Posts Tagged ‘Titanic’

Titanic 3D

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

So… we went to a Valentine’s Night screening of Titanic 3D, which also seemed to be a chance for Paramount to do a reaction spot for TV.

My reaction is not much different than how I felt when I saw the T3D presentation at the studio months ago. Looks gorgeous in 4K on a big screen. No real need for the 3D.

I was happy that when we got to the theater, it turned out not to be IMAX 3D. Those glasses are ridiculous and I have only had one or two happy experiences with that specific format. (I quite like IMAX and don’t always dislike 3D.) So I didn’t get irritated by having the glasses on as we watched the hours of film roll by.

However… I found myself wanting to take the glasses off repeatedly. And here is why: it’s like watching the movie through a filter. Call it darkness, call it clarity… call it what you like. But for me, especially on Titanic, the slight facial fur and occasional acne under the make-up on Kate Winslet and the small pock marks on Leonardo DiCaprio’s face are a part of the intimacy of the movie. The movie takes such painstaking efforts to get every detail right… I want to see them, including the imperfections. And with those glasses on, I could not. Some might be happy not to see detail… to have the image smoothed out even more. But not me. These people are beautiful. They’re imperfections are beautiful.

It struck me that Titanic, which does include some CG, is really the last epic movie anywhere near this size that we are likely to ever see made on a set like this. I can’t speak for a mad genius like Jim Cameron… maybe if he made the film today, he’s still shoot it in a tank with smaller-than-scale but still humongous sets. But most studios, if they were going to make this film, would be CGing most of it… especially with such advances in quality. (One of my favorite things in the digitized version is that Cameron didn’t upgrade the CG of actors on the deck that were cutting edge back then and now look like Lego characters in some shots.)

There were, maybe, a half dozen shots in the whole movie in which the 3D made any difference of significance to me. And as I say, the glasses cost intimacy.

As for the movie itself… God… so much better from start to finish than I remember. Billy Zane is still the sore thumb (no fault of his), but not nearly as offensive as I remember his character being fifteen years ago. The pre-memory opening sequence is a little long and a little too coy about the real intent of the exploration. But somehow, the movie felt like it was 45 minutes shorter than it actually is as we watched it on Tuesday night. Cameron delivers so many beautiful moments. I mean, masterful, masterful filmmaking. One forgets, with years between films and Avatar being such an overwhelming visual experience, just how special this guy is as a teller of intimate stories.

I felt a universalism in Jack and Rose in this film that I didn’t feel 15 years ago. Maybe it’s the GOP primary battle playing out in the last few months, but the generational conflict of this film felt clearer, more one-sided, and more political than ever. Wealth is greedy and selfish and myopic. Youth is open and ambitious and alive. Molly Brown is the hinge for the wealthy. The middle-aged poor on the boat are the hinge for youth, suffering loss with a bit more perspective than Jack and the other young ones. But, it’s not all black and white. Cameron allows grace notes for the rich and some ugliness amongst the lower class… mostly young men working on the ship.

By the end of the tale, bodies everywhere and just over 700 on lifeboats, most viewers will probably feel that the world would be better off if most of those on the lifeboats – majority wealthy – were floating in the water and vice versa.

And when the Heart of the Ocean hits the water, we’re not just moved by the love still held by Rose for Jack, but it’s kind of a happy “fuck you” to Bill Paxton’s expedition of greed.

I’m sure a lot of this was there for many viewers back 15 years ago. But it all really hit me in this screening. And it felt like this could be a real phenomenon amongst a new generation of teenagers… not just an opportunity for people 30 and over to engage in a kitsch-fest from their not-so-long-ago youths.

I’d go again.

I probably will.

To a 2D screen this April.

Cameron Surfaces Titanic 3D Footage

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Cameron Surfaces Titanic 3D Footage

Pulitzer Day

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

When the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975, I was working at a small newspaper a few miles down the interstate, editing copy and reviewing the occasional movie. No other film critic had been so honored, and I suffered no delusions about following in Roger’s footsteps any time soon, if ever.

In 1973, Sun-Times critic Ron Powers had won a Pulitzer for his coverage of television. It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say that Ebert and Powers were cut from the same cloth, but their appeal was similarly universal. From a distance of about 45 miles, I envied their ability to write intelligently about popular media without condescending to anyone in the S-T’s broad urban readership or wearing their IQs on their lapels.

Even today, that is a rare quality among winners of the prize. The vast majority have gone to pundits writing for right- and left-coast newspapers about dance, books, architecture, art, theater and classical music. While other television critics would be so honored in 1980, 1985 and 1988, another 28 years would go by before another film critic, Stephen Hunter, would take home the prize, with Joe Morgenstern to follow two years later. In between, writers about automobiles, fashion and food were included in the populist trend.

This year’s prize went Monday to Mark Feeney, an arts writer and photography reviewer for the Boston Globe. Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday was a finalist. It will take another millennium, probably, for a rock or hip-hop critic to impress the judges in the same way.

With movie critics being jettisoned from newspaper payrolls, like so many bangs of sand from a hot-air balloon, it’s an appropriate time to assess the state of the art in American newspapers. If cost-cutting continues apace, the next Pulitzer for film writing might necessarily go to a critic toiling for pennies on their own website, or one dedicated to cinematic endeavors. Only a handful of ink-stained critics are likely to be left standing when the blood dries.

Instead, the majority of movie lovers will be served by the AP’s crack corps of faceless reviewers, the minimalists at USA Today, syndicators of content and a newspaper chain’s critic du jour. If a reader in the hinterlands is fortunate enough to see Ebert’s reviews in their morning paper, it’s likely they’ve been sliced and diced to fit the odd hole in a space-deprived feature section.

So far, the critical purge hasn’t had the same impact on deep-thinkers about television. That’s likely due to the fact that newspaper editors want someone on hand to answer questions about a local anchorhotties’s new hairdo and wax indignant about reality shows. They dutifully run wire copy on the weekend’s top-10 movies and feign a freakish curiosity in the Oscar hysteria, but blindly assume their subscribers have little interest in indies, documentaries and subtitles.

MCN’s David Poland already has expressed his opinion on the implications of the purge, and the studios culpability in it. MCN also has provided a link to Roger Ebert’s visionary 1991 essay on the difficulties of writing serious criticism for a diverse readership base. Perhaps, I can offer another perspective.

In Ebert, not only did Pulitzer judges honor a still-blossoming journalist’s writing and commitment to the medium, it demanded that other newspaper editors take movies seriously, as well. The timing couldn’t be better for readers and critics, as this new mandate not only coincided with the rise of such directors as Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg. Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese, but also the emergence of a generation of independent filmmakers inspired by John Cassavetes, the French New Wave and Britain’s “kitchen sink “ movement. The explosion of blaxploitation and martial-arts products also required analysis.

No longer were editors simply able to grab the youngest-looking guy or gal from the copy desk and assign them to the film beat. Suddenly, reviewers also were required to assume the role of critic, even if their backgrounds were limited to taking Film History 101 in college and an ability to pick Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard out of a lineup. More enlightened editors went out and hired genuine students of the art, even if the only newsroom they’d ever seen was in The Front Page.

Ebert had already demonstrated his proficiency in awarding stars to movies and backing them up in prose. In 1975, the imagistic approach was extended to his and competitor Gene Siskel’s “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You,” with summations of “yes” and “no” and bark of Spot the Wonder Drug. The local hit would begat the nationally televised “Sneak Previews,” which would begat “At the Movies,” with Aroma the skunk, which begat trademarked thumb-ratings and “Siskel & Ebert & the Movies,” which begat “At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper.”

And, therein, was laid the seed that grew into Great Critical Purge of the Mid-‘00s.

Shortly after the Pulitzer judges awarded the first prize for film criticism to a 32-year-old movie nut (and occasional Russ Meyer collaborator) from the heart of the heartland, graduates of the Sarrisite and Kaelite schools began infiltrating the pages of newspapers, as well. Not having newsroom roots, as did Ebert and Siskel, these first-wavers naturally assumed that clearly reasoned criticism and bright prose would satisfy even those grumpy editors and mainstream readers who couldn’t pick Warren Beatty out of a lineup. Some even dreamed about having a show of their own someday.

The huge success of Jaws and Star Wars not only signaled a new way of doing business in Hollywood, it also revealed the stirrings of disconnect between critics and audiences. If it weren’t for Titanic – and Kenneth Turan’s sadly overhyped feud with director James Cameron — the gap might have gone unnoticed for a few more years. The debate would continue well into the next decade, as Oscar nominations and top-10 rankings failed to duplicate the list of top-grossing movies. If no one else was paying attention to the squabble, budget-strapped editors certainly were.

The most vigorous disagreements often were inspired by so-called “tentpole” pictures. Released primarily in late spring and summer, tentpoles gave youngish audiences all the action, pyrotechnics, CGI heroes and villains, and porous storylines, they could possibly handle … at least, until the next week’s new releases. Instead of being platformed out and be allowed to build on critical and popular buzz, potential blockbusters began to open on thousands of screens simultaneously. The impact of same-day newspaper reviews was thereby minimalized, and all that seemed to matter to studios were the first two weekends’ grosses.

From Jaws on, studio marketing campaigns would target opening-weekend audiences. Negotiations over premium space in Sunday and Friday features sections would grow fierce, and become highly influenced by publicists and a newspaper’s circulation department. By agreeing to participate in junkets, and running a puff interview ahead of a potentially negative review, an editor essentially would have sold the soul of his paper to the studio.

In the most competitive markets, personal and studio publicists now could barter exclusivity for access to their biggest stars, whose appearance, theoretically, would help sell papers on Sunday. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times trumped everyone else within a 100-mile radius of their printing presses. In Chicago, however, Siskel and Ebert’s newspaper and television (local and national) presence was deemed of equal importance to publicists, who learned to play a different game in Chicago.

Rather than alienate either of the fiercely competitive Bigfoots, the publicists for a prolific artist like Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese would make their clients available to the boys on alternate films. A bone would be thrown to the loser in the form of an interview with another high-profile client, a prominent co-star or some other quid pro quo. Even if Ebert and Siskel were among the few critic/writers who refused to let studios finance their junketeering, a newspaper might be able to save money by piggy-backing on a trip financed (or not) by a local TV outlet. In our under-budgeted shop, at least, it was wink-wink, nod-nod all the way.

The major flacks toyed with other media in the same way, and, by 1990, paramilitary firms like PMK dictated coverage from Times to Times. The writing already was on the wall for newspaper circulation, and, in a few short years, only the NYT, LAT, USA Today and Wall Street Journal really mattered to the studios. In addition to those outlets, publicists limited their browbeating to the morning and late-night talk shows, Newsweek and Time, ET andExtra, 60 Minutes and Barbara Walters. Everyone else could fight over the scraps.

The constant in this equation were the critics who had no desire to do anything but write about the movies themselves and pen the occasional Sunday “think piece” and obit. Their job was difficult enough, without also having to secure a Sunday pufferoo with a Robert Redford or Julia Roberts, knowing full well they might be required to lambast their movie the following Friday. Eventually, the actors and directors wised up and refused to agree to do interviews with critics who routinely trashed their work.

As an editor and writer for the Chicago Tribune, I spent a lot of time walking a tightrope between publicists and section editors, critics and readers, news side and business side, all of whom had a separate agenda when it came to movies. In a perfect journalistic world – The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, perhaps – there were enough reporters and freelance writers to maintain a separation of church and state. Critics could critique, while feature editors could budget a balanced mix of puff and think pieces … in turn, the publicists could brag about driving a hard bargain with the editors, and their studios would keep the Sunday sections fat with ads.

Even in the good ol’ days, this was a far from perfect world.

On the rare occasion a senior editor would actually deem to see a movie in a theater, there would be times when a divergence of opinion would result in a phone call and official questioning of our critic’s sanity. It’s difficult to ascertain whether a big shot’s willingness to criticize the content of a review ever clouded a critic’s opinion, but it’s true that David Kehr, who succeeded Siskel as lead reviewer, almost wasn’t awarded the job because he hadn’t treated ET as if it were Citizen Kane.

By now, thanks to Entertainment Weekly and People magazines, feature editors were putting ratings on everything that moved in their departments. Movie ratings assumed the form of tiny rosebuds, clapping hands, letter grades, popcorn boxes, reel canisters and thumbs. All provided excuses for readers – and editors – not to read the text, as did capsule reviews of the movies in weekend guides. Worse, a star’s value was based on hugely subjective criteria. At the Tribune, a single-star review meant a movie was bad, while a single-star restaurant grade meant a discerning dine might want to take a chance on it, at least.

One critic I know “over-starred” his commentaries, while another would “under-star” to camouflage suspicious critical tendencies. Only those readers who actually took the time to peruse a review from byline to bye-bye would know precisely how closely their opinions might jibe with those of the critic and the star grade. Newspapers were making it easy for readers to fall out of love with reading.

In Ebert’s 1991 essay, he addressed the question of how his ratings might not always reflect his true feelings about a film, and how he could encourage readers to attend a movie about which he had a strongly negative reaction. Minus the stars, the debate would have been moot.

Ebert also bemoaned the added competition – such as it was – of the Tribune’s “Teen Movie Panel,” which ran in the paper’s Friday section, but wasn’t under the supervision of the entertainment editor. It was a gimmick, pure and simple, intended to appeal to those hard-to-reach niche readers of a certain age. Turns out, other media were more interested in covering the panel than Chicagoans were in reading the reviews. While innocent, in an Archie & Veronica sort of way, the short reviews cut into space previously reserved for grown-up reviews. The timing was less than perfect.

Instead of being selective about the movies that warranted full reviews, every dopey genre and exploitation flick was being given the star treatment. No title was too obscure or cheesy to relegate to the capsule bin. If anything, critics were expected to give Hollywood fare more attention than it deserved, relegating significant indies to the corners and shadows.

Last week, while cruising through RottenTomatoes, I chanced upon an example of just such a discrepancy. It came in the form of Vincent Canby’s analysis of Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2, which, two decades later, has just been re- released into DVD. I have no idea what possessed Canby’s editor to pass along the assignment … if the critic harbored a secret passion for slasher movies, none was revealed in the text. Then, as now, it was a nothing horror movie, re-titled as sucker-bait for fans of the Leslie Nielsen and Jamie Lee Curtis original. If the Times felt it necessary to review such products, there was no hope left for any of us.

Nothing in the Tribune lent itself so easily to exploitation as movies. No space would be diverted to a Teen Editorial Board, Teen Baseball Writer or Teen Classical Music Critic. Movies were fair game, primarily because no one in a position of power took them as seriously as the Tribune’s critics, and, of course, a pretty decent number of readers.

After a year or so, people stopped paying much attention to the teen panel, one way or the other. Of the dozens of participants, only one young woman demonstrated any talent at criticism, and, at 17, she would have made a terrific lead critic for half of the dailies in the country. Despite this, similar panels began springing up in media outlets around the country.

Digital technology would further dilute the gene pool.

Websites and discussion boards that focused on movies were among the first to energize the Internet. Long before Hollywood publicists and newspaper editors recognized the web’s potential for exploitation, movie-crazy netizens were exchanging opinions, gossip, box-office analysis and files on the web. How else could a schlub like Harry Knowlesbecome a mover and shaker in a multibillion-dollar industry? Where else, besides and, could fans, scholars, trivia geeks and perverts find a common ground?

Sadly, the Internet also would provide newspaper publishers with a convenient excuse for the precipitous drop in readership and advertising. It would be cited as the primary reason for necessity of eliminating the positions of hundreds of seasoned journalists, including many of the same critics who, editors assumed, were being ignored by readers and studios.

How to stem the erosion in advertising revenues? A few years ago, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times dropped to their institutional knees to fellate the major Hollywood players. It was an overtly desperate effort to woo them back to the print medium. Both of the august newspapers launched sections that promoted the Academy Awards and, God help us, the Golden Globes, as if they had meaning beyond the ritual announcement of nominations and presentation of awards. Even if Nielsen ratings demonstrated declining interest in such self-promotional vehicles, editors found new ways to slobber over the ceremonies and stars.

And, yet, circulation kept plummeting. With so many reviews available virtually for free, via the various wire services and syndicates, publishers began doing something once considered to be unthinkable: kill the messengers.

If anyone really wanted serious criticism, after all, he or she could subscribe to The New York Times, New Yorker or Film Comment. It wasn’t likely that fans of horror movies were turning to the morning newspaper for guidance when Fangoria was so readily available on the web and magazine racks. A perusal of and RottenTomatoes.comoffers more reviews of movies than there are stars in the heavens, even if most were plagued by horrifying grammar, poor spelling and absence of any noticeable copy editing.

Until recently, alternative weeklies were the place discerning movie lovers would go to read about titles the dailies generally gave short shrift. Even if it was fair to argue that newspaper readers, with the exception of those in major markets, couldn’t care less who reviewed movies opening at the local megaplex, the same wasn’t true about the weeklies. The critics had identifiable personalities, traits, tics and passions. As with Siskel and Ebert, in their more argumentative days, one’s thumb-down almost would guarantee you’d enjoy the picture, and vice-versa.

The recent consolidation of the Voice’s critical staff will provide a test as to whether movie buffs speak the same language no matter where in American they live. I suspect the Tribune papers will follow in kind before too long, eliminating all but about three or four of the critics in the chain.

The consolidation and homogenizing of radio only made the medium worse, prompting listeners to flock to satellite and Internet services, or create digital playlists for their iPods. If the newspapers follow suit, what will drive readers to their websites? Canned reviews from some bozo in Orlando? Roger Ebert will remain a primary destination for the Sun-Times, but for how long?

Television networks invest many fewer advertising dollars in newspapers than their counterparts at movie studios, and, yet, movie critics are the ones paying the price for their publishers’ short-sightedness. Movie advertising pays the bills needed to keep sports sections and editorial pages virtually ad-free. Is it too much to ask of the studios that they use their considerable clout to promote criticism, in addition to slobbering profiles of Oscar nominees? That, or re-direct some of their dollars to websites that are dedicated to the medium all year round, not just during awards season. As it is, the studios appear willing to rely on hit-and-miss viral campaigns for their niche products.

Whenever the subject of print criticism raises its ugly little head, I’m reminded of a conversation I had nearly a decade ago with the top editor at my former employer. I was working out of SoCal at the time, and the subject was the paper’s stature in Hollywood.

After explaining the new pecking order among studios and publicists, and the growing hassle of gaining access to their top clients, my boss voiced his disappointment at not seeing his critic’s pull quotes in more ads for upcoming movies. While arguing that using such criteria to judge the value of a critic — or his thumb, as the case may be – was counterproductive, at best, I tried to explain how the game worked: Sunday double-truck ads invariably were filled with the quotes of junket whores, and therefore were meaningless, while an opening-day rave from a someone in Albany or Fargo only meant the picture stank. Our critic’s name could be found in ads for plenty of pictures, if not the ones he was likely to notice.

Not being an avid filmgoer, I’m pretty sure he didn’t grasp the fine points of my argument. He certainly couldn’t be convinced that readers could discern the difference between a pull quote from the Tribune and one from a deejay in the Upper Peninsula. Even my then-teenage kids saw through that ruse.

Soon enough, I fear, newspaper readers will be fed a steady diet of pre-sold pap from junketeers and the opinions of a few generic critics working for newspaper and magazine chains. If the studios are short-sighted enough to support publications that care so little about their products, they’ll deserve each other’s company. With or without advertising support, the Internet’s vibrant movie community will be there long after the lights are turned off at the local newspaper.

April 8, 2008
– Gary Dretzka

New Heroes

Thursday, December 18th, 1997

OK, gang. Those of you collegiate types who want to make it big in Hollywood
have a couple of new heroes for whom to root. A student at , TriStarUSC, Josh
, just sold his autobiographical script, Providence,to
TriStar for over half a million bucks. And a senior at SMU named Bob Corbett
just optioned a story he wrote for the school newspaper for alow six-figure
payday. From the school newspaper! Turns out the guy stole a sorority
rush manual and published it in the paper and hilarity ensued. Which
goes to show, theft and sexism can still make you big bucks. What a country!
Speaking of theft, Steven Spielberg must be having a nightmare for every night
of Hanukkah this year. As a major hit maker, Spielberg is regularly sued
for plagiarism. It’s part of the price of success. As The Hot Button
has told you before, every major hit usually gets sued. After the success.
But two suits against Spielberg now have had unusual luck in getting
past the summary judgment stage. First, the Amistadcase. Now,
it’s Twister. You may think there was no real story there,just
special effects. But don’t tell that to Stephen Kessler, who
issuing Spielberg, the writers and the studios who made the flick for millions.
Don’t expect any suits over Mouse Hunt.
You won’t have to break the law to get your own piece of Jim Cameron‘sTitanic.
Just a full checking account. Twentieth Century Fox is selling stuff
from the movie via the The Whole Picture is all new for the holidays.
But if you’re good boys and girls, you will unwrap each section as the
appropriate holiday comes around. Too much Whole Picture at one sitting
will rot your teeth.
E-mail all through the holidays.
I haven’t got anything else to do.

The Dark Knight: The Musical

Wednesday, December 17th, 1997

Variety reports that Warner Bros. is making plans to follow in Disney’s footsteps by bringing the Batman franchise to Broadway. That’s right, “The Dark Knight: The Musical” (It could be less painful than another Schumacher Batman sequel). I bet you want to sing already, huh? Songs include “My Dead Parents,” “Sorry ’bout the Acid, Joker,” the comedy number, “My Tights Are Too Darned Tight,” and the grand romantic ballad, “My Suit Is Happy To See You.”
The Arizona Republic talked to Tom Arnold, who spilled the beans about what’s next for James Cameron. According to Tom, it’s True Lies 2. Cameron is apparently ready to pay Fox back for their $200 million worth of faith in him and his vision for Titanic. Arnold starts his WB hiatus in February and he was just put on indefinite hold on Ridley Scott’s over-budget-before-pre-production, I Am Legend. And Cameron? He’d only have to take a break from the awards banquets at which he’ll soon be a regular. Look for the film in Christmas, 1998, assuming Tom is on target.
Whining was the art form of choice over the weekend. Kevin Costner was unhappy with press junket critics’ reaction to The Postman, his new writer/director/star turn. The reaction? Laughter. “That’s horrible!” squealed Kevin, “You guys (the media) keep spinning that way, and it’s wrong. You were wrong about Dances (With Wolves), you were wrong about Waterworld, and you’re wrong about this movie! It’s too bad that’s how it keeps going; that really pisses me off.” On the other hand, Christian Slater knows that he was wrong and that he needs help. He told reporters, “It doesn’t matter how famous you are … If your head is telling you you suck, all you ever want to do is try to escape from that. I’m just dealing with that now, and it’s tough.” Good luck, gentlemen. I’ll put a dime in your tin cups when I see you.
Any money for me? Throw something in my tin cup. Or just drop me a line to say hi.

Bond vs. Titanic

Saturday, December 13th, 1997

As Tomorrow Never Dies approaches (12/17), the battle for Bond heats up. Variety’s Michael Fleming is reporting buzz that Sony (the new franchisee) is looking to bring Sean Connery back to Bond again under the ID4/Godzilla team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. This isn’t just a slap for MGM/UA (the long term franchise holder), but for Fox, which is anxious to get the directing/producing duo back in the fold for the Independence Day sequel A.S.A.P., preferably in time for the summer of 2000 between Star Wars pictures. Meanwhile, someone overheard Pierce Brosnan asking Martin Scorsese to take the helm for a Bond. Bond goes to Brooklyn? Bond would never survive Joe Pesci as “Boombach. Vinny Boombach.” Pesci would never leave Bond to a tank full of sharks when he could just beat him to death with a baseball bat and take the Bond girl.
Mousehunt and Mr. Magoo must be tracking like two dead dogs. Disney reports that exhibitors are requesting a re-re-release of The Little Mermaid for mid-December. Just what America needs in a grotesquely overcrowded December marketplace. Ironically enough, December is actually worse than the summer rush, when studios will actually move of a competitive date. This week there are four major releases. Next week it’s Bond and Titanic. On Christmas Day there are five major releases. Can you say “massacre?”
Role-ing, Role-ing, Role-ing: People’s The Sexiest Man Alive for 1997 (George Clooney) drops the Wild Wild West and who do they go to? This year’s favorite closet-buster, Kevin Kline. And they couldn’t have made a better choice. Artemus Gordon was known for being clever, not pretty. And Kline is a world class actor capable of almost anything. Meanwhile, Bette Midler has dropped out of the Lisa Douglas role in the upcoming Green Acres just as Ben Stiller has come on board. The two moves may or may not be related. So, when this movie stiffs, will Stiller complain (as he did with The Cable Guy) that the media just doesn’t appreciate his dark vision of “Green Acres?” Here’s a hint, Ben. If Arnold dates a pig, people will like it. If Arnold dates a human, they won’t.
Lots of room for opinions with this week’s openings (read: David could really be wrong!) Join the growing crowd of box office guessers by e-mail.

Kate Winslet Took Ill Before Premiere

Saturday, November 22nd, 1997

Kate Winslet took ill just before attending the London premiere of James Cameron‘s Titanic. This time it wasn’t drugged chowder, but apparently a stomach flu she caught on location in Morocco. Cameron got 20th Century Fox to hire 700 doctors, flown in from across the globe and costumed in 19th Century costumes, to hold the bucket while Ms. Winslet vomited. Meanwhile, a crew of 2,000 workers built a replica of a 1926 London hospital Mr. Cameron once saw in a book. The only studio comment was from Paramount, laughing, “Screw Fox! It didn’t cost us anything! So, is it time to make another Chris Farley movie yet?”
Fugitive producer Arnold Koppelson has bought “Jenny Hanniver,” a thriller about two cryptozoologists — scientists who search for new species — who find a new monstrous creature and a woman who has a symbiotic relationship with it. Early reports that Roseanne will be the woman with Tom Arnold as the creature are false, though Warren Beatty is willing to play the creature opposite Annette Bening if the creature turns out to be a 38-year-old stud seen only in soft focus.
And you thought a live-action movie about “Bullwinkle” cartoon villains Boris and Natasha was a bad idea? At least they were humans who spoke. Next up is Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy. You know, those two kinda crow things, one black and one white, who keep blowing each other up, never saying a word. Expect the movie to have almost nothing to do with the comic, except for the idea of competing spies. Then, there’s the new DreamWorks project. Imagine Toy Story, but where only the toys are computer animated and everything else is real. That’s pretty much the gimmick in Small Soldiers … Wait a minute! Whatever happened to “don’t ask, don’t tell?” The weekend is here. Will Monday prove yesterday’s predictions were right?
Actors aren’t the only Hollywooders who deviously deal. What film industry folk deserve to go to hell? E-mail in your suggestions — your silence helps no one.

Titanic Finally Set Sail in Japan

Wednesday, November 5th, 1997

With a triumph for Jim Cameron and an even bigger one for Paramount and 20th Century Fox publicity. For Cameron, it was the wildly enthusiastic reaction of the crowd to the film. For the studios, it was their success in getting a handle on the estimates of overwhelming production costs that have been bandied about by the media. Back while the film was shooting, estimates ran up to $300 million. But, Entertainment Weekly serves up a warm, wet smoochy, Cameron-driven cover story on Titanic with the $200 million tag and BOOM!, the media falls in line. Remember when you read this stuff — those of us who write it tend to be a bunch of bleating sheep. But in the end, who really cares? No one goes to the theater to see a budget. They go to see movies that they’ll like and, apparently, Titanic is one of those. Congratulations to all.
Another test of the media’s honor is the Roman Polanski story. He’s coming back and is getting away with child molestation. Has he paid his price by way of exile? Perhaps. But the tendency in the Hollywood culture is to forgive the “indiscretions” of its own. Indiscretions are anything that doesn’t cost me money. I don’t know whether it’s better, or even more disgusting, that the precocious object of Polanski’s lust has sold her story to “Inside Edition.” Samantha Geimer will appear in a two-parter just in time for November sweeps. Makes you want to take a shower just reading it, huh?
The inalterably pleasant Yasmine Bleeth is set for her first feature film, It Came From the Sky. She plays a mysterious stranger who is either a con woman or a real-life angel, Non-Charlie Division. She starts the film after completing her latest TV movie, The Lake, a science-fiction thriller about a small town that does a reverse Stepford as locals turn evil after being sucked into the water. Get it? Shawn Weatherly turns into Erika Elaniak who turns into Nicole Eggert who turns into Pam Anderson who turns into Yasmine Bleeth who turns into Gena Lee Nolin who turns into Donna D’Errico. They all play the same character, don’t they?
Have some of your own indiscretions? Well, I’m not a priest, but I’ll listen to your confessions. Email me.

Polanski, Titanic Release Date

Saturday, October 4th, 1997

Director Roman Polanski, who has been in exile in France for 20 years to avoid jail time for his sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl in Jack Nicholson’s backyard, is rumored to have cut a deal to return to Hollywood. Another great achievement for Los Angeles D.A. Gil Garcetti. Polanski is probably anxious to return to Hollywood before Natalie Portman turns 18.
Another million dollar deal for a classic idea. Former “Mad TV” writer, Stuart Blumberg, sold Columbia Pictures Keeping the Faith, a “romantic drama” about a long-term friendship between a rabbi and a Catholic priest that becomes strained when both men fall in love with the same woman. Drama? All that description makes me think of a joke starting, “A rabbi and a priest walk into a…” Email us your best priest/rabbi jokes and maybe they’ll end up in The Hot Button.
Traditionally, the success of big-budget movies on American soil has led the way to foreign box office gold. But 20th Century Fox has held its breath long enough on Titanic, the long-delayed Jim Cameron epic. Scheduled to premiere in the U.S. on December 19 under the Paramount banner (they split rights), Fox has decided to launch Titanic at the Tokyo International Film Festival on November 1. Japan has been a solid audience for Cameron, so if they don’t like it, expect to find Fox execs looking for a spot under Godzilla’s foot (or hanging from George Lucas‘ shirttails).
As Janeane Garofalo left the theater during her star turn in The Matchmaker, she said, “I saw my pie face up there and the crow’s feet. Have you ever seen your face blown up 10 feet tall? I can’t take it.” If she can’t take that, she should stay off the Web. Inspired by Chris Brandon’s Site-ing of last Wednesday, I took a trip to GarofaloLand. My favorite sight was this letter on a Janeanne-loving site. James Ricardo (no relation to Ricky) from Torrance, CA, wrote: “I love Janeane. She is way prettier than Uma Thurman or Lisa or Mira in Romy and Michele. Though my guess is she isn’t that good in bed. She seems very much a missionary style-type chick. Long Live Janeane! Bow down to her cute, fat, hairy little legs!!” How could I ever top that?
Come back Monday for a box office round up.