Of movies and madness on a Monday

Movie news bits and pieces tonight.

* Universal may be having a bad year, but Sony is doing just fine.

* Disney has apparently ditched a McG-spearheaded sort-of prequel to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” focusing on the “origin” of Captain Nemo and his fabulous submarine, the Nautilus. Apparently, pirates on the water are better than mysterious antiheroes underneath it.

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* Kim Masters introduces us to “the movie theater of the future,” which sounds an awful lot like no movie theater at all to me. With people buying fewer DVDs, I supposed it’s necessary for the studios to experiment with delivery systems and new approaches, but undercutting theater owners won’t help anyone in the long run. The focus should be largely on making moviegoing better, cheaper (or at least providing more value), and more of an event for filmgoers of all ages — while also maybe utilizing our enormous numbers of screens to offer more choices. Just a thought.

* Have you ever heard of fifties B-movie and sixties TV director Paul Wendkos? I just barely recognized the name and I’m a gigantic geek. C. Jerry Kuttner has some thoughts on his passing.

* That item above is via The Auteurs Daily and so is this item. Extreme meta and some inside baseball is involved, so caution is advised. So, was using the expression  “screw-up,” a screw-up? That’s the question facing Anne Thompson who, in post I linked to and left a brief comment at last week about a new job for L.A. Weekly movie critic Scott Foundas, had in passing pretty much said that former New York Film Festival programmer Kent Jones had apparently been guilty of some sort of big mistake, with the implied result being his departure. Anyhow, Mr. Jones has friends and one of them was Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. I really don’t know any of the specifics enough to even contemplate a comment on whose right and wrong here — the ins and outs of festivals and their personnel hasn’t exactly been on my radar — but fans of excess verbiage might want to take a look at the ‘net equivalent of a non-lethal multi-car pile-up that eventually involved Mr. Foundas as well.

* Bad news for cinephiles. Edward Copeland, whose  involvement in the movie-geek blogosphere predates my own and lots of others by some time, is taking a break from blogging because of health concerns. For as long as his break lasts, he will certainly be missed. Get better soon, Edward.

  

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Late Friday night news dump

A few more items than usual may be slipping through the cracks this week as my iMac has let me know in no uncertain terms that it’s hard drive is ready to be sent off to the digital happy hunting grounds and has been temporarily mothballed.  In the meantime, I am writing to you now, dear reader, via my trusty, if Vista-laden lap top and minus a few links I’ve been saving up over the last couple of days.

But enough about me and my choice of blogging weapon, what’s going on as Hollywood’s denizens ready for the weekend by hit the bars and/or gyms?

* MGM is officially on the auction block, and the secret word to protect against bankruptcy, writes Sharon Waxman, is “forebearance.”

* I’ve never watched “Nip/Tuck” and I couldn’t get past the first twenty minutes or so of “Fantastic Four,” so Julian McMahon is a new name/face to me. Nevertheless, Heat Vision blog wants us to know that he’s in negotiations alongside Richard Dreyfuss and 92 year-old Ernest Borgnine to join an already very impressive cast on the action-espionage comic book adaptation, “Red,” which includes Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John C. Reilly, and Mary Louise Parker. Considering whose on board, director Robert Schwentke of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” really needs to step up his game. (H/t CHUD.)

* “Paranormal Activity” has past $100 million in grosses. I think Anne Thompson is correct that there are lessons here for other films. It’s true the movie is a one-off creatively speaking, but the slow roll-out and “by popular demand” tactics can definitely be transferred to all kinds of movies. It’s also silly to argue that the success of the movie was all the result of some kind of wide belief that it was “real.” In general, I’m a proponent of slow releases, except that there’s a problem — it works better with movies that are actually entertaining.

On a different note entirely, be sure to check out Ms. Thompson’s three part video interview with Michael Stuhlberg, the heretofore unknown star of  “A Serious Man.”

*Word has it that Nicolas Cage’s crappy streak appears to be ending in a big way with Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutanent: Port of Call New Orleans” which I’m really starting to looking forward to despite, or perhaps because, I was not a fan of the original film, much as I love Harvey Keitel. Via The Auteurs Daily, Manohla Dargis considers Cage’s career ups and downs. Good stuff, but, well, since Ms. Dargis mentions it, I can’t resist indulging in, well, you know….

  

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Three losses

The old saw about deaths coming in threes appears to have come true over the last couple of days with the passing of three individuals, all noteworthy to the movie world, though in very different ways.

* Al Martino spent most of his career as a well known lounge singer, but his moment of cinema immortality came with his casting as mob-connected singer-actor Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather.” According to this rather sensational obituary in The Telegraph, his life  — including even how he obtained the role in the 1972 classic — may have had more in common with Fontaine’s than Frank Sinatra, who most filmgoers assumed was the model for Fontaine. Martino, who got the role after another Italian-American crooner, Vic Damone, dropped out of the running, also appeared in both “Godfather” sequels. He also sang the hit version of the movie’s “Love Theme,” “Speak Softly Love.”

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* On Monday, Anne Thompson posted a moving remembrance of her friend, film scholar Anne Friedberg, who died of cancer at age 57 on October 9. She was the chair of the Department of Critical Studies at USC’s film program. She was married to screenwriter Howard Rodman, who heads the screenwriting program at USC, and her past students included critic Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. Ms. Thompson also included a quote from famed magician/writer/character actor (and David Mamet regular) Ricky Jay, so she obviously had her share of interesting friends as well.

* Former MGM and Columbia Studio executive and producer Daniel Melnick also died yesterday from lung cancer at age 77. He oversaw a number of classic and notable films at the studio and also was personally involved with a number of significant hits and a few classics ranging from “Footloose” (a hit, definitely not a classic) and Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” (a classic, not that huge a hit) to Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs,” to “Altered States” and my favorite Steve Martin movie, “L.A. Story.”

  

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