The Morning Read: James Franco may write and direct ‘Blood Meridian’ adaptation

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I guess I should say welcome to 2011, as well, since this is our first column of the New Year.  I hope you guys had a chance to check out the David Fincher interview I ran last night.  He’s got some great quotes in there.  I love how excited he gets when we end up talking about George Lucas for a moment.  I’m just pleased that somehow our conversation led to David Fincher saying, “You go, dude.  That’s so sick.”

I’d like to say the same to James Franco if the reports of him signing on to write and direct “Blood Meridian” for Scott Rudin are true.  That book by Cormac McCarthy is considered one of the great unfilmed books, and it feels like dozens of filmmakers have crashed on those rocks already.  Franco’s tastes are interesting, and if he does end up making the McCarthy film or adapting Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, those are challenging, dense pieces of material that will test Franco as a filmmaker.  I consider his ongoing evolution to be one of the most interesting stories in Hollywood right now, and the jump to writing and directing is one that will define him in a new way yet again.

It’s weird that we’re in 2011.  That date is pure science-fiction.  I still remember how far away 2010 sounded when “2010” came out in the theaters in 1984, and now we’re one year past “The Year We Make Contact,” and the world is nothing like our movies predicted.  That’s not to say that we are less interesting than was predicted, just that we got a lot of it wrong.  For example, artificial intelligence is a big part of our daily life, but it’s not quite HAL 9000.

Sounds like Intel may have just made a tech jump forward in terms of content protection, but I wish we had our best and brightest working on problems more significant than DRM.  After all, it seems to me that the best experiments in digital distribution so far have made price an unimportant part of the conversation, focusing instead on just understanding what it is people want and how they want to consume it.  The winners of the digital revolution are going to be the people and the companies that best figure out how to make things easy and affordable and still deliver exactly what people want when they want it.  Sounds obvious, right?  Even so, the debate will rage all year, kicking off with this week’s annual Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.

Todd Gilchrist’s interview with Mike Leigh is a must for anyone who loves the filmmaker’s work.  I’ll have my review of “Another Year,” his latest, this week as well, and Gilchrist really digs into the film with Leigh.  I love how contentious an interview Leigh can be, and I think Gilchrist was ready for him.  It’s a great read.

There seems to be a lot of attention focused on a report from a French website that Pixar’s follow-up to “Monsters Inc.” is actually a prequel focusing on the days of Mike and Sully at university, where they were rivals, each determined to be the scariest monster possible, before finally becoming friends.  It’s an interesting approach, I suppose, because it preserves the notion of monsters scaring people, something that would’t be possible with a traditional sequel based on the way “Monsters Inc.” ended.  For now, take this one with a grain of salt, though.  Even if something was given to a theater with this info on it, that doesn’t make it accurate.  Just look at last week, when a promotional flyer had everyone buzzing that “Sucker Punch” had been secretly converted to 3D after all.  Nope.

This is just plain terrifying.

Okay, speaking of terrifying, if you live in Arkansas, you might be under some sort of supernatural attack right now.  Thousands of dead birds, thousands of dead fish… no apparent cause for either.  Yeah, I’d say that would freak me out enough to start packing up the house so I could hit the road.

If it’s January, that means it’s time for Slate’s annual Movie Club, and this year, they’ve added Matt Zoller Seitz and Karina Longworth to the mix.  Should be interesting, and the first entry is up.

God bless those of you who are digging into “TRON” and coming away happy with what you found there.  I read a piece like this one, and I wish this person had some hand in shaping the film because while I agree that much of what he discusses can be drawn from the film, I’d argue that the film does nothing compelling with any of the dozens of interesting notions it dumped into the stew.  Viewers are doing the heavy lifting on this one, filling in the dead air of the film with all sorts of interesting and unusual ideas.

I am terrified at the idea of heading into the underground of New York, but I’m equally amazed at the hidden world that is part of that city, and this film is a really cool look at the world of urban exploring.  The phrase “watch the third rail” alone would keep me from having the balls to do this, so taking a high-def look at this underworld will have to do for me for now:

UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

I am thrilled that Art Of The Title Sequence decided to kick off the New Year with Edgar and Oscar Wright and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.”

Speaking of Edgar, he’s back for another round of programming at the New Beverly in Hollywood, and it looks like The Wright Stuff 2 will be amazing.  I’ll be at Sundance for most of it, of course, but my heart will be seated somewhere at the New Bev for every one of these double and triple features.

Did you know the world-famous Banzai Institute has a Facebook page now?

I am mystified by Quentin Tarantino’s top ten list this year.  That’s the thing that makes being a film fan so much fun.  You can agree with someone on some things, then be totally 100% puzzled by them another time.  “Knight & Day”?  Really?

What do you think the reaction would have been to Ralph McQuarrie’s potential redesign of the Enterprise for “Star Trek: Planet of the Titans”?  All I know is, I was deprived of a Toshiro Mifune Vulcan, and that is not fair.

I bet this guy sleeps like a baby.

I can’t wait for “Rango,” and this piece gives you a nice glimpse of just how unusual the process was on the film.

I love “Blue Valentine,” and I love this interview with the film’s principals by Alison Wilmore.  I particularly dig Gosling’s story about the guy whose life was ruined by “The Notebook.”

Yes… there is a third Plinkett review, this time for “Revenge Of The Sith.”  This means he’s done… right?

Wait, so there was no Big Bang?  Someone better tell CBS.

I’m amused at the idea that restaurant critics still feel they have a right to anonymity, or that it is a built-in necessity of their jobs, just as I think it’s quaint that Broadway still believes that in the digital age, previews are somehow completely off-limits even if they’re charging their audience full-price admission.  There is nothing that guarantees these things, even if they are part of a tradition, and I think Jonathan Gold’s column on restaurant critic anonymity strikes the right balance between respecting a tradition and understanding the changing media landscape.  There’s a reason Gold is a Pulitzer Prize winner.  If only there were other people who were able to be this rational instead of just being a reactionary jackass.

Of course, even the mildest poke like the one above can lead to the Apocalypse online.  I’m making a vow to leave all conversations about how the sausage gets made off of Twitter completely, since I think that is not a forum for any real meaningful exchange of ideas.  You guys ultimately don’t seem to care about any of the debates about embargoes or ethics, and since there’s no arbiter to help smooth over disagreements, I’m resigned to the fact that the only person’s behavior that I can affect is my own.  To that end, I’ll stay focused on bringing you guys more content, better content, and exclusive content, and I’ll keep the emphasis on the films, and not the people writing about them.

I’ll leave today’s column there, and as I think about both Anne Francis and Pete Postlethwaite, I’ll leave you with this list of the artists we lost in 2010.  I had to smile at the way Pablo Villaca listed “Miramax” on the list as well.  It is always sobering to realize just how many voices and faces we lost over the last 12 months, but time marches on.  The best thing we can do is continue to enjoy the work left behind by these people as we start into 2011.

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