Pacino Bursts In to Honor Burstyn
Tuesday night brought the annual National Board of Review dinner and awards show. You might ask: who's on this board? The answer: not movie critics. Just a bunch of people who pay $400 apiece to see a lot of movies, vote on them and get a celebrity-studded dinner.
The organization does boast a president and vice president who are substantial — attorney Leon Friedman (no relation), who once represented Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, and Alfred A. Knopf famed book editor Victoria Wilson. I know them both and they are exceptionally bright and wise people. Otherwise, though, the NBR is run by two cranky, rude older women (whose names I shan't subject you to here) who collect the $400 and bully the press. They operate from the belief that if you can't make a film, you might as well throw a badly catered party.
The NBR gave out 22 awards on Tuesday night including best film to Quills. I'll bet they regret making that decision, since Quills has fallen out of the running for every other award subsequently. The rest of the NBR awards were spread around a bunch of movies — so the best film wasn't made by the best director and didn't have the best script or the best performances by actors. It didn't even have the best ensemble performance, even though it did feature a dozen or so actors. Make sense of that, if you will.
The best actor award went to Javier Bardem for Before Night Falls, and Best Actress went to Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich, both of which were greatly deserved. Roberts, who is very witty extemporaneously, gave two terrific speeches — one for her win and one for her director, Steven Soderbergh. I don't know how one of those cranky old broads felt when Julia cracked wise twice about the lousy food for dinner — "Is that supposed to be fish?" And I think one of those gals is a caterer.
There were a couple of lovely moments. Lupe Ontiveros, who won best supporting actress for a movie called Chuck and Buck, which absolutely no one in this world has seen, was a surprise hit with her acceptance speech. Ontiveros might possibly be known to you as the housekeeper in As Good as It Gets, the one Jack Nicholson wises off to, who's supposed to walk Greg Kinnear's dog, and who finally quits. Ontiveros, who's about four feet tall and full of pep, said of her character's relationship to Jack's: "I tell you Lupe Ontiveros would never take that shit. And that dog — it hated Jack Nicholson!" She dedicated her award to her father who passed away 10 days ago. There was a lot of laughing and crying.
The other big event was the appearance of Al Pacino, who came cross country to give Ellen Burstyn her career achievement award. Much was made this week about Pacino leaving his girlfriend Beverly D'Angelo back in Los Angeles, where she's about to give birth to their twins. But Pacino and Burstyn are co-chairs of Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio and old friends, so he jetted 3,000 miles, walked into the NBR reception at the moment the award was announced, waited until Burstyn finished speaking and then returned to Los Angeles. He was onstage for three minutes.
Since those two rude little women lied to me about no press being invited to the dinner, two very nice movie companies invited me to sit at their tables. I accepted, but I'll omit their names for now lest we all get banned from next year's event. Suffice to say, we'll say something nice about them each in the weeks to come. In the meantime, are all these awards necessary? Are they really an indication of anything except "If you serve it, they will come"? I think not. Just more bad fish.
Readers of this column knew on November 13 that New Line Cinema president Michael DeLuca was in trouble. Yesterday he was relieved of his duties. No surprise there. DeLuca, infamous for bad personal behavior, is being scapegoated for the huge financial disasters of Little Nicky, the upcoming but still not released Town and Country, and the possible financial boondoggle of the Lord of the Rings series.
I am now told that there is a strong possibility that New Line's distribution and a lot of its other back office stuff may be drastically reduced and moved into the mothership, Warner Bros. This all has to do with the Time Warner/AOL merger. All I can say is I hope that Gerald Levin doesn't allow anyone to mess with Fine Line Pictures, New Line's "literary" line and the only part of the company that is vital. The film world would be a sad place without Mark Ordesky, Rachael Horowitz and the good folks at that mini-studio.