Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Getting by with a little help from your Friends

A few months ago, I covered Run, Fat Boy, Run. I was excited to see the movie because it had Simon Pegg in it, and, well, not surprisingly, I'm a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (I do have taste, after all).

Here's the trouble with that, though: Pegg didn't write/direct/produce/etc. Run, Fat Boy, Run or anything else that he usually does with his stuff. He just starred in it. As a result, it is not the signature Simon Pegg stuff you'd expect, and it pretty much kind of sucked.

BUT! There was still junket fun to be had. Pegg as nice enough at the roundtable, kind of more resigned than you'd expect from someone known for his whip-smart humor. Also, he clearly had had some colored hairspray put on his head by a makeup person to fill in his balding-ness for the cameras. But I chose not to mention that to him.

Then we got t meet the writer, Michael Ian Black, whom you may recognize from Reno 911. Let me say this about Black: he is weird. Just an odd bird. His jokes weren't funny, he was more just a sad case. A rather huge downer meeting him. Maybe this is because his movie blew.

But then things improved. Why? Because we got to meet, oh yes, David Schwimmer. That is to say, Ross from Friends. Schwimmer has been trying his hand at directing things around town since Friends ended, and that includes Fatboy. Unfortunately, he isn't nearly as gifted at directing as he is at playing everyone's favorite innocuous hard-up, much-divorced lover of Jennifer Aniston (have I mentioned the movie wasn't good?). But still, getting to sit two feet away from frigging Ross Geller is pretty insane, and he was totally nice.

The craziest thing was, he was possibly the least remarkable of all the Fatboy folks we interviewed that day. In fact, everyone actually paled in comparison to Thandie Newton (Beloved, Crash), who was the love interest in the movie. The thing about Thandie Newton is
A. she is ridiculously gorgeous and B. always seems very serious, ice queeny on camera.

Well, guess what? Only one of those things is true in person. That is to say, she's still inhumanly gorgeous, but the woman is absolutely hilarious. You would never know it from how she is cast on screen, but dear lord. She immediately let loose with a string of expletives that would make even me blush, and then told lots of sordid stories about the gross pranks she and Simon Pegg would play on each other (culminating in her putting candy bars and dirty underwear in his toilet to make it look like someone pooed in there). I am still reeling. She absolutely stole the show, and was delightful. Schwimmer who? That's what I say.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The trouble with Miley

Did I really just say that when you call up places and say you are from Very Important Magazine, they put you through and offer you pots of gold? I lied.

At least, I lied if you are trying to get through to Miley Cyrus. In addition to the Twilight article I was writing (see previous post), I was also writing a profile on Miley Cyrus, teen temptress of Hannah Montana fame.

Once again, for those of you fortunate enough not to either have or be an 11-year-old girl and, like me, disparage most things Disney, I will put it in our terms: Miley Cyrus is the teenaged daughter of the Achy Breaky Heart guy (ie Billy Ray Cyrus) who now has this amazingly craptacular show in Disney Channel that makes 12-year-old girls positively lose their minds. She plays a normal everyday girl (Miley "Stewart") who happens to be a secret pop star (Hannah Montana) by night. Very believable. It must be said here that even I have to admit she has a good voice and her music is sort of catchy, but the show is another story.

If you like anything like 'decent acting' or 'having to think' and do not want to live in a whitewashed millennial version of Ozzie and Harriet while at the same time having your inner self-esteem brainwashed by the evil Disney marketing execs that dress Cyrus in outfits that magically make you think 'I must look like that or else I will suck', then this show is not for you. If, however, you are an elementary school girl who is primed to receive the messages that you must wear our special brand sparkly belt with your leggings for your life to ever be satisfying, then this show is your crack.

In short, in the 2 years since Miley Stewart came on the scene, she has taken over the universe Britney-style, and if her periodic slightly naughty pix that show up on the internet from time to time are anything to go by, she will ultimately have a Britney style melt-down as well.

But I digress. The point is, I had to interview her for this article. We knew, since she is the queen of the universe, that even though I was writing for Very Important Magazine, I'd have a bitch of a time getting ahold of her. Initially that seemed okay, and we figured that quotes from a Disney exec would do. But as time went on, my editor realized that my Miley piece was going to be the lead of the section, in which case getting real quotes from her would be ever more important. Doesn't look vg for the VIM if their lead article is a write-around, after all.

So I'm emailing Disney, her publicist, her agent, I'm name dropping the editor, I'm begging, borrowing, stealing. I'm saying very reasonable things like: this is one of VIM's biggest issues, she's the lead story, it raises money for charity, and I only need five minutes of her time on the phone. And I'm getting: radio silence.

Finally--several days after the original deadline, mind you--the editor and I batter them into giving me 'emailed quotes', which I take as the green light for the publicist to just make stuff up. Which I'm fine with, as long as I have their sign off on it and I have something I can use. They still take SEVERAL MORE DAYS to get me even these, with me still pestering. Then they finally get me the quotes --only answering a couple of the questions I said were 'musts' and ignoring all the rest--of course--and they are utter garbage. They are one liners, totally facile and predictable. I say things like, 'How have things changed for you over the year' and she says things like 'Visiting sick children in hospitals is a blessing.' Terrific. Thanks. Now can you do me a favor and thank Jesus and your mom? Oh wait, you did.

Ridiculous. Editor and I managed to squeeze out a couple of useable sentences from it with much work, but it was ridiculous. It's not 'her' fault, I'm sure, but it makes me look forward to the day she is on Fat Celebrity Dog Food Eating House 3088.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Catherine Hardwicke, Queen of the Universe - Heir Apparent

This week I got to do a phoner with Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the upcoming world-taker-over-er, Twilight.

If you do not know what Twilight is, then you are neither a teenaged girl nor a horny housewife. Since I think being neither of those is a good thing, then I will tell you that Twilight is a series of books about a prenaturally responsible teenaged girl named Bella who falls in love with a vampire. In short it is: tween porn, and the books have successfully managed to knock Harry Potter off the shelves, so you can imagine that the movie will take over the universe (assuming it is not an hour and a half of a vampire farting) with equal vigor.

The fans of the book are of the completely Star Trek, Star Wars, fanatical, insane 'No, Edward Cullen died in 1887 not 1886, you moron' variety. But instead of getting out more, they are busy cutting up construction paper in their basements to make daisy chains counting down the days until the movie hits the theaters (Wait, no one has done daisy chains since I counted down the days to George Michael's birthday in 1987? Oh well.)

Anyhow, so the movie is going to be HUGE, and Catherine Hardwicke is basically going to go from being a tiny indie movie director that no one paid much mind to to 'Will you please bring the blue Maserati around, Jeeves? The red one doesn't match my outfit.' She has directed three movies before this one--Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, and last year's Nativity Story and has basically been able to go low profile. Not so much anymore.

For that reason, I got to profile her for a big-name industry magazine, which means that when you email anyone's people and say, 'I want to interview X' they say, 'Are you sure you only want X? We can also give you the head of the studio and the Princess of Canada if you would like.' So that's nice. I got a half hour on the phone with her, which is basically unheard of for dinkier outlets such as I usually write for.

She is very cool and chill and 'yeah, man' and happy and in no way acted like she was sick of answering the same questions over and over. She also called me from what must be her cell phone. This is the second time someone has called me from their private number (normally the handlers connect the calls through lots of blocked lines and hotel suites and whatnot) and neglected to block the number. So now, in short, if I feel like calling Catherine Hardwicke to hang out or trying to get her to buy someone's Girl Scout Cookies, I have the direct line. I have a feeling once she becomes Queen Twilight, this won't happen anymore.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Holy Grail

As I believe I may have said before, the pleasure of covering a lot of smaller films is getting to meet the bigger talent that will trot out to push their independent projects. One of the biggest cases of this was El Cantante, the horrible Hector Lavoe biopic that starred J-Lo and her man Marc Anthony.

As we sat around the table waiting for her Highness Jennifer Lopez to arrive, I heard stories from the other journos who have interviewed her before. It seems the bootylicious one has been known to be rather a diva before, and has pulled attitude on more than one occasion on more than one of my friends. Someone even told a story of J Lo shoving her (in her defense: my friend was obviously standing in her way). So, I was scared.

Luckily, we had Good J Lo that day, and she was in a very nice mood, cheerful, on time, pleasant, etc. She even joked with one reporter who asked her a question about possibly being up for a Quentin Tarantino movie (or similar) and having her music video be an audition for it. She was wearing a crazy shiny lame type short dress that looked great and was done up to the nines in the hair and make up department, too. It was insane thinking that I was sitting across from someone who was just a couple of years older than me but was clearly in another stratosphere of the universe (note: for further feelings of this, please see any entries I ever post on Charlize Theron). Also, she was, like, weirdly proportioned differently from me. She has kind of a giant head. Not on a terrible way. Just in a 'maybe we're not the same species sort of way.'

Doing the math, I think she was actually probably already with-twins at that time, so I personally attribute her good mood to her impending family. Of course, this is just my random assumption for which I have no real basis.

Weirdly, the bigger story for me that day was Marc Anthony. I have long loathed him. For no good reason, mind you, but the fact remains. I have always found him puny and hideously unattractive, plus I not so secretly suspect he totally controls J-Lo through some fucked up sort of mind meld behind the scenes. Well, turns out, he is, like, Mr. Charisma. In the course of the 15 minute roundtable interview, he succeeded in totally changing my opinion of him. He was totally funny and affable and personable. Maybe he was working his mind meld on me. Still, the movie sucked, but whatever.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yet more foreign directors

For some reason, one I have yet to fully understand, people love to give me directors to interview. Maybe it has something to do with them having trouble mustering up actors to do interviews for small and also shitty movies, so they get the director--who must still love his or her vision--to do the press.

When I had to cover Evening, I had yet another video interview with yet another foreign director--Lajos Koltai (who also did Fateless). He was the anti-Gabor Csupo (ie the foreign director responsible for Bridge to Terabithia) in that instead of answering all of my questions in one 10 second sitting, this guy just went on and on and on. Which is good--better than uncomfortable silence, but not good when you have an editor who hates you and know you are supposed to be 'controlling the talent'.

Then again, I absolutely despised the movie, so I should be happy he chatted away so I didn't have to come up with questions based on the movie other than, 'So why did you choose to make it suck this way?'