The Hot Blog Archive for December, 2004

How Can You Tell A Commercial Movie Is About To Die?

Armond White calls it a "near Masterpiece."


Responding To The John Horn Piece In The LA Times Today

Besides the factual inaccuracy about Paramount and Universal "declining" to participate, here is what I have to say:


The Incredibles

Born Into Brothels
Z Channel:  A Magnificent Obsession

The Sea Inside

Beyond The Sea

Phantom of the Opera



House of Flying Daggers

The Aviator
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
A Love Song For Bobby Long
The Assassination of Richard Nixon

No one could ask for a finer list of films to have shown.

Thanks to Fox Searchlight, Disney, IFC, ThinkFilm, New Line/Fine Line, Lions Gate, Warner Bros, Columbia, Sony Classics, Miramax and Paramount for their participation in the screening series… and for paying the cost of renting the theater.

Also, thanks to the studios that did not have films in the series this year, but that made the effort to try to make dates work, even when they ultimately could not.

And to the volunteer staff, who came out week after week to mkae sure things ran smoothly with no promise of anything but a hand shake and a thank you.

And of course, to Bill Condon, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, John Walker, Craig T. Nelson, Xan Cassavetes, Kevin Spacey, Joel Schumacher, Jared Leto, Colin Farrell, Rosario Dawson, John Logan, Graham King, Brad Silberling, Billy Connolly, Bill Corso, Colleen Atwood, Cheryl Carasik, John Travolta, Scarlet Johannson, Gabriel Macht and Deborah Kira Unger for coming out and sharing their time, their humor and their insights with fellow members of the industry.

It was, indeed, one of the most fun events on the awards season calendar, week in, week out.


Early Globe Reaction

It’s too early to actually think too much about the Globes nominations, except to say… “some old, same old.”

Every surprise on the list is an homage to star power and/or Miramax.  Nicole, Uma, Renee and Meryl… David Carradine… only Kevin and Ashley feel like a reach for something they really liked of pure heart. 

But really, not very surprising. 

They went to 11 Best Picture titles, which oddly enough, I had somehow channeled.  (Not really intentionally.)  Beyond The Sea couldn’t even make it to Best Musical/Comedy, replaced by The Incredibles, though Spacey did make it, as expected.

Jamie Foxx double dipped with Collateral and Ray, but they left out Cruise and Michael Mann.

The closest thing to edgy was going Best Picture and Actor with Hotel Rwanda… though they came up short on Sophie Okonedo. But never mind that, they missed Shoreh Aghdashloo last year.

And while I still expect the positions to reverse with The Academy, I’m pleased that Liam Neeson took Clint Eastwood’s acting slot and that Kinsey made the List o’ Eleven.

More in a bit on THB… 


Goldman On The Gold Man

I read William Goldman’s first public comments on the awards season this year in Variety and just after, some nasty comments about him on a site with message boards that are endlessly amusing this time of year.  And what hit me first about the response to some tough comments by Goldman was…

People prefer to be lied to.

It is more complex than that, but the punch line is that people prefer a lie they agree with to a truth that goes against what they believe. 

In particular, Goldman brutalizes Martin Scorsese a bit for the second time in three years.  But in the Gangs of New York debacle, Scorsese and his Oscar Svengali, Harvey Weinstein, had it coming.  Moreover, there is no one who I know who works or closely covers the Oscars who knows, to this date, where the votes for Gangs’ 10 nominations came from, with a couple of exceptions (Daniel Day Lewis amongst them).

What Goldman, who has not seen The Aviator yet, jumps on this year is that critical hysteria has started and is expected to continue on that film, in spite of a pleasant, but hardly overwhelming response from most audiences in town.  There are people who adore The Aviator.  But there seem to be an equal number who despise it. 

But Goldman’s core issue, even if he slams Scorsese a bit hard for me, is that the hysteria about getting Marty “his” Oscar would not be happening had he simply won the Oscar he most deserved 25 years ago, for Raging Bull.  I am not as tough on later Scorsese as Goldman.  I truly love Kundun and I see great work even in his failures, like Gangs.  That said, Goldman is 100% correct – and I don’t think anyone without blinders on or a vested interest would suggest otherwise – in saying that Scorsese’s greatest work was 20 years ago.   

I like a lot of The Aviator, but in so many ways, this is not amongst Scorsese’s best work as character studies go.  You can’t get much darker than Scorsese got in Mean Streets and Raging Bull.  You can’t get much more complex than GoodFellas, which travels roughly the same amount of time as The Aviator.  But the work in those films was innovative and really brilliant.  In The Aviator, he made a conventional film.  It’s beautiful at times and truly exhilarating at others.  But I can name 20 directors who could have delivered it as well if not better. 

When I read Goldman writing about the word of mouth, “…The first hour is terrific. But Scorsese has never been at ease with story, and the rest of the film just does not measure up. You watch — when the gushing starts, that decline will be buried,” I feel a little like I am having déjà vu.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote of Todd McCarthy’s review in Variety and how it accurately described a part of the film… and how it blatantly left out 40% or more of the film from the discussion.  You can read the reader responses for yourself, but they ran from anger at me, to disbelief, to some in agreement.  But it was really simple, however you feel about the film… it was consciously or unconsciously incomplete.

Goldman goes on to wonder if Million Dollar Baby is the big threat to The Aviator (it is), even though he has not seen that film either.  Of course, as his bashers say, he has worked with Eastwood.  They also rage that he is against The Aviator without having seen it.

But what I read there is what is a very real view in town… the Scorsese hysteria is different than, say, talk about Alexander Payne or Michael Mann. It’s not “great work… let’s celebrate,” but “let’s celebrate his career… the work here is good enough not be embarrassing because damn, he earned it over his career.”  This nomination was being assumed long before anyone saw the film… and so few people have seen it as of now, critical mass is building still.

It is, of course, possible to believe that The Aviator is better directorial work than Sideways or Collateral or Million Dollar Baby.  But the haze of the Oscars is quite often more about the things around the work than the work itself.  I look forward to reading Goldman on the F9/11 campaign effort

But back to the original thought… people like to be lied to. 

How many journalists and critics have I read this season who are taking positions that are not just about the films involved.  There is one major columnist who ripped into The Phantom of The Opera after refusing to attend one of a number of screenings to which they were offered access.  No disclosure in the column.  Others hated this film or loved that film and then tout or tear those titles as though there was industry “buzz.”  (I have been accused of this at times and take great offense at the notion, since I work endlessly to avoid this.)  You may disagree… you may disagree to the point of rage… with Goldman’s take here.  But you have to admit, it’s honest.  His cards are on the table. 

And with little bitterness at all, he points out that his favorite film, The Motorcycle Diaries, is sure to miss the boat.  Another bit of truth.

Oscarwatch’s "William Goldman, can’t we just strangle the man" chat board


AFI Awards 2004

Tee hee.

As Jack says to Miles in Sideways, "I’m going to get your joint smooched."

Let’s take a look at the AFI Awards from a slightly different perspective.


Dreamworks – COLLATERAL




Fox Searchlight – KINSEY, SIDEWAYS



Columbia – SPIDER-MAN 2

Notice, no true indies.  No Fahrenheit 9/11 or The Passion of The Christ.

They did leave Paramount out… but smooching Paramount doesn’t help much when the leadership of the company is in play. 

Maybe they’ll change their name to the American Board of Review.


About The Saturday Awards

So, is Sideways a lock yet?

Not quite yet. 

It will be fascinating to see how things go with the New York Film Critics Circle on Monday, because only once in the shared period of history of both LAFCA and NYFCC has a film won with both of those groups and failed to get a Best Picture nomination… Leaving Las Vegas.  And that film was exactly the kind of the bleak, artsy, hopeless film that Academy members shy away from.  I suppose the closest we are getting to that – critics adoring, audiences/Academy types rejecting – is Bad Education, but if N.Y. and L.A. went for that film, you wonder whether there is enough Almodovar admiration out there for Academy members to make that leap.

In any case, Sideways is not so bleak, not so tough.  Like Leaving Las Vegas, it has two inevitable Oscar nods for acting coming… and one more for Giamatti still a hopeful and deserved possibility… and sure bets for screenplay.  Director is pretty likely and if the film gets a Best Picture nod, Payne will surely be in.

The other HUGE winner this weekend was Imelda Staunton, who swept the European Film Awards, the NY Online Film Critics and LAFCA.  She was the only one to achieve that feat, albeit Tom Church was not eligible for The Euro.  Ms. Staunton made it very clear in her early interviews for this film that she prioritized her real life over her professional life.  She was not posing.  And it is a fairly closely held story that Ms. Staunton’s mother passed away in the last month.  This is not a story that she would ever want to have become a part of her Oscar push.  But the loss has kept Ms. Staunton from being back in America for publicity during this critical period.  And as it goes, the adulation of the critics will keep her from being forgotten as the race tightens.  Sony Classics will wait for the Golden Globes and, I’m sure they hope, NYFCC to officially launch Ms. Bening’s campaign.  Of course, this may all be for naught as, in the end, Hilary Swank may be unbeatable, regardless of the critics groups.

LAFCA gave a boost to what seemed like a waning interest in Liam Neeson as Best Actor.  He is expected to get a Globes nomination tomorrow, though he could use one or two more feathers in his awards season cap before feeling too secure.

Michael Giacchino scored an important win with LAFCA for his The Incredibles score, if only to establish his name in the ears of an Academy used to voting for the same people over and over again. 

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Who's Your Mikey?

It looks like there will be a TV movie about the DIsney/Ovitz trial(s), attempting to match the now-classic Letterman/Leno movie.

The question is… who to cast?


Early Box Office Analysis

Based on Friday estimates…

1. Ocean’s Twelve – $14.7m – WB’s Target For The Weekend? $38.2m, which is a hundred thousand more than the first film did.  It doesn’t look like they’ll quite get there.  But more important is hitting $33.7m, which keeps it ahead of What Women Want and thus puts the Ocean’s franchise and the Rings franchise in control of the Top Five all-time December openings without any other titles.

2. Blade: Trinity – $5.5m – This represents a step backwards for the franchise, back to the first film, before the name “Blade” had value beyond the comic cult.  The assumption is that these movies are inherently critic proof.  But maybe not so this time.  Slotting against the grain, it could be that a big group of Blade Trinity goers were dragged to Ocean’s by their Friday night dates.  Or we could be looking at a $50 million gross.


I Just Had Lunch With Morgan Spurlock…

… and I ordered a hamburger.

What the hell was I thinking?

Good guy.  You can kind of tell he is ready to move on, though he did offer his opinion on the best burger in L.A. (The Original Tommy’s, downtown), on Best Doc competitor Zana Briski (great girl) and the invasion of China by McDonald’s (they are now going out for birthday parties in the country when the tradition didn’t exist before).

More on Morgan & Super Size Me later… but the burger sitting heavy in my belly made me think of how silly the choice was….


For Those Keeping Score…

(Edited Out For Spoiler)

That is the moment when Million Dollar Baby goes from being a good movie to being the likely Oscar winner.

Try not to look at your watch in the theater.  In fact, forget I said anything.

Actually… I am editing the post so you won’t know the time unless you highlight it below.


Don’t look until you’ve seen the movie.  But somehow, it just struck me as a cool thing.


More on Terminator/Matrix v Sophia Stewart

On October 28, a student newspaper at Salt Lake Community College printed an erroneous story on Sophia Stewart’s RICO lawsuit against The Wachowskis, Jim Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Fox and Warner Bros and others. 

Poorly reported by one Martha Carter, the story says that "Monday, October 4th 2004 ended a six-year dispute" and that Ms. Stewart has " will recover damages" and that "she will soon receive one of the biggest payoffs in the history of Hollywood, as the gross receipts of both films and their sequels total over 2.5 billion dollars."

None of that is true.  What is true is that on September 27, 2004, US District Court Judge Margaret M. Morrow made a preliminary ruling that the RICO element of the suit would not be thrown out on purely legal grounds, though some of the charges were dropped against Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox.  There was no finding of fact emerging from this hearing and not even the glimmer of a trial that would find guilt or innocence.

The story ran on the community college website, was picked up by, which bills itself as "The digital resource for blazin’ urban news."  Eventually their story was passed to and published by Ain’t It Cool News.  By the time I was alerted to the posting and went to AICN, the link was gone.  Presumably, someone explained just how inaccurate the story was and AICN did the responsible thing at that point.

If you want to look at the ruling, you can read it all on MCN… Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.


Awards Promos: Kinsey

Kinsey KInsey invites awards voters to take measure of the season.


Awards Promos: Collateral



Awards Promos: Shrek 2

Shrek2a Shrek2b 

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A poll…

This is almost too obvious…

What entertainment journalist most reminds you of Count Olaf of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events infamy?


The Hot Blog

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