The NSA plans to reopen the public vetting process for cybersecurity standards; "12 Years a Slave" and the dangers of early Oscar predictions; Disney's new app allows moviegoers to interact with movies while watching them (sigh); our computers are atrophying our brains; "Endless Love" author Scott Spencer on how his novel become a really bad movie (twice); the final moments of Winnie the Pooh; students demonstrate against random drug testing.
Susan Seidelman has been making films for over 30 years. Her work includes "Desperately Seeking Susan," the pilot for "Sex and the City," and her new sports comedy "The Hot Flashes." Her story is the story of women in Hollywood: a study in creativity, courage and strength. A profile by RogerEbert.com's Christy Lemire.
"What 'American Pie' betrays is not good taste but any notion that privacy could matter to these kids or to us. Everything in this picture is out front: whatever humiliates the characters most is precisely what everyone in the school learns about them, and the movie views this as proper and humane. For we are all swimming in the same soup of confusion and embarrassment, voyeurism and malice. But without some feeling for privacy as a value, a movie about teen sex and romance can't be made with any grace or style. The idea that everyone should know everything, however productive of comedy, links the movie to the kind of daytime talk show in which neighborhood friends betray one another's secrets and the audience howls at them in mock disapproval and open pleasure. The new hit comedies make us join that audience, whether we want to or not." -- David Denby, The New Yorker (July 12, 1999)
Andy Warhol got it almost right. Everybody is a "Superstar" (in the Warholian sense) already, or at least everybody behaves like one. And in the future -- that is, 10 years after "American Pie" and 22 years after Andy's death -- everybody's also a self-publicist, using sophisticated technology to manage a public image that masquerades as a mutant form of privacy. Blogs, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter -- these and so many other powerful promotional tools can be used by anyone, kids or mega-corporations, to create an illusion of intimacy with (in Facebookspeak) "friends" and "fans."
Tom Cruise with his "Miiii" squeeze.
What do we talk about when we talk about Tom Cruise? What are our images of him really based upon, besides his own publicity stunts and some headlines? And just how did the top movie star in the world become so unlikeable in the public eye, an object of scorn and derision in the media, and a punch line for stand-up comics? Normally, a movie star's fall from gross -- er, grace -- wouldn't interest me much (although I am still trying to figure out how Burt Reynolds' 1970s career flamed out). I've interviewed hundreds of actors and filmmakers over the years and I've always made it a personal policy never to ask them, or speculate in print, about what they euphemistically call their "private lives," mainly because I really don't think it's any of my (or your) business. I'm interested in their work, not in what they do in their off hours.
But the fascinating thing about Cruise is how he's made a public commodity of his so-called "private life" (or his own image-manipulation version of it, presented for your entertainment). You'd think he would have learned something from the tabloid headlines generated by the sudden and mysterious split with his superstar wife Nicole Kidman, and tried to keep his personal affairs as private as he can. But no. When somebody boasts about details of his alleged off-screen love life on the most popular talk show in the world, goes on TV to say a pregnant actress (Brooke Shields) was wrong to seek medical treatment for her postpartum depression, and acts as a public spokesperson for his supposed "religion" in interviews (if you grant Scientology that status) -- even to the point of having Scientology tents set up on the set of Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" in case cast or crew wanted to take a Free Personality Inventory -- well, that's when the "personal" becomes part of the star's public branding. And Tom Cruise is a brand name, every bit as much as Apple or Starbuck's or Subway or Volkswagon.
TELLURIDE, Colo. -- The day began with one of the most wondrous films I ever hope to see. "Princess Mononoke," by the Japanese master of animation Hayao Miyazaki, is a symphony of action and images, a thrilling epic of warriors and monsters, forest creatures and magical spells, with an underlying allegory about the relationship of man and nature. Not a children's film, it is a film for all ages that demonstrates why, for some stories, the special effects wizards are only spinning their wheels, because some images cannot be visualized unless they are drawn.
Q. I go to UCLA and live in Westwood. Obviously I live around a great number of theaters and very close to Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood, and Holmby Hills. So, when movie stars want to go to movies they go around here. I went to see "Primal Fear." While we were in line Woody Harrelson bought a ticket and went in. OK. Not so bad. He wasn't looking for attention but unfortunately he received it. Before my girlfriend and I got to the ticket counter, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman walked by (quickly) and as I watched heads turn everywhere: In line, on the corner, and all along the sidewalk up to and I suppose in the movie they went to see ("The Birdcage"). Now for my question. They are actors, they are people, they feel, talk, dress like everyone else. People point, stare, gawk, and follow their every move. Not very conducive to a normal lifestyle. They chose that profession and are not blind to reality. They know that stars are followed, stared at, touched, etc. I would suppose two actors such as Cruise and Kidman would have the ability and sources to ask for a copy of "The Birdcage" for their personal viewing. That would allow them the luxury of never being gawked at. Yet they CHOOSE to go out in public. They also know the consequences. They get upset knowing they can never sit down at a corner coffee shop and drink coffee without a horde descending upon them. Should they expect a normal life? Are the outings they make an attempt to hold up the mask of normalcy or are they masochists who seek out problems with their every excursion into the land of the normal? (Frank Chartrand, Westwood, Calif.)
Louis Malle, who died last week at 63, was a director whose movies caused scandal sometimes for their content, sometimes for their style, sometimes for both. The respected French filmmaker, married since 1980 to actress Candice Bergen, died Thursday at their home in Los Angeles, from lymphoma.
Q. The casting of the original "Gone With the Wind" created a world-wide frenzy among movie fans. Who should star in "Scarlett," the TV miniseries? A. I hope they choose a real actress, and not one of the transparent TV beauties with a high Q rating. True, most of the top movie actresses refuse to work in TV, but given the high profile of this project and the $8 million already paid for the rights, this should be the sort of project designed to change their minds.
John Travolta came to Chicago on Friday. It was a little like a state visit, with tight security, police barricades and long black limousines speeding between luxury hotels and City Hall. Travolta, who is one of the two or three most popular box office attractions in the world, was here to promote his new, thriller, “Blow Out.” People were interested in the thriller, but fascinated by Travolta.