Last week, Steven Soderbergh bemoaned the state of the film industry during a talk at the San Francisco International Film Fest, and this week, the Girls in Hoodies respond to some of his arguments. We use examples from a so-far-underwhelming summer movie season and Baz Luhrmann's upcoming The Great Gatsby 3D as fodder, and probably alienate every fan of Marvel's Avengers mega-franchise in the process.
Before anybody sits down to eat a big bowl of Iron Man 3 (well, any North American body; the rest of the world's been eating for a week, and based on the grosses I'd say they're full), Steven Soderbergh needs the world to know that the movies are in trouble. In a rambling but frequently pointed speech Saturday at the San Francisco International Film Festival, the man who gave us Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Bubble, three Ocean's movies, Che, The Informant!, Contagion, Side Effects, and a soon-to-be-aired movie with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover, lamented the death of art in the movies.
"We are a species that is driven by narrative" to make sense of the chaos, he told a receptive audience. But we are no longer in the narrative business. We're in the chaos business, the business business. The Hollywood studios are making fewer movies than they were a decade ago, while the number of independent films has grown astronomically during the same 10 years. But the studios dominate the marketing, which is why our grandmothers know the opening date for Man of Steel but have no idea who Olivier Assayas or Carlos Reygadas are. Soderbergh wondered why movies cost so much and, in a memorable observation, accused the executives of being acinematic and possibly movie-illiterate:
Amid all of the secrets and lies being spilled at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour are highly intriguing reports about Behind the Candelabra, the long-in-the-works, “too gay for Hollywood” Liberace biopic that Steven Soderbergh was finally able to get made thanks to HBO. Critics were treated on Friday to “a lengthy first look” at the movie, which is about the scorchingly flamboyant entertainer’s turbulent affair with his much younger assistant Scott Thorson. Vulture reports that Michael Douglas “disappears into his role” as Liberace, whose involvement with Thorson (played by a blond mop-topped Matt Damon) eventually ended in a highly publicized palimony suit. The preview included clips of Douglas and Damon making out by a pool and bickering at home in bed, as well as Douglas consulting his plastic surgeon (played by Rob Lowe, “whose eyebrows were arched to a stunning extreme for the role”) about how to make Thorson appear more Liberace-like.
Liev Schreiber has taken on his first regular television job: the starring role in Showtime’s Ray Donovan, a family drama with comedy elements about a Los Angeles “fixer” who solves problems for celebrities and rich people but can’t work out the issues in his own private life. Sounds great! Only one question right now: How long through the first episode until someone yells out at Liev, “You’re the fixer fix it!”? Grade: A- [Deadline]
Netflix has beat out Showtime for the return of Arrested Development, and the new episodes will be available to subscribers in early 2013. The plan is to make nine to ten episodes, each focusing on a different member of the Bluth family, before heading into the movie. Yes, T.V. nerds: this is really, actually, totally happening. Feel free to riot in excitement. Grade: A- [Deadline]
Channing Tatum is under consideration for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of the sixties spy show. The role was vacated by George Clooney, apparently because a surgery was physically preventing him from doing the stunt work required. By the way, Soderbergh is currently directing Tatum in the male stripper bonanaza Magic Mike, so hopefully Channing will get bring a few G-strings over U.N.C.L.E., too. Grade: B+ [Deadline]
Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace movie has been in the works for years, and now it’s got both a home and big-name lead actors. HBO has picked up Behind the Candelabra and set Michael Douglas to star as Liberace, with Matt Damon playing his live-in lover Scott Thorson; the movie will revolve around their relationship. This is great news and everything, but now we’re going to have to come up with a new title for our candelabra documentary. Grade: A [HR]
Of all the things to make a movie about, Channing Tatum's former stripping career seems like a strange choice. So bless Steven Soderbergh, then, for having the chutzpah to do Magic Mike, his upcoming film based on Tatum’s early work as a dancer in a Chippendales-esque Florida nightclub show called Male Encounter. Joining Tatum himself (who'll play the film's title role) will be stripping novices Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Alex Pettyfer, and Matt Bomer. Sure, these guys look the part — but can they dance? Can they entertain? Could they hack it as Chippendales dancers? For answers, we presented photos and YouTube evidence of the cast's dancing abilities to Chippendales general manager Kristen Makhatini and dancer Jaymes Vaughan. Here's what they told us.
It’s not yet clear why, but George Clooney is dropping out of Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of sixties spy drama The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This is going to be one of the last films Soderbergh does before transitioning to painting (really), so the least Clooney could to make it up to Soderbergh would be to, later on, pose in the nude. Grade: D [Deadline]
ABC has bought Hangtown, a western/procedural created by Battlestar Galactica’s Ron Moore and Caprica’s Matt Roberts. Set in the early 1900s, it features three primary characters: a marshal who always goes by his gut, a doctor pushing the new field of forensics, and a young female writer trying to sell dime novels about the West. Together, every week, these three solve crimes. What? Yes. Grade: D [Deadline]
The writers responsible for The Smurfs — David Stem, David Weiss, Jay Scherick, and David Ronn — will be back for Smurfs 2. In fact, because the live-action/CGI combo thing takes so long to produce, they’ve already turned in a draft of the screenplay for the 2013 sequel. People hoping for topical political humor are probably out of luck. Grade: C [HR]
Sarah Silverman’s working on a new show — about a woman re-entering single life after a decade long committed relationship — and ABC, NBC, and FOX all want it. Also, it’s being produced by Ron Howard’s Imagine TV, and Howard is apparently so into the concept that he’s tagging along to pitch meetings. Can they just make a show about Ron Howard and Sarah Silverman in pitch meetings? Grade: B+ [Deadline]
Matthew McConaughey has joined the cast of Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh’s stripper drama that also stars, and is partially based on the pre-fame life of, Channing Tatum. McConaughey will play Dallas, a former stripper who owns a club called Xquisite and mentors Tatum’s character in exotic dancing. A former stripper? Could Soderbergh possibly have the guts to make a stripping movie in which McConaughey keeps his shirt on the entire time? Grade: A [Variety]
Brad Pitt’s Plan B productions will adapt Twelve Years a Slave — the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and enslaved before fighting his way to freedom through the legal system — with Steve McQueen directing and Chiwetel Ejiofor starring. Grade: B+ [HR]
Conventional wisdom says that, in times of economic uncertainty, audiences will seek the escapist comforts of light, edgeless movies — your Paul Blarts, your Smurfs, your Hangovers. So, as the New York Times wonders today, with a third Great Depression looming, what are the marketers at Warner Bros. to do with this fall's Contagion, the new Steven Soderbergh movie in which half the world dies from bird flu? Well, they certainly have one pretty good idea! To follow last month's trailer, wherein we learned that Gwyneth Paltrow's character — spoiler! — loses her battle with the disease, WB has released this new poster for the film (see it in full here), which features a pale, sweaty, bug-eyed Paltrow fighting for what are presumably her final breaths, promising moviegoers that on September 9 they'll be able to check their own troubles at the ticket counter and thrill to the sight of the GOOP editrix expiring from H5N1. Marketing crisis averted!
Does any of this strike you as vaguely familiar? If so, maybe you saw last year's Onion News Network video "Iron Man 2 Buzz Heats Up Over Rumors Gwyneth Paltrow Gets Punched In Face," a fake-news piece that jokingly suggested audiences might be excited to see Paltrow injured onscreen. Maybe they were on to something. Watch the Contagion trailer and the Onion video after the jump.
Martin Lawrence is negotiating with CBS to produce and star in a new sitcom. No word yet on a premise or costars, but since Lawrence's return to TV could presumably thwart a fourth Big Momma's House movie, this one gets our full blessing. Grade: A [Vulture]
Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Seyfried will star in Now You See Me, about a group of magicians who rob banks during their performances and shower their audiences in money. (They'll join the previously announced Jesse Eisenberg and Melanie Laurent.) Ruffalo will be an FBI agent and Seyfried will, naturally, play "a master technician who builds contraptions to aid in the illusion of heists." Grade: B+ [Variety]
Put off by Gwyneth Paltrow’s trademark entitled breeziness? Her casually smug musings about the rigors of raising her rockstar children in an English mansion? Her sudden singing career? Her GOOP? Has Steven Soderbergh got a movie for you!