While I was sleeping last night, Twitter apparently melted down over the announcement that Disney has bought up Lucasfilm, an acquisition about which movie geeks and business brains alike have very strong feelings. I don't, but when I absorbed the news that a new "Star Wars" film will be coming down the pike in 2015 -- sans George Lucas, but still -- I was forced to conclude that this hasn't been much of a week for good news. Anyway, Drew McWeeny is both more informed and more invested than I, and offers his view of the situation, while Drew, Kris and Greg serve up a list of 10 things to look out for in the wake of the deal, from the theme park-ification of Skywalker Ranch to "Star Wars" for preschoolers. What joy. [Motion Captured]
With writer John Gatins and star John Goodman in the air leaving Savannah after film festival tributes there, Paramount had the highlights of its "Flight" crew -- Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington -- back in New York Monday to promote the film, which releases Friday. Zemeckis was set to appear on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" while Washington was all set for "The Late Show with David Letterman." Then Hurricane Sandy came a'knockin'.
Thought you'd seen "The Artist" win its last award? Think again. The Casting Society of America pretty much partied like it was 2011 at last night's Artios Awards -- the premier honor for casting directors in the industry, given the absence of an Oscar category for the discipline. (That absence is often lamented, but let's be honest -- the average Academy member knows even less about casting than he does about sound editing.)
Anyway, while a scattering of early 2012 releases -- "The Hunger Games," "21 Jump Street," "Friends With Kids" -- had cracked the nominee list, the CSA was all about the awards contenders of 2011 when it came to choosing the winners. "The Help" took the prize in the Big-Budget Feature: Drama category, which is hardly surprising, given the number of ensemble awards (culminating in SAG's top honor) the film took down last season.
NEW YORK – The day after John Gatins graduated Vassar in 1990 he got into a car and drove to California to be an actor. He was already having borderline "Whip-like issues," he says, referencing Whip Whitaker, the alcoholic airline pilot Denzel Washington plays in "Flight." Part of the decision was an attempt to leave those problems behind a little bit. So, naturally, he became a bartender.
For a medium we're told nobody cares about, people sure are devoting a lot of column inches to the end of cinema. Michael Cieply joins the long line of writers sounding the artform's death knell, claiming that Hollywood has lost its grip on the public imagination to TV. He points out that even the film of the moment, "Argo," has still attracted fewer viewers over its three-week run than a single episode of "Glee," while the number of specialist films released in US market has dropped by 55% in the last decade. Furthermore, Cieply quotes sources suggesting the Oscars are complicit in this disconnect, citing the recent coronation of the backward-looking "The King's Speech" (to which audiences flocked, mind you) as an example. I think people might be getting a bit dramatic. [New York Times]
While official Academy screenings are already under way for the long roll-call of foreign-language Oscar submissions, I've slowly been wading my own way through the pile. Having now seen in the region of 25 contenders, around two-thirds of the list remains – I'll never get to them all, but I'm still feeling more well-briefed than usual. Meanwhile, the more I see, the more impressed I am by the standard of this year's competition; the threat of “The Intouchables” notwithstanding, Academy voters will really have to go out of their way to make a dud choice.
Today's double-shot of contenders for discussion haven't been been paired for any reason beyond the fact that I saw them back-to-back at the London Film Festival last weekend. Certainly, at first glance, Mexico's serenely threatening high-school drama “After Lucia” and The Netherlands' gentle slip of a family film “Kauwboy” don't have much more than that in common. On closer inspection, however, some clear dramatic and thematic links belie the gaping tonal and formal differences between them.
Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, Notre Dame actually GOOD again -- oh the horror! The weekend produced its fair share of nightmares (well, the end of baseball season was a godsend) and Halloween isn't even here yet. But Oscar season feels like it's at a bit of a standstill, settled into a holding pattern. I hesitate to call it the eye of the storm, but after that first wave of fall festival entries, and with plenty still ahead, it kind of feels like that. So let's just do a bit of tidying to get an idea of where we are.
"Argo" continues to be a box office hit and the Best Picture frontrunner while "Cloud Atlas" has faltered. AFI Fest is going to bring "Hitchcock" into the fold at the end of the week with "Lincoln" closing it out a week later. "Zero Dark Thirty," "Les Misérables," "Django Unchained," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and "Promised Land" (though it's been seen) are all on deck for press reveals next month.
How many Oscar nominees can you fit into one cast? Okay, Daniel Craig, you'll get there, but in addition to the "Skyfall" actor, director George Clooney has filled out the cast of his World War II drama "The Monuments Men" with Cate Blanchett ("The Aviator"), Bill Murray ("Lost in Translation") and Jean Dujardin ("The Artist"), in addition to John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban.
That's a lot of fire power. But Clooney can wrangle that kind of talent easily. He's one of Hollywood's golden boys, primed to receive an Oscar nomination in his sixth category for producing "Argo" this year. Deadline reports that the film, based on a true story and written by Clooney and partner Grant Heslov, tells of a crew of art historians and museum curators who scrambled to recover renown works of art stolen by the Nazi regime, destined to be destroyed.
Commercial projections for "Skyfall" suggested it would be the highest-grossing Bond movie ever, and global box office figures this weekend suggest that will be the case. In the UK, the film took in over $32m this weekend -- the biggest opening haul of 2012, and a record for a non-3D feature. Indeed, it sits behind only the final "Harry Potter" instalment in the all-time rankings. Internationally, meanwhile, it opened at #1 in 24 other territories, raking in $77.7m overall. Given much robust figures, it'll be interesting to see if it outperforms estimates when it opens Stateside, where it's expected to gross a little over one-third of US champ "The Avengers"' total. [Deadline]
The Wachowskis are back this weekend with "Cloud Atlas." The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to mixed reviews, though HitFix's Drew McWeeny is certainly one of the devoted. My take is that, as I've noted a few times, the underlying thematic tissue didn't hold so well for me but the individual stories were involving and, above all else, the craft on display is immaculate. So in many ways, I think it's a fascinating miss, but a movie I'd no doubt see again -- if I can carve out the time (it's LONG). In any case, you'll get a look for yourself this weekend, so when you do, head on back here with your thoughts. And feel free to rate the film via the tool above.