The Morning Read: When is a new M. Night Shyamalan film NOT the worst news of the day?

Welcome to The Morning Read.

For me personally, the biggest news I’ve seen out there this morning is the resignation by Erik Davis from Cinematical.  When I was at Sundance this year, there was one meal in particular where I ended up sitting with Erik, Kim Voynar, and Eric D. Snider, all of whom have played important roles in Cinematical over the years.  Talking to them about the changing face of the site and the influence of AOL, it felt to me like an era was ending.  Since that night, Scott Weinberg and Peter S. Hall, both princes among men, both left the site as editors, and now with Davis heading out the door as well, I can’t imagine what is left of the spirt of that site.  It feels like it’s been gutted, and that’s a shame.  There are few sites out there that have worked harder or that have been more consistent in their dedication to providing original content that’s not just focused on the business of chasing scoops, and if this really is the end of the site as we know it, then the Internet is poorer for it.  Whatever you’re drinking right now, raise your glass to Erik, Scott, Peter, and the entire team that they worked with in their time at the site, and here’s hoping they land well and land soon.

Regarding the news today that M. Night Shyamalan will direct Will Smith and Jaden Smith together in a new untitled SF film, my first impulse was to be snarky.  But the truth is, no matter how much I hated “The Happening” and “The Last Airbender” (and they are both wholly loathsome films), I’m still not rooting against Shyamalan.  I think back to the earliest works of his that I read, and I have to hope that somewhere in there, that writer still exists.  Will and Jaden were quite affecting onscreen together in “The Pursuit Of Happyness,” and I think Gary Whitta’s a solid writer who could reign in some of Night’s worst tendencies.  I know everyone is busy writing this one off right away, and looking at my Twitter feed, it’s one crack after another, everyone determined to be the one who lands the most brutal punch.  But I’m going to treat this one the same way I’d treat any other movie and wait to see what it is before I start making any sort of judgment about it.  At least it’s an original SF property and not a comic or a graphic novel.  I’ll take that small step in the right direction as an encouraging start.

You want to see the real face of evil?

I know it’s blasphemy to say, but you add one washed up icon and another washed up icon, and what you end up with looks like unmitigated trash.  Good god, the goggles… they do nothing.

Right now, the thing I am most interested in watching or seeing or reading or ingesting in any way is the new Paul Simon album.  I am a huge fan of him as a songwriter and a performer, and I love the title “So Beautiful or So What.”   This interview with the legend makes the wait worse, too, because it sounds like a real return to form for him.  Can’t wait.  For now, you can preview the album at Simon’s website, and just those wee little snippets have me ready to be at the record store at opening on April 12.

One of the best reads I’ve had recently was this tribute to the great Pauline Kael by the great Lars Nilsen.  The thing that made Kael so important wasn’t whether or not I agreed with her on the quality of a film, but the passion she brought to writing about all of them, good or bad.  Lars and the programmers at the Alamo Drafthouse are keeping that spirit of adventurous film viewing alive with all of their work, so it feels like a very fitting match of subject and writer.

Are you loving the return of baseball right now?  Well, Mike Ryan over at Movieline wants to celebrate it with you by naming one film for every major league team.  No easy feat, but he makes one hell of an effort.

I’m glad to see that there are real-world ramifications when companies take advantage of the trust we place in them regarding online privacy, and I hope there are more and more protections put in place to safeguard our data in this digital age.

Unreal.  Are you a photography nerd at all?  Well, prepare yourself, because I’ve never really seen anything like this.  I feel like Rick Deckard when I play with this.

“Insulted By Authors” is a pretty stupendous blog experiment in which Bill Ryan goes to autograph sessions and gets writers to put terrible things in his books.  What a wonderful idea, and there’s so much of it to browse.

I’ve heard several people recently talking about how they want to make low-budget science fiction films, and before any of them actually move forward, I’d recommend taking a look at Jen Yamato’s conversation with Duncan Jones about nine tips for the aspiring sci-fi filmmaker.

I am so irritated that I missed “Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair” during its run at the New Beverly, but at least I’ve got this review from Mr. Beaks to soothe the pain a bit.

There should be a new interview with John Waters every day.

As behind-the-scenes footage goes, this pretty much wins any contest there is:

The Twitter feed for Trailers From Hell set a milestone for followers, saying that as soon as they reached a certain number, they would post a special Joe Dante introduction to “Gremlins,” and finally, they’ve reached that number, and the intro is live, and it’s awesome:

Eric D. Snider’s latest edition of Snide Remarks tackles the notion of gossip publishing, and it’s a winner.

Robert Towne and Ridley Scott are doing “Pompeii” together?  Okay… color me interested.

If we lived in the same litigious world that exists now when I was high school, I would have been able to sue several different folks.  And I would have been just as wrong as this student is.

Why should you read Vern’s review of “Source Code”?  Because it’s Vern’s review of “Source Code.”

If you’re a blanket “Star Wars” hater these days, I can’t blame you, but I’ve been rediscovering the joy of the universe Lucas created through my kids and their reaction to the “Clone Wars” episodes we’ve been watching on Blu-ray.  It should be interesting to see their reactions when we finally watch the films together later this year now that they’ve been primed.  Since we’re watching the show on home video, we’ve got some time to wait before we see the return of Chewbacca, but it’s exciting to hear that he was brought back in.

Everyone’s a critic, huh?

Universal has pulled the plug on Paul Greengrass’s “Memphis,” a Martin Luther King biopic, and it’s a bummer, but it’s another costly film that simply didn’t make sense for the studio right now.  I think their backs are against the wall, and those risks they’ve taken for the last few years have forced them into a position now where they have to prioritize, and some of the choices they’re making are difficult and painful.  I’m sorry to see it happen, and I hope Greengrass gets to make the film somewhere.

I was just on the phone with Scott Weinberg, and we talked briefly about the notion of writing without pay, an issue that’s become important as people discuss Arianna Huffington and the way she treats writers at the Huffington Post.  I think this piece from The Los Angeles Times does a nice job of illuminating some important aspects to the debate.

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