Went to one of John DeSimio’s parties recently. A stylish bon vivant, former publicity executive, John’s frequent hostings attract a diverse and brainy crowd of mainly industry types. This was a couple of weeks after Ronni Chasen’s funeral and Ronni was still the introductory topic of conversation. Her memorial was a tribute not only to one of the legends of the publicity business but – as most Hollywood events are – a celebration of this small community. Everyone was warmed in the retelling of tales about our late colleague.
Then the topic changed – as most Hollywood conversations do – to the state of the business. Everyone was also warmed by this exchange.
Misery loves company?
Gatherings like John’s normally produce good networking, good gossip and just good fun – for those who can follow the alphabet soup of names floating in anecdotes and updates. Not a lot of star names; these are working people – writers, publicists, journalists – who mainly talk about insider stuff: which projects have gone into turnaround, who’s changed studio’s, where so-and-so is traveling. But in the past two years, these kinds of conversations have become something akin to the bon homme in a bomb shelter. It’s been another terrible year for the movies – work wise and otherwise. We all know it and we all need to talk about it.
In fact, talking about it is helping some of us get through these lean mean times in the movie biz.
The film community isn’t a myth – and it’s not all about schadenfreud. At least not always. Everyone to some degree has felt the pinch of the movie industry downsizing. Even many of us who’ve been lucky enough to work regularly have taken body blows to our confidence that there’ll always be work. One can feel the eerie quiet before the next bombardment.
Gatherings like these – in times like these - expose the softer side of Sammy Glick: people trying to think of ways to help their underemployed colleagues. Like a fighting unit in which some seek heroics while others are just trying to stay alive, the film community is a fractious, bumptious bunch of Me-Firsters – until the battle begins and we see our comrades fall. It’s a common fate that unites us – whether in grief or economic hard times. Even when we look around at the devastation of downsized staffs and dumbed-down films, we have a take-away: we are a community., helping our friends find work, mourning our collective losses, consoling one another and mapping out ways to fix what’s broken.
So, thanks again Ronni for reminding us we’re part of a little village the rest of the world calls Hollywood; thanks John for giving some of us a place to come together. Here’s hoping 2011 brings peace and prosperity and that we carry with us the big lesson of 2009 and 2010: We are family. Sing it with me now.
And Happy New Year to all.
I hope this page can include comments from visitors to this site who have something they want to say about movies they’re working on or have seen or just have thoughts about. Meanwhile, I’ll fill the space with some of my own thoughts.
Why not start with a 2010 Top Ten list? A couple of reasons why not: I haven’t seen many of the fall releases and prior to this fall, it was a pretty crap year. So, I can’t really come up with a Top Ten for 2010 yet.
Another reason I can’t do that is because I’m an Academy voter and we’re supposed to keep our votes to ourselves. It wouldn’t violate AMPAS rules if I came up with a Worst 10. It would only risk future employment opportunities. Besides, as my wife can tell you, I’m not a real discriminating movie-goer. I find something to like about almost everything.
Still, there are movies you expect more from. You fall for the hype or someone you respect gives you a rave review. So, maybe I’ll start this blog with my (preliminary) list of 2010’s Biggest Disappointments. (I may never gonna get hired by these guys now but I’ll roll the dice on most of them never reading this.)
Beware: SPOILERS below, so read on at your own peril.
The Kids Are Alright – To all my gay and lesbian friends: I’m not a hater. I know this movie is a hit with you and with critics – and I came in with great expectations. But lemme make a case for straight people who already see gay families as normal: why would any of us care about this clichéd (overachiever married to unfulfilled housewife; two kookie kids) aggregate if you stripped away the gay? Nice ensemble acting; plot points you could see coming from a mile beyond the parking lot. And we’re all happy when she (spoiler alert) dumps the guy who offers her fulfillment to return to work things out in the dependent relationship she has with the overbearing partner who was a major factor in her depression to begin with? Tell me when it’s time to applaud.
I Am Love – I admit a bias here: I would rather sleep with Hillary Clinton than Tilda Swinton. Awright, you called my bluff. Point being, Tilda as an object of lust is a hard sell for me. Add an insipid story of betrayal and the bourgeoise… But we heard the photography was beautiful! Yeah, it was. Unfortunately, you have to sit through this movie to see it.
Shelter Island – Scorsese can’t channel Hitchcock, Fellini, Bergman, Serling, Kafka and Dr. Phil all at the same time. What’s the maximum number of themes a movie can sustain before it proves itself aimless? Scorsese’s most successful box office movie EVER? Now that’s scary.
I’d throw in Inception but, to be honest, I didn’t have really high expectations of that going in.
Next time we’ll talk about the movies that are turning the year respectable.
Send in your own opinions when ya can. - R