I'm told that yet another concert is being considered for October to raise money for World Trade Center victims. Soon we're going to start asking where all this money is going and if the families of victims have actually received any of it. It looks like a billion dollars might be raised altogether. I hope the United Way and American Red Cross are capable of handling it.
Anyway, Gary Tallent, an original member of the E Street Band, has bagged Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, and E Streeter Max Weinberg for a show Oct. 19 on the Jersey shore. Word is that Miami Steve (aka Little Steven) Van Zandt is going to show, and with him will likely come the Boss and Mrs. Boss, Patti Scialfa. If so, look for a real E Street reunion, shades of "The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle."
All they're missing now is Southside Johnny.
On the night before Sept. 11, I had the pleasure of viewing two-thirds of Barry Levinson's terrific new movie, Bandits. Because I was paged to appear live on Hannity and Colmes, I never did see the ending. Then the world was tossed and turned and I had to wait two weeks before finding out the fate of Levinson and writer Harley Peyton's characters. Now I can tell you.
Levinson, of course, is the Academy Award-winning director of Rain Man. But he's also the fine mind behind Diner, Tin Men, Avalon, Sleepers, Good Morning Vietnam, and more recently, Liberty Heights and An Everlasting Piece. The last two were more or less dumped by their respective studios, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks, for different reasons. So it shows you how much Hollywood respects even an Oscar winner. It doesn't.
So here comes Bandits, a contemporary tweak on Butch Cassidy, The Getaway, The Sting, The Odd Couple and Dog Day Afternoon. Which is not to say that Bandits isn't original. In fact, it's completely new, fresh, funny and delightful. It's also smart, which could kill it. Other smart movies, such as Quiz Show, were unable to find audiences in seasons past. This year's smart movies, Memento and Startup.com, had uphill battles.
But Bandits has a lot going for it, starting with Troy Garity — the 28-year-old son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden — who makes a triumphant debut as bankrobber Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis' dumber-than-a-brick getaway driver. The part of Harvey, a wannabe stuntman, could have been very hackneyed in other hands. But Garity, who is matinee-idol handsome, makes the part special and leaves a lasting impression. Ben Affleck and the other actors of this age had better move over, because Garity is about to become the new hot star.
As for the other actors, Levinson manages to reinvent Thornton here from his anorexic, Angelina Jolie/strange-marriage-tabloid persona. For one thing, Billy Bob has never looked healthier, which helps a lot. He is also heavily invested in his character and loving every minute of it. The part could earn him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The same goes for Cate Blanchett as the runaway frustrated housewife who joins the guys as they make their way from Oregon through California as the "Sleepover Bandits." (Their m.o. is going to the home of the bank president the night before and going with him or her in the morning when they open up.) Blanchett's first scenes, as she makes a gourmet meal for her negligent hubby, is directed by Levinson with the grace and subtlety of a Jules Feiffer drawing.
Bandits opens next Friday, Oct. 12, and it does contain scenes of a hostage situation at a skyscraper. But I will tell you in advance that the movie has a surprise ending, that the hostage situation is not violent or fatal, and that Levinson maintains a language and texture throughout the film that is not only friendly, but welcoming. As with Robert Altman's Gosford Park, I can't say enough good things about Bandits. I just hope it's not lost in the pack of fall releases, but celebrated as a good work done with a light touch. It deserves a big audience.
PS: Bandits has one heck of a great soundtrack, including a terrific cut from Pete Yorn and the overlooked "Twist in My Sobriety" by Tanita Tikaram. But the real headline here is that in the last couple of weeks, Levinson has snagged "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum," the opening track of Bob Dylan's exceptional new album, Love and Theft. Now, that's a coup!
Michael Jackson Is No Sellout
Unconfirmed numbers from Michael Jackson's two shows at Madison Square Garden indicate that the comeback did not produce sellouts. You may recall Jackson's publicity machine claiming they were.
The gross sales for the two shows was $10,072,105, which sure sounds impressive. But attendance was listed at 34,884 for the two shows. The Garden seats a total of 35,427. That means there were 543 empty seats for the two nights. Most of them were in the upper-price regions of $500-$2,500 per ticket.
I could have told you that, though, since two friends of mine bought tickets for $250 per person for the Friday show, then sneaked down and sat in the first section of the floor area. There were plenty of empty seats for them to choose from.
Why such interest in Michael, some might ask? Well, if you bill yourself as the King of Pop and wait five years to put out a new record, you're a news story. Personally, I like the single "You Rock My World." But I seem to be in disagreement with some radio programmers. Radio & Records, which monitors actual airplay of singles, has the song at Nos. 17, 20 and 22 on its various charts. A strange time to put out a 13-minute short film, but if the Paul Hunter-directed video stirs interest in the single, I'm all for it.
Today's Page Six in the New York Post reports that fashion house Prada had little sympathy for its employees last week. The company sent out a memo ordering everyone to stop dilly-dallying after the Sept. 11 tragedies and get their butts in gear.
According to the Post, Patrizio Bertelli, Prada's CEO, writes: "When exceptionally serious events occur ... it is natural to think about the consequences this will have on our company ... the more the general situation gets complicated, the more it is necessary to put the company's overall interest before one's own. Your serenity and your families' is also based on the company you work for and the latter, in its turn, needs each of you, your skill, your loyalty and your commitment ... I trust in the sense of responsibility and in the commitment of you all."
In New York and selected cities this weekend, try and find a movie called Diamond Men starring Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) and Donnie Wahlberg (brother of Mark Wahlberg). A real gem, Diamond Men almost doesn't have a chance because of its tiny distributor. But word-of-mouth could give Forster a push toward some awards. ... And if you haven't heard it already, Macy Gray's "Sweet, Sweet Baby" is the R&B single of the year. It might be the pop single of the year too. Just a delicious, perfect slice of soul, with Erykah Badu on background vocals. It's from Macy's new Epic album called The Id, and I can't stop playing the song over and over. The whole album is a perfect antidote to current tensions. ...