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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

My First Online Column. June 6, 1997

take one


 

Whole Picture

Chapter One: The Truth
“YOU WANT THE TRUTH?! YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!” — Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

Jack Nicholas So, you want to know how show business really works? OK. Let’s start at the beginning. Attributing the quotation above to Jack Nicholson is a little like crediting your 6-year-old nephew with coming up with “Allllll- righty then!!!”

Jack Nicholson is an actor. A great actor. And the magic that he does, in cahoots with a whole lot of help, is to make you feel that he was really upset and reacted to Tom Cruise. But he didn’t. Not really.

Demi Moore See, Aaron Sorkin wrote a play that ran on Broadway and probably a dozen guys said those words eight times a week in various productions, but Rob Reiner went to the theater one night and liked what he saw, so he and his partners at Castle Rock, who had a lot of cash lying around from Japanese businessmen (see: Sony), who knew virtually nothing about how to make movies (see: Peter Guber/Jon Peters), bought the feature rights to the film and Reiner, who decided to direct Sorkin’s screenplay based on his play, talked Cruise into being in the movie, which led, in part, to Demi Moore and Nicholson joining the cast and then, one day, 80-odd people got together in a giant empty sound-proofed box (a soundstage) in Los Angeles that had a set in it designed to look like a real military court in Washington, D.C., and after they did a master shot (generally, all the actors doing the entire scene from start to end), Tom did his close-ups and then Jack did his close-ups and on some take, Nicholson said those words and the performance was great and the sound was good and there was no dirt in the gate (like hair in the projector at the movies) and Reiner said, “Print,” and the lab didn’t screw it up and the editors (Academy Award nominees Robert Leighton and Steve Nevius chose the close-up and spliced it together and every one of about a dozen people agreed that it worked and the composer (Marc Shaiman) created the mood music and the film was test-screened and audiences went wild when Nicholson went off and they used it to sell the hell out of the movie, which led you into a movie theater where you bought popcorn and Coca-Cola products and generated enough profit to convince Ted Turner to buy Castle Rock.

Run-on sentence, you say? Artistic license, I say.

And besides, you’re missing the point. THAT was the shortened version of how Jack ended up arching his brows and making your heart beat faster. I didn’t mention the screenplay development, the casting of secondary roles, the pre-production, the lighting, the electrics, the costumes, Demi Moore‘s bust in that uniform, the publicists, the caterers, the foley artists, the trailer producers and hundreds of other steps that help make magic.

John Cusack Magic. That word. Sleight of hand. Illusion. It’s the little things that you barely notice. Hair that doesn’t move in a stiff wind. Characters who never pass wind. Wind that blows at the moment the lovers part. It’s perfect skin and Joe Pesci‘s hairline. It’s perfect teeth and airbrushing so heavy that actors are unrecognizable (Minnie Driver and John Cusack are great-looking people, but who are those people in the Grosse Pointe Blank ads?). It’s photographing an actress only from the left side because she’s more Wicked Witch than Dorothy from the right. It’s Dennis Quaid‘s voice in Dragonheart … OK, that wasn’t so magical. But you get the point.

It’s also Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise Absolute magic, that guy. Most of you will go to the movies to see him no matter what the movie is. That’s why he’s worth $20 million a picture to nervous studio chieftains. Because almost every time out, 3 or 4 million of you will pay for tickets the first weekend his movie opens. That’s movie magic. But what the hell do you really know about Tom Cruise? Almost nothing. He has charisma. He makes good choices about who he works with. Just look at his last dozen directors — Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire), Brian DePalma (Mission: Impossible), Neil Jordan (Interview With A Vampire, The Crying Game), Sydney Pollack (The Firm, Tootsie), Ron Howard (Far and Away, Apollo 13), Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally), Tony Scott (Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide), Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July), Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Diner), Martin Scorsese (The Color of Money, GoodFellas) and, most recently, the Howard Hughes of directors, Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut, 2001:A Space Odyssey). Only three of the dozen haven’t been Academy Award or Golden Globe nominees, and those three directed Cruise in mega- hits Mission: Impossible, Top Gun and Cocktail. Magic.

Tom Cruise Cruise also has the most powerful publicist in Hollywood by his side, Pat Kingsley of PMK. Bad buzz about homosexuality, Scientology, marital problems and “the squeaky voice machine” (A Scientology invention to make Tom’s voice more mellifluous, reportedly added to the equipment list of Far And Away) have all melted into the background as true-life tales of Tom saving lives, Tom defending Nicole and Tom winning a Golden Globe have taken center stage, no matter what the vultures of the press (me included) might prefer (it makes our job so much easier). Magic. Almost enough to make Tom … well … tall.

The truth is made of A-cup breasts and 3 feet of duct tape. It’s 49 years old and dates 23-year-olds. It can’t eat dairy and it’s two months late on its BMW lease payments. The truth was a high-priced call girl before she started playing virgins in the movies and became your bedroom fantasy for seven bucks a crack instead of $300. Like the old joke: A man asks a woman to sleep with him for $1 million and she says “yes.” Then he says, “Well how about for $5?” Offended, she says, “What do you think I am?” He responds, “I know what you are. We’re just negotiating the price.”

So now the real question: Can you handle the truth? If you can, I’ll write it for you, as best as I can, every week, right here. You want to know how the studio system really works? I’ll tell you. How is advertising designed to trick you into going to bad movies? I’ll tell you. How does Oprah‘s weight get the cover of the tabloids and a gay TV actress get the cover of Time? If you believe the tabloids got scooped, go to another site now. If you know better and want to know more, stick around. Hang with me and I’ll give you The Whole Picture. Bookmark it, baby! Questions? E-mail me, and I’ll do my best. But first, some answers: 1. Yes, they’re implants. 2. No, you can’t get paid for that, unless you can figure out how to light it. 3. Maybe, but I’ll need blood work results first.

 

One Response to “My First Online Column. June 6, 1997”

  1. Tom Reagan's Hat says:

    This column hasn’t aged very well, certainly not in the me-too era.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch