Saturday, January 08, 2005

More War

TRIPLE DOUBLE. Starlette Dakota Fanning (10 years of age) gets second billing in “War of the Worlds” and plays hero Tom Cruise’s daughter. For scenes shot here in GreeneLand, Dakota shared her part with no less than three stand-ins: a look-alike picture double (whose main job was to pose patiently while shots are set up); a stunt double and, for more dangerous moments, another stunt double--played by a 45-year-old midget. These players helped to enable Dakota to keep up with her homework, often at table in Ursula’s Riverside Diner. That evidently was not too heavy a load. According to publicity blurbs, Dakota learned to read at age 2. Since launching show business career at age 5 (in Tide commercial), she has worked aplenty, has been nominated for Best Young Actress award from Critics Choice, and in near future is to appear in film versions of "Charlotte’s Web" (under contract) and (prospectively) "Alice in Wonderland. " SIDEBAR: ANOTHER PICTURE. “War of the Worlds” is not the only feature film shot in 2004 in GreeneLand. During August-September, downtown Catskill and other local sites were used to make independent (of big studios) picture called “Runaway Boys” or, in recent progress reports, “Runaway.” It’s touted as thriller in which brothers Michael and Dylan Addler flee from trouble at home and start to re-settle in peaceful small town. Michael finds work in convenience store, plus romance with co-worker Carly. But past troubles overtake our boys, at cost of danger for selves and new friends. Stalking, chasing, & angst ensue. Featured players either are Aaron Stanford (“Tadpole”; “X Men 2”--falsely named Stafford on screenwriter Bill True’s narcissistic web site, Zack Savage (“A Normal Life,” gay film), and Robin Tunney (“The Secret Lives of Dentists”; “Paparazzi”), or they are Stanford and Tunney, with Savage being one of six supporting players. Latter is Tunney’s version of billing. Budget allocation for “Runaway,” via Alan Klingenstein of Filbert Steps Productions, is $2 million. That’s one per cent of funding for “War of the Worlds.” FOOD NOTES. To feed “War” makers, Paramount folks brought along their own chef. Consequently, although producers and special effects people and other bigwigs took complete possession of Stewart House, they did not rely on that hostelry’s food. But manager Koren Nichole did pass out tidbits from SH kitchen. One grateful recipient adjudged crème brulee concocted by chef Jeff Valentin as “best I’ve ever had, after dozens of samples in six countries.” Upshot of that judgment, by executive producer Kathy Kennedy, seconded by Spielberg himself, was invitation to Jeff to join in final feeding of Above The Lines (principal actors and crew folk). Jeff graciously obliged, dispensing his crab cakes Benedict, and bagels with salmon and capers, in tent across from old Athens opera house, to 300 consumers. At 4 a.m. SAVED BY GERMS? If today’s script version follows H. G. Wells’s original story line, marauding Martians will be all-conquering, until felled by what for Earthlings is common cold? LESSONS? In 1897 story being turned into 2005 cinematic spectacle, Wells put into mouth of his narrator some concluding speculations that for Americans may evoke shock of September 11, 2001. Thus, “whether we expect another invasion or not, our views of the human future must be greatly modified by these events. We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet”—this country?—“as…a secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space.” Moreover:
It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion…is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind * * *
The broadening of men's views that has resulted can scarcely be exaggerated. Before the cylinder”—or the towers?--fell there was a general persuasion that through all the deep of space no life existed beyond the petty surface of our minute sphere. Now we see further. f the Martians can reach Venus, there is no reason to suppose that the thing is impossible for men, and when the slow cooling of the sun makes this earth uninhabitable, as at last it must do, it may be that the thread of life that has begun here will have streamed out and caught our sister planet within its toils. Dim and wonderful is the vision I have conjured up in my mind of life spreading slowly from this little seed bed of the solar system throughout the inanimate vastness of sidereal space. But that is a remote dream. It may be, on the other hand, that the destruction of the Martians is only a reprieve. To them, and not to us, perhaps, is the future ordained.
Dick May

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