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Film Intelligence: MASTER work, THE HOBBIT, AVENGERS 2

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. 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: format fumbles, humbled hobbits and late greats.

1. Becoming THE MASTER of 70mm

Paul Thomas Anderson shot his hotly anticipated film about the birth of Scientology, THE MASTER, in 70mm, a large-scale widescreen format that was used, predominantly in the 1950s and ’60s, to lend epic movies an extra visual oomph. But with the rapid retirement and replacement of traditional film projectors of any and all sizes with hi-tech digital devices, theaters with the equipment necessary to present THE MASTER (starring Joaquin Phoenix) in its director’s preferred format are few and far between. Last week, Time Out Chicago reported that the one theater in the Windy City capable of projecting THE MASTER in 70mm had been passed over by the film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, in lieu of other plans, but the article also stresses that Anderson and his team are working hard to secure as wide a 70mm release of the film as is humanly possible. So if you live near a theater that still has a 70mm projector and you want to see THE MASTER there (and if you do live near one, why the hell wouldn’t you?), head over to the link below, suggest the venue and pledge your support. The Master would approve. [Time Out Chicago]

2. Judith Crist (1922-2012)

She once wrote a review so scathing that Warner Bros. temporarily pulled all of its advertising from her newspaper. Writer-director Billy Wilder said that “inviting her to review one of your pictures is like inviting the Boston Strangler to massage your neck.” That was Judith Crist, who died this week at the age of 90, and readers loved her for that wittily acerbic style. In the era before Siskel and Ebert she was perhaps the most famous and popular film critic in the country, and a trailblazer in multiple mediums: writing for (and challenging the power of the major studios at) newspapers like The New York Herald Tribune and magazines like TV Guide, and appearing on television as The Today Show‘s resident film reviewer for a decade. A graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, she taught there herself for more than 50 years before retiring this winter. In a recent interview, Crist said that “the most enjoyable part of living a long time is that it happens so quickly.” And then it’s all over much too soon. [The New York Times]

3. Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012)

It’s just one of those weeks, sadly, with several major film-world deaths. Marvin Hamlisch left a lasting impact on Hollywood with his musical contributions to some of the greatest movies of all time. He won three Oscars, all in 1974, for his score and title song for THE WAY WE WERE and for his adaptation of Scott Joplin rags in one of my all-time favorite movies, THE STING (both of which starred our bossman, Robert Redford). Hamlisch was the youngest student ever admitted to the Juilliard School (at age 7!) and in the early part of his film career he also created delightfully lively scores for Woody Allen comedies, including TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN and BANANAS. His music also appeared in films such as THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, SOPHIE’S CHOICE, 3 MEN AND A BABY and, most recently, THE INFORMANT! Hamlisch, who passed away after an illness, was 68 years old. [The Hollywood Reporter]

4. THE HOBBIT Hobbled?

The goalposts keep moving on Peter Jackson‘s two-part three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT. The latest development, according to Variety, involves Jackson’s unprecedented decision to shoot his diptych trilogy at 48 frames per second, twice the frame rate of traditional cinema. When 48fps HOBBIT footage was debuted at CinemaCon earlier this year, the results were apparently disastrous (see Devin Faraci’s account at Badass Digest) and now, whether the two are connected or not, Warner Bros. is reportedly planning to release THE HOBBIT primarily at 24 fps with just a few select theaters receiving the originally intended version (shades of “THE MASTER in 70mm, maybe” déjà vu all over again). The official line is that Warner wants to “protect the format,” introducing it slowly at first, and then wider with the final two HOBBITs. “Protect the format” is, I guess, the new Hollywood code for “not lose a ton of money on a crummy-looking movie.” [Variety]

5. AVENGERS Re-assemble!

Iconoclastic TV-auteur-turned-mainstream-movie-magnate Joss Whedon will parlay the enormous success of his big-screen adaptation of the Marvel Comics’ series THE AVENGERS into… another big-screen adaptation of the Marvel Comics’ series THE AVENGERS. On a call with investors, Disney announced that Whedon has been officially signed to write and direct THE AVENGERS 2 (current rumored subtitled: THE SEARCH FOR MORE MONEY). Though it would have been nice to see Whedon move back into more personal projects — like the wonderfully weird THE CABIN IN THE WOODS from earlier this year — there’s no denying that he did leave his own quirky stamp on THE AVENGERS. I guess THE AVENGERS (or maybe just all that sweet, sweet comic book money) left their stamp on Whedon as well. Mark your calendars now: Whedon’s AVENGERS 2 should be coming to 4,000 theaters near you in the summer of 2015. [/Film]

Photo credit: The Weinstein Company