Sunday, December 23, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Here is a project thats been up and down for four years, before My Brother, before The Insurgents, before any of that. The project is called (now) "The Flower of the Fence." If you're not touched after watching this clip from the real-life people feature on Oprah, you probably need to have a heart transplant. (Dawn, stop crying, its happy).
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
After working from home this morning on a few issues related to various things not related to Slaughter, I headed in the pouring rain (not very Hollywood, though December and January are rainy in LA) over to CAA with my friend Ki Moon, the Prince (as I call him for his amazing popularity). The rain makes things a mess here, and people cannot drive when it rains. But the trip over to CAA’s new-ish digs in Century City was uneventful, and we got there in plenty of time for the screening of Paranormal Activity.
Paranormal Activity is a movie which was shot super low budget and which will play Slamdance next month. It evokes a lot of different supernatural horror movies, including The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, and most of all, The Blair Witch Project, because of the documentary format and because of the nature of the production. I don’t want to pick it apart here, and I am not going to review it, because it hasn’t even been released yet and I don’t want people finding this and having it influence their decisions, in either direction. I went in totally blind with few expectations and I think that is the best was to approach a movie like this, to let it stand on its own merits.
What I will say is that it does have merit, and is genuinely chilling at many moments, and that the acting is excellent. And anyone who reads this blog knows that, in my less than humble opinion, it is good acting that allows a movie to be frightening. Why? Because being frightened at a movie is about empathy with the characters, for the most part, and if you don’t empathize because you don’t believe them, this vital link in the chain breaks down and you have schlock. And this is not schlock. I wish them well.
From the screening, I headed into enormous traffic, the combination of rush hour and the rains. (It was a lotta rain, hence the plural).
I had planned to head home after dropping off Ki Moon, but because of the traffic time was short so I headed straight over to one of the most famous theatres in the U.S., the Arclight Hollywood.
Its very impressive.
The place is like a mini-museum for film stuff, or at least for posters. They play themes from old movies. There is a gift shop and a bar inside the theatre, and the fourteen dollar tickets entitle you to be ushered to an assigned, plush seat in a stadium seating auditorium. It’s a very good place to watch a movie.
I hadn’t eaten since lunch and it was closing in on 7:30 so I got a chicken sausage sandwich, which was a glorified kilbasa but not very expensive, surprisingly (for a movie house). While I was ingesting quickly, so that I wouldn’t be eating in the theatre, after the first big bite, Scott Wolf from Party of Five says to me (seriously, and out of the blue) – “ Hey, that looks really good, did you get that here?” I have my mouth full of food and I was kinda surprised to look up and see him standing over me. I gulped and told him that it was. He inquired what it was, and then he was gone. He was quite Scott Wolffy in his exuberance. Anyone who knows him from TV or maybe from Go will know what I mean. (Last night I sat next to Juno director Jason Reitman in a Japanese place next to the Beverly Center. Ive met him a few times and congratulated him on Juno, which I haven't gotten to see yet. He said he was very much looking forward to the NBR Gala and wanted to thank everyone for supporting him so thoroughly. I told him he made it easy. So its just been that kinda week).
Then Meta, a new friend from LA, and I headed into theater number three for PT Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
What can I say? A masterpiece? An instant classic? Yes. And Yes.
Now I don’t mean that he doesn’t have his own imprint. He does. But this was Kubrick – type filmmaking. It was like a Kubrick movie in so many ways, as if Kubrick had directed Citizen Kane. That’s what this felt like. It was so impressive in so many ways. I cannot imagine that this won’t be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. I haven’t seen all the contenders, but this sets the bar so high. So high. And DDL and Paul Dano, and Ciaran Hinds and everyone. It’s a wow movie across the board. Don’t miss it.
And then I came home and starting typing. In the rain.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
In 1981, Fields was named President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Co.'s motion picture production division. After serving for a year in that capacity for MGM/UA Entertainment Co., he became President and Chief Executive Officer of MGM Film Co.
But it was as one of Hollywood's top agents -- perhaps even the top Hollywood agent of his day, that Fields will always be remembered by myself and everyone else.
Fields with his CMA partner David Begelman were throwbacks to the early days of Hollywood -- a more romantic, more exciting, and, frankly, more fun time when agents were showmen who lived for the glitz and the glamour of their business lives. They loved the prestige, the parties, the lunch tables at Ma Maison. They had more in common with Charles Feldman and Leland Hayward than Lew Wasserman or Abe Lastfogel. They were also the recipients of the first historical upheaval in the agency business with the breakup of MCA. Its dissolution left a huge vacuum: seemingly overnight, the agency business was fragment, an alphabet soup of boutiques all watching and circling one another to see who would make the big move. CMA was seen as hip, sexy, fun -- the agency as ongoing party -- perfectly suited for the new aesthetic and ethos of the ‘60s.
But Fields and Begelman were quintessential dealmakers, the best of the day. Their lucrative movie packages and imaginative backend deals pushed the envelope of how talent was compensated in Hollywood. The knew how to use power, and more importantly, were not afraid to use it. They got a thrill out of bullying studio heads and forcing them to accept rich deals for their stars which in the past would have been considered unthinkable. It was no accident that Fields’ name for packaging was “pre-producing.” The reason they were drawn to studios in the end was because they decided being an agent did not give them enough status; for the true stature in the Industry back then still came with being a buyer not a seller.
Like many agents, Freddie Fields gained entry into show business through family connections. His father, Jack Fields, ran a hotel in the Catskills called the Queen Mountain House and was the first in the summer resort business to see the advantage of booking entertainment for his guests. Soon, the Catskills became a regular stop on the variety tour circuit, and Fields was pulling in headliners like Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. When Jack Fields died at the beginning of the Depression in 1929, his five-year-old son, Freddie, his four other sons and his wife were left to fend for themselves. Fields’ mother worked two job to keep the family going, moving from town to town. Fields worked odd jobs, even once a bellhop in Miami, before entering the service. But even then he knew he was a great salesman. “I was always selling, even when I was a kid,” Fields once told me. “When I was in the Navy, the guys in the military band put a group together, a dance band, and I was booking them.” By the time he left the service, Fields had caught the showbiz bug. He asked his older brother, well-known band leader Shep Fields, to let him play trombone. He wasn’t very good. So one day, Shep asked his agent, Abbie Greshler, if he could get Freddie off his back. As part of Fields’ training, Greshler handed his two stars Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis over to his protege. Then Fields moved to talent agency behemoth MCA with Martin and Lewis in tow.
In 1960, he left MCA to start Freddie Fields Associates. Within two months, Fields’ best friend and fellow MCA agent David Begelman, joined him. Together they renamed the company Creative Management Associates, or CMA. That the name came from rearranging the MCA initials was no coincidence. From the first they decided they wanted an elite management business that would represent only the ten top people who were the best in their field. Fields had left with Phil Silvers, star of The Phil Silvers Show, which had captured the Emmy for best comedy series three years in a row. He also had second wife, the celebrated actress Polly Bergen (Bergen was his second wife; Fields would have four in all). Based in New York, the two managers quickly signed Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Jack Paar and Lauren Bacall. But Fields and Begelman never had any intention of abandoning the agency business. The two men followed closely the Justice Department’s ongoing anti-trust investigation of MCA, which was heating up in 1960, the year they went out on their own, and would continue for the next two years. When MCA was forced out of the agency business, CMA jumped in.
Their specialty seemed to be “difficult” clients, like Judy Garland. Later, when they signed Barbra Streisand, Peter Sellers and Steve McQueen, “we were accused of being masochists,” Fields joked. Fields moved west to open new CMA offices on Sunset Boulevard, while Begelman stayed behind in New York. Fields became a center of Hollywood’s active social scene in a new wave of clubs like the Whiskey A-Go-Go just down the street from CMA’s headquarters. It wasn’t uncommon in the corridors of the agency’s headquarters to smell the acrid odor of marijuana wafting from inside the offices. Fields turned his Mediterranean-style Beverly Hills mansion into a second headquarters, holding morning staff meetings with his agents around the pool. The two-story house, filled with antiques and sporting a projection room and “audition” facility, became one of the town’s hot spots.
Fields savored the killer CMA reputation. When Fields was trying to sign actor James Coburn, hot after Our Man Flint in 1966, Fields showed up at Coburn’s home for a breakfast meeting, took off his jacket, and strapped conspicuously to a shoulder holster was a Colt .45. After a stunned second, Coburn roared with laughter, then signed with Fields on the spot.
The year Begelman moved west in 1968, with protegee Sue Mengers in tow, the two CMA partners also made their first business move to expand their “Cartier” agency, entering into negotiations to buy the General Artist Corporation, which had powerhouse agents Marty Baum and Sam Cohn. Soon after, the partners took CMA public on the American Stock Exchange. Not only were security analysts, who didn’t understand what a Hollywood agent was anyway, lukewarm to the offering, but the reaction of the financial press was devastating. By 1970, CMA’s stranglehold on the talent was so firm Fields and Begelman could indulge their every dealmaking whim. The more unorthodox the deal, the better. Fields and Begelman were masters of structuring contracts that called for incredibly complex and creative forms of compensation for their stars, including percentages on movies’ profits and even rollbacks, an almost unheard-of concept at the time. The duo popularized perks that would later become common demands for A-list talent. The two did and undid deals with such relish, coworkers suspected aloud that they actually broke up a deal on purpose just to see whether they could put it back together again. Fields became the king of movie packaging. But, along with the dealmaking, there was a darker side to Fields and Begelman that made even their most loyal clients keep one wary eye open when doing business with the pair. The two agents had a habit of playing fast and loose with the truth, even to each other. Fields told me of the time an unexpected royalties check for Judy Garland showed up on his desk one day and he told his secretary: “The question is not whether I tell Judy, but whether I tell David.”
But agenting had begun to lose its luster for both men. Fields always had nothing but contempt for the image of agents as, he put it himself, “guys with big cigars who pinch girls’ fannies and carry actors’ golf clubs.” They felt ten percent was fine, but the real glory -- and the real money -- was in producing. Though he denied he was envious, Fields had been prickly ever since his rival Ted Ashley left agenting to head Warner Bros in 1969. So Fields' brainchild was First Artists Production Company, the first star cooperative since Charlie Chaplin’s United Artists fifty years earlier. Then Begelman announced he was leaving to join Columbia Studios. Fields with left behind to fret over petulant stars, skyrocketing expenses and a sinking bottom line. For Fields, the fun went out of the business. There were no more practical jokes. No more good cop, bad cop. There was only a seemingly ever-increasing, ever-suffocating overhead. And a growing sense that the time had come to move on. On November 4, 1974, the Hollywood trades confirmed what had been rumored for years and hotly speculated in recent weeks: that Marvin Josephson’s International Famous Agency was merging with CMA.
In fact, Fields had been negotiating with Josephson on and off for two years. In the 18 months since Begelman’s departure, the CMA chieftain had become increasingly disillusioned. He wanted out. On January 1, 1975, CMA was officially folded into IFA. A new, publicly held superagency was formed. Josephson claimed the title of chairman and named his new company International Creative Management, an amalgamation of both agencies’ names, which was quickly shortened to ICM. The deal called for Josephson to pay $6.10 a share, bringing the total price-tag for CMA close to $6 million. It was a sweet deal for Fields. The agent controlled 147,341 shares of CMA stock; at Josephson’s price of $6.10 a share, he landed an immediate windfall of nearly $900,000. In addition, the CMA founder was named president of ICM, working on a 33-month management contract and drawing a $250,000-a-year salary. But the crafty Fields had negotiated an even more important provision for himself: an escape clause. After just six months, Fields could take his money and run. Josephson, however, never really considered the consequences of an ICM without Fields. In fact, he bought a shell of what CMA had been. Fields had outsmarted him.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
The Hovel Bedroom- in a partial stage of completion. Please note the grubby green, yet perfectly sanded walls.
Hovel, Ext. One. The landscaping, now with most of the garbage removed (some construction materials remain), is actually pretty nice for a "city" dwelling" in central Hollywood.
Hovel Bedroom sheetrock serenade, self explanatory
Hovel Kitchen, with chic missing tile collection. To be upgraded to 20th century next Sunday.
Hovel Hallway, newly primed and partially painted.
the view from the cheap seats
Mike, the occupant of the other half of the Hovel.
My bedroom in the bungalow has been painted a sort of army fatigue green. Gives it a nice dirty look that just cheers up the morning. I am thinking, now that the sanding is done, to paint it wine, burgundy, to add some soft lighting, as the first step to take it up a level. Im even considering wall sconces. We’ll see.
But today, did a fair amount of work and its quite a bit more liveable all of a sudden. Less hovel-ly. Which is good.
So with the doors freshly painted, the room sanded and ready for painting, all I need is some heat and we’ll be cooking.
I can’t wait to shower off some of this paint in the 55 degree cold shower. Gonna hit some high notes for sure.
Im sitting in the bungalow bundled up in sweats. My blood has apparently thinned to the point where I am cold in 55 degree weather. Chilly. How does this happen so quickly that I undergo physiological changes making me into an Angelino. I don’t know – let me call my life coach and ask her (not!).
But its chilly, and we have no gas til Monday. It will be about a week, all in, with no gas. There is a small space heater in the Bungalow that Mike and I leave in the hallway between the bedrooms, but its cold. These are not the most significant fallout from the lack of heat (and neither is the fact that the dryer is somehow half-gas and half-electric, so it spins the laundry without really drying the laundry).
It’s the shower. No hot water.
I’ve been showering all week in a shower with no hot water. No luke warm water. Nothing like that. Just cold.
Undertake an experiment for the sake of science. Go into your bathroom, and turn on the cold water in the shower. After disrobing, get into the cold water and see how long it takes before you begin to shiver and drool on yourself. If you make a minute, well, you’ve more constitution than me.
I get in there, and steel myself. I try to take showers in less that one minute, because there is a mirror across from the shower, and the sight of me shivering and drooling in the shower, well, it doesn’t swell any part of my being with pride (not that parts of my being, er, are swelling whilst a shower). I gave myself a crew cut this week to speed up the shower process, though people who’ve made films with me know I am likely to do that anyway before starting production on a film.
The gas turns on Monday, so I have only a few more cold showers to which I can look forward. Then its back to the monotony and comfort of normalcy.
On the positive side, the crew of migrant workers that has been retrofitting the house, bungalow and surrounding grounds back to humanity is almost done. They were slow, but I think they’ve finally run out of time. The junk is 90 percent gone, and though there are some construction materials spread around the grounds, I think most of them are getting discarded today. We are actually fairly close to realizing the vision I had of the place when I took it, and Mike and the new house tenant (adults all, rockers none) seem to share the vision.
So there’s that.
Work has been stressful. I am not going to write about it. I may write something about it when its in the past. At least I have a nicer, if chillier place to which to return at the end of my stressful days.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Best Film: No Country for Old Men (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Best Foreign Language Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax)
Best Documentary: Body of War (The Film Sales Company)
Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille (Disney/Pixar)
Best Director: Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd (Dreamworks/Paramount)
Best Actor: George Clooney, Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
Best Actress: Julie Christie, Away from Her (Lionsgate)
Best Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward, Robert Ford (Warner Bros.)
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (Miramax)
Best Directorial Debut: Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone (Miramax)
Best Ensemble Performance: No Country for Old Men (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Breakthrough Male Performance: Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage)
Breakthrough Female Performance: Ellen Page, Juno (Fox Searchlight)
Best Original Screenplay (tie):
Diablo Cody, Juno (Fox Searchlight)
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl (MGM)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
The Bulgari Award for NBR Freedom of Expression
The Great Debaters (The Weinstein Company)
Persepolis (Sony Pictures Classics)
Top Ten Films (in alphabetical order):
Atonement (Focus Features)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward, Robert Ford (Warner Bros.)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal)
The Bucket List (Warner Bros.)
Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage)
Juno (Fox Searchlight)
The Kite Runner (Paramount Vantage)
Lars and the Real Girl (MGM)
Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
Sweeney Todd (Dreamworks/Paramount)
Top Five Foreign-Language Films (in alphabetical order):
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (IFC Films)
The Band's Visit (Sony Pictures Classics)
The Counterfeiters (Sony Pictures Classics)
Lust, Caution (Focus Features)
La Vie en Rose (Picturehouse)
Top Five Documentary Films (in alphabetical order)
Darfur Now (Warner Independent)
In the Shadow of the Moon (Thinkfilm)
Taxi to the Darkside (Thinkfilm)
Toots (Mememsha Films)
Top Ten Independent Films (in alphabetical order):
Away from Her (Lionsgate)
Great World of Sound (Magnolia)
Honeydripper (Emerging Films)
In the Valley of Elah (Warner Independent)
A Mighty Heart (Paramount Vantage)
The Namesake (Fox Searchlight)
Once (Fox Searchlight)
The Savages (Fox Searchlight)
Starting Out in the Evening (Roadside Attractions)
Waitress (Fox Searchlight)
NBR Career Achievement: MICHAEL DOUGLAS
William K. Everson Film History Award: ROBERT OSBORNE
Career Achievement in Cinematography: ROGER DEAKINS
2girls1cup didnt make the cut.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Its basically turning into an internet phenomenon in Los Angeles. People continually mention it. They are watching it at the production office of the movie I am producing (thats where I first watched it - it had been sent to me previously and I turned it off after about 3 seconds, which is really just the tip of the iceberg).
I am not sure why. Its like the worst thing I've ever seen. There is no violence in the video, thats all reserved for us, the viewers. Its like the movie of the Ring. Every time someone mentions the video I gag or feel my throat closing up. Its literally like something they would make Alex viddy as part of his treatment in Clockwork Orange. It may have that kind of lasting effect, b/c I see people have that kind of reflexive, pavlovian reaction to its mention after having seen it.
Dont watch it at work (unless you have very liberal employment). Dont watch it around your kids. Or your significant other, lest something be ascribed to you.
Dont blame me if you watch it. But if you do watch it, def watch the hilarious 2girls1cup reaction videos all over youtube, and the John Mayer spoof.
And now, Bug.
I mean, whoa. Holy cow. What the hell was that. Is something burning?
Bug is a play that was made into a movie for Lionsgate. It still sometimes feels like a play. Except for Friedkin’s amazing eye, it would probably feel exactly like a play. Or a very overwritten, very stagy movie.
But Friedkin’s immense talent saves it. And if you think Ashley Judd is boring, see this movie. It will change your mind. She’s terrific - revelatory.
And Michael Shannon, who is this guy. He’s incredible, a ball of energy. So interesting to watch. He doesn’t stop, he never gives the audience a breather.
I feel like the actors were on crystal meth during filming. I can’t recall that level of intensity in movie acting, maybe ever.
Its interesting to note that the movie was marketed by Lionsgate as a horror movie. Even the name of the movie makes it sound like it should be a horror movie. And I suppose that it’s the result of the modern movie marketing machine that a movie has to be classifiable in a genre for marketing bundles and demos. It has to be. It just does (why?).
But Bug isn’t a horror movie, though its cringe inducing and horrific in turns. There is plenty of horror. But if you’re expecting your typical Eli Roth mayhem, or even Rob Zombie or Cronenberg, forget it. Not gonna find that here.
I recommend it. I think for a lot of people it’s a love it or hate it kind of thing. I’m a little more love it, but I probably view this kind of work less extremely than a bunch of us. And I appreciate the acting and editing and directorial choices with the camera so much. There isn’t a move in the movie that wasn’t considered. Such a sure hand Friedkin displays. He’s been doing this a long time.
I am rambling. You get the point. Rent it or buy it.