Still Not Rated

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This Film Is Not Yet Rated (1996) - 1 hour, 38 minutes. Watch (via Nerve)

“Kirby Dick’s documentary cannily combines Super Size Me’s mischievous muckraking with the sanguine raunchiness of The Aristocrats. It’s only natural, making an exposé about the secretive institution that is the Motion Picture Association of America, that Dick would want to show us just what it is that the MPAA doesn’t want filmmakers to show us—at least not without saddling them with a kiss-of-death NC-17 rating” - Dana Stevens, Slate

“The documentary made it clear that we probably haven’t done as much as we can to explain how it all works.” - MPAA head Dan Glickman

“Pretty OK! And there’s nothing on tonight…just like yesterday, and tomorrow.” - Ted Zee

Posted by Ted Zee on January 31st 2008 | 0 Comments

Trailer: 'Son of Rambow'

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Imported quirk for 2008: coming across as something like Lil’ Rushmore or Harry Potter and the First Blood - Garth Jennings’s (director of Hitchhiker’s Guide, one half of music video production duo Hammers & Tongs) Son of Rambow, an homage to the 80’s, camcorder creations, and childhood do-it-yourselfing.

Will, unable to make new friends and forbidden to watch TV or movies under the rules of his parents and their strict religious sect, is introduced to a bootlegged tape of Rambo: First Blood by troublemaker and soon-to-be best friend Carter. Forever changed by his first taste of popular culture, Will joins Carter to undertake their own home-grown production of a Stallone sequel. Their skyrocketing schoolyard popularity is inversely proportional to Will’s trouble at home as word of their picturemaking spreads. Scheduled release: May 2nd, 2008.

Also in Quicktime (via Coming Soon)

Related: Michel Gondry’s own raggedy VHS fantasy starring Mos Def and Jack Black - Be Kind Rewind is “about feel more than focus — and who cares about a storyline when you have Jerry and Mike’s re-imagined films, with their inventive camera tricks and dime-store magic, to fill the screen?” - Cinematical review, plus a round-up of impressions on the film from Sundance, via GreenCine.

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 30th 2008 | 1 Comment

'Michael Clayton' Script

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Bourne Trilogy screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s first directorial outing, Michael Clayton, was just re-released to theaters over the weekend as Warner Brothers capitalizes on new interest due to its 6 Oscar nominations. Gilroy’s original screenplay and Direction received Oscar noms, George Clooney is up for Best Actor, and co-stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson are also in the race for their supporting turns in the corporate thriller. This Savage Art has unearthed the shooting script for download to add to the pile of recently released scripts for Oscar hopeful films.

Michael Clayton Shooting Script (PDF)

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 30th 2008 | 6 Comments

How She Reviewed

In lighter news, Joel McHale of The Soup introduces the movie of the week:

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 26th 2008 | 0 Comments

Ledger

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Tuesday evening, Pat O’Brien was among a panel of six or so guests to appear on Larry King Live, talking about how he had earlier rushed to the scene outside Heath Ledger’s Manhattan apartment - no doubt to offer some invaluable analysis of the star’s personal life. As he recounted the events, CNN replayed a loop – the second-go-round was in slow motion - of Ledger’s body moving past an assemblage of reporters, photographers, and NY residents. All the shouting and flashbulbs and jockeying for position played out in a spectacle not unlike a Hollywood premiere, if not for the star’s corpse being rolled out on a stretcher. We would later read that the first sight of examiners removing him from the residence was met by yelps of “Body! Body! Body!” from the curious and those paid-by-the-money-shot.

It’s of course a sad day for many reasons, starting with his former wife and their 2-year-old daughter, just like it was for Brad Renfro’s family last week. What’s worse is that Brad Renfro’s death has gone from a tragic story on its own to becoming a link and precursor to a bigger story about a bigger star: it stopped being about Renfro when Heath Ledger was found unconscious. And it stopped being about the end of Heath Ledger’s life when it turned into who broke the story first, and then, “What’s going to happen to the next Batman film?” and “My God, how is Lindsay going to cope with this?”

The 28-year-old’s passing will continue to overshadow the news coming out of Sundance this week, and make the day old announcements of Oscar nominations seem like last year’s news, but only until the next star shoe drops. For every one person in mourning for Ledger as a friend, peer, or admirer of his work on-screen, there’s a hundred that just need their tragicomic celebrity scoops, and another thousand that, truth be told, just want the tragedy.

Heath Ledger reel: Brokeback Mountain, Candy, I’m Not There, and The Dark Knight. (Gawker)

- Edited Wednesday morning

Posted by Ted Zee on January 23rd 2008 | 6 Comments

'There Will Be Blood', 'No Country' Lead Oscar Noms

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NYT/Associated Press

Whether the eight nominations for both P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and the Coen Brother’s No Country for Old Men lead to Oscar night payoffs is another thing altogether, but for today the two best films of 2007 received their just deserts. No huge surprises for pictures selected as the year’s best at this morning’s announcements by the Academy, There Will Be Blood (slight surprise, The Best of 2007) and No Country for Old Men (expected, well deserved) - each also receiving Best Director nods, joined Juno (expected, least deserving) Atonement (expected) and Michael Clayton (somewhat expected, solid) for Best Picture nominations. Snubbed from the category include American Gangster, The Assassination of Jesse James, and Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. David Fincher’s Zodiac came up goose eggs in all categories.

80th Annual Academy Award nominations (Full list, via AP):

Best Picture: “Atonement,” “Juno,” “Michael Clayton,” “No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood.”

Actor: George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”; Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”; Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; Tommy Lee Jones, “In the Valley of Elah”; Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises.”

Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”; Julie Christie, “Away From Her”; Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”; Laura Linney, “The Savages”; Ellen Page, “Juno.”

Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”; Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”; Hal Holbrook, “Into the Wild”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Charlie Wilson’s War”; Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton.”

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”; Ruby Dee, “American Gangster”; Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”; Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”; Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton.”

Director: Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; Jason Reitman, “Juno”; Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”; Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood.”

Foreign Film: “Beaufort,” Israel; “The Counterfeiters,” Austria; “Katyn,” Poland; “Mongol,” Kazakhstan; “12,” Russia.

Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton, “Atonement”; Sarah Polley, “Away from Her”; Ronald Harwood, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”; Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood.”

Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, “Juno”; Nancy Oliver, “Lars and the Real Girl”; Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”; Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, “Ratatouille”; Tamara Jenkins, “The Savages.”

Animated Feature Film: “Persepolis”; “Ratatouille”; “Surf’s Up.”

Posted by Ted Zee on January 22nd 2008 | 1 Comment

Trailer: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in 'Baby Mama'

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We’re in the middle of the Preggo-dy renaissance. What with Juno being Knocked Up and now Baby Mama, they comprise the much ballyhooed prenatal trilogy that harkens back to the golden (bronze?) age of baby laughs, where Junior, Three Men and a Baby, and Look Who’s Talking left off. Tina Fey stars as 37 year-old exec, infertile but looking to have a child at any cost, until it rings up at a hundred grand for a top-grade surrogate. Enter bottom of the barrel, live-in candidate, Angie, played by Amy Poehler.

No, Baby Mama isn’t likely to cover much that hasn’t been already mined over the past year, but the big-screen pairing of Fey and Poehler may produce enough sparks to ward off the overly-precious tendencies of mom-com, and into something beyond Spring-throwaway fare.

Directed by Michael McCullers. Also featured: Sirgourney Weaver, Greg Kinnear, Romany Malco, and Maura Tierney. Scheduled Release: April 25th, 2008.

Baby Mama trailer (via Movie-List)

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 17th 2008 | 1 Comment

Top 20 Most Filth Flarn Filthy Films

So a documentary about the origins and use of the word “Fuck” takes the top position for the most F-words used in a film, according to Box Office Psychics (hat tip to Film Junk), and good on them. In fact, it nearly doubles the use of the F-Bomb as the runner up, the 1998 Gary Oldman drama, Nil By Mouth. Martin Lawrence has the prestigious honor of landing on the Top Ten all on his own for his live, 2002 peformance, Runteldat, leaving Eddie Murphy Raw in the dust at the #32 spot.

1. Fuck (824)
2. Nil by Mouth (428)
3. Casino (398)
4. Alpha Dog (367)
5. Twin Town (318)
6. Summer of Sam (315)
7. Running Scared (315)
8. Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (311)
9. Menace II Society (300)
10. Goodfellas (300)
11. Narc (297)
12. Harsh Times (296)
13. Another Day in Paradise (291)
14. Made (291)
15. Dirty (280)
16. Jarhead (278)
17. Bully (274)
18. State Property 2 (271)
19. Reservoir Dogs (269)
20. Pulp Fiction (265)

The list, which rates over a hundred films, was originally compiled in a Wikipedia entry (scoff if you will, but are we really going to debate the methodology for a “Fuck Count” list?) using sources such as the Family Media Guide. For a point of reference, the cast of last year’s Superbad often boasted over the sheer volume of cursing in the movie, but they’re way down at the 53rd spot on the list (176 Fucks. 1.54 Fucks Per Minute). Care to check the accuracy? Watch (1 Min., 24 sec. NSFW!):

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 16th 2008 | 2 Comments

iTunes Movie Rentals Launched

Everyone saw it coming, including Netflix, who just yesterday took the cap off their “Watch Instantly” service, allowing for unlimited streaming movies (LAT).  Just as speculated, at this morning’s Macworld keynote, Steve Jobs announced that iTunes will feature movie rentals, effective today. All major studios represented, including Touchstone, Miramax, MGM, Lionsgate, Newline, Fox, WB, Disney, Paramount, Universal & Sony. The particulars, from MacRumors.

Over 1000 movies - available 30 days after the DVD release of the film.
Watch anywhere - Macs, PCs, all current iPods and iPhone.
Watch instantly - 30 second delay with modern broadband
Rules - 30 days to start watching, 24 hours to complete once started
Pricing - $2.99, new releases $3.99

Also, Apple TV is in line for an upgraded model (and an update for current owners) that will allow High Definition downloads at $3.99/$4.99 (Engadget).  Lastly, some upcoming DVD releases, starting with Family Guy: Blue Harvest Special Edition, will feature an “iTunes Digital Copy” that buyers can transfer to their computer, iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV.

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 15th 2008 | 7 Comments

Watch the First Five Minutes of 'Teeth'

“The so-called vagina dentata, or ‘toothed vagina’ is widely considered to be the classic symbol of a man’s fear of sex, expressing the unconscious belief that a woman may eat or castrate her partner during intercourse. This subliminal fear is fueled when the once erect penis goes limp and ‘dies’ inside the voracious vagina.” - Dr. Terri Hamilton: Skin Flutes and Velvet Gloves: A Collection of Facts and Fancies, Legends and Oddities About the Body’s Private Parts

Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein (son of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein ) in his feature-length debut, the shock-horror-comedy Teeth stars newcomer Jess Weixler as the incarnation of the vagina dentata myth. The five-minute opener, now online (via AICN), foreshadows the flinch-and-gasp-fest to come, as a preschool aged Dawn is being tormented by her stepbrother, Brad. Title credits roll, and we rejoin Dawn over a decade later as an overzealous youth-abstinence activist, in denial of her…uniqueness.

The squeamish, the easily offended, and/or most of those at work will likely be able to sit through the five-minute tease. The theatrical trailer? Not necessarily. Teeth opens in limited release this weekend.

– “There are often guys who storm out at some point in the movie, which I usually find satisfying…Men react differently to certain parts of the movie more viscerally than women do, and I’ve heard about men who were disturbed about just how into the movie their girlfriends were. [laughs]” - Mitchell Lichtenstein, with IFC

– “I realized [Lichtenstein] wasn’t trying to make a bad B-horror movie. He was trying to make a good dark comedy. I took it because it’s an awesome part that’s never been played before. It’s kind of a superhero role. She has an anatomical uniqueness. She has to discover it and learn how to use it for good.” - Nerve interviews star Jess Weixler

– “Beneath these outre, campy trappings, Lichtenstein otherwise imagines a fairly standard coming-of-age trajectory, as ‘Teeth’ intriguingly, if awkwardly, morphs into an exploration of burgeoning, unique female sexuality and its empowering possibilities…Seeking to strike a tonal balance between sincerity and satire, Lichtenstein falters, his schlock horror tactics chafing against his attempted feminism.” - indieWire review

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 15th 2008 | 0 Comments

The Four Minute 'Wire'

Although you don’t have to look long to find HBO’s The Wire heralded as the Best Series on Television, or The Best Drama at least, one thing the series is not, is new-viewer friendly. Trying to brief a first-timer looking to jump in at the season 5 premiere required some disclaimers, like “you know, there’s about a hundred reoccuring characters. It’s very dense.” I could have spared all that if I had known about this: in the spirit of the Seven Minute Sopranos, The Wire seasons 1 through 4 recapped and condensed to four-and-a-half minutes. Not long enough, but it’s something. (via Tuned In)

About the current season - there’s a lot of talk about the added newspaper element. Does it muddy the conclusion of the series? Are we not getting the face time with McNulty, Bunk, Bubbles, Omar, and the rest of The Wire’s core components that we need? Is David Simon more focused on delivering some well-aimed digs at his former employer, The Baltimore Sun, than he is of wrapping up every last bit of business in Baltimore?

– “Simon is ‘like Captain Ahab, monomaniacally [that’s one] pursuing the white whale. … His obsession has really poisoned him.’” - The Baltimore Sun, predictably, in self-defense.

– “I’m a little worried about the Baltimore Sun plot. I’ve had two brief conversations with David Simon…and my wife has had two long ones. In all four of those exchanges, Simon demonstrated an obsession with the Sun that bordered on monomania [that’s two].” - Slate

Related:

Barack Obama on Omar: “I gotta say Omar’s a great character. That’s not an endorsement…He’s this gay gangster who only robs drug dealers, and then gives back. You know, he’s sort of a Robin Hood. And he’s the toughest, baddest guy on this show, but he’s gay, you know. And it’s really interesting. It’s a fascinating character.” - The Stranger

– Salon roundtables Episode 2

– “Last year, I learned a lot by watching a few episodes of The Wire with gang leaders in Chicago. So, a few weeks ago, I called a few respected street figures in the New York metro region to watch the upcoming fifth season. I couldn’t think of a better way to ensure quality control.” - NYT’s Freakonomics asks, “What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire?” (via Day of the Quote, with more Wire discussion)

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 14th 2008 | 1 Comment

Get Your Scripts: No Country, Juno, The Savages, Darjeeling, Diving Bell, Once, Waitress, and More

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Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney in The Savages

Update: sorry folks, Fox Searchlight has removed the PDF links for their scripts.

Miramax Films and Fox Searchlight have made the screenplays from some 10 Oscar hopeful films available for download on their respective For Your Consideration pages. (Hat tip: I Watch Stuff)

Miramax:

No Country for Old Men: script (PDF). Written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy. Starring Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: script (PDF). Screenplay by Ronald Harwood. Based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Directed by Julien Schnabel. Starring Mathieu Amalric.

Gone Baby Gone: script (PDF). Screenplay by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard. Based on the book by Dennis Lehane. Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, and Ed Harris.

The Hoax: script (PDF). Screenplay by William Wheeler. Based on the book by Clifford Irving. Directed by Lasse Hallström. Starring Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Julie Delpy, and Stanley Tucci.

Fox Searchlight: (UPDATE:   sorry, the script links are no longer valid)

Juno: script (PDF). Screenplay by Diablo Cody. Directed by Jason Reitman. Starring Ellen Page, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, and Michael Cera.

The Darjeeling Limited: script (PDF). Screenplay by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartzman. Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman.

The Savages: script (PDF). Screenplay by Tamara Jenkins. Directed by Tamara Jenkins. Starring Laura Linney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Phillip Bosco.

Once: script (PDF). Screenplay by John Carney. Directed by John Carney. Starring Gley Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

Waitress: script (PDF). Screenplay by Adrienne Shelly. Directed by Adrienne Shelly. Starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, and Adrienne Shelly.

The Namesake: script (PDF). Screenplay by Sooni Taraporevala. Based on the book by Jhumpa Lahiri. Directed by Mira Nair. Starring Kal Penn, Zuleikha Robinson, and Irfan Khan.

Related: Download the scripts for There Will Be Blood, Margot at the Wedding, Into the Wild, The Kite Runner, and A Mighty Heart.

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 10th 2008 | 14 Comments

Old Business: 2007 Archives

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A sampler of popular entries from the year that was:

Charlie Rose with the Coen Brothers, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin on No Country For Old Men (30 minutes)

Head-slapper of the Year: Entertainment Weekly asks, “Would you feel swindled if you showed up to see a movie called There Will Be Blood and got a period piece about crude drilling? Is this a case of smart marketing, or a shifty bait-and-switch?”

Saturday Night Live On Strike! A Not Televised for Prime Time event.

– If 2007 was the year of Vajayjay, the new year is all about Vagina Dentata. A trailer for Teeth seen by a local audience this past weekend was met with shocked howls and nervous tittering.

Larry David has reportedly been talking with friends about the prospects of keeping Curb Your Enthusiasm rolling along for two, maybe three more seasons.

– Before the WGA strike threw everything off the rails, NBC was talking with producers of The Office about an ill-advised spinoff.

Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson shock the world by avoiding the topic of attempted suicide, and (gasp) plug their film instead. Was anyone really expecting Owen to drop any revelatory bombs on MySpace?

Michel Gondry wants to Eternal Sunshine his auntie for an artsy documentary.

Download the scripts for Paramount Vantage’s Oscar hopefuls: There Will Be Blood, Margot at the Wedding, The Kite Runner, Into the Wild, and A Mighty Heart.

David Chase pretty much throws up his hands and says that Tony Soprano is dead, without actually saying it.

– Vulture got their hands on the script for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, I did my best to fill in the blanks on the history of the project.

– Creator of The Wire, David Simon, profiled by The New Yorker. He also reveals details about his next project, set in New Orleans.

Interview with Thumbsucker director Mike Mills on his antidepressants-in-Japan documentary, Does Your Soul Have a Cold?

– “They’re packing up the ranch. They’re dismantling the ranch and taking the stuff out. That ship is gonna sail. Bonsoir, Deadwood.” - HBO responds to Ian McShane’s claim that Deadwood is dead and gone.

– Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises, Tell Me You Love Me, Larry David’s Penis Cake, Vincent Gallo: documenting Full Frontal Week.

Both bad ideas, an Americanized version of Battle Royale was scrapped, though a shot-for-shot redo of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is still on track for a March release.

– Tracy Morgan had not one, but two calculated freak-outs on live and local television news broadcasts. Video.

In defense of Parker Posey’s career performance and a great debut from director Zoe Cassavetes for Broken English.

– Still can’t let go of Six Feet Under. A tribute.

Anatomy of an HBO failure: John From Cincinnati. What’s next for David Milch?

Eddie Murphy’s “Filth Flarn Filth” bit in Raw was a flarny fallacy, says Bill Cosby.

– Review of Showtime’s televised version of This American Life.

Miranda July’s next film will be an adaptation of her mulitmedia stage performance, Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About.

Get your screenplay for Best Picture winner, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. X marks the homage to 1932’s Scarface.

– Fun with quirk predictability, a Little Miss Sunshine word scramble.

Children of Men was the best film of 2006.

Posted by Ted Zee on January 08th 2008 | 0 Comments

I'm Calling to Procure a Hasty Pop Reference

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By now we’ve all had ample opportunity to latch on to pop-juggernaut Juno, with its Oscar worthy performance from break out star Ellen Page and memorable supporting work from Jason Bateman. That young Michael Cera was around for a short stint, though the trailers and ads-on-repeat would have us believe that he offered much more in both screen time and presence. Directed by Jason Reitman - great performances from top to bottom, in spite of a promising, but flawed Diablo Cody script hindered by a lack of restraint in its mumble-mouth verbosity. Any forward momentum towards an otherwise satisfying third reel was snuffed out in the first by the film’s own wordiness. To put it in Juno vernacular, the crammed-in pop references per second amount to one fat “doodle that can’t be un-did.” Nonetheless, its critical and financial merit can’t be denied, and there’s likely a Best Picture nomination in store. Last weekend Juno continued its rise from limited release on December 5th to the second spot at the box office this weekend, pulling 15.9 million and beating out I Am Legend .

The success of the film ensures that studios won’t be trolling the festival circuit for the next Little Miss Sunshine, they’ll be sniffing out the next Juno . Let’s not get it confused, regardless of the initial production budget, all the indie pretense needs to come full-stop once the marketing budget dwarfs the initial production costs of one of these once-modest pictures. (Not that Juno even scrimped on the star-power. Related discussions at Spout and Cinematical.) It’s a shame to see a good, not great film in Juno see daily commercial spots when Tamara Jenkins The Savages, another Fox Searchlight sibling - superior in every way (especially in humility) - gets the brush-off. The next time I see an spot for the Laura Linney and Phillip Seymore Hoffman comedy on prime-time will be the first.

Anyway, it is possible to out-smug Juno. The self-propagated mystique of rookie screenwriter Diablo Cody has taken on a life of it’s own, covered relentlessly from everywhere like The New York Times to Wired. By asking questions that he (and the world) already knows the answers to about the scribe like, “Were you ever a stripper?” on AMC’s Shootout, Variety’s Peter Bart accomplishes the Herculean task of coming off more obnoxious than the words fed to Ellen Page. You can read the pained expression on Cody’s face, of which she later blogged, “he was full of condescending questions…You’ll see him asking when I plan to be a normal woman and have children!” (More from the interview, via Cinematical.)

Related: Karyn Kasuma to direct Cody’s “comedic thriller,” Jennifer’s Body (Variety)

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 08th 2008 | 1 Comment

Letterman's Shot to Take Back the Night?

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After two months of WGA strike induced downtime, David Letterman, strike-beard and all, joined Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and Craig Furgeson in returning to their late night slots (NYT) Wednesday night for fresh programming. Thanks to an exclusive deal reached last Friday between Dave’s Worldwide Pants production company and the Writer’s Guild, he and Craig Ferguson were the only two hosts on the network talk shows (including Jimmy Kimmel and Carson Daly, already back at work) working with a full quiver of writers. In kind, Dave gave the writers’ cause ample time throughout the show, parading out with WGA picket sign touting showgirls to kick off what at times resembled an hour long strikers’ info-comedy. Ferguson also payed his respects to the WGA with a full show without guests, running on nothing but his back-at-work staff’s surplus of written comedy bits.

Contrast this coup for Worldwide Pants and CBS with that of NBC, Leno, and Conan - forced to exist solely on interviews and improvised bits. Last month Deadline Hollywood detailed the missive from the Writer’s Guild to Jay and Conan’s camp, specifying that the two, who are Guild members themselves, were prohibited from “performing any writing services during a strike for any and all struck companies,” including “all writing by any Guild member that would be performed on-air by that member (including monologues, characters, and featured appearances) if any portion of that written material is customarily written by striking writers.” Off-the-cuff is Conan’s bread and butter, but when pressed to bring the funny on his own, Leno’s weaknesses are as plain as the chin on his face. This morning Deadline’s Nikke Finke supposes that Leno probably broke the rules on night one, delivering a pre-written monologue that flies in the face of the already laid-out restrictions from the WGA.

So not only do Jay’s guests have to cross picket lines to come on his show (like the poorly received Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee), he’s likely to receive some public razzing and further condemnation from the union for possible use of scab writers (or just being a scab on his own) to pull his cart. Letterman is worry-free on both counts.

It was July of 1995 when Hugh Grant sat down with Leno to explain how he was caught red-handed, soliciting a prostitute, when Jay took the number one late night ratings spot from Dave, and has sat there ever since. In the name of all that is, and is not funny, will the implications of the WGA strike finally take Captain Lowest Common Denominator down a notch? And will friend-of-WGA Letterman reclaim the number one position? The longer the strike, the greater the likelihood.

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Posted by Ted Zee on January 03rd 2008 | 0 Comments

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