5/12/10

CITY ISLAND: TWENTY YEARS LATER AND STILL ASKING...WHO AMMMMMM I?



In its seventh weekend, City Island expanded to take first place among limited releases, with Bollywood crime caper Housefull and previous limited champ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo falling just behind it. New movies from Michael Caine and Nicole Holofcener also performed fairly well, while The Good Heart and Mercy failed to spark much interest.

Box Office Mojo


Well, if Box Office Mojo says it, I don't have to look elsewhere. My faith in them is a beautiful thing, no? And while we're at it, what do we think of turning "City Island" into the first post-"Avatar" three-D "shot-flat, released-demented" indie? Not that this can be done--or at least not in North America (I imagine somewhere in Zagreb a home-converting 3-D system is being worked on in some sinister animation cell...)

And now for where I've been for a week. In meetings. Meetings happen in Hollywood as a time-filler for everyone concerned--the execs who don't read scripts and don't have much else to do, the filmmakers and writers who are desperate to get out of their home-offices and drive around crappy LA, air-conditioners and XM radios blaring...

And now that "City Island" is a movie that...well, I guess the best way to put it is "works"--t's staying in theaters, keeping its averages up and attracting repeat business... people want to meet me. We discuss what I'm doing and what they're doing. At there best, these meetings become friendly bull-sessions on movies and taste in all things cultural. Yesterday I had a great time discussing possible re-makes with the guys at Alcon Entertainment--we were throwing around titles of mostly forgotten 50's Cinemascope epics and figuring out how to update them, etc.

But at their most shallow, these meetings follow a distressingly similar format: I liked your movie...what are you working on next...here's what we're looking to do...we'd love to see anything you're working on...

Not that there's anything wrong with that...it's just that you get the distinct impression in many of these low-grade meetings that you're sitting across from somebody who you will never again encounter in this lifetime. Which makes you wonder which the fun part of your day is: the lousy meeting, or getting to drive around lousy LA?

It suddenly occurred to me, while driving home from a meeting this morning, that I've been at this game a long time. I graduated from the AFI (American Film Institute) in 1990. Got an agent right away. Started going on meetings. That's twenty frigging years ago! That first year of meetings was a constant state of exuberance and hubris. I was twenty-five and, for very little reason indeed, had been anointed the NEXT BIG THING. Why was this? Well, my AFI grad thesis short, 'Bronx Cheers', was nominated for an Academy Award. It's a good film--not as good as it was twenty years ago, but what is?--but I think the fact that it's a period piece (Bronx, 1940's) and that we got it all very right production wise, led the town's tastemakers to see me as a precocious visualist, a kind of budding Zemeckisian-Spielbergian whose taste seemed both popular and pompous, a very winning combination when marketed correctly. Had I grasped this perception of me at the time, I imagine my career would have looked something like this:

Early to mid nineties: Some Disney fare, popular box office things.

Late Nineties: creation (or in on ground floor of) a franchisey thing. Maybe direct the first one and exec produce the sequels.

Early to mid 200's: the TV business gets launched and I flutter between "godfathering" projects under my banner and directing whatever big-budget star driven vehicle I choose. One every two years, I should think.

Now: at 45, a moment of clarity comes to me. I can no longer pursue the soulless endeavors that my career has forced me to focus on. I want to make a "little movie"...about a family, say, in the Bronx. No big special effects, no franchise stuff, not even any major "set piece" scenes. Just a movie about life in a middle-class family, the dreams and desires, the thwarted ambitions and the mistakes of the past, and how we are all forced to face who we are at some point in life.

That movie, of course, would have been "City Island". And I did get to make it. I just skipped the millionaire stuff in between. But screw it. Life is long. Once, many moons ago, Alan Parker (and where the hell is he these days?) came to the AFI and did a seminar. His advice to the students was to not listen to people who say you should start by making money for studios because then "they" will let you make what you want. "If you make them money, they'll never let you stop'", he said. "Start by making what you really want to make. Get rich later." ( If you think that sounds candid, watch the below interview with Parker and listen to him discuss his own film "Pink Floyd's The Wall". I believe the operative phrase is 'utter tosh'. And he's the fucking director.) Apparently I was listening when AP offered up this bit of wisdom and I have spent the last twenty years doing what I've wanted to do. So in a stunning reversal I've decided to finally take these meetings seriously and get rich. Look, there are only so many movies made a year and somebody has to direct each one of them. (Unless you're Soderbergh and you direct every other one of the them.) So for my next twenty years I intend to do the very thing that conventional wisdom (not Alan Parker) would say I should have done with my first twenty years. And for the twenty years after that I plan to revert to complete infantilism, reliving my actual first twenty years on the planet well into my doddering eighties.

But if anyone has any ideas for that elusive "franchisey" thing...



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2 comments:

  1. Dear Raymond:

    You are not allowed to make a movie based on a childhood toy. No movies based on TinkerToys, Magic Eight Balls, Action Jackson, etc.

    You are also not allowed to make a movie based on something you or I might have watched on television in the mid-1970's. No Kojak movie, no Fantasy Island "reboot".

    If you violate these ethos, the ghosts of Robert Altman and Billy Wilder will come back to haunt you.

    God knows you have the right to cash in on your considerable momentum. After all, you have a wife and kid to support. Just tiptoe carefully, my friend.

    DAN

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  2. I just read online that there is a film in development based on the "Rollercoaster Tycoon" computer game. Raymond, you are not allowed to make that movie either.

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