Posted by Danielle Berrin
Brett Ratner, the Blockbuster-director with the big mouth, resigned his role as this year’s Oscar telecast producer yesterday after a PR debacle.
Then this morning, Eddie Murphy, the star of Ratner’s latest film “Tower Heist” resigned his role as host of the 84th annual Academy Awards.
The fallout came 48-hours after the blogosphere erupted in ire over Ratner’s bad boy behavior: First, uttering a gay slur during a Q-and-A session about his film “Tower Heist” and then jabbering about his sex life on The Howard Stern Show.
Official statement from the Academy:
This morning, Brett Ratner submitted his resignation as a producer of the 84th annual Academy Awards to Academy President Tom Sherak. Ratner then issued an open letter to the entertainment industry in which he explained his decision.
“He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself,” Sherak said. “Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent.”
This decision presumably came from outside pressure that Ratner’s immature antics would damage the Oscar brand. Probably true. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have put on a good show—I mean, he kept us all entertained these last 24 hours, didn’t he?
Read Ratner’s full statement of resignation to the Academy:
Over the last few days, I’ve gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I said in a number of recent media appearances. To them, and to everyone I’ve hurt and offended, I’d like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.
As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments. And they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian, or transgender individual must deal with as they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.
So many artists and craftspeople in our business are members of the LGBT community, and it pains me deeply that I may have hurt them. I should have known this all along, but at least I know it now: words do matter. Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. With this in mind, and to all those who understandably feel that apologies are not enough, please know that I will be taking real action over the coming weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I’ve so foolishly perpetuated.
As a first step, I called Tom Sherak this morning and resigned as a producer of the 84th Academy Awards telecast. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.
I am grateful to GLAAD for engaging me in a dialogue about what we can do together to increase awareness of the important and troubling issues this episode has raised and I look forward to working with them. I am incredibly lucky to have a career in this business that I love with all of my heart and to be able to work alongside so many of my heroes. I deeply regret my actions and I am determined to learn from this experience.
Sincerely, Brett Ratner
That was sweet. What he said to Howard Stern was not.
Anyway, Ratner has his work cut out for him between now and next Yom Kippur.
Read all about the absurdities leading up to Ratner’s resignation at Hollywood Jew.
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November 8, 2011 | 12:38 pm
Posted by Lauren Bottner, Hollywood Jew contributor
Pop singer Adam Lambert has been slapped with a lawsuit charging that he violated the rules of American Idol when he agreed to be on the 8th season of the reality show.
A new lawsuit, from Colwel Platinum Entertainment, alleges that he had a music contract at the time he auditioned and then signed a contract with American Idol which violates both American Idol eligibility rules and Colwel Platinum’s clause on “Music Services.” Now the company is arguing that they, rather than “American Idol” are entitled to profits from his interim success, and that Lambert has betrayed the company’s claims to the Jewish American Idol.
Despite legal friction, Colwel Platinum Entertainment has already started marketing Lambert’s new album “Beg for Mercy” only to hit a wall. Lambert’s representatives sent takedown notices to Amazon.com, warning them to stop selling the album. But according to New York Times Magazine, they haven’t listened. The Times reported on Oct. 14 that “Beg for Mercy” had been officially removed from the site although when they investigated, “Beg for Mercy” was still listed, at $9.99.
Hence the lawsuit from Colwel Platinum for false claims under the Digital Millennuim Copyright Act.
So far, Lambert has been tight-lipped on the subject as have reps for American Idol. But the sirens of social media are too strong for Lambert to resist. According to The Hollywood Reporter Lambert responded to the lawsuit by urging his fans to wait for the facts: “Remember than in any dispute, reserve judgement until all the facts surface from ALL parties. Guilt and innocence come with a complete story.”
He followed that statement with another message that said, “Eyes on the prize.”
November 8, 2011 | 11:05 am
Posted by Lauren Bottner, Hollywood Jew contributor
Rob Reiner, the director of “The American President” and “When Harry Met Sally” announced he is developing a new film on Proposition 8 to the American Film Market (AFM) on Sunday. But don’t expect an objective political portrait—Reiner was active in the fight against Prop 8.
A devoted political activist, Reiner co-founded the non-profit American Foundation for Equal Rights, which sought to overturn Prop 8 from the moment it passed in 2008. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Reiner also participated in the one-act play “8” written by the Oscar-winning scribe of “Milk” Dustin Lance Black and staged on Broadway. According to the foundation’s Website, the play was an account of the federal trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case filed by the foundation to overturn the gay-marriage ban.
In addition to appearing in the Broadway staging among an all-star cast that included Morgan Freeman and Ellen Barkin, Reiner was active in the court fight against Prop 8.
“Prop 8, if we win that, will be the last big piece of the civil rights puzzle that will be put into place,” Reiner told THR.
Can Reiner use the movie medium to win new hearts and minds? Some would say there’s no better way to affect change than through storytelling. At the very least, Reiner has an opportunity to humanize an issue that’s been emotionally blunted by a legal battle.
November 7, 2011 | 7:00 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Brett Ratner, the director more infamous for libidinous behavior than famous for his movies, has yet again caused a sinful stir.
With his movie “Tower Heist” in theaters, Ratner attended a weekend Q-and-A session where he reportedly (and offhandedly) remarked that “rehearsing is for fags”.
Shocking though it is that Ratner prefers working-it to work, gay activists pounced upon the playboy and demanded an apology for the slur.
In a statement issued to TheWrap.com, Ratner said: “I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words.”
As this year’s Oscar telecast producer, he should have been much more thoughtful about his choice of words. Brett Ratner’s motor mouth needs a muzzle.
When speculation that Ratner may have endangered his Oscar role reached fever pitch, Deadline.com’s Mike Fleming contacted Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences prexy Tom Sherak to get his take on the matter. “His remarks were inappropriate,” Sherak told Fleming. “[T]his won’t and can’t happen again. It will not happen again….This is about integrity and honoring the Academy Awards.”
Ratner’s latest gaffe follows another, in which he decided to reveal himself as the unnamed director with the “undersized manhood” described in actress/TV personality Olivia Munn‘s recently released book, “Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek”.
“I used to date Olivia Munn … when she was Lisa… She was hanging out on my set of After the Sunset, I banged her a few times … but I forgot her. Because she changed her name … I didn’t know it was the same person. So when she came and auditioned for me for a TV show, I forgot her, she got pissed off and she made up all these stories about me eating shrimp and masturbating in my trailer. And my shortcomings. She talked about my shortcomings. I get it. She’s bitter.”
It’s only for so long, though, that a donkey can get away with being an….you-know-what, so earlier today, on none other than The Howard Stern Show, Ratner recanted.
“She’s actually talented,” he said to Stern of Munn. “The problem is I made her look like she’s a whore.”
So that’s how a john apologizes.
But unfortunately, “sorry” doesn’t mean much in Ratner’s world. Because just after he apologized, he mused about his skill performing oral sex, and discussed masturbation and sexually transmitted diseases. And his mortifying misogyny didn’t end there: he also embarrassed Lindsay Lohan and pretty much every other woman he’s ever been with by describing sexual habits and protocol that any decent person would keep private. At times, Ratner can be charming but mostly he acts like a fool and gets all the attention he’s after.
Frankly I could care less if Ratner hangs on to his Oscar gig or not. I’d much rather see him get pilloried by some valiant father or boyfriend who holds nothing back in defending the honor of all the women Ratner has humiliated.
November 7, 2011 | 5:26 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
J. Edgar Hoover the man, unlikable though he was, makes a more interesting study than “J. Edgar” the movie.
“He was arguably the most powerful man in this country in the 20th century,” said Dustin Lance Black, the “J. Edgar” scribe at an early screening of the film at LACMA last Friday. An incipient partnership between the museum and The New York Times held enough clout to also attract director Clint Eastwood and the film’s stars Leonard DiCaprio, who plays Hoover, and Armie Hammer, who plays his longtime companion Clyde Tolson to a Q-and-A with Times writer Charles McGrath.
In reality, Hoover may have been one of the WASPY-est men that ever lived. But in some ways, his story shares strands with Jewish themes of alienation and ascendancy. The Hoover depicted in the film is ruthless, focused and disciplined, so committed to his work it nears religious devotion. He has an unhealthy attachment to his opinionated mother, played by Judi Dench, who prods him into greatness. Nearly four decades after his death, Hoover still figures as an icon for modern celebrity—famous, powerful, lavished with luxuries—but also isolated and repressed, in love with his own self-image, alien from human attachment. But he overcame personal disadvantage, including an emasculated father, and innovated his way to the American Dream.
Though this modern take on a historic figure shares at least one theme with Black’s Oscar winning script “Milk” – that of gay sexuality – it is more concerned with how its title character cleaved to and maintained power. It could even be argued that Hoover amplified his dominion over others by denying his sexuality; his sole, myopic quest was presiding over the FBI. But his powers extended well beyond his ability to investigate and apprehend criminals: In the film, not one of eight U.S. president is safe from Hoover’s scorn. No national leader is exempt from his secret, incriminating files, and even Robert Kennedy chafes under his cold, calculating menace.
Black said he had read Hoover’s biography and was driven by what he did not know about the illusive “top cop,” as Eastwood called him.
“His biography was filled with contradictions, and I thought, ‘What a shame that we don’t truly understand the man who drove 20th century politics,’” Black said.
Black’s Hoover was plagued by a neurotic quest to root out suspected communists in the U.S. His no holds-barred approach to catching criminals looked a lot like a witch-hunt, with Hoover pursuing perceived “enemies of America” with an uncompromising single-mindedness that bordered on delusion.
In private, his behavior was even more bizarre.
As DiCaprio put it, “He was a croc-pot of eccentricities – the man lived with his mother until he was 40 years old.”
The film shows Hoover cuddling with his mother, trying on her pearls and even slipping into one of her dresses.
But insights into his private life came much later. At the time he reigned as one of the most powerful men in the country, he was seen as a crime-conquering hero, transforming America’s fascination with the gangster into an admiration for the FBI’s nation-serving crime fighters. Hoover’s quirky vernacular during impassioned speeches about the dangers of communists mystified the country. He defined the greatest threat facing America—and then fueled it.
Eastwood attributed Hoover’s intense suspicion of communists to a depression-era atmosphere of general unease, calling his preoccupation with traitors “justified paranoia”. It’s not unlike present-day paranoia, Eastwood said. Substitute “communist” for “terrorist” and that same national unease persists. A skilled speaker with a sure purpose and a bully pulpit can prompt national hysteria on almost any issue. Then as now, rather than challenge, the media often aids and abets.
One of Hoover’s gifts, the filmmakers pointed out, was that he was among the first public figures in American history to skillfully manipulate the media to his advantage. “He was a man very obsessed with power,” DiCaprio said. “Love and adoration of the public was everything he had.”
DiCaprio, who has himself been something of a cultural fixation ever since he starred in 1997’s “Titanic” knows well the impact of public adoration. As he told Brooks Barnes in a recent New York Times profile, “I’ve been to the Amazon, and people with no clothes on, and I’m not exaggerating, know about that film. I’ve accepted it.”
DiCaprio’s preceding reputation got him the royal treatment in Washington, when several people involved with the film were given tours of FBI Headquarters.
“I got some lackey at the Department of Justice,” Black told the audience. Then, turning toward DiCaprio, “You got Eric Holder himself,” he said, referring to the U.S. Attorney General.
But Hoover’s 48-year reign at the FBI might as well have been a different era. In the film, he implements the first national fingerprinting index used to identify criminals. Had he lived today, Eastwood said he had no doubts Hoover would have pioneered DNA testing.
“It’s an era we don’t really understand,” Armie Hammer, the actor who plays Hoover’s right arm (and eventual live-in partner) FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson. “[Hoover and Tolson] were men of service. They said, ‘The FBI is my church’ and they sacrificed their personal lives on every level [for the job].”
But in the film version, at least, that’s not entirely true. Though primarily focused on character and style, the film’s emotional gravity comes towards the end, when Hoover confesses to Tolson, that, ostensibly for public purposes, he is thinking of entering into marriage. Tolson, who endures all kinds of abuse at Hoover hand’s on screen, erupts in a paroxysm of anger. The two tussle, wrestle, and exchange an awkward kiss. It is the only sexual expression in the entire film (other than a scene at a nightclub when Hoover sloppily rejects an offer to dance with Ginger Rogers’s mother).
Black’s script suggests in no uncertain terms that these two men were lifelong partners – the closest thing either of them had to a spouse. Is it really possible that such aggressive, powerful men lived out their lives in stark sexual repression?
DiCaprio said: It’s none of our business to know what goes on in the lives of public figures behind closed doors.
Um-hm. Outta the mouths of babes.
November 7, 2011 | 10:21 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Last week, after a series of revealing interviews, Andrew Madoff released his book, “Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family,” an inside-look at the private pain of the family in the aftermath of their patriarch’s fall from grace. Film rights to the book were immediately scooped up by HBO, who then signed Robert De Niro to star in the film. It has also been reported that De Niro’s Tribeca Productions will produce what is ostensibly the first mainstream rendering of Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme, relying on his son’s tell-all as source material.
A spate of books about the Madoff scandal has thrust the family back into the spotlight, though it has not been a forgiving comeback. During a recent appearance on 60 Minutes, while enduring Morley Safer’s repeated charges as to whether she knew anything about Bernie’s scheme, Ruth Madoff seemed tired, her words drawn and slow, as if she were sedated. In a separate interview, Andrew clung tightly to his fiance, Catherine Hooper, the author of the family biography and who, as Andrew reported, will be the beneficiary of the book’s profits. The family’s opening up comes two years after Bernie’s confession and arrest and almost one year after the suicide of Andrew’s brother, Mark.
De Niro seems a smart choice for the Madoff role, though any actor is in danger of imbuing Madoff with more humanity than he possessed. It is unclear how much Madoff’s Jewish identity will factor into his characterization, though his disgrace came with plenty of accusations about Jewish power and corruption on Wall Street. Will the film address this theme in any significant way? Or rely on stereotypical allusions and insults? On the one hand, Madoff’s scheme confirms anti-Semitic notions about Jewish relationships to wealth; but on the other hand, Bernie Madoff was a tremendous source of shame for the community and is not emblematic of any macro-concepts about Jewish power. He is part of the Jewish community, yes, but he is the snake in the Garden of Eden.
November 1, 2011 | 1:44 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Gil Cates, an award-winning director and producer, who helmed 14 Oscar telecasts, died yesterday at age 77.
According to The Journals Tom Tugend, Cates was “a multi-faceted theater, film and television producer and director, university dean and the patriarch of large at-home family Seders.”
In addition to his entertainment credentials, Cates was a founder of the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood and a former dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, according to the LA Times. He served as producing director of the Geffen Playhouse for more than 15 years, reports Variety, and was active in the Directors Guild of America, where he served two terms as president. Variety also reports that Cates was instrumental in ending the 2008 Writers strike, and was part of a negotiating committee that determined the new rules for new media residuals, one of the key issues in the strike.
Sid Ganis, four-term president of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said of Cates: “He was a man of the arts. Yes, he produced so many Oscar shows for the Academy, but he also directed beautiful movies like “I Never Sang For My Father” and produced a range of plays that made you laugh, made you cry… and made you think.” The Jewish Journal reviewed Cates’s 1999 production of Donald Margulies’ “Collected Stories” at the Geffen Playhouse two years after the play was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Reporter Diane Arieff wrote: “n director Gilbert Cates’ current Los Angeles production at the Geffen Playhouse, the play’s intelligence and emotional power remain intact.”
Cates won an Emmy for an Oscar telecast in 1991 and produced several feature films, including “I Never Sang for My Father” in 1970, “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams” in 1973, and “The Last Married Couple in America” in 1980. The two former films were both nominated for Oscars.
His death was unexpected, according to reports, though TheWrap.com is claiming that he recently underwent heart surgery. According to TheWrap.com:
Cates was found collapsed in the parking lot on the campus of UCLA, according to an official at the Directors Guild of America.
According to UCLA, “Emergency medical personnel responded to a call on campus at about 5:50 p.m. Monday but were unable to revive Cates. The Los Angeles County coroner is investigating the cause of death.”
Cates was born Gilbert Katz on June 6, 1934, in New York, NY, according to a short biography published at filmreference.com. He was the son of Nina (nee Peltzman) and Nathan Katz, a dress manufacturer. His brother, Joseph Cates was also a director and producer and fathered the actress Phoebe Cates, who starred in “Gremlins” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” According to her Wikipedia entry, “Her paternal grandparents [Cates’ parents]...were Russian Jews”.
Tugend adds that in 1998, he co-produced Israel’s 50th anniversary celebration at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, which was nationally telecast. Of his Jewish identity, Tugend writes:
Following the example of his idolized older brother Joseph, also a director and producer, Gilbert Anglicized his last name.
In a Jewish Journal article by this reporter in 2000, based on an hour-long interview, Cates expressed some qualms about the name change and said he was astonished that many people didn’t realize he was Jewish.
A member of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Cates said “I don’t lay tefillin, and I only go to shul on the High Holy Days, but I feel very proud to be Jewish.”
To the question whether his Jewish background affected his role as producer and director, Cates observed that the answer goes well beyond a count of plays with specifically Jewish themes and characters. For instance, he saw in “Harriet’s Return,” which dealt with Harriet Tubman’s struggle for the freedom of African-American slaves, a play of basic Jewish concern.
According to Tugend, Cates is survived by his wife, gynecologist Judith Reichman, four children (including director-writer Gil Cates Jr.), two stepchildren, and six grandchildren. Reichman was reportedly in Tel Aviv at the time of Cates’s death, where her daughter had recently given birth to a baby.
November 1, 2011 | 12:15 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I admit it: I watched the Kim Kardashian “fairy tale” wedding last week. I was about a month late, I know, but it was still pre-divorce, and as fantasies go, this multi-million dollar extravaganza looked more like a nightmare. The designer Vera Wang, who designed not one, but three, wedding gowns for Kardashian could barely conceal her distaste for the laughable frolic that was The Kardashian Wedding, evinced, plain as day, when the entire clan of Kardashian/Jenner women visited her Los Angeles store for Kim’s fitting.
After two, not exactly painful but fascinating hours observing the Kardashian antics, I can tell you that no licensed professional was necessary to determine that the relationship between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries had no chance – excuse the vulgarity – in hell. There was barely flint between these two, let alone a kinetic spark, and I half wondered why they got together in the first place. To label their union an actual “relationship” is too generous and aggrandizing. What they were enacting was no fairy tale, but a delusional fantasy in which the obscene preoccupation with a façade celebration won out over the love, knowing and trust required for a lifetime of commitment.
The irony in all this – the reason millions of people watch “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” – is it purports to represent “reality”. But there is nothing about the Kardashians’ lives that is reality-like. How many people in this world, at age 30, wear 20-carat diamond rings, fly a private jet full of their girlfriends to a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, and have three – three! – custom-made Vera Wang gowns created for their wedding? Kim Kardashian’s fairy tale is not a fantasy about romance, it’s a fantasy about consumption.
If the Kardashian wedding has anything to teach, it’s simple: Loving stuff more than people does not a marriage make. Kim is aesthetically pleasing to gaze at, yes, but she is repulsive to spend time with. Her false masquerade of marriage with Humphries stands in stark contrast to her sister Khloe’s marriage, who with NBA star Lamar Odom, actually seems to have a relationship based on real things, like communication, friendship and love. There is hope for the family name yet.
Which is also a bit ironic, since in the big 2-hour wedding special, Kim and Kris have what constitutes their most serious dispute over whether Kim will change her name to Humphries. At first, she says ‘yes,’ as a kind of gift to her fiancé who she deems “very traditional.” But when her mother (and business manager) Kris Jenner chimes in with rebuke and disapproval, followed by her sisters, Kim recants. A disappointed Humphries tells the soon-to-be-married woman it’s time she learn to make decisions on her own. And then he gives her the best advice of all: “Grow up.”