The Hot Blog Archive for March, 2008

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There Will Be McCain?


Has Obama Learned The Clinton Rules?

The story of the presidential primaries is becoming clearer for the moment… there is way too much time between the last primary and the next ones… enough time to create endless havoc in the media and to send the country through 3 or 4 major news swings with no real benefit.
It struck me today that the Obama folks have really pulled A Clinton this week with Pat Leahy coming out and calling directly for Hillary Clinton to step aside while Obama was saying, “She should be in the race as long as she likes.” Like the race card that was thrown down by Gerry Ferraro and then danced away from by Clinton… like the effort to slow a wave of insider support for Obama by having James “This is not coming from the Clinton campaign, shucks” Carville call Bill Richardson “a Judas” for doing just that and nothing more… the “should Hillary withdraw?” story has become the lead story of the race for a week already.
There has been some push back. And The Clintons have tried to sell their “disenfranchised” spin. But people know the reality here. When you have Mario Cuomo coming out and saying that the two candidates should agree publicly that “whoever wins, wins and the other takes the Vice Presidential slot,” that is closing in on an Obama endorsement. (It also reminds one that Hillary’s longterm strategy could now include a run for Cuomo’s old stomping grounds, the next Governorship of New York in 2010.) Of course, with Ed Rendell saying that he likes this plan, smart journalists should be pressing The Clintons on the question, “Would you accept a Vice Presidential offer from Obama if he were the nominee?’ Rendell seems to be saying, “Yes.”
It would be nothing less than rude for Obama to offer the slot to Clinton, especially after the debacle of her offering it to him, from behind in the race. But the press should be asking.
Anyway… it’s interesting… and it’s interesting strategy.
And it’s amusing to watch Bill Clinton – who had pretty much wrapped up the Dem nomination weeks before PA voted in his 1992 primary push, and who after that vote had fewer elected delegates than Obama will and more than his wife will this year – talk about how the “conversation” made the party stronger. 13% of the PA primary vote went to Paul Tsongas, who had dropped out of the race a month earlier. The only conversation going on at that point was whether Clinton could beat Perot and Bush 1.
From The NY Times…
Many Democrats have publicly worried about the strength of a Clinton candidacy this fall, and Gov. Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania spent much of the past week criticizing his party’s presumed nominee and arguing the case for an open convention at which other candidates could emerge.
But Ann F. Lewis, a Democratic strategist, said Tuesday, “I would say by now, those kinds of naysayers are irrelevant to the process.”
James Carville, a top strategist for Mr. Clinton, suggested that the elected officials and party leaders who are superdelegates at the national convention, a critical bloc, would recognize the political reality.
Alluding to an earlier body of political wisdom, Mr. Carville said: “Mr. Dooley says the first thing the Supreme Court does is read the election returns. I suspect the superdelegates do the same thing.”

Hee hee.
At least no one is saying Clinton should be getting out now that it’s clear that Obama actually won Texas.


BYOB – Weekdays

Still Bermuda-ing…
I keep thinking I will sit down and write an opus, but the Bermuda International Film Festival, which is low on star power but big on international filmmakers this year, has kept me on the run – okay… walk, in shorts – pretty much all day, from films to wine parties to Dark & Stormies… hey, someone’s gotta do it.
So… some space for you…


Weekend Estimates by Klady – Mar 30



AFTRA Waits For The Moment

AFTRA finally did what they have been itching to do/announced they were doing/were pressured into not doing all along… they severed – though they maintain they suspend, not terminate – their decades old relationship with SAG. They are now free to negotiate the deal that will undercut SAG that they wanted to make with AMPTP all along, as they try to take over a larger and larger piece of the SAG pie.
I covered this all over a month ago in a Hot Button column which got a collective yawn from Hot Blog commenters (except for one, who takes AFTRA’s side in all of this) and the only surprise in last night’s news is that it took so long. Clearly, AFTRA has learned a little about doing the controversial thing you wanted to do, but waiting for a moment in which you could blame the “other side” for forcing your hand.
But the real story is not about SAG and AFTRA here… it is whether this drama is going to create a SAG strike that might otherwise have not happened. The scenario is simple… AFTRA does a deal with AMPTP in the next month that undercuts SAG. Like the DGA deal – though I think DGA did a lot better than AFTRA will and started with more honorable intent – it will be filled with “progress,” most of which was already won by WGA and DGA. But that will be the AMPTP argument. In order to keep growing the cable segment, they need these givebacks… in order to grow online, they need these givebacks, etc, etc, yadda yadda yadda.
Meanwhile, SAG will, for the first time in a serious way, have to confront the issue of crossover actors between the two unions. AFTRA was find it nearly impossible to continue to encroach on cable, etc, without their members who are also in SAG… just as runaway production was not an option unless SAG allowed The Canadian Rules to stand without any fighting back.
Given the now very short window – which you have to give some credit to Clooney/Hanks for recognizing – fighting on multiple fronts and making a deal that the most aggressive SAG members are happy with is going to be quite a challenge… especially with former SAG leadership still sniping from the sidelines.
Now Alan Rosenberg will need to not only bring together the internal SAG constituencies to agree to a contract that reflects WGA & DGA, but there will be another contract out there, designed to steal more work from SAG members who want their hard won residual and P&W dollars. (And is the Qualified Voting debate still bubbling somewhere at full heat?)
Going into this week, I would have put the SAG Strike possibility at about 10% – 15%. The AFTRA news, I am afraid, roughly doubles those odds.
Meanwhile… we are about to pass the “won’t start a movie if we don’t know whether the talent will walk mid-shoot” deadline as well (though some have already pull the brakes on).


Friday Estimates by Klady – 3/29

So 21 will open over 21… which is good, because once people see this terrible waste of a great story on screen, they will not be doubling down. This is one of those movies that is so Hollywood by-the-book… so poorly constructed in its storytelling… so missing the boat in terms of the real drama of the story as evidenced by the book that the masterful, relentless sales job by Sony truly makes a Shinola opening out of, well… you get the idea.
On the other hand, The Weinsteins can’t even open crap parody movies anymore… unless you want to argue that $11 million is good for Superhero Movie, an unneeded farce.
Stop-Loss was never going to open for one clear reason… Paramount didn’t give a shit. Like Zodiac, the studio gave up on the film and a filmmaker they find “difficult” long ago and this still birth is the inevitable answer. Unlike Zodiac, Kimberly Pierce has no built-in rabid following, having squandered the momentum of Boys Don’t Cry five years ago already.
And for all the “people don’t want to see an Iraq” movie hum… bullshit. They will see the movie when The Movie arrives. In the meanwhile, the obnoxious choice of giving a movie a title that less than 10% of the world understands without an explanation with no stars who open and no clarity about what the film is about… an impossible sell. Sorry. Iraq was the least of their problems. And that is no judgment of the film… which I was not invited to see as far as I know. (It’s possible that an all-media invite escaped my attention.) The film could be genius… but it means nothing at the box office if no one is inspired to go.



I am still having password issues with posting to the blog on anything but my iPhone…. we should have it worked out soon. I really don’t want to write about the fine work at the LAByrinth Theater Co without some space and the ability to edit the piece properly.
In any case, I’m off to BIFF for the eighth year. Like many festivals, they are having a tough year with sponsorship… but the festival’s interest in international cinema and emerging filmmakers will surely trump the less glittery celebrity line-up.
See you on the other side…


BYOB – Peace Zone

I have had some computer issues, so I have just read the bloody mess around the fun conversation about the old HBO days when movies played 50 times and there were few other channels. (Homebodies, anyone?)
I will try to get it together on this end. Please use this space for good, not evil. Namecalling is weak, even when I feel the need to smack down a pompous regular now and again.
Be nice.


Theater… I Hardly Knew Her – Pt 1

An excellent day of theater in NY yesterday.
First, David Mamet’s farce, November, about a president facing a losing second-term election and the infusion of last minute hope for… something. The show is a little deceptive for an audience that is all to eager to read Nathan Lane’s desperate buffoon/survivor as George W Bush. But Mamet is after more than that here. November is a show that speaks more to the natural hypocrisy of the people who choose the life of high office, rather than any one buffoon.
With just a few minor edits, Lane could be playing the gay, eloquent, manipulative speech writer with Laurie Melttcalf as The President… especially with Hilary Clinton threatening to push her way into office, changing the rules as she tries to snatch victory from someone who has – for all intents and purposes – already won the primary election. And really, Dylan Baker could leap into either role effectively with either of his co-stars playing the dry, caustic, relentless Chief of Staff. They would all be quite different in each role, but the show would hold up. Really, no one is “doing” Bush here… except for being a screw up and being in Iraq. But this is not, say, Thomas Hayden Church or Kevin Costner as The President, bringing the good ol’ boy to the party. (Actually, Lane is in a presidential election seeking last-man-voting Costner’s vote in Swing Vote this summer.)
November is not going to win the big awards. It can’t beat the size and scope of August: Osage County, the weight of Rock-n-Roll. Lane will get smushed by a Seafarer or someone we haven’t seen yet. Metcalf will lose to an Osager. But, November is a show that audiences should eat up. It’s broad, but it is whippet smart. And while August makes you laugh, but sends you out reeling, November is loaded with “did he really say that”s, but sends you out of the theater laughing about how slippery it all is.

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I Could Have Cast All Night…

Okay folks… here is the challenge of the night.
A remake of My Fair Lady with Daniel Day-Lewis as Henry Higgins and Keira Knightley and Eliza Doolittle is in the works. So who would you cast to play Alfred P. Doolitle, Colonel Pickering, and the lovesick Freddy Eynsford-Hill?
My picks, off hand, would be Jim Broadbent, Willem Dafoe, and James Marsden.
Your turn.


BYOB – Travel Day

Eastward ho!
I’m heading to Pennsylvania, where I will be…
Just kidding. NY and then on to Bermuda for the Bermuda International Film Festival, my annual jaunt to the island of scooters, fish sandwiches, Dorothy’s burgers, and quite a good little film fest. It ain’t Berlin, but for a place with three screens on the island and a world of reasons to stay outdoors, they find all kinds of world cinema and fill theaters year after year.
But first, a stop in NY and a look at David Mamet’s political comedy and Phil Hoffman’s latest directorial effort.
And a long flight… so bring da noise, bring da funk…


It's The Backdoor, Stupid.

You have to hand it to James Carville


Twinkle, Twinkle Little Gross?

Richard Corliss is not altogether missing the point in his piece on


Geek Get Their Movie… Kinda

After a long period of kicking and screaming, The Weinstein Co finally has given in to the very small audience that existed for Fanboys in the first place… at least on DVD.
The real question now is… after getting their way, will they pay to buy this DVD anyway?
Theatrical… if they get 30 screens, it will be a freakin’ miracle.
The press release follows after the jump…

Read the full article »


The Sting Of Irony

One of the non-pleasures of the mostly-old-news case against Anthony Pellicano – one still gets the strong impression that the government is waiting for someone… anyone… to crack – is that all the old players are being tortured once again. Papers are giving space to Grey vs Shandling, a decade old story of basic Hollywood bullshit, as though Shandling had gotten a single job fronting a movie in this millennium. Of course, the wet dream of the many, many people that Brad Grey has made into enemies – easily #1 on Hollywood’s Most Hated List in 2007, and still in 2008 – is that Grey will lose his job, be sent to jail, and be forced to have an affair with a “development executive” that wants to develop more space in one of Grey’s orifices. (Not in that group is that bastion of speaking truth to power, Nikki Finke, who was converted into a Grey BFF about a year ago. I agree that the testimony was boring

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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