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Casey At The Bat
by Lance Norris

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The big story in the news the other day, once you got past all the who-struck-Johnny over Katrina, was that a paparazzo was arrested for hiding on the set of the Casey Affleck movie THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD in order to get a picture of one of the real stars, Brad Pitt.

This story begs two questions: do we really need more pictures of Brad Pitt and do we really need a western staring Casey Affleck?

I guess it's rare to find a photo op of Pitt without Angelina Jolie and her accessory kids, but who need a new Casey Affleck movie, western or otherwise? The key word being "new", when Casey has such a rich history to re-explore (and if Hollywood does anything well, it is re-exploring)

Honestly, shouldn't Ben's little brother be working on SOUL SURVIVORS II or DROWNING MONA AGAIN? The least he could do is dust off the tights one more time and treat us to HAMLET RELOADED: THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL.

Or couldn't he pick up pen again and write. Who didn't love GERRY? Unfortunately it seems an Affleck family trait is to set the world ablaze with your mad screen-playerism and then walk away. Brother Ben did it after winning the Oscar for his debut, GOOD WILL HUNTING, why shouldn't Casey?

The Affleck's are the pride of Massachusetts, because outside of the sports world, we have very little to be proud about on a national level, but Casey would do well to remind himself that he's not the only actor to be born in Falmouth, MA. The great Gretel Twombly also hails from the bunghole of Cape Cod. Perhaps you remember her as The Fluffer in the Farrelly Brother's STUCK ON YOU. Sadly, she gave up acting for the bright lights of production coordinating. Maybe Casey might do the same while we're still proud.

I don't mean to be too cruel to Casey Affleck, but it dovetails nicely into my real point. Casey's (and Ben's) long time companion, Matt Damon, has turned up in the Terry Gilliam film THE BROTHER'S GRIMM. I love Terry Gilliam and hate Matt Damon; so needless to say, I was excited on so many levels to see this movie. How often do you get to stride that thin line between love and hate in one film?

Just as I was warming up to rip into Damon and his high school drama department English accent, I went and read this quote:

"I sort of took my career and destroyed it. I had to destroy my career because I just didn't like it. I didn't like the movies I was making. People weren't giving me a chance to do anything other than be the blond-haired bimbo, and it was starting to bore me. I couldn't have spent the rest of my life following the paths that were being presented to me, so I had to start creating some for myself. It's taken a while, but it looks like doors are opening again."

Sadly, that didn't come from the Oscar winning pen of Matt Damon. It was his co-star, Heath Ledger, talking, and God forbid an actor of his stealth should grow bored!

I still haven't figured out if THE BROTHERS GRIMM was part of the destruction his career or his attempt at rebirth. Ledger brings very little to the table, other than aping some moves he learned from a Johnny Depp retrospective. The movie itself has problems, but I don't want to get into that here. I want to mock Ledger.

To examine his massive folio of work, one would have to guess that 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU was the movie where Heath started getting type cast as 'the blond-haired bimbo'. It would have to be, since he had only done Australian TV and Indy films before that. He followed that up with THE PATRIOT, and, I thought, did a fine job.

Next was A KNIGHT'S TALE, the movie that launched the whole David Manning debacle. Remember that one? Sony-TriStar does. They had to pay out a 1.5 million dollar settlement because they made up a film critic, David Manning, so that he could fawn over sub-par pictures in commercials. They really didn't need to, as there are plenty of movie critics that will fall all over themselves to say something nice just so their blurb gets attached to a movie poster or newspaper ad. Apparently Sony couldn't find anyone to say anything nice about A KNIGHT'S TALE, so Manning swung into action. As a matter of fact, David Manning was so taken with Heath that he declared the Aussie "this year's hottest new star".

The hot new star went on to have a small role in MONSTERS BALL, but far more important parts in FOUR FEATHERS, NED KELLEY, THE ORDER, and CANDY. It's good for his fans to know that he only took those parts to ruin his career and he's sorry for any money they may have lost buying tickets or renting the DVDs. He was back to playing the himbo in LORDS OF DOGTOWN, and now there's THE BROTHERS GRIMM.

Like the Phoenix, however, Heath Ledger will rise from the ashes of this mockery of a sham with his new movie, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, about (I'm guessing from the trailer) a couple of gay cowboys. Playing gay is nothing new for Ledger. He played a gay bike rider on an Australian TV show before he became a star. He did, however, shy away from playing the gay Alexander the Great in Oliver Stone's folly.

I'm guessing that it was then girlfriend Naomi Watts that talked Heath into taking BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and with it, the risk of playing a gay lead character. The question is, did she want him to stretch as an actor, or was this her pay back for all the times he cheated on her with Scarlett Johansson and the times he got her little pet doggy, Bob, stoned. I vaguely remember that a couple years ago they had to rush the dog to a pet hospital in Vancouver because the pooch was too stoned to stand-up.

Anyhow, I'm guessing she talked him into taking the role as payback. Ang Lee is directing BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. This is right in Ang's wheelhouse; after all he is the guy that turned the Hulk into a fag on the big screen. But the word on the set is that Heath got so 'into' one of his kissing scenes with co-star Jake Gyllenhaal, that he broke Jake's nose. Talk about tough love.

Since we're on the subject of gossip; the word is things got so ugly during filming that writer/producer Larry McMurtry was banned from the set and film editor, Geraldine Peroni, (who did a lot of Robert Altman's films so she is no stranger to difficult shoots), killed herself rather than begin cutting the movie.

This could be the Curse of Heath Ledger. Ted Demme had a cocaine-fueled heart attack while playing basketball, as he was getting ready to direct Heath and Ewan McGregor in NAUTICA. The movie will now be directed by the guy that did LOST IN SPACE and, if Heath stays attached to the film, I'm sure it will be added to his 'I was ruining my career on purpose' pile.

At least, (unlike Brad Pitt), when Heath is confronted by the paparazzi he takes matters into his own hands. He claims to pelt the photogs with eggs whenever they get too close. Of course, I'm not buying it because that would be assault, and what paparazzi worth his salt is going to walk away from a large out of court cash settlement from a movie star gone wild? It's the Tabloid equivalent to an Oscar.

If it is true, the paparazzi had the last laugh. See, there is a nude scene in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN where Heath has to jump in a lake, but Ang plans to edit out all the frontal shots from the finished film. Of course if you do a quick Google search you'll find plenty of shots snapped by the press from a safe, egg-proof distance.

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Ask a Bitter Man
Every Thursday

Lance Norris gives us his opinions on the state of film, vents about Hollywood, and generally lets his thoughts fly.

Other Columns
Other columns by Lance Norris:

Later On Croutons

Mutants On Parade 11/12/09

Mutants On Parade 11/5/09

Mutants On Parade 10/29/09

Mutants On Parade 10/21/09

All Columns

Lance Norris
Lance Norris, dubbed "Boston's only straight Film Critic" reviews movies for WZLX in Boston.

He has two books entitled Ask A Bitter Man: The Best of 1984 - 1999 Vol. 1 and I've Seen Better Film On The Teeth of Wolverines. which you can buy here

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Lance Norris by clicking here.

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