Ang Lee's Life of Pi, a faithful adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel, respects all religions, but it worships itself. Based on a tip from a mutual friend, a writer attends the house of the titular Pi, which provides the framing device for Pi's recounted tall tale that finds him out to sea for 227 days on a small boat with a giant Bengal tiger. "He said that you have a story that would make me believe in God," says the writer excitedly.
The most terrifying woman on cable news, Nancy Grace, turns 50 today. Director Sam Raimi and "Weird Al" Yankovic are both turning 50 today, too. Actor Ryan Reynolds is 33. Oscar-winning director Ang Lee is 55. Writer Augusten Burroughs is turning 44. ABC News correspondent Brian Ross turns 61. Jessica Stroup of 90210 is 23. Retired soccer legend Pelé is turning 69. Andy Warhol muse Jane Holzer is 69. And Meghan McCain turns 25 today. A list of people celebrating their birthdays this weekend is below.
Maniacal cable news host Nancy Grace turns 49 today. Also celebrating: Oscar-winning director Ang Lee turns 54. Memoirist Augusten Burroughs is 43. Novelist Michael Crichton turns 66. ABC News correspondent Brian Ross is 60. Spider-Man director Sam Raimi is turning 49. Retired soccer legend Pelé is 68. And "Weird Al" Yankovic is 49.
· Laurence Fishburne is in negotiations to take over for the departing William Petersen in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, in which he'll play a scientist who "has the same genetic profile as a serial killer," much like the sociopathic cowboy he played on Saturday morning TV in the late '80s. [THR]
·Load up on guns, bring your friends: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video director Sam Bayer will direct the Michael Bay-produced noir action thriller Fiasco Heights for Universal. [THR]
·Suspiciously obtained reality show concept Wipeout, a surprise summer hit for ABC, has been renewed for another season of waterlogged, spine-snapping fun. [Variety]
·Taking Woodstock, Ang Lee's totally weird movie starring Demetri Martin as the gay decorator inadvertently at the center of the legendary music festival, will begin shooting this month, with go-to Period Gay Emile Hirsch added to the cast.
· Tony-winning Best Play August: Osage County is being prepped for a movie version, probably to star Meryl Streep, with a snappier plot based on a series of loosely-strung-together Roxette songs. [Variety]
Our anticipation is great for Oscar-winning, Gays-friendly director Ang Lee's next movie, Taking Woodstock; based on the memoir by Elliot Tiber, it's the unlikely tale of a closeted guy working at his parents Catskills motel inadvertently responsible for mounting the music festival that defined a generation. (OMGZ! I CAN HAZ GAI HIPPYZ?!!!) How to make an already awesome and weird project even more awesome and weird? Variety now reports that comedian Demetri Martin is who Lee wants for the lead. With shooting set to begin in late August, and a greenlight from DreamWorks for his script Will, look for 2009 to be the year that the comic makes the seemingly inevitable leap from cultish stand-up and Daily Show correspondent to full-fledged movie star. It's also going to be the year that actor-comedians go gay on film, but hopefully Martin's portrayal will be a little more nuanced, and less spray-tanned and Versaced, than Jim Carrey's.
When Ang Lee took on the task of bringing Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain to the screen, he famously asked, "What do I know about gay ranch hands in Wyoming?" The director will be better informed about his adopted home state of New York. He and frequent collaborator James Schamus adapt the story of Greenwich Village interior designer Elliot Tiber, the man who gave the permit for the legendary doinkfest Woodstock Festival, where your parents went to drop acid and have unprotected sex in tents. Seriously, just ask them. The festival has inspired several popular documentaries, but the expensive cost of licensing the music discouraged a fictional treatment until now. Tiber's book Taking Woodstock: The True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life was blurbed as "a queer memoir that puts the wood in Woodstock," source material that should entertain despite the lack of Joan Baez et al. In light of his recent comments against Canadian censorship legislation, he may want to use every sex scene the novel allows for, and several more it doesn't. With a small budget of $5 to $10 million, they may still be able to afford the penises of Jason Segel and Seth Rogen, which would be quite a coup. [Reuters]
After a brief fling with steamy Chinese art-core, director Ang Lee is heading back to the comfortable terrain of the Gays, the lauded director having already explored that topic's various themes in such previous Queer Cinema classics as Brokeback Mountain (doomed lovers on the Wyoming plain), The Wedding Banquet (a comedic take on Chinese family and tradition), and Hulk (roid-raging muscle queen never quite fits in). THR now reports that Lee will turn to the unlikely setting of the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair for his next emotionally frigid, magic rainbow carpet ride:
China, the land where the human body is illegal, is threatening to ban a perfectly innocuous ad campaign by Pond's because it stars Tang Wei, the lead actress in Ang Lee's recent flick "Lust, Caution." The Chinese government feels that Tang Wei's sexy nude scenes in the film render her unfit for advertising. Heaven forbid the people of China be influenced in their skin cream purchasing decisions by a fellow citizen who was once naked—China got its population of 1.3 billion strictly through asexual reproduction. More than a week after the initial blacklisting of the actress, the fate of the ad campaign is still unclear [Ad Age]. After the jump, one of the Tang Wei ads, and the trailer for "Lust, Caution." Watch for yourself and be corrupted.
Kudos to Focus Features' marketing department for injecting some sex into Atonement's For Your Consideration ad campaign by choosing this signature image of Keira Knightley, in which the actress emerges sopping wet from her family estate's fountain in a clingy, see-through slip, as the one that best represents the candidacy of both their critically beloved literary adaptation and director Joe Wright. Sure, the awe-inspiring tracking shot of a war-torn Dunkirk might have been an option that more vividly illustrated Wright's technical skills, but sometimes voters just want to break up the monotony of flipping though the trades by gawking at half-naked ladies.
· We're impressed with Variety's show of headline-pun restraint with this one: The plug has been pulled on Stopping Power, Jan De Bont's planned action thriller starring John Cusack, after funding fell through at the last minute. [Variety]
· Conflicting with other reports, Ang Lee's Lust, Caution "thrilled" Venice audiences. One journalist asked if the graphic sexual sequences were real, to which the director responded, "Have you seen the film?" Funny—we always felt what The Hulk could have used were some Brown Bunnyesque elements. [Variety]
· ABC orders a script for The Fixer, about "the most powerful woman in New York." We knew it was only a matter of time before Leona Helmsley's dogwalker had her own show. [Variety]
· NBC and Apple have a parting of the ways, with NBC's content disappearing from iTunes as soon as December. Why can't Steve Jobs and Ben Silverman just iron this bullshit out over a couple of primo bong hits? [THR]
· Giovanni Ribisi is pulled in by the CAA Death Star's tractor beams. Run, Giovanni! They're nothing but a greedy and secretive institution that want to have undue influence over your life decisions! [THR]
Venice Film Festival update: Jellyfish have invaded and are totally ruining Keira Knightley's swimming plans! Also: At 156 minutes, Ang Lee's NC-17-rated Lust, Caution is a chore to sit through, despite featuring sex scenes so explicit, it makes a spittle-assisted Jack Twist-taking seem tame by comparison. [filmexperience]
· Realizing that no matter what their vision was going in for a long-planned, big-screen adaptation of Dallas, the final result would be hilarious, Regency and 20th Century have finally decided to just give up and officially make it as a comedy. Betty Thomas will direct, and John Travolta will still star as JR Ewing, playing the part in only a slightly bigger fashion as a nod to the project's new direction. [Variety]
· Once again, the DGA refuses to allow For Your Consideration DVD screeners to be sent to members for their yearly awards, forcing guild members to schlep out to screenings to see their peers' work presented as it was intended. [THR]
· Following the less-than-blockbuster results of promotions for movies like Akeelah and the Bee and Arctic Tale, Hollywood is discovering that Starbucks might not be marketing monolith that they'd had hoped it would be. Several studios are now considering scaled-back versions of the failing Starbucks experiment, such as planting paid confederates to sit by the door of The Coffee Bean and loudly shout into a cellphone about how much they loved a partner's movie. [Variety]
· It's about time someone made a RenFair comedy*: Universal buys the Rainn Wilson project Renaissance Man, about two community theater actors who hide out a renaissance fair after thinking they've killed one of their co-stars. (*For real; and no, we don't count that one part in The Cable Guy.) [THR]
· Focus Features accepts the MPAA's NC-17 rating for Ang Lee's erotically charged espionage thriller Lust, Caution for "too many scenes of artsy-fartsy fucking." [Variety]
It was a forgone conclusion that Brokeback Mountain's last go at the awards show rodeo—the GLAAD Media Awards—would rope it its final trophy, what with Brokeback being touted as a monumental turning point in the history of gay acceptance, and these being the awards that celebrate gay acceptance. As predicted, Ang Lee accepted Best Picture, Wide Release at the ceremony in New York last night, easily beating out such other nominated gay-friendly wide releases as Rent and The Family Stone:
Two Washington Post staff writers were granted golden tickets to both the Vanity Fair and Elton John Oscar parties, and take us along on their Roald Dahlesque adventures. At VF they spot Madonna ("...she was heard to say 'oy' after experiencing a press photobarrage going in"), Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller sprawled on couches, J-Lo begging Marc Anthony to dance with her (he does not), Paul Haggis being gracious at a urinal (next movie: "Flush?"), and an affable, smoking Joaquin Phoenix; at Elton's: a bored George Lucas, alone but for his security guards, Pamela Anderson, and a "sea of women with Duck Face," including the world's reigning duck-faced monarchs, Amanda Lepore and Lisa Rinna. Spirits overall were high; but there's always the exception:
Variety thinks Jon Stewart played it "safe" and "right down the middle" by not going too political or biting the industry hand that fed him. To be fair, he didn't have anyone as appealing as Jude Law to kick around like Chris Rock did last year. [Variety]
Ang Lee, like pretty much everyone with taste, was shocked that Crash beat Brokeback: "I was backstage enjoying the buildup I was familiar with: the writers (winning), then me (winning). It was a surprise, frankly. But congratulations to the 'Crash' filmmakers." [THR]
Crash's win gives Lionsgate its first-ever Oscar. Pardon us if we're not exactly popping champagne corks on their behalf, as that Best Picture fiasco probably cost us our Oscar pool. Thanks, LG! [Variety]
Everybody works during pilot season: Blair Underwood in CBS drama Company Town, Mena Suvari in CBS drama Orpheus, Lori Loughlin joins ABC comedy In Case of Emergency, and Rebecca Gayheart joins Fox drama Vanished. [THR]
Let's all climb back in our time machine and return to two days ago, when Brokeback took home the Independent Spirit Best Picture Award, and all was still right with the world. [Variety]