Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Good Stuff: Steve and George together again!

Having been in this blogging racket for about two months now, I can tell you from first hand experience there are definite slow periods. Some days you just feel as though you are wading through the same sort of press releases, and writing the same blog entry over and over. Oh look, here’s a new movie, oh hey, here’s a funny tagline. I’m sure you guys can agree it can get old after a while.

But when news like this comes along though, its too good to be true, this my friends is the “good stuff.”

Today, Variety ran a story announcing that A & E has slated a TV movie called “Celluloid Titans” which depicts the historic relationship between the two iconic Hollywood film makers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

IMDB Movie News summarized the Variety article:

"According to Daily Variety, the biopic, tentatively titled Celluloid Titans, is being exec produced by Granada America's Jody Brockway (Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story). A&E programming chief Bob DeBitetto compared the project with TNT's Pirates of Silicon Valley, which portrayed the rivalry between Apple's Steve Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates. "In this case, these two really did have a friendship. They compared notes. When Spielberg was having travails about Jaws, Lucas was talking about Star Wars," he said. The two also collaborated on the Indiana Jones movies."

It’s not clear from this except if the film will focus on the height of their early success a la Star Wars, Indie, and Jaws, or if it will span their entire friendships and careers.
There have been several of these “business relationship bios” in the past couple years, among them the aforementioned “Pirates of Silicon Valley”, a movie which I affectionately refer to as “Nerd Heaven”. Remember the 2000 VH1 movie “Two of Us”? This TV movie “imagined” what would have happened if John Lennon and Paul McCartney had gotten together and hung out after the demise of the Beatles, in 1976.

I never saw this film, but remember being highly amused at the film’s description:

“In 1976, six years after the breakup of the Beatles, rock-lore has it that Paul McCartney paid John Lennon an uninvited visit at his home at the Dakota in New York City. They didn't see each other that day. But what if they did?”

There was also the 1996 HBO film “The Late Shift”, based on the book by media reporter Bill Carter, about the rivalry between Jay Leno and David Letterman as they vied for the late-night spot held by retiring legend Johnny Carson.
This is a movie that I’ve heard good things about, but have never actually seen. Apparently the actors that portrayed Letterman and Leno did spot on impressions.

Which brings me to my next question.

Who will they get to play Steve and George?! Will they go with younger actors in their late 20’s, early 30’s and just age them up as the timeline in the story passes, or will they pick guys in their 40’s and just add a little extra base for the earlier scenes in the movie? I’m assuming that they will pick guys that are fairly unknown, though with Pirates of the Silicon Valley they went with two fairly well known actors, Noah Wyle and Anthony Michael Hall, not superstars, but actors who had more than just familiar faces. I actually think the casting of Michael Hall as Bill Gates was great, but Noah Wyle was a little too hot and a little too high profile as Dr. Carter for the role of Apple tycoon Steve Jobs.
I would love it if the producers went the route of the younger unknowns, who would just dive into the parts and transform themselves into the characters of Lucas and Spielberg. Spielberg was a total hipster when he was younger. If any of you have seen production stills from Jaws, you can’t miss the aviator sunglasses and trucker hats – its awesome.

What’s funny is, we’ve seen these guys talk on so many interviews, and DVD extras, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen them portrayed by other actors on screen, South Park notwithstanding. I definitely think there is interesting potential in the storyline of the relationship between these two fellows. On the one hand you have Lucas who has created THE biggest, most profitable, most well known film franchise ever, and on the other you have Spielberg, who’s list of hits individually might not pack the same punch as the Star Wars saga, but all together, they represent a formidable, if not incredible oeuvre.

There is also the issue of sanity with these two. Many film buffs and movie geeks have argued that in recent years, not only have these two men gone criminally insane, but they have each surrounded themselves with a posse of yes men that kowtow to them at every turn, terrified to tell them that their creative output is anything less than stellar. First there was Lucas with his Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy, followed by Episodes I and II which left many fans disappointed to say the least. His eccentric propensity for revisionist film making has soured many of the masses. (Not that he cares, because remember, Star Wars is not a democracy!!)

Then there was Spielberg’s “special edition” of ET with added FX sequences, and the bizarre decision to remove all guns in the film and replace them with walkie talkies. (This looks especially ridiculous in the scene where policemen were once aiming rifles as the kids take off into the sky on their bikes, and are now gesturing with the antennas of their talkies.) Critics have ranted on his new technique of “the unending ending” as seen in A.I. and Minority Report, where it seems he impulsively tacked on sweet feel-good endings onto films that otherwise had fairly dark undertones. That Spielberg, he just has to put a bow on everything, he loves his audience so much, he can’t bear letting them leave the theatres without big smiles on their faces. Unfortunately for him this practice has backfired on him with many of his fans who have not taken well to his more “heartwarming” efforts in the past few years.

There is a moment on one of the million extras of the Star Wars Episode I DVD, where Spielberg visits Lucas, and Lucas is showing him the model for one of the droids in the film. Lucas is talking excitedly and demonstrating the model, like a geeky kid at a science fair, and Spielberg looks…. well, a little bored. It’s sort of this sad telling moment of two old friends getting together again and realizing that there is now some distance between them that wasn’t there before. It’s as though the empire that each of them has built for themselves has pushed them apart. I wonder if “Celluloid Titans” will delve into this element, and explore the ways in which the filmmakers are both similar and dissimilar. There are a ton of cute references to be made like the fact that the nickname for Jaws, was Flaws, because the shark never worked, and naming Indiana Jones after Lucas’ dog. But will the producers, writers and director of the film keep the tone light, or will they explore more of the tensions. I am interested to see what the overall tone of “Celluloid Titans” will be.

Being that this movie is going to be made for the “small screen”, and have limited resources to draw from, I have my doubts about the ultimate quality of this project. I’ll say this for it though: it’s going to be one hell of a guilty pleasure. This is the kind of thing I envision getting TiVoed on the sets of film geeks across America, and being treasured and savored, as the ultimate sort of pop culture goody. We will giggle when we see two actors playing a scene where Lucas and Spielberg lay on a beach in Hawaii creating the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We will giggle at the silliness of it all, but it will still take our breath away, just a little bit.

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