Every day, in Hollywood, movies are made. They are reviewed. Every day, in Hollywood, decisions are made. They are not reviewed.
This is Recent Decisions, Reviewed.
1. Warner Bros. has decided to remake A Star Is Born, with Lady Gaga to star and Bradley Cooper to direct.
Downgrading from Beyoncé and Clint Eastwood to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is like downgrading from Beyoncé and Clint Eastwood to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. No matter: I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m ALL IN on this one.
It’s hard to know if Gaga is popular right now: I still have “Applause” on my phone, which I think technically makes me family. As for Cooper: He’s been “back” for about a year now — 2015’s Jacket Trilogy (Aloha, the French Open, and Burnt) saw him receive career-best jacket notices — but there’s “back” … and then there’s back. The truth is, neither Gaga nor Cooper is really setting the world aflame on their own.
Which is why this announced collaboration feels so full of promise. With Gaga in tow, Cooper might finally achieve his true destiny: of being a real-deal, all-systems-go, hedge-free TRY-HARD. Because say what you will about Gaga … there is perhaps no more eminent or pure of a try-hard in the entire history of pop. And there is no one who has pivoted harder, over these past several years, away from the trap of “the artist as casual genius” and onto steadier ground: toward “the artist as hustler.”
Seven years ago, it seemed like Gaga wanted to be Madonna: mystery celebrity, magic eight-ball of singles, performative genius from on high. But at some point, and I think for the better, Gaga’s M.O. changed: Weirdo cameos? She’s in. TV supporting role? OK. Fucking … Tony Bennett collaborative jazz album? Let’s do it. Oscars? She can clear her schedule. Fifth studio album? Yep, but when she’s ready. I don’t know, maybe this is reaching. But this version of Gaga just seems to “get it” — no matter what “it” is. Gaga in 2016 seems to understand that pop is built on smaller victories: That it’s less the playground of geniuses than a job like any other. And that all you can do at your job, in the end, is hustle your ass off and try.
“No more jackets,” I imagine her telling Cooper their first day onset. I’ll miss them but thank god.
2. Sicario has decided that it’s a cinematic universe now.
This is and isn’t how it’s supposed to work. In a functional world, the “universe” trend is a doubling down: Like how Avengers movies are three hours of quip-boxing now, or how Harry Potter became about hooking up. (1.) Take the good parts; (2.) Make more of them; (3.) ???; (4.) Profit. Poor Sicario got the formula right, but tripped on the inputs: Director Denis Villeneuve and star Emily Blunt are out; screenwriter Taylor “in Mexico, sicario means hitman” Sheridan and (my new speedcore band) Just a Couple of Guys are in. SO CLOSE!
Yet so far. First: Let’s pour one out for Emily Blunt’s Sicario accent — a new America and a new me. Second: Certainly plot-wise there is plenty of runway left (it’s the War on Drugs; I hear that goes on for a while), but it’s hard to imagine what the point of this is, now, without the original film’s two most important principals. If Villeneuve’s eye was the pictures of Sicario’s auteurism porn, and Blunt’s brain was the articles … then what is this universe ultimately left with? The answer is “the jerking off,” of course, and so it will probably come to pass: Some men with some guns, doing what some men with some guns do. (Talk about guns.)
3. Paramount has decided to reboot The Saint.
People are going to call this insane. And, on first blush, they’ll be right: Paramount has purchased the book rights and signed on producers for a reboot of Val Kilmer’s 1997 “hit” (there are no records from this time, only oral histories) The Saint — a movie where the twist is literally that DISGUISES EXIST — in 2016. (N.B. “Disguises” are like catfishing, but with your face.) Look a little deeper, though: The decision to reboot The Saint isn’t insane at all. In fact, the reasoning is obvious.
Paramount is getting into Kilmer Forecasting.
What’s Kilmer Forecasting? It’s the theory that, for the past 30 years, Val Kilmer has been on the creative ground floor of almost every major cultural moment in American history. And that, over that same period of time, the surest path to success in Hollywood has remained absolute: Study Val Kilmer’s ideas for patterns — and then apply them.
Just take any small sample:
1983: Val Kilmer invents Tom Cruise when he finishes a doodle called “Hot Pilot” and it comes to life. (Fallout: Tom Cruise.)
1991: Val Kilmer invents classic rock with the release of The Doors, a mockumentary chronicling Kilmer’s rise and fall as the lead singer of fictional band The Doors. (Fallout: Classic rock explodes as a musical genre, peaking artistically and commercially with Jay Z’s no. 1 hit “Empire State of Mind.”)
1995: Val Kilmer invents “Blond Batman,” a groundbreaking inversion of the famous comic book character “Batman.” (Fallout: Other iconic characters such as “James Bond” and “Ethan Hawke” slowly begin to come out as blond — skyrocketing in both profit and appeal as a result.)
1995: Val Kilmer invents wearing a ponytail and saying, “For me, the sun rises and sets with her, man,” when — in Michael Mann’s epic crime saga Heat — he wears a ponytail and says, “For me, the sun rises and sets with her, man.” (Fallout: Your parents go on a date and you are born.)
Follow the money — which is to say follow Val Kilmer. The history of culture has largely depended on it.
4. Steven Spielberg has decided to make a historical drama about Walter Cronkite.
Happy (belated) Father’s Day.
5. Alexander Skarsgard has decided to become a goddamn movie star.
Or: CONDITIONS ON EARTH DEEMED HOSPITABLE FOR TALL, HANDSOME LIFE.
People (I won’t name names but the IMDb STARmeter) have been quick to count Alexander Skarsgard out over the past few years: True Blood has been over for a little while now; he’s honestly not that great of an actor; and — if I can be super-frank about this — other hot people have emerged!!! Chris Hemsworth (not Liam); OK, Liam too; no, definitely not Liam; Michael B. Jordan, Adam Driver, Billy Crudup Teen Wolf Superman. Anyway, as awful as this is to admit, it sort of seemed like Alexander Skarsgard’s moment had come and gone.
But then it hadn’t? Over the past few weeks, against all odds, the strangest weather has fallen over Movietown: The Spring of DC/Marvel has given way to THE SUMMER OF SKARSGARD. First, there was the Tarzan news. I shrugged it off, because, obviously, no one is making an earnest live-action Tarzan film in 2016. That would be ridiculous. But, nope, they (“they” — I don’t know, it almost seems more likely that there is just one rich fucker out there who really likes Tarzan) are actually doing it: The Legend of Tarzan is out July 1 — [lowers sunglasses] nice release date — and has the tagline “Human. Nature.” and stars walking bitmoji models Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie. Amazing.
And yet that’s nothing — and the Rock means nothing — compared to what’s happened since: Alexander Skarsgard is now the lead in an ACTION COMEDY — playing opposite (established hilarious entity) Michael Peña in writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s upcoming buddy-cop feature, War on Everyone. Here’s the red-band trailer, out today:
Sorry, what? What! Wait, a few things, in no order: First, Alexander Skarsgard looks like a legitimate video game character — like, he’s just a human person, but leveled up. It’s not right. He looks like if you put a three-piece suit on a tree, and then wanted to make out with that tree. Second, who is this movie for? True Blood fans? Slightly postmodern buddy-cop fans? (I hope not.) John Michael McDonagh fans? OK, probably — John Michael McDonagh (Calvary, The Guard) is great. But still: What, on the god of Kate Bosworth’s ex-boyfriends’ green earth, is Alexander Skarsgard doing here? (Let’s table that.) Third, this is a brilliant flip of the “hot guy from high school falling on hard times” trope — which had begun to get out of hand. It’s not that the trope doesn’t exist; it’s just overkill at this point. Hot guys in high school are people, with hopes and dreams like anyone. And they should know that they can grow up to be movie stars who play cops who play by their own rules, too. Anyway, what a soothing little coda to meritocracy, which was always boring to begin with, rest in peace.
I can’t believe I’m typing this but it’s true: Eric from True Blood is a movie star now.