What's news: Alexander Payne's Downsizing is kicking off fall festival season in style in Venice with a warm reception from critics. Plus: Stephen Colbert starts his Emmy promo effort, Barry Jenkins' next film finds its star and an anti-American Sniper movie is in the works. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman
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Opening the Venice Film Festival is Alexander Payne's Downsizing, which stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a husband and wife who shrink themselves in order to simplify their lives. Chief film critic Todd McCarthy offers a rave in his review:
The rare director who has never made a bad film, Alexander Payne has now arguably created his best one with a work that easily accommodates many moods, flavors, intentions and ambitions.
At its core, Downsizing grapples head-on with the long-term viability of humanity's existence on this planet, but with no pretension or preachiness at all, while on a moment-to-moment basis it's a human comedy dominated by personal foibles and people just trying to get by in life. It's also a science-fiction film that not for a second looks or feels like one.
As such, this is a unique undertaking, one centered on an unexceptional Everyman character who unwittingly embarks upon an exceptional life journey.
+ Early takes: The Guardian: "Alexander Payne's miniature masterpiece." Screen Daily: "There’s something for everyone in Downsizing - just not a full meal." Variety: "a ticklish and resonant crowd-pleaser for grown-ups."
Welcome to the fall film festival sprint!
Scott Feinberg emails his preview: The approach of Labor Day means the end of the summer, the beginning of the school year and, for folks in the film industry, the start of a breathless six-month race to the Oscars. This year, the Venice Film Festival hopefuls include Darren Aronofsky's Jennifer Lawrence-vehicle Mother!, Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water and George Clooney's Suburbicon.
Today, Venice jury president Annette Bening addressed the lack of female directors in the lineup. "I was thrilled to be asked to be here, so I didn’t count the number of films that were accepted that were directed by women," said Bening. "They watched 2,000 films if you can imagine what that would be like. So no, I didn’t approach it that way."
Meanwhile, on Friday, high in the Rockies, the Telluride Film Festival will get underway with its annual "Patron Preview" screening, the title of which, like the rest of the lineup, is not circulated in advance; rumors, however, suggest that several of the aforementioned films will hop continents and screen in Colorado, too, alongside the likes of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Battle of the Sexes and Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father.
The race will then head north for the Toronto International Film Festival, which will open with Janus Metz Peerson's Borg/McEnroe and then showcase many of the aforementioned films, as well as world premieres such as Kings, an LA riots-set drama starring Daniel Craig and Halle Berry, and The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison, plus acquisition titles like I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding. By the time TIFF wraps up on Sept. 17, less than three weeks from now, it's likely that the majority of this season's Oscar hopefuls will have been unveiled.
Elsewhere in film...
► Anti-American Sniper film in the works. Iraqi Sniper, being produced by two-time Oscar-nominee Hany Abu-Assad, will be an anti-war response to Clint Eastwood’s 2014 hit, telling the story behind the chief foe of Bradley Cooper's character.
► Barry Jenkins' next film finds star. Stephan James is in talks to star in Jenkins' adaptation of James Baldwin's 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk from Annapurna. The actor will play the falsely-accused Fonny in the love story.
► Lionsgate pushes Robin Hood origin movie back. The film, starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Jamie Dornan and Eve Hewson, moved its wide release date from March 23 to Sept. 21, 2018, opening opposite Sony’s Goosebumps 2.
► Tom Clancy's widow aims to win Jack Ryan character rights.The dispute is more than 30 years in the making, ever since Hunt for Red October came out and Clancy was told that he'd be committing copyright infringement if he used Jack Ryan again.
► Cynthia Erivo joins Drew Goddard's Bad Times at the El Royale. Twentieth Century Fox's thriller has added the Tony winner, as Goddard, who wrote the script and is producing, has been quietly putting together his cast.
► Warner Bros. nabs sci-fi thriller from first-time writer. The studio has acquired an untitled spec script by Josh L. Gordon. Zev Foreman will produce the project, with Thomas Benski and Brian Levy of Pulse executive producing.
► R.I.P., J.D. Disalvatore. A leading producer of LGBT films and a gay rights activist, Disalvatore died Thursday at her home in Sherman Oaks after a long battle with cancer. She was 51. Full obit.
Why Tulip Fever took nearly 20 years to reach the screen. Novelist Deborah Moggach tells how she lived out a fantasy on the set of the new movie (opening Friday), starring Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz, and the "laborious process" behind the scenes. Guest column.
In the first slate of Emmy promos this year, Stephen Colbert teases his hosting duties, Patrick Shanley notes:
In one spot, Colbert assures the audience that they are taking precautions against hacking. "To ensure the results remain top secret, I have had my assistant place all the envelopes in this giant safe," the Late Show host says as he walks over to a large, locked safe and pounds on it.
"You okay in there?" Colbert asks, eliciting a muffled response of "no" from his assistant inside. Colbert's response: "Only a couple more weeks." In another spot, the comedian shares his excitement for the hosting gig, but seems to have misplaced his tuxedo. Watch here.
Elsewhere in TV...
► Sky drops Fox News in U.K. 21st Century Fox has decided to stop airing the network, ending a long-running carriage deal in Britain with pay TV giant Sky. The conglomerate explained: "We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the U.K."
► Channel 4's Great British Bake Off debuts. The network, which had bought the rights to the baking competition after seven seasons, drew an average of 6.5M viewers. The show had averaged 14M viewers for its season seven finale on the BBC last year.
► ABC's Bachelor in Paradise hits ratings season high. The fourth season of the reality spinoff averaged a 1.6 rating among adults 18-49, making it the highest-rated episode of the season thus far and besting the impressive opening for the season premiere.
► Fox plans live interactive comedy from Hamilton's director. The network is teaming with Grease Live's Thomas Kail as well as New Girl duo Dave Finkel and Brett Baer for Immediate Family. The multicamera comedy landed at Fox with a script plus penalty commitment.
^Meme of the summer stars speak. Yep, you've likely seen the above picture in your social media feed. The models in the photo have worked with photographer Antonio Guillem for years. Here's what they think of their newfound internet fame.
► Amazon's Matthew Weiner anthology includes Mad Men reunion. Thirteen producers, writers, casting directors and costume designers from the AMC drama are joining The Romanoffs, set to debut in 2018.
► CBS Pilot Watch: 9JKL. Critic Daniel Fienberg takes an early look at the upcoming series: "If you've been waiting for a sitcom in which Mark Feuerstein, Linda Lavin and Elliott Gould make frequent jokes about their genitals, CBS has you covered."
► YouTube Red enlists John Cena, Kat Dennings for animated series. The streamer has ordered space adventure comedy Dallas & Robo from the producers behind Robot Chicken, which also features voices from Jane Lynch, Dana Snyder and Giancarlo Esposito.
► Hulu's The Mindy Project adds Reese Witherspoon. The Big Little Lies star is set to guest-star on the final season of Mindy Kaling's series, reuniting the Wrinkle in Time costars and reviving a season three holiday decoration: "Wreath Witherspoon."
► Netflix unveils Jerry Before Seinfeld trailer. The comedian returns to New York City's The Comic Strip in his stand-up special, which premieres Sept. 19. Watch here.
Kathy Griffin takes back her apology to Trump. She has retracted her tearful apology for posing with a bloody mask of President Donald Trump, imitating his decapitation, for a photoshoot in May: “I’m no longer sorry ... The whole outrage was BS."
David Geffen has had a busy summer on his megayacht, Chris Gardner notes in his Rambling column:
The movie and music mogul, who seems to enjoy posting pics of famous friends on Instagram, has shared a string of images these past few months including a busy August when he welcomed (at the same time) Oprah Winfrey and BFF Gayle King, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger with wife Willow Bay, Barry Diller with wife Diane von Furstenberg, and Diane Sawyer. “Great week in Sicily,” Geffen wrote with a pic of Winfrey, King, Iger, Bay and Sawyer with newly-single Dasha Zhukova.
Bonus: Scrolling through the comments to see who leaves messages for Mr. Geffen; those names spotted down below include Rita Wilson, former William Morris Agency chairman Jim Wiatt, jewelry guru Jen Meyer and music magnate Guy Oseary.
What else we're reading...
— "Apple’s TV plans are still stuck in neutral." Peter Kafka on the studios vs. the tech giant: "the bigger story for Apple is that this used to be a fight that Apple would ultimately win, because Apple was the dominant player in digital media. That’s not true anymore." [Recode]
— "Why aren’t there more women working in audio?" Joy Lanzendorfer writes: "Like with many STEM-oriented fields, music production and sound engineering are dominated by men - though that’s very slowly changing." [The Atlantic]
— "YouTube's redesign makes it easier to watch all the videos." David Pierce notes: "it's "cleaner, a lot simpler, and a lot more focused ... YouTube seems to have taken stock of how video works now and built a service around it." [Wired]
— "The philosophy of Scott Glenn." Michael Sebastian's profile: "The 76-year-old actor who plays Stick in The Defenders talks about his unusual path to stardom - and the purpose that drives him every day." [Esquire]
— "NBC insider: ‘total panic’ over Megyn Kelly’s morning show." Lloyd Grove reports: "According to network insiders, her new role is prompting 'questions internally about who her audience is exactly.'" [The Daily Beast]
— "When Gossip Girl ruled the world." Josh Duboff writes: "actors, producers, and crew members reflect on the frenzy, contemplate the series’s lasting impact, and, yes, dish on its on-set dramas." [Vanity Fair]
Today's birthdays: Jessica Henwick, 25, Cameron Diaz, 45, Michael Chiklis, 54, Lewis Black, 69, Peggy Lipton, 71.