Scarlett Johansson’s true crime

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

Scarlett Johansson fights crime; China wins the Super Bowl, Reynolds & Jackman, Sundance in Norway, and a hawk.

Let’s go!


SCARLETT JOHANSSON’S TRUE CRIME

Scarlett Johansson doesn’t take well to being trapped.

In Lost in Translation, she feels asphyxiated by her marriage. In Her, she feels bound by the terrestrial limits of human consciousness. And in Under the Skin, she’s imprisoned in a human body.

But each of these characters breaks free.

Her next role charts a similar path with a violent twist.

In the upcoming Featherwood, Johansson will play the heroin-addicted girlfriend of the leader of The Aryan Brotherhood.

Based on the real-life story of Carol Blevin, who became an undercover FBI informant whose intel led to thirty convictions of white supremacists.

The level of violence endured by Blevin in the 6-part investigative article on which the film is based is blood-curdling. She becomes, in Aryan Brotherhood parlance, a “featherwood,” e.g., the servant of this brutal Texas gang.

In the article, the gang’s leader stated:

“Carol, if it came out that you were the snitch, I’d kill you myself. I wouldn’t let anybody else do it because you lied to me. And I’d torture you for hours before I killed you.”

While Johansson’s characters are no stranger to enduring physical violence (Lucy, Black Widow, Avengers series), there’s a stylization that allows us to feel safe.

This film promises a horrific level of raw violence — watching Johansson subvert these forces will be terrifying and thrilling.

Featherwood is currently being launched at EFM. Andrea Arnold (American Honey, Fish Tank) is set to direct.

For More:

While the film is far from production, we may see Scarlett Johansson’s remarkable physical transformation into Carol Blevin (photo). Mugshot

The role feels prime for an Oscar. Similar to Charlize Theron changing her body type so she could get inside her real-life character in Monster (trailer).

The freedom of being Lost in Translation. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray perform karaoke (Clip).


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Super Bowl crushes Box Office. The Super Bowl is typically a slow weekend for the US cinema.

Last year’s weekend brought:

  • $52.6M domestic gross
    • Top performer: $8.3M (Magic Mike’s Last Dance)

This weekend was the worst of 2024:

  • $40M domestic gross
    • ↓ 24% from last year
    • Top performer: $6 M Argylle

Lisa Frankenstein opened this weekend to a lower-than-projected $3.8vM, despite having two cast members with mega-social media audiences (Cole Sprouse at 41.5M followers, Liza Soberano at 29.6M followers).

Read why they failed to capture their audience.

In contrast, China had an explosive $339 M weekend due to the Chinese New Year. The top film was a comedy called YOLO ($112 M), which was just bought by Sony Pictures Classics.

Watch the trailer (no subs, but you get the idea).

AMC Q4 revenue. Here are the gains and losses for AMC, the parent company of Sundance TV and IFC Films:

  • $678.8 M revenue
    • ↓ 30% from last year
  • $158 M ad revenue
    • ↓ 23% from last year
  • $21.8 M loss
    • ↑ from a $264.7 M loss last year
  • ↑ 300 K subscribers
    • 11.4 M total

As TV viewership has declined, AMC Networks has dealt with a challenging ad market and declining original programming.

The newly appointed CEO, Kristen Dolan, stated:

“Across the industry, we really do need to make things easier and more cost-effective for our customers. The current environment is confusing, expensive, and essentially forces consumers to recreate the cable bundle on their own at twice the price.”

In addition to bundles, Dolan sees vertical integration as the key to AMC’s future.

A Sundance sale. Here are the details:

Here’s the synopsis:

A cantor in a crisis of faith finds his world turned upside down when his grade school music teacher re-enters his life as his new adult Bat Mitzvah student.

Here’s a BTS video.

While we very badly wanted this film to be great, we found the plot to be meandering.

A3 shuts down. Formerly Abrams Artists Agency, repping over 3600 clients from Seinfeld alums Jason Alexander and Michael Richards to Anthony Michael Hall (Foxcatcher, Breakfast Club) and Juliana Aidén Martinez (Griselda). The trouble started last year when the chairman, Adam Bold, tried to sell the unscripted and digital divisions to Gersh. Bold got sued by the president and CEO for “chaotic” misconduct. Although the sale went through last month, the situation became unsustainable.

Employees will receive their last paycheck today.

A new company is said to be forming quickly to scoop up the existing A3 agents and clients.

Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool returns in Deadpool & Wolverine. This will be “The Merc with a Mouth’s” first outing under Disney’s Marvel after the X-Men Universe was bought in 2019.

Promising a hard R, the first in the MCU.

Fans are assuming that the hero’s 4th wall meta-breaking nature will take a few potshots at Disney and Fox and potentially act as a much-needed soft reboot of a franchise that is getting stale. The film also promises a team-up with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, a character that fans and Deadpool himself have frequently requested as a co-star.

We don’t know if it will be good, but it’s genuinely a big swing.

Watch the trailer.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Cynthia Erivo is Wicked. In the newly released Super Bowl trailer, Erivo stars across Ariana Grande in the film adaptation of the Wizard of Oz musical, Wicked.

Erivo’s performances have an alluring mystical quality that remains somehow grounded:

  • Widows (2018)
    • Hustling hairdresser jumps at a million-dollar payday
    • “I don’t require a vouch.” Scene
  • Harriet (2019)
    • Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor
    • Watch her get a mystical vision from God
  • The Outsiders (2020)
    • Staccato unorthodox police detective
    • “A human being cannot exist in two realities.” Scene
    • (Our personal favorite)

Here’s the official synopsis of Wicked:

The story of how a green-skinned woman (Erivo) framed by the Wizard of Oz becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. The first of a two-part feature film adaptation of the Broadway musical.

Erivo, as the Wicked Witch of the West, is inspired.

Releasing on Nov 27th, 2024.


FESTIVALS

EFM’s buzzy projects. Here’s a quick guide to the latest and greatest:

  • Salvable
    • Starring Shia LaBeouf
    • Sales rep: Metro International

Official synopsis:

Sal “The Bull,” a washed-up boxer on the brink of 40, who is fighting more than just his opponents. With a life of regrets and fading dreams, Sal’s chance at redemption comes knocking in the form of illegal boxing, introduced by the sudden return of his old friend, Vince. Sal faces the ultimate dilemma: seize this shot at resurgence or preserve the bond with his daughter, Molly.

A former Boxing world champion will be training LaBeouf and co-stars.

Official synopsis:

The story follows a young Indigenous game warden who arrests an infamous poacher only to discover that the poacher knows the location of a plane carrying millions of dollars that has crashed in a frozen lake.

Sounds like A Simple Plan (trailer, 1998).

  • H Is For Hawk
    • Starring: Brendan Gleeson (The Banshees of Inisherin, In Bruges)
    • Starring: Claire Foy (The Crown, Women Talking)
    • Production companies: Film 4 and Plan B
    • Sales rep: Protagonist Pictures

Official synopsis of the book on which the film is based:

When Helen Macdonald’s (Foy) father (Gleeson) dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk… Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. It is a story about memory, nature, and nation, and how it might be possible to try to reconcile death with life and love.

Check out more details here.

Plus one more: a road movie starring Bill Nighy.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

From Minari to Twisters. Lee Isaac Chung directed Minari (2020), a poignant exploration of displacement. The film, produced by A24 and Plan B, swept Sundance, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. Chung just finished Twisters, the sequel to Twister (1996). The original film, EP’d by Steven Spielberg, written by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and directed by Jan de Bont (Speed), is a torrential terrifying thriller complete with wild practical effects and heart-pounding sequences, like a drive-in movie screening of The Shining getting torn to shreds (clip). All this is sustained by some surprisingly nuanced performances by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, who play storm chasers.

Chung’s exploration of displacement in Minari may map well into the new Twisters.

However, the new trailer paints it as a fairly generic disaster film.

A New Kind of Wilderness humanizes the Tarazan archetype. The documentary won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema category at the Sundance Film Festival.

Here’s the official synopsis:

In the Norwegian wilderness, a family seeks a wild, free existence, but a tragic turn of events shatters their isolation, compelling them to adapt to the demands of contemporary society.

The director, Silje Evensmo Jacobse, recounted why her main subject nearly bailed out of the project:

“The toughest, I think, is like, you film a family in the most vulnerable time of their life, losing a mom, losing your soulmate, needing to change your whole life. And of course, for Nick, the father, I won’t speak for him, but still when, like, filming, he’s deciding that it’s okay that I film his children. Sometimes he was like, ‘Okay, what am I doing? Am I really wanting to be in this project?’”

Jacobse continued:

“That was a difficult time because then I knew that this was going to be a nice movie, and I knew that they’re going to be in it and be proud of it. But then I just needed to respect them, give them some space, talk about it, and then approach them like a month later, and they’re like, okay, are you ready again? And he will be on it. But it’s hard when you work two years and your main subject’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to do this anymore.’ Right. But you just need to stay calm, respect them, and if they want to jump off, that’s okay.”

Jacobse concluded it was their life, not hers, and she couldn’t be overly precious.

Luckily, her subjects had the grace to let their lives continue to be captured.

The trailer showcases the joy of being untethered to a social structure and then shows the sinuous way in which that is untenable.

Correction: Last week’s edition discussed David Leitch (dir: Bullet Train) inheriting the new Jurassic World series. It appears late-stage negotiations have fallen through, and he will not be helming the series.


ON THIS DAY

2005. 58th British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA’s): The Aviator Best Film, Mike Leigh Best Director.


See you tomorrow.


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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