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Writers Guild, As Expected, Awards Two Oscar Frontunners

10 hours ago

Advancing their causes at the Writers Guild of America Awards Saturday, the writers of winners “The Big Short” (Adapted Screenplay) and “Spotlight” (Original Screenplay) reminded attendees that their movies were about serious subjects. Screenwriter Josh Singer thanked Boston Globe reporter Ellen McNamara and survivor Phil Saviano, who were in the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza ballroom (writer-director Tom McCarthy accepted in New York at an earlier ceremony). Writer-director Adam McKay, with Charles Randolph at his side, reminded that "millions of people lost their savings – that's really what this was about." He thanked Plan B for taking the risk with Paramount on a movie about "financial instruments" and blamed the decline of unions for the lack of representation of American working folks in our democracy, giving the big banks more power, leading to the financial meltdown of 2008. "I am a proud member of the Writers Guild of America," McKay »


- Anne Thompson

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Women Activists Rocked Sundance, Celebrating a Sea Change

17 hours ago

Women were all over the recent Sundance Film Festival, from many films directed and produced by them to a series of events celebrating the rise of women's power.  The Producer's Brunch was dominated by keynoters Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler, whose 20-year-old Killer Films has produced 80 movies including "Still Alice" and 2016 Oscar contender "Carol" and boasted four films at the festival ("Wiener Dog," "Frank and Lola," "Goat" and "White Girl"). And New Yorker Julie Goldman was honored for documentary producing ("Life, Animated," "Wiener"). Women in Film hosted a panel and gave out grants at one packed Sundance brunch, including Dawn Porter and Sari Gilman for their Sundance abortion film "Trapped." Vimeo announced its Share the Screen initiative to feature women directors.  Among the high-profile films hitting big at Sundance were »


- Anne Thompson

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Berlin Review: In 'L'Avenir,' Isabelle Huppert Takes Stock of Her Life

18 hours ago

Mia Hansen-Løve's films have always demonstrated a maturity of insight beyond her years, which she’s applied to her observations on people her own age or younger. Now 35, with her fifth feature "L’Avenir" ("Things To Come") she’s looking ahead of herself for the first time, and to the experience of a middle-aged woman suddenly forced to reappraise her life. Also for the first time, the director has at her disposal an actress of considerable experience and talent, Isabelle Huppert. This pair are perfectly matched, with both director and actress favoring a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact approach to their work, usually with scant recourse to cliché or histrionics. And the result is a superb portrait of a woman whose response to what many would regard as a crisis is not just refreshing, but rather inspiring. Huppert is Nathalie, a philosophy teacher with a husband of 25 years, two children, a sickly »


- Demetrios Matheou

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Best of the Week: First Berlinale Reviews, Inside the Oscar Circuit, Roger Deakins on 'Hail, Caesar!' and Much More

13 February 2016 6:11 AM, PST

A Letter to Michael B. Jordan Arthouse Audit: 'The Club' and 'Rams' Reveal Weakness in Subtitled Film Market Berlin Review: Could 'War on Everyone' Be the Best Bad Cop Comedy Ever?  Berlin Review: With 'Midnight Special,' Jeff Nichols Offers Up a Very Special Sci-Fi Thriller  Bona Fide Acquires Movie Rights to Knausgaard New York Times Series 'My Saga' for Alexander Payne (Exclusive) 'Deadpool' Review & Roundup: Ryan Reynolds Finds a Franchise Worthy of His Talents Final Draft Awards Winners, Paul Schrader Joins Hall of Fame  How John Ridley and Company Create the Emotional Resonance of 'American Crime'  How They Designed the Characters and Sounds for the Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road' How They Dressed the Oscar-Nominated 'Carol' and 'Cinderella' (Video) Inside the Directors Guild Awards Inside the Oscar Nominees Lunch Jacques Audiard Wants Magic, Not Realism, in His César Nominee 'Dheepan'  Oscars: Evaluating the Best Costume. »


- TOH!

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The Academy Updates Diverse Oscar Presenters List

12 February 2016 3:26 PM, PST

Overlooked Oscar nominees Daisy Ridley ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), Michael B. Jordan ("Creed") and Abraham Attah ("Beasts of No Nation" join the roster of 2016 Oscar presenters.  Oscars show producers David Hill and Reginald Hudlin revealed Friday a third slate of presenters for the 88th Oscars telecast. The Oscars, hosted by Chris Rock, will air live on Sunday, February 28, on ABC.   The presenters include Oscar winners Patricia Arquette ("Boyhood"), Louis Gossett, Jr. ("An Officer and a Gentleman"), Common ("Selma"), and Russell Crowe ("Gladiator") as well as current nominees Eddie RedmayneCate Blanchett and Rachel McAdams. Comedians Louis C.K. and Sarah Silverman join TV star Sofia Vergara as well as Emily BluntChris EvansJennifer Garner and Dev Patel.  Previously announced presenters and performers include: Steve »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch: Trailers from Hell Takes on 'Smutty' Cult Classic 'College Confidential'

12 February 2016 2:30 PM, PST

Noted moralist Albert Zugsmith takes the directorial reins on this smutty followup to "High School Confidential" that pushes the envelope about as far as a 1960 studio picture could go, and emerges as pretty entertaining for mostly the wrong reasons. Steve Allen (!) is the crusading sex researcher who seems to find Mamie Van Doren a suitable target — for study of course.  »


- Trailers From Hell

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Screen Talk: How 'Room' Could Contend for Best Picture

12 February 2016 1:45 PM, PST

Eric Kohn and I survey the pre-Oscar landscape as the balloting opens up on Friday. I report on Monday's Academy Luncheon, where I enjoyed a series of disparate encounters, along with everyone else mixing with nominees from all the different branches. I talked to several of the Governors about the new eligibility rules, which need rejiggering, as Steven Spielberg noted. Inclusion is a larger issue than the Academy. And we debate the merits of the new award-winner screen thank you scrolls.  The Best Picture Oscar race is so close—as the Guilds split among "Spotlight," "The Revenant," and "The Big Short"—and heated that it's a year when a surprise winner could sneak through, something like moving Toronto Film Fest audience award winner "Room," which inspires an emotional response. We go through why major movie star Leo DiCaprio will win—he's due—and frontrunners Brie Larson and Sly Stallone, as »


- Anne Thompson

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Berlin Review: Could 'War on Everyone' Be the Best Bad Cop Comedy Ever?

12 February 2016 1:00 PM, PST

I’m not sure if any bad cops in the whole genre of  bad cop comedy have paid so little lip service to actual policing as the pair in John Michael McDonagh’s "War on Everyone."  And I’m not sure that the genre has produced such an irresistibly funny film. When we first see New Mexico police officers Bob Balaño (Michael Peña) and Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), they are speeding after a Marcel Marceau look-alike who’s on foot. “I’ve always wondered — if you hit a mime, does he make a sound?” asks Bob of his colleague at the wheel, a drunk who’s unable, or more likely unwilling, to drive in a straight line. They soon find the answer. We never once see Bob and Terry on an actual case, even though one suspects their combined skill set would make them pretty good at law enforcement; interestingly, »


- Demetrios Matheou

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What's in a Number? From Netflix to HBO Now, Subscriber Data Is an Expectations Game

12 February 2016 12:04 PM, PST

Twitter, 320 million users: disappointing. Netflix, 75 million subscribers: sterling. HBO Now, 800,000 subscribers: somewhere in between. That there's no one-to-one comparison to be made among these three figures is clear — Twitter's users don't pay for the service, and HBO Now is not the premium channel's sole platform — but it may also be the reason why our digital culture so often seems a ball of confusion. After many years spent naming one or another broadcaster the "#1 network" on television, the temptation to rank the players continues apace, even as the metrics for doing so have become more muddled. When it comes to streaming services' subscriber data, what's in the numbers depends first and foremost on beating expectations. Though Twitter isn't in the Svod business, the drip, drip of (ostensibly) terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news about the company since it went public in late 2013 is a prime example of this brutal game. »

- Matt Brennan

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Final Draft Awards Winners, Paul Schrader Joins Hall of Fame

12 February 2016 11:45 AM, PST

At the Final Draft Awards at Paramount Studios Thursday night, 40-year film veteran Paul Schrader was inducted into the Final Draft Hall of Fame. His presenter Larry Karaszewski ("The People vs. O.J. Simpson") couldn't believe he had been inducted before Schrader, who was a 26-year-old film critic when he wrote "Taxi Driver." "Paul is a giant shining beacon," said  Karaszewski, "on how a screenwriter can be an artist and be independent year after year." "Everything we've learned in the last 100 years in filmmaking is useless," said Schrader. "We don't know what we do, what a movie is, where we see it... The notion of the writer is up for grabs. They created this art form. Now there are no rules... There's one left," he concluded on a hopeful note. "Storytelling works." Schrader's next directorial effort is the crime thriller "Dog Eat Dog," co-written with »


- Anne Thompson

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Nicolas Cage Lines Up New Horror Thriller with 'Ghost Rider' Director

12 February 2016 11:22 AM, PST

"Mom and Dad," from writer/director Brian Taylor — who worked with Cage on 2011's "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" — follows a teenage girl and her little brother, who must survive 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own kids.  The film is produced by Armory Films' Tim Zajaros and Christopher Lemole, with Cassian Elwes and Jere Hausfater executive producing. This is the second film for Armory and Elwes under their new Zeal Media shingle, after recently wrapped "Billionaire Boys Club," starring Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Emma Roberts, and Kevin Spacey   Xyz is handling sales for several other titles in the Berlin market, including the action-thriller "Pilgrimage," starring Jon Bernthal, Richard Armitage, and Tom Holland, and "6 Days," starring Jamie Bell, »


- Matt Brennan

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Berlin Review: With 'Midnight Special,' Jeff Nichols Offers Up a Very Special Sci-Fi Thriller

12 February 2016 10:30 AM, PST

After the Huck Finn-like "Mud," a coming-of-age fable rooted on terra firma, Jeff Nichols returns to the supernatural portent of his earlier "Take Shelter," with all manner of bells on. Doffing its cap overtly to John Carpenter, less obviously to Spielberg, but with Nichols’ perennial preoccupations intact, this is a family drama, chase movie and science-fiction thriller rolled into one fascinating and immensely gripping package. With Nichols regular Michael Shannon bringing his usual intensity to the table, it’s likely to be one of the buzziest competition entries in this year’s Berlinale. In "Take Shelter" Shannon played a man obsessed with protecting his family from an impending cataclysm that may have simply been a figment of encroaching madness. Here, Shannon’s character, Roy, is also on a mission to protect family, namely his eight-year-old son Alton; but the questions are not over Roy’s state of mind, but the boy’s very being. »


- Demetrios Matheou

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How They Designed the Characters and Sounds for the Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

12 February 2016 8:35 AM, PST

For costume designer Jenny Beavan and the makeup & hairstyling team of Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin, the journey of "Mad Max: Fury Road" was all about figuring out a day in the life of the wasteland survivors: Max (Tom Hardy), Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his wives, and the War Boys. Beavan looked at George Miller's graphic novel and early concepts, which had an S&M look, and made the costume design more masculine. She also found inspiration in Namibia, where they shot Miller's post-apocalyptic return. The African ethos of recycling and re-purposing became important to the aesthetic, where dressing for necessity took precedence. And Miller stressed finding beauty in the ordinary objects that get thrown away. Watch: "How Best Director Contender George Miller Made Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (Exclusive)" "They do it extraordinarily, from the »


- Bill Desowitz

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Russell Simmons Responds to #OscarsSoWhite by Creating His Own Awards Show

12 February 2016 7:30 AM, PST

"In 2016 there continues to be a stunning lack of diversity in the studios, in the green light process, in the decisions of what films and television series get made, and what stars get chosen," Simmons said. "This needs to be addressed institutionally. The All Def Movie Awards are not the Black Oscars but they could be. This will be a fun, entertaining and hopefully thought provoking celebration of the uncelebrated." In addition to the usual Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director awards, the cheeky program — to be emceed by Tony Rock, younger brother of Oscar host Chris — includes categories like Best Bad Muh Fucka, Best Helpful White Person, and Best Black Survivor, all following a glamorous Black Carpet. Fans can vote online for Most Quoted Movie and Best Picture, the nominees for which are "Beasts of No Nation," "Chi-Raq," "Concussion," "Creed," "Dope" and "Straight »


- Matt Brennan

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Watch: 'Heroes' Director Allan Arkush on Demented Tour-de-Force 'High School Confidential'

11 February 2016 2:30 PM, PST

1958’s "High School Confidential" is an exploitation natural made by two pros who knew the genre inside and out: producer Albert Zugsmith ("Sex Kittens Go To College") and director Jack Arnold ("The Incredible Shrinking Man"). Jerry Lee Lewis kicks it off with some barn-burning rock n’ roll and then surrenders the stage to a cast made in B-movie heaven including Bad Girl Par Excellence, Mamie Van Doren and Russ Tamblyn as an undercover agent investigating a drug ring at the local high school. Roger Corman regular Mel Welles contributed a few lines of satirical poetry presaging the beatnik doggerel he’d compose for Corman’s 1959 horror-comedy "Bucket of Blood." »


- Trailers From Hell

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Box Office: 'Deadpool' Lures Advance Ticket Buyers

11 February 2016 12:54 PM, PST

Fox is so high on the irreverent, R-rated Marvel property, which played well to fans at Comic-Con, that the studio green-lighted the sequel before "Deadpool" opens wide on February 12. That's because the advance tracking is strong—the movie could top $60 million over the long holiday weekend which launched "Fifty Shades of Grey" to $93 million last year. "Deadpool"will be a huge hit for Fox, which got to make it because it's R-rated; Disney gets the mainstream Marvel fare. This would mark the first R-rated blockbuster comic book movie. Fox also has movie rights to Marvel's "X-Men," so expect to see Deadpool in a crossover “X-Men” movie. Read More: 'Deadpool' Review & Roundup; Ryan Reynolds Finds a Franchise  ”Deadpool” has been the #1 film in Fandango’s daily sales for the last two weeks and is outselling last year’s superhero debut movie, “Ant-Man,” at the same point in the sales cycle. »


- Anne Thompson

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First Look: Kellan Lutz, Kelsey Grammar, and Chinese Superstar Li Bingbing Fight Man-Eating Spiders in 'Nest'

11 February 2016 11:56 AM, PST

Darclight, the genre-driven label of Arclight films, is handling worldwide sales of the Chinese-Australian co-production, with an international cast that also includes Stef Dawson ("The Hunger Games: Mockingjay"), Chinese pop star Wu Chun, and Shane Jacobson ("The Dressmaker"). The film has already been sold in several territories in South and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand. "Nest," from director Kimble Rendall ("Bait 3D"), follows a team of scientists who lose their colleague in an ancient labyrinth, and must battle a swarm of deadly, man-eating funnel web spiders — discovering the secret behind the arachnids’ power and intelligence in the process. The largest Chinese-Australian co-production to date, with investment funding from Screen Australia and Screen Queensland, the film's visual effects will be created by Cutting Edge and Oscar-winning CG concern Rising Sun Pictures ("X-Men: Days of Future Past," »


- Matt Brennan

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First Look: Millennial Sex Comedy 'Do Over,' Premiering for Buyers in Berlin (Exclusive Video)

11 February 2016 10:51 AM, PST

Indie sex comedy "Do Over," about a group of friends who decide to hook up with the people they lost their virginity to years earlier (a "re-booty call"), will premiere for buyers in Berlin at the European Film Market. The film is the debut feature from actor Ryan Francis ("Sisters"), who co-wrote the script with producer Kevin J. Foxe from an original story by producer and star Gina Field. Watch an exclusive clip above, and see the exclusive "Do Over" trailer and poster below.   Also featured in the ensemble cast are Drew Seeley "(High School Musical"), Amy Paffrath ("The Purge: Anarchy"), Zack Lively ("Greek"), Jonathan Bennett ("Mean Girls"), and Hayley Marie Norman ("Beyond the Lights").  "Do Over" is executive produced by Brandon Edwards, with Lon Haber & Co. handling worldwide rights.      »


- Matt Brennan

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Watch: Hemsworth, Theron, Blunt & Chastain in New Trailer for 'The Huntsman: Winter's War'

11 February 2016 10:29 AM, PST

Post-"Fury Road," Charlize Theron returns with Chris Hemsworth and some sparkling new additions in the prequel to "Snow White and The Huntsman." With Kristen Stewart's Snow White gone, in packaging the follow-up Universal chief Donna Langley cobbled together the strongest remaining elements for "The Huntsman: Winter's War" (April 22, 2016). Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the Oscar-nominated VFX master behind the first film, this "epic-adventure" brings back the huntsman Eric (Hemsworth) and evil Queen Ravenna (Theron), who are joined by an ice queen and a warrior huntsman played by two strong actresses with action movie bonafides, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain, respectively. The plot was clearly influenced by the success of "The Hunger Games" (see Chastain's braids, leather jerkin and bow and arrow), Disney's "Frozen" as well as producer Joe Roth's "Maleficent" and "Alice in Wonderland." Long »


- Anne Thompson

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First Look: Critic and Documentarian Mark Cousins' Debut Fiction Film, 'Stockholm My Love'

11 February 2016 9:57 AM, PST

Best known for his epic, 15-hour documentary "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" (2011), prolific critic, film historian, and director Mark Cousins' new musical, "Stockholm My Love," stars Swedish singer-songwriter Neneh Cherry as Alva, a Swedish architect faced with the one-year anniversary of a a traumatic accident. Co-written by Cousins and Swedish producer Anita Oxburgh, and shot by acclaimed cinematographer Christopher Doyle ("In the Mood for Love," "2046"), the film has been picked up by Fortissimo Films, with plans for a festival launch later this year.  "Stockholm My Love," which Fortissimo will introduce via promo reel at Berlin's European Film Market, reshapes Cousins' essayistic style into dramatic form, with a soundtrack that includes Abba's Benny Andersson, 19th-century composer Franz Berwald, and five original songs performed by Cherry. The film is produced by Oxburgh, of »


- Matt Brennan

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