Tag Archives: awards

‘Deadpool’ in, ‘Silence’ out and more Globes film surprises

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association never fails to disappoint with their assortment of nominees, which always seem to include some expected picks, some inspired ones and some headscratchers too.

The nominations for the 74th annual Golden Globes certainly had some bombshells, too. Here are a few notable snubs and surprises.


Past Globes glory didn’t seem to matter this year for Hollywood legends Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Warren Beatty, none of whom received directing nominations despite all having won in that category at least once. In fact, Eastwood’s “Sully” (that means no Tom Hanks nomination either) and Scorsese’s “Silence” were shut out completely, while Beatty’s big return to directing and acting, “Rules Don’t Apply,” scored only one nomination — for actress Lily Collins.


Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen adaptation “Love & Friendship” charmed audiences and critics, but was left without a single nomination — especially surprising in the case of Kate Beckinsale, whose performance as the conniving and ambitious Lady Susan Vernon has been widely regarded as one of her best. Instead, in the musical or comedy category, the HFPA singled out the little-seen John Carney musical “Sing Street.”


Besides being a superhero movie, the irreverent and very R-rated “Deadpool” is about as far away as one can get from a stereotypically tasteful awards choice, but somehow still scored two nominations — one for best motion picture in the musical or comedy category and another for star Ryan Reynolds. Perhaps they draw the line at animated food orgy, though — “Sausage Party,” despite a big awards push, was left out of the fun.


The comedy and drama distinction always allows for a few out-of-nowhere contenders, but the best performance by an actor in a musical or comedy was stacked with unexpected picks, including Colin Farrell for his performance as a single guy looking for love in the dark as night comedy “The Lobster,” Ryan Reynolds for “Deadpool,” and Jonah Hill as a bro arms dealer in the generally panned “War Dogs.” In the supporting category, Aaron Taylor-Johnson sneaked in with a nod for his portrayal of a sadistic Texan in “Nocturnal Animals” and Simon Helberg for his crowd-pleasing piano player in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which elicited a gasp from those in the room at the Beverly Hilton while the nominations were being announced.


“Miss Sloane,” the Jessica Chastain-led lobbying thriller, might have bombed at the box office this weekend and received generally tepid reviews from critics, but it didn’t stop the HFPA taking notice of Chastain’s performance as the always three steps ahead of the competition Elizabeth Sloane. Since 2012, Chastain has been nominated for four Golden Globes and won once, in 2013, for “Zero Dark Thirty.”


With the statistics of female representation behind the camera as dismal as they are, it might not be that much of a surprise to find zero films directed by women up for best picture or best director this year. Yet it is notable, especially with critically acclaimed fare like Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” and Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” both of which were shut out completely. The one saving grace is in the foreign category, where Maren Ade’s comedy “Toni Erdmann” is the nominee from Germany and Uda Benyamina’s “Divines” is nominated from France.

Jessica Williams, Cate Blanchett star in Sundance premieres

Former “Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams flexes her dramatic chops. Cate Blanchett pays homage to great 20th century artists and “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani tells a very personal story in some of the films premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Programmers announced their selections for the documentary and narrative premiere sections at the Sundance Film Festival, which has launched films like “Boyhood,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “O.J.: Made in America.”

As with many years, the Sundance premiere slate can be a place for well-known comedians to take a stab at more dramatic and serious roles.

In what’s expected to be one of the breakout films and performances of the festival, comedian Jessica Williams stars in Jim Strouse’s “The Incredible Jessica James,” about a New York playwright recovering from a breakup and finding solace in a recent divorcee.

Nanjiani is another who might surprise audiences in “The Big Sick,” which he co-wrote with his wife Emily V. Gordon and is based on their own courtship. He stars alongside Zoe Kazan in the Michael Showalter-directed pic.

The festival also has films featuring veteran stars in different kinds of roles.

Shirley MacLaine stars in “The Last Word,” about a retired businesswoman who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a journalist (Amanda Seyfried) after writing her own obituary.

Festival founder Robert Redford, too, is in Charlie McDowell’s “The Discovery,” about a world where the afterlife has been proven. Jason Segel and Rooney Mara also star.

Cate Blanchett re-enacts artistic statements of Dadaists, Lars von Trier and everyone in between in “Manifesto.”

Michelle Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland co-star in the drama “Where is Kyra.”

“Avengers” Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen re-team in the FBI crime thriller “Wind River,” the directorial debut of “Hell or High Water” writer Taylor Sheridan.

“Bessie” director Dee Rees is poised to be a standout with “Mudbound,” a racial drama set in the post-WWII South and starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige.

“It’s quite topical to this time even though it’s a period piece,” said festival director John Cooper.

Among the documentaries premiering are a look at the Oklahoma City bombing from Barak Goodman; Stanley Nelson’s examination of black colleges and universities, “Tell Them We Are Rising”; and Barbara Kopple’s account of a champion diver who announces he is transgender, “This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.”

“The beauty of independent film is it’s not a copycat world, unlike some of the Hollywood stuff where they follow trends,” said programming director Trevor Groth. “Independent film has always been about originality and choice and something different.”

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 19- 29.


On the Web


Elie Wiesel’s literary legacy

For more than a half-century, Elie Wiesel voiced his passionate beliefs to world leaders, celebrities and general audiences in the name of victims of violence and oppression.

Wiesel, who died on July 2, wrote more than 40 books of fiction and non-fiction, but his most influential by far was Night, a classic ranked with Anne Frank’s diary as standard reading about the Holocaust.

Here’s a look at some of his published works and distinctions:


> 1960: His first book Night, was first published in the U.S. in 1960. It has been translated into 30 languages and has sold millions of copies.

> 1961: Dawn, a novel.

> 1970: A Beggar in Jerusalem, a novel that won a French literary award

> 1980: The Testament a novel.

> 1995: All Rivers Run to the Sea, the first of his two-volume memoirs.

> 1999: And the Sea is Never Full, the second of his two-volume memoirs.


> 1978: President Jimmy Carter appointed him to head the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and plan an American memorial museum to Holocaust victims.

> 1985: President Ronald Reagan presented him with U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his “humanitarian efforts and outstanding contributions to world literature and human rights.”

> 1986: In awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called him as “a messenger to mankind” and “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterise the world.”

> 1992: President George H.W. Bush presented him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, saying Wiesel survived the Holocaust and “still today keeps watch against the forces of hatred.”

> 2001: Wiesel is granted the rank of grand croix in the French Legion of Honor, France’s premier award.

> 2013: Israel President Shimon Peres awarded him the Presidential Medal of Distinction, the country’s highest civil medal, for his “ongoing work in preserving the memory of the Holocaust.”

Her Story rules Game Developers Choice Awards

Her Story captured the most trophies at the Game Developers Choice Awards.

The interactive mystery was honored this week for best narrative, hand-held/mobile game and innovation at the 16th annual ceremony honoring interactive entertainment.

Sam Barlow’s indie game stars actress-musician Viva Seifert as a young wife being interrogated about her missing husband. Earlier in the evening, Her Story also picked up the awards for excellence in narrative and the Seumas McNally grand prize.

“I was working for like 15 years making games for publishers, and it was just frustrating because there’s so much space to be explored,” Barlow said. “There’s so much we can do with this medium. That stuff’s just incremental.”

Other game awards

The fantasy epic The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which is based on Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski’s book series, claimed game of the year and best technology honors.

“That was a close one,” joked CD Projekt RED co-founder Marcin Iwinski while accepting the night’s top prize. “For a moment, I thought it would be Her Story again.”

Other winners included Rocket League for best design, Crypt of the NecroDancer for best audio, Life is Strange for the audience award, and Ori and the Blind Forest for best debut and visual art.

On the Web


Award season is not over…

This year’s Oscar Award hubbub is over but it’s never too late to bestow honors on the deserving and undeserving in all facets of American life.

Leonardo DeCaprio was touted for the bold environmental statement he delivered during his Oscar acceptance speech. The respected actor deserves the “Clueless He-Man” Award for gushing repeatedly about his film The Revenant that “This is the kind of movie we should be making!” Sure Leo, Hollywood does not make nearly enough male revenge epics.

For its decision to pursue a $150 million tax-avoiding corporate inversion with Tyco International, Johnson Controls wins this year’s “Corporate Parasite” Award.

Among the “talking points” issued to defend the merger, Johnson Controls said that it and Tyco have “successful and robust” contracts with the U.S. government. In other words, they’re bullish about reeling in the government largesse as long as they don’t have to pay their share. That’s supposed to make it OK?

The “Take That, Scott Walker” Award goes to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for being elevated to the status of a research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. UW-Milwaukee now joins the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the ranks of the 115 best research institutions in the country.

Congratulations to the researchers and professors at UWM whose dedicated work in the arts and sciences advances our civilization. And let’s give a big raspberry to Walker and other Republican dullards for attacking tenure and cutting UW System budgets.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. gets the “Raging Impotency” Award for the hateful comments he spews, usually while pandering to right-wing audiences on Fox News. Among the contributions of this “peace” officer: calling Black Lives Matter activists “sub-human creeps” and denying police brutality exists.

Clarke reminds me of self-hating homosexuals who preach hell fire and damnation for gay people. His towering ego is in conflict with his inadequacy. In the scheme of things, Milwaukee County sheriff is not a very powerful position. The big cowboy hats don’t fool anyone.

A special Merit Badge goes to Chris Rock, host of the Oscar telecast, for promoting the Girl Scouts and their cookies. A companion “Shut the Front Door” Award goes to the archbishop of St. Louis who, days before the Oscars, declared that the Girl Scouts were exhibiting “troubling behavior … incompatible with our Catholic values.”

The “troubling behavior” apparently includes: having fun, empowering girls, and being open-minded and inclusive of different people. Support the Girl Scouts: Make the patriarchy quake.

The “Goodbye, Already” Award goes to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who left a legacy of division through his mean-spirited decisions and dissents.

Scalia openly demeaned African Americans, gay people and immigrants and frequently denigrated the thinking of his fellow justices. He refused to compromise or reach consensus with them. He is not someone to emulate or admire and he hardly ranks with the giants of American jurisprudence. Goodbye, already.

The “Soldiering On” Award goes to the staff and volunteers of Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin and nationwide. GOP funding cuts, smear tactics and daily threats of violence do not keep these brave women and men from providing the professional, non-judgmental reproductive health care that millions of Americans need. Thank them by making a tax-deductible contribution to Planned Parenthood today.

On the community bulletin board …


The United Performing Arts Fund announced a record 2016 campaign goal of $12,260,000 at a celebration at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. The goal was announced at the conclusion of a program featuring a tribute to Yip Harburg with an appearance by Aaron Harburg, the lyricist’s great-grandson, and performances by Present Music, Skylight Music Theatre, Danceworks, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and First Stage. For more, go to www.upaf.org.

The 14th annual Local Farmer Open House takes place 11 a.m.-3 p.m. March 12 at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park.
The 14th annual Local Farmer Open House takes place 11 a.m.-3 p.m. March 12 at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park.


The Citizen Action Organizing Cooperative recently launched a campaign called Radio-Active to “break the right-wing media monopoly in Milwaukee.” Organizers plan house parties and other events to build support and raise money to monitor right-wing radio programs and explore the goal of operating a progressive talk radio station. For more, go to Radio-Active on Facebook.


Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and community leaders in Dane County announced a new vehicle to help people obtain the photo ID cards needed to vote in Wisconsin elections. The vehicle is a ride service bringing people to the Department of Motor Vehicles throughout March. Volunteers also will be connecting with people at various venues to offer information about ID requirements and voter registration. For more, go to voteridwisconsin.org.

150 FILMS, 8 DAYS, 30,000 PEOPLE

The Wisconsin Film Festival — presented by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Institute in association with the school’s Department of Communication Arts — takes place April 14-21. The largest university-managed film fest in the nation is known for its diverse offerings, including independent, international, documentary, experimental, avant-garde, classic and children’s film, as well as the Wisconsin’s Own Competition. For more, go to 2016.wifilmfest.org.


The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County is honoring the Wisconsin chapter of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce with its “Organization of the Year” award. The celebration, with other awards presentations, is set for 5:30 p.m. March 13 at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago St., Milwaukee. Special guests include U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore. For more, email awards_dinner@milwaukeedems.org.


A section of the 1.25-mile-long rainbow Pride flag unfurled on Key West’s Duval Street in 2003 was featured March 5 in Australia’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. Sydney held one of the earlier LGBT Pride events on the 2016 calendar. Wisconsin’s Pride celebrations take place in the summer, beginning with Milwaukee PrideFest June 10-12.

A section of the 1.25-mile-long rainbow Pride flag unfurled on Key West’s Duval Street in 2003 was featured March 5 in Australia’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.
A section of the 1.25-mile-long rainbow Pride flag unfurled on Key West’s Duval Street in 2003 was featured March 5 in Australia’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

Gorgeous ‘Manchester by the Sea’ is a shattering masterwork

No one shows the landscape of human grief and trauma quite like Kenneth Lonergan.

It sometimes seems like the playwright turned director of both “You Can Count On Me” and “Margaret” knows us better than we know ourselves. His movies look and feel like life — it’s no wonder our souls can only handle one every few years. 

“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday to a massive standing ovation, is truly a masterpiece.

In its simplest form, “Manchester by the Sea” is about family, tragedy and aftermath. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a custodian in Boston for some scummy apartment buildings. He lives alone in an unadorned room. He fixes toilets as silently and as stoically as one can. He turns down frequent advances with a simple “that’s all right.” And he gets into bar fights of his own making.

Then his brother (played by Kyle Chandler) dies and he must return to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), forcing him to explore the reasons he had to leave years ago.

There is no easy way to sum up what the film is about. Part of its impact is how Lonergan allows the story to reveal itself to the audience as he elegantly weaves together past and present, building tension to a devastating crescendo midway through. To even describe who the other actors play would be too much, but, suffice it to say that both Michelle Williams and Gretchen Mol are pivotal.

And while it might be a drama to its core, it is neither dreary nor self-indulgent. It’s also packed with wit and humor as well.

“It’s about the relationship between very sad, terrible losses and the connections to other people that make them painful and can also get you through them — or at least keep you afloat,” Lonergan said prior to the Festival. “You have a very damaged man and a very good-natured, cheerful, energetic, determined kid who are thrown together in a town where one doesn’t want to be and the other doesn’t want to leave.”

After the film premiered, Affleck told a sobbing audience that the experience has made him a better actor.

Hedges, who had a small role in “Moonrise Kingdom” said, too, that the raw emotion of so many of the scenes are “often more fulfilling and therapeutic than destructive.”

The script has been in the works for years. Matt Damon, who produced, said that he and John Krasinski had come to Lonergan with an idea years ago. First Damon was to direct with Krasinski starring, then Damon was going to star with Lonergan directing. But Damon’s schedule was just too full.

“I didn’t want to get in the way of a great movie being way,” Damon said. “I said to Kenny I don’t want to give this role up to anybody but Casey Affleck.”

Damon and Affleck had done a play with Lonergan in London over a decade ago, and Damon was also in “Margaret.”

While it is comically early in 2016, it’s hard to imagine that “Manchester by the Sea” won’t be considered one of the year’s best, if not the absolute best, by this time next year.

“People find ways to live with real tragedy, but some people don’t,” Lonergan said. “I thought maybe they deserve to have a movie made about them too.”

Children’s books on class, Winnie the Pooh win prizes

Matt de la Pena’s and Christian Robinson’s “Last Stop on Market Street” nearly made history twice this week.

The illustrated exploration of race and class through the eyes of a boy and his grandmother won the Newbery Medal for the best children’s book of 2015, making de la Pena the first Hispanic writer to receive the 94-year-old prize, one of the most cherished among children’s writers. It came close to another rare coup by finishing as a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal for the top illustrated book.

“I hope all the brilliant Hispanic writers of the past and present view this as a recognition of our diverse community and that it inspires young Hispanics coming up to read their way through the world and consider a path in the arts,” de la Pena said in a statement released through his publisher, Penguin Young Readers.

The winner of the Caldecott Medal was “Finding Winnie,” the story behind A.A. Milne’s famous literary creation Winnie the Pooh, illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick.

The Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced by the American Library Association, which has gathered in Boston for its annual midwinter meeting.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” winner last fall of the National Book Award, was among 10 recipients of the Alex prize for adult books that appeal to teen readers. Coates’ book is an open letter to his teenage son about racism and police violence. The association also handed out two lifetime achievement awards for a former Caldecott winner, the illustrator Jerry Pinckney. Another lifetime achievement honor was given to novelist David Levithan, who works as editorial director at Scholastic.

Rita Williams-Garcia won her second Coretta Scott King Award in three years for the best book by a black writer. Williams-Garcia was cited for “Gone Crazy in Alabama,” the third of a trilogy about the Gaither sisters. Laura Ruby’s “Bone Gap” won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The Belpre award for best Latino/Latina book was given to “Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir,” written by Margarita Engle. Rafael Lopez won the Belpre illustrator prize for “The Drum Dream Girl,” written by Margarita Engle.

LA Film Critics: ‘Spotlight’ is best film

The high-octane “Mad Max: Fury Road” might have driven off with the most awards, but the Los Angeles Film Critics Association had another in mind for its top film of the year: “Spotlight,” the comparatively subdued drama about the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into sex abuses in the Catholic Church.

LAFCA is one of the highest-profile regional critics groups, but often strays from the mainstream in its annual awards choices. Only once in the past 20 years has the LAFCA Best Film winner gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

There was no clear favorite this year, and LAFCA honored a vast variety of some of the year’s best films further reinforcing the narrative that the Oscar race is still fairly undefined.

“Mad Max: Fury Road,” picked up three honors — the most for any film — including best director for George Miller, best cinematography, and best production design. But the dystopian rager, which the National Board of Review chose as their best film earlier this week, got second place to Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which also won for its screenplay.

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s dark animated film “Anomalisa” also got multiple awards, including best animated film and best music/score for composer Carter Burwell, who was also recognized for “Carol.”

Acting awards were given similarly out of the box choices. Michael Fassbender won best actor for portraying the tech titan in “Steve Jobs,” while Charlotte Rampling picked up the award for best actress for her role in the marital drama “45 Years.”

Michael Shannon won best supporting actor for playing the predatory real estate broker in the housing bubble film “99 Homes,” and Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for her performance as the beguiling Artificial Intelligence creation in “Ex Machina.”

“Amy,” about the life of late pop star Amy Winehouse, won best documentary, and “Son of Saul” picked up best foreign film.

Director Ryan Coogler also won the LAFCA new generation award for “Creed,” a continuation of the Rocky Balboa saga.

“Carol,” Todd Haynes’ 1950s-set romance, which dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this past week was practically shut out, aside from Burwell’s co-win for score and a host of runner-up awards, including director and production design.

The awards-friendly “Joy,” “The Revenant,” “The Danish Girl” and “Room” were nowhere to be found in LAFCA’s choices. Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” was recognized only for Ennio Morricone’s score as the runner-up to Burwell’s compositions.

Ultimately, the awards race continues to be wide open in nearly every category. The competition will heat up this week though, when nominees are announced for both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes.

On the Web…