It’s a “Golden Age of Nude Men” onscreen; another twist in the Chinese censorship Fight Club saga; the Oscars need Spider-Man more than Spider-Man needs Oscars; a 20-year-old’s Slamdance breakthrough. Plus: Cooper Raiff’s Cha Cha Real Smooth scores a huge deal.
But First: Shalini Kantayya, director of the Sundance documentary TikTok, Boom, tells Margeaux Sippell that she started and quickly quit the social media app because it was so addictive.
Cha-Ching Real Smooth: Deadline reports that in the biggest sale out of Sundance, Apple has paid $15 million for Cooper Raiff’s Cha Cha Real Smooth, about a relationship forged at a bar mitzvah party. In our Sundance Survey, Raiff revealed his directing fee for the film: zero dollars.
No Lie: Check out this funny piece Raiff wrote for us about lying his way through this micro-budget debut, Shithouse, released in 2020 when he was just 23.
Slamdance: The Slamdance Film Festival starts today, and so does the new anti-algorithm Slamdance Channel. You can sign up to watch the festival films online for $10, or — this is what I did — sign up for a 7.99 monthly membership.
Any Recos?: Yes! I’ve already seen the Slamdance film Therapy Dogs, the exhilarating debut by Ethan Eng, who shot the film during his senior year of high school, using his classmates as actors. There’s a captivating question throughout of what’s staged and what’s documentary. Aesthetically it reminded me of Larry Clark’s Kids, but with a kid calling the shots: Eng, who started shooting the film in 2019, is now 20. I was expecting a cute movie about dogs, made by a precocious youth, and Therapy Dogs isn’t that at all. It follows risk-seeking teenage boys making a lot of mistakes, with astonishing visual flair. Don’t be surprised if someone like Apple offers him a lot of money in a couple of years. Here’s the trailer:
Full-Frontal Nudity: The Wall Street Journal, which carefully tracks these matters, declares this the “Golden Age of Nude Men” in Hollywood movies. It’s a great piece, noting that recent full-frontal nudity by actors like Bradley Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch “reflects several forces overtaking Hollywood right now,” including “a cosmic rebalancing of the scales as the entertainment industry attempts to address sexism.” It also reflects how streaming platforms can do what they damn well please. And it’s an easy way to gin up attention.
Speaking of Golden Nude Men: Variety opens this interview with Spider-Man: No Way Home director Jon Watts by opining that “clearly No Way Home merits serious Oscar attention, as does director Jon Watts.”
May I Editorialize? It feels a little odd for the best-established trade to make this kind of Oscar endorsement for any movie, especially a superhero movie. It may be a signal that Variety — like many who are heavily invested in the fate of movies — has realized that the Oscars need Spider-Man this year to recapture their shrinking audience. (Last year’s ceremony was the lowest-rated ever, but No Way Home may turn out to be the highest-grossing movie ever, at a time when most movies are underperforming.) Perhaps the Oscars will deign to celebrate a movie that’s wildly popular, and the Spider-Man stars, especially Tom Holland, will return the favor by playing a big part in the ceremony. The Oscars can lend the Marvel Cinematic Universe some prestige and the MCU can lend the Oscars some popularity.
Chuck Palahniuk on China’s Fight Club Ending: There’s been lots of social media amusement at China’s censorship of the ending of 1999’s Fight Club before it streamed there. In the original film, Tyler Durden and his Project Mayhem crew blow up lots of buildings as the Pixies play. It’s beautiful. In the Chinese version, text appears on the screen explaining that the police prevented the explosions, and that Tyler Durden was sent to a mental hospital until 2012. But now Chuck Palahniuk, author of the book that inspired David Fincher’s movie, notes that the Chinese ending is actually pretty close to the book ending.
What Palahniuk Said: “The irony is that the way the Chinese have changed it is they’ve aligned the ending almost exactly with the ending of the book, as opposed to Fincher’s ending, which was the more spectacular visual ending,” he told TMZ. “So in a way, the Chinese brought the movie back to the book a little bit.”
More Importantly: Palahniuk says he’s used to being censored… in America. “What I find really interesting is that my books are heavily banned throughout the U.S.,” he told TMZ. “The Texas prison system refuses to carry my books in their libraries. A lot of public schools and most private schools refuse to carry my books. But it’s only an issue once China changes the end of a movie? I’ve been putting up with book banning for a long time.”
May I Editorialize? I feel like the Chinese censors didn’t watch Fight Club that closely. As explained here, the purpose of the blow-things-up plan in Fight Club is to destroy credit card companies and the TRW credit reporting company — in other words, Project Mayhem is trying to eliminate any record of debt and interest, tools of capitalism, to give everyone a clean financial slate. You might think a communist country would approve. But if you’ve ever been to China you quickly realized it’s a hyper-capitalist country disguised as a communist country.
To Bring It All Together: Here’s some Fight Club full-frontal male nudity.
Main image: A scene from Therapy Dogs.