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3D: Film History Repeats Itself + Susan Sarandon ‘Big Valley’ Casting + Meredith Monk DVD

3D: Film history repeats itself - Rupert Grint Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
3D: Film history repeats itself. Picture above: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with Rupert Grint. (Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros.).

‘Hatty Potter’ & ‘Clash of the Titans’ in 3D: Film History Repeats Itself

Fans of Daniel Radcliffe will be able to see him in 3D after Warner Bros. converts the last two Harry Potter flicks, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Part II, to 3D at a cost of $10 millon per film. The faithful will also be able to see their favorite Greek gods in 3D once Clash of the Titans is converted.

What WB is doing to their 2D films reminds me of the time when movies went from silent to sound and from back-and-white to color. The former was an abrupt change; the latter took decades to be finalized – and we still get to watch some black-and-white productions every now and then.

Anyhow, back in the late 1920s, following the success of the part-talkie The Jazz Singer (1927), most studios began scrambling to add sound to their productions. I’ve seen one such, a First National melodrama called The Barker (above), in which a silent film suddenly gets all chatty in reel 3 (or 4) and then goes silent again and then suddenly won’t shut up for another ten minutes only to go silent again.

The dialog in The Barker didn’t add anything to the proceedings. To the contrary, it became distracting and slowed down the action some thanks to the primitive sound techniques of the period. But those bits of dialog surely brought some welcome extra cash to First National (later acquired by Warner Bros.) for the studio could lure moviegoers into theaters so they could hear Milton Sills’, Betty Compson’s and Dorothy Mackaill’s voices for the first time. There were several such hybrids distributed in 1928 and early 1929, before sound took hold for good as the 1920s came to a close.

Three-strip Technicolor was first used in short films, then made “guest” appearances in features such as The House of Rothschild (1934) and The Cat and the Fiddle (1934), prior to the first all-color (three-strip) release, Becky Sharp (1935). Since this Miriam Hopkins vehicle wasn’t a major box office hit, studios decided that the extra costs for processing color wouldn’t be worth it. For the next two decades, color films were generally used to enhance to action/historical spectacles, fantasy movies, and musicals.

I could be wrong, but I believe that most movies will be released in the regular 2D format in the years to come. But even if I’m wrong, I’d be in good company. Initially, MGM’s Boy Wonder Irving G. Thalberg was quite sure that sound would never overtake silent films.

Susan Sarandon Big Valley casting

Susan Sarandon as Victoria Barkley in a big-screen reboot of the 1960s Western series Big Valley. Sarandon may not make one forget Barbara Stanwyck, but that would be a great casting coup.

In the hit TV series, the veteran Stanwyck played the widow matriarch of the Barkley Ranch in California’s San Joaquin Valley of the 1870s. Her grown children were Richard Long, Peter Breck, and a pre-Dynasty Linda Evans, and there was also a pre-Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors as Big Mama Barkley’s stepson.

According to The Hollywood Reporter / Reuters (via Cinematical), Sarandon is “in talks” to play the tough widow who feared nothing. Kate Edelman Johnson, daughter of one of the show’s creator, producer Louis F. Edelman (writer A.I. Bezzerides was his partner), is producing the project, written and to be directed by Daniel Adams (The Lightkeepers, The Golden Boys). Shooting is supposed to begin in May in New Mexico and Michigan. Perhaps Linda Evans and Lee Majors will have cameos?

Barbara Stanwyck’s Victoria Barkley was nominated for three Emmys, winning one. Stanwyck also earned three Golden Globe nominations.

Another Western TV series that is scheduled to hit theaters in the not-too-distant future is Gunsmoke, to – possibly – star Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds. If Sarandon doesn’t get to play Victoria Barkley, I’d forget Pitt and Reynolds and I’d cast her as Sheriff Matilda Dillon instead.

Susan Sarandon: Best Actress Oscar winner

A Best Actress Oscar winner for Tim Robbins’ 1995 death-penalty drama Dead Man Walking, Susan Sarandon has received four other nominations:

Sarandon lost to, respectively, Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond, Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, Emma Thompson in Howards End, and Jessica Lange in Blue Sky.

Since the mid-1990s, notable roles (and movies) have been hard to come by, though Chris Columbus’ soap opera Stepmom (1998), co-starring Julia Roberts and Ed Harris, was a major box office hit.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Marc Webb - (500) Days of Summer
Marc Webb directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer (Chuck Zlotnick / Fox Searchlight)

New ‘Spider-Man’ director

Former music video director Marc Webb, whose quirky romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer became one of the sleeper hits of 2009, will be the next Spider-Man director, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have announced.

After disagreements over the screenplay, director Sam Raimi and actor Tobey Maguire abandoned the Spider-Man franchise after three films, the last of which, Spider-Man 3, was released to middling reviews in 2007. According to Sony, the new Spider-Man will be a fully revamped version of the Marvel character. For one thing, in James Vanderbilt’s screenplay Peter Parker will be about high-school age. Rumored Spider-Man replacements have included Robert Pattinson, Zac Efron, Michael Cera, Jim Sturgess, and Chace Crawford.

Marc Webb, whose feature-film debut was (500) Days of Summer, was quoted as saying in a statement that he’s not taking over from Raimi, among whose credits are Evil Dead II, The Quick and the Dead, The Gift, and the 2009 release Drag Me to Hell. “That would be impossible, not to mention arrogant,” Webb said, adding that “I’m here because there’s an opportunity for ideas, stories and histories that will add a new dimension, canvas and creative voice to Spider-Man.” As per a Variety report, Webb is being signed to direct only one picture – with the possibility of more to follow.

Hollywood studios have at times used an offbeat filmmaker to handle audience-friendly blockbusters-in-the-making. Sometimes it works, whether at the box office or artistically (or both), sometimes it doesn’t. Alfonso Cuarón, of the Mexican arthouse hit Y Tu Mamá También, did quite well commercially with Harry Potter and the Prince of Azkaban (2004), but Oliver Hirschbiegel’s The Invasion (2007), despite the presence of Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was a box office and critical disaster.

On the other hand, Christopher Nolan, fresh off Memento and Insomnia, did quite well for himself both commercially and artistically with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The fourth installment in the Spider-Man franchise is scheduled for a summer 2012 release.

Meredith Monk DVD

PRESS RELEASE

Meredith Monk Inner Voice
Brings the Iconoclastic American Performer, Singer, Filmmaker and Choreographer
To Film Screens at the Dance On Camera Festival at Lincoln Center
January 29, 1:30pm; Monday, February 1, 6pm
Introduced by the director Babeth M. VanLoo

An admiring portrait of an individual whose calm, joyous personality makes her quite wonderful company, both at work and in conversation.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety

Meredith Monk is a true Renaissance artist: a composer, singer, director, choreographer and creator of new opera, music theater, films and installations. Monk first began working in New York in the mid 60’s and in 1968 founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance. In 1978 she formed Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to expand her musical textures and forms. Her first feature film, Book of Days, was released in 1988, and screened at the New York Film Festival. Most recently her music theater piece, Songs of Ascension, had its New York premiere at BAM in October, 2009.

Babeth M. VanLoo’s documentary follows Monk during the process of making Songs of Ascension at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and at Ann Hamilton’s Tower in California. It also offers an intimate look into Monk’s life and spiritual practice, inclusive of footage of Monk on retreat in New Mexico, at the Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York, and interviews with her collaborators and close friends and on tour with her company in Italy.

The film also includes clips from some of Monk’s most important works, and sets out to locate the motivation and source of Monk’s creative source. As in her work, the film retains a sense of mystery and wonder.

Filmmaker, director, producer and media artist Babeth M. VanLoo has directed and produced over 40 films and video projects under the auspices of her production company Film Art Amsterdam. Her work is mainly concerned with art, social engagement and spirituality. Over the course of the last thirty years, her subjects have included such cultural icons as Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Keith Richards, the Sex Pistols, Philip Glass, Noam Chomsky, Thich Nhat Hanh, and His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Her projects have been shown worldwide and on such television networks as PBS in the United States; NHK, Japan; WDR, Germany; Antenne 2, France; and in the Netherlands on on BOS, VPRO, IKON, and EO.

VanLoo’s early career includes studying Art as Social Sculpture with Professor Joseph Beuys in Germany. She later moved to the United States, earning her masters degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1977 where she subsequently taught. In addition to SFAI, VanLoo taught filmmaking & media at several international art and film academies until 2000, including the Royal Conservatory in The Hague where she worked with such composers as John Cage. Between 1994 and 2001 she also worked as producer for the internationally acclaimed filmmaker Johan van der Keuken.

In 2000 VanLoo became the Programming Director of BOS, the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation. BOS is the first Buddhist television station in the western world that is part of the Public Broadcasting System for producing and broadcasting documentaries, and in 2000 earned a national broadcasting permit on NPO in the Netherlands.

Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, and creator of new opera and music theater works. A pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique,” Monk has been hailed as “a magician of the voice,” and “one of America’s coolest composers.” During a career that spans more than 40 years, she has been acclaimed by audiences and critics as a major creative force in the performing arts. She has received numerous awards including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and in 2006 was named a USA Fellow and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In the mid ’60s Monk began her innovative exploration of the voice as a multi-faceted instrument and subsequently composed and performed many solo pieces for unaccompanied voice and voice/keyboard. In 1978 she formed Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to further expand her musical textures and forms. She has made over a dozen recordings, mostly on the ECM New Series label, including the 2008 Grammy nominated impermanence. Her music has been performed by numerous soloists and groups including Bang on a Can All Stars, Björk, Double Edge and Musica Sacra. She has been commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas/New World Symphony, and Kronos Quartet among others. Her music can also be heard in such films as La Nouvelle Vague by Jean-Luc Godard and The Big Lebowski by Joel and Ethan Coen.

In October 1999 Monk performed a Vocal Offering for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama as part of the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles. In 2000, the Lincoln Center Festival celebrated Monk’s music with a three-concert retrospective and in 2004, a 4 ½ hour marathon was presented at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. Another marathon, Meredith Monk Music @ The Whitney, was presented in spring 2009, followed by the site-specific Ascension Variations at the Guggenheim Museum. Her newest work, Songs of Ascension, premiered in October 2008 and continues with touring in 2010.

Leelee Sobieski in Finding Bliss

Leelee Sobieski ‘Finding Bliss’ acquired

Julie Davis’ Finding Bliss, a romantic comedy set in the realm of the adult film industry, has been acquired by Phase 4 Films – which, perhaps not coincidentally, recently bought the rights to another movie dealing with (at least some) XXX material, Brigitte Berman’s documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel. Starring Leelee Sobieski, Denise Richards, Jamie Kennedy, Kristen Johnston, Caroline Aaron, and Matt Davis, Finding Bliss is scheduled to be released in spring 2010.

The following synopsis is from the Phase 4 Films press release: “Finding Bliss follows aspiring filmmaker Jody Balaban (a strong performance by Sobieski), who quickly realizes the closest she’ll ever get to directing is directing traffic on the studio lot. That is, until porn company Grind Productions comes calling. The studio head (brilliantly played by Kristen Johnston) offers Jody a job as a film editor on Grind’s first ‘cross-over’ adult feature, hoping the film school grad will bring a romantic, accessible point of view to the hard-core material. Preconceived notions and judgments fly out the door when Jody falls for porn director Jeff Drake (Matt Davis) and befriends porn star Dick Harder (a full frontal Jamie Kennedy) and the film becomes both a witty battle of the sexes and raunchy comedy dealing with one girl’s search to find love and friendship in the most unlikely of places. “

Also from the release: “Finding Bliss marks the third feature written and directed by Julie Davis. Her last film, Amy’s Orgasm, was called ‘candid, funny, and deeply authentic’ by the Daily Variety and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called her first film, I Love You, Don’t Touch Me!, ‘a debut of a fresh new voice, one that’s honest, sexy, and consistently funny.’ Finding Bliss premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and was the closing feature at the Gen Art Film Fest.”

Photos: Phase 4 / LightShow Entertainment

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is currently accepting entries for the 2010 Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition. As per the Academy’s press release, up to five $30,000 fellowships will be awarded through the program in November.

For the first time, the entire application process this year, including the submission of entry scripts, will be done online. No scripts will be accepted via mail or e-mail. Online applications, rules and other details are available at www.oscars.org/nicholl.

More from the release: “The Nicholl Fellowships competition is open to any individual who has not earned more than $5,000 from the sale or option of a screenplay or teleplay, or received a fellowship or prize of more than $5,000 that includes a ‘first look’ clause, an option or any other quid pro quo involving the writer’s work. To enter, writers must submit a completed application online, upload one PDF copy of their original screenplay in English and pay the entry fee before 11:59 p.m. PT on May 1, ’10. The regular entry fee is US$45; an early-bird entry fee of US$30 is available for those who enter prior to 11:59 p.m. PT on April 1, ’10.

“Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a new feature-length screenplay during the fellowship year. The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl Fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.

“Last year’s competition drew a record 6,380 entries. Since the program’s inception in 1985, 113 fellowships have been awarded.”

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