Jonathan Glazer gets under the skin

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

The Zone of Interest, Charlize Theron’s Oscar, an Alexander Skarsgård cyborg and a chimpanzee.

(Today’s cover story is quite heavy. We’re not always this intense. But every now and again, a subject matter demands it.)

Let’s go!


JONATHAN GLAZER GETS UNDER THE SKIN

There’s something revelatory about each piece of cinema Jonathan Glazer directs.

The anti-Gandhi performance of Ben Kingsley as a high-octane gangster in Sexy Beast, the ultra-realistic presentation of reincarnation in Birth, and the poetic emptiness of Scarlett Johansson’s alien in Under the Skin.

His latest masterwork, The Zone of Interest, is his bleakest.

No spoilers beyond the trailer follow.

The miasma of death lurks in the background of every banal frame as we glimpse a Nazi commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp’s home life. His wife prunes the garden. His children splash in a fountain. He smokes a cigarette on the terrace.

But Glazer punctuates these dull scenes with a psychologically piercing soundtrack, where single notes of electronica blaze across the desaturated imagery. A decayed tapestry of screams hover in the ambiance.

The effect is a profound exposition of our closeness to human evil.

Glazer emphasized:

“I didn’t want to make a museum piece… I didn’t want to make a film where we felt this kind of safe distance from these events. In other words, if we watch a film, which is clearly about an event in history, this particular event in history, we can walk away from it feeling like, well, that’s not us, we have no similarities with those perpetrators.”

He continued:

“And we really wanted to upend that in this film. And so everything here is in the service of that idea of our similarities to perpetrators rather than our similarities with the victims.”

It’s a painful mirror that Glazer holds up. And whether or not we can accept this fact is immaterial. The film forces us to examine it.

The Zone of Interest is currently in theaters in the US. It premieres in the UK on February 2nd. A24 is distributing.

For more:

Not everyone liked Glazer’s 2nd feature, Birth. The film stirred up quite the controversy at the 2004 Venice Film Festival due to one particular scene with Nicole Kidman in a bathtub.

Glazer’s enigmatic and chilling 2019 short film The Fall (7 min) can be watched in its entirety here.

Kubrick’s Holocaust film The Aryan Paper remains unmade because his exhaustive research was debilitating. Spielberg’s Schindler’s List presented him and Warner Brothers with an easy out.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Amazon teams with Jurassic World (2015) director on a new sci-fi series Halcyon. Based on the graphic novel Hiding in Time.

Here’s the official synopsis:

When a flaw in the Witness Protection time travel system is discovered, a conspiracy emerges, forcing agents to investigate across eras as they track an elusive threat.

The concept of hiding families across various eras is strikingly original. The director of the series, Colin Trevorrow, is no stranger to time travel. Before he was involved in three Jurassic Park films:

His directorial debut, Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), won a screenwriting award at Sundance. The film is poignant and melancholic, less about time travel and more about human relationships (trailer).

Now that Trevorrow has graduated to the ranks of ultra-big budget movies, we hope he brings some semblance of Safety Not Guaranteed to Halcyon.

The series is currently being developed by Amazon.

Atomic Blondes Charlize Theron and Dawn Olmstead launch a new company. Theron’s current company, Denver and Delilah Productions, has created some explosive films:

Theron’s new partner Olmstead served as the CEO of Anonymous Content (True Detective) for two and half years before a messy exit in April 2023.

Olmstead discussed working with Theron:

“I feel incredibly lucky to be building a company with my friends Charlize… To partner with someone who is that talented and has that much integrity is very rare. We‘ve been scheming and dreaming about this day for almost 15 years. I can’t believe it’s finally here.”

The pair, along with the other executives at Denver and Delilah, will next tackle sequels to Atomic Blonde and The Old Guard next year. The currently unnamed company has a first-look deal with Universal for features and HBO/Max for TV.

Their combined prowess and business acumen could allow them to snag their first Academy Award best picture nomination for the upcoming film from Alfonso Cuarón.

The North American box office has it’s best year since COVID. Assuming the final film releases of 2023, including three potential money makers, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, The Color Purple, and Migration, bring in $412M then this will be the standings for the yearly North America box office numbers:

  • $9bn – 2023
  • $7.4bn – 2022
  • $4.5bn – 2021
  • $2.1bn – 2020
  • $11.4bn – 2019

Barbie and Oppenheimer contributed significantly to this year’s total, making a combined $962M.

If other studios can follow Warner Bros. and Universal’s lead to greenlight bold, original visions and tap into the power of collaborative marketing, it’ll prove that cinema is an indestructible force of the human collective.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Sylvester Stallone heads back to the cliffs. In 1993, Stallone co-wrote and starred in the mountaineering action-adventure-thriller Cliffhanger. The trailer is both corny and compelling.

The film is now getting a sequel starring Stallone, who shows no signs of slowing down playing action heroes. The film just received $2.2M in financing from German production fund FFF Bayer, which supports productions filming in Bavaria.

Here’s the official synopsis:

When Gabe (Stallone) and a high-profile client are taken hostage during an adventurous weekend trip, his daughter has to use all her climbing skills to outwit the kidnappers, triggering a battle of life and death.

The film is being directed by Jean-François Richet (Plane, 2023). Production starts summer 2024.

Gillian Jacobs graduates, signs with WME. Jacobs is best known for playing the outspoken idealist Britta Perry on Community (2009-2015). Although she’s acted in quite a few projects since then like Don’t Think Twice (2016), Lemon (2017) and Chris Pine’s The Contractor (2022) none offered roles as iconic. That was until she was featured in two episodes of The Bear this summer. There’s a stripped-down-rawness to her performance that not only fits in with the world of the show but also showcases some impressive acting chops (clip). The role maybe have broken her out of typecasting and secured the WME representation. Whatever the case, we hope she continues to get the opportunity to take on challenging characters.

Alexander Skarsgård is a cyborg. Certainly the ease at which he slips into an icy demeanor on Succession (scene) tilts towards that direction or his apathy towards his new wife, Kristen Dunst, in Melancholia (trailer).

In the upcoming Apple TV+ series, Murderbot Skarsgård will play a half-human security robot.

Here’s the official synopsis:

A security android struggles with emotions and free will while balancing dangerous missions and desire for isolation, evading detection of its self-hacking as it finds its place.

The original book series captures a compelling first-person portrayal of Murderbot, characterized by its sarcastic yet endearing voiceover. The series is directed by Paul Weitz and his brother Chris who wrote The Creator, another story about a human-like robot.

Sounds like a 2023 version of RoboCop.


FESTIVALS AND RESOURCES

Read the Nyad script. In this film, Annette Bening plays Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old who swam 110 miles from Florida to Cuba in 2013.

Here’s what fascinated Bening about the role:

“What interested me when I got to know her was also the softness in her and the part of her that suffers just like any of us, and the part of her that is unsure… We all have that.”

The movie has been receiving strong reviews for Bening’s unflinching portrayal of the complex and morally grey Nyad.

Read the script here.

Sundance co//lab offers a Master Class: Building and Sustaining Your Career as a Writer and Director with Kasi Lemmons (dir: Harriet, 2019 & actress in Silence of the Lambs – reference photo). This class covers cultivating a unique creative voice, navigating career challenges, and effective pitching with an eye towards getting a greenlight. Drawing from Lemmons’ extensive experience in both commercial and independent cinema, the class offers invaluable insights into maintaining momentum, handling the complexities of a multifaceted career, and strategically planning for what comes next. This master class is designed to empower aspiring writers and directors with practical tools and wisdom for a sustainable, impactful career in filmmaking.

The virtual class is on Thursday, January 11th. Sign up here.


TECH SECTION

One of the single most intense parts of Killers of the Flower Moon was watching (SPOILERS) Lily Gladstone’s physical decline as she gets poisoned. Gladstone’s heart-wrenching performance got a little help from the HMU team. Makeup Department Head Thomas Nellen designed fives stages of sickness for Gladstone.

He explained:

“I gradually lay [color] in her under eyes and made them deeper…I added in circles, and we see her get paler… We used an airbrush to apply makeup when she’s really sick and sweaty. That was Marty’s idea; he wanted her to look really bad and feverish.”

Read more about the careful lighting, production design, and HMU choices that added to the look.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Eddie Vaisman has a magical touch for producing indies. His 2023 film A Thousand and One took the top prize at Sundance last year. He’s also produced:

His latest, The American Society of Magical Negroes centers on a magical society of black people who have dedicated their lives to trying to make white people happy.

The trailer doesn’t feel as biting or comical as American Fiction, but Vaisman’s films all share an understatedness that may be hard to convey in the trailer.

The film is premiering at Sundance 2024. Focus Features is distributing.

The Australian commercial director, Jeffrey Darling who had quite a substantial career as an artist, joins Kubrick in the morose club of director’s passing away before their final picture is released.

Interestingly, He Went That Way, a serial killer film starring Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi (Sofia Coppola’s Elvis in Priscilla), is also Darling’s first feature.

The trailer shows a half-charmed, half-demented serial killer (Elordi) who picks up a celebrity chimpanzee handler (Qunito) for a tense road trip thriller.

The producing team noted:

“It’s been an eighteen-year journey to bring this story to life, and now stands as a legacy to our director, the late Jeffrey Darling, who passed away during post-production.

He Went That Way premieres in theaters on January 5th from Vertical Entertainment.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS:

An Australian Iranian women’s shelter drama won Sundance’s World Cinema award in 2023. It also just secured Australia’s official Oscar submission. It’s an impressive feat for first-time feature director Noora Niasari.

Here’s the official synopsis for her film Shayda:

A young Iranian mother and her six-year-old daughter find refuge in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of the Iranian New Year (Nowruz).

The trailer situates the mother in a unique dichotomy of rebellion and fatigue. There’s an understandable exhaustion from her life at the shelter. But there’s a lot of light and joy in the maternal bond between her and her young daughter. It’s why the trailer makes it so tough to watch the young mother let her daughter go.

The film was released on December 1, 2023, by Sony Pictures Classics and should be available on VOD soon. Cate Blanchett is the EP.

Cannes Short film Palm d’Or winner, Charles Williams, captures Guy Pearce for his prison drama debut. Williams’ short film All These Creatures delivers a poignant feeling of being a pest through the metaphor of cicadas (watch the full short here).

Here’s the synopsis for Williams’ first feature:

Mel is transferred from a juvenile to an adult jail and is taken under the wing of Mark, Australia’s most hated criminal, and Warren (Pearce), a soon-to-be-paroled inmate. The parental love triangle that forms between them becomes their doom.

Perhaps there’s some betrayal like in Guy Pearce’s The Count of Monte Cristo.

Goodfellas, previously Wild Bunch, is handling international distribution. Might be the rare first feature that re-kindles an actor’s career.


READER SPOTLIGHT

Alpha Trivette is an actor who’s played across from Sylvester Stallone. In The Tulsa King, he fits Sly with a suit. Check out this fun scene in his demo reel.

Trivette can also be seen in all three seasons of Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias as Grandpa Walton.

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


ON THIS DAY

1963. The Pink Panther film premieres, directed by Blake Edwards and starring Peter Sellers.


Happy Monday.


Written by: Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

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