By Roger Friedman, ,
Published May 21, 2015
The real-life Antwone Fisher — whose life story is an unbelievable but very true fairy tale—had a one-on-one meeting with Hillary Clinton the other day.
He's still not over it. They talked about issues that are close to his heart, including foster children and arts education in schools.
Then, Thursday night, the Creative Coalition threw a special screening and dinner for Fisher at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. That was preceded by a book signing at News Corporation president Peter Chernin's home. Our leader, Rupert Murdoch, was a guest of honor.
Antwone Fisher — the real one — is having a ball. Antwone Fisher — the movie — still needs a groundswell of support to get an Oscar nomination.
Listen, I would love this movie no matter which studio made it. Denzel Washington has done a wonderful job; this film is exceptional.
At the Coalition dinner, Fisher made some remarks about the arts in schools. By the time he was done, people were crying.
It turns out that his preacher foster father would get his shirts back from the cleaners with cardboard in them. Young Antwone used to take the cardboard and paint watercolors on them. That was is only access at home to art.
"At school I would run around and mix colors for the other kids," he recalled. "The teachers would ask the other kids, 'Where did you get those colors?' I had so much experience from experimenting at home, I did it for them."
His foster home was so strictly religious that he never heard Nat "King" Cole or Sarah Vaughn until he was an adult. Now he cherishes jazz.
The great actress Viola Davis, the Tony winner who plays Antwone's mother in the movie and also has roles in Far from Heaven and Solaris this season, was there along with her fiancée.
So was Antwone's portrayer, Derek Luke, with his lovely young wife. The two are so young that I had to twice explain who Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas was when she came over to say hello.
Boy, do I feel old! Phillips is still ever-glamorous, though. She was there to support son-in-law Billy Baldwin, who will soon be succeeded as president of the Coalition by Tony Goldwyn.
Phillips had a more successful reunion with Michele Lee, her former co-star from Knots Landing. Lee is currently shooting Ben Stiller's as-yet-untitled new movie, playing his very attractive, youngish mother.
Also on hand: Fran Drescher, Anne Heche and writer Arianna Huffington, who hosted the evening with a panel discussion after the screening.
But more about Antwone Fisher — the movie. I'm told Academy voters are having trouble ferreting through all the tapes they've gotten in order to nominate five films.
Chicago, Lord of the Rings, and Gangs of New York should be easy. But then there's that group of excellent dramas — Antwone Fisher, Far from Heaven, The Pianist, The Hours, and Catch Me If You Can. Watch these carefully. I think Antwone is a sleeper.
Here are three names you don't see together in one place very often: Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston and Will Smith. What could possibly connect them? The answer: the changes at Sony Entertainment, which encompasses Sony Music, Columbia Records and Columbia Pictures.
Yesterday, the not always reliable Sun newspaper in the U.K. reported that Sony Music had dropped Will Smith. As with any report from the British tabs, this one has a grain of truth.
Smith had the inauspicious distinction of having two flop albums on Sony last year: his own Born to Reign and the Men in Black II soundtrack. Was that he’s "too old," as the Sun reported? No, the albums were just bad, they weren't promoted, and they died.
Smith is likely the first casualty of the new regime at Sony Music, where Tommy Mottola's successor Andy Lack will be taking a hard look at old deals.
Mottola made the Smith deal based on the wild success of Smith's first Men in Black hit soundtrack in 1997 (it sampled largely from Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots"). Also, Smith entered into a deal at Columbia Pictures and starred in their movies Ali and Bad Boys. He's got Bad Boys II scheduled for this summer.
But Lack has to determine how Sony Music and Columbia Pictures are going to cross-pollinate in the future — especially when a deal has outlived its usefulness.
Indeed, Sony may have "dropped" Smith, but in all likelihood it was decided that Smith's recordings are now keyed to movie releases, and they should be decided label-by-label. Unlike Jennifer Lopez, his recording career is not independent of his movie career.
Smith's situation should hit home with Whitney Houston, although she's probably too busy ignoring the fact that her husband, Bobby Brown, is likely going to jail again.
Brown blew off an Atlanta-area court appearance Monday in order to appear on the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Now there's a warrant out for his arrest.
His lawyer told the wire services, "He's a performer. He had to perform eventually." Well, he'll be doing the jailhouse rock any minute now.
But Whitney shares management with Will Smith — both stars are directed by James Lassiter. If Lassiter's had a bad time with Smith's record career, imagine what he's now facing with Whitney.
Her new album Just Whitney has already become a monumental flop, stuck at No. 41 on the Billboard chart, and even that number may be generous. Hitsdailydouble.com has her far below that.
Just Whitney sold fewer than 15,000 copies last week. Houston, owing Arista Records — owned by Sony Music rival BMG — well over $20 million in advances, is in hot, boiling water. Her husband's very public parole violation and re-arrest is not a marketing plus.
So what about Bob Dylan? Well, he's starring in a movie called Masked and Anonymous . Dylan's not a great actor, but he's a genius and a legend so anything he does is worth a look.
Apparently the smart folks at Sony Pictures Classics (they've brought us Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee, Paul Schrader, etc) feel that way too. They snapped up M&A before anyone else could at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Is it a coincidence that Dylan's long recording relationship is with Columbia Records? Not exactly. Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, and Marcy Bloom of Sony Pictures Classics wouldn't buy a movie unless they loved it, but it probably gave them a little bit of the inside track that they're related to the record company.
But if that smart trio bought the movie, I don't care how weird it is. I want to see it.
Fernando Meirelles has been taking care of dozens of young boys who are not related to him.
No, he's not Michael Jackson. Meirelles is the director of City of God , the absolutely brilliant and moving Brazilian feature which opens in limited release Friday.
City of God debuted at Cannes last May, and since then anyone who's seen it knows how monumental it is. It is also disturbing and often violent, but you do feel a great sense of satisfaction at the conclusion that Meirelles has made an important movie.
City of God is set in the self-contained Rio de Janeiro slum of the same name. The neighborhood is overrun with murder, drug-dealing and other violent crimes. It's a lawless, godforsaken place, and guess what? It's real, and continues to be.
Meirelles shot the entire movie in a neighboring slum, but nearly all the kids in the cast are non-actor street kids who he auditioned and taught to be in the movie. With the exception of one or two real local actors, City of God is all natural talent. The result is a weird sense of cinema verité combined with fiction.
As for the director "adopting" the kids: "My wife thought when the movie was over, that would be it," Meirelles told me recently when he was in New York. "But they kept coming to us for advice and wanting to do things with their lives. So we've set up a foundation, and we're helping them with education and jobs. Some of them are even making their own films, It's very exciting."
I'll tell you more about Meirelles next week as City of God opens in more theatres. But this weekend, if it's near you, don't miss it.