|Wednesday, October 20, 2010
13:16 - Back Again
Looks like lots of news going down lately regarding The Hobbit movie.
After losing hot-to-trot directors (Guillermo del Toro) and enduring excruciating delays due to endless studio financial woes and union bickering, Peter Jackson is now on board to direct it—actually "them", since for some reason it's going to be two movies, I guess because they feel anything less than a $500 million subfranchise would be an anticlimax after the LotR series.
But it's leaving New Zealand, because the unions couldn't get their act together.
But Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said the crowd was "in a lynch-mob mood thanks to Richard Taylor, who has obviously wound them up like springs" and actors had to call the meeting off. "It was too dangerous."
That left throngs of film workers chanting "Save The Hobbit" to march down Willis St and Lambton Quay to the Cenotaph, where Taylor addressed them through a loudspeaker.
Marchers waved banners saying "Keep it Made in New Zealand" and "SOS Hobbits", and held large photographs of the Australian national director of the MEAA Simon Whipp with the words "Wanted for the murder of the New Zealand film industry".
"The spectacle of NZ Actors' Equity suddenly cancelling their Wellington meeting, because film workers wanted to express to them their concern at losing The Hobbit, exemplifies the pure gutlessness of this small, self-centred group," Sir Peter said.
"They don't appear to care about the repercussions of their actions on others, nor are they prepared to take responsibility for decisions made in their name.
"NZ Equity constantly refer to 'good faith' discussions but they have never acted in good faith towards our film."
Sir Richard said he felt a limited few, powered by an Australian union, were holding the New Zealand film industry to ransom. He could "only hope" that the film would stay in New Zealand.
"The reason we have come out tonight is because we just couldn't stand by it all ... "
Ms Kelly said union members would not be at fault if The Hobbit moved overseas. Instead, it was Warner Brothers seeking to gain greater tax breaks and lower wages.
Set designer Helen Strevens was at the Stone St Studios meeting, which was also attended by some actors.
"We just want them to realise there are hundreds and hundreds of people who work in the film industry in New Zealand who aren't members of Actors' Equity who ... are actually happy with the way we work here."
Nice job, guys.
That said, I'm as skeptical about how this movie will turn out as I am about Top Gear USA. This is a whole different kind of project from LotR; Jackson's directing style may well not be appropriate for it at all. The Hobbit is a world of Cockney trolls and soccer-ball jokes, talking animals and cackling evil Elves and inexplicable magic. It's not the Middle-Earth that Tolkien's world evolved into in the decades since its publication in the 30s. It's great that they're getting Ian McKellen and other key actors back, but when Gandalf's role in the story is more played for yuks than drama (he's all bushy eyebrows and flailing arms—Tolkien stopped just short of putting stars and moons all over his hat), it'll end up being a movie that bears no resemblance to the LotR that it's presumably trying to capitalize on or to the book. It's not a story that splits naturally in two parts, either; if Jackson is dead set on exploring the Appendix-type material concerning the Necromancer and the White Council and so on, he'd better be prepared to invent one hell of a dramatic storyline for the second movie out of whole cloth.
I don't know. Much as it would be a terrible shame to waste the spark of the creative force behind what managed to become the definitive LotR film adaptation for decades to come if not forever, this one may just be forcing it. I hope we don't see this turn into one of those times when they should have left the audience wanting more.
|Tuesday, October 19, 2010
08:22 - Cut these guys some slack
The Smoking Tire has an upbeat report from behind the scenes at Top Gear USA:
Being part of a studio audience is nothing like seeing a show fully edited together and complete. It seems to take forever, especially on the first day of shooting, before the crew is comfortable with the flow of moving props and people and cameras around. The set is quite a bit smaller than the British show, but several cars were on display inside, including a Dodge Viper ACR in a great white/black/red color combination, a Chevy Camaro SS, a Porsche Panamera Turbo, and the same Aston Martin V12 Vantage that I had the pleasure of piloting a few weeks back. These cars were there to start off the “power lap” board with a few preliminary times, which I won’t give away here. The “Celebrity Lap Times” board is being re-used from the defunct NBC pilot, and because the track at El Toro is the same for the new show as it was for the pilot, Adam Carolla and David Hasslehof’s times are still on there. We’ll ignore the fact that the Hoff’s time is completely made up because he was wasted on shoot day and couldn’t actually complete a lap in the car while drunk. True story. Despite its smaller size, the overall feel is the same as the British show, and yours truly, recognized by a bunch of the crew members, scored a sweet-ass viewpoint from the top of the bridge, a raised structure behind the main stage and facing out into the cameras.
His descriptions make it sound like it might work after all. Certainly the production values are a big part of what set Top Gear apart from other (more boring and pointless) car shows, but really it's the comedy (both scripted and unintentional) deriving from the character interplay of the hosts that makes people keep coming back. I really doubt anyone seriously says "Oh geez, I have to watch Top Gear this week, I heard they're going to do a review of the Lotus Evora and I have to find out what it's like!" They know what it's like from a million other sources, and they know at a macro level whether it's a good car that will garner effusive praise or a bad car that will get mocked relentlessly or a mix of excellent and disappointing. What makes an Evora review on Top Gear different and worth watching is the delivery that Clarkson gives, the dramatic spin they put on it, the unexpected character-driven comic twist that pits it against a Cayman or a Z4 M and gets someone soaked by driving through the sprinklers with the windows down.
The article has this to say about the ensemble:
Don’t start asking “Who’s James, Who’s Richard, and Who’s Jeremy” because this dynamic of hosts doesn’t really work that way. They haven’t set out to replicate individual characters from the British show, which was tried on the NBC pilot and would never work out. Instead, they have created a new ensemble with a new dynamic that works well when put into its own context. Rutledge is the friendly, funny southerner who’s always loved cars and racing, and self-deprecates frequently about his poor fashion sense and taste. Fortunately, in this episode at least, NASCAR has been left out of the equation entirely. Adam is endlessly witty, the high-strung New Yorker (accent included), and has way more confidence than he should with his ability to drive. And Tanner is the softer spoken, wheel-man pretty boy with the laid back California attitude.
Very well then. The one clip I've seen so far didn't fill me with confidence that this crew has a lot of chemistry or is that fun to listen to (they don't have much of the British wordsmithing talent that gives the original its bite and snap), but they could just need time to build up to it and establish the interplay they need.
When it comes to dream casts for Top Gear USA, I've had a few ideas, incidentally. You don't just want three "car guys". You don't want to just fill a show up with the most competent drivers you can find, because they won't necessarily be entertaining. What you want is people who are fun to listen to, who can turn a phrase and can deliver a jibe as easily as a list of statistics. You don't want huge in-demand stars, because they'll cost a fortune and won't be very available; so no Jay Leno, no Tom Cruise, no Ken Block. You know who fits the bill and who always could use the work? Voice actors.
I've always thought it was a shame that Adam Carolla wasn't to be, since he'd have been perfect. But failing that, here's who I'd slate:
Alton Brown, Patrick Warburton, and William Shatner.
Beat that, Wood/Foust/Ferrara! The gauntlet is thrown!