The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2004

Good Point

Shawn Levy of The Oregonian writes:

“The irony of this rewrite is that Hornby’s Fever Pitch, about Arsenal, the Red Sox of English football, ends in the mid-80s with Arsenal’s stunning double victory in both the league season and the national cup — two separate competitions. In effect, reality has forced a rewrite that will make the adaptation more faithful to the original book! Another miracle!”


Betwitched, just in time for Halloween!



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The Man Abides

“In some movies there comes a moment of truth when the flickering images either scatter apart irreparably or bind together like a dream. Perched at the edge of coherence or maybe just our personal orthodoxies, these films can be undone by a clumsy line reading or the most minor hitch in logic.”

The Review

Oscar Buzzed

Desperation for buzz… as desperate as the New York Times for assigning a story about desperation for buzz?

The idea that Phantom of The Opera is the “hot buzz Oscar film,” a notion pretty much started here at MCN a few weeks back, is hardly desperate given the history of the Oscars.

It is easy to scoff at the idea of a Joel Schumacher film starring three relative unknowns. But a look back at the last 25 years of the Oscars turns up Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, Amadeus, Platoon, The Last Emperor, Driving Miss Daisy, The English Patient and The Lord of The Rings as eight winners with no major stars at the time of release. (The one exception is Peter O’Toole, in a supporting role, whose three previous roles had been in Supergirl, Creator and Club Paradise. He was, remarkably, not nominated for an Oscar.) In addition, all eight are period movies and only half of the directors had previously been Oscar nominated for directing when nominated for these films, Peter Jackson only for the first film of the trilogy.

The show has sold over 80 million tickets worldwide, which augers well for the box office and like the last two Oscar winners, LOTR:Return of the King and Chicago, it is swathed in familiarity.

The Oscar season has started, like it or not. But the only major difference between this Oscar season and others is that some many of the films HAVE been seen… not that so many films have not been seen. This time last year, the winner and Master & Commander had not yet been seen. But either had Cold Mountain, Monster, Something’s Gotta Give, The Last Samurai, Mona Lisa Smile or House of Sand & Fog.

There are five big films still to come… and they will all be seen in the next three weeks or so.


Looks Like There Is A Reason…

… why Dakota Fanning can’t star in The Bad Seed remake…. she’s already in one…

The Trailer


One Good Thing About The Grudge

The trailer for Boogeyman kicks some serious trailer butt… maybe the best thriller trailler since Texas Chainsaw Massacre….


Monday Night's MCN Screening

Xan Cassavetes Talks About Her Film, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

I love doing these events, but last night was especially thrilling, as we were able to present two tremendous documentaries that will be seen widely on TV, but which may not get the on-screen opportunities they so richly deserve.

Hundreds of people came out to the Pacific Design Center to see the story of how one man created, with a great deal of help, a groundbreaking yet never repeated movie-lovers paradise on cable, while the second film showed how one person can make a difference in even the most challenging lives of children. Both films’ heroes had big wins and big losses, but the passion made their journies stand out with singularity. And the passion of the filmmakers equally so.

I’m only sorry than Zana Briski wasn’t there to hang out with Xan Casavettes… two women who have the passion to make things happen in this often all-too-comfortable world of the arts. (Born Into Brothels co-director Ross Kauffman, a great guy, would have been fun to have too… just not as fun…)

The next four films in the line up: The Sea Inside, Beyond The Sea, The Phantom of The Opera and Alexander… phew…

Gotta say…

This trailer , in and of itself, marks a major change in the Oscar race.

Ray‘s trailer did it for Ray… now this trailer suggests that there is a new front runner in the Oscar race.


When Armond Hits It…

I read Armond White of The New York Press every week. I rarely find myself just agreeing or disagreeing with him. My response is usually, “he’s so right and he said it better than anyone else” or “he’s completely nuts.”

This week, in reviewing Ray, I think he hit it out of the park. He’s also a little nuts, obsesing on his dislike for Michael Mann’s Ali. But in the end, while I have shortcutted it, all too often repeating, “it’s too long,” White gets to it…

“Committed to balancing chronological order with signs of personality, screenwriter James L. White avoids the bad taste and disingenuous omissions that ruined other recent black pop bios. But Charles’ extraordinary story eventually becomes mediocre when it ought to soar—or confront the contradictions of the music biz (remember Little Richards’ appearance at the end of the Frankie Lymon flick). White relies on the hoariest bio-pic clichés to depict the gestation of Ray’s artistic highpoints (such as the inspired recording of “I Got a Woman,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “What Kind of Man Are You?” and the Modern Sounds of Country and Western album). This reduces Charles’ art to a consequence of mundane events (Ray’s lover’s quarrel with his women) or as a mere gesture of banal expediency. It is never acknowledged as the product of truth-telling or mysterious genius. In this sense Ray commits many of the faults of the bio-pics that preceded it. Its significance is in Taylor Hackford’s maneuvering past the genre’s many ideological obstacles. Thus, I’ve presented its negative virtues. Ray remains conscientious but unimaginative.”

Conscientious but unimaginative… ouch. But accurate.

A good movie… but it never quite dares to be great. And that is a shame, given how much real talent, from the actors to the director, is involved.

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Ducking The Shark Tale Total

For some reason, one of the blogistas feels that I have avoided Shark Tale‘s failure to fail completely after a September estimate that it wouldn’t hit $100 million.

I was wrong. On the other hand, what I have been avoiding was a repeated analysis of what a mediocrity the numbers are. The wall known as The Incredibles leaves the shark story one more reasonably open weekend. Given that, Shark Tale is unlikely to pass A Bug’s Life (Pixar’s lowest grossing title) as the eighth highest grossing CG animated film ever and even if it does, it will come up short of Ice Age.

Is that the horn you want tooted? I’m underwhelmed.

It’s no Team America, but $160 million for Shark Tale is a step above embarrassing, not a cause for a parade… except perhaps for Chris Wedge and Fox, who have Robots on the way.


Weekend Box Office

The Grudge had an enormous opening, the third best October start ever, and any way you cut it, you have to give credit to Columbia marketing and what has become an unusual occurrence of open space for a genre film… a positive note that is quickly becoming the trademark of the studio. $23 million for Resident Evil 2: Apieceacrap on September 10, $21 million for The Forgotten on September 24 and now, with a month of basically dead horror/thriller genre space (Shaun of the Dead and Surviving Christmas don’t count), an estimated $40 million for The Grudge on October 22.

If your answer to this (unspoken) question is that Mila Jovavich, Julianne Moore or Sarah Michelle Gellar (recently returning to the Jewish pronunciation) is box office dynamite, you are a goof. But if your answer is that Scarlet Johansson in a tank top and shorts in a horror-tinged thriller will be her first real shot at being the lead of a $75 million-plus box office hit, you would be right, sir.

It is probably not a coincidence that Kill Bill, Vol. 2, Weekend 2 and the opening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre grossed $41 million together on the third weekend of October last year. The Ring & Ghost Ship, opening two Octobers ago to a combined $26 million, probably set up this progression more than any other title(s) did.

But again, give Sony credit. This is the biggest horror opening ever… the second biggest Japanese remake opening ever, led only by Devlin & Emmerich’s Godzilla… the best October chiller-thriller opening ever, but more so, the best without a major franchiseable element by 2.5 times, besting The House on Haunted Hill by more than $20 million and well ahead of such franchise releases as the aforementioned KBV1 and TCM2003.

Meanwhile, Surviving Christmas didn’t and the widened release of I Heart Huckabees was okay, but no better, managing a similar per-screen average as Shall We Dance’s second weekend despite being on one third the screens?

And in one Oscar-cautioning note… Vera Drake went out on 46 screens and overwhelmed no one… box office wise. Same with Being Julia on 26 screens. Yet both lead actresses are still likely to have busy awards seasons. And Sideways moved out on 4 screens to some less success than Huckabees did… yet I think the sense that this is a mainstream movie is growing and when Searchlight take it wide, the results should be a bit better. It is a delicate effort… but probably too delicate.


Greatest Publicist Pull Quote Ever?

As unearthed by Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly

“This movie fucks you til you bleed then flips you over and kisses you so deep!”
Mickey Cottrell on Tarnation


Indie World Domination?

Today, the IFP New York announced that its Gotham Awards – which used to actually be attached to an event on the indie film calendar, IFP’s NY Market – will be moving into the awards season with a Dec 1 awards show in New York.

Meanwhile, IFP West, which runs the Independent Spirit Awards, will announce their nominations, despite a near-three-month holding pattern until the actual awards, just the day before, on November 30.

So tell me… when did the renegades turn into a bunch of gussied up street walkin’ attention whores?

Make no mistake, critics groups across the land are happy to bend over deeply to take on a few celebrities at their various celebrations. Virgins are not roaming the awards landscape. But this is so overt! And combined with the notion that this is about celebrating the independent spirit… well, this is the independent spirit that led Harvey Weinstein into the $100 million movie business. And if that is what IFP wants to be about, they, like Harvey, will have to deal with a whole lot of serious competition.

The irony, of course, is that the Independent Spirit Awards have traditionally been an Oscar-chance killer, not a positive influencer. Academy members, like normal people, see that someone is getting their due and tend to look to other worthy people to support who have not yet been given the accolades of their peers.

What are the good folks at Focus Features thinking, putting Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind into the “Special Award” slot at the newly front-whor… uh, front-running Gotham Awards that their 21 Grams had last year at the Indie Spirits… which was one small factor in the film essentially tanking at the Oscars… nominations for Naomi Watts and Benecio del Toro, but not for the director or the screenplay, which was outgunned in the campaign by Dirty Pretty Things and Finding Nemo… two excellent scripts that should have easily been outgunned by 21 Grams.

Jim Carrey gives a sensational performance in Eternal Sunshine… award worthy. But is a nomination on Tuesday and a “special award” on Wednesday the road right to ScorseseVille, circa 2002?

Likewise, will Don Cheadle, who IFP is clearly hoping will be launched into – or be perceived as having been launched into – an Oscar nomination by being their Gotham Actor Award recipient, make the cut or be put on the shelf for having already been feted “enough” for his practically-every-frame Hotel Rwanda star turn?

And what is the IFP going to do for the rest of the independents that cost more than $16 million? How many films are going to start lying about their price tags in order to make that dubious cut? (I know of one film that seems to be leaning that way and may destroy its now-very-real Oscar chances by trying to have it both ways… even though its price tag is on the record in publication after publication.)

Of course, IFP already fails to recognize foreign language films outside of the foreign language category. Who do they represent? And why are they leading the way to the Hollywood mainstream when the mainstreaming of the indie business seems to be leading to a real crisis of purpose?

Does Dawn Hudson really want to be the Jack Valenti of indie?

I hope not. I have great respect for Valenti and what he’s done for the business, but he was there to do something for The Business, not to be the ambassador of film that was always his charming façade. When indies go that way, are they really going to be indies anymore?

I have a definite philosophy when it comes to these things… go where everyone else is not. The IFP has the platform to make a real difference for small films, but they seem so anxious to play with the big boys that they become just another log on a bunch of already raging fires. What is the point of that?

I love Lost in Translation… I am thrilled that Shohreh and Djimon got awards from someone… but if the Indie Spirits are to be the sandy kid sister of the Academy Awards, who is really going to care?

And though everyone will wander over to watch what’s up at The Gotham Awards this December 1 (like Christmas music in September), IFP seems comfortable becoming the Paris Hilton of industry events… no institutional memory of why the attention is so valuable and can be so useful… just a craving for it, no matter what you have to do and who is videotaping it.


An Incredibles Screening


Craig T Nelson aka Mr. Incredible and The Incredibles producer John Walker at the MCN Screening Series, Pacific Design Center, Oct 18.


Funny Friends?

The lawsuit against Friends by a former writers assistant is one of the great “How will you keep ’em in Hollywood if they still think they are on the farm?” documents of all time.

But perhaps my favorite, on first reading, is the page six revelation that Greg Malins – the pervy, oral-sex-fixated superstar of this deposition – felt that Adam Chase could have had sex with Jennifer Aniston had he moved quicker, followed by the page eight comment that Mr. Chase had opined to the complainant that he too felt that he could have engaged in sexual congress with Ms. Aniston.

And of course, the saddest thing I noticed, though it might be hidden in the inner folds of the deposition, was that no one seemed terribly interested in sex – oral, vaginal or anal – with Lisa Kudrow.

I don’t like any of the people whose ideas were recorded in this deposition. I don’t think the complainant deserves a dime. And I don’t doubt a single word she said.

It just goes to show that the writers, even talented writers, can be petty, worthless, self-involved, pieces of shit. And that should make us all cringe. But in the end, Hollywood will employ any brand of asshole that “it” things can make the machine money.

I am not worried about the sanctity of any of Mr. Aniston or Ms. Cox Arquette’s orifices. But the lack of humanity… that worries me alot.


The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin