The Gladiator was dissed by “Mr. Mom” last night at a black-tie dinner saluting Oscar-winner Ron Howard.
That’s right. In what may have started as a joke but fell flat, Michael Keaton — who starred in "Mr. Mom," "Batman," "Beetlejuice" and Howard’s "The Paper and Night Shift" — decided to comment from the stage of the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom in New York City about Crowe’s conspicuous absence.
“The bad news is that Russell Crowe isn’t here,” said Keaton to a crowd that included Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Jeffrey Tambor, Edie Falco plus Howard’s family, his actress daughter Bryce Dallas Howard and producing partner Brian Grazer.
Crowe would have been a likely guest since he’s starred in two Howard movies, "A Beautiful Mind" and "Cinderella Man."
“The good news,” Keaton continued, “is that we don’t have to listen to his [expletive deleted] band. They suck. They’re horrible. John McCain came up with the anti-torture bill about them.”
The dinner, an annual event, supports the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, N.Y. It’s a little like an upscale Friars Roast, although this year, four-letter words were de rigueur for the first time.
After Kurt Russell used a longish expletive containing the word "mother," Keaton returned to the stage and congratulated him on “breaking that barrier.”
It was an usual night for the AMMI anyway. For the first time they had participants come in and pre-tape reminisces of the guest of honor so the show would move faster. It didn’t really work, but the tapes were worth it.
Really marvelous were a series of taped pieces made during yesterday afternoon by Tom Hanks, in which he played a Hollywood foreign press person of indeterminate accent interviewing Howard about his films.
Hanks played both the reporter — with big sunglasses and long greasy hair — and Howard, sending up the director’s “golly gosh” Midwestern attitude.
The payoff was that Hanks was a surprise guest at the end of the evening, coming in to introduce Howard.
The director, who’s finishing up “The Da Vinci Code” with Hanks, said when he took the stage that Hanks was brave and confident to be mimicking him.
“After all, I’m a final cut director with his most recent performance in my editing room,” he said.
The night was also unique because of Howard’s career as a child star on "The Andy Griffith Show," "Happy Days" and in other movies and TV shows before becoming a full-time director.
At one point, Tambor led a phalanx of young boys with red Howard wings in a rendition of “Gary, Indiana,” the song an 8-year-old Howard sang in the movie version of “The Music Man.”
There were plenty of nice speeches and good stories from everyone, including one Howard told about directing an imperious Bette Davis in 1980, at the start of his career.
After criticizing his youth and nearly scaring him to death, Howard knew she’d finally accepted him when she “patted me on my a--.”
Carrey, looking a little uncomfortable since he followed former girlfriend Renee Zellweger to the podium, settled into a funny routine in which he was eulogizing Howard instead of roasting him.
“I think the world will miss his genius,” Carrey cracked. He left the room the minute he was done.
Zellweger, meantime, hit it off like gangbusters with New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman. By the time the evening was over they could barely be pried apart. I have no idea what they were talking about.
Zellweger was accompanied by her longtime manager John Carrabino, who managed Katie Holmes for four months this year until she disappeared into Cruise World.
“I think they’re really in love,” he told me. “It’s the real thing.”
It was a quite a night in New York anyway last night, because Howard's studio, Universal, was throwing a swanky premiere for the film version of “The Producers.”
Mel Brooks, still grieving over the loss of his wife Anne Bancroft, did not attend. But the premiere was a hit, and I will tell you all about it tomorrow.
I'm surprised someone in the movie business hasn't looked more closely into how the National Board of Review gives out their idiotic awards.
First of all, they were supposed to announce their final ballot results on Monday. However, that's been changed to Wednesday, since the group — which wasted a lot of time and money seeing dozens of B movies all year — only saw Steven Spielberg's "Munich" on Sunday and will view Peter Jackson's "King Kong" on Monday.
They will have to make up their minds quickly if those films and their components are better than the ones they've had to time to consider for weeks and months.
It won't matter, though. After the general membership sends in its votes, a group of 12 called the Exceptional Photoplay Committee will take those votes and reconfigure them to their liking. The larger vote, as explained to me, is just symbolic and it's only in a handful of categories.
Even worse than all this is that the group is run by incompetents who haven't even included all the possible or likely nominees in an e-mail to their electorate.
On Friday, this grizzled group of insider fighting fans sent out a list of eligibility in four different movie categories to their 150 or so members. The list omitted at least eight directors of award-favored films, three supporting actresses and one lead actor.
If the members go by the NBR eligibility letter as it stands now, they will not have the following directors' names in front of them: Bennett Miller ("Capote"), Duncan Taylor ("Transamerica"), James Mangold ("Walk the Line"), Richard Shepard ("The Matador"), Fernando Mereilles ("The Constant Gardener"), Craig Brewer ("Hustle and Flow"), Terrence Malick ("The New World") and Joe Wright ("Pride and Prejudice").
They will also not be thinking of Catherine Keener ("Capote"), Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener"), Judi Dench ("Pride and Prejudice"), Rosario Dawson ("Rent") and Fionnula Flanagan ("Transamerica"). None of their names were listed as being eligible.
The group also inexplicably omitted the lead actor from "Rent," Anthony Rapp, replacing him with a supporting actor, Wilson Jermaine Heredia. Maybe Rapp didn't show up for a mandatory Q&A session, or didn't entertain the group sufficiently.
The NBR typically has after-screening sessions with the casts of movies and often dines with them at the studios' expense in order to decide who deserves what prize.
That doesn't mean they keep everyone straight. On the directors' list, the group spelled Steven Spielberg with a ‘ph' instead of a ‘v'.
"The way it works, after a screening the voters are asked to write down the names of people from each film who made an impression. The people who are missing may not have gotten high enough percentages. On the other hand, the voters do get a list of all the films. But they will probably go by this list," an insider said.
Now, back to the voting: The larger group of 150 doesn't even vote on 23 different awards that the NBR will hand out. That's left to that "Gang of 12." Their identities are largely unknown even to the general membership. But they are handpicked by the group's self-appointed president, Annie Schulof, who has her own film production company and whose brother-in-law, Mickey Schulhof, was the president of Sony for several years.
Other members include Daniel Goldstine, a California sex therapist whose son is a studio executive at Sony; Inez Salinger Glucksman, a past president whose main qualification, I am told, is just that "she's wealthy and likes movies."
The Gang may also include Leon Friedman, the group's attorney, and Andrew Weinberg, a friend of Friedman's son.
In the last year, the group forced off its board and out of the organization several qualified members. Those people, claiming a breaching of the not-for-profit's charter, recently filed a complaint with the New York State Attorney General's Office.
Last year, the group also ousted its vice president, Victoria Wilson, senior vice president of Alfred A. Knopf and an actual respected publisher of books about film. Apparently, she was overqualified.
Only one professional film critic, author and educator is among the Gang of 12: Annette Insdorf. Last year Insdorf fought to get the top movie prize for "Finding Neverland" despite Schulhof's campaign for "Closer." This year, Insdorf is said to like "Good Night and Good Luck," although Schulhof is said to be high on "Memoirs of a Geisha."
In both of Schulhof's cases, her picks are from Sony/Columbia. She may settle for Insdorf's choice, however, because it throws a bone to her other favorite studio, Warner Bros., although in the case of "Good Night and Good Luck" it's Warner Independent. But it may be as close as Schulhof gets to satisfying her cronyism.
This Skull and Bones-type group also has at their discretion the chance to give out all kinds of prizes and gifts to those who've been nice to them during the year.
On Tuesday night, this self-appointed jury of 12 will meet to decide who gets things like the Freedom of Expression Award, Breakthrough Actor and Actress, Screenplay (Original and Adapted), Debut Film Director and Ensemble Acting.
More importantly, the Gang of 12 will select recipients for Career Achievement Awards in Acting, Producing, Directing, Cinematography and Editing. They will also pick someone to get Special Achievement in Filmmaking — a slam dunk for George Clooney, who should be amused to receive such an ignominious distinction from this group.
The Gang will also pick a person for the Special Excellence in Filmmaking Award. This person has to have 10 to 13 films under their belt, like Clint Eastwood. The group will pick someone who can get them a lot of publicity. Only Woody Allen or David Cronenberg would fit that criteria this year, but knowing the NBR they will flout their own rules to allow Peter Jackson in because he directed "King Kong."
The NBR loves celebrity and success more than anything, and makes it choices with an eye toward breaking bread with the biggest stars of the year.
Of course, in the end, one of the funniest things about the NBR is how they insist their "job" is full time, and that they must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the exact same thing the New York Film Critics Circle does for free.
This year, the NBR screened over 150 films between January and July that didn't make their final cut and wouldn't have anyway unless they were also giving a Golden Turkey. They included dogs like "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" and "House of Wax," starring Paris Hilton.
In fact, nearly all the films the NBR short-listed were released beginning in September, making their "job" in reality only seasonal at best. The other eight months of the year are social, done at someone else's expense.