Hot Button Archive for May, 1998

news By The Numbers

10. FEET UNDER: John Derek, the hack-actor-tuned-hack-
teenaged-girls has died. He was 71 and was felled by a heart attack. Apparently someone told him that his wife (fourth in the series), Bo Derek, had actually passed 40, and he was still married to her. Mrs. Derek was imagined to have responded to that suggestion, “Well, parts of me are way under 40.”
9. Brooke Shields (she was in a movie once, right?) is litigating with a British tabloid over a report that she was held by police on “suspicion of possessing drugs.” In fact, she was just in a police holding room trying to avoid paparazzi. Instead of getting all upset, the still-sexless Shields should have taken advantage of the opportunity and gotten some good publicity. “We regret the error in our Sunday edition. Brooke Shields was not held on drug charges. She was having a sexual dalliance in a public restroom with the three members of the Rolling Stones still able to achieve erections. Our apologies to Ms. Shields. Read tomorrow’s edition to find out where you can purchase a videotape of the event.”
8. PRO-LIFE OR PRO-WIFE?: Operation Rescue seems to have lost their way on the road to Disney World. The group, titled to suggest their anti-abortion stance, is preparing to stage a protest in connection with Disney’s annual Gay Day to be held this June. What’s up with that? Isn’t homosexuality the ultimate way to avoid abortions? What can Disney do to avoid this confrontation? Said an Operation Rescue leader, “Repent.” So much for realistic expectations. Then, the OR leader said, “One day Michael Eisner will have to bend his knee before God.” Can’t this guy make up his mind whether he’s pro- or anti-gay?!
7. LES, LOS, UN, DER OSCARS: Just when you thought it was safe to laugh at Europe for creating the Euro as a continent-wide currency, the European Union is preparing to start their own movie awards to compete with Oscar. Fifteen countries are involved in early talks. Geez! You could bust your spleen trying to get 15 Academy members to see an unknown documentary. Fifteen countries! Maybe they’ll let Lars Van Trier direct the show, which will last 27 hours and include frontal nudity and intravenous drug use. Yeah!
6. TAG, YOU’RE A HIT: Tag Heuer has announced its plans to promote the Disney film, Armageddon, its first such promotion. The ad will focus on the watch that Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Liv Tyler all wear in the film. It costs $70,000. Sounds like a lot, but in Armageddon dollars, that 70 grand would pay for only about 3.5 seconds of the mega-budget film. And that’s before prints and advertising.
5. NIC NEWS: Nicolas Cage, freed from Super duty for at least eight months, is going on with his work. He just finished principal photography on the snuff film thriller 8 mm for director Joel Shumacher. Next, he shoots paramedic drama Bringing Out the Dead for some unknown director named Martin Scorsese. That leaves a slot for Cage before Warner Bros. hopes to have Superman Lives back on its feet and up, up and away. (He has a $20 million play-or-pay deal, so look for Warners to make this picture at some point.) The leading candidate for the slot is Family Man, which would also be the first post-L.A. Confidential film from director Curtis Hanson. The movie would have Cage playing a New York investment banker who has given up his chance to have a family in order to pursue millions of dollars. That is, until he wakes up and finds that he has a normal life with kids and a happy marriage to his college sweetheart. Then, the guy from Babe turns out to be a bad guy and tries to kill Cage. Oops. Wrong movie.
4. THE EDGAR WATCH: What’s Seagram/Universal Studios owner Edgar Bronfman Jr. up to this week. After buying PolyGram last week and preparing to sell Tropicana Juices, some people think Edgar Jr. will sell off Seagram’s, previously the central business of his family’s empire and his only significant non-entertainment industry holding left. One big chunk of assets that has been dumped is Edgar’s 11.76 million shares of Time Warner, which was about 2 percent of rough cut’s corporate parent and roughly $900 million. There is, sadly, no truth to the rumor that he dumped his TW stock because he was ticked at my column. In other Edgar news, potential buyers for PolyGram Filmed Entertainment are balking at the asking price, essentially confirming the fact that the only value left in that company is its distribution arm and its film library. Another fun week with the happiest billionaire.
3. GODZILLA DESTROYS MOVIE CHAIN: Anti-Godzilla fever hit Wall Street Wednesday as Carmike Cinemas Inc. claimed that the disappointing opening of Godzilla would significantly effect second-quarter earnings. Personally, I think this is a pretty cheap stunt by a company that has bigger problems than a giant lizard underperforming. But Wall Street and the media are taking it seriously. And you thought the monster design was a problem.
2. NO CLASS: A federal judge decided this week that a group of lawsuits against the major studios over “net” points could not be brought as a class action suit. The suit was led by JFK conspiracy theorist Jim Garrison. Having failed in this pursuit, Garrison is expected to lead the Godzilla class action suit. With that in mind, Sony has purchased the rights to Godzilla vs. Garrison in which Kevin Costner, reprising his role as Garrison, fights the giant lizard for close-ups and Sour Apple awards.
1. PHIL HARTMAN IS DEAD: This is a tragic story. And it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Some reporter will be telling this story in full before too much longer. It could be leaking out by the time you read this. But I will not be that reporter. I don’t want to drag anyone through the dirt, least of all someone as well-loved by so many, in real life as well as in his work, as Phil Hartman. All I will say is that the memory of a nice guy is about to get extremely tarnished. And that sucks. It’s just going to be too good a story (or too bad, depending on your perspective) for reporters to leave alone once things start coming into perspective. If I am failing you by not telling you everything, so be it. Sometimes humanity is more important.
THE CONTEST: Sorry things got so behind on the box office contest. If you were here yesterday, you know that this is the last week of The Hot Button Box Office Challenge. But there will be a new weekly contest in its place next week. And there will also be a summer long movie handicapping contest in which you can win a DVD player, so keep an eye out next week. The winner of the contest from the weekend of May 15-17 is Tom Shih of Bryn Mahr, PA. And from the Godzilla weekend, I’m awarding a dual prize to Lynn Morganroth of Miami and a guy who is really good at this, multiple winner Dan Krovich of Baltimore. (Is it a bizarre coincidence that I grew up in Baltimore and Miami or what??? Yipes!)
READER OF THE DAY: Joey writes: “DAVID!!! Regarding Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I paid only $4.25, but I was bored stiff. I saw a free preview of Hope Floats. It was a pretty good movie, but I’m thinking that most critics will pan it. Other than a great scene where we meet Sandra Bullock‘s father in the movie, it was standard stuff. Predictable as hell. The little girl was adorable, though. Bullock was very good, as was Gena Rowlands (duh!). Harry Connick Jr. was pretty good, but his role wasn’t a huge challenge. I think that it was funny to see Michael Paré again (Eddie and the Cruisers didn’t make him the celebrity he was destined to become. Sarcasm.) Especially with a Southern twang.”

Weekend preview

Here lee-zard, lee-zard, lee-zard!!! Jurassic Park: The Lost World dropped 53 percent from its record-breaking Memorial Day weekend run last year. I would expect Godzilla to do about the same. Friday through Sunday, Godzilla pulled in $44.7 million, so look for about $22 million as this weekend’s number. The big question is, will Hope Floats open forcefully enough to pass that figure up? I’m betting no. This is not to say that Hope Floats can’t be an $80 million movie. Just that it will have to earn that over time. Eighteen million dollars and second place for Hope Floats is my expectation. The rest of the new pictures look like they shall dwell at the bottom of the Top 10. The Horse Whisperer looks to pass Deep Impact to take the third spot, pushing Deep Impact to fourth. Week two of Bulworth should hold its own to take fifth place.
The second five is not an extremely pretty picture. In just their second weeks, box office car-wrecks The Quest For Camelot and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas will have to fight to stay ahead of week 23 of Titanic, which is still floating along. Plus, City of Angels still hangs on to life support. Also in the fight for these slots will be newcomers I Got the Hook Up, the long-delayed (and apparently for good reason) Almost Heroes and Whit Stillman‘s The Last Days of Disco. Of the three, The Last Days of Disco will probably find the most loving viewers, but keep in mind that Stillman’s first film, Metropolitan, made only $2.9 million domestic and Barcelona managed only $7.3 million. So, for all the positive attention, a $20 million gross through the film’s run would have to be considered a victory. Personally, I enjoyed the film, finally cuddling up to Stillman’s unique verbal style. It’s as unique as any Mamet screenplay. But as I warned before, if you are shy about dropping $8, rent one of the other film’s first and see if you enjoy it. If you like them, you will love this one.
THE GOOD: Carol Cling, a movie reviewer from the Las Vegas Review-Journal has some strong opinions on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. She also has a good conversation with director Terry Gilliam. Let me know if you agree with Carol.
THE BAD: Kate Beckinsale, one of the stars of The Last Days of Disco, had a profound effect on me in person. She was more beautiful, witty, clever and charming in real life than she has ever been on film. She plays a brittle East Coaster in this, her latest film, and does a great job. She’s a woman you love to hate. But she was meant to be the object of desire in Much Ado About Nothing and Haunted. She was lovely in those, but the right film hasn’t come along yet to give her a chance to really shine. And that’s bad.
THE UGLY: Let’s hope the stench of Almost Heroes won’t taint the careers of some terrific people. The idea that Chris Farley will be remembered by way of this long-shelved flick is ugly indeed. Director Christopher Guest is, in my opinion, one of the true comic geniuses alive today. But, he hasn’t had much output in his career and I hope that people will be too busy laughing at their rental video of Waiting For Guffman to even notice his name in these credits. And Matthew Perry. Well, he’s on “Friends.”
THE CONTEST: Welcome to the last week of The Hot Button Box Office challenge. Lots of good stuff up for grabs. Whoever wins will get a chance to tell me what they want out of a lot of cool summer stuff. Next week, a new box office guessing contest begins, and it should be a lot of fun with even bigger prizes. But I’ll tell you about that next week. Oh yeah! Bigger prizes! Next week, another one of my contests begins. It’ll run all summer long. Have you read my feature on the summer races? Well, this will be your chance to place your bets. The odds will change every week, and the winner of the summer-long races will get their very own DVD player. I kid you not. More on that next week, too.
TWO MEDIA PRODUCTS EQUAL: This one was sent in by a reader. Don’t look now, but it’s Krillian again. He’s having a good week. I don’t think it was meant for this section, but I laughed, so here it is: “City of Angels + ‘Touched By An Angel’ = Stalked by An Angel. Nic Cage stalks Meg Ryan, watching her take baths, make love and pretty much whatever turns him on, all the while staying invisible to her. By the end of the film, Nic discovers the incredible cost of dry cleaning a floor length suede coat and that love hurts, especially when Meg tries to cut off his hand with a cleaver. With Della Reese as the voice of God.
JUST WONDERING: Did anyone else notice that City of Angels did something pretty old-fashioned with its soundtrack? It has a variation of the ’60s answer songs, where a male group would sing a song and then a female group would do a response song (or vice versa). In this case, it’s Alanis Morissette singing for the female lead, Meg Ryan, with “Univited,” which expresses her feelings about Nic Cage‘s character. Then, Goo Goo Dolls cover for Nic Cage with “Iris,” which expresses his feelings about becoming human. Kinda cool, huh?
READER OF THE DAY: There were far too many great letters about Godzilla to print here. I know that some of you are sick of reading about it. But if you are not, please check out Dave’s Green Room amongst the discussion forums. Some of this stuff is just great, including Krillian’s List and his latest additions. (Don’t be insulted if you didn’t get posted — some of you are regulars, some of you had very short letters and some of you just got lost in the HUGE number of e-mails this on-going saga has generated.) And more importantly, signing up for chat access will now make it easier for you to join me live at The X-Files premiere in a couple of weeks. You like that, huh?
And now for something completely different from Ryan D: “I know this is mostly unrelated to the rest of this Godzilla crap (still haven’t seen it), but I did see Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I loved it. In fact, I saw it twice over the weekend. I enjoyed it thoroughly both times. I’m probably going to take my girlfriend to see it on Thursday if it hasn’t left theaters yet. Why has this movie been slammed upon so damn much? It is, visually, some of Gilliam’s most interesting work. (It’s the first of his films where the lens doesn’t look like it’s been smeared with Vaseline — a real stretch for him.) People complain that it wasn’t about anything, but hey, neither was the book. I really like to think of it less as a movie and more as a companion for the book. Read the book, watch the movie, and together you will have a generally more fulfilling experience of both. This is a film that has a real strong chance of becoming a cult favorite — people sitting around doing bong rips and sipping on Robitussin, watching Johnny Depp swat at invisible bats. At least that’s what I’ll be doing when it hits video.”

Ranting and Raving

So, Godzilla hit theaters, and the audience hit back. Yes, it did almost $75 million in six days. Not good enough. Krillian’s List has floated around the ‘Net pretty quickly. (Ain’t It Cool News ran it, without crediting Krillian, under the title “Nitpickers Attack Godzilla.” I guess all of you who write me anytime I say anything less-than-generous toward Harry will really be angry if I suggest that payback for trips to Las Vegas and New York care of Dean Devlin and Sony is a bitch, so I won’t. If you want to write, please do, but I’ve heard the one that goes, “Harry’s God and David’s just jealous,” so if you write, try to come up with something new to explain my treating Harry with the same honest contempt with which I treat every other media outlet.)
I have gotten letters ripping the quality of the CG (computer graphics) in Godzilla, but I don’t buy the “90 percent of Godzilla‘s CG is bad” line. The CG on the monster and the airplanes is remarkable. Geez, compared to Deep Impact, this thing was CG Stradivarius. There have been a myriad complaints about the rain. That’s an artistic choice, not just a CG cover. It’s as though people read that the rain could help hide the lines of the CG and started to think of the rain only as a fix. It’s kind of like complaining that the movie was set in New York. You can disagree with the choice, but to rage against it as though it were an insult to your intelligence seems a little overboard.
(WARNING: The first part of this paragraph shouldn’t spoil the movie for you, but it might. If you are really sensitive to spoilers, skip to the next paragraph.)
I have gotten letters complaining about Devlin and Emmerich stealing from other movies, but Devlin and Emmerich meant to be stealing from other movies. It’s called homage. The heartbeat from King Kong. The monster doing a far more intense job on a fishing boat than Jaws did. Godzilla “climbing” the side of a skyscraper. Not to mention the obviously obvious ones: Siskel and Ebert, the name Tatopoulos and the name Gojira which leads to the American bastardization, Godzilla.
(WARNING TWO: The following is definitely a spoiler, though I’ll bet you already know it’s coming.)
I’ve certainly had a massive number of letters slamming the design of Godzilla as too close to the T-Rex and the babies as too close to Raptors from Jurassic Park. But to that, I ask, what did you expect them to do? What would satisfy this audience? Redoing the man in the rubber suit version of Godzilla would certainly generate every bit as much rage as this one has. More. Jurassic Park was the culmination not only of the CG revolution, but was the first movie to acknowledge our understanding of the real physiology of dinosaurs. If Godzilla was going to be what he was born as, the representation of an animal mutated by nuclear radiation, I would say that what they came up with was a damned reasonable representation. And what were the babies supposed to be from there? Should they have been unrelated to the design of Godzilla?
(SPOILER-SAFE ZONE RESTARTS): Frankly, I don’t think Devlin and Emmerich could have come up with a movie that would have satisfied everyone. It’s really easy to say (as I’ve heard 100 times this weekend), “That wasn’t the real Godzilla!” Well, tell me specifically what you would have done. Faced with a world of criticism, I believe that Devlin and Emmerich made choices based on their instincts. They made the monster a real animal with very few mutations other than size; made it a rainy movie; hired Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno and wrote the script around their unique personalities as actors; and came up with some good surprises, but didn’t break their necks (or the internal logic of the film) to avoid what others have done with similar technology. Had the first new generation Batman movie been a Joel Schumacher version, Warner Bros. would have been strung up by fandom. Remember that Tim Burton was raged against before his version was seen, but he hit enough of the right notes, particularly in the casting of the very heroic hero and the very psychotic villain, to have fans accept the film.
Which brings me to one simple but critical flaw with Godzilla. There’s no villain. Godzilla is not evil. Jean Reno‘s character is not evil. The military and mayor of New York are stupid, but not evil. How can you have a monster movie with no bad guy? Conversely, where are the heroes? If audiences really cared about any of the four lead characters, lots of people would have liked the movie better. Great actors, not much passion. In fact, Jean Reno was more passionate at the press junket about his character’s reasons for doing what he does and for him to take on the role, than his character was in the movie. Hank Azaria was clearly a lot more fun on the set than he turned out to be on-screen. Does he ever get a moment in this film as fun as when he laughs hysterically into the camera? That moment was about five minutes after his character is introduced. Maria Pitillo is scenery. Not her fault. She plays an incompetent person. We have no stake in her succeeding. And Matthew Broderick neither raged at the army’s attitude about Godzilla or joined in with any bloodlust. Heroes can’t stay in the middle of the road.
Finally, I blame myself. Amongst a world of others. Godzilla was hidden until the film hit. We all hyped the film based on buzz and the way things go in these monster situations. What did we expect you to expect? I don’t know. But apparently, many of you didn’t get what you wanted. Maybe if you didn’t expect the film to change the world, you would have liked it better. I think that Men in Black suffered some hype backlash last summer. Titanic succeeded with some backlash against the anti-hype. Godzilla will make more than Deep Impact. It also cost more. But their profit picture is likely to be pretty similar in the end. Deep Impact will always be remembered as a surprise hit. And Godzilla, even if it manages to generate $400 million worldwide, will be seen as a miss. But that’s not the whole truth. It’s hard to live a life examining something you love so closely every day. It’s easy to get sucked into apathy and quick, harsh criticism. Maybe this profession, from here to Entertainment Weekly to Harry Knowles to “Extra” and “Hard Copy” is beginning to do that to you. Maybe you know too much, think about it too much and expect to much. I hate to sound like a character from Network (and I don’t want you to turn off your computer and shout out of your window) but maybe we were all asking a little too much from a film about a giant irradiated lizard.
READER OF THE DAY: This Godzilla review came from General Patton. Never let it be said that I don’t respect (or print) my elders: “Anyone who knows what the Enola Gay is (not just close, but can explain it) should NOT (repeat N-O-T) see this movie. It is strictly for young people. Strictly. Oh, what a bad movie. It is worse than Independence Day (which is worse than the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes). What a waste of several jillion dollars, except, of course, to Sony who will make a bundle off the masses. (A shudder passes over his body, as he says this.) I liked Godzilla when he looked more like Barney than a deranged escapee from Jurassic Park. Am I clear?”

Dream Not Working, This Time

Steven Spielberg‘s company, DreamWorks, has passed on the foreign rights to Mr. Spielberg’s next directing project, Memoirs of a Geisha. The question is why? DreamWorks execs told Variety the decision was because the film was too small to need a co-production deal with their partner on this picture, Columbia Pictures. But as excuses go, that doesn’t really make sense. If the studio really believed in the low-budget, no-star project, they could finance the film themselves. After trying to distribute in-house, then trying co-productions with the majors, splitting domestic and foreign distribution, this is yet another way of doing business. I don’t expect to see this one again real soon.
EATERS OF THE SEQUELS: John McTiernan, busy trying to get The 13th Warrior aka The Vikings aka Eaters of the Dead ready for release, is ready to sign up with United Artists for a long-in-development remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. The classic dramatic thriller cast Steve McQueen opposite Faye Dunaway in her second star-making performance after her film debut in Bonnie and Clyde. In, as the tycoon who engineers a daring bank robbery is Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan. No word on who will take on the female lead as the brainy, sexy insurance investigator, but think A-list. UA is planning on squeezing this project in before Brosnan has to start work on the next Bond movie, so that means once again, McTiernan’s version of Airframe, which has long been stewing in the juices of development hell at Disney, will continue to cook for a while.
ACTION & EFFECTS: A federal judge broke up the class action against Hollywood studios over their accounting procedures. Studios will hail this as a major victory, and it may be one in practice, just not legally. The reason for breaking up the suit was that each case is too individual for a class action suit to hold up. Every party to the suit negotiated their upfront money differently and with different results. The suit was only about the net points (or backend or “monkey points” as Eddie Murphy once called them.) Of course, all that aside, I love the case because it was filed as Jim Garrison vs. Warner Bros. Garrison was immortalized by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone‘s JFK, and here he is fighting the Hollywood conspiracy. Much like with the JFK assassination, there will never be another breakthrough (the first one was Art Buchwald’s case) until a major player with deep, deep, deep pockets sues a studio for the backend he or she feels he or she deserves. But that will never happen, since being the person behind that suit would mean virtual expulsion from the business we call show. Not that anyone would ever admit it out loud.
JUST WONDERING: Did any of you pay for and hate Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, because up until now, every letter I’ve gotten on the subject came from someone who paid their $8 and had a good, if indescribable, time.
A VARIETY OF EXCUSES: A remarkably stupid article in Wednesday’s Variety tries to lay the “Godzilla problem” at the foot of older people, particularly women, who didn’t show up for the movie that was expected to be the event film of the summer. Bull. Hate to be working over yesterday’s territory, but bad word-of-mouth on Wednesday and Thursday is what hurt Godzilla. It’s just that simple. The buzz couldn’t have been worse than last year’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park debacle, but Lost World was a Friday release. There was no schoolroom and water cooler bad buzz to send audiences elsewhere.
The article then proceeds to look at the rest of the summer. The Truman Show, they worry, suffers from “The Front Syndrome,” referring to the serious Woody Allen starrer that stiffed in 1976. One problem. The Truman Show is about a modern issue. The Front was a period piece about the blacklist, a subject that is pretty much a NYC/L.A. issue in any period. (I’m not saying that it should be. It just is.) I think The Truman Show will resonate with young people more than Paramount imagines it will. If people are disappointed, it will because Paramount is misleading potential audience members by focusing on the few silly shots of Jim Carrey in the film (playing in the mirror and with his butt in the air in the garden).
Variety sweats Dr. Dolittle because “truly successful live-action family films are extremely rare these days” and uses Men in Black and The Nutty Professor as examples of “harder fare.” Uh, The Nutty Professor was family fare. Just because there were some curse words doesn’t make it anti-family. (Men in Black didn’t even have that.) My mother, her children and her grandchildren all enjoyed the movie for one reason. It was good. If Dr. Dolittle is good, there will be no excuses. Again, Small Soldiers is some sort of age issue. Hey, gang! Heard of Gremlins? If it’s good, everyone will go.
Finally, they rack up Lethal Weapon 4 because Mel Gibson is now in his 40s. Do they really think Conspiracy Theory only did $76 million domestic due to Mel’s age? It’s the movie, stupid. People want to go to the movies, and they want to be happy with what they see. Why does this smell so of the studios using Variety to make their excuses now, just in case?
READER OF THE DAY: Krillian’s List continues to pile up responses, almost all very complimentary. And I’m getting a lot of pro-Godzilla mail that isn’t getting as much play as the negative stuff. I guess it’s not just as funny. Which brings me to this letter, most of which was about how Sir Isaac hates Godzilla. Been there. Printed that. But he did bring up one offensive thing that we haven’t touched on yet: “Come on, Dave. You tell me. You’re the only one that doesn’t seem to know [how evil Godzilla Inc. is], which is strange since you’re usually one of the first to point out the follies of Hollywood greed. I’m not saying you’re in EmmeRICH and DEVILin’s pocket, I’m just assuming you’re not getting as worked up about this as the rest of us. Which is fine. I, however, am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more! I grew up watching Godzilla movies as a kid with my Dad, and I think I deserved more than a two-hour ad for disposable cameras. F–k Kodak! And f–k this movie! P.S. I’ll get you, my pretties, and you’re little Taco Bell dog, too!”

Weekend Wrap-Up

When is a smash hit not a smash hit? When it’s Godzilla. Seventy-four million dollars in six days. The eighth-biggest opening weekend of all time. Fourth best four-day total ever. What a bomb! I guess the perception is partially the responsibility of people like me who have played up the possibility of a $100 million weekend. But really, I blame you. Those of you who have decided to HATE the film (and I mean HATE) managed to get some seriously bad buzz going by Friday. Godzilla’s first Friday generated $480,000 less than Deep Impact‘s first Friday. Godzilla won this internal competition by $1.4 million on Saturday, but Deep Impact won the Sunday race by $200,000. So, in comparing each film’s first three-day outing, Godzilla beat Deep Impact by less than $1 million. True, Godzilla had two days of must-see grosses before that Friday, but we’re talking Deep Impact vs. Godzilla here folks. I still don’t get it. Krillian’s List aside, I can’t imagine why people would hate this film the way they hate this film. The passion this movie has aroused threatens to make it the nuked lizard equivalent of Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ — lots of angry passion that seems to miss the point. After all, it’s a Godzilla movie. Nonetheless, I will try to sort it out in tomorrow’s rant.
In the rest of the box office news, Bulworth tanked, generating $10.6 million over the four-day weekend in fourth place, but only $1.6 million of that came on Monday. That would be half of its Sunday number. Not good, but that was a lot better than Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, which pulled in $4.2 million over four days for sixth place. Watch for this one on your video rental shelf in about 48 more hours. Deep Impact took second place, managing $19 million over the four-day weekend and is going to beat Godzilla to the $100 million mark with a current cume of $98.5 million. (Yes, they had two more weekends than El Lizardo to turn the trick.) The Horse Whisperer is looking pretty strong, pulling in another $13.7 million over the weekend for third place and a $32.3 million cume. Rounding out the top five is Quest for Camelot, managing just $3.7 million in its second weekend.
THE GREAT: The cinematography in Bulworth and The Horse Whisperer is amongst the best you will ever see in a movie theater. They are very, very different, but absolutely brilliant. In Bulworth, three-time Academy Award-winning Director of Photography Vittorio Storaro lights and shoots Los Angeles with a sharpness and beauty that is truly worthy of an $8 expenditure all by itself. (The movie wasn’t bad either. Warren Beatty gets a little lost in the third act, but that doesn’t ruin it completely.) Beatty, in his first film in eons without tons of soft-focus close-ups, still looks great, even if it’s in a worn-out kind of way. The colors are rich and sharp, but not the comic book way of the team’s previous collaboration, Dick Tracy (for which Storaro was nominated, but did not win Oscar gold).
Meanwhile, Academy Award-winner Robert Richardson shoots the western United States for Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer, delivering shot-after-breathtaking-shot. Literally. After a while, as each unbelievable shot hit the screen, I laughed a little, amazed that there was another surprise for me, even in the silver hue of a snow drift. The images get less dramatic as the film continues (I think that’s intentional, as the characters lives slowly return to normalcy), but the work is spectacular, and, again, I really liked the movie. If you liked Ordinary People and The Bridges of Madison County, you are likely to love The Horse Whisperer, too.
THE GOOD: Finally caught City of Angels. I haven’t been a big Meg Ryan supporter, but I think this was by far her best work as an adult dramatic actress.
THE BAD: Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is getting slammed every which way a movie can get slammed, but who cares? I really liked it. I don’t do drugs, so this is as close as I’m gonna get. Yes, it’s not about anything. Yes, it’s way, way, way over-the-top. No, you won’t be able to explain it to any of your friends after seeing it. But if you want to live Hunter S. Thompson, it’s a must see.
THE UGLY: Benicio Del Toro put on what looks to be about 30 pounds for his role as Hunter Thompson‘s lawyer, Dr. Gonzo. That belly is one of the scariest effects in the film.
TWO MOVIES EQUAL: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas + Quest For Camelot = Fear and Loathing in Camelot. Johnny Depp is Warner Bros. executive Lancelot S. Thompson. After a really bad dose of drugs, Thompson fantasizes about spending $40 million on a musical about Camelot that no one wants to see and that features a two-headed singing dragon. Then, the terror continues as Uma Thurman can’t do press in her ninth month of pregnancy and The Avengers doesn’t do over $100 million. In the end, he wakes up in a pool of vomit at the junket for Lethal Weapon 4 and starts kissing Mel Gibson’s feet and praying to God. Based on a true story.
JUST WONDERING: How angry will you all be if you decide that Armageddon sucks, too?
BAD AD WATCH: Here we go again. The buzz on Hope Floats is very good, but why should we believe KABB-TV, Telenocias, Mademoiselle, US, Seventeen, KXAS-TV and David Sheenan of the L.A. CBS affiliate. Sheenan, the only “major” critic on the list, is also the guy who is touting Bulworth as “the most intelligently funny film of the decade.” Bulworth was good, but that’s a little bit silly there.
READER OF THE DAY: In the continuing saga of Krillian’s List, here are some reader adds to the list. Be warned! Krillian’s List contains info that might spoil the movie for you. The adds below shouldn’t ruin any surprises. But below “E ME” there are a few more that will. So, don’t read Krillian or the second set of additions if you want to be surprised.
Peter B. wrote: “Why weren’t there any guards guarding the entrance to the subway, and they could go through the hole in the fence? Why did all the eggs hatch at the same time, aren’t they laid 12 at a time? When they turned the cab around, weren’t there supposed to be Godzilla footsteps in their way?”
David C. wrote: “How did Godzilla instinctively know the topography of downtown Manhattan? He seemed to be able to weave in and out of buildings without any problem.”
Kyle Yamamoto wrote: “Was it me or did those gum balls roll about 100 yards?”
Brandon G wrote: “Godzilla was supposedly cold-blooded, but acted and moved as if it were warm-blooded. How did Godzilla know about the Panama Canal? And given that Manhattan was somehow the perfect island for him, how did it know to make a beeline for it? Who sits around in the rain fishing, without even wearing a raincoat? Why didn’t Godzilla just eat Matthew Broderick? Did the radiation strike mammals from its diet or something? That this god-awful movie was even made!”

News By The Numbers

10. FRANK IS DEAD: Did you know that if you play Marilyn Manson’s album backwards, you realize that he just recorded “Wee Small Hours of The Morning” backwards? I’m still laughing about Sinatra’s last words, “I’m losing it.” How can you die any cooler?
9. WHERE’S THE CAST OF WHERE’S WALDO?: It’s becoming trendy to reconstruct groups of actors and then hide them in your movies. Currently, “The Simpsons” trio of Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Harry Shearer (tons of people), Hank Azaria (even more people) appear in Godzilla. It was Dean Devlin‘s idea. All three work for the same news station. Devlin wanted to configure a shot where all three would be seen together, but director Roland Emmerich finally had to tell him it was a Godzilla movie and not a “The Simpsons” tribute. Now, news from DreamWorks is that the Spinal Tap trio of Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean will provide voices for the Gorgonites, the other side in the war the Small Soldiers feel compelled to fight. Maybe the trend is Shearer, who appears in Godzilla, Small Soldiers and The Truman Show, a trifecta that should make him the highest-grossing featured actor of this summer.
8. BLUE DALKON SHIELD: The trade association for pornography workers, The Free Speech Coalition, has signed on with Maxicare for group health insurance for about 500 industry actors and technicians. A spokesman for Maxicare said the agreement to insure the group was “not an endorsement.” He then was imagined to say, “And pass the tequila and condoms! I’m doing a pelvic on Jenna Jameson!”
7. PROBLEMS WITH BOOKINGS: Congress held a testimony party this week, and former movie star Michael J. Fox was the best they could do. The hearings were yet another celebrity meet-and-greet, this time on the horrors of paparazzi stalking. Fox and Paul Reiser were the stars, which brings this to mind. “Who the hell is stalking those two?!?!?!” Well, in truth, both had significant attention by the tabs due to their newborns. Neither did a Baldwin on photographers, but it’s hard to make a really good case when the ultimate camera magnet, Madonna, is selling her baby’s photos to magazines for six-figures a pop. As the ubiquitous Jennifer Love Hewitt recently told me (and I paraphrase), “We ask everyone to watch us and to love us every week on TV, and then turn them away when they give us love that seems wrong.”
6. BONDING: The fight over Bond continues. This week, MGM/UA tried to get a judge to stop Sony from developing a James Bond screenplay. Seems a bit over the edge to me, First Amendment and all. But the war at home isn’t going so well for MGM/UA either. Tomorrow Never Dies took the top spot in the video rental charts last week, but spent $5 million to do it, including a “Seinfeld” finalé spot. No. 1 may be No. 1, but the $4.06 million in rentals for the week is the weakest No. 1 showing in months.
5. IT’S AN UNNATURALLY SMALL WORLD: Disney is probably doing the best job of synergizing their movie studio/theme park/broadcast TV network/cable nets/brainwashing/recording company/book publishing businesses of any of the mega-media groups. (Did I write brainwashing? Must be my Time-Warner traning.) However, ABC is starting to drag them down. Wall Street analysts frowned in the general direction of the company last week based on the continued poor ratings for the alphabet web. No surprise then that M-I-C, H-A-E-L Eisner announced he has determined that ABC was a likely second-place finisher in the 1998-99 ratings race. After all, “Fantasy Island” is back on Saturdays! In this version, Tattoo is played by Tommy Lee and he screams, “The stock! The stock!”
4. O.D. OF THE WEEK: You know, with Sinatra dying and everything, young Hollywood stars seemed to be monitoring their drug intake a little more carefully. I mean, it’s been weeks since a good drug-related jail sentencing. (Oops! Tommy Lee is heading to the pokie for smacking Pam and the kids. Don’t know if drugs were involved, but the odds seem pretty good, no?) So, Charlie Sheen is found in his Malibu home suffering, they thought, a stroke. That sounded a lot like a heroin situation without the foaming at the mouth. But, the description of his complaint on admittance was “tingling in his hands and trouble walking” and later, Martin Sheen called it an O.D. that was made worse by liquor. Dr. Dave’s final guess: speed or crack. Good to know that Charlie’s staying off the hard stuff. (That would be a joke. Remember kids: Don’t Do Dumb.) Sheen is now stable. Medically.
3. I’M THE PSYCHO OF THE WORLD!: Leo (do I even need to identify him as DiCaprio?) has chosen to make the feature film version of American Psycho, ballooning the $5 million budget of the film to more than $40 million. It is a daring choice, and it will certainly be controversial. My problem with the book, personally, was that it wasn’t clever enough to be worthy of the horrifying conceit of having an anti-hero who is so culturally obsessed that murder, rape and torture seem like just another part of living in the big city. If you saw David Croenenberg‘s Crash, think of a story equally perverse, but without the redeeming feature of the characters acting because they are so damaged themselves. Which brings up a thought. The only two directors who would make me believe that this movie can be done right are Croenenberg and, much as I hate to admit it, Atom Egoyan. Something about Canadians and death. Odd.
2. THE EDGAR WATCH: The saga of our favorite Canadian continues as E. Bronfman Jr. grabbed 75 percent of PolyGram for $10.5 billion. In order to pay the juice on the purchase, Seagrams will sell their juice — the Tropicana fruit juice subsidiary. So much for the screwdrivers. Meanwhile, the sharks are lining up to buy PolyGram’s movie assets. Unfortunately, the segments of the company that other companies value are their European distribution arm and their library. European distributor UIP (United International Pictures), of which Universal is a partner, is already the subject of anti-monopolistic break-up talk, so adding PolyGram’s distribution arm to the U is unlikely. But with the value of film libraries continuing to grow, why would Universal sell PolyGram’s library? Money. Estimates range just over $1 billion for selling off the full PolyGram film division. Add a juice sale and Universal parent Seagrams’ overall cash picture is significantly better. But still the question, is Edgar serious about movies or is Barry Diller or Brain Grazer taking over?
1. HE WALKS AMONGST US: The Big Lizard is here, and his footprint is large. Reviews are mixed, both from critics and from viewers, but most of the people who seem to hate it seem to be predestined to hate it. The most popular complaints are about the redesign of Godzilla. There is another popular area of complaint, but to tell it to you would be to reveal too much, so I’ll wait until next week to discuss any of those. All I can tell you is that I’ve seen the film with an audience twice and both time there were cheers and applause throughout the movie. I’m writing this on Friday and so far, Godzilla roared to a very strong (better than Lost World or Mission: Impossible) $4.1 million Tuesday preview. Wednesday’s $8.4 million take has been called record-breaking, but frankly, I don’t know which record it won. (Probably a May weekday record. Seems like there would have to be better mid-summer Wednesdays.) Thursday’s number dropped to “just” $6 million, bringing the total going into the 4-day weekend to $18.5 million. But the $100 million mark is still well within sight and $120 million is not out of the question.
SCHEDULING NOTE: The next The Hot Button will appear on Tuesday. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend. And remember, even though the weekly is doing a double issue next week, the Daily will be here for you all week.
READER OF THE DAY: The Hot Button regular Krillian sent in his list of 63 problems with Godzilla. Click here to read the list. (WARNING: spoilers.) And e-mail me to add on. The truth is that most of the mail this week has been pretty much pro-Godzilla. I’ll post some of it in Dave’s Green Room. But Krillian’s list is lots ‘o fun. Take a look.

Weekend Preview

Gee, are there any new movies this week? Godzilla has a six-day weekend to rampage through. I’m estimating the film will do at least $110 million over the weekend with a four-day total of about $90 million. That should be enough for first place. My estimate is down from my original $125 million six-day/$100 million four-day expectation, but it’s not because there’s anything wrong with the movie. After some people complained that I wasn’t being hard enough on the film, I went back to see it again on Wednesday. The audience I saw it with broke into applause about a half-dozen times during the film, and then cheered at the end. I actually enjoyed the film more the second time around. The human characters are pretty weak, but the action, especially in the third act, is really strong. I honestly feel the film, while still limited by its genre and some execution, is entertaining and better than Twister, The Lost World or Deep Impact. (Please, feel free to feel otherwise.)
The reason I’m adjusting my estimate is that Sony is dragging its feet on releasing numbers. Exhibitor Relations towed the line yesterday and didn’t estimate Tuesday night numbers, but as of Thursday at noon, Sony still hadn’t given them Tuesday or Wednesday numbers. The estimate is now $4.1 million for Tuesday night, which dwarfs The Lost World’s $2.6 million Thursday night preview last year. The Exhibitor Relations guestimate on Wednesday is $8.4 million, which is pretty damned impressive, especially considering that people are still in school and/or working. Compare it to Titanic, back in February when it was still doing $20 million-plus a weekend. Titanic was doing about $1.5 million on a Wednesday. Deep Impact was under $3 million a weekday after its mammoth opening weekend. Nonetheless, when studios drag their feet releasing numbers, you definitely get the feeling they are disappointed with the figures.
Bulworth is a real question mark this weekend. The marketing is questionable. The movie seems to be a love/hate story. Warren Beatty is no longer the star he once was. But I’ll bet it can still take second place from Deep Impact with a $23 million four-day weekend. Deep Impact should hold up OK, pulling in another $22 million or so over four days. The Horse Whisperer and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas should duke it out for fourth and fifth, both finding around $18 million each over the four days. The second five looks pretty boring. Warner Bros. takes sixth and seventh with Quest for Camelot finding about $6 million and City of Angels winging its way to another $2.7 million. Spike Lee still has He Got Game in enough theaters to take in about $2.3 million. The Titanic floats another $2 million, and just hanging on, Woo should be good to go for another $1.5 million. All of these number are over four days.
THE GOOD: Terry Gilliam’s and Johnny Depp’s reputations as artists.
THE BAD: Reviews across the board for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
THE UGLY: ABC pulling ads for the film, claiming the film promotes drug use. This is the network of “Dharma and Greg,” pothead couple of the ’90s.
THE CONTEST: Godzilla stuff is on the block for the winner. So, enter now! (P.S. Anyone who hasn’t received prizes they were expecting, please write me and let me know. We should be caught up except for last week.)
THE CORRECTION: Warren Beatty has managed to get Mann’s Chinese to let him put his hands and feet in cement as part of the Bulworth promotion. You get the feeling this guy could talk Suharto into resigning. (That wasn’t your work, was it, Warren?)
TWO MOVIES EQUAL: Bulworth + Godzilla = Bulzilla. Radiation hits the mountains above Beverly Hills, and Warren Beatty is transformed into a truth-telling, 20-story lizard who becomes the target of assassination attempts by both the Crips and the Bloods when he mistakenly crushes Puff Daddy. In the end, Bulzilla is killed after he is tied up in red tape trying to get city approval to build a 300-foot-deep swimming pool in his back yard, Annette Bening gets her career back and Sony and Fox share the $500 million in box office grosses.
JUST WONDERING: Has anyone else noticed the Monster Theme from Godzilla is a direct rip-off of the Bernard Herrmann score for Cape Fear? I mean, direct. Dean Devlin had no idea what I was talking about, but it is overwhelmingly obvious.
BAD AD WATCH: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a movie that I am rooting for (as are many of you, according to your e-mail), offers up Craig Kopp from KCOP, Sara Edwards from the NBC News Channel, Wild from Bad Ad, regular Jim Ferguson of Prevue Channel, Mike Cidoni from WORK and David Moss from WJW. Even worse, all they took from these folks were adjectives, not even partial sentences. “Dangerous,” Outrageous,” Wild,” “Twisted, Bizarre” (that was in-depth) and “Mindblowing.” I’m sure we could all come up with sentences using those words to cut either toward the positive or the negative. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
READER OF THE DAY: Alex was ballsy enough to write in the following fashion, so I went along: “From the reader of the day: Of course, I will be seeing Godzilla. Just not opening weekend. I don’t want to contribute to the opening weekend grosses. But unfortunately, like many people (I’d say at least 50 percent of those going), I’m prepared for a bad movie, but as a point of pop-culture reference, I MUST see the film just to able to discuss with friends and colleagues how bad it was. Seems to be a continuing trend ever since Twister came out.”
And this from Geof: “For the record, I’ve seen no more than three ‘The X-Files’ episodes. ‘The X-Files’ movie however is at the top of my list for films to see this summer. (The trailer just looks too cool.) I’ll be dragging my girlfriend along who doesn’t watch anything but ‘ER.’ So add 16 more bucks to your $100 million total. I just hope Warner Bros. doesn’t read your column, do the ratings versus box office math, and greenlight ‘ER’ the movie. YIKES!!!”

MGM and Sony

In what is likely a first in litigation, MGM is asking a federal judge to keep Sony from developing a screenplay for a James Bond film. (I’m guessing that you’re aware by now that Sony is planning to start a Bond franchise opposite MGM/UA’s decades-old one.) Last I recall, writing was covered under the First Amendment. In the meantime, Dean Devlin, who is rumored to be Sony’s top choice to handle the franchise with his partner Roland Emmerich, told me, “Sony’s got a lot of legal stuff to work out. If they work it out, it’s something I’d consider, sure. I mean, James Bond is the coolest thing of all time, but I think they’ve got to work through a whole lot of stuff first. And if they do, I would consider it, sure.” Doesn’t sound like the film is ready for a fall start. On the flip side, Devlin and Emmerich traditionally start penning their next project on a Mexican vacation following their latest release. Godzilla‘s Tuesday opening sent the guys heading for Mexico. And MGM asked for a restraining order on Monday. Hmmm.
I finally saw Bulworth and would have to say the film now falls into that group of mishandled, difficult products. When the film started, Halle Berry seemed perfect for the role she played. Better than Jada Pinkett-Smith would have been because the tone was better suited to Halle’s beauty queen looks. By the end, it was clear that Jada was the better choice after all. Not because there’s something wrong with Halle, but because the tone shifted. Of course, that bit of casting was not the only misstep for Beatty in that regard. Bulworth could have been amongst the very best of his work. Ironically, a film that revels in political incorrectness seemed to have gotten lost in political correctness. Rap is not all cute and cuddly. In the ’90s, getting murdered in the street is not a thing of light comedy. Every time Beatty wants to make a real point, he softens it by telling a joke, but not just a joke. A cute joke. Wrong move. Nonetheless, this movie deserved better than to be put under the foot of Godzilla. Maybe March would have sent the political comedy crashing like Primary Colors did (undeservedly), but had Fox held it for October, they not only could have had some soundtrack hits, but the film would have sparked some real conversation before, during and after its run. Oh, well.
X-UPDATE: I’m not looking to get into a pissing match over how many “The X-Files” viewers there are, but my numbers seem to be a matter of aggravation for some of you. Let me clarify my position. “The X-Files” TV finale for this season (or The Movie Prequel, as I like to think about it) had a 11.4 rating and an 18 share. Those numbers were up for the season but down from last season. Each rating point is estimated by Neilsen to represent 980,000 households. The share only measures the percentage of the television audience that is watching TV at any given moment. So, “The X-Files” had about 11,172,000 households for the prequel. Some (including WFG) estimate the average number of viewers per household is 1.5. Without making jokes about “The X-Files” viewers being far more likely to watch alone (Trust No One!), that’s still less than 17 million viewers. If they all went, that would put the film at $100 million. But I really don’t think it’s a criticism of “The X-Files” to suggest that all 17 million won’t be attending in theaters. I will be there and clearly, based on your letters, many of you will, too.
CANNES CANNES: Cannes is still a great big show, but like Sundance, it’s becoming more social with any real business, other than greasing the wheels of on-going relationships, limited to a select few. So, what’s the big news at Miramax, one of the companies that still works Cannes hard? Television. CopLand: The TV Show. Kevin Williamson/Robert Rodriguez Untitled Movie: The TV Show. And, of course, a revival of the TV game show “What’s My Line?” HUH?! Miramax’s version of “What’s My Line” will have the guest guessers blindfolded and tortured by Michael Madsen until they guess right or lose their ears, noses, eyes and fingers. Guest stars like Quentin Tarantino will beat the panel up if they don’t guess who he is as he walks on stage. “What?! You don’t respect me?! Do I look like a little girl to you? Do I? DO I?!” Great TV. (By the way, they are doing some film business at Miramax. They are trying to put together the foreign pre-sale dollars to get a Total Recall sequel, with Arnold, off the ground. Alternately, it could be, you guessed it, Total Recall: The TV Series.)
READER OF THE DAY: From Alex: “First of all, at least 11 million people watched ‘The X-Files’ season finale which would equal about $60 million in box office, but I strongly feel the film will generate repeat viewings by some fans and also appeal to people who don’t regularly watch the show. Judging by reactions to the trailers I’ve seen, the movie will probably make your estimated $50 million OPENING WEEKEND! Look for at least $80-100 million, if not more.”

Ranting and Raving

“I’m losing it.” Those were Sinatra’s last words. Not “one more for the road” or “I did it my way” or even a burial wish — “I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.” No. Sinatra went with no one but a nurse by his side, to whom he reportedly said, “I’m losing it.” Was he watching “Seinfeld,” finding himself disappointed by, as Harry Shearer so deftly called it, “the clip show following the clip show?” Or was he worrying that his singing voice was dissipating? Or was this the ultimate hipster’s lament for, in some Shakespearean parlance, sloughing off this mortal coil. “Baby, I’m losing it” might have been better, but the guy wasn’t feeling so hot, so I’ll give him that.
When my father lost it, almost a year ago (he was a year younger than Sinatra), I was watching a video of Set It Off. That movie was a lot better than the “Seinfeld” adios, with none of the hype. But aware of my father’s limited understanding of lesbians, blacks, hip-hop and indeed, black lesbians who listen to hip-hop, I turned off the tape minutes before his deep sleep turned into the big sleep. I hope someone knew enough to turn off “Seinfeld” for Frank. What must he have made of a bunch of whinny New Yorkers whose theme song would have been, “We can’t be happy here. We can’t be happy anywhere.” (Personally, I spent “Seinfeld” night at the one place that made sense to me — Yankee Stadium. The announcer bellowed, “We’d like to pay tribute to a Yankee employee who is moving on tonight. And ‘Farewell George Costanza’ appeared on the Jumbotron, followed by clips. None of the clips included Larry David‘s George Steinbrenner imitation. George would have lost it. Of course, a night later, it was a tribute to the man whose voice ends every Yankee game with, perhaps, his most famous single hit.)
Spending time in New York kind of reminded me how easy it is to lose it here in Los Angeles. In New York, you have to deal with people to get across a street in one piece. Here in L.A., you don’t even have to pay attention to the cars you are scraping while you pick up the call waiting on your cell phone that you are receiving a fax on in your Range Rover driving through Beverly Hills while complaining that reception isn’t good because there are too damn many cell phones in that enclave. Hell, if your car is big enough, you don’t ever have to see anyone in L.A. And sometimes it’s as though the entire city is filled with parents of two-year-olds who constantly want to show you slides, except their “babies” are movies, not slides, and they cost $70 million each, and when they are ugly, you blame everyone’s marketing department and not your own or your spouse’s genetics. I love children and I love movies, but the rest gets pretty weird and even weirder when I feel myself slipping into the abyss.
So, how will I keep from losing it? Well, my work at rough cut is evolving. The Hot Button will be here every day, as usual. But there will be even more interaction with you as we rev up more contests and live chats. The Whole Picture is coming to an end, but we’re replacing it with two new features that will give you even closer access to the people who are really making things happen in this industry. (And believe me, the serious folks take their jobs seriously. Work first, hype second.) And I look to you all. People who love movies. Agree or disagree with me, you keep me sane. You pay for your movies. You pay attention to your movies. And you remind me that it’s not just about dollars and cents. I thank you for that.
When I do go, I want to have something from David Lean on the VR machine. Probably Bridge Over the River Kwai. I wish that it was to identify with Bill Holden, but it’s not. It’s that moment of clarity that Alec Guiness has at the end. After a lifetime of trying to do the right thing, no matter what the price, he sees the light. And he has his redemption before he dies. Striving to get it right until the end. That’s what will keep me from losing it. That and nine cable movie channels.
READER OF THE DAY: Joe D on Leo in American Psycho: “I agree with you. I read the book two years ago. It is understandably controversial. Made my stomach twist. It is one thing in a novel written from the narrator’s point-of-view to describe alternately inane, shallow thoughts to insane activity. I can’t imagine what a camera would do to such a story. To draw a parallel, it’s one thing to read a murderer’s diary and another to see a movie based on it. I can’t imagine a movie providing neither the intimacy nor the shock of the intimacy of the novel. What it will do for a young actor with such an immense following?!”

Leo, The Cut Up

Well, when Leo says he doesn’t want to be just another movie star, he isn’t fooling. He’ll get $21 million to star in American Psycho, the feature version of the incredibly controversial book by Bret Easton Ellis about a designer label-obsessed, serial-raping, knife-murdering stock broker in Manhattan, and that’s the tame explanation. The fee increases the budget on the film by a minimum of 400 percent (to $40 million), after the original casting plans were set for a $6 million budget film. For Leo, this choice is kind of like if Brad Pitt had done Kalifornia as a follow-up to Interview With the Vampire. Bloody, dumb and bloody dumb.
THE EDGAR WATCH: Looks like Edgar Bronfman Jr. will win the prize known as PolyGram with a bid around the $10.5 billion mark. Everyone else has decided the cost was a little too high. No problem for Bronfman. When this thing first hit, he was said to be willing to hit the $12 billion mark for the Dutch-owned company, so $10.5 billion is a bargain. (Did I leave out that Wall Street estimated the value of the company at $9 billion after the sale possibility became public?)
CANNES CANNES: The 50 minutes of Armageddon that Disney unleashed on the South of France had some mighty, mighty special effects, but the clip got laughs when it came to the tender moment between Bruce Willis and his daughter, played by Liv Tyler. In other news, Mimic director Guillermo Del Toro has found the $30 million he needs to shoot his next film. It’s called Montecristo and sets the Count of Monte Cristo story in 1870s Mexico. Now if only he can find a young actor who’s is in a movie that will make over a billion dollars a few months before his opening.
FAMILIAR FRIENDLY TERRITORY: Jennifer Aniston is attached to Something Wicked, the story of an evil exec who is out to destroy a corporate rival and instead, gets pushed in front of a bus. Wanna bet she comes back to life as Jennifer Aniston and learns her lesson? I can hear the “Friends” theme now, only this time Rachel is in the Monica role. Oooooh! Edgy!
CARRIE-ING THINGS TOO FAR: Anyone who had any high hopes for Carrie II should put them away. Semi-hack director Robert Mandel (School Ties, The Substitute) has been replaced by ultimate hack director Katt Shea (Poison Ivy, Strip To Kill). They blame the change on “creative differences.” Probably more like horrifying dailies. After all, this is a star-free film. There’s no one to fight with except the studio.
X MARKS THE FILM: For those of you who are wondering how “The X-Files” movie will perform, here’s a hint. About 9 million people tuned in for the season finale (aka the film set-up), up from the average 6 million or so who tune in each week. That’s about $50 million in box office if they all show up. And if you weren’t there for the finale? I’ll be there, but I don’t expect too many non-X-Files junkies to fill theaters.
ADDING UP TO SEINFELD: No, I’m not going to tell you about the ratings. Sony and Warner Bros. invested in spots during the closer of the decade. The consensus, confirmed by the NPD market research group, seems to be that Sony’s Godzilla ad was memorable and Warner Bros. multiple ads were not. In the meantime, there are complaints about the most recent spate of Godzilla ads (see ROTD below) and some real concern about the ads for The Truman Show, which even director Peter Weir admitted haven’t really gotten the spirit of the movie across yet. Ironically, the groups that liked the film best in test screenings were 18-24s, the same group who would be going to Jim Carrey movies featuring butt-talking.
READER OF THE DAY: From Krillian: “I’m pretty pissed at Sony for showing a commercial before the movie opens that reveals that [censored by David to protect those who haven’t see the commercial]. I know you’ve seen it, David, but I haven’t and I didn’t want to know that [now deleted reality] until I saw the movie! Please can’t someone get the message to studios to stop ruining movies for us before we get to see them? If I wanted to know the endings to movies I’d check out the spoilers at Aint-It-Cool-News where at least I know I’m choosing to ruin the movie for me. That Godzilla spoiler commercial snuck up on me and I couldn’t get to my remote fast enough. It’s like seeing a commercial for The Empire Strikes Back the week before it opened in 1980 with Darth Vader saying in the commercial, “Luke, I am your father!”

Weekend Wrap-Up

Well, it was a good weekend for my box office picks, but then again it was a pretty easy weekend to handicap. Deep Impact fell 43 percent and $23.3 million. (Just off my mark.) The Horse Whisperer rode into second place (a slot it is unlikely to ever improve on) with $14 million (I guessed $18 million). The soft opening for Quest For Camelot, which Warner Bros. admits disappointed them, was $600,000 worse than my $7 million prediction. And the fourth place finish for City of Angels was right on top of my guess with a $3.2 million weekend. He Got Game held up a little better than I expected in week three and Titanic a little worse as they took fifth and sixth place, flip-flopping from my prediction. And in a bit of news that shocked even me, my prediction of a tie between Woo and Paulie for seventh and eighth with $1.7 million each was exactly right. OK. I’m done bragging now. Except that Les Misérables did take ninth with $1.5 million. I blew off The Big Hit prematurely. It took 10th place with $1.4 million by dropping only 39 percent after a 59 percent drop last weekend. (Must have hot the drive-in circuit.) Hope you all did as well as I did. Box Office Challenge results are due in Wednesday’s Hot Button.
THE GOOD: The weather in New York was incredible, all three films I was there to check out (Godzilla, The Truman Show and Last Days of Disco) were at least “good” and the actors who were there to talk about their movies were all pretty cool.
THE BAD: Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t show up in New York to promote A Perfect Murder (she did it by satellite), Jim Carrey didn’t turn up for The Truman Show (though you will see him on TV interviews) and movies in New York City now cost $9.50 a shot.
THE UGLY: Not much ugly from the work weekend. Getting around NYC while Vice President Gore and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu were in town was like swimming in molasses. (Godzilla is ugly, I guess, but I wouldn’t want to take a chance pissing him off. He’s a ornery varmint!)
TWO MOVIES EQUAL: Bulworth + The Horse Whisperer = The Bull Whisperer. Warren Beatty stars as a guy who can B.S. almost anyone, and he does it really quietly. “Fox really likes my film. Shhhhh.” “I’m only using soft focus because it makes my wife look better. Shhhhh.” “I respected Madonna for her mind. Shhhhh.” Sequel to The Whisperer, which starred Robert Redford as a really good looking guy who starts mumbling quietly at the age of 45 and can’t stop himself.
BAD AD WATCH: I’m not a big fan of running unconfirmable reportage from readers, but Steve Chien-Wei, Weng of Taiwan offers some really interesting world views. Here is his e-mail on a really bad ad. “Maybe you won’t believe this, but it’s true. There are photos of Mr. Bill Clinton in the Primary Colors poster which is being used in Taiwan (redesigned by local distributor, Spring Cinema). It just looks like another Face/Off move, only with John and Bill, not John and Nicholas. Because Face/Off was No. 2 in the box office of 1997 in Taiwan, they want people feel like it’s another Face/Off or something.”
LIVE CHAT: It’s the first ever The Hot Button live chat, today at 3 p.m. EST/Noon PST. Join me and be the first to talk Godzilla with someone who’s seen it. Also, The Truman Show, the weekend box office and anything else that floats your boat.
READER OF THE DAY: I gave credit to the wrong reader for Thursday’s ROTD comment. My apologies to John N. And now, Eric J.: “I’ll see Deep Impact, but I’m really looking forward to Armageddon, which I can’t understand because, in some ways, I’m getting tired of special effects movies. But for some reason Armageddon has become my No. 1 must-see action flick. Must be because Bruckheimer always brings one wild ride to the table, plus you have to love Steve Buscemi after his hilarious turn in Con Air.”

Weekend Preview

Last week’s No. 1 goes up against the man who has a deep impact on more women over the age of 35 than perhaps anyone else. Yes, it’s Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer vs. surprise smash Deep Impact. Normally, I would expect Deep Impact to drop by 50 percent or more, but in reality, the word-of-mouth is much better than I expected it to be. Look for a mere 40 percent drop to $25 million. I think that will be just enough to pass up Sundance Bob, whose latest film should manage between $18 and $23 million. In third, another newcomer. One that I would have projected as a fifth or sixth place film, but because there aren’t any holdovers besides Deep Impact that should generate more than $3.5 million (that would be for City of Angels and fourth place). So, it’s the musical Quest For Camelot in third with a $7 million opening stanza. In fifth place, I’ll bet on the last hurrah in the top five for Titanic ($2.5 million).
The second five should lead with He Got Game ($2.2 million). Woo should hold up in a relatively limited run, tying with Paulie for the seven/eight slot with about $1.7 million each. Look for Les Misérables in ninth with $1.5 million and The Object of My Affection closing out the Top 10 with about $1.3 million. As you probably know, Bulworth opens on only two screens this week before going wide next week opposite you-know-who. Overall, fertile spawning grounds for a certain lizard whom you might have heard something about in recent days.
THE GOOD: Start preparing for The Last Days of Disco. If you liked Metropolitan or Barcelona, you’ll love this one. If not, you’ll hate it. And if you haven’t seen either of the specialty films, rent one soon. The film, being sold as kind of a disco sex romp, is not that. It’s a chatty bit of pure Walt Stillman-ism as affected as Woody Allen or David Mamet. He’s a new voice in cinema, so like him or hate him, you should check him out yourself.
THE BAD: Variety reports the red-lipped goddess of adolescence, Rose McGowan, is now reading lines off notes on other actors’ clothes while shooting her latest, Jawbreaker. When Brando does it, it’s kind of quirky and cute. When Rose does it, I can’t think of one reason why a director would let her get away with it! Well, maybe one reason. I wonder if Rose’s b’friend Marilyn Manson is the jealous type.
THE UGLY: Plump Fiction hits theaters in selected areas. Unless you are staying up on weekend night to watch USA’s Up All Night, this one is a pass, pass, pass.
TWO MOVIES EQUAL ONE BAD MOVIE: Paulie + He Got Game = He Got Paulie. Denzel Washington gets a special furlough from prison to convince the talking parrot he grew up with, Paulie, to work for the WB as a replacement for Michigan J. Frog, who now won’t shut up. Paulie, angry at Denzel for trying to talk him into doing TV (he’s a features-only kind of bird!), refuses the job. In his rage, Paulie adds, “And the Knicks suck!” causing director Spike Lee to stop the production, kill and eat the bird and rewrite the film as a basketball movie.
JUST WONDERING: Am I the only one who is just now catching on to Chloë Sevigny? When roughcut made her one of the 30 Under 30, I was not so sure. But her performances in Palmetto, The Last Days of Disco (coming soon) and even Trees Lounge, which I recently caught on cable, have absolutely charmed me. She is young, and she is sexy, but it’s not just that. There is a calm about her that gives her real screen presence. Interesting.
BAD AD WATCH: Jay Carr of The Boston Globe had this quote pulled for Artemisia: “A triumph of committed workmanship!” Is that really a compliment? Seems rather backhanded to me. Kind of like, “He worked really hard on it and it doesn’t suck really bad!”
READER OF THE DAY: Amy T. wrote: “Congratulations on reminding readers that opinions are just that, opinions. I think people often forget that! As an agent, writers often disagree with my comments or suggestions, but it still all boils down to one thing — OPINIONS.” (If you don’t know what Amy is talking about, check out Wednesday’s rant).

Movies By Numbers

I’m on my way to New York City as you read this. I love New York. I lived there for years, graduating NYU film school and starting my career in the TV business. Seems like a long time ago. I would love to move back to NYC, but the truth is, as much as I fight it, if you want to really understand the film business, you have to be here in L.A. Movies here are like fluoride in the water, smog in the air and cheesy come-ons at the SkyBar. You can’t escape them. But I am thrilled to be heading to the city that never sleeps for a few days. Things will continue as normal here at The Hot Button. Enter the Box Office Contest ASAP, read about the weekend to come tomorrow and check out New By The Numbers on Saturday. I’ll see you on Monday with the weekend wrap-up and a live chat at 3:00 EST/12:00 PST about New York, Godzilla or anything else you want to talk about. Until then, here’s some news to chew on.
MOVIES BY NUMBER: What in the name of Uncle Walt is Disney thinking?! In the “repeating the same mistake twice category,” the studio that brought you Super Mario Bros.: The Movie just set the feature version of Inspector Gadget as their tentpole film for next summer. If the idea of Disney turning another cartoon into a movie doesn’t make you sick (and let’s not even mention Judge Dredd) let’s look at the casting. Take a star coming off a big effects film (Bob Hoskins, as Mario, coming off Roger Rabbit then/Matthew Broderick, as Gadget, coming off Godzilla now) and add a quirky, charming up-and-comer whom you expect to breakthrough soon (John Leguizamo then/Rupert Everett now). All they need is a two-person-team of unconventional directors who have never done a big-budget film. (Let’s see if Disney hires the Can’t Hardly Wait team of Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan). At least the screenplay for this one offers a simple and clear story. Gadget is blown to pieces and is rebuilt with telescoping arms and legs complete with gadgets. The villain (played by Everett) just loses a hand, which is replaced with a gadget-laced prosthetic. What do you mean that’s not a story?
MORE MICKEY MOUSING: Disney’s top animated composer, Alan Menken, received an award from BMI this week and let it slip that he’s working on a project with Alice Cooper. They are working on an animated version of Dracula in which the Count becomes famous for sucking blood, but then gets tired of having to live up to the rep after becoming a middle-aged vampire. Songs include: “Sucking The Love From You,” “You May Live Forever, But Your Breath Still Stinks,” “Death-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and the film’s love theme (to be recorded as a single by Puff Daddy in conjunction with Sting), “Every Pint You Take.” Of course, I made all that up, except for the Alice Cooper collaboration. And who knows?
BOX OFFICE XENOPHOBIA: What was the No. 1 film in Germany last week? Why of course, Mr. Magoo! Don’t laugh, oh, friends of Italian descent. It was No. 2 in Italy. Not doing nearly as well in the Boot Nation was I Know What You Did Last Summer, whose title may well have had it mistaken for a sex comedy. Other stiffs on the foreign front include: Deep Rising, Mercury Rising, Event Horizon, U.S. Marshals, A Thousand Acres, The Man Who Knew Too Little, Blues Brothers 2000 and Great Expectations, proving once again that it’s a small world after all. In the winners column is Alien: Resurrection, which has already pulled in $103.3 million overseas and of course, Titanic, which now floats at $1.08 billion overseas.
BITE THE TITANIC: It had to happen. New Line just bought the screenplay to the first Titanic spoof, Gigantic. The story is about a boat that was 2.5 inches shorter than Titanic, so it missed out on the publicity. Shorter. Two and a half inches shorter. What do you mean, that’s not all that funny? It’s funny! New Line paid $350,000 against $500,000 for the screenplay! It’s damned funny! Laugh, damn you! Laugh!
READER OF THE DAY: Kim B wrote: “Well, I must say that while I wasn’t completely bored, Deep Impact did not flow as well as I would have liked. The effects were incredible, unfortunately, we only got 10 minutes or less of effects at the end of the flick … The scariest thought? Armageddon is essentially 2 hours plus the worst part of Deep Impact (the drilling scene on the comet). I guess we have to hope that Armageddon has some Deep Impact with Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck (sorry about that one, had to)…”

Ranting and Raving

There was a lot of mail supporting Deep Impact on Monday, and I want to acknowledge it. A couple of things. One is that there is no roughcut mindset about any movie. There are a half a dozen people or so who review films for roughcut. (I’m not one of them.) I didn’t read Chris Brandon’s review before seeing the film. In fact, I still haven’t read it. The next thing is that I don’t consider it my job to tell you what movie to like, love or hate. I had Kundun as my top film of 1997, and I don’t think there are too many people who agree with me there. Unfortunately. My mixed feelings about Titanic, which many of you were not very happy about, were diametrically opposed by others at roughcut, including Andy Jones, who said it was worth $10 on a $7.50 scale. The point is, I want you to love any film that pushes your hot buttons. I have the bully pulpit and I do have a life’s education on film, but my opinion is still just my opinion. So, Spice World or Amadeus, if you love a movie I want to encourage you, and I want to let you know how things really work because in my mind’s eye, love deepens as insight deepens, whether the insight is positive or negative. So, I won’t be writing up a litany about all I saw wrong with Deep Impact. This is a fight I would rather not win.
That said, there are a whole big bunch of you who seem to want to tear Brian Grazer and Gus Van Sant new rectal cavities for daring to attempt a remake of Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic, Psycho. The letters started pouring in after casting reports (Julianne Moore, Anne Heche, Vince Vaughn) started hitting the media, and then the rumors — Van Sant would shoot the original script that Joe Stefano wrote from the Robert Bloch novel, Van Sant would shoot the movie matching every single shot, Van Sant would grow horns and preside over hell. Well, after calling Imagine and having the company, which is one of the most talkative companies in Hollywood, confirm yet again that they have a media ban on this project, I can come to one conclusion — we, in the media, are suckers. Imagine is going to let us rile everyone up for a year before the film is even ready, and then deliver, they hope, a great film that pulls the same trick as Titanic. What stories are real and which are fake? I don’t believe Gus Van Sant would be shooting the film shot-for-shot. If they had hired some hack to direct, I’d buy that rumor (which I still can’t find the original source on), but as it is, the screenplay thing rings true and the shot-for-shot stuff does not.
And here’s why I am not enraged by that. Psycho was made in 1959. Unlike other great films of that year, say Inherit The Wind or The Apartment, Psycho was not about words. I’m sure some of you can quote lines from Psycho, but most people can’t. Psycho was about subtext. Subtext that couldn’t full be exploited in 1960, even as hard as Hitchcock pushed the boundaries of that time. That’s where Van Sant has room to play. For better or for worse. As a former script doctor, I’m fascinated by the idea of working from an old screenplay. I wrote a script once which included Jesus as a character and I took all of his dialogue from the New Testament. It required discipline, but it also sharpened my work. You realize after a while that almost any script could be handed to a different producer, director and actors and emerge as a completely different film. Do we need a “different” Psycho? Well, do we need another Billy Crystal movie? I’d rather see Van Sant, who is a quality craftsman, but at heart a true artist, take a stab (so to speak) at Psycho. Hell, I’d love to see them make one with David Lynch and Scorcese too. How would they see this material? I’d love to know.
Yes, there is always the argument that Universal is just making a colorized version of a classic so they can exploit the library. But with Van Sant, it can be more than that. For my money, if they were remaking North By Northwest, then I’d be saying, what can they really do to add to it? Why? Because NXN is a more conventional film. Psycho is subversive. It is an emotional experience. It is art. And when art achieves iconic status, it is often the subject of other artists. That’s where I see this going. And if it sucks, we always will have the original. Just as we had the original after Psycho 2 turned out to be a decent flick, but a million miles away from a match to the original.
This doesn’t leave me very much time to talk about Spike Lee‘s use of the late, great Aaron Copeland’s music as the score to He Got Game. In many ways, I consider this even more endemic of the way things are going in this business. Recycling music that was meant for a completely different context with the creator too dead to say, “this was not how I would have matched this musical phrase to that image.” It’s kind of the equivalent to Fred Astaire and the Dust Devil or Marilyn Monroe for Chanel. It’s not a riff on the work, exploring for new meaning, as I think Psycho will be, but is it wrong? People use music from the classical composers and Shakespeare all the time. Is taking from the recently dead any worse? This is just the beginning of this kind of thing. I, for one, will reserve judgment. For a while.
CONTEST WINNER: Well, I’ve been backing off “must be in by” rules to encourage more people to play, but the four of you who sent in perfect guesses on Sunday afternoon and Monday will require that I put a clamp on that. (You don’t win!) We have out first second-time winner this week as Usman J. got the top three right (one of only six to legitimately do that) and added Les Miz and Titanic, albeit in reverse order. Usman beat out Brandon G (who wrote in from the same mail address as the evil and apparently pseudonymous Bertrand G.) by guessing higher ($26 million vs. $17.8 million) on Deep Impact. Runners up are Leslie Langdon, Pose, Eric Carr and Len Weinstein. Woo to you all.
READER OF THE DAY: Joey wrote: “I saw a sneak preview of Deep Impact last Tuesday, and the theater was filled to capacity. I actually did enjoy Deep Impact. The human drama was well-done, and the special effects were very convincing. Let’s be honest about it, if everyone’s looking forward to this lizard movie in two weeks by the ‘all style/no substance’ wonder twins who brought us Independence Day, you can’t bitch about people seeing Deep Impact.”

The Edgar Watch

Well, it looks like Edgar Bronfman Jr. has passed on his much-mocked interest in overpaying for EMI ($9 million) and has greenlit the purchase of PolyGram (as high as $15 million). After months of negotiations, the EMI talks ended abruptly on Friday after Philips made public its intentions to sell PolyGram. The move would make Universal’s record business holdings the biggest in the world, a goal that Mr. Bronfman seems to have placed above the movie business. In fact, amongst the casualties of this transaction is likely to be Polygram Filmed Entertainment, which will likely lose Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner’s Working Title, the central production outlet for PFE, which is responsible for Bean, Dead Man Walking, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Fargo, Bob Roberts and about 20 others. PloyGram has no ongoing deal with the duo, and others (read: Warner Bros. and Paramount) should be anxious to sign them up. Especially with the industry lusting for quality, salable films with budgets under $30 million.
RUMORVILLE: This one comes from a source who tends to lie to self-aggrandize, but he claims he had this first-hand contact, and I don’t know why he would have made this particular story up. (That qualification is almost longer than the story!) So, he has Leo hanging out at the Playboy Mansion, chased all over by young honeys, but paying little attention. And he has Leo telling him it wasn’t his reticence to take the All the Pretty Horses role that cost him the lead in the Columbia/Miramax project, but rather the studios’ unwillingness to pay the $15 million price tag when they could get Matt Damon for less than half the price.
JUST WONDERING: Universal picked up a pitch for David Spade about a gay man who gets amnesia, leaving him vulnerable to his father’s efforts to convince him that he’s straight. My question is this. Is this project the result of David Spade‘s determination to confirm his hetero- (he must be straight to be willing to play gay) or homo- (he must be gay if he’s willing to play a gay man) sexuality?
SCHINDLER’S HEIST: Does the idea of mixing the Holocaust with a heist movie seem like it’s going a bit far to give an emotional foundation to a thriller? Brian DePalma does not. He just inked a deal with MGM to co-write and direct Nazi Gold, a modern-day story about a commercial producer who is shooting a commercial in a Swiss bank where they are rumored to be storing large gold reserves that came from the teeth and jewelry of concentration camp victims. (No, I’m not making this up.) The producer teams up with some pros to get the gold and to return it to the families of the victims. This is some rough sledding. Just play a few notes off-key and this one offends everyone. Besides the classic horror that is Swing Kids: The Nazi Musical, I’m just trying to imagine whether anyone would be making this film about black-American slavery or the slaughter of American-Indians.
SPEAKING OF OFFENSIVE: What is up with all this whining about Denzel having a fling with Milla Jovovich in He Got Game? Would black women (who are being accused of caring the most) prefer that there be a black prostitute in the film? (And by the way, the idea that Milla was drug-free goes against her body type. If anyone’s body ever looked like that of a strung-out junkie, it’s skinnier-than-angel-hair Milla.) And would white men (accused of caring second most) have any clever excuse other than overt racism to object to this coupling? Truthfully, it’s kind of embarrassing that everyone noticed, though I guess that’s the way people see the world. I overheard people talking about Morgan Freeman as the president in Deep Impact after the film let out. I’d rather have him than anyone else who’s run lately. And, of course, there is the great irony that as soon as America has a black president, the world is coming to an end. Shall we overcome?
READER OF THE DAY: From Nathan H: “Question: Will ‘The Whole Picture’ ever actually be published, or do I need to waste $5.00 in printer/paper ink instead of paying $12.95 at Borders six months from now?” (Answer from David P: Yes, it will be published. A release date is not yet set.) Back to Nathan: “Comment 1: I agree with Mike Cidoni. Deep Impact is ‘One of the most important films you’ll see this summer!’ assuming you’re an aspiring screenwriter-actor-director just yearning to know how to make a mediocre picture. Comment 2: Sony and LucasFilm have some seriously savvy negotiators. Not only do they get a truckload of cash from Taco Bell for the right to sell Godzilla and Star Wars tostada meals, but Taco Bell apparently covers all advertising as well. Comment 3: Is it just me or should Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, with their proven trailer prowess, open up an advertising firm on the side?”

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