Aside from writing duties, I spent much of the week focusing on two endevours: reading Roger Ebert's memoir, Life Itself, and devouring the Star Wars: The Completely Saga box set.
Firstly, Ebert's book was a joy to read. Usually biographies are kind of a slog to get through unless I'm intensely interested in the subject. Autobiographies are worse because they mostly seem to assume they are your favorite person and spend time on really pointless things that have no bearing on the reasons why I like them. And Ebert does that too, listing off names of childhood friends, addresses and phone numbers that don't work anymore. But they are actually keys to his story: his memory is sick. I can barely remember writing the beginning of this sentence and he remembers the Penrod-esque contents of his pockets in 1946. It's a gift that has served him well over the decades, and one he shares with us when he gives us his accounts of time spent with other people we care about. John Wayne, Woody Allen, Roger Corman, Bill Nack, Chaz and, of course, Gene Siskel. The detail is sparkling, such clarity to the memories and storytelling that you feel like you are in the scene as it happened, wobbling drunkenly into one of Chicago's Bermuda Triangle bars, or eating bangers and mash in a London pub. Many of the chapters began life as blog posts or Equire articles in the 50s but they as expanded and reflected upon, and it's well worth the time to read.
As for Star Wars, I've got to say the box is a bit of a let down. The movies look great, except for the lack of choice on which edition to watch, even if they are the 2k digital masters the Original Trilogy SE laser discs were made from. I haven't gotten through every special feature yet (each movie has two commentaries, for Christ's sake -- though from what I remember listening to the DVD commentary tracks, they're absolutely dead and emotionless and each speaker was recorded separately), but the missing documentaries are a big problem to me. One of my favorite documentaries, The Beginning, about making Episode I, which started documenting Lucas writing in 1994, is absent. The other big absentee is the wonderful From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga. Yes, I have The Beginning on DVD but I only have Star Wars to Jedi on VHS. An early convert to DVD, I haven't had a working VHS player is almost a decade now.
I'm also not thrilled with the box design where the discs basically have to be pried out of the sleeves if you don't have long finger nails. I mean, it's nice from a design standpoint, but from a practical standpoint something like the Close Encounters of the Third Kind box would have been better. I don't want to sound like an ingrate though. The stuff that's actually on the set is great, it's just why not be comprehensive if you're putting together a 9 Disc set? I can't imagine it's a rights issue. I'm sure Lucasfilm owns the rights to all of them.
Okay, okay. Enough of my whinging. Links!
-The last thing we need in this world is another movie about Wyatt Earp, especially since we've got a great one by John Ford with Henry Fonda as Earp (My Darling Clementine), and the ultra-quotable but factually dubious Tombstone. Let's do another Billy the Kid movie while we're at it. Ain't enough of those either. Oh, I know! We could do another movie about sharks that terrorize bathers too. Or they could, I don't know, reboot Mortal Kombat or something.
-What's that? They are rebooting Mortal Kombat? Oh.
-The NYT has a nice piece on Isabel Coixet, who I've been admiring for years, despite still having no idea how to actually pronounce her name. Oh, you Catalans, with your weird Xs and lisps and evil football clubs. Look for one of her movies in an upcoming Underrated feature.
-I don't know if the movie will be any good, but I'm kind of enjoying these Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe pictures. A lot more than I enjoyed the Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn Monroe pictures anyway. These are all vulnerable sex appeal, while I could only think of the drugs seeing the Lohan ones.
-The easiest way around the whole 3D glasses debacle? Don't go to 3D movies. Simple. Problem solved. They are as bad for your wallet as they are for your eyes.
-Here is a lot more info (story and casting) about the new Charlie Kaufman project, Frank of Francis, "about" Hollywood and, uh, something I don't know anything about: angry online film criticism. Can't wait.
-Criterion posted a great picture of Tarkovsky on the set of Stalker.
-Kevin Costner is out of Django Unchained, but Kurt Russell may be in. That works for me.
-Vulture has an interesting breakdown of TV ratings from now and 10 years ago. My So-Called Life would be an unmitigated hit today, despite getting shitcanned after 19 episodes for miserable ratings when it first aired in the 94-95 TV season, launching the careers of countless people, including Friday Night Lights showrunner Jason Katims who wrote the great episode Life of Brian.
-Vantity Fair has a piece on the upcoming documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. It rests in the shadow of his Beatles career, but Harrison was an important part of the British film industry through his company HandMade Pictures. Also, you've got to love the bit with Eric Clapton in the teaser on HBO: "I think we shared a lot of tastes. Cars and clothes -- and women, obviously."
-Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close, the adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel by Stephen Daldry starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, James Gandolfini, Max Von Sydow, Thomas Horn and Viola Davis. I'm really glad they didn't release this before the anniversary. Seems like Von Sydow might become the front runner for Best Supporting Actor when Oscar time comes.
-Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project. DeMille, Marty? Really? Selznick, maybe. Not DeMille.
-Paranormal Activity 3. Because they can, because you'll watch.
-Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg. Gotta say the trailer and the January release date doesn't inspire confidence in this.
-I'm loathe to link this: New Years Eve. The most pointless holiday gets a pointless* movie.
-Finally, she hasn't even written it yet, but I'd like to call for a boycott of Courtney Love's autobiography. Stop giving this succubus your hard earned money already.
*in all conceivable likelihood.