With the holidays near, it’s a good time to take stock of good and bad moves and remind ourselves that everyone’s human.
Festive, shmestive. This is a merciless time of year when you have to stay sharp — say the right things at all the parties, buy the right presents and conceal your mounting angst behind a beneficent smile. As the holidays approach, you notice even the coolest people committing indiscretions that would never occur in “normal” times.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled the following list of “good moves” and “bad moves” that have come to my attention lately. The purpose of the list is simply to serve as a reminder that everyone’s human.
1. Bad move: Two kid actors named Matt Damon and Ben Affleck decide the only way to get better roles is to sit down and write a script, and thus add another entry to the towering pile of awful scripts written by unemployed thesps.
2. Good move: Their script turns out to be “Good Will Hunting,” which incredibly not only creates two good roles, but also a superb movie.
3. Bad move: Both Woody Allen (in “Deconstructing Harry”) and James L. Brooks (“As Good as It Gets”) decide to build their movies around protagonists who are utterly despicable reprobates, thus encouraging their audiences to pray they won’t get the girl.
4. Good move: Allen decides that since he’s written a fuzzy character, he might as well shoot him in a fuzzy way. The result: Allen deliberately (and hilariously) shoots Robin Williams out of focus.
5. Bad move: NBC president Bob Wright admits at the PaineWebber media conference that “we have, in general, fewer viewers and we charge more for access to them.” OK, I think I understand those economics.
6. Good move: Jamie Tarses decided to say absolutely nothing to the press for four months.
7. Bad move: DreamWorks’ legal eagles prove unable to settle a lawsuit early on filed by an obscure author with an unpronounceable name (Barbara Chase-Riboud) whose claim that “Amistad” was partially based on her book now is being mentioned in virtually every review and feature about the Steven Spielberg movie. Even Bertram Fields, Spielberg’s august attorney, acknowledges that the controversy “hurts the picture terribly.” The movie deserves better.
8. Good move: By retooling “Flubber” and scheduling it into the “101 Dalmatians” slot from last year, the folks at Disney remind us that it’s possible to create an assembly line for hits after all. Just dust off an old property, hire a star, spend $ 25 million or so to open it and away you go.
9. Bad move: Kevin Costner’s pricey new post-apocalyptic megapic, “The Postman,” checks in at three hours, almost as long as “Titanic” and only a bit longer than Clint Eastwood’s languid “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” With bum-numbing movies like this, don’t moviegoers deserve a return of that wondrous anachronism, the intermission?
10. Good move: Two major studios back away from $ 100 million-plus megapics because they don’t want to get hung out to dry by runaway budgets. Warners drops the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi epic “I Am Legend,” and Universal shelves “The Age of Aquarius,” a Harrison Ford vehicle.
11. Bad move: Both Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Slater finally push their fans in the judiciary too far, prompting judges to sentence them to environments somewhat more rigorous than the Canyon Ranch. As cellmates, they might conjure up a lively caper movie.
12. Good move: Miramax decides to open “Scream 2” less than a year after “Scream” made its impressive bow, further defying orthodoxy by trumpeting the sequel with quote ads. What other slasher picture ran ads heralding it as “clever, hip and sophisticated” (a quote from Entertainment Weekly)?
13. Good move: Leslie Moonves, the ever candid president of CBS Television, decides to put it on the line, insisting that advertisers own up to the fact that those in the 35-to-54 age bracket spend more money, go out on more dates as well as watch more CBS shows. Younger demos are delusionary, he insists.
14. Bad move: Movie distributors, fast-food companies and soft-drink peddlers still chase younger TV viewers more avidly on the assumption that the older folks don’t see movies, don’t drink Coke and still eat slowly.
As I said at the outset, anyone can make a mistake, especially at this stressful time of year. Indeed, the holidays may arguably provide a protective cover under which one can temporarily play the role of the proverbial yule fool.
You’re a certifiable fool if you believe that, of course.