The realization hits after you recover from the initial excitement of seeing movie stars, viewing countless trailers and wining and dining at the Hollywood studios' expense. ShoWest is not going to get any better. It's only going to get longer.
With that said, it was hardly surprising at his theater-owners convention to find Sony Pictures doing today exactly what New Line/Fine Line did the day before -- namely, showing us trailers, feeding us lunch and baiting us with stars.
But in all fairness, the A-list movie-types (from actors to directors and producers) from Sony at least put in the effort to convince people that they were actually happy to be there. While the shyer ones, like Sandra Bullock ("28 Days"), Kim Basinger ("I Dreamed of Africa") and Chris O'Donnell ("Vertical Limit"), stayed mum, their more loquacious counterparts -- Mel Gibson, Bill Murray and Arnold Schwarzenegger included -- more than made up for it with playful irreverence, ingratiating harangue, and even some blue comedy.
Envision the following expectation-defying moments:
'ANGELS' DESCEND: From total darkness and amid deafening sound effects and spraying fire, they came: The all-new "Charlie's Angels," a k a Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. And they came doing the pose. (The one from the old TV credit sequence -- get a clue.)
Well, anyway, the pose was pretty much the high point. Then the three headed to the mic. Following several unsuccessful attempts to speak coherently, they sat down, and looked pretty.
MEL THE HAM: "The Patriot" star Mel Gibson's goof-off repertoire included racing his co-stars to the podium, making fun of Sony's PR arm, and hogging the mic.
ARNOLD SPEAKS: And speaks.
Schwarzenegger probably thought that there was at least one person in the audience who could salvage his flagging career, so he made sure he covered all grounds by delivering an interminable speech. Ironically, nothing much was said about his next film, "On the Sixth Day," since he spent all the time thanking everyone from theater owners to ShoWest to Armyan Bernstein (also known as ShoWest producer of the year).
REACTION TO ARNOLD: "I thought Arnold was really sincere," reflected one luncheon participant while exiting the event. Okay.
KEEPIN' IT REAL:In promoting "Black and White," a flick about black and white urban teens in NYC, Brooke Shields contended that the dreadlocks she wore for the movie were indeed real, and that the ‘do resulted in hair loss.
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WHAT ABOUT 'GOOD WILL HUNTING'? Apparently, an Oscar didn't exactly do it for Matt Damon. The golden boy called Billy Bob Thornton’s upcoming "All the Pretty Horses" the best thing he's ever been in his life. Chew on that, Gus van Sant.
EXTERMINATING 'ANGEL': Don't get Bill Murray improvising.
Rather than do the straight talk about "Charlie's Angels" (in which he's got a bit), the comic actor instead chose to entertain the strait-laced theaterheads by dissing everyone from Brooke Shields (or, rather her dreadlocks) to Schwarzenegger's self-absorbed litany. He, uh, also used some four-letter words.
TRAILER TIME (AGAIN): And now, what you have all been waiting for: our daily round-up of buzz-worthy trailers:
-- "The Patriot" -- Mel Gibson's epic follow-up to "Braveheart" (as directed by the guy who did "Godzilla.") Being the mammoth flick that it is, the trailer has a grandiose air (i.e., it's got battle scenes with a gazillion extras). The clip seemingly went on forever, but the crowd loved it.
-- "Godzilla 2000" -- This one is not by the guy who did "Godzilla." Instead, it's the real man-in-a-rubber-suit deal. Coming straight outta Japan (and to a U.S. theater near you in August), "Godzilla 2000" features a rubbery-looking oversized reptile that breathes fire, steps on model cars and sunders about on a cheapo set. The fact that it's a dubbed, lips-don't-match movie only adds to its old-school campiness. (P.S.: The crowd loved this one, too.)
-- "Charlie's Angels" -- The clip for this one plays like a Gillette (the razors!) ad crossed with a L'Oreal (the make-up!!) commercial. The trailer is undoubtedly slick, but so much so that it resembles a bad commercial. Here's what you see: Charlie, faceless and in silhouette, enters some sort of modernist structure (and/or a really aesthetically-lit parking lot). Our three angels do their angels poses, followed by some awkward kung-fu moves (all in silhouette). Then, there's a series of close-ups of each angel (Diaz, Barrymore and Liu) as they toss their hair (first frontal, then profile) the way models do it in TV hair spots. Finally, the angels do their kung-fu stuff again (this time not in silhouette) and then they go back into their trademark logo pose.
NOT COMING SOON: Sony knows how to get its money's worth at ShoWest. Besides trailers, the studio rolled out teasers for flicks that won't be opening until (at least) 2001. The early-bird sneaks included: the Muhammad Ali bio-pic "Ali" (with Will Smith); the still-uncast live-action "Spider-Man," Steven Spielberg's "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Men In Black II."
FREEBIES: For those who assume that ShoWest is just an elaborate PR stunt masterminded by the movie industry -- you're right. But, in fairness, it's also about free gifts, perks and gratuities. Here's a look at some of the higher-end promo items we have gladly accepted:
1. A matching gold-color-plated money clip and tie tack (encased in a fake black-velvet jewelry case) hyping the upcoming "Shaft" remake.
2. A limited-edition lithograph from the animated feature "Titan A.E.," with a certificate of authenticity and everything