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Veteran film producer Michael Besman (About Schmidt) will head up the new L.A. office of Caryn Mandabach Productions, the Hollywood headquarters for the U.K.-based producer whose credits include That 70s Show, Nurse Jackie and Roseanne. Besman, whose studio credits include Batman, As Good as It Gets and Seven Years in Tibet, will be charged with developing and producing high-end TV content for the U.S., U.K. and international broadcasters. Caryn Mandabach Prods. is one of a group of pan-Atlantic outfits looking to produce premium series targeting the global market. The group's most recent show
- Scott Roxborough
London — Film producer Michael Besman (“About Schmidt”) has been tapped to head up the L.A. office of Caryn Mandabach, the U.K.-based Hollywood producer, whose credits include “The Cosby Show,” “Roseanne,” “Third Rock from the Sun,” “That 70s Show” and “Nurse Jackie.”
Besman, who joins Caryn Mandabach Prods. with the remit to develop and produce premium television content for the U.S., U.K. and international broadcasters, is a veteran studio exec with credits including “Batman,” “Jumanji,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “As Good as It Gets,” “About Schmidt,” “Seven Years in Tibet,” “The Opposite of Sex” and “Bounce.”
Caryn Mandabach Prods., which has offices on both sides of the Atlantic, is in active development with comedy and drama series for the BBC and Channel 4 in the U.K.; and HBO and USA Network in the U.S.
The most recent show produced by the shingle is the BBC »
- Leo Barraclough
Producer Michael Besman is coming aboard Caryn Mandabach Productions, the company behind Nurse Jackie, to run its West Coast shop. The film exec segues into television with the move and has a mandate to develop and produce premimum content for the U.S., UK and international markets. Mandabach, which also has offices in Britain, is currently in pre-production on the second season of Peaky Blinders. That BBC2 period gangster drama was recommissioned in October and will return in 2014. Created by Steven Knight and starring Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill and Helen McCrory, it has been optioned by The Weinstein Company. Mandabach is also in active development with comedy and drama series for the BBC and Channel 4 in the UK; and HBO and USA Network in the States. Among Besman’s credits are About Schmidt, Seven Years In Tibet, The Opposite Of Sex and Bounce. »
- NANCY TARTAGLIONE, International Editor
The Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. has seen more than a few tie victories in recent years: The very first time I voted, in 2006, there was a lead-actor split between Forest Whitaker and Sacha Baron Cohen. In 2010, we awarded best director to David Fincher and Olivier Assayas, and just last year, Jennifer Lawrence and Emmanuelle Riva shared the actress prize. Whenever this happens — usually as the result of a deadlock between a near-certain Oscar contender and a gonzo left-field choice — something like a general cheer goes up from the membership for having arrived at such a happy but unexpected compromise.
Still, in my eight years as a Lafca member, I’ve never seen us share the wealth quite so lavishly as we did during yesterday’s spirited and sometimes contentious five-and-a-half-hour voting meeting, which resulted in no »
- Justin Chang
Directed by Alexander Payne.
An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.
Nebraska is unmistakably an Alexander Payne picture and in being so we get exactly what we’ve come to expect from the film maker, but never have his films looked as good as this one. Shot in stark black and white evoking the look of such classic American pictures like The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon and Lenny, Payne has made one of the most enjoyable and utterly watchable films of the year.
- Gary Collinson
When putting together his critically acclaimed neo-noir thriller After Dark, My Sweet, James Foley instructed his casting director to "go find me a Bruce Dern type" for the crucial role of Uncle Bud, a retired cop whose avuncular manner masks an undercurrent of psychosis. For three months, a succession of hopeful players was brought to Foley's attention but all fell short of the mark, none possessing the necessary blend of twinkling intensity and barely repressed craziness. In the end, exasperated, the casting director made a startling suggestion: "Why don't you just get Bruce Dern?"
Having worked with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Elia Kazan, Bob Rafelson, Roger Corman and Hal Ashby, Dern had earned himself a reputation in the 1960s and 1970s as a purveyor of wild-eyed rebels, »
- Mark Kermode
The Lafca (Los Angeles Film Critics Association) is inarguably an important critics prize in terms of influence and reach to AMPAS. Why? The answer is three fold. First, geography. Second, they're an institution having handed out prizes since 1975 (Dog Day Afternoon + One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was their inaugural best picture decision and their last tie ever for the top prize) Third, they don't stray too far from Oscar's own aesthetics which surely makes them more accessible to voters. In short they're more likely to gently nudge voters than shout bold statements at them. In their 38 year history to date they've only given their Best Film prize to movies that didn't end up competing for Best Picture 7 times.
Only Lafca Winners Not To Enjoy Oscar "Best Pic" Nods
Little Dorritt (1988)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995, surely in the dread 6th position w/ Oscar)
About Schmidt (2002)
- NATHANIEL R
Road trips inevitably come up when conversing with the director Alexander Payne. His most celebrated movie, Sideways, sees an odd couple of middle-aged men journey from one Californian vineyard to the next. Jack Nicholson takes to the road in About Schmidt. Payne’s new film, Nebraska, stars Bruce Dern, who won the best actor prize at Cannes for his turn as Woody, an aging Korean war veteran living out his final years in Billings, Montana. When the film starts, the stubborn soul has set off on foot for Lincoln, Nebraska, 900 miles away, to claim a $1m prize promised to him by a piece of junk mail. Eventually, he is driven there by his son, an electronics shop salesman hoping that the trip will help them bond. »
Without announcing it, or perhaps even entirely intending it, Alexander Payne is becoming king of the road movie. About Schmidt (2002) took cantankerous widower Jack Nicholson across the Us on a mission to sabotage his daughter's impending wedding. Sideways (2004) saw Paul Giamatti's would-be novelist and wine connoisseur trek round the vineyards of California trying to heal his broken heart. The title of that movie, meaning drunk, also indicated the spiritual direction taken in any road movie: not forwards, or backwards, or even inwards, but sideways, a physical displacement, a geographical dislodging, a sortie from the comfort zone to a place where new perspectives may allow new insights – or perhaps not.
- Peter Bradshaw
In Alexander Payne’s Nebraska a father and son steer the American road comedy into a vanishing Midwest on the trail of a dubious fortune – and in search of an understanding of each other that once seemed impossible.
This is the story of the Grant family of Hawthorne, Nebraska. Now transplanted to Billings, Montana, stubborn, taciturn Woody (Bruce Dern in a role that won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival) is well past his prime — such as it ever was — and possibly his usefulness, but he believes he’s got one last shot at mattering: a notice that he’s the lucky winner of a million-dollar sweepstakes.
To claim his fortune, Woody insists he must quickly get to the sweepstakes company’s office in Lincoln, Nebraska – a 750-mile journey that seems unlikely given that he can barely shuffle down the road a few blocks, at least not without stopping for a drink. »
- Movie Geeks
Alexander Payne directed and co-wrote only six films, including Election, About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants, but he’s regarded as one of the best American filmmakers working today. He’s directed some of the best performances from Hollywood’s top actors, including Paul Giamatti, Jack Nicholson, and George Clooney in starring roles, and he and his writing partner Jim Taylor have picked up two Oscars for best adapted screenplay. His new film, Nebraska, stars Bruce Dern, who won the best actor award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Nebraska adds another strong resonant chapter to Payne’s remarkable filmography, so we thought we should take a look back at his career. Here is our list of his movies in order of least favourite to favourite. Enjoy!
Directed by Alexander Payne
USA , 2011
In tone, approach, and general structure, »
Alexander Payne is steadily crafting a body of work that will cement his place as one of America's great filmmakers. He skilfully dissects the small fish in that biggest of ponds - the United States - tracing the spirit of optimism and defeat through films like Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants and, now, Nebraska, a priceless gem of a comedy drama starring Bruce Dern.
The ageing process emphasises that gradual erosion of hope, as does the gritty monochrome print he employs here. And yet, much laugh-out-loud comedy is derived from the futility as Woody (Dern) drags his broken-down body across Middle America to present a certificate that names him the winner of a million dollars. His son David (SNL alumnus Will Forte) bangs his head against a wall »
This article first appeared in OscarWrap: The Race Begins. When Alexander Payne called June Squibb to offer her a role in “Nebraska,” he had a simple pitch for the actress who’d played the wife of the title character in his “About Schmidt” a decade earlier. “I have another icon for you,” Payne told Squibb. “I gave you Jack Nicholson, and now I’m giving you Bruce Dern.” In return, Squibb gave Dern all he could handle and then some. As Kate Grant, a long-suffering, tart-tongued wife fed up with her husband’s alcohol-fueled fantasies and rages, the 83-year-old actress steals scene after. »
- Steve Pond
Alexander Payne, the director of The Descendants, Sideways and About Schmidt, has a new film, Nebraska. It's simple and brilliant, beautifully nuanced, funny, well acted and generous. It's in black and white and begins with an old man walking down the side of a highway in cold weather in Billings, Montana. This is Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), and he's planning to walk to Nebraska to collect his million dollars from a sweepstakes notice he's received in the mail. Every American adult has received such a notice. Printed like a deed, it says you've won a million bucks. Only in the fine print does it say you've won only if your numbers match. It's a trick to sell magazine subscriptions.
The movie refuses the »
The American Midwest's spare, glum beauty is conjured in Alexander Payne's lugubrious road comedy
At the start of Nebraska, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), confused and old, is seen slouching doggedly along a highway on the outskirts of his town. "Hey, bud, where ya headed?" asks a solicitous cop. But where can Woody possibly be headed? It takes just one look at the nondescript urban expanse; at the chimney belching out fumes in the background; at the sign reading "Billings City Limits" (that's Billings, Montana) to know he can't be going anywhere special. This is the back of beyond, right? And Woody's surely on the proverbial Road to Nowhere.
In fact, Woody is determined to get to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he's convinced that a million dollars are his for the claiming. It's usual in American cinema to assume that areas such as the stretch between Billings and Lincoln, some 800 miles away, »
- Jonathan Romney
I’ve loved acclaimed writer/director Alexander Payne’s work since 1999s hilarious classic, Election (which is still my favourite of his titles). He’s continued to make remarkable, yet low-key personal indie dramas with a biting satirical edge, of which include awards favourites Sideways, About Schmidt and The Descendants.
His latest, Nebraska, is gaining further rave reviews with Hollywood veteran Bruce Dern as an ageing, booze-addled father. He decides to make the trip from his home in Montana to Nebraska alongside his estranged son (Will Forte), after believing an internet spam message has him as the winner of a million dollar Sweepstakes prize.
You can check out our review from the London Film Festival, by clicking on the link. In the meantime, why not check out these amusing character profiles and latest clip.
- Craig Hunter
With Nebraska, director Alexander Payne returns to his home state of Nebraska to gracefully examine the lives of aging Midwesterners. Lensed in nostalgic black-and-white, Payne’s new film is anchored by an epic, awards-worthy performance by 7-year old Bruce Dern (crowned Best Actor at Cannes), but it’s not the unstable crazed Dern that made the actor a star in the ‘70s with films like Black Sunday, Tattoo and Coming Home. Dern’s Woody Grant (a role offered to Gene Hackman to unsuccessfully lure him out of retirement) doesn’t say a lot in Nebraska nor does his expression change much. It’s a role that forces him to skate by on a Hollywood veteran’s charisma and gravity and presence, something tough for any actor to do, but Dern pulls it off in spectacular form, turning this deceptively slight film into one of the year’s best.
Alcoholic Woody »
- Tom Stockman
Nebraska is the first film you've directed that you didn't have a hand in writing. How did it come about?
Two dudes who produced Election for me many years ago showed me the script and asked if I knew someone who would be right to direct it. I said, "How about me?" But I didn't want to do it right after Sideways because I didn't want to do a second road movie in a row, so I returned to it after The Descendants.
You grew up in Nebraska and this is your fourth film set there [after Citizen Ruth, Election and About Schmidt]. Is it a case of "film what you know"?
I like filming there. It's filming what I know but also filming what I don't know, because I don't know those rural areas very well. »
- Killian Fox
Around half an hour into Nebraska, the seventh film from director Alexander Payne, a father and son stand at the side of the road and stare at Mount Rushmore. The duo are on a road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska, but at the son’s behest, they take a small detour to gaze at the massive rock sculpture. That mountain is best remembered as the location for a big, action-packed climax in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; meanwhile, in Payne’s intimate, more sentimental comedy-drama, Mount Rushmore is small and distant. The father looks at it disapprovingly. “It’s just a bunch of rocks,” he quips, aching to get back into the car and drive away.
By this point of Payne’s film, moviegoers might be tempted to say the same thing about Bruce Dern, the prolific character actor who plays the father. He is just a grizzled old bunch of rocks, »
- Jordan Adler
Written by Bob Nelson
Directed by Alexander Payne
It’s become passé in popular culture to mock the elderly, to tweak and jeer at them just enough without being excessively cruel. We can laugh at old people for swearing at each other, or for having regressed physically to the point where they seem like overgrown babies who can barely dress themselves. It’s easy to laugh at our elders, swaddling ourselves in the fervent and foolish hope that we will never become like them. Time may march on and we may eventually hit the age when we qualify for Social Security and Medicare benefits, but we will never grow that old, that infirm. Thus, we can comfortably snicker at the foibles of old folks. For the opposite take, consider Nebraska, a deceptively simple character study that never once points and laughs at its elderly characters. It presents these people, »
- Josh Spiegel
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