• Million Dollar Question SPOILER ALERT: The following contains major revelations of surprise twists in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, including the ending. The difference between criticism and journalism showed was revealed under a particularly bright light in a February 5 column by the Los Angeles Times’s Tim Rutten. Rutten writes under the heading “Regarding Media,” and while many sins are committed in the daily press under the guise of journalistic dissection, Rutten is not one of the offenders. Maybe that’s why I felt so personally disappointed by this column. more
• Too Hot To Handle Determined to prove that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Jack Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, has prevailed upon the distributors of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 to change a quote in the movie’s ad. The quote, as it happens, is from Richard Roeper, and read in its original form, “Everybody should see this movie.”
Valenti, as head honcho of the organization that doles out the film ratings, says the quote was inappropriate given that Fahrenheit 9/11 was rated R. Not everybody could see the movie, according to this risible argument, unless they were over 16 or accompanied by a parent or guardian. The distributors acquiesced and the quote has been altered to read, “See this movie.”more
• Vanity Foul If you’re an LA resident or just someone interested in California’s largest sprawl, and don’t read website LA Observed (www.laobserved.com), you should. It’s a fascinating digest of breaking Los Angelesiana, journalism news, and footnotes overseen by the site’s creator, the estimable Kevin Roderick (estimable because, among other things, he’s linked to these pages).
Over the weekend of May 14, Roderick posted several links. The first of them involved an article by LA Weekly show biz expert Nikki Finke, who reported that both the New York Times and LA Times were rushing to get competing stories into print. The stories concerned the relationship of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter to Hollywood, specifically how the editor has received financial payments from a Hollywood bigwig. This on top of social perks he gleans from his mag’s Oscar party, even as he continues to oversee its gushy, pseudo-sophisticated coverage of movie-making. Roderick later posted to the early stories the papers ran on the weekend, stories that highlighted a $100,000 payment Carter received from Brian Grazer, producer of A Beautiful Mind, a payment that sounds out of whack compared to Carter’s contribution to the movie. Apparently the editor suggested the original book, which was serialized in Vanity Fair, would make a good movie (not that it did). more
• No Good Fridays Without Easter What did Mel Gibson miss about the Passion that gives the lie to his claims of fundamental truth? Specifically, for pre-Vatican Council II truth? For that, we must step into a time machine and travel back, back, back to the 1960s, a few years before the council meets…
As you walked into Sacred Heart School, where your correspondent spent his grammar school years, you were met by a statue of the Risen Christ on top of a pedestal. Bent over so that it looked down on the smallest little boys and girls who came through the front door, it was, base and all, probably only an un-unnerving eye-level to the school’s high school students (Sacred Heart was 1-12). The figure had a peaceful visage and a hand half raised in a blessing, both meant as a welcoming gesture. As we trooped by it on our way in and out of school, pupils, as we were known, acknowledged the statue with a thoughtlessly tossed-off sign of the cross meant not to honor the statue (as was drummed into our heads), but the miracle of salvation it symbolized. The statue and the ritual became daily commonplaces, as extraordinary as tying your shoes and less likely to interrupt the lees of a recess conversation. more
• Chi Critics Cancel Kudos Display the nerve that has made their brawling, boozing town a national headquarters for the stiff of backbone, the Chicago Film Critics Association became the first film critics group to line up behind the LA Film Critics Association.
The Chicago Film Critics Association, disturbed by the unfairness and inequities caused by the current MPAA screener ban - and also by the fact that many affected film companies and divisions were denied a true voice in the matter - will suspend its competitive awards for 2003. This suspension will be in force until the MPAA allows all companies and/or subsidiaries affected to vote for themselves, or until it releases all those who disagree with the ban from forced participation, or until the companies and individual filmmakers who are opposed to that ban break it on their own. more
LA Crix Nix Pix Prix Even a sleeping dog can bite now and then. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, of which yours truly is a member, voted Saturday to cancel its awards for 2003. The cause was the Motion Picture Association of Americas decision to ban screeners (video and DVD editions of the years film releases) from distribution to voters in the Motion Picture Academy and the various critics organizations which award annual prizes. While no critic would dispute the right of a filmmaker to withhold his or her film from such distribution, the problem is that the major studios are using their muscle to make it a blanket prohibition. Independent films, which can only muster a few play dates even when they are commercially successful, cant come close to matching the reach of even mid-range studio features, which puts them at a severe disadvantage.more
Little Man, What Now? Pedro Martinez was a lion. No one could have asked more of him. Seven dominant innings, a three-run lead, all on foreign soil in front of a hostile crowd. Now, a strong bullpen lay in wait. No one could ask for more. But someone did. Someone who knew better. Someone who never should have asked. Someone who could only have asked because he was gutless. Because when Grady Little had to make the biggest decision of the year, he didnt have the courage to make it. Instead he weaseled out.more
Shanghai Studios The alphabet soups that make up the business, labor and organizational side of Hollywood can be awfully confusing. Theres the DGA, SAG, IATSE, MPPA, and so forth. So many, that people can be forgiven for coming up with weird translations of the acronyms. Take the MPAA, for instance. Some think it means Most Phony-baloney A------s Anywhere. Now thats ridiculous. The MPAA is the Motion Picture Association of America, sort of Hollywoods own Chamber of Commerce. Just a harmless business organization that, ahem, looks after the interests of its members, the major studios.
Recently, this innocuous group of respectable businessmen handed down a fiat: No screeners (i.e., videos or DVDs) of 2003s films were to be distributed to the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscar voters), of critics groups, or of any other body that hands out prizes. more
Arnold Stumbles The Arnold Schwarzenegger is making one of the worst wagers in the history of public life by running for the governorship of California. By entering the race, he’s pretty much put the finishing touches on a fading movie career. On top of that, he gains nothing by that sacrifice. If he loses, he becomes politically radioactive, an unsuccessful self-described Republican "moderate" in a state party that favors extreme conservatives. If he wins, he faces intractable fiscal problems as well as perennial California crises with water and energy. Oh, yes, and he’ll face a hostile and resentful Democratic legislature. A potential term in office is a catastrophe waiting to happen. How can a man who has had such a successful career until now make such an evidently foolish mistake? Because as a movie star, Schwarzenegger has been shielded from contact with anything but suppliants, sycophants and protectors for the last 25 years. The actor is all show biz and while it seems that he is listening to some seasoned political consultants, it seems just as likely that his regular publicists and managers are shaping his gubernatorial campaign. more
Welcome to America, Whoever You Are Now Heres the Deal The utter boorishness and economic bullying displayed by American officialdom in the face of anything cosmopolitan was on dismaying display Friday, April 18, 2003 at the ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood. The occasion was the opening of the L.A. Exhibition of Russian Cinema, a week-long festival mostly dedicated to newly-struck prints of "official" classics from different eras (Battleship Potemkin, The Mirror, The Ascent) and with a couple of showcases for animation and new films. The offender was Cong. Howard Berman, a liberal Democrat who represents the San Fernando area of Los Angeles. Berman’s liberalism doesn’t go so far as to prevent him from avidly supporting the war in Iraq or from being an equally fervent booster of "free trade," including its various manifestations in covenants such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. He’s also a chief legislative supporter of "intellectual property," which has many guises, but which for a Los Angeles congressman mainly entails the copyright protections of films and their ancillary income streams. So we see that Cong. Berman is comfortable with both the projection of American might and the legislative intervention in trade. more
The Fog of (Hollywood) War Does Hollywood just jump aboard the patriotic bandwagon when war looms? Thats the general explanation for the harvest of military-minded pictures that arrive in theaters when the U.S. is suffused with bellicosity.
But getting a film up and running is a long and well planned-out process. The two war-oriented movies that found their way into theaters on the eve of the U.S.-U.K invasion of Iraq, Tears of the Sun and The Hunted, necessarily had to be scheduled long before that action could be forecast. more
National Society of Film Critics - 2002 Awards Read the results of the National Society of Film Critics vote for its 2002 awards. Included are the number of points each winner and the two runners-up have received, but please note that these are points, NOT the number of critics who voted for each award. The NSFC employs a weighted ballot system (3pts. for your first choice, 2pts. for your second, 1 pt. for your third) PLUS the winner must appear on a plurality of the ballots cast. At the bottom of the list, two special awards appear. more
Seen Any Poor People at the Movies Lately? Have you seen any poor people at the movies lately? I don’t mean on the screen, I mean in the audience. And I don’t mean anyone fitting the description of media caricatures of the poor you know, the "underclass," "welfare queens," drug addicts, or any of that nonsense.
Im talking about people who work, if not quite for a living. People who get $11, $12, or even $13 an hour, who make maybe $30,000 or even less a year. If they get any health, theyre probably limited to the individual worker, and dont cover his or her family. more
Fight Back - Please Seven out of ten times I go to a regular movie theater, some problem comes up with the projection. Either part of the movie is being projected onto the black matting surrounding the screen, the movie is plainly out of focus, the sound is out of synchronization, the image is out of frame, or and this one always kills me the movie is being shown in the wrong aspect ratio because the wrong lens is on the projector.more
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