Left wide open to interpretation and maddening deadening effect INLAND EMPIRE (purposely in all caps) is an organic work of art that sparks thought and debate. It’s not a story of anyone or anything in particular—and the movie experience is as frustrating as that sounds. But we’ll attempt to explain anyway: Four or five unconnected plotlines revolve around Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) a troubled actress in love. Nikki is shooting a film costarring Devon (Justin Theroux) and directed by Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons). Nikki’s schizophrenic tortured reality seems to blur her personal identity with that of her movie character Susan Blue. Dern screams she’s in love with her Billy the character Devon is playing in the movie while those around her seem confused. We too in the audience are left unaware of what world Dern is in. A psychedelic series of interludes focuses on a family of brown rabbits with upright ears (one voiced by Naomi Watts) framed coldly in a living room with a 1950’s-style TV laugh-track. Another recurrent series of images is a Polish subtitled film aborted when its stars are killed. With INLAND EMPIRE we’re left to guess what Lynch is thinking. Is it Nikki’s internal self--or could it be ourselves? Whatever it is it’s big and mysterious. INLAND EMPIRE is essentially a Dern marathon one-woman showing her ability to play grizzled upset crazy frightening smiling and folksy all with a tarnished luster. She’s a Lynch three-time collaborator after Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet. If INLAND EMPIRE were a better more logical movie Dern may have been touted for an Oscar or Golden Globe nomination. But alas the performance is too parsed and incomplete to register an emotional resonance with most audiences. Dern has several powerful scenes in which she’s vulnerable wounded and pathologically driven for violence – and one of those all-important crying scenes. But under Lynch’s directing Nikki/Susan is like a photographic scrapbook of vignettes not a complete character. Numerous recognizable cameos (William H. Macy Mary Steenburgen Watts) add to Lynch’s credibility while Harry Dean Stanton (in his fourth Lynch film) has a funny befuddled turn as a director’s assistant. Irons is strong--if under-used--as director Kingsley. He chomps his scenes playing the Hollywood conventions of a larger-than-life helmer to delicious effect. INLAND EMPIRE is a baffling statement of artistic entitlement. Its Lynch’s first film since Mulholland Dr. which garnered the pop provocateur an Oscar nomination for Best Director but its a fussy follow-up a long-winded Terry Gilliam-like descent into dementia. At three hours confusion is the collective effect as though the film has been conceived on some kind of altered drug-induced state. The intention seems to evoke an emotional response instead of an intellectual one but it’s mostly one of distress. The audience’s only option is to follow along through black-and-brown-lighted visions of nothing. Lynch described in INLAND EMPIRE press materials as “Eagle Scout Missoula Montana ” financed this avant-garde film himself and plans to promote it in person with a live cow. If that makes sense to you buy a ticket.
David Lynch's Mulholland Drive was voted the best picture of 2001 by the New York Film Critics Circle. Robert Altman was named best director for his 1930s period piece Gosford Park, while Helen Mirren took the best supporting actress nod for her performance in the film. Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson were voted best actress and actor for their stunning work in Todd Field's In the Bedroom and Steve Buscemi won best supporting actor kudos for Ghost World. Rounding out the picks, the Chinese In the Mood for Love was chosen as best foreign-language film and Richard Linklater's Waking Life took top honors in the animation category.
Tom Hanks is DreamWorks' flavor of the month. Having already signed on to star in two new films for the studio, Terminal and The Road to Perdition, he is now in negotiations to star in DreamWorks' Comrade Rockstar based on the life of the late rocker Dean Reed.
"You talkin' to me?" Robert De Niro heads the list of the 100 greatest film actors of all time, at least according to a poll of 13,500 British movie channel FilmFour viewers. Al Pacino came in second, while Kevin Spacey and Jack Nicholson followed in the third and fourth spots. Jodie Foster was the highest ranking female star in 23rd place.
Supermodel Cindy Crawford is going to try her hand at acting once again. She'll be starring in the romantic drama The Simian Line with William Hurt, Lynn Redgrave, Eric Stoltz and Harry Connick Jr. Crawford's last movie, 1995's Fair Game, bombed at the box office.
The Wall Street Journal reports that NBC will be the first network to run advertisements for hard liquor in 50 years. In a deal with UK's Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray gin and Johnnie Walker whiskies, NBC will run the ads during primetime hours (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.), as well as during late-night television. The first commercial for Smirnoff will run this weekend during Saturday Night Live.
The six-million dollar man, Steve Austin, is coming back--to the big screen. The 1972 Martin Caidin novel Cyborg, on which the hit '70s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man was based, is being developed as a feature by Dimension Films and Universal Pictures. Kevin Smith is being rumored to direct.
Fox's hit show Malcolm in the Middle will air a special one-hour post-Super Bowl episode Feb. 3, with guest stars Susan Sarandon, Bradley Whitford, Christina Ricci, Patrick Warburton, Stephen Root, Tom Green and Fox Sports personalities Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw.
The never-shy Elton John will promote lipstick for cosmetic company MAC, in an effort to raise money for AIDS. He'll be joining Mary J. Blige and Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage, in the ad campaign.
Chevy Chase and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels will be developing a new NBC series targeted for the 2002 fall season. A twist on the popular 1960s series My Three Sons, Chase will play a modern-day Fred MacMurray who is a single dad to three teenage daughters.
The Walt Disney Co. has paid $902,778 to settle claims that a subcontractor of Disney, who made beaded tiaras and wands for Disney, were paying their workers less than a quarter of the mandated minimum wage. A spokeswoman for the studio said they were unaware that labor laws were being violated.
Eagles guitarist and solo artist Joe Walsh will receive an honorary doctorate in music from Kent State University during a commencement ceremony on Saturday. Walsh has stated that he regrets having not graduated.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.
CBS won the first week of the May sweeps, powered by its hit reality show Survivor II: The Australian Outback and its coupled drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The two shows scored second- and third-place finishes respectively, behind an episode of NBC's E.R., which saw the return of Sally Field. CBS averaged an 8.4 household rating for the week with a 14 share. NBC, no longer feeling the drag of ratings for its XFL football telecasts, was close behind with an 8.2/14. ABC, which placed two editions of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in the top ten, was third with a 7.1/12, followed by Fox with a 5.7/10. Meanwhile, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw set a modern record by maintaining the lead among network newscasts for 52 consecutive weeks.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. E.R. NBC, 17.5/29; 2. Survivor II: The Australian Outback, CBS, 16.6/27; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 14.4/22; 4. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Sunday), ABC, 12.0/18; 5. West Wing, NBC, 11.9/19; 6. Millionaire (Tuesday), ABC, 11.7/20; 7. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 11.4/17; 8. Law and Order, NBC, 11.3/19; 9. The Practice, ABC, 11.2/18; 10. Friends, NBC, 10.9/19.
TALKS BETWEEN WRITERS, PRODUCERS CONTINUE PAST DEADLINE
Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers stayed at the bargaining table for nearly three hours past the 12:01 a.m. expiration of their contract, then announced that they would resume their talks at noon Wednesday. Although spokespersons for both sides said that the current contract had not been formally extended, the fact that the WGA negotiators did not call for a strike authorization vote appeared to represent a de facto recognition of a day-to-day extension. It also suggested that the two sides may be nearing an agreement. Each side, however, declined to say whether progress was being made. "We are working very hard to reach an agreement," Writers Guild spokeswoman Cheryl Rhoden told reporters at the end of last night's (this morning's) session.
NBC CHIEF QUERIES PRODUCERS ABOUT "THE SOPRANOS"
In what was regarded by executives at HBO as a slap at their most successful program, NBC President Robert Wright has written to several top producers asking for their views about the impact of The Sopranos -- "a show which we could not and would not air on NBC because of the violence, language and nudity." The letter was accompanied by a tape of one Sopranos episode that included sex scenes and a violent beating of a prostitute. HBO Chairman Jeff Bewkes told the New York Times, "I take exception to his implication that there in inappropriate content on the show. I feel it's unjustified. It's hard to understand what he's trying to do." Wright told Wednesday's Los Angeles Times that his goal was to provoke a dialogue about where network programming is heading.
GM AND NEWS CORP TO CONTINUE DIRECTV TALKS
The board of directors of General Motors said Tuesday that they wanted to continue talks with News Corp about merging Hughes Electronics' DirecTV with the media giant's Sky Global Networks. GM is the parent company of Hughes.
AUSTRALIA TO AIR "SURVIVOR" FINALE EARLY
Australia's Channel 9, which has been airing Survivor: The Australian Outback about a week after it is seen in the United States, will carry last week's episode followed by the finale only hours after the American telecast Thursday night (Friday in Australia). Executives of the Australian network had feared that revelation of the winner in the Australian press would discourage viewers from tuning in.
ROBB SURFACES -- WITH EXPOSE -- AT "INSIDE"
David Robb, the former Hollywood Reporter journalist who quit his job last week in a dispute with the publisher over an investigative article he had written about the trade paper's gossip columnist, has found an outlet for his work: the online media magazine Inside . Robb includes allegations in his article that Reporter columnist George Christy accepted numerous favors from persons and companies that he wrote about -- particularly Steve Stabler and Brad Krevoy of Motion Picture Corporation of America and Destination Films. He claims that for years Christy received free office space from the now-defunct companies valued at $1,000-$1,250 per month and that although his credits appear in listings for five films produced by Stabler and Krevoy, Christy is nowhere to be seen in any of them. Inside announced Tuesday that Robb will be covering the actors' and writers' guild negotiations for the Web site.
THROWING A CROWBAR INTO THE WORKS
Government and industry lawyers told a federal appeals court Tuesday that unless the panel upholds a ruling barring the distribution of a computer program that breaks the industry's encryption code aimed at preventing DVDs from being copied, perfect digital copies of movies could be uploaded onto the Internet and distributed worldwide. The program, called DeCSS, amounts to a "digital crowbar" for copyright thieves, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Alter told the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. However, Stanford University Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan, who represents Eric Corley, the operator of an Internet hacker site that published the code, shot back: "The government is trying to impose strict liability for having a crowbar, whether you're a carpenter or a thief." Corley and others have contended that DeCSS is essential for watching DVDs on many computers that are not equipped with the Windows operating system -- but that it is impractical for bootlegging them on the Internet.
BRITISH WRITER "IMPRESSED" BY QUICK DEAL WITH DREAMWORKS
A British sci-fi writer says that he was "impressed" when he received a phone call from DreamWorks offering to buy the film rights to three novels that he had written as a trilogy. Terry Pratchett told Britain's Guardian newspaper that DreamWorks plans to use the books -- Truckers, Diggers and Wings, together known as the Bromeliad Trilogy -- as the basis for a computer-animated film to be directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek). "You've got to be impressed when someone from the studio phones up from Hollywood one night and turns up for lunch in Wiltshire, England, the very next day," Pratchett said. DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg commented, "There are few authors whose work lends itself to animation as well as Terry Pratchett's."
BRITISH FILM COMPANY GOING AFTER HOLLYWOOD
Britain's commercial Channel 4, whose FilmFour movie division has turned out such moderate low-budget hits as Trainspotting, The Crying Game and Elizabeth, announced Tuesday that it is altering its strategy and will begin producing more expensive films featuring major British and American stars. Channel 4 CEO Michael Jackson said Tuesday that the company is launching 4 Ventures Limited to attract investors in the company's film business. He said that it has already signed Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Andie MacDowell, Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Harris and Ian Holm for forthcoming projects, including the upcoming $22-million production of Charlotte Gray, based on the Sebastian Faulks novel and starring Blanchett and Crudup.
WILL "BRIDGET" BECOME BRITAIN'S BIGGEST HIT?
Bridget Jones's Diary retained the top spot at the British box office for the third consecutive weekend, earning $5 million to bring its total U.K. gross to $30.1 million, the British trade paper Screen International reported Tuesday. (The film had grossed $36.8 million through Monday in the United States) British analysts projected that the film will eventually eclipse Notting Hill as the most successful British film in history. (Notting Hill earned $43.5 million in Britain and $116 million in the United States.)