Hot Button Archive for January, 1998

More News by the Numbers

10. Anastasia Returns, Again: After drawing just $56 million at American box offices, Fox is mounting its biggest marketing campaign ever — at least $100 million — for the home video release of Anastasia in April. So does that mean that Titanic will get a billion dollar home video push?
9. Killing The Messenger: New Line has chosen not to use the Clinton sex scandal to push Wag the Dog. But there has been one change in the ads. Now, the intention of the fictional president’s distraction squad is, according to the revamped voice over, to “fool the media.” Didn’t fool me, guys.
8. Ancient History: They are touting Titanic “survivor” Gloria Stuart as the oldest nominee in the history of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The four year history of the SAG Awards. Hollywood history is measured in dog years.
7. Reversal Of Fortune: Antoine Fuqua got the gig directing The Replacement Killers after his video for Coolio’s “Gansta’s Paradise” got credit for the success of the movie Dangerous Minds. Who’s directing the video for the lead-off single from the soundtrack to Fuqua’s film debut? Doug Liman, who got the gig after having a feature hit with Swingers.
6. SuperThud: Studios hoping to follow in the footsteps of ID4 and MIB were S.O.L. Armegeddon crashed and burned with its $2.6 million Super Bowl ad, as did the $1.3 million entries for Lost in Space, The Mask of Zorro, Mercury Rising and Sphere. None were even mentioned in viewer bowls after the game.
5. Courting Trouble: Courtney Love got Sundance to dump Nick Broomfield‘s documentary on her so-called-life, but her actions made the film the headline-grabber of the festival. Now, Broomfield can thank her for the unprecedented multimillion dollar documentary production deal he just got from the U.K.’s Channel 4. Gotta love it.
4. Or Was That Fore!?: Billy Baldwin took a decade of anti-Baldwin Brother karma on the chin when he got smashed in the face with an errant golf ball last week in San Diego. In response, brother Alec pummeled the golf ball. Daniel Baldwin seethed, but couldn’t act. And no one reported on what Stephen Baldwin did since no one recognized him.
3. Oscar Time: The Director’s Guild Award nominations are out. No other award better predicts the eventual Oscar winner in any category. And the winner is announced on March 7.
2. Do You Take This Maniac?: Woody Harrelson finally tied the (hemp) knot. No word on whether Mr. Harrelson was using his favorite product, a derivative of hemp, at the wedding, but he clearly was when he was naming his kids, Deni Montana and Zoe Giordano.
1. Twisting In The Wind: In a slow news week, Steven Spielberg not having to pay St. Louis writer who claims that he stole the story for Twister is the biggest news. The plaintiff will not be paid millions of dollars. Spielberg won’t be appealing the case. And no one had sex with anyone.
READER OF THE DAY: This from Erin P.: “The Manchurian Candidate is the s–t. I’d pay through the nose to see it on the big screen. TV is so passé.”

A Weekend Review

This is garbage dump weekend for the first quarter of 1998. Fox may do well with Great Expectations due to our, well, great expectations of Gwyneth, Ethan and Bob. And damn it looks good! But the studio’s late move away from an Oscar qualifying release date should serve as a loud warning. Lower your expectations. (That said, I’ll be ponying up my $7.50 sometime this weekend). Disney is spending lots o’ cash trying to convince someone — anyone — that Deep Rising is this year’s Anaconda. That squid won’t hunt. And the long in-the-can Desperate Measures is finally being released. I can smell the write-off as I write this. All three of these films could easily open over $7 million, with GE in the lead. Next week, the bottom drops out.
THE 800 POUND MONKEY: Titanic will continue to sail, getting closer to the $20 million weekend horizon, but don’t hold your breath. It won’t help. The water’s really, really cold.
THE 666 POUND GIRL GROUP: Shake it down the charts. The Girls of Spice should fall by 40 percent or so as many prospective audience members lose interest after growing one week older. Good Will Hunting and As Good As It Gets should leapfrog the girls. Hold on. Can you smell a sequel?!
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: The Pate Brothers are blazing hot despite making just one film. They are one of those wacky Hollywood phenomena which has made brothers who write and direct, like The Coens and Bound’s Wachowski Brothers fashionable as hell. This week, find out if they’re for real or just The Brothers of The Week when their Deceiver hits theaters.
MILESTONES: Guess who’s gonna pass the $300 million mark this weekend?
MILLSTONES: Last weekend, The Postman averaged $227 per screen. That’s about four people attending each screening. Can it get worse?
TWO BAD MOVIES EQUAL: Spice World and Star Kid = Spice Kids: The Movie. Synopsis: Remember Muppet Babies? Follow the animated antics of Pee-Pee Spice, Baby Fat Spice, Suckie Spice, Droopy Spice (the one with the unfashionable diaper) and BaBaBaBaBaBaBa Spice as they spend every waking minute trying to get some attention.
READER OF THE DAY: Aaron S. predicts: Titanic $26m, Good Will Hunting $9m, Great Expectations $7.5m, As Good As It Gets $6m, Spice World $5.5m, Desperate Measures $5.5m, Deep Rising $4.8m, Wag The Dog $4.6m, Fallen $3m, Hard Rain $2.7m, Half Baked $2.3m.

Fight Over Summer 1999

IT’S WWIII FOR ME: After Disney’s $2.6 million Super Bowl ad for Armegeddon, the reaction seemed universal. “Why are they making another meteor movie?!” Here’s the next trend to be done to death. Fox is developing a Wired magazine story on cyber-terrorists as an apocalyptic thriller called They haven’t even hired a screenwriter for the project, yet it’s being touted as the studio’s tent pole movie for July 4, 1999. But what about Star Wars, which is set for Memorial Day Weekend, 1999 and is expected to be under the Fox banner? Fox execs may be underestimating The Force. Meanwhile, Sony bought a spec script called, simply, World War III, four months ago with an eye toward– when else? — summer 1999. In political terms, this is called Mutual Assured Destruction.
DGA IN PLAY: This year’s nominees for the Directors Guild Awards for 1997 have been announced. Don’t expect any surprises here. It’s James Cameron or L.A. Confidential’s Curtis Hanson. If Hanson wins, every Oscar category is up for grabs. If Cameron wins, Titanic takes Best Picture and Best Director for sure. Clip & Save.
WHOSE COMIC IS IT ANYWAY: DGA nominee Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) is in the writing phase of his next project with Robin Williams. He Won’t Get Far is the true story of John Callahan, a hugely successful cartoonist and quadriplegic. Can you imagine what will happen when the hyperactive Williams plays a role requiring complete restraint? I can. Handicap + Superstar = Oscar!
FALSE HOPE: So, you want to sell your screenplay? I shouldn’t be telling you about this, but Adam Herz, a 25-year-old on his way out of town just sold his script for $750,000. I look forward to meeting you when you try to duplicate his feat. But let’s save a little time. Medium rare. Fries. A Diet Coke.
READER OF THE DAY: Krillian writes: “With 55 million girls in the U.S. aged 16 or younger and an average ticket price of $5.00 that means 2.2 million tickets were sold (about 4 percent of all young girls). Add mothers taking the wee lasses and teen boys thinking it’d be a good place to pick up on jailbait chicks and there you have the reason for the ubiquitous success of the Spice movie.”

Washington in the Movies

There is only one story worth ranting about these days. And surprisingly enough, it has everything to do with the movies. Wag The Dog is the most obvious connection to Fornigate. Will the U.S. use missiles against Iraq to distract Americans from how the President may have used his? Not with Levinson and Mamet’s masterwork still in theaters. Chemical weapons are nothing compared to bad PR in Washington. There should be a Wag The Dog Holiday in Baghdad celebrating those not killed in “The Gulp War.” (Note to studio execs: Use Presidential crisis to drive DVD sales in the Middle East.)
On the horizon is Mike Nichols‘ adaptation of Primary Colors , which covers, “fictionally,” the Clinton election campaign. Universal is reportedly as nervous as Bill about the release of the film. Sure it has John Travolta in a dead-on impersonation of Clinton, but Hollywood fears that it may be too much reality for audiences. Expect the current advertising tag line, “What went down on the way to the top” to change in a hurry. I mused yesterday on Nichols tagging an addendum onto his film, but he may have found an outright sequel. Universal’s purchased rights to the novel The Reader for Nichols to produce and maybe direct. The story? A teenage boy has an intense affair with an emotionally unavailable older woman. Years later, her past is revealed, throwing everyone’s life into turmoil. Hmmm.
Clinton advisors must be particularly anxious for the release of Sony’s Les Miserables. After all, if Primary Colors is the warts-n-all version of the story, Les Mis is pretty much the version that the Clinton staff is pushing all over cable. The President is Jean Valjean (in the movie, Liam Neeson), pursued mercilessly by Kenneth Starr, Washington’s very own Javert (Geoffrey Rush). Of course, the hope of Clintonites is that Javert will throw himself into the Potomac because he’s so overwhelmed by Jean Valjean’s natural kindness. While his detractors wonder when nudes of he and Cosette in a compromising position will emerge. We’ll see.
READER OF THE DAY: From Rafael: “Enough with the jibes at Titanic. It’s getting old and boring. The last thing I need is one of my favorite Websites implying a conspiracy. I’m sure the book and CD are also in on it!”

Disney's Copyrights

RESHOOT!: Will Mike Nichols add an epilogue to the Clinton dramedy, Primary Colors? All the players from the film, which chronicles the “fictional” election run of a McDonald’s-loving former governor, seem to be returning to Washington to lend a hand in Big Mac Daddy’s time of need. And Nichols loves to reshoot. Just add one credit: “With Steve Buscemi as Matt Drudge!”
COUP DE MOUSE: In a millennium phenomenon that may prove the apocalypse is coming, Disney’s copyrights are beginning to run out and Steamboat Willie will become the first major Disney to enter public domain property in 2003. Disney is busy trying to convince Congress to change the copyright law, but for a company that sued the Academy for using Snow White during the Oscar show without permission, the possibility of losing control of anything must be horrifying. The solution? Can you say President Eisner?
NECKING: Miramax Films is about to greenlight Audrey Hepburn‘s Neck, a film from British director Angela Pope about an adolescent Japanese artist who explores the meaning of Eastern vs. Western culture. Plans for a sequel, entitled Katherine Hepburn‘s Neck, are shaky.
SEVERE-IS: Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris took home the Sundance Film Festival’s Freedom of Expression Award for the third installment of her rock-n-roll trilogy, The Decline of Western Civilization. Last time Spheeris was seen expressing herself was at the junket for her Marlon Wayans starrer, Senseless, where she freely expressed herself by yelling at reporters before prematurely exiting one press roundtable. She didn’t like all the questions about the wide range of racially insensitive jokes in the film. Freedom of expression is a pesky business, ain’t it?
READER OF THE DAY: From A. Campbell: “Titanic isn’t a movie, it isn’t even another ‘blockbuster’, it’s a spiritual experience for the masses who are too spoon-fed and not brave enough, smart enough, or knowledgeable enough to go the extra mile (quite literally, sometimes) for movies like The Sweet Hereafter or Shall We Dance.”

Weekend Review and Milestones

Were there movies out there this weekend? Between the Super Bowl and Suborning Bill, movies seemed like a low priority for a change. Titanic made its $25 million. The Spice Girls managed to snap up $11 million (if anyone out there knows why, please e-mail me). The Good movies (Will Hunting and As it Gets) did good in third and fourth. Fallen fell in a pretty standard way. The only newcomer to the Top Ten was Phantoms with a weak $3.1 million open.
MILESTONES: Titanic passed Jaws‘ $260 million domestic gross to become the 10th most popular film of all time. Jaws, who had to turn down a cameo in the film due to rust, refused to comment. But a spokesperson for the mechanical shark rambled on about the box office to production cost ratio and mentioned that Quentin Tarantino had recently visited Jaws on the Universal Studio tour and they were hoping to have “good news” about a comeback in the near future.
MILLSTONES: President Clinton was getting wagged so hard by the tale of him being a dog that it could snap his presidency. New Line has decided not to capitalize on the current problems in the White House, but Iraq has. Saddam Hussein is claiming that he is now expecting an American assault on Iraq as a Clinton distraction.
ABOVE THE FRAY: Ben Affleck, Phantoms most marketable co-star and Golden Globe award-winner for co-scripting Miramax’s Good Will Hunting, was not out on the talk circuit pushing his newer film. Given that Phantoms is from Miramax division Dimension, that might be internal strategy to keep Affleck pure for Academy consideration. Or Ben’s head might be too big to talk sci-fi. Only his publicist knows for sure.
READER QUOTE OF THE DAY: From Marc A, “I don’t doubt Titanic‘s doing well, but these numbers seem impossible! I’m waiting to hear that Titanic is healing the sick this weekend.”

News by the Numbers

10. Pam Anderson: The Sequel
There will be no Barb Wire 2, but Pam is out to prove her claim that she will never “simulate” sex onscreen again. Her next “love documentary” premiered Monday, co-starring Poison singer and recent first-time film director Bret Michaels.
9. Scream TV Works For The WB
Feature-turned-TV series, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” and “Dawson Creek,” an original from Scream scribe, Kevin Williamson, combined to score big Neilson numbers. Maybe UPN will counter with The Brady Bunch/Mission:Impossible hour. Wait a minute.
8. Sundance Keeps That Edge
Check out the festival’s award ceremony Saturday at Bloomingdales. Oops! You can’t. It’s by invitation only, co-sponsored by Entertainment Weekly and USSB. “Attention, shoppers! Ten percent off on ultimate hipness when you charge it on your Bloomies card!”
7. Spice Girls Invade Hollywood
Remember when they said they had Mad Cow disease under control and that it would never get to America? Liars! Meanwhile, Ginger Spice is an unwilling participant in a new video called Spice Exposed. Naked Girl Power!
6. Return to Oz
While Surrender Dorothy was in Park City winning honors at the Slamdance Film Festival, Drew Barrymore was signing up to make a movie of the same title for Warner Bros. Neither have a relation to the MGM classic. Possible tag line: “You’ve seen the T-shirt, now see the movie.”
5. Hefner Gives Wife Up, Award Out
Days after Hugh hit the town with two Playmates after separating from his wife , they’ll be giving out the Playboy Freedom Of Expression Award at Sundance. Do they mean expressions like “Til death do us part” or “My doctor can take you to a D-cup, no problem”?
4. Cattle Ranchers vs. Oprah Begins
She’s now suffering from Mad Cash Cow disease.
3. Whoopi Takes the Center Square
I’ll take “Actresses Whose Careers Are Deteriorating” to block!
2. All Conquer Love
Audiences catching the controversial documentary Kurt & Courtney explain why Ms. Love is pissed. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield basically accuses the widow of responsibility for the Nirvana star’s death. Now you wanna see it, don’t ya?
1. Extra Credit
Forni-gate overtakes the Titanic as top cocktail talk. I imagine that somewhere Pamela Lee is reading (tee-hee) about Jen Lewinsky‘s audio tapes and meowing, “Amateur.”

Unsinkable Titanic and More

The story of the weekend will once again be the unsinkable Titanic. Throw another $25 million on the barby, mate! Good Will Hunting looks like it will continue strong in the number two slot, hovering around the $11 million mark. And Fallen can’t get up, with As Good As It Gets looking likely to ride its Golden Globe wins to the third slot. The new films in wide release come in natural, supernatural and unnatural. Those would be Swept From The Sea, Phantoms and Spiceworld, definitely in that order. The-Girls-That-Make-You-Gag and The-Movie-That-Signaled-The-End-Of- Peter O’Toole‘s career should draw between $5 and $10 million. The romantic drama of Swept will likely be lost at sea.
MILESTONES: Titanic should pass $250 million today and The Devil’s Advocate hopes to hit the $60 million soul mark this weekend. Amistad and Jackie Brown are fighting to pass the $40 million mark.
QUALITY LIMITED RELEASES YOU AREN’T SUPPORTING: Kundun (439 screens), The Boxer (523) and the re-releases of The Full Monty (469) and L.A. Confidential (294).
LAST CHANCE TO SEE: Firestorm, Star Kid and The Postman, which will not pass the $20 million domestically… ever!
PROMO TO LOOK FOR: Wag The Dog could well cut some new ads which focus a little closer on their fictitious White House sex scandal and less on the cover-up.
TWO BAD MOVIES EQUAL: Hard Rain and Half Baked = Hard Baked. Synopsis: Jailbird Christian Slater trades nude photos of former girlfriend Winona Ryder for some marijuana and ends up trying to chew his way out of prison on a rainy day. Hilarity ensues.

Anderson, Zucker and Woo?

Looks like Paul Thomas Anderson hasn’t heard the last of the comparisons between he and Martin Scorsese. Just when the GoodFellas/Boogie Nights link is disappearing, PT (as he’s now known about town) may be hooking up with Robert Evans (the producer on whom Dustin Hoffman based his Wag The Dog character) and Jack Nicholson (one of Evans’ very best friends) to make a feature. It’s the story of an eighth-generation Native American who decides he’s ready to take on Vegas with his reservation casinos. That would be Jack. I, for one, would look forward to any movie about Native Americans that’s not exclusively about being Native American. The sequel could be about the guy getting into Pro Football. Cowboys, and … you get it!
Ghost made us believe that Patrick Swayze could act. First Knight brought us a sixtysomething Arthur, a fortysomething Lancelot and a twentysomething Guinevere, but not many believed that. (I liked it! I admit it! I liked it! I’m so embarrassed!) Now, director Jerry Zucker is giving us A Course In Miracles, which follows a young priest who has lost his way on a trip around the world to investigate claims of miracles. I wonder if he reaffirms his faith? Me, I’m looking forward to the lawsuit from the ever peaceful Marianne Williamson, who wrote the eponymous smash hit book of the same title. The problem? The book is not the basis for the movie and this will wreak havoc with any book deal she may have simmering.
A Hollywood Conversation: “The guy who made Face/Off just made a first look deal with TriStar Pictures.” “Woo.” “Yeah, I’m happy too. What’s the guy’s name?” “Woo.” “No, the guy who made Face/Off.” “Woo.” “Yeah. I liked it too. And that other movie.” “Killer.” “Yeah. The best. But what was it called?” “Killer.” “Okay, so don’t tell me! I hear he’s producing.” “The Big Hit.” “I guess so. The guy can’t miss. But, what’s his name?” “Woo.” “Woo directed The Big Hit?” “Exec Produced.” “But who made Face/Off?” “Woo.” “The director?” “Yeah.”

DeVito Producing, BeattyFinishing

Danny DeVito continues to show exceptional taste as a producer. He’s had hits with rising stars Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) and Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty), and now Eve’s Bayou director, Kasi Lemmons, is about to settle into the diminutive star’s Jersey Pictures to rewrite and eventually direct The Caveman’s Valentine, a murder mystery which forces a schizophrenic former jazz prodigy to move out of his Central Park cave and back into the real world to solve a crime. Sounds like a job for Lemmon confidante Samuel L. Jackson, who was co-producer of her debut film and who is always on the lookout to do something new.
Did anyone else wonder where Warren Beatty was when his sister, Shirley MacLaine, was receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes? He probably still has his nose to the grindstone, trying to make Bulworth, his soon-to-be-released-after-a-long-delay political comedy, work as well as a full-length feature as it does as a two-minute trailer. Meanwhile, his wife, Annette Bening, is going back to work, joining Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis in Martial Law. The film starts blowing up stuff all over New York on January 28.
In fabulous babe news, Miramax may finally have found someone to take the female lead of Shakespeare in Love. And the lucky girl is – taa daa! — Gwyneth Paltrow. Julia Roberts toyed with the role as the object of Billy Shakespeare’s lust for eons before passing and taking on My Best Friend’s Wedding. Paltrow would appear opposite Ralph Fiennes brother, Joe. Meanwhile, Heather Graham may join Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin in Bofinger. Looks like Eddie may be trying to stabilize his career as a solo superstar. His last film was opposite Jeff Goldblum and now he’s hooking up with the white-haired one. Or maybe he just figures that carpooling is safer for his image.

Titanic In Iceland

It was a long, long weekend. Long enough for Titanic to rack up another $35 million. Fallen beat out Hard Rain, $10.4 million to $8.3 million, and Half Baked did better than expected with $8 million over the four days (You can just imagine how much popcorn they sold). Meanwhile, Gudmundur Breidfjord e-mailed me this perspective on Titanic‘s box office. “If you don’t believe your domestic box office, what about Iceland? (Don’t laugh) Here in this tiny island in the north, Titanic opened on Jan 1 and on the first five days on three screen in three theaters, Titanic took in $135,000! (That is close to 10 million Icelandic kroners!) Mind you, Iceland is a nation of only 260,000 people and has only seven movie theaters with total of 28 screens. This number is UNBELIVABLE! Snow or no snow! Rain or no rain! They will come.”
The family of William Murdoch, the Titanic watch commander who is shown committing suicide in the film, is ticked off. His nephew, Scott Murdoch, now 80 years old, says that the moment is “completely fictional,” insisting that his uncle “went down with the ship after showing great heroism.” No lawsuit seems to be on the horizon. No such luck for Steven Spielberg, who can’t seem to avoid litigation these days. The court is allowing Stephen Kessler to go to trial with claims that Twister was ripped off from his script, Catch The Wind. Kessler, who is based in St. Louis, says that he delivered his script to companies that represent Spielberg and writer Michael Chrichton. Sounds more like Kessler is passing the wind.
Not nearly as concerned about the bottom line, Sir Alec Guinness ( a.k.a. Obi-wan Kenobi) tells a story in his upcoming autobiography about meeting a child who claimed to have seen Star Wars over 100 times. Guinness told the child to stop seeing the movie so forcefully that the child burst into tears. “I just hope the lad,” Guinness writes, “now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.” Nope. He’ll have to wait until Memorial Day 1999, when the Star Wars prequel hits theaters.

Sundance and More

The Sundance Film Festival opened with a whimper and not a bang after Nick Broomfield’s (Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam) documentary, Kurt and Courtney, was dumped after legal threats from EMI records, claiming unauthorized use of Cobain’s songs (See our Sundance Daily Report).Broomfield is reportedly not as upset as you might think. “This is agonizing, but it will become part of the film and will make a better ending. And I’ll be doing a bit more skiing than I’d anticipated.” On the Courtney watch, it looks like she’s chosen her next film: the ensemble drama, 200 Cigarettes, which seems to be yet another classic in the Fine Whine school of film making.
Morgan Freeman is getting younger. He’ll once again star as Alex Cross in Along Came A Spider, the prequel to his hit thriller, Kiss TheGirls. In other bloody news, the Academy (yes, that Academy) is giving a special science technology award to Pete Clark, a longtime effects expert who co-developed, with 3M (the people who brought you Post-Its),really cool simulated blood. Sadly, the Academy passed up other such inventors, like the guy who developed the fake urine for Ransom, the fake vomit for Barfly and the fake flatulence for Blazing Saddles.
S.W.A.T.: The Movie is getting closer every day and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. It looks like the cop movie to end all cop movies will combine the massive talents of Tomorrow Never Dies director Roger Spottiswoode and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Besides the opportunity to break new records for amounts of space taken up on the poster by a director/actor team, Arnold must be jumping at the opportunity to work with a director whose incredible track record with major movie stars includes Tom Hanks in Turner and Hooch, Robin Williams in The Best of Times, Mel Gibson in Air America and Sylvester Stallone in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

A Weekend Preview

Things should stabilize at the box office this weekend. Given its history, I expect Titanic to drop a whopping 50 cents to $28,716,309.50. (Or let’s say another 15 percent to $24.4 million) That’s as close as I’ll get to a rant on the subject, but e-mail me your guess at this weekend’s Titanic box office figure and I’ll print up to 150 words on Titanic or any other subject that pushes your hot button in Monday’s column. Please include an estimated per screen average for tie-breaking purposes. (Last weekend it was $10,458.)
It’s been over a month since a good chiller-thriller hit screens, so I’m betting that Denzel’s Trip To Creepsville a.k.a. Fallen can pull in about $12 million to take second place. In its second weekend of wide release, look for a minimal drop from Good Will Hunting, say 10 percent, for $9.2 million and third place. Things stay good for As Good As It Gets, dropping about 20 percent to $7.2 million. In fifth, the dark horse for Best Picture (if Titanic and L.A. Confidential sink one another), Wag the Dog should be steady in its second wide week with a 15 percent drop for $6.6 million.
Hard Rain should be the first (and only) bad news for Paramount to be caused by Titanic. They need as many screens as they can get for a strong opening before word gets out that Christian Slater is safer in jail than amongst people who paid $8.00 for this flick. Their other water movie will remain the biggest screen hog in the land, leaving Hard Rain $6.5 million and sixth place. In seventh, a big hit lost behind the iceberg, Tomorrow Never Dies should drop about 30 percent to $5.3 million, but still become the biggest domestic grossing Bond film in history, passing Goldeneye‘s $107 million. The films in eighth and ninth place both involve incense burning. Kundun will go wide to the spiritual tune of about $5 million. Half-Baked should down about $4.7 in munchies. And in tenth, Mouse Hunt should hunt down another $3.2 million. Off the charts, but over $2 million, look for Firestorm, Jackie Brown, a re-release of The Full Monty, Scream 2, Star Kid and Amistad.

Plea for Kundun

This is my plea to Academy members. Don’t let the critics fool you. If you want to vote for the one truly epic love story of 1997, vote for Kundun, the story of a man who loves in the hardest way possible — unconditionally. It’s a big bite, but Kundun delivers. It wears its true heart on its sleeve, leaving it vulnerable to attack, but somehow safe by way of that very vulnerability. In a year of great filmic cynicism, no movie speaks to what’s right about the human heart nearly as well.
The film is opening wide this week, but many of you may not have even heard about it. And it isn’t winning any of these awards you keep reading about. Why? Some insiders say Disney doesn’t want to push the film too hard, fearful of reprisals from China. Perhaps. I blame the critical community, too wrapped up in the flow of big movie after big movie to take the time to let this artwork flow over them instead of analyzing story points. Kundun has no movie stars. It doesn’t have the overt majesty of an acting legend like Peter O’Toole. It isn’t snappy.
This is a movie of grace and calm. At one pivotal moment, the Dalai Lama says, “They took away our silence.” If you can find peace in silence, you’ll feel in that moment the pain that was so powerful in the eyes of Djimon Hunsou in the otherwise forgettable Amistad, the anguish of the people going down with the Titanic, and the hopelessness in Matt Damon‘s heart in Good Will Hunting. All in one. See this film. See it in a theater, where you can become a part of the experience. Leave your watch and your cynicism at home. And open your heart.

Titanic Box Office

Lots of e-mail over my ongoing questioning of Titanic’s box office reporting. It is mostly made up of people who are ticked off at me. Like this one from Lars: “If you headed over to you local multiplex showing Titanic, maybe then you would finally “get” it. I saw Titanic Saturday at a local theater, and all of Saturday was sold out at 3pm. The same with other theaters in my area. So stop hinting about your Titanic box-office conspiracy (which you have done now for the last three weeks) and actually go out to talk to theater managers showing Titanic, and they will tell you. It’s a phenomenon.”
Similar sentiments form Dimitri, who offers, “I respect you, but I think you’re out of touch with the audience’s wavelength on this one. It’s like on week two, where you started insinuating a Scream 2 miscalculation would come to play, which never happened. And now that you’ve gone on record as having disliked it in the end, you seem to have a personal investment in seeing it fail or otherwise have something stink up a genuine phenomenon.”
Gilbert, however, thinks I’m being a little too kind: “I totally agree with your point about Titanic‘s box office numbers. It just seems impossible!! (Last weekend) there was hard rain in L.A and a snow storm in N.Y and don’t even talk about the “holiday factor.” Those figures are hard to believe.”
My response? This is no vendetta. I do like this movie. I just don’t love it. My issues with the box office figures are historical. The Lost World‘s $90 million opening weekend is nothing compared to Titanic’s record four consecutive weeks over $20 million, headed (at its current rate) to at least six consecutive weeks, despite many less showings each weekend than any comparable box office smash. In each of its four weekends, the film has added a new quirk to box office history. First, it went up in its second week. In week three, it made at least $8 million every weekday. This week, it experienced no Friday drop-off, despite having half the day’s shows during business hours in a non-holiday week. Next week, who knows? I can’t imagine any more surprises. So, this should be the end of my Titanic rant as you know it. Thanks for the letters and keep them coming, for better or for worse.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon