Once again, here's Moriarty. This time he gets to experience the nightmare that is a Press Conference. These are mind-blowingly dull and ignorant events where the sniffers of glue ask questions like, "Ms Jones, How do those Heels feel?" I've only been to one such event, a Dreamworks Press Conference, and I felt sorry for the Publicist. You see, most of the questions revolved around whether or not Keanu and Geffen were married, if Geffen and Spielberg were married, what does SKG stand for, and on and on. It was really quite stunning. Where these people come from is... a mystery I've never quite figured out. Personally I'm hoping the go back to where ever they came from... and from Moriarty's report, he felt the same noggin drain I felt. Heh heh heh... The evil genius damaged by powerful forces of dimness...
Hey, Head Geek...
Well, I've been downloading all the material I gathered at ShoWest using my sophisticated array of audio and visual recording devices. My favorite new one is a mustache-cam I wore one afternoon. Sifting through all this has taken so long that I'm embarrassed, so I thought I'd take my proposed single report (The Awards Ceremony and The Miramax luncheon together) and break them up to prevent any one report from being 130K long. I already get enough hate mail about what a wordy bastard I am.
I reported on the New Line luncheon that kicked off Tuesday's activities in one of my initial columns. As soon as that luncheon let out, the majority of the crowd immediately made their way to the trade show, and I let myself get carried along by the crowd. I still didn't have any idea where the trade show was supposed to be. Someone had actually told me it was outside, which didn't seem right. Most of the convention activities were in the main showrooms at Bally's, but the trade show is actually so big that they built a temporary pavillion behind the building, past the pool, beside the tennis courts. My first impression when I walked in was sheer sensory overload. The Coca-Cola display ahead was massive, built to look like a theater concession stand, but with every price set at $0.00. Man, why can't I find a theater like this in real life?
I worked my way around the outside of the show first just to get an impression of the place. I saw and sat in more different styles of theater seats than I ever thought existed. I saw speakers, projectors, a closed-captioning system for a theater, and the Dolby Digital booth where they explained (but didn't demonstrate) the new 6.1 EX system. DTS was busy at their booth pushing a new system they're introducing that also boasts a new rear center channel, obviously meant to compete with Dolby EX, but Dolby's got STAR WARS and THE HAUNTING as their demos this summer. Doesn't sound like it's going to be much of a contest to me.
At the Paramount booth I was given another bagload of goodies, including a SOUTH PARK mug and a SOUTH PARK magic lantern which is, I must say, very, very cool. Paramount had up large columns around their booth advertising some of the films on their release schedule this year -- THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER, ELECTION, SUPERSTAR, SLEEPY HOLLOW, and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (which they're distributing here, not Miramax) -- and with the exception of what sounds like another bloated Travolta vehicle, this is a line up I wish we'd seen a preview reel for. Both Paramount and Universal were missed by me here. Both have interesting years ahead, and both have a shot at some monster hits. I'm surprised they didn't find a way to show their clips somewhere, somehow. I found a booth near Paramount's with hot pretzels in about 10 different flavors -- insert Homer Simpson noises here -- then found a booth where they had the new STAR WARS arcade game. If you haven't seen this in an arcade or a theater yet -- I found it at the Winnetka 20 here in LA, for example -- GO FIND IT RIGHT NOW!!! This game is just one step off from virtual reality. It's beautiful and deeply addictive. The rep at the booth made the mistake of letting me sit down to play, and I ended up dominating the next 45 minutes on the machine. And, yes... the Force is strong in this one.
The food they were pushing at the trade show was all great. You name it, they had it. Hard pretzels, soft pretzels, pizza, ice cream, smoothies, yogurt, cookie dough bites, nachos, french fries, hot dogs, popcorn... oh, man, lots of popcorn. Enough popcorn to give you nightmares.
Finally I stumbled out of there and dragged the day's swag back to my hotel. I had just enough time to shower and shave before the night's activities got underway, so I rushed, then went right back to Bally's, where I joined the other press in setting up for the pre-show Press Conference.
The wait was brutal. It was supposed to start at 7:00, but we were told to be there by 6:00. The thing didn't actually get underway until 7:30. Each of the evenings award winners came out and posed for the press, then took their seat. First up was actress/future wife of an Evil Genius Heather Graham, who was stunning in a different black dress than earlier, her hair up. Next out was Giovanni Ribisi, who looked like a deer caught in headlights. He hasn't had the camera time yet to have developed an attitude about it, and it works in his favor. Someone was able to get Heather to chat a bit about AUSTIN POWERS 2 while Giovanni posed. She's really excited by the film and proud of it.
Peter and Bobby Farrelly shambled out next. Oddly, the press didn't go nuts to snap these two. In fact, most of the press was still snapping Heather and Giovanni, who were now seated together and talking. John Madden came out next. It's funny.... filmmakers don't realy do the whole posing for pictures thing well. Jerry Bruckheimer sure did, though. He looked like a million bucks, too, as did William H. Macy, who clowned his way past the photographers. Of course, I forgot how anyone looked when Catherine Zeta-Jones walked out, poured into a little black dress. If anything, she's more remarkably beautiful in person. I was seated in the very front, about four feet from the stars, and the intensity of her beauty that close is humbling. Ain't none of us worthy, guys. She's not even the same species. I think I entered my second puberty when she walked into the room.
Adam Sandler looked very different tonight than he did at the New Line luncheon. The flannel and the jeans were gone, replaced by a stylish suit and glasses. Adam cleans up pretty damn good. I was floored when they brought out Sean Connery. In my house, Connery was THE MAN while I was growing up, with Clint Eastwood a close second. Sean is every inch a movie star in real life, imposing and charismatic. He got a standing ovation before they even finished his intro, and it went on for minutes. Once it died down, he said, "I'll leave now." Meg Ryan and Will Smith weren't there yet, so we began the Q&A without them.
The first question went out to all the actors. "Here we are celebrating the theater owners. Do you guys have a chance to go to theaters now, and if so, how are they? How does the experience compare to when you were young?" There was a long silence before Bill Macy said, "Is he talking to us?"
Connery leaned forward, picked up his mic. "Yes, I vaguely remember being a lad. Yes, I still go to movies. Not as often as I'd like to, and sometimes I prefer to watch them more in private. I think that there's..." Some noise interrupted Sean from offstage, and he snapped, "Hey, be quiet out there, please!" He shook his head. "That's probably Smith and Ryan. We should Hanks on the bloody phone."
Turns out he was right. Jim Kozak, press director for NATO and the head honcho of this whole thing, took the opportunity and said, "Mr. Connery, if you'll let me interrupt you for a second..." The look on Sean's face was priceless. "Here's Meg Ryan and Will Smith." They came out together, flushed, having obviously hurried to get there. The photographers went nuts and Will and Meg stopped and posed together.
Connery growled, "You know, you can have those pictures taken individually," to no one in particular. Will Smith noticed, though, and started to walk toward him. "Mr. Connery, I'm sorry. Miss Ryan was just back there making so much damn noise." As Will moved past Giovanni, Heather, and Catherine, I noticed that he touched their shoulders, shook their hands, said hello to each of them. He made the effort with each person without making any visible effort at all. There's a reason Will Smith is enormously popular. I think that, like Tom Hanks, he just has the innate ability to connect with anyone. "Actually," Will continued, "Barry Sonnenfeld fell there in the back, and we had to help him up." With that, he and Meg found their seats.
The reporter who had initially asked the question repeated it and asked Connery to finish his answer. "Oh, God, no," said Sean. "I think the far more interesting question is why Ryan's hair is messed up when she's arriving late with Will Smith." Connery said this off-the-mic enough that only the front row heard him, but Meg Ryan laughed very hard.
Frustrated by the non-answer, the reporter pressed the question, asking it yet again. "Meg or Will, can you tell us about your experiences going to theaters? Is it the same now or better or worse?" By this point, everyone on the panel was rolling their eyes, ready to move on. "Because of your celebrity, can you still go to a movie theater, and what's the experience like going to a theater with you being so famous and all?" He spit this out so fast it was almost impossible to hear, then waited expectantly, proud to have managed to ask the same question three -- count 'em, THREE -- whole times.
"Same as always, man," is all Meg Ryan said, obviously bored. Will Smith jumped in, though, ready as always to entertain. "I was in a theater just the other night," he said, "to see ANALYZE THIS, and I thought it was great. It's so much more awesome to see a film with an audience. All of us see stuff in screening rooms, and those crowds are just so... they're unimpressed. It's important to get that real vibe you get from a real audience."
The next reporter just jumped up and started yelling an extremely long, fast, and confusing question that essentially boiled down to, "What do you think of ShoWest?" His particular way of phrasing it was met with a wall of blank stares. Finally, Will Smith looked around at everyone else on the panel and shook his head. "Looks like it's me again, huh?" Everyone else on the panel looked more than happy to hand it over to Will. "I think the greath think about coming together with the exhibitors and sitting down like this is that in Los Angeles, you can kind of get disconnected from what's really going on and what people are thinking and how people are reacting, so here we can get that opportunity to really sit and really talk."
There was another sound from offstage, interrupting Will, and Connery stood up, eyes blazing. "Hey!" he barked. Will looked genuinely startled as Connery walked offstage, heading for the source of the noise.
"Okay, you gonna take care of that, Sean?" Will asked as he shook his head. He leaned in to his mic, shook his head. "You messed up. Y'all done made Sean mad now." With that, Connery rounded the corner and the noise, whatever it was, stopped.
Another reporter stood, taking advantage of all the commotion. "Bobby and Peter," he said, addressing the Farrellys, "while he's gone, what would you guys do with Sean Connery if you got him in one of your movies?"
"Tell them what you did with me on the golf course," teased Will, getting a private laugh out of both Peter and Bobby. "Flash him," answered Peter finally, getting an even bigger laugh out of Will. Bobby elaborated with, "We'd love to work with Sean 'cause we like working with guy who wouldn't work with us."
Sean finally reappeared and made his way back to his seat amid a fair amount of laughter. Off the mic, Will said, "They didn't give you any trouble, did they?" Sean shook his head, sat down. Kozak, who was still valiantly trying to impose some sort of order on this thing, pointed out a tall bald reporter in the front row, the guy sitting next to me. He began to speak in an unbelieviably think, borderline Clouseau accent, addressing Connery as he spoke. "You're getting the Lifetime Achievement award tonight, Mr. Connery. What would you say the achievement of your lifetime has been so far?" When he was finished, Sean just looked at him blankly until Catherine Zeta-Jones nudged him.
"I'm sorry," said Sean, "are you talking to me?" As everyone laughed, the reporter repeated his question, just as hard to understand the second time around. Connery stared at him again, openly puzzled. "Lord," he finally said, "your accent's worse than mine." Zeta-Jones leaned in close to Sean and whispered him the question. Finally, he smiled. "Oh, thank you, dear. That's why I always bring my interpreter."
He thought for a moment, collected himself. "The Lifetime Achievement Award... it's like one foot in the grave, I suppose. I think it's more attributed to longevity in the business than anything. The best thing, uh... the best part of the career is having the chance to make a movie like ENTRAPMENT with someone like Catherine Zeta-Jones." That may sound like Sean was shamelessly shilling his new film, but who can blame him? He produced it, he's proud of it, and once you're seen Zeta-Jones closeup, you can imagine time spent with her being some sort of career high. The way she reacted to Sean's compliments demonstrated clearly that she's equally fond of him. "Why is it," Sean asked, "that just the men are asking questions?"
Jim Kozak immediately moved to fix that, picking a woman from the third row. "This is also a question for you, Mr. Connery," she began, revealing another thick French accent. Connery's realization as he head her begin was hysterical and elicited quite a laugh. "How important is it to you to be called bankable?"
"How does it feel?" he asked. Several people onstage repeated the question to him. "Oh," he continued, "how important is it? I think it's of tremendous importance because it means you have the unique opportunity to continue getting your films made. Just hopefully one doesn't make too many wrong decisions, because you can cease to be bankable. That all it is, really... dollars and cents."
I was surprised when someone from the back of the room followed up with one of the potential questions I had written down to ask. "Heather, how does it feel to be named Female Star of Tomorrow when you've been making films for over a decade?"
The lovely Ms. Graham lit up at finally being asked something. "It's so exciting to be up here with these people, and I don't really care how long I've been working as long as people like what I'm doing now."
Jim Kozak went to select the next reporter and hesitated, trying to decide. Sean Connery laughed. "They're all hanging on this man's next word. He's obviously very powerful." Finally, Jim pointed out a woman in the back.
"All of you are lacking one person who was going to be here tonight -- Tom Hanks. Do any of you have any well wishes to send to him or any thoughts?"
William Macy leaned forward, cleared his throat, and said, "No."
Connery only made it worse by adding, "He speaks for all of us."
COMING TOMORROW (Or may God strike me down)...
SEE Moriary finally ask Heather Graham the big question!
DRINK far too much white wine with dinner!
READ Tom Hank's "deathbed" acceptance speech!
MARVEL as we get an exclusive interview with the Farrellys! Positively filthy, man!
and ENDURE every minute of the 37 hour (or so it seemed) main awards banquet right alongside the Evil Genius himself!