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When Life Imitates Tart: Shirley MacLaine & Amanda Seyfried Go At It In THE LAST WORD

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Never start a headline with a bad pun, and never write your own obit might be two unwritten rules of journalism, but in new movie THE LAST WORD, starring Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried, a lot of rules are broken so let’s skip the logline and go straight to the press conference at The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The timing is key here because this takes place Friday, Mar. 3, in the wake of MacLaine’s brother Warren Beatty’s epic wrong-picture Oscar controversy and the shock death of Bill Paxton, 61, who was Seyfried’s friend and co-star on the HBO series “Big Love.”

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Selfie from THE LAST WORD cast.

MacLaine, who plays Harriet Lauler a bitter ad exec who hires Amanda Seyfried’s character to pen a loving tribute before she dies, is seated beside Seyfried, with director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), newcomer Ann’Jewel Lee, 10, and co-star Thomas Sadoski known for the CBS TV series “Life in Pieces.” To further up the stakes, Seyfried and Sadoski met on the set of this film, and are set to become parents shortly. Plus, Amanda has brought her dog Finn to the show, which makes this event even more like a surreal Hollywood family gathering.

Every single journalist in the room has worked up a strategy for addressing the 800 pound story lead in the room. Without being so indelicate as to outright ask about either the Oscars or Paxton without ruffling the stars or overshadowing THE LAST WORD’s release, the questions veer toward the inevitable.

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MacLaine shoots down all comers. “That’s Warren and Jimmy Kimmel’s problem. It was horrific,” she says of the Oscar misidentified Best Picture fracas. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Her firm stance here quashed any other talk of current events in Hollywood. And right there, while she sorts out the room, you see the character she plays in THE LAST WORD in sharp relief. You don’t mess with a legend, and you’re not going to slip a fast one by Shirley MacLaine, who’s a master at shutting down nonsense. The best part is she also steamrolls the “who was your mentor,” and the “Ms. MacLaine you’re a legend” crap too.

“Joan Crawford. She was the first person to give me advice (in Hollywood). I didn’t listen to a word she said.” MacLaine smiles as she says it.

When you get up the courage to ask your not-political-political question, with a Marlon Brando lead-in from one of her memoirs about how Brando actually got her into politics over a death penalty case while she was frying an egg, as the story goes, MacLaine dodges that bullet too.

“You know I was named for Shirley Temple, a Republican? Well, I have to play both sides of the aisle.” The way she turns her gaze directly into your subtext after that moot zinger is a private moment, comical, deft.

Amanda Seyfried, Mark Pellington, and the cast turn their chins in her direction. You can’t help it. This is a woman who has survived Billy Wilder in THE APARTMENT, Hitchcock in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, and is an Oscar winner, six-time Academy Award nominee, as well as a Cecil B. DeMille Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement honoree. Plus she has privately endured the recent deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, after playing Reynolds’ fictional mother to Fisher’s fictional daughter in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE. Meryl Streep played Carrie Fisher’s fictional account of herself as Debbie Reynolds’ daughter. The four of them were very close during the filming, now 50 percent of them are gone.ShirlMerylDbCarrieHere’s where, even in this swank Beverly Hills suite years away from the Golden Age of Hollywood that she bridges, Shirley MacLaine melds with THE LAST WORD character Harriet Lauler. As in Madison Avenue and Show Biz, both of them had to break down doors while protecting their inner selves in a world where women were either glamorized, marginalized or downright obstructed from their goals.

Later, when it’s revealed that screenwriter Stuart Ross Fink wrote the script for THE LAST WORD specifically for Shirley MacLaine, about a hard-driving ad exec (Harriet Lauler) turned surrogate mother for Amanda Seyfried’s character (Anne Sherman), this new movie becomes almost poetic and reverential.

In the opening scenes, real-life images from MacLaine’s life slip across the screen and through time in an appreciation of a woman whose career has spanned more than 70 years as an actor, performer, dancer, show pony, and hoofer. “Shirley and I had a 20-minute discussion on the psychology of pajama versus a robe,” Fink explained. “It was at that point I realized Harriet was no longer mine. She had become Shirley’s.”

“There’s no other actress who can portray a combination of bitchiness, vulnerability, humor, and empathy like Shirley.”

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Fink, who brought the project to director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), is also an ad man, a creative director who worked for Fortune 100 companies. Clearly he built the story around his experience. Harriet Lauler is a once-Teflon advertising veteran in the movie. Now a broken woman, she was kicked out of a company she founded, that still bears her initials in the logo, only to become an aging control freak in a secluded life headed for the bitter end. Instead of accepting her fate as a dethroned pitch maven, MacLaine’s character decides to stage manage her exit, beginning with hiring an exceptional obituary writer to cement her refurbished reputation after she dies.

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Nobody wants to write obits, especially not for a living or the living.

Amanda Seyfried plays the beleaguered essayist with a day job writing obits who is flung into orbit around Lauler’s ego as she re-brands herself for the afterlife. “I adore Amanda,” MacLaine said. “And Harriet in her way adores Anne, but her biggest problem has always been with people who don’t live up to their potential.”

When you realize this is a first movie for Fink, you begin to understand the complexity of molding the material to MacLaine. And that’s what makes this movie the proverbial love letter to MacLaine, now 82, while also carving out a poignant narrative about the inevitable displacement of productive people as they age. “Older people are invisible,” MacLaine will say at the press conference, “that’s what I wanted to use this movie for, to make older people less invisible.”

What makes the movie raw and strange is the interplay between Seyfried, MacLaine and her on-screen daughter played by a disapproving neurologist Anne Heche in one tiny scene, coupled with long sequences where Seyfried and MacLaine go through their personal pitched battles in the presence of new comer Ann’Jewel Lee, a 10-year-old who takes no prisoners.

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Heche slays as a bad daughter.

At the press conference, after the glittering sheen of star power wanes and Ann’Jewel Lee waits to leave, she wants you to know about “the cursing,” the f-word her character uses. “I don’t say that in real life,” she notes. “But it was just a movie. My mother said it was okay because it’s just a movie.” Just a decade in years and she’s got the wisdom to know the difference between what’s on the screen to make a point, and who she is as a young actor. Mark Pellington adds that she ad libbed a crucial scene with MacLaine, where MacLaine asks “what do you want to be” open-ended. Lee says “ya gotta be something.”THE LAST WORD Poster_rgbIn a surreal LA moment, after leaving the press conference and meeting MacLaine, who is so frighteningly gracious and disarmingly elegant in real life, Ari Shapiro’s NPR interview with the screen star for THE LAST WORD comes on the car radio. She’s parrying back and forth, doing her Harriet Lauler impression, “I know you’re looking for a headline, Babe,” she quips. And of course, Shirley MacLaine gets the actual last word.

Make the time to see her go toe-to-toe with Amanda Seyfried in this movie, because it’s really a moment for women, young and old, and the families we build when husbands, partners, boyfriends, children, and even a high-power career aren’t enough.

THE LAST WORD from Bleeker Street and Myriad Pictures, is directed by Mark Pellington, and stars Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfriend, Anne Heche, Ann’Jewel Lee, Philip Baker Hall, Thomas Sadoski, and Tom Everett Scott. See their website for venues and showtimes for the release run, which opened Mar. 3, in a nationwide roll-out.

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Hunnamania: Now He’s King Arthur, With Eric Bana, Jude Law & Led Zep Songs

Do we need another reason to applaud Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) for giving 50 Shades a miss? Nobody will remember the woulda, coulda, shoulda, as Hunnam takes his place as King Arthur for Warner Bros. Plus, Led Zeppelin plays while he pulls out Excalibur, awesome. Sounds like “Good Times Bad Times,” and sounds like in the days of his youth he “was told what it was to be a man…”ChunArthr1Sht17

Here’s their official word on the May 12th release, which promised to be a Guy Ritchie-fueled reboot:

Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”  Starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role, the film is an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne.

     When the child Arthur’s father is murdered, Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur’s uncle, seizes the crown.  Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city.  But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy…whether he likes it or not. 

Here’s your first look:

Again, that’s a May 12 opening date from Warner Bros with Charlie Hunnam, Eric Bana, and Jude Law as the main players, with official details and a killer image gallery.

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Scarlett Johansson’s Super Bowled Over In Her GHOST IN THE SHELL Spot

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Mostly what we love about the Super Bowl on TV is the ads, right? Well Scarlett Johansson is giving you one better this Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5, with a custom TV trailer for her graphic-novel movie-adapt, GHOST IN THE SHELL.

The tagline is: “Everything they told her was a lie,” and no small irony she just left her marriage to French actor Roman Dauriac. Maybe it was over their Yummy Pop joint venture of popcorn stores in France, or in further news, the split comes just after working with GHOST director Rupert Sanders, who became notorious for his entanglement with Kristen Stewart on the set of Snow White & The Huntsman. Let’s just say he’s on our Watch List now, ladies.

Luckily ScarJo is a fighter, as she can survive anything in this sci-fi from the future, GHOST IN A SHELL. Here’s an advance look before this spot airs Super Bowl Sunday…

GHOST IN THE SHELL opens in theaters nationwide on March 31, 2017 inREALD 3D and IMAX 3D & Launched in Tokyo to Music

Here’s what Paramount told us officially about the Tokyo events:

In celebration of the upcoming film “GHOST IN THE SHELL”, stars Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, and director Rupert Sanders joined fans and influencers from across the globe in Tokyo in November for the film’s global launch party. Opening with Taiko drummers, including the legendary anime film composer Kenji Kawai, the event held at TABLOID began with a screening of never-before-seen footage from the film.  ScarJoGhost17

Attendees were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the costumes and props from the film, as well as an opportunity to capture their experience in a film-centric experiential photo booth – “Becoming the Major.” The exciting show concluded with Johansson, Kitano, and Sanders debuting thefilm’s global trailer, triggering its worldwide launch.

GHOST IN THE SHELL opens in theaters nationwide on March 31, 2017 inREALD 3D and IMAX 3D

Directed by Rupert Sanders, and the movie stars Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt & Juliette Binoche. Check out the poster below.

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GHOST IN THE SHELL Goes Social

#GhostInTheShell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GhostInTheShellMovie
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GhostInShell
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ghostintheshellmovie/
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SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and side with Team Scarlett Johansson.

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Charlie Hunnam Was Right To Nix 50 Shades, He Nabbed LOST CITY OF Z, First Look

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

No, you’ve probably never heard of explorer Percy Fawcett; he’s the main character of best-seller David Grann’s “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.” It’s a non-fiction rundown on an Amazonian adventurer who found and lost his soul in the jungle. Now, what if you heard Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam is going to come out in a movie as Percy Fawcett? What an exciting choice, especially since Hunnam famously turned down the lead in 50 Shades of Grey and looked like he might regret it later. HunnamC17This is one of those times when Hollywood pays back the great choice of an actor who sticks with material that’s closer to his heart. LOST CITY OF Z, the movie directed by James Gray (The Immigrant), also stars ex-Vampire Robert Pattinson, the often under-rated Sienna Miller, the very excellent Tom Holland, and Angus Macfadyen, a great Scot, who dates all the way back the Braveheart. It looks like quite the adventure, and it realigns Hunnam’s star on the map of Tinseltown.

LOST CITY OF Z bows in a limited release on April 17, then wider on April 21. It’s from Amazon Studios and Bleeker Street. Get a first look at this exciting new Hunnam movie here, and the official description follows…

The Lost City of Z
Release Date: Limited April 14, 2017
Nationwide April 21, 2017

Official Word on LOST CITY OF Z

Based on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, THE LOST CITY OF Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages,” the determined Fawcett – supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide-de-camp (Robert Pattinson) – returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. An epically scaled tale of courage and obsession, told in James Gray’s classic filmmaking style, THE LOST CITY OF Z is a stirring tribute to the exploratory spirit and those individuals driven to achieve greatness at any cost.

Film Pedigree

Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street
Directed by: James Gray
Based on the Book: “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann
Featuring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus MacfadyenCharlieH17

Watch for this to come out on April 14, in selected cities, then wider release on April 21, and learn more here.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and dig adventure, travel, and Charlie Hunnam.

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LOL LOL Land: Hidden Gems Show #OscarSoRight, Tough Matchups & How Noms React

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When the Oscars streamed the announcements for the first time in their history this morning, anybody in the world got a glimpse at who AMPAS deemed Oscar-worthy for the 89th Academy Awards. The net result? You get emails from everybody and your mother about how right, or wrong your predictions were — maybe not the result the Academy expected, but announcing online is here to stay.

Meanwhile, what a line-up, and let’s create the hashtag #OscarSoRight, right now. DamienEmma16 That eliminates the need for hand-wringing over the past. To those who cry foul at the diverse mix of nominees this year? One question? Have you seen the movies?  Because LA LA Land with a record-smashing 14 nominations for a musical, matching TITANIC (1997) and Bette Davis’ insider anthem ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), is a gem, a pure unpolished gem. And HIDDEN FIGURES, FENCES, LION? Absolute movie risks that paid off. (Now we can all stop bashing Nicole Kidman (LION) for her political nod to Trump, okay? She’s an actor, not a politician.)

So here are the magic numbers that make this 89th Oscars tough to predict. For HIDDEN FIGURES, Octavia Spencer sits opposite Viola Davis for FENCES in the Best Supporting Actress category.

If this isn’t heart-stopping, you haven’t seen both movies. Viola Davis is magnificent in the August Wilson adaptation, you can see that in the trailer, frankly. Octavia Spencer is magnificent for different reasons in HIDDEN FIGURES, powerful even when she holds up a Fortran book and monologues about computer programming being the future. Sigh. IBMOct17
You want both to win, you want a tie. But when was the last time the Academy gave a tie for Best Supporting Actress or any award? Back in 1932, Frederick March and Wallace Beery, and then on April 14, 1969, Best Actress with allegedly the same number (3,030) of votes for Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand. You don’t have to be a Hollywood insider to guess The Great Kate might have had a thumb on the scale. But this is 2017, and the number of members combined with the odds for a tie are close to impossible.

LA LA LAND, in order to beat TITANIC in actual wins, has to pull off all the major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, but also pull off some unusual wins. Right now this movie is nominated twice in the Best Song category, and this may make the difference in unseating the “I’m The King of The World” filmmaker James Cameron for TITANIC.

On March 23, 1998, James Cameron’s sunk-ship epic won 11 Academy Awards. LALA1sht16In the Billy Crystal-hosted ceremony, that’s when Cameron made the “King of the World” proclamation mocked around the town. In all fairness, he wasn’t wrong, and backed it up with all-time BO headbanger AVATAR.

So what happens next? Stay tuned, folks. LA LA LAND is poised to tip the scales. Now imagine for a moment, just a hypothetical, that HIDDEN FIGURES wins Best Picture. The math changes quite a bit.

Is it irresponsible to pose what-ifs? Well, this is what makes Oscar and Award Season exciting. And the major stars have all made some kind of statement to the press, to fans around the globe, and of course to their publicists first. What do those statements look like hot off the wires?

Well, you saw it first here, so take a look at these reactions. Michael Shannon is one of the best actors of his generation, bar none.  Ruth Negga is a newcomer, but turned in a performance by a studied veteran in LOVING.

RUTH NEGGA – “LOVING” (Focus Features) – Nominee, Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Academy Awards 

“I am truly humbled by the news this morning, and I thank the Academy for this recognition, which I share with my co-collaborators Jeff Nichols and Joel Edgerton. It has been such an honor to have been given the opportunity to tell the incredible story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who serve as an inspiration that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. The Lovings fought quietly yet tirelessly, and changed the course of American legal history. Today, to be among such extraordinary women – my fellow nominees, my peers with films this year, and the legendary performers whose work of years past has long inspired me…this means a great deal to me.” – Ruth Negga, Academy Award nominee for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (LOVING)

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MICHAEL SHANNON – “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” (Focus Features) – Nominee, Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Academy Awards

“I am thrilled! Loved making this film. I would work with Tom Ford anytime, anywhere. Jake Gyllenhaal and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Karl Glusman made it easy for me. Nice to get some good news in the midst of all the carnage, so to speak.” – Michael Shannon, Academy Award nominee for Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS)ShannonNA17

In the Animated category, fine film KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS will be “the first time an animated film has been nominated in the visual effects category since THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS in 1994,” according to their reps.

“KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS” (Focus Features) – Nominee, Best Animated Feature Film – Academy Awards

Travis Knight: “I’m over the moon!  An Academy Award nomination is an extraordinary and cherished gift.  Two nominations is more than anyone could hope for.  Every filmmaker dreams of a moment like this.  But the truth is, I already lived my dream by making this film. Movies have always given me great joy. They enriched my life.  They inspired me to dream.  That’s the kind of film our team at LAIKA sought to make with KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS.  A film is a slice of a hundred souls.  In this case many more.  An incredible, immense community of artists gave ceaselessly and selflessly to breathe life into this story.  I’m so thankful for their talents and efforts and so proud of what we’ve done together.  I’m profoundly grateful to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who somehow saw fit to include us among the finest storytellers in film.  It is a tremendous honor to stand alongside them.”

– Travis Knight, Academy Award nominee as director and producer of KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, Best Animated Feature Film Kubo17

STEVE EMERSON, OLIVER JONES, BRIAN MCLEAN & BRAD SCHIFF – “KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS” (Focus Features) – Nominees, Achievement in Visual Effects – Academy Awards 

“As much as Kubo and the Two Strings is an homage to Japanese culture and to woodblock artists including Kiyoshi Saito, it is also a tribute to special effects pioneers Ray Harryhausen, Willis O’Brien, Jim Danforth, and the many innovative FX artists who tell stories using in-camera effects, puppets, and human hands. We’re thrilled for the artists at LAIKA who put years into realizing Kubo. For all of us at the studio, being recognized alongside such distinguished and talented members of the VFX community is truly an honor.”

– Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean & Brad Schiff, Academy Award nominees for Achievement in Visual Effects (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS)

The 89th Academy Award presentation will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, and we’ve got you covered. In the meantime, view all the nominees (and future winners) at the Oscars.Oscars2017

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and Oscar predictions.

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Watch RINGS Movie Prank Big-box Buyers: Seriously, Halloween in February

SCREENMANCER PRANK ALERT: Has there ever been a better movie slogan? “You know the rules: first you watch it, then you die.” RINGS17

Gee whiz kids, welcome to Halloween in February, as RINGS Team place hidden cameras to catch the freak show when real-life TV store customers see that creepy doll-like waif come at them for real. As in live body through the plasma screen, IRL. (Which means In Real Life, for those over 25.) Yes, it’s a little sadistic to prank these nice unsuspecting customers, who literally flip out when Samara crawls after them.

Oh, and by the way, Paramount Pictures franchise installment RINGS comes out Feb. 3, so you can scare the hell-o out of your friends, family, and Valentine’s Day dates. Great timing, huh? Plus Vince D’Onofrio is in it, which is extra crispy. ringsonlineteaser1-shtRINGS is directed by F. Javier Gutierrez, and stars Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Find it everywhere, like… on Rings Official Channels:
Hashtag: #Rings
Facebook: /RingsMovie
Twitter: @RingsMovie
Instagram: @RingsMovie
Snapchat: ringsmovie

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How to Factor the Oscars: Hidden Figures, Stats on Women Revealed

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Who knew NASA and IBM would be the corporate darlings of this year’s Oscar race? Or, translated into Award Season trivia for 2017, who knew HIDDEN FIGURES from 20th Century Fox, about three NASA human “Computers,” would run up unexpected numbers at the box office and put stars Kevin Costner, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe on the Oscar radar?

HF-228 - Octavia Spencer stars as Dorothy Vaughan in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Octavia Spencer stars as Dorothy Vaughan in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

The graph looks like this according to The Numbers, an insider box-office tracking service: Dec. 25, 2016 (release date) $515,499; Dec. 26, $831,571. Not impressed? By Dec. 27, the picture barely tops $1 M USD. However, in a five-day period between Jan. 5 and Jan. 10, 2017, in a run up to the Golden Globes, HIDDEN FIGURES goes from $2.5 M USD to $30 M USD. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 15, the picture tops $54 M USD and counting.

While the film took a backseat to singing-dancing LA LA LAND on Jan. 8 at the Golden Globes ceremony, nobody can deny that the film’s bump from being included in that awards show made a huge difference as far as audience awareness, and in turn box office totals.

You may not be a big fan of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or the checkered history of their Golden Globes presentation, but this year the GG’s hit it out of the park for a film that may have stayed hidden had not this show (among others) shined a spot on three remarkable African-American women who helped ushered in a win in the US-Russian Space Race back in the 60’s. The film picked up two nominations, for Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and Ben Wallfisch for Best Score, and for Octavia Spencer as Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture.

HF-207 - Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

And now a brief moment to shine a spot on the man of the hour, here, because his star-power helped get this funded by Peter Chernin and other execs at 20th who always need “a name.” From Dances with Wolves to McFarland USA (see it), and now Hidden Figures, Costner is one of the only past or present A-List leading men with an eye on the prize for under-represented groups, including women. McFarland director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) singled him out for this Disney film because he is such a likable barrier breaker and that story is about a Mexican-American community track team that defies all odds.

DF-06401_R - Kevin Costner stars as NASA official Al Harrison, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Kevin Costner stars as NASA official Al Harrison, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

But enough about Kevin Costner, he won’t get a nomination because Best Actor is a tough field this year, although there may be an honorary Oscar someday for his efforts. So let’s recognize him here and now for helping get some tough-to-fund projects made.

Now back to HIDDEN FIGURES, and why this movie may slip out from behind the pack and take Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards presentation on Sunday, Feb. 26. (Yes, Best Picture.) This movie is adapted from the novel by Margot Lee Shetterley from Harper Collins, and the real title is “The American Dream and Untold Story of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win The Space Race.” Written by an actual native of Hampton, Virginia, the book casts a kind light on John Glenn (Glen Powell) whose performance here is noteworthy as he seems both gender-blind and color-blind. Shetterley herself, as described in her bio is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, as well as “recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing.”IBMOct17

Along with gritty but elegant performances by actors Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), and Janelle Monáe (Mary Jackson), the film is a visual essay on the power of STEM in changing lives. STEM stands for Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology. It’s a plank in shoring up the American education system that is badly outdated. The notion that back in the 1960’s these real-life women of science (and of color) could have better chances than some women today is not lost on audiences. Hidden figures is a triple pun, their physical figures, math figures, and today’s still-grim stats for women in significant scientific jobs. Plus, the climate of learning in America right now is so consumer-oriented, most people barely know how to balance a checkbook anymore (much less figure payloads to the moon), as most of us live by the random swipe of plastic in a virtual ETF economy that circles the globe.

Melissa McCarthy hosted a Special Screening of this film earlier in the year, meaning it needed word-of-mouth among Hollywood’s creative community too. HIDDEN FIGURES has had music events. Pharrell Williams has a music credit and did a concert in Toronto for TIFF. It has inspired girl-empowerment events, screenings in Atlanta, all over North America, as a sleeper success story during this Award Season.

But back to the actual story. Vaughan just had a building named after her at NASA to commemorate her work, and Octavia Spencer pays off her legacy on her work getting us to the stars with a stellar performance. When was the last time you saw anyone hold up a Fortran programming book on screen and make it look like a way out of poverty. Spencer absolutely inhabits this real-life role as more than credible, but lovable. However, she is stuck in a very tough category for 2017, up against the formidable Viola Davis, who all but owns this supporting awards category for FENCES, the August Wilson screen adaptation of his literary playwriting masterpiece. Let’s just say there will be no Winner and Nominees in that category this year, it’s a win-win all the way around, no matter who takes home the statuette. TarajiHF17Taraji P. Henson, who slays in her role as Cookie Lyon as part of HBO’s urban epic Empire, did not even pick up a Golden Globe nom in the TV category on Jan. 8, but her performance in HIDDEN FIGURES is masterful in a different way. While she appears at times hysterical and high-strung as Katherine Johnson in HIDDEN, the reality her character touches is everything about all women in the workplace – from the bathroom to the Boardroom. And this is where the movie really spills out into the actual industry itself. It’s not just about women of color, it’s about all women, because no matter how you slice the stats, the stats are always lumped together as the percentages of females in key roles.

Take a look at the 2015 stats here, released in Feb. of 2016, known as the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment (CARD) from USC’s Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg (IDEA). This excerpt here includes only few major statistical breakdowns on women in general for feature films. USCGenDir17Did you know 96.6% of all directors are men, with 3.4% women? Now factor women of color and that 3.4 percent divides again. Out of a pool of 6,421 writers, more than 71% are men, 28.9% are women. And, according to the study, an apologia of sorts, as in “it may also be the case, however, that executives feel more comfortable hiring women directors and screenwriters when the story pulls female.”

How many “executives” are women, you may wonder, to pull off this double miracle of generating more female-driven stories helmed by female-driven hands? Under the heading Top Corporate Executives by Gender and Position, this study reveals fully 81% of Board positions are held by men, while 79% are C-Suite (meaning C-level titles such as CEO, COO, CIO), and even in the ranks of Executive Management, another 81% are men. So we’re looking at a 1-in-5 chance changes will be coming anytime soon, as approximately 20% of the behind-the-scenes decision makers are women. USCCover17

HIDDEN FIGURES is that 1-in-5 project that got through the system. Directed by Theordore Melfi (St. Vincent (Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy)), he shares a screenplay credit with Allison Schroeder. Schroeder is the writer of Mean Girls 2, and credited on Pineapple Express, but she also has a BA from Stanford, and a went to the Producing Program at USC. Her own story is one of education and advancement, another hidden stat rolled up in this remarkable movie.

The box office for HIDDEN FIGURES continues to climb on a sharp curve upward, and this film ranked #1 in the US in popularity this week for a reason. Not because it’s diverse, not because it’s about women, not because it’s about women of color, math, science, space, or technology… because it’s beyond awesome. These three life stories, based on actual scientists from NASA who excelled and were recognized despite segregation in America, have such poignant arcs that the connection to the audience is palpable in the theater. Now let’s see if Oscar voters feel the same pull, not toward the heavens, but toward the real issue facing people here on earth.

HIDDEN FIGURES official story, full cast credits, and featurette trailers can be found on this link. And now we even send women into space, see these NASA stats from Graphiq.

Stay tuned for more Oscar predictions… and peruse USC’s CARD study here. Mostly add up HIDDEN FIGURES Oscar chances for yourself, see it now.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and go out on a limb handicapping the Oscars.

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[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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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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JLawPass

I Pod for Real: In PASSENGERS, JenLaw & Chris Pratt Snap Awake During Space Sleep

Let’s face it, everybody loves those What-If scenario space movies. It’s almost a cliché that periodically orbits through the Hollywood universe of high concept screenplay ideas. The most famous un-produced pitch goes something like this: Hey, what if somebody found a black box on an alien space ship?  PASSENGERS, distributed by SONY for Dec. 21 release and directed by the Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum, aims exactly for this rarified airspace. As in Hey, what if two passengers on an interplanetary mission wake up 90 years too early from a pod snooze? You can hear the story development cogs begin to whirr.ChrisJenPass
In PASSENGERS, written by Princeton alum Jon Spaihts, who penned Prometheus, star casting helps. And there will be Michael Sheen, who has almost become a requirement for out-there futurist movies since his wacky turn in the remake of TRON. Besides Sheen, the Matrix’s Laurence Fishburne is also on board, in case we missed a clue about how momentous the scope of this picture is… but wait, there’s more.
A-list leads Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star as the two passengers on this 120-year interplanetary hop when their hibernation pods wake them up at year 30, 90 years before their destination.  Oh snap, Jim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) are then “forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, with the lives of thousands of passengers in jeopardy.”

Again, PASSENGERS is directed by the Norwegian-born director of the Imitation Game Morten Tyldum, who seems to be an expert at mining the mental space in a movie scene. But nobody seems to overthink the human evolutionary politics of colonization in space because this picture’s plot destination is simply a love story. For conspiracy theorists who like escape earth fantasies, this should be just the ticket.

Opens wide Dec. 21 on the blue planet. #PassengersMovie, official site here.

JLawPass
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

Written by: Jon Spaihts

Produced by: Neal H. Moritz
Stephen Hamel
Michael Maher
Ori Marmur

Executive Producers: David Householter
Ben Browning
Jon Spaihts
Lynwood Spinks
Bruce Berman
Greg Basser
Ben Waisbren

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence
Chris Pratt
Michael Sheen
Laurence Fishburne

(This film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for the following reasons: sexuality, nudity and action/peril. Credits not final.)

BONUS: Here’s some space movie stats for grins. Do you think PASSENGERS will make the cut?

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and suspend their disbelief regularly.

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