Greta Garbo’s letters up for auction

Sixty-five handwritten letters between Stockholm-born star Greta Garbo and Austrian actress and writer Salka Viertel, composed from 1932 to 1973, are expected to bring in sixty thousand film collectors’ dollars at auction, according to The Guardian. The correspondences, first sold to a fan in 1993 Florida, humanize the Swedish Sphinx’s “Nordic Noir” onscreen persona, articulating the isolation and melancholy she lived behind the scenes far from home with only her European friends’ writings to accompany her through Hollywood. Viertel, who biographers say was Garbo’s closest friend, cowrote a number of her classics and appeared alongside her in Jacques Feyder’s Anna Christie (1930).

“Dune” star says film won’t feel studio-made

Stellan Skarsgård, who stars as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (2020), says the Warner Bros. adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel is less a cautionary tale of studio interference and more an artist’s vision, according to CinemaBlend. With reshoots as well as a lengthy post-production schedule looming over the horizon, though, executives will likely have a hand in the sci-fi auteur’s final cut. Villeneuve’s interpretation of the first half of Herbert’s book, costarring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Mamoa, Javier Bardem, and David Dastmalchian, will be released December 18, 2020.

More casting announcements for Matt Reeves’s “The Batman” (2021) coming soon

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Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). (Image Courtesy: Forbes).

Casting calls are out for Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, and Two-Face in Matt Reeves’s The Batman (2021) before the reboot starts shooting early next year, with Robert Pattinson (the titular Bruce Wayne) as the only performer signed on so far, according to Forbes. Jeffrey Wright and Jonah Hill are in negotiations, with Wright expected to play Gotham City Police Department Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Hill, either Penguin or Riddler. “The Batman” is currently a working title, and the filmmaker is slated to direct a trilogy of films, but future installments may cross over with the upcoming Batgirl and Nightwing projects from Warner Bros.

New FBI satire based on real cases

Chris Morris’s The Day Shall Come (2019) opened Friday in New York and Los Angeles after the filmmaker started researching FBI stings and interviewing terrorist defendants, federal prosecutors, as well as FBI agents in 2012, according to The Intercept. The protagonist, a conman named Moses (Marchant Davis), leads the Star of Six, a Miami group loosely inspired by Narseal Batiste and his Seas of David (better known as the Liberty City Seven, their media moniker). Reviewer Trevor Aaronson writes that the film satirizes the FBI as a scam artist a la Moses, entrapping hundreds of small-time suspects as part of the institution’s codependency upon terrorism.

Hulu review: CBS and NBC’s “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1955-1965)

“Good evening…”

If you don’t know what to watch next, CBS and NBC’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965) is available to stream on Hulu.

It aired on CBS from 1955 to 1960, NBC from 1960 to 1962 (when it was retitled The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and its runtime extended from twenty-five to fifty minutes), CBS again from 1962 to 1964, and NBC once more in 1965.

The Writers Guild of America named the anthology series on their list of best-written television shows, and Time ranked it as one of the greatest series ever.

Each episode is a short story adaptation, some of which Sir Alfred Hitchcock himself directed. The genres encompass everything from thriller to drama to mystery to horror to crime. A constellation of guest stars appears, and the Master of Suspense hosts every installment.

As showrunner and executive producer, Hitchcock’s economical genius for cultivating talented collaborators immortalizes the anthology’s classic legacy (overextended writer-director-producer-actors like M. Night Shyamalan would do well to limit themselves).

James B. Allardice wrote Hitch’s monologues for him, shading in the Master’s iconic profile with black comedy as sharp as a knife’s edge.

In many ways, the series constructs the more signature characteristics of Hitchcock’s pop cultural persona, which allowed him to market himself as a dependable brand that audiences could count on for transcendent entertainment.

One can’t help but feel, however, that Hitchcock was constrained by the puritanical broadcasting standards of the day.

Most episodes end with the criminal seemingly getting away with it, until Hitchcock fades in to tell us how they get caught – if he wanted that to be the way the short films end, wouldn’t that be the way they’re written?

Be that as it may, Hitchcock’s dark fantasies are at their least exploitative when such restrictions are in place, and thus at their most artful; this is a flawed filmmaking ego whose cinematic violence is an aestheticized wish fulfillment for his own abusive, impotent megalomania.

When his bad guys get what they deserve, he does, too.

“Downton Abbey” and its journey from television to film

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Scheduling the ensemble proved to be one of the most daunting challenges for the filmmaking crew, as much of the cast had found success with the triumph of the series. (Image Courtesy: CNN).

Michael Engler’s Downton Abbey (2019) exceeded box office projections for its opening weekend, raking in three times its production budget as well as outperforming Adrian Grunberg’s Rambo: Last Blood (2019) and James Gray’s Ad Astra (2019), according to CNN. Showrunner Julian Fellowes did not plan on writing a big-screen adaptation of ITV’s Downton Abbey (2010-2015) until producer Gareth Neame started developing it after the series ended, and Engler approached the movie as though it were the show, just with greater resources. Neame says a cinematic franchise is in the works, and Fellowes is waiting to see how the first film fares.

2019 New York Film Festival kicks off this weekend

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Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winner, Parasite (2019), is coming up October 5 and 7. (Image Courtesy: CBS News).

The fifty-seventh New York Film Festival began Friday at Lincoln Center, and before it ends October 13, more than a hundred fifty movies will play, with many American and New York premieres for top prize winners from Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, according to CBS News. In addition, panel discussions, filmmakers workshops, revivals, and free screenings will take place. These sidebars include: a catalogue of documentary features; the “Secret Screening” (Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems (2019)); “Projections,” a slate of experimental and short pictures; “Convergence,” interactive and virtual reality; a screenwriting masterclass by Olivier Assayas; and a celebration for the centennial anniversary of the American Society of Cinematographers.