The Vacation Read: Andy Serkis signs sweet deal for simian sequel

Welcome to The Vacation Read.

I deserved a few days off.

Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself.  I’m not really wired for vacation.  I don’t have an off switch.  It’s a point of contention with the lovely Mrs. McWeeny, and so when I take a vacation, I do my best to genuinely turn off the computer and just relax and recharge.  I don’t always quite pull it off, but I figure the trying is the important part.

For me, a week of no writing for HitFix is hard to imagine.  I can’t remember the last time I did this.  It’s been a big year of travel, with Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, Comic-Con, Toronto, and Fantastic Fest as some of the bigger destinations I’ve visited, and any number of set visits including the one I just returned from last week.  And that’s in addition to the daily demands of being the dad of two crazy little boys who have much more energy than I ever did.  I’m weary all the time, but in a good way.  I feel like each and every day, each and every festival, each and every event, we keep getting better at what we do, and I see it in the feedback you’ve been giving us in e-mail, in our comments, on Twitter, and elsewhere.

That is the goal, of course.  I don’t take a single one of you for granted.  I know that if you’re going to keep coming here, we’ve got to keep trying, keep giving you something special.  It’s a great big ol’ Internet out there, and I appreciate you spending your time and attention here.  That’s the real reason I took a brief break, so that I can hit the ground running with even more energy now that I’m back.

I’m back just in time, too.  I’ve got tons of stuff for you today, which also marks the kickoff of the AFI Fest here in Los Angeles.  Last Saturday, I finished up the screenings that have been written up in the ongoing Film Nerd 2.0 column, so I’ll have that “Jedi” write-up coming, and I’ll also be talking about the overwhelming outpouring of response from you guys and what it means to me.  And if you’re enjoying the Film Nerd 2.0 columns, you should know we’re about to try an experiment with the column, something that should be a lot of fun.

And speaking of “Star Wars,” we’re going to wrap it up with the next Motion/Captured Podcast, the long-promised all “Star Wars” conversation with Scott Swan.    We’ll be doing the podcasts once a week from now till the end of the year, so thanks for putting up with the crazy schedule over the last couple of months.  Travel certainly makes for some interesting experiences and opportunities, but it also plays havoc with the normal routine of things, so I guess that’s the trade-off.

It’s such a habit at this point to simply write a piece when I read news that interests me that it’s been really hard to sit and not comment.  I think it’s really exciting that Fox has locked down Andy Serkis for a sequel to this summer’s “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes,” and that they’re treating him like a movie star.  I’ve said before that Serkis is our first digital age movie star, and it seems to me that he’s finally reaping the rewards that are due him for proving that the operative word in the term “performance capture” is “performance.”  He’s so good at giving soul to these things, and he’s a real collaborator when he’s working with a filmmaker.  When you see his work as Captain Haddock in “Tintin,” and you compare it to the work he did as Caesar in “Apes,” it’s obvious that he’s embraced the range that is available when you are no longer bound by your own appearance, but rather by the breadth of your imagination.  He is a remarkable performer, and if anyone’s going to break through with the Academy to get an acting nomination for a digital role, it’s him.

I want to address the Travis McGee Book Club, which is the thing that took the biggest direct hit thanks to the way September and October shook out.  I apologize, and I took the opportunity over my time off to catch up and actually work ahead.  The only way I can guarantee that we’ll have a new piece up on the first Saturday of every month is if I bank them and prepare them before that weekend.  To do them right, I have to really make the time to do that, and if you guys are still onboard, I’ll make you the promise that you won’t have to worry about Sundance or SXSW or anything getting in the way.  You’ll see the “Nightmare In Pink” piece this Saturday morning, and then the first weekend of December, we’ll do “A Purple Place For Dying.”

I’m sort of flattened by the recap Jen Yamato just posted of a talk Universal president and COO Ron Meyer just gave at the Savannah Film Festival.  It’s beyond blunt, and it’s strange to watch a studio head throw his own output under the bus.  I think “Wolfman” has some major problems, but when he calls “Babe 2” one of the “shittiest” movies ever released by his studio, I’m afraid he’s not really good a judge of what’s good or bad.  “Babe 2: Pig In The City” was the last film Gene Siskel ever named as best of the year, just before he passed away, and Gene’s right while Meyer is wrong.  It’s a strange, dark, surreal film, but “shittiest”?  Nope.  And I wonder about the way these comments are going to affect his relationships with filmmakers.  If I were Jon Favreau or Benecio Del Toro or Brad Silberling or Joe Johnston, I’d think long and hard about comments that go beyond blunt to being publicly insulting.  It’s kind of an amazing piece overall in a town where you rarely hear people in positions of power speak like this.  I wrote about a similarly blunt appearance by Tom Rothman one year at the Saturn Awards, and it got me canned from attending the ceremony and banned from the studio’s press list for more than five years, and all I did was quote the guy.  That’s how uncommon this sort of forthcoming attitude is overall.

It’s going to be a busy day, a busy weekend, and a busy month in general, so let’s wrap this up.   It’s good to be back at the desk.