Some fairly big news to report tonight.
* It might be a bit meta for a lead, but I can’t help my happiness that Roger Ebert has been named person of the year by the Webby Awards people. I’ve been a big fan of his writing for a very long time and always thought he was the best straight-up writer of any of the major critics, but recently he has really emerged as an inspirational figure. He’s also been one of the most generous supporters of film writing on the web in a million different ways. It’s not really bragging when I mention that he’s thrown some small nods my way as well as some occasionally very funny e-mail responses over the years. He’s done the same for countless others.
And, if that wasn’t cool enough, the great cinephile social networking and blog site, the Auteurs also won an award. Well, done, folks.
* In actual movie news, remember that item last week when I said that Matthew Vaughn, most recently of “Kick-Ass,” was not going to be directing the next X-Men movie? If not, you can just keep right on forgetting because, it turns out, he is directing the film they’ll call “X-Men: First Class” — a prequel. I’m a big fan of Vaughn, though not so much of the X-Men films so far, so I find this intriguing. Some of you may remember, Vaughn departed from “X-Men 3” and the film that was, as per Cinema Blend, Matthew Vaughn, and I, almost definitely the worse for it.
* More really good news from my point of view, one of my favorite actors currently working, Chewitel Ejiofor, has been cast as definitely my favorite Afro-pop musician — okay, the only African musician I can think of that I’ve ever actually bought an album or CD by. Ejiofor will be starring in a biopic of the legendary maestro Fela Anikulapo Kuti in a film to be directed by Steve McQueen of “Hunger.” This film is not related, except by topic, to the musical “Fela!” which just got eleven Tony nominations. The cool part is not only that the Ejiofor, a first-generation Brit born of Nigerian parents, is the actor to play the part, he’s also apparently learning to play piano and saxophone (Kuti’s instruments, I believe) and had, we’re told, become quite good.
* Budgeting problems are apparently doing to “Zoolander 2” what they’re doing to “Anchorman 2.” In his summary of the situation, Christopher Campbell suggests a Ron Burgundy-Zoolander team-up. I think a time travel story would be a necessity here.
* I thought this had already been confirmed, but Hugo Weaving really will be playing one of my favorite super-villains, the ultra-villainous ultra-Nazi, the Red Skull, in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Good for Elrond/Agent Smith.
* RIP stuntman/stunt coordinator and second-unit director Danny Aiello III, the son of the actor, who died much too young of pancreatic cancer at age 53. He has 130 film and television credits on IMDb for stunt work alone.
* Joseph Gordon-Levitt has two possible projects going. He may be reteaming with director Rian Johnson on an offbeat time-travel/science fiction tale. While I personally found the “classic noir in a modern high school” idea of “Brick” a lot more engaging than the actual film despite some amazing acting and individually brilliant scenes, it just didn’t work for me as a story, I’ll be glad to see both of them working. Another possible project is an action-chase film from writer-director David Koepp in which Levitt would play a bike messenger.
* As someone who has been called “useless” by Nikki Finke (a term she seems to like to apply to a growing number of people), I’m hereby offering my consulting services to the producers of “Tilda.” I actually dig the casting of Diane Keaton in the part. Could be great. Read about via Anne Thompson.
* Note to Hollywood marketers — Twitter turns out to be nothing but a joke on us old people.
* Seen on Reddit: Yes, yes indeed — as portrayed in countless teen/college flicks, every party in the U.S. really does have those big red cups. Another enormous worldwide cultural gap bridged by the movies!