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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Harvey Weinstein

'Iron Lady': Meryl Streep's Thatcher biopic draws ire in Britain

August 23, 2011 | 11:21 am

'Iron Lady': Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher and Jim Broadbent as Denis Thatcher

If controversy equals box office, then "The Iron Lady," Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher biopic, is off to a promising start across the pond. According to a report in the British newspaper the Daily Mail, friends of Thatcher who attended an early screening of the film Saturday were outraged by its portrayal of their former prime minister as power-hungry leading up to and during her administration in the 1980s and conflicted and confused in her senescence.

"I didn’t come here to see a film about granny going mad," one anonymous viewer said of the movie, which is directed by Phyllida Lloyd ("Mamma Mia") and stars Streep as the Conservative leader and Jim Broadbent as her husband, Denis Thatcher.

According to the report, "The Iron Lady" contains scenes of Thatcher suffering nightmares over some of the major victories of her tenure -- including the 1984-85 coal miners’ strike that lead to a weakened labor movement in Britain and the 1982 Falklands War -- and sacrificing family for ambition.

Viewers took particular offense at the depiction of the Thatcher marriage, including a scene in which a pink-turbaned Denis appears in a dream sequence to rail at his wife for her selfishness.

Conservative MP Conor Burns told the paper: "Any portrayal of Margaret Thatcher that does not show her as one of the titans of British politics in the 20th Century will be a travesty. The idea that Denis would ever have been cruel to her is twisted and untrue. They were devoted."

Another British paper, the Telegraph, wrote that Prime Minister David Cameron may come to regret allowing Streep to sit in a VIP area and observe the British House of Commons in preparation for her role in the "disgraceful film."

Thatcher is now 85 and in frail health but as potent a symbol as ever to conservatives in both the U.S. and her homeland.

The British-French film company Pathé, which helped finance "The Iron Lady" and which hosted Saturday’s screening, offered its first hint that this would be no political hagiography of Thatcher with the release of a still photo in February. In that picture, Streep wears Thatcher’s characteristic pearls and stiff bouffant, along with a vaguely startled look. 

"The prospect of exploring the swath cut through history by this remarkable woman is a daunting and exciting challenge," Streep said in a statement when the photo was released. "I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervor and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses -- I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own."

In July, Pathé pieced out another nugget -- a teaser trailer that played off Thatcher’s status as a somewhat unlikely feminist figure. "I may be persuaded to lose the hat," she tells two political strategists in the teaser. "The pearls, however, are absolutely non-negotiable.”

The Weinstein Co. will release "The Iron Lady" in U.S. theaters Dec. 16.

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-- Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher and Jim Broadbent as Denis Thatcher. Credit: Alex Bailey / From Pathé Productions Ltd.


Madonna's romantic drama 'W.E.' set to bow this December

June 29, 2011 | 11:53 am

Madonna December seems to be Harvey Weinstein's month to release films by actors- and singers-turned-directors. One week after the Weinstein Co. intends to bow its Shakespearean tragedy "Coriolanus" (which Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in along with Gerard Butler and "Tree of Life's" Jessica Chastian), the studio will open Madonna's "W.E.," starring Abbie Cornish, on Dec. 9.

Madonna's movie, which she co-wrote with her "Truth or Dare" collaborator Alek Keshishian, is an offshoot of the characters from 2010's Oscar best picture winner "The King's Speech," specifically Britain's King Edward VIII and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the woman he fell in love with and for whom he gave up the throne. The film toggles between a contemporary woman named Wally, played by Abbie Cornish ("Sucker Punch"), and her obsession with the midcentury British romance. 

Said Weinstein of the December date: "Madonna beautifully interweaves past and present in 'W.E.' It's a very smart film, and a stunning directorial debut. I'm incredibly excited about this movie and I wanted to give it a prominent release date."

Weinstein Co. will open "W.E." in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 9, expanding to additional markets throughout the month, before the wide release intended for mid-January. "W.E." also stars Andrea Riseborough ( "Never Let Me Go"), James D'Arcy ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World") and Oscar Isaac ("Drive").

Whether the film has an Oscar prospects, as the date suggests, remains to be seen. But "The King's Speech" did prove Americans love a good story about the monarchy.

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A romantic drama directed by Madonna is heading to U.S. theaters

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Madonna. Credit: Evan Agostini/Associated Press 


[Updated] 'Miral' courts controversy ahead of its U.S. premiere at the United Nations

March 14, 2011 | 11:53 am

Niral
Monday night's U.S. premiere of "Miral," director Julian Schnabel's film tracking a young Palestinian girl's relationship with terrorism and Israel following the 1948 war for Israeli independence, has encountered a wave of controversy, with the American Jewish Committee calling on the U.N. General Assembly president to cancel its screening at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The American Jewish Committee believes the film portrays Israel negatively. In a letter to the world body, AJC Executive Director David Harris said showing the film in the U.N. General Assembly hall "will only serve to reinforce the already widespread view that Israel simply cannot expect fair treatment in the U.N." 

Schnabel, an American Jew, along with the film's Jewish-American distributor, Harvey Weinstein, are rejecting the charges of bias and have invited AJC representatives to Monday's premiere.  "We are surprised and saddened that the American Jewish Committee would prejudge 'Miral' and move to block the showing of the film," said the movie's producer Jon Kilik. "We made this film in order to encourage the very dialogue that the AJC seems to want to prevent. We hope the AJC will come to the premiere instead of trying to cancel it."

Schnabel, who shot the movie in Jerusalem and the West Bank, added, "I love the state of Israel. I believe in it, and my film is about preserving it, not hurting it. Understanding is part of the Jewish way, and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners. But if we don't listen to the other side, we can never have peace."

"Miral" is based on the autobiographical novel of Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal and stars "Slumdog Millionaire" actress Freida Pinto. The film centers on Miral, who grew up, like Jebreal, in an orphanage in East Jerusalem that was founded by a wealthy Palestinian woman. The film traces the two women's lives from the beginnings of the orphanage to the Oslo peace accords in 1993. The film played at the Venice and Toronto film festivals last year.

According to AJC spokesman Kenneth Bandler, no one from the AJC will attend the U.N. premiere, which they believe is the first film to be screened in the main hall of the general assembly. (The documentary "Sergio," about former U.N. special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in Iraq, screened at the headquarters several years ago.)

[Update: AJC's representative in Italy, Lisa Palmieri-Billig, saw "Miral" in Venice last September and reviewed it here for the Jerusalem Post.

Jean-Victor Nkolo, spokesman for the president of the General Assembly, confirmed that Joseph Deiss, the president of the General Assembly, saw the film a few months ago during a private screening. "He liked it and thought it could contribute to a useful and interesting discussion on a topic that has gone on for so long," Nkolo said. He said that hosting a premiere at the United Nations was not such an unusual occurrence, though he was unable to name another film that had premiered at the headquarters. "We see screenings here as a venue," he added. "The film has to defend itself. It's a work of art."

Following the screening Monday night, Dan Rather is to moderate a panel discussion featuring Schnabel, Jebreal, journalist Mona Eltahawy and Yonatan Shapira, co-founder of Combatants for Peace and a former captain in the Israeli Air Force Reserves, who in 2003 organized a group of pilots who refused to fly attack missions on Palestinian territories. Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, will also be part of the conversation.]

"Miral" will bow in U.S. theaters on March 25. The ratings board of the Motion Picture Assn. of America  granted it a PG-13 rating last week on appeal over its initial R rating for violent content, including the depiction of sexual assault.

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Freida Pinto and Omar Metwally in Julian Schnabel's 'Miral.' Credit: Jose Haro/the Weinstein Co.

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Did Michael Moore get his due on 'Fahrenheit 911'?

February 7, 2011 |  3:46 pm

Moore2
For many filmgoers, Michael Moore has been pretty much absent this film season. He hasn't directed a new documentary, as he has in two of the last three years, and he wasn't ubiquitous the way he was during the presidential election cycle two years ago.

But the filmmaker hasn't exactly disappeared.

The provocateur documentarian was back in the news Monday with a lawsuit he filed against Harvey Weinstein in which he alleges that the indie-film mogul didn't pay him nearly $3 million he alleged he's owed from "Fahrenheit 911," Moore's 2004 blockbuster.

Our sister blog Company Town reports that Moore is seeking damages for what the suit alleges are  "classic Hollywood accounting tricks and financial deception perpetrated by" Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who released the movie.

Among the tidbits to emerge: Moore earned $19.8 million from the controversial political documentary (at least according to the Weinsteins' lawyer) and that, also according to Harvey Weinstein, they'd been trying to work out a settlement for months. (The attorney, noted Hollywood rabble-rouser Bert Fields, intimates that Harvey Weinstein's award-season enemies may have "put [Moore] up" to the suit.)

This is hardly the first time the movie, which examines the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration and the alleged corporate complicity in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has been the subject of a controversy; the Weinsteins famously broke with Disney, which owned their company at the time, to release the movie. Given how it could be years before this even gets close to a trial, we suspect it won't be the last either.

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Michael Moore in 'Fahrenheit 911.' Credit: Fellowship Adventure Group

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Company Town: Michael Moore sues Harvey Weinstein over profits to 'Fahrenheit 911'

 


Harvey Weinstein on the 'Blue Valentine' controversy: Can't we all just get along?

October 14, 2010 |  6:56 am

Valenti
When all is said and done, we have a feeling that "Blue Valentine" will end up with the R-rating that it's been seeking. But getting there will require some negotiations with the Motion Picture Assn. of America over a controversial scene featuring the characters of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in a hotel-room sexual situation.

The trade group wants the scene cut or it will slap the film with an NC-17. Executives at distributor the Weinstein Co., citing the importance of the scene to the film's narrative, have said privately they won't do it, although how much of that is a bid for negotiating leverage is impossible to say. [Update: 12:23 pm: A spokeswoman for The Weinstein Company says that, as expected, an appeal will be filed within the next few days.]

A few minutes ago Harvey Weinstein showed that he is, as ever, interesting in playing the PR game when he sent out a thank-you-to-our-friends statement. He also showed in that same statement that he's willing to play ball with the MPAA, offering a bit of praise for an organization and, in so doing, implying that he still believes the group will come around, possibly with some accommodations on his part.

The statement:

"We want to express our deepest gratitude to our colleagues in the industry and in the media for their recent outpouring of support for Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine after the film surprisingly received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. We are taking every possible step to contest the MPAA's decision. We respect the work of the MPAA and we hope, after having a chance to sit down with them, they will see that our appeal is reasonable, and the film, which is an honest and personal portrait of a relationship, would be significantly harmed by such a rating."

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine.'"Credit: The Weinstein Co.

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Toronto 2010: Harvey Weinstein, now on screen

September 16, 2010 | 12:08 pm

Harvey

For two decades, Harvey Weinstein has been one of the movie industry's most colorful and controversial behind-the-scenes players. Now he's being thrust front and center into the spotlight: Canadian documentarian Barry Avrich has made a film titled "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project" and on Thursday, IFC Films announced that it had acquired most world rights and will release the movie stateside.

A statement from IFC described the film as a "powerful, uncensored, no-holds-barred account" tracing Weinstein from his early days as a theater operator and concert promoter in upstate New York to the present day as the head of an embattled independent-film company. The period includes his discovery and promotion of numerous new filmic talents, his high-profile tangles with the Walt Disney Co. and his making no small number of enemies with a famously brass-knuckled approach. 

Weinstein apparently did not cooperate with the production and tried to persuade Avrich not to move forward. But that did not stop the director from making the film, and it apparently won't stop IFC from releasing it -- even though James Dolan, the chairman of IFC parent company Rainbow Media, is a known friend of Weinstein.

The polarizing film executive has figured in numerous books about the indie-film world, such as John Pierson's "Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes" -- and also has been satirized on HBO's "Entourage" -- but he's never been a starring player in a documentary before.

The announcement comes after a week at the Toronto International Film Festival in which the Weinstein Co. and IFC tussled over rights to the films on offer, with each coming away with two titles.

Avrich is known for directing a number of music-themed documentaries and also made a similarly themed doc in "The Last Mogul," about legendary studio chief Lew Wasserman. It remains to be seen how hard-hitting this effort will be. Among the biggest open questions is how much associates and rivals of Weinstein -- and there are abundant numbers in each group -- will spill their feelings on camera.

Avrich's statement, at least, did not play up the muckraking. "Harvey and Bob Weinstein, without a question, redefined so many rules of Hollywood marketing, distribution and filmmaking that you simply can't ignore their impact on history," he said. "Many of their business principles and strategies also redefined other industry practices and quite frankly, other industries. Without Hollywood's 'Last Bully,' there would be no 'Pulp Fiction,' no one would have known about that English patient, Rob Marshall would still be a chorus boy and Quentin [Tarantino] would be recommending Bruce Lee's greatest hits in some video store."

--Steven Zeitchik

Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Harvey Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Credit: Peter Kramer / Associated Press


With 'Miral,' Harvey Weinstein jumps into the Israeli-Palestinian fray

June 8, 2010 | 11:20 am

It almost seems so perfect, it's a wonder it hadn't happened already.

Provocative filmmaker Julian Schnabel, taking on a provocative subject, will again be working with industry  provocateur Harvey Weinstein.

MiralThe Weinstein Co. announced this morning that it would domestically distribute "Miral," Schnabel's film about the founding of a Palestinian orphanage in 1948 and the evolution of a young Palestinian woman at the dawn of the first intifada. (Rula Jebreal adapted the screenplay from her own novel, which is partly inspired by true events.)

Schnabel had previously worked with the new Miramax, which released his "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" to Oscar acclaim in 2007, but goes back to his roots with this film: Harvey (in a very different time) released Schnabel's directorial debut, "Basquiat," in 1996.

With Freida Pinto as the lead, "Miral" examines the founding of the Dar Al-Tifel Institute orphanage for Palestinian refugees in 1948, and then flashes forward to Pinto's character, who was raised in the orphanage, as a young woman in the early 1990s, when she goes to work in a refugee camp, where she is caught in a quandary between violent and peaceful means of resistance. It's probably the most mainstream film project to take a Palestinian point of view on the genesis and modern aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"As a staunch supporter of Israel I thought this would be a movie I would have a hard time wrapping my head around," Weinstein said in a statement. "However, meeting Rula moved me to open my heart and mind, and I hope we can do the same with audiences worldwide.”

Reports from Movieline and others have focused on the irony of Weinstein, an an "Israel loyalist," picking up the film. The coverage is a little perplexing -- Harvey certainly isn't known as a staunch pro-Palestinian advocate, but it's not like he's out there on the AIPAC front lines (he is, however, a heat-seeking missile when it comes to topical and buzz-worthy movies).

Still, Schnabel and Weinstein, both well-known as strong personalities, should have some interesting debates in the cutting room and at the marketing meetings. Given the stubbornness of their visions, there may be fireworks worthy of, well, a Middle Eastern conflict.

-- Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: The "Miral" book jacket. Credit: Penguin Books



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Kevin Smith: I almost wanted to "curl up in an asylum" when Southwest controversy was brewing

March 1, 2010 |  9:02 pm

With an $18-million haul for "Cop Out" at the box office this week, Kevin Smith has the biggest opening of his career (even if it's also a relatively modest one by studio comedy standards). We caught up with Smith, one day removed from the opening weekend and about 10 days removed from the Southwest Airlines publicity blowup that almost engulfed said opening.

Smith

In a colorful, profanity-strewn conversation, Smith had plenty to say about all of that -- how Arnold Schwarzanegger called him to speak at an obesity conference, how Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov is just like Harvey Weinstein, how critics don't matter anymore, how he's going to spend the next few weeks hammering out the script for his hockey comedy "Hit Somebody" ... and how how he's not taking planes again for the foreseeable future.

--Steven Zeitchik


24 Frames: You had a respectable opening but you didn't hit No. 1 this weekend. Did that cause any weirdness for you with the studio?

Kevin Smith: I thought they'd be like, "You didn't get to No. 1 ... you." But what I learned about the studio versus what I used to think is that these cats could care less about the horse race. They just care about the bottom line. And we made a movie for $34.2 million that's already made $18 million just on the opening weekend in the U.S. The other thing I thought I'd get castigated for is the reviews. I
thought [Warner Bros. President] Alan Horn would yell at me. But they didn't really care about those either.

Were you personally bothered that some of the critics were so harsh?

KS: It's weird -- these were some of the worst reviews I ever got in my life, including work I did in grade school. But they're completely out-of-sync with what people want to watch. It's just a different world than the one I entered. I came from a world where critics matter. Janet Maslin made my career by saying I turned straw into gold. We don't live in that world anymore. It's about the marketing, and the Internet takes care of the rest. But I wasn't surprised they were that nasty. When a movie is called "Cop Out" and it's made at a studio, half the reviews are going to ... you for that alone.

Were there any that did get to you, the other half?

KS: Some of them are like "How dare you not cure cancer with his film?" And I'm like "Cure cancer? I'm just trying to make a TNT classic." And A.O. Scott insinuated that I did it for a studio paycheck and I guess he didn't do the research and see that I took an 80% pay cut. People assume it's a studio movie and you just cashed the check. But everybody took a pay cut so we could make an R-rated movie. Bruce [Willis] even a took pay cut. We didn't make the $75-million version with Will Ferrell and Marky Mark. We made the $34.2-million version.

Speaking of an R rating, a lot of people wonder how much the studio got involved in development. This is a script you didn't write, and you're not making a movie with the Weinsteins, with whom you had such a fruitful collaboration over all those years, but with a major studio.

KS: Say what you will about Harvey and Bob -- they're true believers. And I worked with Jeff Robinov for the better part of the year, and he's a true believer too. He just happens to work with a bigger wallet. These cats are just like the brothers Weinstein. They stayed away through production and then in post, probably more than Harvey did. I mean, Jeff has been that guy who takes chances on people like Chris Nolan.

Have you had any contact with Harvey before or after "Cop Out"? Is it weird to be releasing a movie with someone else for the first time in a long while?

KS: I wrote Harvey an e-mail  two weeks ago. Everyone has written you off, I said. But this isn't the end of the third act; it's the beginning of a new act. Buy the Miramax name back, make a deal with a cable station, buy the library and then you put everything on Blu-ray and call it the Miramax Reunion collection. It becomes more poetic than Gretzky returning to end his career in Edmonton. I told Harve, "You buy that studio back. I will make every movie there until the day I die. That's so romantic ..." But in a world where that doesn't happen, it's nice to know there's a new family that welcomes me at Warner Bros.

So does that mean we can expect you to do another movie with them?

KS: It was easy this time. I don't know what it would be like if I went in with something I wrote, or let's say something I didn't write but wanted to write. They were talking about "Hit Somebody," the hockey movie I wanted to make based on the Warren Zevon song. And I said, "I know you like me right now. But I sweat blood for this. If you say you're committing to it then you're saying you're greenlighting this movie." So we said we'll talk.

What's "Hit Somebody" actually about?

KS: It's not a movie about the NHL. It's a movie about the game, and it's a movie about Canada. I look at it and keep describing as what I'm going for as the "Forrest Gump" of hockey movies. Not flat-out funny stuff I've always done. It's a more serious comedy.

If you get that one going, does that preclude you from coming on to direct another studio comedy that already has a script written?

KS: There are about five scripts that Warner Bros. has handed me that they're interested in. One of them is with Tracy [Morgan].  The romantic in me wants to paint it as a "Platoon"-like battle for one soul, a battle between Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe. But it'll come down to what happens next. If best-case scenario, I'm shooting "Hit Somebody" by the end of the year, then what am I going to do between now and then? Maybe nothing. Or I can multi-task and spin another plate while waiting for it to come together. And there's also "Red State" [a dark political drama he's written]. There's some very interested money that wasn't interested a week ago, before "Cop Out" came out.

It must seem like a long time since all the Southwest stuff was happening about two weeks ago. Did you ever think about not tweeting about it?

KS: There was this part of me that wanted to be, like "An injustice was done" and shine a light on a bunch of ... cockroaches. That's how I was raised. At the same time, I got really scared for the movie, and I don't mean at the box office. I'm a big believer in karma, and I wanted to go out of my way to make sure I didn't do anything to mess up this movie. And then I had to cognitively reframe it and I think I need to be true to myself. It's like I tell my daughter, "You start yelling or you start telling." I didn't think there would be publicity. I thought a few people on Twitter would write about it. I didn't think the press would write about it. Why would they?

With millions of people following your odyssey on Twitter, it was hard for us not to. But I take it you won't be flying Southwest for a while?

KS: I won't be flying at all. I'm doing this Q&A tour in something like six cities, these gigs in Austin and Milwaukee and Detroit. And I rented a tour bus. I just don't want to get on a plane. Someone else is going to drive the bus, and on the road I'm going to write "Hit Somebody." I have reams and reams of notes, and I wrote the ending and I feel like it's a zit and it's built to a whitehead and then you put a warm ... on it and it'll pop.

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Sundance 2010: How (and why) Harvey Weinstein got back in the festival game

January 29, 2010 |  2:29 pm

 Blue-valentine


The Weinstein Co. made one of the smarter plays at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, picking up two films that are pretty much right in its sweet spot (and which happen to pretty good too).

"Blue Valentine," the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams marital drama that's been dazzling many, now sits in the house of Harvey, as does "The Tillman Story," Amir Bar-Lev's damning account of the U.S military's exploitation of the Pat Tillman death. (The Weinstein Co. bought theatrical rights in North America and satellite rights in Asia for "Blue Valentine"; the rights situation on "Tillman" hasn't yet been disclosed). It's the first time the company has made deals for multiple movies at the same festival since the 2007 edition of Sundance.

Pat-tillman There are certainly back-story reasons behind the moves. For one thing, the Weinstein Co.'s acquisitions division has been charged up now that Peter Lawson, the executive who made some sharp buys for the new (now old) Miramax these last few years, has come on board, working with Harvey and the company's David Glasser. And after the usual lag as profits have been spread around, the studio has collected its "Inglourious Basterds" windfall (not that either of these pick-ups will necessarily demand huge marketing spends -- they're both word-of-mouth- and press-driven campaigns).

But there's also a savvy strategic endgame here. "Blue Valentine" is the consummate awards contender -- it offers the possibility of pitching both a lead male and female, as well as the filmmakers, particularly director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance, who developed the script for years and is said to have written more than 60 drafts of the script before the Incentive film fund and WME kick-started it last spring. With the low seven-figure purchase, Harvey's able to get in the awards game relatively cheaply -- a lot more cheaply than he would making an awards movie from scratch.

As for "Tillman," it seems pretty clear what the campaign will be for Weinstein, the architect of the "Fahrenheit 9/11" bonanza  -- work the political angle. The film doles out plenty of blame across many levels of the U.S. military (though it's also a touching and complex portrait of a misunderstood man and soldier). Longtime Harvey collaborator Michael Moore was present at the premiere last Saturday, telling us it was "one of the most important films you'll ever see about the U.S. military." We wouldn't be surprised to see Moore out there flogging the film.

Elsewhere, the sales climate seemed to pick up at the more micro-budget and service-deal end of the spectrum in the last few days. A book publisher called Hannover House picked up Joel Schumacher's young-people-partying feature, "Twelve," which it will release with the help of indie veteran Tom Ortenberg, while Newmarket will distribute offbeat Joseph Gordon-Levitt dramedy "Hesher." Paradoxically, the indie buyers who have been most active amid the doldrums of the last few festivals -- particularly IFC and Sony Pictures Classics -- have yet to make a purchase at this year's Sundance, though "Catfish," "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and "The Romantics" could be among the movies they and others of their ilk pick up in the coming days.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photos: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine," and Pat Tillman in "The Tillman Story." Credit: Sundance Film Festival


Screenwriting credits, floating up in the air

January 15, 2010 |  5:54 pm

Reit In Michael Tolkin’s script for the 1992 Hollywood satire “The Player,” studio executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) strangles a screenwriter he believes is trying to blackmail him.

It hasn’t gotten that gruesome in Hollywood. But for some involved in the script business these days, the movie’s arc may feel a little too familiar.

Screenwriters on some of the season’s biggest movies have seen acknowledgment for their work, if not choked off, then certainly minimized -- a group that includes, as fate would have it, Tolkin himself. So when the Golden Globes are handed out on Sunday, the names that viewers associate with the most lauded films may not quite include all the people who drove those movies forward.

That could be particularly true for three of the movies that lead nearly all others in Globes recognition — “Up in the Air,” “Nine” and “Avatar,” which have collectively amassed 15 nominations.

The issue cuts to the heart of contemporary Hollywood, where screenwriters are abundant but successes are rare, leaving a lot of people to scramble for a little bit of glory.

To those removed from the rituals of Hollywood, the fierce debate over credit can seem like arguing over who rides shotgun on a weekend road trip — arbitrary and, in the end, not very consequential. But for writers, credit can mean the difference between getting and not getting future gigs, higher paychecks and the acclaim and envy of peers. And credit issues can extend beyond how the Writers Guild of America arbitrates who did what on a script to shape the public (and media) consciousness about a writer's standing.

All of this comes against the backdrop of writer concerns that they are not given the same respect as their peers, particularly directors. “These things just seem to be messier lately. Everyone wants credit and nobody seems to be able to figure out the truth,” said an agent for several high-profile screenwriters who requested anonymity because the agent may yet work with some of the writers.

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