Wednesday, February 29, 2012

R.I.P.: Davy Jones (1945-2012)

Hey! Hey! He was a Monkee! But did you know he also played an indirect role in launching the New Hollywood era? Read all it about in my CultureMap appreciation here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Look at her!

The incomprable Anthony Lane of The New Yorker -- yes, The New Yorker -- does it to Oscar here. The money quote:

"What else would explain the magnificence of Angelina Jolie, with her streaming tresses, the two and a half hectares of scarlet lip gloss required to cover her mouth, and, most telling of all, the single, flawless leg that was permitted to emerge from the slit of her long skirt and planted cockily in full view? She was merely doling out the screenplay awards, but her pose bore a definite, don’t-fuck-with-me trace of the gunslinger, and so it was, across the time zones, that a billion people sat there with their hands up: Freeze. I have seen nothing like it, in terms of the power to strike dumb and stupefy, since Jack Nicholson, introducing a tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni, showed the scene from Zabriskie Point in which a television set explodes into a thousand angry shards. That was Oscar night, 1994. Those were the days."

Oscars: That's a wrap!

You can read my CultureMap Oscar wrap, featuring incisive commentary about War of the Gargantuas and Angelina Jolie's shapely leg, here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LexG: Battered but unbowed

He may have been banned by David Poland and Jeffrey Wells, but Internet bad boy LexG marches on.

Double your pleasure with Sarah Palin

Looks like ReelzChannel -- the cable network that picked up the controversial (and, ultimately, award-winning) miniseries The Kennedys -- is wading into the political maelstrom again. One day after HBO's March 10 premiere of Game Change -- Jay Roach's filmization of John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's best-selling and eye-opening account of the 2008 Presidential race, starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin -- Reelz will air Undefeated, Steve Bannon's hagiographic portrait of the half-term Alaskan governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential candidate. Funnily enough, both productions will air after Super Tuesday, at a time when Republicans may be looking for a brand new Presidential prospect....

Or as I noted in my Variety review last year, Undefeated "leaves open the question of whether [Sarah Palin] will run for president in 2012. But it persuasively argues that, in any event, she'll continue to be an influential and galvanizing force as a leader of the Tea Party movement. Don't be surprised if you actually do see excerpts from this [documentary] at some political convention in the not-so-distant future."

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kevin Costner bids farewell to Whitney Houston

If you can watch this with dry eyes, you are made of sterner stuff than I am. My favorite line: Recalling what naysayers pointed out when he indicated that he wanted Houston as his co-star in The Bodyguard, Costner says, "I told everyone that I had taken notice that Whitney was black..."

His anecdote about Houston's screen test for Bodyguard is at once richly amusing and deeply affecting. And then Costner, mindful of his co-star's modesty and self-doubt, concludes: "So off you go, Whitney. Off you go. Escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father. And when you sing before Him, don't you worry. You'll be good enough."

I've always thought Kevin Costner was a class act. Now I'm certain.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston & Kevin Costner: The first post-racial on-screen romance?

Something to think about, perhaps, as we contemplate Whitney Houston's many achievements: Did she and Kevin Costner share what future film historians will describe as the first post-racial on-screen romance? Back when I reviewed The Bodyguard in 1992, I noted: "[T]he moviemakers are refreshingly casual about the racial element in the relationship between Farmer [Costner's character] and Marron [Houston's character]. In fact, nobody in the entire movie ever mentions race." Trust me: Such nonchalance was not so common back in the day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

R.I.P. Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

After so many years of hearing so many stories about Whitney Houston's battles with substance abuse and personal demons, the news of her death Saturday night at the ridiculously young age of 48 seems, alas, like the inevitable climax of an all-too-familiar story. Indeed, as publicist Howard Bragman told CNN shortly after the story broke: The death announcement was a shock -- but not a surprise.

What a shame. What a loss. But I prefer not to mourn deaths when I can celebrate lives. In The Bodyguard, The Preacher's Wife and Waiting to Exhale, Whitney Houston was an exceptionally charismatic screen presence -- so much so, in fact, that I've been looking forward to her movie comeback this summer in Sparkle. I have very fond memories of enjoying her steady stream of chart-topping hits back in the '80s, especially during that stretch when it seemed like every other video on MTV and VH1 was hers.

And, hey, I don't know about you, but I've always thought -- no, dammit, I've always known -- that Houston's Rachel Marron and Kevin Costner's Frank Farmer eventually got back together for happily-ever-aftering after Farmer got out of the bodyguarding racket.

So please join me as I remember Whitney Houston's scintillating exuberance, not her decline and fall. My condolences to her friends and family. And my thanks for these and other great performances:

Monday, February 06, 2012

Clint Eastwood: Post-9/11 Angry American

After all the sturm und drang over Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" Super Bowl ad, it might be a good idea to take a second look at his appearance on America: A Tribute to Heroes, a fund-raising TV special that aired on all four broadcast networks and several cable networks in the wake of 9/11. At the time, some of my liberal brethren complained about what they saw as Eastwood's unseemly saber-rattling. They were as wrong then as Karl Rove was today. And Eastwood was every bit the maverick then as he is now.

Clint Eastwood: Stealth Pinko or Obama Tool?

Last night, I wondered how long it would take before some conservatives started complaining that Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" Super Bowl ad for Chrysler played too much like... like... well, like a thank-you shout-out to Barack Obama for the auto industry bailout.

Well, as it turned out, Michelle Malkin didn't wait until the end of The Big Game before Tweeting her disapproval. And this morning, Marketwatch reported a snippy reaction from David Limbaugh, a conservative writer who, as I understand it, is to his older brother Rush what Frank Stallone is to his brother Sylvester: “I think Clint Eastwood’s credentials as a conservative have been overrated for some time."

As Monday proceeded apace, there were reports that the ad itself had been removed from YouTube after NFL reps complained about an alleged copyright violation. No joke: The NFL bigwigs allegedly insisted that any ad using the term "Halftime in America" would be verboten simply because the NFL claims all rights to the term "Halftime." This may or not be true -- after all, we're talking about an organization that doesn't allow free use of the term "Super Bowl" in non-approved advertising -- but in any event, cooler heads prevailed, and the spot is back on view at You Tube.

And, trust me, not everybody is happy about that. As reported today on Chris Cillizza's The Fix blog, Karl Rove (a.k.a. Bush's Brain) views as the ad as nothing less than -- are you ready for this? are you sitting down -- propaganda approved by the Obama re-election campaign:

“I was, frankly, offended by it it,” said Karl Rove on Fox News Monday. "I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.”

Meanwhile, left-leaning commentators could barely contain their glee. Over at the Daily Kos site, writer Laura Clawson took a tongue-in-cheeky approach to parsing Rove's comments for deeper meaning. ("It's not clear whether Rove is implying that Obama saved Chrysler in 2009 in order to get a 2012 Super Bowl ad that some would interpret as positive about him, or that Obama actually called up Chrysler and demanded the ad, but whatever.") And Michael Moore -- yes, that Michael Moore -- Tweeted a thank-you to Clint Eastwood for what Moore sees as Eastwood's ringing endorsement for President Obama's re-election: “Your sermon seemed 2 b a call 2 give O his ‘second half.’”

Eastwood has not officially responded to the controversy -- yet -- but given his history as a political maverick, I am certain he will say something that will not entirely please folks on either side of the political divide. (And good for him.) I also have no doubt that, right now, someone somewhere is planning to take a publicity shot of Clint Eastwood from some movie, and Photoshop onto the superstar an "Obama 2012" T-shirt. Might I humbly suggest a photo of Eastwood from True Crime, his under-rated 1999 drama? You know, the one with the unmistakable anti-capital punishment message?

UPDATE at 5:34 pm: According to

Eastwood, for his part, told Fox News producer Ron Mitchell, "There is no spin in that ad. On this I am certain. l am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama. It was meant to be a message about just about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was OK."

So there! Now get all these damn political pundits off his lawn!

Birthday greetings to Francois Truffaut... and Ronald Reagan

To celebrate the birthday of Francois Truffaut -- who would have turned 80 today -- I invite you to look at this gallery of posters from his early films. And if you're marking the 101st anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, here is my respectful appreciation (no kidding) of the late President's acting career.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Ferris Bueller, Clint Eastwood and The Avengers score at the Super Bowl

Read all about it here.

Just how much did Clint Eastwood piss off the wingnuts tonight?

Clint Eastwood: "Re-elect Barack Obama!"

"Or at least don't vote for that tool who would have let the American auto industry fail." (Think about it.)

A shameless attempt to draw visitors to my blog with a video featuring a woman with large breasts talking about a Super Bowl ad for The Avengers

As part of this blog's ongoing campaign to remain abreast of trends in movie advertising, I offer this titillating video clip of... OK, I'm busted, right? Well, you're right: No, I have no shame whatsoever. None. Zippo. Nada.

Movie madness at Super Bowl XLVI

I'll be monitoring Super Bowl XLVI for this evening to do a piece on ads for upcoming movies. (Yeah, it's a dirty job -- but somebody's got to do it.) But the funniest movie-related ad to air during The Big Game may turn out to be one that isn't really a movie ad at all -- this kinda-sorta sequel to Ferris Bueller's Day Off that stealthily extols the wonders of the 2012 Honda CR-V. Eric Ditzian over at already has declared it one of the ten best movie-related Super Bowl ads of all time.

Friday, February 03, 2012

R.I.P.: Ben Gazzara (1930-2012)

Actor Ben Gazzara -- who passed away Friday at age 81 -- could proudly point to a resume that included roles in such notable films as Anatomy of a Murder, Saint Jack, They All Laughed, Capone -- in which he played the title role opposite, no kidding, Sylvester Stallone's Frank Nitti -- and The Big Lebowksi. But, hey, let's face it: If you're of a certain age, you'll always remember him best as an adventurous libertine who's determined to make every minute count after being diagnosed with a fatal illness in the 1965-68 TV series Run for Your Life. And if you're a tad younger: He'll always be the bad guy who dared to tangle with Patrick Swayze in the 1989 guilty pleasure Road House.

I had the pleasure to interview him back in the day during a New York press gathering for the latter. (The first junket, I should note, where I received a CD -- not a audiotape, but a CD -- of the movie soundtrack as part of the junket swag.) He seemed amused when I told him about my fond childhood memories of Arrest and Trial, a 1963-64 90-minute weekly series with a format that, unbeknownst to either of us in '89, would later be more successfully employed in a 60-minute weekly series titled Law & Order.

And he smiled proudly when I told him of my enduring admiration for his collaborations with the late, great John Cassavetes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Coming soon: Game Change

Some folks have pre-emptively complained that the upcoming HBO-produced adaptation of Game Change -- John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's best-selling and eye-opening account of the 2008 Presidential race -- mostly ignores the Obama/Clinton primary battles to concentrate on John McCain (played by Ed Harris)and Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore). But this newly released trailer suggests that, hey, the made-for-cable movie will be must-see TV anyway. Premiere date is March 10.