Todd: I, too, saw NINE -- sort of by accident -- on Christmas week.
I liked the picture a bit better than you, the critics, or general audiences for sure, but we probably could both agree that it is not a successful extravaganza.
Your observation of the similarity between the opening press conference with "Maestro" Guido Contini in NINE and Old Master Jake Hannaford in The Other Side of the Wind is an apt one, and although we have seen the footage for both, I did not make that exact connection. What was clear to me was that Arthur Kopit, who did the book for the musical, Nine, and the late Anthony Minghella, who co-wrote the screenplay for NINE, were probably trying to expand the scope of the Italian original (by Mario Fratti) to include a general commentary, a psychodrama, on the kind of directors Federico Fellini, Orson Welles and (to bring in Rob Marshall) Bob Fosse were -- driven men, who at their best, worked from original ideas or visions through "happy accidents" to their finished films. And that kind of pressure took a lot out of them (and those around them), at the same time that it fueled their genius.
The basic problem with NINE, I thought, was that the continuity of several spectacularly edited musical numbers (especially "Fergie's") and the story of Guido Contini's directorial angst was undercut by the fact that many in the audience would have only a foggy idea in our age of cultural shorthand and trivialization just why anyone should care who a Fellini, Welles, or a Fosse was. I thought ME AND ORSON WELLES suffered from the same failing. If one were not a Wellesnetter, a theater nut, a Zac Efron swooner, a 78 year-old or a 93 year-old with hazy memories, Julius Caesar might just as well been a high school musical. For a satisfying number of viewers, that experience may have been enough for the audiences of NINE and ME AND ORSON WELLES, but as of yesterday, ME AND ORSON WELLES had taken in less than a million dollars in its American release.
NINE, of course, will lose enough (at a budget of $85,000,000) to produce several ME AND ORSON WELLES, but the failure of the latter picture, despite increasingly encouraging reviews, does not bode well for projects like The Other Side of the Wind which we would all like to see come to fruition.
[Amazingly, there is talk that the Weinstein Brothers may engineer a Best Picture Oscar Nomination for NINE!]
But, in our time, all that -- NINE, ME AND ORSON WELLES or The Other Side of the Wind -- becomes "old news," monographs of minor cultural sociology, or footnotes for Entertainment Tonight.