Film intelligence: Nora Ephron's career to remember

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: we lose a great filmmaker, we gain some lost footage, plus some frank talk about the state of a hotly anticipated movie.

1. R.I.P. Nora Ephron

The film world lost one of its most popular filmmakers this week, when Nora Ephron passed away on Tuesday at the age of 71 after a battle with leukemia. After establishing herself as a magazine writer, Ephron, the daughter of two screenwriters, transitioned to screenplays; her first, SILKWOOD, earned her an Academy Award nomination. She went on to write WHEN HARRY MET SALLY…, perhaps the most popular (if not flat-out best) romantic comedy of all time, and then became an auteur in her own right, writing and directing the beloved SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Though she stumbled through much of the 2000s, she rebounded with her final film, the critically and financially successful JULIE & JULIA. Between those iconic rom-coms she wrote and/or directed, which play in constant rotation on basic cable, you could argue she is one of the most watched, beloved, and influential screen artists of the past fifty years. She will be missed, but as long as men and women have to agree upon something to watch on a date, she will not be forgotten. [Deadline]

2. Dude, Liz. WTF.

One of the strangest parts of the very sad Nora Ephron story is the fact that news of Ephron’s death hit the Internet before she had even died. Gossip columnist Liz Smith published an Ephron obituary on Tuesday afternoon, hours before anyone even knew the filmmaker was even seriously ill. The post was quickly taken down while journalists tried to figure out what was going on. Ephron’s publisher told The New York Times that she was still alive, but her representation refused to comment on Smith’s piece. Eventually we learned that Ephron was very sick, and then finally passed away in the early evening. The incident temporarily turned social media into a bizarre and morally discomforting spectator sport — and it suggested that when you’re writing an obituary with inside information, it’s best to write it in a word processor and not a blog post builder. You never know when you might accidentally hit “Publish.” [WowOWow]

3. FRANK OR FRANCIS, Frankly In Trouble

For a long time now, we’ve been waiting for writer/director Charlie Kaufman’s next film, which was supposed to be FRANK OR FRANCIS, a musical about a film director (Steve Carell) who gets into a feud with an Internet commenter (Jack Black) who hates his movies. Sadly, it looks like we’ll be waiting even longer. While doing press for the new movie PEOPLE LIKE US, Elizabeth Banks, who was supposed to play a supporting role in FRANK OR FRANCIS, said that the project “as many movies do, fell apart at the last minute.” The folks at The Playlist reached out to Kaufman’s reps who insist the project isn’t dead, simply “postponed.” For now we’ll have to be content with Kaufman’s other upcoming projects, including a novel and an HBO series starring Catherine Keener. Which all sound great, but I want FRANK OR FRANCIS! Kind of makes you mad enough to go leave an angry comment on a movie website. [The Playlist]

4. Super Bass-O-Matic

Designer Saul Bass revolutionized the way people made opening titles and movie posters. He also made one movie of his own, 1974′s PHASE IV, about a a group of scientists who discover a hive of super-intelligent ants. The film originally ended with a crazy psychedelic sequence, but Paramount Pictures forced Bass to cut the footage from the movie. That deleted scene, long considered lost, was recently found during research for a repertory series on Bass’ work, and the results were screened publicly, perhaps for the first time in history, at Cinefamily in Los Angeles over the weekend. The Hollywood Reporter — which compared the discovery to finding the missing murder mystery subplot from ANNIE HALL — describes the footage as “dizzying and often disturbing” and “beautiful.” Paramount has no plans for a PHASE IV Blu-ray at the moment, but perhaps this incredible turn of events might give them the motivation to share this rare piece of film history from one of the cinema’s true pioneers. [The Hollywood Reporter]

5. BRAVE-ly Making Crazy Theories About Kids Movies

Merida, the heroine of Disney/Pixar’s new movie BRAVE, refuses her to obey her mother and enter into an arranged marriage, rejects the advances of three thoroughly lame suitors, and kicks ass at archery. So does that make her gay? Maybe, says Adam Markovitz in a very controversial article on Entertainment Weekly. Though Markovitz asserts that Merida isn’t “overtly” gay, he says the way she “bristles at traditional gender roles” and “hates the prospect of marriage” suggests she might be. Now in my mind, the fact that she rejects an arranged marriage doesn’t make her gay, it makes her a woman of standards. And if gay folks hate the prospect of marriage, why are they pushing for the right to marry in states all over our country? Then again, Merida does spend a lot of time hanging out with bears. Maybe Markovitz is on to something here. [Entertainment Weekly]