One of the most notorious feuds in Hollywood history is that of rival sisters Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. And they’re the subject of my most-anticipated show of 2017, Ryan Murphy’s newest anthology series, Feud, starring Jessica Lange as Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Davis. Have a look at the show’s recently released opening sequence. The pair’s 1962 psychological thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? airs as part of TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar on March 2, just three days before Feud‘s March 5th premiere on FX.
On the occasion of the poster release for new film Christine, allow me to tell you a brief story about why doing means so much more than just talking.
Some years ago, I happened upon my college’s Wikipedia page. As I scanned over the “Notable Alumni” section, one name stood out to me—one that I didn’t recognize: Christine Chubbuck. I clicked on her name and found myself reading this story of a troubled woman whose tragic actions shook the world of live television. I happened to think about her again just last year when a psychotic man gunned down a reporter and her cameraman during a live feed in Roanoke, Virginia.
Written and directed by actor Nate Parker in his feature directorial debut, The Birth of a Nation tells the story of former slave Nat Turner (played by Parker), who leads a liberation movement to free slaves in Virginia in 1831. The film also stars Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union, and Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley.
The Birth of a Nation is this year’s big Sundance hit, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, and notably shattering a sales record at the Festival by selling distribution rights to Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million. With a fall release date of October 7—and with a powerhouse indie distributor in Searchlight, which also released recent Best Picture winners Birdman (2014) and 12 Years a Slave (2013)—it’s bound to ride high through next year’s Oscars. So perhaps #OscarsSoWhite will finally be a thing of the past.
I have to say, I’m not David O. Russell’s biggest fan, though he has made some films I admire. Lately, he’s found favor with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook). So if you’re into that quartet, you’ll want to check out Joy, opening Christmas Day. Based on a true story, Lawrence stars as Joy Mangano, the struggling Long Island entrepreneur mom who invented the Miracle Mop and launched a business empire. Russell wrote the script off a story by Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids, 2011) and Russell. The film also stars Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, and Isabella Rossellini. Check out the trailer below.
As the 53rd New York Film Festival wrapped with Closing Night selection Miles Ahead, a bio-drama on “social music” (don’t call it jazz) legend Miles Davis, starring and helmed by Don Cheadle in his directorial debut, it’s time to look back on some of the Festival’s best offerings.
BRIDGE OF SPIES
In Steven Spielberg’s Cold War-era drama, Tom Hanks plays a Brooklyn insurance lawyer who must broker a sensitive prisoner exchange with the USSR. Once again, Spielberg proves he’s at the top of his craft. Hanks turns in a solid performance, but it’s supporting player Mark Rylance who steals his scenes as a Soviet spy with his too-cool-it’s-unnerving performance.
The 23rd edition of the Hamptons International Film Festival launched its five-day run last Thursday with Opening Night selection Truth, the true newsroom drama starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford. With a healthy selection of world premieres and Oscar hopefuls (including nine foreign language submissions), the festival is primed to bring some of the world’s best cinema to Long Island. Here’s a small sampling of what’s on the slate.
The Cold War sets the stage for Steven Spielberg’s 29th feature, Bridge of Spies, which had its world premiere Sunday night at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Based on a true story, Tom Hanks plays James Donovan, a Brooklyn insurance lawyer asked to defend Rudolf Abel (played eerily cool by Broadway veteran Mark Rylance), a Soviet spy in a trial that’s more for show than jurisprudence. Hesitantly taking on this role, the one-time criminal attorney Donovan is an Atticus Finch-like model for law as a guiding principle, despite the urgings from his colleagues—including the judge—to not put in full effort in his defense. Abel is a Soviet spy after all. His guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion, but it’s important that the US demonstrate a “fair” trial. Donovan will have none of it. He’s a good lawyer, and he will conduct himself as such, despite the threats set against him and his family.
It’s a good time to be a movie fan in New York. Two of the country’s preeminent film festivals—New York Film Festival and Hamptons International Film Festival—are upon us. The 53rd edition of the New York Film Festival (NYFF) kicks off tonight, September 25, and runs through October 11 at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. The 23rd edition of Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) is next in line with a program running from October 8–12 in Long Island. (I’ve proudly served on the screening committee of HIFF for the past five years.) Given their fall festival dates, both have historically made good on delivering some of that year’s top Oscar contenders, and this year will likely be no different. Here are each festival’s Opening Night, Centerpiece, and Closing Night films. Check out each festival’s website for its full slate of programming. (All film synopses below are courtesy of their respective festivals’ websites.)
Ahead of its World Premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September, new images from Trumbo have been released. Following a new course of direction, Jay Roach (Austin Powers and Meet the Parents films) directs this dramatic biopic of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston in the title role. (Roach will also direct Cranston in another biopic, All the Way, in which the Breaking Bad star will reprise his Tony-winning role of US President Lyndon B. Johnson.)
Crew defections, brutal cold, a global search for snow and even a naked actor dragged on the ground — ‘Birdman’ director Alejandro G. Inarritu responds to critics of his ambitious methods: “When you see the film, you will see the scale of it. And you will say, ‘Wow.'”
A version of this story first appeared in the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Veteran crewmembers who have toiled on director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant say the director’s follow-up to Birdman could turn out to be epic and Oscar-worthy. Some also say that making the film has been by far the worst experience of their careers — “a living hell,” as one bluntly puts it.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as early 19th century explorer Hugh Glass, Revenant went into production in September and was supposed to wrap in March. But cameras still will be rolling into August as the budget has climbed well past $95 million, with insiders predicting it will reach or exceed $135 million. Crewmembers say they have seen huge turnover, including many who were fired and others who quit. They say the behind-the-scenes drama led Inarritu to bar producer Jim Skotchdopole, who worked with him on Birdman, from the set.