- The InSneider
- A Shocking Death in Hollywood; Here Comes the Trump Movies; Animated Feature Power Rankings
A Shocking Death in Hollywood; Here Comes the Trump Movies; Animated Feature Power Rankings
Plus, a new segment titled Remake This! featuring the 1988 high school murder mystery 'Plain Clothes.'
Happy Humpday, folks! The first week back from Thanksgiving break always feels like a long one, but you’re more than halfway there. You made it! And I made it through Taco Tuesday, beating both of my brothers with a grand total of eight tacos. I guess you work up an appetite while writing a daily newsletter! Forgive the exclamation points, I’m just trying to give my pal Neil Turitz a heart attack, as punctuation is his pet peeve.
Then again, exclamation points are all the rage these days. I mean, how about those Wonka reviews that Variety so helpfully highlighted, huh? As the son of a real-life Willy Wonka — my father is known as The Candyman, sorry Tony and Yahya — I’ll reserve judgment until I see it myself. Timothée Chalamet has certainly earned that much in my book. But let’s just say, the early “reviews” seemed awfully cherry-picked, and leave it at that.
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A Shocking and Tragic Death in Hollywood
I never met Michael Latt, but from what I can tell, he was a hell of a guy.
Before we begin tonight, I must acknowledge the shocking and tragic death of Michael Latt, brother of CAA agent Franklin Latt and son of longtime Sundance Institute leader Michelle Satter.
Michael was killed in a home invasion on Monday, Nov. 27, when a homeless woman broke into his mid-Wilshire home and shot him in a senseless act of violence. She had been living out of her car nearby and was familiar to those in the neighborhood, though there was no indication that she personally knew Michael or had any motive for this terrible crime.
The woman made no attempt to flee the scene and was arrested on Michael’s doorstep.
Let me start by saying that my heart goes out to Michael’s entire family. I cannot even begin to imagine what they’re going through right now.
Around town, Michael was known as a passionate activist who formed the social impact group Lead With Love in 2019 and spent nearly five years as the communications director and political advisor for Common’s nonprofit Imagine Justice. He had previously worked at Netflix, and maintained a position in the entertainment world as a consultant for Ava DuVernay’s Array label. He also consulted for WB’s Multicultural Marketing Department and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, which hired him to work on If Beale Street Could Talk. He also worked on marketing campaigns for Birth of a Nation and the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro.
Michael’s mother paid tribute to her son on Wednesday. The world is just awful sometimes, and there are simply no words when something like this happens, but Michael sounds like the kind of guy I would’ve been lucky to know. R.I.P.
Our beloved son Michael Latt fell victim to a tragic act of violence this week. Michael devoted his career to supporting artists, championing organizations that raised up artists of color, & leveraged storytelling for enduring change. We celebrate his legacy, love & compassion.
— Michelle Satter (@SundanceSatter)
Nov 29, 2023
And Here Come the Trump Movies… Sigh
The Winter Soldier has been cast as Donald Trump, which somehow makes sense.
With the 2024 election approaching fast, everyone is eager to cash in… but in a tasteful, respectful way, of course! LOL.
Joe Biden, God bless him, is boring. Donald Trump, who believes he is God, is anything but. And so I imagine (i.e. fear) we’re about to see a lot of Trump projects, and I’m not necessarily talking about Trump the Politician. Heck, I’d watch a whole movie about how his cameo in Home Alone 2 came about.
But up first? Deadline reports that Sebastian Stan is set to play a young Donald Trump in The Student, a new indie film from Holy Spider director Ali Abbasi. Gabriel Sherman, who literally wrote the book on Trump pal Roger Ailes, is writing the screenplay, which is said to be. a mentor-protege story that charts the origins of an American dynasty against the backdrop of Trump’s growing real estate business in New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s — an era that put him in close proximity to Roy Cohn, the infamously bigoted attorney. “Filled with larger-than-life characters, it reveals the moral and human cost of a culture defined by winners and losers,” reads the official logline.
Succession alum Jeremy Strong will co-star as the repugnant Cohn, while Maria Bakalova (Borat 2) will play Trump’s first wife, Ivana.
The film is being produced by Daniel Beckerman of Scythia Films, Jacob Jerek of Profile Pictures, and Ruth Treacy of Taylored Films, while Sherman will executive produce alongside Amy Baer and Grant Johnson.
Stan recently played drummer Tommy Lee in Hulu’s acclaimed limited series Pam & Tommy, and also played Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev in Dumb Money, so he now has some practice playing eccentric celebrities (don’t forget his fantastic turn as Jeff Gillooly in I, Tonya). I think Stan’s a better actor than he gets credit for — certainly better than he’s able to showcase in the MCU — and Iranian filmmaker Abbasi is definitely worth paying attention to, so I’m eager to see how this one turns out, especially if it paints a clear picture of Trump as an unapologetic racist, which he undoubtedly seems to be.
Remake This!: 1988’s High School Murder Mystery Plain Clothes Starring the Great Arliss Howard
Seymour Cassel, Abe Vigoda, Robert Stack, and Diane Ladd co-star. Not bad, right?
Today, I’m introducing a new feature on this newsletter called Remake This! in which I make the case for Hollywood to remake old movies. But I’m not talking about the same movies that get remade over and over again, I swear! I’m going to tell you about some hidden gems you may or may not love as much as I do, and why they would work in today’s marketplace.
First up, Martha Coolidge’s 1988 movie Plain Clothes starring Arliss Howard, who can currently be seen in David Fincher’s The Killer (more on that film below). This has long been one of my favorite comfort films — I call it a grilled cheese sandwich of a movie.
Arliss (we’re on a first-name basis) plays a baby-faced cop whose brother is accused of murdering a high school teacher who had it out for him. Finding himself with some time on his hands after being suspended for punching a fellow officer, he decides to go undercover at his brother’s school to find out who really killed the teacher.
Let me tell you why this works. First of all, remember 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, and how good those movies were, and how fans were so desperate for a sequel, we were willing to accept the fucking Men in Black in 23 Jump Street? People like seeing cops go undercover in high school. I think it’s because those movies give so many people a chance to either relive their glory days or do it all over again, in a manner of speaking. Look at Never Been Kissed, in which Drew Barrymore plays a journalist, not a cop. Even Kindergarten Cop, which I know isn’t the same thing, totally rules. My point is, this is a fun genre.
Next, what’s hot right now? Murder mysteries, right? Knives Out is a huge franchise for Netflix. We’ve let Kenneth Branagh make three Hercule Poirot movies. The whodunit, again, attracts eyeballs because it engages people’s minds and keeps them guessing. As opposed to just sitting back and watching a movie unfold on the big screen, a whodunit invites the audience to participate.
There’s really only one “murder” in Plain Clothes, the central one, but a remake could also add some kills and have the killer be more of a slasher, one who thinks he’s targeting a group of dumb teens, not knowing that one of them is actually a cop. This could almost be the next Scream if you decide to give it an edge, even though it’s much more innocent than that, which is why I think it stands out after all these years. The single most memorable scene in it may very well be Arliss Howard reading thinly veiled erotic poetry — the E.E. Cummings poem “She Being Brand” — to a group of high schoolers, turning on every girl in the class even though he’s clearly trying to seduce the more appropriately aged teacher (a radiant Suzy Amis).
I know Spyglass holds the rights to Scream and Paramount is merely the distributor, but if Scream 7 gets delayed, or even put on ice for a while given all the drama, and Paramount needs something to cater to that genre audience, yes, I’m sure the studio has a ton of more obvious candidates within its film library, but don’t forget about Plain Clothes. It’s kind of perfect for what it is.
Oscars Power Rankings: Will Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron Deny Sony’s Spider-Man Sequel?
Does the older man’s nose remind you of My Pet Monster, or am I crazy? Discuss.
Best Animated Feature
1. The Boy and the Heron
2. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
7. The Super Mario Bros. Movie
9. Trolls Band Together
10. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
Analysis: I get a bad rap when it comes to animation. There are people who think I don’t appreciate animated films, or that I think animation isn’t for adults. That is not true. Some of my favorite films of all time are animated, from The Lion King and Toy Story to Sausage Party and Waltz With Bashir, so I take exception whenever people think they know my stance on an entire medium(!) based on a single tweet, or something I said while competing in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown.
Having said that, I’ll fully admit that animation is not my forte. All I know is that whether a movie is animated or live-action, the script is what matters most. You need to have a story that speaks to both children and adults who are still in touch with their inner child.
This year, there’s no question that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the best animated movie that I’ve seen, but it’s also the second film in a trilogy that I suspect will be rewarded again when it concludes in 2025. With Studio Ghibli releasing The Boy and the Heron, which is believed to be the final film from Hayao Miyazaki, I believe the Academy will honor the 82-year-old master again — 2001’s Spirited Away also won the Oscar — before it no longer can.
While those two films will duke it out at the top, I do want to say that I kind of loved Pixar’s Elemental, which made me cry. Again, most critics have no heart, which is why it sits at 74 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, while audiences have given it a score of 93.
Rotten Tomatoes is, of course, a ridiculous metric, but I will continue to use it in this space to bolster my arguments while simultaneously dismissing its importance. That’s just every columnist’s right, especially when it comes to complaining about most critics, who are usually the ones that the studios help amplify. Unfortunately, the story of Elemental became its box office, and the media wound up sleeping on a pretty good Pixar movie, largely because of its talented but low-wattage cast.
Next up is Migration, which hails from Illumination, and looks pretty good to me. OK, so it’s not as “marketable” as a Minions or Secret Life of Pets movie, but the story looks interesting and the writing is always clever.
Finally, I went with Nimona, which obviously bucks certain trends in animation, as it’s an LGBTQ-friendly story. But I’ll tell ya… it’s a competitive year! That Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from Seth Rogen was very, very good, and will be hard for many voters to ignore. It would be on my ballot, as would The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, but was a delight for an old-school gamer such as myself. I don’t touch the new stuff. At 39, I’m old and set in my N64 ways…
Trolls Band Together and the Chicken Run movie feel like also-rans to me this year, but you never know when it comes to this category — don’t voters just ask their kids or grandkids which animated movie they liked the most? After all, many older voters straight-up don’t watch the animated movies. Truthbomb.
The big snub here is Wish, which hails from Disney Animation. Some pundits are predicting it will snag a nomination, but I’m not feeling it this year. Studios like Sony Animation and Paramount Animation are putting out quality stuff, not just animated throwaways. I think there’s too much competition this year for Disney to just waltz into the final five without a major push, though I’d funnel their FYC dollars elsewhere.
Bits and Bobs (A Daily News Roundup)
Spyglass Doesn’t Need Anyone, See! - THR’s Borys Kit had a good piece today about all the Scream drama, with one insider telling the trade of Spyglass boss Gary Barber, “He didn’t need Neve [Campbell], he doesn’t need Jenna [Ortega].” Now, those are fighting words. I don’t think that Barber is wrong, because clearly, it doesn’t really matter who’s in these Scream movies, as Ghostface is the star of the show. After all, Neve Campbell walked from Scream VI and it turned out to be the highest-grossing movie in the franchise outside of the original. Personally, I think it was the new setting… but if it was anything else, it was definitely Jenna Ortega. There aren’t a lot of young actors with her kind of star power, but I agree that no one is bigger than the franchise, which is crying out for a fresh reboot… and a new writer, ahem. Either way, it’ll be very interesting to see whether director Christopher Landon hangs around after all of this.
Day by Day - It’s Sunny in Philadelphia standout Charlie Day, whom my mother always thought I looked like, has signed on to star in the indie movie Kill Me from writer-director Peter Warren. XYZ is financing the dark comedy, which will find Day playing a man who survives what appears to be a suicide attempt — one that his character doesn’t remember. Did someone try to kill him and stage a suicide, or is he actually depressed? Only Margot, the 911 operator who took his call, can help him solve the case. Production is slated to start in the spring, and Dark Horse Entertainment is producing alongside the XYZ gang. Day is coming off the success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, in which he voiced Luigi, and this sounds like a decent part for him — depending on execution, of course. I didn’t even bother to see Day’s own directorial debut, Fool’s Paradise, due to the horrible reviews, as I made up my mind to catch him on the next one. This appears to be it.
Just Text Me, Bro - The original cast of The Black Phone is coming back for the sequel to Blumhouse’s hit 2022 horror movie. Ethan Hawke will once again be joined by Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Miguel Mora, and Jeremy Davies. Scott Derrickson is back to direct and co-write the script with C. Robert Cargill, and the two of them will produce alongside Jason Blum. I didn’t love the first film when I saw it at CinemaCon, but I watched it again around Halloween, and it played a bit better, stripped of high expectations on second viewing. The original grossed more than $161 million worldwide, and the sequel will dial up theaters on June 27, 2025. Do you plan to answer the call?
Remember to Tie Your Shoelaces - Lionsgate has picked up the rights to Stephen King’s novel The Long Walk and set Francis Lawrence to direct the film, which has certain echoes of the Hunger Games movies that Lawrence has made for the studio. The story follows an annual contest in which 100 teen boys embark on a long walk with strict rules that only ends when there’s one boy left standing. JT Mollner will write the script, and it wouldn't shock me if the contest was opened to other genders in this new version. Roy Lee will produce the movie, which was previously in the works at New Line with André Øvredal directing from a script by James Vanderbilt. Frank Darabont and George A. Romero are among the other filmmakers who have flirted with the project over the years. It sounds interesting enough, but I still need to see how The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes turned out…
A Return to Studio 8H - Adam Driver will host SNL for the fourth time on Dec. 9 to help promote Michael Mann’s expensive Italian drama Ferrari, and his episode should get a major boost from musical guest Olivia Rodrigo. the following week, SNL alum Kate McKinnon is coming back to host the show’s Christmas episode, with musical guest Billie Eilish. She won two Emmys during her time on the show, and she’s coming off a fun turn as Weird Barbie in a certain summer blockbuster. Part of me wonders if this is the first stop in her own Best Supporting Actress campaign, as many pundits have written her off in favor of America Ferrera due to the latter’s juicy monologue. Both, however, were essential to the flavor of the film.
TV Roundup - Andrew Koji (Warrior), Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones), and T’Nia Miller (Fall of the House of Usher) have joined the Season 3 cast of Gangs of London… Godfather of Harlem and Power Book III: Raising Kanan were both renewed for Season 4 by MGM+ and Starz, respectively… Netflix has resumed production on Season 2 of The Sandman, which had been interrupted by the strikes.
Congrats - To longtime CAA agent Risa Gertner, who has announced that she’ll retire in January after 27 years at the agency, where she worked with top filmmakers such as Ron Howard, Barry Jenkins, Tony Gilroy, Kenya Barris, and Simon Kinberg, among many others. Gertner is a legend who hired many of CAA’s other top agents and showed them the ropes of agency life. “I am profoundly grateful to have worked with artists whose brilliance and creativity [have] shaped popular culture for decades. And to have done so surrounded by the most inspired and passionate colleagues has been a gift,” Gertner told Deadline. “Risa is a world-class agent and leader. She has not only been a guiding force in the motion picture department, hiring and mentoring great agents and executives, [she] has impacted our entire company. We are forever grateful,” added CAA co-chairman Richard Lovett. This is a well-deserved retirement for Gertner and I hope she enjoys it, as she has certainly earned it given her time in the agency trenches. I can only imagine the stories she has as one of Hollywood’s top dealmakers.
More Congrats - To Dan Berger, who is leading Amblin after four years for a new role as VP of Global Media and Entertainment Communications at Amazon, where he’ll oversee comms for Prime Video, which saw Corey Shields exit in May after three years with the streamer. Berger used to run comms for 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation, so Amazon is getting a smart, veteran exec, and Berger will no doubt have a bit more to do at Amazon given its output compared to that of Amblin.
Film Twitter’s Main Character of the Day
Your 15 minutes start now…
This is where I shine a light on the good, the bad, and the ugly tweets that Film Twitter is, well, already shining a light on. Whether you’re being hailed as a hero or a villain in this space, I hope all recipients of this esteemed award take it in the good nature with which it is intended.
With that disclaimer out of the way, today’s Main Character is… Jacobin film critic and Filmsuck host Eileen Jones.
Eileen was not a fan of David Fincher’s The Killer. In fact, she thought it was “boring.” Or did she? The word “boring” is used in the subhead of her review, which could very well have been written by Eileen’s editor, and it’s also used in Jacobin’s tweet, likely crafted by a social media editor. Did Eileen actually think the film was “boring?” I have no idea… I just know what it’s like to have social media call for your head for something you didn’t even write.
I’m not here to judge Eileen’s taste. She claims to have hated Mank, so we’ll always have some kind of bond as critics, but I am, if nothing else, a Fincher fanboy — admittedly so — and I’ve seen the film three times, which should tell you where I stand on it. Naturally, my brethren came to the film’s defense — and Fincher’s, not that he needs defending — though others felt that Eileen made some fair points.
Why don’t YOU be the judge… and going forward, I’ll try to run your responses, as well as other reader feedback and occasional mailbag columns, just like some of your favorite media stars. My humble apologies to Roberta…
David Fincher’s new movie “The Killer” is supposedly a metacommentary on hit-man films — and possibly on the director himself. Or that could just be an excuse for how boring it is.
— Jacobin (@jacobin)
Nov 29, 2023
Got a hot tip, or an interesting pitch? Want to buy an ad or ask a provocative question for future mailbag installments? Email me at [email protected].