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Screen Grabs - The Season for Giving

Christmas is coming and the gift-giving has already begun, even if some of the gifts being exchanged are lumps of coal. Featuring Will Smith, Vince Vaughn, Diablo Cody, the Simpsons, the latest from the writers' strike, and more.

The Season for Giving

T'was the week before Christmas, and the gifts were rolling in. Will Smith delivered the season's largest present to Warner Bros. via his apocalyptic vampire film I Am Legend, which scored the biggest December opening ever. In doing so, the Fresh Prince solidified his reputation as the golden goose that keeps on giving—Hollywood's most bankable star, and the heir apparent to Tom Hanks and Jimmy Stewart. Celebrated critic-contrarian Armond White theorizes that Smith's teflon-like status stems from his careful management of Hollywood racial ideologies, while others think that people just really like hearing him say "Aw, hell naw" (which might not actually be such a different explanation).

In any case, the film's gift to New Yorkers was the peculiar joy of seeing their city in ruins and zombies lurking around every corner (which, to older generations, might just sound like the 1970s), a scenario that provides additional evidence of Hollywood's strange sublimated desire to wipe the Big Apple off the map (see also next month's Cloverfield, whose director, Matt Reeves, filled fanboys with holiday cheer last week by discussing the film for the first time). During filming of I Am Legend, New Yorkers reportedly responded to the film's takeover of their town by flipping Smith the bird as often as they could, though anecdotal evidence suggests they're making up for their rude behavior by contributing disproportionately to the film's box office success.

No word of any obscene gestures last Monday, however, when Gotham experienced a real-life cinematic invasion, courtesy of a marketing blitzkrieg around the release of the Simpsons Movie DVD (a great stocking stuffer for the hellion in your family!) that was designed to "Simpson-ize" (Springfield-ize?) the city. The promotional push, which extended to the top of the Empire State Building, was only marginally less overbearing than last summer's marketing effort (which turned 7-Elevens into Kwik-E-Marts and brought Homer face-to-face with the Cerne Abbas fertility symbol in England). Apparently Santa needs all the help he can get. Maybe the marketing geniuses at Fox should have enlisted Santa's Little Helper, the Simpsons' uncoordinated pooch, in their promotional endeavors.

Speaking of Santa's Little Helpers, actors and BFFs Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau seem to be trying to claim that title for themselves. They'll follow up their past holiday fare (The current Fred Claus for Vaughn; Elf for Favreau) by appearing together in Four Christmases, a dysfunctional family comedy slated for next year's holidays which will also feature Reese Witherspoon and country stars Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw. Reports from set say Witherspoon and Vaughn aren't getting along, but that would seem to come with the territory—they play a couple trying to visit four divorced parents on Christmas Day. Imagine that scenario as you make your rounds next Tuesday.

When it comes to holiday bickering, however, no one can match the ongoing dispute between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Writers Guild of America. While late-night talk show fans can comfort themselves with the knowledge that Dave and Jay will be back on the air in January (with or without the writers), it was all lumps of coal otherwise, as the two organizations traded barbs after the WGA filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. We hope they get things sorted out soon so that everybody's favorite new screenwriter, Juno scribe Diablo Cody, can get back to work (apparently she's got a new script ready to go that's like Juno, only with blood and guts). Unfortunately, things just keep getting more acrimonious. The WGA also rejected waiver requests that would have allowed writers to work on the Golden Globes and Oscars (as an alternative, Alec Baldwin has offered to host the Globes at his Manhattan apartment). Peace on earth and good will towards men? Err, not so much.

Merry Christmas!

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