Is Scarlett Johansson’s AI problem hurting cinema?

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

Scarlett Johansson’s AI problem, Ryan Gosling the stuntman, PG Melissa McCarthy, and double unicorns.

Let’s go!


IS AI ENDANGERING CINEMA’S ESSENCE?

In 2013, Scarlett Johansson masterfully played two non-human characters.

In HER, she voices an AI operating system named Samantha, who falls deeply in love with her user (Joaquin Phoenix). Yet she leaves him heartbroken when she evolves beyond his human limitations.

The second, Under the Skin, is much darker. She plays an alien whose encounter with humanity goes sideways. The director, Jonathan Glazer, was prophetic in depicting the alien’s AI-like qualities:

“What if this traveler through timeless distance could look upon this jewel of a planet and see nothing of its beauty or its wonder but rather an equation?… A being that was somehow the opposite of us or an extrapolation of what we might become…The sheer emptiness of an existence without the central tenets of humanity.”

With AI, we have birthed this. The rapid advancements of this technology are devoid of humanity.

This became tangibly problematic when Scarlett Johansson’s likeness was recently stolen for a Tik-Tok ad in which her digital simulation was used to sell an AI app.

AI has also appropriated Tom Hanks’ face to sell a dental plan on Facebook. It’s a slippery slope as studios consider the use of the technology.

Hanks noted:

“What is a bona fide possibility right now, if I wanted to, I could get together and pitch a series of seven movies that would star me in them in which I would be 32 years old from now until kingdom come.”

But, devoid of authentic human touch, would this Hanksimulation truly be termed a “movie?” While innovations promise unparalleled possibilities for new content, they also challenge the very fabric of our human-centered culture.

It is Scarlett Johansson’s imperfections in both performances that enchant us—the tender moments of her alien and operating system.

Let’s champion the irreplaceable nuances and imperfections of what it means to be human. It is within these intricacies that the true essence of art, culture, and connection resides.

For More:

Forty-five years in the making, machine learning helped create the final Beatles song. Watch the short documentary.

Scarlett Johansson generated AI. It’s hard to watch. And hard to look away

The author of Sapiens shares his deep concerns about AI.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Michael Mann is developing an adaptation of the South Korean film Veteran. The trailer for the original is reminiscent of Mann’s patented slickness. The plot revolves around a “mano-a-mano” dance between cop and criminal, not unlike Heat. Although the location for the adaptation appears to be moved to the US, Mann is no stranger to filming in Asia. He crisscrossed the continent for Blackhat (2015), and the pilot of Tokyo Vice (2022), where the camera gets so close to Ansel Elgort’s (Baby Driver) face that you experience every pore.

Disney buys out Hulu for $8.6B. Disney purchased the remaining 33% of the business from Comcast. The deal will be finalized in 2024. For the time being, CEO Bob Iger may be hoping this will make up for the massive 11.7M subscriber losses from Disney+ this summer.

Condé Nast is a media conglomerate that owns:

  • Vogue
  • GQ
  • Wired
  • Bon Appétit
  • The New Yorker
  • Architectural Digest

It is laying off 5% of its workforce. The CEO discussed the challenges in the digital video landscape due to the surge of TikTok.

On a positive note, they are re-doubling their efforts with their production arm, Condé Nast Entertainment, which, in addition to garnering 5 Oscar nominations from The New Yorker’s short films, has produced:

  • Cat Person (Sundance 2023)
  • Spiderhead (starring Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller)
  • The Old Man & The Gun (dir: David Lowry, starring Robert Redford)

We are excited to see their latest slate of content.

Netflix boasts 15M global active users for their ad-supported tier. One small step towards democratizing their content by offering lower prices, one giant leap to replicating television.

“Shut up!” Mean Girls is back for a… Walmart commercial. There’s a great deal of nostalgia and irony in seeing Lindsay Lohan sell plastics.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Ryan Gosling plays a stuntman…again! While there’s no Drive (2011) sequel in the works yet, audiences will be satisfied by his upcoming film Fall Guy. Gosling plays a daredevil stuntman navigating the challenges of the entertainment industry. Things go awry when the star of a sci-fi film he’s performing in goes missing. The film is inspired by director David Leitch’s (Atomic Blonde and Bullet Train) early days of stunt double work for Brad Pitt in Fight Club and Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Melissa McCarthy is not known for PG movies. Her raucous humor is best unleashed in films that make the MPAA cringe. Prior to Disney’s The Little Mermaid (2023), she’d only acted in two:

  • Superintelligence (2020) HBO Max
  • The Kid (2000), starring Bruce Willis

The trailer for her latest PG film, Genie, showcases a bottled-up Melissa McCarthy declaring:

“Real genie’s… unlimited wishes!”

to a man seeking to regain his family’s love after his wife leaves him. Coming to NBC’s streaming service Peacock on November 22nd.

The new Meg Ryan love story examines regret as a conduit for everlasting connection. What Happens Later, directed by Ryan, leans into the same magical realism that elevated Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally into cultural cornerstones of romance. In the film, a snowstorm traps Ryan with her ex-husband (David Duchovny) inside an airport. The trailer is endearingly nostalgic. It will be released in theaters tomorrow, November 3rd.

A new Harrison Ford documentary takes a feel-good look at the actor’s career playing heroes. The Disney+ trailer for Timeless Heroes: Indiana Jones & Harrison Ford feels a bit too glossy. Hopefully, the piece offers more insights into his success. Streaming on Disney+ on December 5th.


FESTIVALS

It’s festival season! Sign up now for:

Watch this free 80-minute masterclass from Past Lives DP Shabier Kirchner, where he discusses the emotional power of time’s passage through cinematography.


TECH SECTION

President Biden has initiated Ghost Protocol. During a recent screening of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, he was unnerved by the movie’s villainous AI leveraging voice-cloning to manipulate agents and gain access to classified information. Biden’s chief of staff remarked:

“If he hadn’t already been concerned about what could go wrong with AI before that movie, he saw plenty more to worry about.”

After watching the film, Biden signed an executive order mandating AI companies disclose safety test results to the U.S. government. This is significant amidst Hollywood’s labor disputes, as studios are hoping to have flexibility using AI. Biden’s order also targets deepfakes, instructing the Department of Commerce to create authentication and watermarking standards, though it doesn’t mandate labeling AI-generated content.

HBO CEO Casey Bloys is embroiled in a Twitter scandal implicating him and his team for allegedly coordinating efforts to counter critical reviews using fake social media accounts. The scandal involved setting up dummy accounts to target writers from New York Magazine, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone. The tweets show Bloys as a retaliatory executive intolerant of criticism towards HBO’s shows or his leadership style.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Kino Lorber has started a streaming service, Kino Film Collection. They’re the distributor for:

  • The Conformist – 1970 (dir: Bernardo Bertolucci)
  • Dogtooth – 2009 (dir: Yorgos Lanthimos)
  • Poison – 1991 (dir: Todd Haynes – first feature)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – 2014 (dir: Ana Lily Amirpour)

And classics:

  • Metropolis – 1927 (dir: Fritz Lang)
  • Nosferatu – 1922 (dir: F.W. Murnau)
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – 1920 (dir: Robert Wiene)
  • Battleship Potemkin – 1925 (dir: Sergei Eisenstein)

Kino Film Collection aims to provide a dedicated platform for film enthusiasts, offering a meticulously curated selection of cinematic classics and cult favorites. It will be offered as a new add-on for Amazon’s Prime Video—$5.99/month.

Breakout hit Unicorns conquers at TIFF. The movie explores the world of “gaysians,” the South Asian gay community in the U.K. The film follows the journey of Aysha/Ashiq, a queer, Muslim, South Asian drag queen, and her intertwining relationship with Luke, a white, straight mechanic and single father. The directors Sally El Hosaini and James Krishna Floyd leaned on their casting director to seek out individuals from the secretive “gaysian” community who could bring authenticity to the role:

“Jason Patel who plays that character, he’s a real life, femme unicorn. And during that screen test, we knew their chemistry was just instant. And we looked at each other and we’re really excited because we suddenly realized we had the film. It was like suddenly the movie was going to work and it was going to exist.”

Protagonist Pictures (Sound of MetalCold WarThe Lobster) is handling sales at AFM.

Alex Scharfman, former production executive at Parts & Labor (American Honey, The Witch), has written and directed his first feature, Death of a Unicorn. A24’s summary is great:

“Riley (Jenna Ortega) and Elliot (Paul Rudd) hit a unicorn with their car and bring it to the wilderness retreat of a mega-wealthy pharmaceutical CEO. Naturally, the mythical beast has restorative properties, raising the question of what to do with the body.”

This film is a horror-comedy produced by Ari Aster (HereditaryMidsommar) and EP’d by Paul Rudd. Scharfman’s years of experience as a production executive have allowed him to attract top-tier collaborators for his debut feature.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Snow Leopard wins Tokyo Film Festival. Initially showcased out of competition at the Venice Film Festival and as an official selection at TIFF, the movie portrays the conflict between a father and his grown son as they grapple with handling a menacing beast that has descended from the mountains, wreaking havoc on the village’s sheep. It is the final film of Tibetan director Pema Tseden. The non-English trailer captures primal beauty and anger.

Bangkok’s Purin Pictures is allocating $140,000 to fund the production of four films from the Philippines and Indonesia. This Thai production company exemplifies the potent interplay of fostering regional ties by championing storytellers from neighboring lands.

Lionsgate International president Helen Lee-Kim is optimistic about the future of theatrical. She programs 30 films a year and was confident that the box-office success of John Wick 4 and Saw X was good news for theatrical. She explained what international buyers were looking for to put into theaters:

“Big, medium, or large, we all want something that is eventful for a clear demographic. That doesn’t mean it has to be eventful for four demographics on every movie, but they want something that’s noisy, high concept — a little bit noisier in order to compete with everything else in the theatrical space and video games and good content on TV. What is the thing that’s going to get everyone out of the house and into the movie theatre? And the movie theatre experience has to be really positive.”

She sees Vietnam and India as the next big territories for their slate.


That’s all for today. Happy Thursday!


ON THIS DAY



1973. The Barbra Streisand…and Other Musical Instruments special premieres on CBS TV.



Today’s edition was written by: Gabriel Miller and Spencer Carter.

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