Awards Archive for December, 2005

The Munich Attacks

It’s one of those weird Old Media/New Media things that I now keep reading about Munich‘s critical “comeback” as some sort of response to “Internet attacks.”
That is, to put it delicately, bullshit.
The core of the negative hum was Todd McCarthy in good old Variety, David Brooks in the good old New York Times, and one-sided opinion-pulsing by the good old wire services, which couldn’t wait to get a full picture of the Israeli reaction before doing exacty what they did earlier in the year – when they gave endless media attention to the crackpots who felt they needed to be consulted before Spielberg could make his movie – which is to jump the gun.
And of course, the excuse for the attacks? Old Media Time Magazine got an exclusive, did (in my opinion) a piss-poor job with the free pass they were given, and so muscular media types, forced into feeling like “outsiders,” lied to by Universal about Spileberg access, decided to take the other side and to attack the film.
Of course, Nikki Finke, who started this insanity with her feverish report on the non-news of a Munich non-junket, fiercely considers herself Old Media and her sense of righteousness on the story came from Old Media friends who patted her hard on the back for her non-scoop scoop and then ran their (LAT/NYT) own feverish versions of the non-story.
It is cheap and intellectually lazy to blame the web for this unneccesary fever. Ironically, one of the key defense claims by OM against the web – that everything starts with old media and that the web simply reflects their work – has been flipped on its head here… a coincident convenience in a case where it is looking like the worm is turning.
And with due respect to Anne Thompson, the notion that power reviews have now started pouring in for Munich are a reflection of “the intenet attacks” and are not as sincere as those critics would normally be assumed to be is kind of stunningly insulting to everyone involved – even though I don’t think it was a notion so intended. I don’t know Stephen Hunter, but I do know Dargis, Ebert, and Mathews and I wouldn’t want my head in between their fingers and their keyboards when they want to write something. And she didn’t even include Slate/NY Mag’s David Edelstein, who called Munich the best of the year, even though his breathren in New York would have argued the point hard against him during their post-screening beer.
Anyway… this seems to me to be another variation on the theme of internal combustion in the media these days. Take a few strong voices, obsess on them for a week, then find excuses for why things change a week later. There are no excuses needed, since things didn’t change… they just evolve normally. It is the downside of Slow Media trying to speed up. When everyone is hyper-fast in “reporting,” then everything is an alleged reaction to everything else. And most people are not as OCD as those of us covering this beat are. Not should they be.
Slow down.


How Might Brokeback Fall Back?

Brokeback Mountain has gotten past two of the early hurdles. It has won a majority of the top critics awards so far and it is a sure bet to be seen by a very high percentage of Academy voters. But precursors can be curses too. The last time winning the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion turned out to be a precursor of an Oscar Best Picture nomination was 1980, when Atlantic City took the Golden Lion. No Venice winner has ever won Best Picture. But records are made to be broken. Only a few years ago, 61 home runs was an impossible goal.
Munich is also sure to be seen by a vast majority of the Academy members. But every other one of the contending pictures will continue to have to fight to be seen by most voters.
King Kong skews a little young, so the negative box office reportage will have an effect on how many of the generally-over-50 Academy members see the film.
Good Night, And Good Luck is likely to be seen mostly on DVD, though in that case, it is not much of a hindrance. The movie should play better on a small screen, though if it plays too well, people might write it off as too small.
Munich, on the other hand, will not be well served by first-time TV viewing. It is a movie that at-home distractions could well hurt. A second viewing at home is probably in its favor, however. An unusual challenge for Universal strategists.
One of the downsides for The Constant Gardener is its early release date. Many Academy members may have seen the film when it was first released in late August. And they will use the DVD as a reminder. But members seeing the visually complex film for the first and only time on DVD may not feel its full power.
Which brings us back to Brokeback Mountain, which starts as an upstream swimmer. No matter how much some people adore the film, it has the popularity boundaries of most Ang Lee movies. It is deliberate. It is languorous at times. The characters are not terribly verbal. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but the last visual feast to win Best Picture was The English Patient, a decade ago.
And like it or not, there is a significant percentage of Academy voters who really aren’t interested in a gay love story. But forget about “gay” for a moment. Once you get past Shakespeare in Love, which was driven more by being a show biz piece than a romance, and you have to go all the way back to Casablanca to find a Best Picture winner that centered on a great romance.


Monkey Win!

Live Telecast of the Critics’ Choice Awards on January 9, 2006 on The WB
BURBANK, CA (December 20, 2005) – Kong will receive a special award at the 11th annual Critics’ Choice Awards gala on January 9, 2006 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, it was announced today by the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Board of Directors.
The Distinguished Achievement in Performing Arts Award will be presented to Kong, star of the movie “King Kong,” on the telecast, which will be broadcast live on The WB. In recognition of the singular achievement in creating this character, representing a revolutionary leap forward in synthesizing visual effects with an actor’s performance, the special award will be accepted by actor Andy Serkis, animation director Christian Rivers, animation supervisor Joe Letteri, and, of course, Kong himself.
“Many BFCA members wanted to vote for Kong for Best Actor because they were so impressed by the astonishing way in which he expresses love, lust, humor and rage in the tradition of the finest human actors,” states BFCA president Joey Berlin. “The BFCA Board of Directors feels this recognition is necessary to live up to our goal of honoring the finest in cinematic achievement at the Critics’ Choice Awards show.”


Trying To Get The Point Of The LAT Munich Story

With due respect to Rachel Abramowitz, who muscularly reported the Munich piece, it’s like the biggest piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen without nearly enough frosting or milk to keep you from choking on it all.
What do people want to read about Munich right now? They want to read Spielberg (not Tony Kusher and surely not Kathleen Kennedy) addressing the questions, however parsed, “Is this good for Israel? Is this good for the Jews?”
I believe Spielberg’s answers are “yes” and “yes.” And there is no doubt, there are other Jews (and non-Jews) who will disagree. These conversations are complex and divisive by their nature.
For the sake of that conversation, I have pulled some of what Spielberg had to say out of the near-4000 word piece.
“I couldn’t live with myself being silent for the sake of maintaining my popularity. And I’m at an age right now where if I don’t take risks, I lose respect for myself. And this was an important risk for me to take.”
“I worked very hard so this film was not in any way, shape or form going to be an attack on Israel.”
“[The film’s] a discussion


20 Weeks To Nothing?

So here we are


BFCA Nods…

Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, and Good Luck.
King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Walk the Line


T3 – Munich Myths & Truths

The Myths and Reality of Munich
After the slaughter of its Olympians, Israel vowed to hunt down the killers. But, says a new book, that’s not whom it got
Posted Sunday, Dec. 04, 2005
Golda Meir didn’t want to believe the news. The Israeli Prime Minister had heard media reports that West German police had rescued the Israeli Olympic athletes taken hostage by terrorists in Munich. Now Zvi Zamir, head of the Mossad, was phoning from Germany at 3 a.m. to correct that account. “I saw it with my own eyes,” he told her. “No one was left alive.”
That was the end of a debacle that had begun 23 hours earlier, when Palestinian terrorists from the Black September organization burst into the dorm housing the Israeli delegation at the 1972 Olympics and took 11 of its members hostage. It was also the start of a much longer, more complicated chapter in the saga: Israel’s methodical extraction of revenge. About the events in Munich on Sept. 5, 1972, there is considerable clarity. The story of the reprisal missions, on the other hand, has been befogged by mystery. The notion persists that the Israelis drew up a list of those responsible for Munich, then, one by one, knocked them off. But that’s largely a myth, according to an upcoming book by TIME reporter Aaron J. Klein, Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response (Random House; 272 pages). The Israelis, Klein writes, had to settle for smaller targets, killing activists who for the most part had nothing to do with the Munich massacre and leaving alive, to this day, some who were involved.

Read the full article »


T2 – Steven's Prayer For Peace

His “Prayer For Peace”
Posted Sunday, Dec. 04, 2005
Just after finishing his new movie about the aftermath of the massacre at the Munich Olympics, Steven Spielberg talked with TIME movie critic Richard Schickel, who collaborated with him on the TV documentary Shooting War, about his reasons for taking on Munich, his anger at the International Olympic Committee and his modest plan for improving Arab-Israeli relations.
TIME: WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT THIS MOVIE IS, IN THE END, ABOUT THE HUMAN COST OF A QUAGMIRE? Yes. And also for me this movie is a prayer for peace. I always kept thinking about that as I was making it. Some-where inside all this intransigence there has to be a prayer for peace. Because the biggest enemy is not the Palestinians or the Israelis. The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence. Do you know Amos Oz’s books? There’s a wonderful quote we found, that sort of makes sense to me: “In the lives of individuals, and of peoples, too, the worst conflicts are often those that break out between those who are persecuted.” They see in each other’s faces a reflection of some larger oppressor. That may well be the case with the 100-year conflict between Arabs and Jews.
DO YOU THINK THIS FILM WILL DO ANY GOOD? I’ve never, ever made a movie where I said I’m making this picture because the message can do some good for the world–even when I made Schindler’s List. I was terrified that it was going to do the opposite of good. I thought perhaps it might bring shame to the memory of those who didn’t survive the Holocaust–and even worse to those who did. I made the picture out of just pure wanting to get that story told. I thought it was important that at least my kids someday could see what happened, just to hear that story being told. I feel the same way about Munich. I don’t think any movie or any book or any work of art can solve the stalemate in the Middle East today.

Read the full article »


Spielberg on Munich in Time

Since Time has the joy of being the only interview given so far and since no one really wants to capitalize financially on Munich, I’m sure no one will object to me reprinting the story here so no one is forced to buy an online subscription to Time Magazine just to read this one interview.
spielcover.jpgSpielberg Takes on Terror
Munich adroitly blends high-pressure action and humanity in a historical story that’s all about our times
The first and most important thing to say about Munich, Steven Spielberg’s new film, is that it is a very good movie


Uh, Welcome To The Munich Campaign, Dumbass

After a while, it’s just too easy.
Of course, you have to have the right bait. Eastwood a year after an Oscar nomination with a movie unlike anything else in the marketplace… Spielberg… the right Scorsese… Godfather IV…
The story is really, really old. Before Spielberg shot a frame of Munich, he told everyone who would listen that he would not be doing press for Munich. Universal denied even hearing about it, but there was a moment mid-production when his DreamWorks team was analyzing whether or not to even screen the movie for the press… or even having one-sheets or a trailer. And given the absurd amount of media attention Spielberg behaving just like Spielberg repeatedly has in the past is garnering, his idea might have been even better! (The downside is that the very same writers who are humming endlessly about Spielberg not whoring for Munich would be talking about him hiding the movie if the privileged chattering class did not get its early taste.)
Even more amazing is that in all of this HYPE, Spielberg’s personal front man of decades, Marvin Levy, still hasn’t actually ruled out anything. Steven is likely to speak to Time Magazine this week. (How does the press corps know? Time staffers have told everyone in town.) The other actors will do some interviews “after the movie’s been seen,” which means anytime after next Wednesday. Banners have already been up. TV spots are already running in prime time. The trailer’s been out for weeks.
As Anne Thompson writes in her Risky Business column, ” Editorial coverage off the entertainment pages is a great way to build interest in a movie.” Apparently.
This all started with Tony Angellotti doing his job and informing the junket press in a missive, along with info on The Producers and King Kong, that no junket was planned. Five days later, Nikki Finke ran a story that suggested that this was news and added some negative spin as only Nikki can do. Then the LA Times had 2 reporters write a story that added nothing but quotes that said nothing. Now, Anne Thompson adds more nothing.
At least Thompson smartly connects the Malick film to the story… though Malick not doing interviews is a decades old story, Farrell is on Miami Vice duty, and Q’Orianka Kilcher is 17… of course this is the strategy. It’s not like New Line has a choice.
Then Thompson repeats another non-story that is being propagated – “If Munich is a huge success, there is one side benefit. It will lend Spielberg and his DreamWorks partners some much-needed leverage in their ongoing talks about selling their company to NBC Universal — which are at an impasse, according to sources close to the negotiations, over the fine points of Spielberg’s obligations under the new deal.”
Munich could be the biggest success imaginable – $250 million worldwide and a Best Picture win – and it still wouldn’t have an effect on General Electric’s willingness to throw a potential extra $100 million or $200 million in the fire in a DreamWorks deal. This is Old Hollywood thinking


Awards Season Delivery

What would you think if you got a bottle of booze as a come-on for an awards movie?


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