Tag Archive: james cameron


 

It seems no one is happy in Hollywood right now.

In this month’s GQ, Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio sit down for an interview to promote their upcoming film, J. Edgar. During the interview, both men, who happen to be icons for each of their generations, lament on how difficult it is to greenlight serious dramas like the film they just colloborated on.  I feel pity for them (sarcasm), but it does beg the question: if two guys of the status of Clint and Leo aren’t happy with the studio system these days, then who is?

Is it the suits?  A week doesn’t pass without hearing one of my creative friends complain about pitching to someone who only sees their vision as some type of Moneyball formula: Actor X + Director Y = Genre Pic Z.  I know my fair share of suits as well though, and from their side of the table, Hollywood doesn’t sound like a seller’s market these days.

A lot of Clint and Leo’s nostalgia is for 70s era cinema, when the director had the freedom to try new things and be auteurs.  But those days are over unless your name is James Cameron.  Actors ebb and flow their way to the top of the food chain.  At their last peak, the action star era of the 80s, they were the movie stars.  But in our current era, the franchises themselves have become the movie stars.  What about writers?  In television, maybe.  In film?  Please.

Tyler Perry made the most money in Hollywood last year but…was he really ‘in’ Hollywood?  I’d argue no, which is part of why he’s so beloved and successful with his core audience.  And what about ‘the audience’?  In theory the goal of the game is to provide something that makes you want to leave home and experience it on the big screen in a dark room with a group of strangers.  But have there been any ‘must see’ films this year (if you’re not a Harry Potter fan)?

So to summarize, the bean counters have little to no incentive to creating ‘great art’, the artists may have the desire but rarely have the power to push their vision through, and the audience is rarely motivated to come out en masse for a film.  The question needs to be asked: will someone or something ‘rise’ that unites the business and creative sides of Hollywood, while pulling in the masses to see what the big deal is?

Was this whole post an elaborate ruse to post that trailer?  No.

Am I willing to give Hollywood a free pass for another 296 days if it means there’s a reasonable chance the system pumps out one more above average Batman film?  Yes.

Suck it America.

Suck it.

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(Due to our busy schedules, Aaron and I couldn’t do our prediction column as promised.  But since there was no way in hell either of us would miss the show live, here is our marathon conversation over IM.  Enjoy…)

MALIK: Welcome to the 1st Annual Art Fradieu Oscar Running Diary.  My pre-show thoughts: While I like to think it’s as much of a lock as anything, I still feel jittery Mo’Nique will somehow get jobbed out of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.  Beyond that I’m hoping the Hurt Locker wins Best Picture.  Any pre-show thoughts Thomas?  Who will be wearing Vera Wang on the red carpet tonight?

ART: I don’t know much about Vera Wang, but I’m with you on Hurt Locker. Best film I saw last year. As for Mo’Nique, I think she wins Best Supporting Actress hands down. In fact, I think she wins it and does the emotional speech thing, “Uh Oh honey, if y’all start playing that music, somebody’s getting hurt…” She will steal the show and have people talking about her moment this week. “Mo’Nique is my hero. So soulful and real.” Wouldn’t surprise me at all. 

MALIK: And we’re off!  Cristoph Waltz wins Best Supporting Actor, no surprise there.  It was actually a good performance in a good film I have to admit.  But how about Penelope Cruz eh?  Is that accent real?  I’ve heard rumors…

ART: Waltz is no surprise at all. I agree, well deserved. As for Penelope Cruz, I’ve heard she’s actually from Cleveland. But, you never know.  Yeah. I agree with Up for best animated feature. First ten minutes of that movie almost had a brotha misty eyed.  Whatsup with that film Nine? Don’t think I’ve heard one good thing about it.

MALIK: Penelope Cruz brotha!  That’s all you need to know… And the Crazy Heart song wins.  So far this is a pretty predictable Oscars…

ART: Figured that was a crush of yours, but wasn’t even going there.

MALIK: (laughing)

ART: Yeah, definitely predictable so far. Does Crazy Heart sweep every musical category this year?

MALIK: Probably.  The movie wasn’t that bad actually.  The big question now is if Jeff Bridges continues to talk in the Oklahoma accent if he wins…

ART: I’m just trying to see if he’s sober.

ART: Wow. Actually thought Tarantino might pull out Best Original Screenplay.

MALIK: I did too.  Guess there aren’t as many Tarantino fanboys in the Academy as I guessed.  John Hughes gets his own In Memoriam?!?

ART: His generation is in power now in Hollywood.

MALIK: Yeah.  Jokes aside, he was either directly or indirectly responsible for A LOT of good movies…

ART: He had a great run.

MALIK: OK, watching this montage I see your point…

ART: And, here comes that song…

MALIK: WHOA!  Young Alec Baldwin!!! (laughing uncontrollably)

ART: Yup. Him and Steve Martin worked in Hughes films.  Brat pack. Plus Culkin.

MALIK: So…is this a ratings ploy or an Academy tribute?

ART: I guarantee people will be talking about this tomorrow. Just seeing people from their childhood. The answer? It’s both.

MALIK: Am I the only one who noticed the crowd seemed to refuse to throw down the standing ovation?

ART: I saw that too. Part of the perception with Hughes is that his works were more entertainment than art. What’s the verdict on Zoe Saldana?

MALIK: Looking at Zoe makes me want to eat dinner.  Great intro for the Short Film category though.

ART: Nice to hear from seasoned pros looking back. Whoa. Brotha sighting.

MALIK: A brotha wins!!!!  And he gets cut off!!!!

ART: Why is this woman bogarting?

MALIK: (laughing uncontrollably)

ART:  And, what is she talking about?  Brotha probably hot!

MALIK:  MANNNNNNNNN!  I’m still mad for the brotha who got cut off!

ART: Same here. Leave it to Stiller to do blue face. Think Cameron is ticked at this?

MALIK: Doubt it, but is there any doubt Stiller officially gets invited to present every year now?  You remember the Joaquin Phoenix move last year…

ART: So, Star Trek takes this one, you think?

MALIK: I still heard a little Crazy Heart accent in Jeff Bridges.  Yeah Star Trek deserved that last one.

ART: So far, early on, the highlights of the night? Brotha gets cut off and Tina Fey/Downey Jr.

MALIK: Best Adapted Screenplay – What say you Mr. Writer?

ART: It’ll be interesting to see who wins Best Adapted Screenplay.  Not sure. Probably Up In The Air, but there was a debate as to how well the co-writers (one was the director of the film) got along during the process.

MALIK: Really?  We’ll talk about that one off the record – no need to give these plebians all the inside Hollywood magic.

ART: Oh. Precious. Black screenwriter. Nice.

MALIK: Go ahead brotha!!!  A behind the scenes win at that!

ART: Nice to see this. He’s gotta be the first black screenwriter to win. Nice.

MALIK: Yeah, and the way Rachel McAdams can’t take her eyes off him motivates me.

ART: Yup, figures…

MALIK: Very sincere acceptance speech.

ART: That’s the word that comes to my mind.  Good moment.  Queen Latifah’s looking good.

MALIK: Yeah she cleans up well. The Governor’s Award ceremony is like a wet dream for film buffs like myself.

ART: Yeah. Each of those is a giant of the industry to say the least. They all get standing ovations from everyone.

MALIK: Damn straight!  And Penelope and Javier keeping it real!

ART: Get ready for Mo’Nique to get emotional.

MALIK: Standing O?

ART: Mo’Nique walking with regalness.  Nice speech.

MALIK: Gut reaction but I think that was the best acceptance speech by a black winner.

ART: Succinct. To the point. Sincere.  Ah. You can always depend on the costume category to give an Oscar to the old English movie of the year.  Eh. Least sincere speech of the evening.  “I already have two of these awards. This is for the little people who never win.”

MALIK: (laughing)  Seriously!  How arrogant was that!?!  So what do you think of Twilight brotha?  I know you’ve seen it.

ART: Haven’t seen it.  The Vampire thing never gets me like others.

MALIK: Wait…a horror tribute, introduced by the Twilight kids?  Definitely ratings ploy.

ART: Yup. What you know about a young Johnny Depp in Nightmare On Elm Street?

MALIK: I honestly don’t like horror films, only the all time classics like the Exorcist and Psycho.

ART: Same here. Those actually scare you instead of shock you.  They got Morgan Freeman doing the narration again?  Here’s your Dark Knight…

MALIK: Needless to say, this is the greatest moment in the history of the Academy Awards…

ART: Alright Batman, calm down.

MALIK: So you think Precious has a chance now for Best Picture?

ART: Not really. I still feel like they’ll lean toward Hurt Locker. Getting the Adapted Screenplay was an upset for Precious.

MALIK: We’ll see brotha, we’ll see…

ART: The Hurt Locker is starting to collect the awards now.

MALIK: Very true.

ART: Paul N.J. Ottoson kind of looks like an albino Vampire with that hair.

MALIK: Yeah, kind of stereotypical to have that be the ‘sound guy’ isn’t it?

ART: Like he’s been in a cave only working with sound for an entire year.

MALIK: Really! Avatar for best cinematography, that was probably the biggest lock.

ART: Yeah. The film looked great.  What you know about CCH Pounder with the general from Avatar.  Is that her guy?

MALIK: Don’t know, don’t know…  ah, here comes the In Memoriam.  I can’t joke with this part.

ART: My mom is a James Taylor fan. Always perfect for reflection.

MALIK: Surprised they opened with Swayze.  Well done. No giants like Paul Newman passed this year.

ART: Of course, there’s Mike, but it’s not quite his stage.

MALIK: Yeah as far as ‘Hollywood’ goes he was more a fan than anything else.  Not surprised they included him though.

ART: Malden, Swayze and Dom Deluise seem to be the biggest this year.

MALIK:  I haven’t seen white girls with this much soul since the Sprite Step Off.  Too soon?

ART: (laughing) You gonna be hunted down by every Essence reader in America.  Nice overall dance piece, though.  Huge fan of scores. These were all solid.  Up was a classic. Glad it won for score. I also like Sherlock’s music. Avatar sounded like recycled music from Glory (remember that?)

MALIK: (laughing)  That was my first wrong pick tonight.  My gut said Up though.  And if people don’t know this is tongue in cheek, they should have stopped reading a long time ago.

ART: Avatar won for special effects?  That’s crazy.

MALIK: (laughing)

ART: Precious should have got that.  Best Director is up next. You figure that Reitman and Tarrantino think they don’t have a chance against a woman, an African American and the king of the world, Cameron.

MALIK: Yeah.  I’ll be genuinely disappointed if the cougar doesn’t win now.

ART: She’s got it. But, since you bring it up. If Bigelow looked like an average above 40 year old woman, think she’d be nominated?

MALIK: First thing I’m not responding to in order to protect my future career opportunities.

ART: You done said enough, brotha…

MALIK: (laughing)

ART: Best Editing for Hurt Locker. I’m thinking 90% chance of Best Picture.

MALIK: If Bigelow wins, yeah…

ART: Oh, she’ll win… She’s your new cougar crush, right?

MALIK: (laughing) Settle down, brotha, settle down.  I’m gonna have enough explaining to do when this column is over. Esoteric group to present this (Best Actor).

ART: Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see how they relate to each actor.

MALIK: Love Michelle’s speech about family and career.  What we aspire to.

ART: And, it’s a challenge for many people in many walks of life.

MALIK: Yes sir.

ART: Ok. Shawshank.

MALIK: Yeah good anecdote.

ART: Nicely done, Tim Robbins.

MALIK: Yeah, and SWAT?  I’ve watched that.  I’ll leap out of my seat if Jeremy wins.

ART: He’s not winning, but it’s nice to see him there. I remember when Renner was “the guy” I saw in every other commercial. By the way, using other actors to introduce the nominees is still a great way to do it.

MALIK: Agreed. It’s crazy Bridges got his first nomination 6 years before we were born.

ART: Jeff Bridges.  No surprise there. The Bridges, a very underrated Hollywood family.

MALIK: Agreed once again. The Thomases will get there soon enough though.

ART: (laughing)  If my kids are crazy enough to try this line of work, I’ll support them and wish them well.  Been married 33 years in Hollywood? That might be the most amazing thing I’ve heard all night.

MALIK: (laughing)

ART: Forrest always sounds sincere, even if he’s ordering a burrito.

MALIK: I was thinking the same thing.  How does he get villain roles?

ART: The lazy eye. Does it every time.  These are nice speeches.  The best things about these intros is the reaction from the nominees. And, you can tell they have no idea what will be said.  What better intro to have than Oprah?

MALIK:  You were reading my mind. I think Oprah would be the number one choice to do an intro in our industry.

ART: If/when I have to intro you, I’ll start with “Malik used to dress like Batman, but… actually, he still does…”

MALIK: Is that right brotha?  well… If/when I have to intro you, I’ll start with “Aaron is a great writer, but if he asks you to help him move, know you won’t be getting a dinner out of it.”

ART: I’ll look at the camera and go “That’s right!”

MALIK: (laughing)

ART: Is Sean Penn drunk?

MALIK: OH YEAH!

ART: Sandra…Bullock…

MALIK: You can’t leave Sean Penn backstage that long without libation, brotha…

ART: Sandra Bullock’s always been pretty down to Earth.

MALIK: Yeah I met her when we were in school.  I guess I can say I’ve met an Oscar winner now.

ART: Aren’t we all hoity toity? I met Clarence Jenkins, the guy who buffs the Oscars…

MALIK: Oh no, the husband was tearing up!  Eric Benet Part II

ART: We all know what happened after that, though.

MALIK: Bigelow’s winning…

ART: Yeah, you got Barbara presenting… AND, she led off with it being a woman….

MALIK: What if she would have said, “Or, for the first time, a colored…”

ART: (laughing)  Cut to the Tyler Perry section looking angry.

MALIK: Oprah probably would have walked back onstage…

ART: Well, well, well…  Bigelow wins. And Cameron made sure to cheer loudly.  Good stuff.

MALIK: Yeah. When my daughter tells me she wants to be a director, I’ll be able to look back at this night.

ART: So, here we go. The big one. Best Picture.  Hurt Locker.

MALIK: Right to the Point!

ART: Like it.

MALIK: Alright I think we got it.

ART: I like Bigelow, but she’s a little overhwelmed up on stage.  Cool. Until next year.  That’s a wrap.

Avatar (in 3D!)

 

A couple hours now after coming out of Avatar, I have to say I feel like the ‘masses’ on this one:  it was undeniably impressive, but didn’t completely grab me as a filmgoer.  The look of the film and the CGI aspects, I mean, WOW.   The legend is James Cameron waited for the technology to catch up to the story he wanted to tell, and I don’t think you need to see it in 3D to feel like it was worth the wait.  Depicting a ‘natural’ planet, everything (to my eyes at least) looked and felt ‘alive.’  The 3D aspect wasn’t blowing me out of my seat every five minutes, which from what I understand was also Cameron’s intention. 

‘Complaint’ is not the right word, but if I didn’t go all in with Avatar it’s because the story felt familiar.  Colonial power goes into the ‘jungle’, one of the colonialists falls for the ‘native girl’, fights against his own kind.  Cameron seems to acknowledge this when the main villain says at one point “You’re turning your back on your own race.”  At this stage of the game of course, every story and mythology has been told; the creative storytellers just find new ways to tweak it to get us (the audience) engaged.  I can’t even fault this movie for lack of character development if you think that’s where I’m going; there were defined arcs and I understood who everyone was and what everyone wanted, which I can tell you from first hand experience is HARD to do when you’re trying to tell an ‘epic’ story (and this fact may be Cameron’s greatest strength as a filmmaker).  I guess my one sentence synopsis is that the technology of the film was even ahead of the story itself, if that makes sense.  The best parallel I can make is a debate I have with a friend of mine of getting a great Superman movie with the technology we have now.  I think something along those lines is the next benchmark for cinematic storytellers.

Anyway to sum up, Avatar is not a bad film by any measure, but it’s not quite Titantic either.  How’s that?