The Morning Read: ‘Avatar’ budget rumors spark online fights

11.09.09 8 years ago 6 Comments

20th Century Fox

Welcome to the Morning Read.

Good god, is it already time to start the end-of-the-decade lists?  I’ve been making notes on mine for a while now, sure, but there are people publishing already.  Have they already seen all of this year’s films? What if “Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel” turns out to be amazing?  Are these people prepared to go back in and revise those lists?  HMMMMM?

The Times Online weighed in with a list of the best 100 films of the decade and, like most lists, it seems designed to provoke conversation and disagreement.  I’m not sure exactly how they picked the list or ranked the films, and I’m flabbergasted by them picking Michael Haneke’s “Hidden” as the film of the decade.  The Telegraph also kicked things off early, and they chose Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” as the number one on their list.  Of course, they also included “Avatar” despite having only seen the 15-minute promo presentation, something not even I would do.  Noah Forrest over at Movie City News named “The 25th Hour” as his favorite film of the decade, and although I doubt it’ll end up that high on my list, I can see why he picked it, and he lays out a convincing case for why it may be one of the films that best encapsulates the decade we’ve all just survived.

When I say that the choice by the Times flabbergasts me, it’s not because I dislike Haneke.  Far from it, actually.  I just find it hard to believe that an intentionally chilly and oblique work like “Hidden” would top a list when you have a decade as rich and interesting as the Noughties to choose from.  I’m always interested in what Haneke has to say, and this interview with him should make the folks at the Times Online verrrrrry happy indeed.  And it reminds me that I really, really need to see “The White Ribbon” as soon as possible.

Okay… so let’s say these tourists actually find the town they’re looking for.  What then?

And speaking of tourists, I hope this bunch packed rain gear.

People got excited over the weekend when Taylor Swift helped to roast “Twilight” on “Saturday Night Live,” but the Harvard Lampoon’s been working on their own parody of the novel that kicked off the phenomenon.  And now, Entertainment Weekly has the first excerpt from it, and you can read the deeply-overheated prose over at their site now.  Brace yourself for the power and the majesty… of “Nightlight.”

Have you seen the “Avatar” spot that was recently cut to play to younger audiences?  Toshi and I saw it the other night as we were watching an awesome new episode of “The Clone Wars,” and I think it’s a brilliant way to skew younger while still selling the film honestly:

And did it work?  Oh, boy, did it.  Toshi’s been pretending all weekend that he’s “Jake,” and he’s already dropped some of these quotes into his play time.  If they’re aiming at that young audience, I’d say that spot hits the target directly. 

There’s been some talk over the weekend about “Avatar” and how much it cost.  That number is, frankly, irrelevant, but I’ll agree with the outraged David Poland that the work done by Michael Cieply is sloppy and sensationalistic.  And it worked.  The $500 million was picked up as stone-cold fact by a huge percentage of the outlets that re-reported it, just like I’m sure Cieply knew they would.  Mission accomplished.  That’s what the film cost now, no matter what it cost.  People love to write that story, too, about an out-of-control budget and a disaster-in-the-making.  Right now, people are sharpening their knives for the “Spider-Man” musical Julie Taymor’s working on for 2010, and the negative buzz is building.

Roger Ebert, as always, turns out fantastic prose around the clock, and his blog is a great read, every single entry.  Recently, he waxed on about the film he considers the great American documentary, and I think there’s a good chance he’s right. 

Someone else loves “CQ”! This makes me deeply happy.  I have been singing that film’s praises for years.

Spike Jonze is all sorts of excited about Mark Romanek’s upcoming film “Never Let Me Go.”  I just read the novel a few months ago, and that alone was enough to interest me in the film. But Romanek is a guy I have high hopes for, and he’s working with a strong cast, including Carey Mulligan in her first big post-“An Education” role.  I think this one sounds like a slam dunk just waiting to happen, and Spike’s enthusiasm has only intensified my own desire to see it.

This sounds incredible, but when the hell would anyone have time to watch it?  I almost consider it a dare that exists out there for film critics, and part of me really wants to take the dare right now. 

I wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year, but I missed the start date, and I just don’t have the time.  Miserable excuse, but these days, more than ever before, I’m feeling drawn to the control and the freedom of prose.  And this article is positively inspirational

Rian Johnson’s getting serious about “Looper,” his next film, and I have a feeling he’s going to be one of those guys like Edgar Wright who really enjoys the game of posting as he’s working on his movie. 

Finally, let’s wrap things up since I have to head out the door for a screening of “2012.”  We’ll close with the new film from DERRICK Comedy, the first short they’ve done in two years.  They’ve been swamped with the production of “Mystery Team,” their feature which I saw at Sundance this year.  I’ve gotten to know them a bit since January, and I think they’re all ridiculously talented and bright and focused on what they want to do. This short, the first of what I’m sure will be many, is completely filthy and NSFW at all:

If you’re interested in seeing “Mystery Team” for yourself, you can demand that it play in your area, a la “Paranormal Activity.”  It’s shocking that it hasn’t opened in Los Angeles yet, so let’s change that.

Demand Mystery Team in Los Angeles!
Mystery Team in Los Angeles - Learn more about this Eventful Demand

View all Los Angeles events on Eventful

I’ll be back after the movie tonight with more new content and reviews, and tomorrow is the DVD column. It’s a big week, so check that one out.

The Morning Read appears here every day, Monday through Friday.  Except when it doesn’t.

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