Welcome to The Morning Read.
Any time I take a break from The Morning Read, jumping back into it feels intimidating until I actually do it. These are probably the most labor-intensive columns I put together for the site. It probably doesn't help that I had weekend plans with Rip Torn that got a little complicated, and I haven't heard back from him. I guess I need the distraction, so let's jump right in.
Mike Fleming was the first to reveal the existence of Shane Salerno's mysterious documentary about J.D. Salinger, a passion project that's been underway for years now, and I'm curious to see if the rumored missing five minutes actually turn out to be an appearance by the author, or if this is going to be another hype moment like Morgan Spurlock's ultimately empty Osama documentary.
And speaking of documentaries, Karen Schmeer's work as an editor was tremendous, and her reputation among filmmakers was amazing. This weekend, Errol Morris broke the shocking news that she had been killed by a car that was speeding away from a robbery. That's the sort of death that will never make sense to anyone who knew her, and all they can ever hope to do is remember her work and her spirit, much like Shawn Levy did in his moving tribute to her.
On the heels of Kathryn Bigelow's DGA win this weekend, the concensus seems to be that she's got the Best Director Oscar in the bag this year, which would make her the first woman to ever win the award. I'm cool with that, even if I'm not as in love with "The Hurt Locker" as many critics are. I think she's a strong stylist, and it's a solid piece of material. What really excites me about the possibility, though, is that Bigelow's work flies in the face of what we're used to seeing from women filmmakers. I loathe most of what passes as "romantic comedy" these days, and I especially hate the way women feel like those are the films they have to make. Bigelow has never played by those rules, and if she wins, the message that will be sent to young women who want to be filmmakers is that they can tell any story, not just the ones that have traditionally been left to them. In the meantime, The Guardian wonders why more women haven't already stepped up.
I figured one nice way to bring the Morning Read back this week was with a trio of exclusive stills from Overture's upcoming release, "The Crazies," since I spend so much of this column linking out to content on other sites.
Here's the first one, featuring star Timothy Olyphant:
Here's someone reacting to one of the Crazies doing something awful:
And here's the last one, which features one of the Crazies in full swing:
Nice pitchfork, dude. I'm seeing the film soon, and I like the trailers so far. I really hope the film plays as a smart small-town Apocalypse film, and I'm looking forward to it.
Oh... check out who got an iPad!
When we talking about naming our kids, my wife and I had the name "Calvin" in the mix for a long time. In the end, my wife decided she didn't want to tempt fate, and it still makes me a little sad. In my opinion, there is no more significant work about the inner life of children in any media than Bill Watterson's "Calvin & Hobbes." Ever. Not only is his artwork impeccable, but the way he wrote Calvin was uncommonly sensitive. In the 15 years since he pulled the plug on the strip and walked away, he's kept as low a profile as the elusive Mr. Salinger mentioned above. Today, though, that silence was momentarily interrupted for a brief but thrilling interview, and every fan of his work should read it immediately.
I am amazed how even smart professionals who actually work in this industry can profoundly misunderstand the nature of performance capture technology. In this roundtable featuring Woody Harrelson, Jeff Bridges, Morgan Freeman, Sandra Bullock, Carey Mulligan, and Gabby Sidibe, they talk about the difference between this and standard performance, and at one point, Woody Harrelson brings up that old familiar saw about how "one day, they'll just use the computer to create a whole new performance by Marlon Brando." No. They won't. Marlon Brando is dead. Someone may eventually use his likeness, but there will still have to be an actor actually giving that performance, and that's the point... no one is using computers to replace actors. They're simply giving actors a new set of tools to work with. That's it. It's no more complicated or scary than that. Devin Faraci argued with me that it negates the idea of movie stars, but I think it simply changes the definition of a star. Andy Serkis isn't a "movie star" in live-action, but he's maybe the best guy working right now in performance capture. If this new technology scares the Tom Cruises of the world, that's good.
The fear that actors have of performance capture reminds me of the way print critics treat anyone who writes online. Leah Sandals gets into it today via a response to Robert Enright's recent piece reviewing the documentary "For The Love Of Movies," and the conversation is one I've been having since I started working online in 1996. If you read my piece this morning about "The Basics," you know that I take film literacy seriously, and I feel like there are plenty of great writers online who I regularly link to. There are certainly any number of dim bulb idiots with URLs who have nothing to contribute to the conversation, but it's easy to ignore them. Just don't click on their website. You get out of the conversation what you put into it, and crying because it's easy for people share their thoughts online is pointless. It just makes you look like you're afraid and old.
Did you know the BluRay of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" is out of print now? If you are a BluRay owner and you don't own the disc, you missed out, and here's why.
The entire industry is changing right now, and the way financing works seems to go through a paradigm shift every ten years or so. We may be reaching the end of the hedge fund days, and Gawker actually has a strong piece on how that shift is happening and why.
Are you missing the list-mania of the end of the year? Maybe Michael Mann's top ten films of all time will scratch the itch for you, and even though it's not a list, there's a great piece on the BFI that takes a look back at what the last decade meant in film.
Dennis Hopper is allegedly on his last legs, which saddens me. He's one of the great Hollywood mavericks, and even after almost 20 years in Los Angeles, I've never had the pleasure of meeting him. There's a really strong piece about him over at The Independent that's worth a look.
I'm of mixed mind on this news. As long as we continue some sort of serious minded exploration of space, I'm excited, but I don't want us to forget this is one of the most important things that we as a species can do.
In a recent interview, Joe Johnston talked a bit about his plans for "Captain America," and I'm a wee bit confused by something. It sounds like they're still designing for the film, but Harry Knowles sent me this link last night, which suggests that they may have already finalized the look for the character. Time will tell...
And speaking of superhero concept art, io9 has been running what they claim is actual concept art from Martin Campbell's "Green Lantern," and you can see it here and here. I think this movie and "Thor" are really the test cases to see just how far the mainstream is willing to go with superhero mythology, because they're the most extreme properties greenlit so far. I'll be curious to see if the films (A) work and (B) connect with a broad audience. Fingers crossed.
And finally today, Tony Jaa is a goddamn animal...
... and I love it. Bring it on.
See you guys back here on Wednesday, and don't forget... Tuesday is the DVD column, and Thursday is the Motion/Captured Must-See Project, which finishes its alphabetical A-Z run this week, meaning we're about to start into unknown waters with the column next week. It's good to be back on the regular schedule.
The Morning Read appears here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Except when it doesn't.
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