How to get A-listers to work cheap; Jimmy Kimmel will host the Oscars again; new DC Films chief James Gunn is working on “the biggest story ever told,” what would make James Cameron hang it up after a mere three Avatars. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.
Good Trolling: Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos and The White Lotus invited Kyrie Irving this weekend to watch Four Winters, a new documentary about Jewish Resistance fighters who took up arms against the Nazis in World War II. Irving did not attend.
Recommendations: I’m home after traveling to the Austin Film Festival and Provo, Utah’s FilmQuest, and saw some ridiculously good films at both. A couple things that really impressed me included the FilmQuest thriller Influencer, a brilliant and very twisty Thailand-set story of stolen identity by Kurtis David Harder; the Austin film Salma’s Home, a moving and beautifully crafted tale of two widows brought together though death, by Hanadi Elyan; and the wild psychosexual thriller Follow Her, by Sylvia Caminer, which played both FilmQuest and Austin. I’m still catching up on a lot of screeners from both festivals.
More: A great short that played both festivals is “Special Delivery,” a madcap, maniacal horror comedy about a young couple too busy to have kids — he’s just joined an ironic kickball league! — who are tormented by an evil stork. You can watch the whole film, by Andrew Melzer, on the film’s website, SpecialDeliveryFilm.com. You will probably laugh.
Jimmy Kimmel: Will be your Oscars host, for the third time, as the awards show try to maintain their upward momentum. Ratings were up dramatically in 2022 from 2021’s all-time low. The show had no host in 2019, 2020 or 2021. Then the Oscars reversed course and brought in three hosts — Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall — for the latest edition.
Discount A-Listers: James Gray learned from his previous film, Ad Astra, that big budgets mean annoying compromises with the people signing the checks. So in his latest film, Armageddon Time, Gray decided to tell a very personal story that could be made for far less money. Yet he still managed to land an A-list cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Chastain. How? “They work for nothing,” he told us. “You say, ‘I’m going to send you a script, I can’t pay anything, and in exchange, I’ll give you a fantastic experience.’ Pretty much like that.” We’ll let him explain more here.
The Biggest Story Ever Told: Now that James Gunn is running DC Films, he may be tweeting less. And working on something very big. “Although our ability to interact on Twitter has been lessened due to the workload of our new positions, we are listening & open to everything as we embark on this journey, & will continue to do so for the next few years,” Gunn tweeted this weekend. “But all our initial focus is on the story going forward, hammering out the new DCU, & telling the Biggest Story Ever Told across multiple films, television shows, & animated projects.”
Three and Out: James Cameron is prepared to wrap the whole Avatar thing in three films if there’s a poor reception for Avatar: The Way of Water, he says in a new interview with Total Film. “The market could be telling us we’re done in three months, or we might be semi-done, meaning: ‘Okay, let’s complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly,’ if it’s just not profitable … We’re in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff, even. It’s the one-two punch — the pandemic and streaming. Or, conversely, maybe we’ll remind people what going to the theater is all about. This film definitely does that. The question is: how many people give a s— now?” A lesser man might have given up after two films if the second film isn’t successful.
May I Editorialize?: It will be successful.
Four Winters: Here is the trailer for the film, by Julia Mintz, which looks outstanding:
Main image: Jimmy Kimmel making a timely penis joke at the 2018 Oscars.