Ella Christiansen's Posts (342)

Sort by

THE SACRAMENTO FILM AWARDS ARE HERE!8397948256?profile=RESIZE_584xThe 2020 Sacramento Film Awards is part of the California Film Foundation's Sacramento International Film Festival. As such, we honor filmmakers and professionals from our festival and the wider community. Of these recognitions, the Vanguard Award is our highest local honor. It is given to the person who has demonstrated a life-long commitment to and support of local media arts. This year, we gave our local Vanguard Award to three amazing recipients. The 2nd is Matías Bombal. 

Matías Bombal, movie critic of “Matías Bombal’s Hollywood” (KAHI Radio, Valley
Community Newspapers, www.mabhollywood.com), has been seen and heard in many
entertainment venues as a master of ceremonies throughout California. Born in Santiago,
Chile, June 3, 1967, Matías was surrounded by the arts at an early age. His father, Antonio
Bombal, was a professor of comparative literature and in his later life, a piano tuner. The
poet Pablo Neruda was a close friend in a family that included the Chilean novelist Maria
Lusia Bombal. They moved to Berkeley, California in 1968, where his father was teaching.
His mother, Judy Nevis, is a native Californian and has had a career in public service as a
Deputy Director with California’s Department of Housing. Matías grew up and learning
Spanish and English at the same time in an environment of classical music. The next logical
musical step was jazz! Matías developed an intense interest in the music of the 1920's and
1930's from listening to his grandmother’s 78 r.p.m. records. 
Following a move in 1976 to Sacramento, Matías began his life-long love of the movies and
their exhibition. At nineteen years of age and on sheer enthusiasm, he was placed in charge
of the restoration and management of Sacramento's historic Crest Theatre. He made a
considerable impression on the valley’s show going public in his tenure there from 1986 to
1991, with colorful stage introductions and clever and rare film bookings.
He was directly involved with reviving Sacramento’s Guild and Colonial Theatres, as well as
working in the Tower, Sacramento Inn, and Crestview theatres as promoter, booker,
historian and all around showman. He has appeared as an extra and/or lent his production
assistance to the films Bird, Pink Cadillac, Xenia, Wisdom, and an episode of Highway to Heaven.
He was featured as a cashier in an independent black & white comedy short silent film
9 Items or Less.
TV 58, KSCH, Sacramento brought Matías to the small screen as a Sunday night movie host,
introducing classic movies in a trademark tuxedo (movie palace managers were never seen in
anything else) This led to work as master of ceremonies at numerous theatrical events
throughout California on stage, screen, television and radio. Matías was featured with the
Music Masters Orchestra as a singer and announcer, working closely with noted big-band leader
Dick Jurgens who would help rehearsing the band that played style arrangements of
tunes from the 20's and 30's.
The owner of the Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City, Oregon, brought Matías to the central
Oregon coast in 1996 for 6 years to manage and operate that 1937 theatre. While there, he
was approached to do a movie talk show on the local commercial AM radio station, KBCH.
The Popcorn Hour, co-hosted by the owner of the Bijou Theatre, Keith Altomare, was a huge
success. Matías went on to produce 3 other popular weekly programmes.
As a film/music historian Matías has contributed to many books on film history, especially
on the silent and early “talkie” era. He is an authority on the pioneer film star Ramón
Novarro, and has the Mexican actor’s own collection early cinema memorabilia.

His first time on radio was at nine years of age on NPR affiliate
Mr. Bombal has worked as an emcee all over the west coast for special events- such as the
former Sacramento Music Festival, the silent movie series at Salem, Oregon’s great movie
palace, the Elsinore, the classic film series presented by the Friends of the Fox at the Bob Hope
Theatre in Stockton (Formerly the Fox-California) where he is the prize master of The
Fabulous Fox Giveaway, The Reno Film Festival, a silent films series at the Ironstone
Vineyards of Murphys, California and the Newport (Oregon) Performing Art Center's film

Many people in Northern California and Nevada enjoyed listening to Matías as the popular
host of radio’s Classic Jazz and Swing, which was carried over 5 affiliate NPR stations for 4
years originating from The KXJZ Stations of Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. He has
been seen ascending out of the orchestra pit of Oakland, California’s Paramount Theatre for
the popular spin to win game, Dec-O-Win, part of the movie classics shown at the fabulous
1931 Art-Deco National Historic Landmark. He’s often engaged with Don Neely’s Royal
Society Jazz Orchestra, as their on-stage announcer. Mr. Bombal additionally assists in the
presentation of a yearly variety show benefit in Palm Springs, California.
As a documentary filmmaker, Matías Bombal has directed three films, THE
and directed and co-produced with Chad E. Williams, ALHAMBRA: Sacramento's Palace of
Fantasy (2018).

Matías Bombal lives in Pocket area of Sacramento, where he cultivates and preserves his
many media collections for future generations. He does voice work for commercials and
industry, working for a variety of clients. His movie reviews appear in print in 4 editions of
Valley Community Newspapers and weekly on KAHI Radio, 104.5 FM / 950 AM and he is
a member of the Sacramento Press Club, Valley Broadcast Legends, The Society of Motion
Picture and Television Engineers, . In his spare time, he enjoys motoring in his classic 1959
Mercedes-Benz 220S and delights in learning a new word each day.

The Sacramento Film Awards will be Encore at 7pm Saturday the 16th. To watch simply

RSVP at the following link.

NOTE: You must be a MEMBER of CFF 1st to RSVP but membership is free! CLICK HERE TO RSVP

Read more…


The group gave two awards each to 'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' and 'Da 5 Bloods.'

The New York Film Critics Circle has selected Kelly Reichardt's First Cow as its best picture of 2020.


The group gave two awards to Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always (best actress for star Sidney Flanigan and screenplay for Hittman) and Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods (best actor for Delroy Lindo and supporting actor for the late Chadwick Boseman). Nomadland's Chloé Zhao won best director, with Borat breakout Maria Bakalova being named best supporting actress.


Wolfwalkers won best animated film, with best first film given to The 40-Year-Old Version, best foreign language film going to Bacurau, nonfiction film given to Time and best cinematography to Steve McQueen's Small Axe film anthology series.


While a number of critics and awards organizations pushed back their voting timelines and eligibility windows because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic — the Oscars are considering any films released through Feb. 28 for the April 25 awards — the NYFCC kept its timeline roughly the same, voting just two weeks after its usual post-Thanksgiving meeting and only considering films that will be released by Dec. 31.


The group also honored Kino Lorber with a special award for its creation of virtual cinema distribution service Kino Marquee, which the group said in its announcement, "was designed to help support movie theaters, not destroy them." Kino Marquee launched in mid-March, in the early days of the pandemic that has shut down movie theaters and other entertainment venues worldwide as authorities have urged people to avoid large gatherings to slow the spread of the virus, with virtual screening rooms for participating independent theaters, allowing them to continue reaching audiences and generating revenue. Kino Marquee's virtual ticket buyers receive a link for admission to an online screening room, with revenue split between the distributor and exhibitor. Incidentally, Bacurau was the first offering on Kino Marquee.


Lee was honored with another special award for "inspiring the New York community," the critics announced, with Lee's short film New York New York and "advocating for a better society through cinema."


“This was a complicated, painful year in so many ways, but movies didn’t let us down," NYFCC chair, Time magazine's Stephanie Zacharek, said in a statement. "In fact, they were major in helping us get through. Movies are one of our chief forms of human connection, a mode of communicating across the world. This year, especially, the members of the New York Film Critics Circle are grateful to be able to honor the movies and people who helped keep that chain of communication alive.”


Founded in 1935, the NYFCC’s membership includes critics from daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and qualifying online publications. Every year the group meets in New York to vote on awards for the calendar year’s films.


In addition to the regular categories, which include best picture, director, actor and actress, special stand-alone awards are given to individuals and organizations that have made substantial contributions to the art of cinema, including producers, directors, actors, writers, critics, historians, film restorers and service organizations.


While award winners are typically celebrated at an in-person gala in January, due to the pandemic, a video will be released Jan. 24 celebrating this year's winners.


Last year the NYFCC selected The Irishman as the best picture of 2019.


A full list of the 2020 winners follows:


Best Picture: First Cow

Best Director: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Best Actor: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Best Actress: Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Best Screenplay: Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Best Supporting Actor: Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods

Best Supporting Actress: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Animated Film: Wolfwalkers

Best Cinematography: Small Axe (all films)

Best First Film: The 40-Year-Old Version

Best Foreign-Language Film: Bacurau

Best Nonfiction Film: Time

Special Award 1: Kino Lorber's Kino Marquee

Special Award 2: Spike Lee


Article by: Hilary Lewis for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


The studio’s decision to smash its theatrical windows for 2021 films could result in "high-quality" counterfeit versions of the titles "available on every pirate service in the world" the same day the features hit HBO Max.

The industry remains up in arms about Warner Bros.’ decision to send its biggest 2021 movies directly to HBO Max on the same day the titles hit U.S. theaters. But one group is probably pleased with the plan: Film pirates. “For sure, pirates are celebrating WarnerMedia’s decision,” says Abigail De Kosnik, director of the Berkeley Center for New Media and an associate professor at UC Berkeley.


Traditionally, the theatrical window has provided some buffer against piracy’s erosion of a film’s earnings. Usually, during the early days of a theatrical release the only pirate copies that become available are low-quality “cam” versions, surreptitiously recorded via phone or tablet by someone in a cinema. Law-breaking consumers in some territories have demonstrated a willingness to watch these copies — especially in places like Russia and Turkey, according to experts — but pirates throughout the West and among the more developed major markets of East Asia, such as Japan, South Korea and China’s major urban centers, tend to prefer to wait for the film to hit streaming services, whereupon a high-definition copy can be “ripped” and disseminated.


Warner Bros.’ hybrid plan of dropping next year’s film slate on HBO Max in the U.S. — the only territory where the service has fully launched so far — while simultaneously marketing and releasing the movies in cinemas overseas will likely erode international box office earnings of titles like Dune, The Matrix 4 and Godzilla vs. Kong. “If a film is made available in the U.S. on HBO Max, a high-quality pirate copy is going to be available on every pirate service in the world that same day,” notes Andy Chatterley, CEO of U.K.-based piracy data and analytics company Muso.


Those dynamics were on display when Disney opted to release its big-budget, live-action remake of Mulan over Disney+ in select territories this fall, while also opening it theatrically in the countries where the streaming service hasn’t yet launched (such as the enormous China market, crucially). The film attracted 21.4 million illegal downloads in the 12 weeks after it released, according to De Kosnik’s research, one of the highest totals she has observed since she began measuring pirate consumption in 2017. “Pirates will enjoy a real bonanza next year because of the WarnerMedia decision,” she adds.


Because piracy is such a complicated consumer decision, involving sensitivity to price, content availability, personal ethics and government efforts at deterrence, projecting its impact on box office earnings is difficult to do, explains Neil Gane, general manager of the Asia Video Industry Association’s Coalition Against Piracy. But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he says, pirates in many places are better poised to strike than at most moments in recent memory.


Gane says lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have boosted the fortunes of piracy syndicates in the same way that they have driven subscription gains on legitimate streaming platforms. "For example, during the peak lockdown period in Southeast Asia from the end of March to mid-May," he explains, "we saw a proportionate spike there in usage of both pirate streaming and legal streaming platforms." (Indonesia and Malaysia were rare exceptions in the region, thanks to recent government efforts to block access to piracy sites.)


Adds Muso’s Chatterley: “We’ve never seen so many big-budget movies hit pirate networks so quickly. The piracy rates are going to be staggering — that’s just inevitable.”


Article by: Patrick Brzeski for the Hollywood Reporter.


Read more…

The Worst Films of 2020


How do you choose the biggest movie misfires of the year? In a way, it’s easy. A movie that’s bad enough to earn a place on this scroll is, like a great movie, not one you really choose. It’s one that chooses you. It looks like a judgment, and a harsh one at that, but it’s really a feeling — that the film in question is so misconceived, so undramatic or unfunny or convoluted or just plain boring, that to watch it is enough to cause pain. In this pandemic year, there were fewer studio bombs to choose from, yet we made no special attempt to go big or go small, to go Hollywood or go indie. We didn’t have to. We just went with the worst.


1. Dolittle

Drug dealers used to have the mantra “Don’t get high on your own supply.” Maybe movie stars should live by the credo “Dolittle — just don’t do it.” The 1998 reboot was merely another middling Eddie Murphy comedy, but this Robert Downey Jr. remake achieves the staggering feat of being much, much worse than the fabled, creaky-boned 1967 Hollywood musical debacle. Is the problem the charmless critters? The ungodly mess of a story? Or the mechanical whimsy of Downey, who barely talks to the animals because he’s so busy talking to himself? All of the above. “Dolittle” is a movie that’s more excruciating than the sum of its frenetic yet lifeless kiddie-blockbuster parts.


2. The Last Thing He Wanted

The first mistake made by the gifted filmmaker Dee Rees (“Mudbound,” “Pariah”) was deciding to adapt one of Joan Didion’s worst forays into fiction: her 1996 tale of a Washington Post reporter who becomes an arms dealer for the U.S. government. The second mistake was to bold-face every only-in-a-Didion-novel twist and contrivance, and to have Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, and Willem Dafoe chew on the turgidly incoherent espionage dialogue as if they were acting in some breathless political noir. The result is a movie that gets so lost in the thickets of its pretension that you need a machete to cut through it.


3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Charlie Kaufman used to create lyrically spiky head trips that teased your brain and heart at the same time. Now he makes sodden puzzles that don’t quite add up because they’re too busy telegraphing their cantankerous oddity. His latest trip down the rabbit hole of scrubby dream logic centers on a morose geek (Jesse Plemons) who’s too gnarled to connect to anyone, from his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) to his Samuel Beckett sitcom parents (David Thewlis and Toni Collette) to the audience. But the spirit of disconnection is mother’s milk to Kaufman, and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a depressive half-baked Twilight Zone — it’s all about the janitor! yeah, keep telling yourself that — that unravels before your eyes.


4. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

There are bad movies everyone hates and bad movies some people like (like “Ishtar” or “Xanadu”), and there’s no question that Will Ferrell’s I’m-an-idiot Nordic songfest burlesque has its cult of fans, who view it as an ironic expression of pop sincerity. Yet what about the jokes — as in, all of them — that just lie flat and sit there, like something on a plate of warm herring? Or the way that the movie can’t decide if Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, as an Icelandic duo who stumble into the Eurovision Song Contest, are bad singers, so-bad-they’re-good-singers, or good singers? The movie doesn’t satirize the annual Europop competition so much as it presents it, as if its very existence were funny. It’s not.


5. Guest of Honour

Atom Egoyan keeps masticating his old tropes — noodgy inspectors and disreputable bus drivers, secrets within mysteries within flashbacks, sexual indiscretion with a minor — in this jaw-droppingly convoluted and unconvincing family melodrama, which is centered around a restaurant that serves fried bunny-rabbit ears. Both the dish and the movie are supremely unappetizing, yet Egoyan, whose best films (“The Sweet Hereafter,” “Felicia’s Journey,” “Chloe”) now seem a world away, is increasingly content to play in Egoyan World, a jungle gym of ludicrous contrivance.


Peter Debruge's 5 Worst Films


1. The Painted Bird

Jerzy Kosinski’s 1965 novel was plenty controversial in its time, billed as an autobiographical account of the horrors he witnessed during World War II, then later recast as fiction. Czech director Václav Marhoul clearly saw the material as an opportunity to make a capital-I “Important” art film, recruiting respected actors (Stellan Skarsgard, Harvey Keitel, Udo Kier) and putting them through the motions of human cruelty the book describes. It’s literally too much to watch, and I walked out after Nazi soldiers shot a Jewish woman and her infant with the same bullet. It works for some, but don’t force yourself.


2. 365 Days/After We Collided

As if fanfic phenoms “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” weren’t hard enough on lovers of literature, other writers are piling on with tawdry erotic homages of their own. The original “After” (a sleeper hit back in early 2019) was kinda fun, as in-flight viewing goes, but this flaccid sequel is like the big-screen equivalent of an amateur high school theater production, only kinkier. “365 Days,” which shot up the charts on Netflix, is a risible Polish softcore thriller in which a successful exec is kidnapped by a brutish Italian mafioso until love or Stockholm syndrome sets in — the movie’s premise being that she secretly wants to be taken, building to an inexplicably “tragic” non-ending. American movies are far too prudish, but one of these fantasies set us back decades, while the other had me thinking of ending things (to reference Charlie Kaufman’s miserable idea of a date movie).


3. Artemis Fowl

This derivative Disney eyesore was meant to be the studio’s shot at “Harry Potter”-style success. Instead, like so many other craven grabs at franchise gold (e.g. “The Golden Compass,” “Ender’s Game,” et al.), it’s one and done for this clumsy adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s YA book series. The over-designed but under-thought-out monstrosity centers on a criminal mastermind who’s not yet old enough to shave, although Disney seems to have decided that they should turn the precocious antihero into a fairy-chasing Richie Rich. Just as well that they dumped it on Disney Plus, disguising what surely would’ve been a box-office disaster.


4. The Roads Not Taken

When it comes to losing a loved one to dementia, French playwright Florian Zeller approached the subject with artful empathy in “The Father,” putting audiences in the same position as Anthony Hopkin’s character, unable to distinguish between delusion and reality. By contrast, director Sally Potter is still too close to the subject, having lost her brother to the cruel condition several years back. A fully committed Javier Bardem gives his most gratuitously unpleasant performance since “Biutiful,” while Elle Fanning’s raw reaction makes it even harder to bear in a movie Potter clearly had to make, but no one needs to see.


5. Capone

Close but no cigar: “Fantastic Four” director Josh Trank emerged from movie jail to make his “Scarface, Coda: The Death of Al Capone,” a film about the mobster’s final days, after he was released from Alcatraz to die of syphilis at home. Trouble is, it’s the least compelling chapter in the aging gangster’s life, doubly unpleasant as we see this incontinent antihero rant and rage and soil his sheets. Hardy’s one hell of an actor, but he’s straining way too hard here, making it impossible to get past the performance and connect with a monster who’s rotting inside and out.


Article by: Owen Gleiberman, Peter Debruge for Variety.



Read more…


A24’s “First Cow” was the big winner at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, taking home best film. In predicting the Academy Awards, the top prize from NYFCC has an astounding correlation to the Oscars. Since 1935, the NYFCC winner for best film has never failed to receive at least one Oscar nomination. More importantly, every film that has won the top prize from NYFCC has been nominated in a major Oscar category including picture, director, acting and screenplay.


A slower burn for the average cinema-goer, “First Cow” has Oscar potential in categories like best adapted screenplay, which director Kelly Reichardt co-wrote with author Jonathan Raymond. Reichardt herself, a runner-up at Boston Film Critics last weekend, could be vying for one of the five spots for best director, which may present an interesting scenario down the line. Could we be in store for a directing lineup where the women outnumber the men? With Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), Regina King (“One Night in Miami”) and Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”), who also won at NYFCC, the “year of the female director” is a growing award season narrative, despite many women-directed films being postponed due to the pandemic. Only five women have been nominated for best director in the 92-year history of AMPAS.


The best director lineup could also have one or two filmmakers of color. Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” won honors for Delroy Lindo in best actor and the late Chadwick Boseman in supporting actor. Lee was honored with a special award for his short film “New York New York.” “Da 5 Bloods” could be getting a second wind from its June release, resulting in Lee becoming the first Black director to be nominated a second time at the Oscars. To date, only six Black men (and no Black women) have been nominated for best director, none of which have been selected again following their first nod.


Then there’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” from Focus Features, which is building momentum for its debut star Sidney Flanigan. Also a winner at Boston, Flanigan could become a critical darling, but the question is, how far does that take her? For two consecutive years, the NYFCC winner for best actress has not received an Oscar nomination (Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” and Regina Hall for “Support the Girls”). With the film also winning screenplay earlier on Friday, this indie drama can only add to the female filmmaker’s narrative.


Maria Bakalova’s win for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is just what her awards campaign needed, in a category that has been very friendly to comedic performances (examples: Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny” and Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”). The supporting actress is wide open at the moment with no established frontrunner.


In this unconventional awards year, will the group have the same impact? NYFCC along with the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which announces on Sunday, typically have the most influence of the critics’ groups. Normally, Oscar voters would be grabbing DVDs from their screener pile and packing them up for their holiday binge. This year, not as many physical copies have gone out, though many are available on the Academy streaming platform.



Article by: Clayton Davis for Variety.


Read more…


The leaked audio has elicited conflicting opinions about the star's behavior.

The recent angry, curse-filled rant by Tom Cruise may have made international headlines eliciting conflicting opinions about his behavior, but late night talk show hosts in the U.S. took it easy on the actor, mostly agreeing with his message, albeit admitting it was intense.


Audio leaked this week of the star ripping his Mission: Impossible 7 crew for apparently not following proper COVID-19 safety procedures; with some members of the set allegedly not standing more than 6 feet apart. "I don’t ever want to see it again, ever! And if you don’t do it you’re fired! If I see you do it again you’re fucking gone!" Cruise yells among other F-bombs and threats of termination in the audio. Cruise has yet to address the secretly taped rant.


Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon went particularly easy on Cruise, joking more about how he should have been running the nation's response to pandemic from the start. "If Tom Cruise was working in the White House, we could have had the vaccine back in April," Fallon quipped. "For the nine months, that's pretty much how Dr. [Anthony] Fauci has felt on the inside. What's amazing is when Tom delivered that rant, he was hanging off a 163-story building."


Daily Show host Trevor Noah wholeheartedly agreed with Cruise, but joked about the intense delivery. "Now, some people are saying that this is a bad look for Tom Cruise, but I disagree. Yeah, he's mad, but it's for a good cause. It's like getting recorded screaming, 'You guys are in big trouble if we don't get these toys to the Children's Hospital! I want to see happy kids or you'll never work in this town again!' You're angry, but for the right reason. This should teach people just how real this corona shit is because remember, Tom Cruise is not scared of anything. So the fact that he is worried about COVID is a reminder that no one is immune from this virus."


Late Late Show host James Corden mostly agreed with the star's point and said it got him "fired up" about the issue. "I was like, 'Yes, great!' He starts talking about how people are going to lose their job if this film shuts down. Tom Cruise is the tough, but fair stepdad we all need right now. You know we are living in strange times when the most dangerous stunt on the set of Mission: Impossible is when a crewmember gave someone a high-five."


The Late Show With Stephen Colbert went a different direction with the topic, addressing the situation by dubbing Cruise's angry, curse-filled rant over the Santa Claus character in the 1964 claymation classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The way in which it is done makes it appear as though Santa is ripping into his elves for not being safe while preparing his sleigh for Christmas.


Article by: Ryan Parker for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


Adam Mason's pandemic thriller, out now, was the first production to film in Los Angeles post-lockdown.

"There were questions of whether or not we could even have two actors in a shot together."


That's what writer-director Adam Mason faced in the days leading up to filming Songbird, his pandemic thriller that, in July, became the first film to go into production in Los Angeles after the city-enacted COVID-19 shutdowns. The Songbird team, which included producer Michael Bay, had conversations about doing split screens and other tricks to make the movie work, but fortunately, COVID testing became more available just in time to change the script for the better.


"We were able to regularly test and with [COVID] protocols in place, we were able to have actors in the same scene with each other," Mason tells The Hollywood Reporter. "So there was some last-minute, frantic rewriting."


Songbird, out on PVOD from STX, is a film that was shaped by necessity, with a script that evolved on the fly. It featured a small crew and is full of scenes with actors alone or wearing hazmat suits and gas masks to stay in line with safety protocols.


Songbird takes place in a future Los Angeles in which COVID has become even deadlier and raged for several years. It follows the star-crossed romance between a courier named Nico (K.J. Apa), who is immune, and Sara (Sofia Carson), a young woman who must stay at home with her grandmother. In this world, who test positive are sent to a government-mandated Q-Zones, with the cast also including Demi Moore, Bradley Whitford, Craig Robinson, Peter Stormare, Alexandra Daddario and Paul Walter Hauser.


For Mason, his Songbird journey started with heartbreak.


When lockdown began in March, Mason was just days away from filming a passion project, one he'd dreamed about for years. When it was shuttered, along with the rest of Hollywood, Mason was heartbroken, but his writing partner Simon Boyes called him the next day with an idea: they should shoot a no-budget film with friends over Zoom and FaceTime.


"Originally it was going to be a monster movie, with 200-ft. King Kong type monsters roaming around L.A.," says Mason. "Then we shifted that to make something a bit more true to life."


Things went from homemade to Hollywood when producer Adam Goodman read the script and wanted to help, with Michael Bay soon boarding, with the team moving fast to get something out by the end of 2020.


They conducted casting and chemistry reads over Zoom and no role was harder to fill than their leading man, Nico.


Mason hadn't seen Kapa's hit CW show Riverdale, and wasn't sure he was right for the part. But after five minutes on a video call with Kapa — sporting a giant beard and traveling around the country in his truck at the time — Mason knew he'd found his guy. But everything nearly fell apart when Kapa ran into visa issues, making it seem he would not make it to L.A.


"We went back looking for another actor to play Nico, right up until the 11th hour, and just couldn't find anyone at all. It was terrible," says Mason. "A terrifying feeling for me, because Nico and Sara are the backbone of the entire movie."


Then just days before production began, the visa issues cleared up and Mason's two leads had their first chemistry read over FaceTime. The director encouraged his actors to come up with their own backstory for their romance, partially out of expediency.


"The movie was moving like a freight train at that point. It was a question of dividing and conquering," says Mason.


On set, the production used a tiny prototype camera from RED that cinematographer Jacques Jouffret had used on commercials.


"That really opened up the visual canvas of the movie for us," says Mason.


Despite the heavy subject matter, Mason considers Songbird a hopeful film about how people come together during a crisis. While making it, he thought back to stories his 85-year-old father told him about growing up during the London Blitz, which saw Germany bomb the city during World War II.


"A lot of his most formative, happy memories as a child were actually during this terrible time in British history," says Mason. "He would always tell me about this sense of community that rose up out of that and the safety he felt within that community."


For Mason, making Songbird brought unexpected joy during a time of sorrow for the world, and provided him with experiences he didn't think he'd ever have.


Recalls Mason of his surreal experience: "There's Michael Bay over there, filming for my movie. That's something I never thought would happen in my life."


Article by: Aaron Couch for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


A look back at pop culture's boldest breakthroughs of the past 12 months.

Doomscrolling? Not here. By this point in December, after the long and especially tortuous roller coaster that was 2020, there’s no need to recap any of the terrible, no good, very bad headlines of the past 12 months. Instead, why not focus on the people, pairs and phenoms that emerged to delight, soothe and sometimes challenge audiences across the entertainment landscape? Sounds like a much better time, so buckle up for pop culture's boldest breakouts, in no particular order (sharing 31 spots with 36 in total) …


Ziwe Fumudoh

Hollywood is full of mononymous entertainers. Oprah, Cher, Madonna, Adele, Bono, Britney, Pink, Prince, Rihanna, and Zendaya, just to name a few. The year that was introduced one more: Ziwe. The Brooklyn-based comedian, who has written for Desus & Mero and Our Cartoon President, captured a piece of the pandemic zeitgeist by adapting her YouTube show Baited to Instagram Live. Hilariously cringe-worthy chats ensued with the likes of Caroline Calloway, Alison Roman, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan. It was enough to catch the attention of Time editors who dubbed her the “pandemic’s most provocative comedy star," as well as Showtime and A24. The cable network offered her a straight-to-series order for an as-yet-untitled variety series that could be called what Fumudoh’s parents already gave her. (Hint: Starts with Z.)


Nicole Kidman’s Coats in ‘The Undoing’

Post-finale reviews may have been mixed for HBO’s prestige-style whodunnit starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, but there was little dissent regarding Grace Fraser’s full-length outerwear. The overwhelmingly positive consensus was that the show was the perfect showcase for costume designer Signe Sejilund and her *Aretha Franklin voice* “great coats, beautiful coats.”


Mullets: Tiger King, Miley Cyrus, Troye Sivan and Rihanna

Let’s be honest: Mullets have never really gone away away. But, as they say, it only takes three to make a trend and that’s what 2020 delivered — plus one, for good measure. Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage aka Joe Exotic aka Tiger King, the star of Netflix’s pandemic superhit, rocked a bleach blonde mullet with blunt bangs that was seen by 64 million people in the first month after its debut. While that surely led to a few if not many mullets across the globe — especially with a rise in home haircuts — we know of at least three other high-profile examples: Miley Cyrus (basically all year), Troye Sivan (in the Easy music video with Kacey Musgraves) and forever trendsetting Rihanna (in a Fenty show and at dinner at fave Westside hotspot Giorgio Baldi).


Anya Taylor-Joy

The 24-year-old has been on a steady and impressive climb thanks to breakout turns in such films as The Witch, Thoroughbreds and Emma. But toplining Netflix’s megahit The Queen’s Gambit as a pill-popping, chess-playing orphan sent Taylor-Joy into a new stratosphere as it recently set a record as the most-watched scripted limited series ever with 62 million households tuning in during the first 28 days of release. Up next: the ingenue teams with Robert Eggers, Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman on The Northman; Kristin Scott Thomas on her film The Sea Change; and George Miller on his Mad Max prequel playing Furiosa. Check. Mate.


Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors

It almost doesn’t seem quite right to put the Lovecraft Country pair on a list of breakout stars as they separately and respectively have delivered impactful performances in a range of projects for a minute. (Even longer for former child star Smollett whose first job dates back to a diaper campaign she did at 10 months old.) But HBO’s Lovecraft Country offered something new for the 31-year-old Majors and the 34-year-old Smollett as the roles required a bit of everything — from the shock of horror and the physicality of adventure to the gravitas of drama and the ooh-la-la of nearly nude sex scenes. He’ll segue to playing a villain Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantomania while Smollett (who also turned heads in the Harley Quinn pic Birds of Prey) is already at work opposite Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller in Joseph Kosinski’s Spiderhead.


Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones

There was nothing routine about the debut of Hulu’s Normal People, a 12-episode series based on the best-selling book by Sally Rooney, about a pair of Irish teens, Marianne and Connell, who fall in and out of love over many years. It became an instant phenomenon that ultimately led to four Emmy nominations (including one for lead actor 24-year-old Mescal) and global name recognition for the two rising stars. Up next: He stars in a pair of feature directorial debuts (one for Benjamin Millepied on Carmen; other for Maggie Gyllenhaal on The Lost Daughter); while Edgar-Jones, 22, snagged a sought after lead role toplining the adaptation of the acclaimed best-seller Where the Crawdads Sing.



DeuxMoi: IG's Anonymous Gossip Star

As the story goes, an anonymous woman received a work-from-home order from her employer. While sequestered, she made a play to expand a pop culture Instagram account by asking followers to send in random celebrity encounters. The DMs started flying and when she posted screengrabs of the intel — everything from sexual exploits and sandwich orders to tour riders and paparazzi-style images — engagement went off the charts thanks, in part, to the account's unique vocabulary: Anon please! HPDB! Chris Noth trigger warner! Much of the content boils down to the simplest of human interactions — who is nice and who is not — but as the follower count has ballooned (it’s currently north of 512,000), some posts have become can’t-miss dishy content. “Statements made on this account have not been independently confirmed,” reads the disclaimer on the IG bio. Real or not, Hollywood is on alert. A recent exchange featured anonymous studio executives arguing back and forth over hot-or-not not lists of actors-for-hire. Separately, a publicist recently confirmed to THR that many in her field are monitoring the posts in case they need to counter negative comments about clients. That's when you know you've made it.


Michaela Coel

Her second effort as creator-star, HBO’s I May Destroy You, debuted in June and became a critical darling, backed by compliments for how Coel managed to translate the traumatic experiences of her own sexual assault and its aftermath into a buzzworthy limited series. Or, “an ambitious showcase for what makes Michaela Coel such a vital emerging voice,” wrote THR’s Dan Fienberg. Colleague Inkoo Kang added, “Coel set out to tell a kind of rape narrative that had been seldom told before, one whose freshness is as striking as the show's Black British hipster milieu, its children-of-African-immigrants characters and its timely tale of a pop feminist writer who's woefully naive about male manipulation.” Coel, who wrote all 12 episodes and co-directed nine, also proved her business savvy by detailing to Vulture that she turned down a $1 million offer from Netflix because they wouldn’t allow her to retain any percentage of the copyright.


DJ D-Nice and DJ Cassidy

In March, as strict safer-at-home orders spread across the United States, DJ D-Nice hatched a plan to spread good vibes and good beats to anyone in need of a dance break. He hopped on Instagram Live and did a series of marathon sessions that instantly caught fire and the eyeballs of such luminaries as Rihanna, Oprah, Michelle Obama, Janet Jackson and John Legend, and thousands more. “From my kitchen, I’m able to send positive vibrations to each of you,” he posted at the launch of what turned out to be a quarantine hit. “Thank you for rocking with me.” Speaking of rocking, DJ Cassidy also found a way to entertain the masses at home by drafting music icons for a webcast series titled Pass the Mic. It has, thus far, featured LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Run DMC, New Edition, Boyz II Men, Teddy Riley and dozens of others. He parlayed the success into an after-party special Pass the Mic: BET Soul Train Edition that aired in November. "I am forever grateful to my musical heroes for their decades of hope, inspiration, and soul, and with them, I celebrate all the heroes around the world," he said this summer in reference to what inspired him to pass the mic in the first place.


Virtual Cast Reunions

Audiences have long been in love with seeing their favorite casts reunite, and 2020's predominantly virtual reality made it possible for the gangs to get back together from every corner of the globe. And the nostalgia train never stopped. There's too many to list here but some (many for Democratic fundraisers during the campaign cycle) have included Veep, Goonies, The Princess Bride, Elf, Seinfeld, Parks and Recreation, Star Trek, Spinal Tap, The Avengers, Superbad, Dazed and Confused, Private Practice and Happy Days, Hocus Pocus and Rocky Horror Picture Show and others.


Richard and Demi Weitz

In March, as safer at home directives set in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WME partner Richard Weitz scrambled to find a way to celebrate daughter Demi’s 17th birthday. With limited options, he turned to Zoom and opened up his Rolodex by inviting friends (including some world-famous musicians) to join in the virtual party in what turned eventually morphed into a private charity concert series called RW Quarantunes. Over 10 months, Richard and Demi have hosted north of 35 virtual events that have featured hundreds of musicians while becoming one of Hollywood’s buzziest invites and most powerful philanthropic initiatives. To date, they've raised $15 million for causes ranging from COVID-19 relief to social justice. The father and daughter duo have also become media darlings with coverage in dozens of publications and on TV — not to mention a few awards here and there — though they’ll be the first to say it’s always been about giving back: “Brick by brick and dollar by dollar, that’s what is most important,” Richard tells THR. “And we’re not done yet.”


Kendrick Sampson

Sampson marched in support of Black Lives Matter.

Actor and activist Kendrick Sampson founded the BLD PWR initiative in 2019 "as a call to action and invitation to others to join him in taking a stand for social justice," per his bio on the org's website. When the calls for social justice spread far and wide across the globe this summer in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Sampson was there with that invitation. He mobilized marches across Los Angeles, and he stayed in the streets to protest despite the threats and rubber bullets he endured from police. He later used his platform by teaming with Tessa Thompson, Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Melina Abdullah to pen an open letter to Hollywood that was signed by hundreds of creatives and executives as a way to demand change, both in terms of storytelling and access. “Because Hollywood has been a huge part of the problem, we demand it be a part of the solution. We, as Black people, bring immense, immeasurable cultural and economic value to the industry. We are also suffering from the oppression perpetuated by this industry. We have every right to demand this change."



No matter how you cut it, not a lot of pieces are required to tell this story in full: Puzzles and a pandemic proved to be a perfect fit.


Steve Kornacki

The NBC national political correspondent became known by a new name in the wake of his election cycle performance: "Chartthrob." There was such a swell of love for the 41-year-old journalist — and his well-worn khakis — that People editors included him in the Sexiest Man Alive issue and celebrity admirers like Billy Eichner, Leslie Jones and Chrissy Teigen all came out as fans. His popularity even led to a new gig: Kornacki recently appeared on Football Night in America using his charts expertise to make predictions for the NFL playoffs.


Maria Bakalova

Sacha Baron Cohen interviewed upwards of 500 actresses before discovering Bulgaria-born Bakalova to play Tutar Sagdiyev, the 15-year-old daughter of his character in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. During an appearance on Stephen Colbert's Late Show, the Borat mastermind explained why the search was so crucial. "It's a tough order," he said. "You have to be an incredible improviser. You have to be able to stay in character for many, many hours. You have to be able to play the emotions in the reality of the scenes, and you have to be hilarious." That is a tough order, but he found his match in Bakalova, who has received rave reviews for the performance. And Cohen thinks it's one of the best of the year: "If she doesn't win an Oscar, I don't know what the Academy is for."


Jordan Firstman

“Closeted gay filmmaker, actor, writer for thousands of TV shows such as Search Party, The Other Two, Big Mouth and no others,” reads the bio on his Instagram account, which is obviously amusing but doesn’t capture what makes him one of the year’s boldest breakouts. This does: Firstman leaned on his comedic skills to act out a series of “impressions” clips during the pandemic — notable entries include imagining what a publicist might say if their client was banana bread or the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head — with many of the posts going viral and attracting the attention of everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Chrissy Teigen. His IG follower count jumped to 841,000 and positive press has praised him as “the face of lockdown laughter” to “funniest man on the Internet.” He has since collaborated with Versace and recently summed up his schtick by saying, “I am here to make people happy, to make people think a little bit differently, to maybe open some people's minds up into different realities, to teach what I have learned...and above all to make people fucking laugh. And I want to make a little money," he said on Instagram. "I'm also here to be hot, obviously. That's actually number one."


Chloe Fineman

Speaking of pandemic Instagram stars, the Saturday Night Live regular kept the content flowing for her 426,000 followers. And what a stream it's been. There were spoofs of Architectural Digest home tours, a did-they-or-didn't they live-streamed wedding with Casey Thomas Brown, and impressions of everyone from Nicole Kidman to Carole Baskin. The 32-year-old recently kept Jimmy Fallon laughing IRL on The Tonight Show by reciting a version of Twas the Night Before Christmas as such celebrities as Reese Witherspoon, Drew Barrymore, Margaret Thatcher, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Timothee Chalamet and Meryl Streep.


Dick Johnson

In Netflix's Dick Johnson is Dead, auteur Kirsten Johnson gave her father the documentary treatment in the most experimental way by asking him to act out his death in a variety of scenes. Some accidental and some hilarious, but the overall exercise had a serious reason behind it: to allow them to spend time together as his memory faded due to dementia. There's no dimming Dick's shine, though. The 88-year-old emerges as a lovable hero who is so easy to root for even as air conditioners fall repeatedly on his head. Also, try not to cry when he's waiting on his chocolate cake.


Sarah Cooper

On April 23, 2020, Sarah Cooper posted “How to medical” on Twitter, a 49-second clip during which she lip-syncs a series of bizarre statements made by President Donald Trump about proposed COVID-19 cures of UV light and disinfectant. It went viral and has since been viewed more than 24.1 million times on Twitter alone (she also posts to TikTok and YouTube). More than clicks, it pushed Cooper’s brand of Trump comedy into the spotlight and made her one of the summer’s breakout stars thanks to a blitz of impeccably timed skits. Cooper signed with WME and subsequently landed a Netflix comedy special, Everything’s Fine, that got a major boost from creative partners Natasha Lyonne and Maya Rudolph. With Trump on his way out of office, Cooper is intent on proving that 2020 was no fluke: She partnered with Cindy Chupack, Nina Tassler, Denise Di Novi and Joan Boorstein for an adaptation of her book How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings for CBS. “The special made me realize how much I love writing and that there's a lot of things that are really important to me that I want to do," she told THR. "It’s just made me really excited for the future."



“It’s official. We are doing this for the culture. Me and Swizzy gonna go at it.” So said a post from super-producer Timbaland announcing that he and Swizz Beatz were going to go head-to-head by putting their hits up against one another, round by round. The experiment, broadcast on IG Live in March, was so wildly successful, the two created Verzuz Battle, a pandemic phenomenon and must-watch broadcast that has since paired artists like Teddy Riley vs. Babyface, Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott, Brandy vs. Monica, Ludacris vs. Nelly, Lil Jon vs. T-Pain, Gladys Knigth vs. Patti LaBelle, Young Jeezy vs. Gucci Mane, among others. "We found a way to still keep it competitive, classy, educational and where you're celebrating at the same time," Swizz has said. "We just like it that way better." So do the fans.


Kiera Allen

Talk about a debut. The actress’s first feature film, Run, cast her opposite none other Sarah Paulson in a twisted two-hander. Paulson plays an overprotective mother, Allen the doted on yet suspicious daughter who, after being raised in isolation, begins to uncover some unsettling secrets that set off a chain of life-or-death events. Allen, 22, has received raves for the performance, which is also notable in that it is one of the rare instances when Hollywood has cast a true disabled person to play a wheelchair-bound character. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Allen said she’s hoping the film breaks barriers and boosts representation. “This film is unusual in the way it portrays disability, not only in the authenticity of casting, but in the story: This is not a girl who’s made to be a victim or who’s only there to inform another character’s journey,” she said.” She defines her own journey. Her disability is a part of that, but it doesn’t define who she is. It’s similar to the way I view myself.”


Charles Yu

In a few short years, Yu built a diverse Hollywood resume as a writer on such projects as Westworld, Here and Now, Legion and Sorry for Your Loss. He even snagged a couple of WGA nominations for his small-screen efforts but this fall he won a major prize far from the bright lights of Tinseltown when his novel Interior Chinatown was named National Book Award winner for fiction. The prestigious award went to Yu's fourth book which tells the story of Willis Wu, a background player in a procedural cop show titled Black and White that shoots in Golden Palace restaurant. While he dreams of getting promoted to Kung Fu Guy, a lofty role for someone like him, his mother says to him "Be more." More happens as the story unfolds in a way that examines Hollywood tropes and racist stereotypes. "Interior Chinatown represents yet another stellar destination in the journey of a sui generis author of seemingly limitless skill and ambition," said the New York Times, while Hulu called it a TV show with Yu on board to adapt.


Room Rater

When the pandemic forced work from home situations, it opened a virtual world that revealed the backdrops and decor of, well, just about everyone. Enter: Room Rater. Created as a Twitter account (@RateMySkypeRoom) by Vancouver-based Claude Taylor and girlfriend Jessie Bahrey, the duo offer ratings of what they see on a scale of 1-10. A perfect 10/10 has become a most coveted accessory. See below.


'The Social Dilemma' Star Tristan Harris

Jeff Orlowski's documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, explores "the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations," per the official Netflix tagline. No expert figured more prominently in the 1-hour, 34-minute social media shock fest than Tristan Harris. The former Google Design ethicist (and childhood magician) made a media splash before (he even once briefed government leaders on the dangers of the attention economy), but his appearance in Social Dilemma brought renewed attention to the dangers of online behaviors at a time when everyone was at home, on phones and computers, all the time. Harris now serves as co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology and co-host of the Center for Humane Technology's Your Undivided Attention podcast with Aza Raskin.


Radha Blank

The native New Yorker kicked off the year by making a splash at the Sundance Film Festival with The Forty-Year-Old Version, a black-and-white film that she wrote, directed and stars in as a character patterned after herself. It follows a Black female playwright struggling to get her big break in the industry with a milestone birthday looming. About that Sundance splash: Blank won a best director prize during the festival, delivering the most special of homecomings as she had developed the project with support from the Sundance Institute. Netflix also came on board and released the film Oct. 9, positioning it up for awards and critical attention that is sure to come. THR critic Beandrea July wrote, “I can’t wait to see what she does next.”


Elliot Page

The Oscar-nominated star of Juno, Inception and The Umbrella Academy, announced Dec. 1 that he is transgender. "I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self." Page's social media posts were flooded with love from friends, peers and Hollywood admirers including Julianne Moore, Natasha Lyonne, Miley Cyrus, Ruby Rose, Anna Paquin, James Gunn, Lena Dunham, Laura Linney, Indya Moore and countless others. To sum up the sentiments, most went a little something like Mark Ruffalo: "You have made this world a more tolerant and loving place with your commitment, courage, and vulnerability. We are lucky to have public figures like you."


Addison Rae

How can someone with 71.5 million followers on Tik Tok, 32.6 million on Instagram, 4.4 million on Twitter, and 4.52 on YouTube be categorized as a "breakout star"? Well, the 20-year-old Louisiana native did something this year that probably every creator on Tik Tok would love to do — she got cast in a lead role in a studio feature film. Rae is teaming with Tanner Buchanan for He's All That, a remake of the 1999 teen romantic comedy She's All That for Miramax and director Mark Waters. Original star Rachael Leigh Cook is on board to play Rae's mom and even Rae's real-life BFF Kourtney Kardashian will make a cameo.



Harry Styles

OK, again, maybe not quite fair to slot Styles, a world-famous pop star, in as one of the year's most notable breakout performers. But check this out: In a year that marked the release of his second solo studio album, Fine Line, the 26-year-old snagged his first Grammy nominations (three!) for the effort. He went on to make history as the only man to appear alone on the cover of Vogue, and did so in a jacket and dress by Gucci, also another breakout-worthy move. On the Hollywood tip, Styles jumped in to replace Shia LaBeouf in Olivia Wilde's Don't Worry Darling, and sources tell THR that there are more film projects to come. Watch this space!


Los Angeles Dodgers and Lakers

The City of Angels embraced back-to-back championships from its Los Angeles Lakers (over the Miami Heat) and Los Angeles Dodgers (over the Tampa Bay Rays) in 2020. The only downside? It happened during a global pandemic meaning the fans could not be in the stands when it happened. Still, both trophies will surely give Angelenos bragging rights well into next year.


How To with John Wilson

The man who gives his name to How To With John Wilson doesn't actually appear on screen all that much but that's him walking, talking, directing and observing New York City at its best, worst and most scaffolded. Each of the six episodes center on a tutorial of sorts — "How to Make Small Talk," "How to Improve Your Memory," "How to Split the Check" and "How to Cook the Perfect Risotto" – but by the end, while you may have learned a thing or two, you're bound to be doubled over laughing at the absurdity of what Wilson has captured. Or something else. "Wilson's empathy for the simultaneous beauty and ugliness of the city is evident in every frame. In a constant state of montage, How To has the ability to make you snort with laughter, pause in contemplation and even swoon at the poetry of urban space," writes THR critic Daniel Fienberg. Or you can take Kumail Nanjiani's words for it.


Article by: Chris Gardener for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


The final report found only 48 percent of Hollywood workers see "people welcoming and valuing diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives often or very often."

In releasing the final report of The Hollywood Survey, the Hollywood Commission — chaired by Anita Hill — warns that far more work by the entertainment industry is required to convince workers systemic racism can be tackled and that sexual harassers and other power-abusers can be held accountable.


Following its release Tuesday, the survey's final report found Hollywood, amid the #MeToo movement, has made headway tackling the "significant culture and climate issues of harassment and discrimination." But far more needs to be done after the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences launched new representation and inclusion standards for the Oscars, Netflix promised to deposit $100 million in Black-owned financial institutions, and WME and Endeavor Content took steps toward inclusion alongside Michael B. Jordan and Color of Change.


"Change is the sum of our collective efforts. We applaud, encourage and want to amplify these endeavors. But there is far more to do to enshrine diversity and inclusion in the industry’s value system and to bridge the divide between leadership’s intentions and the everyday experience of workers in Hollywood," Hill writes in the report.


The industry survey found just under half of Hollywood workers, or 48 percent, said they saw "people welcoming and valuing diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives often or very often." And only 39 percent of those polled agreed that Hollywood "acknowledges and respects the dignity, unique perspectives and experiences of every person."


Hill, a professor at Brandeis University who brought national exposure to the issue of sexual harassment during the 1991 Senate confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, also warns Hollywood against pulling back on efforts to reduce and even end racism and sexual harassment to pull through the novel coronavirus pandemic.


"The same intent, resolve, exigency and creativity that will soon deliver a safe, effective COVID vaccine can help eradicate the parallel plagues of racism and sexism. Hollywood was born of innovation. It can be rebuilt by it, too," Hill says. But that note of optimism contrasts with the report's findings, which point to sexual harassers and predators in Hollywood too often going unreported and unpunished.


"Despite awareness of unacceptable workplace behaviors, workers reported disappointingly high rates of bias, bullying and sexual harassment. Few reported these behaviors to their employer. Many experienced retaliation," The Hollywood Survey concluded.


While the commission does not investigate allegations and has no enforcement mechanisms, the survey's final report makes a number of key recommendations. That action plan includes making a commitment to "respect, human dignity and inclusion," and to put in place measures to hold offenders accountable.


The commission also urges the entertainment industry to back up its values with new in-house systems because most Hollywood workers reported more resources and options were required to blow the whistle on serious misconduct, including to human resources departments.


The industry is also asked to embrace diversity, not least because it makes good business sense. "The entertainment industry has every reason to do better. The business case for diversity and inclusion is well-established: Diverse companies consistently out-earn non-diverse companies. Diverse and inclusive companies are also more innovative and agile, and weather crisis more effectively. Unsurprisingly, cultures that are inclusive are less likely to experience sexual harassment," Hill wrote in the report.


"Now is the time to recommit to diversity and inclusion as a business imperative, a social mandate and a safeguard against future crisis. Put simply, it is the right thing to do," she added. The survey's findings also urge Hollywood to focus on prevention to avoid recourse to the courts and other legal channels that often do little to tackle sexual harassment and misconduct and can "backfire and often lead to retaliation."


And the survey calls on people in high places to be held to account to put right an industry beset by reports of sexual abuse. The commission found workers had less faith in justice being handed out to serial harassers the higher up the corporate ladder abuse was alleged.


That's after the first exposés on the disgraced former movie mogul and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein launched a national dialogue on sexual abuse. Weinstein faces six new sex assault counts in Los Angeles, but that's barely moved the needle among workers fearing sexual harassment and misconduct in their own workplaces, the report concluded.


"Only 35 percent of our respondents thought it was 'very' or 'somewhat likely' that a powerful harasser would be held accountable for harassing someone with less authority or status, such as an assistant; only 7 percent thought it was 'very likely,'" the survey found. To mitigate against sexual predators acting with impunity, the report urges a limit to confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, more bystander intervention training, creating an ombuds office and publishing reports after allegations are investigated and violators are found and punished.


Those measures were recommended alongside other industry action toward greater diversity and inclusion, like doing more job searches or promotions for people from underrepresented groups, supporting mentorship and career-coaching programs, and investing in more bias-training programs.


And besides prohibiting bullying, the report also calls on workplaces to stamp out minor offenses to avoid worse behavior like discrimination and harassment before they take root. "Respectful behavior is particularly important in preventing sexual harassment because such harassment — especially gender harassment — often takes place against a backdrop of incivility or an environment of generalized disrespect," the report urges.


Article by: Etan Vlessing for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


WarnerMedia’s production partners are eyeing court battles over its day-and-date HBO Max plan, and top talent like Denzel Washington aren't pleased by "woefully inadequate" overtures.

In the aftermath of WarnerMedia’s decision to put its entire 2021 slate of films on its HBO Max streaming service the same day the titles open in theaters, the AT&T division seems to recognize the need for damage control — but not quite how to go about it.


As Hollywood has revolted publicly against the plan, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is making rounds of brief calls to the company’s various creative partners, assuring them breezily that everything will be smoothed over before ringing off. And the offers that follow? One producer involved in the mess tells The Hollywood Reporter that what’s been proposed so far is “woefully inadequate” and “adds insult to injury.”


An agency source references Kilar’s Dec. 13 comment in The New York Times that WarnerMedia is approaching “this situation with a guiding principle of generosity” and offers this response: “You don’t know the definition of generous, dude.”


Part of the problem is that Kilar appears to talk out of both sides of his mouth. Warners threw the entire 2021 slate of movies on HBO Max day-and-date, the company says, because it had concluded that people wouldn’t be returning to theaters by the end of the year. This was even as the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was saying things could be better much sooner than that, and as the world is witnessing planes delivering loads of coronavirus vaccines.


There are those who argue that people will still be reluctant to go to theaters by the end of the year and those who believe people will be very eager to get out of their houses and experience movies on the big screen. But since no one knows for sure, it seems disingenuous to use the pandemic to explain making such a sweeping move for a full year.


While Warners has been telling filmmakers that the move will apply only to 2021 movies, Kilar simultaneously says things like, “At a certain point you do need to lead.” Where is he leading? Is the studio’s destination really consistent with a temporary shift in strategy, necessitated by the pandemic?


Those who come from the digital world believe the revolution is here, and that every movie will stream day-and-date. They cheerfully dismiss industry players like Christopher Nolan — who say the Warners move will destroy the business model that supports film — as Luddites who are resisting the streaming future. But throughout industry history, other outsiders have also had a dangerous tendency to imagine that Hollywood insiders are stupid. It usually ends badly for them.


Filmmakers and stars understand that there’s a pandemic to consider and a digital shift in the works. They know that streaming day-and-date or going without a theatrical release altogether will be routine for many movies going forward; they know the exclusive, weeks-long theatrical window was unsustainable. “None of us are horse-and-buggy people,” says an exec involved in the battle. “We go across all platforms when everyone is in agreement and up-front about it. No one is angry at the streamers — it’s these guys.”


Consider the case of Denzel Washington, whom New York Times critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis just named the greatest actor of the 21st century so far. Most likely, making him very angry was not such a good idea, but sources say that’s what happened as his new detective film, The Little Things, becomes the first one down the WarnerMedia chute.


Like everyone involved with the 2021 slate, Washington was blindsided by the decision to stream day-and-date. Given the pandemic, sources say, he might have been amenable to the move if it had been done transparently the way Warners had handled Wonder Woman 1984. “Many artists would say, ‘As long as we have a fair negotiation, I’m fine,’” says a source involved in the situation.


So Warners could at least partially solve the problem with money, though it hasn’t yet. But even if a Little Things deal is made, that doesn’t address the filmmakers’ unhappiness at being blindsided, nor their concern that the movie is supposed to debut Jan. 29 and Warners, having dismissed veteran Blair Rich, has a leaderless marketing department. Industry insiders note with concern that Warners seems to be purging just about every exec with ties to the studio’s formerly talent-friendly culture — which will have a long-term impact that seems inconsistent with a strategic shift necessitated by the pandemic. (The studio has hired marketing exec Josh Goldstine to consult on Little Things and is rumored to be close to hiring a veteran marketing executive to work across all platforms, which might help the company figure things out.)


More trouble looms with respect to James Wan’s upcoming horror movie, Malignant. A knowledgeable source says Wan, as a producer and director, has an extraordinarily rich deal — 13 percent of first-dollar gross — so he could hardly have been pleased when Warners decided to wipe out the exclusive theatrical window. The same source says the $60 million film was fully financed by Chinese company Starlight Media, which owns all rights.


Warners’ unilateral decision to put the film day-and-date on its own streamer with no deal in place looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen. The source says there is no version of a deal with Warners that does not include an exclusive theatrical release of the film. Starlight is said to be as unhappy as Legendary, which produced Dune as well as Godzilla vs. Kong and plans to fight Warners’ release plan. It doesn’t seem impossible that the two Chinese-owned companies could join forces in litigation against Warners. Legendary declined to comment, and an attorney for Starlight did not respond to a request for comment.


Warners now has to navigate deals with dozens of players. “The poor business affairs lawyers at WarnerMedia — I do not envy them,” producer Jason Blum said on my podcast, KCRW’s The Business. “They have to deal with 17 groups of people who all say, ‘I want to get paid as if my movie did a billion dollars, like you did for Wonder Woman.’ Clearly, they can’t do that, [and] now they’re set up in this super-contentious relationship.”


A source involved with the dealmaking on one film that’s caught up in the new Warners strategy says agencies, producers and talent have to take these talks to the mat: “When you let one company do whatever it wants, it opens the door to another company doing it in different circumstances.”


Article by: Kim Masters for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


A transcendent concert film, a bold #MeToo thriller and stellar dramas from Kelly Reichardt, Chloé Zhao and Eliza Hittman were among highlights of the year, according to THR's chief film critic David Rooney.

What a year. The long drought since the first lockdown in mid-March, at least for those of us in cities like New York and Los Angeles, has meant nine months without the pleasure of settling into a darkened movie theater and being transported away from our mundane concerns. Which were not all that mundane in 2020. So it's almost miraculous that such a stellar crop of standout films emerged, even if we consumed most of them on our home screens.


The relative dearth of big studio releases turned out to be a blessing in disguise in some ways, focusing greater attention on the kind of smaller-scale work that often gets overlooked in the commercial shuffle. But any year in which films I savored as much as Emma, Mangrove, On the Rocks, Sorry We Missed You, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Vast of Night get bumped out of my top 20 seems a signal that vital, creative filmmaking is alive and well.


The profusion of excellent documentaries this year was so ridiculously robust that by rights they should fill out their own separate top 10. So rather than choose just one or two, I'll list a handful of the nonfiction stunners that stayed with me. They include the inspiring story of a marginalized community, Crip Camp; the intimate account of a tireless personal campaign against America's broken justice system, Time; the bittersweet reckoning with mortality, Dick Johnson Is Dead; the all-too-real Orwellian thriller, Coded Bias; and the searing sexual assault investigation, On the Record. Plus there were shocking exposés, of Romania's corrupt health care system in Collective and a horrific government-sanctioned purge of LGBTQ citizens in Welcome to Chechnya. Politics was inescapable in this exceedingly acrimonious election year, and strong docs on our flawed system ranged from Boys State to All In: The Fight for Democracy.


Finally, the natural world spawned two captivating vérité documentaries in The Truffle Hunters, about the dying breed of crusty Italian eccentrics and their dogs that sniff out prized aromatic tubers; and Gunda, a mesmerizing black and white farm hangout, featuring a sow and her piglets, a one-legged chicken and a few cows, which is an adrenaline shot of the purest movie magic.


Read on for my top 10 of the year plus 10 more alphabetized honorable mentions, followed by those of my rock-star colleagues Jon Frosch and Sheri Linden. — David Rooney


  1. David Byrne's American Utopia

OK, so I snuck in one doc. Whether Spike Lee's thrillingly immersive record of this sui generis theatrical concert is the best film of 2020 is open to debate. What I can say with absolute certainty is that the hyper-kinetic hymn to community and connection in a politically divided, environmentally ailing world is by far the most therapeutic time I had at a movie in this trying year of isolation and anxiety. Byrne's show was already something special on Broadway, with the silver-topped, professorial art-rocker flanked by a hard-working multicultural troupe of 11 virtuosic musicians, dancers and backup singers. Lee and nimble DP Ellen Kuras achieve miracles by somehow heightening that joyous experience, putting us right in there among the performers in a concert film that stands proudly alongside Jonathan Demme's landmark in the genre, the Talking Heads jam, Stop Making Sense.


  1. First Cow

There's been some online discussion of whether the tender friendship between John Magaro's diffident baker Cookie and Orion Lee's entrepreneurial Chinese immigrant King-Lu can be considered in a queer space. In my entirely subjective opinion I'm going to say the line between companionship and romantic love all but vanishes in this fine-grained miniaturist Western set on the Oregon Trail in the pioneer days of the 1820s. Kelly Reichardt, independent film's poet laureate of the Pacific Northwest, nods back to her earlier Old Joy in her reflection on the bonds that bloom between men in the wilderness. But the divine golden-brown heifer that provides both the title and the plot driver for this lyrical drama pushes it over the top to make this arguably the finest work of the director's career.


  1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

On paper, Eliza Hittman's delicate chronicle of a Pennsylvania teenager's trip to New York City to terminate an unplanned pregnancy sounds like an issues movie, particularly at a time when the freshly stacked Supreme Court represents a renewed threat to women's reproductive rights. But the raw intimacy of this probing portrait of female friendship and solidarity both acknowledges and transcends the political with its candid snapshot of an ordinary adolescent taking control of her body and finding a safe space to reveal her trauma. The performances of screen newcomers Sidney Flanigan in the central role and Talia Ryder as her unquestioningly supportive cousin are models of restraint, yet heartbreaking in their unguarded authenticity.


  1. Ammonite

Francis Lee burst onto the scene three years ago with God's Own Country, a gay love story of stunning emotional candor and uninhibited carnality, played out against the rugged farmlands of the writer-director's native Yorkshire. He follows with this equally austere but ravishing female companion piece set on the rocky Dorset coast. In slow-burn fashion without a trace of melodrama, it chronicles a fictionalized romance between a gruff mid-19th century working class paleontologist and a well-heeled younger married woman, equally constrained by the prescribed gender roles of the period. Kate Winslet gives the performance of her career in the former role, her character's brittle exterior cracking to reveal a molten core of yearning and desire; and Saoirse Ronan, with her coltish grace and ever-alert eyes, is lovely as the woman who breaks that shell.


  1. Beanpole

Surging color that all but leaps off the screen is not something you expect to find in a drama about two young Leningrad nurses scarred by the psychological, physical and emotional ravages of war. But this audaciously unconventional survival tale from Kantemir Balagov, a wunderkind talent not yet 30, is no ordinary slice of Russian miserablism; its striking visual aesthetic and unexpected shards of acrid humor alone make it unique. As the battlefield comrades trying to scratch out lives for themselves in the devastated aftermath of World War II, transfixing newcomers Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina — both of them plucked out of acting school — draw a complicated friendship that swings between warmth and ferocity, hope and desolation in an environment of grotesque suffering, where PTSD hangs in the air like a dense fog.


  1. Minari

Asian American assimilation dramas generally unfold in coastal cities. So there's an invigorating freshness to Lee Isaac Chung's exquisitely observed Reagan-era story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to get ahead as self-made farmers transplanted from the West Coast to rural Arkansas, a plot inspired by the writer-director's own childhood. That breath of authentic experience, a sharp eye for family dynamics and an attention to seemingly small details enliven every frame of this gentle pastoral piece about hard work and hard luck. With performances of aching sensitivity from Steven Yeun as the stubborn father who dreams big for his family and is reluctant to concede his mistakes, and Yeri Han as the wife whose frustrations well up in anger, this is a heartfelt work whose delicacy lingers long in the memory.


  1. Promising Young Woman

Nothing Carey Mulligan has done before can prepare you for her avenging angel with scuzzy wings and messy lipstick in writer-director Emerald Fennell's knockout debut. This tense thriller — each scene composed with needling precision yet bursting with unexpected danger and laced with the darkest shades of sardonic humor — puts its own provocative spin on the #MeToo narrative around issues of consent and women whose trauma remains unheard. Where Mulligan's bruised badass Cassie fits into the sad history that sparked her revenge spree remains a teasing mystery until well into the film. Even when I was unsure where it was headed as it teeters between satire and sexual assault drama, this remained a white-knuckle ride through to its startling conclusion.


  1. Nomadland

In her poetic and arresting first two features, Songs My Brother Taught Me and The Rider, Chloé Zhao established a spiritual connection to the wide-open landscapes of the American West, using nonprofessional, mostly Native American actors playing versions of themselves and their own stories. Into that seamless blend of documentary-like realism and structured narrative she ushers a major star for the first time, with Frances McDormand as Fern, a widow whose life is uprooted when her mining town home is literally erased. Indistinguishable from the real-life nomads with whom she shares the screen, McDormand adds another indelible character to her gallery of tenacious women, refusing to be a casualty of economic hardship as she discovers both the struggle and the rewards of transient living.


  1. Lovers Rock

During a year in which human contact became a fading memory with anyone outside our immediate circles, there was no more pleasurably tactile escape than this swoon-inducing, sensual dive into a 1980 house party fueled by the slow-groove romantic reggae subgenre that supplies the title. The sole fictional entry in Steve McQueen's powerful Small Axe anthology of five films about West Indian experience in London over two decades, this dreamy, free-flowing narrative keeps the racial hostility of white Britons on the margins even if the intrusion of macho predation from within threatens to break the spell. (Airing on Amazon, Small Axe will be eligible for the Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series Emmy, though McQueen has said he considers each installment a film.) A scene in which Janet Kay's 1979 hit, "Silly Games," plays out on the turntable and the people crammed into a suburban living room continue singing … and singing, is a moment of sheer musical rapture and liberation.


  1. Bacurau

There are whispers of Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and Walter Hill in co-directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles' bonkers Brazilian Western, a formally inventive, epic blend of pulpy violence with sly absurdism and subversive sociopolitical commentary. This genuine genre-bender flips the usual script on innocent tourists at the mercy of crazed off-the-grid yokels, instead dropping in a bunch of heavily armed white First World blood-sports enthusiasts to prey on remote rural villagers, the disenfranchised poor seen as disposable. But the thrill-killers don't bargain on an underclass rebellion from townsfolk already pissed about a crooked election, Sonia Braga's boozy flame-haired doctor included.


Honorable mentions: The Assistant, Da 5 Bloods, The Forty-Year-Old Version, The Invisible Man, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, News of the World, The Old Guard, One Night in Miami, The Surrogate, Wolfwalkers



Jon Frosch's Top 10

  1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  2. Nomadland
  3. An Easy Girl
  4. Ammonite
  5. Promising Young Woman
  6. The Forty-Year-Old Version
  7. The Climb
  8. Beanpole
  9. The Surrogate
  10. Da 5 Bloods


Honorable mentions: And Then We Danced, Crip Camp, David Byrne's American Utopia, First Cow, Fourteen, The King of Staten Island, One Night in Miami, 76 Days, Swallow, Time



Sheri Linden's Top 10

  1. Beanpole
  2. Gunda
  3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  4. Promising Young Woman
  5. One Night in Miami
  6. Bacurau
  7. 76 Days
  8. First Cow
  9. Ammonite
  10. The Forty-Year-Old Version


Honorable mentions: Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Crip Camp, David Byrne’s American Utopia, La Llorona, My Darling Vivian, The Painter and the Thief, The Surrogate, Tesla, The Truffle Hunters


Articles by: David Rooney, Jon Frosch, Sheri Linden for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


Justin Theroux and Pierce Brosnan also star.

Hulu has picked A24 feature False Positive starring Ilana Glazer.


The movie follows Lucy (Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux) who, after several attempts of trying and failing to get pregnant, finally find their dream fertility doctor in the illustrious Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). But after becoming pregnant with a healthy baby girl, Lucy begins to notice something sinister through Hindle's gleaming charm.


Gretchen Mol, Sophia Bush and Josh Hamilton also star in the feature, which is due out in 2021.


John Lee directed from a script he co-wrote with Glazer. Jonathan Wang, Glazer and Lee produced.


Hulu, which counts Run and Happiest Season as recent acquisitions, has previously worked with A24 on the original series Ramy.


Article by: Mia Galuppo for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


Summerville discusses creating the stylish looks in black and white for the actress, who plays star Marion Davies in the new David Fincher film.

When costume designer Trish Summerville first started working on David Fincher’s new Netflix film Mank, “even people in my crew and friends were like, ‘This would probably make things so much easier.” That’s because the film is shot in black and white. In fact, though, the opposite was true. “It actually made it a bit more difficult,” says Summerville. “When you shoot in color, you have all these different shades and tones you can work with and you can do stuff that’s tone on tone.”


What she found out — while researching the period and visiting costume rental houses, where she took photos of garments in black and white — is that not only are many options are no-go but that other problems present themselves.

“Prints became very difficult — if they had too much contrast in the colors, they popped and became very confetti like. [And] you can’t just use black and white [clothes],” says Summerville, who previously worked with Fincher on Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. “White pops too much. Black absorbs too much and goes away.” For example, in a funeral scene in the film ­ — which stars Gary Oldman as screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz during the writing of Citizen Kane — Summerville used an array of other colors to read as black on screen. “A lot of it is navies and browns and grays and reds and burgundies and eggplant, because black just looks so flat,” she says.


One of the standouts of the film is actress Amanda Seyfried’s pitch-perfect performance as Marion Davies, the mistress of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Her glamorous wardrobe is a showstopper as well. Early in the film, in a scene where Seyfried plays Davies (who’s playing a character who’s about to be burned at the stake), the actress wears a beautiful white dress paired with a capelet. Summerville describes the outfit as “kind of an eggshell chiffon that has very fine ribbon detail through each seam, all layers of chiffon. The piece over the top, the silk capelet, is more of an ecru. All the fabric gave us a lot of texture.”


In another scene, a birthday party at Hearst Castle for MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, where Davies is a focal point, “I wanted her to look extremely glamorous,” says Summerville. “We found this fabric that is like an antique gold lamé. Lamé became kind of a big evening fabric in the '30s. It was bias cut, so very body hugging and very fitted, and then I wanted the sleeves to contrast that and have a lot of movement and flow.” Summerville also notes the outfit Davies wears when she leaves MGM, “That’s a muted periwinkle blue with a faux-fur gray mink collar. We made this really interesting sleeve that was fun.”


For Summerville, one of the more fun scenes to do was a circus-themed party held at Hearst Castle where Seyfried wears a drum majorette outfit with feathered short sleeves, a fairly direct recreation of what Davies actually wore that night. “We found images of that in [Davies’ own] book — she had a lot of photographs of all of the different parties and personal photographs of her and Hearst — and through other research we were able to find photos of her and all the different people that attended,” says Summerville.


“The people we didn’t have images of I kind of just decided what I would like them to wear. I thought it was fitting since L.B. Mayer ran MGM to dress him as a lion tamer.” She did make one conspicuous change though from what was documented, deciding against showing Hearst wearing the actual bow tie he wore that night. “It was massive and polka dotted. It was a little too much. I didn’t want him to look comical.”


For research, Summerville also looked to histories of MGM as well as books about famed costumer Edith Head, who worked at rival studio Paramount. Head is actually an Easter Egg in the film, reveals Summerville: “In a backlot scene at MGM we dressed someone like Edith Head. She’s walking toward camera toward a rack of clothing.”


Summerville, who is currently working on her next film, Slumberland, starring Jason Momoa, Kyle Chandler and Chris O’Dowd, recently screened Mank in her own backyard. “I wanted to see it big. We actually put up a screen and showed it with a projector on a Saturday night which was really quite nice. We got to have that drive-in movie feel but being in our own backyard and had popcorn and champagne. It was kind of fitting for the mood. It just looks so beautiful and so authentic.”


Article by: Degen Pener for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


The Hollywood Reporter's movie reviewers discuss screen vets showing new shades of their talent, celebrate remarkable work from women and newbies, and rejoice in the actors who offered moments of mirth (thank you, Radha Blank) in a year of sadness and sameness.

JON FROSCH: Isn't it weird to think that last time we did this was just a few months before the pandemic hit, scrambling our lives and the art and industry we cover? Much has changed about our job — including the way we experience actors and acting. Taking in a performance on a laptop or TV, no matter how big, just isn’t the same; there’s something to be said for getting lost in a face as it literally looms large before you on a movie screen — and for feeling the power and pleasure of great acting collectively, with fellow moviegoers gasping, giggling, sniffling or craning their necks alongside you.


In a way, though, acting and actors have become even more meaningful since coronavirus struck — a source of comfort, catharsis and excitement at a time of, at best, anesthetizing sameness and, at worst, crushing sadness. Acting is also a craft that’s less adversely affected by the decisive shift toward home viewing; I’ve found that many of the performances I loved most in 2020 shine right through the sometimes shoddy visual quality of streaming and screeners.


SHERI LINDEN: I too miss the enveloping darkness of the theater, and the chance to get lost in that dream world of the big screen. But as you say, Jon, there’s a particular comfort in connecting with performances now, across the short distance between us and a laptop or TV. Even within the physical limitations of our pandemic viewing, a riveting performance is a riveting performance.


FROSCH: The range of terrific acting this year is striking — from the volcanic (Delroy Lindo’s tortured, MAGA-loving Vietnam vet in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, perhaps the greatest turn yet from a reliably riveting performer) to the self-effacingly quiet (Tallie Medel as the long-suffering but steel-spined childhood BFF of a troubled 20-something, played by the equally superb Norma Kuhling, in Dan Sallitt’s stealth stunner Fourteen).


Lindo is one of several screen heavyweights who showed us new shades of their talent. Another is Frances McDormand. I was starting to suspect that we were finally reaching the limits of her already formidable craft — that she was, in the magnificent Olive Kitteridge and her Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, settling into an ornery, eccentric screen persona that seemed an extension of her notoriously no-nonsense real-life personality. Could a McDormand performance still surprise us?


I wasn’t sure based on the early scenes of Chloé Zhao’s soulful epic of American restlessness and resilience, Nomadland, in which the actress plays an economically strapped widow who moves into her van and hits the road. There was the flinty, folksy Fran we know, with her close-cropped hair and creased face, the mischievous glint in her eye and clipped Midwestern cadences.


But the performance deepens — almost imperceptibly at first, then astonishingly — into a moving portrait of a woman who doesn’t cling to her independence so much as she nurtures and protects it. Fern has been brutally uprooted, and damned if she’s going to let it happen again. At the same time, as played by McDormand, she’s sustained by her zest and curiosity, her ability to remain alive to the world around her — from the splendor of the Western landscapes she travels through to the fried chicken she bites into for one of many solo dinners in her van. It’s McDormand’s purest work yet — and, in its groundedness, a perfect contrapuntal complement to the movie’s lyricism.


DAVID ROONEY: Yes — I admired how she and Zhao resist letting Fern be defined by her economic difficulties. We’ve seen plenty of indie dramas about the American underclass and the casualties of industrial death. But this fine-grained portrait of a woman who takes each hardship in stride and carves out a new chapter for herself with uncomplaining fortitude, finding a romantic kinship with Old West drifters and itinerant laborers, is poetic and strangely uplifting — without ever glossing over the bleak reality.


Zhao has drawn impeccable performances from nonprofessional actors in her earlier movies. So working with a two-time Oscar-winning star might have risked rupturing the delicate alchemy of her films. But McDormand’s immersion in the role is so rigorously unmannered she’s indistinguishable from the real-life nomads that are her frequent scene partners. It’s a magnificent performance without an ounce of vanity.


LINDEN: Although the mix of professional actors and real-life nomads wasn’t seamless for me, McDormand is never less than compelling. It’s exciting to still be surprised and moved by actors we’ve been watching for years. Another example is Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It’s a thrilling performance, the kind that pulls you in from the get-go because you’ve never seen anything quite like it. Unapologetically un-lovely, Ma Rainey, in this adaptation of August Wilson’s play, is an extraordinary role for a woman. Davis has never been hampered by vanity, as past scenes of snot-dripping emotion attest. Here there are no sorrowful meltdowns, only explosive anger and unwavering demands as Ma, with her stomping stride and gold-capped teeth, throws her weight around, prompting grown men to scurry. She’s vibrantly alive, and there’s power in her every no: She’s a Black woman who knows her talent and her worth in 1927 America.


FROSCH: Other well-known actresses who did work that felt creatively revitalizing included Marisa Tomei, luminous and as funny as she’s been in ages as a woman caught between her screw-up son (Pete Davidson) and a new beau (Bill Burr) in Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island; Diane Lane, conveying a toughness steeped in sorrow as a frontier woman on a mission to rescue her grandson from a clan of crazies in Let Him Go; and, best of all, Kate Winslet as the proud, fiercely private paleontologist in Ammonite, drawn out of her carapace by an unhappy society wife played by Saoirse Ronan — though her true love may, in fact, remain her work.


Whereas last year we all agreed it was the men who dazzled — Driver, Banderas, Pitt, Chalamet and more — this year was clearly much richer for women.


ROONEY: Agreed. The grace with which Lane’s character carries both her sorrows and her fears in Let Him Go — her selfless heroism — made me miss the days when studio films about heartland women whose quiet tenacity represents the backbone of their families provided meaty roles for actresses like Sissy Spacek, Jessica Lange and Sally Field.


No piece of acting in 2020 cut deeper for me, however, than Winslet’s career-best work in Ammonite, Francis Lee’s elemental love story about Mary Anning, the working-class 19th century paleontologist whose heart, as depicted here, is as forbidding as the West Dorset coastline she combs for rare fossils. The softening of her face from resentment and self-denial to transporting release as she falls for the fragile young scientist’s wife (played by Ronan with a flickering curiosity) was the most moving transformation I experienced in a performance this year.


LINDEN: It’s a magnificently gruff performance, invigorated by the anger that results when the culture around you fails to recognize you on your own terms. Though her accomplished but unsung character lives in relative obscurity in 19th century England, she has a lot in common with Davis’ blues-belting Ma Rainey: She doesn’t give a damn what people think of her, and she too moves through space with a purposeful tromp that becomes its own form of grace, rooting her to the earth and her life’s work.


FROSCH: Speaking of career bests, what about Carey Mulligan in Emerald Fenell’s delicious and devastating black comedy/revenge thriller Promising Young Woman? I’ve never been the biggest Mulligan fan, always finding her performances a bit studied and distancing. But here she’s cast against type as a contemporary femme fatale with a naughty purr, a luxuriant head of bleach-blond hair (think Britney circa 2000) and a doozy of a vendetta. And it’s precisely Mulligan’s natural guardedness that makes her so captivating in the part; her character, Cassie, is full of secrets, and the actress laces every line with a mesmerizing mix of sardonicism and sincerity that keeps you guessing.


Like McDormand, Davis and Winslet, Mulligan never softens the woman she’s playing for the sake of palatability. Even when the film floats the notion that Cassie’s ice-cold fury may be melted by the love of a nice guy (Bo Burnham) — their sweet grooving to Paris Hilton’s "Stars Are Blind" in a pharmacy aisle is one of the year’s most deceptively romantic movie moments — Mulligan exudes wariness. She never lets us fully believe that this twisted heroine could be so easily "reformed." She also forces us to realize that we wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, want her to be.


ROONEY: I loved Mulligan’s breakthrough in An Education, yet found her choices after that less interesting. But this movie really rips up the template of her screen persona and builds something entirely new from scratch. The hurt and rage at war with one another, the dangerous sense of purpose as she systematically pursues her revenge plan, the flickers of doubt as she recalibrates when an encounter takes an unexpected turn — so many layers in that characterization. Dark, devastating stuff, but also bristling with a savage sense of humor.


LINDEN: It feels to me as if the experiences and emotions that have fueled the #MeToo movement have made their way to the screen, finding full-blooded expression in many of the year’s most memorable performances. That’s the case in Promising Young Woman, and also in Kitty Green’s The Assistant, movies that deal directly — but through rich, exciting artistry — with misogyny and sexual abuse.


I, too, was on the fence about Mulligan, and to say her latest performance turned me into a believer would be putting it mildly. She delivers a breathtaking high-wire act as an avenging angel, one who hatches schemes of jaw-dropping complexity and at the same time, to quote Joe Jackson, dresses "in pink and blue just like a child." Her character’s judging gazes and gum-chewing silences are the stuff of pure, nail-biting suspense.


A different kind of suspense infuses Julia Garner’s exquisitely contained performance as the title character in The Assistant. Working in the office of a Weinstein-esque producer, her Jane is a newbie to the world of cutthroat Hollywood dealmaking, but she’s already learned, it seems, to barely breathe. Garner’s slender, pale physicality serves the role perfectly — as an adjunct to a powerful man, Jane isn’t permitted to take up space — but even as the character holds her breath and her tongue, the actress taps into a profound, life-shaping tension in her every gesture and glance.


Late in the film, there’s a long take of her through a window, an image that pulses with a wintry chill and an Edward Hopper sense of loneliness in the big city. What makes the moment devastating is the way Garner has summoned such depths of quick-witted intelligence, clear-eyed resentment, exhaustion and courage, and brought them, masterfully, just beneath the surface.

ROONEY: It’s an extraordinary performance, one that got under my skin by the subtlest of means. Whether she’s mutely absorbing the tirade of abuse spewed down the phone by that unseen monster boss, or slowly waking up to the absurd naivete of thinking Matthew Macfadyen’s slimy HR director would ever be an ally in their spine-chilling single scene together, Garner pushes Jane to near breaking point but always stops just short of letting her shatter. Her phone conversations with her parents — where she glosses over the quotidian horror of her workdays by saying only how "busy" she’s been — are gut-wrenching.


LINDEN: Delivering equally indelible, soul-shaking impressions were two pairings of feature first-timers: Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina in the harrowing yet ravishing Beanpole, and Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in Never Rarely Sometimes Always. The first, a drama from Kantemir Balagov, is set in a war-ravaged 1945 Leningrad where two friends are driven beyond mere survival to life-and-death extremes; in the second, Eliza Hittman’s contemporary story follows teenage cousins on a mission to secure a legal abortion. Both pairs are seeking safety, meaning and self-determination, and the actors inhabit these portraits of female friendship in ways that feel miraculous.


ROONEY: Considering the stakes of Never Rarely Sometimes Always, what’s most remarkable about the lead performances is their emotional minimalism. The courage, fears and resilience of these two young women, who travel from Pennsylvania to New York City to terminate an unplanned pregnancy, are beautifully rendered in dialogue that skirts their feelings, letting the actors’ faces do the work. Restraint is such a defining note of this haunting drama that the moment when director Hittman locks in on the eyes of Flanigan’s Autumn as she answers the questions of an abortion clinic counselor, her shame, regret and humiliation tear your heart out.


FROSCH: I love that Flanigan never plays Autumn as wise or sensitive beyond her years; she’s an average teen, complete with eye rolls, mood swings and "whatevers," caught up in a supremely stressful situation. For most of the film, she’s mainly tired and hungry.


In the clinic scene, when Autumn’s façade quietly crumbles, Flanigan’s face reflects "shame, regret and humiliation," as David puts it — but also, perhaps, relief at this counselor’s compassion, the offering of a space to disclose her trauma without any pressure to elaborate on it. Hittman never fleshes out the backstory behind the past abuse Autumn alludes to — as if to say that it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Flanigan embodies the devastation of that ordinariness with stunning authenticity and nuance.


Ryder, with her big dewdrop eyes, looks more like a typical movie star. But she’s an equally unfussy, un-self-conscious performer, registering Skylar’s (relative) maturity and loving protectiveness through concerned glances and gently supportive smiles. These are gorgeously in-sync performances — a hushed duet that reaches a climax in a breathtaking shot of the two young women’s pinkies interlocked at an unexpected moment.


LINDEN: Like Hittman’s film, Balagov’s poses urgent questions about women’s bodies and destinies, but the friendship it depicts is complicated by deprivation and extreme trauma. In a city whose people no less than its infrastructure have been hollowed out by war, Viktoria Miroshnichenko’s Iya, a hospital nurse and former soldier, is among the most haunted. With her reedy, towering height, white-blond pallor, and the fugues of paralysis that grip her, she seems like a hovering ghost. But though Iya’s connection to the living can feel tentative, in Miroshnichenko’s remarkably unforced portrayal, an elemental joy and longing burst through the stillness.




There’s an eloquent ferocity to her vulnerability, one that’s matched by Perelygina’s turn as the sturdier Masha, who served with Iya at the front and bears her own, less obvious wounds. They’re very different characters, and their need for each other shifts in ways that the actors navigate with aching, at times astounding, intensity. Iya’s response to calamitous events is silent withdrawal; Masha responds by pushing back into life with a desperate zeal. As their characters climb through the shards of hope and ruin, these screen newcomers forge an unforgettable bond out of shouted pleas, negotiated arrangements and unspeakable sorrow.


ROONEY: Another of 2020’s great screen newcomers was Jasmine Batchelor in Jeremy Hersh’s The Surrogate. She gives a performance of breathtaking range as Jess, a young Black woman who agrees to be a surrogate and egg donor for her white, gay best friend and his husband. When prenatal testing reveals complications, Jess is thrown into a turmoil of intense psychological introspection and raw feeling. She’s maddeningly saintly and judgmental at times, level-headed at others, tough and intractable, but ultimately alone in shouldering the weight of a momentous decision.


FROSCH: Anyone who’s ever eavesdropped on a conversation in a Brooklyn (or Los Feliz) coffee shop — oh, those were the days — will recognize hyper-articulate, liberal-arts-educated, cheerfully “woke” Jess. But Batchelor peels back the layers to reveal a young woman struggling with her own inner conflicts of identity, belonging and privilege, as well as what it means to be a good, progressive person today. Though Jess is unimpeachably compassionate, there’s a naïve, overcompensating quality to that compassion, a narcissism and neediness that have a distorting effect on all her good intentions. Yet while I was frequently frustrated with Jess, there was never a moment I didn’t feel deeply for her.


Sheri, you mentioned suspense as key to Mulligan’s and Garner’s turns; I found that in Batchelor’s as well. Jess is a living, breathing work in progress, and the actress makes you feel urgently invested — nervous, but finally hopeful — in how she’ll turn out.


ROONEY: It’s interesting that so many of the performances we responded to are from actors — women in particular — etching characters with ineffable delicacy in films that might have struggled to be noticed in a normal year of bigger releases. If any good can come out of the dispiriting grind of 2020, maybe it’s a heightened appreciation for intimate, understated work that stirs our addled brains and ailing hearts without the need for showboating arias.


I’m thinking of minor-key turns like Nicole Beharie’s as a single mother and former pageant winner in small-town Texas in Miss Juneteenth. The way her naturally luminous qualities play in counterpoint to the backstory of disappointment is just lovely, all of it channeled into her vicarious hopes for her rebellious teenage daughter. Yeri Han’s stoical wife, increasingly at odds with her husband, played with piercing sensitivity by Steven Yeun, in the exquisitely tender Minari had a similar effect on me.


I also adored Carrie Coon in Sean Durkin’s The Nest as a disillusioned wife who might almost be a descendant of Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Her lacerating glances and tart words in two mirroring restaurant scenes reveal that the foundations of her marriage to Jude Law’s hungry class-climber are in ruins. But it’s the emotional wreckage beneath her bitterness that really stings.


FROSCH: Another bracing spin on the unhappy-suburban-spouse archetype came from someone who, to be honest, had barely been on my radar: Haley Bennett in Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ creepy, moving body-horror Swallow. As a housewife suffering from a disorder that compels her to ingest dangerous objects, she delivers the kind of heightened, go-for-broke performance full of “choices” — her breathy, tremulous vocal delivery echoed in my head for days — that could have made it feel like a stunt. But Bennett grounds the character in a poignant loneliness (the way she asks her mother-in-law, just dropping by, to stay for grilled cheese and tomato soup nearly broke me), conjuring a deep, dark inner life beneath the smiley Stepford sheen.


A performance I think I liked a bit more than you two was Vanessa Kirby’s in Kornél Mundruczó’s admittedly uneven Pieces of a Woman, about a couple rocked by the sudden death of their newborn. I was less interested in her bravura breathing and moaning in the harrowing homebirth-gone-wrong sequence, or her teary courtroom speech, and more impressed by what she does in between — how much she withholds. It takes a magnetic performer to make numbness and emotional inertia captivating, but that’s what Kirby accomplishes here, creating a gripping portrait of a woman who responds to a traumatic event by shutting down and shutting off. You search Martha’s face for the usual signs of movie grief, but they’re not there. What you discover instead is a preternatural — if dazed — coolness and poise that become the character’s revolt against not just the tragedy that befell her, but the expectations of what her response should look like. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen bereavement played quite like that; there’s something counterintuitive about the performance that I found fascinating, and haunting.


LINDEN: Pieces of a Woman didn’t, um, hold together for me beyond the home-birth sequence. And as impressive as Kirby is in that tense and traumatic scene, it’s the supporting characters played by Shia LaBeouf (as the father-to-be) and Molly Parker (as the doula) who fascinated me. In their watchful, and increasingly worried, silences, the actors etch portraits that are as specific and lived-in as they are unembellished.


I could go on for pages extolling this year’s supporting actors, but I’ll single out Alison Brie’s phenomenal turn in Promising Young Woman. Of Brie’s two scenes in the movie, the first is a drop-dead knockout. Across a restaurant table, she and Mulligan engage in an enthralling thespian tennis match: You can sense them upping each other’s game, just as their characters — Mulligan’s heat-seeking missile and Brie’s troubling figure from the past — suss each other out. To watch Brie’s carefully put-together Madison turn into prey, sliding from smug to wary to sloppy drunk, is alarming, but in the exaggerated reality of this film, it’s the stuff of unadulterated exhilaration.


ROONEY: Switching gears to the great male performances of the year: I don’t think there’s been a screen couple that touched me more in recent times than John Magaro’s Cookie and Orion Lee’s King-Lu in First Cow, a quietly ravishing companion piece to an earlier Kelly Reichardt portrait of male friendship in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, Old Joy.


Cookie’s self-effacing humility seems worlds away from the mercurial pragmatism of the more inscrutable King-Lu, and yet from the moment these strangers come together they form the perfect partnership, a tender union of cultural opposites. They not only relieve one another’s solitude but also open a door together to pioneering American enterprise with a scheme that aptly combines opportunity with shady opportunism.


Meanwhile, Kingsley Ben-Adir was a major discovery as the lynchpin of Regina King’s very fine ensemble in One Night in Miami. It’s hard to put a fresh stamp on a figure so indelibly etched in the iconography of the civil rights movement as Malcolm X. But the laser focus, urgency, even the moments of supercilious manipulation this charismatic British actor brings to Malcolm make him a figure of towering complexity that’s all the more tragic because we know the fate that awaits him just a year later.


LINDEN: The chemistry among the four actors in One Night in Miami affected me in ways I wouldn’t have expected. Beyond body language and vocal timbre, Ben-Adir, Leslie Odom Jr. (as Sam Cooke), Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown) and Eli Goree (Muhammad Ali) each find the essence of their famous character as they debate matters of political activism and Black identity. The ways they validate and challenge one another build so effortlessly that the final sequence hit me like a sock to the solar plexus — in a good way! — with its simple but profound beauty. That scene belongs to Odom’s Sam Cooke, who earlier in the film is put on the defensive for not being overtly political. He responds confidently, but the actor reveals glimmers of an itch, an awakening, a spark. The film believes that pop culture stars can be heroes, and when Odom opens his mouth to sing one from the heart, I know it to be true.


FROSCH: Ben-Adir and Odom are two of my faves of the year. The flashback to Cooke’s ingeniously improvised, grunting, foot-stomping, audience-rousing a cappella performance of "Chain Gang" — a memory recounted by Malcolm with the all the awestruck admiration underlying his frustration with his friend — gave me goosebumps. Ditto the number Sheri mentions: Cooke/Odom’s searingly inhabited rendition of "A Change Is Gonna Come" over the film’s final frames.


ROONEY: No discussion of the great actors of 2020 would be complete without mentioning the loss of Chadwick Boseman. But what a gift he left us with two such richly distinctive farewell performances. As the deceased spiritual leader of the soul brotherhood in Da 5 Bloods, Boseman appears as a ghost with an exhaustive knowledge of the Black man’s sacrifices for white America, and his indignation burns beyond the grave. In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, he breathes solemn grandeur into the cocky trumpeter Levee, whose blistering anger is traced back to childhood trauma in a monologue that leaves him, and us, wrung out and enraged. It’s a monumental turn in a grand theatrical tradition, but it’s the wounded humanity beneath the lyrical torrent of words that makes them scald.


FROSCH: Boseman’s passing was a crushing blow in a year all too full of them. And it seems that just when we really needed movies to lift our spirits and make us laugh, there weren’t many around that did so. Still, a few comedic performers in 2020 instantly became people I’d watch in anything: the charismatic and hilarious Radha Blank as a New York playwright turned rapper in her wonderful The Forty-Year-Old Version; Cooper Raiff, turning a heart-on-his-sleeve, homesick college student into a fresh and thoroughly modern male rom-com lead in the unfortunately titled charmer Shithouse; and the guffaw-inducing Maria Bakalova, who upstages Sacha Baron Cohen as the title character’s feral daughter in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Just thinking of those three is a pick-me-up.


ROONEY: Couldn’t agree more about the gloriously funny Blank. Not least because her movie helped fill the depressing void left by the shutdown of New York’s stages since March with some wickedly sharp observations about the excruciating cluelessness of the woke white theaterati. I howled at Blank’s reaction when stage vet Reed Birney’s smarmy producer tells her he’s looking for a book writer for his Harriet Tubman musical. I also winced because there’s definitely a world where that could happen.


And I was in heaven watching Candice Bergen in irresistibly brittle form as the estranged college friend reunited with Meryl Streep’s self-important author and sweating resentment from every pore in Steven Soderbergh’s oddball delight Let Them All Talk.


LINDEN: I was also buoyed by The Forty-Year-Old Version’s ferociously smart Blank, who breathes new life into the double-take and the wry line reading, and delightedly aghast at Bakalova’s gutsy real-world interactions, the subversive heart of the Borat sequel. One of the most deliciously funny performances I saw this year was by Catherine Deneuve in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first non-Japanese-language film, The Truth: The French star’s slyly self-mocking portrayal of a famous actress rides a delirious wave of imperious put-downs and self-involvement.


FROSCH: Ever-regal Deneuve muttering, "I had too much lasagna," still makes me laugh when I think about it. Talk about humanizing a legend! One of the most relatable lines of this very strange year.


Article by: Jon Frosch, Sheri Linden, David Rooney for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


8262895052?profile=RESIZE_710xTo many insiders, WarnerMedia's blindsiding of talent and their reps with news that it would send 17 films directly to HBO Max in 2021 felt like an insult.

For many in the movie business — producers, directors, stars and their representatives — Dec. 3, 2020, is a day that will live in infamy.

“Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service,” filmmaker Christopher Nolan, whose relationship with Warners dates back to Insomnia in 2002, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.


Added Nolan: “Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”


On that now-infamous morning, Ann Sarnoff — whose ungainly title is chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group — and Warner Bros. film studio chairman Toby Emmerich called the heads of the major agencies to drop a bombshell: Warners was about to smash the theatrical window, sweeping its entire 17-picture 2021 film slate onto its faltering HBO Max streaming service, debuting them on the same day they would open in whatever theaters could admit customers.


Surprisingly to some in the industry, sources say the idea was the brainchild of Warner Bros. COO Carolyn Blackwood who, looking at a relatively weak 2021 slate, saw an opportunity to avoid the humiliation of potentially bad grosses while currying favor with streamer-obsessed higher-ups.


The instant response in Hollywood was outrage and a massive girding for battle. “Warners has made a grave mistake,” says one top talent agent. “Never have this many people been this upset with one entity.” Like others, he had spent much of the day dealing with calls from stunned and angry clients. And that swooshing sound you hear? It’s the lawyers, stropping their blades as they prepare for battle: that Warners was self-dealing in shifting these movies to its own streamer, perhaps, or that the company acted in bad faith. Some talent reps say the decision affects not only profit participants but others who have worked on films as the move might affect residual payments. They expect and hope that the guilds will get involved. (The Writers Guild of America declined to comment.)


The Warners move poses big, maybe even existential questions: How do theaters survive this supposedly onetime, excused-by-the-pandemic move? Genies are hard to put back in the bottle — and no one believes Warners intended this to be temporary, anyway. What damage will be done to exhibitors by training customers that if they sit on their sofas, the biggest movies will come? And will Warners face serious backlash from important producers, filmmakers, guilds and onscreen talent? “Warners was the quintessentially talent-friendly, filmmaker-friendly studio,” says one agent. “Now Warners isn’t the first place, second place or third place you want to go.”


Many in Hollywood think WarnerMedia opted for this drastic move to play to streaming-infatuated Wall Street and redo the botched launch of HBO Max, which has netted a dismal 8.6 million "activated" subscribers so far. But one prominent agent notes that the top executives at WarnerMedia and its parent — AT&T CEO John Stankey, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar and, of course, Sarnoff — “don’t understand the movie business, and they don’t understand talent relations.”


While Kilar pays what is seen as lip service to movies, industry veterans say Warners is sacrificing the huge profit that comes from selling movies in multiple formats and on multiple platforms around the world.


Even before Warners made its play, there was grumbling among agents that Sarnoff, who has been on the job for more than a year, had yet to get acquainted with key players on the film side or make much of an impression at all. That’s why many are focusing their wrath on Emmerich. “Toby’s passion is only about managing up,” says one agent who represents major Warners talent.


By the weekend following the announcement, Emmerich was calling important filmmakers with projects set for 2022 to assure them that their movies wouldn’t be dropped on the streaming service without warning. “As if anyone would believe he had any control over the situation,” says one producer with a major Warner property. “Toby probably had a really bad weekend, not that I feel bad for him,” says one agent.


According to a source, Emmerich tried to soothe In the Heights director Jon M. Chu by pointing out that the movie was still getting a “global theatrical release.” But industry insiders say the studio is pretending that pirates won’t pounce as soon as these films are streaming on HBO Max. As soon as one does, there's an “excellent version of the movie everywhere immediately,” notes one industry veteran.


WarnerMedia’s decision to attack without warning may be understandable given the blowback that was foreseeable. But to many insiders, blindsiding talent and their reps seemed like an insult. Sources say studio president Courtenay Valenti was the only Warner exec who dared to speak up about the need to reach out to key creative partners, but she was quickly hushed.


Much of this outrage will surely be mitigated if WarnerMedia is prepared to write big checks to all the profit participants in the films that have been moved. “It’s a critical time for them, at the highest level, to make this right with the talent,” says one rep. But agents say the guidance that’s been provided so far suggests that the company isn’t planning to offer what is now called "Wonder Woman money," in honor of the rich deal the studio gave profit participants in Wonder Woman 1984 when that film was moved to HBO Max.


WarnerMedia had to shovel tens of millions at Gal Godot and the other key players because the company wants a third in the series. But that sets the bar high. Sources say even Suicide Squad director James Gunn, who is platform-agnostic, was not pleased when the studio followed its shocking announcement by floating a lackluster formula for compensating him and other profit participants in the film.


At minimum, WarnerMedia has opened the door to arduous negotiations with the major agencies over compensation for multiple profit participants in 17 movies. Did the Warners numbers crunchers, in projecting the cost of premiering its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max, factor in the cost of widely anticipated legal challenges? Industry insiders believe WarnerMedia may have opened itself up to those, especially as it is selling the movies to its own streaming platform when none of the profit participants has had a chance to figure out what Apple or Netflix might have paid for the opportunity to stream their projects day-and-date. Allegations of self-dealing are almost sure to follow.


Many think Legendary will be the first to file a legal challenge. The company fired off a previous lawyer letter after Netflix offered something north of $225 million for the rights to Godzilla vs. Kong, which has seen its release date moved from March 2020 to November to May 2021. Though Legendary financed 75 percent of the movie, Warners had the power to block the sale and did. Legendary asked whether the studio would then give it a deal to stream the movie on HBO Max — and got no clear answer until its executives woke up one December morning to find that the movie was going day-and-date on the service without the benefit of a negotiation. Legendary’s even more expensive picture, Dune, is getting the same treatment. The other companies that finance Warners movies, Village Roadshow and Bron, are also said to be aggrieved parties that might end up going to court.


And then there’s the talent. Dune director Denis Villeneuve is said to be among those who felt most strongly that a traditional big-screen release was essential for his film. Chu, who along with Lin-Manuel Miranda went through an intense courtship with multiple suitors for In the Heights and who had turned down a huge Netflix offer for Crazy Rich Asians because he cherishes the communal theatrical experience, told an associate he was “shell-shocked” after being informed of the Warners decision.


Sources say WarnerMedia insiders have been hoping that Disney will follow its lead and shift its slate to streaming. But Disney, which had seven billion-dollar-grossing movies last year, isn’t about to do that. Instead, it is moving some films to streaming, as it did with Hamilton and Artemis Fowl — likely Cruella and more — but an agent notes that the way Disney has handled the shift stands in stark contrast to what Warners has done. “They didn’t do a unilateral thing,” he says, adding that studio executives made pre-emptive calls to talent and their reps that helped smooth the process.


It’s also worth noting that Disney+, which has dwarfed HBO Max in terms of subscribers, has gotten a lot of mileage out of one original hit, The Mandalorian, which is based on an iconic movie property. “There’s never been a full-fledged franchise blockbuster launched on a streaming service,” observes an executive at a Warners competitor. “It starts with theaters and it starts with opening weekend.” And so far, those blockbusters have been the ones that generated merchandise sales and theme-park attractions.


Warners doesn’t have theme parks but it has reaped big benefits from movies that almost certainly would have been dropped onto HBO Max had the option been available at the time. Consider last year’s megahit Joker. Film studio chief Emmerich was not a fan of the project; it was defended by worldwide marketing president Blair Rich, who was recently pushed out. Emmerich lowballed on the budget to discourage director Todd Phillips from making it, and when the filmmaker persisted, sold off half the movie. Joker then became a cultural phenomenon that grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide, was honored with 11 Academy Award nominations and an Oscar for Joaquin Phoenix. Would any of that have happened had Joker been dropped onto HBO Max?


Despite their assertions to the contrary, many industry insiders believe that neither AT&T chairman Stankey nor Kilar has much interest in the legacy movie business. Kilar has said this move was made for the fans and told CNBC, “If we start our days and end our days focused on the customer, we’re going to lead the industry.”


That brings to mind a line in the new Netflix movie, Mank — a warning delivered to the upstart Orson Welles by grizzled veteran Herman Mankiewicz: “You, my friend, are an outsider, a self-anointed savior-hyphenate. They’re just waiting to loathe you.”


It also leaves out a long-standing Hollywood maxim: Content is king. And content comes from artists who aren’t always motivated purely by money. Says an agent who represents extremely important talent with business at Warners: “You had a decades-long legacy as being known as the most talent-friendly studio. Now you’ve gone from that to a studio that in starburst colors lit up a sign that says, 'We don’t give a fuck about talent.’”


Article by: Kim Masters for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…

Inside 'Big Mouth's' Big Change


Co-Creator Andrew Goldberg talks with The Hollywood Reporter about recasting the role of Missy and how new castmember — and writer — Ayo Edebiri is making her mark on the Netflix animated favorite.

 [This interview contains spoilers from Big Mouth season four.]


Jenny Slate made headlines earlier this year when she relinquished the role of Missy on Netflix's Big Mouth, joining several other white actors in stepping down from playing animated characters of color. Partway through Big Mouth's just-released fourth season, fan-favorite Missy is given a new voice — that of comedian Ayo Edebiri, who had fallen in love with the character as a college student and was already part of the show's writers room. (Slate will continue voicing other characters on the show.) But recasting a character in the middle of a season — especially one that had already been submitted to Netflix as a completed project — wasn't easy.


Big Mouth co-creator Andrew Goldberg — the inspiration for Andrew (John Mulaney) on the show — talked with THR about the challenges of the midseason recasting, the serendipity of finding the perfect place to transition Missy's voice from Slate to Edebiri and why it's so important to make sure the girls can be just as gross as the guys.


How did the Missy recasting happen?


Jenny playing Missy is something we had been talking about for a couple years. It was something that Jenny initially brought up and we had this dilemma, which was that on the one hand, if we had known then what we know now, that’s not how we would have cast the part. But at the same time, we had this character who Jenny was playing so beautifully, and in a way that was making a lot of people feel seen in a way that they hadn’t before, because Missy is such a unique biracial character.


And then in the spring, when Black Lives Matter rose to greater prominence, Jenny came to the realization that it was past time for her to step down. We supported her, and we had this big conversation with our Black writers and a few Black performers. [They] all agreed that they loved what Jenny had done and appreciated the character that she had created, but that the right thing to do was to make space for a Black actor to play the part.


Was there anything that surprised you in that conversation?


Something that I didn’t expect but as soon as I heard it, it made total sense, was that once the part was being played by Ayo, they felt like they had even more freedom to tell stories about Missy’s race and her racial identity.


[Writer] Brandon Kyle Goodman in particular talked about how part of puberty for him was recognizing his Blackness and what that means and how people perceived it. You start with a little bit of innocence, but as you reach this age, it becomes a bigger part of your life. So for him, growing into his racial identity was very much a part of his puberty. That was something that I didn’t experience as my puberty, and that's the whole reason why it makes sense to have a diverse writers room with people who had all these different experiences growing up.


When did this issue of representation in animation voicing come on your radar?


I think it really came to our attention first via Jenny. We started talking about it before the world at large seemed to be talking about it. And then, once we made the decision to recast the part, we did it differently than we normally do it, where we think of somebody who would be great and ask them if they want to do it.


In this case, we cast a very wide net. We went through agents in the traditional way, but we also had people tweeting us and sending us Instagram posts of like, "listen to me do my Missy." We had our casting people track those people down and put themselves on tape.




We listened to dozens and dozens of Missys. And we brought back six or eight people to work with us over Zoom. It was a really cool process, and it was a chance to meet a ton of actors, some of whom we have since used on our shows because we liked them so much.


But with Ayo, it was very special for us. She was a writer on season five of Big Mouth, so she was already part of the family. She is also new and young. She was in college when she first saw Big Mouth and became attached emotionally to Missy. And we knew going in that Ayo shares a lot with Missy. She will say it herself, that she felt she was a Missy growing up.


There’s something with Missy where there’s this nervous, endearing, cerebral energy that is very hard to fake. Like, it has to be real within you to play. And Ayo really had that from the beginning.


In the second episode, Missy, still voiced by Jenny, says, "I’m really struggling with my racial identity right now. My mom is white, my dad is Black, I am voiced by a white actor who is 37 years old." Where did that line come from? Was it improvised by Jenny? Or did it come from the writers?


Kind of both. That was something borne out of those conversations that we had been having with Jenny about what it means to have a white person voicing a biracial character and whether that’s OK. We wrote that probably a year and a half ago. We felt like we needed to acknowledge it in some way and not just pretend it didn’t exist.


Was it challenging to shift gears with that recasting midseason?


We are always writing and recording way ahead of the animation. To give you an idea of how far ahead we were, we had actually recorded most of season five with Jenny as Missy [at the time of the recasting decision]. So we had delivered all of season four to Netflix already when we recast Ayo with the part. The first question was, is there a way to redo all of season four? And we found that from a production standpoint, there really wasn’t.


There was also just the creative issue of, if we had [gone back and rerecorded Missy's lines], Ayo would have had to really replicate everything Jenny did acting-wise for a whole season, which was not a good recipe for a new actor to make the part her own. We were OK with asking her to do that for like 20 lines or so in the last two episodes, but to ask her to do that for hundreds of lines felt antithetical to what we were trying to do, which was handing over the part to Ayo and giving her an opportunity to make it her own.


To clarify, because the animation had already been based on Jenny’s acting for season four, you didn’t want to go back and have Ayo mimic Jenny’s acting?


Exactly. We didn’t think that that was a fair thing to ask of Ayo, or any actor, when they are taking over a part.


Jen Flackett, one of our creators, found this really organic place in season four where it made a lot of sense to make the transition of the voice, because a lot of Missy’s story in season four is about reckoning with the different parts of her identity, and a big part of that is her racial identity.


In the second episode, she spends a summer with her cousins (Lena Waithe and Quinta Brunson), and is really opened up to this idea that she hasn’t totally experienced the Black part of her identity because her parents had raised her with these post-racial intentions. And then deeper into the season, she has a story about code-switching with her classmate DeVon (Jak Knight). Jak wrote that episode, which is about her getting a better sense of what society expects and demands of her [as a Black girl] in a way that she hadn’t thought of before.


The point where we make the voice change is the Halloween story. In the House of Horrors, Missy's anxiety is expressed by all these different reflections she has in the mirror of the different parts of her identity. At some point they all shatter, and she is worried that having all these different parts of her identity means that she is nothing. But then she puts the pieces together into this thing she calls Mosaic Missy. And that is the point at which Ayo’s voice takes over. Ayo is the voice of this Mosaic Missy. And then, moving forward, that’s where the voice changes and everything else Missy says in season four is Ayo’s voice.


How did the Pen15 crossover happen?


We watched the [Hulu] show and we loved it. Gabe Liedman was writing on our show part-time that season and he had worked on that show, and we had this idea for an episode where Andrew and Nick decide to date younger girls and thought that Maya and Anna would be really funny in those parts.


It was really fun collaborating with them, especially because our shows deal with the same time of life. That’s one of my favorite episodes.


It was very gratifying to see Maya’s Hormone Monster and see that, of course, hers was even grosser than any of the current Hormone Monsters.


Well, that’s something important to our female writers. Like, let’s not let the boys be the only ones who can be horny and gross.


Something I’ve continually wondered about the show is the gendering of various objects in the Big Mouth universe. I remember watching the episode where Jessi figures out how to use a tampon and being surprised that the tampons were men. What do those conversations look like?


Yeah, we did have that conversation. There was a moment where somebody was like, "The tampons are guys?" And Jen Flackett was like, "Yes, they’re guys, that’s how I always think of them. ‘Cause they go in, right?"


Earlier this year, there was a controversy over the movie Cuties, which led to a supposed boycott of Netflix. Have you had much backlash against your show for "sexualizing children"?


Not a ton. And when it does come, it is often accompanied by some really upsetting anti-Semitism. But it's also from people who haven’t seen the show. By and large, everybody who has seen the show gets what we’re doing. When people see the show, it’s cathartic for them because it reminds them or lets them know that there wasn’t anything wrong with them back then or isn’t anything wrong with them now.


I’ve had that experience, where Kristen Wiig’s vagina character initially made me uncomfortable. And then the more I watched, I was like, "Oh, I’m dumb, this is fine."


Kelly Galuska, who has been a writer since season one and created [the upcoming Big Mouth spinoff] Human Resources with us, when she was interviewing to be on the show, we were telling her about the pilot and how Nick sees Andrew’s penis for the first time and sees he’s got pubic hair and feels inadequate in comparison. I remember Kelly asking, are you ever going to show a vagina on the show? Nick and I were like, "Oh God no, we can’t." And Jen and Kelly were like,"You have to. If you’re showing a penis in the first episode, you can’t hold girls to that double standard." It was like, "Wow, I guess you’re right." And if you’re going to have a talking vagina, Kristen Wiig is the right person to do it.


I’m sure she’ll be flattered to read that in the pages of The Hollywood Reporter.


(Laughs.) Well, I hope she already knows.


Big Mouth season four is now streaming on Netflix. Interview edited for length and clarity.


Article by: Inkoo Kang for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


The actor also recalls flying straight from 'Ozark' to meet with David Fincher and Gary Oldman in an effort to get the role of filmmaker Joe Mankiewicz.

Until now, Tom Pelphrey had yet to realize the historical significance of a key scene in David Fincher’s Mank. Towards the end of the film, Pelphrey’s Joseph Mankiewicz visits Gary Oldman’s Herman "Mank" Mankiewicz to discuss his reaction to Mank’s Citizen Kane script, and as the two brothers carried on a conversation, Pelphrey delivered a line that included one of cinema’s most famous words: Rosebud. Now that he’s 9 or 10 months removed from the project, Pelphrey can finally see the forest for the trees.


“Oh my god. I didn’t even think about that. Wow. When you work on something like this, you really try to do your job to the best of your ability, and you really just focus on the task at hand,” Pelphrey tells The Hollywood Reporter. “You don’t really stop and consider the whole big thing — at least I didn’t. But you don’t want to get too swept up in that or get intimidated. You want to just come in, focus on your work and put your head down. And yeah, now is the time to sit back and say, ‘I got to say Rosebud on-screen with Gary Oldman, in a David Fincher film.’ Pretty cool.” 

When Pelphrey first FaceTimed with Fincher about the role of the younger Mankiewicz brother, he was shooting Ozark in Atlanta, and sensing that the role was still up in the air, he went to great lengths to secure it.

“It was sort of on the fence and we weren’t sure which way things were going. Then, I found out that David and Gary were meeting with some actors in Los Angeles,” Pelphrey recalls. “So on one of my weekends off from Ozark, I filmed Ozark until like 3 in the morning, but I had asked [casting director] Laray (Mayfield), ‘Do you think these guys would see me if I was there on Saturday?’ So they were kind enough to agree to the idea and Laray pulled it all together for Saturday. So I flew to L.A. for a day from Atlanta to go meet with them, and it really made all the difference.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Pelphrey also discusses Fincher’s insightful notes, his excitement over shooting excessive amounts of takes and if he’d still play Banshee’s Kurt Bunker in 2020.

So Laray Mayfield not only cast Mank, but she also cast Netflix’s Iron Fist. Did she grease the wheel at all as one might presume?

Yeah, I’m sure she did. Laray has worked with David for a long time now, and she’s just one of the all-time greats, for sure. I know that her and David work really closely on all casting decisions, so I’m sure she had a big part in bringing me to this adventure.

How long was the casting process?

Probably about a month. Maybe a month and a half. When I first put myself on tape for David, I was filming Ozark in Atlanta. And then a few weeks later, David and I did a FaceTime, and then a week after that, we did a second FaceTime to kind of get to work together. In all of that, I was still working in Atlanta. Eventually, it was sort of on the fence and we weren’t sure which way things were going. Then, I found out that David and Gary (Oldman) were meeting with some actors in Los Angeles. So on one of my weekends off from Ozark, I filmed Ozark until like 3 in the morning, but I had asked Laray, “Do you think these guys would see me if I was there on Saturday?” It’s hard to do Zoom acting. (Laughs.) Everything is on Zoom now, but back then, it just felt so weird. So they were kind enough to agree to the idea and Laray pulled it all together for Saturday. So I flew to L.A. for a day from Atlanta to go meet with them, and it really made all the difference. Getting to not only meet someone in person and be in the same room with them, but obviously playing the scenes off of Gary Oldman, is a whole different level. It makes you a better actor. 

How was the good news delivered?

I got a call from Laray, which was pretty sweet. As you pointed out, I’ve known her for a few years now and she’s just a really good person, a really kind human being, who loves what she does. She’s one of the casting directors that really loves actors and really champions them. So yeah, it was a pretty good call.

During your first few days on set, was there a particular moment where you first realized why Fincher has the reputation of an all-time great?

Yeah, there were so many. There was one in particular during rehearsal and it was before we were even filming. David’s got such a deep understanding of that time period and what was happening in Hollywood on so many different levels. So as we were reading these scenes, he was really trying to flesh it out by giving you all the history on what was happening with Hollywood and with writers. But he was also helping you understand how the technology was driving what was happening. He’d explain how, all of sudden, films had sound and could capture what people were saying. So then there was a need for a different style of writing than what we were used to before. Enter Mank. But technology also changed with cameras. They got better, but they also got heavier. And because they got heavier, they were harder to move. And because they were harder to move, it meant more scenes where two people would stand and talk. Then the dialogue itself became something to enthrall. The writing itself became the focus. So you get so caught up in all that and you’re like, “God, guys, he understands so much. He understands so much.” And then he’d turn to me on a dime and give a note about Joe that was so insightful. It’s the kind of note that you’re not really used to getting from a director because even really good directors have so much that they need to focus on. So there are certain levels of notes where it feels like they’re coming from another actor. It’s a type of note from somebody who completely put their head down, completely dove into this character and saw how things looked. He turned to me and gave me a note like that after explaining all about the technology of the time and the history of Hollywood. I was like, “Wow, either this guy doesn’t sleep or he’s a genius.” It almost seems unfair that he could have such mastery of all the technical aspects on top of his mastery as a filmmaker. But to also be able to give a note that is empathetic and deeply insightful to the character, that is what separates him because he’s doing all of it at the top level.

Since everybody knows that Fincher loves to do an excessive amount of takes, did you do any sort of training in order to prepare yourself for the endurance needed on his set?

Oh hell no, man. I was so excited. I was like, “I’ll do 500 takes if David Fincher wants me to do 500 takes.” (Laughs.) For me, I couldn’t wait to get on set. I had endless energy when I was there because he is straight up one of the master storytellers of our time. So to get the opportunity to work with someone like that, I was like, “This is everything you hope for.” You have an amazing script. You have a great role. You get to play off of Gary Oldman, a childhood hero. I mean, when I started drama school when I was 18, I had a still frame of Gary and Sean Penn from State of Grace up on my wall. This job was a dream come true. And you understand that about David. You hear a lot about him. You see other interviews and you understand that you’re going to be there to work. And I love that. I’ve always loved that idea and that kind of approach. To me, there’s no better place to be working than with David Fincher. I knew that he was going to make me a better actor. So it wasn’t hard to keep my energy up. I was just excited to be there.


What scene of yours required the most takes?


Good question. (Pelphrey ponders.)


My guess would be the tie-in-the-coffee scene between Joe and Herm.


(Laughs.) That’s a good guess. I will say that most of the scenes were pretty thoroughly covered. I don’t know that one stands out as the long one, but Gary was pretty adept at the tie in the coffee. Gary was nailing the tie in the coffee, time in and time out. (Laughs.)


So I’m sure you played it cool around Gary in the early going, but did there quickly come a point where you couldn’t resist asking questions about the aforementioned State of Grace, The Professional or whatever?


Oh, for sure. And I really took my cue off of Gary for that. Obviously, we’re there to work and that’s the most important thing. So I would keep to myself, but I really didn’t know what to expect as we’ve all seen him do all these incredible roles over the years. He’s so mercurial as an actor. He’s so mysterious, weird, dark and brooding. So I had no idea what to expect from the man, but he was so soft-spoken, gentle, very witty, very funny and good-humored. He also had excellent stories and was very happy to share them. So once I understood that he was quite happy to talk and share, yeah, I didn’t leave him alone after that. (Laughs.) I had so many questions about the different people that he’s worked with, and what he was thinking when he did different things. He was always very generous with his time.


Did you watch all the available footage of Joe Mankiewicz, such as his Oscar speeches and Luc Beraud’s 1983 documentary, All About Mankiewicz?


Yeah, the documentary was really interesting. Joe’s speech cadence had become so pronounced by then. But it was tricky to watch this footage of the older, more established version of Joe, while keeping in mind that the film was exploring the younger, up-and-coming version. So you can start to see that evolution over time, and thankfully, there was a lot of great material on Joe. There was video to watch, and audio to listen to. And a few weeks before we started filming, they released a great biography on both Mankiewicz brothers that was really helpful in terms of the earlier years of Joe and his relationship with Herman [The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics]. And I have to say, the more research I did, the more things I read, the more I realized it was all in the script. The script really did an excellent job of illuminating the essence of what their relationship was.


In Joe’s bathroom introduction, he seemed somewhat annoyed that he was the overlooked brother of Herman. Since he ended up winning four Oscars to Herman’s one, those early years of being the forgotten brother clearly became one of the key ingredients to his eventual success, right?


Well, it’s interesting. Something that I’ve really enjoyed about the script and about the relationship between these brothers is how clever, witty and humorous they both are. I really enjoyed how they like to take jabs at each other. I liked their verbal sparring and how they’d enjoy each other’s intelligence. So, to me, when Joe is complaining in the bathroom about being the overlooked brother, all of it is done with a bit of a wry grin. I didn’t believe that it was anything that really burned Joe or equally upset him. I think it was just another way in which they could bust each other’s chops as brothers. After reading some correspondence between Joe and Herman — and even just tracking Joe’s early years of following in Herman’s footsteps quite literally — I got the idea of a younger brother who is really quite enamored of his older brother. That was such a key to their relationship, and regardless of what was going on, Joe absolutely loved, adored and admired his older brother.


Fincher wanted the cast to speak in a way that was period-accurate, and that involved rising inflection or up-speak. While you touched on it earlier, did you need a coach for that, or did you take to it rather quickly?


Yeah, you take to it rather quickly. Fortunately, there’s a bunch of video of Joe speaking. It’s one thing to watch movies of the time. They’re obviously very stylistic, including the way the actors speak, and you’re like, “Well, that’s just the movies.” But when you really go and dig, I found some video of Joe on game shows at the time, and that was almost some of the most interesting footage because it’s a game show. He’s not giving an acceptance speech. He’s not doing a great roundtable discussion with Marlon Brando during the Civil Rights Movement, which was also really interesting. All those things are a little more studied and a little more self-aware that you’re speaking and that there’s attention on you. So it was really interesting to watch these game show clips and to realize that even on a game show, the style of speaking at the time was different. If we went on a game show now, we wouldn’t start talking weird, right? So that game show was a real interesting glimpse because it was the most casual version of Joe. Even then, there’s a different rhythm to the speech. It’s a different style of talking, so you just want to get that in your ear. You start listening to it nonstop, and then you start talking that way until you can speak without it feeling like you’re talking differently.


Have you wrapped your head around the fact that you got to say Rosebud on-screen with Gary Oldman, in a David Fincher film?


Oh my god. I didn’t even think about that. Wow. (Laughs.) When you work on something like this, you really try to do your job to the best of your ability, and you really just focus on the task at hand. And like I said earlier, when you’re working with one of the master storytellers and great directors of our time, you have the luxury of putting your head down, putting the blinders on, and running full speed ahead. You have zero concern about where you need to go because you know he’s going to help you get there. You know he’s going to take care of you and make you look better. He’s not going to let you run off of the edge of a cliff. That’s such a rare, rare feeling of safety and trust, and you have exactly that with Fincher. So when you’re going into a job like this, you don’t really stop and consider the whole big thing — at least I didn’t. But you don’t want to get too swept up in that or get intimidated. You want to just come in, focus on your work and put your head down. And yeah, now is the time to sit back and say, “I got to say Rosebud on-screen with Gary Oldman, in a David Fincher film.” (Laughs.) Pretty cool.


So I was your hype man as far back as Banshee, and I make sure to let Ozark fans know this every single chance I get.




Do you get the impression that more people are checking out Banshee because of Ozark or Iron Fist?


I’ve seen some people on Twitter that seem to be discovering Banshee for the first time. I couldn’t tell if it was linked to Ozark and Iron Fist, or if it was just a resurgence of Banshee somehow, but I have noticed that people are discovering it. Man, I loved that show. I just loved it. It was so much fun.


Banshee’s series finale was in May 2016, and the world has obviously changed quite a bit since then. When you consider what happened in Charlottesville in 2017, as well as everything this year, do you think you’d hesitate to play Kurt Bunker today? Or would you be even more intrigued by his atonement arc? [Writer’s Note: Kurt Bunker was a former neo-Nazi turned sheriff’s deputy.]


Yeah, I think I would be as intrigued as I was back then because what are we doing? What is the opportunity that we have when we get to tell these stories? When I got the chance to play Bunker back on Banshee, I read a lot of different books by former neo-Nazis, and some of those books are pretty horrifying. They’re hard to read, heartbreaking and scary, but you realize that some of these people are just so completely misguided and ignorant. They’re unexposed to other people, other ideas and other ways of being. So you have an opportunity to potentially shed some light on something that needs some awareness, and for me, personally, as Tom, I love a good redemption story. I love the idea of getting to explore a character that realizes what they’ve done wrong or realizes how far they’ve fallen, and takes action to correct themself or redeem themself. I think that’s powerful. I think redemption and forgiveness are something that we could all use a lot more of, especially right now. So yeah, I would play him today.


I realize you had just joined the show the season prior, but was the final season’s location change a tough pill to swallow for the cast? A small-town location often functions as another character, especially on a show like Banshee that’s named after its fictional location.


Well, it was interesting because when we got to Pittsburgh, there was a town [Vandergrift] that really felt like we were driving through Banshee. Maybe my view on this is skewed because I only got to spend half a year in Charlotte, and I was there full time in Pittsburgh. So for my experience with the show, when I think of Banshee, I think of Pittsburgh and the locations and sets there. But strangely enough, I think Pittsburgh was closer to what they had in mind when they created the show because Banshee was always supposed to be a small town in Pennsylvania. So being in Pittsburgh, seeing that landscape and just being around that energy, it was actually closer to the essence of what they’d always wanted from an actual location for Banshee. Although, Charlotte was also pretty perfect, and it had that Cadillac dealership that they converted into a police station with the half-broken, half-lit Cadillac sign. (Laughs.) That was pretty great too.


After Bunker, I expected the industry to steer you towards more tough guy, action roles, but you instead ended up with Iron Fist’s Ward Meachum and Ozark’s Ben Davis, who were very complex characters, psychologically speaking. Did the industry try to push you in an action direction? Did you have to make a point early on that you wanted complexity?


I never felt like I was getting pushed in one way or the other. To just try and keep it as simple as possible, it’s all about the writing for me. It’s about the script and what speaks to you, and then you go from there. Obviously, you have some jobs like Ozark and Mank where you’re really getting the best of all possible worlds. There’s great writing, excellent directors, excellent actors and blah, blah, blah. I’ve never sat down and planned out or charted out what I want my career to be or how I want it to look. I’ve never said, “I’m going to do this and then this and then this.” I just focus on the job-to-job, script to script approach. What do I respond to? What moves me? What gets me in my heart when I read it? And what people respond to me? Even if I respond to something, it’s not always the case that I’m going to be the right fit for the story that they’re trying to tell. Over the last five, six or seven years in particular, I’ve really just let go and gone along for that ride, and it’s been a pretty beautiful experience where it’s ended up taking me. Each next move feels so perfect, and if I tried to plan it out ahead of time, it wouldn’t have looked that good. So it’s really been a matter of staying open, staying present, following your gut, following your heart and going where it’s meant to go. If I said, “I’m going to be this kind of actor and I’m going to do these kinds of things,” then I’m trying to plan it or muscle it. It’s like, “Let’s just see what comes. Let’s just see what happens.”


In regard to Ozark, Ben Davis’ first scene in the classroom was one of the most memorable character introductions in recent memory. I hope you only had to do that a couple times.


Yeah, I was pretty pumped when I read that. We did it a few times, but nothing crazy, though. Jason’s (Bateman) really good about knowing what he wants and getting in and getting it. Yeah, that character, from start to finish, was pretty much a dream come true. Everything you could want in a role and in a job was right there in Ozark and Ben. So yeah, it definitely was a pretty good character introduction.


Since Covid has rescheduled everybody’s calendar, are you still working with Josh Brolin coming up?


Yeah! We’re still scheduled to start in January. It’s a series called Outer Range.



Mank, which is now available in select theaters, streams Dec. 4 on Netflix. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Article by: Brian Davids for the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more…


Elliot Page will continue to play the role of Vanya Hargreeves in “The Umbrella Academy,” the Netflix series about a family of superheroes that’s become one of the streaming service’s biggest hits.


Vanya is a cisgender woman whose superpower involves unleashing force through the use of sound. There are no plans to change the character’s gender, insiders told Variety.


Page, star of films such as “Juno” and the X-Men series, announced he is a gender non-binary transgender person in a heartfelt social media message on Tuesday. Page’s credited name has already been updated on “The Umbrella Academy’s” IMDB page.


Netflix is also in the process of updating Page’s name in the metadata across all titles he is involved with that are available to watch on the streaming service, another insider said. Those changes should start to be reflected throughout Tuesday.


The bulk of the social media reaction to Page’s announcement was positive, with stars such as Miley Cyrus and Kate Mara signaling their support. However, some commentators suggested that the role of Vanya Hargreeves should be recast. The character’s name trended on Twitter below #Elliot.


GLAAD, the LGBTQ advocacy group, pushed back at the notion that Vanya should be recast with a cisgender female actor.


“Trans actors can and do play both trans and cisgender characters. I’m sure Elliot will continue to be brilliant in Umbrella Academy and many different types of roles in the future,” Nick Adams, director of transgender media at GLAAD, told Variety.


“The Umbrella Academy” centers on group of adopted sibling superheroes who team up to solve the mystery of their father’s death while warding off a potential apocalypse. The series ended its second season in July. In November, Netflix renewed “The Umbrella Academy” for a third season.



Article by: Brent Lang, Matt Donnelly for Variety.

Read more…


In the COVID era, we have been forced to rethink everything. So I’m proposing another reinvention: New ways of using awards to protest Hollywood’s lack of diversity.


Of course the protests must continue, carrying on the important work that #OscarsSoWhite did to revolutionize Hollywood starting in 2015.


It’s time to add another step. Protesters should link up with organizations that gather hiring statistics, such as USC’s Annenberg School, the Women’s Media Center, the NAACP and GLAAD. Those stats are key: They offer numbers about how much progress is/isn’t being made. Unfortunately, tallies for awards voting — Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTA and the guilds — are always kept secret, so it involves a lot of guesswork on how people voted. And guesses are less effective than hard facts.


The biggest problem with protesting nominations or winners is that it puts the burden of change on awards voters — and takes the heat off the people who should be pressured: those in a position to hire.


Here are some reminders:

  • Nov. 21, 1956: Variety ran a letter from Thurgood Marshall, who was then-special counsel to the NAACP (before his tenure on the Supreme Court). He hoped for “the wider use” of underutilized Black actors. (In other words, this has been going on for 60 years!)
  • March 17, 1970: A group led by Ricardo Montalban formed Nosotros, intended to “solve the injustice involved in the hiring of Spanish-surnamed personnel in the industry.”
  • Oct. 29, 1976: Variety ran a full-page ad from Asian Americans headlined “We are not all alike: sinister villains, China dolls, waiters, laundrymen! We must be fairly considered for all roles.” It was signed by 100 individuals and as many supporters.
  • June 15, 1993: A five-year study by the Writers Guild of America West “shows that the industry is not making any great strides in terms of overcoming racism, sexism and ageism,” with statistics to back up the claims.


There have also been decades of protests by LGBTQ groups, people with disabilities, Native Americans, and many others.


Showbiz execs have a history of token hiring, creating committees and workshops to address the situation, and then returning to old habits. So yes, keep protesting.


One problem with using award nominations/wins as evidence — there is no evidence. With Oscars, for example, we know the top five vote-getters in each category, but who came in No. 6-20?


Last year, there was lamenting over the all-male director category. But did Greta Gerwig of “Little Women” miss out by one vote? Or did voters completely shut her out? We don’t know.


The second problem is that we’re challenging people’s tastes, as if that’s a measure of Hollywood’s wokeness. The five Oscar-nominated 2019 directors were Bong Joon Ho, Sam Mendes, Todd Phillips, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino; all had big fans, so you can’t say anyone stole her nomination. It’s like going to a restaurant with friends and telling them they ordered the wrong meal. If that’s what they want, it’s not wrong. But even if every voter chose “the right meal,” it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t result in more jobs.


There’s another reason to focus on hiring instead of nominations. This year, there is likely to be a lot of diversity in “marquee” categories, thanks to “Nomadland,” “One Night in Miami,” “Minari,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Sound of Metal,” “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” etc. If they get nominations, many people can be lulled into thinking that inclusion has been resolved.


Before Oscar noms are announced March 15, protesters should gather statistics about Hollywood hiring since the 2015 start of the #OscarsSoWhite movement. And they should notify journalists in advance that they have relevant stats, which can be unveiled on nomination day. That taps into awards hoopla but keeps the pressure on those who hire, not on the voters.


#OscarsSoWhite has accomplished a lot. Five years later, we should be seeing changes in Hollywood hiring. It’s important to discover if that’s the case.


Article by: Tim Gray for Variety.

Read more…


As J.D. Vance’s memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” surged to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, I was on location in Kentucky filming “Hillbilly” — a documentary that examines the long history of vicious cultural stereotyping that has plagued Appalachia.


My first memory of seeing Appalachia depicted to the nation was the 1989 CBS special, “48 Hours: Another America.” As a 9-year-old, I watched Dan Rather tell the world about the people of Muddy Gut, in Floyd County, one county over from where my family and I lived. Everything about that program — from the images of the broken-down cars to the condescending tone of the faceless narrator — made me feel shame. The program even added banjo to the “48 Hours” theme, a familiar cue for the viewer signaling they are entering a place that exists outside of place and time. That news program had a profound impact on me and was the impetus for making “Hillbilly” more than 25 years later.


I grew up in a small coal mining community in eastern Kentucky where my family lived for six generations. I was always told I had to leave and go away to college. As a student at the University of Kentucky, I experienced culture shock and my own personal awakening. I discovered documentaries, feminism, critical race theory, and bell hooks. I worked at the college newspaper where my professors and fellow student journalists ridiculed my accent. These interactions made me feel insulted, like I had emerged from some strange and peculiar place; an outsider in my own state.


Filming for our documentary “Hillbilly” began more than two years before anyone had heard about Vance or could fathom that America was about to elect a reality television star as President of the United States. When “Hillbilly Elegy” came out it climbed to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list and stayed there for 73 weeks. I initially avoided reading it, fearing it would be filled with the stereotypes my documentary was actively working to defy. After it sat on my coffee table for months, I decided to read it in flight as my crew and I flew back and forth from Los Angeles to Kentucky.


I certainly understand the criticism of “Hillbilly Elegy.” While I related to some of the memoir aspects of Vance’s story, I didn’t appreciate the gross generalizations about working class people. Likewise, the assumption that his Horatio Alger story (rising from poverty to attend an Ivy League school, working as a venture capitalist, writing a best-selling memoir, auctioning the script to Ron Howard to direct and Netflix to finance) is available to all Appalachian people is deeply problematic. Vance’s story is powerful and his dealings with his family’s addiction are relatable to many, but his outcome is unique to him alone and can’t possibly reflect the experiences of the more than 25 million people who call Appalachia home.


Many colleagues I admire — Crystal Good, Silas House, Elizabeth Catte, Meredith McCarroll and Tony Harkins — responded critically as well. “Using the template of his harrowing childhood, Vance remakes Appalachia in his own image as a place of alarming social decline, smoldering and misplaced resentment, and poor life choices,” writes Catte in “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.” For a different perspective, consider hook’s “Belonging: A Culture of Place” and McCarroll and Harkins’ “Appalachia Reckoning,” an edited volume made in response to “Hillbilly Elegy.”


As the major political party nominations were clinched in the summer of 2016, rural people were once again on the national news. This time journalists depicted them as the unsophisticated and uneducated voting block likely to support a Trump presidency. With this political climate as our backdrop, our crew traveled to Letcher County, Kentucky, to film with a group of Kentucky filmmakers who were making a film about the Black Lives Matter movement in Whitesburg, Kentucky at Appalshop, a media arts organization founded as part of the War on Poverty initiatives in 1969.


When we set out to make “Hillbilly,” we did so with the intention of making a film that would explore why these stereotypes have persisted since the 1870s and show what impact they have on the people who live there. We strove to bring visibility to the issues facing Appalachian communities such as racial justice, economic inequality, and the long lasting impacts of exploitation of the land and people by coal corporations and other outside interests. Our goal was to do no harm; create an inclusive, gorgeous cinematic portrait; include Appalachian people in the process of making the film; and make the film accessible to rural and urban audiences. Ultimately, we wanted to present a more diverse, complex, and nuanced portrait of the region and the people who live there. We envisioned our film as an impetus for change on a broader, national scale.


It was the honor of a lifetime to make this film, involving my family in the process, and gaining the financial backing of the National Endowment for the Humanities. We got to work with the indefatigable Silas House; my hero and fellow Kentuckian bell hooks; Poet Crystal Good; and the always brilliant Frank X Walker, who coined the word “Affrilachia,” signifying the importance of the African-American presence in Appalachia. The film has played to audiences around the world, ranging from my hometown in Kentucky; to Anchorage, Alaska; and Prague and Albania. Over and over we hear people say “Hillbilly” changes the way they think about Appalachia and the people who live there. We won the Best Documentary Award at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival after premiering at the Nashville Film Festival and Traverse City Film Festival, where Michael Moore awarded us the Founders’ Award for Best Documentary.


Our movie is far from perfect. It is a glimpse into a broad range of intersectional issues, ideas, coalitions, movements, and conversations, that are all equally deserving of attention in the media space. I will forever regret its inability to interrogate racism on a deeper level and to examine the consequences of capitalism on communities like the one where I grew up in eastern Kentucky. I recognize how whiteness informed our perspective and how we could have been more inclusive in our effort to involve Black and indigenous collaborators.


Ron Howard hosted a work-in-progress friends and family screening of “Hillbilly Elegy” in Los Angeles and invited my “Hillbilly” co-director, Sally Rubin, and I to attend. We were delighted to receive the invitation and to learn from one of the assistants that Howard and his team watched our documentary before they began filming. I wanted to meet him after the feedback session but had to rush home to my newborn baby.


I saw the finished film on Netflix the day it premiered, and enjoyed it more than I expected. Howard’s version tells Vance’s story about growing up in a family consumed by his mother’s opioid addiction. The film is less objectionable than the book and Howard is smart to avoid an examination of the greater culture, which became the focal point of much of the memoir’s criticism.


The film evokes a strong sense of place, which I relate to as someone who grew up in a mountain holler (slang for hollow). “Hillbilly Elegy” has redeeming qualities, including Vance’s love for his mother and the way families stick together no matter what. “Cause family is the only thing that means a goddamn,” says Vance’s grandmother (played by a nearly unrecognizable Glenn Close) during a beautifully directed funeral procession through the Appalachian Mountains. Amy Adams delivers a compelling and convincing performance as Bev, Vance’s mother who is addicted to prescription pills and later heroin. The naturalness of the dialogue and accents surprised me. While I rolled my eyes a time or two over Close’s overt performance or during a scene where we see an unnecessary cutaway of Vance’s neighbors shouting at each other on the porch, I leave the film appreciating the way it represents the traumatic and painful cycle of addiction.


Crystal Good — a poet, journalist, and sixth generation West Virginian — describes the sentiment so many Appalachian people feel toward “Hillbilly Elegy” in a forthcoming piece for Scalawag Magazine. “It’s fun to be in the anti-JD club,” she writes. “It’s like smoking. You can always find a friend in white Appalachia circles, especially if you are willing to share your Blackness as to contrast the whiteness of ‘Hillbilly Elegy.’”


This moment reflects a turning point and demonstrates the unique and urgent opportunity that exists for Hollywood to — at long last — be more representative and inclusive in its telling of stories about Appalachia and the people who live there. Beyond that, the opportunities are immense for expanding media, digital, and political literacy.


Media informs the way we see ourselves and the way we understand the world in which we live. It helps us understand the experiences of others and can convey the complexity of the human condition. It teaches us to understand points of view different from our own. It is critical and necessary for our industry to invest in creating more nuanced and inclusive portraits of Appalachia in the same way it is taking steps to be more inclusive in its telling of stories about other marginalized and vulnerable communities. I fully believe when people see complex multi-dimensional portraits of themselves on screen, the world becomes a better place.


Ashley York is a producer, filmmaker, journalist, and adjunct associate professor in the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “Hillbilly” is available on Hulu.


Article by: Ashley York for Variety.

Read more…