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(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 3
    More: Video, theatrical trailer, Ishtar, Charles Grodin, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman  
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1200 clicks; posted to Video » on 01 Feb 2014 at 3:48 PM (24 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-01 03:25:59 PM
1 votes:
The documentary about the making of Heaven's Gate. How a director's ego destroyed a film studio.
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.
 
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