Hey folks... Moriarty is back and he survived... well whatever it was his mutated henchmen did to him. He claims to have not been locked in the room with Heather Graham and Drew Barrymore, but they could not be reached in time for this posting to confirm his story that they were not locked in a room with Moriarty by twisted genetic defective henchmen. We are working on this story and as soon as we have a clear answer... dammit... We'll let you know. The poor ol man... We're just glad you're back Professor! Don't scare us like that again. Meanwhile, Moriarty answers the... ahem... article about AI/Spielberg/Kubrick in complete order. We were going to do this yesterday, but Moriarty... wanted to clarify some details... He did. So onto the show...
Hey, Head Geek...
First off, let me apologize for my tardiness. Reports of the henchmen insurrection have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, I've had to eviscerate a fair number of the little buggers today, and yes, there's been more than a little spilling of mutant blood. Still, it happens every year about this time when they realize summer is over and the year's big movie season is just kicking in. They know how much extra work is ahead for them, and they just panic. Nothing a well applied bit of surgical steel can't fix.
As far as their rumored "torture" involving Ms. Graham and Ms. Barrymore, it's absolute balderdash. If they had done that, there would have been bonuses distributed, not pain. The best they could come up with was forcing me to watch a crappy video copy of a TV edit of SMOKEY & THE BANDIT 3 that they played over and over again on a 13-inch TV with the tint all out of whack. I let them have their fun for a while before beginning my reign of terror. After all, I still had a column to produce.
My first action after leaving the Labs this afternoon was dragging Henchman Mongo along to serve as butler to Harry Lime and I at a screening that gave me a chance to see AMERICAN BEAUTY again. This time, I saw the final print of the film with Thomas Newman's score in place. Man, talk about one element really adding to the whole. If you like the work that Newman has done on films like SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, SCENT OF A WOMAN, or MEN DON'T LEAVE, then you're going to love this score. It's a beautiful complement to the film, emotional and strange. There's also a wonderful cover version of Lennon and McCartney's "Because" performed by Elliott Smith that plays over the closing credits of the film that, like last year's Fiona Apple "Across The Universe," manages to take a song I've heard a million times and make it sound brand new. I adore this picture completely, and seeing it a second time just accentuated the film's many merits. Expect "I rule!" to be the film quote everyone overuses this fall.
Many of you were abuzz on yesterday's TALK BACK about one of this past weekend's big stories. Problem is, it really wasn't a big story. This is tied in many ways to something I discussed here last week, the death of MINORITY REPORT. Many people have written to me saying that they just heard about Cate Blanchett being hired for the film. Well, I've read those same reports. Problem is, I've been in direct contact with people from various art departments for the film that have been closed down. It sure looks like they're packing it in and calling it quits, folks. It would sure add fuel to the sudden firestorm of speculation about Spielberg taking over as director of Kubrick's proposed AI... or at least, it would if there were anything to that story. Instead, it's one of the biggest cases of everyone freaking out about a nonstory that I've ever seen.
Let's start with the actual article that everyone else is quoting. This was published in THE SUNDAY TIMES. Keep in mind, this is the origin of every other rumor you've read in the last few days. It's one of those cases where people just started parroting something without really reading it first. Anyone who's been following the development of AI can put together exactly how this "news" item was developed. Why don't we walk through the story together and look at exactly what's wrong with it?
One thing that's noticeable about the story is that there's no new reportage in the article, not a single quote generated by Richard Brooks, arts editor. Instead, what we're treated to are a few rumors, a few quotes taken from articles published around the time of Kubrick's death earlier this year, and a bit of conjecture. There's nothing in the story that even suggests it's new. It's all worded very carefully.
"STEVEN SPIELBERG is being lined up to direct what would have been Stanley Kubrick's next film project - the tale of a young 'robot' boy that he likened to the story of Pinocchio."
This rumor was first generated right at the time Kubrick died. Spielberg spoke openly for the first time about the friendship the two of them had, and he revealed that he had read several drafts of the film and suggested various FX technicians and techniques. It was the various articles written by the writers who had worked with Kubrick on the film over the years that fleshed out a few details, such as the PINOCCHIO comparison.
"Kubrick's family and Warner Brothers, the studio with whom he worked for many years, appear keen that Spielberg should take on the film."
Well, duh. Anyone with any project in the offing would be "keen" to have Spielberg take on the film. People in hell want ice water. Doesn't mean anything's happening at the moment.
"Kubrick died last March just days after completing EYES WIDE SHUT, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, which opens in Britain this week. Before his death, however, he had lengthy and detailed talks about the planned film with Spielberg, whose film ET epitomised his ability to combine science-fiction with fairy-tales.
Kubrick, the eccentric American-born director who had lived in Britain for 30 years and was noted for his critically acclaimed but controversial films, and Spielberg, a successful maker of commercial Hollywood movies, had been close friends since 1980. Yet their friendship and mutual respect was a secret from all but a few. The first public clue to the strength of their relationship came after Kubrick's death, when Spielberg flew from America to attend his friend's small and private funeral."
It's strange how Brooks dances around the idea of sourcing any of this material. It's not new... and it's certainly not his. Spielberg and Kubrick met when THE SHINING and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK overlapped production schedules at Pinewood, an incident detailed in LoBrutto's Kubrick biography from a couple of years ago. Spielberg (among others) has discussed his largely fax-based correspondance with Kubrick in numerous places. Brooks doesn't quote a single one, though.
"They were so close that Spielberg would send a print of his latest movie to Kubrick in England before showing it even to the studio. 'But Stanley would never show me his beforehand,' said Spielberg."
This was in TIME magazine, I believe. Sure sounds familiar.
"In the early 1990s, Kubrick agreed to drop another film he was working on, WARTIME LIES, because of the similarity of its theme to SCHINDLER'S LIST, which won seven Oscars for Spielberg in 1993. Kubrick's script was primarily about a Jewish woman and her child who were being persecuted by the Nazis."
This is all summarized from the Fredric Raphael book EYES WIDE OPEN. Raphael's book caused a bit of stir because of what was perceived as anti-Semitism in the reportage and in what Kubrick said. Much of that stemmed from the discussion of SCHINDLER'S LIST, and was, in my opinion, nonsensical and overstated. Still, it is obviously where this came from.
"The two men - rated by many as the top American directors of the past 35 years - were both obsessed with the minutiae of film-making. 'We were on the phone together for 18 years,' joked Spielberg, currently involved in making the third JURASSIC PARK movie and an adaptation of the best-selling book MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA."
This is essentially right, built again around what I think is a TIME magazine quote, but it sure sounds like he thinks Spielberg is directing JP3. This is, of course, silly. Joe Johnston just got announced as director. It's also odd that Brooks mentions MEMOIRS but not MINORITY REPORT.
"Spielberg has confirmed that he has read 'the very long treatment' as well seen the storyboards for AI, the working title of Kubrick's last movie which deals, in part, with artificial intelligence. 'Stanley said, "Why don't I produce it and you direct it?",' said Spielberg."
I wish I had my magazine collection from last March as handy as Brooks does, because this is another quote I'm sure I've read elsewhere. This is all news we've heard before.
"Kubrick's family approves of the prospect of Spielberg taking over AI. Jan Harlan, Kubrick's brother-in-law and executive producer on The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, said Spielberg was the ideal director. 'He would bring out both the human and the philosophical side of the story.'"
I have no idea where this quote came from, but if this is the sole piece of actual new reportage in the story, it's a lame excuse to build an entire report of rehashed rumor and toss it out as fact.
"Kubrick became interested in AI nearly 30 years ago when he read Brian Aldiss's short story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long.' He bought it from the writer in 1982. Aldiss's story tells of a childless woman who adopts an android that resembles a five-year-old boy. Although the robot is programmed not to know he is not a boy, the woman finds she cannot love him.
Aldiss likewise found it hard to accept Kubrick. 'I told Stanley that I could not get to grips with his approach,' Aldiss tells a Channel 4 documentary on Kubrick, which is being shown tonight. Aldiss, who has written more than 30 books, was particularly troubled when Kubrick suggested that the movie's storyline should have an analogy with Pinocchio."
Wait a second... hold the presses... an attributed source! Not new, but attributed at least.
"Neither Warners nor Spielberg will divulge any more of the story of AI, but The Sunday Times has established that Kubrick had done tests with robots, had shot some footage involving a child actor, and had a provisional budget of more than $100m. The budget for Eyes Wide Shut was $60m."
This sentence is absolute hogwash. THE SUNDAY TIMES has established no such thing. As I reported last week, Chris Cunningham is the guy who worked closely with Kubrick to realize the specific robot designs of the film. That's fairly common knowledge, and certainly not unique to the TIMES. The footage involving the child actor is a clear reference to a rumor that started at least four years ago involving Joseph Mazello. The story goes that Kubrick was going to shoot a series of scenes involving a boy actually growing up in front of the camera. He was supposedly working in secret with Mazello, who Speilberg had recommended after working with him in JURASSIC PARK. Oh, wait... that means there was talk of a Spielberg/Kubrick friendship at least four years ago. Imagine that. Kubrick was supposed to be shooting a scene, waiting a year, shooting a scene, waiting a year. In the end, this was nothing more than speculation. Kubrick's only real dealings with Mazello involved the early casting process for WARTIME LIES. As far as the budget reports, those figures are based on the speculation when Kubrick postponed AI so he could shoot EWS instead. Once again, there's nothing new here.
So why did people get so worked up? Why did the press pick the story up and run with it like something had actually happened? This is a fascinating case of two irresistable names, a very, very slow news weekend, and a whole hell of a lot of idle speculation. For the record, I'd love to see Spielberg try it. He's already made the SF version of PETER PAN; why shouldn't he make the SF version of PINOCCHIO? I believe he did speak with Kubrick about the film at length. Kubrick was notorious for picking people's brains about any and everything. Besides, if you're going to just report idle rumors, why not report the interesting ones? How about the speculation that Scott Frank's actually been working on AI instead of MINORITY REPORT, and that the Dick adaptation's just been a cover? That's a great one... don't know if it's true. Strongly suspect it's not, actually, but it's a good story. I mean, if you're going to be irresponsible and spread tripe, make it worth my time to read.
Oh, Lord, that FINAL FANTASY VIII commercial just played again. It's bloody amazing. Hats off to Squaresoft and PlayStation for standing strong in the face of the upcoming DreamCast onslaught. This Thursday night, during the MTV Music Video Awards, Sega's going to be showing a special 90-second version of the spot I first mentioned in RUMBLINGS #9. If you haven't seen it yet, tune in. It's like a beautiful live-action blending of AKIRA, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, GHOST IN THE SHELL, LA FEMME NIKITA, and BLADE RUNNER. Of course, if we're lucky, we'll see the traditional parade of brand new movie spots. Last year, Universal kicked off their PSYCHO campaign with a series of really stylish ads. Let's hope they hit us with some Andy Kaufman this year. I'm truly sick and freakin' tired of waiting for moving footage of Jim Carrey in MAN ON THE MOON. That photo on the cover of the new ROLLING STONE is just amazing, the most recent in a long series of amazing photos. I have to hear him now. I have to see if he's really done it and brought my favorite performance artist back to life. The one thing that makes the waiting bearable is that that Bob Zmuda's new book about Andy, ANDY KAUFMAN REVEALED! BEST FRIEND TELLS ALL, is just hitting stores. Haven't read it yet, but I can't wait to tear into it. It's even got a foreword from Jim Carrey.
We could also see footage from films like GREEN MILE, FIGHT CLUB (in fact, I'd bet on this), DOGMA (the trailer's online, so why not get perfect exposure here), THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, END OF DAYS, and, in a perfect world, MAGNOLIA. It's strange... since I know the oh-so-secret plot of MAGNOLIA in great detail already, I'm more interested in things like the film's soundtrack. I've always been fond of singer-songwriter Aimee Mann. Heck, I remember seeing Till Tuesday live. For the last several years, Mann has been writing some great songs that haven't had a home. One album got rejected as uncommercial, and another one got caught up in a big corporate merger and stuck in limbo. Now, finally, we're going to hear some of that missing album, since seven songs from it are featured on the MAGNOLIA soundtrack. I like it when a filmmaker finds one voice that he thinks defines his film. It's one of the lasting strengths of THE GRADUATE, and done well, it can be elevate both film and soundtrack to classic status.
There's several events coming up that I feel are worth a mention for Los Angeles filmgoers. First up is an event called G.R.I.T., which means GIRLS REELING IT TOGETHER. This organization was formed specifically to inspire young women filmmakers. Anything which encourages real artistic diversity is interesting to me, but this in particular is an event I can at least partially vouch for. I've already seen two of the shorts being shown. Both were shown at the Director's Guiled as part of the Filmmaker's Alliance program I reviewed in RUMBLINGS way back in early July. Elyse Couvillion and Shawn Tolleson both made really solid pictures, and I'm curious to see what else shows up in an evening presented by Penelope Spheeris, one of the longest-lasting female indie directors, and described thusly:
"Presented in an evening dedicated to supporting the next generation of women filmmakers, these are four diverse films spun by female writer/directors that delightfully refresh cinematic genres with a femimine take -- an all-digital sci-fi adventure with a radically romantic twist, a surrealistic urban tale told with hand-made puppets, an unflinching take on harsh street-life inhumanities, and the bizarre courtship ritual known in our culture as the first date."
The event is also a charity benefit for Sneaker Sisters, a group that teaches leadership skills to disadvantaged girls. There's a post-screening bash, live music, a possible screening of Spheeris' first short, and lots of women who are rabid about film. The event's going to be at the Chaplin Theatre at Raleigh Studios, Hollywood at 7:30pm, on Monday September 27th. If you're interested, call 323.769.5789, contact Elyse Couvillion at 323.935.8199 or use email@example.com.
There's another evening of shorts at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The screening will begin at 7:30, but you're advised to get there at 7 for seats. It's free, and you get five short films for that price. Can't go wrong. It's having the opportunity to see brand new filmmakers take their first shots that makes evenings like this so much fun.
Of course, if you're up for expanding your film vocabulary a bit, you can always head over to the UCLA Film and Television Archives mini-fests of filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli or Kim Ki-Young. A fair amount of this material is new to me, and that's exciting. No matter how many films you've seen or how familiar you are with things, there's always filmmakers and films you can discover, new things to be excited about. Call 310.206.FILM if you're interested in finding out more about their programming in the next few months.
Ah... one of the joys of writing this evening has been playing the new Rhino soundtrack for KING KONG that's hitting stores September 14. This is literally a film score geek's dream, the best available CD version of Max Steiner's classic composition. Rhino's gone all out to make sure that lovers of Steiner's work or of the film will be thrilled by the package. There's a massive book included, crammed with artwork and anecdotes as well as an introduction by Danny Elfman that really places the score in its proper historical context. I'm surprised how many film fans don't know that Steiner essentially created what we think of as the modern film score. This CD is a real tribute to how expressive and powerful Steiner's music is. Using dialogue and sound effects from the film, the CD is like a radio show version of the film in half the time, with a 24 minute suite of music that is the only surviving isolated recording of the score. KING KONG is one of those films that is beyond classic... it's almost an internal thing. The images from the movie have been iconic as long as I've been alive, and I remember them like dreams more than as scenes in a film. One of the highlights of my life as a geek was standing in the living room of a private collector, a dear friend of mine, and holding one of the original armatures used by Willis O'Brien to bring Kong to life. It was heavy, just a series of metal blocks and steel rods, with no fur or foam rubber left intact. Just thinking of the history of that film, of that character, was intoxicating, a memory I'll always treasure. If you care at all about this classic, run, don't walk, and grab this soundtrack up upon release.
As I've been playing it, I've been reading a couple of scripts, and I wanted to share some quick thoughts before I conclude for the day. One of the scripts is Craig Titley's SCOOBY DOO, a project that has been hung up in development limbo. Mike Myers contributed a draft that got him bounced from the project, and there's a new writer working for Warner Bros now, but it seems ridiculous. After all, Warner owns the script I read, and it's not only filmable, it's pretty damn good. Keep in mind, you'd need to have some sort of fondness for the original Scooby to appreciate much of the film's charm, but I can't imagine anyone not wearing a big silly grin while reading the story of the adventure that initially brought together frat boy Fred, frustrated reporter Daphne, big brained Velma ("not Thelma"), and slacker gods Scooby and Shaggy. The mystery works, the origin of many of the show's recurrent gags (Scooby snacks, "I would've gotten away with it...", etc) are clever, and the characters are treated with real respect. Titley doesn't pretend this is anything more than a sweet, silly, only-just-a-little-spooky comedy for all audiences. There's references adults may enjoy more than young viewers, but this isn't THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE. This is a genuine cornerstone for a new family franchise, and Warner would be well advised to go back through their vaults and do the right thing here. They're the ones who will benefit in the end.
On a similar note, I'm guessing that there's going to be new life in a script called LABOR OF LOVE over the next few months. If not, it's criminal. This is the script that initially got the attention of Hollywood concerning M. Night Shyamalan, who's got to be one of the biggest success stories of the year by now. I feel so good, watching THE SIXTH SENSE continue to earn and earn. People keep trying to break down the film's success, attributing it to things as bizarre as the use of whispering in the trailer or as obvious (but wrong) as Bruce Willis' starpower. The fact is, THE SIXTH SENSE is damn fine storytelling. It's a compelling tale, well told. Here's hoping the audience continues to reward this type of film this fall. It's definitely time to forget about the rewrite work Fox had done on LABOR OF LOVE by such writers as Allison Burnett, Mary Eleanor Donahue, and Ron Koslow. They may be fine writers, but how about letting Shyamalan have a crack at fine tuning it again? With THE SIXTH SENSE on track to make $200 million, it's a safe bet that he knows how to emotionally connect with an audience. I know Fox had
Wolfgang Petersen attached to direct the film at one point, but I'm not sure how current that is. He's off making THE PERFECT STORM right now. Why not let Shyamalan direct? That was the big stumbling block when LABOR started it's development march, wasn't it? Shyamalan wanted to direct, and no one was willing to gamble on him.
The script itself is a simple story, direct and powerful and wrenchingly sad, about a man whose wife is killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. The man, Maurice Porter, is shattered by the event. He and his wife Ellen were in the midst of some marital turmoil over Maurice's failure to show her how much he loved her. Ellen wasn't looking for big gestures, either... just real ones. In a moment of exasperation, Maurice asked her what would be enough to prove his love. Half joking, he asks if she would want him to walk across the country for her.
After her death, that's exactly what he sets out to do. He leaves from mid-Pennsylvania and sets off on a 3000-mile-plus hike that starts as a personal journey and becomes a national obssession. Like THE SIXTH SENSE, this is a script that just reaches down inside you and squeezes your heart with page after page of strong emotional dialogue and smart eccentric character work. Could it use a touch-up? Sure. But if you go back to the original Shyamalan draft, you can't go too wrong. A big star could ride Maurice all the way to an Oscar nomination, and this film has the potential to be just as big for Fox as SIXTH SENSE was for Disney, provided they listen to the creator.
Don't forget that next Monday, September 13, 1999, is the date that Moonbase Alpha is launched on its mission by a massive explosion. This would be a great time to get together and play those old tapes or laserdiscs of SPACE: 1999 episodes, starting with the premiere. I love it when we reach dates in science fiction movies and it just doesn't begin to match up. Personally, I find myself bitter that we haven't adopted the robot butler/flying car standard that we were promised. Dammit... I want my food synthesizer, my holodeck... and I'm tired of having to build them for myself.
I'd like to close tonight by remarking that I was saddened to read of David Allen's passing on CINESCAPE ONLINE. Allen was one of those guys -- like Jim Danforth, like Phil Tippett, like Harryhausen -- who was working to keep the tradition of stop-motion alive. You've seen Allen's work before in films and TV shows like THE HOWLING, Q, YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, and one metric shitload of Charles Band Full Moon productions. For decades now, Allen has been working on a stop-motion feature film called THE PRIMEVALS. I've seen big chunks of the still unfinished film, and I've always admired the love that went into Allen's craft. He may not have been one of the biggest names in the profession, but he was an artist and an astonishingly nice guy, and at 54, he was far too young.
I have to run now. There's a fairly massive week of spy missions and reviews ahead of me, and I'm starting off exhausted from this weekend's little uprising. Look for some very special AMERICAN BEAUTY coverage here on AICN next week, as well as a review in the next few days from me of one of the biggest films of the fall. Until then...