Tag Archives: screenwriter.

FILM CAPSULE: Nebraska (Alexander Payne, 2013): USA

By Larry Gleeson.

Viewed during the AFI Filmfest 2013.

Nebraska, written by Bob Nelson, is the latest film from two-time Oscar winning screenwriter and acclaimed director, Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways, About Schmidt, Election, Citizen Ruth). Nebraska, takes us on a 750-mile black and white journey from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. Along the way, an emotional healing occurs amid some exceptional dialogue and strong character development.

The character arc of the protagonist, Woody Grant, an elderly man with a touch of dementia, played by veteran journeyman and Hollywood legend, Actor Bruce Dern, an elderly man with a touch of dementia, is fully realized, in my opinion, as we see his willingness to fight for what is his and his ultimate acceptance of his lot in life.  And, much like his 2004 Sideways,  Payne utilizes the road trip structure to bond the two main characters and he also revisits the cantankerousness of character eccentricities as in his 2002 film About Schmidt. 

Nevertheless, it’s the performance of Dern as Woody Grant that makes the film what it is. Throughout his career, Dern has played a plethora of despicable characters and lays a claim to being the only actor to kill Hollywood legend, John Wayne on screen  in The Cowboys, (1972). Before the screening at the Graumann’s Chinese TCL Theater Mr. Dern was given a Hollywood tribute. Quentin Tarantino gave an introduction to the “acting national treasure.”

The film opens with Woody walking on the shoulder of a well-traveled highway. He tromps up towards  the camera and before long the police arrive and escort Woody home to his antagonistic wife Kate, played by June Squibb. She’s at wits end with Woody’s antics and his adamant, persistent posture in going to Lincoln to get his million dollar prize money which turns out to be nothing more than a Publisher’s Clearinghouse type of sweepstakes notification enticing the recipient to order magazine subscriptions. Kate unable to deal with her husband calls upon her sons, David, a local electronics salesman played very convincingly by Will Forte,  and Ross, a back-up local newscaster, played by Bob Odenkirk. As siblings often do, the two disagree on their father’s situation with David, recently put off by his girlfriend who decided to move out leaving David by his lonesome, seizing the moment to spend time with his dad by driving him to Lincoln so Woody can collect his million dollars but also so he can get to know his dad again.

Along the way the two make a stop after an accident in the town where Woody grew up complete with the relatives and locals who stayed and who believe Woody has become a millionaire. Mr. Payne born in Omaha, Nebraska paints quite a caricature of the local populace. The small town is believable enough. Yet, the characters that inhabit the town might be a stretch. For example, Woody’s two nephews draw a strong resemblance to Disney’s Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Adding into the mix is Kate Grant’s full on personality, an overly harsh, yet comedic, belittling better-than-thou Catholic, in a most memorable graveyard scene. On the other hand, Stacy Keach who plays Woody’s former business partner, Ed Pegram delivers with the utmost believability the dark side of a partnership/friendship when he believes Woody’s come into some easy money.

Overall, Alexander Payne delivers a film in black and white that not only entertains but also delivers a visual portrait of a small Midwestern town in an economic downturn, bypassed by mainstream America while showcasing the sense of loneliness and the eccentricities it has caused.

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Paramount Pictures’ FENCES release scheduled for December 25th

fences_posterFENCES, a new film from Paramount Studios,  is scheduled to open in theaters December 25, 2016. The film is directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson, adapted from Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play. See trailer below.

The film stars Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, and Saniyya Sydney.

The film is produced by Denzel Washington, Todd Black and Scott Rudin.

Early Oscar speculation has a best actor nom for Washington for his lead role as a failed baseball player who faces discrimination as a garbage collector.

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(Press materials provided by Paramount Studios)

Note from Roger – The Battle of Algiers

Before I get to Roger’s note, I have seen the film and, while it was released in 1967, the issues portrayed in the film are pertinent today. With a feel of direct cinema and cinema verite’, The Battle of Algiers is engaging and delivers a closeup view of terror, tactics and strategy. Highly recommended!

Dear Cinephiles,

50 years ago, Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo released one of the greatest movies ever made – THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS. The film is a big-screen recreation of the bloody mid 1950s Algerian uprising against French rule. The film was shot on a low budget and used non-actors from Algiers. The fact that the point of view is from those colonized rattled the French government enough to ban the film. It went on to get three Oscar nominations including Best Director. The film is a masterpiece, and it has been restored in a gorgeous digital print. This film is so influential – and political thrillers filmed today borrow from Pontecorvo’s style.

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS is as urgent and immediate as it was 50 years ago. Below find a wonderful essay by Justin Chang from the LA Times on the film’s importance. It plays tonight at 5:00pm and tomorrow at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre. I will highly encourage you to see this landmark film.

See you at the movies!

Roger Durling

Get tickets here.

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Once banned, ‘Battle of Algiers” smart, compassionate take on terror and rebellion resonates today
By Justin Chang – LA Times

For those who have seen “The Battle of Algiers,” Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterful 1966 panorama of political insurrection and urban anxiety, the title alone can summon forth indelible images of Algerian resistance. Three women sneak through the crowded casbah to plant bombs in public places. A revolutionary leader named Ali La Pointe (Brahim Haggiag) waits quietly in the darkness as he’s surrounded by police. A triumphant throng of men and women shout and cheer amid a rising cloud of smoke as their hard-fought dream of independence has finally come to pass.

Buried amid all these defining moments is a calm, pivotal scene in which a French military chief named Col. Mathieu (Jean Martin) trains his soldiers to root out members of Algeria’s National Liberation Front, cautioning them to be discriminating in their search. “Are they all our enemies? We know they’re not,” he says of the Algerian locals. “But a small minority holds sway by means of terror and violence. We must deal with this minority in order to isolate and destroy it.”

It is difficult to read those words in isolation, divorced from their political and cinematic context, and not hear a shivery echo of recent headlines. You may have heard someone express a similar sentiment when parsing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or differentiating between Muslims and Islamists. However chilling Mathieu’s sentiments may be, they may strike you as a model of sensitivity compared with Donald Trump’s infamous remarks about the Muslim world — or, for that matter, his son Donald Jr.’s recent comparison of the Syrian refugee population to a bowl of selectively tainted Skittles.

Closer to home, the notion of a dangerous sub-minority feels painfully relevant to the ongoing clashes between police officers and unarmed black men in America. The latest fatalities in El Cajon, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Charlotte, N.C., suggest that when it comes to this cycle of senseless violence, too many cops — however vehemently they might deny it — still view great swaths of the African American population as a criminal menace by default. (Reviewing Pontecorvo’s film in 1967, then-New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote, “One may sense a relation in what goes on in this picture to what has happened in the Negro ghettos of some of our American cities more recently.”)

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that there has perhaps never been a better time to experience or re-experience “The Battle of Algiers,” which is commemorating its 50th anniversary with a digital 4K restoration that will appear in select theaters on Oct. 7 courtesy of Rialto Pictures. Then again, as history is always at pains to remind us, there has never been an inappropriate moment for a picture that so completely collapses the distance between now and then.

The movie’s tremendous dramatic urgency and sociopolitical currency can be attributed, in no small part, to its still-electrifying alchemy of form and content. Mimicking the jagged, caught-on-the-fly syntax of a ’50s black-and-white newsreel even as it moves with the propulsive sweep of a thriller, the movie seems to be everywhere at once, the camera capturing pockets of anxiety and unease even in broad daylight.

A dangerous armed movement rises from the shadows, yet with an insistently human face. Soldiers bound up the steps of the casbah, their footfalls echoed by the up-and-down rattlings of Ennio Morricone’s score. The omniscience of the film’s perspective and the fluidity of the editing ease us into the narrative yet slowly divest us of our moral bearings. The film is not just a relentlessly gripping entertainment but also a cinematic Rorschach blot, a moral miasma that tosses our sympathies this way and that.

Feared, loathed and loved over the last half-century, “The Battle of Algiers” won the Golden Lion at the 1966 Venice Film Festival and was later nominated for three Academy Awards (director, original screenplay and foreign-language film). It was deemed so incendiary in France that it was banned there for five years, and even afterward it has remained a magnet for controversy, often derided as an apologia or a blueprint for terrorism, rather than a call for common understanding.

It’s worth recalling that the last time “The Battle of Algiers” showed theatrically here was in 2004, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. A few months earlier, in 2003, the Pentagon hosted a private screening, advertised by a flier that touted the picture’s relevance: “How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.”

Whatever viewers at the time might have learned about how a Western imperialist power should or should not deal with a rapidly mounting, many-sided insurgency, those lessons seem positively quaint in light of the geopolitical crisis that looms before us at present, following the rise of Islamic State and the subsequent deadly attacks in Europe and the U.S. What might have once seemed a far-flung, local concern has spread far beyond Iraq to consume what feels like the world entire. Meanwhile, on a very different yet simultaneous front, the struggle for black justice at home continues, and for some Americans, its roots and motivations — and the cycles of brutality and unrest that emerge in its wake — are no less difficult to grasp.

Who is safe? Who is innocent? Why must they riot? Where will the next attack occur? Was that shooting or bombing the work of a terrorist, or just an unhinged mind? (And in the end, does it matter?) “The Battle of Algiers” offers no reassuring answers to these questions, but to watch the film, with its startlingly evenhanded treatment of both sides, is to experience the sort of mature intelligence and tough-minded compassion that makes you long to believe hope is still possible.

The film’s greatness was hardly preordained. In his essay for the 2004 Criterion Collection DVD release, British film lecturer and critic Peter Matthews recalls how “The Battle of Algiers” was originally conceived along more Hollywood-friendly lines, complete with a journalist hero (set to be played by Paul Newman) who would serve as an entry point for Western audiences. Fortunately, heeding the influence of their country’s neorealist masters, Pontecorvo and screenwriter Franco Solinas refused to make the Algerians a secondary presence in their own story. As Matthews writes, the filmmakers “knew that every artistic decision is simultaneously an ethical one.”

If the perspective of “The Battle of Algiers” still feels radically diffuse, its aesthetic choices have been more readily absorbed into the mainstream. A war film shot with bristling handheld urgency — like, say, Paul Greengrass’ “Bloody Sunday” and “Green Zone,” or Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” — is no longer compared to documentaries or newsreels; hyperkinetic Steadicam is simply par for the course. The use of untrained performers (Martin was the sole professional actor cast in Pontecorvo’s film) is no longer a novelty, even if most American films still rely on big-name stars and strong, relatable protagonists to lure audiences toward difficult subject matter.

The spirit of Pontecorvo’s filmmaking can be felt even in pictures with markedly different stylistic DNA. Picking up where “The Battle of Algiers” left off, Kathryn Bigelow’s excellent post-9/11 thrillers address the ground-level pressures of dealing with an insurgency (“The Hurt Locker”) and the morality of torture (“Zero Dark Thirty”). Clint Eastwood’s World War II drama “Letters From Iwo Jima,” though done in a much more classical register, feels no less powerful in its willingness to penetrate the mind-set of a side that we typically perceive as the enemy.

Ken Loach, who has long cited Pontecorvo’s influence, made perhaps his most “Algiers”-like effort with 2006’s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” which also chronicled the tensions that flare between the occupiers (the British) and the occupied (the Irish). When Loach received the Palme d’Or at Cannes for the film, the words he spoke might as well have been a permanent epitaph for “The Battle of Algiers,” if “epitaph” is the right word for a film that refuses to die: “Maybe if we tell the truth about the past, we tell the truth about the present.”

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TOM FORD, MARC PLATT AND KENNETH LONERGAN TO BE HONORED AT THE 20th ANNUAL HOLLYWOOD FILM AWARDS®

Ford to Receive the “Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award” 

Platt to Be Awarded the “Hollywood Producer Award”

Lonergan will Accept the “Hollywood Screenwriter Award”

*James Corden Will Host Special Anniversary Ceremony on Sunday, November 6, 2016 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel

Hollywood, CA (October 19, 2016) – dick clark productions announced today that acclaimed new director and established fashion designer Tom Ford will receive this year’s “Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award” for “Nocturnal Animals,” Academy Award-nominated producer Marc Platt will receive the “Hollywood Producer Award” for his numerous films this year including “La La Land,” “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” and “The Girl on the Train,” and two-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan will receive the “Hollywood Screenwriter Award” for his screenplay “Manchester by the Sea” at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards.

The awards ceremony, celebrating its 20th anniversary as the official launch of the awards season®, will be hosted by actor and comedian James Corden, and will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, on November 6, 2016. The Hollywood Film Awards honors some of the most acclaimed films and actors, as well as artists in Cinematography, Visual Effects, Film Composing, Costume Design, Editing, Production Design, Sound and Makeup & Hairstyling. Its honorees over the past 20 years have included the world’s biggest stars and more than 110 have gone on to garner Oscar nominations and/or wins.

Mr. Ford’s second film “Nocturnal Animals,” the hauntingly romantic thriller that explores the thin lines between love and cruelty stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal as a divorced couple discovering dark truths about each other and themselves. The film premiered at the 73rd annual Venice Film Festival in 2016, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. Focus Features will release “Nocturnal Animals” in select cities beginning November 18th and nationwide on December 9th.

Tom Ford is a highly respected and successful fashion designer and film director. One of the most esteemed and prolific designers of his generation, Mr. Ford has won numerous awards for his distinguished work at Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and his eponymous luxury brand TOM FORD, which launched in 2005. That same year, he formed his Los Angeles-based film production company Fade To Black through which he directed, produced and co-wrote his first feature film “A Single Man,” starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.  The film premiered at the 66th annual Venice Film Festival in 2009, where Mr. Firth was awarded Best Actor for his performance.  The critically acclaimed film went on to receive multiple awards and nominations including the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Marc Platt’s producing career spans film, theatre and television with his projects garnering a combined 17 Oscar nominations, 18 Tony nominations, 17 Golden Globe nominations and 29 Emmy nominations. His films this year are “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” “The Girl on the Train,” and “La La Land.” Last year, Platt received a “Best Picture” Oscar nomination for “Bridge of Spies,” which was among the six earned for the film overall. Other credits include “Into the Woods,” “Drive,” “Rachel Getting Married,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Wanted,” “Nine,” “2 Guns,” “Cop Out,” “Ricki and the Flash,” “Legally Blonde,” “Legally Blonde 2,” “Honey,” “Josie and the Pussycats” and Disney’s upcoming “Mary Poppins Returns.”  He produced Broadway’s blockbuster musical, “Wicked,” and for television he earned an Emmy Award for executive producing “Grease Live!” and an Emmy and Golden Globe awards for HBO’s “Empire Falls.”  Prior to becoming an independent producer, Platt served as president of production for three movie studios — Orion, TriStar and Universal.

Kenneth Lonergan wrote and directed “You Can Count On Me” (2000 Academy Award® and Golden Globe® Nominee for Best Screenplay), “Margaret” (2011), and “Margaret” – Extended Edition (2012). He also co-wrote the screenplays for “Analyze This” (1999) and “Gangs Of New York” (2002 WGA® and Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay). Lonergan’s plays include Tony nominated “This Is Our Youth” (1996), Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Waverly Gallery” (2000), and Olivier Award nominated “Lobby Hero” (2001). He recently completed the television adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel, “Howards End,” for the BBC. His upcoming film, “Manchester by the Sea,” which he both wrote and directed, stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges and Kyle Chandler.  The film premiered to great acclaim at the 2016 Sundance, Telluride, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals, and will be released by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions on November 18, 2016.

Previously announced honorees for this year’s show include: “Hollywood Career Achievement Award,” Eddie Murphy; “Hollywood Actor Award,” Tom Hanks; “Hollywood Blockbuster Award,” “The Jungle Book”; “Hollywood Animation Award,” “Zootopia”; “Hollywood Cinematography Award,” Linus Sandgren; “Hollywood Film Composer Award,” Mychael Danna; “Hollywood Editor Award,” John Gilbert; “Hollywood Visual Effects Award,” Stephane Ceretti and Richard Bluff; “Hollywood Sound Award,” Christopher Boyes and Frank Eulner; “Hollywood Costume Design Award,” Albert Wolsky; “Hollywood Make Up & Hair Styling Award,” Shane Thomas, Angela Conte, Bec Taylor and Noriko Waztanabe; and “Hollywood Production Design Award,” Wynn Thomas.

(Source: Hollywood Awards Press Release)

5 women directors who made it big in Kollywood

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Srivatsan

Lately, women directors in Kollywood are making it big. In a male-chauvinistic industry such as Kollywood, women directors have never ceased to amaze the audience with a solid content. While filmmakers like Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar, Gauri Shinde and Kiran Rao have carved a niche for themselves in Bollywood, women taking over the reins of direction is still a norm in Tamil cinema. However, we too have some maverick female filmmakers who left an imperishable mark among the audience.

Despite being a terrific actor, Suhasini Mani Ratnam is a great screenwriter. Suhasini made her directorial debut with Indira, which is probably the most underrated film and was a box-office disaster upon release. However, it received a cult status for its modern theme. The protagonist of the film is a woman who single-handedly strives to overcome the caste system in her village, and one has to give it to Suhasini Maniratnam for having carved an innocent but an impactful character in Indira. Apart from Indira, Suhasini has worked in Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan/ Raavan (2010). According to Mani Ratnam, it was Suhasini who wrote half of the former’s anthology political drama Aayutha Ezhuthu/ Yuva (2004).

Bankrolled by ace-filmmaker Gautham Menon, Veppam narrates a set of events from the slum areas of Chennai, showcasing characters and their struggles. Veppam, on many levels, is an unusual subject which one wouldn’t expect from a woman, especially in this genre (gritty thriller). Veppam had everything to hold the audience’s eyes- romance, drama and violence. However, the film failed to create the impact that of Selvaraghavan’s Pudhupettai (2006) or Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Aaranya Kaandam (2010). Be it the screenplay or the dialogues, Anjana Ali Khan has to be credited for the amount of detailing that went unnoticed.

Lately, women directors in Kollywood are making it big. In a male-chauvinistic industry such as Kollywood, women directors have never ceased to amaze the audience with a solid content. While filmmakers like Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar, Gauri Shinde and Kiran Rao have carved a niche for themselves in Bollywood, women taking over the reins of direction is still a norm in Tamil cinema. However, we too have some maverick female filmmakers who left an imperishable mark among the audience.

Suhasini Mani Ratnam’s Indira (1995)

Despite being a terrific actor, Suhasini Mani Ratnam is a great screenwriter. Suhasini made her directorial debut with Indira, which is probably the most underrated film and was a box-office disaster upon release. However, it received a cult status for its modern theme. The protagonist of the film is a woman who single-handedly strives to overcome the caste system in her village, and one has to give it to Suhasini Maniratnam for having carved an innocent but an impactful character in Indira. Apart from Indira, Suhasini has worked in Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan/ Raavan (2010). According to Mani Ratnam, it was Suhasini who wrote half of the former’s anthology political drama Aayutha Ezhuthu/ Yuva (2004).

Anjana Ali Khan’s Veppam (2011)

Bankrolled by ace-filmmaker Gautham Menon, Veppam narrates a set of events from the slum areas of Chennai, showcasing characters and their struggles. Veppam, on many levels, is an unusual subject which one wouldn’t expect from a woman, especially in this genre (gritty thriller). Veppam had everything to hold the audience’s eyes- romance, drama and violence. However, the film failed to create the impact that of Selvaraghavan’s Pudhupettai (2006) or Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Aaranya Kaandam (2010). Be it the screenplay or the dialogues, Anjana Ali Khan has to be credited for the amount of detailing that went unnoticed.

Aishwaryaa’s 3 (2011) and Soundarya’s Kochadaiiyaan (2014)

After working as an erstwhile assistant director to Selvaraghavan, Aishwaryaa R ventured into direction. Her first feature film 3, which had her husband Dhanush playing the lead role, opened to mixed reviews from the audience. However, the song ‘Why This Kolaveri Di’ was a rage upon release.

Lately, women directors in Kollywood are making it big. In a male-chauvinistic industry such as Kollywood, women directors have never ceased to amaze the audience with a solid content. While filmmakers like Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar, Gauri Shinde and Kiran Rao have carved a niche for themselves in Bollywood, women taking over the reins of direction is still a norm in Tamil cinema. However, we too have some maverick female filmmakers who left an imperishable mark among the audience.

Soundarya too didn’t have a rock solid debut. Despite working with superstar Rajinikanth in Kochadaiiyaan, the film failed to create the Rajini magic at the box office. Now, both Aishwaryaa and Soundarya are working on their respective feature films.

Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s Aarohanam (2012) and Ammani (2016)

After making her acting debut in the Malayalam industry, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan proved her mettle in director Mysskin’s Yudham Sei (2011). Aarohanam was her first directorial venture which tells the story of Nirmala, the breadwinner of the family who goes missing just two days before her daughter’s wedding. Aarohanam was widely lauded for the director’s treatment of the characters and Viji Chandrasekhar’s performance. Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s recent film Ammani too opened to rave reviews from the critics.

Sudha Kongara’s Irudhi Suttru/ Saala Khadoos (2016)

Sudha Kongara, who associate director for seven years with Mani Ratnam, made her directorial debut with the Tamil film Drohi (2010). However, it was R Madhavan’s Irudhi Suttru which gave Sudha the much-needed breakthrough in the industry. Irudhi Suttru tells the story of Prabhu Selvaraj (Madhavan), a boxer, is ignored by the boxing association. He tries to accomplish his dream by training Madhi, a fish-seller and an amateur fighter. As the film also marked the return of Madhavan, Irudhi Suttru was an instant hit and the film has now been selected to premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

Also, the list becomes incomplete without Gayathri, whose dark comedy Va Quarter Cutting (2010) has earned a cult among the fans of neo-noir genre.

(Source: http://www.indiatoday.intoday)