Bill Murray will star in a new Aziz Ansari film about life and death; watch the Frontline doc based on the same book as the Murray-Ansari film; big developments in Oxford, Mississippi; the Oscars get cut down. Plus: Baby Billy. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.
For the Record: Lindsay Lohan has joined possible Chinese spyware site TikTok to make everyone (except me!) realize we’ve been mispronouncing her name Lo-han, when it’s actually Lo-wan. For once my subtle Delaware County warble is good for something.
Being Mortal: Bill Murray will star in Aziz Ansari’s directorial debut, a loose adaptation of the Dr. Atul Gawande book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. It’s a non-fiction book about the quest for a good death, and about using the time you have as well as you can. Ansari also wrote the script and will play a role in the film. He is producing with Youree Henley, and Searchlight Pictures will release the film in 2023.
More Being Mortal: The book was also the basis of a very beautiful PBS Frontline documentary. Full disclosure: I worked briefly for Frontline, and on the promotion of the film. You can watch the entire film here. The section near the end, about a man dying on his family farm, is especially moving. Also I love the final shot of Dr. Gawande sitting along a river’s edge.
What a Brave Man Tells His Grandson When He Knows He’s Going to Die: “I’m not afraid of dying. I’ve had a long and wonderful life. And one of the nice things about being at the farm is you realize: Everything dies.”
Not a Matter of Life and Death: The Oscars will cut eight awards from this year’s live telecast, including, most ironically, editing. The awards being edited, besides the one for editing, are for production design, sound, makeup and hairstyling, original score and the three short film awards — for documentary, live-action and animated short. They will be handed out at the Oscars before the live broadcast begins on ABC, The Associated Press reports. This means the Dolby Theatre ceremony will start an hour before the telecast, which is great for people who like walking into movies an hour late — the ultimate form of editing.
‘Oscar Moment’: Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president David Rubin says the eight awards will be edited into the three-hour live broadcast so that each winner will still enjoy an onscreen “Oscar moment.” It amuses me that The AP story puts this phrase in quotes.
Justification: Last year’s telecast was the lowest-rated ever. “When deciding how to produce the Oscars, we recognize it’s a live event television show and we must prioritize the television audience to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant,” Rubin explains.
Mark Harris Thinks This Is a Goofy Idea: The author of the acclaimed film books Pictures at a Revolution, Five Came Back and and Mike Nichols believes the ceremony is chasing non-existent viewers who love everything about moviemaking — except moviemaking. “The holy grail of the Oscars has become this imaginary ABC viewer who is eagerly waiting for there to be fewer awards, no old people, no artsy movies, a super-fast pace, and Spider-Man,” he tweeted. “And I guess the Academy is going to chase that mirage right over the edge of a cliff.”
Speaking of Books: I’m currently reading Jeff Pearlman’s 2014 book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers, the basis of the new Adam McKay HBO show Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.
Oxford Changes: The beloved Oxford Film Festival just announced its new lineup, its first under interim executive director Jim Brunzell, who moved into the role when the very highly regarded Melanie Addington moved on to Wichita’s Tallgrass Film Festival. Brunzell, from Sound Unseen, is working with Justina Walford, the former head and founder of the Women Texas Film Festival, who recently become Oxford’s director of programming. (Both Oxford and Tallgrass are on our latest list of 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.)
That’s Lovely, But What Are the Films? The festival will open with Hugo Sobelman’s documentary Soul Kids, aboutMemphis’ Stax Music Academy, which was born of the legendary Stax Records and teaches children to understand soul. (Oxford and Memphis are about 75 miles apart, by car, so if you go to the festival you can also check out Memphis’ Stax Record Museum — as well as Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Records, Graceland and some other unforgettable places. ) The festival will end with Max Walker-Silverman’s romantic drama, A Love Song, starring Wes Studi and Dale Dickey as childhood sweetheart who find themselves widowed and reunited during a night by a lake. Dickey will also receive Oxford’s Breakthrough Acting Award. In all, Oxford will showcase 118 films, representing 18 countries, including 38 features (16 narrative and 22 documentary); 67 short films (narrative, documentary, LGBTQIA+, ambition and experimental, student, and Mississippi-based productions); and 13 music videos. The festival will be held March 23-27, and you can learn more about it here.
More Memphis: If you aren’t watching the Coen-esque Righteous Gemstones this season you’re really missing out. There’s a big subplot involving the legendarily violent Memphis wrestling scene, as well as even better subplots involving double-child abandonment, biker ninjas, and all-healing elixirs.
Pulling It All Together: Bill Murray also appeared on Vice Principals, the Danny McBridge HBO series before Righteous Gemstones that also paired McBride with Gemstones standout Walton Goggins.
Main image: Uncle Baby Billy Freeman (Walton Goggins) in The Righteous Gemstones.