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Fat Tuesday at the movies

Do the bon temps actually roulez in Hollywood? It’s more like they just kind of unspool.

* My good friend, Zayne Reeves, was kind enough to make sure I didn’t miss this rather extraordinary Esquire piece by Chris Jones on Roger Ebert’s current life. I’ve been spending my share of time around illness myself over the last several weeks and I can’t think of a more quietly, beautifully sane way of dealing with the strange cards life can deal us. Though I’m just one among very, very many he’s shared kind words with, I’ve always felt lucky for the very brief e-mail correspondences I’ve had with Roger over the years, Now I feel luckier.

* Reviews of the fourth Martin Scorsese film to star Leonardo DiCaprio, “Shutter Island,” are starting to trickle out. Glenn Kenny has a good one. “Good” both as in “positive” and also as in “worth your time reading.”

shutter-island-2010-wallpaper

* Doug Liman will be directing a film about the 1971 Attica prison riot/revolt/uprising, now best remembered by film lovers as the chant from “Dog Day Afternoon.” It’s a story he has a personal connection with through his late father, attorney Arthur Liman. Nevertheless, the director of “Go,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Bourne Identity” seems to be moving in a sort of John Frankenheimer-esque direction overall, too.

* Speaking of the man who yelled “Attica! Attica!,” Al Pacino has stepped into a part recently vacated by Robert De Niro. You just can’t seem to keep those two guys apart for very long.

* Nikki Finke is having a very fat Tuesday indeed. Earlier today she reported on Carl Icahn trying to snap up Lionsgate for himself and a deal between Warner Brothers and video kiosk powerhouse Redbox, not to mention the news that the Oscars this year may not be including the original artists in the Best Song category.

There’s still more; a 3-D movie based on Erector Sets. Sure, why not. Next up: “Slinky 3-D,” I’m sure. Now, if they really want to get a rise out of the family audience, they might consider adopting Mickey Spillane’s novel, The Erection Set. From the description I just linked to, it would really be something in three-dimensions.

* Writer-director Paul Feig is reteaming with his old “Freaks and Geeks” colleague, Judd Apatow, for a film starring and cowritten by Dave Medsker’s-ultra-fave, Kristen Wiig writes Borys Kit. Let’s hope it’s better than a typical SNL skit these days.

* I started with Roger Ebert and I’ll end with an item via his must-read Twitter-feed: the Film Preservation Blogathon being organized by my old Chicago-based cinephile blogging mate, Marilyn Ferdinand. If you care about movies, this is the place. It’s also a fundraiser (a first for a blogathon, as far as I can remember) so if the idea of losing a film — any film — forever bugs you as it should, considering donating. You can do worse than starting with this post by Ferdy’s partner in good works, the Self-Styled Siren aka Farran Nehme. And, courtesy of another cinephile colleague from the days when I had time to blog about old movies all the live-long day, Greg Ferrera, we conclude with….a commercial.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Mission to TCM

If I may delve into hardcore cinephilia for one post, Turner Classic Movies is doing a very funny thing this month, they’re letting a movie blogger — along with a better known film critic — mess with their nightly schedule.

To be specific, the wondrous Self Styled Siren, who recently emerged as one Farran Smith Nehme of New York City, is co-curating with Lou Lumenick of the New York Post, Shadows of Russia. It’s a series of classic and rarities dealing with the former Soviet Union and it’s complex relationship with the United States and the West. Tonight’s centerpiece, showing at 10:00 Eastern/7:00 Pacific, is “Mission to Moscow,” one of a few pieces of World War II-era wartime propaganda requested by the U.S. government in order to create a better image of our wartime ally to the East. Despite the fact they had basically been made to please the U.S. government and assist the war effort, these films later came under suspicion from the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) as the Cold War heated up again almost immediately after the end of the war.

I’ve never seen “Mission” but it’s apparently a faux-factual, completely absurd whitewash of the very real evil of Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union. Making it a lot more interesting is the fact that this was no cheapy, but a glossy A-picture directed by Michael Curtiz and written by Howard Koch, both of whom had extremely illustrious careers on their own and whose most famous effort together was arguably the best American propaganda film of all time, “Casablanca.” No one thinks it’s a great movie or even a particularly good one in any normal sense of the word, but apparently its sheer wrongness makes it a really interesting movie experience. If you even one bit interested in mid-century history, this is one you won’t to miss.

The Siren and Lou Lumenick have more on “Mission to Moscow,” another interesting sounding tale called “The North Star” which you’ll have to be very quick on the trigger tonight if you want to see it (it’s 5:00 Pacific/8:00 Eastern) and some other possible goodies showing later on, including “The Kremlin Letter,” a hard-to-find 1970 spy thriller directed by John Huston I’ll have a hard time resisting.

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Mid-holiday week movie news report (updated)

Somewhat to my surprise, given how slow Monday and Tuesday was, we have some movie news to report. Sadly, the first item is a bummer.

* Our very sincere condolences to the friends, family, and avid readers of writer and horror/gore maven Chas Balun, who died of cancer on December 18th. Probably mostly because of my phobia of the kind of movies he championed, Balun’s name wasn’t immediately familiar to me before this, but clearly the author and longtime contributor to Fangoria and Gorezone was a writer whose work meant a great deal to genre fans as well as a very sincere film geek/cinephile, and for that he has my respect. The Fangoria blog has a very good obituary.

* Sony has not been including a screener DVD for Duncan Jones’ highly regarded science fiction film, “Moon,” in its pre-Oscar promotional package. The result: “Twitter storm“!

Moon

* It’s now Sir Peter Jackson to you.  Considering the positive impact his LOTR tour de force must have had on the New Zealand economy, they might have considered making him king. Okay, New Zealand doesn’t have one. Also, I gather it’s more of a British Commonwealthy kind of a thing.

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Yet another Friday night movie news dump

Really not that much to say, except…

* Summit has acquired the North American rights to distribute “The Ghost Writer,” a political thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. And why is this the top item? The director is Roman Polanski. Wait for this film to benefit from a lot of free publicity generated by people who think it’s wrong to see any movie in which someone involved with it once did a very bad thing. If you follow that rule, you’ll miss a lot of movies.

* Not too surprisingly, that report I mentioned on Wednesday that James Cameron‘s next movie is going to be an outer space redo or homage or what have you of The Seven Samurai was all wet. Instead, quoth the Playlist, he’s producing, but not directing, a remake of the not-so-great (at least as far as I can remember it) sixties sci-fi hit, “Fantastic Voyage.” It could work and will probably be at least a little bit fun in 3-D.

fantastic-voyage-rm-eng

* Speaking of Cameron, it’s a bit weighted towards the geek press at this moment, but reviews have been leaking all over the place for “Avatar” and, guess what, the critics seem to think there’s something to the hype. At the very least the film is guaranteed to get a bunch of technical nominations and probably win them. Throw some Oscars into the marketing mix of James Cameron’s latest, and a genuinely gigantic hit with massive legs could brewing.

How long before the inevitable backlash? Well, Michael Phillips‘ review encompasses both frontlash and backlash. Putting on her critic hat, Anne Thompson writes a prose poem. She says all us cinephiles are going to have to see it multiple times. Well, I’m sure some of us will disagree there. Contrarians, skeptics, and extra-tough critics, start your engines.

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A movie moment for the Siren

The Empress of Cinephile Bloggers has some great news thanks in part to the good folks over at Turner Classic Movies. As far as I know, she’ll be the first film blogger to help program a series on the network, or any network, which she’ll be doing with Lou Lumenick of The New York Post. As far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t happen to a nicer or more thoughtful and talented member of our film-crazed clan.

This scene from one of the series selections, directed by Joseph von Sternberg and featuring the wonder that was Marlene Dietrich, seems as appropriate a clip as any to help her celebrate.

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