March 27, 2004 06:34Remake, Redux, Reimagining, Regurgitation
The spring thaw brings us streets littered with all the crap people dropped in the snow over the long winter months. Adding to the filth in the gutter is the first wave of Hollywood summer releases, coming out one full season early. People were amazed when the studios first pushed their lowbrow blockbuster season back to the start of May. These days the wannabe hits are trickling out by mid-March. They’ll be in full swing come April.
An early launch of “tent pole” summer flicks means an early end to the season. We’ll be down to the dregs come July, and August should be a complete wash. By then, La-La-Land will be too busy promoting their Oscar-bait fall season. I think this is another byproduct of global warming. The weather isn’t seasonable anymore, so neither are the movies.
If you’ve been out to the cinema lately, you’ll know the operative word is “remake.” Everywhere you look, there’s a remake of something. Remakes of good movies, remakes of bad TV shows. Only a few of the movies I’ve checked out over the last few weeks haven’t been remakes. They were merely rip-offs.
Tear yourself away from the running zombies and the funny retoolings of bad 70’s cop shows that were laughable in the first place, and take another look at the classics and not-so-classics from years past. And keep your eye on the Movies in Longshot section, because soon you’ll be getting a rare exclusive sneak preview of a much-anticipated sequel that won’t even be released for another year. Where did I get this exciting inside report, you ask? Why, the exact same place Harry Knowles gets his reports. I pulled it out of my ass. Trust me, it will be every bit as accurate and reliable as the lies and disinformation that’s been bandied about on Ain’t-It-Cool-News lately.
You know, I don’t want to go out on an editorial limb here, but it’s getting so you can’t believe any of the rumours or hearsay on the web these days. Lucky thing I only care about movie news. If I wanted to get the real world news, I might have to resort to watching CNN. And getting the truth out of them is like trying to hit a fact by chucking a dart into the Grand Canyon.
March 08, 2004 01:16Bright Lights, Big Soundstage
In a rare work-related outing that got my ass out of the house, I spent an hour this Saturday afternoon touring the new studio digs for Fries With That? Production for the second season begins today, with two episodes being shot each week from now until June. It’s the sort of grueling schedule that makes me glad I’m not an actor, but rather a writer with an entirely different grueling schedule all my own. The first season of the show was shot at Moliflex, down along the Lachine Canal, which used to be a convenient half-hour walk from my home whenever I had the urge to visit the set and see who they cast for which guest role, or how some elaborate prop I made them build for one of my episodes turned out. This time around we’ve moved to the less convenient but much larger Mel’s, which sounds more like a greasy spoon diner than the enormous production facility it is. The increased size of the soundstage the show is shooting on has allowed for several new sets, expanding the dimension of the featured fast food restaurant to include bathrooms, a hallway, and a dingy alleyway outside the rear service door. New locations mean new toys for the writers to play with in their scripts, thus my visit during the lighting check to scout out possibilities for current and future episodes.
I hadn’t been to Mel’s since I worked on Sci-Squad back in 1998, when I had gone to visit that set for the sole purpose of being in the crew photo. That was an interesting experience, because in Montreal you never know what might be shooting just a few feet away. It could be some tiny French Canadian sitcom no one west of Berri Street will ever hear of, or it may be some Hollywood blockbuster throwing around more money than every other production in the city combined. On that particular day, coming out of the control room, I nearly walked straight into Denzel Washington as he was returning from the set of The Bone Collector next door. Although I came within a foot of knocking heads with him, we both escaped injury. Which is a good thing, because I’m sure his phalanx of gigantic bodyguards would have pulled me apart limb by limb had I even touched him. I’d seen these guys when I first entered the building and had, quite naturally, assumed they were parolees from a maximum security prison who just happened to enjoy passing the time by loitering around Montreal film and television productions. I was probably right, but I had no idea they were being paid to do so.
I admit to being vaguely fascinated by what gets shot next door to each other, and especially by what gets shot on the same studio floor. One production wraps, and then something completely different moves in. It tickles me to know that Pulse, CFCF’s local news show that runs daily at noon, 6:00 and 11:30, broadcasts live from the exact same space we used to shoot Radio Active. Yes, none other than Bill Haugland and Mutsumi Takahashi read the top headlines of the day from precisely the spot where one of our actors mooned another during a take to see if he could get him to crack up. The victim of this prank kept a straight face and the take made the final cut, but it makes me wonder if Mutsumi ever flashes some skin at Bill to rattle him during some otherwise dry federal sponsorship scandal coverage. It would make great symmetry.
Now that the bodily functions of the characters on Fries With That? have been acknowledged with the arrival of the new bathroom set that can be quickly redressed to pass for a men’s or women’s room (something I argued for as being highly cost-effective), the writers are all scrambling to have plenty of scenes take place in and around our one cubicle. The challenge will be writing bathroom humour that doesn’t involve anything that traditionally goes on in a bathroom, lest we incur the wrath of our wholesome broadcaster. Personally, I’m more interested in the revamped drive-through window. The technical issues concerning the impractical camera angle have been solved and greatly improved. Now, if need be, we can even drive a real car past the window to encourage some authenticity and perhaps a carbon monoxide asphyxiation or two amongst the crew.
Advance word is that Fries With That? will debut on Sunday, April 4 at 6:30 pm. It will play in that time slot for two weeks before moving to a four-day-a-week schedule, Monday to Thursday, paired with reruns of Radio Active. The first piece of promotion has just appeared on YTV’s website.
This week’s Movies in Longshot features a murdered screenwriter trilogy that is near and dear to my heart because, like all screenwriters, I know we got it comin’.
March 02, 2004 16:01Eating Jim Crow
That’ll teach me to advertise my website.
No sooner do I email a link to my friend, Jeff, than he’s posting comments pointing out my egregious (some might say legally actionable) errors that I made, all in the name of an innocent, wholesome, cheap shot at an otherwise perfectly upstanding celebrity. It seems he’s quite right. Despite all the mud-slinging to the contrary, media testimonies by the ill-informed, and content within the film itself that seemed to indicate otherwise, Renée Zellweger’s character in Cold Mountain was never supposed to be black. I, quite naturally, never bothered to confirm this fact one way or the other because, after all, that would require a modicum of work and the sacrifice of a couple of underhanded japes.
What’s next? Am I going to sit through The Passion of the Christ only to find out it’s not anti-Semitic? That’ll be a bummer.
This stubborn controversy, which has relentlessly dogged eyestrainproductions.com for as much as two hours now, only serves to stir up many other issues. More important issues. Issues which will, hopefully, divert attention from my very public fuck up. Namely, what’s the world coming to when you can’t believe vicious, unfounded rumours? Just because people base their libel and innuendo on facts they’ve never read for themselves shouldn’t mean that I should have to do any research to back up my own libel and innuendo.
If there’s one thing that living through this particular juncture in history has taught me, it’s the vital importance of not checking your facts. Facts only lead to uncertainty, debate, and balanced judgments, and we can’t have that. Too many facts, and before you know it you’re likely to lose all sorts of support for your unfounded war, your paranoid witch hunt, or your racist persecution of a visible minority. And then where would we be? Back in the jungle my friends, back in the jungle.
The upshot of all this is that ultimately, no, Renée Zellweger did not win an Oscar for shamelessly overacting a character that was supposed to be black, she won an Oscar for shamelessly overacting a character that was just as daisy white as her.
But…but…that still doesn’t make her British, okay?
01:52You Can Come Out Now, It’s Over
It’s been a full day since the little gold statuettes were handed out and I’m growing more bored of the 76th Annual Academy Awards by the minute. In what was probably the most predictable Oscar ceremony in history, everybody got what was coming to them whether they deserved it or not. Category favourite after category favourite walked away with a win, to the slight dismay of Vegas bookies who were offering as much as 1.2 to 1 odds for high rollers who dared put money on the dodgiest toss-ups. Yes, that Sean Penn/Bill Murray split vote was the stuff of… Oh screw it, everyone saw that one coming, too. Even Billy Crystal had his, “Aw Bill, we all love you” comment waiting in the wings. For industry outsiders, that translates as, “Sorry, Bill, but I had to vote for Penn because I couldn’t bear the thought of an SNL alumni who wasn’t me winning an Oscar. I feel sort of guilty about it. Really. Don’t hate me. Let’s do lunch. I’ll buy.”
Everyone managed to be deathly dull, without a single hint of petty nastiness throughout. The political rhetoric was token at best, and even the look of dismayed contempt on Oprah’s face when Renée Zellweger won was washed away by the look of artificial graciousness at the post-Oscar party when she gave Renée a hug and plenty of insincere congratulations for her daring white-face performance in Cold Mountain. I bet even the SWAT team snipers outside the theatre were wearing big phony smiles for the cameras that were never trained on them.
But I was touched, really I was, when Sofia Coppola acknowledged the years of experience, wisdom and nepotism her father had given her, and thanked her whole family for encouraging her to continue when she was stuck on page twelve of the Lost in Translation screenplay. Continue she did, all the way to page fifteen and Oscar glory. There was a lump in my throat when she listed off the great directors who had had an influence on her work, bravely limiting her picks to the most pretentious choices imaginable with the deftness of a first-year film-studies student. Ah, Sofia, your permanent sneer lit up the entire room that night.
The big news for Canada was Denys Arcand’s long-awaited foreign language win for The Barbarian Invasions. It was heart warming to see that after three nominations in the same category over the course of seventeen years, the Oscar folks still couldn’t train their cameras on the right person when his name was finally read. Arcand may be a proud Quebecer, but he also proved himself to be a true Canadian by managing to be polite, modest and invisible all at once. It may have been his award, but that never stopped him from letting someone else be shown marching to the podium, and some other person giving the acceptance speech. I thought it might come to blows when one of his producers tried to get him to say something, anything, before they were played off the stage. In the end, she managed to tackle Denys and stick the microphone in his face long enough for him to lie about being out of time. Way to go, Denys, you spotlight hog!
Far be it from me to offer even more insipid Oscar coverage, though. We’ll be hearing about who-wore-who from all the major networks for weeks to come, or at least until we’ve forgotten who’s losing which war on what abstract concept. Now that it’s all over and I’m suddenly barred from using my Canadian Academy card to see any movies more interesting than the latest local yokel releases, I can relax for a bit. A very short bit. Then it’s back to work to fulfill my latest contractual obligations to Fries With That? which, I’m told, will finally premiere on YTV a month from now. Watch this space for times and air dates when we get closer to the big event.