News Flashes: (March 11, 2019) Apple, soon to further crowd the content ocean and make giant waves, is expected to announce its much-anticipated big billion dollar streaming/production/video service plans (no name yet for this new effort!) on March 25 at its Cupertino, CA. headquarters. Some big names that Apple has reportedly signed for these efforts, including M. Night Shyamalan, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Damien Chazelle, Oprah, some Jennifers (Garner and Aniston), and ubiquitous Brie Larson are expected on stage. Questions also loom regarding launch date (this year certainly), Apple’s moviemaking partnership with A24 (a Sofia Coppola/Bill Murray project has already been reported), and, among many others, Apple’s pricing model (Apple has a rep for high sales tags but enters this crowded space late). And, S.O.S.! New streaming playforms from WarnerMedia and Disney are also in the works…An arthouse/indie icon, now a big-name actor who has been labeled a “shrew” for her behavior, is raising hell and legal bills fighting her arthouse neighbor over noise she claims emanates from its auditoriums.
Flares and Forecasts: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Unifrance annual Rendez-Vous With French Cinema showcase of new French films usually delivers a few “buyer’s bait” titles and the current haul (now unspooling) is no exception. Netflix has already pulled in the juicy, Liaisons Dangereuses-like 17th century costumer/soaper Lady J, starring the great Cécile de France. Still available is the highly engaging terrorist and family-themed contemporary drama Amanda, starring Vincent Lacoste, arguably the country’s biggest arisen young star…A Harvey Weinstein bio-pic has got to be somewhere in the works and the smarty who makes this happen could do no better than casting the Weinstein lookalike and terrific Dublin-born actor Brendan Gleeson, for the lead. If a writer like Aaron Sorkin or Adam McKay gets on board, maybe a bigger star would be required but so many could step into that bathrobe...Michael Winterbottom, with a fondness for road pix (notably his comic docs with Steve Coogan and pal Rob Brydon), is on the road again with IFC Films’ new Dev Patel starrer The Wedding Guest. Winterbottom again delivers amazing locations (this time in Pakistan and India) but, remaining contemporary, detours into the 40s-early 50s noirish crime meller genre, complete with a femme fatale and Patel ably stretching as the loser sucker who falls…A big film hit looms (but far into the future) with news that the bestseller In the Garden of Beasts, based on the true story of a bookish Chicago professor who became American ambassador to Germany as the Nazis gained power, is finally being adapted. StudioCanal and Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzmans’ Playtone are co-producing. Left out of reports is that the book portrays what could be a delicious role, that of the ambassador’s actual screen-dream of a daughter — a bright, fun loving twenty-something beauty who had too much fun with some Nazi higher-ups…Glaswegian producer Claire Mundell, whose recent Scottish/Aussie Sundance Now 4-part contemporary family mystery The Cry is going a whole other place developing The Tattooist of Auschwitz, based on the eponymously titled novel about the real life recently-deceased former Jewish camp prisoner tasked with tattooing ID numbers on inmate arms but. What attracted her to such different works is her belief, she says, in the importance of the strong story both projects have…
IFC’S current Donnybrook, is so relentlessly violent, ugly, hopeless, cynical it makes
Apocalypse Now and There Will Be Blood look like Disney family classics. But director Tim Sutton, who did this Jamie Bell-starrer in a work-for-hire deal and no final cut (he says he’s as against violence as a person can be) did dark, violent, ugly, ickly so well (he did!) that he got (from the French!) the money and freedom to do his full-control indie thing (it will be The Chase, from a story by Tobias Wolff). Donnybrook, as staggering as it is is also an instructive calling card and Sutton is truly, bloodlessly one to watch.
Floating: Evidence on the journalistic front that civilized societies will never ever be spared wars came pre-Oscars early February from a Fast Times writer/staff editor snarling for a for Black Panther Best Picture Oscar win and ranting that “The idea of the pandering Green Book winning against such a vibrant contender would be an act of villainy far outpacing anything Killmonger could muster.” Well! And more war rumbles followed the recent death of Stanley Donen when an online Slate writer hurled blasts of anger and obscenity at Netflix for not offering any Stanley Donen films: “Nothing. Zero. Zippo. Zilch. Not a single goddamed movie by Stanley Donen. This company is obviously managed by sadists and fools who will gleefully take your $12.99 a month for access to filmed entertainment and then decide to not include any Stanley Donen movies. What the fuck, Netflix? Get it together. This is real life.” Yikes! Let the guns of February roar! But how might Donen himself reacted? Stephen M. Silverman, author of the Knopf bio Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies, acknowledged the "danger" of speculation but offered, in part, "Stanley likely would have simply shrugged off the Netflix snub of his filmography…only to fume privately. He long felt he had been given short shrift [in the business]…Truth is, behind the camera he could be as fatalistic and cynical as his friend, Billy Wilder. Therefore, a Netflix snub? Not nice, but can that ever diminish Singin’ in the Rain?”…France’s recent César Awards (their “Academy Awards”) produced a a big winner with Xavier Legrand’s Custody, released stateside last year through Kino Lorber, which swept the awards with Best Film, Best Original Script, Best Actress, and Best Editing honors. Back in June 2018, trade monthly Film Journal International prefaced its review with the thumbnail: “Supremely crafted and performed contemporary French thriller about a broken marriage and ensuing custody battle is a gripping, edge-of-seat drama that never lets up.” Maybe this César might spark some kind of re-release…Those eager for stats/insights regarding how so much change is impacting the feature film business will get clues once the MPAA’s latest report becomes available around March 18th…More evidence that Apollo 11 director/editor Todd Douglas Miller has taken a giant step for mankind and documentary filmmaking is that he’ll be delivering the Keynote at the early April 2019 NAB Show’s (in partnership With SMPTE) Future of Cinema Conference. The upcoming Tribeca Film Festival (April 24 - May 5) again offers a boatload of World Premieres, including Dreamland, starring and produced by the scarily talented Margot Robbie, and New York premieres like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which allows Zac Ephron to go creepy and morph into notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. The huge TFF lineup also includes debuts from A24, CNN Films, HBO, ESPN, Netflix, Neon, IFC/Sundance Selects, Amazon Studios and more…Much of the blah blah babble generated by the Spielberg vs. Netflix big screen/small screen squabble buries the facts that Spielberg makes big mass audience films best suited to big screens, that films like Netflix’s Roma, while “big” in terms of production value is more art than mass and looks gorgeous on small screens (that often ain’t that small anymore) and that Spielberg and Cuaron really represent two species of “cinema” that are two distinct businesses that need and deserve different strategies…2018 marked a record 8th consecutive time in a row that a film shown at eastern Long Island’s Hamptons International Film Festival had become Oscar’s eventual Best Picture winner and making HIFF the only East Coast event with such a distinction. Now, as the west end of Long Island remains in mourning following the collapse of the Amazon deal in Queens, HIFF, which showed Green Book last fall, notches an astonishing 9th consecutive pick with film’s triumph as Oscar’s recent Best Picture winner.
View-niverse See-worthies: The artsy teasing doc Ferrante Fever, not because it reveals the true identity of its ultra-reclusive, sensationally successful author-subject Elena Ferrante (it doesn’t) but features other well-known authors and fans (Hilary Clinton, Jonathan Franzen, among many) sharing insights into Ferrante’s success, what makes writing effective and storytelling powerful and even, like the HBO sensation Leaving Neverland, throwing light on that elusive phenomenon known as celebrity…The soon-to-sail Sony Pictures Classics’ doc Maiden, about an international crew of women who win a prestigious yachting race, and the current Styx, about a female German physician (played by a terrific Susanne Wolff) taking a time out from her emergency room gig in Gibraltor to sail the south Atlantic alone and peacefully until she bumps into a migration horror (O.K., both films do suggest a Dinghy bias, but an understandable one, toward women-on-water adventures)…A24’s Gloria Bell, which gives Julianne Moore an opportunity to stretch brilliantly and go endlessly happy face to middle-class, middle-age female ordinariness as ordinary as the L.A. settings and locations that Sebastián Lelio, directing this remake of his original Chilean arthouse hit Gloria, somehow finds. He again gifts viewers with another rousing rendition of Umberto Tozzi's infectious pop song Gloria, absolutely the very best Euro-pop hit ever made (and covered)…Magnolia’s Woman at War, a stunning look at Iceland and studded with fanciful elements, is a lovely/serious drama about a fiftysomething female rebel surrepticiously living two lives, one as a much-respected choir leader and the other as a saboteur working on behalf of environmental issues. The lead, with the mouthful name Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is utterly stunning in her role as secret crusader and could truly have a career stateside (a little name tweaking would help).