Crouching Tiger Director Makes Car Commercial | Las Vegas Odds on Oscar: Gladiator, Erin, Billy, Chocolat, Tiger | Orson Welles and More from the New York Critics Dinner

Crouching Tiger Director Makes Car Commercial

Ang Lee, director of the much-loved and talked about film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is making his first TV commercial. 

Lee is currently in New Jersey shooting the spots for BMW, according to his producing and writing partner, James Schamus. British actor Clive Owen stars in the commercials. 

"Basically, we haven't been paid in two years," Schamus told me at the New York Film Critics Awards on Sunday night, regarding the movies they've made recently. The pair is also responsible for the 1997 film The Ice Storm

Lee's other credits include The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman and Ride with the Devil. The latter was a box-office disappointment and may be the reason why BMW suddenly looked so welcoming. 

Many other serious film directors have turned to commercials as a way of generating extra income in the past. Among them: Spike Lee, Francis Coppola, Spike Jonze, and Joel Coen

Now that Crouching Tiger is such a hit, the pressure is on for the duo to make another film, and fast. But Schamus told me that's probably not going to happen before the projected actors' strike kicks in on May 1st. 

"We were going to make a musical, but there wasn't enough time," he said. "Now we'll just wait and see what happens." 

Crouching Tiger cinematographer Peter Pau picked up his own award Sunday night from the New York critics and told the group that he was the 10th cinematographer Ang Lee went to for Crouching Tiger. The movie is such a hit that Pau will now direct his first film, starring Tiger's Michelle Yeoh. 

Pau told me of the flying scenes in Tiger/Dragon: "At first no one wanted to do it. Then Chow Yun Fat wanted to fly all the time. And then all the women got into it." 

Pau, however, passed on the experience. He left it to an assistant director to make sure all the ropes and wires were working properly. 

"I was screaming on the set all the time," said the good-natured Pau, and he didn't seem to be kidding.

Las Vegas Odds on Oscar: Gladiator, Erin, Billy, Chocolat, Tiger 

Las Vegas oddsmaker Lenny Del Genio has spoken. He's giving even odds to the following possible Oscar contenders: Gladiator, Russell Crowe, Julia Roberts, Joan Allen, Joaquin Phoenix, Judi Dench and Gladiator director Ridley Scott

Del Genio also thinks Erin Brockovich, Billy Elliott, Chocolat, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will round out the top five Oscar nominees when they're announced on February 13th. 

He lists Traffic and Almost Famous as long shots. 

But Del Genio, a veteran in the odds biz, can't take into account some weird stuff going on out there in Oscar land. For one thing, some movies are now playing in empty theaters to justify newspaper ads. Almost Famous, Erin Brockovich and Gladiator are literally each playing in one theater in both New York and Los Angeles. 

The theaters are empty, since the latter two are already on video. Their studios are renting the theaters just so they can justify taking newspaper ads crowing about the films' Oscar potential. Not one of those three movies, by the way, took in more than a couple thousand dollars last week. But their print ads have cost way over $500,000 and the tab is still running. 

Orson Welles and More From the New York Critics Dinner 

Famed director Peter Bogdanovich (Last Picture Show, Mask, What's Up Doc?) made his first appearance in 30 years in front of the New York critics at Sunday night's dinner. He's just finished shooting a new film called Cat's Meow starring Kirsten Dunst, which will be out in the fall. 

Bogdanovich quoted the late legend Orson Welles. "Welles said a director is a man who presides over accidents." How true. 

Welles also responded to Bogdanovich when the young director mentioned that he'd been one year old when Welles shot Citizen Kane: "Oh, shut up." 

Then Peter advised some of the younger directors in the room: "You'll know what I mean soon enough." 

Bogdanovich presented an award to the excellent indie film, George Washington, the only movie, by the way, that featured African-Americans and also had a few as guests at its table. 

An all-white Hollywood is now a more pervasive problem than ever, this reporter can tell you. It seems like we've gone backwards in the integration of people of all colors into film. It's very embarrassing. 

Meanwhile, the best quote of the night — aside from Conan O'Brien's much repeated anecdote about Tom Hanks (Conan once blew Tom off for a writing gig, thinking he wouldn't be a big star) — came from Affliction director and Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader

"I was sick of watching movies," Schrader said of a recent epiphany. "I took six months off and just read books."