"Can a white director make a great black movie?" It's the kind of question that bothers me -- you can extend it to asking whether a male director can make a great film about women, or whether a straight director can make a great film about homosexuality. (This year, Abdellatif Kechiche answered both those questions in the affirmative.) Great storytelling requires more empathy than first-hand experience. Still, John Singleton (the first black filmmaker ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar) looks at such recent films as "Fruitvale Station," "The Butler" and "12 Years a Slave" -- all by black directors, though not all by African-Americans -- argues that "there is a noticeable difference between pictures that have significant contributions from African-Americans behind the scenes and those that don't." He adds "what Hollywood execs need to realize is that black-themed stories appeal to the mainstream because they are uniquely American" -- which, well, let's just say I can't see everyone agreeing on that point. [Hollywood Reporter]
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Cue the melancholy score because producer Jerry Bruckheimer's long run at the Walt Disney Studios appears to be over. Late Thursday evening the Mouse House announced the studio and Bruckheimer had "mutually agreed" to end his first look deal. Yes, his string of recent, expensive misfires was the private excuse, but even the venerable producer must have seen this coming a long time ago. The age of the studio super-producer is simply over.
The longstanding cliche about Hollywood screenwriters is they're really dying to tell anyone who will listen, "but I really want to direct." Turns out some of the actors in front of the camera wouldn't mind ruling the roost either.
Mark Hartley has made two exceptional documentaries about the history of exploitation films, one called "Not Quite Hollywood" and the other called "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" The first examined the evolution of Australia's homegrown genre movies, and it was more than just a scholarly look at a list of movies. Hartley understood exactly why those films were so exciting, and he made a documentary that had the same sort of breathless energy that the films did, and he made a hell of a case for the significance of those films and those directors.
While I'm excited to see his next documentary, which will deal with the history of Canon Films, I'm equally excited about the notion that he took one of the films that he covered in "Not Quite Hollywood" and remade it. "Patrick" is one of those films that I knew by reputation more than anything, and after "Not Quite Hollywood" came out, it was one of the movies that got a US release to capitalize on its new notoriety. The original was directed by one of my favorite of the Aussies, Richard Franklin, and it's an effective movie with some smart script choices, solid performances across the board, and Franklin really knows how to screw with an audience. Released in 1978, it feels like a reaction to films like "Carrie" and "The Fury" with a comatose patient who wages a telekinetic battle against a nurse. Like "Road Games," the film seems to lean on Hitchcock at times, and that's just Franklin. There's a reason he was hired for "Psycho II," and he obviously has an enormous respect for the kind of classically built scares from a different age.
Once again, thanks to FOX for coming through with a screener for tonight's "X Factor" auditions.
And also thanks to FOX for any "X Factor" episode that isn't two hours long.
Remembering that the time code for this recap will be based on screener time and not on episode time, click through for my full breakdown on Thursday's (September 19) hour.
Mark Burnett pitching a reality show that would put the winner in space
The winner would join Richard Branson on one of Virgin Galactic's first suborbital space flights.
Ken Jennings: How I'd fix NBC's confusing "Million Second Quiz"
"When I watched," he says, "it felt like they were making up rules on the fly. Mostly because they were."
Discovery gets "Gold Fever"
The makers of "The Men Who Built America" are putting out another documentary looking back at the California Gold Rush.
"The Walking Dead": Behind the scenes of Universal Studios zombie apocalypse attraction
Starting next week, visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of the human survivors of the AMC show. PLUS: Lauren Cohan poses for Maxim.
MTV releases Miley Cyrus documentary trailer
"Miley: The Movement" airs Oct. 2.
Battle of "Seinfeld" Twitter accounts: "Modern Seinfeld" vs. "Seinfeld Current Day"
Two Twitter accounts have tried to transport "Seinfeld" to the present day. Only one succeeds.
"The Wonder Years": An appreciation of its nostalgia
Kevin Arnold & Co. seem to have a big influence on this year's crop of fall comedies.
"Breaking Bad's" Jesse Pinkman problem: Enough with the torture!
"This show has never passed up an opportunity to kick Jesse Pinkman when he's down," says Jessica Winter. "It's forever endeavoring to find new, more vigorous techniques for kicking him when he's down—through pirouettes of plot and calisthenics of character development—and new, pliant body regions to kick or, when the kicking is done, punch or stomp or split open bleeding. What horrible thing hasn’t happened to Jesse, perhaps repeatedly, over the last five seasons?" PLUS: Jesse Plemons is rooting for Walt, how Dean Norris filmed his final scene, listen to director's commentary on "Ozymandias," Betsy Brandt couldn't watch Hank's final moment, it took a while for Brandt to stop rooting for Walt, Badger narrates a Honey Badger video, why Walter White Apologists need to stop, Bryan Cranston says Jesse isn't such a good guy, and Hank Schrader was the "anti-anti-hero."
Blame college students for killing cable
Many of today's college students are "cord nevers" -- people who've never paid for cable and have no plans to ever do so.
Watch HBO film gay-themed "Looking" in San Francisco
The comedy about three gay friends has been likened to a gay version of "Girls."
How "The Simpsons" fixed Apple's iPhone keyboard
A 1994 episode was key in helping Apple come up with its innovative iPhone keyboard design.
In defense of this season's "Survivor" twists
Even the return of Redemption Island is a great idea.
Gilbert Gottfried to guest-program TCM
Check out his pics for next month, including "The Conversation."
Is "Once Upon a Time" taking its fans for granted?
This year's promotion leaves a lot to be desired. PLUS: Watch the Season 3 extended promo.
"The Art of War" to become an English-language TV series, thanks to China and Japan
The two countries are teaming up for a TV version of Sun Tzu's classic book.
"Ghost Projekt" graphic novel getting an NBC remake
The graphic novel follows a UN inspector and a Russian agent who've teamed up.
Julie Chen denies having a nose job
Why does her nose look different in a photo taken nearly two decades ago? Chen says it's all makeup.
Read an oral history of The Groundlings, the comedy troupe that has fed "SNL"
The L.A.-based Groundlings was the training ground for Lisa Kudrow, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Pee-wee Herman, Phil Hartman, J.J. Abrams, Kathy Griffin, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Cheri Oteri, Jon Lovitz, Chris Kattan and many others.
TV costume designers are having a big impact on fashion
Many shows regard the fashion as an extra character.
HBO rejects '60s-set "The Missionary" from Malcolm Gladwell and Mark Wahlberg
The Cold War spy drama was to be set in '60s Berlin.
Lucy and Desi: The Advertising years
"I Love Lucy's" Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz also live on in advertising for cigarettes and banking.
Is Bill Nye's "Dancing" participation bad for science?
His scientist stereotypes may turn off future scientists. PLUS: Get a gift from The Science Guy.
USA going all out for "Modern Family's" syndication debut
The nearly $10 million rollout includes a special documentary, live events with the cast and elaborate TV spots. PLUS: See Jesse Tyler Ferguson's childhood photo.
"Key & Peele" takes on "Les Mis"
The musical epic gets parodied in the season premiere.
Watch what happens when Conan updates to iOS7
Play the "New Girl" drinking game
Take a sip every time Nick makes a face.
"Full House's" Mr. Woodchuck is now faceless
What happened to Dave Coulier's puppet?
What is Joan Rivers doing on a scooter?
Is it a PR stunt or is she having trouble getting around?
"Idol" alum Allison Iraheta to spend 1 week on "The Tonight Show"
She'll sit in with Jay Leno's band.
Watch the gag reel for "Leverage" Season 5
The TNT series' final gag reel.
The first real film festival I ever attended was Sundance in 2001. I remember one of the mornings we were there, we had to get up earlier than normal to drive the hour to Park City so we could then stand in line for over an hour just on the off chance that maybe we could make it in to see a screening at 8:30 in the morning. It turned out to be well worth it, though, when we got to see the first screening of Jonathan Glazer's "Sexy Beast," which seemed to make good on the promise Glazer had shown as a filmmaker when making amazing music videos.
That was twelve years ago, and we're just now seeing Glazer's third film as a director. He seems to be one of those guys who would rather focus on something he loves than just make as many films as possible, and as a result, when he does release a new film, you can count on it being something that he sincerely means as an artist. He doesn't seem remotely interested in courting commercial favor, which must drive the money guys crazy, but as long as he can find people who are willing to pay for his dark and haunting visions, I'll happily line up to see them.
Cate Blanchett's superb, sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated performance in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" this summer marked a return of sorts to the big screen. She never went away, exactly, but her recent, sparse run of secondary and supporting roles (in the likes of "Hanna" and "Robin Hood") was a clear indication that the bulk of her attention was elsewhere -- at the Sydney Theater Company, to be precise, where she has acted as an artistic director for the last five years.
It seems the fallout continues from the racist, homophobic and generally offensive comments made inside the "Big Brother" house this season. Now we know that not only have finalists Spencer and GinaMarie lost their jobs for the slurs they made (jury member Aaryn was also canned from her modeling agency), but so has the inoffensive Andy. Yes, Andy [warning: spoilers ahead].
I'm not entirely sure how I managed to broach the subject of porn during a conversation with Scarlett Johansson without the authorities becoming involved, but it all seems to have worked out in the end.
I hate the term "romantic comedy," because nine times out of ten, the films described with that term are neither romantic nor particularly funny. I have written before about how I feel like most studio "romantic" films sell a disturbing idea of adult relationships, and many of the characters in these films seem to have been dropped onto the Earth from somewhere else, completely untaught in the ways normal human beings behave.
"Don Jon," which was both written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, seems inordinately wise about human behavior, and in particular, I was struck by the way the film draws a direct parallel between the porn that Jon (Gordon-Levitt) watches non-stop and the romantic comedies that Barbara (Johansson) invests in so fully. In both cases, the film argues, the person who watches is giving themselves unrealistic expectations, and they use the entertainment in place of real life instead of working to find something genuine that will fulfill them.
The last film I saw at this year's Toronto Film Festival is also set to play Fantastic Fest in Austin, with the first screening set for this coming Sunday night. While a festival like Toronto is packed with so many giant titles that are given full publicity pushes by the studios releasing them, frequently drowning out anything anyone might write about smaller films, Fantastic Fest seems devoted to finding and showcasing the small gems. I expect "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" will do very well there, and I hope a canny distributor picks up this smart, brutal neo-noir, because it deserves an audience.
Written by Dutch Southern and directed by Simon and Zeke Hawkins, "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" tells a very familiar story in terms of the broad strokes. Sue (Mackenzie Davis) and B.J. (Logan Huffman) are a couple, which puts Bobby (Jeremy Allen White) in a tough spot. He's best friends with B.J., but he is madly in love with Sue. They all live in a very small Texas town, which means there's not a lot they can do to entertain themselves, leaving plenty of time for bad ideas. Both Bobby and Sue plan to leave for college just as soon as they can, and B.J. is starting to realize he's going to get left behind. One weekend, just for kicks, B.J. steals a fat stack of cash from the safe of Giff (Mark Pellegrino), the guy he and Bobby work for, and that sets off a chain of events that could destroy the fragile peace that they've all been working so hard to maintain.
It's been four months since I saw Abdellatif Kechiche's "Blue is the Warmest Color" at Cannes -- whereupon it became, as it did for an awful lot of people, my favorite film of the festival. (Steven Spielberg's jury, of course, agreed.) The film's been burning pretty brightly in my mind ever since, but this expertly constructed US trailer brought that much more of it flooding back. Sundance Selects are taking a smart approach here, selling the film on evocative fragments of sound and image, and allowing viewers to find its raw emotional and physicals details for themselves.