Matt Reeves’ The Batman was inspired by these ’70s thrillers; Steven Spielberg salutes Buster Keaton at the Academy; We salute Jonah Hill’s decision to watch buzzy shows after their cultural moment has passed; We recommend the brutal Yellowjackets and two thrillers with second act pivots. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.
But First: The Sundance Film Festival 2022 kicks off today. Keep up with all of MovieMaker‘s coverage by visiting (and refreshing) this page. Right now it’s just the Sundance Survey (which you should absolutely read), but as the festival ramps up over the next 10 days, we’ll have plenty for you to follow. Next up is this morning’s festival opener press conference.
ICYMI: Our winter cover story is live! The feature explores how The Batman director Matt Reeves was heavily influenced by ’70s thrillers like Alan J. Pakula’s Klute and All the President’s Men. The story is comprehensive with interviews from Reeves, Robert Pattinson, Jeffrey Wright, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell and more. Don’t worry, there are no story spoilers in the piece. Read the full story to learn all of Reeves’ inspirations here and take a look at the cover, which also features Reeves, here.
Did You Know? Known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, Walter Murch was the first sound designer to be credited as such, which happened in 1979 for Apocalypse Now. Sound designer Nathan Ruyle, who was influenced by Murch when working on last year’s The Voyeurs, writes for us about the history of sound design and why it is finally getting its due.
Choose to be Late: Jonah Hill garnered some attention when he admitted to W Magazine that he was finally going through HBO’s Game of Thrones. I personally relate to not always watching the big important TV show when everyone else is — although I was watching GoT when it ended. But sometimes you’re just a few months — or years in Hill’s case — late on the big reveals and season-ending cliff hangers. At times, it’s important to choose to not be part of the larger cultural conversation. It gives you the illusion of autonomy over your life and your choices — or something.
That Being Said: I’m thrilled to be watching Yellowjackets right now and also that I’m not too late to the game. The (apparently shocking) season finale just aired on Showtime and I’m slowly making my way through the survival thriller, trying desperately to avoid spoilers online. Four episodes deep, my Season 1 MVP is Melanie Lynskey with a nearly-unrecognizable Christina Ricci a close second. Yellowjackets is bloody and brutal and I love it. Highly recommend.
With the Throwback Soundtrack and ’90s Outfits: I’d describe Yellowjackets as Donnie Darko meets Lord of the Flies.
Another Rec: Conspicuously absent on many end-of-year lists, Stillwater has earned a spot as one of my underrated gems of 2021. The slow-burn thriller is confident, well-acted and difficult to predict, especially after it changes pace midway through the second act. I dug it immensely. I also enjoyed talking to director Tom McCarthy last summer.
Which Leads to This Rec: Like Stillwater, Sean Penn’s The Pledge, from 2001, is a thriller with the confidence to settle down unexpectedly after the first act. But Jack Nicholson’s character here harbors motivations for choosing to put his detective life behind him that are a little more cloudy. An adaptation of a Swiss novella, I’ll be checking out the author’s original version, It Happened in Broad Daylight, soon. And if there are other languages you prefer over English (The Pledge) or German (Broad Daylight), the story has seriously been adapted in a plethora of other languages.
I Find It Humorous: That Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Pledge was described at the time as “subtle.” While, yes, that might apply here, a tamped down Nicholson is still over-the-top when compared to literally anyone else (except maybe Pacino).
Branch Selects: At the Academy Museum in Los Angeles is a weekly series that “highlights a movie ― presented chronologically from silent cinema to contemporary films ― that represents a major achievement in the evolution of cinema and its unique crafts.” their website reads. This past Tuesday, Steven Spielberg presented Buster Keaton’s 1928 silent comedy classic The Cameraman. While he was not able to be there in person to present the film, director and president of the museum Bill Kramer read remarks from a Spielberg text message to a rapt audience.
Spielberg Says: “Buster Keaton’s last feature film, The Cameraman, was arguably his best film. He saved his best for last. The pratfalls in his story about love and career as a tintype newsreel cameraman are just as graceful as they are madcap. And the infatuation story with Marceline Day is one of my favorite boy meets girl stories of all time.”
Spielberg is Right: Like many great works, the last feature we got from “The Great Stoneface” is both tender and hilarious. It’s a shame that his MGM contract sidelined Keaton’s career in its prime.
Need a Keaton Primer? If you were inspired by those Spielberg remarks, Peter Bogdanovich’s 2018 documentary The Great Buster: A Celebration is a perfect place to start.
No, You’re Not Imagining The Trend: IndieWire looks at the history of black and white cinematography and catalogues the recent trend of prestige films — The Tragedy of Macbeth, Belfast, C’mon C’mon — shooting in B&W, while others — Parasite, Mad Max: Fury Road, Nightmare Alley — create alternate B&W versions.
There are Two Types of Teaser Trailers: One is of the two-minute variety, that really functions as a regular first trailer. I’m still puzzled while these are labeled by distributors as “teasers.” The other type usually “teases” some visuals but will have the audio do the heavy lifting. There’s also typically a nice title reveal at the end.
The Lord of the Rings Teaser: Released this week is firmly the latter. We have a title now — The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power — for the Amazon series which will look at a period in Middle Earth when all the various kings, diplomats, CEOs, and thought leaders, were getting their own “rings of power.” Check out the teaser with the (already spoiled) title reveal here:
Another Teaser: Tyler Taormina shot Happer’s Comet during the height of the pandemic in 2020 with a crew of just two: himself and Jesse Sperling. Like his debut feature Ham on Rye, Happer’s Comet is a beautiful ode to the suburbs and middle-class America. Unlike Ham on Rye, the film is dialogue free. Happer’s Comet premieres in the forum section at the Berlin Film Festival next month. Here it is first teaser trailer from Factory 25:
Main image (above): Robert Pattinson as Batman and Jeffrey Wright as Lt. James Gordon in The Batman directed by Matt Reeves. Photos by Jonathan Olley/DC Comics