Bites and Pierces

Maybe Serious Honor for Other Films-- "Capote" has gotten enough press lately that you can comfortably use the cliche’ "Generated Oscar Buzz" without people looking at you and saying, "Would you shut the hell up?!" The Golden Globe, the numerous Noms – Yes, we get it, it’s an important film. That is unless you talk to the people who created this cinematic gem.

Dan Futterman may initially strike you from his role as Robin Williams’ bemused son in "The Birdcage". He was able to parlay that breakout role into a television career in shows like "Caroline in the City", and "Judging Amy". His step into screenwriting however was not as easy, revealing that the line between false-modesty and false talent is razor thin. As Dan tells it there may not have even been a "Capote", had his wife not tipped him to a Rosetta-Stone-like discovery.

I had started writing sort of random scenes with Truman and Perry talking about what I considered to be interesting things in the jail cell. But it was not going anywhere; there was no narrative drive. And she was extremely clear with me about the fact that I needed to have a narrative drive, I needed to have an outline where one scene led to another ... And that as a revelation to me. It’s probably perfectly obvious to anybody who’s written a screenplay before.

Or obvious to anyone who has read a script before--such as an actor for example.
One other item that may have clued Futterman to the help he needed: the fact
that this is an adapted screenplay suggests the source material may also have
been a nice place to discover the "story structure secret".

On a related note of Oscar’s import, Phillip-Seymore Hoffman may end up providing this year’s speech to watch. It turns out that Hoffman, Futterman, and director Bennett Miller have been friends since their teen years, and they have made an arrangement:

We all made this drunken pact that if one of us ever won the Academy Award, that we would bark the whole acceptance speech."We were very serious," he continued. "Literally, we were like: 'I'll do that. I will definitely commit to that.' Bennett and I met...recently in Los Angeles and he said: 'So remember we made this pact that you have to bark?'"The thing is you can't just bark, you have to bark until they pull you off (the stage). Let's hope I don't have to get up there."

Sorry Flip, but let’s hope that you do win. Word of caution here -- vows over drinks should ner be put into writing.

A Warning Ladies:You Do Not Breakup With LanceExample that life is a cruel irony: Sheryl Crowe diagnosed with cancer after breaking up with the disease poster boy.

Example That Bloggers are Ironically CruelJake and Maggie Gylenhaal are Picasso objects.

Even False Modesty is Welcome These DaysDuring this time of year
where rotator cuffs are torn from self-congratulatory back slapping it helps to
find a Star who is not full of himself. Even though we are not sure who
considers Dr. House to be sexy, it is refreshing to see the term "Buns of
Yogurt" to describe an actor and it does not involve a subsequent publicist
outcry and defamatory lawsuit.


Little of Import, Lots of Insignifica

China Draws a Bizarre Conclusion—In a possible effort to preserve the purity of their bloodline, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television declared they have banned entertainment that mixes live-action humans and animated characters. Shockwaves were felt as SAG members expressed anger at the possibility of not getting to work with blue-screens.

They Are Anti-Hunting, But Pro-Guns – Those chuckle-heads at PETA have spoken again, and they are ripe with material as usual. This time the starlet in their cross hairs is Eva Longoria, who raised the hackles of the group by declaring she was a proficient hunter in her youth. A spokesman from the organization has a recommendation for the “Housewife”: her next hunting trip should include the errant-aiming Dick Cheney. Shooting her in the face may in fact be acceptable, as long as the rest of her remains pristine.

So Much for Me Going to an Opera Now—I don’t want to call into question anyone’s career considering the professional plight of blog writing and such, but when you have to call a press conference to declare you won’t be disrobing—maybe talent isn’t at the top of your resume’.

Somebody Get the Man a Billboard Magazine—Kanye West illustrates how intuitive he can be. While at the British music awards--in Britain--he expressed shock that his music is lumped into a category labeled “Urban”. Somewhere Mike Myers freezes in apoplectic shock.

First Hush Puppies Makes Mall Walkers, Now This—Need I point out the obvious here?! If you were to market shoes to illegals hoping to make it into America wouldn’t it occur to you that most, if not all, of your target demographic couldn’t afford your product? And we should be applauded for our restraint in not invoking a marketing slogan from a certain fast-food chain.


Young Ones Drinking and Driving

e-man-ci-pate (v.)
1.To free from bondage, oppression, or restraint; liberate.

Tmz.com has launched itself into the realm of important journalism, or at least launched into ratting out the club owners in Los Angeles. In a very SmokingGun.com manner they have an exclusive story exposing the truth about underage Hollywood star-itos. We discover many are able to gain entry into clubs and bars without having to endure that ego-deflating practice of verifying their identification. And many of them subsequently drink alcohol!

Lohan, Munoz, Olsen & Olsen -- all have been visually nabbed by sniper-eyed operatives from the website while entering swank establishments. TMZ goes the extra mile by tossing queries at the local department of Alcohol Beverage Control, and researching citations of local drinking dens. Best however is when they brace David Judakin, the owner of Mood, one of L.A's trendy clubs, about the adolescent alcoholics in his parlor. Initially he passes it off as a spate of fake ID's, but TMZ goes for the throat:

We informed Judaken, we have video of Lindsay Lohan and others being escorted in without showing ID. Judaken's response: "Certain celebrities ultimately enter lots of clubs who are not entitled to enter." Judaken also offered this: "A lot of them (underage celebs) I thought were emancipated."

I don't want to be overly dramatic about the issue, however not only is it a stretch to draw comparisons between pampered millionaire teen stars and this country's history of indentured servitude, it is also bad form to do so during Black History Month.

Mommy, I Said I Wanted the Off-Road Package!

On a related note of pouring unnecessary rewards on youth this little gem was found on the Wal-Mart online catalogue.

Now for $280.00 (without the spinners) your child can be resented by classmates AND environmental soccer moms! Depending on the options it gets 20 miles per gallon on the playground, 10 mpg in the sandbox.


Prevaricating Predators

Those Lying Dogs

It's freezing across this country, the winter Olympics are on television 24 hours a day, and so naturally people flocked to theaters to watch a film about canines left to freeze in a blizzard. Disney's 8 Below managed to jump on the wave of love created by March of the Penguins and raked almost $20 million over the weekend. This winter-lode was accomplished despite the efforts of The Wall Street Journal to crush the love kids have towards anthropomorphic creatures.

In an article with which he takes Hollywood to task for dubious marketing ,The Journal's John Lippman unveils some alarming news: Hollywood's claim to factual events in movies may not be completely true!!! The movie has roots in a Japanese film from 1983, Nankyoku Monogatari, which focused on a tragedy in the Antartic in 1957. Lippman spills on the vagaries:

" Inspired by a true story" is used loosely: The Disney film changed the characters, their nationalities, the time period, the number of dogs and the fate of most of the canines.

I could also add to the deception; the producers used 16 dogs for the 8-dog sled team on camera, which could spark another expose' from Lippman. That he is surprised Disney used a film from the 80's about an event half of a century ago and they fudged on the accuracy is a treat. If he comes forward to tell me that clown fish cannot actually speak to each other I may explode.

Can You Feel the Heath?

Oh, get ready, its a comin'. Slowly, subtly, but not imperceptably, a growing wave of constant Heath Ledger loving is cracking the horizon. Nary a news cycle ebbs without another nugget on the Aussie thespian's move towards nabbing an Oscar for his role as a saddle sodomite in "Brokeback Mountain".

A couple of the latest bon mots. Gossip Fodder reported that whilst across the pond Heath was being peppered with questions about something other than what it was like to be a gay cowboy, and once loosed from the chaps of his role Heath rambled. When asked about George Clooney he apparantly was unaware that he ended up putting the screws to his costar, Jake Gyllenhaal.

I think he deserves the best supporting actor. I thought he was amazing in Syriana." Jake Gyllenhaal, who was Heath's lover and co-star in Brokeback Mountain, is up against George in the best supporting actor category.

This should be a forgivable slight. Immediately after those questions he was again pelted with entendres: A reporter then asked him to compare making love to a woman in one film and a man in another. Heath may need to be wary of typecasting however--word is out that he will continue his man-love streak by portraying Rock Hudson.

Returning With Randomness

As If She Wasn't White Enough, You Dolts

While everyone has seen the images of Paris Hilton doused by the fuzzy-brained fur protestors at PETA, what I wanted was an explanation on what the hell was the purpose? The quadraped-snugglers were not dissapointing with their take:

"There is nothing remotely fashionable about the torture and death of animals killed for fur," PETA Europe's Yvonne Taylor told the BBC. Julien Macdonald may have been able to ignore images of bloody skinned animals gasping for breath in the past, but hopefully a dash of flour will help him rise to the occasion and forsake fur once and for all."

To paraphrase--when graphic depictions of tortured livestock fail to sway your foes, resort to attacks with cookie condiments. A few asides-- One article in a British paper has this tidy little nugget:

The 24-year-old recently made headlines after admitting she did not know that London was in Britain.

And lastly, a film maker in India has many peoople in a fit because he has the inspired idea to cast Paris as (you are best to sit for this) Mother Theresa

. The wizard behind this decision sites her decision not to pose for Playboy as the reasoning she could fill the sainted nun's sandals. I think everybody should relax however. Once she finds out she'll have to spend the entire film in those off-the-rack form-covering cerulian togs she will toss the script away like it is a TV costar.

When In Trouble Blame It On The Hooker

Tom Sizemore has been in the midst of one of Hollywood's better flameouts in recent years. The drugs, the hookers, the portrayal of Pete Rose--all have contributed to a tailspin from an already low altitude, b-list perch. So captivated was America with his plight that he could only land a prized interview with Donny Deutsch and his "Big Idea Show". (It's OK that you haven't heard of it, it is on CNBC.) During the "exclusive" Sizemore came clean and revealed the weakness that led him down the path to that Hollywood euphamism for fried-to-the-gills-on-substance-abuse, "Exhaustion"--It was all Heidi Fleiss' Fault!!!:

"She got me onto this drug called crystal methamphetamine; I never used that before. The drug really got me.I told her, 'When I come back to LA, I'm gonna be shooting in LA, I'm the star of the programme, I'm part owner... This stuff has got to stop and I can't stop if you don't stop. You've gotta stop,' and she didn't."

It was also revealed that years earlier to the relationship with the enabling Madam, while shooting the film "Heat", Deniro had to pull TommyBoy aside and grill him about getting into rehab. But he wasn't getting the shakes from an addictioin to Ice. Back then it was only Heroin. "I would take just enough to be not sick.", the cleaner actor said, "I was completely within my faculties when I was working." So the lesson kids, if you find yourself sharing drugs with your live-in prostitute girlfriend, and she ramps up the debauchery to stronger stuff, just say no.


Just Another Reason Why He is the King of Hollywood

Recently my wife purchased the DVD "Something's Gotta Give", and while I wasn't jubilant I did want to see the movie, but for one reason.


After these years Nicholson has transcended the title "actor" and has become instantly iconic in most roles. Granted this one isn't as complex as he was in say "As Good as it Gets", but you feel you have to watch Jack on screen in every role simply by rote. He's a fixture, he's a man's man, and he still has the chops.

While "Something's" primarily a female targeted romance picture that is only because Jack chose to step aside when the time called for it and allowed the actresses to grab the heft of the script. The reason I even bring all this up is that in passing (technically, "in cleaning") I came to discover that the disc featured a pair of audio commentaries, one involving Nicholson sitting in with director Nancy Myers.

Listening to this master wax theoretic on the craft he's known for is enjoyable, but the best part comes very early, in the scene where he is initially driving into the Hamptons. He's smoking a cigar with Amanda Peete's character in the passenger seat, and Jack reveals a technique when he explains he was unhappy with the way the lightning made his neck look so he had the cigar to block the camera.

MYERS: I remember how many cigars you smoked that day.

NICHOLSON: Not enough.

A Look Into the Life of a Film Critic, or, "Did Anyone Really Ask for This?"

Last night I was having a talk with someone I had just met, and when it came out that I was a film reviewer I got this response: "Wow, you must get to see some really great movies!" Because I am polite I didn't laugh out loud. The truth of the matter is that quite the opposite is true. Rarely do I get to sit in on a well crafted cinematic effort, but this is not a complaint as most of the time I actively seek out the detritus of Hollywood and elsewhere.

While the occasional first-run movie falls into my lap and I get the chance to review it on Film Threat, the wide majority of the movies I critique come from other sources. Independant features and film festival features are some of the most fertile territories that I tread, but this can be a hit or miss proposition. While I desire the indie segment and savor the talent and guts that often is behind a film like this getting made, just as often you can sit through a completely misguided attempt.

Take my recent trip to Sundance where I experienced the broadest spectrum of quality in a concentrated time frame. One film from Italy, "Three Step Dancing", had me wondering why it was selected, as well as why it was even made. The worst of the lot was "Harry and Max", which if you dare to read the review will reveal that it centered upon incestuous homosexual pedophilia.

This movie made me hate.

Another area I've been known to frequent is the often aberrant sector of direct-to-rental releases. These are the films that for any number of reasons never got released into theaters and find their debut to the public taking place on the Blockbuster Video shelf. These can either be festival hopefuls that never found distribution, or lavishly produced pictures that turned out so wrong the studio decided to cut its losses and dump it into home theater, or even those films produced on the cheap with the express purpose of turning a quick dollar in the rental market. In most of these cases the quality is nonexistent; this is not a place to enter into lightly.

My last stream of product comes via the web site itself, a source that I simply will call The Box. Every two months or so I will put the word out to my editor and soon in the mail I will receive a parcel from them containing up to 2 dozen tapes and DVDs. Film Threat, and our publisher Chris Gore, has a high degree of admiration in the indie film community. This was evident when walking Main Street in Park City behind Chris as he was perpetually confronted by those who recognized him.

Even at our festival last year I experienced this effect. I was sitting with a cameraman/producer friend of mine who came in from upstate and we met a woman doing PR for one of the films entered. I explained how I wouldn't have the chance to see the film and asked if a screener copy was available. She scoffed at me, using a patronizing tone to lecture me on the risk of piracy. I shrugged at her and simply told her I had hoped to post a review of it on Film Threat. The woman's eyes snapped wide and in the next 5 minutes she returned to our table three times to explain that she had spoken with the director, then to deliver a press kit, and finally to hand me a copy of the film. My friend marveled at this display and remarked that if I tried I could be a real asshole with this power. (I thanked him for suggesting I wasn't currently an asshole.)

So back to The Box. Because of this clout the offices of the web site get besieged with unsolicited copies of movies from hopeful film makers looking for a break. I once saw a picture of their room where mail bins and five feet tall piles of tapes and discs were stored. This was only what they average on a monthly basis. When I put in for my next delivery they take a snow shovel and scoop up part of the pile and ship it my way. The best way to describe the overall quality of these attempts is that my dog will not go near The Box when it comes in. Daunting is but one word to use when delving into the contents.


The Rance id

It was near the start of this space that I came across another contributor in the blogosphere hiding behind the sobriquet of Rance. He/she purported to be a star of obscure fame and used the blog to expound on issues they normally wouldn't have the freedom to discuss.

It was a fun read for a time, for even while you thought it was a scam it was that small grain of possibility that made it addictive enough to come back, even if you thought you were probably being played. But over time the lack of true heft to the postings began to ironically weigh down the proceedings, and interest began to wane for me. Then there was the moment I felt certain it was an all out ruse: Rance was unclear on the location of Spago! The Masked Star claimed to be mistaken due to his being unaffected by such things as when they closed one of Puck's places, but if Rance is the mover Rance claims to be there should be an agent around to keep this kind of information at the fore. I subsequently moved on.

Then suddenly Rance became a hot topic in the linked realm. Everyone it seemed was speculating who was the true identity behind the Oz like visage, with naming the luminary becoming the new parlor game of the ethernet. Guesses ranged from all around, with names such as Owen Wilson or George Clooney being alluded. Defamer had an interesting bit that inferred it could be the devilish Sr. Affleck, based on a puzzle that might have incorporated a tattoo he is adorned with. But I seem to recall that tatt was seen in a Rolling Stone article and therefore common knowledge, i.e. not so revelatory.

Last week Reuters jumped onto the bandwagon and jumped the shark at the same time when they published an extensive interview with the nebulous star. This mercifully could bring about the end.

And if not maybe the Museum of Hoaxes can. In a compelling and detailed account they seem to have tracked down Rance's trail to that of a political cartoonist and former European minor league baseball player named Keith Thompson. I hope they are correct,if for no other reason than to make the rest of the world look like simps.

He Was in "Gigli" So Why Not The Food Network?

When it comes to unhinged and downright curious screen actors I defy you to name one more obtuse than Christopher Walken. No matter the movie, and no matter the role, you cannot help but watch him when he is on camera. Between that warbling diction and the thousand-peyote-button stare you get mesmorized against your will.Walken has become an icon even though he largely plays himself in every role, but it is the way he plays with his image and what that image brings to his portrayal that makes him work. Think of his character, the duplicitous father Frank Abignale in "Catch Me if You Can, who would have merely been a pathetic grifter in the hands of any other actor.

The New York Times Magazine has a four page article on Walken that is well worth the registration to read. In the opening paragraph alone they offer a scenario that would be impossible to avoid should it come to fruition:
For years, the painter and director Julian Schnabel, a longtime friend of Walken's, has urged the actor to be the host of his own cooking show. This could be more captivating than his turn as a loopy dancer in a music video.
''The danger for me is, it could be popular,'' Walken says. ''I've tried to have some prestige as an actor, then I'd be the guy with the cooking show.'' This is the same guy who appeared in "Kangaroo Jack" not to mention a David Spade movie, "Joe Dirt"--a cooking show would be a step up.

But there are more nuggets to be found in this piece. He mentions a time where he tried out a personal therapist who worked out of her home--
''She had all these pots and pans and dishes piled everywhere. She was dirty, dirty. I thought, How am I going to take advice from someone like that? Not surprisingly it didn't take. "That was the end of my shrinkage. Maybe if she had been clean and nice I'd still be in therapy.'' This makes for a nice read to kick off the week.


Another Divorce Where the Kids Will Suffer

After a long bout of speculation early this year Pixar Animation decided to sever its relationship with Disney and either partner with a new studio or simply strike out on its own. This surprised few people as Pixar's magic has been the sole dose of quality in an otherwise unspectacular field of animation releases from Disney. From a negotiation standpoint this has left Pixar sitting pretty, but Disney may be trying to get a small dose of revenge.

Michael Eisner this past week confirmed that the House of Mouse is planing to release a series of sequels based on their past Pixar successes, sequels being something of a cash cow in recent years. With a new release looming on the horizon
Pixar CEO Steve Jobs was underwhelmed to hear of Disney's move.
"We feel sick about Disney doing sequels because if you look at the quality of their sequels ... it's been pretty embarrassing."
That may not be the only thing to cause the gritting of teeth. The arrangement stipulates that, despite having written the stories and created those characters, Pixar will only receive 8% of the royalties from any such title.