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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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That’s Not Just Our Opinion, Man: Jeff Bridges Aced American Riviera Award Night

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When the Lebowski Fest comes to Los Angeles on March 3, you’ll see why Jeff Bridges is so linked to The Dude from that movie, but last night for the American Riviera Award in Santa Barbara, folks got to see for themselves. At the Arlington Theater, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, it was practically a Love-In. JeffScottThe honoree showed up with his wife of 40 years, “my sweetheart” Susan Geston, and his two children. HELL OR HIGH WATER producer Julie Yorn attended with actor Gil Birmingham from their film, who also presented Jeff with the award.

Feinberg, who is a pro at moderating star events like this, opened with “The Dude” questions which segued into Bridges admitting  “what kid wants to do what their parents do?” In alluding to father Lloyd Bridges, the son of this acting dynasty (that includes brother Beau), revealed that early success with an Oscar nod for Peter Bogdanovich’s game-changer movie THE LAST PICTURE SHOW did not assuage his personal doubts about being in the profession.

He said the issues came from “caring how you’re perceived.” But finally he came to the revelation that “the feeling of being scared never goes away, and that it’s all about changing your relationship with that feeling.”
In the sit-down with Feinberg, the Oscar winner also revealed that it was in 1975’s RANCHO DELUXE that future-wife Susan Geston rejected his early advances, but that he persisted and later got her to dance with him at her then boyfriend’s concert. Perfect move for The Dude, and four decades later, it’s still very much on.JeffWife17
Hollywood Reporter’s star moderator then waded into legendary film history territory on the topic of case-study Hollywood box office bomb, HEAVEN’S GATE. This line of questioning is more than timely, considering Bridges’ main female co-star in that picture is none other than fellow Oscar nominee for 2017, Isabelle Huppert. Huppert was also honored this year in Santa Barbara. So this year has capped a lot of full circles in the life of both actors, and certainly in their star-crossed paths in Award Season.

When Michael Cimino’s highly touted GATE opened to crickets at the box office, both critically and financially, Top 10 Lists began to sprout up everywhere for the next several decades about what went wrong with the production. Den of Geek, a fan site for excruciatingly pithy lists and sublists, has the best round-up to this day (see link below). The bullet points include “Cimino made everybody wait for the clouds to roll by,” and “The Cast Spent Six Weeks Learning How To Roller Skate.” Jeff Bridges is seen losing his lunch while roller skating, part of this storied film. Bridges recalled that the day after it opened, when reviewers flambé prose scorched the film down to its credits, his most memorable critic reaction was: “If you shave [director Michael] Cimino’s head, you would find three sixes.”
Then it was back to THE BIG LEBOWSKI, which was panned early to low box office in the US. Bridges related that it had to hit in Europe before it became today’s beloved cult hit. And of course, no surprise, Jeff Bridges has a favorite line too: “well that’s just, your opinion, man.”JeffJohnLBemem17

From there is was talk about his Oscar winning turn in CRAZY HEART, how he passed on the script initially because “the script was pretty good, but there was no music.” Luckily, doing a proverbial “film about music” was a “dream” for him. “When it’s in the dream state, you’re kinda safe, but when you try to really do it, there’s that chance of failure.” Producer T Bone Burnett, his longtime fellow musician and friend, gave him the script a second time, and said “I’ll do it if you do it.”

Then he delved into the remake of John Wayne classic “True Grit.” If it hadn’t been for the Coen Bros, also directors of Lebowski, and their unique twist on that script, Jeff might not have done it.

Finally the conversation caught up to Award Season 2017, his nominated performance in HELL OR HIGH WATER, which was originally titled “Comancheria” when it opened at the Cannes Film Festival last year. JeffScott17With a nod to his presenter of the evening, Gil Birmingham, Bridges confided that they bonded so well because Gil also is passionate about music. So they spent a fair amount of time trading guitar licks during the filming. On a heavy note, Jeff saluted Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, now deceased, who was his consultant on HELL OR HIGH WATER.

JeffGilIn closing, and on a high note for the evening, Jeff Bridges shared his 30 year commitment to feeding hungry children as a personal mission, and said, in Dude-like fashion, “We’re all in this together,” man.

For more information about HELL OR HIGH WATER, how to view it, see the Oscar-nominated film’s official website. Jeff Bridges Diehard Dude fans can find more about the Lebowski Fest from this link. (Editor’s Note: Den of Geek priceless Heaven’s Gate list is here, ps.)

More about SBIFF, which hands out the American Riviera Award among other tributes, can be found at sbiff.org.

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).

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No Shut Up And Dance Here, Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone Win Outstanding Performers

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Something Emma Stone says in an off-hand way when she and Ryan Gosling pick up the Outstanding Performers of the Year from Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) on Friday night really sticks. Seated beside Gosling, her co-star and co-nominee for the acting Oscars in LA LA LAND, Stone plays with the 20’s fringe on her dress, then offers this insight: “movies make us feel less alone, I guess, that’s what they did for me.”RyanEmma17 In that small statement, you can see her whole career encapsulated. How she watched Steve Martin’s THE JERK from 1979. “I love The Jerk. It’s my dad’s favorite movie.” How she built her own world of characters. “We laughed at that movie over and over. EmmalaughsIt was a very important bonding moment. Should I be on the couch?” Ryan Gosling, who is known for not being flashy about his secret good-guy deeds like privately playing music for children in hospitals, looks at Stone with a rapt expression. But when asked about his own experiences growing up to be an actor, he deflects it with “at 15, I was all about the scratch. Making the paper.” “And he’s still like that,” Stone quips, “all about the money.”

Their chemistry is fun to watch. Emma adds that her “favorite characters have a wide-eyed nature to them.” “As a viewer I’m drawn to comedy with a hopefulness to it. It’s about being uplifted in a way by film. That’s what comedy did for me. I escaped into those characters — I can’t brush them off as just funny. Gilda Radner, John Candy, Bill Murray… Shirley MacLaine shaped me,” Ryan’s co-star from CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE shares.RyanEmmaCouch

“The films that I love the most have a combination of both – someone that can break your heart and make you laugh, and a story that can break your heart and make you laugh, at the same time.”RyanLaughs

Gosling throws a curveball in the conversation, but he’s actually serious and unapologetic. “It’s crazy that Eddie Murphy can sit at a table and play nine characters and that’s not rewarded.”

This affirmation of comedy’s power comes after he says, “as a comedian you kind of start by making your Mom laugh. Right?”

Gosling, who got his start out of Canada as a Disney Channel song and dance import before crossing over into mainstream films, reveals his far-flung odds for making it in Hollywood. “My mom had a membership to the library movie thing, because they were free. I saw Abbott and Costello, any duo film, Martin and Lewis and Danny Kaye, all of them.” He recalls that he liked teams because the action was shared and it felt real. “I’d like to do that with Emma or Steve Carell [reteam]. Anytime you can do that, it’s fun.”

He will call Emma, “Emsies” to prod her.

“Emsies? I’ve never called him Rysies,” she retorts. “Ryan can be infuriating to work with, I’m kidding.”

A flash of paparazzi lights whizz across Ryan and Emma at various moments during the evening.

“Every time I change positions, these guys take a million pictures,” Ryan notes.

And then it’s back to LA LA LAND, the realities of getting a musical made, including three months of jazz piano lessons for Ryan, two hours, almost every day. Director Damien Chazelle, already famous for Oscar-winner WHIPLASH, is on hand. Ryan singles him out.RyanEmmaDamien

“Damien, can I tell the story about how we first met?” After a wary nod, Gosling lets it slip.

“When I first met Damien, we first met at a restaurant. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he gave me this look like motherf@#%. ‘Who’s this guy to put their hands on me?’ I thought, he’s got a fight in him, that I respect, and I thought this could come in  handy later.”

On a serious note, the DRIVE actor says “I think he remembers the moment he fell in love with cinema. Damien can make you feel that.”

On Gene Kelly as an influence, Gosling nails his importance. “I liked the masculinity about him, he could dance and kick your ass. Tough and graceful. A balance.”

It wasn’t until recently in his career Gosling found out Gene Kelly was involved in every facet of show business. “I didn’t know he wasn’t just a dancer, he was a choreographer, producer, and more.” Both actors actually visited the home of Gene Kelly’s widow before making LA LA LAND. “She let us look at his archive, sort of gave us her blessing.”DamienEmma16

Damien Chazelle takes over, like a true director who has so far made the most inventive hits to come out of Hollywood in a long time. The story he tells is as awesome as the dreamer plot in LA LA LAND, now nominated for a record 14 Oscars. When he first had the idea for the musical, he told people “our dream is Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. People said ‘yeah good luck with that.’ I guess no one is more shocked than I that they agreed to do it. That they poured so much into these roles. That Ryan learned jazz piano in three months to become a virtuoso. Emma did so much.” The movie is “effervescent and heart breaking and again they make it seem effortless. I still pinch myself that any of it happened. Really the reason I wanted you in the movie is because I think you are two of the best performers working right now.”RyanEmmaTouche

LA LA LAND will take its place in movie history at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, but it’s already taken so many awards that Ryan Gosling says “I thought making it was enough, then the next thing happened, and that was enough. All the awards are just icing on the cake.”

For more information about Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs through Feb. 11, visit sbiff.org.

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Screenmancer’s Annotated 89th OSCAR Nominee Scorecard

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

If you didn’t wake up at 5:18 am Pacific Time, or 8:18 Eastern Time, to see the first live-streamed Oscar Nominations Announcement, we’ve got you covered.

By now, every major news outlet has run down the minutiae on the implication of the noms. But have they told you the whole story? And who can keep track without a scorecard. Below you can watch the actual footage courtesy of AMPAS, and then follow along with the annotations we’ve added on where the excitement looms for this Awards Season. Oscars2017If you print this out, you even have your own Oscar Scorecard for beer pong on Sunday, Feb. 26, for the live broadcast of the 89th Academy Awards presentation from The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts & Sciences as hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. We’ve included every possible way to connect with the Academy too, as part of the Oscar Fan Experience, now you can comment in real-time during the show.

89th Oscar Nominees & Sneak Peek at 2017

Performance by an actor in a leading role

•Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” <—— Do the Affleck Bros have a direct line to the Globes and the Academy, or what? Cogito Argo Sum, Ergo…

•Andrew Garfield in “Hacksaw Ridge” <——The redemption of Spiderman gone AWOL. Nice to see him back.

•Ryan Gosling in “La La Land” <——Should have nommed and won for DRIVE. Academy might just make it up to you, Ryan.

•Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic” <——Real actors get noms, enough said, or sorry to the pretenders.

•Denzel Washington in “Fences”<——OMG, yes they did, and of course they should have.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

•Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” <——Also awesome in HIDDEN FIGURES, thus he may just pull it off here.

•Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”<——When do we not want to see The Dude nominated? Crazyheart was not a fluke!

•Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea”<——For the fans of anything Affleck.

•Dev Patel in “Lion”<——Yes, this is an important and poignant nomination, well-deserved, Dev.

•Michael Shannon in “Nocturnal Animals”<——See Viggo note, real actors get Oscar noms.

French language poster had the most awesome look at Cannes.

French language poster had the most awesome look at Cannes.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

•Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”<—-France wants this in a big way, after all, they’re pro women and just ousted Roman Polanski off the Cesar committee as President (French Oscars).

•Ruth Negga in “Loving”<—-Shot across the bow nomination, cements Ruth as a real force to be reckoned with, well done.

•Natalie Portman in “Jackie”<—- Two legged race with Emma Stone, ouch.

•Emma Stone in “La La Land”<——Wins the two legged race with Natalie?

•Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”<—-Spoiler Alert, she doesn’t win this time, but black eye for President Trump, as her not-overrated 20th nom sets records, so there. And she won the Golden Globe for this, anyway.

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Performance by an actress in a supporting role

•Viola Davis in “Fences”<—-Winner, just has to be, everybody loves you, Viola!

•Naomie Harris in “Moonlight”<—Don’t make me choose, excellent chance.

•Nicole Kidman in “Lion”<—We love Nicole, and now the press can stop beating up on her for alleged pro-Trump sentiments taken out of context, ps.

•Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures”<—-Can there be a TIE with Viola, please?

•Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea”<—-Your turn will come, not now.

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Best animated feature film of the year

•”Kubo and the Two Strings” Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner<—-Surprise winner?

•”Moana” John Musker, Ron Clements and Osnat Shurer

•”My Life as a Zucchini” Claude Barras and Max Karli

•”The Red Turtle” Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki

•”Zootopia” Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer

Achievement in cinematography

•”Arrival” Bradford Young

•”La La Land” Linus Sandgren<——Needs this for sweep to beat TITANIC with 11.

•”Lion” Greig Fraser

•”Moonlight” James Laxton

•”Silence” Rodrigo Prieto<—- Could clock a win because what else can it show for noms?

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Achievement in costume design

•”Allied” Joanna Johnston

•”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” Colleen Atwood

•”Florence Foster Jenkins” Consolata Boyle

•”Jackie” Madeline Fontaine

•”La La Land” Mary Zophres<—-Mary now needs to ask more money from the Coen Bros her frequent collaborators for decades, because, drum roll, she will win?

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Achievement in directing

•”Arrival” Denis Villeneuve

•”Hacksaw Ridge” Mel Gibson<—-Welcome back Mel, and please remain silent!

•”La La Land” Damien Chazelle<—-Don’t say we didn’t tell you how exceptional you are, Damien, and congrats on your win (we hope).

•”Manchester by the Sea” Kenneth Lonergan<—-Insiders love this guy, but…

•”Moonlight” Barry Jenkins<—-This would be a shock upset win, if it happened.

 

Best documentary feature

•”Fire at Sea” Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo

•”I Am Not Your Negro” Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety and Hébert Peck

•”Life, Animated” Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman

•”O.J.: Made in America” Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow<—-Could happen.

•”13th” Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish<—-Yes, she should have been nominated for SELMA, and now she wins for Documentary. That’s called wishful thinking, but watch!

 

Best documentary short subject no idea what will happen in this category, truth be told.

•”Extremis” Dan Krauss

•”4.1 Miles” Daphne Matziaraki

•”Joe’s Violin” Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen

•”Watani: My Homeland” Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis

•”The White Helmets” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

 

Achievement in film editing

•”Arrival”Joe Walker

•”Hacksaw Ridge” John Gilbert

•”Hell or High Water” Jake Roberts

•”La La Land” Tom Cross<——Needs this for sweep, and deserves it, too.

•”Moonlight” Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

 

Best foreign language film of the year

•”Land of Mine” Denmark

•”A Man Called Ove” Sweden

•”The Salesman” Iran<—-There are many reasons this should win.

•”Tanna” Australia

•”Toni Erdmann” Germany

 

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

•”A Man Called Ove” Eva von Bahr and Love Larson

•”Star Trek Beyond” Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo

•”Suicide Squad” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson<—-Just a guess, for the win?

 

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

•”Jackie” Mica Levi

•”La La Land” Justin Hurwitz<——Keep those wins coming for a sweep?

•”Lion” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

•”Moonlight” Nicholas Britell

•”Passengers” Thomas Newman<—Is there ever a year when Newman isn’t here?

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

•”Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land” – Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul<—-Heart and soul of why Emma Stone wins the Oscar!

•”Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls” – Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster<—-Everybody just wants to see Justin Timberlake do a number with Ryan Gosling, from their Disney Channel kids days together.

•”City Of Stars” from “La La Land” – Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul<—- If this doesn’t win, a lot of hat-eating in this Town.

•”The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story” – Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

•”How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana” – Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda<—-Hamilton’s Broadway Whiz Kid Lin-Manuel officially on the map in Hollywood, make note of it.

 

Best motion picture of the year

•”Arrival” Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde, Producers

•”Fences” Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington and Todd Black, Producers

•”Hacksaw Ridge” Bill Mechanic and David Permut, Producers

•”Hell or High Water” Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn, Producers

•”Hidden Figures” Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi, Producers<—-Total shock upset win possible!

•”La La Land” Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt, Producers<—-A lot of money is changing hands on this one with bookmakers no doubt.

•”Lion” Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Angie Fielder, Producers

•”Manchester by the Sea” Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck and Kevin J. Walsh, Producers

•”Moonlight” Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers

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

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

Achievement in production design

•”Arrival” Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Paul Hotte

•”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

•”Hail, Caesar!” Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh<—-Yes, this should be the winner, but will it?

•”La La Land” Production Design: David Wasco; Set Decoration: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco<—-It was set in LA, about LA, and looks like LA, even though it needs this to KO Cameron’s TITANIC.

•”Passengers” Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena<—Don’t say you didn’t get a second nomination, okay?

 

Best animated short filmabsolutely no idea in this category, yikes.

•”Blind Vaysha” Theodore Ushev

•”Borrowed Time” Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj

•”Pear Cider and Cigarettes” Robert Valley and Cara Speller

•”Pearl” Patrick Osborne

•”Piper” Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

 

Best live action short film

•”Ennemis Intérieurs” Sélim Azzazi

•”La Femme et le TGV” Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff

•”Silent Nights” Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson

•”Sing” Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy

•”Timecode” Juanjo Giménez<—-Rooting for TIMECODE, but who knows?

 

Achievement in sound editing

•”Arrival” Sylvain Bellemare<—-They overlook Amy Adams, but like the sound editing, sigh…

•”Deepwater Horizon” Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli<—-You’re welcome, there’s your nomination Mark Wahlberg.

•”Hacksaw Ridge” Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright

•”La La Land” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan<—-Sound is a huge factor, c’mon sweep.

•”Sully” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman<—-Because this movie, and beloved star Tom Hanks, deserve some recognition, whether they win or not, and or not in this case?

 

Achievement in sound mixing

•”Arrival” Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye

•”Hacksaw Ridge” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace

•”La La Land” Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow<—-Sweep-stakes!

•”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson<—-This is not the nomination you were searching for, and we miss you Princess Carrie Fisher. (Debbie Reynolds, too, ps.)

•”13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth<—-Trump voters in Academy, you bet!

 

Achievement in visual effects

•”Deepwater Horizon” Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton<—-Yeah, well, now it’s two noms for Marky Mark’s movie.

•”Doctor Strange” Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould<—-Benedict, you can stop worrying, it really is a great (and now nominated) film.

•”The Jungle Book” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon<—-Sweet, but sour chance to win.

•”Kubo and the Two Strings” Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff<—-Great animation, but is it great enough?

•”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould<—-This may be the best shot, at the Oscar.

 

Adapted screenplay

•”Arrival” Screenplay by Eric Heisserer

•”Fences” Screenplay by August Wilson<—Even Wilson knew playwriting is not the same as written for the screen, but amazing to see the honor.

•”Hidden Figures” Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi<—-Call us crazy, but this is where the magic is.

•”Lion” Screenplay by Luke Davies

•”Moonlight” Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney

 

Original screenplay

•”Hell or High Water” Written by Taylor Sheridan

•”La La Land” Written by Damien Chazelle<——Do you need to ask?

•”The Lobster” Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou<—-Nice job on one of the strangest and most unsettling movies made recently, seriously.

•”Manchester by the Sea” Written by Kenneth Lonergan<—-Veteran writer/director honored with a nom here.

•”20th Century Women” Written by Mike Mills<—-The only one that could unseat Chazelle’s sweep stakes?

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 ABOUT THAT ACADEMY…

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a global community of more than 7,000 of the most accomplished artists, filmmakers and executives working in film. In addition to celebrating and recognizing excellence in filmmaking through the Oscars, the Academy supports a wide range of initiatives to promote the art and science of the movies, including public programming, educational outreach and the upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is under construction in Los Angeles. (A Museum, from the Academy, did you catch that? You can join now. And help donate too.)

FOLLOW THE ACADEMY, AND YOUR DREAMS

www.oscars.org

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SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and mistakes predicting the Oscars, but hey, that’s Show Biz.

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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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Award Season 2017: And The Nominees Are… Split & No Director-ess?

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

During Award Season when Hollywood has the limelight, and this includes every major guild and member-based award show up until the 89th Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, there is a shopworn practice of splitting the Nominations announcements in the news, setting up anticipation for several different dates for the same organization. DGAlogo17For example, today Jan. 11, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced its TV, Commercial and Documentary Nominees, with Feature Film category to be announced later in the week. That’s a minor inconvenience if you’re covering this major award show, but events such as this year’s 22nd Critics Choice Awards announced their TV Nominations on Nov. 17, 2016, followed by Film Nominations on Dec. 1. However vast the Critics Choice Awards audience may or may not be, the bisection of news announcements cuts into coverage for higher profile shows right in this key period during award season. WGAlogo

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) splits screenplay and new media nominees on different dates as well, with TV, New Media, Radio, News, Promo Writing as well as Graphic Animation nominations on Dec. 5, 2016, with WGA features film and documentary screenplay noms on Jan. 4, 2017.  While this almost makes sense for the WGA to highlight the inherent pay and status difference between full blown Hollywood films as opposed to New Media webisodes, the bifurcation distracts from other breaking news.

Morgan Freeman feted at PGA Produced by Event (credit: Mark Gordon)

Morgan Freeman feted at PGA Produced by Event (credit: Mark Gordon)

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced nominations for Documentary on Nov. 22, 2016, with TV and Digital Media on Jan. 5, followed by headliner PGA suite of awards for feature films on Jan. 10. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) on the other hand, made only one major announcement on Dec. 14, 2016.

During the official start of award season in November through the official end with the Oscars in February, the slate of news items include – roughly in order of nominations announcements – Critics Choice Awards, the Gotham Awards, British Independent Film Awards (BIFA), European Film Awards, AMPAS Governors Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Annie Awards, National Board of Review, New York Critics Circle Awards, WGA Awards, SAG Awards, DGA Awards, PGA Awards.

Vintage Golden Globes signage.

Vintage Golden Globes signage.

Add the Art Directors Guild Awards, Visual Effects Society Awards, Eddie Awards, also for make-up and costume, along with other regional critics award shows. It’s exhausting.

When you divide up Nominations Announcements for the various organizations as they break down the press releases for certain categories, an already packed agenda becomes almost unmanageable.

So why all the split news releases? Especially when the window for world news, post-election news, and general global events is so crowded right now? The positive spin is extra media attention for lesser known categories. A negative spin is that this fragmentation of press alerts drags down the entire award show season, which results in award show fatigue.

How did this practice get started? Look to the Academy with its Oscar presentation and various life achievement awards. Without exception, all on-the-map events during award season follow the AMPAS leader here. But let’s be realistic, the Academy Awards presentation is a singular and storied event unmatched by any other ceremony in Hollywood history.

Oscar for Hattie McDaniel (Gone With The Wind) in 1940 ceremony, just a few years after Supporting category established.

[Oscar for Hattie McDaniel (GWTW) in 1940, after Supporting category est. 1937.]

After 1928 when the Oscar was known as The Award of Merit, presented in only 12 categories as decided by only a seven-member committee, the first Academy Award ceremony happened May 16, 1929 with a 270-person audience in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel. It wasn’t until 1930’s that the show was broadcast on radio. In 1935, Film Editing, Music Scoring and Song as a category was added, even before Best Supporting Actor and Actress in 1937.

Visual Effects was added to the statuette column in 1939 with 20th Century Fox as the first winner. The Thalberg Award was created the previous year, 1938. Foreign Language Film as an accolade debuted in 1947, with Italy the first country to win this Oscar.

The picture that emerges here is the scope of the Academy Awards and the necessity of splitting the news as it details the history of Hollywood’s film industry itself. The same can not be said for the plethora of award shows that followed. LeoAcademyMemeSo, during award season 2017, maybe we’ve reached critical saturation of the so-called breaking news snippets. Additionally, not to harp on it, but when the incoming US President career-shamed legend Meryl Streep as an “overrated actress” it became clear that this issue of gender in nomination categories needs to be addressed once and for all, by the Academy on down. We don’t say “director-ess” or “producer-ess” — so we might as well call everyone Actor. The new categories should be established as Best Lead Actor (Female); Best Lead Actor (Male); Best Supporting Actor (Female), and on throughout the acting categories.

Consider this putting the shows on notice, in the nicest way, on the heels of a very contentious award season in 2016, hoping for better things from 2017 and beyond.

[Editor’s Note: (More history of the Academy Awards can be found on http://www.oscars.org/academy-story.]

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and write about movies, TV, New Media, and announce it all only once.

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25 Clues Meryl Streep Is Not Overrated: Out of the “Sandra Dee Box” & Into A Twitter War

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

So, here’s the story, as they say in the movies… Sunday night Jan. 8, at the Golden Globes hosted by Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), award-winning actor/legend Meryl Streep stepped in it by “calling out” the new US President-Elect with a pointed speech on bullying as an undesirable trait. Long story, short, the soon-to-be-installed President Donald J. Trump, ignited a Twitter firefight in which he dubbed Streep as among the most “overrated” actors in Hollywood.

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Well, in this tiny press window before the 89th Oscar ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 26, let’s get one thing straight: there are many overrated actors in Hollywood, but New Jersey-native Streep is not one of them. Without naming names, those actors know who they are – but do we really know who Meryl Streep is?

Just look at the interwebs traffic spikes since the Trump Twitter war started, then scroll below for the real deal on America’s (Elder) Sweetheart.

25 reasons Streep isn’t just hype… some obscure & just plain fun ones

1. Was inspired mostly by Mary, her mother, “who lit up a room” and was of Irish extraction. Also wished “my mother and father were alive to hear” the news of her Kennedy Center honor.

2. Streep’s Aunt Jane apparently didn’t think Meryl was an attractive child, also too bossy. It took years, but Meryl finally won her over. Family first focused Streep strikes again.

3. Wanted to be an opera singer, thought better of it, but fell in love with Ethel Merman, Carol Channing and Georgia Brown, iconic crooners on Broadway.

4. Claims she never wanted to be inside the “Sandra Dee Box,” meaning Streep always looked at widening acting for women in strong lead roles.

5. Even though she was Homecoming Queen – and a cheerleader – Meryl still wanted to be the female Spencer Tracy acting-wise.

6. Thumbed her way out of her small Jersey town, hitchhiking with a total stranger at age 21.

7. The legendary Joe Papp, of New York theater world fame, pegged Yale graduate Streep as  a “pure actor.” Going on the record with the quote “There are only a few people I would call pure actors. Meryl is one.”

8. Her first TV screen appearances included a part in breakthrough mini-series Holocaust in 1978, which by its overseas air date in 1979, was said to have “captured the imagination of Germans” in translation. Meryl’s later role in Sophia’s Choice, also translated into German, came with a built-in audience.

9. When TIME magazine published a cheeky article entitled “What Makes Meryl Magic” on Sept. 7, 1981, she confounded the hype by actually pulling off the magic trick of being one of the most nominated actors in Hollywood History.

10. Although “Meryl Streep: A Critical Biography” was published by Eugene E. Pfaff and Mark Emerson in 1987, she managed to build a remarkable career for the next three decades that defied all expectations.Streep17

11. When Newsweek Editor Jack Kroll died in 2000, he was still being credited as one of the first to recognize Meryl Streep’s considerable talents with a full-blown cover story photo and headline of the newcomer that read: “A Star for the ’80’s.” Little did he know this trend would continue today.

12. Has had her share of career disappointments. Meryl even got jealous of Jessica Lange when she landed the part in Sweet Dreams, Patsy Cline’s biopic, but never held it against Lange.

13. Calls the thinspiration sexy ingenue craze in Hollywood the “Victoria Secret Syndrome.”

14. Survived the nadir of her career when she played the Australian woman heard around the world with the phrase “dingo got my baby” in A Cry in the Dark (1988). Incidentally, the “Dingo Baby” cold case was revisited 24 years later because of this film.

15. Nicked the part of Italian lover to Clint Eastwood’s character in Bridges of Madison County from Sophia Loren by accident, but balances that out by the fact her husband was dumb-struck as a young man by Sophia Loren emerging from the sea in 1957’s campy flick Boy on A Dolphin. They’re great friends now.

16. Has stayed substance abuse free, and according to one magazine writer, Meryl Streep orders drinks for friends as “two waters, please.”

17. Wanted her daughter Mamie to study nuclear physics rather than acting, but later admitted she was kidding about the nuclear physics part – though initially seriously against acting.

18. Told Esquire magazine’s writer in 1984 that the problem with baby strollers in Manhattan is that they are at the level of car exhaust pipes, cementing her status as a truly caring mother.

19. Meryl Streep claims she does not have a favorite director. Implying many things about her diplomacy skills.

20. Has encouraged Martin Scorsese to feature a balanced, strong female lead character but doubts he will do it during her lifetime.

21. Admitted she was a below average cook while playing Julia Child in Julie & Julia.

22. Inspired a young Brittany Murphy with her performance in “Crayon versus Crayon” – before Murphy could pronounce the title. Sadly Murphy didn’t live to see her mentor continue to flourish.

23. Though inexplicably disliked by Katharine Hepburn, who may actually have sensed a threat to her own legacy in Hollywood, Streep didn’t let it phase her.

24. In 2003, when the reasons for Katharine Hepburn’s dislike of Streep were made public in the Scott Berg book “Kate Remembered,” the deceased Grand Dame labeled Meryl too technical as an actor and too cerebral — two traits Hepburn was famous for in the industry. Uh, Hepburn was also revealed to be a huge fan of John Travolta and enchanted with Michael Jackson. Streep: 1, Hepburn: 0.

25. Mary Louise “Meryl” Streep championed Patricia Arquette at the 2015 Oscar ceremony when Arquette demanded “equal pay for equal work” about women’s compensation in the industry. Not just talk, Streep has always championed the word “actor” for women instead of the throwback term “actress,” and in 2015 began funding a Women over 40 Screenwriting Program through New York Women in Film & Television to give unsung mature women a chance to shine in writing.

BONUS Points: As of Jan. 9, 2017, Meryl Streep, 67 years wise, refuses to respond to a Trump Twitter war slamming her speech denouncing bullying at the 2017 Golden Globes, held Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017.

So there’s 25 clues for Streep fans, as well as Mr. President-elect. While there is no Oscar for The Peaceful Transfer of Power in a Democracy, let’s all act accordingly. With Meryl Streep as a shining example of grace under pressure.

[Editor’s Note: Sources for this list include GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, TIME, Newsweek, book references as indicated, and archival interviews. Visualization from GRAPHIQ. The views expressed here are not designed to start a Twitter war with the incoming US President, God Bless America.]

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies, and are patriotic supporters of Meryl Streep.

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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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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.

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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