Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Friends of mine and readers of this blog know well that I am no fan of Sean Penn. It has nothing to do with his "homo loving" (I bet I love homos more than he does), it has something to do with his "commie loving", but it mostly has to do with his smug, self-important, I'm-a-journalist-now-because-I-wrote-something-for-the-SF-Chronicle-once attitude.

So, even though I wanted Mickey Rourke to win on Sunday, this ain't no post-Oscar post with the intention of raining on Penn's parade. He won. Yay. And I'm sure if I landed in his house one day he'd grill me a nice steak and we'd talk about boobs and Brian DePalma and get on nicely for a while.

But, dude... WTF?!?:

Fair Game the drama about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, has come together with Naomi Watts starring, Mrs. and Mrs. Smith helmer Doug Liman directing and William Pohlad's River Road financing. But the big question is whether Oscar-winning Milk star Sean Penn will close a deal to play Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

But let's pause on Penn, for a second, and let the above soak in...

Doug Liman is making a Valerie Plame movie??? In the tone of voice and words of Enid from Ghost World, I say, "How .... totally amazing.".

So... the dude that made Jumper and Go is making a movie about an interwoven web of connections that lead to a CIA leak? Does this mean there's gonna be a rave scene with Joe Wilson and Dick Armitage talking about yellow cake as they snort lines in a chillout tent? Is Rachel Bilson gonna play Judith Miller, and will there be a sex scene between her and that fat guy from TIME? Will Rob Corrdry reprise his Ari Fleisher role from W.? Will Hayden Christianson play Patrick Fitzgerald "jumping" between D.C. and north Africa looking for clues and evidence?

Good grief. What is wrong with Hollywood?!?!

Look, I'll go see any movie, so I'm not a good barometer for public taste, but who outside of the political blogger arena really wants to see a movie about Valerie Plame? Actually, as I write this and think through this at the same time I'm starting to make sense of it. This is gonna be Doug Liman's Oscar play. He's making his Ron Howard move. No more teeny-bopper movies for Mr. Liman! No sir. He wants some respect!

Honestly, I think Liman should stick with a "teen theme" for Fair Game. Everyone in Washington behaves like high schoolers anyways (and that's probably being too generous). It could work on two-levels, y'know? Critics will use words like "metaphor", "allegory", and "symbolism" in their reviews, and then Charlie Rose will have Liman on for a self-important interview where he sports a hat and a beard and fiddles with a coffee cup and says nothing interesting. (Did you see when the cast of Doubt was on? Their roundtable discussion turned into an instant sequel called Tedious.)

Man, I should be a producer.


Jonathan Lapper said...

They're making it because Valerie Plame was a spy and a pretty blonde. Shallow Hollywood producers can't just walk away from that. They can cast Naomi Watts and not be accused of prettying up a historical character for the movie.

Who knows, maybe Limen can make something out of it.

tommy salami said...

Liman also made The Bourne Identity, and they're probably going to play it like that. Greengrass would have been better- his Bourne movies at least had a political slant.

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fox said...


I like Naomi Watts, but she's on a weird trajectory right now. I prefer her either in comedies/cutesy-dramas (I Heart Huckabees, Le Divorce) or playing the wide eyed innocent (Mulholland Drive, Eastern Promises).


They can cast Naomi Watts and not be accused of prettying up a historical character for the movie.

Uh... Valerie Plame ain't THAT pretty!


True. But I don't like the Bourne movies. Even then, the most watchable things about Bourne is when he's like climbing a wall or something, right? I can't imagine the Plame movie (they should go biopic monosyllabic and call it Plame just like Milk or the upcoming Salt).


That's good info. on Liman's dad, and, admittedly, it adds a little flicker to the thought of this movie. Still, I've never been a fan of Liman's (maybe if you put Swingers on for 5 minutes I'd be ok with it...).

Good call on the Penn/Wilson thing though. Hollywood people and D.C. seem to come from the same cloth these days.

Jason Bellamy said...

I think this is more evidence of the cinematic land grab mentality. Studios are in so desperate for anything "new" that they're turning out films for subjects that would be better left explored in 10 or 15 years. These days ANYTHING is fair game for a movie, and studios gobble up novels or memoires or whatever and make it -- because it's better to put out a mediocre product than to get beat on a project (or so they think). It's too bad.

Then again, it's food for thought. Sometimes we bitch too much when Hollywood comes out with something that feels familiar. I'll take familiar. I just want intelligent and exhilerating.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Uh... Valerie Plame ain't THAT pretty!

I disagree. She's pretty goddamn good looking IMO.

Fox said...


You're right about the bitching too much. But it helps with filling in blog space sometimes! :)

However, in my own little bubble, I've been right at least 2/3 of the time when I see something coming down the shoot and call it poop.

But then I can turn right around and name you two recent films that I swore were gonna be bad, but that I ended up liking: Battle for Haditha and Otto; OR, Up With Dead People. Though... I guess those aren't Hollywood movies, but you get what I'm sayin'.

So, yeah, a lot of this pre-judgment spouting-off does kinda feel like barbershop chatter or old lady bridge talk, but, we gotta have our philosopher's stone too, right?

TRACTOR FACTS: Your steam room in the Movie blogosphere!. Stop by today and sound off.

Fox said...


I think you just have an interrogation fantasy.

... me too.

Jason Bellamy said...

Fox: Oh, I'm all for bitching. Especially bitching in advance. What I was trying to get across is that in theory this film sounds driven by nothing more than, "Let's make this movie before someone else does!" Maybe I'll be proven wrong. I doubt it. And that's bitch-worthy.

What I meant with my complaint about the more-of-the-same complaint is that too often people knee-jerk all gangster films as Scorsese or Tarantino rip-offs. No one can wear a kilt anymore without it being a Braveheart wannabe. Etc. It's like we have our favorites and everything that comes after it is a rip-off ... forgetting of course that even our favorites are rip-offs of something else.

Now, granted, sometimes that charge is accurate. Fuck Hollywood and its cliches! Watching Defiance a few weeks ago, I almost vomited during the scene in which Daniel Craig rides around on the one fucking horse in the camp to deliver his big motivational speech. I mean, really, he couldn't have just done it from the ground? Braveheart, Gladiator, Alexander, fucking Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and on and on and on. Way too many to name. Though that would be a fun challenge.

When I make my epic, I'm going to have the hero shoot the horse in the head and then whisper his dramatic speech to into each person's ear, one by one.

Where was I? Ah, you get the point. (Assuming there was one.)

Fox said...


You're right. There is a need to quickly react to films. Like, for instance, whenever I see Clive Owen in a trailer I think "oh, here's another 'politcial thriller/sexy action flick'". And I like Clive Owen, I don't mean to isolate him, it's just the way it goes.

And I don't even know if that's necessarily a good or bad thing. It may just be our way of making sense of trends, putting things into categories. I know some people despise that, but I think it's ok.

Now, on the Plame movie. I think there are a couple of reasons behind it's rush:

1.) I think Hollywood knows it has a small window before that story leaves the public's consciousness.

2.) I bet Plame & Wilson know they have a small window to cash in on their semi-celebrity. Now I don't know the business of it, maybe after Plame sold the book she's not due any more money, or maybe she does indeed get some back end if the movie is a hit. I have no idea.

You can apply those things to many, many films coming out of Hollywood. And I'm not saying it's necessarily bad. Smart business doesn't mean you're gonna make a bad film. I'm sure Baby Mama was rushed to capitalize on the popularity of the team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. And I'm glad they did cuz I really like that film.

But then you have something like last year's Smart People that was rushed to screens in order to capitalize on Ellen Page's Juno popularity and it backfired.

Jason Bellamy said...

Is that true about Smart People? I assumed it was shot before Juno was released.

As for your latest points about the Plame/Wilson movie ...

No. 2 is probably correct. But just because a studio buys the rights to a story doesn't mean they have to rush out and make it. Though perhaps in these tough economic times, there's no future investing anymore. Which brings me to No. 1: Regardless of how excellent or not this film turns out to be, I'd bet it would be better received if released 10 years from now, when the story has left the public's consciousness.

Isn't that what we keep learning with these box office failures for Iraq-themed movies? I don't think the public is tired of depictions of the war alone. They're just tired of more of the same, whatever the same is. TV has done well rushing together movies about still hot-button tabloid fodder. But cinema always seems to benefit from a more distant view. Part of that, I'm sure, is that we like to be transported. And what's the fun of being transported to the story I read three months ago in the New York Times?

Fox said...

I'm not sure if Smart People was finished prior to Juno or not. It's stamped with a 2008 on IMDB and Juno has a 2007, but I don't know if that really says anything.

Either way, to me at least, Smart People felt like an unfinished movie rushed out at the beginning of '08 to capitalize on Page's quirky likability.


I agree with you on the misconception that the public doesn't wanna watch War on Terror films. I think time & distance is a factor, but I also think the fact that the films themselves just haven't been very good is an even bigger reason. Hollywood doesn't seem to wanna own up to that. If something bombs, they blame the audience. Boo.

Now, for good and bad, I think the right kind of films are starting to be made. Films that are trying to connect to the experiences of the soldiers and families and "the people", instead of the grandstanding political statements of films like Syriana and Rendition. I think movies like Stop-Loss, Home of the Brave, Grace is Gone, Battle for Haditha, and The Lucky Ones are on the right path. None of those films did well at the box office, but I would argue that they weren't given a chance. Most were given either limited runs in limited cities or went straight-to-DVD. (Again, not all of those movies I listed above are good, but I think they're on the wiser path as far as reaching the public).

As for having an Iraq War version of Platoon or Apocolypse Now or The Thing Red Line or whatever war film you choose, I think you make a good point that it's too soon. I'm guessing that those films benefited from the input of soldiers and doing that right now, for Iraq, might be a bit too premature. Might.

sexy said...