Friday, 30 April 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #499: Summit Buys Fair Game

Welcome to the show folks...

Summit Pictures, the folks behind the
Twilight franchise, are branching into the realm of Oscar baiting by snapping up feature drama Fair Game, dramatizing the story of CIA agent Valerie Plame (played by Naomi Watts) and her husband Joe Wilson (played by Sean Penn).

All I can say is that I hope Summit didn't pay too much for this movie, and here's why:

1. The Stars: Naomi Watts is a good actress and a beautiful woman, and she's even been in a few successful films. Yet ask the average bloke on the street about her, and they'll say: "Naomi Who?" To which you would have to respond: "You know, the chick in King Kong?" and then you might get a nod of semi-recognition. She doesn't exactly inflame the passions of the movie-going/ticket-buying public.

Her co-star Sean Penn does inflame audience passions, but not in a good way. The average movie-goer sees his name on a marquee and they move along to anything that doesn't feature Sean Penn. You could actually advertise movies with the tagline: "100% Sean Penn Free," and boost your ticket sales. His audience are Academy voters, whose support is the foundation of his entire career, without them he'd probably be homeless, or worse, doing a reality show on cable.

2. The Story: It's one of the most divisive, and misunderstood stories of the past decade, and still generates controversy and arguments, so any interpretation will spark debate, so...

Here's the basics- On the eve of war with Iraq, intelligence agencies from half a dozen countries said that Saddam Hussein sent his top nuclear expert to Niger to try to purchase "Yellow Cake" uranium. The attempt to buy the uranium failed, but the attempt itself was still considered a violation of the sanctions against Iraq. Valerie Plame, working at CIA HQ in Langley, suggested her husband Joe Wilson, a former Ambassador, to go to Niger to investigate the claims, despite having no experience in intelligence gathering. Wilson is sent, by his own words "sits by the pool" at his hotel, talks to a few local contacts, and accomplishes nothing. Wilson returns home and writes an article for a major newspaper claiming that he was sent by the State Department, under the order of VP Dick Cheney, and found nothing.

The State Department retaliates to his story through Under-Secretary Richard Armitage who leaks to columnist Robert Novak that Wilson's trip was Plame's idea, not theirs, and that she works for the CIA. A media firestorm begins, and a special prosecutor is appointed to investigate the leak. Richard Armitage, the actual leak, is never charged, or even seriously investigated. Despite accusations against senior Bush aides like Karl Rove, the only person convicted is a Dick Cheney aide named Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He ended up convicted of perjury and obstruction, mostly over giving poor answers to the questions of the special prosecutor.

Valerie Plame quit the CIA, signed a multi-million dollar book deal, and released
Fair Game, her memoir of the affair, which despite tons of hype, disappeared from the sales chart fairly quickly.

Yet, very few people know the full story, and judging from reports about the movie, the film isn't anywhere near the full story which will spark...

3. The Right's Reaction: Talk radio, Fox News, and conservative pundits are going to eat the movie alive. According to early peeks, and previews, the film doesn't mention the real leak, Richard Armitage, once. That's like All The President's Men not mentioning the actual Watergate burglary, and it's red meat to those who view the film as yet another exercise in Hollywood political posturing and narcissism under the guise of cinematic "importance."

People do listen to these pundits more than they do the mainstream movie critics, and it's going to nullify the inevitable critical praise those mainstream movie critics are going to lavish on the film. To sell a film like this you really need to make people want to see them, and having some of the loudest voices in the media shitting on it, isn't going to give ticket-buyers the nudge they need.

4. What The Film Is: The Hurt Locker was last year's biggest Oscar winner, but also the weakest box office performer to ever win Best Picture. People tend to avoid any film involving Washington and/or Iraq like it was dripping with plague bacillus. Fair Game the movie is not meant to make money, or even entertain, it is meant to get Oscar nominations for its cast and crew. The audience knows this, realize that they are not part of the formula, and will not be participating.

I just hope Summit knows that as well, and understands what it's getting into.

1 comment:

  1. You are correct about ,Fair Game's chances at the box office, Furious D. I wonder how many Americans even remember the Plame business. The media loved this story thinking it would be Watergate redux, just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.I wonder just how much money Hollywood has wasted on these leftie political projects.Oh yes and when there is atiny audience for them the studio execs blame the actors.Hollywood is the land of the obtuse.