Netflix greenlights Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein film, with all-star producers

Netflix has acquired the rights to the untitled Leonard Bernstein biopic Bradley Cooper will direct, star in, and produce, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Academy Award-winning scriptwriter Josh Singer, who wrote Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (2015), according to Deadline. Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Todd Phillips are all set to produce, with Netflix determined to ride its own wave of star-driven prestige success from this year’s Best Picture nominees, Scorsese’s The Irishman (2019) as well as Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019). Cooper’s sophomore effort will cover thirty years of marriage between Bernstein and his wife, Chilean-born actress Felicia Montealegre.

New anime film is a teenage love story set during a climate apocalypse

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The Atlantic critic David Sims writes that Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You (2002) is chockfull of “whimsical world-building,” “a little comedy, plenty of giddy flirtation between the two leads, and raunchier dialogue than one would get in a Miyazaki film.” (Image Courtesy: The Atlantic).

Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You (2019) is part of the environmental allegory subset of science fiction that is making a comeback in the wake of the devastating climate change which is ravaging the planet as we speak, according to The Atlantic. Shinkai has directed six animated features since 2004, but his Your Name (2016) broke global box office records for anime, grossing more than any domestic release ever in Japan, second only to Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001). Set in a modern Tokyo where it never stops raining, Weathering With You stars an impoverished young writer named Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) and an orphan named Hina (Nana Mori), who has the power to pray away the clouds while the world ends slowly and imperceptibly around them.

Disney rebranding 20th Century Fox

After buying 20th Century Fox last year for seventy-one billion dollars, Disney will remove “Fox” from the name of this film division, which will be rebranded as “20th Century Studios” without the word “Fox” in its iconic logo, according to The Washington Post. Fox Searchlight, the prestige unit, will also be renamed “Searchlight Pictures,” while Twentieth Century Fox Television as well as Fox 21 Television Studios will retain “Fox” in their names for now. The maneuver comes as Disney’s attempt at distancing itself from Rupert Murdoch’s new Fox Corporation, which counts the Fox Broadcasting Network and Fox News among its assets.

Hulu review: Paul Feig’s “A Simple Favor” (2018)

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If you don’t know what to watch next, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor (2018) is available to stream on Hulu. The black comedy mystery thriller stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. It is based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell.

Stephanie Smothers (Kendrick) is a widowed single mother who vlogs.

She befriends Emily Nelson (Lively), a fashion PR director as well as wife to English professor Sean Townsend (Henry Golding), after a playdate between their sons, Miles Smothers (Joshua Satine) and Nicky Townsend (Ian Ho).

When Emily disappears, Stephanie tries to solve the mystery.

All fictional genres are governed by their respective rules of writing, especially in film, which is edited according to an assembly-line formula as cutting as journalism, but the beats of suspense are arguably the most rhythmically drummed.

Jessica Sharzer’s script marches along its tightrope of tension with nary a misstep, a whole as much greater than the sum of its parts as a jigsaw puzzle. This female-led noir, written by two different women, feminizes a stereotypically misogynistic tradition of storytelling.

And leading the charge is Lively, the femme fatale herself. Even with a male filmmaker behind the camera, she is not objectified under the male gaze – in fact, her costumery, though sexy, is borderline androgynous, stylizing her sex appeal without exploiting it.

Through a look on her face, Lively can charge even just a line of dialogue into a livewire.

Kendrick dynamizes, too, as the unreliable narrator with secrets of her own. She chases her candy-coated vlogger persona with an ominous subtext which unsettles every foundation she lays for this closet where she hides her skeletons.

Stephanie is as psychologically complex as any noir antihero, but in a way that doesn’t masculinize her.

Now, for all the movie’s generic pleasures, its comedy dulls its sharp edges. The climactic fart joke is anticlimactic, and, as with many age-diverse casts, the child actors try too hard (which is not to judge them, but the adults who write and direct their characters).

This isn’t to say humor and crime are mutually exclusive, but, where, say, David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014) satirizes the “missing white woman” media narrative ingeniously, A Simple Favor is apolitically set in white, upper-middle-class suburbia.

Still, no picture is above reproach, and while A Simple Favor isn’t perfect, like Stephanie and Emily, it’s picture perfect.

One critic’s take on the politicization of film criticism

The Guardian contributor Jessa Crispin writes that 2019 was a mediocre year for film, even though police departments issued warnings about mass shootings at premieres for Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019) because critics participated in an online moral panic over incel violence. According to Crispin, this overestimation of a movie’s sway over the course of real-world events has led to an overappraisal of releases such as Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (2019), with reviewers accusing filmgoers like Crispin of misogyny because she found it oversentimental. Crispin says shaming viewers into seeing certain titles for political reasons, even if the titles in question are poorly made, further divides audiences from the critic’s authority over the cinematic arts, and shifts the blame for nondiverse storytelling from the producers, where it belongs.

Spike Lee will be first black person to lead Cannes Film Festival jury

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Cannes president Pierre Lescure as well as festival director Thierry Frémaux write that Spike Lee’s perspective is “more valuable than ever” one day after the the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences drew criticism for nominating mostly white stars in the acting categories at the 2020 Oscars. (Image Courtesy: NBC News).

This year, Spike Lee will become the first black person in the Cannes Film Festival’s seventy-three-year history to serve as jury president, succeeding Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose 2019 jury of artists awarded Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019) the Palme d’Or, according to NBC News. The sixty-two-year-old filmmaker’s feature debut, She’s Gotta Have It (1986), won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director’s Fortnight at that year’s Cannes, and his most recent offering, BlacKkKlansman (2018), took home the Cannes Grand Prix. The festival will take place May 12 through the 23, and the rest of Lee’s jury will be announced in mid-April.

No women nominated for Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards

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Only five female directors have been nominated a total of five times for the Academy Award for Best Director, and only one – Kathryn Bigelow – has won. (Image Courtesy: The Hill).

Even though Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (2019) was nominated for Best Picture as well as Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards, the filmmaker herself was not nominated for Best Director, nor were any other women, according to The Hill. 2020 marks the third year in a row no women have been nominated in the category, despite the fact that more than ten percent of the top films in 2019 were directed by women, the most in more than a decade. Women of color are even more underrepresented; out of two hundred seventy-three nominations over the last thirteen years at the Golden Globes, Oscars, Directors Guild of America, and Critics’ Choice Awards, Ava DuVernay was the only female director of color to be nominated.