Sunday, 19 December 2010

Yeeee-har (Film News - 18/12/10)

True Grit must be quite good. I say that not because of it's two SAG nominations (for Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld) this week, or even because of its positive critical receptioon so far. Far more important in Hollywood circles is it's immediate impact on the cinematic landscape for the next few years. It appears to be fully resurrecting the Western genre, completing the process started by The Assassination of Jesse James, 3.10 to Yuma and TV's superb "Deadwood" over last last decade. This week alone there have been three new Western themed movies announced proving the once moribund genre is back for good.

It's always been a minor surprise that the Western was temporarily faltering, the true American film genre is as much an influence on the national Psyche as a reflection of it. You could argue that Revisionism was it's undoing, the recognition that the 19th century wasn't as black and white (hatted) as the John Ford (director of The Searchers above) and Anthony Mann output would have us believe. With the modern murkiness underpining the moralty of the push into the West was have to accept the European settlers were as complicit in the violence as the Native Americans, and certainly more responsible in it's creation, and with the humanisation of that faceless enemy the cattle baron's and hired killers became the primary bad guys until the delineation between one side and the other became impossible.

True Grit, as with it's 1969 version, has a very clear antagonist (Josh Brolin's scarred Tom Chaney - we should also expect the Coen themes of retribution to return; it's a world where every negative action has a clear reaction on the perpetrator. And that in itself must be the path the post-revisionist Westerns will need to tread.

Untitled Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman Collaboration

In spite of all this talk of Western tropes I'm actually opening with a far more exciting cinematic prospect. Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, the mind bending Director and Writer behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. have apparently made up their differences and are currently schlepping between the studios with an original idea (although as yet no script).

I suspect it's going to be a tough sell in today's financial environment, and it could be that the process may end up a lot more interesting if they go outside the studio system, however I would love to see their next movie together. Definitely one to look out for.

Read on for our three Westerns and a Pulitzer prize winning adaptation.

Colour of Lightning

The first Western set to see it's big screen adapatation by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (and, yes there are two of them) will be a revenge story about a freed slave who's family are kidnapped by Native Americans. Similar in plot to The Searchers then, only with a post-colonial twist. Ridley Scott is set to direct this - which would therefore make this the McMurtry Western he mentioned during interviews back in June. Where this will fit on his already overcrowded schedule is yet to be finalised.

Empire of the Summer Moon

On the other side of the coin is this Braveheart style look at the Comanche tribe and the almost mythical dual heritage leader who fought against the White settlers. Robert Duvall has been mentioned (slightly) against the role so maybe it will involve a bookend structure and Scott (Crazy Heart) Cooper may end up directing.

The Gunslinger

Our final Western, or more appropriately a contemporary Western, will be from James Mangold who has previous form in the genre with 3.10 to Yuma. It's also a revenge flick but instead of Lightning and a kidnapped family it's a murdered brother that kicks off the plot. Lensing for this is planned to commence in the spring.

Anna in the Tropics

Another week, another Lee Daniels project announced. Sometimes I'm being facetious when I say that but in Daniels case it's absolutely true - we have had three distinct rumours baout films projects in the last month. This time it's Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer award winning play about the 19th century cigar industry and the Cuban migrants who made the cigars. I don't know the play but I can only imagine the dialogue is more exciting than the concept.

Casting News

Not much in the way of casting from this week, we should be completely unsurprised to see Colin Firth is interested in the crime caper remake Gambit. The only other story is the rather low-key concept of re-uniting Robert DeNiro with Martin Scorsese in The Irishman, formerly known as I heard you Paint Houses, with a supporting cast to include Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino. Which surely isn't a casting coup that's in any way excitable. (OMG, shriek, shriek, etc.)

Blake Edwards 1922-2010

This week we were saddened to hear of the passing of cinematic legend Blake Edwards. He had a genius for shooting slapstick as we will no doubt remember from the Pink Panther movies, as well as making ramance perfect as in his 1961 magnum opus Breakfast at Tiffanys. Tom in Chicago has written a very nice in memorium piece here, but for me I'll just have a listen to Moon River.

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