Jamie Lee Curtis | Bad Epic Movies | Michael Eisner

Jamie Lee Curtis Gets 'Kranky'

Here's a good rule to live by: Don't ask Jamie Lee Curtis too many questions, or any questions at all if possible.

She's no charmer, that's for sure. Try ice-cold. Who knew?

I met her last night at the lavish premiere for her lackluster new holiday comedy, "Christmas with the Kranks," which is about a middle-aged couple ostracized by their neighbors when they decide to skip the holiday and go on a cruise instead.

"What? Are they Jewish or Buddhist?" one of their friends snarls upon hearing the news.

Curtis attended the premiere sans her husband, writer and director Christopher Guest. She did bring her two kids and her combination sister-lackey Kelly Curtis.

Kelly quizzed me about why I was standing near Jamie Lee. Yikes.

All I asked was what she'd be working on next when Jamie Lee exclaimed in response, "Nothing."

"Nothing? No more movies?"

"No more. I can't do it anymore. I'm a mother. I've got to concentrate on my kids," she said.

At that point, if looks could have killed, yours truly would have been six feet under. What was I going to do?

Jamie Lee's co-star, Tim Allen, wasn't much better. When his publicist tried to advance the idea that Allen say hello, he walked away. Even the publicist shrugged. What can you do?

I had better luck with producer-director Joe Roth, who runs Revolution Studios at Columbia Pictures and is one of my favorite people.

Even though "Christmas With the Kranks" is a misbegotten movie, Roth is coming to New York this spring with a new project. He's directing Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore in a film adaptation of Richard Price's novel "Freedomland."

One nice thing: Roth's new girlfriend, Irene, showed off her 10-week-old French bulldog Georges. And she took a picture of Roth with Allen on her digital camera to commemorate the evening.

The "Kranks" premiere also brought out one of New York's favorite couples, Dan Aykroyd and Donna Dixon — Dan's got a big role in the movie — as well as 14-year-old actor Erik Per Sullivan, who got his start in "The Cider House Rules" and is a regular on "Malcolm in the Middle."

I had the great pleasure of meeting Erik and his parents back in 1998, so catching up with them was a treat. That was when Erik hit it off with "Cider House" director Lasse Hallström by speaking to him in Swedish, Erik's mother's native tongue.

Erik's dad, Fred, has established a solid home base for his family in Milford, Mass., where he owns a popular Mexican restaurant called The Alamo. And Erik has set his sights on college, according to his dad.

"He wants to go to Harvard," he told me.

Hey, if it was good enough for Natalie Portman, why not?

I was just about to leave the "Kranks" party — a wild spectacular event set up under a massive double white tent in Central Park — when things got a little out of hand.

A Columbia Pictures exec, George Leon, jumped into the giant fake snow globe in the middle of the party with two of Santa's elves/go-go girls and decided to shake it like a Polaroid picture — in a suit and tie, no less.

That got the whole room moving, although I doubt it did much for Jamie Lee.

Did I tell you that Columbia Pictures actually brought two live reindeer to Radio City Music Hall for the movie's screening? They also released fake snowflakes into the famed theater's lobby as we were exiting.

It was a grand night, the kind of party only Hollywood could invent for a movie that is nearly incoherent and borders on the strangely offensive.

But who knows? The rationale for the film's insularity is that it will be popular in the "red" states. My own feeling is even those viewers will be red-faced when they see "The Kranks."

Epics Vie for Worst Film

The Academy Awards are going to look a lot like the Independent Spirit Awards this year — and not even a lack of screeners will be able to change that.

A bunch of really expensive films from the major studios are already in trouble before they're released.

Chief among these are Warner Brothers' "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Alexander." Both films have gotten a very poor reception at advance press screenings and from test audiences so far. This is not good news for Warner, coming as it does on the heels of what looks to be a disaster with "The Polar Express."

"Polar Express" cost about $165 million to make and another $35 million to market, but has found almost no constituency at the box office in the last few days.

The failure is a surprise, considering that it's based on a children's book with a huge following. But after taking in just $30 million, "The Polar Express" looks to be DOA.

Then there's Disney, a studio enjoying a huge success with someone else's project. "The Incredibles" looks to be bigger than anyone could have predicted, but of course, it's a Pixar film.

Pixar is the animation studio that Disney has chased away. Michael Eisner has alienated Steve Jobs, and Robert Iger announced at the end of September that the Disney-Pixar relationship had run its course.

Disney doesn't have much to look forward to otherwise this Christmas.

"National Treasure," a Jerry Bruckheimer-Nicolas Cage extravaganza, has very bad buzz. The trailer is so cheesy it looks like a parody of an "Indiana Jones" movie. I keep thinking it's going to turn into a GEICO commercial.

More bad yule tidings are coming from Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou." The title says it all: Jacques Cousteau's appeal never had anything to do with irony.

Of the major studios, only Sony/Columbia has anything to brag about. They actually have what seem to be two big commercial and artistic successes looming with Mike Nichols' "Closer" and James L. Brooks' "Spanglish," both of which will start to get some screenings this week. "Closer" has already generated a lot of Oscar buzz for Clive Owen and Natalie Portman.

"Spanglish," Brooks' first film since "As Good as It Gets," is said to be more like the director's "I'll Do Anything" than his more heralded efforts such as "Terms of Endearment" and "Broadcast News."

Of course, "As Good as It Gets" was also a troubled film before it was finally released to rave reviews and sizable audiences, so anything is possible.

But otherwise, 2004 will be notable for its quirky small movies. Right now, the following films are headed for some kind of award consideration: "Bad Education," "Being Julia," "The Door in the Floor," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Finding Neverland," "Hotel Rwanda," "House of Flying Daggers," "Kill Bill Vol. 2," "Kinsey," "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Ray," "The Sea Inside," "Sideways," "Vera Drake" and "The Woodsman."

Two films no one's seen yet, Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" and Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby," are highly anticipated. One that was completely ignored, Mario van Peebles' "Baadasssss," deserves a quick revival.

Will Eisner Answer the Big Questions on the Stand?

Disney chairman Michael Eisner is on the stand this week in Georgetown, Del., testifying in the lawsuit brought against the company by its shareholders.

The issue is whether Eisner informed anyone when he created a platinum parachute for his former friend Michael Ovitz.

When Ovitz left Disney after 14 contentious months in 1996, he received $140 million — or 10 percent of Disney's income that year. The shareholders, including former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, were livid.

Eisner will try to convince the judge in the case that the board did know about the severance package and that Eisner was not acting alone and recklessly.

But an article by reporter Julie Connelly in a 2003 issue of "Corporate Board Member" tells a different story. Connelly did a pretty good job dissecting the mess now presented to the court in "The Ghost of Michael Ovitz Still Haunts Disney."

A couple of things that Eisner will have to explain on the stand this week: Why only he and Disney's Sandy Litvack were in the room with Ovitz when the severance package was negotiated on Dec. 11, 1996, instead of it being sent along the proper channels, and why Eisner used his personal attorney, Irwin Russell, to make the deal with Ovitz that brought him to the company in the first place.

The real nature of the bond between Ovitz and Eisner still remains a mystery. Maybe some answers will be revealed this week before Eisner finalizes his deterioration of Disney's relationships with Miramax and Pixar.