The Afternoon Read (4.03.09) Cronenberg talks, Louis CK goes to war, and Ellison sues 'Trek'

Plus Roger Friedman reviews the 'Wolverine' workprint... at what cost?

<p>Denzel Washington, set to star in Cronenberg's 'The Matarese Circle,' points out just how great he is.</p>

Denzel Washington, set to star in Cronenberg's 'The Matarese Circle,' points out just how great he is.

Credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, file

Ready for the weekend?  Cause I sure am.  I'm exhausted, and I still have about thirty-seven tons of work to do.  The weekend just means more prep work and less actual publication, not any time off.  I'm pleased that my one-year-old is starting to vocalize.  I'm less pleased that it takes the form of a high-pitched shriek that he can sustain for about 11 minutes each time he does it.  I think one of my corneas actually shattered the last time he did it.  Certainly makes focusing on anything a little tricky, but let's see if I can make it through an afternoon read with my nerves intact.

So I'm willing to admit I may have been wrong about the potential of David Cronenberg's "The Matarese Circle," adapted from a Robert Ludlum book and set to star Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington.  I love Cronenberg's work, and the idea of him spending a year and a half on a routine Hollywood spy movie instead of something more personal or idiosyncratic had me bummed out at first.  But an interview Cronenberg gave to the Toronto Star is encouraging.  It sounds like he's got some big ideas for how to make this a real Cronenberg movie and not just a paycheck.  I'm particularly pleased to read him say, "It's not easy to keep all the satisfying elements people expect and still find a way to subvert the genre and surprise the audience."

[more after the jump]

I've spent a lot of time saying a lot of good things about Magnolia over the years, and about their new label Magnet recently.  I think they have uncommonly good taste for a smaller company, particularly in terms of genre acquisitions.  Case in point:  last year's "Let The Right One In."  I give them a lot of credit for seeing that one early and picking it up before anyone in America had a look at it.  But what I don't get is why you change subtitles from a theatrical release to the home video release... seems like a lot of work when you've already got the track done.  And more than that, when the audience you're selling the film to sees the new subtitles and doesn't like them because they have an attachment to what they saw in the theater, I really don't understand why you then talk shit about that audience.  These are the people who support your releases.  These are the people you are trying to reach.  I think it speaks to a larger issue that comes into play every time someone alters a film for home video or for a new theatrical release.  It's the thing George Lucas doesn't understand.  Your audience has an attachment to the thing they fall in love with first, and every single time you alter that thing, you risk ruining that affection.  And when you do, and they react badly, don't sulk about it.  Just give them the thing they want, the movie they fell in love with.  Be glad they fell in love with your movie, treat the consumer right, and shut the hell up about it.  Treating your audience with accidental disrespect is one thing, but copping an attitude about it is a butt-stupid business plan.

And speaking of respect, I think Louis CK is one of the best comedians.  Not just one of the best working today, but one of the best.  I think he's smart, he's got an amazing sense of phrasing and rhythm, and he's blisteringly filthy in a way that cuts right through being offensive and gets to some hard truths.  I had a chance to interview him last year on the set of "This Side Of The Truth," and it's one of my favorite interviews I've ever done.  Right now, he's doing USO shows in the Middle East for American troops, and his blogs on the subject make me respect him even more than I already did.  I think anyone who flies into a war zone for the sole purpose of boosting morale is putting themselves in harm's way for the best possible reason.  And I think it takes huge balls to do it, and Louis and the rest of the people he's touring with all deserve a few minutes of your day to read his incredible account.  It's not that funny, but it's affecting and amazing and will make you feel like you were there.

Respect is a big thing for actors, for writers... for anyone in this town who feels like their part in the process can be marginalized, or that they are being taken advantage of.  David Prowse isn't winning any friends at Lucasfilm with his comments about getting screwed on residuals for "Return of the Jedi," but I'm inclined to believe he's telling the truth.  Residuals are so difficult to get people to pay, even when something's made giant ridiculous money.

Just ask Harlan Ellison.  Or, wait, you don't have to, since he's suing the crap out of "Star Trek" and Paramount and... the Writer's Guild?  Wow.  This is a man who absolutely is fighting the good fight, and he doesn't care if it burns down certain relationships.  Ellison's always been an outspoken advocate of the Guild, but I agree with him that it no longer works as an enforcement agency at all.  They won't get involved in enforcing the MBA when producers are asking for free work or when writers are getting bullied on a project, and they certainly don't go shake your residuals loose when they're not being paid on time.  I know this from personal experience on all fronts, and from talking to writers both A-list and struggling.  I'm curious to see how this one plays out, and if there's any lawsuit brewing in town right now that has the potential to change some of the ways we do business, this is the one.  Expect more coverage as it progresses.  And by the way... it's the single funniest press release about a lawsuit I've ever read.  God, I love Ellison in all his cranky glory.

If you feel like working up some righteous indignation, you could get involved in the fight to get TimeWarner to add FEARNet back to their cable line-up.  I find it infinitely frustrating that you can't just order channels a la carte this far into the life of cable and satellite.  It's inevitable.  You know it is, too, so why continue to bone your customers by making them buy packages they don't want or need and then dropping channels they actually want?  Are you trying to destroy your industry?  Do you want a customer base that hates the living shit out of you?  If so, good work!  Kudos and huzzah, TimeWarner!

Am I wrong, or is this the greatest poster of all time?

I can't even read about Cannes at this point.  It just depresses me too much.  If there's any one festival on the planet that I am desperate to visit someday, this is the one, and I don't really see it happening.  This year in particular promises to be one of the best line-ups ever.  Yes, "Inglourious Basterds" is going to play, and so is Pixar's "Up," but it's more than that.  Indiewire's done a great piece where they list 40 titles that could be ready by the time of the fest, and which may well end up at the festival.  There's a new Almodovar.  A new Amenabar.  New films from Lars Von Trier, Jane Campion, Atom Egoyan, and Abbas Kiarostami.  Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void" might be there, and so might Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus."  Soderberg's "The Informer," Todd Solondz's "Forgiveness," or Ken Loach's "Looking For Eric" would all thrill me, but what about a new Jeunet comedy set in the world of arms dealers or a new animated from from Sylvain Chomet from an unproduced Jaques Tati script?  Or how about new films from the directors of "The Host" and "Old Boy"?  Ang Lee's got his Woodstock movie that he could screen, and the Coens might be ready with "A Serious Man."  Johnnie To.  Claire Denis.  Michael Haneke.  Neil Jordan.  I mean, COME ON.  If even 1/3 of those films and those names end up at the fest, it'll be epic.

Another distinct possibility for the festival is Francis Coppola's "Tetro," which could be a huge mess like his last film, or which might be a return to form.  Just the potential is enough to keep me intrigued, and it keeps me checking the official site, where Coppola has posted some new behind-the-scenes videos that give you a hint of what he's up to.

James Ellroy's still working out his mommy issues.

Here's a serious question:  will Roger Friedman have to pay any consequences for not only downloading and watching "Wolverine" but also reviewing it?  Because if not, 20th Century Fox is sending a very clear signal that they are hypocrites.  Remember when they tracked down and fired Memflix, an occasional Ain't It Cool contributor who was a projectionist in Memphis?  He filed an early review for "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer" from a trade screening, and he was summarily fired and threatened with legal action.  Thing of it is, he didn't steal anything.  He may have shown incredibly poor judgment, since he did use the same name for Ain't It Cool that he used when writing in-house movie reviews, but he certainly didn't do it to maliciously hurt Fox.  This workprint leak, though, is an undeniably criminal act, and here's Roger "No Gag Reflex" Friedman crowing about downloading and watching the movie and reviewing the unfinished print, which is EXACTLY what Fox doesn't want people doing.  I'm serious when I say that if there is no action taken against Friedman, I will never, ever, ever treat Fox with kid gloves again.  They abuse the press and they treat us like the enemy at every turn, and if they're going to allow someone who ostensibly works for their company to behave in such a flagrantly criminal manner, then I say it's fair game for the rest of us, too.  Consistency counts, Fox.  Your move.

I've got plenty of other links, but it's also late, and I want to prepare some more articles for you for today, so I'll leave it at that.  Friedman's got me so f'ing mad at this point that I need to take a walk and think about exactly how to handle this.

I promise you one thing... this isn't the last I'll have to say on this.  And I'm not going to be alone in calling this one out.  This is a major faux pas, and one that will have major implications for the way studios and the internet co-exist.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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