The Power of the Dog Kirsten Dunst Jesse Plemons

The Power of the Dog has its day, and other Oscar news; a Michael Jackson biopic will have to deal with, like, you know; a Top Gun: Maverick patch update. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.

Oscar Nominations: Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog leads the Oscar nominations with 12, including nominations in every major category except Best Actress (and that’s only because Kirsten Dunst was nominated in Supporting.)

What Else? Belfast, Licorice Pizza and Drive My Car also had a nice morning. Lady Gaga, not so much. Denis Villeneuve: mixed. His Dune is up for 10 nominations, including Best Picture, and he’s also up for Best Adapted Screenplay — but he wasn’t nominated for Best Director. Here’s our short and sweet summary.

Matrix Lawsuit: Village Roadshow has sued Warner Bros., claiming that the studio sabotaged the theatrical release of The Matrix Resurrections so fans would watch it on HBO Max. This came from HBO Max’s COVID-inspired decision to release its entire 2021 slate — including Best Picture nominees King Richard and Dune — simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. “This is a frivolous attempt by Village Roadshow to avoid their contractual commitment to participate in the arbitration that we commenced against them last week,” Warner Bros. says in a statement to Variety.

Maverick Update (June 1, 2022): When we first published this piece on Feb. 8, 2022, we cited an Atlantic piece about China’s influence over Hollywood. The piece, excerpted from Erich Schwartzel’s book, Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy, said that Top Gun: Maverick had voluntarily removed a Taiwan patch from Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s jacket to avoid offending Chinese censors, who consider Taiwan a renegade province, rather than its own country. But now, months later, the movie is out, and it appears that either the book was wrong, or the filmmakers changed their minds. The Taiwan patch is on Maverick’s jacket in the movie, and Bloomberg reports that during a recent screening in Taiwan, audiences cheered when they saw it onscreen. Additionally, Bloomberg reports, Top Gun: Maverick isn’t expected to be released in Chinese theaters. So this isn’t a case of a Hollywood film giving in to Chinese censors, but rather a welcome case of a Hollywood film standing up to China’s government.

Michael Jackson Biopic: Lionsgate is pairing up with Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King on his new MJ biopic Michael, to be written by Gladiator screenwriter John Logan, with whom he also collaborated on Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

How to Handle the Whole… Situation: May I be blunt? How you treat Michael Jackson onscreen depends almost entirely on whether you think he’s a pedophile. I covered his entire child molestation trial for The Associated Press in the mid-oughts and came away convinced, like the jury, that he was not guilty of the charges. But the new information included in the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland made a very convincing case that he did, in fact, prey on two boys and made sure they stayed silent. This doesn’t seem like something a screenwriter can just write around: The movie needs to decide if he’s a predator or an unwitting victim. This problem also afflicts the new “MJ” musical, which last week ejected a Variety reporter for daring to raise difficult questions.

A Guess: Though THR says the film will his cover his “legal struggles with both civil and criminal lawsuits stemming from allegations of child sex abuse,” I have a strong feeling this will be a very pro-Michael Jackson film because 1. his estate gave the filmmakers permission to use his music; and 2. Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, says in a statement: “Ever since Michael was little, as a member of The Jackson 5, he loved the magic of cinema. As a family, we are honored to have our life story come alive on the big screen.”

R.I.P. Robert Blalack: The visual effects designer responsible for much of the cinematic wonder in Star Wars, and a founder of Industrial Light and Magic, has died at 73. His obituary in Deadline notes that at the age of 29, he “designed and supervised the Star Wars VistaVision Composite Optical production pipeline, which allowed all the groundbreaking 365 VistaVision VFX shots in Star Wars.” Deadline also writes that the film had a VFX budget of just $1.6 million (about $7.4 million in today’s money). 

Main image: The Power of the Dog Oscar nominees Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst.