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Affleck's New Career

Affleck | 'Village' Falling | Thurman Munson

Ben Affleck: Campaigning Instead of Filming?

Ben Affleck has a new career: getting out the vote for John Kerry. But should he be on a campaign for himself?

Back in the movie world, Affleck has his own concerns. "Glory Road," a solid-sounding basketball-movie project that he was definitely signed on for, seems to have collapsed. (Affleck reportedly wanted more than $5 million for the Jerry Bruckheimer production.)

Not scheduled yet, but being talked about, is something called "Man About Town," which would pair Affleck with — ahem — the beautiful but dramatically challenged Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. Eesh!

In fact, the only film Ben has in the can and ready for release is the admittedly not very good "Surviving Christmas," which will be dropped in theaters' chimneys on November 19.

"Surviving Christmas" has been such a boondoggle for Dreamworks — which is on a roll with "Shrek 2," "The Terminal," "Anchorman," and this week's "Collateral" — that I don't think they know quite what to do with it.

That's a problem, since only five days later, on the more preferable day before Thanksgiving, Revolution Pictures will release its own holiday blockbuster, "Christmas With the Kranks."

This one sounds a lot better, with Joe Roth directing, a script by Chris Columbus and a cast including Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Felicity Huffman and Caroline Rhea.

Meantime, Roth — the Revolution Pictures president — produced last year's Oscar broadcast and got nine Emmy nominations for his efforts. You'd think he'd have heard from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by now about producing the next show in February 2005, but so far ... nothing.

I'm told that the Academy thinks it should be spreading its search among lots of different producers who haven't had a chance to make the Oscars their own.

For example: Oliver Stone could do the conspiracy Oscars, Michael Mann could do the paranoia Oscars, Nora Ephron could do the glib relationship Oscars and so on.

Hmmm...If the Academy were smart, they'd just bring back Roth. And they'd move the show back to its late-March perch. Last year too many awards shows, one on top of another, created burnout!

Disney's 'Village': No. 1, and Falling

M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village," released by Disney, was the No. 1 movie of the weekend, with about $50 million in ticket sales.

That's nothing to sneeze at, and it's certainly the best showing for a Disney film all year. (By contrast, "King Arthur" only has a total of $48 million in the till after several weeks.)

Still, "The Village" looks like a problematic sell. It's usually easy to calculate box-office figures based on a movie's Friday-night take.

If a film opens Friday with $20 million, you can pretty much imagine that the Saturday numbers will be the same, if not better. Word of mouth would carry it. If the weather is good on Sunday, and there isn't a TV sports event, there should be comparable numbers then too.

Based on that formula, which is fairly standard, "The Village" was about $10 million off its mark. In fact, boxofficemojo.com, which posts the box-office estimates, shows "The Village" declining from $20 million on Friday to $17 million on Saturday and $13 million on Sunday.

It's rare that the box-office goes down over a weekend, especially when the Disney marketing was so good about making "The Village" seem scary. What happened?

Probably word of mouth. Friends must have told friends that "The Village" wasn't so scary after all, and that the "twist" was a dance invented by Chubby Checker. This does not bode well for the coming week, since "The Village" still has quite a bit to earn before it breaks even.

Even without all the scary stuff, "The Village" is still a well-done allegory, and worth seeing even if you can guess what's really going on.

Thurman Munson, 1979-2004

It's hard to believe, but Thurman Munson died 25 years ago today.

The all-star Yankee catcher was only 32 years old; he died while practicing how to land in his private plane.

For nine years, from 1970 to 1979, Thurman was the backbone of what would become an historic and great Yankee team.

He was more important to some of us fans than Reggie Jackson, that's for sure, because he was a "real" Yankee, born and bred in the Yankee farm-team system and brought up late in the 1969 season to replace the not-very-good Jake Gibbs, one of the dreary Yanks who racked up losses in the post-Mickey Mantle era. (Remember Horace Clarke?)

With Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Graig Nettles, Bucky Dent, Chris Chambliss, Catfish Hunter, Sparky Lyle and Ron Guidry, the 1970s Yankees were the players of my generation.

Munson was so beloved, he was the first team captain since Lou Gehrig. Losing him was a punch to the gut that, no matter how much success the Yankees have had since then, you never quite got over.

Munson is not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but his locker is there, recreated from the Yankee clubhouse.

This is some measure of the fact that he had played five or six more years, there is no doubt he would have been voted in officially. He won American League Rookie of the Year in 1970, and was Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1976. Munson was on the American League All-Star Teams in 1971 and '73-'78.

He was not flamboyant, which was part of his problem. He wasn't a showy catcher like contemporaries Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter or Johnny Bench, each of whom got more attention from the media during their careers.

The small consolation is that Thurman wound up with a higher lifetime batting average than all of those men, and a higher one than some other famous catchers like Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella. And that's saying a lot considering Fisk, Carter, and Bench each played several seasons past 1979.

I was 22 years old when Munson took that fatal flight lesson, an age when heroes tend not to matter anymore. A year and four months later, John Lennon was murdered.

I remember feeling like that was it, that the heroes who came from my two main interests, baseball and music, were now tragically gone.

In seasons to come, maybe only Don Mattingly made me feel the same about the Yankees. Even though I've stayed with the team, it's more of a tradition than a calling without Thurman. He will never be forgotten.