Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tuesday tidbits, a visit from Wallace & Gromit, and why today should be a national holiday

Actually, let's start with the latter, because this is indeed a day so glorious that I should get the day off: After tonight, Jay Leno will no longer be polluting the airwaves at an hour when I'm still awake.

I suppose it's rude to kick a man when he's down, but what he and NBC tried to do to prime time was so atrocious, there's really nothing else to do but celebrate its demise. And though I realize he comes out of it as kind of a winner, since he gets to return to the wounded and almost dead duck that is "The Tonight Show," at least it will be at an hour by which I'm almost always fast asleep.

And though Time magazine actually hailed him as "the future of television" on a serious cover (and I have yet to see any apology for that), this Entertainment Weekly cover sums up the situation much more accurately (and is much, much funnier too), so I'll just let that speak for itself. Enjoy, and even though you surely have to work today, take some solace from the fact that today is V-JL Day (Victory over Jay Leno, of course, and I can take credit for that bit of silliness.)

And what I have after that today is news about three directors I like to varying degrees, in order of just how much I like them, and two videos, one the promised "Wallace & Gromit" bit and the other some madness about Colin Farrell and a mermaid (yes, really.)

First up is Thom McCarthy, who is easily one of my favorite directors working today. He's also an actor, and you may recognize him from his work on "The Wire" and various movies (including somehow, if I'm not mistaken, "2012"!)

As for the movies he's directed himself, there are two that I know of, and I love them both. "The Station Agent" is a sublime little movie, but even better is "The Visitor," easily one of my favorite movies of 2007 and featuring a well-deserved, Oscar-nominated turn by Richard Jenkins (who will somehow now be appearing in the thoroughly unnecessary American remake of "Let the Right One In" - Ack!) If you've never seen this one, I highly recommend it, because you'll find few better stories about immigration in America and the human face of it we so often strive to simply ignore.

And now it seems McCarthy is amping up to direct again, though this time with something completely different and much lighter.

In a tale apparently drawn directly from his own experiences, and in what sounds slightly like a white version of "The Blind Side," McCarthy is now working on a "light-hearted comedy" called "Win Win," which will be "about how a rough-and-tumble runaway changes the lives of a suburban New Jersey family and turns around the luck of a high school wrestling team," according to the always reliable The Playlist. The runaway wasn't McCarthy, but instead one of his childhood friends.

That certainly sounds like it has the potential for mawkishness, but I have full faith in McCarthy, and as someone who at least tried to wrestle in high school, the subject itself intrigues me. Paul Giamatti is apparently on board, presumably as the wrestling coach (perfect), and he and McCarthy are now out scouting unknown actors for the lead role, with an early March start to filming in New York and New Jersey. I can't imagine too many aspiring high school wrestlers read this, but if so, now is your big shot, I guess.

When I saw this next bit about the return of Peter Bogdanovich, I had to visit the IMDB to see when he had last a) made a feature film and b) made one that I've seen. The answers are: a) in 2001, which something called "Cat's Meow" and b) in 1973 and '74 with, respectively, "Paper Moon" and "Daisy Miller."

Even so, when you add to those "The Last Picture Show" and the perfectly silly "Targets," I think you can certainly list Bogdanovich as a great American director, so news of his potential return to the big screen is worth noting.

According to Variety, he's writing and directing an adaption of Kurt Andersen's novel "Turn of the Century," which I can't say I've read. Set in February 2000, it apparently focuses on a Manhattan power couple and their three private school kids. As details go, that sounds pretty far from exciting, but I'm betting Bogdanovich will turn this into something worth watching when filming starts in New York in spring 2011 (though with actual filming that far away, I suppose I should say "if" it starts.)

And finally, in something that's coming together very quickly, it seems that Steven Soderbergh is moving forward with "Contagion," a deadly virus outbreak thriller which is already somehow set to star Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard, even though so far at least there is no studio attached.

When Soderbergh is genuinely engaged and having fun, I do too, which was certainly the case with "The Informant" this year. And if I can digress just a bit, I didn't see "Invictus," but no matter how good Damon may have been in that, there's no way he shouldn't have been nominated instead for his amazing role in "The Informant" at this year's Oscars instead.

Here's hoping "Contagion" turns into a fun ride rather than the star-studded disaster it certainly could very easily become.

OK, it's probably time to start wrapping this up, but there's also a bit of very good casting news out there too. Danny Boyle's next movie, "127 Hours," is already set to star James Franco as Aron Ralston, a mountaineer who was forced to amputate his own arm in order to escape entrapment under a fallen boulder. And now it seems that Amber Tamblyn, who presumably can no longer talk directly with God, has joined the flick as his girlfriend, with the relationship apparently played out in a series of flashbacks in his mind.

I'm not sure how far along this is, but I love me some Danny Boyle, so this is one certainly worth keeping your eyes on.

And now, for the real ending, does anyone remember "The Secret of Roan Inish"? I love that John Sayles movie about selkies, mysterious Irish creatures of myth that can turn from seals into humans. Well, it seems Neil Jordan did too, and now he's made "Ondine," which stars Colin Farrell as an alcoholic Irish fisherman whose life is turned around when he encounters what he thinks is a mermaid (the simply stunningly beautiful Alicja Bachleda, his actual wife.) What will hopefully be a magical fairy tale of sorts has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures, and with Farrell in it, I suppose it might even play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world when it drops June 4 in the U.S. Enjoy the trailer.

And finally, as promised at the outset, there is indeed a visit from Wallace & Gromit today, thanks to a heads up from my fellow cubicle slave Randy Waters. Nick Park is nominated for an Oscar this year in the short film category for "Wallace & Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death," and I'm certainly rooting for him. But here today, all we get is a little snippet of the duo in action, with poor Gromit of course subjected to another of Wallace's disastrous inventions, the "Turbo Diner." Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

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