BFCA Critics Choice Award: Nominations 2016

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 2:45 pm

I am very proud to be a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and very excited about these just-announced nominations for our annual Critics Choice Awards.


Copyright 2016 Pearl Street Films
Copyright 2016 Pearl Street Films

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Loving_(2016_film)BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton – Loving
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Tom Hanks – Sully
Denzel Washington – Fences

Amy Adams – Arrival
Annette Bening – 20th Century Women
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Ben Foster – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Viola Davis – Fences
Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Janelle Monáe – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Copyright 2016 Plan B Entertainment
Copyright 2016 Plan B Entertainment

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Alex R. Hibbert – Moonlight
Lewis MacDougall – A Monster Calls
Madina Nalwanga – Queen of Katwe
Sunny Pawar — Lion
Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen

20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
Manchester by the Sea

Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Denzel Washington – Fences

Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Barry Jenkins — Moonlight
Yorgos Lanthimos/Efthimis Filippou – The Lobster
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Jeff Nichols – Loving
Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

Luke Davies – Lion
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Eric Heisserer – Arrival
Todd Komarnicki – Sully
Allison Schroeder/Theodore Melfi – Hidden Figures
August Wilson – Fences

Stéphane Fontaine – Jackie
James Laxton – Moonlight
Seamus McGarvey – Nocturnal Animals
Linus Sandgren – La La Land
Bradford Young – Arrival

Arrival – Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte/André Valade
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Stuart Craig/James Hambridge, Anna Pinnock
Jackie – Jean Rabasse, Véronique Melery
La La Land – David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Live by Night – Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

Tom Cross – La La Land
John Gilbert – Hacksaw Ridge
Blu Murray – Sully
Nat Sanders/Joi McMillon — Moonlight
Joe Walker – Arrival

Colleen Atwood – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Consolata Boyle – Florence Foster Jenkins
Madeline Fontaine – Jackie
Joanna Johnston – Allied
Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh – Love & Friendship
Mary Zophres – La La Land

Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hacksaw Ridge
Star Trek Beyond

A Monster Calls
Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The Jungle Book

Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Red Turtle

Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Hacksaw Ridge
Jason Bourne

Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange
Matt Damon – Jason Bourne
Chris Evans – Captain America: Civil War
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool

Gal Gadot – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Scarlett Johansson – Captain America: Civil War
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad
Tilda Swinton – Doctor Strange

Central Intelligence
Don’t Think Twice
The Edge of Seventeen
Hail, Caesar!
The Nice Guys

Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
Dwayne Johnson – Central Intelligence
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool

Kate Beckinsale – Love & Friendship
Sally Field – Hello, My Name Is Doris
Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters
Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

10 Cloverfield Lane
Doctor Strange
Don’t Breathe
Star Trek Beyond
The Witch

The Handmaiden
The Salesman
Toni Erdmann

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“City of Stars” – La La Land
“Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street
“How Far I’ll Go” — Moana
“The Rules Don’t Apply” – Rules Don’t Apply

Nicholas Britell – Moonlight
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Arrival
Justin Hurwitz – La La Land
Micachu – Jackie
Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka – Lion

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Actors Awards

Manchester By the Sea

Posted on November 23, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout and some sexual content
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness, substance abuse and recovery
Violence/ Scariness: Fighting, tragic deaths of parent and children
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 23, 2016
Date Released to DVD: February 20, 2017 ASIN: B01LTHZVKG
Copyright 2016 Pearl Street Films
Copyright 2016 Pearl Street Films

We think the hard question is why bad things happen to good people, but really the hardest question is this: when the hard things happen, how do we go on?

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan likes to explore this question in films that are complex, layered, and respectful of the audience’s intelligence and attention span. He lets the story bloom in its own time. He lets his characters lead messy lives, even after the story ends. He does not lay out all the backstory with voiceover narration or the kind of exposition-heavy dialog (“It’s been three year since it happened. Don’t you think it’s time to move on?”) that writers often use as shortcuts. As we go back and forth in time, it is not clear whether we are seeing incidents from the past that the characters are recalling now or whether it is just Lonergan himself, letting us deepen our understanding. Either way, it is presented with exquisite care, and exquisitely calibrated performances that reward our careful attention.

Lee (Casey Affleck), his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), and Joe’s son Patrick (Ben O’Brien as a child, Lucas Hedges as a teenager) enjoy an afternoon on Joe’s fishing boat.  And then we see Lee, shoveling snow, doing repairs in an apartment building, dogged and remote. He overhears a tenant telling someone she thinks he is attractive, but he does not respond.  He argues with his boss.  He overreacts at a bar and gets into a fight.  Later, we will hear someone refer to him in hushed tones as “the Lee Chandler.” But it will be a while before we learn the tragic details that led to his notoriety.

Lee gets a call.  Joe, who had a bad heart, has died. Lee is calm and capable, driving to the hospital and making arrangements.  But he is shocked to find that Joe has made him Patrick’s guardian. We know that Lee is a limited, damaged man. And perhaps we know that the unexpected guardianship of a teenager is his opportunity for redemption. We’ve all seen that movies, probably often enough we can predict how many minutes until the big hug scene. But Lonergan has something different in mind, something more layered and complex. It is sad, but not dreary. There are moments of great humor, especially as Lee and Patrick try to find a way to figure out what they are going to do next. Each, in his own way, is disconnected from his feelings and not interested in trying. Patrick cares about his two girlfriends and his band. He wants to hold onto his father’s boat, even though Lee cannot afford it. He wants to stay in the film’s title town, even though Lee works in Boston. Lee — well, he pretty much just wants to whatever task lies in front of him without having to feel too much.

It all literally pieced together for us gradually as moments from the past are revealed, perhaps as recalled by Lee, perhaps just Lonergan’s sure sense that only putting the pieces of the puzzle together slowly, leaving some spaces for us to fill in ourselves, will give us the deeper sense of recognition. Individual scenes are exquisitely composed and performed, especially a conversation between Lee and his ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), another in a police station, and an awkward meal with Patrick, his mother, a recovering substance abuser (Gretchen Mol), and her tightly-wound new partner (Matthew Broderick), poised between protective and controlling. The cumulative power sneaks up on you, until the perfectly imperfect ending.

Parents should know that this film includes disturbing material with very strong and crude language, a deadly fire, tragic deaths including parent and children, attempted suicide, sexual references including teen sex and brief nudity, drugs, drinking and drunkenness, and some fighting.

Family discussion: Why did Joe pick Lee? Why didn’t Patrick show more emotion? Why does this movie wait to tell us what happened to Lee?

If you like this, try: “You can Count on Me” and “Margaret” from the same writer-director

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Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week

Interview: Kenneth Lonergan on “Manchester By the Sea”

Posted on November 18, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Copyright 2016 Pearl Street Films
Copyright 2016 Pearl Street Films

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan spoke to a small group of journalists about his exquisite new film, “Manchester by the Sea,” starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Gretchen Mol. Affleck plays Lee, a man who is the guardian for his teenage nephew Lucas after his brother dies. He has difficulty adjusting because he is still dealing with a loss of his own.

It is not the usual Hollywood story of redemption and it includes some surprising humor, so we began by asking him how he developed the script.”I just try to be as strictly faithful to what I imagined it would really be like as possible and hope that that would give a ring of truth to it. It was a little bit of a special challenge with this story because he does go through some things that really no one should ever have to go through and nothing like that has ever happened to me, fortunately, and I wanted to be respectful of that and not rub people’s faces in it too much and not exploit it for sentimental value. I felt a little funny writing a story about this terrible thing that really happens to people so I wanted to treat it with some respect and some verisimilitude and part of that turned out to be including other things are happening too, like the fact that the kids life is totally different. He’s had a rough time, too, but he is very resilient. He is young and he has got a lot going on and there’s a lot of life bubbling up around Casey’s character that he is not a part of. The draft before last I think was a little too heavy, like a little too grim, a little relentless. I had shown Casey the script just to get his opinion and he agreed with me. So I didn’t take out anything but I added a little bit more, some other elements around Casey’s character. We’ve all had the experience. You walk out of a hospital room in terrible distress and a bunch of kids walk by and they are shouting and laughing or you walk by a couple having some idiot fight that you have had yourself many times and it’s just the whole different level of experience side-by-side with yours and that to me felt more like life than just being grim and heavy about everything, letting the grimness and heaviness affect the whole world of the movie.”

The movie trusts its audience to be patient and lets the information about what his going on and what has happened in the past come out gradually. We asked about the jigsaw-puzzle construction of the film. “The initial draft of the script wasn’t going too well. It was started before the accident, before the tragedy, it started at the beginning and it just went chronologically and I got bored very quickly so I started over. I’ve often done this when I don’t know what to do, I just throw out everything and I only leave what I really like. And the first thing that I liked was him a shoveling snow and doing his chores as a handyman. So that’s where I started and I had written all this material about what had happened to him in his past and when I brought that in later as flashbacks when he’s going home, that felt really full and good to me so that had a side benefit of creating a certain amount of suspense. Like what’s with them? What’s going on with him? And doling out the back story in sections I think creates a little bit of interest in what’s happening with him, what happened to him to make him so seemingly detached and strange. I figured if I can follow it, I figure the audience would be able to follow it. I’m not really, really good at guessing what people are going to like or what they’re going to be interested in and so I just to interest myself and hope and figure they will come along with me.”

Affleck gives a performance of enormous sensitivity. “He’s just great and I’ve always wanted to work with him. We’ve been looking for something to do together since 2002 and I just think he’s just a really special actor. I just love him everything he does. He’s just got this strange private inner life. You don’t quite know what’s going on with that but you are interested to find out. He’s really funny, he’s got an amazing depth, he is great to work with, he’s really thorough and it just breaks your heart to watch him I think in this movie.” Lee is not very expressive emotionally, a challenge for an actor. “It’s just too much, there’s more pain than a person can express or endure and every time I had him finally cracked , it felt false to me because I just don’t think he can afford to do that. I think it becomes undone after he gets himself beaten up and when he is sitting on the sofa crying, I think that’s the most he can do, kind of just let himself be undone, but I don’t think there is an eruption coming from him because it’s too much. He is warding off too much distress. So I think that’s why it just always felt like it was false to me or too on the nose or something. I mean early drafts of the script I had him pull over to the side of the road when he is driving to town and cry in the car and I was just like, ‘No, I would do that — I cry in commercials — but he is in a lot more pain than I am and he can’t afford to do that.'”

Michelle Williams, who has a small but memorable role as Lee’s ex-wife Randy, “does like to ask a lot of questions and I really like that because I like to try to answer the questions and I like to ask them myself. So we talked about the relationship when the marriage is going well, we talked about just generally sort of person she was, we talked a lot and she did a lot of work on her own about the difference between the present and the past for Randy, the past and the Randy in the present. She worked out all that stuff about her costume and her hair in consultation with me but she sent me photographs. Her haircuts might be sound like a superficial approach but this is someone whose life has been destroyed who’s starting over and stepping out. My idea about Randy is she is one of the pretty girls in high school but she really doesn’t care about that so she wears sweatpants and T-shirts, she’s got three kids, she doesn’t have time to like doll up and she has a great, really good relationship with her husband so she’s just lying in bed with a cold. And then we discussed that after her life is undone and she comes back she doesn’t have that kind of self-assurance anymore, so she is more nervous, so she needs a little bit more of armor when she goes out. So she gets her hair done, she wears makeup now and she has a nice coat and she’s just much less relaxed and that’s a real profound change based on a really devastating tragedy that she’s getting around but she’s also someone who is trying to start over and is able to do that, not that she’s going to be able to put it behind her but she’s at least able to move forward. So, it was great having those discussions with her because she is so creative and so thoughtful and so empathetic and she really worked so hard on these small scenes. She just shows up at a set and just gives it everything. And it was really freaky because we’d be working and Michelle would come and give it everything and go away and then we’d be working some more and then like two days later and give it all. I mean it’s very impressive, I love her.”

The city in the title is, as its name shows, on the ocean, and the water is important to the story. An early flashback scene shows Lee, his brother (Kyle Chandler) and his nephew having a lot of fun fishing on a boat. “The ocean doesn’t suddenly turn into mud when something bad happens to you. It is still very beautiful there. That’s one of the problems for Lee because he used to love it and now it’s agony for him. It’s also says something about the music that I think lifts the perspective of the movie a bit above the ground and maybe, to me it’s like you’re driving and you are focused and you don’t notice that there’s this big blue sky overhead and it is there and so occasionally you just see it again. I didn’t set out to do that but I think that’s one of the things the music does.”

He talked about the decision to have a resolution that is imperfect and messy, not the usual movie ending of hope and redemption. “I find people really responding to just that. There are a lot of good movies about that but we all know there are lot of really sickening sentimental movies about that that are essentially as fictional as lies, emotional lies. We all know that life doesn’t work like that. And I think it’s an insult to people’s intelligence to be preaching to them how they are not dealing with some tragedy properly. I think people are a little bit sick of that. When it’s done well it’s beautiful but when it’s done in the same old routinized sentimental way it’s kind of insulting. People go through really horrible stuff in life and I don’t think it’s so terrible to put some of it on the screen in a way that is truthful. People find that to be somewhat helpful to see your own experience reflected honestly by these performances makes people feels less isolated. I hope for that.”

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Directors Interview Writers

November 2016: Movies Opening This Month

Posted on November 1, 2016 at 3:56 pm

November 2016 films include a Marvel superhero, a sci-fi movie for grown-ups, two animated family movies, and the first of a new five-movie series from J.K. Rowling! (Note: at this time of year release dates may differ from city to city, so check local listings.)

November 4

“Trolls” You already love the Justin Timberlake song that ruled radio all summer. You probably already love those adorably ugly little dolls with the puffs of hair. The movie is as cute as a rainbow unicorn cupcake.

“Doctor Strange” The Marvel superhero, a master of magic, arrives on screen, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, and Rachel McAdams.

“Hacksaw Ridge” Mel Gibson’s first film as a director in a decade is the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a deeply religious man who served as a medic in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII and single-handedly rescued 75 men.

“Loving” Ruth Nagga and Joel Edgerton star in the true story of the couple from Virginia who showed the world what their name, Loving, really meant. Arrested for violating Virginia’s laws prohibiting marriage between people of different races, they took their case to the US Supreme Court.

November 11

“Arrival” When aliens arrive, what kind of experts do you go to for help? In this thoughtful, complex story, it is a linguist played by Amy Adams who is called in to try to find out who they are and what their intentions are.

“Billy Linn’s Long Halftime Walk” Ben Fountain’s acclaimed novel about an Iraqi war American soldier on a “victory tour” through the US has been brought to the screen by Ang Lee, with a revolutionary new process that produces images of stunning focus and clarity.

November 18

fantastic beasts“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” It’s tough to decide which is more exciting — J.K. Rowling’s first screenplay, the first Harry Potter universe story to be set in the past, the first set in the U.S., knowing that there are four more movies ahead featuring these characters, or just the chance to go back into the Potterverse. Oh, and it stars Eddie Redmayne, too.

“Manchester by the Sea” This festival favorite from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) stars Casey Affleck as a loner suddenly appointed guardian of his late brother’s teenage son. The story takes its time, slowly letting the audience get to know the characters and their history and become deeply engaged in its spacious humanity.

November 23

Copyright 2016 Disney
Copyright 2016 Disney

“Moana” Disney’s first Polynesian heroine must save her tribe with the help of a legendary demigod (Dwayne Johnson) and songs from “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda.

November 25

“Lion” Bring a couple of handkerchiefs for this true story about an adopted man searching for his biological family, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.

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Opening This Month
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