Who would have guessed that Bud Selig is a revolutionary thinker?
(Who would have guessed that Bud Selig of all people would give me fodder for an article?)
Baseball's commish has ratified the owners' vote to drop two Major League Baseball teams before the start of next season. (Never mind the myriad legal battles that stand in his way.)
Now that the nation's downsizing trend has made its way to baseball burgs, Hollywood.com has taken the "drop-two" concept to entertainment groupings that might need a trim.
And, unlike baseball, we're not afraid to name our two, either.
Group: Harry Potter characters
Which Two Get Canned: Professor Dumbledore and Hermione Granger
Why: Both are stuck-up, righteous, know-it-alls. Who needs 'em?
Group: ABC primetime shows
Which Two Get Canned: Dharma & Greg, America's Funniest Home Videos
Why: True, the whole lineup deserves to be canned, but these shows rotted on the vine a long time ago.
Group: 'N Sync
Which Two Get Canned: Lance and Joey
Why: For one, they can't sing. For two, they starred in that God-awful movie, On the Line.
Group: James Bond movies
Which Two Get Canned: The Living Daylights, License to Kill
Why: Even George Lazenby was a better Bond than the wooden Mr. Dalton.
Which Two Get Canned: Ross and Monica
Why: The other four--especially Chandler--are actually funny at times.
Group: Destiny's Child
Which Two Get Canned: The two who aren't Beyonce
Why: Because we don't even know the names of the two who aren't Beyonce.
Group: Jackson 5
Which Two Get Canned: Marlon, Randy
Why: As if we'd ever get rid of Tito...
Group: Star Trek
Which Two Get Canned: Sulu, Transporter Chief Kyle
Why: They're the first two to go when a recession finally hits the Federation.
Group: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Which Two Get Canned: Commander Riker, Wesley Crusher
Why: Extraneous. Captain Picard needs Riker like he needs a third leg, and the young Mr. Crusher is just a skinny snot rag.
Group: Led Zeppelin
Which Two Get Canned: John Bonham, John Paul Jones
Why: They aren't Robert Plant or Jimmy Paige. This was essentially a two-man band.
Group: The Brady Bunch
Which Two Get Canned: Jan, Sam
Why: Their names have three letters. And Jan is just a whiny little snot rag. Hmm, maybe she should date Wesley Crusher.
Group: Rocky Franchise
Which Two Get Canned: IV, V
Why: Five was way too many Rocky movies. Even Sugar Ray Leonard didn't un-retire this many times.
Group: Late night TV hosts
Which Two Get Canned: Conan O'Brien, Charles Grodin
Why: Can't get rid of Jay or David; they have too much money. And we like Craig Kilborn and Charlie Rose too much.
Group: Star Wars movies
Which Two Get Canned: Return of the Jedi, Phantom Menace
Why: Jedi was the weak link of the first trio, and Attack of the Clones--despite the inane title--will be infinitely better than Phantom Menace.
Which Two Get Canned: Chloe, Luka
Why: Both of them have lost that lovin' feeling.
Which Two Get Canned: Ringo, George
Why: (See comment above, re: Led Zeppelin.)
Group: The Simpsons
Which Two Get Canned: Skinner's mom, Rod Flanders
Why: Agnes had sex with the Comic Book Guy, which is unforgivable. Rod, the elder Flanders son, has already left the straight-and-narrow path set by his dad: How boring.
And an honorable mention goes to The Sopranos, who don't need to be on this list. They do a good enough job of contraction all by themselves.
Herbert Ross, a choreographer and the director of many Oscar-caliber films including The Goodbye Girl and The Turning Point, died Tuesday. He was 74.
The cause of death is not known, but he had been hospitalized for the past three months, Barbara Wrede, media relations manager for Lenox Hill Hospital told the Associated Press.
Ross began his career as a choreographer on Broadway but got into film when he choreographed the musical sequences in the 1954 Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge. His first major film as a director was Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1969 with Peter O'Toole.
Ross' virtuosity as a director became clear in the 1970s, when he began a longtime collaboration with playwright Neil Simon, directing Simon's The Sunshine Boys, California Suite and the The Goodbye Girl, which won Richard Dreyfuss the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also directed Woody Allen's hilarious Play It Again Sam and Barbra Streisand's The Owl and the Pussycat.
In 1977, Ross put on his dancing shoes once again and directed his classic The Turning Point, a study of the ballet world, starring Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, and received his only Academy Award nominations--for Best Director and Best Picture.
In the 1980s and 90s, he turned out critical and box office success such as The Secret of My Success with Michael J. Fox, Footloose with Kevin Bacon and Steel Magnolias with Sally Field and Julia Roberts.
Ross' first wife, prima ballerina Nora Kaye, died of cancer in 1987. In 1989, he married Lee Radziwill, the sister of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. They divorced in 1999.
Nobody saw "Nobody." Almost.
With an unwhopping $488 take (less than the price of a big-screen TV), the Phaedra Cinema release was 1999's lowest-grossing feature on record through Dec. 30, industry statistics show.
The film, a Japanese import, represents the flip side of Hollywood's chest-thumping and box-office boasting. For each blockbuster that pulled in $100 million-plus last year (there were 18 in all), there were at least 20 that grossed less than $2,000.
Directed by first-timer Toshimichi Ohkawa, "Nobody" was an action thriller about three friends whose lives changed when a bar fight became something far, far beyond their control. In a review for @NZone Magazine, writer Dustin Putman awarded the film a passing two-and-a-half (out of five) stars, calling it a "tautly filmed and tightly developed" flick that ultimately fell apart.
So, "Nobody," at least according to one reviewer, wasn't terrible. Was it worthy of something bigger than the three-figure gross it pulled in last June?
Sometimes victories aren't measured in dollars and cents.
"Just the fact that you are able to shatter the barrier of getting into a theater is victory enough," says Adam Jahnke, assistant director of Los Angeles operations for Troma Entertainment. "You have to first narrow your vision to the very few independent theaters operating, and then actually get your film booked. It is not an easy process."
Troma - home to low-budget legends such as "The Toxic Avenger" -- knows of where it speaks. The company released the 14th-lowest-grossing flick of '99, "Terror Firmer." The horror flick, a wildly comic tale of carnage, sex and bloodshed on the set of a low-budget movie, earned $1,434 the hard way on just two screens, according to box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.
"It is an uphill battle all the way," Janhke says. "If you make any money after all that, that's a bonus."
Of course, not all low-grossing films are the products of scrappy filmmakers devoid of big-time studio bucks. Five of 1999's bottom 20 were released by major distributors. Miramax ("Heaven"), Strand Releasing ("Pink Narcissus"), Gramercy ("I Want You"), Lion's Gate ("Elvis Gratton 2") and MGM ("Tinseltown") all issued titles that wound up in the under-$2,000 gross category.
These flicks didn't necessarily want for star power, either. Tony Spiridakis' "Tinseltown," a black comedy about two homeless screenwriters who befriend a possible serial killer with hopes of selling a movie based on the would-be sicko's exploits, featured familiar faces like Kristy Swanson ("Buffy, the Vampire Slayer") and Ron Perlman ("Beauty and the Beast"). The crime drama "I Want You" starred Rachel Weisz, who made 1999's top-grosser list as Brendan Fraser's love interest in "The Mummy." Name talent or no, "Tinseltown" and "I Want You" earned less than $1,800 - combined.
And while 19 of the bottom 20 features played at no more than two theaters, Lion's Gate opened the French-language Canadian comedy "Elvis Gratton 2" on a not-too-shabby 91 screens. But with just under $1,200 at the domestic box office through Dec. 30, "Elvis" actually performed worse (per-screen-average-wise) than any other film on the low-grossers list.
In some cases, last year's bottom feeders are still in release and may well end up making more cash before calling it quits and praying for video pay dirt. Troma's "Terror Firmer," for instance, continues its Los Angeles run -- moving from the USC-area University Cinema to the midnight confines of the New Beverly Theater.
Ultimately, the fate of a very small film -- like a "Nobody" -- is traditionally grim. Without money to promote and little incentive for theaters to book, these features are rarely given the exposure they need -- regardless of quality and content.
"Many times you simply can't put together the marketing campaign that will shout loud enough to get above the Hollywood films that command the market's attention," says Sam L. Grogg, dean of the American Film Institute's Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies. "What is important is the critical play and getting the attention of the film intelligentsia."
But Grogg says realists understand that even that kind of breakthrough is rare.
"You have to understand what the limitations are and use them accordingly," Grogg says. "I've always thought of the theatrical release as a launching pad for other release mediums - whether home video or cable TV. A theatrical release is still sought after, however. If you have a movie, you want to have it shown in front of people."
And not "Nobody."
Here's a complete look at the 20 lowest-grossing films of 1999, according to Exhibitor Relations:
1. "Nobody" (Phaedra) -- $488 2. "Bastards" (Margin) -- $503 3. "Tinseltown" (MGM) -- $517 4. "Summerspell" (Margin) -- $603 5. "Olympia" (King) -- $640 6. "Port Djema" (Shadow) -- $783 7. "The Underground Comedy Movie" (Phaedra) -- $856 8. "Flushed" (1st Look) -- $935 9. "The Milky Way" (Kino) -- $1,098 10. "Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment" (1st Run) -- $1,145 11. "Elvis Gratton 2" (Lion's Gate) -- $1,156 12. "Lilian's Story" (Phaedra) -- $1,220 13. "I Want You" (Gramercy) -- $1,242 14. "Terror Firmer" (Troma) -- $1,434 15. "Sixth Happiness" (Regent) -- $1,540 16. "Virtue" (Margin) -- $1,565 17. "Young and Dangerous" (Margin) -- $1,624 18. "The Pusher" (1st Run) - $1,656 19. "Pink Narcissus" (Strand) -- $1,724 20. "Heaven" (Miramax) -- $1,983