Justin Timberlake Could Play Daddy Warbucks in Jay-Z’s ‘Annie’ Remake

Alright, so, the headline. It’s a fact. Justin Timberlake could play Daddy Warbucks in a new movie version of Annie. I mean, anyone could play Daddy Warbucks in a new movie version of Annie. Jon Hamm. Seth MacFarlane.  David Copperfield. Martin Short. Charlize Theron. The dead body of Johnny Cash. Joaquin Phoenix in character as Johnny Cash. Your mom. Denzel Washington. Annie Potts. Sally Struthers. Lena Dunham. Angela Bassett. See what I’m saying? Literally anyone can play Daddy Warbucks, but not just anyone should play Daddy Warbucks. The person to play Daddy Warbucks should, well, be old and white, probably. And preferably male. Justin Timberlake should not play Daddy Warbucks, but Justin Timberlake might play Daddy Warbucks. 

Of course, tell that to the New York Post, who published this "news" "item":

Justin Timberlake could team with Jay-Z yet again. Hollywood sources are buzzing that JT’s being considered to star as Daddy Warbucks, opposite Quvenzhané Wallis, in the upcoming Jay-Z and Will Smith-produced remake of “Annie.” JT, who has the single “Suit & Tie” with Jay, and an impending tour, has been honing his acting chops with roles in the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” and the Ben Affleck film “Runner, Runner.” But a rep for Sony said of JT’s role, “Not true.”

Let’s hope that anonymous Sony rep is being honest. Can you imagine? Imagine the implications of Justin Timberlake saving poor little Quvenzhané Wallis from the despair of impoverished orphanhood. Through song and dance. I mean, really, Black Annie and White Daddy Warbucks probably says a whole lot about race in America already, but Justin TImberlake, who is basically delivering comfortable and non-threatening R&B music to our moms, really makes it much more complicated, huh?

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Iran Threatens to Sue Over ‘Argo’

Even the Iranians didn’t think Argo should have won Best Picture last month. French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre is currently visiting Iran to explore the possibilities of a lawsuit against the United States, as cultural officials in Iran claim that the Oscar-winning film is CIA propaganda against the country. What do you think was the biggest offense? Did they just roll their eyes at the gratuitious shot of a shirtless Ben Affleck (are we really surprised he didn’t get a Best Director nomination?), or was that enough to make then want to burn Affleck in effigy? I assume Coutant-Peyre is interested in the case because Amour didn’t win Best Picture, whereas the Iranians, I bet, thought Beasts of the Southern Wild was a real tear-jerker and that Quvenzhané Wallis was the cuuuuuutesssssssttttttt

[Via Washington Times]

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Give The Onion a Break

The internet is outraged, as only the internet can be, over a tweet from The Onion about nine-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis. The satirical newspaper wrote "Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?" I agree that it’s a mistake to make a crude joke about somebody that young, and they were right to delete it, but The Onion deserves to be forgiven for this one, and fast. Why? Because The Onion is one of the best things American publishing has created in the last 25 years, and it didn’t get to be that way by worrying about offending people. Week after week, since 1988, The Onion has skewered the deserving in the most incisive, hilarious, and memorable way possible. As with Monty Python, it would be pointless for me to even start to mention The Onion‘s greatest hits. There are so many, we’d never get any work done today.

But every long-term Onion fan has a head full of them. In my brain today: "Badly Injured Man Not Done Partying Yet," "Seriously Ladies, There Have Been Noise Complaints," "Pope Forgives Molested Children." I’m looking at my Onion calendar right now. Today’s story: "So Far It Looks Like I’ve Done a Pretty Good Job Faking My Death" by Michael Landon. That’s funny.  The writers and editors have such a grasp of current events, journalistic style, pop culture, and human nature, that it’s just perfect for our time. Proof of this: people fall for their parody news reports all the time. They just seem so real. 

So, to those of you who are pounding on your keyboards like percussion instruments right now, registering your offense to The Onion‘s joke, I have to say: really? From the sensitive minds over at Fox News to the intellectuals at Salon, who bleated about "The Onion’s Vile Quvenzhane Wallis Tweet," it seems like people are going out of their way to join the aggrieved, as if it puts them on some moral high ground. I can’t help but roll my eyes a little. 

Yes, it was a bit much, but you know it was a joke, and, let’s be honest, it is funny on some level. I shouldn’t need to explain this, but it’s funny because Quvenzhane Wallis is so cute and nice and talented, and being joked about like that just underscores this. They called her that because she’s not that. We’re deep into the 21st Century now, so you should be familiar with the concept of irony. The Onion pushed it a little far with a young target, but this is one of those cases where it’s funny because it’s not true. Please don’t join the swollen ranks of the easily offended. Nobody got hurt, and nobody went hungry over this. Here’s what happens when people get offended: nothing.

The world needs The Onion. It would be a sad, boring, serious place without it. And I can’t wait to see the story they come up with on this whole blowup. They joke about everything, but one thing’s absolutely true. The Onion truly is "America’s Finest News Source." So lighten up already. 

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NYT Writer Surprised Actresses Sometimes Act Like Actual People

Man, the Oscars really brought out the worst in people last night, huh? In addition to all your amateur comedian friends trying to outsnark each other while live-tweeting the thing, some dudes who actually contributed to the making of a really good movie got played off by the “Jaws” theme music while the cast of Chicago got to go up there like five times. There was Seth MacFarlane’s entire hosting gig, which played like the open-mic comedy set of a frat boy who finds himself saying “it’s okay, some of my best friends are…” a lot. Someone who should never be allowed near a computer or smartphone again made a @HathawaysNipple novelty Twitter account because we are the worst generation and let this happen. Really a race to the bottom last night, everyone.

But Alessandra Stanley at The New York Times (On It!) had a much different take on the evening. She rather enjoyed MacFarlane as the host, or, at least, didn’t see him as the core problem. She saves quite a bit of her ire for a perhaps undeserving target, Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence, for doing human things that most people do literally every day. She writes:

“Ms. Lawrence tripped on her way to the stage but didn’t make any faux pas in her acceptance speech. She was less guarded on the red carpet, complaining to one interviewer that she was hungry and moaning presciently that the show is too long. With another, she let fly a profanity that ABC barely bleeped in time.

It wasn’t the first time she’s flouted awards-show etiquette: At the Golden Globes, she began her acceptance speech by dissing Meryl Streep. (Mr. MacFarlane referred to the gaffe in a joke, saying that he heard Ms. Lawrence say that win or lose, “it’s just an honor that Meryl Streep wasn’t nominated.”) It could be a rebellious streak in her, but mostly it’s a reminder of how young and unworldly some stars are, despite all the coaching, minders and Dior gowns.”

So first of all, we’re all on the same page on this and I don’t even need to go into about how there’s no way Stanley would have written those same words, or dedicate that much space and indignation to Lawrence if she were a dude, right? Right. And you’d think with the high standards of quality the NYT tries to hold itself to or whatever, she would have at least run a Google search and seen the literally dozens of nearly identical blog posts about how Lawrence’s “I beat Meryl!” line was a First Wives Club reference and not in any way an actual slight at Meryl herself. It’s not that hard, guys. 

The Oscars have kind of developed this presence where they’re really just an expensive, self-congratulatory mess, especially in the last few years, where a Best Picture win for Crash and Billy Crystal in blackface can somehow coexist amid glittery montages celebrating how great and envelope-pushing the movies are. And you know what? If Jennifer Lawrence can see through the pageantry and keep it real, then more power to her. She looked great and she won a damn Oscar and made a lot of really GIF-able side-eyes. God forbid lady actors sometimes swear or trip or are honest about wanting to eat food.  

These actions don’t make Jennifer Lawrence “unworldly,” they make her a person. And this may be getting off-message a bit, but I know as a culture we don’t like to think celebrities are real people, but they are, and losing that reminder that they’re human is what leads to dumb Rihanna domestic violence jokes and snark about the Kardashians’ body hair and comments about stars’ weight that young, impressionable tweens see and think about their own bodies with that same scrutiny. And you know what? The show was way too damn long. Jennifer Lawrence was right.

So, to recap, Stanley just chastised an actress for expressing a desire to eat on the red carpet but sort of praised a dude who made a really tasteless eating disorder joke while hosting. Great job, everyone! You’re all the worst.

Quvenzhané Wallis To Star In ‘Annie’ Remake

Some good news for once! Quvenzhané Wallis, the pint-sized star of Beasts Of The Southern Wild, will star in the remake of Annie.

Rumors have been circulating that Quvenzhane — who can sing and dance, apparently — could play the titular role after Willow Smith, who was originally cast to play Annie, aged out of the role. The Annie remake is being co-produced for Sony and Overbrook by Willow’s parents, Will and Jada Smith, and Jay-Z. The film is due out during the holiday season of 2014, The Wrap reports

Quvenzhané Wallis, age 9, has been nominated for a 2013 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Returning to Theaters For Oscar Completists

Oscar season is upon us, and with Oscar seasons comes the inevitable mad dash of Oscar completists who have to see every Best Picture nominee before the big night, where a CGI teddy bear will make some rude jokes about Anne Hathaway to an audience of people in eveningwear that cost more than your apartment. Beasts of the Southern Wild, a critical and festival darling, netted four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Benh Zeitlin and Best Actress for breakout star Quvenzhané Wallis, who at six years old has become the youngest actress ever to receive such a nomination.

But, even with all the critical praise and even President Obama calling it "spectacular," for some viewers, it may have gotten lost in the shuffle. The film is available at a Redbox near you, but if you like the air-conditioned box and expensive popcorn experience, the film will have an encore run in cinemas for Best Picture marathoners. Starting today, Beasts of the Southern Wild returns to the big screen to the following cinemas in the following U.S. cities (via Fox Searchlight’s blog): 

Midtown Art Cinema, Atlanta, GA
Medlock Crossing, Duluth, GA
Charles Towne Sq., North Charleston, SC
Wesgate Mall Cinema 8, Spartanburg, SC
Downtown West Cinema 8, Knoxville, TN
Kendall Sq., Cambridge, MA
Embassy 6, Waltham, MA
Regal Hooksett, Hookset, MA
Charles 5 Theater, Baltimore, MA
Cinemark Movies 10, North Canton, MA
Richmond Town Sq., Richmond Heights, OH
Georgeville Sq., Columbis, OH
Regent Sq., Edgewood, PA
Arlington Cinema & Draft, Arlington, VA
E-Street Cinema, Washginton, DC
AFI Silver Springs, Silver Springs, MD
Main Art, Royal Oak, MI
Movies 16, Warren, MI
Celebration Woodland Mall, Grand Rapids, MI
Gainesville Stadium 14, Gainesville, FL
Island Cinema 7, St. Simons Island, GA
Parkway Cinema, Sarasota, FL
Regency Stadium 11, Panama City, FL
The Last Picture Show, Tamarac, FL
Lincoln Plaza 6, New York, NY
Sunshine Cinemas 5, New York, NY
AMC Jersery Gardens, Elizabeth, NJ
Clairidge 6, Montclair, NJ
Garden CInema 4, Norwalk, CT
Jacob Burns Film Center, Pleasantville, NJ
McKinley 6 Theatres, Blasdell, NY
Ritz, Philadelphia, PA
Vinegar Hill, Charlottesville, VA
Commonwealth 20, Richmond, VA
Century Centre Cinema, Chicago, IL
Lincolnshire 21, Lincolnshire, IL
Cantera Stadium 17, Warrenville, IL
Magnolia Cinema 5, Dallas, TX
River Oaks 3, Houston, TX
Fleur Cafe, Des Moines, IA
Mary Riepma Ross Arts Center, Lincoln, NE
Edina 4, Edina, MN
Westwood Cinemas, Omaha, DE
Capital Theater, Aberdeen, SD
Hollywood Stadium 27, Nashville, TN
Moxie Cinema, Springfield, MO
Tivoli, St. Louis, MO
Landmark, La Jolla, CA
Hillcrest 5, San Diego, CA
Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles, CA
The Landmark 12, Los Angeles, CA
Rancho Niguel, Laguna Niguel, CA
Westlake Village Twin Art Center, Westlake Village, CA
Mayan, Denver, CO
Lyric Twin Cinema Cafe, Ft. Collins, CO
West Village Stadium, Lakewood, CO
Village Square Cinema 18, Las Vegas, NV
Rialto’s 3 Elmwood, Berekely, CA
Rialto’s 9, Sebastopol, CA
Aquarius Twin Art Cinema, Palo Alto, CA
Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA
Stonestown Twin Art Cinema, San Francisco, CA
Bluelight 5 Cinemas, Cupertino, CA
Tower Art 3 Cinema, Sacramento, CA
Salem Art 3 Cinema, Salem, OR
Sundance’s Seattle 10 Cinema, Seattle, WA
Meridian 16, Seattle, WA
For a refresher, you can watch the trailer below, or read our conversation with director Benh Zeitlin

‘Beasts Of The Southern Wild’ DVD Includes Deleted Scenes

Beasts Of The Southern Wild, a portrait of family life in the Bayou, is coming to DVD on December 4 and the Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy blog was lucky enough to get a peek at some deleted scenes from the film included on the DVD.

Director Behn Zeitlin narrates each of the clips, explaining they were all funny moments during filming but seemed to "chaotic" to include in the film. For example, one scene shows Hushpuppy (played by pint-sized Quvenzhané Wallis) having a "fish fight" Judging by the way the camera jerks around in the second scene on this clip reel, I’d have to agree.

 Beasts collected an absurd number of prizes everywhere from Cannes to Sundance and is absolutely worth seeing. Watch the clip below:

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Lucy Alibar on Adapting Her Stage Play Into ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

The experience of watching Beasts of the Southern Wild is like looking in on another universe through a keyhole. You watch the scenes between Hushpuppy and her father and wonder: how was a camera even present in this moment? Visually speaking, the film is pure poetry, shining a light on a unique corner of the world and presenting it in a way that’s entirely magical. But it’s the performances given by everyone in the cast, especially Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry, that truly capture the essence of what the film is really about: people having the courage to love and defend the people and place they call home. But before Beasts of the Southern Wild, there was Juicy and Delicious, a play by Lucy Alibar about a boy who feels like the whole world is collapsing as his father is dying. And it’s from that play that Alibar and director, Benh Zeitlin, adapted Beasts of the Southern Wild, carrying through the same themes of loss and strength, all set in a mythical world that’s as brutal as it is beautiful. We sat down with Alibar to see how her play transitioned from its original form, having a strong female hero, and seeing through tough exteriors.

You and Benh had known each other for a long time, but how did you get into writing the film?
Benh came to me to do an adaptation of one my plays but set in Louisiana; all my plays are set in Georgia because it’s where I grew up and it’s where my dad’s from. The land really lends itself to this wild imaginative universe, but he wanted to set it in Louisiana where he had driven down to the end of the road. Then we went and lived in this fishing marina for a couple of months adapting it, going through the Sundance labs, going back to the marina, going to New Orleans, and just doing a lot of location scouting.

Had you been only writing plays at that point?
Yeah, but I write stories too. I never thought I wanted to do a film before.

So you and Benh met at playwriting camp in New York?
Yup! It wasn’t quite camp—they put on your plays. But it was so long ago. We were babies!

Where did you grow up?
I’m from Florida and South Georgia, so I had never been to New York before that. I had never had Chinese food before, and I had never seen live theater that wasn’t, like, a crucifixion scene.

How did you know that you wanted to start writing plays?
I went to this very good public school in Tallahassee, Florida, and in the library they had a copy of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls…, and it just blew my mind because it’s just voices. It’s all first-person narratives, and a lot of southern literature is like that, too. Then I realized that the stuff I was reading like Flannery O’Connor—all these first-person narratives could be theatrical. That’s when I realized that my voice could be theatrical and could be on stage in this way that I never knew from reading Ibsen or any of that stuff.

Did Benh contact you about adapting it?
He wanted to do his first feature with these characters because we write about much of the same stuff. I write a lot about parents and children and the dynamics of unconventional families, and I think he has a similar story. I also write a lot about mythology and southern folklore; his parents are folklorists, and we just had a lot of similar things we were interested in. And visually, he can really put up these images and make these worlds that I just found incredible to look at.

But in your play the Hushpuppy role is a little boy.
I wrote the play about me and my dad, but I had to have some distance from it so I could actually write it. I wasn’t in therapy; I was kind of immature, I guess, but I just had to have some distance. This way I could write everything I was actually thinking.

I love that it was a little girl in this because if it was less conventional to make her so tough.
That’s one of the things I’m proud of now at this stage. We made a hero story with a little girl in it, and she is fighting for her family, not her boyfriend. I never saw that growing up, I thought I had to be a little boy to be a hero.

Were you part of the casting process?
When they narrowed it down I would watch videos, but I would have to rewrite for whoever Hushpuppy was and that could have been anybody. Because it was a non-actor, that part would have really changed depending on who that was. So for me, I couldn’t watch all of them because it became such a different movie every time. So I just watched as they started to narrow it down, and then they showed me Quvenzhané when they found her and I was like, Oh six years old? Sure. I’ll do it.

How did you find her? What did she do for the audition?
Behn tells it better than I do, but for the auditions they did a lot of structured improvisations to see what the kids could do. She had to have a fight with Michael, our producer, because they had to see about that scene where they’re trashing the house and they turn over the table. So she and Michael are fighting and Ben gives Nazzy an empty plastic bottle and is like, Throw this bottle at Michael. She would start to and then she wouldn’t, then she’d start to and she wouldn’t. So Ben was like, Throw the bottle at him! And she turns to him and says, “No I can’t, it would be wrong to do that.” Ben was really struck by that strong sense of ethics and morality that even when there’s a grown-up telling you to do something, she didn’t do it because it was wrong and it involved hurting someone else. So much of the movie is about taking care of people and the courage of empathy and she just had that so strongly—that’s Nazzy’s primary characteristic. She’s so vibrant, too; she’s like flint, shiny flint.

For someone so young, her performance was really incredible.
She was five when we made it! She lied about her age, which I didn’t even know until about a month ago, but the lowest we were going to look was six. Then she lied so she could do it when she was five.

I loved how there was so much brutality in the world they were living in and they were all so tough, but you could tell on the inside they were all very sensitive and sweet and that was echoed by the fact that it was telling this harsh story. But it was visually so beautiful.
I think that was something both of us thought about. That’s how the rural south is for me, and that’s how Ben and I both found Louisiana to be. There are these tough exteriors, but underneath there’s so much. In the Bayou and in the south, the first priority is always family. It’s not like here where what you think about is you. I think that was pretty clear to us early on; there was this real love under this tough exterior that we both really loved to write about.

When you were writing did you meet people and listen to people’s stories? What was your research?
We lived in this fishing marina for a couple months and talked to a lot of people about why they would stay, what would make them ever leave, and hear their experiences of losing loved ones. I remember this one gentleman that was a priest who talked about being in the room when his father died. Just the way he spoke about it was amazing; he was from the Bayou, so he had that way of speaking about it, and he was also a Catholic priest. I did a lot of listening.

The first time you saw it completed, coming from your play to this, what did you think?
I felt like I had been given this great gift from a couple hundred people who I didn’t know before this started. They became my family through doing this. I just felt like I gained this entire world of these incredible artists, so smart, so generous, so hard working. So many people worked so hard. Gratitude isn’t quite the word; I think it is more like graciousness. I felt this real awareness of my fortune—my good fortune. 

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Is the Best Movie About New Orleans—Ever

One reason, perhaps, that there have been so many movies made about New Orleans is that the very geography of the city is the stuff of Shakespearean drama. The constant threat of annihilation, vibrancy in the face of fear, an electrifying inequality, a touch of hubris perhaps—it’s all there. Equally true is that in many cases these seductive narratives have all but obliterated the people who make New Orleans: New Orleanians.

This is the backdrop against which Beasts of the Southern Wild, the debut feature from director Benh Zeitlin and one of the most powerful movies ever made about the city, emerges. Zeitlin, a 29-year old filmmaker who moved there from Queens in 2004, is a member of Court 13, a community–based film collective headquartered near the French Quarter that has coalesced around what Zeitlin calls, “a code of honor.” It’s like an American Dogme 95. “The most fundamental idea behind our process,” Zeitlin explains, “is that we try to make the creation of the film mirror the reality of the actual story.”

That’s a tall order considering the magical realism of Beasts of the Southern Wild. The film unfolds in a fringe community of misfits called The Bathtub. Residents of The Bathtub live beyond the levee, effectively beyond the reach of either the laws of man or God and beyond the protection afforded the levee. It’s an enclave of beaten-up trailers, jerry-rigged boats, crab feasts, outcasts, and glorious bacchanals. There’s no money in The Bathtub, but as Zeitlin says, an “absence of money doesn’t mean poverty.” His film, executed on a shoestring budget, is proof.

The beating heart of The Bathtub and Beasts is a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) whose angelic face is fierce and feral and wise. Hushpuppy’s father, an alcoholic Thoreauvian saint named Wink (Dwight Henry), is dying, and as a storm approaches, ex- poses himself as a flawed, loving, noble, and failing man. There are no easy answers in the bayou—just beauty, ugliness, joy, and unease.

Henry and Wallis are just two of the many non-actors who populate the film and give it the feel of a Les Blank documentary. Scenes don’t have ends or beginnings; they seem to unfurl and the camera just happens to catch it. This is the fruit of Court 13’s process: the B- roll alone deserves an Oscar. But behind this nonchalance lies tremendous work. “We auditioned 4,000 girls before we found Quevenzhané,” says Zeitlin. As for Henry, a baker-by-trade whose Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Café is a Treme institution, he had to be convinced to act. “I don’t do no acting,” Henry says in his deep Louisiana drawl. “I’ve got my bakery. That’s my heart.” Happily, with the financial sup- port of the Sundance Institute, Zeitlin finally lured Henry from his flour and buttermilk.

The result is magical, but there are so many ellipses—throwaway shots of such arresting beauty, and loose ends of such force—a simple recitation of facts would ill-serve the viewer. Furthermore, true to the Court 13 credo, it’s not the conclusion of events but the unfolding of them that ennobles the movie. And the unfolding continues. Since it debuted at Sun- dance this year, the film has been widely acclaimed, and in May was shown at Cannes. But Henry doesn’t see movie stardom in his future. His words echo the spirit of Beasts and of Court 13 itself. “Material things,” he says, “don’t mean much to me.” It’s the animal spirit that counts.