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Film intelligence: Pardon the interruption

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. Every week, we read them all and bring you the five most important ones in the single most important blog post you’ll ever read (today [at this moment]).

1. Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

Last Saturday, the world was shocked by the news that pop star Whitney Houston had died at the age of 48 (then the world was even more shocked by CNN’s decision to “report” on the story by ambushing passersby on the street, telling them Houston had died, and filming their reactions). Houston’s sad, premature death has big implications on the world of film. A few months ago, the singer completed work on her long-gestating remake of the 1976 film SPARKLE, her first return to the silver screen since 1996′s THE PREACHER’S WIFE. MTV reports the new SPARKLE, which is loosely based on the career of The Supremes and co-stars Jordin Sparks and Derek Luke, will still be released this coming August as originally scheduled. It’s the second tragedy associated with the project — SPARKLE was nearly remade back in the early 2000s until Aaliyah, who was originally intended to star opposite Houston, died in a plane crash during pre-production. [MTV]

2. Brett Ratner is GLAAD to Be Working Again

TOWER HEIST director Brett Ratner had finally lined up his dream job: producer of the Academy Awards. Then he dropped a homophobic slur at a public press event, claiming “rehearsal is for [a word that rhymes with 'lags']. His remarks generated a huge wave of controversy that ultimate resulted in Ratner’s resignation and, later, the departure of Eddie Murphy (and subsequent return of Billy Crystal) as Oscar host (in retrospect, he probably should have rehearsed that speech a little more). As part of his penance, Ratner will partner with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation on a series of public service videos featuring celebrities’ announcements of support for the gay community. Ratner’s remarks were insensitive and mean, but at least some good has come from them. Still, if the PSAs look super sloppy, you’ll know why. [The Hollywood Reporter]

3. “We interrupt your regularly scheduled column to bring you this special bulletin…”

You can now watch one of the very best films — not just documentaries, but films, full stop — of last year for free online. THE INTERRUPTERS, from HOOP DREAMS director Steve James, tells the story of “one year in the life of a city” through the eyes of The Violence Interrupters, an organization dedicated to preventing gang violence before it happens. After its premiere at Sundance 2011, James and producer Alex Kotlowitz’s documentary was met with widespread acclaim (including a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and an inexplicable omission from the shortlist of films eligible for the Academy Award for Best Documentary. If you don’t think the subsequent change to the category’s nomination process had anything to do with that, you’re crazy. THE INTERRUPTERS made its television premiere earlier this week on the PBS series Frontline, and you can now watch the entire film on their website. It is essential viewing. [PBS.org]

4. Nicolas Cage: Spirit of Zeppelin

And now a word from Nicolas Cage, actor, Oscar winner, comic book collector, and professional crazy dude. During the press tour for GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, the Huffington Post’s Mike Ryan asked Cage whether winning another Oscar was “important” to him (Translation: “You used to make good movies. Now, you basically just make insane ones. What up with that?”). His response? Not so much! “I think that if you go about making movies to win Oscars,” Cage said, “you’re really going about it the wrong way. Right now, what I’m excited about is trying to create a [pauses] kind of a cultural understanding through my muse that is part of the zeitgeist that isn’t motivated by vanity or magazine covers or awards. It’s more, not countercultural, but counter-critical. I would like to find a way to embrace what Led Zeppelin did, in filmmaking.” In other words: don’t expect to hear about GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE a year from now on Oscar night. In a related story, Nic Cage just announced he’s changing his name, Prince-style, to these four symbols. [The Huffington Post]

5. Mattel Goes Back to the Future of Nostalgic Toys

Three years ahead of schedule, Mattel is producing the hoverboard featured in the immortal classic BACK THE FUTURE PART II. Their “prop replica” of 2015’s futuristic answer to the skateboard will feature “multiple whooshing sounds” will “glide over most surfaces” (excluding water — those boards don’t work on water, you bojo!). The hoverboard will be available for Christmas 2012, but you have to pre-order the toy starting March 1 on MattyCollector.com. Ladies, if you have a film nerd in your life, this is how you tell them you love them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to explain to my wife why our savings account is suddenly depleted. [/Film]