Media: The ‘Underpaid’ and the Unemployed

Last Friday, the already dangerously-thin hometown paper, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, announced that they were laying off 23 employees.
According to the Riverfront Times, that makes 234 people laid off from the Post-Dispatch since just 2008, and noted that the announcement in the paper itself was unbylined:
Is it unbylined because no one wanted to write it, or because there was no one left to write it, edit it and produce an image to accompany it?
One of the more piquant observations, though, came from Jim Romanesko:
The downsizing comes just days after [Post-Dispatch owner Lee Enterprises] CEO Mary Junck was awarded $655,000 in company stock because, according to Lee’s executive compensation committee, she is underpaid.

New in Theaters: ‘Trishna’

It’s a shame that Michael Winterbottom thought to set his modernized Tess of the d’Urbervilles in India instead of in England, or another Western nation. This isn’t because he doesn’t know how to use South Asia as a setting (he does) or because today’s India doesn’t provide a highly relevant analogy for many of the class issues in Thomas Hardy’s novel (it does). But by shifting Hardy’s story from England 1891 to a developing nation, it lets viewers off the hook…

Trishna is playing now in limited release, and while it definitely has its faults is still an undeniably gorgeous and effective romantic melodrama of the kind that don’t seem to get made that much anymore. My review is PopMatters.

Trailer Park: ‘Cloud Atlas’

It’s something that would have been hard to conceive of just 5-10 years ago. But the filmmaking landscape is now so fractured that apparently even quixotic projects like this are able to line up millions of dollars in funding and movie stars galore.

The hard-to-categorize adaptation of David Mitchell’s mind- and time-twister of a novel Cloud Atlas — which stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Keith David, Jim Broadbent, is directed by Tom Tykwer of Run Lola Run fame and written by the Wachowskis (The Matrix) — has been winding its way toward the big screen for a while. Now with an October release date set, the first trailer has been released. This could either be one of those epic disasters of overreach or the kind of thing that leaves people just shattered.

Great, terrible, or mediocre in its final execution, what can be seen in the trailer just takes your breath away:

Coming Attractions: A Third ‘Hobbit’ Film?

Deadline reported yesterday that Peter Jackson is considering making The Hobbit into a trilogy. Jackson is considering taking the Appendices that were published at the back of The Return of the King (which he calls essentially notes for a planned rewrite of The Hobbit which would have incorporated a lot of material that Tolkien came up when writing his later trilogy) and using that as a basis for the third film.

For Lord of the Rings film junkies, this might be good news; more the better. And the studio would certainly be delighted. For those of us who are fans of the mythos as a whole and didn’t necessarily think that Return of the King was enriched by its fourth ending, it could be a potential sign of trouble: empowered auteur on the loose! Jackson’s artistry as a whole has been terrific, but it does begin to wear on one after a while in a way that Tolkien’s dense style never quite does. The films are never quite able to hit those light, cheery notes as well as the books can, focusing over-much on the battles and melodrama.

Maybe instead of a third Hobbit film, they should be talking about doing something with The Silmarillion? Yes, it’s more mythology than fiction, but plenty of story to go around. And let’s be honest, it would be incredible to see what Jackson could come with for the sacking of Gondolin and the tragedy of Beren and Luthien.

DVD Tuesday: ‘Footnote’

Joseph Cedar’s high-toned Israeli comedy about an embarrassing scandal in the world of Talmudic scholarship is overflowing with coolly-delivered mockery, but tempers it by delving deeper into the tense father-son relationship at the center of the scandal. Shot in sky-bright blues and backed with a richly emotive score, this is a rich banquet of a film, even if the final course leaves you wanting…

The Oscar-nominated Footnote is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. My full review is at AMC Movie Guide.

New in Theaters: ‘Unforgivable’

A writer of historical potboiler novels, Francis (André Dussollier), arrives in Venice determined to do research for his next book. As Unforgivable (Impardonnables) begins, we see that although he is well advanced in years, Francis is a fierce competitor for just about anything, and so has no nervousness about making overtures to his much younger real estate agent. Judith (Carole Bouquet), an ex-model who seems initially to be well past foolish fancies, turns out to be susceptible to his charms. In short order, Francis is set up in a characterful old villa on the picturesque island of Sant’Erasmo, just across the water from Venice, with Judith as his helpful and chic wife…

Andre Techine’s Unforgivable is an unlikely and curiously engaging thriller that’s in limited release now. My full review is at PopMatters.

New in Theaters: ‘Collaborator’

The rage of a disillusioned America gets a cool and ironic probing in Martin Donovan’s Collaborator. A chamber piece about a playwright on the skids who is taken hostage by a troubled neighbor, the film alludes only indirectly to the reasons for both men’s anger and dissatisfaction. Donovan’s spare script provides an airy and open-ended structure, but the film, his first as a director, makes its own definite contribution to the national dialogue, the one where everybody is always shouting past each other, unable to hear what anyone else is saying…

Collaborator is playing in limited release, check it out. My full review is at PopMatters.