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Filmism.net Dispatch June 14, 2013

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I can't remember what book I read the scenario in, but the author talks about an experience in the 20th Century Fox offices in LA.

The décor was described as tasteful and asinine, all colour and life bled out of the place by the advent of the corporate sensibility thanks to News Corporation. Even spotting Rupert Murdoch and Peter Chernin in the famous studio commissary was so bland an experience the writer was moved to wish for the days when studio executive Darryl Zanuck could be seen sneaking a starlet in through a side door for a late night 'casting couch' session.

Now, this isn't going to be a rant on how movies used to be better and Hollywood was more interesting before it was corporatised. There are more movies coming out than ever before through platforms we couldn't imagine even five years ago, let alone when studio moguls bedded starlets for lunch and did lines of coke for dinner.

But I was reminded of it by a rollicking, old fashioned, bitter Hollywood smackdown that emerged through the week. If you aren't in the industry you probably couldn't care less that Nikki Finke, former publicist, editor of Deadline.com and self-described 'bitch', locked horns with TheWrap.com's editor Sharon Waxman over the latter's assertion the former was being fired by new owner Penske Media for her notoriously prickly approach. Few people in the movie business are as hated as Finke.

And you know, I watched the unfolding two-day drama with a little glee. Why? As anybody can tell you, faceless lawyers and accountants run Hollywood now, people steered in corporatespeak backed by MBAs who wouldn't know their way around a small town beauty queen fresh off the bus if she stripped naked and threw herself at them.

Admittedly before my time, we used to watch outrageous personalities like Robert Evans (who reportedly kept a picture of a woman with a cigar in her anus over his desk), Italian schlockmeister Dino De Laurentiis, cigar clamped firmly in his teeth and Simpson/Bruckheimer's matching black Ferraris. The closest thing we have today is probably Harvey Weinstein, but once upon a time cadres of infamous and notorious people ran things, people much more interested in sex, drugs, fighting and good living than contracts and accounting.

Where, it made me ask myself, have they gone? The men (rarely women) with a larger than life presence who make or break careers at a stroke, famous for the control they exert, their legendary appetites, their tempers. People only too happy to air their grievances about each other in the most public of forums, as Waxman and Finke did. Even actors nowadays dress down and take their kids for walks instead of pulling up in limos at Hollywood clubs in gowns and suits to show the rest of us what to aspire to.

Am I suggesting the industry return to a time where abuse, outrageous sexual harassment and murderous personal vendettas were the norm? Absolutely not. But come on, where are the flying sparks thanks to the moguls with those larger-than-life personalities that made Hollywood so freakishly watchable?

I'm also a big fan of the films of Lars von Trier. Ever since seeing Dogville (which I loved even despite the Dogme approach), I've been an avid fan. I wasn't disappointed by the haunting, sad, spectacular and beautiful Melancholia, and I urge you to check it out.

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