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January 26, 2009
January 21, 2009
By Amy Kaufman
PARK CITY, Utah -- Who said the passion has gone out of the movies? Emotions boiled over at the Sundance Film Festival Wednesday morning when film critic John Anderson repeatedly punched veteran publicist Jeff Dowd over a disagreement about "Dirt! The Movie!"
The slugfest took place on Wednesday morning after a screening at the Holiday Village Cinema . Dowd - who inspired the iconic "The Dude" character in "The Big Lebowski" - apparently asked Anderson about his dislike for the movie one too many times. Dowd, is in Park City to help sell the film.
In full view of witnesses at the Yarrow coffee-house, the critic punched Dowd – boxer-style - in the shoulder, chest, and then full on the lip.
Sundance hasn’t been this much fun since Harvey Weinstein got into a screaming match in a restaurant with producer Jonathan Taplin over who had actually bought the rights to the Australian movie Shine.
Wednesday’s disagreement began as Anderson and Dowd left the screening of the environmental documentary, which is about the human connection to the dirt we tread on. Dowd asked Anderson -- whose is reviewing films for Variety and was the longtime critic for Newsday – what he thought . According to Dowd, Anderson said he thought the film was simplistic and repetitive, "beating people over the head to make the same point."
Frustrated by the negative comments, Dowd countered that many people had loved the film. "If they like it, they're just sheep," was the film critic's reply, Dowd said. Anderson did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
But Dowd wouldn't accept Anderson's dismissal. He walked alongside the critic towards the Yarrow Hotel, urging Anderson to view the movie as an empowering work. The film critic was peeved, and ordered Dowd to leave him be or he’d punch him.
But Dowd didn’t, by his own admission. Instead, he returned to the restaurant with Jackie Martling, a radio personality who had also liked the film.
"I just want you to hear from one more person," Dowd said, reapproaching Anderson.
"I told you to get away from me. Get away from me right now!" warned Anderson.
"I'm telling you, this is a great movie," Dowd insisted.
Andersonstood up, assumed a boxer's stance, and punched Dowd three times, and then once more full on the chin.
Police arrived, but Dowd said he wouldn't press charges because Anderson is a "really good guy and a father."
"From John's point of view… it might even be called harassment or something," the publicist admitted. "But frankly, at this moment of history, he has so much power if he pans a movie that people need to see."
To that end, Dowd says he and Park City Mayor Dana Williams are trying to organize a panel during the last few days of Sundance to discuss the altercation as well as the importance of the film.
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January 20, 2009
January 19, 2009
The inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president on Tuesday will herald an era of change in American politics, but it also seems sure to usher in a period of radically changed relations between Hollywood and the power structure in Washington.
Artists, actors and musicians were among the first to throw their enthusiastic support behind Obama, back when he was a dark horse candidate in a sea of more experienced competitors.
And the high-net-worth power brokers of the entertainment industry were the financial backbone of Obama’s campaign, even when its public face suggested that his aggressive advertising was funded by small individual donors. Everyone from David Geffen to Jim Gianopulos to Steve Bing to Jamie Lynton dug deep when the stakes rose higher and election day grew closer. The campaign returned to gulp from the Hollywood well again and again.
But with the president rising to take office, the love affair enters a new and more tenuous stage. It could be a marriage made at the ballot box. But will it show up in any change at the box office?
So far, Obama has not even dipped a toe into the conversation about all that’s ailing the entertainment industry.
From the start of his presidency and during his eight years in office, George W. Bush consciously sought to distance himself from the entertainment industry. He had numerous reasons to do so. He sought a sharp break from the cozy relationship of his morally disgraced predecessor, Bill Clinton. Bush’s conservative politics found few friends on the left coast, aside from the occasional storyline of the torture-friendly series, “24.” And Bush’s fervent Christian faith seemed fundamentally at odds with the loose moral code in the land of Mammon.
But as Washington adjusts to a new orientation toward the world of popular culture and media, numerous questions suggest themselves: what favors will Obama owe to the power brokers of Hollywood? How much attention will he pay to the business of making culture? What initiatives will he bring to help the economic engine of popular culture rev up for the digital era?
And apart from invitations to the White House, what role might the artists who aligned themselves so clearly with Obama the candidate play in a new administration?
All this remains to be seen. It is a new day, a new year, a new era -- a clean slate. And a welcome one as seen from the distance of another ocean’s shores.
“Brooklyn’s Finest,” a cop drama directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) was quickly snapped up on Saturday after a packed premiere at the Eccles Theatre. Senator Distribution paid under $5 million for North American rights, according to Mark Urman, the president of Senator. The film stars Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke, and follows the lives of three New York City cops battling the ethical and moral dilemmas on the job.
But that sum won’t go very far to cover the costs of the film, which had an estimated budget of $23-25 million. Gere has a pricey first dollar take on the pic, and the word on the street was that Miramax had an early deal to buy the film that the producers turned down.
Negotiations began immediately after the screening Friday evening, “as we were walking out the doors of the Eccles Theatre,” Urman said. “We were very, very aggressive and were ready to meet the requirements of whatever it takes to land a film like this. We went in with a plan of attack.”
Senator hopes to release the film during the fourth quarter so it will be up for awards consideration, possibly for Hawke’s performance, as the actor was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Fuqua’s “Training Day.” The soundtrack – which was entirely temporary due to the last-minute decision to bring the film to Sundance – will also have to be compiled.
-- Amy Kaufman
January 11, 2009
The Golden Globe awards may have recaptured their party spirit on Sunday after last year’s strike-induced cancellation, but by the end of the evening the awards flirted dangerously with national irrelevance – rewarding one small film seen by few moviegoers, and indulging long, earnest speeches by well-lauded celebrities.
“Slumdog Millionaire,” the raucous, inspirational tale of love from India, came the closest to being the star of the moment, winning Best Picture, Best Director for Danny Boyle, Best Screenplay for Simon Beaufoy and best score. The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight.
But the film won no acting awards, had no known movie stars in it and has taken in just $38 million worldwide.
The movies nominated for Best Picture have had a hard time connecting with audiences this year. Only one of the best picture nominees broke the $100 million barrier at the box office, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which won no awards. And only “Slumdog” seemed to win the hearts of Globe voters – those 85 or so foreign journalists and freelance writers who make up the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Whither Hollywood in 2009? With the industry no closer to finding a horse worth backing in the Oscar race, and the TV awards offering a replay of last year’s Emmys, with “30 Rock” and “John Adams” dominating, just as worrying was the lack of dramatic interest in the three-hour show in prime time on NBC.
For a moment, at least, it was interesting to watch Kate Winslet burst into tears over winning best actress and best supporting actress.
But as the ceremony dragged on, even Martin Scorsese presenting a lifetime achievement award to Steven Spielberg could not lift the pace, or make the show feel like a necessary event. Spielberg spoke endlessly. Or it seemed endless. And what could be more interesting, entertaining – original, even - to watch Steven Spielberg finally recognized for his work?
Even the stars in the room appeared to have a hard time maintaining interested expressions as the director traced his life in film back to a train set in his basement. And come on, with all the money Dick Clark rakes in – couldn’t he have gotten together a decent montage of Spielberg’s work?
It was a night in which the dresses were far more interesting to look at than anything up on stage. (Renee Zellweger appeared to wear her drapes, while Drew Barrymore was apparently channeling Marilyn Monroe shortly before her death.)
There will be a reckoning, I reckon. Sunday’s show came just a year after the Golden Globes ratings hit a historic low as the show was replaced by a bare-bones broadcast announcing the winners, due to the Writers Guild Strike. This year, despite the bottles of champagne visible on the dinner tables, no one seemed drunk or unhinged. It was left to Mickey Rourke to provide an edgy moment when he thanked his agent David Unger “for having the balls” to represent him.
A reminder: the Globes ratings plunged to 5.8 million in 2008, after a high of 20 million viewers in 2007, according to Nielsen ratings. This year? Anyone’s guess.
But the gravy train rolls on for the Hollywood Foreign Press. As Ricky Gervais deadpanned: “That’s the last time I have sex with 200 middle-aged journalists.” The Foreign Press is smaller in number, and on average older in age than that, as Hollywood insiders know well. Poor Ricky.