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The Pre-Show Game


Dear David,
Posted, Thursday, March 2, 2006

I think getting tangled up in a conversation with a film critic about what constitutes art is the definition of a losing proposition for a studio movie producer, but suffice it to say that Hollywood is proud of its support of Terry Malick—whose movies have always been financed without interference by his dedicated patrons at various studios. If no one voted for The New World, it’s probably more because of flaws in that particular film—I can name one or two, as perhaps you can—than with its filmmaker, who is treated in his rare appearances like Buddha meets Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The point I was making is that these movies were not made as commerce, and studio movies are. We are in show business as Peter Guber, my first boss, was fond of pointing out, not show show And that is a different job than the one the classics divisions are lucky enough to get to do. When we can do both, that is our bull’s-eye, our Holy Grail. This is what the great filmmakers do: the Hitchcocks, the Wilders, the Spielbergs, Camerons, and Jacksons, et al., at their best.

On the big contests, I am quite interested in some of the sub-fights and controversies, just for their own bitchy selves. Like, what the hell happened at the British Oscars in the Best Supporting Actor category, the one with all the cute boys like George and Jake and, well, Paul Giamatti—he’s not so cute but might win this Sunday. Did Heath really say he thought George should win for that confusing Syriana? (Disclosure: Gaghan made his even-more-confusing directorial debut, Abandon, with me.) What led to this out-of-protocol outburst? Obviously, a vile breakup! Is something cooking between the two hot Best Actor nominees? Only joking, don’t sue. George is the most hetero guy I’ve ever met, and the new gaydar is that if your blind date liked Jake better, ask for a check. All the gay men I know love Jake, not Heath. It’s the girls that love Heath. So there you are.

Now, out of the trash bin, the real big question is, is there a Brokeback backlash brewing? The source could be either hetero men who were unheeded in their lack of enthusiasm for the movie or people who felt a bit bulldozed by the buzz, which has been so brilliantly orchestrated by Focus into box-office dollars, front-running status, and cultural juggernaut. Some think, yes, and most of what I've read has claimed that the beneficiary of that backlash would be Crash. Maybe, though I have heard a lot of Capote talk. The other phenomenon that fascinates me is the East Coast–West Coast split on History of Violence and Crash. It seems to me that most East Coasters love H of V and loathe Crash, while most West Coasters loathe H of V (I, for one, thought Viggo was going to murder his entire family from the moment I set eyes on them eating a family meal) and love Crash. Why is this? By and large they are the exact same people with different Zip Codes and dietary habits.

On Hollywood's view of Altman? I think everyone loves Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller; thinks that Short Cuts was brilliant; and that he had a longer coherent run than most auteurs. But, of course, actors feel differently about auteurs than do producers and studio execs. As you know, this isn’t France, David...



Previously: David and Lynda's first chat

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