The Second Mother is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s deeply satisfyingly to see a story so deceptively simple unfold with such thoughtful and thought provoking resonance. Two channels to the left of The Second Mother and you arrive at Pedro Almodovar. Two channels to the right and you arrive at Ingmar Bergman. Hovering somewhere between Almodovar and Bergman is Anna Muylaert who approaches a story rife with agonizingly awkward situations in a film where her characters are allowed to change in unpredictable ways. It’s easy to see the film as a study of class issues. On another level it’s a tangled soap opera where the dramatic plot twists keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait for the emotional payoff. It might be a little of both. But neither of those angles quite captures the total emotional effect because the sum of its parts add up to far more. The most remarkable thing we take away from this film are the sensations that linger in our conscious and unconscious thoughts, the unintended aftershocks of a work of genius.

The Second Mother revolves around a housekeeper and nanny, Val (a superb Regina Casé), whose own daughter was left behind when she went to work for a wealthy family. She has raised their young son, Fabinho; and years later when he’s a teenager, he still seeks her bosom for comfort and her soothing voice for reassurance, much to his birth mother’s horror. It’s okay, though, because a nanny is a nanny and can never take the place of a mother. This is how a mother must rationalize the irrational jealousy that no doubt springs forth when a child grows up relating more to his nanny than his own mother. The family dynamic could probably maintain its balance indefinitely were it not for the catalyst of Val’s daughter arriving to disturb the balance.

Because Val behaves like a servant is supposed to, because she is casually ordered around and made to sleep in a tiny, stuffy, hot room which might as well be a walk-in closet, it might not feel as wrong as it all is. The daughter’s presence illuminates that wrongness because she, unlike her mother, refuses to behave like a servant or a lesser person in the presence of her mother’s employers. Eat this ice cream, sit in that chair, don’t go in the swimming pool, do not eat with the family, stay in the kitchen during meals. These mutually agreed upon rules are how things are conducted in wealthy homes but this story is told from the point of view of the underlings.

The film is directed to emphasize the viewpoint of the servants. We watch Val listen to the family discuss serious matters. We see the family through narrow openings in half-closed doors. It’s part of Val’s job to remain efficiently unobtrusive, and she is good at it — so good at it that she forgets who she is and what really matters. In that way, The Second Mother is a kind of coming-of-middle-age story where a woman evolves past one phase of her life and opens another.

Val’s daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila) responds with distant bemusement to the people who keep her mother in their employ. It is absurd, she thinks, to see her mother being ordered around – “clear the table, Val.” “Serve lunch, Val.” The employers are unaccustomed to having this much light cast on the complications of this kind of sticky hierarchy. As consequence, the mother wants Jessica gone, while the father is enamored.

The beauty of The Second Mother is that it so gets what motherhood is all about. It gets the primal urge of nurturers to feel needed and to give of themselves in ways others won’t. This isn’t a biological connection and a mother does not even have to be a woman — but mothers know themselves, they know what compels them to take care of those they dearly love. It is a strong impulse, an irreplaceable one. Yet, this film is also about the needs of women to escape the confines of that role to explore, perhaps, other ways of living — like studying to become an architect, or leaving your child behind in order to work hard to be sure there is enough money for your child to have proper clothes and education. The intricate layers here are profound, if you know where to look and if you’re paying close enough attention.

There is also a hidden layer, a daring and comical layer, f the kind of sensual, intimate relationship that has developed between this “nanny” and her surrogate son. Though he’s almost a grown man she strokes his hair lovingly, he sleeps in her bed with her when he is restless. He loves her almost passionately and yet it never tips over into a sexual relationship. It isn’t supposed to. It is meant to show that this woman formed such a close bond with the kid she helped raise that no one would ever think of her as anything but the second mother.

Too many will watch this film and see only its surface. It will look like a class struggle, or perhaps a sympathetic portrait of a hard suffering woman. What I see when I watch this film is the kind of story we just don’t see here in the states — not about women, not about people, not about life.

The Second Mother is a quiet standout but a standout nonetheless. If the writer/director of The Second Mother – Anna Muylaert – had been born a man he probably would be getting invites to direct much bigger Hollywood movies than I’m gonna bet are being thrown Muylaert’s way as we speak. They should. They should invest in this kind of talent and focused storytelling. Brazil’s Foreign Language frontrunner should leap to the front of the line for Oscar consideration. As always, it will be a highly competitive year, with films like Son of Saul, Dheepan and Labyrinth of Lies. Already The Second Mother is earning rave reviews as one of the unexpected gifts of the season.


In the early stages before the Oscar race heats up, days can go by when nothing significant happens and then we’ll have an afternoon when a half dozen developments rain down all at once. Those bursts of activity are about to become a lot more frequent, so we’re inaugurating a new weekly roundup to help us keep a handle on all the news we need to know.

  • Listen to Sasha convince Devin Faraci and Amy Nicholson that Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is worthy of inclusion in their canon of the greatest films of all time.

  • Sasha wrote a response to Quentin Tarantino’s Vulture interview where he seemed to represent the feelings of many men in the industry who have little interest in movies by and about about women. The question stirred up a lot of passionate feelings in the discussion that followed, including a visit to Awards Daily from Tarantino himself where he took the opportunity to clarify his position.

  • Maggie Smith entered the Best Actress race with The Van.

  • The trailer and poster for Youth were finally released.

  • 2014’s Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett is already receiving a lot of praise and Oscar buzz for Carol, and the lovefest continues as the BFI announced plans to honor Blanchett with their highest honor, the Fellowship Award.

  • The recipients of this year’s AMPAS Governors Awards were announced

  • In her followup to Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea is set to premiere at the AFI Fest:

  • New character posters for Macbeth have been released:
  • The poster for The Danish Girl was unveiled:




  • Minions became the third highest grossing animated film of all time behind Disney’s Frozen and Toy Story as it surpassed the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office.

Minions Film

  • The number one film this week, for the second week in a row, is Straight Outta Compton. It’s box office gross to date $118 million and it’s on track to remain at the top spot again this weekend.

  • And finally, Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence are already 100 pages into their new screenplay. Yes , they’re going to write and star in a film together.

They’re so excited about working together, they even danced on Billy Joel’s piano.

85th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room

Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer have partnered up to write a comedy. Furthermore, they won’t only be writing the screenplay, they both plan to star in it too. Lawrence broke the news in an interview with the New York Times.

Lawrence said, “We play sisters. We’re almost done writing. It just flowed out of us. We’ve got about 100 pages right now.” The Oscar winning actress added, “Amy and I were creatively made for each other. We have different flavors. It’s been the most fun experience of my life. We start the day off on the phone, laughing. And then we send each other pages. And we crack up.”

Lawrence first approached Schumer after seeing Trainwreck and the project evolved from there.


Kyle Buchanan in his must-not-miss Oscar column asks whether Fury Road has the stuff it takes to go all the way, or at least to warrant nominations in the big five categories; we know it’s a shoo-in for the tech nods. The wholly original film (even though a sequel) has crackled and maintained admirers long after it played in theaters and at the Cannes Film Fest. Anne Thompson told me at a party in Cannes she thought it had the stuff, at least in the majors. As of now, Thompson has Mad Max: Fury Road predicted for Best Picture, along with 45 Years (a film she seems to dig enough to advocate for it), Carol, Inside Out, Love & Mercy. Thompson only predicts films she’s seen. The shift here is that she’s dropped Diary of a Teenage Girl and added 45 Years. As a sidenote: I do not think Inside Out has a shot at a Best Picture nomination with only five nomination slots on the ballot. Getting that many voters to choose that film as one of their top five is near impossible. But Mad Max? Possibly. If Anne Thompson and Kyle Buchanan are saying it – it certainly has game.

Buchanan writes:

As the summer movie season comes to a close, three big fall film festivals loom — Venice, Telluride, and Toronto — that will start clarifying this year’s Oscar race. But what about the movies we’ve already had the chance to see? Plenty of terrific films debuted in the first half of the year, and it’s entirely possible that half of this year’s Best Picture nominees could come from the movies that have already been seen and vetted at film festivals and in general release.

But are any of them better than Mad Max: Fury Road, the out-of-the-teal-blue-sky action spectacular that wowed critics earlier this year and deserves real awards consideration going forward?

That’s the question that’s been on my mind since I saw George Miller’s gonzo reboot last April. It’s become my cinematic high-water mark, the one I’ve been measuring most new movies against. I’ve previewed several of this year’s big fall films, and though some of them have great performances, I still haven’t seen anything that knocked me out like Charlize Theron in Mad Max. This year’s costume-design category will no doubt be packed with period pieces like Cinderella and Carol, but they don’t deserve a trophy over the striking postapocalyptic threads that Jenny Beavan put together for Mad Max. And while most of our Best Director candidates are likely still to come, and could include perennial nominees like David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, and Steven Spielberg, it would be hard for me to believe that any of them wrangled a more difficult and ultimately fruitful production than the 70-year-old Miller.

Mad Max: Fury Road is positively revolutionary in its depiction of female characters as leaders in the post-apocalyptic world. They begin the film oppressed then forge a revolution not just for themselves, mind you, but for all of the oppressed under the evil regime. You won’t see another film like Mad Max not this year, and not in the years to come because George Miller represents a different kind of filmmaker than what you see today. This isn’t a computer generated generation film – these are practical special effects. This is ballsy storytelling. These are characters sprung from a time when Hollywood still thought of women as people. You would have to pull Miller aside and tell him — see, that isn’t how things are done anymore for him to have made a different kind of film.

As with all Oscar years lately, the films that come out later have a harder time than the sure things that come out earlier. That gives Mad Max a bit of an edge, particularly if the Big Oscar Movies coming aren’t up to it.

On the flipside, we’re talking about not just the Academy but the Producers Guild (a shoo in there), the Directors Guild (a formidable name Miller seems highly plausible) and the Screen Actors Guild – a tougher battle there, competition wise. The ensembles coming up are probably going to upstage Mad Max. It doesn’t need the SAG to get in, though. It does need to keep standing out the way it does now. What films might obliterate it? Hateful 8 and The Revenant – both might look bigger and grittier than Mad Max. Also, they star men and you know how our industry likes movies that revolve around male characters.

It’s not time to get pessimistic just yet. Hope springs eternal until the shit hits the fan.

theron tomlin

With tent-pole season winding to a close and the festival stretch quickly approaching, Jordan looks back with appreciation at some summer highlights we hope can maintain momentum as we round the turn and head toward September. – Ryan

“Mad Max: Fury Road” & “Inside Out”

Summer 2015 might very well be seen as the return of the classic summer blockbuster. Just like in 2008 when The Dark Knight and WALL-E blew audiences away as twin pinnacles of pop culture triumph, two movies this year have again changed the game in regard to action and animation. “Mad Max” ramped up the way action can be done, shaming every superhero movie in its path and creating a new language for the genre. “Inside Out” showed us that an animated film for kids could be visionary, trippy and audacious enough to inspire profound analytical essays. “Mad Max’s” nihilistic outlook on human nature and a nasty, in-your-face style, was very much George Miller’s personal triumph through and through. The amount of detail that he brought to every frame was obsessively meticulous, as was the editing by Margaret Sixel, which – as things now stand – deserves serious consideration for next year’s Film Editing Oscar. As the brainiest, trippiest movie Pixar has ever made, “Inside Out” is mandatory viewing for any psych student.

“Amy” & “The Look of Silence”

With respect to non-fiction films it’s impossible to choose between two drastically different documentaries. “Amy” is virtually the first of its kind, a tragic examination of the late singer’s life, composed entirely of footage shot by Amy and her friends and directed and assembled with immeasurable passion by Asif Kapadia. The late 27-year-old singer/songwriter was an unmatched talent but tormented by the most torturous inner demons imaginable. This compulsively watchable film exemplifies the next evolution in documentary, one in which each key milestone of a life is recorded with phone or camcorder by the subject herself, and then this wealth of first-hand material is shaped by a talented director into a touching portrait. Kapadia doesn’t show talking heads as they’re being interviewed; instead he lets us listen to the interviewee while Amy’s personal footage plays in counterpoint onscreen. Don’t be surprised if we get more of these kind of documentaries in the years to come, as we seem to be part of a generation that wants everything recorded and instantly mementoed.

“The Look of Silence” is Joshua Oppenheimer’s sequel to “The Act of Killing,” and he once again addresses the Indonesian genocide of the mid-1960s that killed millions. If the first film dealt with the perpetrators this one is about the victims, as a man who lost his brother in the killings tries to track down the perpetrators through research and in-your-face interviews. The truth isn’t easy and a final confrontation had me almost looking away, but the interviews are the highlights as they bring back a past that most of the perpetrators are in denial about. If there is a more important, contemplative, and meditative film about human nature this year, I sadly haven’t seen it. This isn’t an easy watch, but it’s an essential one. It represents one of the reasons I hope we all go to the movies — to face hard truths and cold facts that might otherwise be forgotten. Oppenheimer is quickly becoming a world-class filmmaker with these important films and the potential significance they bring to society is almost beyond words.

Paul Dano & Ian McKellen

Paul Dano embodies Brian Wilson so brilliantly in his performance that you may actually forget you are watching a movie. Giving us another memorable performance, his depiction of Wilson is that of a wide-eyed kid being slowly stripped of his innocence by obsessive artistic creativity. His absence is clearly felt whenever he’s not on screen, as is the freewheelin’ nature of the “Pet Sounds” recording sessions where the actor basically becomes Wilson: a man so possessed and infatuated with getting the perfect sound that it ultimately became the tool of his undoing.

Ian McKellen delivers an equally impressive performance as a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in “Mr. Holmes.” Although the film itself may strike some as slight and is mostly focused on one character, McKellen understands how to make these aspects work to his advantage, creating a portrayal which is nothing short of mesmerizing. With his natural wrinkles serving as craggy foundation for the extra decades added by make-up magicians, 76-year-old McKellen portrays a Holmes suffering from a failing memory and a case that still haunts him to this day. No offense to Benedict Cumberbatch, always great as our modernized Holmes, but McKellen seems to inhabit this iconic character as perfectly as it’s ever been seen onscreen. Many of us still say to this day that he was robbed of the Best Actor prize back in 1999, when he broke our hearts in Bill Condon’s unforgettable “Gods and Monsters,” losing to Roberto Benigni. With Mr. Holmes, McKellan is in an excellent position to grab his third nomination.
Charlize Theron, “Mad Max Fury Road”

Charlize Theron & Lily Tomlin

All hail, Charlize Theron as the baddest of badasses. Proving that her win for “Monster” was no fluke, the 40-year-old actress owned George Miller’s action extravaganza as Imperator Furiosa. Despite the franchise title, the Fury Road wasn’t about Max, it was about her, and even in the quieter moments, not many of them, she found a way to say so much with so little dialogue. Her face weary and worn, but her spirit undiminished, she is an Ellen Ripley for the 21st century, a role model that we want follow anywhere she takes us and of course the empress of all things awesome. The feminist subtext of the film might have turned off a few too many fanboys, but isn’t that another reason to love this performance?

If I say that 75-year-old Lily Tomlin has never been better than in this phenomenal movie by Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) would you be impressed? Well you should be, because Tomlin’s had a phenomenal career: “Nashville,” “The Late Show,” “9 to 5,” “All of Me,” and “Flirting With Disaster” have all had a little Tomlin-esque spiciness sprinkled at their core and all the better for it. What she does in “Grandma” is heartbreaking and nothing short of astounding. She brings the spiky, zesty nature she’s always been known for, but plays with our emotions until we reach a finale that seals the deal on the truly amazing quality of her work. I went into the movie not knowing much about it, so I’ll allow you the same benefit. But expect a torrent of awards love to come her way in the months to come. The film opens in theaters next Friday.

“Shaun of the Sheep” & “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation”

It’s almost not fair to ask another animated movie to contend with Pixar when the two are just a few months apart, but I will say that “Shaun of the Sheep” is well worth your time and features some of the best dialogue-free scenes in recent memory. In fact, the film has scarcely any dialogue at all. It relies on its visuals to entertain and does a a marvelous job at that. Some seriously Chaplin-esque stuff here, sure to please the kids, and some undeniably adult humor to be appreciated by grownups. The stop-motion animation is breathtakingly beautiful with layers of details in ever frame. I’d probably put this in an exclusive category of stop-motion classics such as “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Chicken Run,” “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” and of course “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

I’ll get this out of the way early: I honestly think Tom Cruise is a great actor. He’s passionate about the quality of his work and really works to bring the best product to his legions of fans. “Rogue Nation” has ridiculously good action sequences and exhilarating stunts performed by Cruise. Every detail is put together in such a professional, meticulously stylish way. This is the type of movie you go into expecting over-the-top action sequences, especially after seeing the great ones delivered in “Ghost Protocol,” and the movie definitely delivers by exceeding those expectations. The movie does not have the strong thematic undertones and production design of “Fury Road,” and — again — the plot is definitely the weak link, but it does have some of the best action sequences of the year. I wish more summer blockbusters had this much effort and artistry on display. The multiplex would be a much better place.

“The Gift”

The biggest surprise of the summer is, sadly, a movie that many people have not heard much about. With 108 reviews on RottenTomatoes “The Gift” has an outstanding RT rating of 93%. Its metascore on Metacritic stands at 79. So what happened between the critics and audience awareness? As with most mini-budget movies, the marketing was micro — but despite that unavoidable reality, it ranked #3 at the box-office when it premiered and since earned an impressive $28 million on a budget investment of $5 million. Directed by “Zero Dark Thirty” actor Joel Edgerton, “The Gift” is a tense, creepy psychological thriller that has so many twists and turns in its screenplay that you never know what’s coming next. Edgerton directed, produced, wrote and starred in a movie so inspired that it’s reminiscent of Hitchcock and “The Turn of the Screw.” Starring Jason Bateman and the vastly undervalued Rebecca Hall, “The Gift” is a razor-sharp dissection of marriage and friendship that reminds us how we can never escape our past secrets. Go in knowing as little as possible and come out knowing more than you were prepared to find out.

85th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room

Jennifer Lawrence has topped the 2015 list of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses. Forbes Magazine has estimated the Oscar Winning actress earned $52 million dollars last year. In second place was Avengers star Scarlett Johannson who earned $35.5 million. Rounding out the top 3 was Melissa McCarthy with $23 million dollars. Chinese actress BingBing Fan was in fourth place with $21 million in earnings.

Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart were all in the top ten. Stewart’s income was $12 million.

In comparison, when the Hollywood’s highest paid actors list was unveiled earlier this month, Robert Downey Junior topped the list with earnings of $80 million, Jackie Chan earned $50 million, and Vin Diesel made $47 million.

Thanks to for doing the heavy lifting. You can view their complete there if you enjoy clicking through slide-show galleries, or you can look at the facts right here.

1. Jennifer Lawrence -$52 million
2. Scarlett Johansson – $35.5 million
3. Melissa McCarthy – $23 million
4. Bingbing Fan – $21 million
5. Jennifer Aniston – $16.5 million
6. Julia Roberts – $16 million
7. Angelina Jolie – $15 million
8. Reese Witherspoon – $15 million
9. Anne Hathaway – $12 million
9. Kristen Stewart – $12 million
11. Cameron Diaz – $11 million
12. Gwyneth Paltrow – $9 million
13. Meryl Streep – $8 million
13. Amanda Seyfried – $8 million
13. Sandra Bullock – $8 million
16. Emma Stone – $6.5 million
16. Mila Kunis – $6.5 million
18. Natalie Portman – $6 million

*(Forbes says it arrived at these numbers, “based on data from Nielsen, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with agents, managers and lawyers.”)



Ryan, Craig and I discuss the 6th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Will Rogers and held in March of 1933. It was the longest span of time between Oscar ceremonies — almost a year and a half — in order to get the Oscars in sync with a Jan-Dec calendar year and end the strange midyear Aug-July eligibility period that had been established in the first 5 years.  One of the interesting things about 1934 was that the effects of the Depression raging through Hollywood had caused salary disputes that ended up creating the Screen Actors and Writers Guilds. It was also the year The Wrong Frank jumped up to accept Best Director, Mae West saved Paramount from financial ruin, and Katharine Hepburn became an overnight sensation just by sighing.

Have a listen right here or download the mp3. You can also subscribe on iTunes and if you like the episodes please consider writing a review.


One year ago today, we lost Robin Williams, one of greatest comedic talents in American history. In remembrance of his gifts and the gifts he gave to us, we’re reposting Daniel Smith-Rowsey‘s heartfelt tribute — a celebration of the life of a consummate performer, “often imitated but never equaled; no one could quite be him.”


Every reputable university offers a film class where students learn about Charlie Chaplin. Robert Sklar wrote that Chaplin’s comic persona “succeeded far beyond any other figure in the history of twentieth-century media.” At least six weighty textbooks hail Chaplin’s exquisite blend of comedy and pathos, but contemporary students usually prefer Chaplin’s peer Buster Keaton. As Louis Giannetti and Scott Eyman put it, Keaton’s “dry, sardonic, analytically abstract humor is much more in tune with modern sensibilities.”

Robin Williams was our Charlie Chaplin. With his tight lips and serene, unflappable posture, Bill Murray is probably the modern Buster Keaton, and the cool thing to do is follow in his wake – that’s why there are T-shirts of him everywhere. Still, most comedians who become movie stars aren’t quite Murray or Williams; instead they play a lot of blowhards who need comeuppances. Think of almost anyone from 40 years of Saturday Night Live; wise guys, class clowns, overgrown adolescents. The nature of feature filmmaking dictates that Hollywood must ask lead comedians to pivot in the third act to admit their faults – think of Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock. Sometimes the pivot works, more often it doesn’t.

When Robin Williams was asked to pivot, it worked. More often, as with Chaplin, the other characters had to pivot to him. He could be desperately, almost anarchically funny for most of a film’s running time, and then he would bring on the sentiment, with those world-weary eyes and shoulders. For a comedian, Williams was rarely very wrong in narratives. Because his moral rectitude wasn’t as closely tied to Chaplin’s onscreen sympathy for the underprivileged, critics began to see Williams as cloying or “treacly” (per A.O. Scott). Audiences regarded him a little better than critics: between 1987 and 1998, ten films starring Williams each made more than $90 million (in non-adjusted dollars) at the domestic box office, more than anyone else at the time, including Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise. But Williams was never cool, like Murray or Murphy or Rock. There weren’t T-shirts.

Jerry Seinfeld said, “The comedian studies himself; the actor studies other people. The comedian wants to be himself; the actor wants to be anyone else.” When most SNL-level comedians become actors, they play a sort of toned-down version of themselves, because that’s what they assume we’ve come for. But Williams and Chaplin were unusual in being natural comedians and actors, intuitively funny and empathic. They loved people on a deep, unfakeable level as much as they loved themselves. When we laughed with them, it felt earned; when their lips quavered to cry, it felt real. Their famous liberal and anti-poverty campaigning (Williams through groups like Comic Relief) grew organically out of their genuine concern as manifested onscreen.


Remembering Williams, President Obama said, “He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.” Similar statements were heard after the death of Charlie Chaplin – and very few other people. If Chaplin had only done the acting, or the directing, or the activism, we would still remember him; if Williams had only done the improv comedy, or the screen career, or the activism, we would still remember him.

Chaplin and Williams both became famous because of a self-inspired bits of physical comedy; Chaplin invented the Little Tramp mannerisms while improvising a short called Kid’s Auto Race in 1914; 63 years later, ABC asked an auditioning Williams to sit on the couch like an alien, so he sat on his head. Neither man had a problem getting in drag if the situation called for it. In some ways, you could argue that Williams surpassed Chaplin; certainly the thousands of little character gesticulations and verbal jokes (personally, I always loved “If you can remember the sixties, you must not have been there”) were probably as difficult to produce as the best mime.

No TV star ever had a better transition to movies than Robin Williams. No comedian besides Chaplin ever was trusted with more heart. Robin Williams became the model for the George Clooneys as well as the Jim Carreys. He was often imitated but never equaled; no one could quite be him. Amid all the eulogies to what a universally nice person he was, I haven’t seen anyone else recall that Williams ran to Christopher Reeve’s bedside to bring him laughter at the worst possible time. Years later, shortly after 9/11, he did something similar when he revived his stand-up for New York City – not something a lot of Oscar winners would have bothered with. As a liberal and a performer, Williams gave and gave and gave and gave. And then, something gave.

Like Chaplin, Williams battled demons throughout his adult life that were mostly of his own making. Chaplin was a cautionary tale for his times: he was too interested in socialist politics, teenage girls, and obsolete technology. Williams, if the morning-after encomiums are any guide, is a cautionary tale for his: depression is real and we must help our depressed friends to get help and stay helped. One of my friends wrote that she always sensed his inability to eschew his “raw exposure to the thoughts and emotions of those around him.” How lucky we were, then, that he morphed that painful empathy into such beauty for so long.

We know Charlie Chaplin’s contributions to film history; as David Robinson put it in The Oxford History of World Cinema, he “contributed much to Hollywood’s prosperity and rise to worldwide pre-eminence in the period of the First World War. The sophisticated intelligence and skills he brought to slapstick comedy forced intellectuals to recognize that art could reside in a wholly popular entertainment.” What does Robin Williams’ passage in textbooks look like? Well…it doesn’t. The powerful play of life has gone on and Williams has been allowed to write a verse…but the books haven’t included it. So let’s look at a first draft of that puppy, shall we?

As the alien-on-Earth Mork on Mork and Mindy, Williams was part of the heyday of the ABC sitcom, a time that included Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Three’s Company. More generally, he was a keystone to the peak of the multi-camera sitcom era of the 70s and 80s, a group that included All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Jeffersons, M*A*S*H, Cheers, and The Cosby Show. As with the best episodes of those shows, Williams’ work as Mork adroitly alternated between laughs and pathos. Yet every week he brought something a bit unlike the rest of TV, twenty minutes of motor-mouth voracious-intellectual incredibly-funny restlessness followed by two minutes of soulfulness and vulnerability that really couldn’t be, and wasn’t, faked. If we count Mork and Mindy as science-fiction, then thanks to Williams the show was probably both the funniest and warmest science-fiction show of all time.

As a stand-up comedian and occasional event host, Williams was a little bit of everything: topical, physical, situational, metaphorical, kitschy, folksy, strident, sexual. Most comedians need a moment to work toward a given character; Williams reeled off accents, voices, squeaky noises and imitations without taking breaths in between. As the New York Times put it, he was an improvisational genius who was forever in the moment, an “explosively, exhaustingly, prodigiously verbal comedian,” a fast mouth with a faster mind, and an irrepressible character who also made himself a terrific character actor.

In a two-year period from 1986 to 1988, many filmmakers explored the Vietnam War, including Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, and Brian DePalma, but America’s and the world’s favorite depiction was Barry Levinson’s Good Morning Vietnam (1987), starring Williams as an uproarious, anti-army army DJ. (Because the film’s sympathetic co-stars are black and Asian, the film prefigured the polyglot racial casts that would become de rigeur by the 00’s.) Though Williams had already headlined well-received dramas, GMV was a star-making film for him, his first to earn more than $100m at the U.S. box office, and the first to earn him an Oscar nomination. Had GMV not come out, that nomination might well have gone to Williams’ friend and then-co-star of a stage version of Waiting for Godot, Steve Martin, for his sublime work in Roxanne; as it happened, Martin never came close to another nomination, while Williams’ laurel earned him better scripts and A-list status. Williams’ trademark manic energy was now just one card he could deploy; audiences showed they also liked him when he was serious.

As the pluperfect teacher-inspirer John Keating in Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society (1989), as the brilliant, sad neurologist-psychologist Oliver Sacks in Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990), as the grown-up, seen-it-all Peter (Pan) Banning in Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), and as the deluded homeless Grail-seeker Parry in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (1991), Williams, along with Kevin Costner, helped to spearhead a new kind of sensitive male star-actor for the 1990s. This new sort of baby boomer avatar tended not to use guns; as a liberal after Reagan, he instead bared his soul to solve problems. Tom Hanks – a man who is more often mentioned in film history textbooks – tended to follow in Williams’ wake, first by jumping from a medium-rated sitcom to movies, then by peppering comedy roles with drama, then by taking on juicier parts, then by voicing Disney features.

Though jazz musicians starred in The Jungle Book (1967), most voice talent in feature cartoons was anonymous prior to Aladdin (1992), which conspicuously featured Robin Williams as a madcap genie. Many actors who had built careers out of anonymous animation work came to resent Williams’ brilliant work, or more accurately Disney’s Jeffrey Katzenberg for thinking to hire Williams in the first place. The implied metaphor of a genie being irreversibly out of a bottle was almost too apt. More happily for the rest of us, there was no returning Williams’ career to a lamp. The genie character, like his eponymous role in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), seemed tailor-made to his persona, because as an actor, he generally played sincerity and weakness. However, unlike many, he could also be suddenly insincere or strong without ever being less than convincing.

As one of the 1990s’ top stars, Williams did a little of everything. He played leads and supporting roles; he did big-budget and low-budget; he made good films and bad ones; he helped keep San Francisco alive as a film location; he helped the cause of mainstream gay representation by starring in The Birdcage (1996), which probably wouldn’t have become a massive hit without him; he lent his persona to technological-breakthrough films like Jumanji (1995), Flubber (1997) and What Dreams May Come (1998); he enabled younger talent to become stars, like Ethan Hawke, Mara Wilson, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck; and he won an Oscar on his fourth nomination, as the embittered widower Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting (1997). In the 2000s, he was no longer at the top of the A-list, but he could still show up and make things a lot more interesting, as in Insomnia (2002), One Hour Photo (2002), Robots (2005), and the Happy Feet and Night at the Museum franchises. Despite numerous opportunities, he never directed a film or did much with his own production company; it seemed that he preferred to be everyone’s favorite gun for hire, the one who could arrive on the set and make everyone feel better. By all accounts, he did.

On a personal level, I loved him like he was a favorite uncle. The name “Mork from Ork,” the suspenders, and the polyvalent shirts made it easy for kids to buy in, but we stayed because of raw talent and generosity of spirit. The fact that he was a fellow Bay Arean didn’t hurt; I felt I could aspire to be him. My single, working mother and I bonded over watching his shows and his comedy specials together. We ran out to see both Popeye and The World According to Garp. This will sound preposterous to modern kids, but those came out when I was 9 and 11, and they were two of the first ten films I ever saw. I remember that I loved Garp more; maybe it was all the sex-change discussion. When I learned that Williams had died, I popped in my DVD of the 2002 HBO special again, and I was laughing too hard to cry…until the very end, when he waved as the audience leapt to its feet in a standing ovation. Can you blame us for wanting more?

Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day in 1977; is it mere coincidence that Mork and Mindy emerged from its eggshell nine months later? Well, of course it is. Nonetheless, the ultimate measure of Chaplin’s and Williams’ lives is the same: amount of lives improved, new smiles brought, situations understood and sympathized with. These cannot be counted, but we know that they are in the hundreds of millions. At best, most comedians’ eyes are the window to their own souls; Chaplin’s and Williams’ eyes were windows onto more people than that. The eminent film historian David Cook wrote that Chaplin’s Little Tramp character “became a kind of universal cinematic symbol for our common humanity.” So did Robin Williams.


Find more fine writing by Daniel Smith-Rowsey at his blog, MapToThFuture.
Follow him on twitter @smithrowsey


I’ll confess, the instantaneous backlash on Tuesday against the new trailer for Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall took me by surprise — maybe because I try never to take the measure of a movie using a corporate marketing tool as a yardstick. Nevertheless, the outcry this week has touched on several legitimate concerns and the conversations these issues sparked are heartfelt and thought-provoking.

THR neatly sums up the source of perceptions that have so many people up in arms:

It was supposed to be a love letter from a blockbuster filmmaker to a community he had overlooked for too long, focusing instead on big-budget disaster films like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. But openly gay director Roland Emmerich is now finding that his small-scale passion project, Stonewall, is turning into a bit of a disaster itself.

The historical drama recounts the events surrounding the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a bloody standoff with police outside a Greenwich Village gay bar that is widely credited with kicking off the modern gay-rights movement.

“I want to do a little movie, about $12 to $14 million,” the Germany-born Emmerich said of the project back in 2013. “It’s about these crazy kids in New York, and a country bumpkin who gets into their gang, and at the end they start this riot and change the world.”

It’s that “country bumpkin” character, however, that has become the source of much grousing about the film, almost all of which has come from within the LBGT community to which it is presumably geared.

Nobody doubts that many white kids (and grown white men) were directly affected by arrests at the Stonewall Inn that hot Saturday night at the tail end of the ’60s, but nearly everybody was rightly riled up this week when the trailer omitted to show people of color in prominent roles — no drag queens or lesbians either — all of whom played instrumental roles in the milestone demonstrations that followed.

Though the Stonewall Riot was a multicultural protest, credit for its incitement has long fallen to transgender minorities — figures like Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a Stonewall Inn patron who refused to submit to demands that she produce identification for an undercover police raid. (Griffin-Gracy was beaten by police and carted off to central booking, resulting in a broken jaw.)

Then there was Storme DeLarverie, also known as “the Gay Community’s Rosa Parks,” an African-American lesbian who was the first of the protesters to punch a cop. And Sylvia Rivera, a then-17-year-old Puerto Rican drag queen who was simply “tired of being just pushed around.”

I’m not backing down from my own personal opinion that the petition being circulated to boycott Stonewall because it’s not all things to all people is the wrong way to work toward pushing filmmakers to be much more careful when they build a fictionalized drama around the framework of historical events. It’s my feeling that there are dozens of individual stories to be told about significant social turning points in our history, and it doesn’t bother me very much if writers choose different facets to capture and refract different rays of light for 2 hours. Mostly though, it discourages me to see an uproar and pushback against one of the exceedingly rare mainstream Hollywood gay-themed movies that studios have deigned to give us in the past decade. Because if anyone thinks we can force Hollywood to make the movies we want by refusing to buy tickets to movies that try to come close, then those protesters are in for a rude awakening.

Think it through: “No! We won’t go see this gay movie!” is not the sort of temper tantrum that’s going to motivate studio executives to greenlight more gay movies. Nope, the way we get more gay movies made is by supporting every effort as much as we can afford, no matter the flaws or shortcomings — the very same way studios are happy to flood multiplexes with dozens of superheroes, no matter that 90% of them of them are glossy pieces of CGI crap. Want to see as many different colors of gay people onscreen as the myriad colors of capes and spandex pants we see on dozens of superhuman crusaders? Then please try to swallow your Pride and go sit through a white boy’s story (written by a Pulitzer Prize finalist), so that story can make some money. Nothing wrong with voicing concern and making demands for more diversity. But let’s bolster those demands with a show of good faith that studios can literally bank on.

And to help us accept what we’re being given this year, let’s try to remember what we should already know: the trailer is not the movie. Roland Emmerich has posted this reassurance on his Facebook page:

When I first learned about the Stonewall Riots through my work with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I was struck that the circumstances that lead to LGBT youth homelessness today are pretty much the same as they were 45 years ago. The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves. I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film – which is truly a labor of love for me – finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.

See the movie. Let’s do that. Then we throw whatever effervescent hissy fits we want after we know what the hell we’re talking about.

*(be sure to read the excellent footnote in the 2nd comment below, more reassurance from Jeremy Irvine, brought to us by Kevin Klawitter).

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 9.29.41 AM

Two strong trailers for upcoming films aired during the GOP debates. Though mostly marginalized by the liberal elite, Fox News would be pulling in major viewership for these debates, largely due to Donald Trump being there. I caught the Bridge of Spies spot (but could not find it on YouTube) and this Steve Jobs spot:

We saw the images and we roughly know the plot. Here is the trailer for a film that looks straight out of the 1970s — in Ken Russell territory. Will it be well received or universally panned? We will wait and see but one thing we can know for sure is that writer/director/star Angelina Jolie does not shy away from scenes of hitting and slapping and slapping and hitting… hat tip to Rope of Silicon. Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 10.21.03 AM

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Woody Allen has revealed the cast of his latest film. The film will star; Kristen Stewart, Bruce Willis, Jeannie Berlin, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll and Ken Stott. Anna Camp, Stephen Kunken, Sari Lennick and Paul Schneider will co-star.

The new untitled film will start shooting in New York. Ronald L. Chez, Adam B. Stern and Allan Teh are set to produce the film.


After Hitfix (stupidly) lost Kris Tapley and In Contention, there was some speculation as to where he would land. Now, Variety reports that Kris has joined the publication as co-editor:

Tapley will help lead the publication’s awards coverage, providing daily, on-the-spot coverage under the In Contention banner on as well as a weekly report in the magazine with fresh content during the film awards season. His comprehensive coverage will also include awards predictions.

He will work closely with Variety awards editor Tim Gray and deputy awards editor Jenelle Riley and will report directly to Claudia Eller, co-editor-in-chief. Tapley will start August 24, kicking off his job by attending and helping cover the Telluride Film Festival as the awards season gets under way.

“We are so excited that Kris is joining our great awards team,” said Eller. “I have always been a huge fan of his strong voice and astute analysis of the industry’s closely watched awards race.”

Variety publisher Michelle Sobrino said she is thrilled that Tapley’s valuable contributions will further bolster the dominant role that Variety plays in the awards season.

“Over the past few years, Kris Tapley and In Contention have provided Awards Season pros and passionate observers with sharp, lively analysis that’s matched by his digital savvy. The combination is irresistible for anyone who loves movies,” said Sobrino.

Congratulations to Kris!


Jurassic World just passed The Avengers to become the third highest grossing domestic and international hit of all time. When you adjust it for inflation it drops to number 27, which is still impressive, considering. This means not only did millions of people want to see it, but once they saw it they liked it enough to not only see it again but recommend it to millions of their friends. Doesn’t that count for something in the world of naming the “Best Picture of the year”? The answer to that is, no, it doesn’t count for anything beyond the disproportionately tiny visual effects category. Sound, Sound mixing. Art direction on occasion. Titanic and Avatar hold the the number one and number two spots, but what made them Best Picture juggernauts was their serious side, their emotional effectiveness.. Still, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the “new normal” of Hollywood when it comes to the Best Picture race.

Last year was probably the most dramatic disconnect between the films real people saw vs. films the Oscar voters saw and voted on. The only movie the majority of Americans could really talk about was American Sniper because so many had already seen the film by the time the awards rolled around. How do you build a movie like American Sniper? You consider both the audience and the Oscars, meaning it’s a prestige pic made by a studio set for wide release with big name celebrities. Studios put these movies out every year but only some of them are deemed worthy by critics and then by the industry. By no means does the industry take the public into account anymore. The ticket buyers do not influence voters. At the same time, voters are still a consensus, albeit a slightly upscale consensus compared to, say, the People’s Choice Awards. These are ostensibly industry professionals who believe they are choosing the best films they saw in a given season.

As far as blockbusters go, Jurassic World is popular for a reason. Part of its appeal, no doubt, is the spectacle left over from Spielberg’s 1993 Jurassic Park. The same way the new Star Wars movie (and the Star Trek movie before it) is supposed to wipe clean the bad memories of the bad sequels, this Jurassic Park was being billed as a “return to form,” meaning, the same park, with more focus on characters. In this version, the dinos have been genetically altered to be bigger and meaner and scarier. Audiences interpret that as spectacle of the kind they have never seen before.

The other appealing things about Jurassic World include its alluring male lead, Chris Pratt, who has gained a massive following of young girls since Guardians of the Galaxy. Pre-awareness + spectacle + appealing lead would be enough for a major hit. For it rise to the top three there must be something more. That “more” is that it’s a pretty good popcorn movie with an engaging group of creatures you feel for. It also has an eco message that is clearly anti-SeaWorld, anti-animal captivity.

In one way, you can look at Jurassic World and its ilk as the ruiner of all good things, movie-wise. That it is what movies will be in the future, as George Lucas once predicted — tent poles, event movies that play everywhere in the world and make more money than anyone could ever dream of because they stick to the formula: leading male saves the day, massive previously unseen visual effects, humor. It would be easy to call the film sexist but in fact it’s actually worse than that: it’s misogynist in a casual way, meaning none of the women in the film understand anything important, and more than one woman seems to have been invited to serve the sole purpose of gory dino-bait. This is a major leap from the first film where Spielberg not only cast Laura Dern as one of the smartest scientists but he also cast a young female teen/computer whiz to save the day. In the update, the kids are made into two boys. The highly placed executive played by Bryce Dallas Howard is mansplained about the dinosaurs every step of the way. She doesn’t even know the basics of what they are and even worse, the script makes her do the world’s most stupid thing: run from a T-Rex in high heels.

Because my personal commitment to animal welfare supersedes my irritation with the film’s misogyny, I was willing to give Jurassic World a pass and even paid to see the movie twice. This formula works all over the world because misogyny thrives all over the world — in fact, it’s the default position. When you look at the top moneymakers internationally they are all male-driven visual effects movies. In other words, audiences aren’t necessarily looking for feminist heroes or stunt casting. They want the formula. If you give it to them, they will come.

Because of its inherent and obvious sexist ways, Jurassic World doesn’t deserve to be nominated as the best film of the year, although it wouldn’t be the first nor the last Best Picture nominee to be blatantly sexist. Just look at last year. The only difference is that in the prestige pics they make the supporting females a wee bit smarter than Bryce Dallas Howard.

Still, I can’t be the only one who is looking at the long game here, where it’s all headed and what might eventually be the answer. The Academy is going to have to find a way to answer to the changing landscape of film. Either they will need a separate category for effects-driven films or else they will need a separate tech category to honor the evolving visuals. A publicist friend suggested there being two categories — one for visual effects and one for special effects. I’m no expert but I would think anything to expand where they are now would be a step in the right direction for them.

Why do I think the Oscars need to evolve? They will be closing in on their 100th birthday in a decade and a half. In the year 2025 what will movies look like? What will the “Oscar movies” look like? Will they be strictly independents? Will they be films made in other countries where they value their artists over profits? Will the studios continue to care about winning Oscars — so much so that they lay those select eggs every year?

I don’t have the answer and to tell you the truth, I probably won’t be writing about the Oscars then. It does seem, however, like the film industry — at least the American film industry =– is only moving in one direction. Perhaps things will shift back as the millennials age a bit. Either way, if Jurassic World beats Titanic to become number 2, what then? Can it beat Avatar? Will any movie ever beat Avatar and if so, would it be deserving of being named Best Picture of the Year? We’ll have to wait and see.


Los Angeles, CA, July 23, 2015 – Bob Gazzale, President and CEO of the American Film Institute, issued the following statement in response to the tragic event in Lafayette, Louisiana.

“Going to a summer movie is a celebration of the American creative spirit and one of our nation’s most beloved pastimes. Let us stand together in these times of tragedy and embrace what is precious to us — churches, schools and places where the arts can send our spirits soaring. As a national community of artists and audiences, AFI offers our heartfelt sympathies to the victims in Louisiana and their families.”


Once you get thrown over for one of your best performances for a younger actress in one of her not-so-best performances you get to a stage where you have nothing to lose. I love it when women reach this stage — I’m there now — because you don’t have to make bargains to shut up anymore. Hollywood Reporter points us to this interview with Emma Thompson where she minces no words to explain how bad things STILL are, despite it being such a successful summer for women.

“I don’t think there’s any appreciable improvement, and I think that, for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. So no, I am not impressed, at all. I think it’s still completely shit, actually.

“When I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world. And when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it, particularly for women, and I find that very disturbing and sad.

“So I get behind as many young female performers as I can, and actually a lot of the conversations with them are about exactly the fact that we are facing and writing about the same things and nothing has changed, and that some forms of sexism and unpleasantness to women have become more entrenched and indeed more prevalent.”

Here is the problem as I see it. The market is driven by (or perceived to be driven by) young boys and middle-aged men / middle-aged childmen who have been conditioned for decades, and really from birth, to believe films are supposed to be about only male characters. Marketing drives and enforces this lie. It is especially bad in the Oscar race because it doesn’t appear that films are even conceived or envisioned with women in the leads. It’s as though what happens to women in life has zero importance compared to the more important lives of men and boys. Men and boys are the center of the universe in animation and superhero movies — schlubby losers always win the day — and they are the center of the universe in Big Oscar Movies (broken man saves the day or valiantly tries and fails).

To make matters worse, when the Academy has the opportunity to reward a woman their feet get tangled in that mass of “I don’t want to reward her JUST BECAUSE she’s a woman.” Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks gets tossed for Amy Adams in American Hustle. Did Thompson really deserve to take a dive for that just because of the real story controversy? Gillian Flynn is dumped for Damien Chazelle. Ava DuVernay is passed over for yet another white guy. Opportunities to help level the playing field are being wasted while the white male paradigm continues to be reinforced and celebrated with each new movie deal that gets announced.

Things are changing, though. How much or how far is unclear. I have faith in the millennials because they really do not stand for the same old shit. They have money to burn and they will be the future ticket buyers. Hollywood only has to listen carefully to that distant thunder. To be frittering away opportunities for an actress and writer of Emma Thompson’s caliber is immoral. Invest in actresses who are getting better as they get older. They should not be shelved but instead challenged. People will come, Ray. Oh yes, people will come.


Gold Derby was one of the last remaining independent awards sites and now, they announce, no more. They will be owned by Penske media group — who also own Deadline and Variety. This is a huge get for Tom, whose goal was to sell the site to be able to maintain it:

After 15 years of intense jockeying, sprinting and occasional spills, Gold Derby has finally reached an impressive finish line – we’ve been acquired by Penske Media Corporation. That’s the equivalent to winning the Kentucky Derby. Or, better, it’s like winning the Oscar.

So says Tom in his official statement.

It’s tough to run a site on one’s own. Jeff Wells, David Poland, Nathaniel Rogers and I are really the last independents left of those who built it way back when. AwardDaily (then Oscarwatch) was a solo site back when Gold Derby joined the LA Times and remains a solo site today, 16 years after launching back in 1999. Anne Thompson is at the much bigger Indiewire, Kris Tapley was at Hitix but we’re still waiting on news where In Contention will land. Scott Feinberg works at The Hollywood Reporter. Many more awards sites have sprung in our wake like Rope of Silicon, AwardsCircuit and AwardsWatch not to mention scads of others. Awards sites keep coming and going and going and coming and always too soon!

With this sale, Gold Derby can become a thing that can survive beyond Tom’s own participation, which means he can take a break someday, if he wants. It also means he doesn’t have to sweat the ad sales, which is the hardest part of this job without a doubt. He can concentrate more on content without having to hustle up the cash. It’s good news for Tom and Gold Derby and I know he’ll be happy about it. As for us, we’re not sure what the future holds for AwardsDaily. We just know that we’re still here.


The BBC have unveiled their list of the 100 greatest American Films of all time. The BBC polled 62 critics from around the world to compile the list that includes Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Psycho. Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese all feature in the list. 12 Years a Slave is the most recent film to make the list at #99 and the oldest film is 1915’s Birth of a Nation.

So, what do the BBC regard as the greatest American Film of all time? Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. Coppola’s The Godfather takes the second slot and rounding out the top three is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

Take a look at the complete list below :

100. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
99. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
98. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
97. Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
96. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
95. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
94. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
93. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
92. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
91. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
90. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
89. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
88. West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)
87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
86. The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)
85. Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero, 1968)
84. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
83. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
82. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
81. Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
80. Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)
79. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
78. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
77. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
76. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
74. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
73. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
72. The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)
71. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
70. The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953)
69. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
68. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
67. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
66. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
65. The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1965)
64. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
63. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
62. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
61. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
60. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975)
58. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
57. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
56. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
55. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
54. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
53. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, 1975)
52. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
51. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
50. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
49. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
48. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
47. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
46. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
44. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
43. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
42. Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
41. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
40. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943)
39. The Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith, 1915)
38. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
37. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
36. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
35. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
34. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
33. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
32. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
31. A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
30. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
29. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
28. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
27. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
26. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

What movies should have been included or excluded?

Leading ladies prepare for filming the funeral scene of The Huntsman beside Wells Cathedral.

Picture: Steve Roberts


Copy: Bristol

New director, new star The Huntsman is going forward anyway. Here is a look at Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt wigged up and ready to go. Source.

Leading ladies prepare for filming the funeral scene of The Huntsman beside Wells Cathedral. Picture: Steve Roberts 20150716 Copy: Bristol
Leading ladies prepare for filming the funeral scene of The Huntsman beside Wells Cathedral.
Picture: Steve Roberts
Copy: Bristol
Leading ladies prepare for filming the funeral scene of The Huntsman beside Wells Cathedral. Picture: Steve Roberts 20150716 Copy: Bristol
Leading ladies prepare for filming the funeral scene of The Huntsman beside Wells Cathedral.
Picture: Steve Roberts
Copy: Bristol
Leading ladies prepare for filming the funeral scene of The Huntsman beside Wells Cathedral. Picture: Steve Roberts 20150716 Copy: Bristol
Leading ladies prepare for filming the funeral scene of The Huntsman beside Wells Cathedral.
Picture: Steve Roberts
Copy: Bristol


Eight years ago, progressives and liberals rallied behind an eloquent first-term senator who called himself a “skinny guy with a funny name.” Barack Obama won hearts and united the left like never before. He was to be our first black president and would succeed in rescuing the country from eight disastrous years under President George W. Bush. Bush had been selected by Florida’s Secretary of State (under the then governor, Jeb Bush, W’s brother) and a 5-4 decision from our conservative Supreme Court. Al Gore had won the popular vote but they handed it to Bush. We went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan, a catastrophic vendetta disguised as retribution for 9/11. Wall Street collapsed under the weight of greed and lack of Federal regulation. The economy tanked 5 months before Bush slipped out the back exit. Things could not have gotten much worse for Americans who had become accustomed to a well oiled empire. Obama came in to take the country in a different direction, or so the narrative went anyway. Obama’s supporters came from far and wide, from all sides of the liberal spectrum. He had the African-American vote, no question. He had the moderate liberal vote. He fired up the progressives, who seemed to believe he could single-handedly do things that no president can ever actually do in office. No one expected President Obama would have to confront the most hostile Congress in US history. That hostility created continual roadblocks to his platform of hope, change and reform. Obama had to act outside Congress on many things, thus got called a tyrant and a fascist. They called him a liar during his State of the Union Address. By the end of his second term our American government would consist of a Democrat in the White House in lone opposition to a Republican Congress and Republican-leaning Supreme Court.

With the Supreme Court finally making gay marriage legal, and trying to finally convince stubborn Republicans that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay, there is much upset on the conservative side of our country. So much so that the GOP are brewing a perfect storm for an all-out takeover of the U.S. government, with plans to take the presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court. With that kind of alignment of power they could finally enact all the legislation Obama has stopped them from jamming through. That Presidential VETO vote has been gold these past few years. Historically, two consecutive terms of a Democrat in the White is usually followed by a Republican president in office. That’s largely because the eligible voters who sit out elections every year (a staggering number) begin to feel angry enough to go to the polls to unseat the powers that be.

The Democrats have a formidable frontrunner in Hillary Clinton. She would be, at last, the first female president. She is still polling with higher support than anyone else in the race, Democrat or Republican. But now come the laments of respected trendsetters like Bill Maher on HBO, and more dubious armchair quarterbacks like Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere. Publicly they claim that they just don’t feel excited about Hillary — and privately they know if her nomination at the Democratic Convention is accepted as a done deal it will never drive conversations, TV panel disputes, site traffic, heated debate or ad money. As answer to their prayers to see a dramatic hero/villain scenario set in motion, Bernie Sanders came along, a good man and self-proclaimed socialist who can boast that he isn’t taking PAC money but is raising his campaign cash the old-fashioned way, with thousands of grassroots donors. Never mind that Hillary has enormous grass-roots support of her own in addition to impressive funding from essential major players. Bernie has positioned himself as the anti-Hillary.

All at once, loud voices on left have begun to attack their own party, with eager assistance from GOP operatives who’ve been continually feeding negative stories about Hillary through leftist Twitter accounts for months, according to the New York Times. Many complacent liberals have taken the bait, hook, line and sinker. Now we not only have Bernie Sanders supporters — we have Hillary Clinton haters on the left to do finish the hatchet job Republicans have been orchestrating ever since they tried to make Benghazi stick. That accomplishes two things. It helps to disillusion less-devoted Democrats, to ensure fewer votes for Hillary Clinton come election time, and it makes the Republicans look good because they can point to wobbly Democrat pundits. The Republican saboteurs no longer have to get their hands dirty trying to ruin her chances because the Democrats are doing it for them. And there is no stopping it now. A barrage of traffic-generating thinky-pieces on Salon, Huffington Post, DailyKos, Matt Taibbi are seeding the discontent, firmly in the Sanders camp, trying to get him, and not Hillary, the nomination next summer.

But those Republicans, they are just getting started. Obama has spent two exhausting terms defending himself against accusations that he was a closet socialist. Now there is a proud self-confessed socialist actually running? This is the GOP’s wet dream. It’s manna from heaven and they know it. Bernie Sanders will need to raise taxes to pay for his elaborate raft of programs and he naturally wants to raise them on the rich. While I personally think is a beautiful thing, because who with any sense of humanity wouldn’t, we all know how most Americans respond to that kind of talk. They hear “taxes” and they assume Democrats want half of everybody’s paycheck to pay for silly things like infrastructure. So yeah, do the math. Not a pretty picture. As John Steinbeck said, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

Though, in my worst nightmares, I fear we can pretty much stick a fork in it for Democrats this election cycle — divided we fall — there is hope on the horizon. Young people are fired up for Bernie Sanders, which could mean that further down the road someone as revolutionary as Bernie, might really get elected. No one wants to put a damper the involvement of young voters or their kill their spirit, so cynics like me will have to just hide out in our dark corners and wait for it all to be over. Even though deep down I’m thinking: Please don’t risk another conservative being appointed to the Supreme Court, please don’t let a climate change denier take control of the White House. I personally will fight for whomever gets the nomination but more and more I hear fervent liberals say they will only vote for Bernie Sanders and not for Hillary Clinton. I want to believe that devotion will shift once the dust settles and sensible people weigh the Clinton Dynasty against the Bush Dynasty. But for now, it’s a discouraging and nerve-racking situation. Nicely done, GOP. Nicely done.

Meanwhile, let’s look at how all of this — human nature, voting and campaigning — resembles familiar patterns in the Oscar race.

Early campaigning, candidates announcing = Film Festivals

The same way the presidential race feeds on the manufactured drama of divisive heroes and villains, so does the Oscar race for Best Picture. In 2012, 12 Years a Slave landed with thunderous acclaim in Telluride, was heralded as the de facto Best Picture winner, preordained as it were. That set into motion a divisive awards race that pit Gravity (a billion dollar juggernaut somehow morphed into the scrappy underdog) against 12 Years a Slave (the mean ol’ frontrunner who must be defeated). The pre-nominations phase offers up many opportunities for potential winners. Each film has its own lobbyist, an awards strategist who dutifully works the press, the blogs, twitter, doing damage control. As soon a film seems like a potentially viable contender a really good strategist is attached to it.

From this point, it is a matter of how each option plays in the real world. How did Hillary Clinton play in New Hampshire? How did Bernie Sanders play in Iowa? How did Jeb! Bush play in Texas? How did The Artist play in the Toronto? How did Birdman play at that Academy screening? How did The Wolf of Wall Street play at a special DGA screening? The process is the same.

It is all sunshine and roses until one film is positioned as the winner and one film the underdog. That’s when fickle public opinion can begin to shift.

Campaigning and fundraising – you pay to play with politics and the Oscars.

One of Hillary most potent advantages, like Obama’s last two terms, is her ability to fund-raise amid corruptive forces in the era of Super-PACs. Jeb Bush racked up $100 million in donations before he even announced the official launch of his campaign, exploiting a loophole in the Citizens United decision that says money counts as speech and is therefore covered under the 1st Amendment. Meanwhile, the deep-pocketed Koch brothers are backing Scott Walker who is now polling ahead in Iowa. Needless to say, the GOP have their guys more than covered. Seems every billionaire in America is ready to adopt his very own pet Republican candidate. They won’t be outspent by anyone except maybe Hillary Clinton. With the help of Bill Clinton and perhaps Big Hollywood, Clinton is the only Democrat on the horizon who’s able to compete with those guys — except for the fact that many the left are being fed the nonsense that any big money must be “dirty money.” Obama assembled the same sources of funding, but somehow he was cheered on while Hillary is seen as a MEAN OLD CORPORATE STOOGE for raising lots of fuck-you money.

This is similar to the charges leveled against The Social Network’s ad campaign vs. The King’s Speech in 2010. Somehow, someone got it out there that Sony was spending record amounts of money on the Social Network so that it was insinuated they were trying “to buy” a Best Picture victory. The same thing happened to Lincoln in 2012. As someone who is often the recipient of FYC money I can tell you that it’s really hard to win Best Picture, or even get an Oscar nomination at all, if you don’t pay to play.

The amount of money it costs to launch either a presidential campaign or an Oscar campaign often helps clarify one’s intentions, and by any sane evaluation monetary support should be a measure of confidence. Studios and distributors have to ask themselves do they really want to spent that money? Do they want or need to demonstrate loyalty to their talent? For what reason? To what end? What is in it for them? Likewise, in politics, there is a sense that everyone has a right and a responsibility to get involved in remaking our country with candidates of our own choosing lifted aloft with our own money. Everybody raises it, everybody spends it, but it still comes down to perception. Good guys vs. bad guys (and girls).

Bernie Sanders just sent out an email that reads:

Yesterday afternoon, Jeb Bush announced that a relatively small number of wealthy donors have contributed over one hundred million dollars to his Super PAC.
This is not a democracy. This is oligarchy.
Unfortunately, Jeb Bush is not alone. Almost all of our opponents have embraced this model of fundraising — begging billionaire benefactors who have bought up the private sector to try their hand at buying a presidential election.
One of those Super PACs is already running ads against our campaign.
Let me be clear: I am more than aware our opponents will outspend us, but we are going to win this election. They have the money, but we have the people.

This, before asking for another donation. In the months and days counting down to the election, anyone who’s ever visited a political site will have his or her inbox bombarded with emails asking for money. I’ve already donated, but they will keep asking and asking and asking and begging and begging and begging. Everyone will want something in return. It’s an illusion to think that only corporations are involved. So why do they need so much money? For advertising, of course.

I learned a hard lesson last year when Gone Girl did no advertising for the Oscar race. There was maybe one ad for Rosamund Pike I saw. Without advertising you can’t get nominations. You need to show voters that you want it, and you need to remind them that you’re out there — they need to remember the movie.

In politics, ads shape the message — here is a breakdown of where the money went in 2012. Obama spent $57 million in June to Romney’s $27 million. Of that, Romney only used $39 million for media buys to Obama’s $67 million. You can see that money drives everything. In politics, as with the Oscars.

As we can see by the way liberals are positioning Clinton this year, no one wants to be on the side of corporate money. That’s perception. Maybe Bernie Sanders really is the scrappy underdog that could. He still needs to raise lots and lots of money and without PACS or billionaire patrons he simply can’t compete with Bush or Walker.

Smear Campaigns — works for politics, works for Oscars

One of Hillary Clinton’s best hands to play at this table is that there isn’t much more people can dredge up about her past that hasn’t already been laid out there. She’s still standing. The latest accusation against her was the kerfuffle over private emails, and before that the one word accusation lobbed at her by many people who probably have no idea what it even means: BENGHAZI. Note: As of May 29, 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,425 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 32,223 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. How many Americans were killed during the terrorist attacks in Benghazi? 4.

Conservatives are continually trying to turn liberals against Hillary. A recent example was this college photo doctored to look like she had a confederate flag in the background. (Source? Our old pal Dinesh D’Souza).


Why try to turn the left against the left? The GOP learned the strategy from the 2012 election:

Conservative strategists and operatives say they are simply filling a vacuum on the far left, as well as applying the lesson they learned in 2012, when they watched in frustration as Mitt Romney was forced to expend time and resources in a protracted primary fight. By the time he secured his party’s nomination, President Obama hardly had to make the case that his opponent was a cold-hearted plutocrat; Republicans like Newt Gingrich had already made the argument for him in the primaries.

Few Republicans are more familiar with that nightmare than Matt Rhoades, who was Mr. Romney’s campaign manager. He founded America Rising in response to a recommendation contained in an autopsy of Romney’s failed presidential run that was ordered by the Republican National Committee. The group’s original goal was to compete with American Bridge, the Democratic opposition research group, but its focus under Mr. Rhoades has been to subject Mrs. Clinton to an ordeal similar to Mr. Romney’s.

“The idea is to make her life difficult in the primary and challenge her from the left,” said Colin Reed, America Rising’s executive director. “We don’t want her to enter the general election not having been pushed from the left, so if we have opportunities — creative ways, especially online — to push her from the left, we’ll do it just to show those folks who she needs to turn out that she’s not in line with them.”

Worked like a charm, at least so far. A similar dynamic played out when Kathryn Bigelow directed Zero Dark Thirty and last year when Ava DuVernay directed Selma. It’s apparently a lot easier to try to undermine someone’s integrity when a woman is in the driver’s seat. The idea that these female directors were irresponsible with their message orignated from the left. Martin Sheen and Ed Asner with Zero Dark Thirty and various journalists attacking Selma. The debate over torture rages on but the so-called Selma scandal was a joke. Doesn’t matter because perception is everything, at the Oscars, in politics and especially during presidential elections.

Voting for the winners – the eternal dilemma of whether to vote with your heart or vote for the winner

Academy voters are always conflicted about whether to vote for a film that has no chance of winning or whether to vote for one of the two or three films that really have a chance. Does your vote count if it’s thrown away just because you voted with your heart? Idealists would say yes. Vote how you want or else the entire system of voting is pointless. While I can’t render an opinion on what Academy members should do (though I would hope their decision goes beyond what they merely “like”), it’s a certainty that elections are always won by those who turn out to vote at all. With the Academy, that means they should at the very least see all of the films. They traditionally have a pretty high turnout when it comes to voting. Unlike many other Americans, Oscar voters know their ballot is a privilege.

Where Americans at large are concerned, things get trickier. Only a little over 50% of the voting age population even votes at all. An estimated 93 million eligible voters dfailed to show up at the ballot booth in 2012. Most of the people who do vote do so because they feel personally invested in something. They care about something. The rest of them dwell in apathy. They’ve checked out of the system because they either think the system is rigged or they don’t think their vote will count. Idealists would tell you that their votes DO count, especially if everyone was required to vote as part of their citizenship. Anyone who has watched the presidential election for several decades might tell you that you should throw your vote behind the one who can win or else risk losing.

Once the Producers Guild announces their winner, the DGA and SAG follow suit — the cumulative weight of those kinds of numbers in the thousands cannot be shaken up with one or two votes here or there. It has become a massive, unshakable consensus since the Academy expanded their Best Picture contenders from five to more than five. The PGA mostly decides Best Picture now.

We’re lucky that in America we have a choice whether or not to vote. We’re lucky we have so many wonderful films to see every year. But the Oscars, like American politics, tend to make the race towards the winner about one or two choices rather than a multitude. I fear that this year the Democrats have already lost the election before we even get started. At the same time I don’t want to disillusion potential young people who are fired up to vote, even if they are ultimately voting for someone who can’t win.

I don’t think any one president can change this country into a liberal utopia. It’s just not possible under the current structure on Capitol Hill, riddled with systemic bureaucratic malady. For me, the choice is clear and the reason why was made crystal clear last month: it’s the Supreme Court, stupid.

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