MVPs of the Month: Nicholas Galitzine and Ayo Edebiri

Posted on August 22, 2023 at 3:06 pm

Each August, if we’re lucky, we get to see breakthrough talent in the August movie releases, where the indie darlings and festival hits make it to theaters. This month there are two actors making sensational appearances in two different films and I can’t wait to see more of them.

Here’s a glimpse of both of them in “Bottoms.”

Copyright 2023 Amazon
It’s hard to imagine a bigger chasm between the two roles played by Nicholas Galiztne this month. In “Red, White & Royal Blue” he plays a prince, the grandson of the King of England and the brother of the heir to the throne. In his bespoke suits (made by the same firm that does the suits for the real royals), he is an elegant exemplar of discretion and diplomacy. The movie shifts from a rom-com vibe to a more serious romantic drama, and Galitzine gracefully shifts with it, showing us how the prince yearns for what his duty tells him he cannot have.

Copyright 2023 MGM
In “Bottoms,” he plays Jeff, an American small-town high school quarterback who is dumb, arrogant, obnoxious, and constantly unfaithful to his girlfriend. Galitzine perfectly nails not just the character but the heightened tone of the film. The film is wildly funny, mostly very dark, satiric comedy, and again he is tonally perfect every bit of the way.

Ayo Edebiri is one of the leads in “Bottoms,” a high school student who starts an all-women fight club with her best friend. Her supremely expressive face and perfectly calibrated dialogue are a highlight of the film. You can also see her in the hit series about the Chicago restaurant, “The Bear.”

She has a small but vital part in one of my favorites of the year, “Theater Camp,” as a counselor brought in at the last minute who has no idea what she is doing. She shows enormous range and understanding of tone in each of these very different works. For a treat, try some of her stand-up clips on YouTube, showing us she is adorable as herself.

Copyright 2023 Hulu

Can’t wait to see more of them!

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Actors

MVP of the Month: Real-Life Heroic Lawyers

Posted on December 16, 2019 at 9:21 am

Copyright Warner Brothers 2019
At awards season, we often get uplifting real-life stories and this year we have three that are about heroic lawyers fighting for justice against almost insurmountable odds. Here they are, with a little background on the real stories.

Mark Ruffalo as Rob Bilott in “Dark Waters

Billot was profiled by the New York Times, which dubbed him DuPont’s Biggest Nightmare. “Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career — and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.”

Michael B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson in “Just Mercy”

Stevenson is a Harvard Law graduate who has spent his career in the town where the man who inspired the most beloved lawyer in movie history, Atticus Finch, practiced law. And like Finch, he defends those who have been unfairly accused and not had adequate access to counsel. He is also the Founder of the stunning Legacy Museum and National Memorial to Peace and Justice, sometimes called the Lynching Museum because of its extraordinary challenge to communities to acknowledge their past.

HBO has a documentary about Stevenson and his Equal Justice Initiative.

Sam Rockwell as Watson Bryant in “Richard Jewell

Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” is based on the true story of the man who was initially hailed as a hero for discovering a bomb at a concert celebrating the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and then accused of planting it to make himself famous. Watson Bryant was the lawyer who represented him, proving that the FBI and the local and national media were irresponsible to the point of negligence and abuse.

The movie was inspired by a Vanity Fair article called “American Nightmare” by Marie Brenner. Here is what she said about the lawyer who happened on to Jewell because they had briefly worked together:

The simple fact was that Bryant had no qualifications for the job. He had no legal staff except for his assistant, Nadya Light, no contacts in the press, and no history in Washington. He was the opposite of media-savvy; he rarely read the papers and never watched the nightly news, preferring the Discovery Channel’s shows on dog psychology. Now that Richard Jewell was his client, he had entered a zone of worldwide media hysteria fraught with potential peril. Jewell suspected that his pickup truck had been flown in a C-130 transport plane to the F.B.I. unit at Quantico in Virginia, and Bryant worried that his friend would be arrested any minute. Worse, Bryant knew that he had nothing going for him, no levers anywhere. His only asset was his personality; he had the bravado and profane hyperbole of a southern rich boy, but he was in way over his head.

You can see the real Bryant here:

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The Real Story

MVP of the Month: Michael Stuhlbarg

Posted on December 30, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Copyright Fox Searchlight 2017
Movie critics have been releasing their end-of-year top ten lists and mine, like many others, includes three films that feature one of Hollywood’s finest actors, Michael Stuhlbarg. In “The Post” he plays New York Times Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal, friend and rival of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep. In “The Shape of Water,” he plays a scientist at a top-secret government lab who is hiding a secret of his own. And in “Call Me By Your Name” he plays a professor deeply imbued with culture and learning spending the summer with his family in Northern Italy. The wise, compassionate speech he makes to comfort his heartbroken son is one of the most moving scenes ever filmed.

I once had the privilege of interviewing Stuhlbarg. The movie we were talking about was “A Serious Man,” written and directed by the Coen brothers, where he played a professor of physics. In one scene set in a classroom he covers the blackboard with equations, writing so quickly that I assumed it was a camera trick until the shot opened up and it was clear that it was him and he really was writing all of the numbers and Greek letters as though he had been doing it all his life. I asked him about it and his answer was simple, straightforward, and very meaningful. He said that the character would have been able to write all of the equations very fluidly and he wanted to make it look as though he was completely familiar and at ease, and so every night he just wrote them and wrote them and wrote them over and over until it was completely natural.

Copyright Sony PIctures Classics
Stuhlbarg is an immensely talented actor who brings enormous depth to every role. I highly recommend taking a look at “Men in Black 3” to see his gem of a performance as an ineffably sweet alien with extraordinary powers of perception and “Steve Jobs,” where he plays a frustrated computer scientist who finally speaks up to his demanding boss. He is also outstanding in “Trumbo” as Edward G. Robinson, a sophisticated art collector who played tough guys in movies and as actual tough guy Arnold Rothstein in “Boardwalk Empire.”

Stuhlbarg will return to Italy in the upcoming “Gore,” playing the longtime partner of writer and enfant terrible Gore Vidal. I am looking forward to it.

Originally published on HuffPost

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Actors

MVP of the Month: Matthias Schoenaerts of “A Little Chaos” and “Far from the Madding Crowd”

Posted on May 4, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Copyright 2014
Copyright 2014
Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts is this month’s MVP and best screen boyfriend, playing patient, decent, devoted, outdoorsy lovers in two different costume dramas. In “Far from the Madding Crowd” he plays farmer Gabriel Oak and in “A Little Chaos” he plays royal gardener André Le Notre. We will see him again soon in “The Danish Girl” with Eddie Redmayne, and as half of the famous explorer duo in the HBO miniseries “Lewis and Clark,” with Casey Affleck.

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Actors

MVPs of the Month: Scientists and Nerds

Posted on November 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Copyright 2014 BBC
Alan Turing, Copyright 2014 BBC
Stephen Hawking, copyright 2014 The Guardian
Stephen Hawking, copyright 2014 The Guardian

November 2014 may just be the greatest month in film history for the portrayal of heroes and heroines whose achievements are not about athletics or fights but about equations and science. Last week we had two blockbuster hits featuring fictional scientists. In Disney’s animated “Big Hero 6,” a group of young robotics whizzes (and one amiable slacker) save the day with their inventions. And in “Interstellar,” despite a society that has explicitly rejected science and technology as a way to solve problems, a small group of brilliant scientists use their skills to try to find another planet for humanity to inhabit.  To hear a physicist on the science behind the film, take a look at “Cosmos” host Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s explanation.

The physics advisor on “Interstellar” was Kip Thorne, who is portrayed on screen by Enzo Cilenti, a colleague of Stephen Hawking, perhaps the greatest mind of our generation, “The Theory of Everything.” For more information, see Stephen Hawking’s Universe.

And coming up soon, we have the story of the man Winston Churchill said did more than anyone else to make it possible for the Allies to win WWII, the brilliant Alan Turing, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game.”  Turing was one of a group of mathematicians and cryptologists brought in to decipher the Enigma Code, widely considered to be unbreakable.  Even though we know how it came out, the story is gripping.

Turing knew something about secrets.  He was gay.  At that time, gay men could be imprisoned — or ordered to undergo chemical castration via hormones.  And the movie also portrays the difficulties faced by the women codebreakers.  For more on this story, see Breaking The Codes.

It’s great to see heroes in popular culture who accomplish their goals by being smart and persistent.  Maybe sometime the #breaktheinternet hashtag will be assigned to the scientists who landed a probe on an asteroid instead of pictures of kittens and naked celebrities.   Meanwhile, this month, we also have “Dumb and Dumber To.”

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