Paris Sorta Takes Sundance | Magnum P.I. Headed to Big Screen | Giuliani Gets 'Wacked' at Sundance | De Niro and Friends 'Wack' Hollywood | Quaid: Kids Are All Right; Redford Shops; Colin Firth Advocates
Believe it or not, Sunday night at the Sundance Film Festival belonged to ... did you say Felicity Huffman? Patricia Clarkson? Paul Giamatti?
Noooooo, my friends. Sunday night belonged to Paris Hilton. She came to town this weekend and did something absolutely brilliant: She promoted a film that wasn't allowed here, or shown here or even discussed except among paparazzi and gawkers.
Paris's film "The Hottie and the Nottie" is a D kind of film or an E or an F that Regency Releasing will foist on the masses on Feb. 8. Is it bad? No doubt. But what does that matter? Paris knows the press is here, so Paris is here. There's no shame in making money.
There were several events held in the honor of this project, and Paris was seen around town at swag huts and makeshift nightclubs.
Sunday night, she and sister Nicky were feted at a private dinner at the Bon Appetit magazine salon and then at a huge disco party in the same location, at the Rockinghorse restaurant on Main Street.
Unfortunately, the late crowd was thinned out by the icy, sleety weather. Still, a couple hundred civilians — no celebs — braved the conditions and stood outside for about an hour until Paris' associates let them in.
Inside, Paris cordially greeted film crews from the syndicated shows. She looked great, in a black dress, with an expensive-looking necklace. Sister Nicky looked swell too, accompanied by several swarthy-looking young men.
And "The Hottie"? Hey, what's the difference? We didn't really want to see it, and no one knows what Regency is. But it's great marketing. Who cares that down the street Miramax was promoting "Smart People" with Dennis Quaid, and out at the Racquet Club, actor Paul Schneider was premiering his well-wrought comedy-drama about a con man (Billy Crudup) whose plans end tragically? (Giamatti co-stars.)
During the day, we saw a panoply of films that didn't quite hit the mark but merited discussion. "Phoebe in Wonderland" has terrific performances by Huffman, Clarkson, Bill Pullman and Elle Fanning with an unexpected comic turn by Campbell Scott.
"The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," based on Michael Chabon's first novel, has good work from Nick Nolte, Mena Suvari, Sienna Miller and Peter Sarsgaard. Each is headed to cable and DVD, but I do mean that in a good way.
Rawson Marshall Thurber is the talented young director tapped by Universal for the big screen version of "Magnum P.I."
I'm told a script is finished, and now the search for a Thomas Magnum is on. None of the original TV cast is being asked back for cameos. Too bad, we always like that!
Thurber directed the Sundance entry "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" with a lot of action sequences, and did a good job. If the film doesn't completely work, it's not for his lack of trying. The material was always a little questionable. It's hard to care about this assortment of people in Pittsburgh. But the production is top notch.
Elsewhere at Sundance: Diego Luna, Scott Wolf and Glenn Close have all been spotted at screenings. Marcia Gay Harden and Quentin Tarantino, each jurors, are at most important screenings, sparking photo op sessions with ticket-paying audiences.
The big weekend hit: Nanette Burstein's "American Teen" documentary is a smash. Look for a big release followed by adaptation into a reality TV series.
Burstein did a beautiful job chronicling the senior year of high school students in Warsaw, Ind. When the public sees these kids, they're going to become as well known as the Loud family 37 years ago on PBS. I just hope they're protected from media overexposure. But that's another story. For now, kudos to Burstein and her team!
One thing's for certain: young New Yorkers who are voting now have no nostalgia for the early days of Rudolph Giuliani's run as mayor.
In Jonathan Levine's Sundance film, "The Wackness," one of three films here generating a lot of buzz so far, Giuliani's policies — particularly his crackdown on drugs — get constant mention.
The main character in the film is a middle-class high school drug dealer whose clients are mostly on the Upper East Side. During the movie there are at least a half dozen cracks about Giuliani designed to show disdain for him.
It's quite a statement about young adults now in their late twenties and early thirties who have no affection for the former mayor as he attempts to run for president.
Even more so: at one point in "The Wackness," which is set specifically in the summer of 1994, the camera picks up a tableau of lower New York, including the skyline that includes the World Trade Center. It's the first time the Twin Towers have made an appearance in a film since they were tragically felled, which may be the point, since Giuliani has built his career on the events of 9/11, trying to erase his earlier image.
The hot screening in Sundance this weekend was Barry Levinson's star-studded sly satire about Hollywood, "What Just Happened?" It's based on the novel by successful producer Art Linson ("Into the Wild," "The Untouchables") and basically there isn't a Tinseltown stereotype that doesn't come in for lampooning in what must be called "a hilarious romp."
Robert De Niro's Ben essentially plays Linson's alter ego, a Hollywood producer reduced to living in a small apartment after two divorces leave his ex-wives with multi-million dollar homes.
And Ben has two major headaches: his British director of an action thriller starring Sean Penn won't change the end of a film called "Fiercely" to please studio head, played by Catherine Keener. And Bruce Willis, the star of Ben's new film, has shown up to the set overweight and sporting a large bushy beard he refuses to shave.
Meanwhile, Ben's ongoing divorce from Kelly (Robin Wright Penn) requires a special therapist. And his teenage daughter from his first marriage (played by hot-as-a-pistol newcomer, 17-year-old Kristin Stewart) has been having an affair with another agent who has committed suicide.
The suicide leads to my favorite scene in the film, the agent's funeral. (And one of the best lines. De Niro, disbelieving the news of the death, says "I always thought agents killed other people, not themselves.")
Levinson has so stuffed "What Just Happened" with beautifully textured moments that you have to listen carefully as the organist is playing "Every Breath You Take." It's sublime.
There are lots of other great characters roaming around in "What Just Happened," a film that sort of picks up where Robert Altman's "The Player" left off, but really is more of an ode to Blake Edwards' "S.O.B." Indeed, even though De Niro is supposed to look like Linson, he really reminded me of William Holden in that earlier forgotten masterpiece.
Some of the other witty highlights: John Turturro as an agent with an unfortunate gastric ailment; Michael Wincott as that British director who might be Guy Ritchie but comes off more like Keith Richards; Peter Jacobson as that kind of long-suffering assistant producer who has to rationalize the craziness going on around him; and Stanley Tucci as a hilariously clueless screenwriter who thinks he's convinced Brad Pitt to play a florist.
Tucci gets off one of the film's funniest exchanges too when De Niro complains that he's now dating his ex-wife. "And you're married!" De Niro says. "Yes, but what does that have to do with it?" Tucci replies with comic deftness. "I'm unhappy."
No one knows Hollywood like Linson. He's been a lot like the prototypical studio producer Ray Stark in that he's churned out so many films that some have been great ("Heat," "Melvin and Howard") and some have been awkward missteps ("Fight Club," "Pushing Tin").
He's also worked a lot with Brian DePalma on a lot of bad films like "The Black Dahlia" and "Casualties of War," although "The Untouchables" was a major hit critically and financially. He also is credited for writing the story for Floyd Mutrux's classic "American Hot Wax," which I'm told is finally being released on DVD.
"What Just Happened" cost $20 million but was shot in 33 days, so it qualifies for Sundance even though it was expensive and has a lot of stars. Who will release it is the next question, followed by who is its audience other than Hollywood insiders? Here's one answer: it's a disarmingly smart, comically rendered farce from the brilliant Barry Levinson in the style of his great "Wag the Dog." It will do just fine.
Amy Redford, Robert's daughter, the beautiful, smart, redhead, brought her first film to Sundance this weekend. "The Guitar" is based on a short story by Amos Poe about a single woman whose doctor tells her she has weeks to live.
The magnificent Saffron Burrows — who gives us a little full frontal and a lot of rear exposure — plays the character ... a sad, uptight young woman who uses the news to engage in wild sex and unbridled home shopping.
Redford has her father's eye for detail, and brings out a great performance in Burrows. "The Guitar" is a great movie for Lifetime, but also sets up Redford for a promising career. The word is that a Web site has been set up for the film, so you can order all the expensive stuff in it, including a Vera Wang bed. …
British actor Colin Firth and his articulate, knockout of a wife Livia were honored at a dinner last night at Bon Appetit magazine's incredible oasis of a private dining salon on Main Street.
The couple has produced "In Prison My Whole Life," a controversial documentary about former Black Panther member Mumia Abu-Ja, who was sentenced to death in 1982 for killing a Philadelphia cop.
The case has become a cause celebre as Mumia's supporters are demanding a new trial while the policeman's family would like the sentence to be carried out. (There's much to read on this subject on both sides.) ...
Dennis Quaid and his wife Kim were among the guests who came to sample the scrumptious fare of New Orleans' latest hot chef, John Besh, whose August restaurant has become a watering hole for Brad Pitt.
Yes, we mixed capital punishment debate with bread pudding, but that's Sundance, folks. More importantly: Quaid tells me his newborn twins are home and well after their medical scare at birth. A happy ending, and now, a humongous lawsuit. ...