Well, that was quick.
My guess at this point is that we'll hear the name of the director making "Episode VII" before the end of November. If Lucasfilm and Disney were willing to announce the hiring of Michael Arndt today, then it's obviously been in the works for a while, and they are most likely further along in the process than anyone guessed.
Star Wars.com posted another video today with George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy, and they evidently plan to post a new video every week. I think it's interesting to see how different their approach to talking to the audience is this time around than it was when they were gearing up for the prequel trilogy.
Since we now know that Michael Arndt is writing "Episode VII" and that he's already written treatments for the trilogy, the big question is who will direct, and Kathleen Kennedy talks at length about what attributes they're going to be looking for in a director. It should be no surprise that "enthusiasm for the series" is the most important thing. Kennedy is correct, of course, that there is a whole generation of filmmakers working today who were drawn to film in the first place by "Star Wars," and I don't think they'll have any trouble finding people who are interested in playing in this universe.
Well, that was quick.
It's interesting that when people started listing A-list filmmakers they'd want to see tackle the next "Star Wars" film, Brad Bird's name came up more than almost any other. I've had faith in Bird's abilities as a storyteller for years, and as soon as I saw a rough cut of "Iron Giant," I was ready to declare the guy a national treasure. It wasn't until he made the jump to live-action filmmaking with "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' that he was suddenly at the top of every fanboy's wish list for pretty much every genre film in development.
I'm excited to see him develop original material, though, because I think he's got a strong voice and he's got a deeply-rooted love of genre. He's exactly the sort of guy we should be supporting in the creation of new properties instead of just dumping the familiar on him over and over. Sure, he'd make a great "Star Wars" movie, but I'd rather see whatever "1952" is from him instead.
Michael Arndt, eh?
There are dream jobs that certain writers book that I genuinely envy, and I'll admit it. There are storytelling opportunities that I wish were mine instead of someone else's. And while I think it will eventually be a great job to sign up and do a "Star Wars" movie, I don't think "Episode VII" is going to be the moment I'd want to handle, if only because we have never seen expectations like the ones that will fall on whoever is brought in to write and direct this movie.
Michael Arndt won the Academy Award for his script for "Little Miss Sunshine," and he was one of the writers on Pixar's "Toy Story 3," so you certainly can't fault Kathleen Kennedy for reaching out to him to help craft an outline that is evidently going to be used as the road map for "Star Wars - Episode VII."
Yesterday, I showed the poster for "Jurassic Park 3D" to my two sons, who have seen the film here at home several times, including a Film Nerd 2.0 screening that I wrote about, and when Toshi realized he was going to get to see it in a theater next summer in both IMAX and 3D, his eyes went wide.
"That's going to scare me out of the crap!"
Indeed it will. I'm all for the sudden realization by the studios that they have these valuable assets on their shelves, these movies that could be living an ongoing theatrical life if they would just treat them like events, even if they are releasing them in slightly revised form. In this particular case, I think "Jurassic Park" is pretty much the perfect movie to use, and 3D and IMAX both sound like they could be great new ways to have fun with the film. It's funny to see this trailer because they can use images that were never part of the original advertising for the film. If they'd shown this much in 1993, audiences would have been furious.
I'll have a review of Sean Baker's "Starlet" for you a little later, but first I want to share a clip from the film with you. It's the story of a girl in her 20s living in the San Fernando Valley, where she meets an old woman at a garage sale. The woman sells her a vase, and inside, the girl finds $10,000 in cash that the old woman didn't know existed. What results is a very strange friendship, and a very charming movie.
Dree Hemingway is the star of the film, and I'm going to bet this is just the start of what we'll see from her. She does very delicate, careful work as Jane, who is still young and still figuring out who she is, but who also seems to be possessed of a greater sense of self than most of her peers. And, yes, she's one of those Hemingways. Her mother is Mariel Hemingway, making her the great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. She is tall and striking and seems to made up of about 96% legs.
If you genuinely enjoy the experience of watching a movie, is that the same thing as watching it ironically or making fun of it?
That's a question that's worth asking as Drafthouse Films prepares for a theatrical release of the 1987 film "Miami Connection." The movie has languished in obscurity for years now, ever since its split-second release, and was just recently rediscovered by the programming team at the Alamo Drafthouse, who played a print as part of their Weird Wednesday screening series. For those unfamiliar with how that works, the Alamo is in the business of building up a print archive, having even started a non-profit foundation to do so, and they are constantly buying prints of movies, many of which they've never heard of at all. They use their late-night screening series to look at the prints and see if there are any unsung gems in there, and when they showed the first reel of "Miami Connection," they flipped for it. They ended up making a deal with the filmmakers to give the movie new theatrical life, and this year's Fantastic Fest was the film's official coming out party.
To that end, they went all out to present the movie right on the festival's opening Friday night as the big prime-time event. If the audience wanted to just treat the entire night as one big roast, I'm sure they could have, but I would argue that the reason to enjoy a movie like "Miami Connection" is not as simple as "laugh at the terrible movie." There's a reason "The Room" became a sensation and other terrible films do not. There's a reason Zack Carlson and Lars Nielsen are fanatical about "Miami Connection" and Dragon Sound and not a dozen other silly action movies they've screened. And ultimately, I think that reason is sincerity.
Daniel Wilson could be on the verge of a long and prosperous career as the new Michael Crichton.
After all, one of Spielberg's biggest hits was the higher-than-high concept "Jurassic Park," and next up for the director is the film adaptation of "Robopocalypse," which I wrote about a few months ago. Like Crichton, his books posit big ideas, and the exploration of that concept is perhaps more important than character or dialogue. That's not to say he's a bad writer… he's not. But world-building and the big idea seem to be his strengths, and that's the sort of thing that Hollywood frequently responds to. Wilson's got their attention, and it looks like he's got another film gearing up already.
It was only a matter of time until Hollywood finally got around to "The Giver."
After all, published in 1993, it is a major influence on the genre known now as "young adult literature," and fans of "The Hunger Games" probably owe no small debt to the existence of Lois Lowry's novel about a boy named Jonas and the way he alters the dystopian world in which he lives. I would also bet that M. Night Shyamalan was at least familiar with the book when he came up with "The Village." It is a lovely piece of writing, a Newberry Award winner, and it has sold millions and millions of copies. Like I said, it was inevitable that Hollywood would get to it at some point, and with Lowry finally publishing "Son," the final novel in the "Giver Quartet," this year, it seems like the book is back on people's radar again.
Earlier this year, there were reports that Jeff Bridges would star in the film for director David Yates, who has been reportedly attached to something like thirty-seven million different movies now that his work on the "Harry Potter" series is finished. Yates would certainly bring a very specific young adult-friendly weight to the table as a directorial choice, but now it appears he's circling "Tarzan" for Warner Bros.
So far, one of my favorite strange digressions of Steven Spielberg's career has been his collaboration with Tony Kushner. I love it because it is so very unlikely, and because both of the films that have resulted from this creative conversation are so unlike the rest of Spielberg's work.
Kushner blew me away with "Angels In America" when it first opened on stage, and I think he's got a very specific, very beautiful voice as a writer. "Munich" is a film that I like more as I return to it, and I think Spielberg's sentimental streak has found a perfect antidote in the frank and observational voice of Kushner's words. While I'm not a fan of biopics in general, I was curious to see what these two would make of Abraham Lincoln as a subject. It's about a big a canvass as there is in terms of American characters. He has passed the point of icon and become a mythic figure at this point, and so making a film about him requires a point of view, a reason beneath the history, and Kushner and Spielberg found a pretty tremendous way into the film.
We're going to see Luke Skywalker again… right?
I'm not sure how old you were in 1999, but for those of us who were first generation "Star Wars" kids, there has never been anything like it in terms of hype. The crazy part is that a good 50% of the hype had nothing to do with the studio and everything to do with our own expectations and a powerful sense of nostalgia. By the time "The Phantom Menace" opened, I'm convinced that even the single greatest movie ever made would have been a disappointment simply because of the weight of expectation.
One thing that made it hard to accept the prequels as real "Star Wars" films was the lack of familiar faces. Sure, the characters were related to other characters or they were younger versions, but for the most part, you're talking about a brand-new cast, and one of the basic mandates of a sequel is giving the audience more of the thing they've already enjoyed. As a result, there is a chance that all of that crushing, vocal "Phantom Menace" frenzy is just going to look like a warm-up to the deafening buzz as we build to the release of a true sequel to the original trilogy, complete with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and, yes, Han Solo.