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Entries in child stars (53)

Friday
Aug192016

Posterized: Natalie Portman

by Nathaniel R

Natalie Portman in a new photoshoot for Diorskin ForeverWhat odd careers child stars eventually look back on. Natalie Portman was an instant sensation when she appeared in The Professional as a junior assassin. When the film was released late in 1994, Natalie was just 13 years old. She became an instant favorite for directors filling their prestige ensembles and by the time she was 18 she was a leading lady and also the mother of Luke & Leia (though the Star Wars prequels contain her worst acting by far). By 23 she was a Golden Globe winner and by 29 an Oscar Best Actress champ. Afterwards she receded as so many actresses who win Oscars in their twenties do (what is there left to strive for?) presumably enjoying their riches and in some cases their new domesticity. Pregnant during her Black Swan Oscar campaign, Portman & her ballet world husband Benjamin Millepied are now the parents of a five year old and she's not seen in public nearly as often as she once was.

(Fun Trivia: did you know that Portman, Millepied and their son Aleph all have birthdays in a single week every June?)

After the jump posters from all of her theatrical releases, except the ones where she played herself or only appeared in cameo or in a section of an omnibus film, and a few notes on her filmography.

How many have you seen?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun032016

Posterized: Movies About Young Black Girls

Not every movie has a white straight male protagonist. It just seems like that since that's Hollywood's default and also the preferred proxy of most (white straight male) auteurs.

But the times are finally a-changing. This weekend features the platform release of a mesmerizing new indie called The Fits -- please see it as soon as it opens near you. I was so proud to push for honoring it on my jury at the Nashville Film Festival. Fresh perspectives on the screen can be so exhilarating. That's especially true when the execution is this confident. Remember the debut director's name, Anna Rose Holmer, since we're hoping for more great movies to come.

In the meantime, let's take a trip back through other features with young black girls as the lead character. I haven't seen the first or the last movie on this list of nine below but the rest all fall somewhere on the spectrum of good to great. 

How many have you seen?

• Just Another Girl on the IRT (1992)
• Eve's Bayou (1997) - Really need to watch this again as previously earlier this week. It was the breakthrough role for Jurnee Smollett-Bell who went on to series regular gigs in Friday Night Lights, True Blood, and The Underground. 
• Our Song (2000) - When it comes to superstar Kerry Washington, it's important to remember that I saw her first. Articles from the early Aughts are no longer online but trust that I gave her a rave review when I saw this teeny tiny indie in theaters and was startled by her total naturalism onscreen.

• Precious (2009) - Best Picture Nominee at the Oscars, and right here.  
• Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
• Pariah (2011) - One of the best LGBT films of the decade

• Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) - Our #1 film of 2012, and also a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars
• Girlhood (2014) - terrific French film
• Annie (2014)

If you can think of other films with a child or teenage black girl as the lead character, please do share them so our list is more complete.

Friday
May272016

Posterized: Tye Sheridan

They grow up so fast *sniffle*. Tye Sheridan, the child actor revelation from Terence Malick's The Tree of Life (quite a debut) and Mud is already 19 years old and in major demand. What accounts for his mutant super power of aging rapidly is that Tree of Life actually began shooting when Tye was just 11. Malick takes forever in post production, don'cha know. Male stars don't tend to really come into their A list own until their late 20s or early 30s. DiCaprio is the grand exception to the rule but usually the ones that break out in their late teens or early 20s more commonly have career trajectories, like, oh, Chris O'Donnell. That's partially because the juicy roles for men tend to be the ones that require a 30 or 40something actor.  So it's anyone's guess as to whether or not Sheridan can build on his rather solid first five years in the movies. Are you that anyone? Care to take a guess?

While Sheridan isn't the star of X-Men Apocalypse -- the movies are STILL obsessed with making it all about Magneto, Xavier, Wolverine, and Mystique (sigh) even though we've seen that dynamic five times already (fwiw Wolverine is reduced to a cameo this time but he takes over the movie for a couple of minutes). If the franchise can ever reach for the ensemble magnificence of its source material, Sheridan would be in a great position to collect more than just a paycheck as Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, one of the most enduring and important characters in the books. (He's also onscreens right now in Last Days in the Desert which stars Ewan McGregor as both Jesus and Satan.)

How many of his 10 pictures to date have you seen? 

Next up for Sheridan, if it gets distribution, is Detour (reviewed at Tribeca), presumably more X-Men features as well as more leading roles including Friday's Child,  the crime aftermath drama Grass Stains, the Iraq war soldier drama The Yellow Birds (which he co-leads with Alden Ehrenreich), and Spielberg's sci-fi flick Ready Player One. 2017 could be the star-making year for him if two of those break out strong.

Wednesday
May182016

Judy by the Numbers: "Embraceable You"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Throughout the 1930s, Mickey and Judy had been one of America's favorite musical duos. With Mickey in the lead and Judy providing musical support, the two young teenagers - with the help of the Freed Unit - dominated the box office, regularly grossing $1 million even during the Depression. However, by the beginning of the 1940s, both 21-year-old Judy and 23-year-old Mickey had grown past the simple comedies in which they'd made their names. While both continued to pull in the same amount at the box office, Mickey was moving into more serious roles - though he still had a few more Andy Hardy movies in his contract - and Judy was dropping her hems and trading in her hair ribbons for hats. So, at the end of 1943, Mickey and Judy starred in their last musical together.

The Movie: Girl Crazy (1943)
The Songwriters: George Gershwin (music) & Ira Gershwin (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, June Allyson, directed by Busby Berkeley and Norman Taurog

The Story:  This transition affected their partnership in Girl Crazy as well. While before, Judy had been Mickey's sidekick, now she was her own force to be reckoned with. Director Busby Berkeley gave 3 musical numbers to Judy alone, while Mickey appeared with her in 2 more (and also was dubbed on piano for one number). While the plot still mostly fell on Mickey's shoulders, the musical was entirely Judy's. In fact, she got two more iconic hits from it: "Embraceable You," and "But Not For Me."

Though Mickey and Judy would continue to be friends (and perform together - once more in a movie and again later on her TV show), their onscreen partnership had run its course. And though Judy couldn't have anticipated it, right around the corner was another movie that would change her life forever.

Previous Related Highlights:
"Our Love Affair," "Good Morning," "Got a New Pair of Shoes"

Wednesday
Apr202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Chin Up! Cheerio! Carry On!"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

1941 was a year of beginnings and endings for Judy Garland. It was the year of Judy's last Andy Hardy film (Life Begins for Andy Hardy, wherein nobody sang). And she wasn't just growing up on film - 1941 was also the year of Judy's first marriage: to David Rose, the musical director of the Tony Martin Radio Show. At only 19, Judy Garland was transitioning from child sensation to full fledged star.

 

The Movie: Babes on Broadway (1941)
The Songwriters: E.Y. Harburg (lyrics) and Burton Lane (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Virginia Weidler, Fay Bainter, Margaret O'Sullivan, directed by Busby Berkeley.

 

The Story: As the country entered World War II, the Freed Unit was lining up a series of nostalgia-inflected new hits starring Judy Garland for MGM. While Babes on Broadway looks at first glance like the typical "let's put on a show" backyard musical of 30's Mickey and Judy, some palpable differences manifest. First, there's the emphasis on Americana and patriotism, from Judy urging young British youths on in "Chin Up Cheerio!" to the (racist blackface) closing number, "Robert E Lee." This was the influence of World War II. Though Pearl Harbor happened mere days before Babes on Broadway was released, national sentiment was already turning towards the patriotic messages that would define wartime Hollywood. However, the movie's bigger hit was a more conventional Judy Garland number "How About You?"

In many ways, Babes on Broadway looks and sounds like the old Judy and Mickey - the two doe-eyed lovebirds sing to each other at a piano or on a stage while Mickey pulls faces. However, there are two marked differences: First, Mickey is no longer the focus of the movie - the two actors share camera equally. Second, Garland has graduated from the giant lace sleeves and tulle-lined skirts of "in-between" childish Judy, instead dressed fashionably in the latest style. Ziegfeld Girl and Little Nellie Kelly had proven Judy's talent was mature. Now it was time for her star image to reflect that transition, too.

Wednesday
Apr062016

Judy by the Numbers: "It's A Great Day for the Irish"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Have you heard the good news? April is Judy Garland month on TCM! Check your local listings to see the movies surrounding the numbers we've discussed, and the ones we haven't gotten to yet!

Before the end of 1940, young Judy Garland got two major kudos from Metro Goldwyn Mayer. First, her weekly salary was increased from $600 to $2,000. Second, MGM made her the top-billed star of another Freed Unit musical. No longer just Mickey Rooney's mooning gal pal, Judy Garland would finally get to play another leading role - in fact, in this movie she'd do it twice!

The Movie: Little Nellie Kelly (MGM 1940)
The Songwriter: Roger Edens
The Players: Judy Garland, George Murphy, Charles Winniger, Douglas McPhail, directed by Norman Taurog

The Story: Little Nellie Kelly was based on a hit George M. Cohan musical from 1922. However, any Cohan fans looking for a trip down memory lane would have been sorely disappointed - the movie only contained 2 of Cohan's original songs. The rest of the film was filled to the brim with the Freed Unit's usual tricks: a few well-loved showstoppers (including "Singin' in the Rain"), a smattering of the original show's material, and of course a Roger Edens song handcrafted for Judy Garland's talents.

Little Nellie Kelly had Judy Garland working double duty - literally. Judy played two Nellie Kelly's, a young mother (with a questionable accent) from Ireland, and later her starry-eyed daughter. Judy sings as both (mostly as the daughter) and even includes a rousing parade song with her Babes in Arms costar George Murphy. Fortunately for MGM, Judy Garland proved that even without Technicolor or Mickey Rooney, she was a star in her own right. Little Nellie Kelly grossed just under $1 million in the US (a solid gross then) proving Judy Garland could carry a movie. She could even do it twice.

Wednesday
Mar302016

Judy by the Numbers: "Our Love Affair"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

By 1940 it was undeniable: Mickey and Judy were a success. Even more, Mickey and Judy with the Freed Unit behind them were a bona fide hit machine. Babes in Arms, the first Freed Unit collaboration, earned over $2 million domestically and $1 million abroad. With the promise of another blockbuster and the rise of patriotic sentiment on the verge of WWII, Louis B. Mayer dusted off an old, patriotic-sounding title and set his hitmakers on a new project: Strike Up The Band.
 
The Movie: Strike Up The Band (MGM, 1940)

The Songwriters: Arthur Freed & Roger Edens
The Players: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, directed by Busby Berkeley 

The Story: The original Strike Up The Band was a George & Ira Gershwin political musical satire from the early half of the 1930s. However, the new patriotic musical produced by Arthur Freed & company bore no resemblance to the show from which they took their title. With Mickey Rooney now the confirmed box office champion - unseating Shirley Temple at last - the majority of the movie was geared towards his talents. Rooney sings, dances, acts, plays piano, and even plays the drums. However, Freed and Edens didn't overlook young Judy. They wrote "Our Love Affair" especially for the 18 year old singer. Though Mickey introduces the song, it doesn't come alive until Judy sings it, and her song is the musical theme used throughout the movie. 

Ultimately, the movie was another smash success for MGM. It garnered another $2 million domestically and $1 million abroad, as well as 3 Oscar nominations (including one for "Our Love Affair" and rave reviews from critics. Mickey, Judy and the Freed Unit were an undoubted blockbuster force. But how would Judy Garland do on her own?