(500) days of bad puns and other items of interest

It’s been a weird day for me, and not only because I’m a politically junkie and my side sustained a bit of a loss today (if you don’t know what I’m talking, well, let’s just keep it that way). Still, the movie news beat never stops and there are certainly days when Hollywood makes a lot more sense than politics, relatively speaking.

Spiderman
* It’s official and Nikki Finke has claimed another “toldja.” Newcomer Marc Webb of “(500) Days of Summer” will, it appears, direct the 2012 Spiderman reboot that’s been bandied about since Sam Raimi stepped aside from the now never to be filmed “Spiderman IV.” Even though, as I’ve made clear here several times, I’m not a particular fan of Webb’s feature debut, I think Anne Thompson‘s analysis is probably correct:

Webb’s “(500) Days of Summer” is a deliciously commercial hit movie: witty, breezy, defying romantic comedy formula while not straying outside the realm of accessible entertainment. That’s what studios want: that sweet spot between “original and fresh” and “accessible and commercial.”… He will be eager to prove himself on a big-budget VFX franchise, so he’ll do what he is told.

All she left out is the gift they’ve given us pun-crazed headline writers and bloggers because of Webb’s spider-suggestive last name. I guess Eric Nid was too busy on other projects.

* You knew it had to happen: Here comes “Paranormal Activity II” — from the director of “Saw VI.” (Via Bad Guy Wins.)

* I don’t know why they waited until after Martin Luther King day to announce this, but a long-planned biopic on the single most effective civil rights leader in American history is underway, and veteran playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood is penning the screenplay with Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider coproducing. The more recent films in Harwood’s long career include “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “The Pianist.” His best known play, the semi-autobiographical “The Dresser,” was nicely filmed back in 1983. Harwood migrated to England from South Africa in 1951 and he’s proven himself a fairly able cultural chameleon over the years. I’m not sure it’s an inspired choice, but it’s not a a bad one. The tricky part now is choosing the director.

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* Some time back, I was not thrilled to report that Danny Elfman’s orchestral score was being removed from “The Wolfman” and was being replaced by a not at all promising sounding, possibly synth-driven rock, score. Well, as I’m still kind of looking forward to the apparently trouble-plagued film, I’m happy to report that Elfman’s score is apparently back in. Yeah, I’m kind of a traditionalist about things like that. I don’t like to hear futuristic sounds with my 19th century gothic chillers anymore than I want chocolate syrup on my pizza.

* It’s probably not at all fair, but I can’t help but think of this concept as “Tim Burton’s ‘Wicked’.”

* The zombie-centric romantic comedy (“zom coms”) is a subgenre that threatens to take over the planet, devouring us all. Latest to be bitten: “The Wackness” writer-director Jonathan Levine, so says Devin of CHUD.

* In China, Chow Yun Fat and the nation’s most venerated philosopher push out the Na’vi, writes Krystal Clark.

* Today we also had a trio of sad deaths of important contributors primarily to other arts whose work also impacted the movies film, singer Kate McGarrigle, and novelist Erich Segal famously of “Love Story” and less famously of “Yellow Submarine,” and mystery writer Robert B. Parker of “Spencer for Hire.” RIP all.

  

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Just a couple of things… (updated)

I’m going to be spending this extremely rainy So-Cal MLK day doing some catching up with various movie-watching obligations, including some awards-type flicks I’ve been criminally behind on, but first a couple of random left over things.

* I expected a bit more fall-out, perhaps, from Ricky Gervais’s more-mean-than-funny gag at the expense of Paul McCartney and his recent divorce, but I guess I wasn’t alone in my mixed reaction to last night’s festivities as a show. Of course, my mixed reaction has nothing on the sheer, predictable venom of Nikki Finke’s nevertheless readable “live snark” of the event. She does have a point, exaggerated though it likely is, in underlining that — even among big show business awards — the Globes aren’t exactly known for their uncompromising integrity. Certainly, last night’s win by Robert Downey Jr., as talented and committed a performer as he is and has been for decades, does seem to follow her statement that “Stars win in direct correlation to their glamor quotient.”

One great line that a lot of us missed from the pre-show activities came courtesy of who else but the wondrous Tina Fey, remarking upon the unstereotypical Southern California weather last night: “No, it’s not rain. It’s God crying for NBC.” The rain, by the way, is expected to continue all week. I guess we know Who Else might be on Team Coco.

Also, one thing I forgot to say last night. “Sofia Loren.” I’m just impressed to see her, anywhere. Time may wear on, but that face is eternal.

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UPDATE: I forgot to add that the ratings for last night’s telecast were up from prior years, and I suspect Gervais’s presence did not hurt.

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Gandhi wuz robbed!

So, in the wake of yesterday’s surprise announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Barack Obama, it occurs to me that while there are several movies about presidents, there are very few, if any, about Nobel Peace Prize winners. Martin Luther King was the subject of a TV movie, but that doesn’t quite cut it. Let’s face it, if there was a Nobel War Prize, there’d be tons of movies about those prize winners. War and other forms of mass murder are so full of dramatic tension! Think of how many movies there are about Hitler, General Custer, and Jack the Ripper there are…and those guys never won anything!

The one film that came immediately to mind, however, was Richard Attenborough’s 1982 “Gandhi.” It might have won some Oscars and ranked in the top 250 on IMDb, but few cinephiles types, myself included, think too highly of it, despite Ben Kingsley’s star-making performance — but it’s one. However, it turns out that despite being the 20th century’s poster boy for nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi never actually won the famed prize.

Oh, well, as we await a movie about such heroes as Nelson Mandella (I think one may be in the works…and it’s about time), MLK, Aung San Suu Kyi, Lech Walesa or such “give them the award to help them stop it already” villains as Yassar Arafat or Henry Kissinger, here’s an idea for a movie whose time may have come.

  

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George Wallace

This review will appear on the very same day an African-American man will become President of the United States. While the media is constantly reminding us of the historic nature of that fact, what many younger readers may not realize is that only three and a half decades back, a man running on a more or less openly racist, and specifically anti-black, platform was a serious candidate for President — running in the very same Democratic party that would eventually nominate Barack Obama for the highest office on earth.

“George Wallace” is a savvy and darkly engrossing, if often slow and heavy handed, television biopic that takes a circuitous path in tracing the long career of the despised and beloved four-term Governor of Alabama and four-time Presidential candidate of various parties, George C. Wallace (Gary Sinise). We first meet Wallace in 1972 as the avid, middle-aged husband to a beautiful and very sexy young wife, Cornelia (Angelina Jolie). At the same time, a racist state trooper forces Archie (a “composite” character played by Clarence Williams III), a convicted killer and Wallace’s trusted African-America valet, to wear handcuffs at his mother’s funeral.

George Wallace

After his fateful encounter with four bullets that day, we meet Wallace again as the younger and far more liberal political protégé of anti-racist populist governor “Big Jim” Folsom (Joe Don Baker). Though Wallace is a skirt-chasing, semi-absentee father and husband to his steadfast wife, Lurleen (Mare Winningham), the real darkness only comes four year later when Wallace is defeated in his first gubernatorial bid by an opponent supported by the terrorist Ku Klux Klan. Seeing no alternative – losing an election is equivalent to losing his life – Wallace swears that he will “never be outn*ggered again.” He is true to his words and, within a matter of years he is the nation’s most notorious racist pol, blocking the doors of the University of Alabama rather than allowing a pair of black students to enter and “mix” with white students, and uttering his most quoted line: “…I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

“George Wallace” is a look at history from the side of a well-deserved loser, and for those portions of the picture where director John Frankenheimer takes a dispassionate, even satirical (though deadly serious) approach, it is strong stuff and very much in line with the liberal director’s professional and personal legacy. A genius at creating smart political thrillers, and a participant in history himself as the man who drove Robert Kennedy the Los Angeles hotel where he was assassinated, the director – never a grandstander – allows himself to directly reference his own past via recreating one of his signature shots.


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