restricted access In the Wings
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238 ★★★★★★★★★★ ✩✩✩✩✩✩✩✩✩✩ In the Wings MURRAY POMERANCE In the last days of 1919, the star of “Fatty” Arbuckle was most spectacularly on the ascendant, and his legion fans were hardly in a position to suspect that before another two years were out his fame would collapse almost overnight in the harsh glare of the Rappé scandal. A somewhat similar fate befell Errol Flynn in the 1950s, the early (and as yet unreconstructed ) career of Rob Lowe late in the 1980s, the burgeoning career of Winona Ryder in 2001 (thanks to a brief shoplifting spree at Saks Wilshire Blvd.), and dozens of other stars whose light went off with great—and utterly unpredictable—abruptness. The case of stars dying young—Carole Lombard, Bobby Driscoll, Tommy Rettig, Brandon De Wilde, River Phoenix, Heath Ledger—also gives pause to any who would try to predict how movie careers will soar, hit their apogee, and gracefully decline into a culturally approved sunset. Thus, as at the end of the 2000s one tries to look forward to what is beyond, only speculation, bald and flagrant as it is, will do. There seems no reason for believing that the most well-established box office draws will not, for at least the next decade—since they are none of them yet in late middle age—continue unobstructed to seduce audiences around the world. Johnny Depp, whose publicity agents have made something of a fetish the listing in advance of his future plans, was slated after the release of Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (2009), his last film of the decade, for considerably more than a dozen projects at one point—although at this writing, late in 2010, and with his twerpy Mad Hatter (for Tim Burton ) and beleaguered American tourist (in the film of that name, with Angelina Jolie) in release, there are only five films in his foreseeable future. One of these, of course, is the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean venture, which will pay him enough money to retire on and at the same time titillate the hunger of Depp fans everywhere. George Clooney will open a film in 2011 and is writing and directing a project with Evan Rachel Wood and Ryan Gosling set for 2012. Not yet fifty when the decade came to a close, and still considered by hordes either the most beautiful male figure on Earth or in close contention for the status with Depp, he has begun buying into his films and gives off all the signs of the actor sliding behind the camera. Meryl Streep, a little older, is rumored to be lined up for various roles, but she has a monumental career behind her and little need to satisfy external expectations with continued performance—yet part of her star quality has been an apparent hunger for bizarre and challenging roles, a hunger that if perhaps not yet sated may soon be after she incarnates Margaret Thatcher. The aging, but still monarchical, Jack Nicholson has a James L. Brooks comedy ready for release, and is working on another project with the equally mercurial Philip Seymour Hoffman. Nicole Kidman has numerous projects on the way, all in the popular vein (by contrast with her stunningly offbeat 2000s work in such films as Birth [2004], The Interpreter [2005], or Fur [2006]). The indomitable Nicolas Cage is filming a sequel to Ghost Rider (2007) and has completed filming Drive Angry 3D (the tagline for which, “All Hell Breaks Loose,” may set a record for banality). Tom Cruise will return in, among other things, another Mission Impossible adventure, this one written by J. J. Abrams, who will bring along a young and addictable fandom. There can be little doubt, too, that we will see other stardoms grow onscreen: Zac Efron, Dakota Fanning, Michael Cera, Jesse Eisenberg, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield, among a long list of distinct possibilities. All of the above films will most likely net between twenty and sixty million dollars on their opening weekends, and proceed to earn back their investments in DVD and Internet releases later (but not much later) on. As film budgets have soared, and the number of films released per week has risen, there is a very tiny window for active marketing in which any title has some chance to make a dent in the (increasingly) astronomical production budget that subtended it. Diversification of distribution platforms has thus been the most important single change in Hollywood cinema since 2000. A film that is suitably...


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