Today’s trailer — Sofia Coppola is back with “Somewhere”

Over the weekend, Anne Thompson was discussing the imminent return of the youngest member (so far) of the directing dynasty begun by Francis Coppola. For me, the jury on Sophia Coppola is still out to some degree, not because I in any way doubt her talent or skill, but because I wonder about her commitment to storytelling. She has yet to really knock my socks off dramatically, and it worries me slightly that she’s such an outspoken fan of Wong Kar-Wei and Michelangelo Antonioni, two directors of the world’s most gorgeous films that I find nearly unwatchable. On the other hand, Thompson came up with a quote in which Coppola praises Bob Fosse, one of my favorite directors of all time, and his most direct and emotional film, “All That Jazz.”

“I enjoy movies when they’re sincere, from personal experience. Fosse got away with his girlfriend playing his girlfriend. It’s not an all-romanticized idea of himself. It’s honest.”

True enough. Watching the trailer for “Somewhere,” about a hard living actor (Stephen Dorff) and his tween-age daughter (Elle Fanning), it looks to me like she’s still thinking about a key sliver of that film, but I ‘ll get to that some other time. Also, considering that Coppola is about to become a mom for the second time, it’s a topic that likely hits close to home. I’m hopeful about this one.

  

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Three losses

The old saw about deaths coming in threes appears to have come true over the last couple of days with the passing of three individuals, all noteworthy to the movie world, though in very different ways.

* Al Martino spent most of his career as a well known lounge singer, but his moment of cinema immortality came with his casting as mob-connected singer-actor Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather.” According to this rather sensational obituary in The Telegraph, his life  — including even how he obtained the role in the 1972 classic — may have had more in common with Fontaine’s than Frank Sinatra, who most filmgoers assumed was the model for Fontaine. Martino, who got the role after another Italian-American crooner, Vic Damone, dropped out of the running, also appeared in both “Godfather” sequels. He also sang the hit version of the movie’s “Love Theme,” “Speak Softly Love.”

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* On Monday, Anne Thompson posted a moving remembrance of her friend, film scholar Anne Friedberg, who died of cancer at age 57 on October 9. She was the chair of the Department of Critical Studies at USC’s film program. She was married to screenwriter Howard Rodman, who heads the screenwriting program at USC, and her past students included critic Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. Ms. Thompson also included a quote from famed magician/writer/character actor (and David Mamet regular) Ricky Jay, so she obviously had her share of interesting friends as well.

* Former MGM and Columbia Studio executive and producer Daniel Melnick also died yesterday from lung cancer at age 77. He oversaw a number of classic and notable films at the studio and also was personally involved with a number of significant hits and a few classics ranging from “Footloose” (a hit, definitely not a classic) and Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” (a classic, not that huge a hit) to Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs,” to “Altered States” and my favorite Steve Martin movie, “L.A. Story.”

  

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Movie moments for me #1

I’ve worked pretty hard this week, especially on my piece on the fascinating documentary, “We Live in Public,” which I hope people actually read. In any case, I thought I’d permit myself the luxury this weekend of posting clips for no other reason than I love them. (Not that I don’t often sometimes find interesting excuses for doing just that.)

The scene below is from Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” — a lovely, sweet moment from a rather dark, though highly entertaining, movie.

By the way, it’s hardly a secret that Fosse is one of my favorite directors. If you’d like to know more about the man behind “All That Jazz,” “Cabaret,” “Lenny,” and my personal cinematic hobby horse, “Sweet Charity,” etc., you might want to take a look at the Fossethon I put together some time ago at my personal blog, Forward to Yesterday. Also, thanks to Damian Arlyn who reminded of this clip by posting it on Facebook yesterday.

  

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A visit with “Brothers”

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I’m no Hollywood insider. Nikki Finke does not rely on me for her tips and I don’t ever expect to attend the Vanity Fair Oscar after party. Nevertheless, there’s one thing I do know about show business: personality goes a very long way in “this town.” And so a few of us press people recently found ourselves the subject of a 50 megaton charm offensive by the four stars of the new Fox sitcom, “Brothers” — C.C.H. Pounder, Carl Weathers, and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, and one extremely enthusiastic newbie, former New York Giants Defensive End and Fox Sports commentator Michael Strahan. I haven’t seen the show itself yet, which premieres tonight at 8 p.m./7 central, but the visit was certainly a performance I won’t be forgetting.

From long-time writer-producer Don Reo, whose credits run from “M*A*S*H” to “Blossom” and “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Brothers” stars Strahan as a former NFL star who winds up moving in to the house he bought for his parents when a financial reversal puts him in the metaphorical poorhouse. Since this is a sitcom, naturally there will be conflict with his brother, played by Mitchell, and the usual issues with parents Weathers and Pounder. One ace the show will be playing will be guest appearances by some fairly big names playing themselves, including former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, hip-hop star T-Pain, celubutante Kim Kardashian, and the great Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band. Also appearing will be well actress Tichina Arnold from “Chris” and, not playing himself, rap superstar Snoop Dog. Stand-up comic Lenny Clarke will be playing a neighbor on the show.

The show has been getting some additional attention for a perhaps less fortunate reason, in that while African-American actors are featured in more diverse roles these days, it’s the only current show on the networks schedules with a predominantly black cast. That’s largely a reversal of the trend of the past when the vast bulk of decent TV parts for nonwhite actors were on shows like “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times” as well as some of the later, more controversial shows aimed at black audiences like “Martin.”

The first to meet the press were Carl Weathers, perhaps still most famed as Rocky Balboa’s venerable opponent, Apollo Creed, and C.C.H. Pounder, who is taking a break from her usual intense, gravitas-laden, roles on shows like “The Shield” and seems to be enjoying every minute of it. In fact, I’m here to tell you that extremely skilled Ms. Pounder is downright bubbly in person. You heard me, “bubbly” — but in a very smart sort of way.

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The mood was light right off the bat with more than one of us entertainment journos confessing a complete lack of knowledge of sports and Ms. Pounder joining in. Weathers was the exception. “Well, I played for the Oakland Raiders so I hope I know a little bit about football.” And that somehow prompted an impersonation of Butterfly McQueen from “Gone with the Wind” from Pounder. I guess you had to be there.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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