On July 28, the most expensive movie of all time, the Kevin Costner sci-fi epic Waterworld, will sail into a multiplex near you. That's why you can't open a newspaper or magazine or turn on the TV these days without encountering yet another retelling of its cursed production.
The features in Vanity Fair and Premiere are the most informative--especially the former, a superb piece of nuts-and-bolts entertainment journalism that traces the whole quagmire step by agonizing step. It keenly illustrates the idiotic psychology that drives commercial filmmaking in Hollywood: the conviction that even if you don't have a fresh idea, a finished script, or a solid production plan, the involvement of a preening mega-star and the deep pockets of a big studio will somehow save your hiney.
Of course, it's unfair to predict in advance that the film will stink, as a lot of resentful, underpaid, disrespected entertainment journalists across America just can't seem to help doing. (It's also naive: don't these doomsayers understand that a $200 million action movie starring Kevin Costner is still a safer investment than, say, a $30 million domestic drama starring Robert DeNiro?) But it's still instructive for film fans to study the forces that birthed such a celluloid behemoth.
Last week's EW article, while less thorough than Vanity Fair's, does offer hilarious dueling quotes from Costner and his director, Kevin Reynolds, each of whom blames the other for Waterworld's problems. Reynolds seems the more credible, coming off as a content-free stylist who keeps getting hired by Costner, his former college chum, to direct oddly personal Hollywood epics (including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Rapa Nui), only to look on in baffled betrayal as Costner either kicks him out of the editing room to give himself more loving closeups, or else abandons Reynolds to the craven studio jackals. Ultimately, the only thing more disturbing than Costner's narcissism and Machiavellian arrogance is Reynolds' childlike belief that at some point, way down the road, his old pal will lay a reassuring pat on his back instead of sticking him with a knife.
If you missed local filmmaker John Carstarphen's new movie Stealin' Home when it played at this year's USA Film Festival, you now have a second chance. This winsome, low-budget, black-and-white comedy--about a woman whose jilted boyfriend gets even with her by stealing all her furniture and selling it around town--will show several times over the next two weekends at the McKinney Avenue
Contemporary Gallery (MAC), 3120 McKinney. Showtimes this weekend are Friday, July 21 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 22 at 3, 5, and 8 p.m., and Sunday, July 23 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $4. Call 953-1212 for more information.
--Matt Zoller Seitz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.