There really hasn’t been all that much interesting movie news this week, but things have definitely heated up just in the last few hours. Specifically…
* Via Quint at AICN, “The Hobbit” two-movie package has been officially greenlit, with Peter Jackson directing. It’s a good thing because I was really getting tired of those “it’s just about greenlit” “it’s almost greenlit” “no, it’s actually not quite greenlit because of MGM being on the block, nothing to see here” rinse-and-repeat stories. I don’t even care if Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming want to claim a “toldja” on this or how many casting rumors they’re repeating, just make the damn movies already.
Oh, but first, they’ve got to solve the previously reported issues with SAG and AFTRA. As a good liberal I’m very pro-union and I think that anyone who thinks we’d be better off without unions should be immediately transported to a smokey factory in 19th century London and asked to work a 72 hour week without overtime pay. However, like all the other geeks, I nevertheless think SAG and AFTRA are probably overreaching here and are singling out the movie because of its high profile.
* A related story is also a classic example of an unpleasant news item arriving late on a Friday night in an attempt to bury it. The highly regarded executive Mary Parent — beloved of Joss Whedon fans for giving both the “Buffy” TV and the “Serenity” movie gigs — is officially out at MGM.
* It always tempting to make jokes about the porn industry, but HIV is no joke and there’s been an outbreak of it, so far limited to one on-screen sex worker. Is the site of a condom really that much of a boner buzz-kill?
* David Chase is reuniting with musical genius Steven Van Zandt, who played helmet-haired Silvio Dante on “The Sopranos,” as his music supervisor and is taking on a cast of more-or-less unknowns on his planned feature musical drama. This one I’m looking forward to. Before getting his start writing some of the best episodes ever of “The Rockford Files,” Chase was and presumably still is influenced largely by European art films.
BTW, if you’ve never heard Van Zandt’s great radio show and you like rock and roll, you’re missing something. Also, Mr. Van Zandt should be remembered as a human rights hero for his involvement with this great piece of pop music protest.
The Deadline crew has really been working overtime these last few days, so there’s much to talk about as a new week begins.
* I’m not kidding about the pace of news from Deadline today. Just as I was starting to finish writing this, Mike Fleming broke the news that we have a “Superman” director who’ll be working with producer Christopher Nolan, and he is one Zack Snyder of “300,” “Watchmen,’ the “Dawn of the Dead” remake and that owl movie that’s out right now. Expect a fightin’ Supes. Should you expect a good Supes movie? Dunno. I never understood the grief that “Superman Returns” got. It was a nice, fun movie in the best senses of the words “nice” and “fun.” Will this one be all grimness and unnecessary darkness? I hope not.
* Fox landed the film adaptation rights for apparently the hottest book of the moment, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which is being produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmanbetov (“Night Watch,” “Wanted“), who purchased the rights with their own money. And it’s not like they were afraid to show they really wanted it:
When Tim and Timur and their entourage of reps came to the Fox…they were met with a huge banner at the gate. It had the title treatment of the script and was emblazoned, “Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov present Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. At their parking spot were signs saying “Parking For Vampire Hunters Only: park at your own risk,” and so forth. There were bloody footprints lining the walkway and stairs leading from their cars to the meeting in Building 88 with images from the book and lines from the script. As if that were not enough, there also were bloody axes strewn about, and a bugle player in a Confederate uniform playing “Taps” as the filmmakers walked to the meeting..
Yes, like Camelot, Hollywood is a silly place, and I sort of like it that way. I just wished I enjoyed Bekmambetov’s movies, because I didn’t.
* I seriously dislike writing about stories that say that so-and-so is “about to be” “offered” a part. There are simply too many items like that and too many “ifs” (maybe the studio will change their minds; maybe the star will say “no,” etc.) and I prefer to wait until the story is further down the road. Nevertheless, Mike Fleming has reported that Emma Stone is about to be offered the part of Mary Jane Watson in the Marc Webb-directed 3D “Spiderman” reboot opposite Andrew Garfield.
Well, I always pretty much have the same one, and it’s showing today on TCM at 11:30/2:30.
Fans of the terrific HBO “John Adams” miniseries in particular might find this a refreshing alternative take on the founding fathers and just how the Declaration of Independence came to be written and signed. True, it’s a little stagy and far from the best Broadway-to-Hollywood transfer in movie history, at least on a strictly cinematic level. At the same time, it’s a cracking entertainment with first-rate wrting and indelible performances by William Daniels (“The Graduate,” “St. Elsewhere”) as Adams, Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard (“The White Shadow”) as eventual president Thomas Jefferson, and the once-blacklisted veteran character actor Howard Da Silva (“The Lost Weekend,” “Sgt. York”), for me, the definitive Benjamin Franklin. There’s also a nice appearance by a crush-inducing Blythe Danner (she became Gwyneth Paltrow‘s mom the same year the 1972 film was released) as a slightly ahistoric Martha Jefferson.
Now, if this is the first time you’re hearing of “1776,” there is one major difference between this and other cinematic history lessons, but you’ll that figured out by about 2:47 or by reading the name of the video.
Yeah, it’s a musical. The songs are by the late Tin Pan Alley songwriter turned history teacher Sherman Edwards and the great, if necessarily theatrical, dialogue is written by Peter Stone (“Charade”). Live with it. Here’s another favorite number with great work by Daniels, Da Silva, and Howard based on real opinions the three great men held.
The win for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture” for Quentin Tarantino‘s high-spirited war picture was the closest thing to a surprise for the Screen Actors Guild awards last night. Considering the genuinely outstanding performances “Inglourious Basterds” contains from such non-multiple award winners or nominees as Melanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Brühl, and Brad Pitt among others, this gives me a happy.
Otherwise, however, these awards getting almost as repetitious as our May and June weather forecasts in Southern California. (Say it with me, L.A. residents: “Late night and early morning low clouds followed by hazy sunshine in the afternoon.”)
So, guess what…The Best Supporting Actor trophy went to basterd par excellance Christoph Waltz, who at this point pretty much owns the category with his uber-first class bad-guy performance as the “Jew hunter” Colonel Hans Landa. Similarly Mo’Nique from “Precious” once again took the Best Supporting Actress for her work as the abusive mother of the title character in the lauded but controversial drama. The only thing likely to be more dramatic than her Oscar acceptance award would be the howls of disappointment if she somehow doesn’t win.
Jeff Bridges, too, is looking like a lock for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as a down at heel country musician in “Crazy Heart,” as he picked up another trophy tonight. Apparently, everyone just decided this was Jeff Bridges’ year. It’s about time.
One award SAG has that the Oscars don’t, and probably should, is for stunt ensembles and that went to “Star Trek.” Well, that’s a refreshing change of pace.
A complete list of the SAG awards, which also covers television (three cheers for “Mad Men” and the great Betty White!), is viewable courtesy of the New York Times.
UPDATE: Oh by gosh by golly! I forgot to mention the one acting award where there will be some suspense at this year’s Oscars, and that’s Best Actress, which is shaping up to be a real battle between Meryl Streep’s interpretation of Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” and Sandra Bullock‘s red state Samaritan in “The Blind Side.” Chalk the SAG awards as one up for Team Sandra.
Movie bits and pieces from around the web. Today, our writers are an all female group, for some reason.
* Kim Masters has the scoop on GATE, the latest bit of ammunition for people who think Hollywood is filled with New Age lunatics. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And did you know that, according to Jim Carrey “Dumb and Dumber” is “a study of pre-egoic innocence.”
* Anne Thompson has some news on a project I’ve literally been expecting since I was 13 (ah, 2003 was such a great year….), “John Carter of Mars.”
* The phenomenon of the almost cartoonishly ugly guy whose a chick magnet — what I would have once called “the Rolling Stones effect” — gets explored cinematically by Monika Bartyzel.
* Farmer Hoggett declines to run for SAG prexy (I love Variety speak!), sayeth the Finke. Also Fox has a new movie guy.
As reported by Variety and Nikki Finke, the acrimonious battle between factions of the Screen Actor’s Guild ended in a huge victory for the more status quo forces backed by Adam Arkin, Tom Hanks, George Clooney, and Sally Field, as opposed to what I guess I have to call the more radical, or perhaps, activist wing of the guild as embodied by Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Melissa Leo and, in certain interviews, a very acrimonious Ed Asner.
In what has to be a huge defeat for embattled guild president Alan Rosenberg, 78% of the 30% percent who voted sided against him and for the plan. He nevertheless says he will run again and I’m sure he’s not wrong when he cites the economy as a major factor in the vote. (You can see videos from both sides of the dispute from a past PH post here.)
Especially now that the outspoken Nikki Finke herself is aware of our existence, I’m terrified of saying something stupid about a topic I barely understand. (A little sad to have even less of a head for nuts-and-bolts business matters than actors, but there you go. Also, I’m jumping on this particular news train very late in the story.)
I will say, however, that as a resident of Southern California, residing in Anaheim South Hollywood, I am a little relieved. I’m sure there was a case to be made by the “No” side, but, for the rest of us, a major strike is not what we need out here, at least in the short term. At the very least, we’ve also been spared a catastrophic run on Two Buck Chuck in the wine section at Trader Joe’s.
Steve Benen, who is the main guy at the terrific political blog of the liberal Washington Monthly, frequently posts what he calls “mini-reports,” and as someone who desperately needs an efficient verbal containment device that will discourage me from running off at the keyboard, I’m borrowing his format. You can’t copyright asterisks, can you?
* Fortunately for readers, my eyes glaze over just as quickly as yours do when you the subject is proposed union contracts. Nevertheless, the ongoing Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) vote is important stuff and I can’t completely ignore it, even if I’m utterly unsure how I’d vote if I were in the union. Furthermore, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what happened to the current president of the union, Alan Rosenberg, who I gather has been stripped of his authority by the “new majority” who favor a proposed new contract. I could go on, but I’m already experiencing a minor case of mind melt, so here are the dueling videos: For “Yes” — Tom Hanks. For “No”: a bunch of talented but far less famous folks, including Tom’s good friend Ron’s dad. And a very long, but kind of interesting comment by Justine Bateman. More of this to come, I suspect.
* Ever heard of Tom Swift? I barely have myself, but I gather he was the hero of a series of pre-”Hardy Boys” type adventures with a touch of Jules Verne about a boy inventor. With bigwigs rummaging through such relics of a more polite time in popular culture as “Tintin,” it makes sense that Hollywood (director Barry Sonnenfeld, of “Men in Black” fame, included) is taking an interest.