This makes sense.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman adapted to the particular demands of making a "Paranormal Activity" movie with real aplomb this year, working quickly on a demanding schedule and turning in a film that absolutely extended the life of what is becoming one of Paramount's favorite franchises, teeny tiny cheap little movies that earn giant bags of cash for the studio each year.
So why wouldn't Paramount want to bring them back for another one? After all, they've demonstrated that they understand the rhythms of the series, and that they have a head for the increasingly-complicated mythology that is evolving from film to film. I talked to them this year about their work on the film, and they described the process to me as something that was difficult but also really exciting and fun, and it resulted in a movie that I think works very well.
This makes sense.
There are days when there is just a torrent of news you're interested in, and other days where there's nothing at all. It's almost funny when one news story has about a dozen names you're interested in, all working together, a collision of many different interests all at once.
We talked yesterday about the needless panic about the prospect of a sequel to "Bridesmaids" happening without Kristen Wiig, and one thing that renders that question moot at this point is her schedule. She's busy nine months of the year with "Saturday Night Live," and then she's got, evidently, 40 movies she's making in those other three months. Those better be some well-scheduled months, but I think it could be worth it.
After all, who wouldn't want to be part of the second narrative feature film from acclaimed legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris? True, his first shot at making a fiction film was the adaptation of Tony Hillerman's "The Dark Wind," a 1991 film that barely got any distribution after a troubled post-production process. Even so, this is one of those guys whose voice is so strong and who has so much to say and who has been so consistently interesting since the amazing "Gates Of Heaven" in 1978, and if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt as a storyteller, it's him.
Speaking of remakes…
Even though "Carrie" is considered a classic of the genre and was both a critical and commercial hit, there seems to me to be enough flexibility to allow for a new interpretation. That story can be retold in new ways to find new resonance. That's one sturdy central metaphor they're dealing with.
I'm not sure the same is true of "Evil Dead," which isn't particularly built on theme and subtext in the first place. "Evil Dead" was a purely visceral experience, terrifying because of how stark and ugly and isolated it was. Thanks to the much-larger success and visibility of "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn," many people define the "Evil Dead" series with a sense of humor. "Army Of Darkness," the third film in the series, pushed it even further, and for many fans, that was their first "Evil Dead" in a theater, meaning there are many different groups of fans who have many different ideas of what "Evil Dead" even means.
Since it was the first major thing he published, little wonder "Carrie" has had a longer and more robust multi-media life than almost any other Stephen King novel.
It was a novel, and then obviously a very well-liked Brian De Palma film with Sissy Spacek, and then a much-much later sequel that no one remembers, a huge terrible infamous Broadway musical bomb, a TV remake, and now, if MGM and Screen Gems have their way, another remake.
And oddly, I'm not opposed to the idea.
There is a reason "Carrie" keeps coming up, a reason people keep returning to the material. There is something potent about the idea of the outsider looking for acceptance and getting snubbed, something rich in the notion of the cruelty of teenagers, and something brilliant in the concept of budding sexuality tied to the unleashing of terrifying powers. King hit the jackpot with that book, and De Palma's film benefitted greatly from the collision of a hungry young filmmaker, the right material, and a cast that was loaded with budding movie and TV stars.
Looking at the headlines today, it sounds like Universal threw a drink in Kristen Wiig's face in the middle of a restaurant.
I think the truth is probably a little more nuanced than what we're reading so far. No doubt Universal would like another helping of whatever just earned them almost $300 million worldwide. Basic studio math says "We paid $30 million, we made about $300 million. Yep. More, please." The film is not just a commercial success, but a genuine awards-season contender, a critical hit.
There's a fair degree of speculation in the Hollywood Reporter piece that kicked this off today, suggesting financial tensions between Wiig and Universal. If you read closely, Wiig did not speak to them for their story at all. I think the choices she's making indicate that she's not looking at immediate superstardom or purely financial factors in what she's signing on to do. She's been building towards this for a while, and things like "Friends With Kids" or "Clown Girl" or "The Comedian" all have personal, independent origins, and they sound like challenges, movies that won't be easily sold in 30-second spots.
Of course the moment we publish our list of the films we're anticipating most for 2012, we start to see trailers and things for movies we've never heard of that are coming out this year that immediately look like something we need to see.
"Upside Down" is a fantasy film from an Argentinean director named Juan Diego Solanas, and based on this peek at the movie, it's a big lovely Andrew Niccol style "imagine if the world was like this" movie. Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst are the stars of this one, and it looks like Solanas has spent his money well, creating a great big visual hook that everything hinges on. Movies like this are tricky to pull off, and most of the time, it's coming up with a tone that matches the big visual decision and making it work beyond the gimmick.
The first thing I can't help but notice is that one of the most iconic moments in any of Kirsten Dunst's films was in "Spider-Man," with the upside-down kiss in the rain. Casting her in this is one of those choices that seems like a big bag of duh. The question mark for me is Sturgess, who has had a number of shots as a leading man, and so far, I haven't felt like he really connected at all. He does have his fans, though, and I suspect this will play an extended run on a double-bill with "Across The Universe" at the New Beverly for three or four months.
It's one of those accidents of timing that I would decide to finally watch the documentary "These Amazing Shadows" on January 1, the same day that I read an article about what works would have been entering the public domain on January 1, 2012, if not for a new law that revised copyright in the United States in the late '70s.
Even so, those two different bits of information at the same time caused me to really consider the idea of the public domain and what that even means. Look at this year's Oscar poster, look at something like "The Artist" or "Hugo," or look at that documentary, and it's apparent that the main message Hollywood wants to sell you is that the memories Hollywood creates are the things that we all share, that unite us.
Isn't that the big idea behind public domain in the first place?
If you create something that everyone eventually internalizes, something like… let's pick a random example that has nothing to do with anything I happened to publish in the last week on this blog like, say, "Lord Of The Rings"… something that is hugely influential and widely commercialized and heavily exploited… then after a certain amount of time, you're going to have to expect things like fan fiction and different interpretations and parody and homage and plain old fashioned borrowing, and there comes a point where law was designed to finally say, "Okay, everyone, have at it. The creator has had enough time with it. Everyone knows it at this point. It's all yours. Do with it what you will." That's what the law originally had in mind, with a set time period that could be renewed if the author still had an active interest in the thing. If not, if no one stepped forward to claim something, then it would become public domain.
Ted Turner may be the greatest accidental hero in the history of film preservation.
Let me back up and take the long way around to get to this point. I'm going to try something different this year and keep a media journal for myself, to not just break down what movies I watch but every bit of media I ingest. When, how much, where, what I used to watch them. I'm curious about my own diet, but also about our media diets in general.
With this in mind, I realized that I wanted to pick just the right thing to start 2012, and so I opened Netflix Instant and pulled up the documentary "These Amazing Shadows," a movie about the National Film Registry and why it was created, how the films are chosen, who chooses them, and what it all means.
I had not seen the film before, and it's a lovely piece on the cultural importance of movies, the nature of film preservation, and how we share our cultural history. One thing the movie reminds me of is the way these films that have become old hat, ingrained to the point of white noise to some of us, are always new to someone, and there's an importance to the idea of keeping them pristine and available so that future audiences have their chance to have that experience. Yes, I've seen "Wizard Of Oz" so many times over the course of my life that I barely "see" it when it's on, but this ongoing Film Nerd 2.0 project with my kids underlines the idea that every viewer has their first time with films, and setting the stage the right way for that first viewing can mean so much. You can ruin a movie by showing it wrong, and you can make an afternoon into magic if you show it right.
I made a mention of a Girl Talk concert the other night on Twitter… well, actually, that's not true. I RT'd someone else's mention of the show, and I got a surprised response from someone who seemed amazed by the idea that I have any other interests than film, which is fair. When you spend as much time writing and talking about one subject, it would seem to be the defining thing about you.
But of course, there are other ways I spend my time, and other things I give my mental real estate to, and music and games and books are all part of what I feel keeps me sane and interesting and engaged each and every year, all of them ingested for different reasons and in different ways and in different quantities. I decided that the last thing I run every year should be this article, the one that bats clean-up for all the other End-Of-The-Year pieces.
The big one, of course, in terms of time spent putting it together and considering it, is my Ten Best Films of 2011 list. And I think that turned out pretty well. My piece about the next ten film, the Runners-Up, was also solid, I thought. And then there was my list of The Ten Worst Films of 2011 as well. All of those took time.
The mail from you guys about the liveblogging this week has been interesting, and if it's something you'd like to do on some sort of regular schedule, we can try that in the new year. I would happily pick some of my favorite movies on Blu-ray and a time when we can watch them together. Or newer movies. Or movies I've never seen, but should have, which could be interesting as well.
Whether we continue it or not, though, I'm glad to have finally sat down to see these movies again. Time had diminished them somewhat in my mind, reduced them to the set pieces and the spectacle and the hype, and I had forgotten what really makes them special, the human and emotional content of the movies. And now, as I gear up for "Return Of The King," I'm nearly as excited as I was before I saw the film for the first time in 2003, eager to see everything tied together.
Tonight's going to be a long one, so I just had a sandwich, I've got a few drinks set aside, and I'm powdered and primped and ready to go. We've got over four hours of movie ahead, which will make this an Oscar-length live-blog. A marathon. And as I said last night before "The Two Towers," it's been long enough that I really have forgotten much of this movie already.
I'm amazed at how many remarkable moments I'd forgotten. That whole bit at the end of "Towers" between Frodo and the Nazgul is gorgeous and creepy and bizarre, and I'd totally forgotten it, and I'd forgotten the way Frodo almost attacks Sam for stopping him, furious at the idea that he didn't get to hand the Ring over. Wonderful, and this revisit is giving me all of these moments anew, which is one of the reasons I intentionally set them aside for a while.
Toshi has been arguing his case like he's appealing his own death sentence, passionate and determined, absolutely ready to sit down and watch all three films with me right now. Only... he's not. Not really. He gets images in his head and treats them as nightmare fuel in a way that even Allen doesn't. Toshi tends to really feel the movies he watches, engaging with them deeply, and I think these films are full of stuff he's really not equipped to see yet.
But the interest is there, and so I showed him the trailer for "The Hobbit." He immediately understood that it was "more" of "Lord Of The Rings," and I made him a deal. He can see the movie in theaters next Christmas with me, but only if we read the book (as in I read, he listens and discusses) before the film comes out. He says he's up for it, and if so, this should be a real treat of a year.
But for now... let's press play and start the final steps of this giant journey...