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Hollywood & Vine
Hosted by Sharon Waxman
Post Style Correspondent

Thursday, Feb. 21, 2002; 2 p.m. EST

Washington Post Style correspondent Sharon Waxman brings Hollywood & Vine Live Online for a discussion about the inner workings of the movie industry.

There is a whole political universe behind how the movies happen, the tug and pull of egos, financial imperatives, a pecking order for privileges as well as genuine creative impulses.

Waxman was online Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m. EST, to answer your questions and field your comments on the industry personalities she has met; the movies that are causing a stir and why; and trends in the industry and the culture of moviemaking in general.

Below is a transcript.

Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Sharon Waxman: Hello, sorry we're late, a leetle computer mishap. We're all fine now. Ok, welcome to Hollywood and Vine, we can chat about the Oscars, which are in full swing. Has anyone seen John Q? I liked Nick Cassavetes fine, but thought the film left a lot to be desired, to put it nicely. Amazingly, it made $20 million this weekend. Shows how much we know in this biz.

Ok, we've got lots of questions, so let's push on....

Laurie: I know the noms were only announced last week, but has there been any talk about the ceremony itself? Just wondering if they are going the understated route or if because it is the first year in the new venue, they are pulling out the stops? Nice bit in Newsweek about the campaigning/backbiting for votes - is the author the guy you share an office with?

Sharon Waxman: I don't know if you mean John Horn, but no, I don't even share an office with the other Washington Post correspondents, much less writers from another publication. But John knows his stuff.

Talk about the ceremony? Just that there are questions about how the new venue at Hollywood and Highland will work out. The entrance is beautiful, but there's some concern about all the spirals and staircase and passageways that you have to go through to get to and from the main auditorium and then the ballroom. I didn't really like the Shrine, but at least it had plenty of open space; this is likely to be much more enclosed.

Cleveland Park, D.C.: Per your recent story, did anyone you spoke to on either the Hollywood or the government side express a "wish list" as to exactly what sort of collaborations they would like to see? It's frankly hard for me to imagine what they could come up with that would actually be useful - I mean, the media is already saturated with 9/11-related material, and I doubt there's anyone unfamiliar with the issues at this point.

Sharon Waxman: I guess everybody involved had the same hard time imagining what to come up with.

Since that piece ran I"ve had several testy phone calls from people assuring me that things are happening; ABC has just announced 13-episode documentary, behind the scenes with the military, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. When I spoke to Jerry a few weeks ago he didn't mention it, so it must be very new.

I had thought the notion of trying to put across the idea abroad that America is not the villain would be very useful. That idea in particular has gone nowhere, and I think that's a shame. I also don't get what this Madison Avenue woman is doing, and why her efforts are not being coordinated in any way with what Hollywood is (not) doing.

NW, D.C.: Which is a bigger bomb, Mariah Carey's "Glitter" or Britney Spears' "Crossroads"? Which is the better written/directed/acted movie?

Sharon Waxman: I've seen neither, but Crossroads made over $10 million this weekend, which is real money. The critics seemed to think Britney's movie was watchable, if certifiably bubble gum.

Silver Spring, Md.: Please be honest with me Sharon...Does Denzel have a chance at winning an Oscar for "Training Day"? The Academy should honor him with that since overlooking him for "Malcolm X"! Do you agree?

Sharon Waxman: Actually I thought he'd been overlooked for Hurricane, in which his performance was one of the most moving I've seen, ever. I think he himself was shocked he didn't win. There is a guilt factor there which could help him this year, but you've gotta think A Beautiful Mind could have the momentum.

PS I was at the premiere for the Josh Hartnett movie '40 days and 40 nights' last night. Jon Voight was there, I"ve no idea why, so I congratulated him on his nom in Ali and asked him how he happened to get that role. He said that he's an old friend of director Michael Mann, and had already played a much-transformed character in Heat. When Mann suggested the Cosell role to him, Voight was pretty shocked since physically he's so completely different. But, he said, after thinking about it he couldn't come up with anybody else who more naturally fit the role (no? how about any actor who's not blonde and blue eyed and square faced and pug nosed?) and he agreed to do it with prosthetics. Anyway, he was a very nice man and obviously thrilled with his nomination.

Virginia: There are more military movies coming out. Is this a trend?

Sharon Waxman: Have a look at a piece that ran in Style last week on this topic - maybe our producer Rocci Fisch can find it - "Now Playing, The Flag," was the title, I think. The answer to your question is: I think so.

22202: OK, probably an outdated question, but maybe you'll answer it anyway.

Winona Ryder? She seems like a freak. Depression, shoplifting, etc. How is it that she seemed to have gotten so many boyfriends who seem pretty stable. e.g., Daniel Day Lewis, David Ducovney, not to mention Matt Damon who went out with her for a while and even lived with her!

What is it about her?

Sharon Waxman: ... and that fills our Winona Ryder quotient for the day....

Silver Spring, MD: I saw "John Q" and loved it! No, you movie critics don't know much (just kidding). People actually applauded after the film, and everyone was crying and cheering. We love Denzel!

Sharon Waxman: Ok, thanks.

Herndon, Va.: Ms. H&V: As the latest Kevin Costner epic seems to be headed for disaster, I ask -- what the hell happened to him? He used to be in some pretty good movies (especially if you look at "The Postman" as a comedy).

Sharon Waxman: Unfortunately his career is heading directly downward. You notice that his picture is not on the poster for the film; that's because market research is showing that people don't want to see him.

Rockville, Md.: What in the WORLD was Anne Rice thinking when she signed away the rights to "Vampire Chronicles" so Warner Bros. could make the trashy "Queen of the Damned?" Holy vampire teeth, did this movie bite -- pun intended. I saw a screening Tuesday night and there were horrible, embarrassing (for the filmmakers) moments that earned unintentional laughs -- always a bad sign. The acting was weak, the story was weak, the music was horrible and Aaliyah was only in three short scenes! And her voice was altered! What a train wreck!

Sharon Waxman: wow. if true, that's kind of a sad coda for the career of Aaliya; the film did very little business.

Crystal City, Va.: What's happened to Nicolas Cage? One blunder after another since winning Best Actor for Leaving Las Vegas.

Sharon Waxman: He's about to come out in yet another war movie, Wind Talkers.

Arlington, VA: Speaking of Denzel, how did he end up with a best actor nom for Training Day while Ethan Hawke ended up with a best supporting actor nom? Since the movie was completely about the relationship between their two characters, how could one of them possibly be supporting while the other is the lead?

I mean, I understand why the studio would do this. They don't want the two to compete against each other and they know that Hawke stands no chance of winning a lead actor award. I just don't understand what possible definition of "supporting" would qualify Hawke's role in that movie.

Sharon Waxman: Not really. If you've seen the movie it's pretty easy to see that Denzel has the leading character, and Ethan Hawke the secondary role. I don't disagree with their being nominated in that way, the roles were not equally balanced. "Now Showing, The Flag," (Post, Feb. 5) "Now Showing, The Flag," (Post, Feb. 5)

On to DD Lewis: Now that the Winona Ryder post brings it up ... Whatever happened to Daniel Day Lewis? He seemed really bankable and a long-lasting figure a few years ago, it's hard to believe that Hollywood just forgot about him. Maybe he's not so well in his head after all, like Winona. There was that thing about breaking up with Isabelle Adjani by fax when she was pregnant with his baby...

Sharon Waxman: Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the great actors of our time, and I have often asked what happened to him. If memory serves, he took off several years to paint (don't quote me, but I think that's it). He has a lead role in Scorsese's Gangs of New York, which got pulled from a Christmas release and doesn't have the greatest buzz around it. But he is back working in movies, just not as often as we'd like.

Re: John Q?: Everyone was crying and cheering? Come on.

I'd be crying after watching it too, but only because I'd been duped out of my eight bucks. I went and saw Amelie this weekend and LOVED it. Seriously, if you're looking for an intelligent romantic comedy this is it. Did you see it Sharon?

Sharon Waxman: I too loved Amelie, as that gushy profile I did of director Jean-pierre Jeunet would indicate.

But it is interesting to me that audiences cried and cheered at John Q. That's the main question for me - will the medical issue resonate with audiences, even if the movie is terribly flawed? In other words - how much resentment is out there for a movie to channel?

Suncoast: I agree with you about Kevin Costner and his career, and I have a theory about it. In his heyday, I think part of his popularity stemmed from his apparent likability -- he seemed like a down-to-earth guy, like Mel Gibson. But as he got more famous, he got cocky, and it really started to show. (Remember when he publicly made all those snotty, whining comments about one of those baseball movies he was in when it was released? Very bad form.) Combine this with a few dud movies, and now his career is in the toilet. His best bet would be to take a couple of years off and make a comeback like John Travolta did.

Sharon Waxman: A fair observation. Costner got way too full of himself; in one sense it served him, because it got 'Dances with Wolves' made. But after that it did not serve him well at all; for me the low point was that horrid baseball movie "For the Love of the Game" which should have been more accurately titled: "For the Love of Kevin Costner." The movie was 2 1-2 hours of slo-mo close-ups of Costner pitching from the mound. Excruciating. When I compare it to this new film about to come out with Dennis Quaid, "The Rookie," it stands out even more. "The Rookie" is a deftly made baseball film - inspirational, yes, corny, perhaps - but it's well told and not a vanity project. Plus Quaid actually acts, and doesn't overdo that mugging grin of his.

On Daniel:: He married Arthur Miller's daughter, writer and actress Rebecca Miller.

Sharon Waxman: Who just won at Sundance. Where Kevin Bacon visited in 1999....

Washington, D.C.: I was reading the latest issue of Vanity Fair and there is an article on Michael Cimino. It says that the French regard the notoriously overbudget movie that "sank United Artists" Heaven's Gate as a classic, as does the British newspaper The Guardian.

What is your review of this film? I have never seen it, but I am intrigued as the DVD is out/coming out soon...

Sharon Waxman: I've never seen it. I've always known it to be the white elephant that sank United Artists, so I always skipped it. This is the first I"ve heard it referred to as a classic.

Balmer, Md.: Is '24' going to make it to the end of the year? I'm hearing the ratings are getting worse and worse, but I'm addicted to this show. I figure it's a goner for next season, but they better not stop it early!

Sharon Waxman: Fox would be insane to pull the show before the end of the year, not to mention broken the pact with the loyal viewers who've been following it week to week. I highly doubt they'd do that. Plus, this is the first time that Fox is really getting recognition for making a quality show; the critics love it. I wouldn't write it off for next season either.

Washington, DC: John Q and movies of its ilk glorify terrorism by making a hostage-taker out to be a sympathetic hero.

Sharon Waxman: Yes, our critic Stephen Hunter was spitting bullets over this too.

D.C.: Not sure who wrote the article (maybe Desson?) saying that John Q was pretty irresponsible -- something about if a foreign national took a hospital hostage for the same reason, we'd call him a terrorist ... but for a hot American man, he's a hero ... Well I totally agree. I love Denzel and think he's a tremendous actor, but I think the film is socially irresponsible to its core. (So, of course, was the release of Collateral Damage.) Time for Hollywood to make some slightly more responsible decisions... or, even better, for the American people to stop supporting films that glorify violence, vigilantism, misogyny, etc.

On another note... I saw Monster's Ball last week and decided that Billy Bob was ROBBED of his Oscar nom. He was fantastic. And Halle was glorious -- I hope she wins. For that matter, I hope Halle and Will Smith both win-- about time that some black actors got best actor recognition. (I'm a white woman, by the way...not that it matters.)

Sharon Waxman: Thanks for that thoughtful remark.

I also think Halle Berry and Billy Bob are glorious in Monsters Ball, but I think Halle is up for a big fight with Sissy Spacek. I do hope Halle Berry wins, she deserves it.

Washington, D.C.: I'm a movie fanatic who has all but stopped going to the theater. Why? High cost of tickets ($9.25 for Beautiful Mind last week), late starting movies, 20 solid minutes of commercials, 15 solid minutes of previews (the movie was to start at 7:10, but opening credits didn't roll till 7:45), and then 2 1/2 hours on average for an average movie with average acting and average storyline and dialogue. Agghhhh!

Now here's my question. What in the world can the average consumer do about this? Is it a local theater issue? National chain theater issue? Studio issue?

Sharon Waxman: You should write to the National Association of Theater Owners, and the individual chain you're upset with. But it'll take more than a single letter, you're battling city hall. Try going to the show late.

D.C.: Um Sharon, not that I foretell great success for the movie, but Queen of the Damned doesn't come out until tomorrow, so I'm not sure how you can say "the film did very little business"....

Sharon Waxman: YOu're right, I was mixing it up with another film. Queen of the Damned opens in wide release tomorrow.

Re: resentment: Well, I'm guessing that you won't find a lot of corporate executives at a movie like that, so the people watching likely might have had less dramatic but similar issues. I haven't seen it because I'm trying to avoid depressing topics, but if I did go I would have been one of the cheerers.

Sharon Waxman: Thanks.

Oklahoma City, Okla.: Re: Kevin Costner

The late Pauline Kael referred to "Dances with Wolves" as "Plays with Camera". I laugh each time I think of that.

Sharon Waxman: Great.

Maryland: Sharon,

It's obvious why the Academy Awards are so political: the moguls assume that an Oscar is box-office gold. But do the moguls even know what the world outside Hollywood thinks of the Oscars? I hear people lump the Oscars together with movie critics, in a kind of reverse elitism: "Oh, the Oscars only go to snooty art films or foreign films that nobody can understand."

Plus, more knowledgeable moviegoers ridicule the Academy's habit of favoring certain types of films. If you feature a character with a disability ("Rain Main" or the new Sean Penn movie), the statuette is yours. The Oscar broadcasts remind me of "The Emperor's New Clothes"--the ruler tries to maintain his dignity even though the whole town knows that he's been taken for a fool.

Sharon Waxman: Not entirely sure what your point is here, but I"m posting your comment since you obviously do. It's not as if the Oscar voters choose the worst movies of the year, or even the most successful ones at the Box office. A lot of the art films that get nominated happen to be excellent (though this process if not pure at all, I've written a lot about the buying of Oscar noms etc.), but let's not forget who wins Best Picture: Titanic, Braveheart, Shakespeare in Love. Those are crowd-pleasers if nothing else.

In Defense of John Q: Didn't see it, and understand complaints about solving problems with guns and hostages. But I do see the appeal. First, there's Denzel. Second, its about people who can't get a break ... who work hard, but can never make it financially, who get screwed by a system that benefits the wealthy ... and these people make up the majority of our country.

I, for one, and sick of rich people playing rich people getting blackmailed by rich people and then ending up rich and happy ever after.

Sharon Waxman: You and Nick Cassavetes would get along very well.

EraserheadGuy, Washington, D.C.: Submitting in advance: Hey, y’all can wail and moan about the Academy passing over Buscemi, Hackman, "Memento," etc., and I won't disagree with you. However, FINALLY David Lynch has received much overdue, if indirect, recognition for "Eraserhead." He won’t win Best Director, of course, but his nomination speaks volumes. So who cares about the rest of it? I’m happy.

Sharon Waxman: You know what - I"m as happy for YOU as I am for David Lynch.

Sharon Waxman: ...and with that, dear readers, I must take my leave. Thank you all for writing, it's been fun. We'll talk again in a couple of weeks, with the campaigns for the Oscars themselves in full swing. Until then, happy movie-going.

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