Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

Scott Eyman Releases ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’

Director and film writer Peter Bogdonovich reviews Scott Eyman’s latest biography, ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’ in The New York Times. I never tire of reading Bogdonovich’s insights into Wayne, John Ford, and Howard Hawks. He knew all three personally and his clear-eyed affection for them is never rose-colored, just interesting and fair:

The portrait Eyman paints very much resembles the Wayne I knew for nearly 15 years: extremely likable, guileless, exuberant, even strangely innocent. Hawks, who cast him in “Red River” (1948), the major role for the second half of Duke’s career, once said to me that he felt everything that had happened to Wayne had gone a little “over his head.” Indeed, part of the charm of the man who was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907, was his lack of pretension or self-importance. Among the most interesting things I learned from this book are how well Wayne expressed himself in prose, how cogently he formulated his thoughts and what a good student he was. He had wanted, at one point, to be a lawyer, and the few writings Eyman quotes are quite impressive, especially because Ford liked to give the idea that his main star (whom he picked on mercilessly during shoots) was somewhat of an unlettered boob.

As far as Eyman, I absolutely loved his John Ford biography “Print the Legend” and as soon as I get through my current pile of books on the 1917 Russian Revolution (my latest obsession), I intend to Kindle the Wayne bio.

The ebb and flow of how John Wayne’s been perceived over the decades has been interesting to witness. At first he was a mythic and untouchable all-American icon. Then the media and left-wing Hollywood attempted to deconstruct him into a draft-dodging, commie-bating, right-wing racist who couldn’t act.

Today the truth is finally out. Wayne was not only a brilliant actor but a decent, tolerant, well-read and thoughtful man.  Not a perfect man. Like all of us, he had his moments. But overall, history’s ultimate judgment hasn’t diminished Wayne in the least.  

I especially like what Bogdonovich writes about the death of the movie star. This is 100% correct:

Of course, those times are gone forever. Currently, there are many film stars but virtually none with the iconic status of Cary Grant or John Wayne. Or James Cagney, for that matter, or Jimmy Stewart, or Katharine Hepburn, or Bette Davis, or Humphrey Bogart. These were more than simply good or great actors playing roles, they were brand names you could happily invest in, and rarely be disappointed.

A few exceptions like Denzel Washington deserve mention; so few, they prove the rule.


’18 New Movie Screens Go Up Every Day In China’

The Hollywood Reporter writes that China is building 18 new movie screens a day and now has half as many screens as the U.S. The country’s box office also jumped 30% and is expected to hit $4.64 billion this year. Currently, 63% of the revenues come from films produced in China. Hollywood films, like the latest “Hobbit,” “RoboCop,” and “Need for Speed” are taking in tens of millions of dollars at the Chinese box office.

In the case of the latter two, China’s box office was the difference between profitable and flop.  

This is terrible news for American filmgoers. Left-wing Hollywood’s pose against government censorship or any kind of censorship has always been a lie. To appeal to Chinese censors, Hollywood is only going to get worse. All those left-wing producers, actors and directors want 100% of those screens and are as greedy and money hungry and willing to sell their souls as Bud Fox.


MTV Movie Awards: Channing Tatum to Receive Trailblazer Award

What a creative way to announce that your award means absolutely nothing.


Can ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’ Fly Past $90 Million

Other than the first “Iron Man,” these never-ending Marvel Universe films have left me pretty cold. I have nothing against comic book or superhero films — movies don’t get much better than the Dark Knight trilogy. But there so far hasn’t been anything from Marvel that I would want to sit down and watch again. Some of them are okay the first time. Immediately afterwards, though, all that’s left is a vague memory and the sense that I could have used my time better.

I’ll catch the new Captain America at a matinee tomorrow and report if there’s anything worthwhile. The reviews from fans and critics alike have been through the roof. I’m hoping this is more “Iron Man” than “Thor,” or even the first “Captain America.”

Regardless, it is going to be a monster hit and probably break the April record.


Scarlett Johannson Accesses 100% of Her Brainpower In ‘Lucy’

We should all be very grateful for the fact that as a director, writer, producer Luc Besson has been trying to single-handedly keep the B-action picture alive and kicking. He hit a real home run with the “Transporter” franchise and “Taken.” No one else loves “From Paris with Love,” but I sure do. There have been some duds and some shrugs, no doubt, but let’s not complain. 

At times, Besson is also gleefully unwilling to abide by Hollywood’s politically correct standards, which makes everything he’s involved at least worth a look if for no other reason than originality. 

Besson wrote and directed “Lucy.” The trailer looks like the concept might have gotten a little bit away from him at the end. Still, simple plots, dead bad guys… I’m there.


Quick hits:

Supreme Court Ruling Allows Hollywood to Spend Freely on Multiple Candidates

Aereo Gets Support from Cable Operators, Law Professors, Tech Industry

Harry Potter Hogwarts Mega 31 Disc Set Coming April 29 From Warner Home Video

Longtime EW film critic Owen Gleiberman laid off

‘Expendables 3′ Unveils 16 Character Posters



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