Critics Choice Awards: Shape of Water, The Big Sick, and More

Posted on January 12, 2018 at 7:16 am

It was a thrill to attend the Critics Choice Awards as a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. I got to tell so many of the filmmakers I love how much their work means to me. And I am very proud of our selections.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced the winners of the 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards tonight, live from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Hollywood’s brightest stars shined at the gala event, which aired on The CW Network at 8PM ET (delayed PT), and was hosted by actor and activist Olivia Munn.

“The Shape of Water,” the most nominated film of the evening, took home four awards, the most of the night, including Best Picture, Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, Best Production Design for Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin, and Best Score for Alexandre Desplat.

The top film acting awards were bestowed upon Gary Oldman, who took home Best Actor for his work in “Darkest Hour,” and Frances McDormand, awarded Best Actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDormand’s co-star Sam Rockwell won the trophy for Best Supporting Actor, while Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney for her standout performance in “I, Tonya.”

Nominated for five awards, Big Little Lies (HBO) earned four trophies including Best Limited Series and Best Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series for Nicole Kidman, while co-stars Alexander Skarsgård and Laura Dern were named Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series, respectively. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) won Best Drama Series, in addition to Best Actress in a Drama Series for Elisabeth Moss, and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Ann Dowd. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) won Best Comedy Series, in addition to Best Actress in a Comedy Series for its leading lady, Rachel Brosnahan.

As previously announced, Gal Gadot received the #SeeHer Award presented by the Association of National Advertisers in conjunction with The CW Network. Gadot accepted the award from her “Wonder Woman” director, Patty Jenkins.

“The Critics’ Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics’ organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today’s film-going public. BTJA is the collective voice of journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences. Historically, the “Critics’ Choice Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.

The 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards show was produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment. The BFCA and BTJA are represented by Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig and WME.

About BFCA/BTJA
The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) is a partner organization to the BFCA and includes TV, radio and Internet journalists who cover television on a regular basis. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com.

WINNERS OF THE 23RD ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

FILM:
BEST PICTURE – “The Shape of Water”

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory, “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin, “The Shape of Water”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos, “Baby Driver”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Lee Smith, “Dunkirk”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Mark Bridges, “Phantom Thread”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP – “Darkest Hour”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Coco”

BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Wonder Woman”

BEST COMEDY – “The Big Sick”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE – “Get Out”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “In The Fade”

BEST SONG – “Remember Me” from “Coco”

BEST SCORE – Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”

TELEVISION:
BEST COMEDY SERIES – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES – Ted Danson, The Good Place, NBC

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES – Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES – Walton Goggins, Vice Principals, HBO

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES – Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory, CBS

BEST DRAMA SERIES – The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES – Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us, NBC

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES – Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES – David Harbour, Stranger Things, Netflix

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES – Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu

BEST LIMITED SERIES – Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST MOVIE MADE FOR TV – The Wizard of Lies, HBO

BEST ACTOR IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Ewan McGregor, Fargo, FX

BEST ACTRESS IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Laura Dern, Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST TALK SHOW – Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC

BEST ANIMATED SERIES – Rick and Morty, Adult Swim

BEST UNSTRUCTURED REALITY SERIES – Born This Way, A&E

BEST STRUCTURED REALITY SERIES – Shark Tank, ABC

BEST REALITY COMPETITION SERIES – The Voice, NBC

BEST REALITY SHOW HOST – RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race, VH1

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Awards Critics

The Big Sick

Posted on June 22, 2017 at 5:53 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language including some sexual references
Profanity: Strong and explicit language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Very serious illness
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: June 24, 2017
Date Released to DVD: September 25, 2017
Copyright Amazon 2017

The more specific the story, the more universal. This is a very specific story. Indeed, you are unlikely ever again to see a romantic comedy with one of the pair spending half of the film in a coma. And that is not the couple’s biggest obstacle. Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”), plays a character named Kumail Nanjiani in a story based on his relationship to Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan and called Emily Gardiner in the film), who is now his wife and the co-screenwriter of the smart, touching, heartfelt and very funny film. It is beautifully directed by Michael Showalter, as always unsurpassed in meticulous casting of even the smallest roles.

Real-life Nanjiani and his movie alter ego are Pakistani immigrants from traditional families. Every time he visits his parents for dinner, an unmarried Pakistani woman “happens to drop in.” They have made it very clear that they expect him to marry a woman who is Pakistani and Muslim. Gordon is neither; she is white and from North Carolina. Just after they break up because he could not say that they could have a future together, she suddenly becomes critically ill and is placed in a medically induced coma.  He gets the call when she is hospitalized and has to be the one to call her parents. He meets them for the first time in the hospital waiting room, where they are understandably frosty (he broke their daughter’s heart) and preoccupied (she’s in a coma).

They would rather that he not be there. And his parents find out that he has not been honest with them and they tell him they cannot accept his feelings for Emily. So, in the second half of the movie there is another kind of love story, about the love between parents and their children and the partners their children choose.

It is also a story about a man learning to be honest with himself about who he is and what he wants. What lifts this out of the recent glut of arrested development movies is its compassion for all parties (the film nicely acknowledges that Nanjiani’s brother has a very successful and satisfying marriage arranged the traditional way and presents as one of the candidates a woman so seemingly perfect for him that we almost root for her) and Nanjiani’s thoughtful, self-deprecating but confident performance. The best stand-up comics mine their own lives for material, with observations that make us see our own lives, and especially our follies and irrationalities, in sharper relief — that’s relief in both senses of the word.

Best of all, the movie itself is proof that they lived happily ever after.

Parents should know that this movie includes strong language, sexual references and non-explicit situations, family conflict, and very serious illness.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Kumail tell Emily about his family’s concerns? How should you decide what traditions to keep and which ones to leave behind?

If you like this, try: “Ruby Sparks” (also with Kazan, who wrote the screenplay) and “50-50” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, also based on a true story

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Interview: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon on “The Big Sick”

Posted on June 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Emily V. Gordon wants you to know that her father did not cheat on her mother. You might think that he did because in the movie Gordon wrote with her husband, Kumail Nanjiani, about their romance, movie Emily’s father, played by Ray Romano, confesses that he had an affair. But Gordon and Nanjiani explained in an interview that the overall story is true, and Nanjiani plays himself, but some elements were compressed or heightened for dramatic purposes.

This part is true: Gordon met Nanjiani when she was in grad school studying psychology and he was a stand-up comic. Very early in their relationship, she suddenly became critically ill. This is probably the only romantic comedy in history to have its female lead spend half the movie in a medically induced coma. And that’s not even the couple’s biggest obstacle. Nanjiani’s Pakistani immigrant family wants him to marry a girl from their religion and culture. Gordon’s character, Emily Gardiner in the movie, is neither. He hasn’t told her about the parade of eligible girls his mother has “dropping by” the house when he is visiting his parents. Movie Emily, played by Zoe Kazan, breaks up with Nanjiani just before she gets sick, and then he meets her parents (Romano and Holly Hunter) for the first time at the hospital. The second half of the film is a different love story, between Nanjiani and Emily’s parents. “And then we get to really, really play and create these really fun people,” she said. “My parents are lovely but it would have been a more boring movie.”

“This is obviously very, very autobiographical,” Nanjiani continued. “I would say my character is probably closer to how I was then than Emily is.” “I would say your character is pretty clueless, and you’re not as clueless,” Gordon added. “We had a lot of fun arguments like: character Kumail is a lying asshole, but the real Kumail is just a liar.” “Yes, just a liar. And clueless. Judd would ask me what I thought was going to happen, what the plan was when I was dating Emily. And I was like, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.’” Gordon, whose terrifically funny and wise book Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero reflects her training as a therapist and her insight as a writer, said, clearly not for the first time, “Not deciding is a decision. People don’t realize that not making a decision is a decision in itself.”

Nanjiani and Gordon worked on the script for three years, sending drafts to Apatow, who guided them on tempo and character. “We would write down the truth of things and then he would advise us: ‘You could really turn up the drama here, you can change the situation here and kind of make this resonate more.’ So we would show him what the truth was and then he would help us figure out ways to make it more cinematic, ways to make it more dramatic, more funny,” Nanjiani said. The biggest departure was in the portrayal of Gordon’s parents. Apatow was especially helpful in providing feedback on the story’s structure. “He was like: ‘this much will be Emily and Kumail, this much should be them separated, this much should be the hospital, this much should be the surgery.’ He just drew these lines separating each section and we took a picture of it. And then when Michael Showalter came on as director, he said, ‘Kumail in Emily’s room, that’s the center of the movie so everything has to come before come after it.’ So we moved everything around that point because that’s the point of no return. That’s when I realize that I’m in love with her and that I had made a huge mistake.”

Gordon described working with Showalter. “He’s all heart, that’s what’s great. And he wears all his emotions on his sleeve. That’s his strength in a way. He is so amazing to watch because he’s passionate and invested in the story. And he was always very open to collaboration. It wasn’t like he was ruling with an iron fist, ever. Everything felt like a collaboration. He had no ego about collaborating. That made me feel so safe and confident in giving him our story.” Nanjiani said that Showalter showed them how he was subtly using different color palettes for the different characters, even different camera movements. “And Mike is very good at guiding you between movements of the movie, with silence or just following a character for a little bit or whatever it, is he’s very, very adept at switching gears for the movie in a seamless way.” Showalter is especially gifted in casting even the smallest roles and because they shot in New York they were able to find superb performers from theater whose faces were not familiar to movie audiences.

Nanjiani said that writing the film helped him to appreciate and understand his parents’ reaction to his wanting to marry Gordon. “When people from a different culture come here you want to hold on to your own culture but you also want to be your own person. It’s a complicated thing and you do lose something going against the wishes of your parents and your culture. But ultimately it has to be a personal decision.”

Nanjiani is an experienced performer, including three seasons as Dinesh on “Silicon Valley.” But this role presented some new challenges for him, with some dramatic moments and with the difficulty of reliving some of his most painful experiences on camera.

“I hadn’t ever taken any acting classes so I started taking acting classes to sort of prepare for this. I just knew that there was this big thing coming up and it was going to be very difficult and challenging. I wanted to take some of the guesswork out of it because what I knew was comedy acting, where you can go on instinct and as long as it feels funny it works. I knew this was going to be different, especially separating the reality from the movie character and also dealing with some very painful memories. I wanted to get the tools to be able to go into different emotions because I knew that this was a very low budget movie and we had to learn work really fast. If I had to be sad in the scene knew I knew that I had to figure out how to do that like quickly.”

“And if may say,” added Gordon, “Old Kumail from the movie would not have done that. He just would have been like, ‘I’ll figure it out.’”

Originally published on Huffington Post.

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The Summer Blockbuster Season Starts This Week! Here’s What’s Coming

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 8:00 am

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Believe it or not, the summer blockbuster movie season starts this week, and we are getting a bunch of big movies over the next three months. Summer means superheroes, sequels, family movies, raunchy comedies, and quirky indies. The summer of 2017 has all of that and more. Here’s a peek at what’s coming.

May 3

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2” They’re back to save the universe again, with another rockin’ soundtrack of 70’s hits, and Kurt Russell joins the cast.

May 5

“The Dinner” Brothers, one a smooth politician (Richard Gere), one a bitter schoolteacher (Steve Coogan), and their wives (Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney) get together for a wildly expensive dinner and a very tough conversation.

May 12

“Snatched” Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer play a mother and daughter who have some exciting and hilarious adventures on a trip to South America.

“Paris Can Wait” Diane Lane stars in a story about a woman whose trip to Paris has some unexpected detours.

“King Arthur: Legends of the Sword” The Guy Ritchie version of the classic tale stars Charlie Hunnam.

May 19

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” A Heffley family road trip to attend Meemaw’s 90th birthday party goes hilariously off course thanks to Greg’s newest scheme to get to a video gaming convention.

“Everything Everything” Amandla Stenberg (Rue in “Hunger Games”) plays a sheltered teen who has been confined to her home all her life because of illness — until she meets the boy next door.

“Baywatch” Co-star Zac Efron calls this affectionate and sometimes silly feature based on the television series “a high five to summer.”

May 26

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” We get a glimpse of a young Captain Jack Sparrow in this new entry in the series based on a theme park ride.

“War Machine” Brad Pitt stars in this sharp satire about a four-star general.

June 2

“Captain Underpants” Two fourth graders (voices of Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) hypnotize their nerdy principal into thinking he is a superhero in this animated film based on the wildly popular series of books.

“Wonder Woman” Gal Gadot plays the Amazonian superheroine Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins (“Monster”).

“I, Daniel Blake” Ken Loach directed this award-winning film about people crushed by the bureaucracy of the social safety net in the UK.

June 9

“The Mummy” Tom Cruise stars in this update of the classic horror tale.

“My Cousin Rachel” Daphne du Maurier’s book about a mysterious woman stars Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin.

June 16

“Cars 3” Lighting McQueen and Mater are back for another race, this time against a new generation of competitors.

“All Eyez on Me” The biopic of rap star Tupac Shakur, starring Demetrius Shipp Jr.

“The Book of Henry” A gifted child and his single mother try to help a young girl in danger.

“Maudie” A disabled young woman becomes an artist and finds love.

“Rough Night” Scarlett Johansson has a wild bachelorette party that goes very wrong in this raunchy dark comedy, one of two Girls Gone Wild-style takes on a “Hangover” comedy this summer.

June 23

“The Beguiled” Sofia Coppola directs the remake of the Clint Eastwood Civil War story about an injured soldier (Colin Farrell) taken in by a girls’ school, this time with more of the women’s perspective, starring Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Kirsten Dunst.

“The Big Sick” This indie film based on the true story of the courtship of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, complicated by her illness, has been a festival hit.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” Like “Fate of the Furious,” this is a series entry that has the leader “going rogue.”

June 28

“Baby Driver” Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, and Lily James star in what looks like a musical version of “Drive,” from writer/director Edgar Wright, who always has his own twist on genres.

June 30

“Despicable Me 3” Gru, Lucy, and the girls are back, and this time they meet up with Gru’s long-lost brother (also played by Steve Carell) and a new bad guy who is stuck in the 1980’s.

“The House” Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play a married couple who need money for their daughter’s college tuition. So of course they turn their home into an illegal gambling den.

July 7

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” Tom Holland’s winning but brief appearance in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has fans looking forward to his first starring appearance as Spidey.

July 14

“War for Planet of the Apes” Any hope for peace is gone as the apes are stronger and more effective and the humans are less trustworthy.

July 21

“Dunkirk” One of WWII’s most intense operations was the rescue at Dunkirk, and this film from Christopher Nolan shows us how it happened, with an all-star cast that includes Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Jack Reynor, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance.

Copyright Universal 2017
Copyright Universal 2017

“Girls Trip” The second Girls Gone Wild films of the summer stars Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith as old friends who take a journey to the Essence Festival.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” Luc Besson’s dream project is the comic book series that helped inspire the look of “Star Wars.”

July 28

“Atomic Blonde” Charlize Theron plays the title character in a stylish spy thriller with non-stop action.

“The Emoji Movie” Yes, it’s a movie about emojis, with Patrick Stewart providing the voice for the poop emoji.

“An Inconvenient Sequel” The follow-up to Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary about climate change has some good news along with more inconvenient bad news.

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