* Sofia Coppola’s latest, “Somewhere,” won the highly prized Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The problem, if there is one, is that she is a current friend and former flame of Jury President Quentin Tarantino. I have to admit that I had forgotten they’d ever been a “thing,” but many do remember and there’s been some grumbling to the effect that the movie isn’t all that “fucking great.” It ain’t the crime of the century, but I guess Tarantino should have recused himself. Speaking for myself only, I find that I tend to be either more harsh or more enthusiastic about friends’ work. As for Monte Hellman, Tarantino’s hardly alone in praising the maverick writer and director.
* Someone took Stanley Kubrick’s ultimate trip with way too much chemical enhancement over the weekend at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I have a story about that I’ll tell you sometime. In the meantime, protective measures may be in order.
* Good. L.A. needs all the love letters, cinematic and otherwise, it can get. Naturally, all the lead actors are from foreign lands (Christopher Plummer is Canadian, but he feels like he’s from actual overseas), though I’m not sure about the characters. One of the things I loved about “A Single Man” was the way it depicted the European’s love affair with a town that U.S. natives mostly don’t seem to get.
* Woody Allen has stepped in to a long-running rumor-created fracas. France’s acting first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, apparently did just fine in “Midnight in Paris.”
* Mickey Rourke’s latest gig appears to be playing notorious mob killer Richard “the Ice Man” Kuklinski. I think this is a close to making a true family film as Rourke may ever get, next to “Iron Man 2.” The man’s face doesn’t only scare small children, it scares me.
A highly entertaining character actor, stand-up comic, and now also a screenwriter and Internet talk show host, Kevin Pollak will nevertheless remain forever in the shadow of three men. One is wise-guy crook Todd Hockney from Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer’s slambam 1995 debut, “The Usual Suspects” (currently at #24 of all-time most popular films on IMDb); the other two are, of course, William Shatner and Christopher Walken. So powerful are the Pollak impressions of these two men, I’d venture that when most of us attempt to impersonate either actor, we’re really not doing Shatner or Walken, we’re doing Pollak doing Shatner or Walken. (Though, personally, my extremely bad Christoper Walken is really a very bad impression of Kevin Spacey‘s Walken but, for all I know, Spacey got his from Pollak while shooting “Suspects.”). Indeed, I can remember a time when it seemed like nobody did Shatner and I’m pretty sure it was Pollak who kind of opened to door for all the other impressionists into the voice and mannerisms of the man Pollak calls “the Shat.”
Among the nearly 90 or more productions he’s been involved with as an actor, Kevin Pollak’s latest release is “Middle Men,” a black comedy-laced drama owing more than a little bit to Martin Scorsese. The film stars Luke Wilson as straight-arrow businessman Jack Harris who falls in with a pair of highly inventive cokeheads (Gabriel Macht and Giovanni Ribisi) and would be Internet porn kings during the late 1990s. The pair have developed the first really viable method for collecting money over the ‘net in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, things get massively complicated from there and Pollak turns up later in the film as an FBI agent who comes to Harris and his porn star girlfriend (Laura Ramsay) with a startling new reality. The film, co-written and directed by George Gallo, best known as the screenwriter of “Midnight Run,” is actually just part of an ongoing collaboration between the director and the actor-comic and now screenwriter.
As is often the case, I was one of a number of scribblers who were participating in a roundtable with Pollak during the “Middle Men” press day at L.A.’s Four Season’s hotel. Pollak arrived in a friendly but highly subdued mood. He was a late addition to the press day and obviously has been keeping very busy. Among many other projects, he had a new stand-up special ready premiering, and an increasingly popular podcast, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, with recent guests including Neal Patrick Harris and John Slattery of “Mad Men.” Pollak frankly seemed a little tired at first, though going out of his way to be funny — because that’s what you expect from Pollak. Things perked up as it went.
Comic-Con’s been over for a week and a half and the geek news is flying.
* Mike Fleming is claiming a Finke “Toldja!” for the news that Disney and “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski are going ahead with a film version of the comic book, “Oblivion.” I’m not familiar with the book so, should I be more excited about this than I am? Of course, having recently rewatched the original “Tron” I’m even less excited about his other movie. I’m sorry, but it’s got to be one of the thinnest excuses for a piece of entertainment I’ve ever seen. A few interesting visuals aside, it’s easily one of the weakest efforts Disney has ever been associated with as far as I can see. It’s lingering appeal is a complete mystery to me.
* As rumors of the day go, I find this one even less believable than most. That idea is that Quentin Tarantino may be “attached” to what had previously been Sam Raimi’s new version of William Gibson’s influential pulp character, the Shadow — who became best known via a popular thirties radio show starring a very young Orson Welles. I’m a fan of the character and of Tarantino, so I certainly wouldn’t mind this being true. It just feels significantly off from Mr. Tarantino’s many obsessions, though considering his delving into thirties and forties cinema for “Inglourious Basterds,” you never know.
As I wrote Friday, things are looking bad for the studio founded by the Weinstein brothers, which is now officially being sold Disney. So, consider this the start of an online mini-wake for the greatest of the mini-majors.
It’s always a tricky business to declare the death of any company before all the deals are really done, but if it’s final enough for Anne Thompson, I’m loathe to disagree that the studio founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and named after their parents, Mira and Max, is winding up on a financial ash-heap.
The Weinsteins are not just any producers and Miramax was not just any company. For good and for ill — not all their movies were great by any means, a few I even hated (don’t get me started on “Chocolate”) — they were and are throwbacks to the moguls of the past. They make decisions in a mercurial, seat of the pants way that always seems to generally produce better material than the cool logic of an MBA, which may be safer but rarely produces the kind of movie that really blows anyone’s mind. You don’t produce a “Pulp Fiction” by thinking like a marketing major, you produce it by thinking like a showman.
As I understand it, Disney wanted a certain amount of cash for the 700 or so titles in the company’s library, and they got it from a construction magnate with apparent close ties to the least trusted and most widely disliked person in an industry with a high quotient of untrustworthy and unlikable people. Disney has done a lot of things right over the years and they’ve done a lot of things wrong, I make no claims to being able to really look inside this as a business decision, but this certainly feels wrong. The film studio that launched some of the greatest behind-the camera talents around, including Quentin Tarantino, Alexander Payne, Jane Campion, Anthony Minghella, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh and even (in the U.S. market) Hiyao Miyazaki, among many others, deserves better.
For more, I definitely suggest you read the Anne Thompson piece I linked to above, and check out her links as well. Wikipedia has a partial and awe-inspiring list of films made and released by the company.