Clint Eastwood Gets 'Mystic'
"I'm just about the only person not running for governor of California."
That's what Clint Eastwood said when he took the stage Friday night at the New York Film Festival.
The occasion was the premiere of Eastwood's new Warner Bros. film, "Mystic River," and he brought most of the cast with him: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney.
Kevin Bacon was AWOL, unfortunately, and Eli Wallach — who is not credited but steals his one scene big-time — was no doubt home in bed. (The screening didn't start until 9:30 p.m.; the party began at midnight.)
What is it about "Mystic River" that has everyone talking? I'll tell you: It's Eastwood himself. He directed this Brian Helgeland adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel, and the result is exceptional.
Much of the buzz is about Penn, and deservedly so, but it's what Eastwood has brought to the Lehane material that has ignited Penn, Robbins, and Bacon. Without Eastwood's sensibility this would have been a redux of "Sleepers," the Barry Levinson adaptation of a book about four friends with a dark past.
Eastwood has brought "Mystic River" alive by casting it in the tradition of Elia Kazan and the great film-noir pictures of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Putting the nearly 88-year-old Wallach in it as a liquor store owner is no accident. (I'm actually surprised Richard Widmark didn't do a cameo, too; the two of them deserve honorary Oscars for their lives' work.)
Nearly every one of the shows Wallach appeared in during the golden age of television — the whole of the 1950s — is echoed in "Mystic River," whether it was "Playhouse 90," "Naked City" or any of the sponsored hours from Philco, Westinghouse and Goodyear.
Those stories, all set in the city among the "lower classes" (as it were), concerned hard-bitten heroes who straddled the line of villainy, crooks with a heart whose motivations justified their actions and whose endings were not wrapped up neatly with a ribbon. And the police were smart. In "Mystic River," Bacon and Laurence Fishburne do a world of good PR for crime fighters.
There's going to be a lot of Oscar prognosticating about "Mystic River" nominations: best picture, best Director (Eastwood), best actor (Penn), best supporting actors (Robbins, Bacon) and adapted screenplay (Helgeland).
For my money, the one to watch here is Academy Award-winner Harden ("Pollock"). Her performance as Robbins' frightened wife is just a hundred percent the best it can be. Her last scene actually underscores the entire film and foretells the future of the characters. Beautifully done!
Ever since she broke through in "Miller's Crossing," Harden has been causing a sensation. Like Anna Deveare Smith in "The Human Stain" and Patricia Clarkson in either "Pieces of April" or "The Station Agent," Harden is headed for the final five in the best-supporting-actress category.
R.E.M., the musical heroes of Athens, Ga., are back! More in a minute.
First, this: "Sting isn't staying," the rock star's publicist told me during his Saturday night show at the Hammerstein Ballroom. "He's going right after the show to see Bruce and Patti."
That would be Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa, who were wrapping up the E Street Band's three-night stand at Shea Stadium. Sting's show — jam-packed with fan club members and Alec Baldwin, as well as Access Hollywood's Billy Bush (I wonder if they had a political discussion) — was over soon enough that he could have made it to Shea.
I don't know if he did, but Bob Dylan, Garland Jeffreys and Gary U.S. Bonds all joined The Boss on "Twist and Shout" in honor of the Beatles' famous 1966 Shea shows. Dylan led the band on his own "Highway 61" and Bonds did his old chestnut "Quarter to Three."
If that wasn't enough music in New York for one night, R.E.M. sold out Madison Square Garden. We managed to make it across Eighth Avenue from the Sting show just in time to hear Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck give a performance so energized you'd think we were back at the Ritz circa 1981. The audience loved it, too, literally keeping the group past the traditional 11 p.m. cutoff and pushing them into encores.
The group pulled out their own chestnuts: ''Fall on Me," "Finest Worksong," "The One I Love," "It's the End of the World," "Man on the Moon" and "Losing My Religion" crackled with a kind of virtuosity that is all but absent at this point in rock.
Stipe still has his kind of trademark staccato movements, but you know, it works even when he looks a little like a dancing toy at the end of a stick. His sincerity about the music, about New York, is genuine and heartfelt.
Best sign of the night: The band played "Drive" and not the now-yucky "Everybody Hurts" from "Automatic for the People." Their only mistake: Not doing more from their last CD, "Reveal," such as "I'll Take the Rain" or "All the Way to Reno."
At the after-party at the new Maritime Hotel, the group mingled with Helena Christensen, Macaulay Culkin, Bebe Buell and Casey Affleck, among others.
Yeah, I asked Casey about Ben and J-Lo, but he knows as much as you do about what's going to happen next.
What about Casey himself? He's going to make "Ocean's 12" (he was very, very good in "Ocean's 11") and try to stay out of US Weekly.
How does his brother deal with tabloid reporters following him into hardware stores? (Last week we learned that Ben bought a piece of wood. This week: Probably breakfast cereal and dental floss!)
"It's like being on EdTV," Casey quipped, referring to the underrated Ron Howard movie.
By the way, check out R.E.M'.s very funny, trenchant fake-news Web site www.morningteam.com.
Want to know what a pariah looks like? Dana Giacchetto found out the hard way Saturday night.
Even though R.E.M.'s office gave him a pair of tickets to the Garden show, Giacchetto — who spent three years in prison for bilking celebrities and other investors out of $20 million — was avoided like the proverbial plague by one and all.
When he spotted this reporter before the show started, Giacchetto made a vulgar gesture indicating that prison had not chastened him.
I asked him, consequently, "Dana, where is the money? Where have you hidden it'?" He gave a Cheshire smile.
Mostly what was interesting was that the tickets he'd been given — floor seats — were evidently not good enough for this jailbird. As soon as R.E.M. hit the stage, Giacchetto pulled his girlfriend forward to the first few rows to scout up even better seats.
Big question for the SEC, though: How can this man afford to live in Manhattan, dress in designer clothes, etc.? The answers would be awfully interesting.