The Morning Read: ‘Apes’ rise, Huff fumbles, and Trumball returns

Welcome to The Morning Read.

In the comments section for the article I ran last week, the great Vern asked the question, “Has there ever been a good movie directed by an effects artist?”

Well, yes.  I can name at least one.  Douglas Trumbull’s “Brainstorm” is, in my opinion, a remarkable little film, and while there are some big FX moments in the movie, what makes it great is the emphasis on simple human ideas and emotions.  Trumbull, who is known for his work on “2001,” “Close Encounters,” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” has been a larger than life figure for most of my life, and I still remember his big push to move into ShowScan, a sort of IMAX-esque super format that shot at 60 frames per second.  He’s a fascinating guy, and in addition to “Brainstorm,” he’s also the director of the intriguing “Silent Running,” and I wish I’d been at the NAB Show over the weekend to hear him speak at the Digital Cinema Summit in Vegas.  That’s where he announced that he’ll be directing a new feature, which is exciting news.  I’m not surprised at all that he’s on the cutting edge of the push to use higher frame rates in filmmaking, which is about to become the new pet cause of James Cameron.  He spent much of his time at CinemaCon, talking about an industry shift to a standard of 48 fps or even 60 fps.  And unlike 3D, this is something that I don’t think would be a gimmick at all.  It’s simply a shift in clarity and resolution of image, and the tests I’ve seen over the years for shooting at higher frame rates are incredibly persuasive.  And while he’s talking tech up front, looking at the features Trumbull has made in the past convinces me that him returning to the director’s chair is great news, indeed.  I can’t wait to hear more details about whatever it is that he’s working on.

Wow.  I thought the situation for Cinematical had reached a breaking point last Monday with the resignation of editor Erik Davis.  Nope.  If anything, it’s gotten much, much worse since then, and at this point, AOL/HuffPo has a full-blown mess on their hands, one that exposes the truly grotesque business model at the heart of their success.  If you are a professional publication, and your business model depends on you somehow coercing free work out of professional writers, then shame on you.  In this day and age, the idea that people are building media empires on the free work of others is offensive.  I say this as someone with some experience in the matter, and I’ve had to come to terms with my own attitude about what I went through, how I feel things were handled, and the eventual outcome of the situation.  Or situations, as the case may be.  The arrogance inherent to this sort of exploitation of people is just staggering, and then to punish someone who was simply carrying your toxic message to your employees?  Beyond the pale.  I’m curious to see when outlets like Deadline or Huffington Post finally feel some pushback, when writers or sources or the industry itself decides to finally redefine things.  Because it’s not a question of if.  It’s only a question of when.

In the meantime, enjoy Eric D. Snider’s wrap-up of the entire situation, because once he’s done it, there’s no reason for anyone else to bother.  Read his summary of the first meeting between Arianna Huffington and the AOL staff and tell me I’m wrong.  I dare you.

So Andy Serkis is directing the second-unit work for “The Hobbit”?  Having never to my knowledge having seen anything directed by Serkis, I have no opinion.  I’m sure Jackson wouldn’t hand a job like that over just to indulge an actor, so I’m going to guess this will result in a film that looks a whole lot like the “Lord Of The Rings” movies.

In the meantime, I assume you’ve seen the four-second clip from “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes”?

That’s Serkis as Caesar, right?  Creepy.  Impressive.  Brief.  This coming Wednesday, WETA’s Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon will be giving a live streaming look at the creation of Caesar on the Facebook page where that clip originated today.  Considering how great Serkis was as King Kong, and that these are the same guys who helped create that performance, I’m looking forward to seeing what this looks like.

I just recently had opportunities to sit down with both Jodie Foster and William Fichtner, and in both cases, during the few moments we had not on camera, I talked to each of them about “Contact,” the last great Robert Zemeckis film in my opinion.  I love the movie.  Both Foster and Fichtner give really wonderful performances in that film, and I think the idea of Neill Blomkamp directing the two of them together again in his new science-fiction film ‘Elysium’ is about as cool as casting news can be.  It takes a lot for me to get really worked up that someone else has a new job, but this news?  This does it.

I sort of love when Don Carmody’s making the rounds for publicity, because he gives great, self-deprecating, brutally honest interviews about himself and the Canadian film industry, and in particular, I love his moment of zen regarding “Battlefield Earth.”  One day I’d like to buy this guy a drink and tell him about the screening of the film I went to and share a healthy laugh.

I respect the hell out of this guy’s passion, speaking of producers, and I know there are people who are very excited about the book Atlas Shrugged.  I haven’t been invited to see the film, and I’m not sure, based on what I’ve heard about it, that I’m going to be rushing out to see it.  As I said, even amidst my problems with “Red State,” four-walling a movie directly to a specific fan base is a strategy for release that I think is more and more viable these days, and in this case, I’m curious to see if the faithful turn up for the adaptation of Rand’s biggest book.

I’m still getting used to seeing Brian Salisbury on Ain’t It Cool, in a good way, and I like his angle for his new column a lot.

The hyper-busy Steven Soderbergh did a recent big interview with Kurt Andersen, and one of the things that resulted from that was the publication of a list of Soderbergh’s full media diet for a year, something I really enjoyed sifting through.  I’m curious how other people navigate the ocean of options we have right now, and in particular someone who is involved in the creation of his own work.

ScreenRant would like you to buckle your seatbelts for the summer of 2011:

Holy crap, that’s what this summer looks like right now?  Is it summer yet?

I am absolutely in love with this, and can’t wait to dig deeper and figure out which of the “Woody Woodpecker” shorts are involved and then to actually see them.  Amazing.

They’re gearing up on the second Tintin film now, and Anthony Horowitz will be writing “Prisoners Of The Sun,” adapted from the 14th book in the series, about an adventure in Peru involving a search for a lost temple.  This is the one that Peter Jackson’s directing, hot on the heels of “The Hobbit.”  I’m trying not to think too much about the idea that cameras are rolling on Middle Earth again somewhere right now, because it’s very exciting, and I don’t want to start revving my own personal hype engines already.  I like that the Tintin films aren’t being written by the usual suspects.  Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish on the first one, and now Horowitz, an English novelist?  Cool choices.

On my fortieth birthday, James Rocchi gifted me with a copy of George Orwell’s book about writing, and it was an illuminating read.  Recently, he’s been writing on his own personal dot-com about his approach to writing, and it’s been lovely to get this insight into his approach to this thing we do.

You should bookmark this site
and check back often if you have an love at all of monsters.  And if you don’t… then why don’t you?

Oh, Devin…

An exceptional piece about one of our most chewed-up icons
.  The dead-eyes photo creeped me out entirely.

Oh, my.  I love how it’s 2011, and for no pressing reason, this is the sort of thing that still draws passionate responses.  If anyone can be said to be “Winning!”, it is George Lucas, in every possible way.

As a Stanley Kubrick fan, and someone who is willing to yak on and on about his movies with anyone at the drop of a hat, allow me to just say “wow.”

I knew that Patton Oswalt had donated his Carvel Black Card to the Comedy Death-Ray charity auction, but I didn’t know who bought it or why, and I think the second half of the story is sort of fantastic.

A strong piece from the LA Weekly on the recent legal challenges to “A Serbian Film.”  It seems hard to believe that it’s only been a year since I first saw the film, as it’s become sort of a monolithic picture in terms of notoriety.

Oh, my.  I guess entrapment of creeps is not the cottage industry it appeared to be.

On that note, I’ve got more to write for you today, so I’m off to review “Rio,” write a new Film Nerd 2.0, and see what else I can come up with.

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