Thursday, April 25, 2019

News Briefs

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  • 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)

"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'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

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.

  • Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019
Bryan Singer will still direct "Red Sonja" amid accusations
This Dec. 2, 2013 file photo shows Bryan Singer at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

Following an expose that claimed Bryan Singer has seduced and molested several underage men, the film production company Millennium Films on Thursday said it is staunchly supporting the director.

In a statement, Avi Lerner, founder and chief executive of Millennium, said that the company is going forward with a remake of the fantasy adventure "Red Sonja" with Singer attached to direct.

"The over $800 million 'Bohemian Rhapsody' has grossed, making it the highest grossing drama in film history, is testament to his remarkable vision and acumen," said Lerner. "I know the difference between agenda driven fake news and reality, and I am very comfortable with this decision. In America people are innocent until proven guilty."

An article published Wednesday in The Atlantic alleged a pattern of predatory behavior by Singer, including sex with a 15-year-old at a Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion in 1997. Three men spoke on the condition of anonymity and a fourth said he was molested by Singer on the set of 1998's "Apt Pupil" when he was in the seventh grade.

Singer has denied the claims. He called the article a "homophobic smear piece" that was "conveniently timed" to take advantage of the success of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

"It's sad that The Atlantic would stoop to this low standard of journalistic integrity," said Singer. "Again, I am forced to reiterate that this story rehashes claims from bogus lawsuits filed by a disreputable cast of individuals willing to lie for money or attention."

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office earlier investigated claims that male minors were pressured into stripping naked for a shower scene in "Apt Pupil" but declined to press charges. Lawsuits filed by families of the minors involved were settled out of court.

"Bohemian Rhapsody," the Freddie Mercury biopic, was nominated for five Oscars on Tuesday, including best picture. Singer was fired as the director of the 20th Century Fox film during shooting after several absences from the London production. He remains the sole credited director on the film even though he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher.

Days after Singer was dismissed from "Bohemian Rhapsody," Cesar Sanchez-Guzman filed a lawsuit in Seattle against Singer alleging the director raped him in 2003 when Sanchez-Guzman was 17. Singer's attorney Andrew Brettler at the time said Singer "categorically denies these allegations and will vehemently defend this lawsuit to the very end." The case is still pending.

Founded in 1996, Millennium Films has produced a number of star-driven action films including "The Expendables," ''Olympus Has Fallen" and "The Hitman's Bodyguard."

  • Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019
Greg Berlanti named ICG Publicists' TV Showman of the Year
Greg Berlanti

Greg Berlanti, Emmy®-nominated writer, director and producer, will be named Television Showman of the Year at the 56th Annual International Cinematographers Guild (ICG, IATSE Local 600) Publicists Awards. The Awards, celebrating excellence in publicity and promotion for motion pictures and television programs, returns to the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Friday, February 22. More than 900 industry leaders are expected to attend this year’s luncheon, which traditionally occurs the week leading up to the Academy Awards®.
In making the announcement, ICG national president Steven Poster, ASC, noted, “Greg Berlanti has produced a prodigious amount of quality television in the 21st  century –almost 30 series, over 1,000 episodes, with many more in the pipeline. This year, he set a new record with 15 current live-action scripted series. This is clearly the right time for us to honor Greg and his growing body of work.”
Berlanti said: “I’m truly honored to be receiving this recognition from the ICG Publicists. Throughout my career, the folks in the publicity departments at the various studios I’ve worked with have been some of my favorite people to collaborate with and I can say first hand that without a smart, strategic publicity campaign, my shows wouldn’t have enjoyed anywhere near the level of success that they have.”
WGA, DGA and Golden Globe nominated writer, director, and producer, Berlanti is the force behind some of the most inventive and acclaimed works in film and television.  
Berlanti started in television on the hit show Dawson’s Creek.  Since then, Berlanti has served as creator, writer, and producer behind shows such as Everwood, Jack & Bobby, Eli Stone, and Political Animals. He also served as a producer on Brothers & Sisters and Dirty, Sexy, Money.
During Upfronts 2018, it was announced that Berlanti’s company would make television history with a total of 14 scripted series on the air at the same time. He currently works as executive producer and co-creator on Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and You. Additionally, Berlanti serves as executive producer on Riverdale, Black Lightning, Blindspot, Titans, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, All American, God Friended Me, as well as the upcoming The Red Line, Doom Patrol, and Stargirl
Berlanti made his film directorial debut in 2000 with The Broken Hearts Club. His most recent feature directorial project is the critically acclaimed Love, Simon, an adaptation of the celebrated YA novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his husband and son. 
Past recipients of the prestigious Television Showman of the Year Award include Ryan Murphy, John Landgraf, Ted Sarandos, Shonda Rhimes, Chuck Lorre, Nina Tassler, Fred Silverman, Steven Bochco, Aaron Spelling and Bob Hope.
As previously announced, the Publicists Awards Luncheon will also honor producer Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) with the Motion Picture Showman of the Year Award and Jamie Lee Curtis with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The ICG Publicists Directory, to be distributed at the luncheon, will be dedicated to Paul Bloch, co-chairman of Rogers & Cowan, who died last year. Awards chair this year is Tim Menke with Sheryl Main serving as co-chair.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019
Verizon cutting about 800 jobs in troubled media business
In this May 2, 2017, file photo, people walk by a Verizon store in New York. Verizon is cutting about 800 jobs, or 7 percent of the staff in its media division, as it reorganizes the troubled unit. he new CEO of Verizon’s media division, Guru Gowrappan, sent an email to employees Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, informing them of the layoffs. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

Verizon is cutting about 800 jobs, or 7 percent of its media and advertising employees, as it reorganizes the troubled division.

The wireless company had hoped to create an ad business that could compete with Google and Facebook. It spent roughly $10 billion buying up former Internet pioneers Yahoo and AOL . But Verizon found benefits from integrating those two companies were less than expected. The company slashed the value of its media unit by nearly $5 billion in December.

The new CEO of Verizon's media division, Guru Gowrappan, informed employees of the layoffs in an email Wednesday. He says the division's priorities will now include focusing on mobile and video products and stemming declines with desktop users.

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