If you can read this, either the style sheet didn't load or you have an older browser that doesn't support style sheets. Try clearing your browser cache and refreshing the page.

(YouTube) Video Saturday Cinema, Ishtar 1987 - Probably the biggest flop since Heaven's Gate, this sprawling comic adventure spawned headlines for years ahead of its release and so no-one bothered to see it   (youtube.com) divider line 6
    More: Video, theatrical trailer, Ishtar, Charles Grodin, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman  
•       •       •

1201 clicks; posted to Video » on 01 Feb 2014 at 3:48 PM (25 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



Voting Results (Smartest)
View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest

2014-02-01 03:25:59 PM
2 votes:
The documentary about the making of Heaven's Gate. How a director's ego destroyed a film studio.
2014-02-01 05:55:40 PM
1 votes:
not even the trailer looks good.  I would have been 13 when this came out, and I had no desire to see it (and still don't).
2014-02-01 03:13:26 PM
1 votes:
I saw it. It wasn't nearly as bad at the time as everyone was making it out to be.  It wasn't great by any stretch of the imagination, but not nearly as bad as everyone described.
2014-02-01 01:05:54 PM
1 votes:
I think Ishtar was a little ahead of its time. It's comedy was deliberately off-beat and weird and it was not received well by audiences raised on a diet of Mel Brooks and Saturday Night Live.

Years before Steve Carell and Will Ferrell would employ it as their bread and butter, Ishtar utilized the concept of the uncomfortable/awkward silence which was not a very well-worn comedy trope at the time and audiences perceived it as being banal. It's just a very odd brand of humor for someone who's not familiar with it. Funny how much can change in a generation: If Napoleon Dynamite and Ishtar had switched places, Ishtar would have been a cult classic and NO ONE would have gotten NP in the 80s. Maybe it would have gone over better if it had a laugh track.

To add to that, Beatty and Hoffman were not known as comics so audiences weren't sure to laugh at them or pity them. Hell, if you switched their roles with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd in Spies Like Us, Ishtar probably would have gone over better (lets pretend Chase/Aykroyd are savvy enough to salvage it and make it work), and Spies Like Us would have been an uncomfortable bomb.

So it had a lot going against it. Two actors out of their element (although admittedly very good ones), rookie director and crew conflicts behind the scenes, terrible script that audiences wouldn't get (which is fine if you're spinning an intellectual yarn but this is a comedy), and bad reviews. I'm not defending it, I'm just saying that it just wasn't going to work.

I only know this much about the movie because people frequently misread my name.

/Ishtar is a Canaanite fertility goddess, the Sumerian equivalent is Inanna
//Ishkur is a Sumerian storm god, a Canaanite equivalent would be Baal-hadad
///know the difference
2014-02-01 12:29:32 PM
1 votes:
Apparently it did well in front of audiences

Not this one.  I can sum up my feelings in two words: pee yew.
2014-02-01 10:05:16 AM
1 votes:
Ishtar is the story of two failed song writers (Warren Beaty and Dustin Hoffman) trying to make a buck. They end up touring the Middle East and stumble into a revolution with spies and soldiers on either side of them. The plot was lifted from the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope films of the 1940s where the singer and comic went 'On the Road' to this or that foreign local but unlike those corny comedies that were cranked out at low cost, a huge amount of money was invested in Ishtar. Here's a bit from Wiki:

Beatty felt indebted to May who, in addition to co-writing his 1978 hit Heaven Can Wait, had done a major uncredited rewrite on the script of his Academy Award winning Reds and helped immensely with its postproduction. He began looking for a project that she could write and direct. She had never, he believed, had a sufficiently protective producer, and by starring in and producing her next film he could give her the chance to make the film he believed her to be creatively and commercially capable of making.


The problem may be summarized as the old adage: Never do business with friends or family.

At the time, Beatty had a strong negotiating position because of a string of hits with him as both producer and star. Hoffman also owed may because of her again uncredited re-write of his hit Tootsie.

Again, don't do business with friends.

Moreover, Beatty's girlfriend at the time was cast in the role of the female lead, a beautiful spy,

In other words, 'don't do business with friends' got thrown out the window.

Finally, Beatty, May and Hoffman were perfectionists who went through a lot of film.  Paul Williams began working on the songs the lead duo would sing. "The real task was to write songs that were believably bad. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had in my life. I've never had more fun on a picture, but I've never worked harder." May preferred that Williams write whole songs, even if she intended to use only a few lines, and then teach them to the stars and have them perform them, necessitating more time and money." Here's an interview.

Shooting was a disaster. I won't quote Wiki at length because the anecdotes are too long but here's a taste: When the film returned to New York for shooting, Beatty told Fay Vincent, then Columbia's chief executive officer, that May couldn't direct. But he demurred another suggestion to fire her, citing his image as a liberal supporter of women's rights. Vincent said he would do it, but Beatty said if he did then he and Hoffman would leave the uncompleted film as well. He proposed instead that every scene be shot twice, his way and May's, effectively doubling the cost of those scenes.

In post, the fighting continued. The film's raw footage came to 108 hours, more than three times that typical for a comedy. Three teams of editors, one each for Beatty, Hoffman, and May, worked on separate versions that were fought over.

So, what was the result?

After years of set stories about fights between the director and cinematographer, endless wastes of money, the reviews went over the excesses again once the film was out, and tore the film up in their critiques. Apparently it did well in front of audiences but the $55 million film collected only $14 million. The film's reviews were not 'Poke your eyes out and kill yourself after seeing it' but that it was an okay light comedy. That thought however, was usually at the end of the review after salivating over the excesses of the production.

In comparison, Spies Like Us was a similar adolescent comedy in 1985 about two idiots who stumble into a coup and cause an international incident but given that it cost half as much an raked in more than Ishtar, people reviewed the film and not its cost. (Apparently it's not that funny, BTW.)

Coca Cola sold its stock holdings in Columbia, and in two years, Sony gobbled up the studio. May never directed again and Ishtar became a punchline on late-night talk shows for years. That being said, a director's cut was eventually released and like Heaven's Gate, people began to re-evaluate the film. May apparently said "If all of the people who hate 'Ishtar' had seen it, I would be a rich woman today." Apparently Scorsese likes the picture and calls it a good film. Gary Larson famously apologized for his Hell's Video Store cartoon after seeing Ishtar on an airplane trip.

For anyone who wants it, here's a Laser Disc edition.

Link to last week's Saturday Cinema.
 
Displayed 6 of 6 comments

View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest


This thread is closed to new comments.

Continue Farking
Submit a Link »






Report