Dune 2: Denis Villeneuve’s perfect storm

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

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune 2, Nicolas Cage goes surfing, Netflix’s big reveal and tropical ghosts.

Let’s go!


DUNE: DENIS VILLENEUVE’S PERFECT STORM

Denis Villeneuve loves enigmas.

The spiders in Enemy. Benicio Del Toro’s silence in Sicario. Ryan Gosling’s past in Blade Runner 2049.

With the sprawling, vivid release of the new Dune 2 (trailer), it remains to be seen whether Villeneuve can land the ending of the elliptical first Dune film.

The director has always had a penchant for puzzles. His sophomore feature, Maelström, directed 25 years ago, was narrated by a fish (trailer).

But it was the release of Enemy (2013) that implanted the idea that Villeneuve reveled in the unanswerable.

The film is centered around Jake Gyllenhaal meeting a man who looks exactly like himself in a way that ensnares viewers to parse whether Gyllenhaal is a twin, on the verge of a psychological break, or experiencing a rift in reality.

Villeneuve said:

“I love when ideas are so mysterious that you lose your equilibrium.”

Arrival (2016) although chronologically disorienting, provided audiences with clearer answers. The extraterrestrials in the film were the most meticulously researched aliens since Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Villeneuve’s adaptation of the first three of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels ambitiously takes on interstellar politics, ecological intricacies and diverse universes. This project, once deemed unfilmable, had seen previous attempts by Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch.

Villeneuve said of his new film:

“For me, this film is much better than ‘Part One.’ There’s something more alive in it. There’s a relationship to the characters.”

If Denis Villeneuve achieves his aim, Dune 2 will invite us into a world where the allure of the unknown coexists with the clarity of human emotion.

For More:

Villeneuve’s Incendies is a masterful mystery where the protagonist’s journey to find her true identity comes to a Shakespearean conclusion. Trailer.

Dali in Dune? In an alternate universe, there would be Jodorowsky’s Dune. A documentary about the titillating potential of this film premiered at Cannes in 2014 (trailer).

An in-depth interview about the Heaven’s Gate-esque mess of Lynch’s Dune (1984) from a longtime Deadline reporter who was conceived on set.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Netflix released an engagement report that detailed the number of hours each of their shows/films had been viewed in the first six months of the 2023. It’s a watershed moment after the strikes derided Netflix for their lack of transparency.

Here are the top 5 most watched movies:

It’s great to see Jennifer Lopez and Idris Elba top the ranking of Netflix’s most-watched stars. If those watch hours were translated into box-office dollars Hollywood would be a different place.

AMC raises capital and braces for a dry Christmas season. Hollywood’s mass delay of blockbuster releases, e.g.:

​Dune: Part Two (Warner Bros.)

  • Nov ’23 → Mar ’24

​Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Sony)

  • Dec ’23 → Mar ’24

Has stymied AMC’s ability to make money during a historically lucrative Christmas season. This triggered AMC to recently complete selling 48M shares of stock for $350M. This will allow them to weather the winter season until the 2024 calendar brings people back to the theaters and pay of $90M in COVID-related late rent charges.

Paramount sale – follow up. While it’s unclear whether or not the media heiress Shari Redstone plans to sell Paramount the WSJ reported that the company is in discussion to cut over 1000 jobs early next year to make up for their losses due to weak ad sales.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

David Oyelowo might not be on everyone’s radar. But he played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma (2014) and is currently starring in two hit TV shows, Lawmen: Bass Reeves (Paramount+ trailer) and Silo (Apple TV+ trailer). For a quick dose of his acting, check out his heart-wrenching silent performance, suffering through voicemails in this trailer for The After.

Oyelowo and his production company Yoruba Saxon, co-helmed with his wife (Jessica Oyelowo), have just signed a first-look deal with Apple TV+. He has some interesting unproduced projects in the works, like Another Day in the Death of America.

Greta Lee unleashed her identity in Past Lives. In 2021, Lee got an email from her agent. Subject line: Do you speak Korean? She did. But she’d tucked that skill away for many years, born in LA to Korean immigrant parents.

She explained:

“Just the sheer amount of Korean that I had to speak in this movie — I’m not speaking that much, living in America… So, I was accessing this part of myself, my Korean identity, for [the character], and honoring the reality of what it’s like to be bicultural and bilingual. I felt I was uncovering some parts of myself that I’d said goodbye to.”

Previously to her performance, which just received a Golden Globe-nominated for Best Performance in a Motion Picture Drama, she’d been in a string of comedies, most notably as the angsty friend who’s throwing Natasha Lyonne a birthday party in Russian Doll.

The dramatic script for Past Lives floored her as it interrogated the ideas of a typical romantic triangle.

Read more about her experience making the movie here. Past Lives is currently in theaters. Watch the trailer here.

The Talented Mr. Andrew Scott. Netflix is making a limited series from the famed Patricia Highsmith novels about Tom Ripley. Scott will play the lead role but he has big shoes to fill:

Not much word yet on the show other than it’s an 8-part limited series following the same storyline as the Matt Damon film.

Scott has excelled in these types of sleek yet slimy roles, playing Moriarty outwitting Benedict Cumberbatch’s genius, in Sherlock. He’s been nominated for a Golden Globe for All of Us Strangers.

Here’s a crisp B&W first-look image of him in Ripley.


FESTIVALS

One Million Dollars. Untold Stories, a collaboration between AT&T and Tribeca Festival, provides $1 million, mentorship, and support to underrepresented filmmakers. In previous years, the prize has gone to Nigerian Prince (2018) and Lucky Grandma (2019). The 2024 Tribeca Festival will feature pitches from five teams, with the winner receiving $1 million and a guaranteed 2025 premiere.

Submissions close Feb 6th. Apply here.

Writing and Directing Your First Film with writer/producer Jeffrey Roda. Big Apple Film Festival’s virtual event for aspiring writers, directors, and producers facing the challenge of transforming their ideas into a polished script is being held by Jeff Roda, who did the production rewrite on the Universal Pictures comedy Pitch Perfect and has made it onto the Black List three times. He offers guidance on finding interested producers, networks, and agencies, and preparing successful pitches.

Virtual event tomorrow (Thursday) at 11am EST. Register here ($24).

The screenplay for Memory. The film, which played at TIFF and Venice, stars Jessica Chastain as a social worker and single mom who is stalked by a man (Peter Sarsgaard) whose life has been gutted by dementia. The writer/director Michel Franco previously won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes for his film Chronic (2015).

Read it here.


TECH SECTION

Seth McFarlane is making software to help filmmakers. The Family Guy and Ted creators’ company Fuzzy Door developed software while shooting Ted and The Orville that allowed everyone on set to pre-visualize VFX or animation in real-time, synced across multiple cameras. That software ViewsScreen also has a version for scouting locations that allows you to drop in digital sets.

One can only imagine the fun they had with this while filming Ted (2012 trailer).


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Lorcan Finnegan directs the new Nicholas Cage movie. He has been quietly directing some screamers. Vivarium (2019) with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots ensnares the couple inside endless cookie-cutter housing (trailer). Nocebo (2022), starring Eva Greene, is a straight horror about a housekeeper whose holistic medicine goes too far (trailer).

His Cage film is The Surfer. Here’s the official synopsis:

When a man returns to his beachside hometown in Australia, he is humiliated in front of his teenage son by a local gang of surfers who claim strict ownership over the secluded beach of his childhood.

Based on Finnegan’s previous wild films we may see some sort of combination of the Nicolas Cage Mandy battle axe forging sequence and the “Merry Christmas Mary” Eyes Wide Shut Tom Cruise scene.

No word yet on a release date but here’s the first-look image from the movie.

JJ Abrams executive boards Macro. Christine Otal has had a nice trajectory over the years:

Now she arrives at Macro, the production company behind Fences (2016), ​Sorry to Bother You (2018) and ​Judas and the Black Messiah (2021). She will serve as the SVP of Production & Development. It marks the continued expansion of Marco (Jamila Hunter, recently joined to lead their TV division).


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Belgian cinematographer Grimm Vanderkerckhove has just been awarded the Robby Muller award. Named after the famed cinematographer who captured Paris, Texas (1984) and Breaking the Waves (1996) the award is handed out by Rotterdam each year. Vanderkerckhove’s last three projects have been cinematographic feasts:

  • Ghost Tropic (2019, trailer)
    • Cannes, Director’s fortnight
  • Kanun (2022, trailer)
    • Introspective violence
  • Here (2023, trailer)
    • Berlin Film Festival
    • People blend into landscapes

The jury stated:

“With profound commitment and a wondrous tranquillity he captures details and hidden shades of everyday existence in his own singular way that mirrors the emotionally moving images of Robby Müller.”

We look forward to his next project.

Last month, we discussed Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person. The trailer is dark, peculiar, and radically sensitive. This is Canadian French director Ariane Louis-Seize‘s debut film. It offers a fresh take on vampire mythology, featuring a teenage girl named Sasha who grapples with moral dilemmas. Following her successful debut, Louis-Seize just signed with WME.

Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann love to interrogate capitalism. Hoesl’s Solider Jane (2013), which played at Sundance features a hilarious dress shop exchange (trailer).

Hoesl and Niemann’s latest project, an Australian satire is Vini Vedi Vici:

“After many years following the money trail questioning the price of money itself, isn’t it time to pose the question to all of us: Why do we let this happen? Isn’t it in our own hands to put an end to this?”

The film was just picked up by Magnify Sales (formerly Magnolia Pictures International).

The synopsis reads:

The Maynards and their children lead an almost perfect billionaire family life. Amon is a passionate hunter, but doesn’t shoot animals, as the family’s wealth allows them to live totally free from consequences.

Causes but no effects, seems ripe for satire. The film is an official selection of Sundance world cinema 2024.


READER SPOTLIGHT

Jennifer Juelich, a writer, director and producer and Kari Wishingrad, an actor and producer are editing their short film Ghost Town, a proof of concept for a feature.

Here’s their synopsis:

Returning to her hometown after years of absence, Angie must deal with the guilt of having left her sister to care for their dying mother. While there, she reconnects with a childhood friend Zoey with whom she had a secret adolescent love affair, forcing her to question her life, love and sexual identity.

Trailer and more information here:

If you’d like to be featured in our “readers spotlight,” click here for more information.


ON THIS DAY

1950. James Dean begins his career with his appearance in a Pepsi commercial


That’s all for today.


Written by: Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

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