough

Nearly six months after a euphoric Sundance debut, Douglas Tirola’s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon has been acquired by Magnolia Pictures, presumably for release this year. The doc was hands down one of the best assembled, most entertaining, totally wowser films I saw at Sundance last January. And it’s about something that nearly everyone understands or identifies with to some degree, which is the seed and birth of anarchic, counter-conventional, ultra-outlandish comedy, which everybody takes for granted today but was an entirely new thing when it popped out of the National Lampoon in 1970. So it’s really quite the cultural landmark in a sense. I was thinking it would sell immediately when I saw it in Park City last January. What was the hold-up? I’m guessing that John Sloss‘s Cinetic Media was looking for terms that distributors couldn’t accept and so there was a months-long Mexican standoff…something like that. All Sloss would say was that “sometimes the right deals take a long time to fit together.”

Make Way For Harris’ 4K Restoration of Spartacus, Farewell To Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shiny”

A little more than five years ago Universal Home Video released their infamous “shiny” Bluray of Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus. The transfer by Jim Hardy’s HTV/Illuminate looked sharp and crisp but overly sweetened; too much of the detail captured by Russell Metty‘s 70mm Technirama photgraphy had been lost. In an online review restoration guru Robert Harris, who reassembled and restored a definitive 184-minute version of this epic film in 1991, called the 2010 50th Anniversary Bluray “an ugly and unfortunate bit of home video fodder,” suggested a recall, and called for a “new image harvest.”

Well, Harris has been working on such a harvest for about a year (the project was revealed last March by The Digital BitsBill Hunt) and a brand-new, presumably more specific and film-like Spartacus Bluray will pop sometime in the fall. A day or two hence I’m hoping to speak with Harris in some detail about the 4K restoration and maybe post some before-and-after comparisons.

Excerpt from 6.1.10 HE review of “shiny” Spartacus: “There’s no question that the Spartacus Bluray has been scrubbed down. Last night I put my face about 15 inches away from my 42″ plasma and studied Jean Simmons‘ face during one of the first-act closeups, and it’s like she’s wearing too much base — not the flesh-covered stuff you buy in pharmacies, but the digital kind that washes away organic sincerity. So yes — Harris is right. The Spartacus Bluray is, technically speaking, high-end vandalism. It should be recalled and done right.

“There’s just one problem. If you step back from the screen — sit three or four feet away, I mean — the Spartacus Bluray looks way better than the Criterion DVD or the laser disc or any other version that I’ve ever seen. For the first time since seeing Harris’s restored print on a big screen, I felt dazzled by some of the images. I was saying to my son Dylan, ‘I’m not supposed to like this but whoa…look at that!’ (more…)

Weintraub Ascends

The legendary, respected, always colorful Jerry Weintraub has passed at age 77. Music industry manager (Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Led Zepplin), film producer (Weintraub Entertainment Group), chairman and CEO of United Artists. He knew everybody, got around, saw everything, knew all the stories — a real 20th Century showbiz guy. Part of Weintraub’s panache is that he always sounded like he was vaguely mobbed up on some level, or that he knew guys who knew guys who knew guys. He wasn’t just a Jew who was born in Brooklyn and raised in The Bronx — in a highly flavorable way he really sounded like it. (One result was that director Sydney Pollack hired him to play a gangster in The Firm.) I never spoke to Weintraub much (parties, press conferences), but I loved his smooth old-school swagger. A smart, shrewd, aggressive dude. Did well for himself, made money for others, played the game with consummate skill. Douglas McGrath‘s My Way (2011) is streaming as we speak on HBO

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Dejected, Dispirited

I’ve been putting off facing the truth about Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy, which is that it’s underperforming. This despite two award-worthy performances (Paul Dano and John Cusack), great reviews and notions that it’s probably the most Best Picture-worthy 2015 release so far. After four weeks in a maximum of 481 theatres, the Roadside Attractions release has earned only $10.5 million, which feels anemic to me.  It’s still playing at five L.A. plexes but the juice appears to be just about spent.


The Love & Mercy gang at 2014 Toronto Film Festival premiere screening.

I realize that indie-ish, character-driven dramas are always marginal performers but I was figuring (hoping?) that Love & Mercy would nudge its way into the high teens or even the low 20s before stalling out, and then maybe bounce back on home video when award season happens (top-ten lists, critic trophies, Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, Spirit Awards). But to barely break $10 million…wow.

This seems to indicate that the core audience for Love & Mercy, mature quality-seekers and Beach Boys fans, are relatively few in number. That or a lot of these viewers simply decided to wait for the film to start streaming. Why didn’t it catch on a bit more? Was it because of the darkish mood and (let’s be honest) the somewhat sluggish pace in the film’s second half? Is it because only boomers are interested and under-40s couldn’t care less? I know that my son Jett, 27, and his girlfriend Cait saw it early and liked it a lot, and that when they got home they both did a lot of googling about Brian Wilson, etc. (more…)

“What Is Your Name, Forty-One?”

Two interesting pie slices from David Segal‘s N.Y. Times Magazine profile of Arianna Huffington, online a few days ago but in yesterday morning’s edition:

Slice #1: “To work at The Huffington Post is to run a race without a finish line, at a clip that is forever quickening. The pace is stressful for many employees, who describe a newsroom with plenty of turnover. One former staff member I spoke with, who developed an ulcer while working there, called The Huffington Post ‘a jury-rigged, discombobulated chaos machine.’” Comment: I know all about that “forever quickening race without a finish line” thing. It’s what every diligent online columnist faces on a daily basis. But it’s only stressful if you resist it. Give in and you’re canoeing on whitewater. (more…)

Trampoline

I’ve felt nothing but Ant-Man negatives ever since the project was announced. For the very first time I felt a positive vibe when I saw these mock posters two or three weeks ago. I forgot about them but they came back this morning when I started thinking about seeing the film on Wednesday evening. The mentality is obviously adolescent (roughly at par with Phil Moskowitz‘s wisecracks in What’s Up, Tiger Lily?) but Ant-Man is an adolescent joke to begin with so where’s the harm?

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Insect vs. Boxer

I realized this morning I had a screening conflict on Wednesday evening — Antman on the Disney lot vs. Southpaw in the Wilshire Screening Room. I’m trying to face up to why I went for Antman. (There’s another Southpaw screening on 7.16.) I talk a tough game about wanting more complex, character-driven, adult-level films on the theatrical side, but in deciding to see Ant-Man first I’m obviously submitting to my inner retard — the 12 year-old who resides somewhere in my id cave. The other factor is that I know all about the basic tendencies of Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua. I’ve been in the mosh pit with the guy (i.e., the second half of The Equalizer) and I know what it’s like. No reflection on Jake Gyllenhaal‘s allegedly knockout-level lead performance, which I’m looking to engage with. But honestly? The Gyllenhaal perf I’m really hopped about is the one he might have given (who knows?) in Jean Marc Vallee‘s Demolition. Because the Demolition characters are more like me whereas I feel a certain distance (no offense) from scarred-up emotional primitives with Parris Island haircuts.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

2015 X-Factor, Ambitious, Semi-Fresh, Social Undercurrent, Something More (23)

A Bigger Splash -- Luca Guadagnino (director); Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson. Fox Searchlight, presumably sometime in the fall.

Black Mass (Warner Bros.) -- Scott Cooper (director/screenplay); Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson. (9.18)

Bridge of Spies (Touchstone / DreamWorks / 20th Century Fox) -- Steven Spielberg (director); Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (screenplay); Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson.

Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight) -- John Crowley (director), Nick Hornby (screenwriter) -- Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters.

By The Sea (Universal) -- Angelina Jolie (director, screenwriter). Cast: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Niels Arestrup, Mélanie Laurent.

Carol (Weinstein Co.) -- Todd Haynes (director); Pyllis Nagy (screenplay, based on Patricia Highsmith novel); Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler. Cannes reaction: Best Picture, Best Actress/Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy).

Concussion -- Peter Landesman (director-writer). Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson. Sony.

The Danish Girl -- Tom Hooper (director). Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts.

Demolition (Fox Searchlight) -- Jean-Marc Vallee (director); Bryan Sipe (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper. Fox Searchlight.

Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some (his "spiritual sequel" to Dazed & Confused) is opening sometime in the fall. Annapurna/Paramount.

Hail Caesar! (Universal -- listed as a February 2016 release but if the film turns out to be half as good as the crackling script, it'll be criminal to relegate it to a dump month); Joel and Ethan Coen (directors, screenplay); Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill.

Joy (20th Century Fox) -- David O. Russell (director/screenplay). Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramirez. 20th Century Fox, 12.25.

Love and Mercy -- Bill Pohlad (director). Oren Moverman, Michael Alan Lerner (screenplay). Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti. Roadside Attractions, 6.5. General post-opening response: Best Picture, Best Actor (Dano, Cusack), Best Director (Bill Pohlad), Best Screenplay (Oren Moverman).

Money Monster (TriStar/Sony -- apparently shooting in early '15) -- Jodie Foster (director); Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf (screenplay). Cast: George Clooney, Jack O'Connell, Julia Roberts.

Our Brand Is Crisis (Warner Bros.); David Gordon Green (director); Peter Straughan (screenplay); Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd. WARNING -- possible 2016 release.

The Program -- Stephen Frears (director), Jon Hodge (screenwriter). An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. Ben Foster, Lee Pace, Chris O'Dowd.

The Revenant (20th Century Fox) -- Alejandro González Inarritu (director/screenplay); Mark "nobody can remember my middle initial" Smith (screenplay); Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson.

Silence (Paramount) -- Martin Scorsese (director); Jay Cocks (screenplay); Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Issei Ogata, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano. WARNING -- could be 2016 release.

Snowden -- Oliver Stone (director, co-writer). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant. Open Road, 12.25.

Spotlight -- Thomas McCarthy (director, co-writer). Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, John Slattery.

Steve Jobs (Universal -- shooting began in January 2015, which indicates an intention to bring it out by late '15) -- Danny Boyle (director), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Scott Rudin (producer); Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston.

Trumbo (Bleecker Street) -- Jay Roach (director), Michael London (producer), John McNamara (screenwriter). Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Helen Mirren, John Goodman.

Truth (no distributor) -- James Vanderbilt (director, writer -- based on the 2005 memoir "Truth and Duty" by Mary Mapes); Cast: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood.

2015 or '16?: Untitled Warren Beatty/Howard Hughes Drama (no distributor) -- Warren Beatty (director, writer); Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Taissa Farmiga, Chace Crawford, Candice Bergen.

Downgraded After Cannes Screenings or Post-Release:

Aloha (Sony/Columbia) a.k.a. Son of Deep Tiki -- Cameron Crowe (director, writer); Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel.

Irrational Man (Sony Classics) -- Woody Allen (director, screenplay); Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley. .

Sea of Trees (no distributor) -- Gus Van Sant (director); Chris Sparling (screenplay); Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton, Jordan Gavaris.

Tomorrowland (Disney) -- Brad Bird (director, cowriter); Damon Lindelof (co-writer); George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Tim McGraw, Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer.

2015 Quality-Grade Commercial / alphabetical order (11):

Crimson Peak (Universal / Legendary) -- Guillermo del Toro (director/screenplay); Matthew Robbins, Lucinda Coxon (screenplay); Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver.

Everest (Universal) -- Baltasar Kormákur (director); Justin Isbell, William Nicholson (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright.

The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co.) -- Quentin Tarantino (director-writer); Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, Kurt Russell.

In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros.) Ron Howard (director); Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson.

The Last Face (distributor) -- Sean Penn (director); Erin Dignam (screenplay); Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Legend (Universal); Brian Helgeland (director, screenwriter); Tom Hardy (playing both Kray twins), Emily Browning.

Midnight Special (Warner Bros.) -- Jeff Nichols (director/screenplay); Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton.

Regression (The Weinstein Company) -- Alejandro Amenábar (director/screenplay); Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Dencik.

Ricki and the Flash (TriStar) -- Jonathan Demme (director); Diablo Cody (screenplay); Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Ben Platt.

Trainwreck (Universal) -- Judd Apatow (director/screenplay); Amy Schumer (screenplay); Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, John Cena, Barkhad Abdi, Norman Lloyd.

The Walk (TriStar / ImageMovers) -- Robert Zemeckis (director/screenplay); Christopher Browne (screenplay); Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charlotte Le Bon. Sony/TriStar, 10.2.

Pleasingly, Vigorously, Assuredly Mainstream (or something in that realm) / alphabetical order (13):

Criminal (Summit Entertainment) -- Ariel Vromen (director); Douglas Cook, David Weisberg (screenplay); Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman.

Grimsby (Columbia) -- Louis Leterrier (director); Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston (screenplay); Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane, Gabourey Sidibe, David Harewood, Johnny Vegas, Penélope Cruz, Scott Adkins.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) George Miller (director/screenplay); Nick Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy (screenplay); Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Richard Norton, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.) Gregory Jacobs (director); Channing Tatum (screenplay); Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Gabriel Iglesias, Andie MacDowell, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Michael Strahan.

The Martian (20th Century Fox) -- Ridley Scott (director); Drew Goddard (screenplay); Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Mackenzie Davis, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan.

Masterminds (Relativity Media) -- Jared Hess (director); John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels (screenplay); Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis.

Mississippi Grind (no distributor) -- Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (directors, writers). Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Ben Mendelsohn, Analeigh Tipton.

Southpaw (Weinstein Co.) -- Antoine Fuqua; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Forest Whitaker, Victor Ortiz.

Spectre (MGM / Columbia) -- Sam Mendes (director); John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (screenplay); Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney / Lucasfilm / Bad Robot) -- J.J. Abrams (director/screenplay); Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay); John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker.

Triple Nine (Open Road) -- John Hillcoat (director); Matt Cook (screenplay); Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie.

 

Washboard Abs

By now even California viewers of episode #3 of True Detective know that Colin Farrell‘s Detective Velcoro isn’t dead. Despite being shot twice with a shotgun at the end of episode #2 — the second time at very close range, right in the gut — by a guy wearing a birdhead mask. In fact, Velcoro’s not just alive but not even recuperating in a hospital. He’s walking around with a few marks on his stomach and chest and feeling more or less fine. That’s because birdhead guy shotgunned Velcoro with pellets made of a very soft material, like rubber or granulated cork or cat litter, because he didn’t want to really kill him. What would be the point of shooting a guy twice in order to not kill him? Beats me. If anyone can make heads or tails of this, please advise.

Discovery, Adventure, Moth To A Flame

One of the defining moments of my early childhood — my life, really — happened when I wasn’t quite three years old, or sometime in the late summer. My mother and I were roaming up and down the Asbury Park boardwalk in the early evening, and one of the highlights (in my mind at least) was the merry-go-round. We gradually made our way south about two miles, give or take. Then I somehow slipped my mother’s grasp and disappeared. Gone. She freaked, of course. She found a couple of cops and asked for their help. They looked, searched, asked all the merchants…no luck. They finally made their way back to the merry-go-round and there I was — staring, bedazzled.

The incident put the fear of God into my parents. From then on they decided I had to be kept on a short leash and monitored very carefully. The result is that I began to feel that my life was being lived in a gulag. Rules, repression, “no”, time to go to bed at dusk, “because I said so,” “you’re too young,” etc. (more…)

Healing Process

In a 6.25 comment thread for a piece about Rose McGowan’s tussle with Innovative Artists, George Prager ungraciously posted some personal information about LexG. He deleted it soon after but Lex freaked, closed his Twitter account and hasn’t been heard from since. This morning I wrote “Prager” (his actual name is even more Irish) and suggested that he apologize to Lex and pledge to never again “out” his info. He said he “feels badly” about LexG’s disappearance and would definitely write and apologize. He said he was bombed when he mis-posted but was “tired of his bullshit…I felt like he needed an intervention of some kind, but it was wrong of me to do it.” I passed this along to Lex and repeated what I told him on 9.25, which is that he crumbles too easily and that it wasn’t that big of a deal and that he should just shrug it off. He replied that (a) he’s “not sitting around fuming about any one person or dwelling on any one thing” but that (b) he’s just “found the internet in general to be unpleasant and not helpful to my happiness for quite some time…just enjoying some time away from it.” He indicated a willingness to return to the conversation before long.

Hot Hot Hot

The original “Hot Hot Hot”, recorded by the late Montserrat musician Arrow (aka Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell), popped in ’82 but it became a bigger hit in ’87 with a version by Buster Poindexter, aka soloist and former New York Dolls lead singer David Johansen. I listened to “Hot” this morning for the first time in ages — a pleasure. Poindexter/Johansen once told NPR’s “Fresh Air” that “Hot Hot Hot” was “the bane of my existence” due to its pervasive popularity. The David Johansen Group played at that 1977 Save The Whales concert that I co-produced with former g.f. Sophie Cabot Black. I remember chatting with Johansen at a bar about the booking and liking him — jazzy, good humored. The big DJG songs of the moment were “Not That Much,” which I also hadn’t listened to in ages until this morning, and “Funky But Chic.”

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Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck?

I’ve been a small businesman for almost 11 years now, as Hollywood Elsewhere became a stand-alone, self-run site in August 2004. This meant, of course, no more salary paychecks but checks for HE advertising runs. Which has meant, of course, that some people would occasionally pay late and that I’d eventually have to send them emails that said “ahem!…we’re a little late here!” If I don’t do that they’ll just pay even later or possibly stiff me the next time. I’ve always had this little voice telling me to not only use the voice of Mickey Mouse (“Hello!…hah-hah-hah!…hi!”) but adopt a Mickey Mouse-like attitude when I write advertisers. Or maybe I really mean Minnie Mouse…I’m not sure. Just imagine my Mickey Mouse voice saying “Will you please me? I’m just a mouse with a smiling face and big ears and a little black tail, but I’d very happy if you did the right thing…hah-hah-hah!”

There’s this one advertiser who should have paid by last March or thereabouts, and now we’re past Independence Day. Hello, August! My ad guy and I have been Mickey Mouse-ing it, as usual, but a couple of weeks ago I began to feel the stirrings of a Donald Duck attitude. So I wrote letters to the person whom I feel is primarily responsible for payment and delivered them to (a) a production company, (b) an attorney’s office and (c) a home on Blue Jay Way. Last weekend we were told that the lower-level person directly responsible for payment was “committed” to making things right (that word means next to nothing) and would get in touch with us before last Friday. She didn’t. We all know that honey works better than vinegar, but what do you do when honey doesn’t work for months on end? I was asking myself this yesterday. How do I play this? I don’t want to go ballistic but I don’t want to be a jellyfish. (more…)

Each and Every Blockbuster Is Funneled Through A “Very Small Window”

In a 7.2 Grantland piece called “Across the Universe: How World-Building Blockbusters Have Changed the Art of Screenwriting,” Kevin Lincoln discusses (a) the game of universe-building and (b) continuity in the service of a franchise with screenwriter John August (Go, Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie). Lincoln doesn’t quite ask why the scripts for almost all franchise blockbusters (with the curious exception of the two Captain America films) are spiritually suffocating, reprehensibly robotic and generally awful in terms of delivering intrigue or any kind of unusual flavor or humor or sliders or curves or palmballs. Pretty much everything that happens in these moronathons is a straight, over-the-plate fastball, but the main problem, story-integrity-wise, is that none are meant to be stand-aloners. Yes, old news — August is mostly re-stating things for the slowboats.

August observation #1: “So it’s this weird blend of wanting to create the best two-hour movie you possibly can and having to sort of function as a TV showrunner, charting out the whole series, even though as a screenwriter, you’re only going to get paid for that one movie.” August observation #2: “The more that has come before you, the tighter the circle of expectations is on you. Often the expectations the studio has are expectations the audience has. They’ve created this very small window of what they feel is a reasonable acceptance of an idea.” (more…)

Thanks All The Same

I’m sorry but Marielle Heller‘s Diary of a Teenage Girl (Sony Pictures Classics, 8.7) is another Schlumpies & Dumpies thing, or a movie about the sexual intrigues of someone I’d rather not contemplate in a sexual light, no offense. Set in the mid ’70s and based on a graphic-novelish, diary-like tale by Phoebe Gloeckner, it’s about an artistically gifted if somewhat homely girl in her mid teens (Bel Powley) who has an affair with her mom’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard). It’s a fairly absorbing coming-of-age, finding-your-voice tale with a striking use of pop-out illustrations in the latter stages, but I simply had no interest in the sexual stuff. Some affairs are interesting and even fascinating; others simply are not. Powley is a fine, skilled actress with presence, but she probably needs to stay away from romantic material for the foreseeable future. Skarsgard is fine as the pathetic, oozy boyfriend, and Kristen Wiig does well as a fatigued, downbeat-attitude mom.

Squash

I’ve already mentioned this but here goes again. No matter how fast Paul Rudd‘s Scott Lang can dash around, he can be flattened by any bad guy with fast reflexes. Peyton Reed and Kevin Feige‘s Ant-Man will, of course, go to the moon to make us believe otherwise, but the trailer shows us that Lang’s running speed is roughly that of a fly with a purpose. The bottom line is that Lang is definitely vulnerable, or more to the point swattable.

Deletion of Duluoz Trump

There comes a critical-mass point with certain commenters when you realize that their toxic comments and foul attitudes are infecting everyone and everything in an awful way.  That’s why I deep-sixed the former Doluoz Gray (later Black and most recently White) this morning. With election season around the corner I’ve been thinking about flushing out the more ardent righties anyway. If Peter Clemenza was around he’d say, “These things gotta happen every couple of years or so. Helps to get rid of the bad blood. Been four years since the last one.”

Happy Bernie Days

You think Noam Chomsky gets all misty-eyed on the 4th of July? I feel proud of the achievements of the great American artists, writers, thinkers and doers. That’s my kind of patriotism. I feel immensely proud that I come from the same country as Mark Twain, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jack London, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen, Amelia Earhart, Marilyn Monroe, John Coltrane, Bobby Kennedy, Muhammud Ali, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Walt Whitman, Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Chris Rock and David Fincher. And especially Bernie Sanders. A few years ago I wrote that I haven’t felt “patriotic” in ages. Except lately Sanders’ candidacy has romanced me into feeling semi-patriotic, which is unusual for a “beyond borders” leftie like myself. Hillary is fine but she puts me to sleep. Bernie has my heart beating.

Eisner Walked Right Into Twitter Wolf Pit

Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner got into trouble yesterday on Twitter after sharing a sexist remark (or what sounded like one to Megan Ellison and others) during an interview with Goldie Hawn at the Aspen Ideas Festival. No one’s arguing that Eisner, 73, is an enlightened feminist, but what he said, however clumsily put, wasn’t entirely divorced from reality.


Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner during Thursday night’s discussion with Goldie Hawn at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

“In the history of the motion-picture business,” he said, “the number of beautiful, really beautiful women — a Lucille Ball — that are funny, is impossible to find.”

What Eisner should have said, first of all, is not that it’s “impossible” to find really beautiful female comedians but that for the most part they’re few and far between. (I know — that sounds dismissive in itself but I’m trying to modify here.) And then he should have explained himself a bit. But now that the milk is split and outrage is spreading, allow me to explain for him.

Innately talented people, including comedians, don’t tend to develop their gift unless life has instructed them to do so or else. He meant that if you’re doing pretty well on your good looks or trust fund you’re probably not going to develop your potential as much as those who aren’t grade-A beauties or who don’t come from a rich family. Every creatively successful person has been goaded early on by disappointment and frustration in life. They’ve been told that if they want a bountiful career or a big income or if they want to meet interesting people they’ll have to develop their creative potential or, in the case of would-be female comics, learn to be fucking funny. Because if they don’t they’re going to be driving a cab or waiting tables or doing telemarketing. (more…)

What A Relief!

Ava Duvernay has said in an Essence interview (posted today) that she won’t be directing Marvel’s Black Panther movie. So much for the dream of Ava scarfing up a fat Marvel paycheck while mapping out the kind of films she really wants to do.

Duvernay: “I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be.” Most Likely Translation: “I was a dramatic indie-level director when I made Middle of Nowhere but since Selma I’ve transformed. I’m now a political-minded…make that a revolutionary-minded director who makes bold statement films about proud, gutsy, self-defining African-American characters, and those Marvel guys didn’t want Black Panther to exude too much of that — they more or less wanted a generic superhero movie with some African-American seasoning.”

DuVernay: “Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me.” Most Likely Translation: “What a bunch of greedy, formula-following, white-ass cyborg assholes.” (more…)