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Film intelligence: UNCHAINED and (allegedly) anti-semitic

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]). This week: Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas get uncensored, Gary Ross gets untethered, and Django gets UNCHAINED.

1. Eight Crazy, Allegedly Anti-Semitic Nights

There’s a fight brewing out in Hollywood of Biblical proportions. We’re talking Old Testament — or at least Talmudic — real wrath of God type stuff. It all started when Warner Brothers announced they were shelving plans for THE MACCABEES, a film about the story that inspired the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, because of dissatisfaction with the script written by Joe “SHOWGIRLS” Eszterhas. Okay, no big deal, studios shelve projects all the time. Here’s where it gets ugly: TheWrap acquired a letter Eszterhas wrote to the project’s intended director — Mel Gibson — accusing him of burying the film not because he disliked the screenplay but because he never intended to make it at all, and only used the guise of its possible production as a ruse to change the public impression that he is an anti-Semite (don’t ask me where they got that idea). “I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make THE MACCABEES is the ugliest possible one,” Eszterhas wrote to Gibson. “You hate Jews.” Ho boy. In a response published on Deadline, Gibson told Estzerhas that contrary to his assertion he has “been working on this project for over 10 years and it was publicly announced 8 years ago. I absolutely want to make this movie; it’s just that neither Warner Brothers nor I want to make this movie based on your script.” So what happens next: will Eszterhas respond before the Hanukkah oil runs out?!? [Los Angeles Times/TheWrap/Deadline]

2. “Wanted: Director willing to catch fire”

If you’re Gary Ross, and you’ve just directed THE HUNGER GAMES, one of the biggest movies of all time, where do you go from there? Wherever you go, apparently, it isn’t to the film’s upcoming sequel, CATCHING FIRE, as Ross announced this week he would not be directing the film as he’d originally planned. In a statement, Ross claimed he reluctantly passed on FIRE after determining that the “fixed and tight production schedule” — the film already has a release date, November 22, 2013 — would have presented too many obstacles to making the sequel up to his high standards. Ross also discredited rumors that his negotiations with HUNGER GAMES studio Lionsgate were “problematic.” That means the search is on for another filmmaker who’ll eventually have even less time to make the film than Ross would have had. What’s Rian Johnson up to these days, anyway? [/Film]

3. The Alamo’s First Stand in New York City

For years, the good people of Austin, Texas have been blessed to be able to see their movies at the Alamo Drafthouse, a unique theater chain that offers food and drinks (and booze) at your seat while you enjoy the film. They also have a very strict no talking policy, which has helped make the place the best spot to see a movie basically anywhere in the world; you may have heard about them a few months ago when they turned an angry customer’s phone call about being kicked out of a movie into a hilarious viral video clip. The Alamo has been slowly expanding into new markets in the last year; Colorado, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and now the moment all Manhattan cinephiles (or at least this one) have been waiting for has arrived: the Drafthouse is coming to New York. The report says they’ve leased a former movie theater on the Upper West Side with “several other NY metro sites and other deals expected” in the near future. Tears of joy. Tears of joy, I am crying right now. [Real Estate Weekly]

4. TV-ndie Film

More and more independent filmmakers continue to take advantage of the newfound creative freedom of cable television. The latest defector is Cary Fukunaga, the talented director of last year’s adaptation of JANE EYRE, who’s shopping an eight-part miniseries that he will direct from start to finish entitled True Detective, described as an “elevated serial narrative with multiple perspectives and time frames,” high-fallutin’ TV-speak for “it’s a cop show ‘n’ stuff.” Fukunaga’s bringing some film actors along for the ride as well: both Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are attached to star in the series. They play cops on the trail of a serial killer through, presumably, multiple perspectives and time frames. Fukunaga’s first film, SIN NOMBRE, was a powerful and humanistic crime story set in South America, so this sounds right in his directorial sweet spot. Start your thinkpieces now: cable TV is the new indie film. [Deadline]

5. Breaking the Chains of Movie Love

Closing this out this week, a minor tease of a major 2012 movie. Quentin Tarantino’s next project, DJANGO UNCHAINED, opens this year on Christmas Day, and this week the film’s first poster premiered on the Internet. It doesn’t show much; just a couple of silhouettes (stars Jaime Foxx and Christoph Waltz) and one very large, unbroken chain, but it is a striking image all the same. The film, about a freed slave (Foxx) and his partnership with a German bounty hunter (Waltz) also stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson and the RZA. With that director and that insanely good cast, there’s no way this movie won’t be off the chain. Bah dum bum. You’ll find the first DJANGO UNCHAINED poster below. [Cinema Blend]