Archive for the 'movies' Category

Miramax May Finally Return to Its Rightful Owners

Miramax–the name and the catalog–may finally be returned to its rightful owners, the Weinstein brothers.

I was the first to write several months ago that once Disney decided to close Miramax, they should give the name back to the Weinsteins. Well, Disney does nothing for free, except when you wish upon a star. So the Weinsteins are in the middle of talks to buy it all back. They’re joined supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle, who also owns half the debt of Barneys department stores and most of Sean P Diddy Combs.

There are others in the bid for Miramax, including billionaire brothers Alec and Tom Gores, whose brother Sam owns the Paradigm Talent Agency and is married to former “Another World” star Jensen Buchanan. The other horse in the race belongs to David Bergstein, who once owned ThinkFilm.

Bergstein is a terrible choice. He destroyed ThinkFilms and is now embroiled in a nightmare case in bankruptcy court. Giving Miramax to Bergstein would be like putting it in an incinerator, no matter how much money Bergstein says he’s representing. No one at Disney, especially Bob Iger, wants to be part of that legacy.

The Gores are an interesting family. The two brothers–Alec and Tom–could not be less like brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein. For one thing, the Gores were very much a part of the Anthony Pellicano case. Alec hired Anthony Pellicano to wiretap Tom’s phone and that of Alec’s wife, Lisa, because he thought they were having an affair. It’s amazing they still talk to each other, let alone are combining to buy a company.

Alec Gores’ second wife, Hedi, is on the board of Madonna’s Raising Malawi, a front for the Kabbalah Center of Los Angeles. She’s used Alec’s fortune to help underwrite the cause.

Alec Gores does have a connection to filmmaking: back in 2004, he commissioned actor Tom Arnold to write and direct a $5-million feature film called “The Kid & I” starring Gores’ 18-year-old son, Eric, whose mother Gores allegedly wiretapped just three years earlier.

Eric Gores, like the character he plays in the movie, suffers from cerebral palsy. He co-starred in the vanity production with Joe Mantegna, Linda Hamilton, Jamie Lee Curtis and Shaquille O’Neal.

“The Kid & I” is notable for being the only film in which Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared since becoming governor of California. Gores, by coincidence, donated $7,000 to the Republican Party, George W. Bush and failed California U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones during that period.

Obviously, neither the Goreses nor Bergstein is an appropriate owner for a catalog that includes three Best Picture winners and dozens of hits from “Chicago” to “Good Will Hunting,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Il Postino,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “The Cider House Rules.”

In the end, Disney is a family company. Bob Iger knows that. It’s built on the Disney family legacy. Miramax is very much the same, dedicated to the memory of the Weinsteins’ father, Max, and their very much living and feisty mom, Miriam. If the Weinsteins prevail, Disney and Iger get gold stars. Everyone’s happy. And the movie universe is in balance again.

Cannes As Predicted: Robin Hood, Wall Street, Woody, Godard

The 2010 Cannes Film Festival movies have been revealed, and –drum roll–it’s a great list.

As I predicted, Oliver Stone‘s “Wall Street 2,” Ridley Scotts “Robin Hood” (announced officially after we broke the story), and Woody Allen‘s “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger” are all in, albeit out of competition. As I wrote this morning, Julian Schnabel declined to have his “Miral” in that group and so it’s out.

But the rest of the list is pretty cool. Derek Cianfrance‘s exceptional “Blue Valentine,” from Sundance, is included. Kudos to the Weinstein Company. This will be an Oscar player next winter. There are also films from Mathieu Almaric–the actor from “Munich” who played the bad guy in the last James Bond; Sophie Fiennes, youngest sister of Ralph and Joseph and Martha; as well as Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu, Doug Liman (this could be the big surprise hit), Bernard Tavernier, Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh, and Diego Luna.

The 2010 Cannes Film Festival will be notable for one special premiere: “Socialisme,” by Jean Luc Godard. The 79 year old father of the French new wave cinema is a god in France and to all cineastes around the world. Although Godard is best known in America for “Breathless,” his resume is full of many gems and masterpieces. It might be interesting to get him and Woody Allen into a press conference.

Congratulations to Thierry Fremaux. It’s a unexpectedly great list. Let the games begin on May 12th!

Schnabel Says No to Cannes, Yes to Venice and Toronto

Award winning director and famed artist Julian Schnabel will not be taking his new film, “Miral,” to the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

The festival announces its lineup this morning. Schnabel had previously debuted his “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” there, and “Before Night Falls.”

But he says the festival wanted him to screen “Miral” out of competition but in the main festival. He said thanks, but no. The result is that “Miral” will debut in Venice, and then go to Toronto back to back next September. In Toronto, Schnabel, sources say, may also have a huge exhibition of his art simultaneously.

The Cannes fest is never without controversy, so some media outlets say they are boycotting this morning’s announcements because they’re being denied red carpet spots during the upcoming festival. And I’m also told opening night film “Robin Hood” may only have director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe at its press conference on the morning of May 12th. For some reason Cate Blanchett and the rest of the cast may not attend. Why? I have no idea. Usually the entire cast of a film sits for its press conference. Quel fromage!

Check back at later this morning for the complete list of 2010 Cannes films.

Girls School: “Tanner Hall,” Toronto Film Fest Hit, Set for Fall Release

“Tanner Hall” the movie everyone loved last fall in Toronto. It was directed by Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini. Yes, their moms are DVF and Barbara Bach (aka Mrs. Ringo Starr.)

Now the fate of “Tanner Hall” has finally been resolved. It’s been bought by Moving Pictures Film & TV. The indie group will release it this fall, which makes sense since it’s a girl’s school movie  along the lines of “Mona Lisa Smile” but better.

Last night, star Rooney Mara picked up the Stargazer award at the GenArt Festival for Best Performance by an Emerging Actor. And the movie won the Fest’s jury prize. Acura gave the filmmakers $10.000.

This movie also has a terrific turn by Tom Everett Scott, who needs a break already.

I do like the fact that these filmmakers have not used their family connections to get a major studio involved. They’ve gone the indie route and deserve kudos.

Have Mercy: Sonny Corleone’s Kid Makes Good

Sonny Corleone‘s kid has finally done it: Scott Caan, son of “Godfather” actor James Caan, has made his own movie. And it’s pretty good.

Caan wrote and produced “Mercy,” which closed the GenArt Film Festival last night. IFC will release the film on April 28th, directed by Patrick Hoelke.Troy Garity, Erika Christensen and Wendy Glenn co-star.

What’s interesting about “Mercy” is that it’s a romantic comedy (with a little melodrama) told from the male perspective. Maybe this is a trend. Josh Radnor‘s film “happythankyoumoreplease,” which was at Sundance this year, is similar.

“Mercy” is very romantic, and Caan–who couldn’t get released from shooting “Entourage” in L.A. to be at last night’s premiere–makes for a sympathetic hero. It doesn’t hurt that halfway through he adds his dad to the mix. When James Caan appears on the screen, the movie ticks upward immediately. You want to see what he’s going to do about all this mushy love stuff.

Hoelke is an odd duck who dresses a little like Fidel Castro. But he’s smart in keeping the film intimate (not shaky camera, don’t worry). And he gets a great performance out of Garity, who has goofy leading man looks and a great unexpected sense of humor that lightens Caan’s character’s moroseness. (Garity is ready for a breakout lead role in an indie comedy.) There’s also some welcome relief when the going gets tough from John Boyd. And Wendy Glenn is a real find.

Why wasn’t “Mercy” in Sundance or Tribeca? I have no idea. It’s certainly good enough. I haven’t liked an IFC film this much since “Lonesome Jim” or “Me and You and Everyone I Know.”

Aretha Franklin: New Album, Movie, and (Successful) Diet

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, is on a roll.

She’s lost 23 pounds on a new, healthy diet and she looks fantastic. “I’m working on the next 23,” she declared backstage last night at City Center where the Queen sang her signature hit, “Respect,” for Good Housekeeping magazine’s 125th anniversary show.

Not only was Aretha a vision in a white gown specially designed for her new slimmed down figure, but she had lots of other news. Her new album, the first in seven years, is coming to us in May via WalMart. “A Woman Falling Out of Love” was produced by Franklin with Bebe Winans and Gordon Chambers. Aretha told me she wrote two of the songs–she is always her best composer–and the album features a duet with the amazing Karen Clark, of the Clark Sisters.

Isn’t that enough?

Yesterday, the Queen of Soul huddled with two different Oscar caliber directors about turning her autobiography into a movie. It’s really going to happen. And the big names are being mentioned, like maybe Denzel Washington to play the famous Reverend C.L. Franklin, Aretha’s dad, and any number of actresses–from Halle Berry to Jennifer Hudson— to play Miss Aretha. Of course, Aretha’s incredible sisters, Carolyn and Erma, will be represented as well. (I did suggest that Miss Franklin check out Viola Davis for her movie, too.)

Franklin was in fine voice last night,too, although she said she could hear “cracks.” Her back up singers included two of my pals, the great Vaneese Thomas (sister of Carla, daughter of Rufus) whose parents were married by Reverend Franklin, and Fonzie Thornton, of the original Chic (with Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and yes, Luther Vandross).

‘Aretha was the biggest star maybe but not the only one at GH’s star-studded event. She was actually introduced by no less than Candice Bergen. The other performer of the night, Meryl Streep, got her introduction from Nora Ephron, who in turn was brought to the stage by Liz Smith. (Meryl gave a recitation from a speech by Susan B. Anthony.) Brooke Shields was a very charming emcee, while Broadway’s Laura Benanti and Kelly O’Hara opened the night with a fully produced song and dance number. No, those Hearst types didn’t hold back a penny!

Other notables included Marlo Thomas (who appeared with a rejuvenated Miss Piggy), Martha Stewart, Jessica Simpson, Hillary Duff, Gayle King, Kristen Bell, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Ann Hampton Calloway (who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and the effortlessly funny Sarah Jones. And our very own Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was there, too–she’s helping make a National Women’s History Museum a reality in Washington, DC on the Mall (

PS Kudos to my pal Liz Smith — she gave hilarious speech and was in top form. She said that she loved getting scoops and had been on plenty of “hit” lists–Frank Sinatra and Donald Trump‘s each–but that she had always endeavored to write gossip in a flattering way. She did, she has, she does, and I sure wish the glut of what passes for gossip today took a page from her book. That’s how you achieve longevity in this biz.

Dixie Carter: One Degree to Sean Penn

Sad, sad news on Saturday night that Dixie Carter has passed away. The 70 year old actress, famous for starring in “Designing Women,” was elegant, eloquent, and fun. She will be missed.

There’s no word yet on how she died, but it is interesting that there are no pictures of Dixie on WireImage or Getty Images after her appearance at the 2008 Academy Awards. Her husband, Hal Holbrook, was nominated for his role in “Into the Wild.”

Carter and Holbrook recently appeared together in “That Evening Sun,” an independent movie that got nice notices last year. There is scant sign of them having done any publicity for it.

But Carter was very much behind Holbrook when he was nominated for “Into the Wild.” And they told me a great story. When they met in 1981, it was on a film called “The Killing of Randy Webster,” in 1981. Sean Penn was a 21 year old actor on the film.

“It was just about his first job ever,” Holbrook told me. “We loved him. He was always watching what everyone was doing, studying it. When we got home, he sent us a letter, thanking us and telling us how much the experience meant to him. No one does that!

“So when the script for ‘Into the Wild’ came, he just sent a note and said, ‘It would be great if you’re not busy. I hope you can do this.’ I called him right away and said, ‘Even if I were busy with something, I’d cancel it.’ I reminded him about the letter. And he said he’d been waiting all this time to find the right thing.’”

Carter was there, telling me the story along with Holbrook. Her eyes sparkled as she remembered it. A great lady, a great couple.

PS Not to take anything away from Hal Holbrook, to whom Carter was married for 26 years. But her first husband was multi millionaire Arthur Carter, who went on to own the New York Observer. They had two daughters. Her second husband, for two years, was Broadway star George Hearn. What a life!