Yesterday, Amy Pascal announced that she will be stepping down as co-chair of Sony Pictures when her contract expires next month. It’s not a particularly surprising announcement – after the notorious November e-mail hack aired her private, often unflattering feelings towards David Fincher, Angelina Jolie and any number of other key collaborators (not to mention jokes about our President that were at best ill-advised and at worst ignorant), Pascal’s time as a studio head was doomed, and Sony’s subsequent back-and-forth bungling of the release of “The Interview” was just icing on the cake. Why neither co-chair Michael Lynton, nor producer Scott Rudin, (the recipient and main participant in Pascal’s most cringeworthy email exchanges) seem to be getting quite the same grilling from the industry, well, I suppose that’s something to investigate another day.
In any case, Pascal is moving on to run her own production company, which might not be a bad thing. Since she started working for Columbia Pictures (now a Sony subsidiary) in 1988, Pascal’s shown an interesting knack for shepherding both successful prestige flicks and blockbuster fare (give or take an Amazing Spider-Man). This week, here’s three films that Pascal helped develop.
“A League of Their Own” (1992)
Cast: Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Rainer, Bitty Schram, Ann Cusack, Anne Ramsay, David Strathairn, Bill Pullman, Jon Lovitz, Tea Leoni
Available to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant, Vudu, or iTunes, on disc from Netflix
That rare kind of film that manages to be just as charming and fun as it is enlightening. Penny Marshall’s “A League of Their Own” took a quickly-forgotten slice of American history, the All American-Girls Professional Softball League formed in the middle of WWII, and brought it to breezy, comical – and in the case of Tom Hanks’ Jimmy “There’s No Crying In Baseball” Dugan, iconic – life. Maybe now that she’s got some free time Amy Pascal can reunite with her former lead and get involved in Geena Davis’ female-filmmaker focused festival later this year.
“Casino Royale” (2006)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Caterina Murino, Isaach de Bankolé, Tobias Menzies, Jesper Christensen
Available to purchase on Amazon Instant, Vudu and iTunes, on disc from Netflix
James Bond might be the most durable franchise in film history, but 2002’s “Die Another Day” sure did its darnedest to test that theory. As the series has managed to do in years past (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on the heels of “You Only Live Twice,” “GoldenEye” following “License to Kill”), the Bond production team – an always-complicated mess of developers at Eon Productions, MGM, the Broccoli family, and lately Sony – turned a complete 180, reinvigorating the franchise with a new actor, a new tone, and a hearty helping of theft from the latest action-movie trends. In this case, the dodgy CGI and horrifically absurd plotting of “Die Another Day” were replaced with the grit and brutal action of Jason Bourne and “Batman Begins” – which, led by the smirking, petulant Daniel Craig, ended up getting closer to the suave-but-troubled killing machine of Ian Fleming’s imagination than any previous attempt. The extended Texas Hold ‘Em tournament reeks of excessive mid-2000s fad-chasing, but otherwise “Casino Royale” is as thoroughly entertaining an action film as you could ask for.
“The Social Network” (2010)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Joseph Mazzello, Rashida Jones, Josh Pence
Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Instant, Vudu and iTunes, on disc from Netflix
Perhaps Sony should’ve taken a hint about cyber-security from Mark Zuckerberg’s antics in the opening sequence of David Fincher’s still-brilliant, moody and incisive critique of the pursuit of power in the digital age. “Citizen Kane” it’s not, but it also kind of is – certainly not so formally ground-breaking (although Fincher’s regular cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth is on great form here), “The Social Network” is still just as concerned with the alienating and paradoxical sacrifice of personal relationships in the name of wealth and influence as Orson Welles once was. The tools have changed, but the self-corrupting urges at the heart of our society stay the same. Eisenberg is cast perfectly as Aaron Sorkin’s desperately needy and abrasive take on the Facebook founder, while Andrew Garfield broke out as the in-over-his-head, not-so-innocent Eduardo Saverin; but surprisingly it’s Timberlake who threatens to steal the show as Sean Parker, playboy entrepreneur and modern Mephistopheles.