Here, have some movie news with your left over brisket

If you’re noticing that film bloggers and journos seem to grasping at news straws, blame the Passover/Easter spring break slow down. Anyhow, as folks work off all that schmaltz and matzoh at the gym, let’s nevertheless briefly consider a few items of some interest.

* For starters we have the kind of “breaking news” that isn’t really news at all. It’s looking like “The Hangover 2” is going to be a lot more expensive than the first because, you know, the cast would like to be paid a lot more this time and there was a lot of haggling. Can’t blame them . However, as much as I liked the first movie, it did not in any way cry out for a sequel. As the first commenter at Deadline|New York says, lightning doesn’t strike twice — except, of course, when it does. We’ll see.

* More sequel news  — well, rumor reported as news — Will Smith is supposedly “locked in” for “Independence Day” sequels. (H/t Anne Thompson.) Momentum may be building here and the story could be true. Director Roland Emmerich dropped a hint or two about it in a recent interview with our own David Medsker recently. We’ll see.

* And, you know how I always make a big deal about not prejudging movies. The E*Trade talking baby movie is sorely tempting me to make an exception. No. We won’t see.

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* Three brief items from THR. First, pretty Kaley Cuoco of “The Big Bang Theory” will be going cinematic in a partially animated flick comedy that involves Russell Brand voicing the Easter Bunny; it’s called “I Hop.” Also, LeBron James‘ next coach might be director Malcolm D. Lee. And, finally, two comedy writers who apparently enjoy bowling have been hired to work on the “Baywatch” movie, Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka. Tanaka has the kind of cross-ethnic name that, I think, could influence a guy to go into comedy, though I’m thinking “Kazuhiro Saperstein” would have been even better.

* I’m late to the viral video party, but the “Scarface school play” vid isn’t nearly as funny as it sounds. I guess thinking it was “real” could help, but how could anyone think it was real?

* The new film from master documentarian Errol Morris (“The Fog of War,” “Standard Operating Procedure“) sounds really interesting and potentially even more controversial than any film he’s made because it’s apparently lighthearted. Some might not agree that’s appropriate given the main character’s crime. Read the Playlist’s description and see if you agree.

http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2009/etrade-babies-in-2009/etrade-baby-golf
  

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Awards news: Director’s Guild and Sundance

There’s some sadness hanging over the American film world this morning due to the tragic and disturbing death of highly respected 39 year-old editor Karen Schmeer, best known for her work on Errol Morris projects as “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control,” “Mr. Death,” and “The Fog of War.” (Shawn Levy of The Oregonian has much about piece her shockingly random death in a crime-related automotive accident, her work, and her early start in the documentary film business.)

Nevertheless, the awards beat goes on and today, as Nikki Finke points out, we can chalk up a big victory for female directors as Kathryn Bigelow of “The Hurt Locker” defeated a boys club of directors that included such ultimate mega-males as Quentin Tarantino and her one-time husband, James Cameron.  Bigelow, of course, has been a noted director since her early features, 1982’s “The Loveless,” which introduced Willem Dafoe, and 1987’s ahead-of-its-time vampire drama, “Near Dark” attracted the attention of genre friendly critics. Her best known film, ironically enough, is probably the silly action flick, “Point Break,” which has emerged as a culty guilty pleasure after its 1991 release.

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“The Hurt Locker” is the first time Bigelow has been associated a project to get this kind of near-universal acclaim. It’s a major departure stylistically from her often slick and superficial past work, looking at an unexploded bomb team with the same kind of dispassionate intensity as “The French Connection” examined police work. This award definitely makes Bigelow the apparent favorite for the Best Director Oscar. It also doesn’t hurt it’s chances at the Best Picture award either.

“Hurt Locker” also swept the Producers Guild award earlier this week. Similar to the DGA, that award is widely seen as a harbinger for the “Best Picture” category, in which the producer is the one who actually receives the award. Still, as Dave Karger reminds us, the DGA doesn’t make the award inevitable. Also with the nominees this year doubled to ten and a more complex voting system for “Best Picture” that category, at least, remains open to any of the four or five most frequently nominated films in my opinion.

In other awards, “The Cove” got a boost in the nevertheless very hard-to-predict documentary Oscar category with an award for its director, Louie Psihoyos. I usually don’t cover TV, but it is worth a mention that the winner of the award for direction in a TV drama series was also won by a woman. Lesli Linka Glatter was awarded for her work on the action-packed “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency” episode of “Mad Men.” Not a bad choice.

Meanwhile, over in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival presented its awards, which offer a fairly significant peak into what are likely to be some of the most acclaimed and potentially award-winning films of the next year or so. Young people with family ties to crime seemed to be a winning theme in the dramatic categories: “Winter’s Bone,” about a young girl in search of her crystal meth manufacturing father, won the U.S. Prize; the Australian crime drama “Animal Kingdom,” about a teen boy born into a crime family in 1980s Melbourne, took the international award.

The documentary award went to one of the festival’s most high profile entries, “Restrepo.” From two-first first-time directors, journalist/author Sebastian Junger (the book, The Perfect Storm) and documentary cinematographer Tim Hetherington. The film is follows a U.S. Army platoon in Afghanistan for a year. As the offical Sundance description has it, it depicts a “surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie….”  Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez has a complete rundown.

Battle Company

  

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Remembering McNamara and “The Fog of War”

I ordinarily wouldn’t be writing here about the death of a highly controversial former Secretary of Defense, no matter how crucial his role in history. However, the death of Robert S. McNamara is very much worth a brief post even in a mostly lighthearted entertainment blog because of his involvement in one of Errol Morris’s best documentarys, 2004’s “The Fog of War.” Here’s a clip that might be a bit of a bummer for a Monday after a holiday weekend, but it raises more important questions in four minutes than I could write in a month of really serious posts.

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In a really creepy bit of timing, The House Next Door has just posted a lengthy (I’ve only read about half, so far) but I’d say very worthwhile consideration of documentarian Morris’s entire film career by Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard, including an appropriately skeptical consideration of McNamara’s attempts at self-rehabilitation in this film. You can also see if I was one of those critics Ed and Jason mention who took him at face value in my review from late 2003.

  

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