Thursday, April 18, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019
"Brittany Runs a Marathon" gives Jillian Bell the spotlight
Lil Rel Howery, from left, Alice Lee, Micah Stock, Jillian Bell, director Paul Downs Colaizzo, Michaela Watkins and Utkarsh Ambudkar pose for a portrait to promote the film "Brittany Runs A Marathon" at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- 

When Jillian Bell is offered roles that have to do with body issues, they usually fall into two buckets: They're either making fun of the character's weight, or, they're not presenting it in a way that she finds compelling or authentic.

It's why when she read the script for "Brittany Runs a Marathon," which premiered Monday at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival , she kind of couldn't believe it. The film, from writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo, was about a woman in her 20s living a fun, but not necessarily healthy, life who turns things around when she decides to start running. It's a charming and inspirational film from the first-time director that co-stars Lil Rel Howery and Michaela Watkins. The filmmakers are currently looking for distribution.

"I have wasted so much time in my life thinking negatively or consuming my day with body image," Bell said. "I'm lucky I've had great movies come my way that had nothing to do with it. But I have had a lot of other offers that do have a lot to do with body image and what people think — and  it's a weird thing to talk about — but what they think a person like me is worth. I joke about this but, like, if you have a body that looks like mine, you're not worthy of love."

But she found that she related to Brittany. She felt real to her. Because she kind of was. The character was inspired by one of Colaizzo's college friends and former roommates.

"She was in her 20s working in theater and living her best life in maybe the wrong sense of the word. And there was a shift around the time when I moved in where she started to realize she wants something else," Colaizzo said. "She started running and by the time she was out of the apartment, she had lost 80 pounds, had a new job and was working her way out of debt."

Now the real Brittany is married and works in genocide prevention, which, he laughed is, "Too good. If you put it in a movie you wouldn't believe it."

Bell, in one of her first dramatic performances and leading film roles, experienced her own sort of transformation during production.  She realized that she did enjoy more dramatic material, as taxing as all the crying was. And she lost 40 pounds — the last 11 pounds during filming.

"I trained beforehand because I did almost zero percent exercise before this film came along," Bell said. "I actually looked up something on Pinterest that was like how to train from couch to 5K. It was intense, but I wanted to go through the whole experience of what she went through."

  • Monday, Jan. 28, 2019
Amazon picks up CIA torture investigation film "The Report"
Steven Soderbergh, left, producer of "The Report," with cast member Adam Driver attends the premiere of the film during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- 

Vice Studios has announced that Amazon Studios has acquired the worldwide rights to the CIA torture investigation film "The Report."

Vice produced the film and made the announcement Monday following an all-night bidding war for the buzzy political film.

"The Report" stars Adam Driver as senate staffer Daniel Jones, who investigates the CIA's detention and interrogation program.

Annette Bening plays Senator Dianne Feinstein in the long gestating film from writer-director Scott Z. Burns that received rave reviews at the festival. It was purchased for around $14 million.

Amazon plans to release "The Report" in theaters in the fall for an awards push.

It's the second major acquisition for the studio, which also picked up Mindy Kaling's talk show host comedy "Late Night" for $13 million.

  • Monday, Jan. 28, 2019
Carrie Bradshaw, "The Dude" to star in Super Bowl commercial
This undated image provided by Stella Artois shows a scene from the company's Super Bowl spot with Jeff Bridges. Sarah Jessica Parker will reprise her Carrie Bradshaw role from “Sex and the City” and Bridges will appear as “The Dude” in the Super Bowl commercial to raise money to combat water shortage. The 45-second ad launches Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, and will be televised during Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3. (Stella Artois via AP)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges are bringing a couple of famed characters back to life for a charity in a new Super Bowl commercial.

Parker will reprise her "Sex and the City" Carrie Bradshaw role and Bridges will appear as "The Dude" in a Stella Artois commercial to raise money to combat water shortage. The 45-second ad launches Monday and will be televised during Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3.

"There will be a lot of men drinking during the Super Bowl, so why not buy some beer that'll do some good for the planet and the world," Bridges said in an interview with The Associated Press before shooting the ad.

The "Pour It Forward" campaign is an initiative between the beer brand and Water.org, co-founded by actor Matt Damon. Both will donate between one to 12 months of clean water to someone in an underdeveloped country based on the amount of Stella Artois packs bought.

Bridges said there's a "tremendous need" for the initiative, while Parker called the campaign an "important and potentially impactful effort."

Parker starred as the fashionable Bradshaw on the hit television series "Sex in the City." Bridges is known as the nonchalant, knit-sweater-wearing character Jeffrey "The Dude" from the cult classic film "The Big Lebowski."

Parker said she and Bridges enjoyed having their characters meet up.

In the commercial, the two separately order the beer instead of their favorite drink and end up sitting next to each other. Bradshaw prefers a Cosmopolitan cocktail, while The Dude's usual is a White Russian cocktail.

"I really like the way they created this world," said Parker, who said she doesn't expect to play Bradshaw in "Sex and the City" anytime soon. "It's allowing this sort of a familiarity. People associate those characters without us literally playing them."

  • Monday, Jan. 28, 2019
"VH1 Trailblazer Honors" celebrates director Ava DuVernay
In this Nov. 18, 2018, file photo filmmaker Ava DuVernay addresses the audience during the 2018 Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, FIle)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

"VH1 Trailblazer Honors" will pay tribute to Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay to kick off Women's History Month.

The 46-year-old's screenwriter includes the films "Selma," ''13TH" and "A Wrinkle In Time." The 2018 fantasy movie made her the highest-grossing female black director in domestic box office history.

DuVernay is a member of the board of Sundance Institute. She's working on her next project, "Central Park Five," and is overseeing production of her TV series "Queen Sugar."

"VH1 Trailblazer Honors" will air March 8 to coincide with International Women's Day.

  • Monday, Jan. 28, 2019
Sundance: A different side of Awkwafina in "The Farewell"
Writer and director Lulu Wang, left, and actress Awkwafina pose at the premiere of "The Farewell" during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- 

Awkwafina's dramatic turn in "The Farewell" has quickly become one of the must-sees at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. After rising to household name status last summer with breakout comedic roles in "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Ocean's 8," audiences in Park City, Utah, have been raving over the discovery that she's got the chops to make you cry, and not just from laughter.

Still, the 30-year-old New York native wasn't entirely sure she could even pull it off.

"I didn't think that I would be able to cry. I just didn't think that I would ever be able to harness that. But with this movie, I would cry like even when we were blocking a scene," she said. "I guess I discovered a whole other side of something that I never knew existed. But it all really stemmed from thinking about my grandma. That's really what it was. So it's very real. It was a very real role for me."

The title card says the film is "based on an actual lie." The lie would be writer and director Lulu Wang's who along with her family decided not to tell her grandmother that she'd been diagnosed with terminal cancer with only three months to live.

"My mother was the one who called me and said that in China, they don't tell the patient. They tell the family members," Wang said. "I said immediately, 'I have to go back. I have to see her right away.' And she's like, 'Well, slow down. Actually, because you can't tell her if you go back. If you're too emotional, that will give it away.'"

So Wang's father constructed a plan to have her only cousin get married in two weeks, which would provide a reasonable excuse for the whole family to travel to China to see her grandmother one last time. If it sounds familiar it's likely because her story was also featured on an episode of "This American Life."

"The Farewell," which is competing in the U.S. Dramatic Competition of the festival and does not yet have a distributor, follows this same structure with Awkwafina playing Billi, the stand-in for the director. It's an intimate, emotional and often quite funny portrait of family, culture-clashes as Billi and her Chinese-American family venture to mainland China to put on a real fake wedding and try to say goodbye without ever letting on that that's what they're doing.

Awkwafina said the film also captures the "struggle of going back to China."

"It's hard to describe. Because you're made to feel like you're not American in America. But you go to China and ...you're a stranger there as well," Awkwafina said. "It really hit that on the head."

AP Entertainment Reporter Ryan Pearson contributed from Park City.

  • Monday, Jan. 28, 2019
Oscar-winning "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" composer Legrand dies at 86
In this Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 file picture French conductor Michel Legrand arrives at the opening ceremony of the 6th Lumiere Festival, in Lyon, central France. Oscar-winning composer and pianist Legrand, whose hits included the score for "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" and who left a lasting imprint on France's musical universe, has died at age 86. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File)
PARIS (AP) -- 

Oscar-winning composer and pianist Michel Legrand, whose hits included the score for the '60s romance "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" and who worked with some of biggest singers of the 20th century, has died at age 86.

Legrand last performed on stage just last month, and was still composing and practicing piano an hour a day even as fatigue increasingly forced him to economize his energy, said Claire de Castellane, a musician and producer who organized a series of recent solo piano concerts by Legrand. De Castellane confirmed his death Saturday, without providing details.

"MICHEL LEGRAND Feb. 24, 1932-Jan. 26, 2019," read the home page of his official website Saturday, followed by photographs of Legrand with Barbara Streisand, Miles Davis, Yves Montand and others. Tributes poured in on Twitter and Facebook, and French radio and television replayed songs from his vast repertoire.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced condolences to Legrand's wife and children, hailing him as an "indefatigable genius." ''His unique tunes that run through our heads and are hummed in the streets have become like the soundtracks of our lives," he said.

Legrand won three Academy Awards, five Grammys and two top awards at the Cannes Film Festival among other honors, according to his official website. He worked with famed lyricists in Hollywood and on Broadway — including Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Sheldon Harnick  —  as well as with French New Wave directors.

"The Windmills of Your Mind" won him his first Oscar, as the theme song for 1968's "The Thomas Crown Affair," sung by Noel Harrison. The song was later recorded by Dusty Springfield and many others. His songs marked some of the most memorable musical moments in French cinema, including 1964's "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" with Catherine Deneuve and "The Young Ladies of Rochefort."

Over a six-decade career he worked with performers ranging from Frank Sinatra to Aretha Franklin and Sting, and played an outsized role on the French musical scene. He continued touring into his 80s, last performing a month ago at the Paris Philharmonic, and was scheduled to give his next concert in February.

Though he had rich and rigorous musical education, Legrand sought to reach ordinary people. "He wrote very elaborate music, but for a regular audience," de Castellane said.

Performing right up until the end "was a very beautiful way to say goodbye," de Castellane said. "He was not afraid of death, he talked about it. He said it made him nervous" — like the nervousness performers feel before going on stage — "but it didn't frighten him."

  • Monday, Jan. 28, 2019
With a record acquisition, "Late Night" is a Sundance hit
Mindy Kaling, left, a cast member and writer of "Late Night," poses with the film's director Nisha Ganatra at the premiere of the film during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- 

The Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling comedy "Late Night" is already one of the biggest hits of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival with an acquisition price to match.

Amazon Studios on Saturday purchased the U.S. distribution rights for $13 million, a record for the festival.

"Late Night" follows a veteran talk show host played by Thompson who's facing declining ratings, possible cancellation and a reputation for not liking women. Kaling wrote the script and plays the "diversity hire" in the writer's room who has no qualifications except an undying love for Thompson's character, Katherine Newbury. But she helps shake things up for the show.

"It's really a movie about being a fan," Kaling told The Associated Press. "I've been such a comedy nerd my whole life and I've always felt like on the outside looking in. I had no connections in the business, but I just loved comedy and ... late-night talk shows. So the movie is just really a love letter for people who are fans of something and really want to be part of it, but don't feel like they have any access."

The film, which also stars Reid Scott, Hugh Dancy, Amy Ryan and John Lithgow, premiered Friday night in Park City and immediately became a must-see. Lines stretched around the block for the second screening Saturday morning and no empty seats were left in the massive Eccles Theater, where the audience buzzed about its sale that had just been reported by the trade publication Deadline.

"Late Night" is sleeker than your average Sundance movie and was originally to be made as a studio film, with Paul Feig directing. Delays left Feig unavailable, and Kaling moved on independently. Nisha Ganatra, who had directed an episode of "The Mindy Project," eventually came on to direct.

Amazon's acquisition of "Late Night" is the first major deal out of the 2019 festival, and one of the highest sums ever paid out of Sundance. The record-holder is "Birth of a Nation," which went for $17.5 million for the worldwide rights. "Late Night" beat out Amazon's $12 million deal for "The Big Sick," which went on to become a box office hit, and Netflix's $12.5 million for "Mudbound."

Kaling mined her own experiences in the business both as a boss and a newcomer, and those of others, to tell the story. Her character decides that she can't remember the names of her writers and calls them by numbers one through eight. This, Kaling said, is based on "a very famous comedy person" whom she "will never name."

Kaling wrote the part of Katherine specifically for Thompson, whom she had yet to meet, which she called "one of the stupidest things you can do in comedy."

"I was this creep in my home writing fan fiction for Emma Thompson, who I did not know, hoping that she would read it," Kaling said.

AP Entertainment Reporter Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.

  • Friday, Jan. 25, 2019
Sundance is homecoming for Julianne Moore and husband
Julianne Moore, left, a cast member in "After the Wedding," poses with her husband, the film's writer/director Bart Freundlich, at the premiere of the film on the opening night of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- 

For director Bart Freundlich and Julianne Moore, having their film "After the Wedding" premiere opening at the Sundance Film Festival holds a special significance. Moore and Freundlich came to the festival 22 years ago with another film, "The Myth of Fingerprints," before marriage, children and everything else.

"In between there have been a ton of movies, mainly by her, but some by me," Freundlich said. "This is something that is really special to me."

The family drama "After the Wedding" kicked off the 2019 Sundance Film Festival Thursday night in the Eccles Theater. The film is a remake of an Oscar-nominated Danish film from Susanne Bier, and stars Moore as a wealthy businesswoman looking to donate money to an Indian orphanage run by Michelle Williams' character, while also planning her daughter's wedding with her husband, played by Billy Crudup.

Things get a little more complicated than that, but the developments are better left seen for oneself.

There was at least one significant change, however. In the original Danish film, Moore's character was a man, but she gave her husband the idea to flip the gender.

Moore said the switch "deepened" the story for her.

Sundance founder Robert Redford started off the evening reflecting on the origins of the festival, 34 years ago. He recalled a quainter Park City, with only one theater, the Egyptian and just a few restaurants and a library. In the early years, he remembered standing outside the theater, "Trying to hustle people in."

"People were just wondering why I was there," Redford laughed. "But finally, slowly things developed."

Indeed, Redford hardly has to hustle people into theaters anymore at Sundance. Every one of the half dozen opening night films were sold out Thursday.

"Without you there's nothing," Redford told the audience. "Thank you for being part of the equation."

  • Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019
MaryJo Lang named recipient of CAS President's Award
MaryJo Lang
LOS ANGELES -- 

Cinema Audio Society president Mark Ulano, CAS announced that this year’s CAS Awards will include a President’s Award honoree: MaryJo Lang, CAS.  The President’s Award is presented at the discretion of the CAS president to an individual who has been dedicated to the advancement of Sound.

“In the world of Foley mixing, MaryJo Lang has been a force of nature,” said Ulano. “Her understanding of how to tell stories with sound has made her a filmmaker of iconic stature. Having worked on almost 300 projects in her extensive career and becoming the premier go-to person in Foley for her creative powers, MaryJo Lang’s career represents a pinnacle achievement in the sound arts”, said Ulano. “Long ago, she broke down artificial barriers in a traditionally male dominated field with her spectacular ‘musicianship’”. 

Ulano continued, “Beyond her own prolific output, she has contributed to the larger cinema sound community by participating in executive leadership, long serving as a Board member for the Cinema Audio Society and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Sound Branch Executive Committee. Many mentees have had the great fortune of MaryJo ‘paying it forward’ as she has provided a nurturing spirit, repeating the mentoring she received along the way. I am delighted to place a spotlight on this amazing individual who has meant so much to so many people and who so fully deserves the Cinema Audio Society’s President’s Award as an acknowledgement of her many achievements.”

Lang, now retired, was a Foley mixer at Warner Bros. Studios for over 25 years.  She started in 1984, apprenticing in production sound with Ulano and Patrushkha Mierzwa on “Friday the 13th Part 5”. That led to an internship at Taj Soundworks, a well-known Foley stage in Los Angeles where she began mixing in 1991. She moved to Warner Bros. Studios in 1992 with foley artist John Roesch. She has worked on several motion pictures that have won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing and/or Best Sound Editing, including “Braveheart,” ”The Matrix,” ”The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and “The Ghost and the Darkness” as well as several that have been nominated, “Interstellar,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Social Network.” She was the first choice for mixing by top supervising sound editors Ren Klyce, Charles L. Campbell and Dane Davis.

Lang served on the Executive Committee for the Sound Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for two terms and, during her career has spoken at seminars in Stuttgart, Germany and at USC on the art of Foley. She finished her career at Warner Bros. working on “The Meg” with her favorite foley artists, Alyson Moore and Chris Moriana.

Her last project was in Finland, working with Heikki Kossi, the top Foley artist in Scandinavia, on the documentary, “The Distant Barking of Dogs,” which has been short listed for an Academy nomination.

She has won three CAS Awards for Foley mixing on “Frozen,” “Big Hero Six” and “Inside Out”.

Lang has been enjoying retirement immensely by being able to satisfy her love of travel. She had already been to over 50 countries while she was working and, since retiring, she has been to China, Mongolia, Russia, Cuba, Thailand and Laos--and that’s just in the first year! She loves to see new places, try new food and share it all with her friends back home, who follow her on Facebook and her email diary.

Lang will join previously announced honorees: CAS Career Achievement Award recipient production sound mixer Lee Orloff, CAS and, CAS Filmmaker Award recipient Steven Spielberg at the 55th Annual CAS Awards on February 16, in the Wilshire Grand Ballroom of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown.

The CAS Awards honor Outstanding Achievements in Sound Mixing in seven categories: Motion Pictures, Animated Motion Pictures, Documentary Motion Pictures, Television Movie or Limited Series, Television Series-One Hour, Television Series-Half Hour and Television-Non-Fiction, Variety, Music Series or Specials.

The Cinema Audio Society, a philanthropic, non-profit organization, was formed in 1964 for the purpose of sharing information with sound professionals in the motion picture and television industry.

  • Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019
Ron Howard to make doc about town devastated by wildfires
In this Sept. 16, 2018, file photo, filmmaker Ron Howard poses at a private cocktail party to celebrate the FX network's Emmy nominations in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- 

Director Ron Howard is planning to make a documentary about a Northern California town's attempt to rebuild after a devastating wildfire last year

National Geographic Documentary Films announced the project Thursday which will focus on the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Paradise, California. In November of 2018, flames destroyed nearly 15,000 homes and displaced over 50,000 people. Its working title is "Rebuilding Paradise."

Howard said he has relatives in the area and was drawn to the universal human experience of the tragedy. The film will follow the residents of Paradise, first responders and volunteers helping to rebuild the town over the course of a year.

National Geographic Documentary Films is also the shop behind the climbing documentary "Free Solo" which was just nominated for an Oscar.
 

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