Yet another movie not screened for critics.

Not only have I not heard of any screenings for Awake, a colleague informs me that he was told there wouldn’t be any screenings for Awake. (I’ve been too busy lately to go out of my way to inquire about, let alone attend, any screenings myself.) The film stars Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba, and it’s being released the weekend after the American Thanksgiving, which has traditionally been something of a dumping ground.

How the writers’ strike may affect Star Trek XI

Here’s a fascinating excerpt from John August’s blog:

Two guys walking with us today didn’t need many introductions: Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams. . . .

Damon is producing the new Star Trek movie, which J.J. is directing. Which is shooting on the Paramount lot. Which we are currently picketing.

This combination of facts led me to email Damon yesterday, which led to a phone call, which led to us walking in circles at the Van Ness gate along with J.J., talking about the strike, its absurdities and impossible choices. Star Trek is the biggest movie shooting at Paramount. It’s directed and produced by WGA members, who are following the spirit and letter of the Guild’s rules. They’re walking the line while being forced to cross it.

“Forced” isn’t quite right, because there’s an alternative: J.J., Damon, and the other WGA producers could refuse to cross the picket line. They’d get fired, sued, and replaced by a less-conflicted director and producing team — all probably within a week’s time. What’s tougher to figure out is whether it would make a damn bit of difference.

Believe me, there are writers who would encourage (nay, demand) that they walk away, much the way the television showrunners walked away from their series. There’s the belief that the best way to end the strike is through big gestures — and that would be a very big gesture. (Basically, anything short of lighting oneself on fire is a betrayal of the cause.)

So when it got around the picket lines that Star Trek would be coming to the lot on Wednesday, I could foresee a situation that got awkward or worse. If you’ve been reading my daily updates, you’ll know that I’m the guy who is always concerned about avoiding stupid car accidents. This felt like a stupid car accident waiting to happen, so I suggested that Damon and J.J. spend some time walking, talking, and engaging with the picket line.

What I couldn’t have anticipated is that it would be so, well, engaging.

There are a few basic things that should get cleared up first.

Neither J.J. nor Damon are writers on the movie. But they are writers, and WGA members. During a WGA strike, you’re not allowed to write on movies or television shows, period. So they can’t change a word of the script, nor can anyone else. The script they had at 11:59 p.m. November 5th is the script they have to shoot.

To a screenwriter, that might seem kind of awesome. For once, the director can’t change things. But when its your own movie, it’s maddening. J.J. was describing a scene he was shooting the day before. Midway through it, he got a great idea for a new line. Which he couldn’t write. Couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t be in his movie.

Damon described it like having one of your superpowers taken away.

You can absolutely make a movie without changing the script. Big Fish and Charlie were shot just like they were written. But to not even have the option of changing something is a bizarre restriction, like making a Dogme 95 film with a $100 million budget. As feature writers, we’re constantly asking to be included in production, on the call sheet, on the set. Suddenly, we’re completely removing ourselves from the process. . . .

Why the “it’s not anti-religious, it’s only anti-abusive forms of religion” meme doesn’t fly.

They’re at it again: The director and co-stars of The Golden Compass have told the Globe and Mail that their film is not “anti-religious”, even though, in the book at least, all the religious characters are evil and, in the sequels, God himself is depicted as a lying, decrepit angel who needs to be killed.

Daniel Craig is quoted as saying, “These books are not anti-religious. I think that mainly they’re anti-misuse of power – whether it’s religious or political.” And Chris Weitz is quoted as saying, “I don’t happen to believe that His Dark Materials is an anti-religious or anti-Catholic series of books. I think that Philip Pullman is against the abuse of religion, the abuse of God for political power.”

Nothing personal against these guys, whose work I have often admired. But I am so tired of hearing this line of argument. It simply doesn’t work. And here’s why.

Suppose I write a memoir about my father and how he brought me up, including the bits of discipline that no child likes but which, in hindsight, you realize were necessary and appropriate. Then suppose that someone else writes a novel about my father which exaggerates those bits, adds some more, and generally makes my father look like an abusive swine — all while using his name, or the various nicknames I gave him in my memoirs. Then suppose that I object to this novel, and then suppose that the author of the novel replies, “The book isn’t against your father. It’s against bad parenting. In fact, the fictionalized father in my book reminds me of a really abusive parent I know down the block, or a nasty uncle I once knew who wasn’t actually a parent per se, but still, he was a grown-up and he did some bad things…”

Now, would anybody really expect me to just roll over and accept that answer? Would anyone really expect me to just ignore the fact that my narrative has been hijacked by someone else, and in a way that profoundly distorts the person I was describing?

The Golden Compass — the article’s up!

My article on the controversy over The Golden Compass and the His Dark Materials trilogy as a whole is now up at Christianity Today. The magazine has a fairly long lead time — at least compared to the websites and newspapers that I write for! — so this article does not take some of the more recent developments into account. I also “interviewed” Philip Pullman by e-mail for this story, but only a handful of quotes ended up in the article, so I might post some “deleted quotes” here in the next few days.

Newsbites: Bale! Disciple! Gods! Life! Mimzy!

Time for a few more little blurbs.

1. has a wonderfully insane idea. If Christian Bale — who is currently one of six actors playing Bob Dylan in I’m Not There — really does play John Connor in the next Terminator movie, then perhaps the studio could cast all the other actors who have played John Connor and hire I’m Not There director Todd Haynes to oversee the whole thing. It’ll never happen, but still.

2. German director Robert Sigl is developing The 13th Disciple, a “Horror/Adventure” film about archaeologists in India who discover that Jesus had an “evil twin brother” who is now alive again, reincarnated as the head of a religious sect. Jesus himself will reportedly be “only in the background” of the story, and will not be an active character. Matt Page at the Bible Films Blog has rounded up several news sites and official movie sites on the subject.

3. The Hollywood Reporter says Ben Stiller is developing a TV pilot called Gods Behaving Badly, described as:

. . . a contemporary comedic tale set in London, where the gods of ancient Greece have been living together in a house since the 1660s. They still are running the world, fighting with one another, but they are dangerously bored and living in much reduced circumstances. Apollo has turned a Goldman Sachs market trader into a tree after she refused casual sex with him. Aphrodite runs a telephone sex service.

” ‘Gods Behaving Badly’ has a rare comedic collision of the mythic, the mundane and the emotionally real,” Red Hour partner Stuart Cornfeld said. “We are very excited about moving ahead with this.”

I like the Greco-Roman myths, so this could be kind of fun, but I don’t know that I trust Stiller or his company to milk the best humour out of this concept. For one thing, they’d better not make all the jokes about sex. That’s too easy, too obvious. It’s one thing for the characters to be bored and uninspired, but the writers should be a little more clever than that.

4. I love contrarian readings of popular films — such as Jonathan V. Last‘s argument that the Empire, rather than the Rebellion, was ultimately on the side of good in the the Star Wars movies — so I have to link to right-wing New York Post columnist Kyle Smith‘s recent analysis of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):

While watching the new colorization of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on DVD – this time they got it right; no longer do you get the feeling you’re watching a black-and-white film through stained glass – I thought: you know who would love this? Why, that visionary American innovator Henry F. Potter.

That’s right, Mr. Potter – the unsung hero of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the canny businessman who tried (and, alas, failed) to turn boring, repressed Bedford Falls – a town full of drunks, child beaters, vandals and racial and sexual harassers – into an exciting new destination nightspot called Pottersville. . . .

5. Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere notes that New Line Cinema’s “For Your Consideration” site — the site that invites members of the Academy to consider their films for the Oscars — is promoting The Golden Compass, Hairspray and… The Last Mimzy? That’s the lame children’s fantasy which happened to be the first film directed by the head of the studio in 17 years. In other words, it’s a true vanity project — and now, more so than ever.

Indiana Jones and the bizarre cameo rumour

You know those rumours about how Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will deal with aliens and stuff? They just got a little weirder. If what the guy at MovieWeb says is true, then it looks like George Lucas sure wasn’t kidding when he said last year that this new film might be “a little too ‘connected’“.