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Entries in child stars (28)


Ellar Coltrane and the Burden of the Iconic Role

Kieran, here. Ellar Coltrane, the boy at the center of Richard Linklater's much heralded Boyhood has landed his next role, a supporting part in The Circle, an adaptation of Dave Eggers' novel about privacy paranoia in the age of social media. Tom Hanks is already attached to star in the thriller, which will be directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now). Coltrane will reportedly play Emma Watson's boyfriend who wants to go off the grid, out of the grasp of the eponymous Circle (which is not, repeat NOT Google). That's kind of funny, considering Mason's somewhat self-conscious, adolescent arrogance screed against social media and smart phones in Boyhood

The Spectacular Now suggested that Ponsoldt has a gift for pulling great performances from young actors, stretching our imaginations as to what they're capable of. Can he do that again for Ellar Coltrane?

Let me just say that I was an enthusiastic fan of Boyhood and I quite liked Coltrane in it. Er...maybe that's an entirely honest appraisal of my feelings about Coltrane's performance. I thought the movie acquitted itself well while working around a performance with very clear peaks and valleys. Coltrane's doe-eyed befuddlement works really well in certain key moments of the film, as when he witnesses the domestic abuse inflicted on his mother. That same blankness (and the role of Mason does require him to be somewhat blank) tends to fail him in moments when he's expected to communicate a clear persepctive, like the aforementioned scene where he's railing against Facebook. I didn't leave Boyhood with a clear idea of his acting chops in either direction. Boyhood was such a specialized project in conception and execution that it's hard to extrapolate how someone might perform beyond that. (Especially with very little frame of reference. Other than a very brief appearance in Fast Food Nation, Coltrane hasn't appeared in anything else.)

Are you curious to see what we get from Coltrane going forward?

From Quinn Cummings (The Goodbye Girl) and Justin Henry (Kramer vs. Kramer) to more recent examples of Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) it's rare that young actors who have their debuts or breakthroughs in heralded projects go on to have careers that match that initial acclaim. One can certainly debate the merits of each (and my opinion ranges from very warm to very cold), but these famous examples all demonstrate that it can be very hard to crawl out from under the weight of a culturally resonant breakthrough performance. 


6 Questions. Best Actor / Supporting Actor Races

The Oscar prediction charts are revised for ACTOR and SUPPORTING ACTOR and boy is the competition ever on. Here are 5 questions for you to discuss in the comments and as you consider your own predictions at home. 

1. Is Best Supporting Actor actually stronger than Best Actor this year?
With the decision of Spotlight to run its two arguable leads as supporting (it is an ensemble film so this makes a kind of justified sense... even if a "convenient" kind) and excitement for Johnny Depp's Black Mass star turn already dying down (or is this just our imagination?) the Best Actor race suddenly looks a little thinner than expected and the Supporting Actor race a lot fuller. The category confusions that crop up every year now as well as Hollywood's deep love of all star male ensembles have made things a lot harder for true supporting players of the male persuasion. Years ago, for example, I'd guess that Stanley Tucci had a slam dunk case for his scene stealing in Spotlight and Chiwetel Ejiofor had a real dark horse opportunity as the sympathetic home base of The Martian (think Ed Harris's nominated role in Apollo 13) but I couldn't fit either of them into even the top 15. 

2. Will young actors be in the mix for a change?
While Oscar's love of young women and resistance to young men is well documented on this site (and in any perusal of Oscar stats) two of the most well regarded performance from the recent festival circuit were Abraham Attah, who is only 14, and Jacob Tremblay, who is only 8, who lead Beasts of No Nation and Room respectively. In almost all cases male leads who are very young go supporting with Oscar voters (think Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People, River Phoenix in Running on Empty, and Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense) though their female counterparts are harder to predict in terms of which category they might find traction in. Still I wonder if anyone will believe Attah as "supporting?" In the recent IndieWire TIFF poll we discussed -- which provides a good example of how few critics care about "category" distinctions -- Tremblay was very high up in the supporting votes (despite being the only male star of his two-hander movie) whereas Attah was high up in the leading charts despite playing opposite a pretty big star of the same gender in Idris Elba, who himself had extremely few leading votes (they were mostly supporting) which suggests to me that people won't ever think of Attah as supporting Elba but the other way around. 

3. Both male acting categories won't clear up until...?
Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight starts screening. Or perhaps you think the key film is another film entirely.

4. Which actor do you think has a better shot at winning (if nominated) than he does at actually being nominated?
My guess is Harvey Keitel in Youth. His film director/best friend feels like a supporting character, at least until he takes over the movie for about 20 minutes or so. You could make an easy case that he's more overdue for Oscar gold than the Spotlight boys for example. But maybe you feel this odd distinction goes to someone else in either lead or supporting - Dicaprio perhaps.

5. Do you think Oscar statistics will get a shake up this year?
The last time two men from the same film were nominated in the same category is quite a long time ago now though it didn't use to be all that rare. Two supporting actors happened in Bugsy (1991) 24 years ago. Two lead actors happened in Amadeus (1984) 31 years ago. Three supporting (male) actors nominated for the same film happened thrice, first with On the Waterfront (1954) and then twice over with The Godfather parts 1 and 2 (1972/1974)... could Hateful 8 or Spotlight actually make it a fourth? (Since 1991 the only category that has seen any double nominations in acting -- and it's happened a lot -- is Supporting Actress.)

6. If you had to vote for your own supporting actor ballot RIGHT NOW (preferences not predictions) who would you include?
It's a tough call but I'd be looking at these 11 names (Brolin, Del Toro, Elliott, Ejiofor, Tucci, Schreiber... and the guys from the best of summer in review) and these 2 if I decided to allow for the supporting distinction (Keaton & Keitel), category distinctions I'm still having internal debates about.


Posterized: Shailene Woodley

Shailene breaking glass againWith the excruciatingly titled The Divergent Series Insurgent upon us -- and already garnering terrible reviews even before one of those shameless audience-hating cash-grab two-parters -- it's probably time to talk about the slightly mystifying rise of its leading lady Shailene Woodley. While she's certainly easy to look at (but aren't most actors?) that doesn't really explain the career. I've been mostly quiet about this because I'm aiming for positivity in 2015 but I believe I'm developing a severe allergy.

Let's discuss why and her six major performances (How many have you seen?) after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Who Would You Vote For as "Best Young Actor/Actress"?

Each year when my BFCA ballot arrives I stop in my tracks, stumped, when I get to "Young Performer". Categories that aren't Oscar correlative are often trickier.

Oh dear. How uneasy I feel..."

That's not because you're free of predicting (anyone trying to predict with their own ballot really ought to find a new profession -- criticism: ur not doing it right) but because it's a subsection of acting you probably haven't been discussing at all. You suddenly remember that you need to have been considering it with as much seriousness as you have made your other selections.

I imagine that Ellar Coltrane, the now 20 year old star of Boyhood, will be tough to beat since this category is for the 21 and under set. But even if the category were adjusted downward to 17 and younger (which we strongly support as a rule change -because it's always weird when an adult wins like least year when the prize went to the very explicit Blue is the Warmest Color... in a kid's category!) he'd surely be considered an exemption since he spent 12 years in front of the camera in his childhood for that movie. But who will the other nominees be? Who should they be?

As a BFCA member I'm often frustrated by the choices made in this category since they don't feel carefully considered but "which big ticket movies have prominent teenage or child roles?" or, barring that, which movies did famous teen actors make? Fame ≠ Best so each year moving forward I will try to help my fellow critics by reminding them who is actually eligible... and not just from the Oscar seeking pictures. 

I hope you'll FYC your favorites in the comments and give voters some options to truly consider:

(if we've missed any key players - make sure to shout them out in the comments)

Chloë Grace Moretz (17) in Equalizer, If I Stay, Muppets Most Wanted or Laggies
Elle Fanning (16) as "Aurora" in Maleficent
Hailee Steinfeld (18) in Begin Again or The Homesman
Joey King (15) as "Grace" in Wish You Were Here Gotham Nominee
Kaitlyn Dever (17) in Men Women and Children or Laggies
Lilla Crawford
 (13) as "Red Riding Hood" in Into the Woods
Lorelei Linklater (20) as "Samantha in Boyhood 
Mackenzie Foy (14) as "Murph" in Interstellar WAFCA Nominee
Odeya Rush (17) as "Fiona" in The Giver
Saoirse Ronan (20) as "Agatha" in Grand Budapest Hotel 
Quvenzhané Wallis (11) is Annie 

John D'Leo, Jordan Scott, and Mackenzie Foy are among several eligible candidates who play "younger" versions of key characters

Alex Lawther (19) as "Young Alan Turing" in The Imitation Game
Ansel Elgort (20) in Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars or Men Women and Children
Antoine-Olivier Pilon (17) as "Steve" in Mommy
Blake Cooper (13) as "Chuck" in The Maze Runner
Charlie Tahan (?) as "Joey" in Love is Strange
CJ Adams (14) as "Young Ford" in Godzilla
C.J. Valleroy (?) as "Young Louis" in Unbroken
Connor Corum (7) as "Colton" in Heaven is For Real
Daniel Huttlestone (15) as "Jack" in Into the Woods 
Ellar Coltrane (20) as "Mason" in Boyhood  Gotham Nominee, WAFCA "Youth" Winner
Emjay Anthony (11) as "Percy" in Chef
Ghilherme Lobo (19) as "Leonardo" in The Way He Looks 
Jacob Latimore (18) as "Jeff" in The Maze Runner
Jaeden Lieberher (11) as "Oliver" in St. Vincent WAFCA Nominee
Jamarion Scott and Jordan Scott (?) as "Little James Brown" in Get On Up
John D'Leo (19) as "Young Pete" in Unbroken 
Kodi Smit-McPhee (18) as "Alexander" in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Noah Wiseman (7) "Samuel" in The Babadook WAFCA Nominee
Pierce Gagnon (9) as "Tucker" in Wish I Was Here 
Samuel Lange Zambrano (?) as "Junior" in Bad Hair 
Tony Revolori (18) as "Zero" in Grand Budapest Hotel  WAFCA Nominee

Noah Wiseman, Tony Revolori, and the Boyhood kids have huge roles. Will they make it?

I hope you'll FYC your favorites in the comments and give the Broadcast Film Critic voters some options to truly consider rather than making this the annual Chloe Moretz Shortlist. Which younger actors do you think have big things in their futures as they grow into young adult roles?


Back to School. Tips from "Matilda"

Hello all, Margaret here celebrating another day of "back to school" week. I'm sure there are plenty mourning the end of their summer, but I know I can't be the only one who feels a thrill of excitement every time September rolls around. Even if you're past your school years, doesn't the arrival of autumn get you itching to pick up some clean blank notebooks and a fresh set of pencils? Perhaps that attitude is why Matilda (both of the 1996 Danny DeVito film and the classic Roald Dahl novel on which it's based) has always been a personal hero.

Matilda Wormwood was a girl genius, and even though she had execrable crooks for parents and was subject to outrageous familial neglect, she didn't let that get her down. In or out of school, there is a lot we can learn from Matilda.

Keep yourself sharp. Left to her own devices from a tender age, Matilda didn't take that as an excuse to let her mind idle. She charged on down to the local library, and had read every book in the place by her sixth birthday.

Negotiate creatively. When her parents denied her requests to enroll in school because they'd rather have her at home to sign for UPS packages, Matilda was undeterred. She mixed in a little bleach in with their hair tonic and engaged in a little telekinetic TV exploding, and she was in kindergarten in no time.

Don't be afraid to be smart So what if her class was only on the two times tables? If you can multiply 13 by 379 in your head, sing out!

Develop a signature look. When Matilda decided somewhere around age four that the hair ribbon worked for her, she stuck with it.

Stay away from school principals who favor military jackets and knee shorts. This one should speak for itself.

Keep these tips in mind and you should be able to navigate back-to-school season (or the post-Labor Day work week) with style.

Now, who else out there was a school-loving Matilda type? Reveal yourselves!


Smackdown 1973: Candy, Madeline, Linda, Sylvia, and Tatum O'Neal

Behold the five Oscar-nominated Supporting Actresses of 1973: a "bitchin' babe" (Candy Clark), a pint-sized con-artist (Tatum O'Neal), a possessed teenager (Linda Blair), a selfish carnival dancer (Madeline Kahn), and a vinegary New York institution (Sylvia Sidney). 



Last month's featured year, 1964, gave us an extremely senior acting shortlist of Oscar regulars but the corresponding shortlist of 1973, apart from Sylvia Sidney who had been a respected working actress for nearly a half-century, skewed very new and very young and not just because it gave us the youngest Oscar winner of all time in Tatum O'Neal; she was 10 years and 148 days old. The four actresses nominated with Sidney were in their first flush of stardom and only acting in their first (O'Neal) second (Kahn & Clark) or third films (Blair). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences obviously approved of their career choice.


from left to right: Chambers, Delany, Harris, Longworth, Rogers, Turner

You've already heard 'what 1973 means to them' and now here to talk about these five performances are authors Mark Harris ("Five Came Back") and Karina Longworth ("Anatomy of  an Actor: Meryl Streep"), film critics Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central) and Kyle Turner (Movie Scene), your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience) and our special guest: two-time Emmy winning actress Dana Delany ("China Beach", "Body of Proof", and the forthcoming "Hand of God").

And, as ever, we must thank StinkyLulu for the original Smackdown inspiration in which we revisit Oscar shortlists of the past without all the campaigning and heat-of-the-moment politics that infect each awards race. Without further ado, part one of the main event.... (here's part two which is a podcast conversation)



LINDA BLAIR as "Regan" in The Exorcist
Synopsis: The daughter of a famous actress begins acting strangely. Can two priests save her from the demon inside?
Stats: 15 yrs old. First and only nomination. 41 minutes of screen time (or 34% of running time). 

Dana Delany: William Friedkin clearly created a set where Blair felt free to perform. She is naturally real as a pre-teen and then fully committed  in the physicality when she is possessed. I know it's McCambridge's voice, but Blair deserved this nomination just for what they put her through; the crucifix in the crotch, alone! ♥♥♥

Bill Chambers: This isn't one performance but three--four if you count the makeup unto itself. Blair provides the base coat, of course, and the guilessness she brings to her early scenes is perhaps easy to underrate; she's not just natural, she's impossibly ordinary. (Her squirms and grunts in the hospital scenes are also viscerally authentic.) But Regan is a puppet in both concept and execution, manifesting fewer reactions than she provokes. In the end, this isn't unlike nominating Yoda or something. ♥♥

Karina Longworth: In a movie full of terrible performances, at least Blair's gives you something to think about, in that it takes some work to separate out what she's actually doing on her own, and what is being accomplished via makeup, effects, and voice dubbing. The things that are wrong (dated, laughable) with the movie are not Blair's fault, exactly, but she also doesn't exactly give a sense of the agency or invention that she brings to the role that another actress wouldn't.  ♥♥

Kyle Turner: Though part of what’s memorable about Blair’s performance has to do with Mercedes McCambridge’s voice work, she adds an absolutely crucial element of that innocence and naiveté suddenly taken over by evil. The film is not only horrifying on a visceral level, but on a human level because we sympathise for Regan. She’s going through Hell. Literally. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Revisiting this, I found myself surprised by how little Blair is in the movie—unlike the adults, she’s not a character but an object, and William Friedkin uses her shrewdly but sparingly, in short, carefully chosen takes, sort of the way Spielberg deployed the shark in Jaws. It’s far from great acting, but her ordinariness works well for the part, and even though it’s a largely lip-synced performance (all hail Mercedes “Pazuzu” McCambridge!), she’s impressively game in every scene. ♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: Those doctors and priests are such fools. Little Regan definitely has an unholy spirit inside her and its name is "McCambridge". Though the sound design, dubbing, and makeup are doing major heavy-lifting, Blair does just fine with her half portions, believably slipping towards catatonic trouble. Plus: watch her demon scenes with the sound off (I tried it!) and there’s still solid physical acting. In short I believed this young actress scratched “Help Me” into her own stomach from the inside. ♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-Ins: "Even with all the help this performance gets (makeup, sound, voice actors, etc) I still think Blair was ahead of her age and completely believable. Even after all the spoofs and rip offs I still find her creepy and during the "normal" scenes she's very natural." - Mauro. (Reader average: ♥½)

Actress earns 19½ ❤s 

4 more actresses after the jump

Click to read more ...


Shirley Temple Black, 1928-2014

Here's the last kind of news you want to hear, first thing in the morning. Shirley Temple Black, the quintessential child star, has passed away at 85 years old.

Temple's career exploded at the sage old age of 5, when she appeared in a string of massively successful hits for 20th Century Fox in 1934, including Little Miss Marker, Baby Take a Bow, and Bright Eyes. So fast and so complete was her success, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created a brand new award that year just so that she could receive it, the non-competitive Special Oscar for best juvenile performance. She appeared in a shocking number of films throughout the 1930s, dominating the box office and generally making everybody much less depressed that there was a Depression on. Her career continued strongly until 1949, with the actress still appearing in classics like The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and John Ford's Fort Apache even as an adult. In later years, she was the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, in addition to sitting on the boards of a number of corporations.

To most of us, though, her name was and will remain fixed to a very particular idea of childish exuberance, the round cheeks and curly hair of pre-adolescent innocence at its most bubbly and aggressively charming. Temple, in the 1930s, was one of the all-time iconic movie stars, an instantly-familiar face with an immediately-recognizable personality even to people who'd never think to watch one of her movies.


It's easy to assume that her stardom was based on being abnormally cute and able to carry a tune, but even in her earliest starring roles, she had a gift for comic timing and a distinctly clever streak that keeps her roles from getting too sacharine. She was, by any standards that have ever fairly applied to a pre-teen, a genuinely good actress and commanding screen presence, on top of being a darling moppet.

We've lost a lot of terrific actors in the last couple of months, but with Temple we've lost more than that. This morning marks the passing of one of the few genuine Hollywood legends left to us, and everyone who loves movies is a bit poorer for it.