WilliamsSpielberg

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

SCREENMANCER GALA ALERT:

WilliamsSpielberg

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.

CreedJordanSly16

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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Spotlight

Why SPOTLIGHT Is Front Runner, #OscarsSoWhite, The Big Five & A Contentious Award Season

by Quendrith Johnson, Awards Intelligencer, 1/19/2016 (pick-up)

If Oscar-winner Sean Penn can go interview El Chapo, then the state of journalism really is in trouble — oh, never mind, this is just indicative of how movie people perceive and interpret the craft of journalistic writing and reporting. A cocky Penn goes on Charlie Rose to call out those who ‘don’t think I’m a real journalist,’ while having committed a de facto ethical violation of the profession by grandstanding for Rolling Stone with a fugitive, mass-murdering, drug Lord.
SpotlightBut, if turnabout is fair play, most journalists would happily take a shot at starring in his next straight-to-video motion picture. But what are we really discussing here, writing, reporting, The Death of The Media, The Rise of The Internet? Nope. This inelegant segue leads directly to our Oscar front runner for Best Picture, SPOTLIGHT. This movie is about a crack team of Boston Globe reporters who, in 2001, finally broke the priest sex-scandal story that dethroned Cardinal Law. And it will be winning a lot of awards this season. But, Dear Reader, please be advised it has very little to do with journalism. It has to do with Hollywood’s payback for all those religious types pointing a moralizing finger at the movie business for decades, when behind closed doors these same ultra-pious folks were involved in covering up a scandal of worldwide proportions that has damaged the lives of countless families and their small children via sex abuse by the clergy, resulting in about a billion dollars in payout settlements.

SPOTLIGHT LACKS RUFFALO’S “POLAR BEAR”

And, the movie is deserving, although Mark Ruffalo’s brooding thumbs-in-the-belt-loops portrayal of hunching amped journalist Michael Rezendes is not his finest work. (See: Infinitely Polar Bear for what should have been his nominated actor turn.) In SPOTLIGHT, Michael Keaton does a low-key (Oscar-spurned from last year) version of Michael Keaton as team editor Walter “Robby” Robinson of an investigative team that includes a fantastic Rachel McAdams’ performance as real-life reporter Sacha Pfeiffer. Liev Schreiber plays the incoming managing editor Marty Baron who kicks over this hornet’s nest. Baron assigns the story to Spotlight for investigation, and delivers one of the X-Men alum’s best career performances as an understated powerhouse. Schreiber and staff answer to another amped hyper-real impression of a journalist, that of Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery). Wardrobe is a big winner here as the khaki’s and blue oxford shirts are true to the breed of these New England journalists, played spot on by Brian d’Arcy James as reporter Matty Carroll. And for full disclosure, having written for The Boston Globe in 2001 myself, let me state for the record this is a winning portrayal of their newsroom, accurate down to the cubicle configuration at the time.

AND NOW A MOMENT FOR SPIKE LEE & AMPAS

In the final analysis, perhaps the real winners for SPOTLIGHT this season will be the real-life survivors, who are vindicated as adults with regard to what happened to them as children. But this movie is headed into a very contentious award season.CherylSpikeOscarYesterday Spike Lee issued an Open Letter to AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Issacs, via the media, that pretty much said (in his initial caps here): “How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Categories Are White?” Spike Lee ranted after he thanked The Academy for his Honorary Oscar from May of 2015, of course. The email from his camp hit inboxes early in the morning, and when you saw the Subject Line, as a journalist, you instantly realized the biggest impact this would have would be in quite possibly forcing Chris Rock (who’d already called the Oscars “the white BET” awards) to quit his contract as Show Host for The Academy. (Imagine the hashtag BlackJobsMatter… sigh.)

For Chris Rock, a poignant stand-up comedian, there can be nothing worse than hosting hypocrisy on the scale of 1 Billion-plus viewers. Adding to his discomfort, Jada Pinkett Smith, also a seat filler no-show with Spike Lee, called for an Oscars Boycott. While David Oyelowo, and many others have cited the lack of diversity, next thing you know, AMPAS leader Cheryl Boone Isaacs was pressured into releasing a statement in response to Spike Lee’s letter. Isaacs basically puts a lot of rhetoric around the stark fact that most of the nominees are white males this year. The Best Director nominees are all white men, for example. There’s a very cringe-worthy aspect to AMPAS jumping into the fray in a tit-for-tat Open Letter war, when the facts speak for themselves in terms of the demographics of nominees — and you don’t have to be a journalist to do the math on the multi-cultural or gender percentages. Here’s just a cringe-inducing excerpt: “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s tie for big changes.” Which haven’t happened yet, apparently, but “The Academy is taking dramatic steps…” (read: “fart in a stiff wind” as the Coen Bros would say.) to add insult to injury, The Academy posted this to Twitter, which just looks bad, because Spike Lee is right, 20 categories, all white (mostly male).

Speaking of women, minorities and diversity, Suffragette (women’s rights), Grandma (about abortion), Chi-raq (anti-gun violence), Straight Outta Compton (anti-thug life), and other important “message” pictures besides SPOTLIGHT got side-lined this year. Lily Tomlin starring in Grandma and Jane Fonda starring in Youth were two American grand dames with pictures for consideration, but mighty Charlotte Rampling with her quiet and elegant performance in 45 Years trampled both of them for an elder-nod nomination. In case you’ve forgotten what a very fine actress Rampling is, her filmography beckons. Meanwhile, another quiet performance in this contentious year made it forward: Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn is a remarkable coming of age portrait that (don’t place any bets, please) will likely win Best Actress over Brie Larson in Room and the Great Cate Blanchett in Carol. Brooklyn is one of those solidly made features that The Academy loves because it portrays a real role model of emotional maturity in its subject (read; in contrast to our grasping consumerist American vanity-chasing youth culture).

LEO, YOUR OSCAR MIGHT GO TO FASSBENDER? NEVERMIND!

And what about Leonardo Di Caprio in his 12-times nominated The Revenant, the alleged front-runner? In keeping with our journalist theme, Dear Reader, the front-loading of nominations is one of the oldest Award Show tricks in the book. In most cases, the ruse works because it is an implied winner — yet the most nominated is very rarely (check the stats) the most winning, unless it is a sweep like Silence of the Lambs (1991). LeoAcademyMemeThe insider term is The Big Five. In a sweep, the awards are 1) Best Picture; 2); Best Director; 3) Best Actor; 4) Best Actress; 5) Best Screenplay. Only two other films besides Silence of the Lambs have made it, 1934’s It Happened One Night, and 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. So, while everyone is buzzing about The Revenant and Will Leo Finally Get an Oscar, the diversion works to have SPOTLIGHT comes from shadows as Best Picture. (Don’t place any bets, just keep it in mind.) Note that The Revenant can’t sweep because it has so few women in it, that Best Actress is off the table from the get-go. That’s all for now on Oscars 2016, but stay tuned for more coverage here at Awards Intelligencer (www.awfj.org) as this controversial year continues…

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