[Golden Boy Already - Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 for CRAZYHEART.]

The Dude, AKA Jeff Bridges Now in HIGHWATER, Wins American Riviera Award From Santa Barbara

LOS ANGELES: Sometimes a press release is so good it’s just fine art, or more specifically it’s the holidays and we’re lazy, plus this is great writing from our friends in the business. That said, we’d only put a slightly different headline on it, for the diehard hipsters. Which is “The Dude, AKA Jeff Bridges Now in HIGHWATER, Wins American Riviera Award From Santa Barbara,” whereas our more respectable writing colleagues began something like this:

JEFF BRIDGES TO RECEIVE AMERICAN RIVIERA AWARD AT THE 32nd ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Santa Barbara, CA (December 21, 2016) – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced today that Jeff Bridges will be honored with the 2017 American Riviera Award at the 32nd edition of the Fest, which runs from February 1 to February 11, 2017. Bridges will be fêted with a Tribute celebrating his illustrious career, culminating with his captivating performance in David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, a CBS Films/Lionsgate release. The film opened in August to critical acclaim. The Tribute will take place Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the historic Arlington Theatre.

French language poster had the most awesome look at Cannes.

[French-language poster for Cannes.]

For his role in Hell or High Water, Bridges has received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, as well as the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor. Bridges’ renowned career includes celebrated roles in films such as The Big Lebowski, Fearless, The Contender, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Door in the Floor, True Grit, Starman, The Morning After, Jagged Edge, The Last Picture Show, Against All Odds, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Fisher King, Seabiscuit, and Crazy Heart (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor).

“Jeff Bridges shows us in Hell or High Water that an already great artist can continue his growth.  I may go as far as saying that this is his best performance,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “It’s truly special to be able to celebrate Jeff – for he’s not only a dear friend of SBIFF – but he is a timeless legend in our industry.”

[Golden Boy Already - Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 for CRAZYHEART.]

[Golden Boy Already – Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 win for CRAZYHEART.]

A modern-day set crime western, Hell or High Water tells the riveting story of a divorced father and his ex-con older brother who resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.  The film, directed by David Mackenzie, with an original screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, also stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster. ChrisJeff16

The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Bridges will join a prestigious group of past recipients, including last year’s honorees Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo (2016), Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (2015), Robert Redford (2014), Quentin Tarantino (2013) and Martin Scorsese (2012), Annette Bening (2011), Sandra Bullock (2010), Mickey Rourke (2009), Tommy Lee Jones (2008), Forrest Whitaker (2007), Philip Seymour Hoffman (2006), Kevin Bacon (2005) and Diane Lane (2004).

The 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place from Wednesday, February 1st through Saturday, February 11th. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

BEST JEFF BRIDGES BIO EVER, PS…

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One of Hollywood’s most successful actors and a six-time Academy Award® nominee, JEFF BRIDGES’ (Marcus) performance in “Crazy Heart”—as Bad Blake, the down-on-his-luck, alcoholic country music singer at the center of the drama—deservedly garnered the iconic performer his first Oscar® for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The performance also earned him the Golden Globe, SAG Award and the IFP/Spirit Award for Lead Actor.

The film follows Blake, who, through his experiences with a female reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is able to get his career back on track while playing mentor to a hotshot contemporary country star and simultaneously struggling in his shadow. The movie, directed by Scott Cooper, is based on the debut novel by Thomas Cobb and also stars Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell. Bridges’ moving and multi-layered performance is one of many in a career that spans decades.

He earned his first Oscar® nod in 1971 for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Three years later, he received his second Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Michael Cimino’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” By 1984 he landed top kudos with a Best Actor nomination for “Starman”; that performance also earned him a Golden Globe nomination. In 2001, he was honored with another Golden Globe nomination and his fourth Oscar® nomination for his role in “The Contender,” Rod Lurie’s political thriller, co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen, in which Bridges played the President of the United States.

In December 2010 his reunion with the Coen Brothers in the critically acclaimed western “True Grit” landed him his sixth Oscar® nomination. The film focuses on fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) whose father has been shot in cold blood by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she is determined to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), she sets out with him — over his objections — to hunt down Chaney.

The same month he was seen in the highly anticipated 3D action-adventure “TRON: Legacy.” Bridges reprised his role of video-game developer Kevin Flynn from the classic 1982 film “TRON.” With state-of-the-art technology, “TRON: Legacy” featured Bridges as the first actor in cinematic history to play opposite a younger version of himself.

He will next be seen in the first animated feature film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s iconic masterpiece “The Little Prince” as the Aviator for director Mark Osborne. He was last seen in the action adventure fantasy film “Seventh Son,” reuniting with Julianne Moore and directed by Sergey Bodrov.

In August 2014, Bridges starred in “The Giver” opposite Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan. Based on the bestselling young adult novel by Lois Lowry, the film – which he also produced – was a passion project of his for more than 2 decades and was directed by Phillip Noyce.

Prior to “Crazy Heart,” Bridges was seen in the war comedy “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” playing Bill Django, a free-spirited military intelligence officer, who is the leader of a secret group of warriors in the army. The Peter Straughan screenplay (based on the Jon Ronson book and directed by Grant Heslov) is based on a true story about a reporter in Iraq, who meets a former member of the US Army’s First Earth Battalion, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions. He stars opposite George Clooney (also a producer), Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey.

Additionally, he starred in “A Dog Year” for HBO Films/ Picturehouse, based on the memoir by Jon Katz and directed by George LaVoo (who also wrote the screenplay) and garnered an Emmy nomination; as well as opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in the Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios blockbuster “Iron Man,” playing the character of Obadiah Stane.

He starred opposite Shia LaBeouf as Geek, a cantankerous and washed-up surfer penguin, in the Academy Award®-nominated “Surf’s Up,” from Sony Pictures Animation. Prior to that, he was in his second film for director Terry Gilliam, entitled “Tideland,” where he played Noah, a drug addicted, has-been, rock guitarist.

The actor’s multi-faceted career has cut a wide swathe across all genres. He has starred in numerous box office hits, including Gary Ross’ “Seabiscuit,” Terry Gilliam’s offbeat comedic drama “The Fisher King” (co-starring Robin Williams), the multi-award-nominated “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (co-starring his brother Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer), “The Jagged Edge” (opposite Glenn Close), Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” “Blown Away” (co-starring his late father Lloyd Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones), Peter Weir’s “Fearless” (with Isabella Rossellini and Rosie Perez), and Martin Bell’s “American Heart” (with Edward Furlong, produced by Bridges’ company, AsIs Productions). That film earned Bridges an IFP/Spirit Award in 1993 for Best Actor.

In the summer of 2004, he appeared opposite Kim Basinger in the critically acclaimed “The Door in the Floor” for director Todd Williams and Focus Features, which earned him an IFP/Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor.

He played a major featured role in “The Muse” (an Albert Brooks comedy starring Brooks, Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell); appeared in the suspense thriller “Arlington Road” (co-starring Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, directed by Mark Pellington); and starred in “Simpatico,” the screen version of Sam Shepard’s play (with Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone and Albert Finney). In 1998, he starred in the Coen brothers’ cult comedy “The Big Lebowski.” Before that, he starred in Ridley Scott’s “White Squall,” Walter Hill’s “Wild Bill,” John Huston’s “Fat City” and Barbara Streisand’s romantic comedy “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

[Let's not forget the heart-smashing Eastwood starrer Bridges was in in 1974.]

[Let’s not forget the heart-smashing Eastwood starrer Bridges was in in 1974.]

Some of Bridges’ other acting credits include “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” “K-PAX,” “Masked and Anonymous,” “Stay Hungry,” “Fat City,” “Bad Company,” “Against All Odds,” “Cutter’s Way,” “The Vanishing,” “Texasville,” “The Morning After,” “Nadine,” “Rancho Deluxe,” “See You in the Morning,” “Eight Million Ways to Die,” “TRON,” “The Last American Hero” and “Heart of the West.”

In 1983, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding children around the world. He produced the End Hunger televent, a three-hour live television broadcast focusing on world hunger. The televent featured Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Bob Newhart, Kenny Loggins and other leading film, television and music stars in an innovative production to educate and inspire action.

He is currently the national spokesman for the Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry campaign that is fighting to end childhood hunger in America.

Through his company, AsIs Productions, he produced “Hidden in America,” which starred his brother Beau. That television movie, produced for Showtime, received a Golden Globe nomination in 1996 for Best TV/Cable Film and garnered a Screen Actors Guild nod for Best Actor for Beau Bridges. The film was also nominated for two Emmy Awards.

One of Bridges’ true passions is photography. While on the set of his movies, he takes behind-the-scenes pictures of the actors, crew and locations. After completion of each motion picture, he edits the images into a book and gives copies to everyone involved. Bridges’ photographs have been featured in several magazines, including Premiere and Aperture, as well as in other publications worldwide. He has also had gallery exhibitions of his work in New York (at the George Eastman House), Los Angeles, London and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. In 2013, Bridges was the recipient of an Infinity Award, presented by the International Center of Photography, NY.

The books, which have become valued by collectors, were never intended for public sale, but in the fall of 2003, powerHouse Books released Pictures: Photographs by Jeff Bridges, a hardcover book containing a compilation of his photographs taken on numerous film locations over the years, to much critical acclaim. Proceeds from the book are donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers charitable care and support to film-industry workers.

In February 2015 Bridges released a spoken word/ambient album titled “Sleeping Tapes.” The collaboration was co-produced with musician Keefus Ciancia who also supplied the music. The album was released by web hosting service Squarespace as part of its Super Bowl advertising campaign, with all proceeds from the album sales going to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

In August 2011 Bridges released his self-titled major label debut album for Blue Note Records. Multiple-Grammy Award-wining songwriter, musician and producer T Bone Burnett produced the album. It is an organic extension and culmination of his personal, professional and music friendship with Burnett, whom he has known for more than 30 years. The critically acclaimed album was a follow up to his first solo effort “Be Here Soon,” on Ramp Records, the Santa Barbara, CA label he co-founded with Michael McDonald and producer/singer/songwriter Chris Pelonis. The CD features guest appearances by vocalist/keyboardist Michael McDonald, Grammy-nominated Amy Holland and country-rock legend David Crosby. In 2014 he released his first live album “Jeff Bridges & The Abiders Live” and has been touring off and on when he is not working.

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Bridges and his wife Susan divide their time between their home in Santa Barbara, California, and their ranch in Montana.

WHY YOU SHOULD DRIVE/FLY OUT THERE TO ATTEND…

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 30 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community through free programs like its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, National Film Studies Program, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. This past June, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre.  The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for program expansion and marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center to expand their mission of educational outreach.

[See HELL OR HIGHWATER via Redbox rentals, VOD and coming soon via streamers. And make sure to catch everything Jeff Bridges has ever been in, including TRON, original and remake, STARMAN, also 1974’s heart-smashing THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT.]

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and fans of The Dude, also Jeff Bridges, and his band of musicians in Santa Barbara.

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The Year Nobody Was a Pundit: Hollywood’s Shock, All Governments Lie, But Zero Days & Sparrow Shortlisted

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent [FilmFestivals.com]

Cui Bono? That’s the famous Latin line that means “who benefits,” and in the realm of conspiracy theories, this blunt tool ranks right up there with “Historian’s Fallacy” as a go-to. The term historian’s fallacy was minted by Brandeis Professor David Hackett Fischer in 1970, who pointed out the bright idea that even when someone is going through a historic event, or having experienced a historic event, said eyewitness may not have a historical perspective because they have no idea what might hit them next. So since 2016 is The Year Nobody Was a Pundit, as far as the US Presidential Election, and while most of Hollywood is still in shock at the shadow conservative vote in their midst, you’ll forgive a meandering but meaningful segue here into the Oscar Documentary Shortlist and why two films, Zero Days and Hooligan Sparrow, had special resonance. But first, Oliver Stone who executive produced a documentary on investigative journalist, I.F. Stone, directed by Fred Peabody. Unlike Zero Days and Sparrow, this is one that didn’t make the Oscar shortlist, but it’s extremely relevant this year.

unnamed-6Titled ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE, it’s based on the book that examines the influential life of investigative journalist, I.F. Stone “whose long one-man crusade against government deception lives on in the work of such contemporary filmmakers and journalists such as  Amy Goodman, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Cenk Uygur, Jeremy Scahill, David Corn, and Matt Taibbi.”

Amy Goodman, as you may know, is the figurehead of Democracy Now, a radio program and media beacon of the American Left that recently stood by the stand-down at the Dakota Access Pipeline. Goodman was even arrested there, but released with charges dropped. Laura Poitras is the filmmaker who brought us CitizenFour, the real-life encounter with Edward Snowden that brought government security to its knees, if only for a moment, while the American Public had their digital eyes peeled open. Glenn Greenwald is her cohort in this endeavor, formerly of the Guardian UK, now of his own media hotspot known as The Intercept. The other names are important, but Matt Taibbi is one journalist who stood firm in dissent as the Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” waves crashed onto voter beachheads. Taibbi is very respected because he stayed up to his ankles in the quick sand of changing poll numbers that made this American US Presidential Election the most highly rated quasi-fiasco in the history of US politics. Election 2016 is the ticket-seller that even Hollywood couldn’t come up with as a plot line: Hamburger Hillary vs The Donald. Initially this match-up looked, as one award-worthy internet troll put it, as “don’t bring a Cheeto to a knife fight” in favor of Hillary Clinton as far as the debates. But a strange thing happened on the way to the ballot box, a swirl of fake news, government reveals, and general discontent took over.

And this is why, although ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE didn’t make anybody’s shortlist, it’s an important film to watch. I.F. Stone’s legacy is the history of dissent in its modern form that we know it. He made his reputation as a journalist by flipping over the hallowed cobblestones of the American Democracy so we could get a view under the sheen of tradition. In fact, in 2015, I.F. Stone’s son Jeremy Stone was behind the release of a Knight Foundation documentary “The Legacy of I.F. Stone” produced out of Canada. According to Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, (Greenwald also has a role in this doc) I.F. Stone is known as “The Patron Saint of Bloggers,” and the first known journalist to tap “unofficial sources.”

And here’s where we went collectively, as a voter nation with the rest of the watching-world dragged with us, down a very, very, very long rabbit hole in the 2016 General Election. It was supposed to be a simple contest to determine who would become the next President of the United States, or POTUS in the shorthand. Yet the whole campaign turned into He Said, She Said, fueled by unnamed sources, hacked documents, and purported criminal activity on display.

I.F. Stone’s pioneering “unofficial sources” gambit in the Digital Age became a hellride into inter-party Spy vs Spy, a weltering clash of Anonymous vs Anonymous Global, and a final FBI Director James Comey showdown vs the CIA “counter coup.” Comey is the one whose October Surprise was a November game-changer for the Clinton campaign as it hinted at a 33,000 email-deletion related indictment imminent for her.  Oh wait, he recanted within days. Next, there was even a former US State Department operative, now a sci-fi writer, named Steve Pieczenik who began to leak YouTube videos about the “FBI soft coup” to stop Hillary Clinton, who apparently they’d been tracking for Clinton Foundation fraud, from becoming POTUS. Finally elusive global-hacktivist entity Anonymous really got into the act by flooding YouTube with “Wake Up America” type calls to action to halt the current questions over alleged “Russian” hacking into the US electoral process… exhausting, isn’t it? It’s like everyone on earth and in the media lost the plot in 2016. Even genius poll predictor Nate Silver, who called elections within percentage points in the past, had Donald Trump losing by a 67% chance even as the vote count began.

Again, 2016 is The Year Nobody Was A Pundit. But “unnamed sources” and unsubstantiated allegations, as well as hit videos ruled the day. Although it’s not what was intended by I. F. Stone (no relation to Oliver), this election year is in many ways the slap in the face that Hollywood needed too. When a real life election is more fascinating than any feature film releases on their slate, the Studios can no longer grind out the same rebooted content, folks. People still went to the movie theaters and downloaded filmed content in 2016, but the US Election was beyond gripping – and not in a good way. We’re supposed to be the nation that sets the stage for the much-touted “fair and free elections.” We’re the country that points out the polling stations cheaters in so-called “banana republics,” restores justice when rogue countries go awry and thumbs our nose at humans rights violators with harsh sanctions.

Those very attributes the United States prides itself on came into question in 2016, even the idea that we could shake a fist at corruption in other countries when we ourselves seemed pretty porous as far as scandals from within.

This political preamble is why, in my humble opinion as a critic, two documentaries – Hooligan Sparrow and Zero Days – really mattered on a world-events scale this year. Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin, the tech couple behind Lynda.com, an online tutorial empire they have since sold, hosted a very crucial screening of Hooligan Sparrow, a documentary about women’s rights in China that becomes a visual essay on the struggle for human rights and freedoms on a visceral level. Hooligan1sht16

Here’s the official description of the film:

“The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.

Filmmaker Wang risks her own life and becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, and in the process, she exposes a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets. Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.”

In covering it earlier this year, I’d asked Nanfu Wang “What is the history of protests in China? And do you think the West influenced this?” Nanfu takes a short breath, she is remarkably composed for someone who literally had to smuggle her footage out of China. “Protests are taboo in China,” she begins. Then she detailed the barriers for giving a proverbial “voice to the voiceless” in her home country. In a modest floral theme red dress, and Nanfu Wang safe in the West, it’s a disconnect to imagine the gritty street fights she’s had to face, even under the pressure of a second language here. Nanfu Wang is definitely someone to watch for more powerful visual essays on film, with Hooligan Sparrow just a first salvo, hopefully.

The connector to the next hugely impactful documentary, Zero Days, is that ripple effect, when an issue for someone like Sparrow’s activist Ye Haiyan ignites a global reaction. In Zero Days, a few watchers on the wall of technology saw something odd, shared it amongst themselves, and didn’t realize they’d discovered the tail of international espionage-made virus that could literally crash the world.

Zero Days is my personal pic for Best Documentary because it reveals the inner workings and internecine fighting going on within the highly insulated and highly secure secret world of CyberSec, including cybersecurity operatives and the divisions between “three letter agencies” which later becomes writ large in the so-called “soft coup” shoot-out between the FBI and the CIA firing back with hacking allegations even you read this. It’s a very dangerous game of Spy Agency vs Spy Agency that has shaken some truly home-grown crazy out of the American woodwork. YouTube is replete with claims and counter-claims of hacking, spying, even purporting to reveal a laundry list of conspiracy theories. Some of these “theories” – from Clinton unspeakable evil-doing to Trump’s Jesus-like magic – make David Aaronvitch’s book “Voodoo Histories, The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History” look tame. Aaronvitch makes compelling arguments that conspiracy theories actually serve a purpose in the pattern of history as it unfolds… but the 2016 Presidential Election crazy, especially where high-level official discussions and briefings included the possibility of “foreign actors” (read: Russia) hacking Democractic emails, the Election, and the polling machines, well it just went beyond rational human understanding.

Which makes Alex Gibney’s documentary on the events leading to the detection of a computer virus designed to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in order to sabotage their entire nuclear program, that much more important as an object lesson.

Zero Days stars a range of officials and high-level tech players who unravel the Stuxnet story. Starring Colonel Gary D. Brown, Eric Chien, Richard A. Clarke, General Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen, Chris Inglis, Vitaly Kamluk, Eugene Kaspersky, Gibney’s “ZERO DAYS is a documentary thriller about the world of cyberwar.” ZeroDaysPoster16

Here’s the official description: “For the first time, the film tells the complete story of Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. ZERO DAYS is the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyber warfare. Beyond the technical aspects of the story, ZERO DAYS reveals a web of intrigue involving the CIA, the US Military’s new cyber command, Israel’s Mossad and Operations that include both espionage and covert assassinations but also a new generation of cyber weapons whose destructive power is matched only by Nuclear War.”

Some of this is a recap from my earlier coverage and interview with Eric Chien this year, but there’s a lot of implied geopolitics embedded here, and again, along with the hacking component, really cements it as my Best Doc pic for 2016. Before seeing ZERO DAYS, it’s critical to understand the US’s former relationship to the Shah of Iran. Before he was deposed, the Shah of Iran received a key first piece of their nuclear program from the US. It was supposed to be used for energy generation, power plants. The Christian Science Monitor did a round-up once that put dates on the whole mess. “In 1967, under the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program launched by President Eisenhower, the US sold the Shah of Iran’s government a 5-megawatt, light-water type reactor… the foundation of Iran’s nuclear power program.” The Shah reigned from Sept. 16, 1941 until Feb. 11, 1979, when he was toppled by the Iranian Revolution. However questionable the Shah’s regime was, it’s axiomatic that something would go wrong once the largely secular world of his rule fell into theological hands as the 1980’s began.

Next things go from theological to zealot by US estimations. And then there’s 9/11. Allegations are Iran is inching its way toward the “bomb,” because it’s not a huge stretch from power-reactor fuel to weapons grade material. You can see why the US government would consider cyber war in the wake of 9/11, especially since the hardware and software for their nuclear program comes mostly from the West (read: a way in via upgrades to the tech). Plus, would anyone ever find out? Someone high up likely gambled on the wrong side of “No.” So malware was secretly engineered, somewhere, to attack the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility.

Alex Gibney’s take on it is, “I started out making a small film investigating ‘Stuxnet…’ What I discovered was a massive clandestine operation involving the CIA, the NSA, the US military and Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad to build and launch secret cyber ‘bombs’ that could plunge the world into a devastating series of… attacks on critical infrastructure, shutting down electricity… this science fiction scenario…”

That’s Alex Gibney for you, outing the whole gamut of international players from “three-letter agencies” to nation states. But then you talk to someone like Eric Chien, Technical Director of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response division, who was among the first handful to discover and name the Stuxnet virus, and it becomes clear that the message of ZERO DAYS is not rehashing old news about the perils of technology. (As in the current alleged Russian election hacking fracas, and the role of governments in controlling infighting among agencies tasked with cyber security.)

Although it is public record that Belorussian engineer Sergey Ulasen was the first responder to the then-unnamed Stuxnet virus as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) reboot over there in the Iranian nuke-related nest of computers; the message of this film is really about the knowledge gap between policy makers and digital purveyors, who, at the speed of technology, will reshape the world for us if we don’t watch out.

In person, Eric Chien is incredibly personable, a youthful exemplar of next-generation digital professionals. “We make Norton Anti-Virus,” he begins, to kind of define Symantec. He also apologies that colleague Liam O’Murchu couldn’t make it. “He had his hands on it first,” Chien adds, meaning Stuxnet. “Normally what we do, day-to-day, is we look at the latest (cyber) attacks. About one million a day. A lot of it is handled through automation, which automatically create fixes for them.”

“When we come across some big attacks, we share (with stakeholders)” pieces of the code for others to monitor or give feedback on. “Recently someone tried to transfer $1 BN from the Bank of Bangladesh,” he said, and this discovery brought back some similarities to the adrenaline of the Stuxnet discovery.

Chien mentions the possible government or shadowy players that he’s encountered in untangling the virus. “When you have black motorcycles, wearing all black following you, behind you, you start to wonder.”

On why Stuxnet wasn’t part of the Snowden leak, he casually mentions, “Edward Snowden didn’t leak this because those files are stored on a different server.” Then, ironically, Chien says he is not under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), because “we don’t have a two-tiered system. We share this information with our clients… we would never work for hostile nations.” Chien reveals that ‘zero-day’ is a term that basically means the virus is discovered at the same time the vulnerability is revealed that makes the exploit even possible. (Think of it as a hole-in-one golf shot, but nobody knew there was a hole there until the ball hit. Now you’ve got two problems.)

“Stuxnet had not one, but four zero-days in it,” he emphasizes, “even one zero day is rare, but four?” This is how “we knew nation states must be involved.” But breaking the code, finding out what this virus was supposed to do “was the needle in the haystack. I mean it had a (kill) date in it, but it was not easy to figure out.” Tying into the election theme, Stuxnet’s “kill date” mysteriously coincided with the 2012 election.

With all the current election brouhaha, the focus on Russia, Chien made a shocking remark that puts Moscow’s capabilities in perspective. “There’s something to be said for obsolesce,” he revealed. “Because when Russia tried to shut down (the gird) in the Ukraine, their technology was so old, they could actually go to each site and crank it back on by hand.” That’s not in Zero Days, but insider terms like Nitro Zeus are, and maybe what’s most important about this film is that it details the bones of contention, the lines of power, and the factions opposed to one another behind the scenes in our government agencies.

And this comes full circle to the opening focus on the current contested election results… agencies are infighting and all we can do is find our own way back up the rabbit hole, back into the reasonable margin of error that Democracy lives by.

A complete list of the Academy’s Best Documentary shortlist for the 89th Academy Award Presentation to be held  February 26, 2017, can be found on www.oscars.org

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Oscar Whiplash Likely for Damien Chazelle’s LA LA Land & Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Oh, to ruin Award Season… but isn’t that what we’re on earth for? To have our dreams shattered but then our lives uplifted, if only in the movies? Enter LA LA LAND, a singing, dancing act of pure wish fulfillment starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Wait, a musical? Don’t be fooled. This is classic cinema updated with today’s angst. Stone says “the idea of this really modern story of two artists and dreamers” hooked her immediately. Ryan Gosling admits it was “a secret wish of mine” to make classic musicals.

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LA LA LAND is the latest gift from Harvard-alum Damien Chazelle who brought us that inimitable gem, WHIPLASH. He’s the one who played drums in high school, which inspired the driven core character played by Miles Teller. In 2014, the then newcomer-director made the award show rounds for WHIPLASH. He even found himself seated on stage for AFI Fest with Tilda Swinton, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Marion Cotillard, plus other famous names. Chazelle seemed already tipped as someone who would make a mark in the movies. This may be the Rhode Island native’s Oscar year as a Best Director contender. This new movie also makes you forget he wrote 10 Cloverfield Lane, the horror thriller, but it’s just gliding on the Oscar that he is a viable screenwriter-for-hire in Hollywood too. (The connective tissue is Chazelle’s interest in demons, one’s own creative demons that drive great performances or in supernatural ones in his love of horror movies.)

AFI Fest 2014, and they already know Chazelle is a star talent.

AFI Fest 2014, and they already know Chazelle is a star talent. Far right, seated beside Marion Cotillard.

Fittingly Chazelle studied Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard, and LA LA LAND is truly a visual and environmental tableaux as far as eye candy. And of course the casting is stellar. (Does everybody know Ryan Gosling was a Disney Channel kid star with Justin Timberlake? He was.) Chazelle says he considers Gosling and Stone to be like “Bogie and Bacall” and other great screen couples. Consider it Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay – if in nominations only, if not an outright sweep of the major categories. (Except for Viola Davis, who will take the category, and absolutely dominate, as Best Supporting Actress for FENCES, hopefully.)

LA LA LAND, yes that’s three words not a compound noun as in the pejorative for Los Angeles. Think Everyone Says I Love You by Woody Allen meets Your Favorite Behind the Scenes Classic 30’s Musical. Wait. Think Hamilton-like reboot of a slick, often goofy, cloying even when iconic, genre that just found its authentic swing. That’s what LA LA LAND becomes. Chazelle has a huge advantage because his background is so deep in the nuances and heartbreaking ability of music (i.e.; WHIPLASH) that he tugs the audience along by the ear as well as the eye in this pastel colored “real-life” twinged singing, dancing triumph.

LALA1sht16Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are both “triple threats,” according to J.K. Simmons, who plays Ryan’s boss in this one and also starred with Teller in WHIPLASH (where Simmons picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Triple threat, for those of you under the age of 40, is Hollywood Golden Age lingo for the rare actors with the triple skills of singing, dancing, and acting. Remember the Dirty Dancing scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love? These two are giving new life to the idea of Silver Screen Super Couple Chemistry where Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper – who promised so much in Silver Linings Playbook – let us down hard lately, ouch in Serena, even in JOY.

Since Gosling and Stone killed it as a love pair in Crazy, Stupid, Love, they are matched like dancing shoes in LA LA LAND… now for the featurette courtesy of Lionsgate.

Here’s the insider story…

Find out more at http://www.lalaland.movie, but see WHIPLASH again in the meantime for the first jazz-musician themed Chazelle movie. LA LA LAND is his second excursion with a strong jazz focused storyline as Ryan Gosling plays a struggling jazz man who keeps running into Emma Stone’s struggling actor character. Coming off her career high in BIRDMAN (Michael Keaton), Emma Stone just keeps getting better and better. And this film makes you believe there is a place for dreaming, even in these cynical times.

LA LA LAND had a limited roll out on Dec. 9 and will no doubt go wider soon as it just received seven Golden Globe nominations, 8 Critics Choice Award nominations, after winning National Board of Review’s Top 10 Films of the Year, and Best Film from New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

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Shusaku Endo’s Novel From 1966 Goes Wide in SILENCE Coming from Scorsese

Since Andrew Garfield has eschewed the red pajamas of blockbuster franchise fronting for Spiderman, he has become a kind of dangling participle of the acting world, meant to modify the mythical noun of Actor but finding nothing in Hollywood to satisfy the life sentence that is the craft. Sounds pretty literary, huh?  Well, enter Martin Scorsese with renown author Shusaku Endo, a Japanese literary titan who died in 1996 at the age of 73, and was practically the only acclaimed novelist from Japan to write from the POV of a Roman CatholicMartySAndyGThe story goes that at age 11, Endo’s Roman Catholic aunt somehow convinced him to be baptized. And what follows is a Japanese glimpse into a conversion world of a Western religion that changes his life as a writer, but moves his story lines through the character perspective of Westerner’s eyes, specifically in the book SILENCE that centers around the travails of Portuguese missionaries circa the 17th century.

Talk about competing spiritual influences, Endo’s 1966 book (now adapted to screen) SILENCE tells the story of two of these Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who weather the ultimate test of their faith when they voyage to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) – at a time when Christianity is outlawed in the 1600’s as mentioned and their presence forbidden.

Imagine it took Scorsese 28 years to develop, fund, and ultimately crank out this film, a spiritual journey into the mind of Shusaku Endo in itself.

Watch for Adam Driver to be very Adam Driver-y, as he imbues his performance with that peculiar talent he possesses, which one hopes won’t possess him someday. And of course Liam Neeson, off the TAKEN money-making treadmill, has a chance to buy back his soul here with what looks to be a phenomenally redemptive performance. Silence1sht

The hashtag is #SilenceMovie; SILENCE slips into theaters December 23, in time for that biggest of Western religious (but now commercial and cloying) holiday celebrations a/k/a Christmas.

Marty Scorses is quite the auteur, reaching into the weeds here for a rare blossom, storytellingwise. How it fits in with the rest of his work, you can figure out from this info graphic from our friends at Graphiq! Happy hunting for a theme, lol.

Find SILENCE on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/silencemovie or http://www.silencemovie.com/

 

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and have religious differences without arguments.

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Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner Go Viral for ARRIVAL in Toronto Now

SCREENMANCER TIFF ALERT: As if there aren’t enough reasons to love Amy Adams, or, as if there is anyone in Hollywood who can find a reason not to adore pro Amy Adams, her arrival for ARRIVAL in Toronto is about to go viral as we show the fan-friendly star shining brightest with her co-stars on the red carpet up at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival).

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And what is ARRIVAL? Distributed by Paramount, the new release set for Nov. 11 stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. You’ll love cast of Denis Villeneuve‘s ARRIVAL in Toronto with these curated red carpet sneaks.

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Michael Stuhlbarg too, with Jeremy Renner & You Know Who…

Things to remember…

ARRIVAL Logline is: When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – are brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArrivalMovie/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/arrivalmovie

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/arrivalmovie/

#WhyAreTheyHere

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SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies, UFOs & adore Amy Adams.

news@screenmancer.tv

MADE IN LA

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In Case You Wonder Where Warren Beatty Has Been & “Rules Don’t Apply” At AFI

 

SCREENMANCER AFI ALERT: LOS ANGELES, CA, August 30, 2016 — The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today that the World Premiere of New Regency and 20th Century Fox’s RULES DON’T APPLY — written, directed, produced by and starring AFI Life Achievement Award recipient and Academy Award® winner Warren Beatty — will be the Opening Night Gala of AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi on Thursday, November 10, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA. The cast also includes Academy Award® nominees Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Steve Coogan and Ed Harris, as well as Haley Bennett, Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Taissa Farmiga, Megan Hilty, Oliver Platt and Martin Sheen.

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For the 13th consecutive year, AFI FEST will showcase the very best in global cinema thanks to the visionary support of presenting sponsor Audi. “Warren Beatty has charmed and challenged moviegoers from his first moment on screen, and his talents as an actor, director, writer and producer have always transcended trends,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO. “AFI is honored to present the World Premiere of his newest gift to America’s cultural legacy.”

“We are launching the 30th edition of AFI FEST with a new Warren Beatty film that takes place in 1950s Hollywood. Romantic entanglements, the youthful pursuit of success and an outlandish billionaire are brought to life by a remarkable ensemble cast,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, Director, AFI FEST. “On Opening Night, the TCL Chinese Theatre, the quintessential temple of cinema in Hollywood, will shine a light on RULES DON’T APPLY.”

The 30th edition of AFI FEST takes place November 10–17, 2016, in the heart of Hollywood. Screenings, Galas and other events will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and The Hollywood Roosevelt. The full festival lineup and schedule will be unveiled in October.

Patron packages ensure reserved seats for Opening Night and all proceeds benefit the educational programs of the American Film Institute. A limited number of individual tickets to Opening Night and other screenings are also made available at no charge thanks to the event sponsors. Go to AFI.com now to purchase Patron Packages which can include access to Galas and other high-demand films and events. Individual tickets are available at AFI.combeginning November 1.

As part of their membership benefits, AFI members will receive a complimentary AFI FEST Cinepass, which allows access to all regular screenings and special offers at this year’s festival. Additionally, AFI members at the Two-Star level and above level receive a 10% discount on all AFI FEST Patron Packages and Express Passes. Information about AFI membership is available at AFI.com/membership.

Audi is the exclusive presenting sponsor of AFI FEST 2016, once again championing innovative filmmakers from around the globe through its steadfast support of the festival and AFI’s mission.

Additional top sponsors include AT&T; American Airlines, the official airline of AFI; and VIZIO, the official home theater sponsor of AFI.

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Just What Is RULES DON‘T APPLY?
An aspiring young actress (Lily Collins) and her ambitious young driver (Alden Ehrenreich) struggle hopefully with the absurd eccentricities of the wildly unpredictable billionaire (Warren Beatty) for whom they work.

It’s Hollywood, 1958. Small town beauty queen and devout Baptist virgin Marla Mabrey (Collins), under contract to the infamous Howard Hughes (Beatty), arrives in Los Angeles. At the airport, she meets her driver Frank Forbes (Ehrenreich), who is engaged to be married to his 7th grade sweetheart and is a deeply religious Methodist. Their instant attraction not only puts their religious convictions to the test, but also defies Hughes’ number one rule: no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress. Hughes’ behavior intersects with Marla and Frank in very separate and unexpected ways, and as they are drawn deeper into his bizarre world, their values are challenged and their lives are changed.

To learn more about RULES DON’T APPLY, visit the film’s official website at http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/rules-dont-apply. In theaters November 23, 2016.

Why We Love The American Film Institute (AFI)…
AFI is America’s promise to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding movies and TV series of the year; AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by AudiAFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world-renowned AFI Conservatory. For more information about AFI, visit AFI.com or connect with AFI at twitter.com/AmericanFilmfacebook.com/AmericanFilmInstituteinstagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute and youtube.com/AFI.

And Why AFI FEST Is a Fan of Audi…
A program of the American Film Institute, AFI FEST presented by Audi is a celebration of global cinema and today’s Hollywood — a showcase for the best festival films of the year and an opportunity for master filmmakers and emerging artists to come together with audiences in the movie capital of the world. Celebrating its 30th edition, AFI FEST is the only festival of its stature that is free to the public. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST as a qualifying festival for both Short Film categories for the annual Academy Awards®. This year’s edition takes place November 10–17, 2016. Additional information about AFI FEST is available at AFI.com/AFIFEST. Connect with AFI FEST at facebook.com/AFIFESTtwitter.com/AFIFEST and youtube.com/AFIFEST.

Shameless Plug for Audi
Audi of America, Inc., and its U.S. dealers offer a full line of German-engineered luxury vehicles. AUDI AG is among the most successful luxury automotive brands globally. The Audi Group delivered over 1,800,000 vehicles to customers globally in 2015, and broke all-time company sales records for the 6th straight year in the U.S. Through 2019, AUDI AG plans to invest about 24 billion euros – 70 percent of the investment will flow into the development of new models and technologies. Visit http://www.audiusa.com or http://www.audiusa.com/newsroom for more information regarding Audi vehicles and business topics.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and applaud AFI.

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Red Carpet Reveals: What Stars Depp, Brolin, Let Slip on Press Line & Katie Holmes Syndrome

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

By now the “Disso Queen,” the nickname of Johnny Depp’s attorney Laura Wasser, has squared off against Amber Heard’s superhero-named legal eagle Samantha Spector in what looks to be A Divorce to Remember. But before allegations fly from both corners, the red carpet is where the first signs of trouble manifest. This is where being on the press line becomes an artform in reading star body language. JohnnyDeppHandWhen Depp appeared to collect a major life achievement award from Leonard Maltin in February, he was solo on the red carpet. Questions about Amber Heard’s whereabouts went unanswered, kind of down to mumbles. In fact, one could say Depp, 52, went from Trouble With Paradis, meaning long-time love Vanessa Paradis, 43, to Trouble in Paradise, meaning the current fracas with dishy Drive Angry star Amber Heard, who turned 30 in April. Angelina Jolie is reported to have been opposed to Heard from the beginning, especially the lack of pre-nup, so it’s no surprise that Depp has now retained Jolie’s former divorce lawyer Laura Wasser. “Dissolution” is the California word for divorce, hence this Disso Queen and opposing counsel Spector (both from Loyola Law School) have their battle to come on June 17, the next court date.

After Beds, Bets Are Being Made…

My money is on Wasser, because who couldn’t love a divorce attorney who went on the record with Interview Magazine in 2012 as quoting Samuel Johnson. As in, “My personal feelings on marriage? Samuel Johnson once said second marriages — although I could probably say this about any marriage — are about the triumph of hope over experience. I think that’s true. I don’t know that human beings were meant to mate for life or be monogamous.” HatterDepp16
Clearly Johnny Depp, JD to his friends, is in good hands. But those moments on the red carpet just stick in the memory, how the Black Mass star seemed reluctant to walk the press line, then makes direct eye contact and even collects a bouquet (huge security risk) from an elderly reporter across the velvet rope. This woman, in retrospect, may have reminded him of his ailing mother. For an A-Lister and franchise fronter, Jack Sparrow lost his persona for a moment and let you in, an unusual event for a movie star.

Right then it reminded of Josh Brolin, similar red carpet behavior before the story broke of his divorce from Diane Lane.  Son of well-liked actor James Brolin and step-son of Barbra Streisand, who adores Diane Lane, Brolin walked the red carpet for the 2009 WGA Awards for then-nominated movie Milk and exhibited the same Depp-like behavior, guarded and too available at the same time. BrolinLane16Diane Lane was noticeably absent from the red carpet. When asked about her, Josh Brolin evaded the issue deftly. Next time he is in the news, reports and photographs show that Brolin went off the rails briefly, in an eerie parallel to Johnny Depp’s current scenario, without the allegations of abuse, fortunately. In a relatively happy ending, Brolin is now engaged to his assistant, make that ex-assistant, Kathryn Boyd. And Diane Lane is the bigger star, so she wins.

All’s Fair in Love & Divorce

While the circumstances of Depp and Brolin’s relationships and marriage breakdown are very different, the red flags on the red carpet were the same. Oddly enough, when the news is good, as in the case of Jamie Kennedy, the red carpet behavior is the same. Kennedy was dating Jennifer Love Hewitt, but the news wasn’t broken yet. HewittKennedy16On the red carpet, Jennifer Love Hewitt was right behind him, as then co-star, but the proximity was too close. The next day Ryan Seacrest’s KISS-FM radio show broke the story about the dating, which ended within a year back in 2010.
But the big takeaway, besides the hiding in plain sight, was Jamie Kennedy’s admission in the aftermath about dating his more-famous ex: “People weren’t rooting for a good relationship,” he told Perez Hilton. “That was really hard to deal with. You see snarky headlines and eventually you just have to stop reading stuff.”

Looking Crass, Not Looking Glass?

Right now, and leading up to June 17, there is more bile than snark flying around in the Depp vs. Heard headlines. Disney is suffering bad box office for Depp-starrer Alice Through the Looking Glass; industry insiders, via The Hollywood Reporter for example, are doing a fair amount of hand-wringing, blaming Johnny Depp’s personal life (read: bad press) for the tanking BO. However, the real reflection staring back at Disney from the broken box office looking glass? The blank faces of movie-goers who are just done with recyquels (new word coined here!). Heard faces similar problems with the alleged ‘negative feedback’ coming back from her association and roles in Warner Bros’ DC Universe with an appearance in The Justice League and as a main player for the Aquaman franchise, in which she is inked to play Mera.

What Katie Did

KatieHolmes16Too bad Amber Heard didn’t read the fine print from the previous high-profile marriage meltdown, Tom Cruise vs. Katie Holmes. There should literally be a name for what happened to her, let’s call it The Katie Holmes Syndrome: meaning marrying a superstar will eclipse your career as the wife, and bury your career as the superstar’s ex. Both women gave up prime real estate in their 20’s for these mega-marriages. Holmes was already 28, but a repeat love-interest shoo-in for the Batman franchise. Which she skipped, then had to watch Maggie Gyllenhaal take over in what would become one of the biggest grossers of all time.

Consider also Michelle Williams’ career after Batman’s Heath Ledger faded. Williams was eclipsed by the bigger star and under a black cloud after The Joker‘s shock death, which literally sucked the life out of her career too. MichelleWilliams16 Heard was a huge sensation as evil-slaying hot mess Piper from sexy-psycho road movie Drive Angry with Nicolas Cage in 2011. She was 25 then, and already under Depp’s shadow. Instead of amping her career, the Johnny Depp association practically took her off the market in Hollywood. The moral of the story here is, to avoid Katie Holmes Syndrome, don’t marry the superstar if you want a career. Or simply hitch your wagon to a Star Waggon with your eyes wide open, shall we say.  Whatever the outcome, the first cracks, as mentioned, will happen on the carpet because Super Couples are literally attached at the hip for press junkets. You will be asked about your spouse, it’s a rule. Luckily, unlike TomKat and Brangelina, Depp and Heard never had a compound press moniker.

Always A Minor Hitch

Maybe it’s time for the studios to have a watcher on the red carpet to monitor tell-tale signs of personal upheavals. Or better yet, somewhere Depp’s Mortdecai co-star Gwyneth Paltrow is chuckling harder than Vanessa Paradis is said to be doing, because now the idea of “Conscious Uncoupling,” or a blood-less friendly divorce, seems like a welcome alternative. Ironically, Paltrow had to come forward to say that her marketing mind at goop, her online web lifestyle portal, had just used the term in a headline not even in the body copy of her divorce announcement. In fact, the real originator of the concept of Conscious Uncoupling, Pepper Potts had to admit, was psychologist Katherine Woodward Thomas. Woodward Thomas famously told The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, that “Gwyneth wasn’t aware I existed.” AmberHeard16The Conscious Uncoupling creator also said something at that time so telling that it applies to Depp vs. Heard, and likely to every celebrity divorce: “the grief of lost love is intensified by the sense of public shame and failure; of having your union judged and belittled.” It all starts to show when they’re called on the carpet, the dread carpet.

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Pixel-Perfect BILAL Screened at Cannes 69th & Took a Few Years, 22 Countries to Create

SCREENMANCER ANIMATION ALERT: Recently Dubai’s first-ever CGI animation, BILAL, screened at the 69th Cannes International Film Festival, which featured an Animation Night on May 18. But the story behind BILAL, a 1400-year-old animated saga, is even more notable. The cast includes excellent actors Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (who played the yacht assassination target for Matt Damon in BOURNE IDENTITY), and Ian McShane from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” TV series, also PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEANBilalActor2BILAL had a sneak preview five months ago at the 3rd Ajyal Youth Festival, presented by the Doha Film Institute, in Doha, Qatar. This pixel-perfect, Disney-quality animation is said to have culled resources from 22 countries, tapping 327 creatives, in collaboration to complete on a budget of $30 M USD. Eponymous main character Bilal is actually based on a historic figure, a revered warrior, named Bilal bin Rabah. And who was he? “One of the most trusted companions of the Prophet Mohammed,” according to exhaustive research done by the film’s makers via Saudi-informed “forensic historians.”

What makes this film interesting is that you don’t necessarily have to know the backstory to appreciate the master-level craftsmanship on the CGI in BILAL. In fact, this project pays off the promise that ‘reality begins at 80 million polygons’ as coined by animation forefather Alvy Ray Smith, and really brings home the notion that this technology now has a life of its own as this fantastic tool available all over the world for people to tell make epic explorations.

When you watch this film, you see top drawer animation with a sincere message of “faith, hope and self-discovery inspired by the real life story,” as described by the filmmakers.

To quote them directly, “Director/producer Ayman Jamal said when casting the voice talent for the main characters they targeted the US because they wanted the actor playing Bilal ‘to be able to give an English and African accent and to convey the epic sense of the story inspired by real events that happened 1400 years ago.’” bilalarrow2American actor Jacob Latimore is teenage BILAL. According to Kidzworld, a portal for young actors, this Milwaukee native grew up with a love of Motown and singular gifts as a musician early on with a hit called “Superstar.” Which means he has the perfect voice control as a voice actor, not to mention his credits include roles in 2014’s RIDE ALONG (Kevin Hart, Ice Cube) and THE MAZE RUNNER, as well as a 2010 credit for VANISHING ON 7TH STREET. Over the course of this spirited and engaging film, Bilal’s character will age from 6 to 60 years old, and the intricate animation’s high-dollar production values make it a pleasure to sit through.

This is a multi-talent collaboration, as mentioned, with clever choices such as Atil Örvarsson, a composer from Iceland, to do the music. Örvarsson said he tried to “combine the archaelogical, historical nature of the story and make it accessible for an international audience. We used old instruments from the region and combined it with modern electronically synthesised music, we created themes for some of the characters and created a unique, other worldly sound for the witch doctor.”

Project point-person Jamal nailed the complexity of producing a movie of this scope in CGI, especially when the Dubai creative climate is more familiar with shorter projects. “The industry here is based on short movies and originally we wanted to work with an animation studio but we found there was no animation or CGI studio in the MENA region so we had to start the studio ourselves to make BILAL and that’s how we established Dubai-based Barajoun Studios.” BilalHugThe film itself was funded by individual investors from the Gulf Region, including Saudi Arabia with the Doha Film Institute. Expect BILAL to be on the radar this year, as Variety, Indiewire, Cartoon Brew, and Animation News have all tracked its progress thus far. Let’s hope this film has the harmonizing effect as intended, because the animation is truly pixel-perfect. Find out more about BILAL here, and watch for it to screen near you soon.

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A Tale of Two Maestros: John Williams & Spielberg at AFI, on TCM

SCREENMANCER GALA ALERT:

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STEVEN SPIELBERG TO PRESENT JOHN WILLIAMS
WITH AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE’S LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Williams to Be Honored at AFI Gala Tribute Event on Thursday, June 9, 2016

TNT to Premiere AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN WILLIAMS
on June 15 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT

Steven Spielberg will present John Williams with the American Film Institute’s 44th Life Achievement Award. This marks the first time in AFI history that America’s highest honor for a career in film will be bestowed upon a composer. Williams’ career will be celebrated at the private Gala Tribute on June 9, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA. The televised special, AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN WILLIAMS, will air on TNT on June 15 at 10:00 p.m. (ET/ PT), followed by an encore presentation on sister network Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on September 12 during a night of programming dedicated to John Williams. This marks the fourth year the Emmy®-winning AFI special has aired on Turner networks.

The September 12 TCM lineup, including presentations of AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN WILLIAMS and the 2011 special AFI’S MASTER CLASS: THE ART OF COLLABORATION – STEVEN SPIELBERG AND JOHN WILLIAMS, will be as follows:

8:00 p.m. AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN WILLIAMS (2016)
10:15 p.m. JAWS (1975)
12:30 a.m. AFI’S MASTER CLASS: THE ART OF COLLABORATION – STEVEN SPIELBERG AND JOHN WILLIAMS (2011)
1:30 a.m. AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN WILLIAMS (2016)
2:45 a.m. THE COWBOYS (1972)
5:15 a.m. GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1969)

Spielberg received the 23rd AFI Life Achievement Award in 1995. Together, he and Williams have collaborated on over 25 projects including JAWS (1975), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982), JURASSIC PARK (1993), SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993), SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002), LINCOLN (2012) and the upcoming THE BFG (2016).

John Williams’ storied career as the composer behind many of the greatest American films and television series of all time boasts more than 150 credits across seven decades. Whether epic in scale, jazz-infused, or intimate and personal, his music has helped define over half a century of the motion picture medium. Three of Williams’ scores landed on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores — a list of the 25 greatest American film scores of all time — including the unforgettable score for STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977), which ranks at number one. With five Academy Award® wins and 50 nominations in total, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar® nominations of any living person.

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Why Sylvester Stallone Could Take Oscar, Thanks to Ryan Coogler’s CREED

by Quendrith Johnson, Awards Intelligencer (Feb.10, 2016) — awfj.org

Maybe it’s a little-known fact that a deep bond exists between Hollywood icon Sylvester Stallone and a newly minted phenom, Creed director Ryan Coogler. Coogler, who turns 30 in May, was also homeless once and had to fight his way to the big leagues in movies. Deadline’s reporter Pete Hammond, on hand to present Stallone with the Montecito Award in Santa Barbara, prods Stallone on this, skipping the connection with Coogler who lived in his car on-and-off while attending USC Film School. The “legend in the house,” as Hammond has introduced him, wags his head and looks toward the floor at this question. “I lived in my coat — you call it coat, I call it a house.” CreedJordanSly16In typical Rocky fashion, “Sly” Stallone, takes this loaded question and just detonates it to reveal something breathtakingly human. He recounts “living in the port authority bus station, outside a post office. My coat became my buddy, my house. But there’s something to be said about struggle.”

Later he will segue into one of the most beautiful and telling John Huston (Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, Asphalt Jungle) stories ever, from the 1981 film Victory with the unlikely cast of Stallone and a youngish Michael Caine in a politically charged soccer match against Nazi players, with Max von Sydow playing a heavy in jackboots. It even has a cameo by Pelé.

“He was a great storyteller,” Stallone exhales, before watching a clip of Victory. “So John Huston. You get two alpha dogs together. He’s like ‘hmm who’s this guy? We were in Hungary.” To make a long story short, Stallone quickly rattles off all the directions Huston gave him, hard ones, as in a whole list of physical demands: “go through the barbwire… down a hill… crawl through the grass… in one take. So ‘(Camera) Rolling.’”

Next thing, “I zip down, dip, zing… dogs are barking — I’m in grass crawling, crawling. I’ve gone 50 yards. No camera in the world can follow, unless it is connected to a lawn mower — the grass is five feet high. I stand up. No one around. They’re all leaving (up the hill).” A much younger Stallone is incensed, feels the humiliation. He goes to air his grievances with Huston. How does the wry John Huston react? SlyPeleCaineJH16

“He says, ‘If you have a problem with me, Mr. Stallone, put it in a letter. And I will read it in the morning.’ He had a sense of humor that was a little weirder than mine.” The “Italian Stallion” as he once was known in the 70’s from his blue film period, does a pitch perfect impersonation of Huston, complete with condescending pauses, as he recalls those words.

And while all the focus is on Creed right now, which is notable for being the first “Rocky Balboa” movie with Stallone in it, not penned by the actor, Sylvester Stallone’s history in show business can not be overlooked in thinking about Award Season. Another gem is when he tells of auditioning for Woody Allen for Bananas, where “Woody didn’t find us intimidating enough,” to be “muggers on a subway.” So he and a friend got Allen to “freak out,” when they came back “with Vaseline in our hair, soot, looking really ugly,” and scared Woody Allen into casting them. StalloneFB16

As for John Rambo franchise that began with First Blood, Stallone tosses off a shocking statistic. “We were losing 20,000 vets a month (men and women) by their own hand,” when they returned from Vietnam. His whole persona drops for a moment. That number rings in the air. Stallone invokes slogans of the period, saying he’d hate to come back from defending the country only to be “spit on,” and called a “Baby-killer.”

The most hair-raising story is from Rocky IV, where Swede Dolph Lundgren who plays the Russian villain who pulled no punches on set. “Next thing I know, I’m on a low attitude flight to St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica. Seriously they had nun, actually nuns around the bed.” The doctors said “he hit you in the heart so hard, he made your pericardial sac swell. Its like you have been in a car accident. (Dolph) is like a Swedish truck.”

Carl Weathers,” who is here tonight to do the honors for the trophy presentation, “is by far the finest athlete I’ve ever worked with in the ring. He was so super. He is a world class athlete… It’s been a privilege to get punched out by these guys.” CarlWSlyStalloneSo the tribute clips, which Stallone claims “you’re killing me with this” each time he sees himself in early career, finally flicker to Creed starring Michael B. Jordan, directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler.

Coogler did the wildly acclaimed movie Fruitvale Station, “but he hadn’t even done that,” when he first approached a reluctant Stallone with an Apollo Creed-son storyline. In the old days, 2011, they used to list Coogler’s agent’s email as a contact, he was that unknown. Now that he has coached Rocky’s originator to raw heights as trainer to eponymous Creed’s son Adonis Johnson (Jordan), you won’t see his contact info anymore. But you will see woven into this tale, bits and pieces of fathers and sons on both sides. Which is why Sylvester Stallone — against all odds, meaning fellow noms Mark Ruffalo, Christian Bale, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy — could walk away with the gold this year.

Coogler has his own father-son story, but the fact that Stallone lost his son Sage Stallone, 35, under tragic circumstances in 2012. Michael B. Jordan, who also was in Coogler’s Fruitvale, becomes Stallone’s son here, and the tears aging Rocky holds back on screen just rip your heart out when you know the backstory on Sage. JennFlavinSo can Sylvester Stallone best heavily favored Ruffalo, perennial favorite Bale, a breakthrough by Rylance, and the mighty Tom Hardy? The answer might be “yes,” because the ‘heart wants what it wants,’ even among Academy members. This just might be seen as an Unforgiven, a movie that turns a genre on its head as Clint Eastwood did in that remarkable late-career defining Western.
As for tonight, accompanied by his very adoring wife Jennifer Flavin who laughingly admits “we’re praying” about the 88th Oscar presentation results, Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone who turns 70 in July, sums it all up with “I’m grateful,” and “life is pretty good.” On Sunday, Feb. 28, we’ll know just exactly how good.

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