Steven Spielberg | Michael Jackson

'Munich': Spielberg Backlash Begins

"Munich," a movie I still think is exciting, thought provoking and easily the most interesting film of 2005, is taking a beating already.

Variety trashed it on Friday and apparently plans another thrashing on Monday. Leon Wieseltier, writing in The New Republic from a vitriolic point of view, had nothing good to say about it.

Something weird is going on here. "Munich" is a good movie. Its actions scenes are pulse inducing. The historical context for it is a perfect setting for drama. Eric Bana, as Avner, the lead character, could not be better.

So why is "Munich" taking a hit? It could be that it's too much Spielberg in 2005. "War of the Worlds," released in June, became something of a cause celebre because of star Tom Cruise's insane antics on "Oprah" and in other venues. Between his insta romance with Katie Holmes and his denunciation of psychiatry on the "Today" show, Cruise became bigger than the movie.

Perhaps what's happening to "Munich" before it's been seen by most reviewers is just a delayed reaction fatigue to Spielberg from that unpleasant episode. After all, no one likes a smarty pants, and Spielberg's insistence on making two big movies in one year may have alienated a lot of people.

It doesn't help that "Munich" is getting some poor notices just as Spielberg's studio, Dreamworks, has been reportedly sold to Paramount for $1.6 billion. "Munich" is a co-production with Universal, the major studio that opted not to buy Dreamworks after a lengthy negotiation.

But Universal may have guessed the obvious: Spielberg's next movie, "Indiana Jones 4," certain to be a mega blockbuster, is parked at Paramount — something not lost, I am certain, on the Paramount/Viacom execs. By buying Dreamworks, Paramount secures Spielberg and reaps all benefits of working with him. If "Indy 4" is made, and is indeed a $500 million hit, the Dreamworks price tag won't look so bad.

Meanwhile, it would behoove Universal to put a major spin team on "Munich" now—either Freud Communications in New York or Sitrick in Los Angeles. It's obvious that one more unmanned advance screening of "Munich" could be detrimental to the film. When I saw it, there weren't even production notes, and that can be problematic for most reviewers who enter it unprepped. Nevertheless, I found it gripping and compelling, and far more important to the world of ideas this winter than gay cowboys, chatty geishas, or giant sized apes visiting New York.

Jacko: Not Dead Yet

Michael Jackson is not dead. Rumors of his expiration, which traveled fast Friday afternoon, were highly exaggerated.

Jackson remains in Bahrain, more or less secluded from his family back in Los Angeles. If he had a serious incident with prescription drugs, I'm told, it may have occurred a couple of weeks ago. "The National Enquirer," now always late to the table and nearly 100 percent wrong, may have just heard old news and gone with it anyway.

After sitting through four months of court testimony with Jackson this year, and seeing many things "backstage," I can tell you it is unlikely the pop star will commit suicide or overdose on purpose. He has a pretty big ego — he still thinks he's the King of Pop — and that should prevent him from intentionally buying the farm. What he should be doing now is quite the opposite —selling the ranch. But that's another story.

‘Brokeback' Quote of the Day
The New York Post's reviewer, Kyle Smith, on "Fox 5 News at Ten" last night: "It's Super Bowl Sunday for Gay New York." Yee-hah!