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LOS ANGELES, CA — An Emerson College student turned instructor has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the “Oscar” people).

Georden West is one of 16 students as winners of the 46th Student Academy Awards competition for the film Patron Saint. For 2019, the Student Academy Awards competition received a total of 1,615 entries from 255 domestic and 105 international colleges and universities, which were voted upon by a record number of Academy members, according to an Academy press release.  The 2019 winners join the ranks of such past Student Academy Award winners as Patricia Cardoso, Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, Trey Parker, Patricia Riggen, and Robert Zemeckis.

West was recognized in the category: Alternative/Experimental (Domestic and International Film Schools).

West (Emerson MFA ’18) used a number Emerson students in making Patron Saint, which reimagines religion and history as queer deities wearing Jamall Osterholm’s fashions interact with a mystical landscape, according to an Emerson College news story. The film was West’s graduate thesis project.

Hao Zheng (Emerson ’15), who attended a graduate program at the American Film Institute, was among those recognized in the Narrative (Domestic Schools) category for The Chef. 

 “I am so immensely honored to be recognized by the Academy and extremely proud of my crew – all of whom I met while at Emerson and remain my closest and dearest collaborators,” West, also an affiliated faculty member in the Visual and Media Arts Department, said for the Emerson website.

“Taking the risks that are necessary to convey and heighten concepts of underrepresented creatives within the fashion industry is something that makes [Georden] so special,” said Osterholm, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and former Project Runway contestant. “Through [Georden’s] collaboration with myself and many other queer, LGBTQ+ creatives, [their] rise into the highest spaces of excellence is paving way for our community to be recognized and respected.”

Zheng’s The Chef is set in a world where human workers are being replaced by humanoid robots. Pu, a Chinese chef, is ordered to pass along his cooking skills to his humanoid replacement, according to Emerson’s website.

Medal placements — gold, silver and bronze — in the seven award categories will be revealed October 17 in a ceremony at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

This year’s winning films are also eligible to compete for this year’s Oscar competition in the Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film or Documentary Short Subject categories. Past winners have garnered 62 Oscar nominations and won or shared 12 awards, according to Deadline.

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By Jeanne Ferris

Keira Knightley appears in Official Secrets by Gavin Hood, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

LA JOLLA — The Film Insider Series saw the golden sun lower its languorous, warm rays on Arclight Terrace — allowing the stars to come out and play for a special screening of Official Secrets.

Fit, in a taupe dress shirt with grey denim pants and sporting rock star hair — Gavin Hood was in the house. The South African born, Oscar-winning director of Tsotsi flew in to attend the exclusive Official Secrets. And it was much appreciated.

Hood and Tonya Mantooth, CEO and executive artistic director of San Diego International Film Festival (SDIFF), were in the spotlight and joined by local luminary Naila Chowdhury, director of social impact and innovation at UC San Diego and a new SDIFF board member.

Everywhere you looked, the lights reflected back from the crowds of dark stylish shades – the literati and glitterati.

Madame and messieurs: sweet summer has finally arrived in the Jewel that others call La Jolla.

SDIFF cofounder Kevin Leap was seen sharing celebratory smiles with Film Insider Series devotees comprised of stellar volunteers, anonymous benefactors, fabulous patrons of the arts, international press corps, Hollywood studio producers, and they-who-support-the-machine: cinephiles, as those with a passionate interest in cinema are sometimes called.

Anticipation was high for the screening of the political thriller that stars Keira Knightly and the buzz rose with each guest arriving. Food was plentiful with pints of Stella Artois, gourmet wine, Urban Leaf elixirs, and Liberty Call Distilling Co., and appetizers from Eureka, Craft pizza, Frill, and the Melting Pot. The evening’s presenting sponsors were Morgan Stanley, Procopio, and Maserati. The dress was decidedly San Diego glam: sleek business casual and envious haute couture — all waiting for magic hour.

Official Secrets saw its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award. Massachusetts’s own Provincetown International Film Festival awarded it Best Narrative Feature.

Director Gavin Hood, Katherine Gun and Martin Bright
Courtesy of eventbrite.com

Based on real interviews with British Intelligence whistleblower Katherine Gun, played by Knightly, the story revolved around a leaked memo to the press. It contained a directive of an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the United Nations Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

An Oscar and BAFTA nominee, Knightley also was nominated as best actress for Pride and Prejudice by Boston Society of Film Critics. And of course, by association with an international director: sometimes cast and crew read like a passenger manifest from the QEII.

British thespian Ralph (Rafe, like safe) Fiennes shares the screen with Knightley, playing a steely barrister. Boston showed its approval when the film critics awarded Fiennes Best Supporting Actor for Schindler’s List.

Also from across the pond: London educated, handsome (unrecognizable with a buzz cut) Matthew Goode dubbed a rising star by Brits — is a Primetime Emmy nominee and an Aussie awards fave. Serious Welshman, Rhys Ifans (Ee-vans), a BAFTA winner, adds his shape shifter persona as an f-bombing guerrilla journalist. Adam Bakri, a young Palestinian auteur, plays Knightley’s husband. Estonia (yes, the country) bequeathed Bakri with Tallinn Black Nights Festival Jury Prize Best Actor.

Afterward, Tonya moderated an uproarious Q & A with Hood, a candid raconteur: “[My] Eye in the Sky producer contacted me and asked if I had heard of Katherine Gun. I said no and he replied, ‘Google her and call me back.’ ”

“I called back and asked if I could meet her. We met in London and spent five days talking. As a former lawyer, I can assure you this is deeply and accurately researched and part of the challenge in writing this story is that all the people in the movie are still alive. We shot the film in 36 days. What attracted me to this story is loyalty. Her loyalty — to her conscience, her husband, and to the British people. She insisted that it was for the British people she worked for and not the government. When I asked if Keira would consider it… She said, ‘I want a role with substance and not heavily made up with a corset.’” The audience of course, laughed on cue.

At the post screening champagne and Cookies by Cravory reception: Cookie monsters, red carpet selfies and corner table conversations regarding the upcoming SDIFF are bandied about. Plans are made to attend exclusive screenings, biz card flurries, and cinephiles audibly declare their passion for film with promises to reunite on October 15 to 20, 2019.

Until then—ladies and gentlemen, it’s a wrap! www.sdfilmfest.com

Rated R for language, release date: August 30, 2019  

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced its newly elected 2019–20 Board of Governors, including Massachusetts native Ruth E. Carter, of the costume designers branch. They will assume their posts July 1.

Born in Springfield, MA, Carter won an Oscar in 2019 for her work on “Black Panther.” She was the first black costume designer to win an Academy Award.

In her acceptance speech, she stated that “Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king.”

“This is for my 97-year-old mother watching in Massachusetts,” she said. “Mom, thank you for teaching me about people and their stories. You are the original superhero.”

Newly elected to the Board:
Ellen Kuras, Cinematographers Branch
Ruth Elaine Carter, Costume Designers Branch
Donna Gigliotti, Executives Branch
Howard Berger, Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch
Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Short Films and Feature Animation Branch
Eric Roth, Writers Branch

Reelected to the Board: 
Laura Dern, Actors Branch
David Rubin, Casting Directors Branch
Steven Spielberg, Directors Branch
Roger Ross Williams, Documentary Branch
Nancy Utley, Marketing and Public Relations Branch
Laura Karpman, Music Branch
Mark Johnson, Producers Branch
Jan Pascale, Production Design Branch
Kevin Collier, Sound Branch
Craig Barron, Visual Effects Branch

As a result of this election, the number of female Academy governors increases from 22 to 24, and people of color increases from 10 to 11, including the three new Governors-at-Large, DeVon Franklin, Rodrigo Garcia and Janet Yang, recently announced.

Balloting in the Academy’s Film Editors Branch produced a tie between candidates Dody Dorn and Mark Goldblatt, necessitating a runoff election. Voting will begin Monday, June 17, and end  Tuesday, June 18.  The Academy last held runoff elections in 2018 for the Producers Branch and in 2016 for the Film Editors Branch.

The Academy’s 17 branches are each represented by three governors, who may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms. The Board of Governors sets the Academy’s strategic vision, preserves the organization’s financial health, and assures the fulfillment of its mission.

For a full list of the 2018-2019 Academy governors, click here.
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By Jeanne Ferris

Charlize Theron with Seth Rogen in “Long Shot”

SAN DIEGO – Hundreds turned out for the San Diego Film Foundation’s Film Insider Series special pre-release screening of Long Shot, which stars Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, an unlikely duo at the center of an unlikely, but charming, comedy.

At the Series screening, held every month through July at ArcLight Cinemas, the local cinephiles – some on date night and some on friend’s night out – sporting sparkly stilettos, stylish chapeaus and sleek business suits walked the red carpet with big smiles for the camera, making for a fun departure from the beloved San Diego standard: activewear and flip-flops.

Those gathering for the swanky pre-screening soiree enjoyed tasty sliders (from Liberty Call Distillery), flatbreads (Melting Pot), glazed Brussels sprouts (Eureka) with Stella Artois beverages and lemonade from Urban Leaf.

Long Shot’s star Charlize Theron has won a slew of awards (Oscar, Golden Globe, and Screen Actor’s Guild) and been nominated for just about everything else (Emmy, British Academy). She has played a one-armed big rig driver (Mad Max: Fury Road), a serial killer (Monster), and a coal miner (North Country) among other roles. So, why not a presidential nominee?

Her partner in this rom-com is Seth Rogen, who adroitly handles the slapstick and ribald humor, which, in one particular scene, rightly earns the film its R-rating.

Rogen, who plays a brutally honest journalist, has honed his fast-talking neurotic signature character that allows the audience to believe he is a worthy relationship interest for intelligent, stunning women.

Several East Coasters also add to the evening’s cocktail buzz. Connecticut native Liz Hannah of The Post penned Long Shot with Dan Sterling, whose previous credits include Girls. Sterling is a West Philadelphia native and a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of Arts. He and Rogen co-authored the now infamous, The Interview, which Rogen also directed. Sterling and Rogen are back at it, except this time Hannah brings it home with boisterous female comedic repartee and political gags galore.

Costars June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel elevate the comedy to additional face hurting laughs. Theron is a master of the impeccable comedic deadpan. Who doesn’t micro-nap with her eyes open?

Did we mention Theron’s fabulous comportment? She rocked Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana like newborn skin while striding in Christian Louboutins with 4-inch heels. Her wardrobe stands in sharp contrast to Rogen’s ’80s color-blocked windbreaker, with a baseball-capped slouch replete with “Daddy” YMCA camp pants. The costumes were the unmistakable handiwork of Mary E. Vogt, who nearly stole the show with her work in Crazy Rich Asians. Vogt added to the hilarity with Rogen’s traditional Swedish folk dräkt in a colorful scene.

Produced by Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures, Long Shot (a South by Southwest Festival audience winner) is scheduled for release on May 3 by Lionsgate.

As with all FIS screenings, the evening did not end with the credits but with a post champagne reception, Cookies by Cravory and red carpet interviews.

FIS runs February through July, leading up to the San Diego International Film Festival, which will run from Oct. 15-20, 2019 when VIP hubs of premieres, screenings and parties will connect Arclight Cinemas and the highly anticipated Theatre Box (new this year). TCL Grauman’s Chinese Theatre owns Theatre Box and has brought its Old Hollywood legacy with New World technology to the Gaslamp District. Join us next month for another exclusive screening. For more information, click here.

Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein

To what lengths would you go to save your child from the pain and possible death from cancer? Weed the People, a documentary that follows five families who, in a desperate effort to find treatment for their children’s cancer, obtain cannabis oils to give the young patients a better path to a cure. It was screened in Cambridge on April 8, 2019.

The team behind the film – director Abby Epstein, Emmy Award-winning TV host Ricki Lake, and producer James Costa, a Boston native known for the documentary Lunch Hour – was in town for the screening and question and answer session at the Landmark Square Cinema in Cambridge. The event was hosted by the Boston Globe’s Meredith Goldstein. It was a return to town, of sorts, as the documentary brought Lake and Epstein to Boston, specifically Harvard Medical School, where we see the medical efficacy of marijuana in cancer treatment is being studied.

The documentary, which was released late last year, also looks at the federal government’s reluctance to allowing marijuana to be accessible to all patients. (Currently 33 states allow medical marijuana and 10 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for recreational use.) Weed the People is available for download and online viewing. For more on the film, click here.

Before the screening, styleboston.tv and LeftCoast.LA caught up with Ricki Lake and asked her a few questions about the documentary, the need for medical marijuana, and Dunkin’ Donuts and her other Boston connections.

Q: This project started with a 7-year-old girl reaching out to you at a time when the opioid crisis was coming to the front and center? How have people been reacting to this documentary?

Scene from the documentary Weed the People

A: The reactions to this documentary have been incredible. People seem to be ready to open their hearts and minds to the true medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant. Yes, the film began with a seven-year-old girl who was a fan of mine from “Dancing with the Stars.” She was undergoing chemotherapy and there were very few options to treat her condition. My late husband Christian Evans had been researching cannabis oil and CBD for his grandfather and we thought it might help this little girl as well because of the anti-tumor properties of the plant. That experience was how our film was born.

Q: Was there anything from the filming that surprised you?

A: One of the most surprising things for me personally was to see how well cannabis can actually work and how little you need to get therapeutic effect. You see one child in the film who was taking six OxyContin a day plus other pain relievers and after two days of taking a sesame seed-size dose of the concentrated cannabis oil, he was completely off the OxyContin. So not only was his pain gone but he was sleeping and eating, where on the opiates he was just vomiting and deteriorating.

Q: Here in Massachusetts we have embraced marijuana, first medical uses and later recreational. But even here, in a super-liberal blue state, it seems like people still don’t “get” the potential of what marijuana can do and the benefits of legalization of it.

A: Yes, there is such an intense stigma around the plant it is incredibly hard to break through, even in the medical community. Doctors have been trained that this is a drug abuse and of course the public has also been brainwashed into thinking this is a dangerous narcotic and a gateway to other substances, which is untrue. That’s been the revelation of this movie and we have shown it in places like Oklahoma City and weeks later they passed their referendum on medical cannabis! The film is a really powerful tool to help people understand the real potential of medical marijuana.

Q: As filmmakers you looked at the choices available to patients and parents. Have you seen changes since you started filming in those choices that the patients’ families have? In the attitudes of the medical community?

Scene from the documentary Weed the People

A: We’ve seen so many changes since we started this film back in 2012. At the time, a lot of the families were getting medicine from underground sources, medicine that wasn’t properly tested and in one case in the film you see it actually contained rubbing alcohol! In California the regulations have helped improve quality and testing for patients, but ironically the regulations have also made it harder for patients to access certain preparations and strengths. We’ve definitely seen the attitudes of the medical community change but it’s still way too slow and it seems to be that money and the green rush is what motivates most of the public perception changes these days.

Q: You and Abby set up a GoFundMe account for those in your project and others. It seems like this film pushed you in ways that a “typical” film project might.

A: Yes we set up a GoFundMe account for the kids in the film. All of them still take a maintenance dose of cannabis oil and one of the children is still in treatment. Unfortunately even the maintenance dose can run these families around $1,500 a month and it’s just not affordable without help. Our website is weedthepeoplemovie.com And you can make a donation there under the “get involved” menu tab.

Q: OK, a few Boston-centric questions. We know you’ve been to Boston before and even filmed a movie here, do you have any favorite things to do? Go see? Do you load up the carry-on with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee?

A: Oh yes, I grew up in New York so definitely a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts! I absolutely love Boston and have the best memories of shooting “Mrs. Winterbourne” there. I’m excited to share this film with the community.

Q: There’s always Provincetown, but the Fast Ferry is fully running this time of year. Do you get back to the area when you are not?

A: Yes, I have been to the Provincetown Film festival a few times and we screened my earlier documentary “the business of being born” there. My dear friend John Waters invites me there all the time.

Q: Many people know you from so many different things in your varied career. We imagine that people approach you with all kinds of references in your background, but we hope that none of the really whacky people are from Boston.

A: I definitely have some amazing fans from Boston! It’s a fantastic city and I’m so proud of Massachusetts for making cannabis accessible.

Q: Will you be stopping by the recently opened marijuana dispensary in Brookline?

A: I would love to check out the new dispensary Brookline! We are very fortunate that a local cannabis company called Green Line is sponsoring our Boston premiere screening. I love how Green Line is integrating social justice into their company philosophy. They are including members of the Roxbury community on their board and helping to repair some of the harms of the drug war on communities of color. I believe that social equity needs to be a major component of marijuana legalization.

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SAN DIEGO — One of this town’s biggest and best events took place last week and the celebrities came down to party. The San Diego International Film Festival’s “Night of the Stars Party,” held at the glamorous Pendry hotel, was electrifying in the excitement and buzz around this year’s honorees. Topher Grace, Kenny Loggins (who wowed the sold-out ballroom with three amazing songs to close out the night), John Cho, Kathryn Hahn, Keith Carradine, Zachary Levi and Alex Wolff all made the trip from LA to celebrate film. 

Sponsored by Morgan Stanley, Maserati of San Diego, Jamul Casinos, Pendry Hotel and The Nemeth Foundation, the festival screenings and events spanned five days and included films of all genres and subjects that would entice any film lover to this beautiful waterfront city. Check the website for 2019 festival dates and mark your calendars for a premier way to experience one of the most standout film festivals in this Oz-like setting. 

 

 

 

ALL PHOTOS and VIDEOS by Joane Nelson

 

By Anna Paula Goncalves

LOS ANGELES — I’ll just cut straight to the chase:
Go catch “Mile 22” in theaters, Aug. 17! As you can see from watching our fun “black” carpet experience, maybe these 22 [no spoiler, here] reasons of why I think you should, means you will.

Ready? Here we go.

1) This is Mark Wahlberg and Director Peter Berg’s fourth collaboration (“Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon,” and the Boston-set “Patriots Day,” about the Boston Marathon bombings) yet “Mile 22” is their first collaboration on a fictional story.

2) Mark Wahlberg’s character, James Silva, will give you a little bit of everything you love about Mark.

3) Lauren Cohan. I was already familiar with her work on ‘The Walking Dead,’ but she was a revelation to me in this film. And she may just end up being one to you, too.

4) Iko Uwais. WHAT?!?!? Where did this guy come from and why wasn’t I familiar with his work before?!

5) Ronda Rousey. I personally love seeing her reinvent amd rebrand herself. If you dig her as much as I do, you’ll appreciate her character, Sam Snow.

6) John Malkovich. Need I say more?

7) Nikolai Nikolaeff. I got a taste of his work and definitely want to see more.

8) Every single cast member that was on that carpet loved being there and it showed. That made me much more excited to see them on the big screen. And after watching them on the big screen? Yup, that was some great casting.

9) In fact, I’m just going to go ahead and give credit where it’s due and where it’s usually not given: Casting Director and guru, Sheila Jaffe, for her and her team’s work.

10) Did you realize just how many of the actors come from TV series? Some of which didn’t have film credit at all prior to “Mile 22”! As someone involved with the  casting world, I love seeing professionals appreciate talent and hunger over a resume. Hence my point No. 9.

11)  Sound effects team made me really take in everything that was happening.

12.) You will want to applaud… (I lost track of how many ‘applauding’ moments happened in that theater.)

13.) You will be ‘shook’…

14.) You will also laugh, though…

15.) And yes, you will probably want to shout, too…

16.) You won’t want to look away. In fact, you may get mad at yourself if you do or if anyone walks in front of you. I saw it happen three times (one being with me, I’ll admit it.)

17.) You will be caught off guard…

18.) You will want to watch the sequel. Oh yes, there’s a sequel already set to happen you guys! That should tell you something. For more, read here.

19.) Lea Carpenter and Graham Roland. Intentionally left these two toward the end because every point made here was thanks to their original story.

20.) Screenwriting was also well done (Lea Carpenter).

21.) Although we see a lot of this kind of theme, these two really wrote something that was unexpected. You have to watch to know what I mean.

22.) Left the best for last: A reminder, even through a fictional film, of how sacrificial it is for our service men and women to sign up to give their lives as a shield to protect others.

And there you have it! My 22 reasons why you should drive however many miles to your nearest theater to catch this film on Friday, Aug. 17!

 

 

 

Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall in Columbia Pictures’ EQUALIZER 2.

By Anna Paula Goncalves

 

Denzel Washington does it again! In his first career sequel, Washington is back as the retired agent Robert McCall in “The Equalizer 2.” 

In addition to Washington, director Antoine Fuqua returned to helm EQ2 as did actors Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman. The film also features Pedro Pascal and Ashton Sanders. Talks of an “Equalizer” sequel started months before the 2014 release of the original. The film follows McCall (Washington) as he sets out “on a path of revenge after one of his friends is killed.”

“The Equalizer 2” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, July 20, 2018.

Filming for EQ2 began in September 2017, with crews spotted in Union Park in Boston’s South End, the North Shore, including Lynn, Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, and Randolph and Marshfield.  In 2017, Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen shared a post its Facebook page about EQ2 — with a photo of  Washington in the South End eatery.

Getting a chance to catch a sneak peek just a few days before the sequel arrives in theaters this Friday, I’ll say this much [without any spoilers, of course]:

Expect a thrilling, at the edge of your seat ride watching Washington reprise his role as the people’s hero. The character that we loved to love the first time around comes back just as vengeful and just as righteous – contradictory character traits that Denzel can genuinely and successful bridge with ease.

But if Washington isn’t enough of a reason for you to add him to your Friday night plans, I’d suggest you go for the eye candy; for the one that looks beautiful from every angle, day or night…

Yes, I’m referring to Boston! You may or may not geek out a little when recognizing some of our streets and neighborhoods on the big screen, but I am certain that you’ll appreciate it.

Actor Taylor John Smith at SDIFF Film Insider Series

Left Coast. La was honored to attend the San Diego International Film Festival’s VIP Film Insider Series featuring HBO’s new “Sharp Objects” starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and Taylor John Smith. The event was held at the  ArcLight Cinemas in San Diego, CA. 

Based on the book of the same name by The New York Times bestselling author Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Dark Places”), “Sharp Objects” is an eight-episode series that tells the story of reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) who “returns to her small hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Trying to put together a psychological puzzle from her past, she finds herself identifying with the young victims a bit too closely,” according to HBO. In addition to Adams, Clarkson and Smith, the series features Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Elizabeth Perkins and Matt Craven. It is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from scripts by Marti Noxon and Flynn.

Heading into the theater no one knew what to expect, but by the end of the VIP preview the 200 person crowd was on the same page. This show is definitely a must see! “Sharp Objects” Premiers Sunday, July 8 at 9 p.m.
 
 

Tonya Mantooth, Taylor John Smith, Adam Loew

Kristian Forster, Careesa Campbell, Managing Director of Maserati & Ferrari San Diego, Vicky Carlson

BARRY WETCHER/WARNER BROS.
Mindy Kaling (third from left) in the recently released “Ocean’s 8” with (from left) Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter.

 

LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars people) has invited Kendrick Lamar, J.K. Rowling, and Audra McDonald among the 928 actors, writers, casting directors and others both in front of and behind the camera to join its growing membership. Today’s move comes as the Academy is trying to diversify its ranks. 

This year’s record-number of new members invited tops 2017 with a previous record of 774 new members and that of 2016 when 683 new members were invited, according to Variety

Among those invited to join the Academy today are several with Boston and New England ties including actors Cambridge native Mindy Kaling, who graduated from Buckingham, Browne & Nichols; Medford native Julianne Nicholson; and  Sarah Silverman, who hails from New Hampshire. Invitees from the casting branch includes Sheila Jaffe, whose work on the Oscar-winning “The Fighter,” which starred Mark Wahlberg as  boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, is among her enviable list of credits. 

“The expansion of Academy membership to more than 8,200 stems from an ongoing effort to diversify its ranks following uproar over the lack of African-American nominees in 2015 and 2016, which culminated in  2016’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy,” Variety wrote. 

 

It is here! “Deadpool 2″ is upon us. Another superhero Marvel movie that we’ve all been waiting for. The theaters will be brought to life again this Friday with this amazing sequel that critics are saying is better than the first. What else did we find amazing?  The” Deadpool 2″ Theme Bar Pop-Up experience that we attended, brought to us by Mike’s Harder and the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, was an adventure to be talked about, an event not to be missed, and certainly the best pop up scene on this side of the globe. Check out my video “Leftcoastla hits Deadpool2″

It really has never felt this good. A Bar Pop-Up experience that’s far better than what you would expect from a normal Marvel show. Oh… Wait! ‘Far better’ is actually not good enough to describe what the pop-up experience party felt like. Saturday, May 12th will be a day to remember for every Marvel fan in LA, and it all went down in style as the actors stayed in character. It was so real and gave fans a feel of what the movie will be like, and now everyone is talking about “Deadpool 2”.

Aside from the free drinks and chimichangas that were available, the fun was unstoppable as the DJ kept dishing out all the latest tracks. Now the expectation has been created. The anticipation is sky high. Every Marvel fan in attendance can’t wait to rock and roll-if this is not the real deal, then we wonder what is! Kudos to Marvel for not disappointing us.  So what are you waiting for? May 18th is just around the corner. “Deadpool 2” is here. Grab a bucket of popcorn, pick up your tickets and join in the fever. Let’s journey together.

By Joane Nelson

LA JOLLA, Calif.—Those who were lucky enough to be at the ArcLight Cinema for the U.S. premiere of “I’m Not Here,” on April 25 will not soon forget the special night. If, alas, you were not at the San Diego International Film Festival VIP pre-screening on Wednesday night, then you missed out on a thought-provoking, exclusive screening with a theater packed with people excited to see J.K. Simmons do what he does best.

The film “I’m Not Here” is directed by Michelle Schumacher, whose star is her husband, Academy Award-winner Simmons. It was nothing short of amazing. In addition to Simmons, the features Mandy Moore and Sebastian Stan, who can be seen in “Avengers: Infinity Wars” and “I, Tonya.”

There’s really no way to describe this feature without any spoiler alerts but we have to try: Simmons plays a man at the end of his rope who’s dealt with problems that a lot of people can relate to. The film’s teasing logline is “A man struggles with the tragic memories of his past to make sense of his present, but soon realizes that time isn’t the enemy he thinks it is.”

In addition to the pre-screening, SDIFF also announced it had a new sponsor, the blue chip financial investment company, Morgan Stanley, which was represented by several staff including systems and policy expert VR Raman. Also in attendance were members of styleboston.tv and LeftCoast.LA.

Tonya Mantooth, CEO of SDIFF, led a lively post-screening Q & A panel with Simmons, Schumacher, and others who held nothing back as the night was full of thoughtful conversation, drinks, and laughs.

(Screening location: ArcLight La Jolla, 4425 La Jolla Village Drive, CA 92122.)

 

SDIFF: Michelle Schumacher in Director’s Chair from styleboston on Vimeo.

Speaking of movie director Michelle Schumacher, J.K. Simmons talked about the important qualities she brought to the production, including her sense of purpose, her detailed preparations and an ability to adapt to different situations. Michelle on her part told the SDIFF audience that the production was very dear to her heart. She thanked everyone who supported the project and described the movie as a low budget production which was made possible through the collaboration of friends and family.

 

SDIFF: Q & A with the Audience from styleboston on Vimeo.

Answering questions from the audience during the prescreening of the movie, Simmons talked about how he decided to shed more than 20 pounds to play the role of an emaciated 60-year-old alcoholic. According to him, he had a choice between getting emaciated or bloated for the movie role but he chose the former.

He and Michelle also talked about similarities/differences between the movie characters and real life.

 

SDIFF: J.K. Simmons ‘talks” about not using dialogue from styleboston on Vimeo.

In “I’m Not Here” J.K. Simmons played a remarkable character that did not speak a single word throughout the movie. He told the audience during the SDIFF prescreening that he had to completely immerse himself in the screenplay to prepare for the movie role. He said he was able to make a success out of it by relying on the guidance of the movie director

“I’m so happy I could cry,” begins the most recent Facebook post from Becki Dennis.  “I just found out that I received the Best Actress Award at the Boston International Film Festival and our Director, Eric R. Eastman, has also won a well-deserved Indie Spirit Recognition Award!”

Dennis played the lead role in the new indie film “Spin The Plate,” which recently premiered at the Boston International Film Festival. In a plot twist of her own, she was not able to attend the screening as she was working on her new film, “Justine” in Los Angeles, which she now calls home. A recent transplant, she was amazed to discover how many other Bostonians, who like her have been performing their whole lives, have packed their bags for the City of Angels, where people really do become stars of the screen and stage.

Dennis has been performing since she was a kid, always in dance and theater productions and always drawn to the performing arts. She caught the acting bug pretty hard in high school and wanted to major in musical theater in college.  After three years at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, she came back to Boston, took an acting class at Emerson, a music class at Berklee and did an acting/directing course at Boston University.

She worked as an actor and performer for several years in the Boston market and one lucky day was recommended to David O. Russell for a speaking role in a major film.

“Filmmakers started to shoot more in Boston so I started to show up as an extra and really fell in love with being on a film set. I started to do commercials, training videos, short films, things like that-then came my first big break, which was “American Hustle.”

After being cast in another blockbuster film, “Ted 2” which was also shot in Boston, Dennis decided that she no longer wanted to be a big fish in a small pond and in order to branch out to bigger markets she had to make the move.  It has paid off. Landing the role of Jo in “Spin the Plate” was a turning point for Dennis.

“I always thought I couldn’t act in film or TV because you had to look like a model. Lead roles for plus size women have not come around too often in the past, unless it’s like the butt of the joke or something, but times are changing so to get to play something so complex and interesting is a gift.”

Dennis has gone on to have parts in 15 television shows in two years, though she started out slow and had to build up a portfolio of work to get to where she is now. Since she is in the middle of filming the feature film “Justine”  there is not a lot she can tell us yet about her new role.

“It’s a supporting role, it’s a good role and toward the end of the film, I play a nurse, and there’s a really interesting scene. The writer, director and lead actress is Stephanie Turner, who wrote the script when she was in the Sundance Screenwriters lab. Hopefully it’s Sundance bound…hoping it can be the next ‘LadyBird’ or something.”

Meanwhile, she and her husband are embracing the good life and the abundance of sunshine in LA but when asked what she misses most about the East Coast, besides her family, she immediately responds with “really good Italian food in the North End.”

As one bi-coastal resident to another, I say, “Amen to that.”

 

Building empathy through film

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Photo by Liane Brandon

As executive producer and founder of Spy Pond Productions, Eric Stange has produced, directed and written a dizzying array of work, mostly telling unique, often lost stories of American history. His work, which also covers science, has been broadcast on PBS, The Discovery Channel, and the BBC. Before becoming a filmmaker he wrote about art and culture for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic Monthly, and other publications. Eric has been the recipient of a Harvard University Charles Warren Fellowship in American History. He’s on the board of Common-Place, a website devoted to early American history, and writes a column about media and history for American Heritage magazine. “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive” stars Denis O’Hare as Poe, and was shot on location in Boston. A screening will be held on Saturday, April 29, 1:30 p.m., at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square as part of the Independent Film Festival of Boston (http://iffboston.org), and will be broadcast nationally next fall on the PBS series American Masters.

 What was it like working with Denis O’Hare?

Denis is one of the most talented actors in the business. Virtually everyone has seen him in his many TV or movie roles (“American Horror Story,” “The Good Wife,” “True Blood, Dallas Buyer’s Club”), but like a lot of great character actors he isn’t a household name. He should be.

What sold us on casting Denis was that he spent a whole season of “American Horror Story” playing a leading character who’s mute. Our film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue—Poe is often alone and silent, though very expressive. When we saw that Denis did an entire season of episodic TV without saying a word —we knew he could be our Poe.

In addition, it turns out Denis had studied a lot of poetry in college, so he did a wonderful job reciting Poe’s poems. And we didn’t even realize until we started with hair and make-up how much he actually looks like Poe!

Left: Actor Denis O’Hare Photo by Liane Brandon

 Edgar Allan Poe is already a well-known figure, is there new information about Poe revealed in the film?

One of the reasons I made the film is because I came to realize Poe is a hugely misunderstood figure. Most people think of him in a one-dimensional way —as a brooding, mad, perhaps opium-addled denizen of the dark. Until I started researching this project I didn’t know that Poe was an important literary critic, and an influential magazine editor. He was a powerful player in the literary scene of the 1830s and ’40s—a tastemaker—one of the glitterati of his time. He helped define what American literature would be in the early decades of our nation.

I knew Poe had written detective stories. What I didn’t realize is that Poe invented the detective story as we know it today, with all the conventions we’re used to. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, said he had modeled his stories on Poe. And virtually every detective writer since has followed suit.

 Poe is one of those iconic figures who appears in popular culture decade after decade. Even people who haven’t read his works know his face. Why?

Yes it’s amazing how often Poe pops up. He’s in “The Simpsons,” on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and on and on.

Poe himself is partly responsible for his enduring image in pop culture. He knew that to sell his stories in a competitive marketplace he needed more than just good writing—he needed a public persona that would give him an edge. He was a fan of the English bad-boy poet Lord Byron, and he saw how a reputation—even a dark one —could help sell literature.

So he had daguerreotypes made that portrayed him a certain way, and he wrote falsified biographical materials that made him seem a more adventurous and romantic figure than he really was.

But what really cemented his reputation—and in a bad way—was the first obituary after Poe’s untimely death at age 40 in 1849. His literary enemy, Rufus Griswold, wrote the obit, and he described Poe in all the negative ways people still think of him today. So Griswold’s negative portrayal, along with Poe’s own self-mythologizing, have played a big role in keeping Poe famous —or rather infamous.

Daguerrotype of Edgar Allan Poe

What’s the real story? Was Poe just a regular guy who was terribly misunderstood or is there some truth to the dark, Halloween-figure side of Poe?

Well, like any complicated person, it’s a bit of both. If Poe were my buddy, I’d think twice when I saw him come up on caller ID. He could be a terrible friend, and a worse enemy. He was dead broke and in debt most of his life. He had a terrible time with alcohol, though he could be sober for long periods. At the same time, he was brilliant, witty, had lots of friends and was a loving husband, most of the time. Though he married his 13-year-old cousin when he was 26!

One thing I discovered is that practically anything you say about Poe, the opposite is also true. That’s part of what made the film challenging, and fun!

Why the title: “Buried Alive”?

Poe was fascinated —maybe even obsessed—with stories of people who were buried alive by mistake, which happened fairly frequently in the early 19th century. Medicine hadn’t figured out how to determine death with certainty, and particularly during epidemics there was a lot of pressure to get corpses underground quickly. One of his most famous stories is “The Premature Burial.”

I also love the metaphorical meanings. Poe lived his life under a constant cloud of grief —virtually all the women he loved died young. He struggled with a mountain of debt, and even before he died his bad reputation had begun to overshadow the reality of his life. And then, of course, there’s the never-ending mystery of his death. For all those reasons, it feels like an appropriate title.

Mystery of his death?

You have to see the movie.