Wednesday, November 30, 2016


With the first round of award season just beginning, "Manchester by The Sea" received the top prize from the National Board of Review for Best Film while "Moonlight" tied with "American Honey" with the most nominations at six from the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards. "Manchester" did receive five noms including Best Feature from the Spirits although director, Kenneth Lonergan was absent from the Best Director category.

Some notable wins from the NBR include the surprising choice of Amy Adams for Best Actress for "Arrival", Jeff Bridges taking the Best Supporting Actor prize for the sleeper hit, "Hell or High Water" and "Kubo and the Two Strings" beating "Zootopia" for Best Animated Feature. And for a film that has barely been screened, Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese taking the Best Adapted Screenplay award for "Silence" was certainly unexpected.

The Spirit Awards, which highlights the best in indie cinema, will bring some much needed attention with nominations to some great films and performances from this year that might get overlooked. Some of these include "Little Men", "Other People" that also features the amazing work by Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon, Lily Gladstone in "Certain Women", "Spa Night", Ralph Fiennes in “A Bigger Splash” and the perfectly creepy, New England horror flick, "The Witch".

2016 National Board of Review winners:

Best Film: "Manchester by the Sea"
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight"
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, "Manchester by the Sea"
Best Actress: Amy Adams, "Arrival"
Best Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges, "Hell or High Water"
Best Supporting Actress: Naomie Harris, "Moonlight"
Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester by the Sea"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, "Silence"
Best Animated Feature: "Kubo and the Two Strings"
Breakthrough Performance (Male): Lucas Hedges, "Manchester by the Sea"
Breakthrough Performance (Female): Royalty Hightower, "The Fits"
Best Directorial Debut: Trey Edward Shults, "Krisha"
Best Foreign Language Film: "The Salesman"
Best Documentary: "O.J.: Made in America"
Best Ensemble: "Hidden Figures"
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: "Cameraperson"

2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations

Best Feature:

“American Honey”
“Manchester by the Sea”

Best Director:

Andrea Arnold, “American Honey”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Pablo Larrain, “Jackie”
Jeff Nichols, “Loving”
Kelly Reichardt, “Certain Women”

Best Screenplay:

Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water”
Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, “Little Men”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Mike Mills, “20th Century Women”

Best First Feature:

“The Childhood of a Leader”
“The Fits”
“Other People”
“Swiss Army Man”
“The Witch”

Best First Screenplay:

Adam Mansbach, “Barry”
Craig Shilowich, “Christine”
Stella Meghie, “Jean of the Joneses”
Chris Kelly, “Other People”
Robert Eggers, “The Witch”

Best Male Lead:

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
David Harewood, “Free in Deed”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Jesse Plemons, “Other People”
Tim Roth, “Chronic”

Best Female Lead:

Annette Bening, “20th Century Women”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Sasha Lane, “American Honey”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”

Best Supporting Male:

Ralph Fiennes, “A Bigger Splash”
Ben Foster, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Shia LaBeouf, “American Honey”
Craig Robinson, “Morris from America”

Best Supporting Female:

Edwina Findley, “Free in Deed”
Paulina Garcia, “Little Men”
Lily Gladstone, “Certain Women”
Riley Keough, “American Honey”
Molly Shannon, “Other People”

Best International Film:

“Aquarius” (Brazil)
“Chevalier” (Greece)
“My Golden Days” (France)
“Toni Erdmann” (Germany/Romania)
“Under the Shadow” (Iran/United Kingdom)

Best Documentary Feature:

“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Under the Sun”

Best Cinematography:

“American Honey”
“Free in Deed”
“Eyes of My Mother”

Best Editing:

“Hell or High Water”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Swiss Army Man”

John Cassavetes Award:

“Free in Deed”
“Hunter Gatherer”
“Spa Night”

Robert Altman Award: “Moonlight”

Truer Than Fiction Award:

Kristi Jacobson, “Solitary”
Sara Jordeno, “Kiki”
Nanfu Wang, “Holligan Sparrow”

Someone to Watch Award:

Andrew Ahn, “Spa Night”
Claire Carre, “Embers”
Anna Rose Holmer, “The Fits”
Ingrid Jungermann, “Women Who Kill”

Sunday, November 20, 2016


The latest example of fashion and film coming together is a collaboration between designer Miuccia Prada and David O. Russell, director of "Silver Linings Playbook", "The Fighter" and "American Hustle". Together they have created a black & white, silent, twelve minute film called "Past Forward". A stylish and dream-like mind-trip that features Allison Williams, Freida Pinto and Kuoth Wiel playing variations of the same role. Look for John Krasinski, Connie Britton, Paula Patton and Sacha Baron Cohen who all make brief appearances. A sneak peak of "Past Forward" premiered this past September during the Prada fashion show in Milan. Now you can check out the entire film:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Written & Directed by Justin Kelly

Where & When: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood, CA. October 30, 2016 7:15 PM

James Franco, with his curious fascination in gay male culture, takes us on another excursion, as an actor and co-producer, with "King Cobra", a bleak examination in to the sleazy world of porn and a rivalry between two studios, each wanting a piece of a sexy young stud, which leads to frustration, resentment and ultimately, murder. Writer/director Justin Kelly has managed to bring a lighter tone and even some humor to this grim, based-on-fact story but the outcome still doesn't completely captivate.

Stephen (Christian Slater) may appear to be a mild-mannered, local photographer, specializing in family portraits but that is not how he really makes a living. He is the owner of Cobra Video, a one-man operation that involves encouraging hot, young men to engage in sexual acts on camera. His latest find is Sean Paul Lockhart (Garrett Clayton), a very young-looking eighteen year old from San Diego. Insecure and in need of money, Lockhart auditions for Stephen and impresses the director with his natural charisma.

Sean is renamed "Brent Corrigan" and quickly becomes a popular new star. While he enjoys the trappings of his success, Sean begins to resent Stephen's control over his career and finances, especially after being pressured to start a sexual relationship with him. After being denied a proper raise, Sean threatens to leave but is reminded that he's under contract and his stage name is owned by Stephen.

But then Sean drops a bombshell. He was underage when he began filming and threatens to go to the police unless he's released. Stephen calls his bluff and Sean reluctantly reports his story which effectively shuts down the company. The now-legal performer tries to find work with other studios but no one will touch him because of the scandal and the contract.

Only one company expresses interest in hiring Brent Corrigan. Viper Boyz, a struggling, low-budget outfit run by Joe (Franco), an ill-tempered producer/pimp and his damaged lover and main performer, Harlow (Keegan Allen), sees this star as their ticket to the big time. They try to make a deal with Stephen but he refuses. Not willing to accept his answer, the corrupt pair come up with a diabolical and grisly plan to bring an end to contract renegotiation.

"Boogie Nights", Paul Thomas Anderson's brilliant look at the seedy, drug-fueled yet family-like atmosphere of the 1970's L.A. porn industry, seems to have set the high benchmark of cinema involving the world of sex work. "King Cobra" lacks the style and passion of that praised film, having more in common with a Lifetime peril-of-the-week movie. Mr. Kelly's script feels overly simplified and rushed with the events that lead up to this tragedy clearly having to be more detailed and complex than in the way they're presented here. The characters are one-dimensional and have as much depth as what you would find in your standard adult film. Not that I would know personally, of course, it's just what I've heard.

With the exception of Mr. Slater's Stephen (based on the real-life Bryan Kocis and whose name was changed most likely for legal reasons) who convinces as a seductive predator, bringing a soothing menace to the proceedings and to a lesser degree, Mr. Clayton, who charms as the tough but sweet porn star, the performances are flat and uninspired. Two teen icons of the '80's and '90's, Molly Ringwald who plays Stephen's clueless sister and Alicia Silverstone as Sean Paul's clueless mother, make appearances that are far too brief to register and amount to nothing more than stunt casting.

With a salacious story combining the adventures in the skin-trade and a true-life crime drama, "King Cobra" delivers a healthy dose of titillation and sensationalism. The problem is it can't decide if it wants to be a dramatic retelling or a pitch black parody. And it's not entirely successful as either.

Monday, November 7, 2016


One of my favorite film festivals marks their thirtieth anniversary this year, the AFI Film Fest presented by Audi. The event will begin on November 10th and run through the 17th with screenings held at the TCL Chinese Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre. To celebrate this milestone, the American Film Institute selected a diverse trio of classic Hollywood beauties and trailblazers to feature on individual posters. Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American nominated for a "Best Actress" Academy Award, Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American actress to achieve international fame and Ida Lupino, an actress and pioneering writer and director are honored.

The opening night film will be "Rules Don't Apply", the first film directed by Warren Beatty in fifteen years. The seventy-nine year old actor also wrote, produced and has a featured role in the romantic drama as the reclusive Howard Hughes. Set in Hollywood during the late '50's, an aspiring young actress (Lily Collins) and her ambitious young driver (Alden Ehrenreich) struggle with the wildly unpredictable billionaire for whom they work. The two are very attracted to each other but Hughes's rule that no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress proves to be a complicated obstacle. Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen and Beatty's wife, Annette Bening also star.

And Ms Bening will be honored with a celebration of her amazing film career with a conversation and a centerpiece screening of her latest film, "20th Century Women" by director Mike Mills on November 16th. Another great actress, French icon, Isabelle Huppert will also have a tribute to her lengthy film career that includes over 100 features and television programs with a special conversation and gala screening of her latest from director, Paul Verhoeven, "Elle" on November 13th. Huppert will also appear in Mia Hansen-Love's new film, "Things To Come" which will be shown at the fest.

The closing night film selected will be "Patriots Day" which stars Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg. It tells the tragic true-life story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath of the manhunt to capture the criminals. J. K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan also star.

In between, there will be an impressive collection of the best of world cinema from some of the top filmmakers like Pablo Larrain ("Neruda"), Cristian Mungiu ("Graduation (Bacalaureat)"), Ken Loach ("I, Daniel Blake"), Xavier Dolan ("It's Only The End of the World") and Pedro Almodovar ("Julieta"). Some buzzed about features that have made the rounds at previous festivals will be screened including "Paterson", "Jackie", "Lion" and "La La Land". In addition there are a few world premieres like "The Comedian" starring Robert DeNiro, "Miss Sloane" starring Jessica Chastain and the latest Disney animated film, "Moana".

For the complete list of films, purchase express passes or receive free tickets and additional information, please click below:

AFI 2016