Its Friday, and were wondering what the Justice Department thought about Russian Doll.
Greetings from Los Angeles, where were digesting all of the news out of CinemaCon in Las Vegas; analyzing the boomlet of classic-rock movies heading to theaters this summer; getting our jazz hands ready for the Fosse-Verdon series on FX; and marveling at Captain Marvels next big moves.
Netflix vs. Studios: Enter the Feds
“I love Netflix, but fuck Netflix.”
Only Dame Helen Mirren could so accurately articulate the love-hate, Im-terrified-of-the-future relationship Hollywood is having with its giant streaming frenemy, Netflix. This week, the tension between the two only seemed to ratchet up, as if thats possible. The studios, with the exception of Sony, which chose to stay home, stormed Las Vegas to show off their upcoming slates at CinemaCon, the annual confab put on for the nations theater chains. The event produced Mirrens comments, as well as first looks at long-awaited movies such as Disneys The Lion King, and Warner Bros. Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix. Seemingly everyone in town made sure to reinforce the virtues of the constantly threatened theatergoing experience. (Variety put it best: “If we had a dollar for every time they mused about the power of being in a darkened theater, basking in the collective joy of laughing, crying, being terrified by a movie, well, we could probably have bought Fox.”)
Underlying all the razzle-dazzle and reverence is the terror that streamers are coming for the theatrical business, as the dame so perfectly articulated while promoting her upcoming film, The Good Liar, during the Warner Bros. presentation. As Ive previously reported, the fight has anxieties running high all over town and manifesting themselves in all kinds of ways, including rumors that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could adopt rules that nudge films that dont have serious theatrical runs out of Oscar contention. In a plot twist even Jordan Peele couldnt have predicted, this week, Variety reported that the Academy had received a letter from the chief of the Justice Departments Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, voicing his concern over the possibility that the organization may alter its eligibility rules.
The letter is dated March 21. (For what its worth, thats the day before Robert Mueller delivered his near-two-year investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 election to Attorney General William Barr.) Delrahim warned the group, which is not a trade organization, but a gathering of individual artists who work for all kinds of corporations, that “if the Academy adopts a new rule to exclude certain types of films, such as films distributed via online streaming services, from eligibility for the Oscars, and that exclusion tends to diminish the excluded films sales, that rule could therefore violate Section 1” of the Sherman Act.
We knew the country cared about the Oscars, but this much? Of course, Hollywood was rampant with speculation: What prompted the D.O.J. to take this on? Was Netflixs D.C. office behind it? Does D.C. even understand how Hollywood works? Is this another effort by President Donald Trump to poke at the elites in town?
Netflix says it had no idea about the letter until the press got ahold of it. The Academy intends to address any rule changes, as planned, at its upcoming board meeting on April 23. The group, for what its worth, appears perplexed yet unswayed by this surprising shot across the bow from our nations top law-enforcement officials. “Everyone thinks its frivolous,” said one longtime Academy member.
One man, though, was clearly upset that the D.O.J. was dedicating resources to police Hollywood, when there are arguably far more important matters that need attention. For MSNBC anchor Lawrence ODonnell, this letter has nothing at all to do with Netflix, and everything to do with Trump and Barr. Said the onetime producer of The West Wing during his telecast on April 2:
William Barr seems to have taken orders from the president to use the Justice Department, or allow the Justice Department to be used in Donald Trumps feud with Hollywood.
Donald Trump is the only president in history small-minded enough to be in a constant public feud with Hollywood. He hates the Oscars, because someone always makes a negative comment about the president, either on the red carpet or during the ceremony . . .
You dont have to go to law school to know that there is absolutely no anti-trust issue involved in that Oscar rule, or any other Oscar rule, all of which limit what movies are eligible for Oscars.
Note to aggrieved Justice staffers: our phone lines are open, too!
In the next four months, Hollywood will test whether or not Bohemian Rhapsodys near-billion-dollar take is a new business model for the musical biopic. Between Mays Elton John musical fantasy Rocketman; Danny Boyles high-concept Beatles fable Yesterday; and Gurinder Chadhas love note to Bruce Springsteen, Blinded by the Light, we wondered whether Hollywood has been searching for its newest I.P. in its parents record stacks.
“I think there definitely is a thing with music and film going on at this moment,” said Tim Bevan, the co-chairman of Working Title, the British production company behind the June release, Yesterday. The movie imagines a world in which the Beatles never existed, except in the mind of one struggling guitarist, who makes fortuitous use of the bands catalogue.
“These musical films can stand on their own right, because they have an I.P. of their own,” Bevan said. “They have something that an audience knows about already, and its the music.”
For my full report, click here.
Everybody knows the name Bob Fosse, the tortured choreographer-screenwriter-director with the slinky dance moves and insatiable appetite for women. Fewer know about the power and grace of Gwen Verdon, his dancer, muse, and romantic partner. That should change when Fosse/Verdon, starring Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams, debuts on FX on April 9. Playwright Steven Levenson created the project along with Hamilton director Thomas Kail, and the two agreed that “the story of the genius—the tortured genius—has just been done so much,” said Levenson.
He added, “It was like, how do we come up with a different way into the story that isnt just about this person who made great art, and did bad things, and wasnt worth it for the art?”
According to my colleague Joy Press, “it wasnt until the two men spent a day with Fosse and Verdons adult daughter, Nicole Fosse (a co-executive producer and creative consultant on the series), that the puzzle pieces fell into place.”
“It just became so clear to us that the story of Bob was incomplete without the story of Gwen,” Levenson said. “Suddenly, we knew exactly why we were telling this story and what made it different, and why it was essential to tell this story. It just felt vital at that point.”
Read Joys full story here.
In a move thats rare in Hollywood, but indicative of the moment we are living in, the women behind the success of Marvels Captain Marvel are banding together to create a productionRead More – Source