The Oscar nominations obviously dominated the news this week, but there’s also a few new animated movies to report, lots of casting and the word on what the director of 1998’s Godzilla might be doing next.
The Academy announced this year’s Oscar nominations yesterday morning, and several excellent movies were honored, but this year, I felt like there were more missing nominees than the last few years, which this Variety piece does a nice job of summarizing. The most obvious snub is that The Dark Knight did not receive a Best Picture nomination, despite being nominated in eight other categories. I honestly thought the Academy would “get it”, but I guess the presence of Batman in the movie was just a hurdle they couldn’t get past. If Christian Bale’s character had been, say, an ex-cop-turned-vigilante who didn’t wear a mask and a cape, I think The Dark Knight would have just not have gotten a Best Picture nomination, but nominations for Director and Screenplay as well, as it is a “crime movie” on par with the best movies by the likes of Scorsese and Coppola. The other movie I felt the Academy didn’t honor properly was The Wrestler, with had a beautiful song by Bruce Springsteen, artful direction by Darren Aronofsky, a great script, and was one of the five best movies of 2008. It seems to me that the Academy rewarded some movies this year for being “Oscar movies”, rather than for being the best of the year, regardless of their subject matter. Ten years from now, will people remember and still be watching The Reader and Frost/Nixon, or will they remember The Wrestler and The Dark Knight?
Getting past that issue, here’s a rundown of the nominees in a way that always interests me, by number of nominations. The top 10 nominated movies are: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (13), Slumdog Millionaire (10), The Dark Knight (8), Milk (8), WALL-E (6), Doubt (5), Frost/Nixon (5), The Reader (5), Changeling (3) and Revolutionary Road (3). I always think it’s interesting when Best Picture nominees aren’t in the top 5 list of nominees, because you’d think that if a movie was so great as to be the Best Picture, it would come along with more than 4 other nominations in other categories. Of course, one can argue that the sum of a movie can be greater than the whole of its parts, and the only way non-Best-Picture nominees can be nominated in other categories is if those films don’t “sweep” the other categories.
In the conversation about violence in movies, when people point out how violent many cartoons have always been, they are very often referring to Tom & Jerry, who started finding creative ways to kill, maim and disfigure each other nearly 70 years ago in 1940. Somehow, however, I think we can expect their next big project to be toned down just a bit, as Variety reports that Warner Bros is eyeing Tom & Jerry as a way to “create their own Alvin & the Chipmunks-like family franchise.” As CGI characters in a live-action world, Tom & Jerry will star in an origin story of how they first meet before getting lost in Chicago, and the definitive cat and mouse rivals have to team up to find their way home. A new screenwriter, Eric Gravning, has been hired to work on Tom & Jerry, which is being produced by Warner Bros’ Dan Lin (Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, Sherlock Holmes), and will probably be destroying one of your cherished childhood memories by 2011 or so.
Screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) has been hired by Disney to adapt Tim Burton’s first movie, Frankenweenie, as a full-length stop-motion animation feature. Like the original short, Frankenweenie will also be in black and white, and it will also be in 3-D. Tim Burton is producing, and much of the same crew that worked on Corpse Bride will work on Frankenweenie, but it is unclear who will be directing. Frankenweenie is the story of a man who tries to bring his dog back from the dead after it’s hit by a car. Disney is planning to release Frankenweenie in 2011. John August has also found other new work as the new writer of the Preacher movie, which will be directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road), based upon the comic book series by Garth Ennis about a disillusioned reverend on a quest to find God to hold Him accountable for his actions, or lack thereof.
Thursday night, Columbia Pictures won a heated auction for the rights to Isaac Asimov’s revered Foundation Trilogy, a science fiction epic spread across hundreds of years, many short stories and novels, and a lot more books than just a trilogy. The other major suitors for Foundation were 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros, who are still cooling down after their Watchmen legal battles. Columbia bought Foundation as a likely project for director Roland Emmerich, whose history with “big” movies is spotty: he can claim success with Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, but he also directed the 1998 debacle that was Godzilla, and last year’s anachronism-filled blockbuster wannabe, 10,000 B.C. Roland Emmerich is currently working on his latest apocalyptic epic, 2012, which is now scheduled for a release in November, 2009, bumped back four months from July. The Foundation series is a bit complicated to thumbnail in a short article, but basically, it involves the future of mankind in outer space, and various attempts to keep the Galactic Empire from collapsing into decline. The books are extremely brainy and obtuse, but as a Roland Emmerich movie, it will probably be mostly about pew-pew-pew outer space dogfights and very large, loud explosions (in the vacuum of space).
With Hollywood’s love affair lately with remakes, I’m glad to be able to report that the upcoming movie called The Wild Bunch is not a remake of the groundbreaking 1969 Sam Peckinpah western. It is however, a CGI animated family movie about talking wildflowers and other plants being attacked by evil, genetically mutated cornstalks. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) will provide the lead voice, with other voice actors to include Willie Nelson, Willem Dafoe, Elizabeth Hurley and Chris Klein. Willie Nelson’s a good choice for this movie, no doubt, because whoever came up with the premise was probably smoking something Willie is very familiar with. The Wild Bunch will be the directorial debut of Douglas Wood, who was a story editor for TV’s Tiny Toon Adventures, and is the first feature film from a new Israeli company called Animation Lab. Abigail Breslin also signed on for two other projects recently: costarring with Johnny Depp in the CGI animated movie, Rango, and as a young con artist living in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world in Zombieland, opposite Woody Harrelson.
Roman Polanski’s (Chinatown, The Pianist) next film, The Ghost, was originally supposed to start filming a few months ago, but didn’t, and so some recasting has been done. Tilda Swinton and Nicolas Cage are out, and in for Cage’s lead role is Ewan McGregor. Other new cast members are Tom Wilkinson, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams and Jim Belushi, with Pierce Brosnan being the only one left of the first three characters announced. The Ghost is based upon a 2007 political novel by Robert Harris (Enigma, Fatherland) about a ghostwriter (McGregor) hired to help a former British Prime Minister (not so loosely inspired by Tony Blair) write his memoirs after the previous writer dies from drowning. I made Jim Belushi the headline for this story because I think it’s interesting that the According to Jim star is being included in a movie that is, well, not his usual fare. It’s sort of like if Kevin James got cast in the next Mike Leigh movie. Filming starts on February 4th in Berlin.
Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley have signed on to star in London Boulevard, the directorial debut of screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed, Kingdom of Heaven). Based upon a 2001 novel by Irish writer Ken Bruen, London Boulevard is about a South London criminal who gets out of jail and tries to go straight by becoming a handyman working for a reclusive young actress who happens to fancy him. But then, things, of course, go horribly wrong. Filming starts this summer in and around London.
37-year-old Johnny Knoxville and 62-year-old Cher are signed to star in The Drop Out, a college sex comedy about a professional student who gets involved with his much older neighbor. Finally getting kicked out of his parents’ house, Knoxville’s character moves in with Cher’s neighbor character so he can keep living the lifestyle to which he is accustomed, but also in the mix is her son, who is looking for a father figure despite Knoxville being his same age. Family Guy writer Ricky Blitt will be making his directorial debut with The Drop Out, and also wrote 2005’s The Ringer, which also starred Johnny Knoxville. Cher has already started doing press for the project, which starts filming this summer, recently talking it up on Ellen , refering to The Drop Out as “something you wait for your whole life” and “really crazy.”
Following the success of Cloverfield, that film’s writer, Drew Goddard (TV’s Lost and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is making his debut with a horror film called The Cabin in the Woods, the details of which are being kept a tight secret. What’s not a secret is that it was written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon, and that the first two cast members to be announced are Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and Richard Jenkins (the ghost dad from Six Feet Under), who will play “white collar coworkers.” All that we know about The Cabin in the Woods, really, is that it is aiming to knock that particular sub-genre of horror, movies set in cabins in the woods (like The Evil Dead and Cabin Fever) out of the park, and that by having a more adult cast than just a bunch of good-looking 20-somethings pretending to be teenagers, a different tone from most of today’s horror movies is suggested. Filming starts in the spring of 2009, with MGM already scheduling a release date of February 5th, 2010.
Promoting his newest movie, Brooklyn’s Finest, at Sundance this week, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) revealed to ComingSoon.net that he hopes his next movie will be a mob biopic, Scarpa, for which he is in talks with Sean Penn to star. Scarpa is based on the life of Gregory Scarpa, Sr., AKA The Grim Reaper, who was the chief enforcer for New York’s Colombo crime family in the 1970s and 1980s. First off, if you take a look at the Wikipedia page for Scarpa, I think it’s sort of obvious that Sean Penn looks absolutely nothing like the man, so I’ve got to think that maybe Penn’s role would be an F.B.I. agent or something. But, Penn does like to challenge himself, so maybe he really put on a massive black mustache and try to sound Italian.