Regulars might have noticed a bit less movie news this week. Don’t worry, I won’t try to cover everything that happened in movieland this week tonight. Unfortunately, I have to start with three notable deaths.
* The saddest for me personally, and perhaps for some of you horror fans out there, is the most recent. Dan O’Bannon has died from Crohn’s Disease at age 63. Best known for the horror-comedy hit, “The Return of the Living Dead,” and for writing the screenplay for “Alien,” O’Bannon emerged out of U.S.C.’s film school with his friend, John Carpenter and together they collaborated on an odd science fiction comedy called “Dark Star.” While few remember that film, it set them both on a pretty interesting path.
When I was in the middle of high school and at the height of my geekness (three terms as president of the Venice High science fiction club!), I actually met O’Bannon in some odd circumstances at a crisis point in his career. Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you the story, but suffice it to say he seemed like a good guy and he was clearly something of a minor genius. He’ll be very much missed.
* Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney and the son of Roy O. Disney, also passed on at age 79. The younger Disney emerged as a king-maker and king-breaker of sorts, launching insurgent movements that wound up putting Michael Eisner in charge of the studio in 1984 and then deposing him in 2004.
* Finally, if you’re a former film student like myself you’ve probably had to read some of the work of famed academic critic and scholar Robin Wood, who was so respected that almost no one noticed when serious film-criticism aficionado Joss Whedon named a supercool cool high school principal/cum monster-fighter after him on “Buffy.” (How could anyone namecheck him on a mere TV show? It had to be a coincidence.) One of the first critics to approach genre films seriously, he is famous for works on Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks, among many others. He has passed on at age 78, and the always interesting Glenn Kenny has a remembrance.
* On a lighter note, Nikki Finke is closely monitoring the early grosses for “Avatar” which looking pretty good right now. Will that big storm on the East coast cost Fox millions? I’m sure the difference between it making $80 or $85 million is really important.
* The Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) award nominees were announced a couple of days back. Not too surprisingly, “Up in the Air” and “Inglourious Basterds” got the most nominations. The only real surprise to me was the lack of a nod to Christian McKay. His performance in one of the title roles of “Me and Orson Welles” (he’s not “me”) has been earning so much buzz I assumed he was the only real Oscar competition for Christoph Waltz in the Best Supporting Actor category, but I’m starting to wonder about that. I assumed the ex-unknown would benefit from the same bump that Martin Landau got for channeling Bela Lugosi so humanely in “Ed Wood,” and Jamie Foxx did for his detailed recreation of Ray Charles. Apparently it only works for name actors. On the other hand, Eli Roth’s semi-unfairly maligned performance as “the Bear Jew” is nominated (he’s only “bad” in comparison to the rest of the amazing cast). Stop scratching your head, he’s only nominated in the “Outstanding Performance by a Cast” category.
* What do you do if adults seem to be rejecting your Oscar-bait film. Try the teens!
* Inquiring minds want to know: When it comes to picking up awards, is the strangely spelled Mo’Nique all about the Benjamins, and will that end up costing her the Oscar for “Precious“? Stayed tuned because it’s terribly important!