Review: ‘Bad Education,’ starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney

April 26, 2020

by Carla Hay

Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney in “Bad Education” (Photo by JoJo Whilden/HBO)

“Bad Education” (2020)

Directed by Cory Finley

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily on Long Island, New York, and partially in Las Vegas, the drama “Bad Education” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Indian Americans) representing the middle-class and upper-class.

Culture Clash: Based on true events, the movie tells the story of corrupt administrators and their accomplices, who embezzled an estimated $11 million from the school district of Roslyn High School in Roslyn, New York.

Culture Audience: “Bad Education” will appeal primarily to Hugh Jackman fans and people who like dramas based on true crime.

Hugh Jackman and Geraldine Viswanathan in “Bad Education” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“Bad Education” follows many familiar tonal beats of true-crime movies, but the riveting performances of Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney elevate what could have been a somewhat mediocre film. Based on true events that happened in 2002, “Bad Education” portrays the investigation that led to the downfalls of several people involved in an embezzlement/fraud scam that stole an estimated $11 million over several years from the high-school district in the upscale suburban city of Roslyn, New York. It’s said to be the largest prosecuted embezzlement in the history of American public schools.

The two people at the center of the crimes against Roslyn High School are school superintendent Frank Tassone (played by Jackman) and assistant superintendent/business manager Pam Glucklin (played by Janney), who work closely together and also cover up for each other. As it’s eventually revealed in the movie, they cared about more than just increasing the prestige level of Roslyn High School, the high-ranking  jewel in their school-administration crown. They also cared a great deal about increasing their personal wealth using illegally obtained school funds, mostly by billing the district for lavish trips, homes, cars and other personal expenses.

In the beginning of the film, which is effectively bookmarked with a similar scene at the end of the film, Frank is introduced like a rock star at a school assembly, which has gathered to celebrate Roslyn High School’s achievement of ranking at No. 4 in the U.S. for being the highest academically achieving high school. The school has reached this level under Frank’s leadership, and his goal is to elevate Roslyn High School to No. 1.

Frank’s friendly charm and winning smile have made him very popular with his co-workers, parents and students. By contrast, Pam has a prickly and dismissive personality, but her strong alliance with Frank has given her a lot of clout in the school district. Their boss is school board president Bob Spicer (played by Ray Romano), who is Frank’s biggest champion.

One of the school’s goals is a skywalk proposal, which would build a multimillion-dollar skywalk bridge to link the school from end to end. A bright and inquisitive student named Rachel Bhargava (played by Geraldine Viswanathan) is tasked with doing an article about the skywalk for Roslyn High School’s newspaper, The Beacon. At first, when she does a very brief interview with Frank for the article, she thinks it’s going to be a boring puff piece.

Rachel thinks so little of the assignment that she even tells Frank that it will be a puff piece. His response: “It’s only a puff piece if you let it be a puff piece. A real journalist can turn an assignment into a story.” It’s unknown if the real Frank Tassone ever said those words to any of the real student reporters of The Beacon who broke the news of the embezzlement scandal, but those words will come back to haunt Frank in this movie.

While preparing the article, Rachel needs to get some facts and statistics about the skywalk construction proposal bids that the school district received from contractors. She has to get permission from Pam to access those documents, which are in a very cluttered storage area of the school. While Frank was accommodating and gracious in giving his time to Rachel, Pam is impatient and condescending when talking to Rachel for the article. Pam gives Rachel the room key to access the requested documents, but warns her that the area is so messy and disorganized that it will be challenging for her to find the paperwork that she’s seeking.

The storage area turns out to have a treasure trove of documents that Rachel’s assigning editor Nick Fleischman (played by Alex Wolff) happens to notice when he accidentally knocks some of the papers out of her backpack when he impatiently tries to stop her while walking down a school hallway. (It’s one of those moments in the movie that probably didn’t happen in real life, but was fabricated for dramatic purposes.)

Nick thinks she may be on to a big story, so Rachel finds out through further investigation that the documents have a lot of proof that invoices charging a fortune have been billed to the school district, but many of the companies listed on the invoices don’t exist. Rachel gets help from her father David Bhargava (played by Hari Dhillon) in doing the grunt work of making calls to investigate the legitimacy of companies that are listed on the school invoices.

Why does Rachel’s father have that much free time on his hands? In a minor subplot, it’s revealed that he lost his job because of accusations that he was involved with insider trading. In the midst of investigating corruption at her own school, Rachel at one point asks her father if he really was guilty of insider trading. His answer serves to telegraph Rachel’s decision to report what she’s found out.

What happens next has a domino effect that exposes elaborate, longtime schemes orchestrated by Frank and Pam. Because of this high-profile case, many viewers might already know about the outcome. However, screenwriter Mike Makowsky (a Roslyn native who graduated from high school seven years after the scandal) and director Cory Finley infuse the movie with enough suspense and sly comedy to make it a slightly better-than-average telling of a crime story.

“Bad Education” takes a sometimes sardonic look at how manipulative and cunning Frank was in covering up his crimes. He was a man of many faces—literally, since his vanity facelifts and meticulous application of makeup are shown in the movie—and many secrets, which he covered up with a web of lies that eventually unraveled. Even in his personal life (Frank was a closeted gay man), he deceived the people who were closest to him. The movie is also a takedown of the weak-willed enablers who knew about the corruption, but were complicit in covering it up because they didn’t want to lose their jobs and they wanted to keep up the appearance that they had an ideal school district.

Frank also mastered the art of deflection, so that when he was under scrutiny, he was able to turn it around on potential accusers to make them afraid of getting in trouble for not detecting the problem earlier. He also used, to his advantage, the administration’s fixation on increasing the prestige of Roslyn High School, which tied into many administrators’ ulterior motives of raising the property values in Roslyn too.

Janney doesn’t have as much screen time as Jackman does, but she makes the most of characterizing Pam as being more than just a selfish and greedy shrew. The movie shows how she was generous to a fault in sharing her illegally funded wealth with her family. That generosity would turn out to be her downfall, since she allowed certain family members to use school credit cards to fund their lavish personal spending. The family members who were also part of the widespread scam included Pam’s husband Howard Gluckin (played by Ray Abruzzo); Jim Boy McCarden (played by Jimmy Tatro), her son from a previous marriage; and her co-worker niece Jenny Aquila (played by Annaleigh Ashford), who relies on Pam for financial help.

All of these family members are dimwitted in some way—they didn’t do much to hide their identities in the paper trail that exposed their crimes—but Jenny is portrayed as particularly loathsome. At one point in the movie, even after some of the crimes were exposed, Jenny tries to take over her aunt/benefactor Pam’s job at the school. Jenny also makes a pathetic and botched attempt to blackmail Frank, who quickly puts Jenny in her place and reminds her that she’s no match for him and his devious manipulations.

When Pam’s world starts to unravel, Janney uses subtle cues in showing how this character’s carefully constructed façade starts to crumble, as her perfectly posh, enunicated English starts to give way to a very working-class Long Island accent. Pam is so obsessed with keeping up appearances that she makes the mistake of being too loyal to Frank when things start to crash down on them.

“Bad Education” is a very Hollywood version of a seedy true crime story. In real life, none of the people were as glamorous-looking as the actors who portray them in the movie—although, in real life, the embezzlers spent money as if they were Hollywood celebrities. The movie accurately shows that people got away with crimes of this length and magnitude because they were able to fool others by having a “respectable” image. The ending scene effectively illustrates that Frank’s inflated ego and arrogance led him to believe that he was a legend in his own mind—and the results were reckless crimes that destroyed school finances, careers and people’s trust.

HBO premiered “Bad Education” on April 25, 2020.

Review: ‘Troop Zero,’ starring Viola Davis, Mckenna Grace, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps and Allison Janney

January 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Troop Zero
Allison Janney and Viola Davis in “Troop Zero” (Photo by Curtis Bonds Baker)

“Troop Zero”

Directed by Bert & Bertie

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1977, the family-friendly comedy “Troop Zero” has predominantly white American characters (with some representation of African Americans and Latinos) from the middle and lower classes of a rural, conservative community in the U.S. state of Georgia.

Culture Clash: The movie’s plot revolves around a talent competition for middle-school Birdie Scouts, with one rival troop comprised of “popular girls” and another rival troop comprised of “social outcasts.”

Culture Audience: “Troop Zero” will appeal primarily to people who like adorable, slightly kooky comedies about student angst and self-identity.

Mckenna Grace in “Troop Zero” (Photo by Curtis Bonds Baker)

In a comedy film, a cranky adult reluctantly takes on a group of pre-teen misfits to coach them in a high-stakes competition where the team will be ridiculed underdogs. Is it 1977’s “The Bad News Bears” or 1992’s “The Mighty Ducks”? No, in this case, it’s 2020’s “Troop Zero,” a decidedly different take on a familiar plot outline.

“Troop Zero,” which is set in 1977 rural Georgia, is certainly a throwback to those films from a bygone era when smartphones and social media didn’t dominate kids’ lives. The main differences between most films of this kind and “Troop Zero” is that for “Troop Zero,” the story is told from the perspective of a girl; the adult leader of the misfit group is a woman; and the movie was written and directed by women.

Directed by female duo Bert & Bertie and written by Oscar-nominated “Beasts of the Southern Wild” co-writer Lucy Alibar, “Troop Zero” has a cute and quirky charm that comes primarily from Christmas Flint (played by Mckenna Grace), an adolescent girl who’s obsessed with outer space and who’s still grieving over the death of her mother from the previous year. The opening scene of the movie shows Christmas trying to contact outer-space aliens with flashlight signals.

Christmas lives with her father, Ramsey Flint (played by Jim Gaffigan), a defense attorney who’s constantly having financial problems because he has many clients who can’t or won’t pay him, and he has a hard time saying no to people he thinks need his help. Ramsey’s assistant/office manager is Miss Raylene (played by Viola Davis), who’s the closest to a maternal figure that Christmas has in her life, even if Miss Raylene says she doesn’t particularly like being around children. “Little girls give me the creeps,” Miss Raylene says in one scene. “You can’t him them no more. They changed the laws.”

Ramsey’s best friend Dwayne (played by Mike Epps) is a fellow Vietnam War veteran who’s suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Back in 1977, there wasn’t a name for PTSD, so they usually called it being “shell-shocked.” Dwayne is the love interest of Miss Raylene, who’s had her heart broken in her past. She reveals the details in the movie, and it explains why she has such a hard exterior.

Viewers see early on in the film that Christmas is an outcast at her school not only because a lot of students think she’s weird, but also because her father’s financially precarious situation has branded the Flints as “poor trash” by the snobs in the community. Her best friend is Joseph (played by Charlie Shotwell), an androgynous, flamboyant child who might be gay, but the movie hints that Joseph is either gender-fluid or non-binary, because various characters in the movie keep saying that they don’t know if Joseph is a boy or a girl. And since this movie takes place in 1977, there weren’t specific terms for people who might not have a cisgender identity.

Some of the social rejection that Christmas experiences stings her a little bit, but she’s mostly content to do her own thing and hang out with Joseph. She’s not really concerned about being well-liked and joining groups until she finds out that there’s a national talent competition for Birdie Scouts where the winning scout troop will get to have their voices recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, thereby becoming part of space history.

With no way of being accepted by the established Birdie Scout troops in the area, Christmas decides to start her own Birdie Scout troop. The style-minded Joseph (who likes to wear dresses and loves David Bowie) is immediately up for the challenge and is the first recruit to this new troop. Christmas also ends up convincing these other kids to join the troop: Ann-Claire (played by Bella Higginbotham), an eyepatch-wearing nervous and shy girl who’s devoted to Christianity; Hell-No (played by Milan Ray), the school’s loudmouth bully; and Smash (played Johanna Colón), who’s practically mute and likes to destroy things when she gets angry—a lot like the Incredible Hulk. The Birdie Scout troops have numbers for their names, so Christmas chooses “zero” as the name for her troop, since “zero” can also mean infinity.

The Birdie Scouts of the school are under the supervision of Crystal Massey (played by Allison Janney), the school principal whom the students have nicknamed Nasty Massey. She’s the type of uptight and stern principal we’ve seen many times before in movies, but Janney brings a touch of humanity to the role to convey that Principal Massey must be a pathetic and lonely person for her to take so much pleasure in making life miserable for other people. (On a side note, fans of “The Help” movie should delight in seeing “The Help” co-stars Davis and Janney reunited on screen.)

Principal Massey is already counting on her favorite Birdie Scout troop, Troop Five, to win the competition. Troop Five is the group of popular girls in the school—the types who are cheerleaders, “A”-grade students, and from the communities’ socially prominent families. (The Troop Five members are also stuck-up mean girls.) But to Principal Massey’s horror, Troop Zero qualifies to become a real troop to enter the competition, as long as Troop Zero gets an adult leader. Miss Raylene completely resists the idea at first, but she eventually gives in to Christmas’ relentless pleas for Miss Raylene to become Troop Zero’s adult leader.

Another big challenge that Troop Zero faces is to raise enough money for the competition’s entry fees. They do so by selling cookies from door to door and by offering pop-up beauty salon services to local women. (Joseph is thrilled to be the troop’s best hair stylist.) One of the baking sessions ends up in a predictable food fight when members of Troop Five crash the session.

The hairstyles and clothes aren’t the only indications that this movie takes place in the 1970s. In one scene in the movie, as one of the required Birdie Scout challenges, Miss Raylene leaves the members of Troop Zero alone to camp out overnight in the woods. That’s not the kind of thing that adults could get away with nowadays. (We have to assume that the parents thought that the kids would be safe with Miss Raylene, but she ends up ditching the children to fend for themselves.)

Her reason for the abandonment is to build character and courage for the troop. It’s the kind of scene that’s cringeworthy to watch for anyone who would never do that to defenseless kids, but since this movie is supposed to be a comedy, you can almost hear the filmmakers make this excuse: “Hey, it was the ’70s!”

Speaking of the ’70s, there’s something very old-school about this kind of film with the basic plot about student angst and “misfits versus the popular ones,” but “Troop Zero” has a modern sensibility by including child characters who wouldn’t be in movies that were made back in the 1970s. (Joseph is a perfect example.)

The precocious and determined Christmas is also ahead of her time, since she has no hesitation about her goals to join NASA and go into outer space. It’s a dream that people around her discourage her from having, because the naysayers tell her that being an astronaut is a “man’s job.” And what happens during Troop Zero’s talent routine during the competition is something that wouldn’t have been in a children’s movie that was made back in the 1970s.

“Troop Zero,” which had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, is not just a movie that will appeal to girls or women. It has a message of self-acceptance and how to overcome obstacles that can resonate with a wide variety of people, if you don’t mind sitting through the retro vibe and familiarity of it all.

Amazon Prime Video premiered “Troop Zero” on January 17, 2020.

2019 Toronto International Film Festival: ‘In Conversation With’ celebrities announced

August 20, 2019

TIFF logo

The following is a press release from the Toronto International Film Festival:

The 2019 Toronto International Film Festival​​ unveiled its In Conversation With… slate.  Honoring five remarkable, multi-talented industry heavyweights, this year’s lineup stands out for the richness  and diversity of the experiences that these accomplished artists will share with Festival goers. TIFF audiences  will have the opportunity to hear about the fascinating careers — both in front of and behind the camera — of  Michael B. Jordan & Jamie Foxx, Antonio Banderas, Allison Janney, and Kerry Washington during intimate  onstage conversations at TIFF Bell Lightbox.    “Through our In Conversation With… series, TIFF is proud to give fans and film lovers an opportunity to connect  with and learn from the most talented artists working in film and television today,” said Christoph Straub, Lead  Programmer, In Conversation With… and Senior Manager, Adult Learning, TIFF. “This year’s lineup includes  award-winning creators who have helped shape the discourse in the entertainment industry, moving it forward  and charting new territory on the big and small screens. We are incredibly honoured to have these leaders join  us for a series of empowering and exciting conversations.”    This year’s series will also be more accessible to all audiences, as open-captioning will be offered onscreen in  real time.

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5–15, 2019.    The In Conversation With… programme includes:

In Conversation With… Michael B. Jordan & Jamie Foxx 

Michael B. Jordan Jamie Foxx (Photo by Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup)

Hollywood megastars Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx are both at the top of their game. They first gained  fame for roles on television: Foxx with ​”In Living Color”​ in 1991 and later ​”The Jamie Foxx Show​,” and Jordan with  his heartbreaking turn as Wallace in HBO’s ​”The Wire​.” In 2013, Jordan made his major feature-film breakthrough  in Ryan Coogler’s acclaimed ​”Fruitvale Station​.” He has collaborated with Coogler on two more game-changers:  “Creed​,” their acclaimed expansion of the ​Rocky​ saga; and the mega-hit ​”Black Panther​.” In 2016 Jordan founded  his production company, Outlier Society, in order to focus on more eclectic and diverse stories and voices.  Outlier Society recently co-produced HBO Films’ Emmy-nominated adaptation of ​”Fahrenheit 451​,” which netted Jordan a Producers Guild Award. Foxx is renowned for powerful lead performances in ​”Ray​,” for which he won an  Academy Award, Michael Mann’s neo-noir ​”Collateral​,” and Quentin Tarantino’s “​Django Unchained​.” TIFF proudly  presents this conversation with two iconic artists and producers about their creative process, their desire to tell  inclusive stories, and ​”Just Mercy​,​” their highly anticipated new film premiering at the Festival.

In Conversation With… Antonio Banderas 

Antonio Banderas in “Pain and Glory” (Photo courtesy of El Deseo)

Antonio Banderas is a superstar of international and Hollywood cinema. An alumnus of the famed Cervantes  Theatre in Málaga, Spain, Banderas burst onto the film scene with performances in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Labyrinth of Passion”​ and ​”Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown​,” paving his way to a series of acclaimed  roles in Hollywood films directed by the likes of Jonathan Demme (​”Philadelphia”​), Neil Jordan (“​Interview with the  Vampire”​), and Robert Rodriguez (​”Desperado”​). Deftly moving between blockbuster (“The Mask of Zorro”​; the ​”Shrek” franchise) and independent films (Julie Taymor’s ​”Frida”​), and with his recent portrayal of Picasso in the National Geographic miniseries “​Genius​,” Banderas has cemented his iconic status as one of the most versatile  performers in film and television. TIFF is proud to welcome this award-winning actor, producer, director, and  humanitarian for an inspiring conversation about his career in front of and behind the camera, his numerous  philanthropic efforts, as well as his highly anticipated films at this year’s Festival: Almodóvar’s ​”Pain and Glory​,” for which he won Best Actor at Cannes, and Steven Soderbergh’s ​”The Laundromat​.”

In Conversation With… Allison Janney 

Allison Janney (Photo by Kelsey McNeal/ABC)

Allison Janney swept the 2018 Awards season with an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe Award, Critic’s  Choice Award and SAG Award for her acclaimed portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden in “​I, Tonya​.” Janney will next be seen opposite Hugh Jackman in director Cory Finley’s upcoming film, ​”Bad Education​,” written by Mike Makowsky about the true, twist-filled conspiracy that occurred during his middle  school years in Long Island in the early 2000’s. The film will have its world premiere at this year’s Toronto  International Film Festival. Additionally, Janney stars alongside Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron in Lionsgate’s “Bombshell” film directed by Jay Roach and written by Charles Randolph about the fall of  Roger Ailes at Fox News.  Janney lent her voice to MGM’s animated feature film ​The Addams Family​ with  Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac.  She recently wrapped production for Tate Taylor’s ​”Breaking News in Yuba  County,”​ opposite Mila Kunis, Awkwafina, and Regina Hall. She has previously starred in ​”The Help,”​ based on the  best-selling novel of the same name, where the cast won ensemble awards from the Hollywood Film Awards,  SAG, National Board of Review and Broadcast Film Critics and the film was nominated for an Academy Award  for Best Picture.  She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by the Independent Spirit Awards in Todd  Solondz’s film, ​”Life During Wartime​.” Janney also delivered outstanding performances in the Oscar nominated  “Juno​,” the movie version of the Tony Award winning play ​”Hairspray​,” “Girl on The Train,​” Tim Burton’s ​”Miss  Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children​,””The Hours​”and ​”American Beauty​.” On television, Janney has won seven  Emmy Awards for her work on CBS’ “​Mom​,” Showtime’s groundbreaking drama ​”Masters of Sex​,” and for her  indelible portrayal of CJ Cregg in Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed series ​”The West Wing​.”

In Conversation With… Kerry Washington 

Kerry Washington (Photo courtesy of BFA)

Award-winning actor, producer, director, and activist Kerry Washington is always charting new territory. Following a number of guest-starring roles in network television and a breakout role in ​”Save the Last Dance​,”  Washington starred opposite Jamie Foxx in ​”Ray”​ (2004), and quickly added a string of notable roles in such  acclaimed features as ​”The Last King of Scotland​,”​”Miracle of St. Anna​,” and 2012’s ​”Django Unchained​.” That same  year, she landed the lead role of Olivia Pope in Shonda Rhimes’ series ​”Scandal​,” on which Washington also went  on to work as a producer and director. When ​”Scandal”​ premiered, Washington became the first Black woman in  nearly four decades to headline a network television drama. A fearless and outspoken advocate for civil rights and liberties, she served on President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and is leading by  example, producing diverse and inclusive content for various platforms through her production company Simpson Street. In this in-depth conversation, Washington will speak about her remarkable career, the Festival  premiere of “​American​ ​Son”​ — in which she reprises her lauded role from the Broadway production — and her  highly anticipated adaptation of Celeste Ng’s ​”Little Fires Everywhere​.”

For synopses, images, and more information, see ​tiff.net/icw

Festival tickets go on sale September 2 at 10am (TIFF Member pre-sale August 31, 10am–4pm). Buy tickets  online at tiff.net, by phone at 416.599.2033 or 1.888.258.8433, or in person at a box office. See box office  locations and hours at ​tiff.net/tickets​.

TIFF prefers Visa.

Social Media:   @TIFF_NET   #TIFF19  Facebook.com/TIFF

About TIFF 

TIFF is a not-for-profit cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world  through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film  Festival in September; TIFF Bell Lightbox, which features five cinemas, major exhibitions, and learning and  entertainment facilities; and innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates  an annual economic impact of $189 million CAD. TIFF Bell Lightbox is generously supported by contributors  including Founding Sponsor Bell, the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the  Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation and RBC. For more  information, visit tiff.net.    TIFF is generously supported by Lead Sponsor Bell, Major Sponsors RBC, L’Oréal Paris, and Visa, and Major  Supporters the Government of Ontario, Telefilm Canada, and the City of Toronto.

2018 National Memorial Concert: Gary Sinise, Joe Mantegna, Allison Janney, Cynthia Erivo, Leona Lewis among celebrity guests

May 3, 2018

Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna
Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol Concerts)

The following is a press release from Capital Concerts:

On the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day, PBS’ multi award-winning NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT returns live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise. The 29th annual broadcast of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT airs live on PBS Sunday, May 27, 2018, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

A 29-year tradition unlike anything else on television, America’s national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances. This year’s program features the following stories:

  • The show will recognize the story of two buddies – Joe Annello and Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura – dear friends now for 68 years, who helped each other survive deadly combat during the Korean War, endured the unimaginable as POWs, and became American heroes – one receiving the Silver Star and the other the Medal of Honor. This national moment of remembrance will recognize our Korean War veterans with performances by Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-nominated actor John Corbett (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING) and star of CHICAGO MED Brian Tee.
  • Women have served our nation in times of war and peace since our country’s founding – even before they were officially allowed to enlist. To mark the 70th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, the concert will pay tribute to the contributions of women in our military throughout history, including the story of Silver Star recipient Leigh Ann Hester, the 1st woman to receive the Silver Star for combat. The segment will conclude by honoring women representing generations of service since WWII from the 5 branches of the military on stage. Academy Award®, Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress Allison Janney (I, TONYA, MOM, THE WEST WING) and Tony-nominated actress and star of TV’s FALLING WATER,THE WEST WING and LOADED, Mary McCormack will participate in this segment.
  • This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Khe Sanh, one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War. The show will feature the story of Bill Rider, who was part of the battalion known as “The Walking Dead.” Bill’s story will focus on his return home to fight a different war…that of post-traumatic stress. As part of his healing process, Bill found a way to pay it forward by dedicating his life to helping generations of service men and women who have experienced the trauma of war. Bill’s story will be told by Academy Award-nominated actor Graham Greene (DANCES WITH WOLVES, WIND RIVER).
  • 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day and first commemorated at Arlington National Cemetery.

The all-star line-up also features distinguished American leader General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.)and musical performances by actor and country singer Charles Esten (NASHVILLE); Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning actress and singer Cynthia Erivo (THE COLOR PURPLE); three-time Grammy Award-nominee singer/songwriter Leona Lewis; Tony-nominee and star of NBC’s hit TV show SMASH, Broadway and TV’s Megan Hilty; acclaimed tenor and Broadway star Alfie Boe (LES MISÉRABLES); and Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band, marking 15 years and over 400 concerts entertaining our troops, veterans and military families; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly.

Also participating in the event are the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff with The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Chorus and Army Voices, The Soldiers Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, The U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, The U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, the Armed Forces Color Guard and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

The concert will also be live-streamed on PBS, You Tube, Facebook and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand, May 28 to June 10, 2018.

The program is a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C.  Executive producer Michael Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows including the GRAMMY AWARDS, COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS, TONY AWARDS, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, and more.

About Capital Concerts
Capital Concerts is the nation’s leading producer of live patriotic television shows, including PBS’s highest-rated performance specials: NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT and A CAPITOL FOURTH, the premier celebrations of America’s most important holidays broadcast from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.  For more than 35 years, these two award-winning productions have become national traditions, bringing us together as one family of Americans to celebrate our freedom and democratic ideals and to pay tribute to those who defend them.  The holiday specials have been honored with over 80 awards including the New York Film Festival Award, the Golden Cine Award, and the Writer’s Guild of America Award.

Underwriters
The NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT is made possible by grants from the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the National Park Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of the Army, General Dynamics, PBS and public television stations nationwide.  Air travel is provided by American Airlines.

Visit the program website at http://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/home/

Connect with us on:
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twitter.com/MemorialDayPBS (#MemDayPBS)
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SOURCE Capital Concerts

2018 Academy Awards: ‘The Shape of Water’ wins 4 Oscars, including Best Picture

March 4, 2018

by Carla Hay

With four awards, including Best Picture, the fantasy drama “The Shape of Water” (about a mute woman who falls in love with a sea creature) was the biggest winner at the 90th Annual Academy Awards, which were presented at the Dolby Theatre on March 4, 2018.  “The Shape of Water” went into the ceremony as the leading nominee, with 13 nods.

ABC had the live telecast of the 2018 Academy Awards, which was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for the second year in a row. Also returning for a second year in a row were Best Picture presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, who famously botched the winner announcement at the 2017 Oscar  ceremony. Unlike that show, the 2018 Oscar ceremony was free from major blunders. The ceremony, which almost never ends on time, went well over its allotted three-hour time this year, by running overtime for 53 minutes.

In the acting categories, there were no real surprises, since all of the winners were sweeping up prizes at previous award ceremonies. Solidifying their award-show winning streak were Gary Oldman of “Darkest Hour” (Best Actor); Frances McDormand of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Best Actress); Sam Rockwell of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”(Best Supporting Actor); and Allison Janney of “I, Tonya” (Best Supporting Actress).

Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney and Gary Oldman backstage at the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 4, 2018. (Photo by Michael Baker/A.M.P.A.S.)

All of the nominees for Best Picture won at least one Academy Award, except for “Lady Bird” and “The Post,” which were shut out of winning any of the prizes. In addition to winning Best Picture, “The Shape of Water” picked up Oscars for Best Director (for Guillermo del Toro), Best Production Design and Best Original Score. “Dunkirk” went into the ceremony with eight Oscar nominations and ended up winning three: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.  “Get Out” won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, while “Call Me by Your Name” was named Best Adapted Screenplay. “Phantom Thread” received the prize for Best Costume Design. In addition to Oldman’s Best Actor win for “Darkest Hour,” the movie also won the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hair.

“Blade Runner 2049,” although not nominated for Best Picture, was another winner of more than one Oscar. The sci-fi sequel took the Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography. It was the first Oscar for “Blade Runner 2049” cinematographer Roger Deakins after he received  14 Oscar nominations. Another movie that won two Oscars at the 2018 ceremony was “Coco,” recipient of the prizes for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

Diversity among Oscar nominees has become a big issue, especially since the #OscarsSoWhite controversies of 2015 and 2016, when all of the actors and actresses nominated for Oscars were white. The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements were also mentioned on stage many times during the ceremony, including comments from host Kimmel, presenters and winners. McDormand made probably the biggest statement of the night when, at the end of her acceptance speech, she asked all the female Oscar nominees to stand up, and she called for the industry to hire more women. McDormand concluded by saying this about how movie contracts should change: “I have two words to leave with you tonight … inclusion rider.”

Some of the high-profile women and people of color who won Oscars this year in gender-neutral categories included the aforementioned del Toro; Jordan Peele of “Get Out” (Best Original Screenplay); “Dear Basketball” writer Kobe Bryant; “Coco” songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez; and “A Fantastic Woman” director Sebastián Lelio.

Although serious topics were part of the Oscar ceremony, the show had moments of levity and planned stunts aimed at getting a laugh. At the beginning of the show, Kimmel said that the person who gave the shortest acceptance speech would win a Kawasaki jet ski and a trip to Lake Havasu. (“Phantom Thread” costume designer Mark Bridges won the prize.)

In 2017, Kimmel surprised a group of tourists who were brought into the theater to get their unscripted reactions. In 2018, Kimmel took a similar concept but instead brought several of the celebrities at the Oscar ceremony to a nearby movie theater to surprise people who were there to see an advance screening of Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” (ABC is owned by Disney, so this was an obvious plug for the movie.) Some of the celebrities who joined Kimmel in passing out snacks to the surprised people at the movie theater were Gal Gadot (who kept exclaiming “This is better than the Oscars!”), Armie Hammer, Emily Blunt, Lupita Nyong’o, “The Shape of Water” filmmaker del Toro, Ansel Elgort, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Margot Robbie. The reactions of the unsuspecting crowd weren’t very funny or memorable, although Kimmel’s remark that the movie theater smelled like marijuana was a genuinely funny moment.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards:

*=winner

Best Picture

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Kerry Hayes)

“Call Me by Your Name” (Producers: Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito)

“Darkest Hour” (Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski)

“Dunkirk” (Producers: Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan)

“Get Out” (Producers: Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele)

“Lady Bird” (Producers: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O’Neill)

“Phantom Thread” (Producers: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi)

“The Post” (Producers: Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger)

“The Shape of Water” (Producers: Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale)*

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Producers: Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh)

Best Actor

Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”*
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Best Actress

Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Photo by Merrick Morton)

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”*
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”*

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”*
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Best Director

Director/writer/producer Guillermo del Toro on the set of “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Sophie Giraud)

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”*
Great Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Best Adapted Screenplay

Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg and Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name” (Photo by Peter Spears/Sony Pictures Classics)

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory*
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Best Original Screenplay

Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Allison Williams, Betty Gabriel and Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out” (Photo by Jason Lubin)

“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele*
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

Best Animated Feature

A still from “Coco” (Photo courtesy of Disney•Pixar.)

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito
“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo
“Coco,” Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson*
“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan Mactaggart

Best Animated Short

A still from “Dear Basketball”

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant*
“Garden Party,”Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou,” Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
“Negative Space,” Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

Best Cinematography

Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner 2049” (Photo by Stephen Vaughan)

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins*
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

Best Documentary Feature

“Icarus” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
“Faces Places,” Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
“Icarus,” Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan*
“Last Men in Aleppo,” Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen
“Strong Island,” Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Edith+Eddie,” Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel*
“Heroin(e),” Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon
“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Best Live Action Short Film

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk
“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson Jr.
“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton*
“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen

Best Foreign Language Film

Daniela Vega in “A Fantastic Woman” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)*
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)

Best Film Editing

Mark Rylance (center) in “Dunkirk” (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith*
“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory

Best Sound Editing

Kenneth Branagh in “Dunkirk” (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King*
“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green
“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Best Sound Mixing

A scene from “Dunkirk” (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo*
“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

Best Production Design

Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Kerry Hayes)

“Beauty and the Beast” Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“Blade Runner 2049″ Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola
“Darkest Hour” Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“Dunkirk” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“The Shape of Water” Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin*

Best Original Score

Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins on the set of “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Kerry Hayes)

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat*
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

Best Original Song

A still from “Coco” (Photo courtesy of Disney•Pixar)

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez*
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Best Makeup and Hair

Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour” (.Photo by Jack English/Focus Features)

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick*
“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips, Lou Sheppard
“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

Best Costume Design

Lesley Manville (far left) in “Phantom Thread” (Photo by Laurie Sparham/Focus Features)

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran
“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran
“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges*
“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira
“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

Best Visual Effects

Ana de Armas and Ryan Gosling in “Blade Runner: 2049” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer*
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,”  Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon
“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist