It’s Day 94 of the #WritersStrike and Day 22 of the @sagaftra strike. We stand with writers, actors, crew members, and every creative worker fighting for a livable wage.
We arrive at the end of the week with a dash of hope quickly snuffed out. The Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) returned to the negotiation table. Alas, the stalemate continues. The suits are not giving in on demands crucial to screenwriters, and the creatives are not backing down either. Furthermore, union leadership declared that even if they were to achieve a new contract, they would not abandon the picket line until SAG-AFTRA does the same. The double strike that brought Hollywood to a screeching halt is here to stay.
Hayley Atwell (Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning), Brian Cox (Succession), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) and other British actors do a demonstration in support of the SAG-AFTRA strike in London. / Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.
The studios are betting on the strain of a prolonged strike grinding down resistance. That is much we can deduce from the latest episode of the David Zaslav Show. During an Earning Results Call about the second quarter of 2023, the execs said Warner Bros-Discovery "saved" about 100 million dollars due to the work stoppage. When they frame that number as "savings," they only call attention to their disregard for creative work that makes the bread and butter of their own business. Remember, Zaslav is the man who threw away a movie in post-production (Justice for "Batgirl"!) and purged series and films out of the HBO-MAX streaming platform to avoid paying residuals and recoup losses elsewhere with tax breaks. The purge unleashed similar measures in other streaming services.
I’m not an accountant, and God knows I have no business sense, but I feel those “savings” will not compensate for the losses the studios will suffer if the strike goes further enough to compromise the 2024 summer season. As “Barbie” inches toward a massive 1 billion dollar worldwide box-office milestone, imagine what would have happened if a strike had derailed the project. Big releases were pushed off the Fall season, and there is a cloud of uncertainty over major Christmas titles like “Dune: Part 2.”
The studio reps shared they expect the strike to end in “early September.” Sure, Jan. Then again, maybe the “savings” comment is just a lot of performative assholery, a dash of salt to pour into the wound of actors and writers deprived of the fruits of their labor by bean counters. Stay tuned. The story will be in development for quite some time.
Actress-director Greta Gerwig turned 40 on Friday, August 3. She got the best birthday present ever: news that “Barbie” is projected to hit 1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. At this rate, the movie is well on its way to surpass “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” whose total theatrical run raked in $1.4 billion.
Hollywood common sense would dictate that a sequel is unavoidable, but Warner Brothers faces a built-in difficulty in the deal that made “Barbie” possible. The headliners signed for a single movie. It will not be cheap to lure back Gerwig, producer and actress Margot Robbie, and ultimate Ken, Ryan Gosling.
Then again, the overpopulated “Barbie” universe comes with built-in bypasses to avoid Robbie and Gosling in case they ask too much moola or lack interest in returning. There are many, many Barbies and Kens to choose from. Gerwig’s status is clear. She manifested no interest in doing a sequel at the moment. The next project on her horizon is a package of two movies based on C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” for Netflix. The scope of such an endeavor guarantees she will be otherwise engaged for years to come.
This is 40, winning: Gerwig got the best birthday gift ever thanks to "Barbie." / Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.
It would not be the first time a franchise continues without key talent. The IP is the main draw. However, what Gerwig, co-writer Noah Baumbach, and actors Robbie and Gosling achieve is so prickly and personal that it is unlikely that another combination of people can do something that will generate the same vibe. At best, it will be different. At worst, it will be a disaster. Remember “Jaws II”? Yeah, me neither.
Mattel and Warner have a golden opportunity to do something unprecedented in the current movie business. Something that can change the nature of the creative process at the studio level is to leave “Barbie” alone. Let it be a one-off. Its own unique thing. Concentrate on the other properties they have on the toybox, and don’t risk tarnishing the glow of this blockbuster, an unexpected combination of the commercial and the personal.
Imagine how fun going to the movies would be if the franchising of every single hit were not a foregone conclusion. If a studio poured all those resources on (gasp!) original films? One can only dream. Or go to the Art House cinema!
Two great Mexican filmmakers are making strides in the US video market. First, Juan Pablo Gonzalez’s “Dos Estaciones” is out on Blu-Ray from Cinema Guild and available to stream at the Criterion Channel. A fascinating hybrid of fiction and documentary, the movie follows the travails of Maria (Teresa Sánchez), the owner of a Tequila distillery in northern Mexico, struggling to keep her business afloat amid the forces of nature and globalization.
Tequila Sunset: Teresa Sánchez fights to keep her distillery going in "Dos Estaciones." / Photo courtesy of Icarus Films.
The movie earned a nomination for the Fiction Grand Jury Prize, and Teresa Sanchez won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. We were lucky to interview Juan Pablo once the movie opened in theaters. Check it out in our blog from September 11, 2022.
If we lived in a perfect world, we could all see Natalia Almada’s films in a movie theater. The next best thing is the fabulous anthology “Natalia Almada: Personal and Political,” coming in September from Icarus Films. The box set includes her six movies in five discs, including the latest, “Users” (2021), winner of the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Also, you will get the chance to catch her rare foray into fiction, “Everything Else,” starring Adriana Barraza.
We were lucky to interview Natalia earlier this year around the limited theatrical release of “Users.” Check out the full interview in our blog and the video version on our YouTube channel. Every movie buff worth his salt must see her movies!
The legendary comic actor Paul Reubens died Sunday, July 30, 2023, after a years-long battle with cancer he managed to keep out of the news cycle. Reubens gained a ticket to immortality by creating the character of Pee-Wee Herman, a man-child at the center of a vanguard kids’ TV show “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” The show became a touchstone for Generation X. He cemented his cult status when he crossed over to the big screen for the comedy “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” (1985) - incidentally, the first feature film directed by Tim Burton.
His career hit a bump after an arrest for indecent exposure - a product of an entrapment in an adult cinema - and the subsequent tabloid-whipped scandal. Still, he prevailed and offered sterling comic support on film and TV. Highlights include “Batman Returns” (Tim Burton, 1992), a pre-TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992), and “Life During Wartime” (Todd Solondz, 2009).
Throughout his career, he did plenty of voice work for animated projects, including the classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (Henry Selick, 1993). You can honor Herman's legacy by watching one of his last performances, voicing a character in the award-winning animated short "The Crown with a Shadow" (J.B. Ghuman Jr., 2021), now streaming at Popflick.
John C. McGingley arrived at 64 on Thursday, August 3. Throughout the 80s and the '90s, the stage-trained New Yorker was the particular species of character actor that seemed to pop out in every other film. Blame it on his many collaborations with director Oliver Stone, who gave him a showy first role in "Platoon" (1986). He recruited him again for "Wall Street" (1987), "Talk Radio" (1988), "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989), "Nixon" (1995), "Any Given Sunday" (1999), and "World Trade Center" (2006). McGinley offered solid support in movies like "Point Break" (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991), "Se7en" (David Fincher, 1995), "The Rock" (Michael Bay, 1996), and "Office Space" (1999).
Enjoy his irresistible, smart-aleck persona in the buddy comedy “Two Tickets To Paradise.” This buddy-comedy is written, directed, and starred by D.B. Sweeney and is a sort of proletarian precursor to “The Hangover.” The sterling cast includes Ed Harris and Pat Hingle. You can stream the movie now at Popflick.
The late great John Huston was born today, August 5, 1906. He broke through in Hollywood with the classic noir “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), which spanned a string of collaborations with Humphrey Bogart, including “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948), “Key Largo” (1948), “The African Queen” (1951), and “Beat The Devil” (1953). Besides writing and directing, he moonlighted acting. His best performance is in Roman Polanski’s classic “Chinatown” (1974). He was nominated 14 times for the Oscars and won two for writing and directing “The Treasure of Sierra Madre.”
Celebrate John Huston catching the last film he did with Bogart, the irresistible caper “Beat the Devil,” one of those crime movies that never get old. It is part of our selection of classic films. You can stream it right now on Popflick.
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