Silver: I find my complete indifference to this trailer vexing. For a film written and directed by Judd Apatow I feel like I should have been laughing more. Even the bits with Apatow ringers like Jason Segel and Melissa McCarthy only elicited a smile from me. In just three films (This is 40 being the fourth) Mr. Apatow has proven that he’s successfully stolen the melodrama torch away from Cameron Crowe (for the time being). Apatow makes such a concerted effort for his films to tonally and thematically slalom down the narrative hill between humor and drama that films like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up felt unnecessarily long, and a film like Funny People played like two different movies. So for a trailer positioning a film as THE holiday comedy it would have been nice to have a few legitimate laugh-out-loud moments (“Ah! Kelly Clarkson!”). Nevertheless, I’m going to chalk this up to bad marketing, this is a film (and filmmaker) I am more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
Among my growing list of signs the Mayans are probably right about 2012 — in addition to a Harvard-educated Asian American Christian taking the NBA by storm — would have to be Pixar’s omission from the Best Animated Film Oscar nominees. Sure, pointing out that Cars 2 didn’t make the cut probably stokes as much indifference as hearing your spoiled cousin whine about only getting an Audi for her sweet 16. Nonetheless, Pixar’s sole rep at the Theater-Previously-Known-as-Kodak this year is director Enrico Casarosa, whose La Luna was nominated for Best Animated Short.
As I hope I’ve made clear by this point in our Oscar journey, I love awards. I cover them, I handicap them, I tweet them, I do useless math about them, I would happily volunteer to accept them if the actual winners could not attend, and I watch them. On Sunday I got really excited about the complicated, layered irony of Bon Iver winning Best New Artist at the Grammys even though I’m about 80 percent sure that I don’t know who he is. So when I propose the elimination of an award, please understand that it’s with a heavy heart. That said, when it comes to the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, my strong feeling is, to quote Padma Lakshmi: Please pack your knives and go.
Pixar, that famed oasis of wit, wonder, and imagination, stumbled slightly this summer with Cars 2, the studio’s first movie ever to get beaten up by the critics. But it still made over half a billion dollars (a.k.a. "Jay-Z money") and everybody assumes Pixar will get its swag back with the next one. Which is Brave, a magical Scottish adventure in which the King’s rebel daughter battles some big-time hexes and curses. This is the first Pixar movie to feature a female lead and was conceived by animation OG Brenda Chapman, who was inspired in part by her relationship with her own daughter. Chapman spent six years on the project as director — until she was fired last spring owing to creative differences. She was then replaced by a dude, Mark Andrews. Even without Chapman, though, Brave will still feature a female protagonist and POV. If it’s good, Brave can still be the barrier-busting Bridesmaids of animation.
Over the weekend the critic-proof money-printers at Pixar announced two upcoming, top-secret projects. The first, scheduled for the end of 2013, is about dinosaurs — more specifically a world in which dinosaurs and humans co-exist. (Story credit: Michele Bachmann?) This seems like a slam-dunk for the studio as the only possible subject matter with greater universal appeal to children is GoGurt.
Every summer it happens, as reliable as fireworks or Shark Week: The geniuses at Pixar release a new animated film, delighting children and melting the persnickety hearts of their finicky parents in the process. Nothing has changed in 2011 — except the last part. Today Pixar releases Cars 2, a sequel to what had previously been the beloved studio’s least loved effort. And the early word isn’t pretty. (Quoth the New York Post: "They said it couldn’t be done. But Pixar proved the yaysayers wrong when it made its first bad movie, Cars. Now it has worsted itself with the even more awful Cars 2.” Snarks the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “With Cars 2, Pixar goes somewhere new: the ditch.”) With a Rotten Tomatoes score currently parked at a putrid 36 percent fresh (by way of comparison, Toy Story 3, last year's offering, sports a show-offy 99 percent), not even the wizards of Emeryville can ignore the ominous rattling coming from their animated engine.
This week brings the release of Super 8, director J.J. Abrams’ bighearted tribute to the sort of wide-eyed, family-friendly alien adventure movies Steven Spielberg used to make before he discovered less interesting things such as American history, Oscars, and Tom Hanks. The compelling wrinkle? Spielberg himself is the film’s executive producer and, in Abrams’ words, its "key voice." Imitation, flattery, and outright theft have a long, distinguished, and shameless history in Hollywood — but this strikes us as something different. Rather than merely aping his idol, Abrams is, essentially, making a Spielberg film for Spielberg.
And this got us thinking: What other faded masters could use the vibrant influence of their own artistic descendants — and what current up-and-comers could really use the firm, if graying, hand of an old master? Thus we propose the Director Mentorship Academy, in which younger directors enroll to make a better version of someone else’s movie — with the help of that very someone else. Below are some suggestions for the inaugural class.