Jordan Peele’s piercing cultural commentary

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

Jordan Peele, Jaws’ artist, Julianne Moore does Starz and Chloe Zhao goes big budget.

Let’s go!


JORDAN PEELE’S PIERCING CULTURAL COMMENTARY

Jordan Peele (dir: Get Out, Us and Nope) has one of cinema’s sharpest eyes for understanding cultural irony.

During his 5-season tenure as the creator and co-lead on Comedy Central’s Key and Peele (2012-2015), his sketches became a phenomenon (racist zombies, making the best out of being tortured, and non-scary horror films, a meditation on black masculinity).

Peele’s sketch, Obama’s Anger Translator, was so popular that Obama literally adopted the concept for his White House Correspondents dinner in 2015.

Even though Peele amassed a giant audience during his run on Key and Peele, he felt as though the medium of cinema would be the most piercing for his commentary.

Peele noted:

“I was trying to bring a piece of the conversation I’d never seen put on film before. I felt like there was this void in the way we talk about race, especially at the time when I wrote [Get Out], which was a very similar time to when we wrote the Obama/Luthor translator sketch. We felt like racism was not being called out sufficiently enough for us.”

But Peele ran into an issue getting his horror script, Get Out, greenlight. He got passed over by executive after executive who didn’t understand the script, with one going so far as to say, “This is stupid, it won’t work.”

Despite this, Peele got the film off the ground by taking the helm as director, a dream he harbored from childhood.

The film went on to be a critical success, with Peele winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a financial one, making $255M worldwide on a $4.5M budget.

Peele’s ability to think deeply about cultural problems has powered his cinema. As we await his latest project (currently an untitled 2024 release), we can only anticipate how it will challenge us to ponder the deeper, often uncomfortable truths that lie beneath the surface of our culture.

For More:

Jordan Peele breaks down the similarities between horror and comedy in this BTS video from Get Out.

Peele’s next producing project is a remake of Wes Craven’s 1991 film, Under the Stairs (1991 trailer and analysis).

Peele’s Substitute Teacher skit–0ur personal favorite.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Roger Kastel, the iconic poster designer behind Jaws and Empire Strikes Back, passed away last week at the age of 92. In addition to an array of iconic movie posters, he illustrated John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man. He had a discerning eye for striking compositions.

But his iconic shark in the Jaws artwork was originally much smaller.

As he told it:

“I did a very rough sketch, and they said, ‘That’s great, just make the shark realistic and bigger. Make him very much bigger!’”

In this video from the BTS of Jaws, Kastel comes off as goofy and fun-loving as he showcases some questionable Jaws sketches.

He will be missed.

Alec Baldwin was re-charged with involuntary manslaughter on October 17th for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. New videos have come to light regarding his conduct on set. This video shows him warning a cameraperson about safety:

“You’re going to break your f***ing neck.”

Mattel has premiered 13 TV series since 2022, almost entirely kids shows. With the success of Barbie, they’ve begun to make strategic hires to build out the division.

Enter Michelle Mendelovitz, the new Television Studios Head at Mattel. She has a wealth of experience overseeing tentpole shows at some of the top studios:

On joining the Mattel team, Mendelovitz said:

“Mattel is a globally revered brand that I’ve always admired for its ability to empower and relate to their audience generation after generation. Taking that bold spirit to speak to themes that impact people’s worlds while simultaneously entertaining audiences of all ages is what we are focused on.”

We hope she elevates Mattel’s content library with her insight.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Clive Owen plays Humphrey Bogart’s role. The most iconic version of detective Sam Spade was portrayed in 1941 by Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (this modern edit in the 4K trailer is a B&W adrenaline rush).

Owen picks up the role in AMC’s limited crime drama Monsieur Spade. Although Owen has been off-radar since 2020, he’s back with this show and another big TV series: Hulu’s recently released A Murder at the End of the World.

The trailer for Monsieur Spade captures Owen’s icy yet suave demeanor perfected over decades of astonishing work:

It’s hard to match Bogey, but Owen may give him a run for his money. The series premieres January 14th.

You may not know Kara Young’s name, but she’s a two-time Tony nominee. In 2018, her career was ignited when she starred in the Sundance short film Hair Wolf, which earned the jury prize (full film here). Since then, she’s popped up in:

Born and raised in Harlem and the daughter of immigrant parents from Belize, she recently traveled back to her home country for a dance workshop and embraced the raw power of storytelling:

“Storytelling is the most ancient thing we do. If people are telling stories to an audience, then they feel like there’s something that’s going to shift to either one person or 500 people. We did something inexplicable in those two hours.”

Young is a powerhouse of intensity, and we can’t wait to see her next film.

Julianne Moore is in a Starz TV show. The network is not known for attracting top Oscar-winning talent, but the series Mary and George showcases a deliciously corrupt Moore. The trailer is purposely provocative; at one point, Moore proclaims:

“If I were a man and I looked like you, I’d rule the f–king planet.”

The synopsis reads:

Follow the story of the Countess of Buckingham (Moore), who molded her son to seduce King James I and become his all-powerful lover through intrigue, becoming richer, more titled, and more influential than England has ever seen.

Moore always finds a way to connect to the live wire of heightened roles with devastating realism (like in the Magnolia pharmacy scene). It looks like she’s found an intriguing way to embody this new material. Debuting on Starz in 2024.


FESTIVALS

Spielberg on Scorsese. A 36 minute conversation between the two directors took place at the DGA screening of Killers of the Flower Moon last week.

Spielberg nerded out:

“It’s so amazing to see you with Bobby D and Leo D in this film together–D&D, I just realized that–but this is your 6th collaboration with Leo and your 11th with Bobby, and you’re only three films shy of tying the record with John Ford who directed John Wayne 14 times. So you can’t quit yet with Bobby!”

Scorsese explained that he and Leo have similar mindsets. He praised Leo for his fearlessness in walking into the fire by playing a weak and delusional character.

The full talk is available here.


TECH SECTION

AI software studio attracts one of the industry’s top VFX creators. Here’s the rundown.

Ed Ulbrich has been in charge of VFX production for:

He joins, Metaphysic.ai (site), which is behind:

Ulbrich is now the Chief Content Officer and EVP of Production. Of the new role, he stated:

“Metaphysic is expanding creative horizons for filmmakers, artists, studios, and brands in ways previously unimaginable, and it’s doing so on a remarkable scale. Witnessing legendary filmmakers collaborate with our teams to leverage this transformative technology is nothing short of astounding.”

It’s frightening and exciting to see what they’ll come up with next.

Pixar is still keeping it real. Their film Elemental (trailer), released June 16th, centers on a water and a fire element falling in love. The Pixar team utilized practical tests for modeling.

Character Supervisor Jeremie Talbot (Lightyear, Finding Dory) explained:

“During the middle of the pandemic, we were trying to communicate with each other about how Wade’s [the water element] hair should work. If it’s a wave, the water would always be crashing over his face. But if you hold a water hose underwater in a bathtub, you actually see the shape of the water changing. That water hose test became a way to ground Wade’s hair in the physical world.”

It’s great to know that Pixar is staying true to animation’s roots of live-action references, like this 1937 video of Disney’s Snow White.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) boards the Sam Mendes, Steven Spielberg produced Hamnet. The movie centers on William Shakespeare and his wife in 16th Century England during his writing of Hamlet. A far cry from Shakespeare in Love (winner of 7 Academy Awards, trailer), the novel on which the book is based takes the point of view of Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes, as she deals with the grief of losing her son.

If Zhao taps into the aesthetic of her bleakly beautiful and stoic Nomadland (trailer) with the unlimited resources of an Amblin project, it may be the type of big-budget film this director deserves.

Teddy Schwarzman of Black Bear Productions believes in strategic growth. His company has produced:

The company’s activities now include international sales, theatrical distribution in Canada and the UK, management services, and documentary financing. Black Bear recently backed AMC’s crime drama Monsieur Spade, starring Clive Owen (see actor’s spotlight).

Molly Vs the Machines is an upcoming documentary by Marc Silver, the director behind:

  • Who is Dayani Cristal? (2013)
    • w/ Gael García Bernal
    • Cinematography award Sundance
    • Trailer
  • 3/12 Minutes, 10 Bullets (2015) HBO

His next project focuses on the life and death of Molly Russell, a British teen whose suicide was linked to the harmful impact of online content. Collaborating with experts, the film illuminates the insidious algorithms that social media companies have deployed in the race to the bottom of the brain stem. The film advocates for safer online environments.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

What happens when a Bulgarian grandma gets phone-scammed for her life savings? She seeks vengeance. Blaga’s Lessons, Bulgaria’s Oscar entry for International Film, is part of the director Stephan Komandarev‘s trilogy on Bulgaria’s post-communist social issues. The trailer plays like a bit of an octogenarian Bulgarian John Wick. Scheduled to release across Eastern Europe later this year. No release date has been set for the US/UK.

An erupting volcano doesn’t stop Iceland’s filmmakers. The quiet fishing town of Grindavik faces a volcanic threat from the awakening Fagradalsfjall volcano. Magma underneath the ground has caused earthquakes that have started to split open roads and cause sinkholes (video). Nearly 4,000 residents evacuated.

The larger Icelandic film industry remains unaffected, with no reported disruptions to the film or TV productions.

Beggi Jonsson, the Icelandic production manager on HBO’s The Flight Attendant, said:

“The volcano magma is just 500 meters under the surface, and they believe it will erupt in the middle of the town… Grindavik is one hour away from the capital of Reykjavik, so we are not expecting to get too much effect.”

Iceland has become an incredibly popular filming destination due to its obvious beauty and tax credits of up to 35%.

Recent productions include:

Pakistan meets Wes Anderson. That’s the vibe of the Pakistani Oscar-qualifying short film Eid Mubarak. In the film, a young girl’s family purchases a goat for the holidays. Soon after, the girl realizes that the goat is set to be slaughtered and makes plans to save its life. The trailer is flush with color in a way that one rarely sees that region depicted. The film won the Best Live Action Short at the NY International Children’s Film Festival. The director, Mahnoor Euceph, is a UCLA and USC graduate who previously worked with Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (Saving Face).

The film will debut on YouTube on November 18th, 2023, in selected regions and launch globally on Kanopy in early 2024.

Happy Friday. See you next week.


ON THIS DAY

1933. The Marx Brothers film Duck Soup was released in the US.


Written by: Gabriel Miller and Spencer Carter. Edited by Clarke Scott.

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