Bette Midler

marion dougherty casting by

One of the best anecdotes in the documentary Casting By, which premieres tonight on HBO, relates the start of Warren Beatty’s screen career on a 1957 episode of Kraft Television Theatre. We’re told that like many young actors of the time he modeled himself way too much on Marlon Brando. Then we actually see a clip, and sure enough the future movie star looks and sounds like he’s doing a comical impersonation. Fortunately, within the next five years he would find his own comfortable style and manage to break out in Hollywood in order to become one of his generation’s finest. And apparently we have casting director Marion Dougherty to thank for giving him his first shot. There are a lot of first- and second-hand stories in the film about a lot of actors and actresses’ beginnings. And a lot of rare clips to prove just how terrible or terrific they really were. There’s Jon Voight‘s embarrassing performance on Naked City in 1963, which actually kind of foreshadows most of his later work (personally, I’ve always thought him to be one of the worst in the business). Jeff Bridges talks about how he witnessed audiences literally laughing at his tearful work in 1970’s Hall of Anger. Bette Midler thanks Dougherty for allowing her to hide her Jewishness and play a missionary in Hawaii and earn a paycheck that would finally get her to New York. And then there’s a claim that Michael Eisner, while President and CEO of Paramount Pictures, kept trying to […]

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Parental Guidance

Well, hmm. At the very least (like, bare minimum here), Andy Fickman‘s Parental Guidance looks inoffensive. The family film stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as a set of grandparents finally getting their big shot with their three grandkiddos, thanks to their daughter (played by Marisa Tomei) and her urgent need to have someone (possibly anyone) look after them for a few days. Suddenly, the “old school” parents must take care of some new wave munchkins who’ve been raised in a sugar-free environment that’s big on feelings and such. Hijinks, misunderstandings, and apparently some sort of overdose on sheet cake ensue. It all seems relatively harmless (and certainly less embarrassing than something like Robert DeNiro’s fall from respectability at the hands of his own family series, the nosedive-y endeavor that is the Meet the Parents franchise), and Parental Guidance will likely be a solid choice come the holidays – at least, when you need to please everyone in your family when it comes to movie-going. Check out a new Parental Guidance trailer after the break, and ponder if Crystal is the new Robert DeNiro.

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Over Under - Large

By the time 1993 rolled around, Tim Burton already had projects like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands under his belt, and had firmly established himself as an auteur director of quirky, weird films. It was probably that year’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – a movie that Burton produced and didn’t even direct – that firmly established him as being a filmmaker with a cult of personality following, and has become his most enduring work, however. A stop-motion animated feature directed by Henry Selick (with strong creative input from Burton) and produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, The Nightmare Before Christmas mixed up Halloween and Christmas imagery in iconic ways (Mickey Mouse has his fingers in all the holiday pies), it captured the imaginations of an entire generation, and it can still be seen advertised all over the backpacks and binders of eyeliner wearing teenagers to this day. That same year another Halloween-themed family film came out of another wing of the Disney conglomerate called Hocus Pocus. But, despite that fact that it starred a trio of actresses who were fairly big names at the time, it hasn’t enjoyed nearly as much attention over the years as Nightmare. And, unless you happen to be a devotee of the movie Newsies (which I know some of you are), chances are you’ve never heard of its director, Kenny Ortega. Sure, Hocus Pocus still gets played on the Disney channel around Halloween every year, as it’s probably cheap programming for the company, but […]

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After going big in Iron Man 2, Sam Rockwell is heading back to the world of indie film-making. At least that’s the word on the street. He’s currently considering a role in the indie comedy Sweet Baby Jesus.

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