The most frequent way to open a conversation these days is also the rudest: “What’s happening?” people ask. The candid answer: “nothing.”
And here’s the reason for the “nothing”: Hollywood’s denizens are tweeting, not working; they’re making meetings but not movies.
A filmmaker friend put it this way: “This is becoming a town of non-commitment.” No one wants to commit to a deal because a moment later someone may email him a better offer. An agent who likes to throw dinner parties tells me that guests often delay a response in the hopes that someone will text them a hotter invite. The upshot: Thanks to social media, we’re becoming antisocial.
Mind you, I, too, covet the benefits of instant communication. I enjoy my occasional online conversation with Jimmy Franco, but I don’t always understand what he’s telling me. (It’s probably mutual.) I text my daughter, who’s a surgeon: I tell her when I mess up one of my television interviews and she tells me when she runs into problems with a procedure. (That quickly puts my issues into perspective.)
I’ve even bought one of those dictionaries of texting acronyms so I can communicate more effectively my kids. I now understand that POS is the acronym warning that a parent is watching over their shoulder and that RMB suggests a really mean boner.
The bottom line, however, is that while we all seem to be in a frenzy of communication, we’re not really accomplishing much. Stars aren’t committing to projects, directors aren’t committing to scripts and studios and networks are too busy holding meetings to decide on anything.
We all understand the supposed reasons: Costs are high, risks are great, corporate decisionmaking machinery is too layered. The result is an odd sort of emotional gridlock.
Hence one of my New Year’s resolutions is never to ask, “What’s happening?” I prefer to toss out a friendly acronym like “RAIL?” That translates into “Read anything interesting lately?”
Media moguls collect green acres
We always knew Rupert Murdoch wanted to own the media. All the media. He even started a new daily newspaper last week created for the iPad.
What I didn’t realize was that two of his rival media moguls entertained even more grandiose ambitions. It seems they want to own the country.
John C. Malone, the king of Liberty Media, is about to buy 1 million acres in Maine. He already owns a million acres in New England. Meanwhile, Ted Turner keeps adding to his modest spread — he owns 2 million acres and feeds some 50,000 head of bison. That excludes Turner’s expanding acreage in Argentina.
I don’t quite know what has fed this hunger for acreage. Malone, who is 69, is worth an estimated $3 billion while Turner, 72, has seen his fortune shrink to slightly under $2 billion. They might feel that their land is a lot more stable than Rupert’s cable holdings. They also might feel that if John Paulson, the hedge funder, could turn a $5 billion profit last year by manipulating the price of gold, they can do even better controlling the price of acreage.
Or maybe they both plan to run for president. After all, if you own the country, you might as well try to run it.
Clint Eastwood on Hoover
I was surprised to learn that Clint Eastwood, a very tactful man, decided to give an interview to the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal, whose politics are trending to the right of Rush Limbaugh. Would Clint reveal his own carefully guarded political leanings? Would he disclose his take on J. Edgar Hoover, the subject of the movie he is about to shoot?
Well, yes and no.
In the interview, written by Michael Judge, Eastwood acknowledged that the Hoover script was written by Dustin Lance Black, a gay-rights activist who won an Oscar for “Milk.” Black has commented on Hoover’s cross-dressing proclivities, but, Eastwood says vaguely that his script didn’t quite go down that road.” The word “quite” is intriguing in view of the fact that the former FBI director never “quite” came out of the closet either. I still hear that, in the movie, J. Edgar’s outfit is pretty cute in at least one scene.
Eastwood acknowledges that he is a Republican of long standing but has also voted for Democrats from time to time. He says he even liked Jerry Brown when he made a presidential run in ’92 as a supporter of the flat tax. Eastwood himself had a brief political career as mayor of Carmel, where he owns a 22-acre ranch and a restaurant.
The Hoover biopic is a departure for the man who invented Dirty Harry, but he typically is wary about revealing his point of view. Asked whether Hoover had “gone over into a cruel streak along the way,” the filmmaker said, “I’m sure he had his excesses. He was obviously a very detailed guy all his life.” For specific “details,” however, filmgoers clearly will have to stay tuned.