Happy 97th Birthday Doris Day!!

Posted on April 3, 2019 at 11:50 am

One of the 20th century’s greatest and — yes — most versatile performers is Doris Day, who celebrates her 97th birthday today. Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio, her first dream was to be a dancer, until she was injured in an automobile accident. So, she became a singer, and her version of “Sentimental Journey” became a huge hit. By then, a bandleader told her to use the last name “Day” after the song “Day by Day.”

Songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne recommended her for a movie musical, “Romance on the High Seas,” where she played an outspoken young singer impersonating a society lady on a cruise ship. She introduced the song, “It’s Magic.”

The three comedies she made with Rock Hudson made her one of the most beloved stars of the 1960’s.

She was a fine dramatic actress, and won an Oscar for the biopic about singer Ruth Etting, “Love Me or Leave Me.”

Nobody gets mad better than Doris Day.

Her song “Secret Love” in “Calamity Jane” won that year’s Oscar.

And she is excellent as the neurotic wife in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”  She sang “Que Sera Sera” in that film, and it became a huge hit.

Sometimes dismissed in the early days of the women’s equality movement as a relic of the 50’s, today we recognize her for portrayals of strong, independent, professionally successful women, even in her comedies like “Pillow Talk” and “Lover Come Back” and the musical “The Pajama Game.”  An essay by Molly Haskell in an early issue of Ms. Magazine was the first to claim her as a feminist icon.

Miss Day has not made a film since 1968, but her song “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” memorably appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom.”

I’m especially fond of her performances in “The Thrill of it All,” “Teacher’s Pet,” “Pajama Game,” “Lover Come Back,” and “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.”  Happy birthday, Miss Day!

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Actors

Jodi Benson and the 30th Anniversary of The Little Mermaid

Posted on February 28, 2019 at 8:00 am

I always love talking to Jodi Benson, who provided the sweet voice of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” now, incredibly, celebrating its 30th anniversary with a special new DVD/Blu-Ray. On The Credits, you can see our interview.

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Actors Interview

Interviews About My #1 Film of 2018, If Beale Street Could Talk

Posted on January 7, 2019 at 8:00 am

Copyright Annapurna 2018
I had the great pleasure of speaking to two of the people behind my favorite film of the year, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” breakout star Kiki Layne and writer/director Barry Jenkins, who adapted the film from the James Baldwin novel.

My interview with Ms. Layne was for the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. She spoke about the support her character gets from her strong, devoted family.

The love in that family is just so, so powerful. We see the beauty of having those people to lean into and having those people around that are nurturing you and nurturing your growth. Tish has some growing up to do. Her family encourages that but it’s not all, “You’ve got to get over this.” It wasn’t that type of energy. It’s just like, “Hey, this is a situation that you’re in but really we’re all in it together,” and I think that was the beauty of the family dynamic in this film.

And I spoke to Barry Jenkins for rogerebert.com. He described the one scene where he augmented Baldwin’s story.

Another one of my favorite scenes is the one where they’re in the loft with the young landlord after so many rejections. It is so delicate and charming.

The character was in the book but it’s one of the few places in the translation that I’ll say I felt it didn’t go just far enough for me and so as I was walking around the space I just had this thought in my head like, “How in the hell could you possibly see a way to turn this into a home?” Then I realized, “Oh, but what says love and faith more than a lover saying, ‘I promise I can do this’ and you say ‘Okay, yes I believe you,’” So that’s when we added this whole thing of how we’re going to make this into a home and then him showing where he’s going to put all these things and then I was like, “Oh, it feels kind of cute let’s just go all the way with this pantomiming with the fridge,” and when we did it, there was something so lovely about watching Dave Franco and Stephan James perform this kind of joke in a certain way which was rooted in love and faith that when we got to the roof it also seemed like, “Okay, and now these characters feel connected. How can we take it one step further?”

This idea of mothers in the film is so important. Tish has a mother and she is pregnant, Fonny has a mother, Victoria Rogers, the woman who’s been sexually assaulted, she’s pregnant. She’s not showing but she’s pregnant. It’s all this idea of mothers. I thought, “Oh, here is something that I can see uniting these characters,” and that’s when we gave Dave Franco the line, “I’m just my mother’s son.” Sometimes it’s that idea that makes the difference between us and them; not black and white but people who have been loved and the people who haven’t.

This was adapted with I think much respect and deference to Mr. Baldwin, but that was one of the places where I’m really proud of how I was able to fuse my voice and his.

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Actors Directors Interview Race and Diversity Writers

Breakout Stars of 2018

Posted on January 6, 2019 at 10:12 pm

Copyright 2018 20th Century Fox
What I look forward to most every year, as I examine the list of upcoming films, is the surprises. Of course I am excited about more from the actors and filmmakers I love — the big blockbusters and earnest dramas, the comedies and romances. But it is the actors and filmmakers I have never heard of in January and will not be able to imagine life without in December I am eagerly anticipating most. With that in mind, I really enjoyed Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the biggest breakout stars of 2018, and I agree that every one of them is now in my pantheon of greats, including “Leave No Trace’s” Thomasin McKenzie, “Deadpool 2′” Zazie Beats (who also gets the coolest name award), Awkwafina (“Crazy Rich Asians” and “Oceans 8”), Cynthia Erivo (“Bad Times at the El Royale,” “Widows”), and Noah Centineo (“To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” and “Sierra Burgess is a Loser”). I’d add Amandla Stemberg (I was already a fan but she was sensational in “The Hate U Give”), Kiki Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), John David Washington (“BlackKklansman”), and Elsie Fisher (“Eighth Grade”). To the people who will surprise me this year — I can’t wait to meet you.

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Actors

MVP of the Month: What Do These Four Movies Have in Common?

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 8:00 am

Common is a successful musician and won an Oscar for the song he co-wrote with John Legend for “Selma.” But we are seeing him more often on screen as an actor, most recently in four movies out this fall that could not be more different.

Copyright 2018 20th Century Fox

In The Hate U Give Common plays the uncle of Starr, the teenage girl who is the movie’s main character. In a key scene, he speaks to her honestly about the way even he sees black and white suspects differently.

COMMON as the voice of Stonekeeper in the new animated adventure “SMALLFOOT,” from Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Animation Group.

Smallfoot is an animated story about a community of Yeti who believe, because their leader has told them, that humans are only a legend. Common plays that leader, known as the Stonekeeper. He is not exactly a traditional movie bad guy because he just wants what is best for his community. But in trying to keep them safe, he has kept them from the truth.

Copyright The Orchard 2018

In “All About Nina,” Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a talented but dysfunctional stand-up comic who wants to be on a “Saturday Night Live”-style sketch comedy television show. Common is the love interest who will challenge her to be more honest with him and with herself.

Copyright 2018 Summit Entertainment

Common is a two-star admiral in “Hunter Killer,” a Gerard Butler action movie about an American submarine and Seal team rescue the Russian president from a coup attempt. The admiral is the voice of reason from US military headquarters.

He has more movies coming soon including the fact-based “St. Judy,” about an immigration lawyer, “The Kitchen,” a crime story with Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy, and Domhnall Gleeson, and “Eve,” from director Tate Taylor (“The Help,” “The Girl on the Train”). Whether it’s a comedy, drama, romance, or thriller, whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy, he brings a natural presence and humanity to all of his roles, and I look forward to whatever he does next.

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Actors
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