Midweekish movie news

It’s oh so late (or early) as I write this, but let’s see how much I can cover before my very late dinner and maybe a cocktail.

* I woke up to this morning the realization that Netflix has become a liberal cause celebre. It has to do with Comcast attempting to charge Level 3, a provider of Netflix’s streaming, a fee which the company says would effectively block access by cable companies to the interwebs and threaten the net neutrality that allows a site like this one to be readily usable. Brian Stetler at NYT has the details.

* Not sure how the Deadline team got scooped on this, but some lesser known sites have word that Tom Hanks‘ next acting gig, after wrapping directing duties on the upcoming “Larry Crowne,” will be in the new drama from the team that brought us “The Hurt Locker,” writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow. It’s the Latin America set “Triple Frontier.”

* Two categories of people get to say exactly what they want: the elderly and universally beloved film stars who took a creative risk and essentially made a franchise. Johnny Depp isn’t quite yet at the early bird dinner stage of his life, but he had some interesting things to say about Disney executives’ initial reaction to his Jack Sparrow — really, the only thing I ever liked about the “Pirates of the Carribean” franchise, other than the ride. They hated Depp’s performance, and for some rather disturbing juvenile reasons.

Johnny Depp runs for his life

* Nikki Finke claimed her “toldja” this morning over the actually really smart choice of having this year’s Oscar telecast hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Both clearly have comedy chops, Hathaway can sing, as she showed a couple of years back during the “Frost/Nixon” gag in Hugh Jackman’s opening number, and best of all, they’re not satirists like Jon Stewart and Chris Rock and therefore probably won’t perturb Hollywood’s well-manicured egos. The egos must, above all, be maintained. (H/t Anne Thompson for the Jackman vid.)

* The Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced today. Not too surprisingly, some of the biggest nominees were “127 Hours,” “The Black Swan,” “Greenberg,” “The Kids Are All Right,” (directed by Lisa Chodelenko, interviewed here by Ross Ruediger) “Rabbit Hole,” and “Winter’s Bone,” which already collected some Gotham Awards a day or so back.

* I’m sure the role of the U.S. Secretary of State in “X-Men: First Class” isn’t huge, but anything that keeps Ray Wise onscreen, where he belongs, works for me.

* RIP director Mario Monicelli, who passed on a day or so back at age 95. I have no excuse for having never seen “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” I fear.

Okay, that’s all for tonight. The gods of sleep and hunger have just about claimed me.

  

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Big news and not really so big news

Two items worth mentioning:

* In a move that could have an enormous impact on pretty much all media, Comcast has officially announced its long-expected, and highly complicated, deal which — if understand it correctly and its possible I don’t — will make NBC/Universal a joint venture between General Electric and the cable TV giant, with Comcast holding a 51% stake in the deal. Arguably, this is a more of a TV story and I’m the movie guy, but the dividing line between movies and television grows ever thinner and this surely will impact the movie world. After all, TV is still probably the single most dominant delivery system for movies.

I will say that, as someone who has been worried about media consolidation for a very long time, this deal makes me incredibly suspicious. For starters, a cable company will now be involved with one of the main providers of content, and there are not only consumer ramifications but also political factors here that could go to the  heart of our democracy and, no, I’m not really exaggerating. Though I don’t expect Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow to be frog-marched out of 30 Rock tomorrow, giving any company this much power could actually allow them to mold and shape the limits of debate in this country. Actually, corporations already do a pretty good job of that, but this could make it all that much worse.

Anyhow, a couple of days back, Josh Silver made a cogent, if wonkish, argument that I hope people will read. Serious stuff, but the good news, for what it’s worth, is that it will be subject to federal scrutiny. But there’s may be a turf war over which agencies will do it. Great.

I’ll feel a lot better if this marriage gets annulled.

* On a  much lighter, and more typical note, the eternally mysterious one hundred year old National Board of Review — which I suspect gets all its power from its quasi-governmental sounding title (it started as essentially a censorship organization supported by the studios as a sort of preemptive act) but which is always seen as an Oscar harbinger — gave out it’s awards today.  The awards where rather spread around, but the much touted George Clooney/Jason Reitman comedy, “Up in the Air” won for Best Picture and Clint Eastwood picked up a Best Director award for “Invictus.” Gee, who’d ever expect that guy to win a major award?

A real class act.

  

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