Coen brothers breakup

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

Coen brothers keep it solo, Mr. and Mrs. Smith 2.0, Chiwetel Ejiofor directs and a bad hair day.

Let’s go!


COEN BROTHERS BREAKUP

The Coen Brothers’ indelible directing partnership ended in 2018.

After eighteen films together, spanning from Blood Simple (1984) to The Big Lebowski (1998) to No Country for Old Men (2007) to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), their cinema has always blended surrealism, dark humor, and authentic drama.

The timing may simply be a coincidence, but after the pandemic, where many of us took stock of our lives, the brothers stopped making films together.

Joel’s first solo directorial work was the B&W stripped-down The Tragedy of Macbeth (trailer). The film seemed to align most closely with No Country For Old Men. Both showcased the main characters’ inevitable descent into darkness against a bleak and unforgiving landscape.

Ethan Coen explained his absence from the picture:

“Nothing happened, certainly nothing dramatic. You start out when you’re a kid and you want to make a movie. Everything’s enthusiasm and gung-ho, let’s go make a movie. And the first movie is just loads of fun. And then the second movie is loads of fun, almost as much fun as the first. And after 30 years, not that it’s no fun, but it’s more of a job than it had been.”

Despite this, Ethan Coen is releasing his own first solo film, Drive-Away Dolls, in 2024. It is the first of his lesbian heist B-movie trilogy.

The trailer features Pedro Pascal and Matt Damon and is spotted with some of the same outlandishness as The Big Lebowski.

Ethan Coen is currently in pre-production on the second in his trilogy Honey Don’t, which he will also be directing solo.

Historically, the sum of the Coen brothers was considered greater than its parts. However, as they transition into the twilight half of their careers, it remains to be seen if each Coen will be better than the whole.

For More:

Among the many projects that may re-unite the Coen Brothers, the top contender is The Zebra Striped Hearse. It is described as follows:

Private eye Lew Archer is hired by a young co-ed to find out why her wicked stepmother is draining her trust, when a lunkhead surfer leads him to a dead body. Based on the book.

The Big Lebowski BTS video. The Coen brothers break down their source of inspiration for The Dude.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Warner Bros. Discovery captures all of A24’s titles. A24’s full library of over 100 titles, from Spring Breakers (2012) to Moonlight (2016) to Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) to their new and upcoming releases like The Iron Claw (2023), will now be available on Max. The move will help reduce consumer cancellations for the streaming service. No word yet on how much the deal was valued at, but it’ll be a great way to draw larger audiences to indie cinema.

In 2024, Paramount faces significant financial challenges, with its credit rating under close scrutiny by S&P Global. The S&P’s Managing Director and Sector Lead for the U.S. Media and Telecom Sectors, Naveen Sarma, highlighted concerns over Paramount’s weaker cash flows due to the shift from linear TV to streaming. Their ad revenue has dipped 6.6%, missing their quarterly estimates by a wide margin, which led to them increasing the price of Paramount+.

The bill is also coming due for the $2 billion payment to the NFL for media rights. Paramount’s situation exemplifies the wider uncertainty about the profitability of streaming services.

One plus for Paramount, they just launched in Japan.

A former senior EVP of Paramount who oversaw Arrival just sold a spec script. Eben Davidson’s Ok, Boomer was picked up by Paramount.

Here’s the official logline:

An out-of-work dad accidentally goes viral online and becomes a social media influencer to the dismay of his teenage daughter.

Although it’s rare to see studio executives make the leap to writer or director, James Schamus’ who was the CEO of Focus Features for 11 years, made his directorial debut with Indignation (2016), which premiered at Sundance.

Norman Lear was a groundbreaking TV producer who brought previously taboo, controversial topics such as racism, sexism, and LGBTQ+ rights to the TV screen through portraits of everyday families with unforgettable characters on All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

Lear passed away at 101.

The industry honors his legacy; George Clooney said:

“It’s hard to reconcile that at 101 years old, Norman Lear is gone too soon. The entire world of reason just lost its greatest advocate, and our family lost a dear friend. A giant walked in his shoes.”

In a rare collaboration, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox all simulcast an on-air in memoriam card last night at 8 pm, recognizing his profound influence on television and American culture.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Donald Glover is in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Glover stars as one-half of the spy couple (Maya Erskine plays Mrs.). He’s also one of the show’s creators.

Before his brilliant, reflective, oddball Atlanta (for which he served as creator, writer, and co-star), he played the beloved naive Troy Barnes in Community (best clips).

Mr. and Mrs. Smith marks the first time he’s taking on a serious action role. Watch the trailer here. Next stop, live-action Spiderman?

All episodes will be released on Amazon on February 2nd. The series also stars Paul Dano, Parker Posey, John Turturro, Ron Perlman, and Alexander Skarsgård.

Russell Crow, Rami Malek, and Michael Shannon star in Nuremberg. The film centers on the historical Nuremberg trials of the Nazis.

The official synopsis:

American psychiatrist Douglas Kelley (Malek) is tasked with determining whether Nazi prisoners are fit to stand trial for their war crimes and finds himself in a complex battle of wits with Hermann Göring (Crowe), Hitler’s right-hand man. All are presiding under the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials court, Justice Robert H. Jackson (Shannon).

The film is currently in pre-production. So, while there won’t be a trailer for some time, it’s worth watching the 1961 masterpiece Judgment at Nuremberg starring another talented trio of men, Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, and Maximilian Schell (trailer). Plus, Judy Garland.


FESTIVALS

The Gotham’s Essentials Workshop: Ten Common Legal Mistakes Filmmakers Make focuses on educating indie filmmakers about the common legal pitfalls in film production. Aimed at helping them avoid typical errors from preproduction to distribution, it emphasizes the importance of legal awareness in the creative process.

The virtual workshop will be held on Wednesday, Dec 13th, from 12 pm to 1:30 pm EST. Gotham members can attend for free. Tickets can be purchased here ($25).

The Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Producers Fellowship, beginning in June 2024, is a yearlong program for emerging producers. It offers project-specific support, mentorship, networking, and professional development workshops. The fellowship requires having produced 1-2 films and a completed screenplay with the director.

Applications are due January 3rd. Apply here.

For a detailed breakdown of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, please see yesterday’s email, The Sundance Edition.


TECH SECTION

Disney’s Beast: allegedly stolen tech. When Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opened to $357M worldwide in 2017, it was lauded for its VFX in the lifelike rendering of the Beast (trailer). The production used MOVA, a high-res facial capture volumetric tool that doesn’t require markers. David Fincher used the tech in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Long story short, the company that Disney collaborated with for the VFX, DD3, didn’t actually own the tech. The creator, Steve Perlman stated:

“It is horrifying to see a decade of my life’s work credited to someone who was no more than a trainee of the end result.”

Disney is currently on trial, with Perlman aiming to recoup a portion of Disney’s profits from the film.

A party where everyone is talking? For a sound-mixer, that’s a nightmare. See how Bradley Cooper eschewed the traditional ways to film a party scene in Maestro, which added realism and atmosphere for the actors but created a complex challenge for the sound team in this video.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Alex Garland lives and breathes apocalyptic science fiction. In Ex Machina (2014), a twisted billionaire tech genius (Oscar Isaac) creates a deadly seductive robot (Alicia Vikander). In Annihilation (2018), the world is being consumed by “The Shimmer,” a phantasmagorical DNA scrambling aurora. In Men (2022), everyone looks like Rory Kinnear.

His latest is Civil War.

Details are sparse; the trailer is out next week, but from the poster, it seems like the US is headed into civil war.

Kristen Dunst stars. A24 is releasing in IMAX Spring 2024.

Dan Levy gives us Good Grief. Levy, far removed from the witty, compassionate, and fashionable role of David in Schitt’s Creek, launches his directorial debut.

Here’s the synopsis:

When his husband unexpectedly dies, Marc’s world shatters, sending him and his two best friends on a soul-searching trip to Paris that reveals some hard truths they each needed to face.

The trailer is understated and pulls on your heart strings. Netflix is releasing on January 5th.

Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his directorial debut at Sundance 2024. Continuing the trend of actors moving behind the camera, the 12 Years a Slave actor’s film, produced by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), is titled Rob Peace:

Robert Peace grew up in an impoverished section of Newark and later graduated from Yale with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry while on scholarship. Peace led a dual life in academia and research while also earning six figures selling marijuana.

Ejiofor also wrote the screenplay and plays a character in the film.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Park Chan-woo, the masterful director behind the stylized and layered dramas Decision to Leave, The Handmaiden and Oldboy, is directing every episode of HBO’s The Sympathizer starring Robert Downey Jr.

Here’s the official logline:

The series is based on the story of the Captain, a North Vietnam plant in the South Vietnam army. He is forced to flee to the United States with his general near the end of the Vietnam War. While living within a community of South Vietnamese refugees, he continues to secretly spy on the community and report back to the Viet Cong, struggling between his original loyalties and his new life.

Downey looks almost unrecognizable. Here’s the trailer.

U.K. producers and directors form forum as their film industry struggles:

Working in tandem with BBC Studios and ITV Studios, the forum aims to address significant challenges for all working members of the industry.

Oppenheimer will be released in Japan. Despite the controversial subject matter, after months of careful deliberations, the Japanese distributor Bitters End (Darkest Hour, Licorice Pizza) decided that Nolan:

“Created a singular cinematic experience that transcends traditional storytelling and must be seen on the big screen. We invite the audience to watch the film with their own eyes when it comes to Japan.”

We can only imagine it’ll bring a groundswell of mixed feelings for the people of Japan when it’s distributed next year. But all great cinema can transcend borders and politics.


ON THIS DAY

1955. The dark comedy The Ladykillers, directed by Alexander Mackendrick and starring Alec Guinness, is released in the U.K.


Happy Friday. See you next week!


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

 

 

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