It’s Day 77 of the Writers Strike and Day 5 of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Let it be known that without the labor of writers and actors currently on strike, the movies covered in this blog would not exist.
The second line of the previous paragraph paraphrases a statement SAG-AFTRA recommended for entertainment journalists everywhere, wondering if their coverage does not register as scabbing-adjacent. Last week, Film Twitter went on a tizzy pondering the limits of film reviewing and journalistic coverage of the industry in this new state of affairs. This is the lowdown: journalists and film critics are not actors. So, our labor remains unencumbered. The field is more problematic for audiovisual creatives.
Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” premiere made headlines as the first high-profile promotional event without stars in attendance. Rosario Dawson, Danny DeVito, Lakeith Stanfield, and Tiffany Haddish were nowhere to be found. In a flash of dystopian creativity, the studio brought park theme performers dressed as famous Disney villains and made them walk down the red carpet. Director Justin Simien (Dear White People) did make it to the event.
Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, LaKeith Stanfield, and Owen Wilson did not walk the red carpet for "Haunted Mansion." / Photo by Jalen Marlowe. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
While Simien’s presence might raise eyebrows, he is not a scab. The Directors Guild of America is not striking. In early June, the DGA reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) covering the same sensitive issues at heart in the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes regarding streaming residuals and the use of AI in creative work. They signed a new contract, which will remain valid for three years. So, the filmmaker was in the clear. We assume the theme-park players are not SAG members, so they can engage in this work. Maleficient may be evil, but she is not scabbing.
SAG-AFTRA clarified to union members what they can and can’t do during the strike. After all, remunerated work is necessary to keep people striking on the picket line and covering their essential needs. Actors can do commercials for TV, radio, and digital media. They can perfume in some TV productions, like a soap-operas, variety shows, talk shows, and game shows - scripted TV is out -. They can do music videos, film student projects, and record audiobooks. For further information, visit the SAG-AFTRA website or contact <[email protected]>.
Filmmakers must be conversant in a number of agreements that may allow true-blue indie productions to go on during the strike and even employ guild members. Producers working outside the AMPTP can apply for an Interim Agreement. The only catch is that once the strike resolves itself, the production must abide by the terms that ended up being accepted by the Union and the AMPTP. For example, residuals should follow the new contract, not the previous one. Again, contact SAG-AFTRA to find out if you can get your project in motion without compromising the strike.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was the last Summer's major hit, pushing the box office out of the post-pandemic doldrums. The movie played in theaters well into the Fall and remained on the big screen even after the window for VOD opened. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie made $718M in its national release and $776M internationally. It scored critical kudos and 6 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It took the statue for Best Sound.
"Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part 1” took the top of the weekend box office in a stroll. Its three-day tally is $56.2M, easily doubling second place holder “Sound of Freedom” with $27M. Since opening on July 12, Tom Cruise’s latest hit pulled in $80M domestically. The movie had an extended preview, hitting commercial theaters on Tuesday, July 11. Adding those three days to the weekend tally, you get $80M in just six days.
Shea Whigham and Tom Cruise shooting "Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning" / Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.
The strategy allowed the movie to occupy the larger theaters in the multiplex before the juggernaut known as #BarbieHeimer hits this coming weekend. Weeks ago, the trades covered how Cruise lobbied theater owners to preserve IMAX screens for a projected long-run of his movie, unencumbered by the two eventual contenders.
Some observers point out that "Dead Reckoning Part 1" falls on the low spectrum of its projections, but if we learned something about “Top Gun: Maverick,” it is that Tom Cruise movies tend to have legs at the theaters. You will not see the massive decline from opening weekend to the next that hindered “The Flash” and “Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny.” On-screen and off, Ethan Hunt runs and runs and runs.
Stanley Kubrick’s heirs ceded rights of “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964) for a stage-bound adaptation set to the West End in the Fall of 2024. The Atomic Age satire was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and became perhaps the easiest film to love in the hallowed filmmaker filmography. Kubrick collaborated on adapting the novel “Red Alert” with authors Peter George and Terry Southern.
It feels like a sacrilege to consider a new version, even if conscripted to the stage - like Robert Downey Jr. remaking "Vertigo" - . Still, we feel a bit better after knowing the person spearheading this project is Armando Iannucci. He is better known as the creator of TV comedies “The Thick of It and ” “Veep,” and writer-director of the scalding “The Death of Stalin” (2017). With that resume, we have some guarantee that the resulting production will not be an embarrassment. If we ever get to see it! No word yet on whether there will be a production on this side of the Atlantic.
Armando Iannucci can't do wrong, but he is putting himself to the test adapting Kubrick for the stage. ?Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.
As observant of the holidays, we would be amiss if we did not mention that July 16 was the 22 Anniversary of the “Eyes Wide Shut” premiere. A rewatch is in order.
Director Alexander Payne is reuniting with his “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti for the dramatic comedy “The Holdovers.” Take notice of how retro the trailer feels. You get the voiceover of a narrator framing the action. The chain of fade-ins and fade-outs to black that rule over contemporary trailers is nowhere to be seen. Heck, if Tom LaFontaine were still living, they would have got him to say, “In a world…”.
“The Holdovers” premieres in November.
Taylor Sheridan may be the busiest producer of TV series with the “Yellowstone” universe. Before that pandemic-shutdown-fueled hit, he was the Oscar-nominated screenwriter for “Hell or High Water” (2016). He directed Jeremy Renner in “Wind River” (2017) and Angelina Jolie in “Those Who Wish Me Dead” (2021). He is 54 today.
Before conquering "Yellowstone," birthday boy Taylor Sheridan was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter / Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.
The younger generation may know Donald Sutherland as the villainous President Snow on “The Hunger Games,” or maybe as Kiefer Sutherland’s dad. But before that, the Canadian actor was one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, starring in seminal movies like “M*A*S*H” (1970) and “Klute” (1971). He was also sought after by international filmmakers. Check him out in Nicolas Roeg's “Don’t Look Now” (1973), a horror classic with sex scenes that would give the “no sex scenes in movies” contingent a fit. He also did “1900” (1976) for Bernardo Bertolucci and “Fellini’s Casanova” (1976) for dear old Federico. He is 88 today.
Donald Sutherland, still going strong at 88 years old. / Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.
James Cagney was born today in 1899. One of the biggest stars of Golden Age Hollywood, he won the Best Actor Oscar for the musical “Yankee Doodle Dandy'' (1942). If you only knew him from his tough-guy roles in “The Roaring Twenties” (1939), “White Heat” (1938), and “Angels with Dirty Faces” (1938), you would never know he was such a deft song-and-dance man. The truth is that Cagney was fabulously versatile. Check him out as an abusive Svengali making a martyr out of Doris Day in "Love Me Or Leave Me" (1955) or the late Billy Wilder Cold-War comedy "One, Two, Three" (1961). His final performance was in Milos Forman's adaptation of E.L. Doctorrow monumental novel "Ragtime" (1981). He died in 1986.
James Cagney, in a studio promo still / Photo by Creative Commons.
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