Anticipation is building for a David O. Russell film starring Jennifer Lawrence. She’s not a supporting character this time around but the lead.  Co-stars include Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, and Virginia Madsen.



Todd Haynes’ period piece, Carol received a lot of enthusiastic praise when it screened earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival. The first trailer for the film has emerged showing Cate Blanchett as a woman in a loveless marriage who falls for a department store worker played by Mara Rooney.

The Weinstein Company are set to release the film on November 20. It’s based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 romance novel, The Price Of Salt, which created a sensation in its day, defying the mid-century pulp formula by allowing a same-sex couple to find happiness.

Carey Mulligan as Maud in SUFFRAGETTE

This year’s Best Actress race has so far been mostly dominated by performances already seen at Cannes and Sundance. At the top of that list would be Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara for Carol, Bel Polowy for Diary of a Teenage Girl, Emily Blunt for Sicario, along with Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road and Marion Cotillard for Macbeth. The entire race could be down to just these names and it would be impressive already. Except we know Oscar season doesn’t work like that. The consensus doesn’t work like that. It involves so many conflicting factors, not the least of which is which contender gets the most publicity from the early acting competitions like the Gothams or the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild awards. You could be riding high with buzz and publicity only to be derailed by a mobilized faction of film critics who complain about your inclusion, as happened last year with Jennifer Aniston, who seemed to be the first person ever punished for producing her own award-worthy performance; no one was ever going to fault Matthew McConaughey for making Dallas Buyers Club happen but Aniston, wow, she got the full treatment. Marion Cotillard, the critics wailed, was the preferred choice. They rallied behind her and thus, she got the nod in the end. And so it goes for women — not only do you have to worry about getting any challenging acting role but then you have to contend with critics who launch whole movements against your backstory. THAT was not a fun thing to watch.


At any rate, the same thing could happen this year, god knows, where the critics are concerned. They say they don’t care about awards but then they reveal themselves to care very very much. They care enough to subvert and manipulate the process whenever possible — Gravity, not 12 Years a Slave. Cotillard not Aniston. Good times.

Many prominent performances are on the horizon that could shake up the Best Actress race as it stands right now. Among those would be Emily Blunt in Sicario (Sept. 18), Elle Fanning in About Ray (Sept. 18), Ellen Page in Freeheld  (Oct. 3), Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak (Oct. 16), Brie Larson in Room (Oct. 16), Carey Mulligan in Suffragette (Oct. 23), Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back (Oct. 16), Sandra Bullock in Our Brand is Crisis (Oct. 30). There is also Angelina Jolie in By the Sea (which she wrote and directed) (Nov. 13), Nicole Kidman in The Secret in Their Eyes (Nov. 20), Natalie Portman in Jane Got a Gun (Dec. 31).


The two sight-unseen frontrunners are expected to be Jennifer Lawrence in Joy versus Carey Mulligan in Suffragette. In the Best Actress race, popularity (unless you’re Jennifer Aniston) counts for a lot. Thus, pundits will have their eyes on the bigger names, like Bullock in Our Brand is Crisis, like Brie Larson in Room.  It can become difficult to jam through certain names once the five biggest are in position. It is impossible at this time to know who they’ll be, but Lawrence and Mulligan (nominated back to back in and 2009 and 2010 for An Education and Winter’s Bone) really do appear to be the names at the moment with the most heat. Since Lawrence already has an Oscar, that puts Mulligan very near the top of the list as the de facto frontrunner to win, even before anyone has seen the film. This, because she’s never won before and she’s probably got the most prestige going in, in terms of who she is playing and what the role means overall: women getting the right to vote. That alone makes her stand out from many of the other roles women are playing this year. Her movie and her role will stand for something important, especially amid the heated election cycle that looks to be on the brink of electing our first woman to the US presidency.

Emily Blunt is cast as an idealistic law enforcement agent on the trail of a leader of a drug cartel. The part was originally written for a man but the director, Denis Villeneuve, insisted on it being cast female.  Fanning will play a transgender male dealing with body issues and societal norms. Wasikowska will be launched into the horror fantasy world of Guillermo Del Toro in Crimson Peak, “When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever.  Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak.”


Sandra Bullock (and Jennifer Lawrence and Lily Tomlin) will be among the few comedy entries, thus they will do extremely well finding traction at the Golden Globes, no doubt, since the HFPA has a separate category for that. Bullock plays a political operative “Calamity” Jane Bodine, who comes out of retirement to help navigate an election.

It’s hard to tell at this stage how Best Actress is going to go. But if someone asked me how I think it MIGHT go, I see things shaping up something like this:

Near locks:
Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Emily Blunt, Sicario
Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
Sandra Bullock, Our Brand is Crisis
Lily Tomlin, Grandma
Elle Fanning, About Ray
Bel Polowy, Diary of a Teenage Girl
Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak

Does this list mean anything? Well, it means that women of color look to be, at least for right now, mostly shut out of the race once again. There are no leading black females, or even Asian or Hispanic females in what I see here. It is so difficult for any actress (except Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence) to get cast in anything of value. They hold on to what they have. They try, in every way that’s available to them, to get work, to get noticed, to have some power in an industry that gives them none.

We will check back in the Best Actress race once film festival season starts up again at the end of this month.


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A film featuring female characters in all the lead roles, About Ray tells the story of a transgendered teen going through transition. Naomi Watts as her mother, Susan Sarandon as her grandmother. Directed by Gaby Dellal.


Cate Blanchett will enter this year’s Oscar race with another lead performance in James Vanderbilt’s Truth, about Mary Mapes, an award-winning news journalist who broke the Abu-Ghraib prison story. It was the same moment in history when Mapes and Dan Rather uncovered a story questioning whether George W. Bush may have gone AWOL from the National Guard during Vietnam. The story almost ended Rather’s career and altered the course of the election. If the Jeffrey Wigand 60 Minutes scandal didn’t take down CBS, this 60 Minutes story might have.

The film appears to center around Mapes as protagonist — why else cast Cate Blanchett — even if the bigger name, obviously, is Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford.  Pic also stars Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid. It is being distributed by Sony Pics Classics.

My first thought is that all eyes are going to be on Vanderbilt and whether or not he can make a successful jump from writer to director, always tricky. My second thought is, can Robert Redford be believable as Dan Rather?

At any rate, here is the Wikipedia rundown of the scandal, as such:

Mary Mapes produced a segment for 60 Minutes Wednesday that aired criticism of President George W. Bush’s military service, supported by documents purportedly from the files of Bush’s commanding officer, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B Killian. Those documents had been delivered to CBS from Bill Burkett, who was a retired Lt. Colonel with the Texas Army National Guard. During the segment, Dan Rather asserted that the documents had been authenticated by document experts, but ultimately, CBS could neither confirm nor definitively refute their authenticity. Morever, CBS did not have any original documents, only faxed copies, as Burkett claimed to have burned the originals.

After the report was aired, it was immediately the subject of harsh criticism, primarily from the blogosphere, primarily due to the allegation that some of the documents referenced in the report were forgeries. As a result of the controversy over the use of the documents, CBS ordered an independent internal investigation. The panel in charge of investigation was composed of former governor of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney General, Dick Thornburgh and retired president and chief executive officer and former executive editor of the Associated Press, Louis Boccardi. The panel investigated the memo scandal, subsequently dubbed “Memogate” or “Rathergate.” Following the investigation, Mapes and others involved were accused of lapses in judgement and were fired.

Among the allegations in the 60 Minutes report were that Bush, the son of an ambassador, Congressman and future President, had received preferential treatment in passing over hundreds of applicants to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam after he had graduated from Yale in 1968. Then-Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes had admitted making phone calls to get Bush into the Guard, as he claimed to have done for the children of several other influential Texans.

The Thornburgh/Boccardi report, however, stated that some of Bush’s former instructors or colleagues had told Mapes that Bush had told them that he wanted to go to Vietnam, but that he could not go because there were others ahead of him with more seniority. Mapes was criticized for failing to air them in the 60 Minutes Report to balance the claim that Bush had enlisted in the Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam.

Mapes was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put her source, Bill Burkett, in touch with him. The panel called Mapes’ action a “clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.” Mapes was terminated by CBS on January 10, 2005. Also asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy.

Mapes herself continues to deny any wrongdoing. She said that the authenticity of the documents had been corroborated by an unnamed key source and that journalists often have to rely on photo-copied documents as the basis for verifying a story. Further, Burkett admitted lying to Mapes and the 60 Minutes team regarding the source of the documents. Further, she suggested that she would have preferred to do more work on the story, but that her superiors, including CBS News president Andrew Heyward, pushed for the story to be aired on September 8. Mapes later claimed that she was the victim of a right-wing Internet smear campaign, and is dismissive of opinions that the Killian Documents are forgeries.

Karl Rove, assistant to President George W. Bush, called Mapes’ work “the gift that keeps on giving” due to the story’s lurid foundations and the apparent boost it gave to President Bush during his reelection campaign.

It’s probably no surprise that Karl Rove’s name comes up here. It is textbook Rove. He can be outsmarted if you can see him coming. Clearly, CBS did not.


Oh man, I can’t wait for this film. It gave me chills up and down my spine watching the trailer. It also appears as though someone is really using Brie Larson to full capacity finally. She’s mostly been cast so far in supporting parts that waste what this girl can really do. She is so talented, so willing to go there emotionally and in every other way. Take a look at Room, which is likely headed to Telluride and will probably put Larson in the league with the other (short list) of women for this year’s Best Actress race:



You’d may wonder why a man would choose to write and direct a movie like Grandma. It flies against everything we know about what sells in Hollywood, what kind of stories win awards – no central male figure who’s coming of age, coming of middle age or coming of old age? No broken hero who stands up for someone or saves humanity or suffers greatly for a cause? Just a grandmother helping her granddaughter get enough money for an abortion scheduled for that afternoon. Maybe it isn’t a big story in the lives of men but it is a drama played out every second of every day in a dramatically shifting America.

It kind of sneaks up on you. You are lulled in by Lily Tomlin’s brilliant lead performance that personifies the combination of traits that cause most conservatives to recoil in fear and outrage: feminist lesbian poet. She plays her role along the same lines as Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good as it Gets – a grouchy old woman who has no time nor patience for bullshit and often finds herself ejected from establishments for making a scene. Somehow Tomlin gets away with it without seeming shrill or even off-putting, which is a tribute to the magnificent woman she has become. It struck me how barren our film landscape has become for women like these, not just characters but human beings who have lived long lives and traveled down bumpy, jagged roads to emerge as a spectacular super novas with much to say, and, as the Talking Heads would say, a face with a view.

Tomlin plays Elle Reid whom we meet in the midst of a break-up with her younger girlfriend played by Judy Greer. The problem here is that Olivia needs to be loved and at this pint in her life Ella can’t go there. Her wife of 38 years has recently died and the loss weighs heavily, shutting down normal emotions. Adding to Elle’s turmoil, her young granddaughter Sage (the luminous Julia Garner)has shown up asking for money. Bad timing. In a fit of panic Elle has cut up all her credit cards and has only $48 cash on hand. Sage needs $630 to pay for an abortion. They try what used to be a “free” clinic for women but it has been turned into a coffee shop. Sage can’t wait another day as she’s already sick to her stomach. She’s in high school with a boyfriend who can’t even raise the money to help her.

As we follow Elle on her trek to scrape together as much money as she can from her few remaining friends, we watch her life unravel before our eyes. She’s never been a particularly easy person to know. And now that her partner has died, so much of her heart and soul seems to be lost. That partner mostly raised her own daughter, which she decided to have out of wedlock back in the 60s. The child is named Judy who becomes an equally unconventional woman played by Marcia Gay Harden. Judy in turn used a sperm donor to have Sage. And now Sage, the third generation is deciding to have an abortion.

The film is about a grandmother helping a granddaughter do something that’s not only personally difficult but long stigmatized by society until women’s right evolved. Rather than lecture her on her choice, Elle offers her granddaughter support, in keeping with the feminist ideals of her generation that were largely responsible for seeing pro-choice prevail in Roe V. Wade. That movement was hard fought, unbeknownst to so many young women today who disregard the word “feminism,” having bought into the nonsense coming from the right.

One of the nice things the film does is build a bridge between the original meaning of feminism and the new ways millennials seek to define and hopefully build upon it.; they’ve grown up in a post-feminist world thus, they really do have the luxury of discarding the “label.” To see high school girls who are unaware of Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir is to realize how little importance women’s issues have been given in the overall education of America’s youth. But hey, that’s what grandmas are for, especially grandmas who were firebrands in the 70s.

That’s not to say that Grandma is bogged down in any feminist screed, because it assuredly is not. It really is an entertaining family dramedy before it is a talky preachy lefty abortion movie. It’s funny, full of warmth and wickedness. It draws absorbing portraits of three uniquely interesting women who come from different perspectives and are just trying to make their way in the world.

Weitz for some inexplicable but admirable reason decided to tell a story that could have easily been relegated to cable or some other VOD platform. And yet, here it is. A feature film about women — lesbians, single unwed mothers. Trangender women. They’re talking about abortion, feminism, love, loss, regrets. Wait, someone actually thought women were important enough to write about?

It is a secret story passed on from friend to friend, generation to generation. A friend almost died trying to give herself an abortion after having four kids. Conservatives will tell you adoption is better, and yes, adoption can be wonderful. But it’s only wonderful for the lucky ones. How many hundreds of thousands of kids are awaiting families in foster care now? The world is overpopulated as it is — the last thing our planet needs is more people on it. Especially unplanned people whose prospects for being looked after properly often range from iffy to grim. We all have to say that you must rely on birth control and you must if you don’t want to get pregnant, but shit happens.

The times have changed where abortion is concerned. We have forces in our government actively working to undue Roe V. Wade that makes abortion legal in the United States, deep pocketed forces who are funding candidates who are running for President. This is uniformly true among all GOP contenders who know they can use this issue to fire up their right-wing evangelical base. If the Democrats continue to split and divide themselves they will not be a united force to take down the GOP, who will be within spitting distance of having a conservative president + a conservative Congress + and the power to destroy the fragile balance of the Supreme Court — a perfect storm that could wreak calamity for decades. All they have to do is beat the Democrats. To do that, they have to help knock out Hillary Clinton. Many starry-eyed progressives on the far left are doing much of the GOP’s work for them. It’s a painful thing to watch.

All three principle actresses in Grandma deliver awards-worthy performances, with Tomlin headed for lead actress consideration at the Oscars. The real discovery is the toe-headed curly top Julia Garner whose skin is the color of milk and proves she can hold her own opposite two powerhouses like Tomlin and Marcia Gay Harden. She has a bright career ahead of her.

It’s hard to say what critics will make of Grandma and to tell you the truth I’m dreading that part of it. Somehow, someway, films about women get tossed out of the race, either because they don’t make enough money or the critics don’t approve. Either way, Paul Weitz has done Hollywood and humanity a favor in making a film about not just women but older women. Lily Tomlin has never revealed so much of herself in any one performance: vitality, sexuality, vulnerability and true grit.


Julianne Moore and Ellen Page continue their fascinating involvement with gay-themed movies and gay filmmakers in Freeheld, opening October 2.

New Jersey police lieutenant, Laurel Hester, and her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree, both battle to secure Hester’s pension benefits when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer.


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.


Amy Schumer became a star this year. While she had been making the word-of-mouth rounds for a while now, things kicked into high gear when she began to address the massive patriarchy that continually keeps women in show business in a tiny little box. That box says you can’t get a starring role on TV or in films unless the vast majority of males from age 13 up to age 55 find you “hot.” It also says you can’t really get much work after the age of 40 unless you have work done to try to look 30 again, at which point you’re roundly criticized for bad plastic surgery. Schumer decided she was going to poke at the very tender spots most of us just accept but never talk about. With a few video clip segments from her series Inside Amy Schumer that made the rounds online she changed the conversation.

Melissa McCarthy has been defying the odds since she first broke through in Bridesmaids. She is now landing lead roles in her films and making money hand over fist. Since Bridesmaids, McCarthy has starred in five films that grossed over $100 million. Her name alone can now “open” a movie. It’s one thing to say Julia Roberts did it back in the 80s and 90s or that Jennifer Lawrence does it now. It’s a whole other thing to say a woman who is not traditionally “hot” can “open” a movie. Hot damn, Clarisse.

McCarthy’s unlikely spy in Spy and the variety of Schumer’s incarnations have given women out there some much needed relief. We mostly have to see ourselves onscreen as long suffering wives or patient mothers to our ambitious young boys. We’re seen as the hot girlfriends. Occasionally we get to be bitches. But now we have Melissa McCarthy dismantling the notion of her being a “type.” Each time the FBI assigns her a new identity it represents another stereotype of the only way Hollywood or male audiences might ordinarily see a woman like McCarthy. And each time her character turns the tired expectation on its head. Schumer does much the same thing with Trainwreck — she presents herself against type – the woman who can’t commit who is not a manic pixie dream girl. In both films, these women appeal to male and female ticket buyers alike – maybe because they are so hard on themselves.

When Jeff Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere saw Amy Schumer in Trainwreck he immediately thought that she deserves a Best Actress nomination.  Both Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer turned in brilliant lead performances in Spy and Trainwreck. That they both come from improvisational comedy backgrounds will greatly hurt their chances with awards groups. There would have be a rule-buster at play to make it happen.  This is not unheard of. Oscar rules are meant to be broken. Looking back through their history, however, it doesn’t look good for the women who have changed the game for women this year.

Women (and men as well) who come from comedy roots have far less chance getting awards traction Even in a serious role, women (and men as well) who come from comedy roots find it far harder to get awards traction than the usual to-do made over so-called “legitimate” actresses and actors who sign on for a funny film. Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, and of course, Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. Things get a bit more flexible in the supporting actress category but even there, actors identify with other actors who rise through traditional channels and they’re tougher on those who come from standup. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any in all of Oscar history.

One of the biggest reasons there are so few Oscar contenders in the Best Actress category is the limitations the acting branch puts on itself. Part of it is just plain old tradition that is difficult to break. Part of it is the perception of “respectability.” Actors think of acting as a serious craft. The reality is that it’s much harder to do standup or comedy at all than it is to simply act in a part. Acting these days is often more about charisma and how well extremely good-looking people can “act normal” than it is any sort of true talent or ability. We know this is true, even in the Oscar race, whether it’s pretty people doing the minimum to get a nomination or kids who are really too young to exhibit any real skill. The bottom line remains – they have their stigmas and they stick to them.

What are their stigmas? The horror genre is one of them. You have to reach farther back to find your Ellen Burstyns or Sigourney Weavers. Tiny indies can be overlooked for not being “big” enough, except when they feature a well-known star working a showcase. One of the biggest stigmas by far is comedy.

While the Hollywood Foreign Press makes it much easier to reward the different types of performances – drama and comedy/musical, the performances that do well in the comedy/musical category tend to be those placed there for the wrong reasons — like Meryl Streep in August: Osage County (REALLY?), or even Amy Adams for American Hustle. Both were nominated for Oscars though they could have easily been placed in the drama category at the Golden Globes.  The category fraud at the Globes is getting a little ridiculous lately – they really should just have ten slots for Best Actress and ten for Best Actor and dispense with the arbitrary subsets.  But the Globes comedy category is likely the only place where Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy can get any sort of major recognition. The chances of their getting bumped for a “respectable” actress in a “dramedy” is fairly high.  For instance, Jennifer Lawrence will be in that category for Joy. Meryl Streep will likely get in for Ricki and the Flash. There will be Lily Tomlin for Grandma, Greta Gerwig for Mistress America. As you can see, it fills up fast. The comedy/musical category now being used as spillover for the drama category all in the name of finding alternative Oscar contenders.

Thus, Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy do face an uphill climb towards getting even a Globe nod for their superior work in changing the game this year.  Schumer gets added points for being in a Judd Apatow movie, though they are kind of prejudiced against him as well for being from comedy. She also gets points for having written the screenplay which is, to my mind, is at least as good as Silver Linings Playbook.


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

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We are a bit late in posting this trailer. I did not see anything about it anywhere but here it is. The costumes are to die for and who would not want to spend time with Kate Winslet wearing these clothes? I could take a bath in this movie, even if it’s terrible.

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David O. Russell finally casts Jennifer Lawrence in the lead. Here it is, our one most promising Best Picture contender starring a woman.


Sure to be on the top of the Oscar pile is Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, just announced to open the New York Film Festival (September 25 – October 11).  Official release following. The New York Film Fest has become a great way to launch an Oscar film, though last year’s big get Gone Girl proved too successful with audiences, had a female screenwriter and actually starred a woman. Naturally, the Oscar voters rejected it. It’s a man only club, don’t you know, no $150+ female driven projects need apply. But I’m not bitter.

Joseph Gordon Levitt joins the ranks of yet another year of a packed Best Actor race but lo, French accent alert. With Zemeckis behind the wheel we can be sure it will be a visual feast.

The Walk, though, is right in their wheelhouse, so to speak, and early word is it’s great.

A true story, the film is based on Philippe Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds and stars Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit, the French high-wire artist who achieved the feat of walking between the Twin Towers in 1974. The Walk will be the second 3D feature selected for the Opening Night Gala since Ang Lee’s Life of Pi in 2012 and also marks Zemeckis’s return to the Festival after Flight, the 2012 Closing Night Gala selection. Today’s announcement coincides with the release of the film’s trailer, which can be viewed at The film will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D on October 2, 2015.

New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones said: “The Walk is surprising in so many ways. First of all, it plays like a classic heist movie in the tradition of The Asphalt Jungle or Bob le flambeur—the planning, the rehearsing, the execution, the last-minute problems—but here it’s not money that’s stolen but access to the world’s tallest buildings. It’s also an astonishing re-creation of Lower Manhattan in the ’70s. And then, it becomes something quite rare, rich, mysterious… and throughout it all, you’re on the edge of your seat.”

Robert Zemeckis added: “I am extremely honored and grateful that our film has been selected to open the 53rd New York Film Festival. The Walk is a New York story, so I am delighted to be presenting the film to New York audiences first. My hope is that Festival audiences will be immersed in the spectacle, but also to be enraptured by the celebration of a passionate artist who helped give the wonderful towers a soul.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman said: “On behalf of TriStar and Sony, I want to thank Kent and the NYFF for this great honor. The Walk is a love letter to the Twin Towers, which through the unique magic of cinema, come back to vibrant, inspiring life. But it is also a universal story of the determined pursuit of impossible dreams, told by one of our greatest living filmmakers, and the NYFF has always been a place where such dreams come true.”

The film also stars Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony, Caesar Domboy and Benedict Samuel. Directed by Zemeckis, the screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne, based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit, and produced by Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, and Jack Rapke.

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Programming; Marian Masone, FSLC Senior Programming Advisor; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.

NYFF previously announced Luminous Intimacy: The Cinema of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, the first-ever complete dual retrospective of the experimental filmmakers works that will include the world premiere of Dorsky’s Intimations, a new untitled work, and New York premieres of Summer, December, February, and Avraham.

Tickets for the 53rd New York Film Festival will go on sale in early September. Becoming a Film Society Member at the Film Buff Level or above provides early ticket access to festival screenings and events ahead of the general public, along with the exclusive member ticket discount! To find out how to become a Film Society member, visit



Wouldn’t it be nice if genius came with operating instructions, protective care, and safety would be guaranteed. All too often, though, genius roars into the world with too many forces of opposition working to derail it. In the best of circumstances, it finds its way out one way or another. Such was the case with the very talented Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys when his father noticed how well he could play instruments as a small child. This abusive, controlling and task-master of a father would guide Wilson, for better or worse, towards success. Without that, there are many different ways he might have drifted but with his father’s rigid direction, Wilson, his two other brothers, Mike Love and Al Jardine became one of the major forces of pop music in the mid 1960s and 1970s.

Brian Wilson famously struggled to maintain sanity with voices echoing through his head as a young man. He suffered numerous nervous breakdowns, battled with drugs and eventually ended up in the hands of another controlling, abusive force, Dr. Gene Landy. Though Wilson was eventually wrestled from the grips of Landy, that relationship is where the new movie about Wilson begins.

In Love & Mercy, Brian Wilson is played with tender loving care by two actors, John Cusack and Paul Dano, both of whom have done their research on Wilson, in every possible way, delivering an authentic, moving portrayal of the idol who once was and the man he would later became. That gives the film, directed by Bill Pohlad and written by Oren Moverman and Michael Lerner, the chance to show us Wilson’s gifted musical evolution as a young man and member of the Beach Boys, then fast forwarding through his life to someone trapped behind his crippling mental illness and the immovable force that was Gene Landy.

NY Times photo of Cusack and Wilson
NY Times photo of Cusack and Wilson

Pohlad’s flourishes elevate the film from conventional biopic to an impressionist’s version of Wilson’s life. The three years Wilson spent in bed in his bathrobe are turned into a montage of memory, sound, fears, flashes of who Wilson was at certain points of his life, as often is the case when we are left with nothing but solitude and the oppressive companionship of our never-ending demons.

The film plays with sound in clever ways. Since Wilson’s world was built not just on sound but on sound loss, being specific in that department was key to portraying this subjective telling of his life. In one great and disturbing sequence, the young Wilson (Dano) is unable to listen to anyone speaking over the clang clang clanging of glasses, forks and knives on plates until it consumes him. His obsession with sound would lead him towards brilliant musical compositions we all know and love, but also towards voices in his head and other things he couldn’t unhear.


Atticus Ross composed the score, sans Trent Reznor, and it’s pure ambience – discordant at times, moody and horrifying at other times. This works beautifully in contrast to those catchy Beach Boys sounds we all associate with Brian Wilson. It’s another great work by Ross.

Watching the young Wilson create his original music, as played by Dano in yet another brilliant incarnation, is so much the thrill of Love & Mercy. Playing piano strings with bobby pins, or hearing a dog bark. It will heighten one’s appreciation of what the Beach Boys were doing once you drill down past the fun-in-the-sun surface layer. Have a listen to Brian Wilson magnificent track from Pet Sounds, Let’s Go Away for a While, and you can clearly see what kind of genius they were dealing with. Wilson, though, was pushed towards generating hits, and generate them he did.

The bullet to the heart in this film is John Cusack’s heartbreaking, unforgettable turn as the older Wilson. Disarmingly sweet and gentle, he captures Wilson to an astonishing degree. He is Wilson once the music went away, once the rights to that music were sold by his father, in the grips of Landy, convinced that he had no mind of his own. You can see glimpses in Cusack’s performance that Wilson wants out but has no ability to do it on his own. He is simply grateful to be out of bed. What he wouldn’t do for Landy who helped him do at least that much.

It isn’t until he meets the beautiful ex-model/car salesperson Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) that Wilson finds someone who will help him escape his own life. In real life there were other people involved in helping Wilson detach from Landy but this film is a deliberate love story because it is love that eventually saves Wilson’s life.

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As Melinda Ledbetter, Banks has never been better. She is a formidable match for Cusack, delivering a career-best performance. So much of the work Banks is doing is internal. What she’s thinking, how she responds to Cusack says so much more than the lines she’s given to deliver, which are minimal, to make way for those powerful wordless reactions.

Finally, Paul Giamatti is appropriately menacing as Landy. There’s nothing funny at all about his monstrous performance, a nice variation in his growing canon of character work. Though the film belongs to Cusack/Dano and Banks, Giamatti is necessary to show where Wilson came from and where he is now.

Driving home from the screening I blasted The Beach Boys at full volume. I defy anyone to listen to Don’t Worry Baby, Good Vibrations, Wouldn’t it Be Nice and Don’t Worry Baby and not smile. For a man so consumed with sadness the music of The Beach Boys was a happiness factory — helping the rest of us indulge in the light and color of a simple summer afternoon. Those songs were strands of my hair that tasted like salt water falling into my mouth. They were sunburned shoulders and suntan lotion. They were bikini tans, beach towels laid out on the sand. They were towheaded surfers strolling by with their wet suits hung past their waists. They were summer. They were freedom. They were pure joy and still are.

Nonetheless, there was much more to Wilson, more that he wanted to do musically that was sacrificed in the name of the top 40 hit. His second act would give him that chance. He couldn’t have gotten there without love — those who looked out for him, found him when he was lost, and gave him what he needed all along. Mercy because Wilson doesn’t feel full of blame, even for those who committed unforgivable crimes against him. The film is a tribute to Wilson and Ledbetter’s love story, an explanation of Wilson’s triumph over mental illness, and a chance for the entire Academy theater to rise to their feet in enthusiastic appreciation of this great, great artist. Wilson, it was said, had tears in his eyes during this ovation. That he was surprised by it is what defines this humble man, ripped wide open by genius and sewn back together with love and mercy.

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There were cars before women had the right to vote.

Carey Mulligan looks to leap to the top of the pack for Best Actress based on this trailer. The very very talented Ms. Mulligan finally looks to have a role that challenge her and exhibit her full range of ability. She makes us care, even if we didn’t care before. It’s important for women to know in 2015 what other women suffered for their privilege to vote.

The cover of the Stevie Nicks song Landslide is lovely.

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I’m sure this will be great, or I hope so. What I also wish is that for once it didn’t have to be about sex and men for teenage girls. You know, believe it or not they have other things on their minds. Big things. Small things. Lots of things. But hey, it’s great to have any film about a girl at all I suppose.


Todd Haynes’ Carol has been named the winner of the 2015 Queer Palm prize at Cannes. The Queer Palm was instituted in 2010 by journalist Franck Finance-Madureira to honor films for their portrayal of LGBT themes, and is selected from among all the films nominated or screened at Cannes each year.

Queer Palm Winners
2010: Kaboom – dir. Gregg Araki
2011: Beauty – dir. Oliver Hermanus
2012: Laurence Anyways – dir. Xavier Dolan
2013: Stranger by the Lake – dir. Alain Guiraudie
2014: Pride – dir. Matthew Warchus
2015: Carol – dir. Todd Haynes



Macbeth screened on the last day in Cannes and earned raves both for Cotillard and Fassbender. That should launch them into the race for Actor and Actress, as expected. Guy Lodge’s elegantly written review has this wonderful paragraph about Cotillard:

A plum role for any actress, Lady Macbeth proves an exhilaratingly testing one for Cotillard, whose gifts as both a technician and an emotional conduit apparently know no linguistic barrier. Streaked with unearthly blue eye shadow — Jenny Shircore’s daring makeup designs are a constant marvel — and working in a cultivated Anglo-Continental accent that positions the character even more pointedly as a stranger in her own court, Cotillard electrically conveys misdirected sexual magnetism, but also a poignantly defeated sense of decency. It’s a performance that contains both the woman’s abandoned self and her worst-case incarnation, often in the space of a single scene. Her deathless sleepwalking scene, staged in minimalist fashion under a gauze of snowflakes in a bare chapel, is played with tender, desolate exhaustion; it deserves to be viewed as near-definitive.

And the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw:

As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are a dream-team pairing, actors who radiate charisma, perhaps more charisma than can be entirely absorbed into the fabric of the film. As ever, Cotillard is able to convey enormous amounts with her face without saying a word. Fassbender is arguably less good with Macbeth’s introverted vulnerability and self-questioning, but always effortlessly virile and watchable, responding to Macbeth’s outbursts of anger and imperious paranoia. When he dismisses the witches: “Infected be the air whereon they ride/And damned all those that trust them!” he tops it off with a whooping rebel yell. Paddy Considine is a frowningly vigilant Banquo and David Thewlis is Duncan, the sacrificial victim King smilingly presiding over the nation which sometimes looks focused on a pagan court and sometimes in a vast Christian cathedral from a later age.

This is what it needs to keep moving forward and should play well with ticket buyers drawn in for both leads and of course the Bard himself.


Pathe released the first photo today of Meryl Streep as the famously tone deaf opera singer, Florence Foster Jenkins.  Jenkins tells the tale of the New York Heiress who used her money to embark on a singing career, performing in concert venues in the 1920’s.


Florence Foster Jenkins is directed by Stephen Frears. Hugh Grant plays her partner St.Clair Bayfield. The film has started shooting in the U.K




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