Movies news on a Monday night

Direct from the Starbucks at Pico & Robertson…

Jon Hamm in * Rumors have been circulating for at least a week that Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” and now “The Town” is being considered to play Superman. I’m a huge fan of the guy, but count me among those who think he’s a bit old to play an eternally youthful superguy, if there’s going to be more than one movie anyhow. Kal-El is not Tony Stark. In any case, apparently someone else who it appears did turn down the role of Superman director was Guillermo del Toro. Actually, if they ever make a movie set in the Bizarro world, del Toro would be the guy. Otherwise, I don’t see it at all and, it seems, neither did del Toro.

* In terms of film biz transactions, the Toronto International Film Festival surprised everyone and did rather well with numerous indie films being purchased for release. What doe it mean? Mike Fleming sees a modified return of the indie market, though with a thriftier than ever edge.

* The first casting news has come for the J.J. Abrams’ science fiction Steven Spielberg homage/collaboration, “Super 8.” Naturally, one of the stars is a young person — Elle Fanning. The other is closer to my age and is best known for his TV work. No, it’s not Abe Vigoda, but Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights.”

* Speaking of people in my general age cohort who can’t escape their youth, Keanu Reeves is apparently getting colleauges like Alex Winter ready to do a middle-aged edition of the “Bill & Ted” epic. As actors go, Reeves may not be a Philip Seymour Hoffman-level thespian, but he really excels at certain kinds of comedy and I’m board for this. He does a pretty good Werner Herzog, besides.

* Tim Burton is going back to where he started as a director with a stop-motion version of his career-starting live-action short, “Frankenweenie.” The voice cast has just been announced and it will include Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, and SCTV alums Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.

* Did anybody out there ask for a “Timecop” reboot? Simon Brew is game.

* Re: l’affaire du Hulk back in July, Edward Norton continues to kill Marvel’s Kevin Feige with perhaps not kindness, but civility. Ouch.

* I beg to differ with Sarah Silverman, her “full frontal” nude scene will be pretty. Very pretty.

sarah_silverman

* I’ve seen movies in some mighty small “shoebox” multiplex theaters and screening rooms, but if you’re wondering how small a movie theater can be, this promotion for “Buried” answers the question.

* As I write this I’m getting ready to watch the multi-director documentary “Freakonomics” for free. You however, may pay as little as a penny and as much as a $100 to see it this Wednesday. It’s your choice. Still, we know there’ s no such thing as a truly free, or almost free, anything and, as with writers like myself, some effort is expected in return. Details here.

  

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The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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A Chat with Mick Jackson, director of “Temple Grandin”

Sunday night brings the premiere of HBO’s wonderful new film, “Temple Grandin,” and if you’ve been reading Premium Hollywood lately, then you’ve already seen my interview with its subject, Dr. Temple Grandin. After the panel for the film at the TCA tour, I also caught up director Mick Jackson for a few minutes, which was just enough time to ask him about working with Grandin, to find out why he made one of his casting choices, and for him to offer me a bit of sage directorial advice.

Bullz-Eye: I talked to Temple a little earlier, and she said that she really enjoyed the process of working with you on the film.

Mick Jackson: Oh, she’s wonderful. Part of the story that we tell in the movie is that she has this tremendous eye for detail and uses that to put it together into a pattern and see the whole picture, but, in fact, when you’re dealing with us as movie makers, it’s the same thing. She had the eye for the details that were right and the details that were wrong, but she also had – unusually for someone whose life you’re telling through film – a sense of what it’s like to make a movie, to put it together into a whole picture. We reconstructed what we thought her apartment as a student would be like at Arizona University, based on what she told us and where she lives now, and she visited the set and I said, “That’s supposed to be your rooms.” And she said, “Hmmm. Well, it isn’t. But it could’ve been. It could easily have been.” (Laughs) It really takes a great ability to be able to step outside your own life to be able to say that. And she understood that, when telling the story of someone’s life, you don’t tell every bit of it. Otherwise, the movie would last as long as the person’s life. So she understood that we would collapse things and create composite characters and all that stuff.

It was great. I mean, I watched the movie with her the first time she saw it, and she was in tears. And I said, “Why?” She said, “He was only Mr. Carlock,” referring to her teacher. And the screenwriter and I had decided to call him Dr. Carlock, to convey an eminence that would kind of enhance the impression he made on her. But she thought that giving him his doctorate was a way of her giving back thanks to him for everything he’d done for her. That was lovely. The other thing is that after that screening…she saw the movie once and she was very enthusiastic, and I was driving later in my car and the phone rang, and it was Temple, still enthusiastic… (Laughs) …wildly raving about the movie. And I realized that what we’d shown in the movie, which is her being able to run things in her head, was true. She was quoting me shots and edits and things from the movie that she’d seen once. So she’d obviously downloaded the movie into her head, like a DVD, and she was running it backwards and forwards! “I love that shot where she opens the door and…” (Laughs) So it was literally true…and that was very gratifying.

BE: So how familiar where you with Temple before the script for the movie landed on your desk?

MJ: Not at all. My wife had heard her on NPR, but the name meant nothing to me. So I read this thing and just got dragged into it. I thought, “This is just the most amazing story!” You can’t tell the story of every person who has autism, because it’s such a great range. Not everyone’s a visual thinker or has comfort from a squeeze machine, but…it’s like movies about the Iraq war: you don’t tell the whole war story, but you take something, like “The Messenger” or “The Hurt Locker,” you tell a specific story about one person and, in effect, you’re telling the whole story. So telling the story about Temple is like telling the whole story of autism. If you understand Temple, then you understand what autistics go through, or what being the parent of an autistic child is like.

I hope the main thing that people take away from Temple’s story, which is uniquely true for Temple but is in fact true for everybody who is a parent or a relative of an autistic child, is that you’ve got to put all that energy in there for some of it to come back. You can’t just lean back and say, “This child maybe should be looked after by doctors or go into an institution,” like they suggested with Temple. All that energy, all that pushing of Temple by her mother, her aunt, her science teacher out into the real world did it. It helped her emerge. The title of one of her books is “Emergence,” and that’s just what she did. There was this amazing mind in there that was just trapped and came out. So I think that’s the lesson we ought to take away from it: never let up your energy for a moment, and never let up that sense of constantly pushing them forward. Not really like a stage mother, but just not shielding them from life and just trusting them to find a way of dealing with life. It’s a learning experience. Everything was a learning experience for her.

BE: My wife works with autistic students, and I told her that Temple had said much the same thing, about how her mother pointedly made sure to push her toward activities in the summer and to the activities in high school. And my wife said that that’s exactly what she does every day with the student she’s working with right now.

MJ: And I’m sure she sees that the more energy she puts into it, the more she sees the change. Not immediately, because it’s over a long period of time, but…it’s the one lifeline that they have to the real world, people pushing them into it.

BE: I had one question about the casting for the film. How did Catherine O’Hara come to play Temple’s aunt?

MJ: It’s my experience in casting character actors, as it were, that if you cast someone who has a great comedic career, they know a lot more about the human condition sometimes than straight dramatic actors. And I so much wanted the aunt to kind of be a way into the movie for the audience, a sympathetic, warm figure. You meet Temple with all of her kind of raw orneriness and awkwardly unsocial manic behavior, but you have this reassuring figure there in the aunt, who says, “Yes, it’s all right, dear. Come this way, Temple.” And I thought Catherine just brought all of that warmth that you get from knowing about human foibles from being a comic actress to the role. I thought she was wonderful.

BE: Of all things, my memories of “Home Alone” worked in her favor here, because that’s the movie that first made me think of her as a motherly type.

MJ: (Laughs) Yes!

BE: I know you’ve got to keep moving, but of the other projects you’ve worked on over the years, do you have one that you think didn’t get the love it deserved?

MJ: They all get a certain amount of love, which I’m grateful for. “The Memory keeper’s Daughter,” which was the thing I did before this, for Lifetime…I think it’s probably a little shorter than I would’ve had it, the movie. If I’d been allowed to expand it a little more, I think it would’ve been a more moving story, but that was quite fun to work on. I sound as if I specialize in disease-of-the-week movies: I’ve done Lou Gehrig’s Disease (“Tuesdays with Morrie”), I’ve done Down Syndrome, and now autism! (Laughs) But every one is a movie, and it’s a good movie if it happens to be about the people.

BE: Well, it’s not about a disease, but for what it’s worth, I’m very partial to “Volcano.”

MJ: That was fun, but take some advice from me: if you’re ever directing a movie, don’t get into a race with another movie on the same subject (“Dante’s Peak”). Nobody ever says, “Oh, I saw the second volcano movie!” (Laughs)

  

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Old Show, New Season: “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Fair warning: those of you who have been chomping at the bit to see the much-vaunted “Seinfeld” reunion on this season of “Curb Your Enthusiam” had better cool your jets, at least for this week. Although the press (and I’m including myself in their number) immediately latched onto the season’s major plot arc and ran with it, there’s only the tiniest hint in tonight’s episode about the events to come. What we get instead is something which longtime fans of the series will nonetheless appreciate: a follow-up to the Season 6 finale.

If you were there at the end of Season 6, then you remember that Larry, now separated from Cheryl, had managed to find an unexpected love connection with Loretta Black (Vivica A. Fox). Well, they’re still together, amazingly enough, but it’s hard to say how much longer the relationship is going to last. Part of it is because she’s starting to drive him crazy, but the other reason is…well, it’s better that you learn it for yourself. Suffice it to say that it’s a development which will immediately make you go, “Oh, God, this is going to be like Susan on ‘Seinfeld’ all over again…” Maybe it won’t be, but that’s certainly the first thing that leapt to my mind.

The season premiere is entitled “Funkhouser’s Crazy Sister,” and the title character – named Bam-Bam – is played by Catherine O’Hara. I gotta tell ya, it’s always great to see O’Hara, and she hits a home run with her role tonight, particularly after one of the characters makes the very foolish choice of indulging in a liaison with Bam-Bam. We also get a brief appearance from Wanda Sykes, and although she’s definitely not a strong presence within the episode, Cheryl does manage to turn up for a few minutes; it’s a testament to how much Larry has missed her, however, that he doesn’t completely lose it when their paths cross. (She unabashedly uses his name to get a good table at a restaurant.)

There’s one thing that doesn’t work very well in the season premiere: the action performed by Loretta’s doctor which annoys Larry and thereby sets off the episode’s series of intertwined events. I think any “Curb” fan worth his or her salt knows that Larry’s pretty easily annoyed, often by the most ridiculous things, but it just isn’t as funny when Larry does something that you know you’d probably do, too. And, trust me, anyone would stand aghast at the doctor’s action. It’s completely inappropriate.

Then again, when you think about it, there really isn’t that much about “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that is appropriate, so I guess it all works out okay in the end. And, besides, as ever, it’s just nice to have Larry David back for another season.

  

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A Chat with Kevin Nealon

Kevin Nealon’s been a familiar face on television since his days as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” but in recent years, he’s become more known for his work on Showtime’s long-running series, “Weeds.” Those who can’t afford the premium stations, however, may also see him pop up as the host of TBS’s “World’s Funniest Commercials” specials. Won’t you please join us for…

Kevin Nealon: Hey, Will! How are you doing?

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Kevin, good to talk to you!

KN: Yeah, you, too!

BE: So this is not your first time around the block for TBS.

KN: No, it’s not! It’s starting to add up. (Laughs)

BE: So how did you come to hook up with them in the first place?

KN: Oh, gee, let me see if I can remember. It’s been about…oh, I’m guessing eight years now? Seven or eight years. I think they just kind of came to my agents with this offer to host this show, and I always loved funny commercials. You know, one of the reasons – like a lot of people – that I watch the Super Bowl is for the commercials during it, so I was into that. And, also, I went to school for marketing and learned a lot about commercials then, and I was going to be in advertising, but instead I went into comedy. So there’s a big interest there for me.

BE: Do you have a favorite commercial from this most recent special that really stands out?

KN: Well, there are a couple that I like. There’s one…I think it’s for Berlitz Language School, where a guy’s on the phone and he’s trying to find out how to spell “Def Leppard” because he’s doing a tattoo on somebody’s back. And it’s all in subtitles, but the woman goes, “Do you mean ‘deaf’ as in hearing, or ‘death’ as in dying?” He goes, “Um, I’m not sure.” Then he looks to the person’s back, where he’s just made the tattoo “deaf.” That’s a cool one, and there’s another one for Tabasco that’s from Belgium, where they show a streaker running across a soccer field, the cops are chasing him, and then they stop the action and say, “An hour earlier,” and they show him in a restaurant having Tabasco sauce. They kind of back up the whole thing, from the soccer field leading back up to when he used the Tabasco.

BE: So where did you film this special? I know you film them on location in various places.

KN: Oh, yeah, we’ve done them everywhere! Well, not everywhere, but we’ve done them in California, in Paris, New York. This one happens to be in Chicago, which is great, because I love Chicago.

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