EW celebrates “Smart List”

I need to take a little credit for pushing an idea with Entertainment Weekly when I freelanced with them (’91 to ’96) that they totally ignored, but are now finally going with — a Hollywood “Smart List” that champions “the savants and the wunderkinds whose ideas are driving the film industry forward,” according to EW copy.

In ’93 or ’94 (it may even have been ’95), I sent at least a couple of faxed memos urging my then-editors (Cable Neuhaus, Maggie Murphy, Jim Seymour) to blow off the idea of putting out an annual Hollywood Power 100 list and go instead with an MVP issue — Most Valuable Players. The idea was to honor the people in the film industry who’d made the best movies, written the best scripts, introduced some valuable idea or innovation…anyone who’d moved the Hollywood legend along by doing something excellent or daring or in some way novel.

I was told at the time that Seymour (who at the time had a home on Wilton’s Belden Hill Road, only a short walk from where I lived during my Wilton High School years) was the “stopper.” He was heavily married to the Power issue and wouldn’t budge. In any case, the influence of newly arrived West Coast editor Sean Smith has resulted in EW finally going with a variation on my MVP idea…12 or 13 years later.

That said, EW‘s decision to put Judd Apatow at the top of the list is a good one. But what could have persuaded them to put Steven Spielberg — a man whose directorial innovations and pseudo-hip influence peaked 25 years ago — in the #2 slot, and James Cameron — making a 3D CG movie now, but a guy who’s basically been out of the game for 10 years — in the #3 position?

And Will Smith — a guy who’s done absolutely nothing in terms of moving the game along and stands for nothing whatsover except the fulfillment of a certain movie-star aura that leads to selling tickets and making big money — is in the fifth position? We all understand obesiance-before-power displays, but I thought the idea was supposed to be about something else.

18 thoughts on “EW celebrates “Smart List”

  1. Bocephus on said:

    James Cameron is on the list so EW can get Avatar access. Kissing ass leads to on-set interview invitations. Of course, after Avatar comes out, he will definitely be in the game again. Now is a good time to start sucking up.

    All he has to show for the past 10 years are so-so documentaries like Shrimp of the Deep.

  2. I don’t understand. Yesterday we learned that the image of Spielberg’s “esteem had deminished” and yet these people who cover the industry rank him number 2? Could it be that with most in the press and even the industry he is held in high esteem? How could it be?

  3. jeff, have you read the treatment for ‘avatar’? if so you would realize that cameron’s legend has only just begun. actionman’s head is going to explode when that puppy hits screens.

    headed off to a doubleheader of ‘the mist’ and ‘lions for lambs’…

  4. Man, do I ever HATE those top 100 power lists that you see in various magazines. They’re such filler crap. I agree that picking to profile young, up-and-coming talent is a better idea. Of course, EW did a poor job of it.

  5. why not make your own list? it would be interesting to read who you think qualifies.

    I’m baffled with Will Smith’s and Ben Stiller’s appearance. I’d have thought an actor/producer like Brad Pitt who’s had more success would fair better.

    Sir Ridely Scott’s non-appearance is also really strange.

  6. Good to see that you were able to fill one post with blatant arrogance AND your obsessive disdain for Spielberg.

    You’re right about Will Smith and J.C. … but I don’t see how you could take any credit for something that is 1) not that original in the first place 2)was mentioned over 15 years ago

  7. I agree that an MVP list would be great especially one leaving out Stiller and Smith. They’re movie stars just making their mediocre movies and collecting huge paychecks. No innovation there.

    Cameron and Spielberg should definitely be included.

    Cameron because we know he hasn’t lost his touch, Titanic notwithstanding, since he’s still at least been making films of a certain type and not just a techie trying to make a comeback.

    I still don’t get Jeff’s disdain for Spielberg considering every second movie he makes Jeff comes out and praises it for being so different and edgier than the ones in the past.

    Ie) Minority Report and War of the Worlds.

    Does someone have a copy of or know where I can get the treatment or script for Avatar?

  8. I think, Jeffrey, that you really deserve more than a “little” credit for all sorts of things. Most notably, for all the stuff you write that make me groan and mutter (especially about politics and religion), you never seem to toe the studio “line,” and you always say your piece forthrightly and in clear language.

    So if one of your pretty-darn-good ideas has been adopted by EW even if after 13 years, I salute you for it. And you certainly deserve this and many other salutations for your efforts.

  9. “jeff, have you read the treatment for ‘avatar’? if so you would realize that cameron’s legend has only just begun. actionman’s head is going to explode when that puppy hits screens.

    headed off to a doubleheader of ‘the mist’ and ‘lions for lambs’…”

    I hope you’re right Breedlove…because a fan of all CGI/motion capture I am not. I want to see both the mist and lions for lambs before they scurry out of theaters.

  10. Spielberg is high on the list because everyone in Hollywood is afraid of alienating him, esp. rags like EW. Despite his creative irrelevance, he still has his fingers in many pies.

  11. He’s one of the most creatively relevant filmmakers in Hollywood because of his ability to blend mass entertainment and avant-garde visuals and thematic interests.

    And with that, I’m done responding to Wells’s anti-Spielberg trolling for today.

  12. What’s so frustrating about Well’s inferiority complex with Speilberg is that he relentlessly repeats the same line over and over (“guy hasn’t added anything in 25 years, etc, etc”) without an inkling of the rabid disagreement from his loyal readers. He acts as if we haven’t duked this out at least 10 times and is saying it for the first time EVERY TIME HE SAYS IT.

  13. So, this very issue of EW came in the mail today. And yes, it’s called “The 50 SMARTEST People in Hollywood” but — big DUH! — it’s not about people who are intellectuals or savants. It’s about people who know how to make money.

  14. Mike Schaefer wrote:
    It’s about people who know how to make money.

    As always.

    This is off on a slight tangent, but I happened to be at Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park earlier tonight and noticed Ed Begley Jr.’s BEGLEY’S BEST spray cleaner on the shelves.

    Certainly he would qualify as “smart” in the sense of being environmentally green before it became au courant.

  15. Jeffie definitely is a little jealous of The Beard. Nothing in 25 years? What about Schindler’s List & Saving Private Ryan? Get Real!!

  16. The List is stupid. No actor belongs on the list!! Meryl Streep & Jodie Foster are talented not smart. (I’m not saying they are dummies either). What about Tarantino, Rodriguez, Kaufman and Kevin Smith? Making smart movies that are actually interesting to watch isn’t enough any more? Brian Grazer is nothing more than Ron Howard’s & Spielberg’s piss boy. Ramming them through the Studio System? Dreamworks was its own studio!! I can go on but why bother?

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