I was recently rewatching the two-hour documentary on the Jaws DVD which gives a pretty comprehensive overview of the making of that film. The absolute key result of watching this documentary, from my end, is that Steven Spielberg is a complete filmmaking genius. Whether you think Jaws is glorified B-movie nonsense. Maybe you think he’s a commercial whore, a populist monster only really concerned with making money. You shouldn’t, but maybe you do. No matter any of that, you surely can’t deny the brilliance of his best work.
Those days are definitely behind him now and today’s news that the man is to direct a remake of Harvey, the James Stewart-starring whimsical alcoholism classic, must near bring tears to the eyes. I have often said on this site and on our podcast, that remakes are not all that bad. The problem is that remakes should only be undertaken when the original film went wrong. If that original has something great in its conceit, but the execution went array, then by all means, try again. But, although Harvey is not perfect, there is no place for a remake of this film.
But, it’s happening. So I’m going to try and embrace this. As Drew McWeeny writes in the HitFix article linked-to above, this is a vehicle for Tom Hanks if ever one has been created. So, let’s just look forward to a charming Hanks performance, grin and bear it.
The recent news that Steven Spielberg was running into trouble in financing his long-coveted passion project biopic of Abraham Lincoln was greeted generally with a mix of worry and trepidation at the future of the film industry. The question raised was if Spielberg, the most bankable and commercially successful director in film history, was having trouble in securing financing for his work, how will this impact the wider industry?
Three answers to that question in my opinion. First, Spielberg is nowhere near the commercial and critical box-office force he once was. I’m by no means saying he has experienced a John Carpenter-esque fall from grace, but there is no doubting that the man who once made Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in the same year has become a less reliable source of art, notably with the execrable if admirably set-designed The Terminal. It perhaps doesn’t quite ring true that Spielberg would have such trouble financing this project, especially given the recent documentaries series on PBS about Lincoln and the evocation of his spirit which many commentators have cited with regards to Barack Obama. This seems a tailor-made Oscar-bait movie and, with the long-rumoured and very likely casting of Liam Neeson in the lead role (and his recent renaissance with the public in Taken) this should be a commercial and Oscar bulldozer. But, as I say, even if it is by no means justified to write off the biggest money-making director in Hollywood history, his credit doesn’t go quite as far as it used to.
Secondly, this kind of constraint on money and financing, should it spread out through the industry, could force a rethink of certain trends currently prevalent in mainstream Hollywood. The most notable would be the use of CGI rather than practical effects, a genuine annoyance in so many movies because the tangible threat or feeling associated with seeing something real on the screen is destroyed when you know that you are not witness another world built by man, you are just watching a projection on a giant sound stage. The reason that so many critics will champion independent films is not a self-righteous need to seem better or more knowledgeable than everyone else (not entirely). We do this because independent films tend to have a sense of personal achievement to them, the directors will have had to fight to get them made in the first place and a piece of the creators will often reside inside the picture. They represent something Nick Hornby discusses in High Fidelity when talking about the The Beatles, a group he describes as being ‘my band’. Independent films have that sort of feel to them. They become yours because they provide moments of visceral reality which mainstream Hollywood is so reluctant to do. There is a sense that they desire greatly to dumb-down, or at least create more palatable versions of the stories they sell. Also with independent movies, commerce is part of the picture but rarely is it the driving force of the picture. These films are made because of a passion, a desire to tell a story or address a personal issue.
Perhaps, if Hollywood follows Wall Street and Detroit into the gutters, we will not only a new age of filmmakers birth into the industry, but maybe we will see more interest from people in watching films that having something to say, that have an agenda beyond making you part with the best part of an hour’s wages. Maybe the recession will bring with it the birth of another New Hollywood as people strive to be better on a budget and start beyond the normal fare. Here’s hoping anyway, probably in vein but still.
Entertainment Weekly has posted a list of the top twenty-five greatest active directors. The list is as debatable as the day is long so argue away at some of the inclusions (Jon Favreau?).
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic, a long-time passion project, is struggling to find financing amid the current recession environment. Even the biggest names are starting to be hit by the problems facing the wider industry. When even the marquee names are finding it difficult, it is worrying. But perhaps this will foster a necessity to make movies cheaper and maybe we will see some really vital, interesting filmmaking be born from the downturn.
High School Musical alum Vanessa Hudgens has been strongly linked to the part of Nara Kilday in an adaptation of Josh Howard’s Dead@17 comic series, being written by Mike Dougherty. The story follows Nara, a girl who is killed and reborn to fight demons. Howard made the announcement during an interview on the Comics on Comics podcast (highly recommended). Could prove an interesting career move for Hudgens as she seems to be looking to eschew Zac Efron’s move into teen movies by taking what Cinematical calls the ‘Megan Fox route’.
Robert Rodriguez has signed up to write and direct Nerverackers, a futuristic thriller following an elite unit in 2085 dispatched to deal with a crime wave in a purportedly perfect society. Demolition Man, anyone?
Ridley Scott has swerved directions a bit on his Robin Hood revisionist take, essentially deleting the ‘revisionist’ portion of the description to adopt a more traditional style of telling the story. Instead, according to an interview given to MTV, Scott will have the story follow the ‘evolution of a character called Robin Hood, who will come out of a point in the Crusades which is the end‘. It does mean that the previously mentioned choice of having Russell Crowe play both Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham has been either abandoned or was never really a set option. Scott said to MTV: ‘[Crowe as both Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham] was an idea so far back, way back when at the time I had this proposed to me, and I read it and thought, ‘I don’t really know what it does for it, but it’s alright’.’ Make of that what you will, but it seems that this will end up just another very well made if somewhat uninteresting picture from Scott, maybe barring Monopoly.
Corona Coming Attractions has posted a casting call for Thor, the Marvel adaptation upcoming from the directorial hand of Kenneth Branagh. Check out the posting and consider whether you could pull off such a role: ‘Physically powerful, very handsome, occasionally egotistical, petulant, and wild. A natural warrior with a quick charming wit who must be genuinely and severely humbled before becoming the compassionate, mature hero of our film.’
Geoff Gilmore, the long-standing director of the Sundance Film Festival, is to leave his post to become the chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises. He is also joining the board of the company and will take responsibility for ‘global content strategy and lead creative development initiatives and expansion of the brand’, according to a statement published by indieWIRE. Karina Longworth on Spout points out the move in in line with wider announced strategy for Tribeca which is aiming to bring itself closer in line with Sundance as prestige indie festival.
Ang Lee is in talks to direct an adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, the Booker Prize-winning novel about a young man who survives an accident at sea and ends up sharing a boat with a hyena, zebra, orangutan and a Bengal tiger. The project had been considered by a pre-Happening Shyamalan (who was reportedly replaced by Alfonso Cuaron) and most recently was under the eye of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of Delicatessan and Amelie.
Also in the news, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is keeping up the comic love to star in The Losers; Pride and Prejudice is set to meet the zombie world in an offbeat adaptation produced by Elton John; the Donnie Darko sequel is going straight to DVD; Linda Hamilton is in talks to take a role in Terminator Salvation; Mickey Rourke will not star in Iron Man 2; Breckin Meyer is penning Superguys, to be helmed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, described as ‘‘Ocean’s 11′ with idiots set at Comic-Con.’.