News from April 19, 2001

Before we get started, allow me a moment to memorialize Michael Ritchie, the talented filmmaker whose death on Monday was not announced until Thursday morning.

Ritchie’s career as a filmmaker, coming out of the Golden Age of television, can be split into two distinct sections. As a newcomer to filmmaking, Ritchie was a ballbuster who, with partner in crime Robert Redford, created two of the best films during the last great age of cinema, Downhill Racer (1969) and The Candidate (1972), which turned a sullied eye to Olympic skiing and politics respectively. After Smile, his beautifully satirical look at beauty pageants, Ritchie’s career took a decided turn when he helmed The Bad News Bears. The jaded cynicism of his early films got soft, but his direction remained sharp in projects like Semi-Tough, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom and the two Fletch films of the 1980s.

Ritchie’s final film was the long on the shelf adaptation of the off-Broadway classic The Fantastiks, which saw a token release from MGM/UA after Ritchie and Francis Ford Coppola recut the film.

Godspeed, Michael Ritchie.

If I can get serious here for just a moment…

You’d think, now that the 2000 elections are over, Senator Joe Lieberman (who, incidentally, is the twin brother of Prof. Irwin Corey) would quietly slink back into the halls of the Capitol Building and keep his two faced, “I’m gonna keep running for reelection to my Senate seat just in case Al isn’t the candidate I’ve been brainwashed to believe he is” trap shut.

Sadly, little Joey isn’t that smart.

J. Lieb has announced his attentions to introduce legislation next week which would give the FTC authority to prosecute media companies who market adult fare to children. This despite the FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky last year, while Jojo was still banging on his drum, saying this type of action could violate the First Amendment.

Now, my wife and I don’t have kids yet, but I have believed since my days as a youth, brought up in a Libertarian household, that it is not the place of the government to tell the people what they can and can not do. I want to know how the Senator from Connecticut plans on defining what “adult fare” is. Would a film like The Breakfast Club be considered “adult fare” with its R rating and foul mouthed, dope smoking brats, even though the film was clearly aimed toward the high school crowdr How about Schindler’s List, with all the death and despair, cruelty and inhumanity displayed for three plus hoursr

As much as I dislike MPAA today Jack “Boom Boom” Valenti, the organization does their job pretty well. They rate the previews and commercials and newspaper ads and all aspects of a film’s promotion outside of the web. More often than not, the MPAA errs on the side of overcaution. And even when the MPAA lets a commercial like the one for Bridget Jones’s Diary through, with a shot of Bridget’s fishnet stockinged gams and fully covered rump sliding down a fireman’s pole, the networks have asked for these shots to be edited out.

In my personal opinion, Joe Lieberman should be more concerned with keeping the pork-barreled spending of himself and his cronies in check and leave the parenting of our nation’s children to the parents. Joe needs to stop wasting tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money making frequent trips to Hollywood to try and convince the studios he is some kind of Beltway big shot.

Unless Joe wants to see nothing but Barney movies made until the day he dies, I suggest he follow the path of former Senator Bob Dole, get himself some freakin’ Viagra and leave us the hell alone.

Yipee Kay Yay! We’ve got ourselves yet another awards show!

The World Stunt Academy, royally pissed off while Oscar recognition has eluded them, have announced the nominations for the first World Stunt Awards, “the first international awards dedicated to the achievements of film stunt professionals.” Categories include best driving, aerial work and work with an animal.

Critical favorite Charlie’s Angels leads the pack with six nominations, with The Perfect Storm following with five. Three special awards will be given out at the awards, to be held May 20 in Santa Monica, for broadcast on ABC June 16. John Woo will receive an action-movie director award honoring his work on such films as M:I2 and Face/Off, while Arnold Schwarzenegger will receive the Taurus Honorary Award for his stunt work in films. Former stuntman and director Hal Needham, whose stunt filled films like Hooper and Smokey and the Bandit helped make Burt Reynolds one of the top stars of the 1970s, will receive the Taurus Lifetime Achievement Award, despite numerous reports of unsafe conditions on his sets and his role in helping to cripple a stuntwoman during the shooting of The Cannonball Run.

The awards are backed by the Red Bull Energy Drink Co.

The National Association of Theatre Owners has announced that 750 movie screens have been shuttered since the first of the year, roughly 25% more than NATO originally anticipated. The screen count for the US and Canada currently hovers in the 37,500 range. NATO hopes to get that number down to 30,000. At the rate the theatres are closing now, it would still take two and a half years to get down to their fighting weight.

As a former theatre manager for United Artists, Cineplex Odeon and Landmark, I think the focus should move from shuttering older theatres to converting them to “dollar houses.” Movie theatres are often one of the anchors of a successful retail complex. Close the theatre and the traffic at every other retailer in that shopping center drops. However, if studios and exhibitors could work out an agreement that would get films into the secondary theatres in a more timely fashion with a better split for the theatres, it’s a win-win situation for these two groups and their respective employees, the businesses who rely on theatres to bring in traffic and their employees, and the video retailers and their employees, who can point to films having played in theatres for months instead of weeks when trying to convince renters to go for the latest David Arquette piperoo.