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Podcast - 1996 Cannes Competition Revisit

"Never forget Madonna (!!) beating Frances McDormand for the Golden Globe that year" - David

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Entries in biopics (144)

Wednesday
Nov112015

AFI: Will Smith & Gugu Mbatha-Raw in "Concussion"

There was a weird and wonderful symmetry last night watching Will Smith talk about his starring role as Dr Bennet Omalu in Concussion in front of the real man and thinking of the character we'd just seen onscreen. It was not the easy symmetry of mimicry, but of spirit. Both men are legends of their respective fields, if you will, and that's the last time we'll compare forensic pathology and movie stardom! More curiously neither man seemed willing to admit that the night's festivities were about him. Will Smith was especially humble about his performance and starstruck by the real man, admitting after Dr Omalu burst out laughing during the Q&A that followed the premiere, that he loved that laugh but couldn't manage to perfect it for the movie. Dr Omalu, in the movie and on stage kept saying that the story wasn't about him but about the science. The writer/director Peter Landisman called the movie version of Omalu a "triangulation" of the two men which is the best description possible of what we were watching on stage, the movie still fresh in the mind.

Concussion centers on Omalu's discovery of CTE, a brain disease brought on by repeated concussive head trauma, and the attempts of the NFL to cover up the physical damage on their players. A string of high profile suicides finally broke down the NFL's attempts at denial and debunking of Omalu's claims. [More...]

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Tuesday
Oct132015

8 Best Things About "Steve Jobs" (First Impressions)

True confession: When I read Jason's breathless rave for Steve Jobs from my sick bed last week I was like "calm down, man,  it can't be that good" Cut to one week later me sitting in the theater, as the end credits rolled: "I gotta read that rave again and nod my head vigorously this time!" While I suspect I don't love it quite as much as Jason, it is inarguably one of 2015's must-see picture and we shan't be annoyed at all when it racks up Oscar nominations in January.

The film goes wide on Friday and trust that you'll want to be there. Here are my 8 favorite things about it at first glance... 

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Sunday
Oct112015

Don Cheadle x 4 in "Miles Ahead" 

Nathaniel reporting on the closing night film of the New York Film Festival

Don Cheadle has been an esteemed actor for a full twenty years now. His big reputation began with his breakout turn in The Devil with the Blue Dress (1995) and kept building. Somewhere along the way, despite a Best Actor nomination for Hotel Rwanda (2004) the leading man career didn't materialize (apart from his 4 time Emmy nominated gig on Showtime's House of Lies). The sturdy ensemble player attempts to right that wrong by producing, writing, directing and starring (whew) in a Miles Davis biopic.

Cue the trumpets!

And here we are. Miles Ahead was given the honor of closing this year's New York Film Festival. Sony Pictures Classics will release the film.

It's tough to argue that Cheadle hasn't earned a spotlight as bright as this. [More...

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Wednesday
Oct072015

Forever "Chasing Rainbows"

While there may have been no news for years on that proposed (new) Anne Hathaway as Judy Garland biopic, that hasn't stopped other creatives from continuing to rob her grave. Will Judy ever rest in peace?

Not that we mind entertainment projects periodically winning The World's Greatest Entertainer new generations of fans whose parents weren't even born until after she died. But it does occassionally strike even this diehard Judy G fan as creepy, this perpetual exhuming of her corpse... If any of these projects came with a guarantee of pristine restorations and theatrically released revivals of her films outside of The Wizard of Oz, we'd grab a shovel ourselves!

Playbill reports that a new biographical Judy Garland musical will be heading (eventually... 2018?) to the Broadway stage. The twist is this: less tragic. The jukebox musical, which already has backing and which will be dubbed "Chasing Rainbows," apparently ends with The Wizard of Oz... the beloved classic that was released when Judy was all of 17 years old. The seeds of her tragedy were already planted by then of course but they had yet to bloom. 

The Judy Garland story with a vaguely happy ending? Curious. 

Sunday
Sep132015

TIFF: I Saw the Light

Hank Williams' legend came from his songwriting with dozens of hits in a short career. Ironically the star-making song was "Lovesick Blues," a tune he did not write that he promised his producer he would make his own in a crucial recording session. He assures that the audience will love it, praising its simplicity. A studio musician snidely compares it to his original compositions which reminds the star that "simple" is not a compliment to everyone. Williams deflates a little, ego punctured, until he steps up to the microphone and gets the job done as promised. There are multiple metaphors in their somewhere about the biopic genre. We shan't try to unpack them all but let's just say that they're not too flattering to the genre as a whole.

I Saw the Light, directed by Marc Abraham a successful producer, has the shape of an extremely traditional bio, charting key moments in Williams (Tom Hiddleston) rise to greatness and subsequent personal and professional failures fueled by his addictions until his premature death at 29. The moments even come with hepful titles of years / places. You've heard this story a million times now -- only the names / dates / music genre change -- which is perhaps why the movie starts so abruptly in media res...

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Friday
Sep042015

Lukewarm Off The Presses: About Lucille 

It's surprisingly easy to photoshop Cate's face over Lucille's so basically it works visuallyCate Blanchett playing Lucille Ball in a future biopic has already, rather oddly, taken over two entirely unrelated comment threads so I suppose we should say something official-like? The news of Aaron Sorkin's Lucy biopic to which Cate Blanchett is attached was one of those news stories that happened in those intermittent time periods when I was doing something other than the interweb (shock) for about 12 hours. I think it was dinner with a friend + 2 hours of Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp + sleeping. When I woke up it was like the news had always existed and everyone but me was talking about it. These things happen. Even with our kind of news -- read: 'Actressy And How' -- when we're unlucky.

Undeniably this is a weird project on paper. Can you connect Sorkin's rat-a-tat-tat sober pontificating (even though it has a sense of humor) to Lucille's broad slapstick mixed with indefatigable verbosity? The verbosity sure. But otherwise... What's more, Sorkin's work rarely seems all that interested in women.  Neither can I imagine Cate pulling it off without resorting to technical mimicry absent the silly soul -- Cate can definitely do comedy but this kind of comedy? That seems like quite a reach.

with George Sanders in Lured (1947)with Gene Kelly in Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)

Then again, Lucille Ball is a showbiz icon with more sides than just ditzy Lucy from the beloved 50s sitcom. In fact, there are enough movements in that career to suggest that the way to go would be an I'm Not There approach. You've got the savvy businesswoman, the 40s dramatic starlet (see Lured for the improbable sight of glamorous Lucille Ball in a Douglas Sirk directed serial killer drama!), the sitcom superstar, the late career wanderings (Mame anyone? No?). The bio won't cover her whole life, thankfully but looks to focus on 1940 through 1960 and her marriage to Desi Arnaz. If we don't get a scene from the set of Lured (1947) I'll feel personally cheated. 

Thursday
Aug272015

Viola 'on the move'

How did I miss this incredible news in the New York Times?!? Viola Davis, on the Emmy campaign trail for her Shondaland series How to Get Away With Murder, talked about all her future projects. It's good news times three.

Q. In addition to “Suicide Squad,” what else are you working on?

A. They are making “Fences,” August Wilson’s play, into a feature that Denzel Washington is directing and I’m going to be in. My husband and I started a production company, and we are doing Harriet Tubman’s story for HBO that Kirk Ellis is writing. And Tony Kushner is writing a project that we got greenlit at Fox Searchlight about the great congresswoman out of Texas, Barbara Jordan. I’m always moving.

She also explains the reasoning behind her recent populist / less prestigious genre choices...

Q. So starting your company let you be in control?

A. Yes, but it’s a lot of work to be the boss. You’ve got to have two trains going at the same time. You have to stay relevant, hence “How to Get Away With Murder,” hence “Suicide Squad. “You have to stay relevant, because if you are not, no one will take a chance with you on even a $2 million budget. But then at the same time you have to take risks in terms of material that moves you.

Good luck to her as ever. We've been in her corner since 2002 (the "who is that" triple whammy of Far From Heaven, Antwone Fisher, Solaris) and we don't plan to go anywhere!

I don't want to say that we willed movement onto the Fences adaptation but IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME. And though her Barbara Jordan project has been talked up for three or four years now, there's been no real movement on it until now. Thank you Fox Searchlight! Now let's get all of this fast-tracked right now since Viola Davis just turned 50 and you know how Hollywood likes to turn on women when they do. There's no time to waste!

Pointless But Fun What If Trivia: If Viola wins the Emmy for HTGAWM next month and the Oscar for Fences when that movie is released (astoundingly big "ifs" but go with it) than she'll just be a Grammy short of an EGOT since she already has two Tony Awards (for lead and featured). It's worth noting that if she wins all four competitively she'll be the very first African-American to accomplish it and only the second woman of color after Puerto Rico's Rita Moreno. Now, technically, three black icons (Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Belafonte, and James Earl Jones) have all four but those statistics come with the heavy asterisks that also plague Liza & Babs in that at least one of the prizes was given non-competitively or in a "lesser" form. I mean, sorry Whoopi, but you shouldn't count daytime Emmies anymore than you'd count regional Emmys (they give those things out like candy!) towards the showbiz quadruple. (Yours truly personally prefers the Triple Crown -- easier to follow and the Grammys aren't actor-focused like the other three so there's less beautiful symmetry! -- but Tina Fey's 30 Rock destroyed popular culture's interest in that statistic by popularizing the notion of the EGOT.)

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