24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Rachel Abramowitz

Cannes 2010: Has class consciousness become the festival through-line?

May 14, 2010 | 10:41 am

 Class consciousness has certainly stormed the Croisette this season.

Housemaid_7 First there was "Robin Hood," or "Robin du Bois," as it's known here, with Russell Crowe playing the mythic figure as a freedom fighter bent to take down King John, who taxes his people indiscriminately to pay for foolish foreign adventures. Then there's Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," in which the baddies are ethically challenged Wall Street billionaires. Now comes "The Housemaid," a South Korean twist on the same theme, about a young, naive maid who's seduced by her Korean master, a wine-swilling, Beethoven-playing Korean Master of the Universe. 

A piece of lurid fun, "The Housemaid" is actually a remake of a famous 1960 Korean film that stormed that nation the year it premiered. The 2010 edition has a certain kitschy flair, with some exceptionally tony villainess — i.e. the master's doll-like wife and her manipulative mother who have a positively lethal hissy fit when they discover their maid is pregnant. 

Hollywood films tend to finesse class differences to the point of erasure. For instance, in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," the hero is Shia LaBeouf, who's character ostensibly grew up poor. Yet once the movie actually begins, he's a loaded young trader who loves fast motorcycles. By contrast, "The Housemaid" presents a vision of feudal-like servitude amid modern-day Korean oligarchs, a condition that ultimately enrages those on the lower end of the social spectrum. Director Im Sang-Soo is clearly a devotee of Hitchcock, so the anti-elitist furor goes down with spooky, spine-tingling panache.

— Rachel Abramowitz


Original 'Red Dawn' director takes aim at the remake

March 26, 2010 | 11:40 am

Re
Filmgoers who go see MGM's "Hot Tub Time Machine" this weekend will catch several references to "Red Dawn," the 1984 Cold War action film that MGM is remaking.

But ask John Milius, who directed and co-wrote the original, what he thinks of that remake and the answer is simple.

Not much. 

"I think it’s a stupid thing to do. The movie is not very old," says Milius, who’s not involved in the new film  but was given a chance to read the new script. "It was terrible. There was a strange feeling to the whole thing. They were fans of the movie so they put in stuff they thought was neat. It’s all about neat action scenes, and has nothing to do with story."

In the original film, the Soviet Union has invaded the continental United States, and a group of young men and women (Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey) band together as a guerrilla group, nicknamed the Wolverines, to fight off the occupiers.  In the 2010 edition, directed by Dan Bradley and starring Chris Hemsworth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the villains are the Chinese.

While the new baddies might tap into American fears about a rising China, to Milius it makes little political sense. “There’s only one example in 4,000 years of Chinese territorial adventurism, and that was in 1979, when they invaded Vietnam, and to put it mildly they got their [butts] handed to them,“ says Milius, noting that China built a wall to separate itself from invaders. “Why would China want us? They sell us stuff. We’re a market. I would have done it about Mexico."

“Red Dawn” isn’t the only Milius film getting a new treatment. Marcus Nispel (“Friday the 13th") is making a new “Conan,” a retelling of the mythology that Milius explored in the 1982 film “Conan the Barbarian,” which launched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career.  But Milius is not too psyched about "Conan" either -- or remakes in general. “No one wants their movie remade, especially when the movies take on a life of their own," he says.

--Rachel Abramowit

Photo: "Red Dawn." Credit: MGM

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Amanda Seyfried likely to don 'Red Riding Hood'

March 5, 2010 |  6:33 pm

A few weeks ago, we reported that Amanda Seyfried was on the studio shortlist for the Catherine Hardwicke-directed, Leonardo DiCaprio-produced "The Girl With the Red Riding Hood" at Warner Bros. Sources now say it's looking likely Seyfried will come aboard the dark adaptation of the fairy tale for Hardwicke.

Seyf The Times' Rachel Abramowitz also recently caught up with Hardwicke, who acknowledged the Seyfried discussions. Hardwicke tipped a few more details about the "Twilight"-esque project (based on an idea from DiCaprio), which she described as being about a “village plagued by this wolf."

"It’s wild with all these different secrets and lies, and a murder mystery," she said. "It’s super-sexy.”

“Red Riding Hood” has never lacked for modern cinematic re-interpretations, including Neil Jordan’s “The Company of Wolves,” which explored the innocent Riding Hood’s sexual awakening, and the 1996 “Freeway,” in which the story was refracted through the lens of a serial killer (Kiefer Sutherland) and an abused girl (Reese Witherspoon).

Hardwicke adds that she thinks a green light will happen on this one. "We’re on track, and it looks pretty positive," she said.

Photo: Amanda Seyfried. Credit: Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images

Memo to all women: No half for you in Hollywood

February 23, 2010 |  5:04 pm

Bigelow

OK, we’re not just imagining it.

Women may make up 51% of the population, but actresses nabbed only 29.9% of the 4,379 speaking parts in the 100 top-grossing films of 2007, or so says a new study released by University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which was conducted by professor Stacy. L Smith. 

According to Smith’s study, 83% of all directors, writers, and producers on those films were male. Not surprisingly, the number of female characters grew dramatically when a woman directed a film -- up to 44.6% from 29.3% if a man was behind the camera.

That number would probably be even lower if Smith and her team had to factor in "The Hurt Locker," from filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, who many believe will be the first woman to win an Academy Award for directing come March 7. The number of parts for females in her movie? According to IMDB, only three of the 34 actors were women, which means they accounted around 9% of the characters on screen.

A few more numbers to consider: Smith said these statistics about women directors and female actors should be interpreted with caution -- only three of the top 100 films of 2007 had a female director.

-- Rachel Abramowitz

Photo of Kathryn Bigelow by Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment.


The humble beginnings of 'Shutter Island'

February 18, 2010 | 11:54 am

The Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio psychological thriller "Shutter Island," which opens this weekend, may have the look and budget of a splashy Hollywood production.

Shu But the Paramount release, written by frequent James Cameron collaborator Laeta Kalogridis, began life as part of an initiative from production company Phoenix Pictures in which prominent writers are paid a comparatively low fee (the Writers Guild minimum, actually) to work on their passion projects.

It's a program that testifies both to Phoenix's risk-taking and the mindset of big-name writers willing to take less money to work on something they like -- and that they can develop without pesky studio intervention (at least until the studio buys it). "It's a very smart way of giving the writer a certain amount of artistic creative license, because you are in essence writing on spec with only the input of the producers," Kalogridis says. (If the film gets made, the writer gets his or her standard quote plus a bonus.)

After enlisting the writer and developing the script, Phoenix hires the director and draws up a budget and only then approaches a studio with the option to make the film. "We say, ‘Tell us whether you want to make it,' " says Medavoy. "As opposed to getting into an endless process with 20 opinions and getting endless notes. That's what we're trying to minimize."

Continue reading »

Taylor Swift: future movie star?

February 10, 2010 |  5:15 pm

Swi Taylor Swift makes her film debut this weekend with the ensemble romantic comedy "Valentine's Day," playing a sweet, vacuous high-schooler. The 20-year-old is hardly the first musician of her generation (or any generation) to make the jump to features.

Swift's sort-of contemporary Carrie Underwood has announced that she will make her acting debut in "Soul Surfer," based on the true-life surfer Bethany Hamilton,  who lost her arm in a shark attack. (Underwood plays a church youth counselor.) And the list of stars who've tried it before is a long one. Barbara Streisand ("Funny Girl"), Dolly Parton ("9 to 5") Madonna ("Vision Quest") and Beyonce  ("Austin Powers in Goldmember") all made the jump to the big screen after establishing robust musical careers, not to mention the less successful segues like, ahem, Britney Spears'. (For a complete look at songstresses who remade themselves as thespians, check out the photo gallery below.)

Swift So how did Swift come to be involved?

Garry Marshall, the veteran filmmaker who directed "Valentine's Day," heard of her interest in a role, so he and his writers decided to come up with a story line for Swift. Taylor Lautner (whom Swift is reported to have briefly dated) also wanted to be in the film,  so Marshall had Swift's character fall for Lautner. (To come up with plot points, the director queried Lautner about his Minnesota upbringing. "What were you remembered for?" Marshall asked. Lautner was a hurdler, so that's what the director put in the film.)

Marshall admits he was nervous when he first met the tween pop idol. "I don't always know how to relate in the right way," says Marshall, who, at 75, is a mere 55 years old than Swift. 

But he did use some tricks that can help a director bond with talent. "I said, 'Let's start off on a good foot. My lucky number is 13 and so is yours. She said, ‘It is!' Suddenly we were pals forever. She has e-mail, everything with the number 13 in it. I showed up to direct her in a shirt with 13 on it.  I have to figure out a way to get along. I don't talk the musical terms, but she was wonderful."

-- Rachel Abramowitz

Photo: Taylor Swift. Credit:  Peter Kramer / Associated Press


About a writer: Nick Hornby's film-world reinvention

February 5, 2010 |  7:00 am

Nick Hornby made his reputation in moviedom by writing the books that other people adapt into hits. But as "An Education," the darkly sweet coming-of-age movie based on his script, takes its place among the Oscars' 10 best-picture contenders, Hornby is doubling down on his film bets.

Ho The novelist-cum-lyricist is affiliated with two films that are picking up steam. His wife, Amanda Posey, and her producing partner, Finola Dwyer -- also the team behind  "An Education" -- have  just reclaimed rights to the film adaptation of the Hornby-penned "A Long Way Down" and put a new screenwriter on it.

The 2005 serio-comic novel was first optioned by Johnny Depp’s burgeoning production company, Infinitum Nihil, which had hired “High Fidelity” co-writer  D.V. DeVincentis to write a draft. But Dwyer and Posey now have the rights back, and they’ve hired British writer Jack Thorne to take a stab.

Thorne is a writer on the British television series "Cast Offs," a mockumentary that explores the comedic and dramatic lives of six physically disabled people living together on a remote island. Given that "Long Way Down" is about four emotionally and mentally traumatized people who meet on a rooftop while trying to commit suicide, that may make him a surprisingly apt choice.

Hornby is also forging ahead with his own original script -- and it's not exactly what you'd expect from the sardonic voice of the male id. He's in the early stages of writing a family-animation tale titled "The Babymakers," which Posey describes as being about "the creatures inside the body who make babies." Hey, if Wes Anderson can do animation ...

Although Hornby did write the 1997 British screen version of his novel “Fever Pitch” (not the Jimmy Fallon one, a far looser adaptation from the Farrelly brothers), he still prefers not to adapt his own novels. “To me, the books feel like an end in themselves,” he said. “ People talk about books being turned into films. I don’t ever feel that the book has been turned into anything."

-- Steven Zeitchik and Rachel Abramowitz


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