8 items from 2016
Maybe he thrilled you as the brilliant Henry Lowe in 2007's The Great Debaters, or commanded your attention as Jimmy Grant, the emotional center of 2012's Arbitrage. Or, you might've lusted after him as Kaz, the police officer steaming up the screen with Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights. Chances are, you know Nate Parker for his incredible onscreen presence. Wait till you hear what he's been doing behind the scenes. Parker, 36, just added a few ambitious new skills to his résumé as the star, writer and director of The Birth of a Nation, winner of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival's audience and jury top prizes. »
- Alynda Wheat, @AlyndaWheat
What’s happening in an alternate universe out there where George Lucas followed up Thx 1138 and American Graffiti not with Star Wars but with something else? If there were no Star Wars (or fewer Star Wars), what cinematic gifts would Lucas have given to the world instead? Would there be anything greater than Red Tails and Strange Magic left in him? That’s the perennial question Francis Ford Coppola has us thinking about again. In a Vanity Fair story published on Wednesday, the Godfather filmmaker said this of his American Zoetrope co-founder: “George [Lucas] is kind of a genius, but I think it’s a pity he got so [absorbed in that one franchise]. I hope George isn’t offended, but the truth of the matter is that Star Wars cost us 10 new George Lucas films that would have been wonderful.” What original work would we see if Hollywood weren’t so focused on sequels and remakes? »
- Emily Rome
Sundance has always served as a springboard to launch the careers of under-the-radar actors — just ask Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”), Paul Dano (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and Ryan Gosling (“The Believer”) — and the 2016 edition of the festival was no exception. Variety’s critics Justin Chang, Guy Lodge and Geoff Berkshire and film reporters Ramin Setoodeh and Brent Lang weighed in on their favorite breakthrough performances at this year’s Sundance.
(1) Narges Rashidi, “Under the Shadow”
Babak Anvari’s wartime creeptacular has already drawn well-deserved comparisons to another Sundance-premiered horror hit, “The Babadook,” and along similar lines, Rashidi’s intense yet fine-grained work here deserves to be spoken of in the same lofty tones as Essie Davis’. As a fiercely intelligent, progressive-minded Iranian woman infuriated by the direction of her country since the Islamic Revolution, Rashidi plays her character like a musical instrument going slowly out of »
- Variety Staff
"When Nate Parker appeared before Monday’s world premiere of The Birth of a Nation," reports Flavorwire's Jason Bailey, "he introduced it as 'a film I’ve been carrying for seven years.' The gifted actor, familiar from Beyond the Lights, Red Tails, and Arbitrage, put everything on the line to make this dramatization of the 1831 slave revolt led by Nat Turner; he not only plays Turner, but wrote, directed, and produced the film as well. You can feel his blood pulsing through every frame." Now the film has set off the fiercest bidding war in Sundance history. And we're collecting reviews as they come in. » - David Hudson »
We give all this praise to war veterans and current members of the military, as we rightfully should, but we seem to forget about other parts of our military. We don’t seem to talk about African Americans or women in the service, or even a little thing like all the medical workers taking care of all of our service members oversees. The new documentary, The Luft Gangster: Memoirs of Second Class Hero attempts to address these oversights.
Following around ninety-three-year-old Alex Jefferson, Luft Gangster is the story of Jefferson’s experience in World War II, dealing with racism while growing up in Detroit, and basic life in the 1940s and 1950s. It is a simple story, especially the war elements that could probably be found in many other documentaries but Luft Gangster has a lot more going for it.
The film succeeds because of Alex Jefferson. He’s so likable, »
- Alexander Wolff
Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” a brutal, emotionally charged drama about Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in 1831, received the most enthusiastic standing ovation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival so far.
The movie, which premiered on Monday afternoon, had the crowd at the Eccles Theater in Park City, Utah, cheering for Parker, who not only stars as Turner, but also directed, produced and wrote the picture.
“I made this film for one reason: creating change agents,” Parker said after the premiere in a Q&A where he brought more than 40 members of the cast and crew onstage. He noted that there are “systems in place that are corrupt and corrupted people, and the legacy of that still lives with us.”
Parker said he spent seven years working to get the film to the big screen. “It was extremely difficult for many reasons,” he said. »
- Ramin Setoodeh
Following the widespread disappointment of this year’s Oscar nominees, which did not recognize a single actor of color, Variety asked Gooding Jr. his opinion on the #OscarsSoWhite backlash.
“You want it to be diverse. You want the work to show,” Gooding Jr. told Variety and other reporters this weekend at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “I wanted ‘Straight Outta Compton’ to get something. But, you know, it’s this conversation that makes people think harder when the nominations come around for next year.”
But what exactly can the industry do to improve next year’s nominations? According to Gooding Jr., it all starts with comprehensive storytelling — and a more diverse Academy.
“I think the more members of color that they put in, »
- Elizabeth Wagmeister
Anghus Houvouras with this week’s disappointments from the entertainment world…
Remember when George Lucas accused film audiences of being racist because they didn’t turn out to see the awful Red Tails? And you cringed at hearing him talk like the billionaire who created Star Wars had any real understanding of racism. Well, ol’ flannel clad George is at it again. This time it’s calling Disney ‘white slavers’. Lucas has apparently embraced his role as the Old Crazy Grandpa of pop culture and will be readily available to dish out uncomfortable conversations until they stop making Star Wars movies… which according to latest estimates is ‘never’. Thank God Disney doesn’t have their hands on any other of Lucas’ toys…
“Disney’s Bob Iger says new Indiana »
- Anghus Houvouras
8 items from 2016
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