Figured I'd throw it out there and ask who you ladies and gents are rooting for in the big game. I myself am a Jet fan, so obviously my team is never going to be in another Super Bowl, but this year I'm going with the Arizona Cardinals and their great offense and decent defense to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers, with their fair offense and overwhelming defense. But that's just me.
-Who do you think will come away with the Lombardi Trophy tomorrow? And also, enjoy Bruce Springsteen's halftime show!
Shocking stuff, and here's Variety's take on the matter:
“Kung Fu Panda” kicked considerable butt at the 36th annual Annie Awards on Friday night, shutting out the competition to win every feature-related category the international animation society ASIFA offers — and then some, earning additional kudos for its videogame and “Secrets of the Furious Five” short film tie-ins. Fifteen-category victory marks a coup for DreamWorks Animation, which hasn’t seen one of its CG features take the Annies’ top prize since 2002 (though they did share the stage with Aardman three years back for stop-motion “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”), especially since the show has correctly forecast the Academy’s taste all but once since the Oscars introduced its feature animation category. “Kung Fu Panda’s” fellow Oscar nominees, “Wall-E” and “Bolt,” went home empty-handed, but the evening was not without suspense, even as the pattern emerged: In some cases, “Panda” contributors faced off againsts one another in such categories as character animation and production design, and Dustin Hoffman beat co-stars James Hong and and Ian McShane for his voice acting contributions to the animated martial arts comedy. Favorites emerged in the smallscreen categories as well, with “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II” snagging three awards, “Avatar” taking two and “Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs” earning the org’s home entertainment trophy. The group spread the love among shorts, favoriting Aardman’s latest Wallace and Gromit short, “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” for its main prize, while celebrating individual contributions associated with Disney-produced “Glago’s Ghost” and DreamWorks’ “Secrets of the Furious Five.” PRODUCTION Animated Feature“Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Animated Home Entertainment Production“Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs,” The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Animated Short Subject“Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death,” Aardman Animations Ltd. Animated Television CommercialUnited Airlines “Heart,” Duck Studios Animated Television Production “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II,” ShadowMachine Animated Television Production Produced for Children“Avatar: The Last Airbender,” Nickelodeon Animated Video Game“Kung Fu Panda,” Activision INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS Animated EffectsLi-Ming Lawrence Lee “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Character Animation in a Feature ProductionJames Baxter “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Character Animation in a Television Production or Short FormPierre Perifel “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation Character Design in an Animated Feature ProductionNico Marlet, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Character Design in an Animated Television Production or Short FormNico Marlet, “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation Directing in an Animated Feature ProductionJohn Stevenson & Mark Osborne, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Directing in an Animated Television Production or Short FormJoaquim Dos Santos, “Avatar: The Last Airbender: Sozin’s Comet Pt. 3,” Nickelodeon Music in an Animated Feature ProductionHans Zimmer & John Powell, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Music in an Animated Television Production or Short FormHenry Jackman, Hans Zimmer & John Powell, “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation Production Design in an Animated Feature ProductionTang Heng, “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation Production Design in an Animated Television Production or Short FormTang Heng, “Secrets of the Furious Five,” DreamWorks Animation Storyboarding in an Animated Feature ProductionJen Yuh Nelson, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production or Short FormChris Williams, “Glago’s Guest,” Walt Disney Animation Studios Voice Acting in an Animated Feature ProductionDustin Hoffman, Voice of Shifu, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production or Short FormAhmed Best, Voice of Jar Jar Binks, “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II,” ShadowMachine Writing in an Animated Feature ProductionJonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger, “Kung Fu Panda,” DreamWorks Animation Writing in an Animated Television Production or Short FormTom Root, Douglas Goldstein, Hugh Davidson, Mike Fasolo, Seth Green, Dan Milano, Matthew Senreich, Kevin Shinick, Zeb Wells, Breckin Meyer, “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II,” ShadowMachine
-While I doubt this means anything for the Oscars, it still is annoying to see...thoughts?
Yes, the expected win went down, and here's the LA Times with a quick story on it:
"Slumdog Millionaire" won the USC Libraries 22nd annual Scripter Award on Friday evening.The Scripter honors both the author and the screenwriter of the year's best book-to-film adaptation. This year's award went to Vikas Swarup, the author of "Q&A," and Simon Beaufoy, who adapted Swarup's book for the screen as "Slumdog Millionaire." The other four finalists were "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road" and "Iron Man.""Slumdog," which swept the Critics Choice and Golden Globe Awards, has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards and is considered a favorite to win the best picture Oscar at the awards ceremony, to be held Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.Michael Chabon ("Wonder Boys") received the Scripter Literary Achievement Award. The winners were announced at a ceremony at USC's Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library. Jamie Lee Curtis was the host.
Is it just me, or is it pretty ridiculous that the chain won't sell Zack and Miri Make a Porno in its stores because of the word Porno, making for an alternate DVD cover release, as Variety notes:
Poor Harvey Weinstein just can't catch a break. The Kevin Smith comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" was supposed to catapult both Smith and the Weinstein Co. into the Judd Apatowian stratosphere; instead, the $24 million production earned just $37 million worldwide. Now hopes of a rich and fruitful afterlife are being threatened by one of the nation's largest DVD sales outlets. Wal-Mart won't carry the "p" word in its stores and has forced Weinstein to create new DVD covers that say simply, "Zack and Miri." As a result, a raunchy sex comedy about two friends who try to reverse their financial condition by producing a porn movie now sounds like a gentle romance between two retirees, possibly one of Hal Ashby's lesser works only now being released by Criterion. While the garrulous Smith may be delusional on occasion ("I'm just so shocked that the word 'porno' meant that much to people in terms of, like, they found it insanely offensive and don't want to see it on display," he tells Victoria Ahearn), he nonetheless has a point: "Some Wal-Mart-er could buy it and think: 'Oh, 'Zack and Miri,' looks lovely,' and pop it in and there's ... some pretty graphic stuff." "Zack and Miri" DVDs, with and without the porno, will go on sale Feb. 2.
-So you can buy the unrated version of SAW, and you can buy Zack and Miri, in which 2 friends make a porno, but you can't buy Zack and Miri Make a Porno? Seems insane and mildly deceptive to me. Kevin Smith has a right to be a little upset over this (as he's written on his message board a bit about it). Only in Wal-Mart's America I guess...
Lovers of the song "The Wrestler" now have at least a small reason to rejoice. Springsteen's new album came out this week and has The Wrestler as a bonus track. So just because the Academy didn't dig it, it doesn't mean we can't...oh, and the album is awesome too, but it's The Boss, so it's to be expected.
...to the Fox lot, as this article in Variety says:
One month after Disney decided to pull the plug on co-financing the third movie in Walden Media's "Chronicles of Narnia" series, Walden has found a new partner in 20th Century Fox. Fox, which was entitled to first crack at "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" after Disney dropped out because of the shared Fox Walden marketing and distribution label, has made a commitment to develop the project. The two sides are still working out budget and script issues, but the hope is to shoot the film at the end of summer for a holiday 2010 release through the Fox Walden label. Fox 2000 will spearhead development and production matters from the Fox front. Topper Elizabeth Gabler had pursued the "Narnia" franchise but was beaten out by Walden. The Century City studio seems to be an ideal fit for the "Narnia" books given that it's been looking for a family-friendly, lit-based franchise for years -- Fox 2000's "Eragon" failed to catch on with audiences and died after one installment. Fox and Walden will split production and P&A costs for "Dawn Treader," which is projected to go into production at a $140 million budget. That's considerably less than the $215 million or so spent on last year's "Prince Caspian," which was considered something of a box office disappointment as compared with the first "Narnia" pic, 2005's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" ($419 million vs. $745 million worldwide, respectively). Still, "Caspian," which is considered the least commercially appealing of the seven C.S. Lewis "Narnia" novels, ranked No. 10 in global box office performance last year. "Dawn Treader" is considered to be a more family film-friendly book, and the goal is to get back to the magical aspects present in the first "Narnia" pic but mostly absent from "Prince Caspian." Ultimately, Fox's commitment to the summer start date is contingent upon Walden's selection of a writer. Richard LaGravanese penned the most recent draft that both Walden and Fox were happy with, but there's a question about his availability because he has been adapting Sara Gruen's bestseller "Water for Elephants" for Fox 2000. After budget and script concerns are settled, Fox and Walden are expected to greenlight the film. The intention is to move the production away from Mexico, where, ironically, it was going to be shot at the Fox-owned Baja facility called Rosarito used for "Titanic" and "Master and Commander." "Dawn Treader" will instead likely shoot in Australia because of concerns for the drug violence and kidnappings that are taking place near Baja. Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley are reprising their roles as Caspian, Edmund and Lucy, respectively. New to the production is Will Poulter ("Son of Rambo"), who will portray Eustace Clarence Scrubb. Pic is being directed by Michael Apted, with Mark Johnson and Andrew Adamson producing.
-We'll see if there's any change in quality...time will tell...thoughts?
So it would seem that Joaquin Phoenix's recently depressing foray into rap may be less delusional tragedy and more inspired comedy. Entertainment Weekly has the scoop:
Two people close to Joaquin Phoenix tell EW that the actor'srecent attempt to reinvent himself as a rapperis not what it appears to be.
Ever since the actorannounced he was ditching his career in movies to try to make it as a rap artist, speculation has flown wildly about what, exactly, the two-time Oscar nominee might be thinking. Followinghis widely panned three-song debut as a rapper at a Las Vegas nightclubon Jan. 16 -- a shambling performance that concluded with the actor falling off the stage -- two competing theories emerged: Either Phoenix is perpetrating an elaborate Andy Kaufman-style hoax (with an assist from his friend and brother-in-law Casey Affleck, who's ostensibly shooting a documentary about his career transition), or he's truly lost his marbles. The truth, it seems, is closer to the former. "He said, 'It's a put-on. I'm going to pretend to have a meltdown and change careers, and Casey is going to film it,'" says one source who recently worked with Phoenix.
Though Phoenix's interest in music is sincere (he earned Oscar and Grammy nominations for his turn as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and has directed several music videos), with this supposed career reboot he is evidently trying to both lampoon pompous actors and punk the media that covers them. Whatever his motivation or ultimate endgame, don't expect him to break character anytime soon. "It's an art project for him," says a source. "He's going full out. He probably has told his reps that he's quit acting. Joaquin is very smart. This is very conscious. He has a huge degree of control."
-Well that's a relief. I suspected such a brilliant performer wouldn't let himself sink so low on purpose. What're your thoughts?
John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, who gave prominent voice to the angst of white men and the changes in sexual mores in post war America died Tuesday at 76. His publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, annouced that Updike, who lived in Beverly Farms, Mass., died of lung cancer. Updike’s best-selling novels about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom are often considered the quintessential portrait of the American male in the late 20th century. In addition to his fiction, Updike wrote literary essays, poetry and art criticism as well as children’s books. For much of his career he turned out a book a year. In addition to the four novels in the Rabbit series (two of which won Pulitzer Prizes), he wrote three novels about a blocked Jewish writer named Bech, starting with "Bech, A Book." Updike’s first runaway bestseller was the 1968 "Couples," a look at the new, uninhibited sexuality of suburban America. His fiction ranged far beyond the contemporary middle class life of his best known novels though. He wrote about post-colonial Africa in "The Coup" (1978), the Tristan myth in the 1994 "Brazil" and the failed presidency of his fellow Pennsylvanian James Buchanan in the 1974 play "Buchanan Dying" and the 1992 novel "Memoirs of the Ford Administration." His last novel to win widespread acclaim was his "prequel" to "Hamlet," the 2000 "Gertrude and Claudius." John Hoyer Updike was born March 18, 1932 in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Reading. He spent most of his early years in nearby Shillington. His mother, who had wanted to be a writer herself, encouraged her son to write. Updike applied to Harvard because he wanted to write for its humor magazine, the Harvard Lampoon. He received a full scholarship and, as a senior, was president of the Lampoon, to which he had initially contributed cartoons. During that academic year in England with his first wife, Mary Pennington, 1954-55, their first daughter was born. While there he also met E.B. and Katharine White, influential figures at The New Yorker, in whose pages he had already published a poem and a short story. The Whites encouraged him to apply for a staff position, which he received. On returning to the States, he spent two years in New York, working as a staff writer at The New Yorker. On the birth of a son, in 1957, he decided to forego a steady salary, work on fiction full time and move his family to Massachusetts. His fictions and reviews have frequently appeared in the magazine over the years. He settled in Ipswich, which became the model for the town in "Couples." He lived there until 1974, when he separated from his wife and moved to Boston, where he taught at Boston University. In 1977 he married Martha Ruggles Bernhard. Two of his novels were turned into movies -- "Rabbit, Run," which starred James Caan, and the 1984 "The Witches of Eastwick," which starred Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer. Most recently he published a sequel "The Widows of Eastwick." He received the National Medal of Art from President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and the National Medal for the Humanities from President George W. Bush in 2003. Very few writers have received both these awards.
There will actually be 4 producers, a slight change of pace, as this story in Variety tells us:
The Academy announced Tuesday that Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti and Redmond Morris are nominated producers for best-pic contender "The Reader" -- the first time in a decade that the org has acknowledged that many producers on one film. When the noms were announced last Thursday, the org had "TBD" in place of a list of the film's producers. Decision marks the first test of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' new ruling on producer eligibility. A decade ago, the org declared that a maximum of three producers would be eligible, meaning such contenders as "The Lord of the Rings" films had to winnow their list down. But after protests over the exclusion of producers from 2006's "Little Miss Sunshine," the Acad decided that three is the max except in "a rare and extraordinary circumstance." In a statement, the Academy said, "In the end, the committee determined that the circumstances of 'The Reader' -- in which the two original producers (Minghella and Pollack) both died partway through the process -- met its definition of 'rare and extraordinary' and that all four submitted individuals should be named as nominees." Gigliotti said she thought "it was a fair decision, and I supported Redmond's credit from the get-go. This film certainly qualified under the extraordinary rule, given the deaths of its two original producers." The Acad implemented its three-producers-or-fewer rule following the best picture win of 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," when a platoon of producers, including Gigliotti, marched onto the stage. In 2005, Bob Yari sued his fellow producers when his name was omitted from the list of "Crash" producers; that case was later dismissed. In 2006, two of "Little Miss Sunshine's" three producers were omitted from the Academy's list of best picture nominees. This year, when the Acad listed "The Reader's" producers as TBD, many speculated that the film's onetime producer Scott Rudin was making a bid to be reinstated. Rudin had his name removed from the movie's credits following a nasty battle with the film's backer, Harvey Weinstein, over the release date. The Academy Awards will be held Feb. 22 at Hollywood's Kodak Theater.
-Glad that's settled, now onto the business of it losing to Slumdog...
C as in Carnahan, Joe...new director of The A-Team, as The Hollywood Reporter details:
Fox's big-screen version of "A-Team" looks to be finally coming together. Joe Carnahan is in negotiations to helm the action movie with Ridley and Tony Scott's shingle Scott Free coming on board as producers. Stephen J. Cannell, who co-created the show, is also producing.The trek to bring "A-Team" to the big screen has been a long one, with various actors, directors and writers landing on it before springing off of it. John Singleton was last attached, but ultimately left after casting issues stalled the project.Carnahan, meanwhile, has been facing challenges with his passion projects that were to have been follow-ups to his kinetic movies "Smokin' Aces" and "Narc." "White Jazz" was muted when it encountered casting and financing issues. "Bunny Lake Is Missing" disappeared when star Reese Witherspoon hopped away. Fox is betting this is the right combination, setting a June 11, 2010, release date for the feature, which is written by Skip Woods. Carnahan seems like an ideal candidate for "A-Team," which told the adventures of a group of US Army Special Forces who are on the run for a crime they didn't commit. The team included Hannibal, the leader whose favorite line was "I love it when plan comes together; Face, a ladies man; Howling Mad Murdock, an unstable pilot; and B.A. Baracus, the surly muscle (B.A. stands for "Bad Attitude").The 1980s series became a pop cultural phenomenon, with the theme song played by high school bands across the continent, made a star out of Mr. T, who played Baracus, and unleashed a slew of catchphrases onto the public.Carnahan's gritty and grounded action style would be well-complemented by the Scotts. Tony Scott practically invented MTV-style shooting with his slick movies, ranging from "Top Gun" to "Man on Fire," while Ridley Scott's oeuvre, with such titles as "Gladiator," "Black Hawk Down" and "Body of Lies," is equally muscular.
-Carnahan is an interesting director, so this has become a curiousity to me...thoughts?
Yes my friends, this week we have a rich assortment of films for just about any mood. A few of the flicks here are really good, but luckily none of them are as abysmally bad as some of the releases in weeks past. Before that though, we must name the PICK OF THE WEEK. It's been referred to as a "return to form" for its director (making it between his 5th or 6th it seems). It's:
Vicky Christina Barcelona
This romantic comedy/drama from Woody Allen is his best since Match Point, and perhaps better than that. It may be light on plot, but it's heavy on charm. It has some of his most beautiful visuals ever, and strong performances across the board from Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, and Oscar nominee Penelope Cruz. It's very good entertainment, and well worth picking up if you're a Woody fan, a fan of any of the cast, Barcelona, or just good film in general.
-Another film of good quality out on DVD this week is the criminally underseen The Lucky Ones. Directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), it's technically an Iraq film, which contributed to its pitiful box office, but it's more about people coming home and forming an unlikely bond on a road trip. It's a film that blurs the lines between comedy and drama rather well. It's not a masterpiece, but it's pretty good nonetheless and well worth your time.
-Also out are two cop films that take place on opposite coasts, but share one thing in common...terrible endings. Lakeview Terrance has Sam Jackson as a racist cop trying to kick out the interracial couple next door, and Pride and Glory deals with NYPD corruption and betrayals in a family of cops. Both films are above average for the first 90% of their running times, but both suffer greatly with their awful climaxes. If you can put up with a bit of disappointment at the end, both are worth checking out.
-On the side of less quality we have RocknRolla, Guy Ritchie's best crime film in a while, but that's damning with faint praise, the F grade worthy comedyCollege, Rainn Wilson's generic underdog flick The Rocker, and the "inspirational" film Fireproof, which only inspired me to attempt and forget the movie ever existed.
-My Vintage pick this week is in recognition for Danny Boyle's Oscar nod for Slumdog Millionaire. It's his previous film Sunshine. It's actually an apt pick because like certain other films mentioned here, it has an issue with its ending that keeps it from being a masterpiece, but even so, it still is an incredible sci-fi film based more in reality than most. It even works in a bit of a science vs god aspect, but it overall is just a smart and thrilling piece of cinema.
-What will you guys and girls be watching this week?
Yes, part one of the planned trilogy (with part two being directed by Peter Jackson) has some cast details, curtosy of Variety:
Steven Spielberg has set his cast for "The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn," the first installment in the 3-D motion-capture trilogy that Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment are co-financing. "Billy Elliot" thesp Jamie Bell will star as the titular character, an intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure. Daniel Craig will co-star as the nefarious Red Rackham. Film, which has been cloaked in secrecy during pre-production, has begun principal production in Los Angeles. It is set for release in 2011. Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have already boarded the project. Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook will round out the cast. Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy are producing the film, which is based on the iconic character created by Georges Remi, also known by his pen name, Herge. Nick Rodwell, Stephane Sperry and Ken Kamins exec produce. Paramount will release domestically, in all English-speaking territories and in Asia, excluding India. Sony Pictures Releasing Intl. will distribute in continental Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, India and the rest of the world. Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish wrote the screenplay. Jackson is attached to direct the second feature in the series.
-Seems cool enough, but time will tell...thoughts?
Yes, Rourke is supposedly going to be performing at World Wrestling Entertainment's (ah, the good old days when it was simply the WWF) Wrestlemainia event. I put this to you, our faithful readers...thumbs up or thumbs down on this idea? And furthermore, will this news hurt his chances at an Oscar? Discuss!
From Variety, including a potentially annoying bit about Marvel lowballing Mickey Rourke with their offer for him to play the villain in Iron Man 2:
Last fall, studios were bullish with plans to put 40 or more films in production to fill 2010 and 2011 slates. The majors might still meet that goal, but it hardly feels like a bull market so far. Studios are proceeding cautiously as they wait for the SAG dispute to play itself out. And they are using economic hard times to slash talent salaries to the point where, even when the business is back, it won’t nearly be the same as it used to be. They are working through the volume of pre-strike films they put into production in early 2008 and are still in need of product for 2010 and especially 2011. "Studios are telling us, we need movies, but they want us to proceed with projects without spending money, and without actually pulling the trigger and making commitments," said one studio-based producer with projects in limbo. "Producers have been wedged into this netherworld where it’s like hurry up and wait." An unanticipated aspect of the preparations to line studio slates is the bruising negotiations now associated with every picture, as studios seize on talent salaries and gross participation as items in the budget that are not fixed costs, and where they finally have some leverage. "Box office has been strong, but many of us feel that studios are using the strike and the economy as an excuse to get into long-desired conversations about gross and final cut," one agent said. "Talent and their unions opened a Pandora’s box, and it feels (as if) there is a new world order out there. You hope the business will get back to normal, but we fear this may be the norm." Unless you’re Will Smith, Johnny Depp or a handful of others, nobody is earning their quote right now, said dealmakers. Stories of tough negotiations are widespread: Disney asked Nicolas Cage to cut his price on the next "National Treasure" sequel, and that same studio cut loose a third "Chronicles of Narnia" film. Then there is comeback kid Mickey Rourke, who is poised to follow his Golden Globe-winning performance in "The Wrestler" with an offer to play the main villain in "Iron Man 2" — but at a lowball opening offer of $250,000 from Marvel; Marvel’s tactics have already prompted Samuel L. Jackson to swear off playing Nick Fury because of a similarly low offer. And the stars of "Twilight,"Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who are still in talks, will likely cash low-seven-figure upfront paychecks for sequel "New Moon." They likely won’t, however, be allowed to sink their fangs into first-dollar gross as they hoped. That film’s financier, Summit, hasn’t yet paid first-dollar gross and sells off its foreign territories. One possible compromise is bonuses pegged to box office performance. Dealmakers said studios that once bought projects that could be bait for movie stars now prefer high concepts that don’t require big stars and directors with their big paychecks. The perfect example is "Twilight," which became a big hit despite the lack of bankable stars. "There is no such thing as a quote anymore," said one agency chief. "You tell them your client’s quote; they smile and say, ‘Here is the offer.’ Even when you agree on a deal, it’s harder to get the trigger pulled, with more signoffs than in the past." In every segment of the film community, the current feeling of paralysis brings with it a high level of anxiety. Studio executives, under orders from above, are driving the hardest deals in memory and eviscerating the backend deals of stars and directors (who are also being challenged on final cut). Writers have been cut to a fraction of the quotes they received before the WGA strike. Those execs, in turn, don’t just worry about strong slates. They are as concerned with margins, and they fret over the possibility that the economic downturn will force New York and other locations to reconsider government-mandated discounts to shoot films there. State budgets, after all, are being cut to austerity levels. Agents, who urged clients to be patient until studios ramped back up their production machines, now have to go back and explain why those clients are getting haircuts on every deal. Already, several veterans have moved to other agencies; that list includes thesps Anthony Hopkins, William Hurt, Kurt Russell, Jessica Lange and Antonio Banderas; directors such as David O. Russell; and writers including Jose Rivera. Lit agents who last year attributed lowball writer offers to studio bitterness over the 100-day writers strike now feel that discounts are permanent. Writers who once got $500,000 for a script and a set of revisions now receive $300,000 for a draft, with no guarantee they’ll be asked back for a second pass. The spec script, pitch and book markets have been sluggish. Even a spirited bidding battle like last week’s auction for Isaac Asimov’s "Foundation" trilogy resulted in only a mid-six-figure upfront against low seven figures. That property would have drawn a sure-fire seven-figure upfront payday a few years ago considering that directors Roland Emmerich and Alex Proyas were attached to bids. Producers are feeling just as antsy, as they struggle to pull pictures together for the studios that fund their first-look deals, afraid their pacts will be the next to get cut. "Business models and budgets are changing, and agencies have had to face the fact that studios are no longer doing the deals they once were willing to make with artists," one studio production chief said. That is not to say that all the news is gloomy as Hollywood digs back in. Movies are still being put together, sometimes collegially. Fox, for example, sewed up deals with Steve Carell, Tina Fey and director Shawn Levy to team on "Date Night," a comedy made possible when WB deferred to the wishes of Carell (who berthed his film production company at the studio). Lingering bitterness with Fox over "Watchmen" didn’t drive WB to be spiteful. Disney’s snub hasn’t ended Walden Media’s quest to mount a third "Narnia" installment. Fox has first crack at the series, but every other major studio is waiting for a shot at co-financing the movie if Fox doesn’t. The film will also be at least $50 million cheaper than the $200 million "Prince Caspian," even factoring in a move to Australia from Baja to avoid being in the crosshairs of the drug-related violence that has beset Mexico. Studios are also pointing to the Jim Carrey deal on the Warner Bros. comedy "Yes Man" as evidence that risk-sharing deals can pay off. Many were skeptical when Carrey gave up his usual upfront salary to become an equity investor in the film and deferred his backend salary until breakeven. Despite the severe weather that hampered the opening weekend gross of "Yes Man," Carrey got paid his upfront salary within the film’s first week by WB brass grateful for the aggressive way he promoted it. He had the incentive to hustle, because the better the film did, the more he earns. "Yes Man" is expected to gross $200 million worldwide. By forgoing his usual salary that brought a $75 million comedy down to $53 million, Carrey become a 33% investor. His gross position on the backend is applied to the usual pot of DVD revenues that stars access. Studios will be pressing big stars to make similar deals that trigger compensation after studios recoup their negative costs — a trend that has been building in the past several years.
-The Rourke news is the most annoying to me, but this whole thing is a bit depressing...