Altitude Films, the Brit producer of 'Horrible Histories' join forces with Jason Lust's Soluble Fish production company to develop family-friendly films and TV projects.
British production and sales house Altitude Film Entertainment, fresh off their success with Horrible Histories, has signed a production partnership with Jason Lust's L.A.-based Soluble Fish to develop high-end family films and television projects.
The deal, announced at the American Film Market on Thursday, marks Altitude's first venture into the U.S. market. The Brit company, led by Will Clarke and Andy Mayson, has produced such features as Samuel L. Jackson actioner Big Game, Kevin Macdonald's music doc Whitney and Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories.
Altitude Film Sales, the company's sales arm, is handling world sales at AFM on such titles as Daniel Radcliffe-starrer Guns Akimbo and Ivan Kavanagh's horror film Son starting Andi Matichak and Emile Hirsch.
Lust said the two companies planned to create “family-friendly movies and television for global audiences” with a focus on hybrid and animation projects with an established brand “many of which will have a musical focus.”
“We've been huge admirers of Jason for some time and this is the perfect opportunity to launch our first operation in the U.S.,” said Altitude's Will Clarke. “ This partnership gives us the ability to produce and sell high-quality family films which we look forward to bringing to the marketplace.”
Billy McMillin looks at high-school football players continuing a decades-old rivalry in East L.A..
Taking an unexpected sports rivalry as an excuse to watch a handful of minority teens and coaches try to improve their lives amid anti-immigration rage, Billy McMillin's debut doc The All-Americans introduces us to two football teams in East Los Angeles whose annual showdowns draw an impressive crowd. Roosevelt and Garfield high schools have long faced off in a homecoming event known as The Classic, held almost every year for close to a century. Centering on subjects who are sympathetic but whose stories are much like others we've heard, the doc may not get as much box-office mileage out of its sports theme as it might've if presented in a more straightforward, ESPN-like way. Nevertheless, it will likely find some love in Latino communities.
After setting the scene with talk-radio clips spouting the usual anti-immigrant blather, McMillin gives a very brief history of the game that typically draws more than 20,000 avid fans, and that some in the community think about all year. In fact, we meet the teams nine months before game day — during February of the previous school year, when varsity tryouts are held.
Rather than focusing on the drama of those tryouts, McMillin gets right into introducing the characters who'll matter most in the big event: The coaches of both teams one of whom also holds down a job as a cop, their quarterbacks, and a couple of key players with lots going on off the field.
Joseph, for instance, is a sophomore who already has a daughter, and works as a baker to support her. His own mother isn't in the picture, and his father, a man with a checkered past, doesn't hesitate to admit what he wants to see when he goes to a game: He wants to see Joseph hurt people.
Mario, on the other hand, is a dedicated student and a former altar boy. Fourteen family members share three bedrooms in Mario's home some of them living in fear of immigration officials, and he intends to go to an Ivy League school to raise the family's standard of living. He's already getting letters from Harvard, Princeton and Yale. But even if he's accepted, paying for college will be daunting.
The outsider here is Stevie, a senior who's not a part of this community either racially he's black or geographically he lives in South Central. Stevie's mom didn't want him to go to school in his own neighborhood, and it seems that Garfield's coaches were happy to draw talent from other parts of the city. As opposed to Roosevelt coach Javier Cid, who makes it a point of pride that his players have all grown up together near the school. Some Garfield alums who remain invested in their team's performance resent Stevie's presence — especially those whose own sons compete for spots on the starting lineup.
Though it follows a familiar format, devoting its middle third to the games leading to Homecoming and the final act to the game itself, All-Americans doesn't really play like a sports drama; football is mostly an excuse to pay attention to these kids. But that focus is diluted by the number of people we're spending time with. If, for instance, Mario and Stevie got the lion's share of attention, we might learn enough about these likable young men to be more invested in the arc of their year.
As things stand here, we're certainly curious to see where each student winds up and, to a lesser extent, who wins the game. But we've hardly had an experience we can't get from a reasonably deep newspaper profile.
Production company: Delirio Films Distributor: Abramorama Director-Screenwriter: Billy McMillin Producers: Rafael Marmor, Christopher Leggett, Billy McMillin, Timm Oberwelland Executive producer: Becky G Director of photography: Ann Rosencrans Editors: Billy McMillin, Philip Thangsombat Composer: John Piscitello
Disney is launching its first-ever standalone streaming platform Disney+ next week, and with it will eventually come the first-ever TV series deeply connected to its big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios is producing series such as “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and Winter Soldier,” ‘Loki,’ and “Hawkeye” for Disney+, all of which will bring superheroes from the MCU films to television for the first time. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has been adamant about the Disney+ series playing a crucial role in the ongoing narrative of the larger MCU, and he told Bloomberg magazine that MCU fans will need Disney+ in order for the continuity of the movies to make sense.
As Bloomberg reporter Devin Leonard writes, “If you want to understand everything in future Marvel movies, [Feige] says, you'll probably need a Disney+ subscription, because events from the new shows will factor into forthcoming films such as ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.’ The Scarlet Witch will be a key character in that movie, and Feige points out that the ‘Loki’ series will tie in, too.”
Feige added, “I'm not sure we've actually acknowledged that before. But it does.”
While Disney and Marvel had already announced the upcoming “Doctor Strange” sequel, which will star Benedict Cumberbatch and be directed by Scott Derrickson, Feige’s Bloomberg quote is the first time it has been confirmed the “Loki” series will tie into the movie. Feige is serious when he says the MCU film franchises and television series will be integrated. It appears in some cases projects originally envisioned as movies could be redeveloped into television series. Such is the case with “Hawkeye.”
Feige said he pitched television series ideas to Tom Hiddleston Loki, Elizabeth Olsen Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany Vision during the “Avengers: Infinity War” premiere. The producer said the actors were excited by the chance to bring their storylines and superheroes to television. Pitching Jeremy Renner for a “Hawkeye” series was more nerve-wracking because a deal was in place for Renner to lead a standalone Hawkeye movie.
Bloomberg reports, “Feige was more nervous about his pitch to Jeremy Renner… Marvel had a deal for Renner to star in a movie based on the character, but Feige wanted to turn the project into a Disney+ series. Renner turned out to be fine with the change. ‘He totally got it and said, “Let's do it,” ’ Feige recalls.”
No release dates for any Disney+ MCU series has been revealed. IndieWire has reached out to Disney for further comment on the “Hawkeye” switch. The platform is launching November 12 with “Avengers: Endgame” and other MCU movies available to stream. The next Marvel movie opening in theaters is the “Black Widow” prequel film May 1.
'Parasite' may be getting the awards-season love, but a vibrant new generation of filmmakers is ready to emerge from the shadow of established masters like Bong Joon Ho and Park Chan-wook.
After a Palme d'Or triumph and growing Oscar buzz for Bong Joon Ho's acclaimed thriller Parasite, South Korean cinema is having the kind of breakthrough year with the mainstream U.S. moviegoer that it hasn't seen since Park Chan-wook's now classic thriller Old Boy burst onto the scene in 2003.
Parasite's success — and the overdue official recognition from the West it has brought home to Seoul — has been doubly meaningful to the Korean industry, as 2019 also marks the 100-year anniversary of the country's first feature film, Kim Do-san's 1919 kino-drama The Righteous Revenge.
"No one could have planned it this way," Bong recently told THR in Seoul. "I don't think anyone on the jury at Cannes was even aware of the anniversary," he added. "But it has taken on this new special meaning for us."
It's likely that Parasite's success — in addition to its critical honors, the film recently raced past the $100 million mark at the worldwide box office — will eventually come to be viewed as the culmination of the Korean New Wave, the renaissance of the country's cinema associated with the remarkable crop of directors who came to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s: Bong, Park, Lee Chang-dong, Kim Jeewoon, Hong Sang-soo and others.
But Bong insists the Korean industry already has an urgent new task at hand: To overcome his own generation's success. "I wouldn't call it a misconception, but directors like Lee Chang-dong, Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon already have quite a big fan base with film lovers in the U.S. I believe if you delve deeper, you will be excited to discover that there are so many more great films in Korea — especially from young talents working in our indie cinema."
He adds: "Of course, it'shomework now to figure out how to expose these younger filmmakers to an international audience."
Typically, it's the remit of international film festival programmers to do much of that work. But since South Korea's many master filmmakers remain healthily in their prime and highly productive — Park is 56 and Bong 50 — the blue-chip European festivals have been able to rely on regular output from the established names to satisfy their unofficial quotas for new Korean filmmaking Bong, Park and Lee are all Cannes regulars.
"It's not that the top festivals aren't interested in discovering new talent," says Darcy Paquet, a Seoul-based film scholar and festival programmer. "Of course, they are,” he says. "But it's not like they're going to pass on Parasite either — and that leaves one less spot on the big stage for a new name."
There is one post-New Wave filmmaker, however, who has broken through to present himself as a potential heir apparent: Na Hong-jin, who made his first entry into Cannes' main competition in 2016 with the critically acclaimed psychological-mystery-horror freakout The Wailing. "In my opinion, he's the most naturally talented director to debut in the past 15 years," says Paquet. Na also is the first name Bong mentions, referring to his filmmaking as "very exciting, very intense." Na's first two films — The Chaser and The Yellow Sea — wowed critics with their savage energy and originality. He is now known to be deep in development on his fourth feature, which sources in Seoul tell THR will be his English-language debut.
Other breakthrough talents have found their recognition thanks to the West's abiding appreciation for Asian genre cinema. After writing and directing several critically lauded animated features The King of Pigs, 2011; The Fake, 2013, Yeon Sang-ho, 40, made his live-action debut in 2016 with the inventive zombie action flick Train to Busan, which landed a slot in Cannes' midnight screening section. It earned a massive $81 million at home and later was widely seen overseas, taking $6.1 million in other markets. But Yeon's follow-up, Psychokinesis 2018 — an original and playful take on the superhero genre — disappointed commercially, earning just $7 million. He is currently in production on a big-budget comeback: a sequel to Train to Busan, titled Peninsular.
Other Korean action thrillers have gotten a boost from top festival programmers, including Byun Sung-hyun's The Merciless, Jung Byung-gil's The Villainess, Yoon Jong-bin's The Spy Gone North and Lee Won-tae's The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil. All landed deserved, but narrowly circumscribed, midnight screening spots at Cannes.
"An action thriller with an original twist is something Korea's commercial industry, of course, does very well," says Paquet. "There are exciting directors working in other modes where Korea also excels— sophisticated art house drama or mellow drama, but with big emotions, for example — and international distributors are showing themselves to be somewhat less adventurous in supporting these kinds of voices."
5 South Korean Filmmakers to Watch
Kim Bora, 35, graduated from Columbia with an MFA in film directing and made her feature debut in 2018 with House of Hummingbird, which THR praised as a "warm, complex and hopeful slice of teen life." The film, which follows an isolated, lonely 14-year-old Korean girl through early 1990s Seoul, was made on a shoestring, but that didn't prevent it from winning more than 20 awards at festivals and awards shows around the world, including best international narrative feature at Tribeca, which described the film as “an assured debut” that “cements Kim's place as an upcoming auteur to follow.”
Lee Jong-eon, 44, worked as an assistant director for Lee Chang-dong on his acclaimed art house features Secret Sunshine and Poetry. In April, she released Birthday, her first film as a director. Based on Lee's own volunteer work, the film depicts the ongoing agony experienced by parents and families of the school-age victims of South Korea's 2014 Sewol ferry disaster. The film made its international premiere at the pioneering Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, where it won rave reviews for its "deliberate and carefully considered drama."
An Old Lady, the arresting future debut from Lim Sun-are, 41, was the most buzzed-about title at this year's Busan International Film Festival. The film centers on an elderly woman who accuses a young male hospital worker of rape. He claims it was consensual, and the film's troubling interrogations of ageism, sexism and unthinking assumptions start spinning from there. THR summed up the feature as "a quietly affecting feminist statement from a filmmaker to watch."
Lee Kyoung-mi, 45, previously worked as an assistant director for Park Chan-wook, who later produced her directorial debut, the wildly irreverent yet underappreciated feminist comedy Crush & Blush 2008. Her accomplished 2016 political thriller The Truth Beneath this one co-written by Park also went criminally overlooked on the international festival circuit. Such oversight of Lee's work appears set to change thanks to a deal she recently signed with Netflix to direct the Korean drama series The School Nurse Files, based on a best-selling Korean novel.
The surprise twist in Chung-Hyun Lee's 2015 short film Bargain won him so many admirers that South Korean studio Yong Film bankrolled the 29-year-old director to write and helm his debut feature starring Jong-seo Jun, the breakout lead actress of Lee Chang-dong's Burning 2018. The mystery thriller Call centers on two women living in different time periods who are mysteriously connected by a phone. Early buzz emerging from the production about Jun's performance has made it one of the most anticipated titles of early 2020 in Korean industry circles.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter 's Nov. 7 daily issue at the American Film Market.
Any attempt to narrow down Martin Scorsese's career to even 15 essential films means losing whole chapters of the Scorsese story. For starters, since the beginning of his career, Scorsese has had an off-and-on sideline — lately more on than off — directing documentaries. This year alone saw the release of the remarkable, truth-bending Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story. Related, Scorsese has another sideline in concert films that dates back to his time as an assistant director of Woodstock and most notably includes The Last Waltz, called in these pages the “best Thanksgiving movie ever made.”
Which brings up another issue: Making cuts is hard. The Last Waltz, one of the greatest concert movies ever made, didn't make this list. Neither did The Color of Money or Cape Fear or Kundun or Silence or several other movies that would be among any other director's best movies. But it's worth noting that some of the films that did make the cut come from late in Scorsese's career. Some directors say what they have to say then find creative ways to repeat themselves, and there's really nothing wrong with that. Scorsese, on the other hand, remains restless, as evidenced by The Irishman, his most recent release which you'll find quite high on the list. One other matter: Scorsese tends to be a bit harder to rank than other directors. A handful of films tower over others, but that has as much to do with their importance to the history of film in general as their quality relative to his other movies. That said, let's press on with the 15 greatest from one of the greats.
15. Shutter Island 2010
Scorsese has never made a horror film, but this psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a troubled U.S. Marshall investigating a mystery at an insane asylum in the 1950s comes close. Darkness-shrouded images and distressing 20th-century classical music set the mood for a twisty story that might border on the ridiculous in others' hands. Instead, it serves as a prime example of why DiCaprio became Scorsese's leading man of choice in the second half of his career, bearing the burden of a man carrying unspeakable horrors in his heart trying to make sense of a world that reflects only chaos and awfulness back to him.
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14. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore 1974
Where Scorsese's breakthrough film, Mean Streets, saw him revisiting old New York haunts that confused men he grew up around, his follow-up found him wandering well outside his comfort zone. Ellen Burstyn stars as Alice, a woman who finds her life upended after the death of her husband. Deciding to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer, she instead finds herself living a financially precarious existence as a waitress in Arizona. Keying off of Burstyn's great performance, Scorsese captures the vulnerability of a woman suddenly forced to fend for herself and dangers that range from abusive men to a creeping sense of despair.
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13. Casino 1995
Sometimes dismissed as a lesser Goodfellas, Casino brings the same journalistic detail to a story about the mob and the changing face of Las Vegas starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. But the film has a rhythm and energy all its own and De Niro's understated work as “Ace” Rothstein, a cautious man unsettled by conditions he can't control — be it in the casino or his marriage — ranks among his best performances. If there's a standout, however, it's Stone. Too often asked to repeat herself in the roles she took after Basic Instinct, here she gets to dig beneath the surface of a character as complex and self-destructive as any Scorsese protagonist.
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12. Bringing Out the Dead 1999
What happens when you spend day after day and night after night staring at death and pondering the ugliest possibilities of human behavior? For Frank Pierce Nicolas Cage, in one of his best performances it means living always on the verge of cracking. An ambulance driver haunted by the lives he can't save, Frank threatens to fall into despair as he responds to one tumultuous situation after another in a city that also seems to be falling apart. Patricia Arquette co-stars as Mary, the daughter of a patient who grapples with addiction as her father's condition worsens. Scripted by Paul Schrader, it's one of Scorsese's most overlooked films and makes a fascinating, guardedly hopeful bookend to a previous collaboration, Taxi Driver.
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11. The Departed 2006
An adaptation of the Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs, The Departed transports the original's fever dream intensity to Boston for a mob story that depicts the ways organized crime destroys every life it touches. The set-up could come off as gimmicky. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan, a cop who goes undercover as a mobster while Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, a mobster groomed from a young age to infiltrate the police. But it's DiCaprio and Damon's tortured performances as confused, conflicted men caught in traps built long before they were born, Scorsese's technically dazzling filmmaking, and a supporting cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, and Mark Wahlberg that elevate a story that Scorsese described in a 2005 interview as set in a place where there is “no longer a question of good and evil. The two poles are interchangeable. All that's left is the world as it is.”
10. After Hours 1985
A time capsule of a chapter of New York in which yuppies, punks, artists, and assorted oddballs brushed shoulders in a still-untamed Manhattan, After Hours twists reality just enough to make it at once cartoonish and nightmarish. Made swiftly and cheaply after the collapse of the first version of The Last Temptation of Christ, the film stars Griffin Dunne as an office drone whose attraction to a stranger Rosanna Arquette sends him pinballing from one uncomfortable situation to another on a perilous all-night journey from one end of the city to another. The closest thing to a comedy Scorsese has ever made, there's nothing else quite like it in his filmography, but there's no mistaking it for any other director's work.
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9. The Wolf of Wall Street 2013
How do you depict odious acts without making them look appealing? For Scorsese, the answer has been not to try, whether depicting gangsters or cheats. Part of the thrill of watching Jordan Belfort Leonardo DiCaprio and Donnie Azoff Jonah Hill live a life of excess as they scam their way to stock market dominance is seeing how much they enjoy it. Sure, they hurt countless people along the way and destroy any chance of intimacy and connection with those around them, but it takes a long time for the high to wear off in this propulsive depiction of excess and unchecked greed. But look to the margins and you'll see used-up lives. Look in DiCaprio's eyes and you'll see a man who's abandoned humanity. The sting of the film's final irony comes from the sense that it all could, and will, happen again.
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8. The King of Comedy 1982
20th Century Fox
A character as haunting in his own way as Travis Bickle whom you'll find a little higher on this list, aspiring comic Rupert Pupkin Robert De Niro dreams of making it big in comedy and finding an audience outside the basement of his mother's house. When late-night talk show host Jerry Langford Jerry Lewis, in a brilliant departure from the clowning that made him famous gives him a brush-off he mistakes for interest, his ambitions take a desperate turn as he conspires with Misha Sandra Bernhard, an obsessed fan, to kidnap Langford. That Pupkin and Langford have a lot in common becomes this unflinching satire's darkest joke. Scorsese holds back from showing Pupkin's comedy until late in the film. When we do see it, it's not terrible. We also witness Langford returning to a lonely life far removed from the amiable persona he projects on television. Entertainment is a cruel business that wraps loneliness around winners and losers alike.
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7. Mean Streets 1973
Read enough interviews with Martin Scorsese and you'll hear about three parts of his early life over and over again: a sickly childhood spent indoors observing the life of New York's Little Italy going on outside, an interest in movies that blossomed into obsession at an early age, and a conflicted early adulthood spent among dubious characters. Scorsese's feature debut, 1968's Who's That Knocking at My Door made a first stab at depicting that lattermost phase via the story of a young man confused and angered when he learns his girlfriend isn't a virgin because of a rape, a discovery that he can't reconcile with the Catholic values he's internalized and the cavalier treatment of women he practices with his friends. Years later, Scorsese would reunite with that film's lead actor, Harvey Keitel, for a film that expands the scope of that debut, exploring the backrooms, private moments, and violent eruptions of New York life as experienced by Charlie, a small-time debt collector Keitel; Charlie's girlfriend Teresa Amy Robinson, whose relationship he keeps secret, and the self-destructive Johnny Boy De Niro, in his first collaboration with Scorsese. It's a bit of street poetry from a filmmaker already in full command of his talents and telling a story he was born to tell.
6. The Last Temptation of Christ 1988
Scorsese spent years trying to film an adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' psychologically complex retelling of the life of Jesus, even walking up to the line of rolling film on the project in 1983 only to see it canceled at the last moment. In the end, he wouldn't be able to make it for a few more years, and for a slashed budget and on a rushed schedule. Then he had to watch as it became an object of heated protest when conservative Christians objected to its content, particularly the film-ending fantasy sequence in which Jesus Willem Dafoe imagines giving up the burden of divinity and living as a husband to Mary Magdalene Barbara Hershey, who introduced Scorsese to the big years earlier. Yet the result is a reverent, deeply considered exploration of the meaning of Christianity made by a man who takes religion seriously, and who understands that true faith involves struggle and questioning.
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5. The Irishman 2019
Only in bare description does Scorsese's three-and-a-half-hour story of a labor union leader/mob assassin sound like a return to familiar territory. It's set in the underworld milieu he's depicted before and reunites him not only with De Niro but also Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel to say nothing of producer Irwin Winkler and, of course, his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker. But the film has an autumnal tone all its own and it needs every second of its running time to arrive at its gutting final stretch, an invitation to stare into the abyss and contemplate final things. Along the way, he tells the story of Frank Sheeran, who confessed late in life to killing both Jimmy Hoffa played as a kind of an American Julius Caesar by Al Pacino and gangster Joe Gallo. The veracity of those claims might be dubious, but that's not really the point. Instead, it's an opportunity for Scorsese to raise questions about fate, history, the passing of time, the possibility of forgiveness, and the ways sin weighs on the soul, questions he's been exploring since Who's That Knocking at My Door, and which clearly still trouble him. Scorsese seems healthy and active and has many projects in the works. Hopefully, he'll live to be a hundred. But he might never make a final statement as stunning as this one.
4. The Age of Innocence 1993
In adapting Edith Wharton's 1920 novel about life among the privileged in Gilded Age New York of the 1870s, Scorsese found a setting as rich in codes and casual cruelty as Goodfellas. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a lawyer engaged to May Winona Ryder, the right woman by society's reckoning but drawn to Ellen Michelle Pfeiffer, the wrong woman by that same reckoning. One of Scorsese's most lyrical films, it offers a heartbreaking depiction of an impossible love while depicting how the impediments to that love operate together like gears in a machine. It's bittersweet and lovely, but there's real anger, frustration at the heart of a love story that understands how some wounds cut to the soul.
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3. Raging Bull 1980
Scorsese didn't know much about boxing when he took on Raging Bull, but he did understand how easily success could turn to failure. Over the course of the film's long gestation, Scorsese's second marriage ended; his ambitious musical, New York, New York, met with mixed reviews and commercial indifference; his career prospects turned shaky; and a descent into drugs, depression, and suicidal thoughts climaxed in a scary hospital stay. He came to see his own life reflected in that of Jake LaMotta, the middleweight boxing champ whose self-destructive and just plain destructive tendencies led to a long fall from glory.
Scorsese reunited with De Niro and Schrader for the film, which he shot in striking black-and-white chosen in part to set the film apart from the many boxing movies released after Rocky. As usual, he meticulously planned the shots, bringing a balletic rhythm to the often brutal fight scenes. But the story is of a man with no control over his life, or himself. De Niro takes no steps to make LaMotta more sympathetic. He's delusional, jealous, and misogynistic and his mistakes are all his own. But by staying so close to such an ugly person, Scorsese dares viewers not to see the humanity of even such a fallen man — and maybe see a bit of themselves as well.
2. Taxi Driver 1976
Working from a screenplay written by Paul Schrader inspired in part by would-be assassin Arthur Bremer's diary, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground, and a low point in Schrader's own life, Scorsese crafted a portrait of profound alienation that doubles as a descent into hell. De Niro plays protagonist Travis Bickle as a man incapable of connecting with others who comes to blame the darkness inside him on the darkness around him, a grimy mid-'70s New York filled with porn theaters, pimps, and casual cruelty. What he can't see, as he styles himself as an avenger of wrongs, is that his fascination with violence will do nothing to reshape that world.
Driven by De Niro's hollowed-out performance, it's a queasy film that walks a tightrope, wrapping both Travis' alienation and the city around him in a kind of dark glamor — aided by Bernard Herrmann's final score — without shying away from the ugliness and brutal consequences of his mental state. He's a man who comes to see killing his only release. Hauntingly, he fits right into the city around him.
1. Goodfellas 1990
A tour de force that never stops moving, Goodfellas both returns Scorsese to the underside of New York via a decades-spanning story and to the subject of men unable to prevent their own downfalls. Adapted from Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, a non-fiction account of mobster Henry Hill's career, Goodfellas plays out against the backdrop of a mafia, and a New York, undergoing profound changes between the 1950s and the turn of the 1980s. It's no ordinary mob movie. Scorsese isn't shy about violence, but it's the attention to the day-to-day life of a gangster that sets it apart, the schemes mobsters engage in, the routines needed to keep those enterprises afloat, and the codes by which they live. It's a crime story, but also a film about work.
In fact, part of what makes Goodfellas's violence so chilling is that the film treats it as just a logical extension of the job. No one wants to commit murder — OK, maybe Tommy Joe Pesci occasionally wants to commit murder — but the business Hill Ray Liotta, Jimmy De Niro and those around them engage in sometimes demands it. There are rules to follow whether for murder “You got out of line, you got whacked” or adultery “Saturday night was for wives, but Friday night at the Copa was for the girlfriends”. Hill ends the film having lost everything and having betrayed his friends, but still unable to see his own role in his undoing. He's learned nothing. Those watching, however, have ridden the highs and lows of a way of life they'd otherwise never glimpse — and witnessed a mirror-image version of the American dream in the process.
EXCLUSIVE: Marc Butan, Kim Fox and Vincent Maraval are at AFM this week with their newly rebranded company MadRiver International, the sales outfit formerly known as IMR Insiders MadRiver.
The firm is a partnership between Butan's production house MadRiver Pictures and Maraval's Wild Bunch International, with Fox overseeing the joint venture. But there's been some confusion over the rebrand, so on the eve of AFM we sat down with the trio at their new rental digs on the Santa Monica beachfront to give them a platform to clarify where the company is at. In a wide-reaching interview, we also talk through the health of the international biz and what's working in the market right now.
The company's AFM slate features the market debuts of King Of The Jungle, the Zac Efron-starring comedy from the directors of Crazy, Stupid, Love, Gerard Butler action flick The Plane, and Joe Carnahan's Thriller Leo From Toledo with Mel Gibson and Frank Grillo.
DEADLINE: What's the thinking behind the rebrand?
MARC BUTAN: Let me give some background. Kim and I started MadRiver three years ago and we were staffing the company up at the exact time that Vincent Maraval was building up Insiders. We're friends, first of all, and we found ourselves putting the same lists of people together to build up a sales company infrastructure.
It was Roeg [Sutherland, co-head of CAA Media Finance] who suggested it. He said, 'Why are you competing? Why don't you join forces and do it together?' With Vincent being in France, the relationships were very complimentary. Instead of going and reinventing the wheel, we told our investors we'd create a joint venture sales company under IMR Insiders MadRiver and we've done that for three years.
The biggest issue is that, because Vincent still has Wild Bunch, and Kim was also representing Annapurna's films for a while, we had all these company names swimming around. People were confused about who did what, so we decided to get rid of the IMR brand and focus on MadRiver, which is a more American independent film brand, and then Vincent has Wild Bunch International, which is a traditional European, foreign language film brand. It was done for clarity.
KIM FOX: I was getting some questions about what we were doing, whether we'd split with Vincent, so we wanted it to be very clear. First of all, if anyone leaves it's going to be me [laughs]. Speaking seriously, everything is remaining the same, it's the same team doing the same thing.
DEADLINE: So no more Insiders?
VINCENT MARAVAL: When we started the operation, the idea was to develop two labels, but we ended up doing everything together. Insiders was not really working as a production company, while MadRiver was [through its production wing MadRiver Pictures]. Insiders is closed now. It doesn't exist anymore. We wanted to save us time, to stop clients asking us every time to explain the structure.
BUTAN: MadRiver Pictures owned 50% of IMR and Insiders owned the other 50%. Insiders is now being absorbed into Wild Bunch, for all intents and purposes.
DEADLINE: And the wider structure of MadRiver remains the same?
BUTAN: The same.
DEADLINE: How does Wild Bunch fit into this?
MARAVAL: The Wild Bunch Group was refinanced by the original shareholder last year. In May this year we carved out the international division and that became an independent company, operating on its own and focusing on arthouse, foreign language, festival films. The only real change is the department becoming a company.
So an easy way to put it is, with Insiders gone, the primary focus for MadRiver is English-language projects while for Wild Bunch its foreign language?
MARAVAL: It's not that strict but it's basically that. There are exceptions, like if Claire Denis is doing High Life in English language. Wild Bunch also does some British films.
DEADLINE: Vincent, how are you personally splitting your time between those two companies now?
MARAVAL: I make each of them believe that I am spending time with the other one [laughs].
BUTAN: I put Vincent at 5% Wild Bunch, 5% MadRiver International and 90% other stuff [laughs].
MARAVAL: I took care of the Wild Bunch restructuring which took me a lot of time. Now I am taking care more of the acquisitions, I don't do any sales there, I am selling at MadRiver International.
DEADLINE: Do the company changes reflect changes in the market?
BUTAN: The market has changed a lot in the last 3-4 years. What used to work isn't working anymore. We used to develop a script, put the elements together, and then go to the international market and that would be the backbone of your financing. Everything has turned on its head right now. On a lot of pictures, you need to understand what your domestic strategy is first.
There's still a lot of cross-pollination between MadRiver Pictures and MadRiver International, several of our pictures at this market have both involved, but at the Picture level we are also setting films up at distributors for worldwide, or television at networks. At the beginning Pictures and International were very integrated but we're trying to be responsive to the markets.
DEADLINE: Is pre-selling still a viable way to do business?
BUTAN: It is for certain titles.
FOX: For some titles it's as robust as ever. But it is changing. There just aren't as many $30m+ packages — that hasn't changed the opportunity to sell them when you do have one.
BUTAN: It has bifurcated. There's the $30m and over, or maybe $20m and over, bracket — those movies people understand and if there's a domestic theatrical strategy in place, it can still sell to distributors worldwide. It's hard to sell a $30m movie into major territories without domestic already in place, or at least promised. The other market is the $12m and under, the more traditional independent film market, more speciality films or genre films, that buyers can still come onto at a level without the domestic strategy being in place.
DEADLINE: What kind of projects are working in the market right now?
FOX: Honestly, it's the stuff that always has worked. The larger budget, more commercial action, fun, popcorn type movies.
BUTAN: You still need a good script and a director.
MARAVAL: And a good concept.
FOX: Absolutely. Shit doesn't work. That is 100% true. Maybe the marker used to be a bit lower, it's certainly higher now. On the more speciality stuff, really specialized, interesting material that we see pop up in the fourth quarter every year — there's always a market for that.
Phil Mccarten/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock Phil Mccarten/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
BUTAN: Two examples: we have the Gerard Butler movie [ The Plane] in this market which is going bonkers, we have everybody offering on it everywhere. It's an expensive movie but it's a high-concept action movie that works in every territory around the world. When that happens, you think, 'Why aren't we doing this all the time?' But they're hard to put together. The flip side is we have this movie in post-production called What Is Life Worth. It's a sub-$15m Michael Keaton drama with a brilliant Black List script that has sold pretty widely with no domestic in place. People read it and thought it was a special one. Those are two areas that really work.
FOX: One thing that's very different, there's no such thing as a 'piece of business' anymore. There used to be such a strong ancillary business but that doesn't exist anymore. Nobody says [a movie] is just a 'piece of business'.
BUTAN: Vincent has also had movies with the likes of Jacques Audiard, those special directors always break through.
MARAVAL: At one stage people needed quantity, they would take the middle range just to fill their line up, now they just want exceptional projects.
DEADLINE: Are there any territories that are working particularly well at the moment for sales?
MARAVAL: Asia is good. China is in a weird moment, it's hard to say. The structure of that market is not so solid, a lot of people were paying expensive prices for films and now they are wondering what to do next.
DEADLINE: What about foreign-language films? Capernaum, which Wild Bunch sold to China [to local distrib Road Pictures], was a phenomenal success in the territory this year.
MARAVAL: China has become a very big territory for international films, the number one for some. That's the other side of the trade war, as they were buying fewer U.S. films they were buying more international films. We have been lucky at Wild Bunch to have Capernaum and Shoplifters, it was a great year, does it mean it will become a rule? I'm not sure.
DEADLINE: Where's the Euro business at right now?
MARAVAL: The main issue today is that we moved from a local pay-TV model to a worldwide streaming model. Most European distributors were relying on pay-TV, that value was the key to proposing an MG, and as that business is suffering from the competition of the platforms we are now in a period of transition and reorganisation. There's still a theatrical market, admissions are not going down, it's stable.
So far, it doesn't look like the European market has found the right business model [for the future]. Europe is looking for a way, quotas on the streaming services will create a business inside Europe, if Disney+ is required to get 20% of its content from Europe, that's good news. Netflix is investing a lot in foreign language. But it's science fiction to try to know what will happen.
DEADLINE: How's AFM shaping up?
FOX: It certainly feels more robust than the last couple of years, it seems like there are interesting things, but we'll see in a week.
DEADLINE: What's your take on how the AFM has changed in recent years?
BUTAN: The way this market has been for the last few years is, Kim will send a script out worldwide, and within 36 hours I know, deep down in my soul, if we're screwed or not [laughs]. On the ones that are going to work, offers start coming in pretty quickly.
FOX: That started happening a fair amount of time ago. When I started out, you'd go to a market, meet everyone in the first four days, and start closing deals after. It's been close to a decade now where you start closing deals immediately.
BUTAN: It's smartphones.
FOX: I think buyers are panicked now if they get on a plane and they haven't already bought a couple of things.
FOX: Markets are still important because both ourselves and distributors look at it as 'a month'. They have a budget, they know they're going to buy some movies and fill part of their slate. If we didn't have markets, we wouldn't have that drive where everyone is competing at the same time and it would become lackadaisical.
American Film Market
DEADLINE: Do we think the big deals will come back this year?
FOX: Honestly, I do. We just handled a film for Miramax [ The Gentlemen] over the last year and the sales have been fantastic over the course of three markets, you can point to that and say that there's still a dynamic business here.
BUTAN: If distributors believe in a film's theatrical potential, the business is very good. The problem is if they're worried about theatrical it's very bad. That film Kim is referring to didn't pre-sell, but then we showed up at Berlin with a promo reel and the world sold out within a day or two. From our point of view, the biggest challenge on the right projects is figuring out how to get them made. With the pre-sales business not as strong as it used to be, getting them to that place is harder than it has been in the past.
DEADLINE: Any plans to expand the company?
BUTAN: We've just been through a pretty big expansion. We brought Adapted Studios in May [the LA-based film and TV production outfit behind HBO's Project Greenlight], they had raised a lot of money over the last few years, bought and developed a ton of IP, so we acquired that library. We're now putting a lot more effort and focus into developing projects, and we also hired a TV person [Scott Emmer, formerly of AT&T's Audience Network] to focus on that, we have a show with Hulu, and another one we're in negotiations on now.
DEADLINE: Is TV a planned growth area?
BUTAN: Yeah. So many of the stories we like to tell have now migrated to television. Outside of the $12m-and-under and the $30m-and-over spaces, that stuff in between is more being told in hourly formats now.
DEADLINE: You work on quite a lot of agency packages, do you have any formal tie-ups?
BUTAN: There's nothing exclusive. We're all friends with each other and it comes down to who you trust, and if you're an agent who do you trust to execute and be honest about a project's potential?
MARAVAL:We work with most of the agencies.
DEADLINE: Has the WGA dispute impacted you?
BUTAN: A little bit. It's been challenging mostly on the TV stuff. Television is 100% driven by writers, you call up the agents we have relationships with looking for writers, you forget that they're not doing their business right now so you have to go to their managers instead.
DEADLINE: Is MadRiver able to draw on funds to finance?
BUTAN: In a limited way we do.
DEADLINE: Is that MGs or do you have the capacity to take equity?
BUTAN: It's case specific, it's not our primary business, but we can plug holes [in budgets].