Movie news for a semi-new week

I was going to put this off as long as possible this week, but the movie news tonight is like a burden upon my soul.

* In case you haven’t heard, the epic speculation about just who will play the Pippi Longstocking-via-the-Velvet-Underground Lisbeth Salender of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (American style) is over. The part has gone to 25 year-old Rooney Mara. Anne Thompson has the inside dope on this relative unknown.

rooney-mara

Still, I find the comparisons with the legendary battle to cast the role of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind” to be slightly much. It’s more like casting Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter or Sean Connery as James Bond.

The obvious differences aside, Connery was, by the way, very much like Mara. He was actually the second person to play the role. The first was Gene Barry in a nationality flipped 1954 TV version of “Casino Royale” in which “Jimmy Bond” was American and “Clarence Leiter” was British.

* As if we Angelenos don’t have enough problems with aliens invading our town and the ensuing legal battles therein. The President’s in L.A. raising money from the godless sodomites of H-wood with help from communist money hating writer-producer-director-moguls John Wells and J.J. Abrams. And we know what this means — a new round of liberal criticism of the Obama Administration for, yes, the traffic. Even Hef was bothered.

* I once transcribed and informally partially edited an “as told to” book by the son of the entrepreneurial founder of a major multinational with huge ties to the film industry through his son. Nikki Finke today reminds me of a quip the second-generation captain of industry quoted: “There’s nothing wrong with nepotism, as long as you keep it in the family.”

* It sounds like he’ll be okay, but think good thoughts for Michael Douglas anyway.

* Because of my recent roundtable piece with Kevin Pollak, I’ve been giving his interview program a listen. Ironically, Christopher Walken, like William “the Shat” Shatner before him, is jumping into the interview game, perhaps inspired by Pollak for all anyone knows. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’ve heard.

* Some of my best friends have post-graduate degrees in psychology but, Lord amighty, headline grabbing psychologists and their journalistic/PR enablers can really produce a special kind of stupid and shallow when they go all pop-cultural on us. Get this:

“In today’s media, superheroes and slackers are the only two options boys have,” said Lamb. “Boys are told, if you can’t be a superhero, you can always be a slacker.”

They were writing the same thing when I was kid, only the terms were different. I’d give you a more detailed case on why I consider this complete idiocy, but since I’m clearly not a superhero, I must be a slacker. (H/t Anne Thompson.)

slacker

  

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“Little Obama”: what winning the propaganda war looks like

As a relatively early supporter of President Obama in the Democratic primaries, one of my arguments for him over Hillary Clinton had to do with our perception abroad. On the one hand, I thought Obama had much better ideas on international relations. On the other hand, as a side benefit, I was sure that the act of electing a man with this ethnicity, international background, and named “Barack Hussein Obama” would send a message around the world that American was a far more open, diverse, and tolerant socially than either our enemies abroad, or our GOP jingoists at home, would ever believe. That would severely undercut the message of Al Queada and other extremist groups.

It goes further than I even I imagined. Here, in one apparently completely awesome and mostly pretty absurd looking Indonesian film, we get the whole freaking propaganda package made, I suspect, entirely without the cooperation of the CIA, U.S. Army Psyops, or the State Department. This comes via HuffPo and Film Drunk, and any similarities to either version of “The Karate Kid” are purely coincidental, I’m sure.

I love that last shot. Do real kids ever lay in a perfect circle to daydream about their futures?

By the way, South African anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu didn’t really become an internationally known figure until the 1980s, by which time Obama was a college student in Los Angeles and New York City, but who said propaganda had to make any sense? Of course, electoral victory has a thousand father figures, and they are not always zany flamboyantly gay-acting bicyclists or taciturn martial arts instructors. Here’s another alternate history.

  

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Kennedy Center honors we can believe in

Among the worthies honored by the Kennedy Center and the White House last night were one Mr. Melvin Kaminsky, i.e., Mel Brooks, and one Mr. Robert De Niro. The introduction for Mr. De Niro is not online, but President Obama’s description of Mr. Brooks is, and it’s a doozy.

Since I don’t have anything on from the presentation featuring the president and Mr. De Niro, I’ll have to go with his on-air meeting with another important personage.

Just for the record, the non-movie honorees were jazz great Dave Brubeck, opera singer Grace Bumbry, and, yeah, Bruce Springsteen. The show will air on CBS on December 29.

  

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Roman Polanski arrested in Switzerland

Roman Polanski in 1978

I’ll be getting to the weekend box office fairly soon but we have some breaking news today. Kind of a bombshell, actually.

As if to fill the void left by the conclusion of the Phil Specter case, a long-running Hollywood legal drama of some real significance has reemerged this morning and is almost certain to be filling the gossip and news pages for some time. As I write this, arguably one of one of the world’s five or so greatest living directors, whose resume includes “Chinatown,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” 2002’s “The Pianist” and the psychological horror classics “Repulsion” and “The Tenant,” is under arrest at age 76 and may be extradited back to L.A. county. This one could get messy and makes yet another painful and extraordinary chapter in the life of a director and occasional actor who escaped the Holocaust as a child, became an internationally famous filmmaker during the sixties, lost his pregnant actress wife in one of the most brutal murder rampages in U.S. history, and then nearly lost everything else over a inexcusable drunken encounter nearly a decade later.

Younger readers may not be aware how, in 1978, 45 year-old director Roman Polanski was arrested after having sex and sharing champagne and part of a Quaalude — a tranquilizer and de riguer party drug of the time — with 13 year-old Samantha Geimer. The victim’s name has only become public knowledge in recent years when, now middle-aged, she has come out publicly to forgive Polanski and call for a conclusion to the extremely muddy and muddled case which, however you come down on it, has more sides to it than you are likely aware of.

Indeed, though you may be hearing now end of moral grandstanding this week, this is no simple case. Even as someone who literally grew up with the matter and with Polanski’s career, I really knew very little about it before seeing and reviewing Marina Zenovich’s outstanding film about the matter: “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” As Zenovich said in the film’s commentary, Polanski was both a perpetrator and a victim of a publicity hungry judge who used to case for his own ends and drew out the case needlessly. The real heroes of her film were, ironically, both the prosecutor and the defense attorneys in the case. Yes, Virginia, there may be two honest lawyers in greater Los Angeles.

Anyhow, there are any number of questions at this point, including how did Polanski’s lawyers not know what the Swiss authorities might do? (Polanski has been able to live peacefully in France because the U.S.-France extradition treaty does not cover his particular crime and he is highly regarded there. He has carefully avoided being seen in countries such as England where the laws are different.) Nikki Finke calls it a double-cross.

This case is huge and has already been condemned by French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand who is in communication with President Nicolas Sarkozy. No doubt, even as we speak poor Robert Gibbs is probably trying to figure what President Obama’s answer should be when he’s asked about it. Maybe he can use the whole “ongoing legal matter” construction to avoid it. That’s what I’d try to do.

Whatever happens, we certainly won’t be avoiding the case here. Stay tuned.

  

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