Review: ‘My Animal’ (2023), starring Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Amandla Stenberg, Heidi von Palleske, Cory Lipman, Charles F. Halpenny, Harrison W. Halpenny and Stephen McHattie

September 24, 2023

by Carla Hay

Amandla Stenberg and Bobbi Salvör Menuez in “My Animal” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Global Content Distribution)

“My Animal” (2023)

Directed by Jacqueline Castel

Culture Representation: Taking place in Ontario, Canada, the horror film “My Animal” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one biracial person) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A woman in her late teens, who is secretly a werewolf, has a sexual awakening as a lesbian and gets into a love triangle with the woman she wants to be her lover.

Culture Audience: “My Animal” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in LGBTQ-themed horror movies, but don’t expect there to be much of an interesting story.

Amandla Stenberg and Bobbi Salvör Menuez in “My Animal” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Global Content Distribution)

“My Animal” tries and fails to be an edgy werewolf movie. The plot is clumsy, boring, and unimaginative. The acting performances are very uneven. Almost nothing about this horror movie is actually scary or intriguing. The movie’s plot seems more like an outline than a truly cinematic story. “

Directed by Jacqueline Castel (her feature-film debut) and written by Jae Matthews, “My Animal” had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The movie was filmed on location in the Canadian province of Ontario. At times, “My Animal” doesn’t even seem like a horror movie because so much of it is a lukewarm and repetitive story about a love triangle.

In “My Animal,” introverted Heather (played by Bobbi Salvör Menuez) is a semi-closeted lesbian She is about 18 or 19 years old and has dreams of becoming a professional hockey player. Her room is covered with posters and pictures of female bodybuilders. In case is isn’t clear that Heather has a thing for female athletes, there’s a scene early in the movie that shows Heather masturbating while watching female wrestlers on TV.

Heather lives with her divorced mother Patti (played by Heidi von Palleske) and Heather’s identical twin brothers Cooper (played by Charles F. Halpenny) and Hardy (played by Harrison W. Halpenny), who are about 14 or 15 years old. The children’s estranged father Henry (played Stephen McHattie) is not involved in raising them. It’s implied that he’s a deadbeat dad.

“My Animal” shows viewers from the very beginning of the movie that Heather as a big secret: She’s a werewolf, which she inherited from her father. In the movie’s opening scene, a full moon is out an night. Heather hunches down on all fours as her nose starts bleeding, and then she runs out of the house. Patti goes out and looks for Heather in the snowy woods, but then Patti is attacked by a wild animal.

It’s not hard to know that this wild animal is Heather as a werewolf, because Patti is next seen in bed recovering from her injuries and has a scar on the right side of her body. Heather tucks Patti into bed and doesn’t talk about what happened in the attack. Other than being a werewolf, Heather leads a boring and empty life where she has no friends and she’s not school or working

Someone soon catches the interest of Heather: an extroverted woman who’s around the same age named Jonine, nicknamed Johnnie (played by Amandla Stenberg), who is an aspiring professional ice skater. Heather first sees Johnnie stealing beer at a corner convenience store. They make eye contact but don’t say anything to each other, and Heather doesn’t try to stop Johnnie from shoplifting.

After this theft, Johnnie gets in a car with her 28-year-old boyfriend Rick (played by Cory Lipman), who is a local baseball star. He’s also a hoodlum with a bad temper who’s been banned from the corner convenience store because he once tried to rob it. There’s another scene in the movie where Rick gets thrown out of a casino for being threatening and belligerent.

It’s already revealed in the trailer for “My Animal” that Heather and Johnnie become lovers. However, it’s a secretive affair because Johnnie doesn’t want to break up with Rick and doesn’t want him to find out that she’s been cheating on him. This tedious love triangle drags on in the movie until you know exactly what’s going to happen because Rick is a jerk and Heather is a werewolf.

Not much is revealed about Heather’s and Johnnie’s personal backstories. Johnnie mentions to Heather that Johnnie’s mother died by suicide. Heather’s mother Patti is addicted to alcohol and often climbs into Heather’s bed and urinates on herself. Johnnie’s father knows that Heather and Johnnie are sexually involved with each other, and he doesn’t approve. The acting in “My Animal” is nothing special.

As for the werewolf part of the story, the movie doesn’t do a very good job of making it interesting. Everything is utterly predictable and told with a lackluster tone. There’s a lot of cinematography that bathes the scenes in red light, but that’s not enough to make a horror movie terrifying. The ending of “My Animal” is so bland and anti-climactic, it makes this unimpressive movie even more forgettable than it should have been.

Review: ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,’ starring the voices of Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Issa Rae, Jake Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez

May 31, 2023

by Carla Hay

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation)

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Power and Justin K. Thompson

Some language in Spanish with no subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City and in the fictional multiverse called the Spider-Verse, the superhero animated film “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” features a racially diverse cast of characters (black, white and Latino) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: American teenager Miles Morales, who is one of many spider characters in the Spider-Verse, encounters various heroes and villains in the Spider-Verse. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of comic book movie fans, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching animated movies that have an inconsistent visual style and a very muddled plot.

Jessica Drew (voiced by Issa Rae), Gwen Stacy (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), Peter B. Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson) and his daughter Mayday in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation)

Just like a tangled web from a scatterbrained spider, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is a convoluted mess. This overstuffed movie takes too long to define the plot. It’s a barrage of inconsistent visuals that often look like ugly comic-book graffiti. And it’s a huge disappointment as a sequel to 2018’s Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (based on characters from Marvel Comics), a visually stunning, highly entertaining film that showed tremendous potential as the next great “Spider-Man” movie series. Superhero movies are supposed to tell viewers within the first 30 minutes what the story is going to be about and who the villain is, but the 140-minute “Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse” fails to deliver those basic elements until the movie is more than halfway done.

“Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse” (directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Power and Justin K. Thompson) also commits one of the worst sins of a movie sequel: It’s very unwelcoming to newcomers. People who didn’t see or don’t know what happened in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” will be confused from the very first scene of “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” And even if viewers saw and remember “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” they will have their patience tested by how the overly long “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” jumps from one subplot to the next without much explanation or resolution. Characters appear, disappear for long stretches of time, and then might or might not reappear with any meaningful context on what they’re really supposed to be doing in this movie.

In “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” Miles Morales, also known as web-slinging superhero Spider-Man (voiced by Shameik Moore), is a student in his last year of high school. Miles is the movie’s central character, and he seems to be just as confused by what’s going on in his world as many viewers will be. Miles (who lives in New York City’s Brooklyn borough) is one of several people or creatures who have a Spider superhero alter ego. In the Spider-Verse, these various Spider iterations can time jump and appear in other universes, depending on if they have the power to do so, or are sent there by someone else. Unlike the teenage Peter Parker in the “Spider-Man” franchise, or even the Miles Morales in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” the Miles in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is barely shown in school or interacting with his schoolmates.

That’s not what’s irritating about this movie. What’s irritating about “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is that it’s so enamored with the concept of various Spider beings, it overloads in introducing these characters but doesn’t have much real character development for them. There are moments of wisecracking jokes (the movie’s comedy is best appreciated by teenagers and adults), but these quips don’t make up for the rest of the uninspired plot and dialogue. And the movie’s big climax just drags on and on, like a rambling stand-up comedian who doesn’t know when to get off the stage.

Miles’ main ally in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is Gwen Stacy (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager who’s close to Miles’ age and who might or might not be his love interest. Gwen has a superhero alter ego named Spider-Gwen, who was the last person known to see the adult Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson), also known as the most famous Spider-Man, before Peter died. (This death scene is shown as a flashback of Spider-Gwen at Peter’s side when he dies in a massive urban wreckage.) Gwen’s widower father George Stacy (voiced by Shea Whigham), who’s had a rocky relationship with Gwen, is determined to arrest Spider-Gwen, not knowing that his daughter is really Spider-Gwen.

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” has such a poorly constructed narrative, the only backstory that viewers get about Gwen is her vague voiceover narration in the movie’s opening scene: “I didn’t want to hurt him, but I did. He’s not the only one.” After the flashback of Parker Parker dying in the wreckage, Gwen says in a voiceover: “I never really made another friend after that—except one, but he’s not here.” That other friend, of course, is Miles Morales. But only Spider-Man experts or people who saw “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” will know what Gwen is babbling about in this opening scene.

Gwen is the drummer for an all-female rock trio called the Mary Janes. (The band’s name is a cheeky nod to Mary Jane Watson, who is Peter Parker’s girlfriend in other “Spider-Man” stories.) The beginning of the movie shows the band rehearsing and then Gwen quitting in anger. Why? Don’t expect a good explanation, except she appears to be angry over Peter’s death but she can’t talk to anyone about it. It’s a scene that’s ultimately pointless, like many other scenes in this long-winded film.

After her temper tantrum, Gwen goes home, where she has a bratty attitude with her father, who tells her that the police have gotten a break in the Peter Parker/Spider-Man death case. George says to Gwen: “Too punk rock to hug your old man?” She then quickly hugs him, and all seems to be forgiven. But as soon as you know that George and his police colleagues have made progression in their Peter Parker death investigation, you know what’s eventually going to happen.

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” also shows that Miles’ home life is affected by his superhero antics. A lot of time in this movie is spent on repetitive and not-very-interesting subplots about Miles’ parents—Jefferson Davis (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio Morales (played by Luna Lauren Velez, previously known as Lauren Velez)—getting annoyed and worried because Miles is constantly tardy or absent from places where he needs to be. A running “joke” in the movie is that Miles’ parents keep adding to the number of months that they say Miles is grounded.

Miles pops in and out of a meeting that he’s supposed to have with his parents and his school principal (voiced by Rachel Dratch) to discuss his plans after high school. The principal is worried that Miles might be squandering his potential, since he’s been skipping classes. And there are some racist overtones when the principal says she wants to fabricate a narrative for Miles’ college applications by saying on the applications that Miles (who is Afro-Latino) is a poor, underprivileged kid with a rough childhood. (He’s not. Miles actually comes from a stable middle-class family.) Fortunately, the principal’s awful idea is nixed.

In the meeting, it’s mentioned that Miles wants to go to Princeton University to study physics. Rio gets upset because she thinks New Jersey is too far away from Brooklyn. (It’s not.) And then, Miles is out the door before the meeting is over because he has to attend to some secretive Spider-Man superhero business. His plans for what he wants to do after graduating from high school are never mentioned again in the movie. It’s just a time-wasting scene.

n “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Miles’ relationship with his parents looks authentic. In “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” Miles’ relationship with his parents looks fake and rushed. There’s a very disjointed sequence where Miles is late for a rooftop party that his family is having to celebrate Jefferson getting promoted from lieutenant to captain at the New York Police Department. The death of Jefferson’s thieving criminal brother Aaron, which was shown in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” is treated as an quick afterthought in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” Miles introduces Gwen to his parents in this rooftop party sequence, which keeps getting interrupted by Gwen and Miles going in and out of the Spider-Verse.

During this very sloppily told and often visually unappealing movie, other characters show up, disappear, then show up again, and might disappear again, with the movie never clearly defining who some of them are and what is purpose of these characters. A villain who comes and goes with no real significance is Adrian Toomes, also known as The Vulture (voiced by Jorma Taccone), who gets into a battle with Spider-Gwen. Don’t expect the movie to give an explanation of who The Vulture is and where he came from, because it’s never mentioned in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

Miles later thwarts a convenience store robbery by Jonathan Ohnn, also known as The Spot (voiced by Jason Schartzman), a portal-jumping villain character with a black hole for a face and who looks like he’s wearing a white full body suit with Dalmatian patterns. The Spot appears and disappears into portal holes, with no explanation for viewers who aren’t familiar with this character from Marvel comic books. The only clue offered is when The Spot tells Miles, “I’m from your past.”

Other characters who are dropped in and out of scenes are Miguel O’Hara (voiced by Oscar Isaac), a mysterious motorcycle-riding character dressed in a Spider-Man costume; Jessica Drew (voiced by Issa Rae), a no-nonsense, highly trained fighter who happens to be pregnant; and Lyla (voiced by Greta Lee), who is Miguel’s artificial-intelligence assistant. A version of the adult Peter Parker shows up, as a married father of a baby daughter named Mayday, who seems to fill the movie’s quota to have a cute kid character in the movie. A LEGO universe is briefly shown as nothing more than product placement for LEGO.

There are also international versions of Spider superheroes. Hobart “Hobie Brown,” also known as Spider-Punk (voiced by Daniel Kaluuya), is a snarling, sarcastic Brit who seems to be influenced by a 1980s-era Billy Idol. Spider-Punk is the only character who does not have a non-generic personality. Margo Kess, also known as Spider-Byte (voiced by Amandla Stenberg), is an American, openly queer computer expert, whose presence in the movie barely makes a difference to the story. Ben Reilly, also known as Scarlet Spider (voiced by Andy Samberg), is a clone designed to look like Peter Parker. Spider-Man India (voiced by Karan Soni) doesn’t even get his own birth name in the movie, which gives him a brief, goofy appearance that reeks of tokenism.

Some of the movie’s animation is deliberately made to look like unfinished sketches from a comic book. There might be some people who like this visual style, but most viewers of superhero movies want to see consistency in the animation style of movies in the same series. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” have almost entirely different teams of screenwriters and directors—and these difference show to the movie’s detriment. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman directed “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which was written by Rothman and Phil Lord. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” was written by Lord, Christopher Miller and Dave Callaham.

There are huge parts of the “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” that look like an experimental art project gone wrong. The animation sometimes look jagged, unpolished and blurry. As for the movie’s unfocused plot, it looks like it was made only for the type of people who know Spider-Man inside jokes or who religiously look for Easter Eggs in “Spider-Man” visual content. A typical family with children under the age of 10 who see this movie will probably feel alienated by how so much of the film is cluttered and unclear. And it begs the question: “Why mess up such a good thing?”

Not all of the visuals in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” consists of animation. There are a few Spiderverse scenes where people appear as cameos in live-action visuals. Donald Glover has one of these cameos. (In real life, Glover famously campaigned to get the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the early 2010s. Andrew Garfield ended up getting the role.) Another cameo is from sassy convenience store owner Mrs. Chen (played by Peggy Lu), who is a minor character in the “Venom” movies, which are connected to the “Spider-Man” franchise. People who haven’t seen the “Venom” movies just won’t know or care about this Mrs. Chen cameo. These cameos are nothing more than stunt casting and add nothing to the plot.

It seems like “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is trying to be an artsy superhero animated film. The problem is that the “Spider-Man” movie brand was made for a wide variety of people, not just comic-book enthusiasts who are obsessive about Spider-Man “canon,” which in comic-book terms means the story as it was originally presented in the comic books. The movie has an annoying tendency to assume all viewers are going to be Spider-Man experts.

And speaking of “canon,” expect to hear a lot of about “canon disruption” in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” Pity any viewer of this steaming pile of pretentiousness who doesn’t have encylopedic knowledge of what is and what is not “canon” in the Spider-Verse. Because yes, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a very pretentious animated film that is sure to baffle and disappoint many people who think they’re going to see a continuation of what made “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” so special.

Anyone who’s letting children under the age of 10 watch the very messy “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” should be warned that these children will most likely be bored and/or confused, unless all they care about is seeing bright, splashy visuals on screen. The voice cast members for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” do what they’re supposed to do. But the plot is so jumbled and smug with its fan-service pandering, by the time the end of “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” announces that the story continues in “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” (due out in 2024), many viewers will be thinking to themselves: “No, thank you.”

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation will release “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” in U.S. cinemas on June 2, 2023.

Review: ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies,’ starring Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace and Pete Davidson

August 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders and Rachel Sennott in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” (Photo by Erik Chakeen/A24)

“Bodies Bodies Bodies”

Directed by Halina Reijn 

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in New York state, the horror film “Bodies Bodies Bodies” has a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white and one biracial Asian) representing the wealthy, upper-midde-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: During a hurricane, seven people partying in a mansion decide to play a murder mystery game, but then some people at this party really end up getting killed.

Culture Audience: “Bodies Bodies Bodies” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of horror movies that mix raunchy comedy with a suspenseful mystery.

Lee Pace and Pete Davidson in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” (Photo by Gwen Capistran/A24)

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” capably serves up suspense and social satire, despite a few plot holes and an overload of pop culture and slang that will inevitably make this horror movie look very dated. It’s a time capsule of Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2012) in their 20s, and all the technology that affects their relationships and perceptions of each other. In other words, it’s not a throwback to slasher flicks from the 20th century. This is a horror movie about people who don’t know what it’s like to live life without the Internet, for better or worse. Except for one person, all of the characters in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” are supposed to be in their early-to-mid 20s.

Directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” had its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The movie makes the most out of the relatively small number of people in the cast and the fact that “Bodies Bodies Bodies” primarily takes place in one location: a mansion in a remote, mountanous area somewhere in New York state. (“Bodies Bodies Bodies” was actually filmed in Chappaqua, New York.)

In many ways, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” follows the same formula of dozens of other horror movies where young people gather in an isolated area; indulge in sex, drugs and mind games; and are killed off, one by one. However, the movie’s snappy dialogue and a twist ending make “Bodies Bodies Bodies” slightly better than the average horror flick. It isn’t a movie where people are killed indiscriminately, because it’s shown exactly why each person was killed.

The opening scene of “Bodies Bodies Bodies” lets viewers know that this is a very queer-friendly movie, where the sexualities of the characters can be fluid, and if other people are uncomfortable about it, they don’t really care. The movie’s first scene is a close-up of new couple Sophie (played by Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (played by Maria Bakalova) passionately kissing each other. They also tell each other, “I love you.” It’s mentioned a little later in the movie that Sophie and Bee have been dating each other for the past six weeks.

Bee and Sophie have almost opposite personalities: Sophie is a risk-taking extrovert. Bee is a cautious introvert. Sophie and Bee are about to take a road trip to the aforementioned remote mansion to party with some of Sophie’s friends who were her schoolmates in high school. Sophie has known a few of these friends before they were teenagers. Bee is very nervous about this trip—and not because she will be meeting Sophie’s friends for the first time.

Bee has some other social anxieties. Bee is an immigrant from an unnamed Eastern European country and comes from a working-class background, while Sophie is an American whose family is rich. (Bakalova, the Oscar-nominated actress from 2020’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” is actually from Bulgaria.) Sophie is openly queer. However, Bee is also not completely “out of the closet” as a queer woman. Many of Bee’s family and friends don’t know yet that Bee is queer and dating Sophie.

Sophie’s got her own issues. Conversations in the movie reveal that Sophie is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. When she was a student at New York University, Sophie had at least one overdose and mental breakdown. She has also spent time in drug rehab and psychiatric facilities. It’s never mentioned if Sophie graduated from NYU, but it’s implied she probably dropped out of college because of her personal problems. Sophie doesn’t appear to have any life goals at the moment except to try to stay clean and sober and enjoy life as much as possible.

The mansion is owned by the parents of spoiled and obnoxious David (played by Pete Davidson), who is yet another stereotypical stoner that Davidson seems to play in his most recent movies. Before Sophie and Bee go to the mansion, Sophie tells Bee that David was Sophie’s “pre-school boyfriend, before I realized I was a raging dyke.” No one’s parents are seen in this movie, but it’s mentioned that all of Sophie’s childhood friends come from affluent families.

Because of his abrasive personality, David is someone who has friends who don’t really like him, but they tolerate him because he’s generous when it comes to partying and sharing some of his wealth. Just like Sophie, David doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do with his life, and his family is rich enough to financially support him. David is the type of braggart who has to prove to everyone that whatever they can do, he can do better.

When Bee and Sophie arrive at the mansion, the small party is in full swing in and around the swimming pool. Sophie is warmly greeted by everyone, while Bee shyly offers a party gift: homemade zucchini bread. The other people at the party (except for Sophie) think this gift is very unsophisticated and old-fashioned, and they react with either rude haughtiness or amusement. Sophie tries to make Bee more comfortable, but Bee can immediately sense that she will have trouble fitting in with this group of bratty snobs.

The other people at the party are David’s insecure girlfriend Emma (played by Chase Sui Wonders), an actress who’s been in a relationship with David for the past six years; free-spirited but flaky Alice (played by Rachel Sennott), a podcast host who likes to wear glow sticks as jewelry; scruffily handsome and goofy Greg (played by Lee Pace), who is in his 40s and is having a fling with Alice; and brooding Jordan (played by Myha’la Herrold), who has unresolved romantic feelings for Sophie. Jordan is the only one in the group who is not part of a couple, so her “romantically unattached” status affects some of the tensions and jealousies that happen later in the story.

Some viewers might not like how long it takes for “Bodies Bodies Bodies” to actually get to any horror. The first third of the movie is really about showing the dynamics between these seven people when they’re partying and trying to prove to each other how “cool” they are. Alice met Greg on the dating app Tinder, and they’ve only known each other for less than a week. David is threatened by Greg’s physical attractiveness, so David attempts to demean Greg’s masculinity by trying to make Greg feel “old” and out-of-touch.

A hurricane quickly forces the party to go indoors, where there’s the inevitable electrical power outage, so that people can’t use their phones or WiFi service to communicate. No electricity also means that much of the movie is dark and shadowy, except for lights from candles, flashlights, cell phones or Alice’s ever-present glow sticks. Sophie notices that Jordan has been flirting with Bee. And so, as a distraction and in order to liven up the party, Sophie tells everyone that they should all play a game called Bodies Bodies Bodies.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is a murder mystery game, where slips of paper are distributed to all the players. The player who gets the paper slip marked with “x” is the designated murderer, who has to “kill” as many of the other players as possible. The potential victims can hide wherever they want to avoid being killed. Someone can win the game in one of two ways: By being the first potential victim to prove who the killer is, or by being the killer and getting away with all of the murders. And because “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a horror movie, the killings turns out to be real.

A potential outlier in the story is a character named Max (played by Conner O’Malley), another friend in this clique, who was at the party the night before. However, no one really knows where Max is during the killings because he left the party the previous night, after getting into a fist fight with David. (It’s why David has a black eye.) The reasons for this altercation are later revealed in the movie. Max is not seen for most of the movie, but his name comes up multiple times in the increasingly paranoid and frantic conversations, and as the body count continues to pile up.

With a soundtrack that’s heavy on electronic dance music and hip-hop, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” wants to have a very “of the moment” vibe to convey a pulse-pounding nightclub of the early 2020s. But at this party, people’s pulses are pounding because they’re terrified that they’re trapped in this mansion with a serial killer on the loose. The hurricane outside won’t put off some people from trying to get away by car. But it should come as no surprise when “Bodies Bodies Bodies” has a horror movie cliché: a car that won’t start when people want it to start.

“Bodies Bodies Bodies,” which has good performances all around from the cast members, is at its best in revealing of some of the secrets and lies within this group of characters. The arguing can get a little tedious and annoying, but not so grating that it overtakes the movie’s horror angles. That’s because there’s enough comedy in the dialogue in the movie’s self-aware way of showing that these self-absorbed and sometimes-cruel characters mostly deserve to be mocked. Bee is the only one who seems to be immune to the group’s ridiculous ego posturing and whiny antics, but she’s no angel either.

Some of the plot developments in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” are a little on the implausible side. On the other hand, it is very believable that people in a panic can do a lot of things without thinking logically. People will either love or hate the ending of “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” Regardless of how viewers feel about how the movie ends, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” offers some sly commentary on some people’s preoccupation with creating lives and images on the Internet that are often quite different from reality. This preocupation can lead to misperceptions and manipulations that can be their own kinds of horror stories.

A24 released “Bodies Bodies Bodies” in select U.S. cinemas on August 5, 2022. The movie’s release expands to more U.S. cinemas on August 12, 2022.

Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ starring Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, Danny Pino, Julianne Moore and Amy Adams

September 23, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ben Platt and Julianne Moore in “Dear Evan Hansen” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Dear Evan Hansen”

Directed by Stephen Chbosky

Culture Representation: Taking place in Bethesda, Maryland, the musical film “Dear Evan Hansen” features a cast of predominantly white characters (with some African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Due to a misunderstanding over a typed letter, a lonely teenager in his last year of high school pretends that he was the secret best friend of a fellow student who committed suicide. 

Culture Audience: “Dear Evan Hansen” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the Tony-winning musical on which this movie is based, but the movie fails to capture the spirit of the stage version.

Danny Pino, Amy Adams and Kaitlyn Dever in “Dear Evan Hansen” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

On paper, the movie musical “Dear Evan Hansen” seems like it would be guaranteed to have the same appeal as the Tony-winning musical on which it’s based. However, the movie’s talented cast can’t redeem this misguided mush that clumsily handles serious issues such as mental illness and suicide. Sometimes, it isn’t enough to have members of a Broadway musical’s Tony-winning team reprise the same roles for the movie. The “Dear Evan Hansen” movie had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

Several of the principal team members who won Tony Awards for the “Dear Evan Hansen” stage musical came on board for the movie version of “Dear Evan Hansen.” Ben Platt returns in his starring role as Evan Hansen. Steven Levenson wrote the musical’s book and the movie’s screenplay. Marc Platt (Ben Platt’s father) is a producer. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the musical score and songs. The movie version has most of the same songs from the stage musical, except for the original songs “A Little Closer” and “The Anonymous Ones,” which were both written for the movie.

Stephen Chbosky, who earned rave reviews for writing and directing his 2012 movie adaptation of his novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” misses the mark in directing “Dear Evan Hansen,” another story about a teenage boy who’s struggling with mental illness. (Chobsky was not involved in the “Dear Evan Hansen” stage musical, whose original Broadway production was directed by Michael Greif.) In “Dear Evan Hansen,” Evan Hansen is a socially awkward loner, who is in therapy for anxiety and depression. In the “Dear Evan Hansen” movie, these issues are treated like “disease of the week” plot points. The movie also callously fails, until the last few scenes, to have much regard for the inner life of the person who committed suicide in the story, because the movie is all about Evan Hansen’s angst over keeping secrets about lies that Evan Hansen created.

Unfortunately, the movie missed some opportunities to have more exploration and sensitivity about what led to the suicide that becomes the catalyst for the entire story. Instead, the emphasis is on trying to make viewers feel sorry for a teenager who lies to people about being the suicide victim’s best friend. The movie doesn’t make him an anti-hero but someone who should be admired for coping with his mental health issues while under the stress of concocting elaborate lies.

In the beginning of “Dear Evan Hansen” (which takes place in Bethesda, Maryland), Evan is shown doing a therapy exercise required by his psychiatrist Dr. Sherman: writing a diary-like letter to himself. It’s an assignment that Evan has to do on a regular basis in order to ease some of his anxiety and hopefully boost his confidence. Dr. Sherman is never seen or heard in the movie, which is one of the reasons why parts of this movie look very phony and off-kilter. The self-addressed letter writing becomes the reason why Evan becomes entangled in a misunderstanding and a complicated deception that end up getting out of control.

Evan, who is in his last year at the fictional Westview High School, is the only child of divorcée Heidi Hansen (played by Julianne Moore), a nurse who works the night shift at a local hospital. Evan’s father abandoned Evan and Heidi when Evan was very young and has not been in their lives since then. More recently, Evan has been recovering from a broken left arm, which is in a cast, because he fell out of a tree.

The early scenes of Evan at high school embody a lot stereotypes of teenagers who are social pariahs. He’s ignored in the hallways and in classrooms. No one wants to have lunch with him in the cafeteria. Evan is afraid to talk to people, and when he does, he often stutters and stammers. And people usually don’t talk to him either, because he keeps mostly to himself.

There’s no indication of what type of academic student Evan is because the movie mostly cares about the web of lies that Evan ends up spinning. At home, Evan’s mother Heidi constantly reminds him to write the self-affirming letters, because she doesn’t want him to “go back to how it was last year,” which implies that Evan had some kind of breakdown back then.

As is typical for a story about a male nerd in high school, he has a crush on a girl whom he thinks is out of his league, and he’s too shy to even talk to her. Evan’s crush is Zoe Murphy (played by Kaitlyn Dever), who is two years younger than he is. Zoe, who is artistic and introverted, plays guitar in the school’s marching band.

Evan’s only “friend” at school is someone who often acts embarrassed to be around Evan. His name is Jared Kalvani (played by Nik Dodani), who makes a lot of cruel remarks to Evan, but Jared think he’s being witty and funny when he says these awful things to Evan. For example, Jared tells Evan that they are “not real friends,” because Jared feels obligated to hang out with Evan only because their mothers are friends. Jared also calls Evan a “total disaster” when it comes to dating. Jared tells Evan that he won’t sign Evan’s arm cast because Jared doesn’t want people to think that he and Evan are friends.

It’s the beginning of the school year, and Jared (who is openly gay) brags to Evan that he spent his summer vacation at a camp where he gained muscle weight and hooked up with a Brazilian hunk who’s a model. Jared is a motormouth who seems like the type to exaggerate things about himself in order to boost his own ego. Viewers will get the impression that Jared hangs out with Evan so Jared can feel socially superior to Evan.

One day in the school hallway, Evan has a run-in with a school bully named Connor Murphy (played by Colton Ryan), who is in Evan’s graduating class. Connor also happens to be Zoe’s older brother. Connor sees Evan looking at Connor while Evan gives a small nervous laugh. Connor’s temper explodes and he yells at Evan for laughing at him.

Zoe is among the people who saw this outburst, so shortly afterward, she approaches Evan and says she’s sorry for the way that Connor was so rude to Evan. Zoe introduces herself, but bashful Evan is tongue-tied and almost having a panic attack. Evan stammers something that Zoe can’t understand and then he runs away from her.

One day, Evan is in the school library, where he has printed out another letter to himself. The letter reads: “Dear Evan Hansen: Turns out this wasn’t an amazing day after all. This isn’t going to be an amazing year because why would it be? Oh, I know, because there’s Zoe, who I don’t even know and who doesn’t know me, but maybe if I talk to her, maybe things will be better. Or maybe nothing will be different at all. I wish everything was different. Would anyone notice if I just disappeared tomorrow? Sincerely, your best and dearest friend. Me.”

Just as he is about to leave the library, Evan runs into Connor again. To Evan’s surprise, Connor is even-tempered and asks to signs Evan’s arm cast. After Connor signs it, he smirks and says, “Now we can pretend to be friends.” However, Connor sees the letter that Evan wrote to himself, Connor reads it, and he has another angry tantrum. Connor is upset about Evan’s letter, which Connor calls a “creepy letter” about Zoe. Connor is so incensed that he takes the letter from Evan.

A few days later, Evan finds out about something tragic that happened the night before: Connor committed suicide. Word quickly spreads throughout the school. Evan is called into the school principal’s office because two people want to talk to Evan: Connor’s mother Cynthia Murphy (played by Amy Adams) and Connor’s stepfather Larry Mora (played by Danny Pino), who helped raise Zoe since she was a 1-year-old and since Connor was 3.

Cynthia and Larry found Evan’s letter among Connor’s possessions and assumed that Connor wrote the letter. Larry and Cynthia are surprised by the letter because they didn’t think Connor had any friends. At first, Evan tries to tell these grieving parents that he didn’t know Connor and he wrote the letter to himself. But when Cynthia and Larry see Connor’s signature on Evan’s arm cast, Cynthia is convinced that Connor and Evan must’ve had a secret friendship.

Cynthia in particular seems desperate to want answers about Connor’s suicide. She’s trying to find anyone who was close to Connor to help her understand things that she didn’t know about Connor. It’s at this point in the story that you have to wonder why Cynthia would think that Connor would write a letter saying that he doesn’t know his own sister Zoe, but the movie wants viewers to think that Cynthia is so overcome with grief that she isn’t thinking logically.

The more Evan tries to explain that he was never Connor’s friend, the more upset Cynthia gets. She thinks that Connor had secret email addresses and fake social media accounts to hide his “friendship” with Evan. Cynthia also asks a lot of leading questions that make it easy for Evan to give answers that she wants to hear. And so, with Evan’s anxiety starting to kick in as he faces these parents who want answers, he makes up a huge lie in this meeting, by saying that he and Connor were secret best friends. (It’s not spoiler information, because it’s in the movie’s trailers.)

The rest of the movie shows how Evan’s lies get more elaborate and how he desperately tries to cover up these lies. First, he tells Jared his secret and convinces computer whiz Jared to create fake email messages to and from Connor, so that Evan can forward these messages to the Murphy family. It makes Jared a willing accomplice to this deceit, but the movie badly handles the consequences that Jared would realistically have to face if the secret is revealed.

Cynthia and Larry want to know more about Connor from Evan. And so, it isn’t long before Evan is invited over to the Murphy home for dinner. During this dinner, Evan finds out that Zoe despised Connor, whom she calls a “bad person.” She has nothing good to say about her dead brother, and it naturally upsets Larry and Cynthia every time they hear Zoe insult Connor.

Later, in a private conversation between Zoe and Evan, she expresses some skepticism that Evan was ever really Connor’s friend. Although she and Connor weren’t close, Zoe finds it hard to believe that Evan and Connor were friends because she never saw them hanging out together. The only time that she saw Evan and Connor interacting with each other was when Connor yelled at Evan in the school hallway. Despite these major doubts, Evan is able to convince Zoe that he and Connor just had a minor argument in that school hallway and that they were really friends.

“Dear Evan Hansen” ignores the larger questions of what kind of emotional support Connor was or was not getting at home. It’s revealed that he was shipped off to rehab on multiple occasions for his substance abuse problems. And it’s obvious that Cynthia doesn’t want to talk about Connor’s worst flaws, so her denial about his problems might have made things worse.

However, viewers are only left to guess what went on inside Connor’s home and what was inside his head to make him commit suicide. To put it bluntly: Evan’s mental health problems are given all the importance in the movie, while the suicide victim’s problems are mostly ignored. This discrepancy defeats the movie’s supposed intention to bring more understanding and compassion for people who have suicidal thoughts.

The movie also goes off on a brief and unnecessary tangent that Jared gleefully participates in Evan’s deception because Jared likes the idea of making people think that Connor and Evan were secret gay lovers. It’s an idea that falls by the wayside when Evan and Zoe become closer and eventually start dating each other. Evan and Zoe becoming romantically involved is not spoiler information either, because it’s shown in the movie’s trailers.

Zoe opens up to Evan about why she and Connor never got along with each other. Connor had a long and troubled history of being a violent bully. For example, when Connor was 7 years old, he threw a printer at a teacher. He was also cruel to Zoe on many occasions. And mental illness apparently runs in the family. Zoe and Connor’s biological father died when she was a 1-year-old. His cause of death will not surprise viewers when it’s eventually revealed in the story.

At school, a concerned student named Alana Beck (played by Amandla Stenberg), who didn’t know Connor, decides to form a support group called the Connor Project to help create student awareness for mental health. She asks for Evan’s help in launching this project, but he avoids going to the student meetings about the project. Alana finds it difficult to get anyone to attend these meetings because Connor was not well-liked, so she’s surprised and disappointed that Connor’s “best friend” doesn’t want to attend these meetings either.

And when Evan tells a lie that Connor was the one who rescued Evan after he fell out of the tree, Alana gets the idea to launch a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to rebuild the defunct orchard where the tree is located. She wants to name it the Connor Murphy Memorial Orchard. Alana tries to enlist Evan’s help for this campaign too. And so, now Evan knows that this fundraising campaign was created as a direct result of his deceit. Can you say “financial fraud”?

Why is Alana going to all this trouble for Connor, someone she didn’t even know? It turns out that Alana has a personal reason for wanting to launch the Connor Project: Just like Evan, she’s on medication for anxiety and depression. Alana thinks that Connor also had a mental illness that could’ve been better treated if he felt that he had a support system at school. And therefore, Alana has a lot of empathy for anyone who is going through these struggles.

One of the reasons why the “Dear Evan Hansen” movie will turn off some viewers is that the movie tries to make Evan look sympathetic because he’s a social outcast, but he actually comes across as very selfish. Would he have continued lying to the Murphy family if he didn’t think it was a convenient way to get closer to Zoe? Probably not. Would he have kept up the charade of being sympathetic to Connor’s emotional problems if this fake sympathy hadn’t raised his social status at school? Probably not.

Evan also doesn’t seem to care to understand who Connor was as a human being until something happens in the story that forces Evan to look like he’s curious about what Connor’s interests were when Connor was alive. Throughout most of the movie, Alana is more inquisitive about Connor than Evan is. Of course, in real life, this discrepancy would have set off red flags very early on—not just with Connor’s family but also with teachers and students who would know best what the friendship cliques are at the school. It’s a reality that’s mostly ignored in this movie, which makes the students and teachers look extremely gullible in believing Evan’s lies, which aren’t even that clever.

And there’s an icky subtext that Evan is enjoying the attention and approval he’s getting for coming forward as Connor’s “best friend,” even though Evan is supposed to feel guilty about his lies. He does feel guilty, but mainly when he comes close to getting caught and other people get backlash that Evan didn’t expect. This backlash is rushed into the story as a way to force an inevitable plot development.

It’s possible that this movie could’ve been more convincing if it had been set in a time before the Internet and social media existed. However, no one ever asks Evan for more proof that he knew Connor as a best friend, such as things Connor would’ve told a best friend about himself. Everyone just accepts the superficial and vague email as “evidence” of the friendship.

Evan claims that his friendship with Connor was mostly online, by email. However, except for saying that Evan rescued him after the tree fall, Evan never provides the dates and times of when he and Evan supposedly hung out in person together. Viewers are supposed to believe that Evan thinks he can get away with this scam with his mother, who knows pretty much everything about him and is skeptical that he had a secret best friend. But somehow, Evan convinces her too. It’s a very flimsy part of the story.

The cast members capably handle the acting and song performances. However, the way the songs are placed in the movie don’t come off as well on screen as they would on stage. There’s a very cringeworthy fantasy sequence where Evan and Connor frolic, dance and sing in a carefree manner together, as if they were best friends. Ben Platt vacillates between portraying Evan as a pitiful wimp and a troubled opportunist. Dever does quite well in her scenes as Zoe, especially when she depicts Zoe’s conflicting love/hate emotions about Connor.

The songs from the stage musical that are in the movie are “Waving Through a Window,” “Good for You,” “Anybody Have a Map?,” “For Forever,” “Sincerely, Me,” “Requiem,” “If I Could Tell Her,” “Only Us.” “Words Fail,” “So Big, So Small” and the musical’s most well-known anthem “You Will Be Found.” The original songs “A Little Closer” (performed by Ryan) and “The Anonymous Ones” (performed by Stenberg, who co-wrote the music and lyrics) are serviceable but aren’t that outstanding. In addition, the soundtrack has Sam Smith doing a version of “You Will Be Found” and SZA performing “The Anonymous Ones.”

Mostly, the overall cloying tone of the movie is off-putting because it tries so hard to get viewers to root for Evan while he’s doing a lot of despicable lying about someone who committed suicide. Just because Evan has anxiety and depression shouldn’t be used as an excuse, which is what this movie does in a way that’s insulting to people with these mental health issues who would never stoop to the pathetic levels of what Evan does in this movie.

And it’s made even worse when it’s wrapped up in bombastic musical numbers that are intended to make people shed tears for Evan more than anyone else in the story—even though he’s not the one who lost a loved one to suicide and he’s causing more pain with his lies. This gross spectacle of a movie amplifies the deep-rooted flaws of the entire story, which might have been more acceptable to theater audiences who are more accustomed to seeing song-and-dance numbers about suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues. “Dear Evan Hansen” has a lot of deluded worship of Evan, who’s got a bland abyss of a personality and who isn’t even creative with his lies.

Universal Pictures will release “Dear Evan Hansen” in U.S. cinemas on September 24, 2021.

2019 Academy Awards: performers and presenters announced

February 11, 2019

by Carla Hay

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 6, 2019. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced several entertainers who will be performers and presenters at the 91st Annual Academy Awards ceremony, which will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. ABC will have the U.S. telecast of the show, which will not have a host. As previously reported, comedian/actor Kevin Hart was going to host the show, but he backed out after the show’s producers demanded that he make a public apology for homophobic remarks that he made several years ago. After getting a  firestorm of backlash for the homophobic remarks, Hart later made several public apologies but remained adamant that he would still not host the Oscars this year.

The celebrities who will be on stage at the Oscars this year are several of those whose songs are nominated for Best Original Song. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will perform their duet “Shallow” from their movie remake of “A Star Is Born.” Jennifer Hudson will perform “I’ll Fight” from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG.” David Rawlings and Gillian Welch will team up for the duet “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from the Western film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” It has not yet been announced who will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from the Disney musical sequel “Mary Poppins Returns.”** It also hasn’t been announced yet if Kendrick Lamar and SZA will take the stage for “All the Stars” from the superhero flick “Black Panther.”

Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic do the music for the “In Memoriam” segment, which spotlights notable people in the film industry who have died in the year since the previous Oscar ceremony.

Meanwhile, the following celebrities have been announced as presenters at the ceremony: Whoopi Goldberg (who has hosted the Oscars twice in the past), Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Tina Fey, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amandla Stenberg, Tessa Thompson Constance Wu, Javier Bardem, Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Emilia Clarke, Laura Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephan James, Keegan-Michael Key, KiKi Layne, James McAvoy, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Momoa and Sarah Paulson. Goldberg and Bardem are previous Oscar winners.

Other previous Oscar winners taking the stage will be Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, who won the actor and actress prizes at the 2018 Academy Awards.

Donna Gigliotti (who won an Oscar for Best Picture for 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love) and Emmy-winning director Glenn Weiss are the producers of the 2019 Academy Awards. This will be the first time that Gigliotti is producing the Oscar ceremony. Weiss has directed several major award shows, including the Oscars and the Tonys. He will direct the Oscar ceremony again in 2019.

**February 18, 2019 UPDATE: Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Los Things Go,” the Oscar-nominated song from “Mary Poppins Returns.” British rock band Queen, whose official biopic is the Oscar-nominated film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” will also perform on the show with lead singer Adam Lambert. It has not been revealed which song(s) Queen will perform at the Oscars.

February 19, 2019 UPDATE: These presenters have been added to the Oscar telecast: Elsie Fisher, Danai Gurira, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Keaton, Helen Mirren, John Mulaney, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Krysten Ritter, Paul Rudd and Michelle Yeoh.

February 21, 2019 UPDATE: These celebrities will present the Best Picture nominees: José Andrés, Dana Carvey, Queen Latifah, Congressman John Lewis, Diego Luna, Tom Morello, Mike Myers, Trevor Noah, Amandla Stenberg, Barbra Streisand and Serena Williams.

2018 Hollywood Film Awards: See photos and videos

November 4, 2018

Awkwafina at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions:

The 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards brought together Hollywood’s elite to honor the year’s most talked about, and highly anticipated, actors, actresses, films and those who help bring them to life.  The awards ceremony, celebrating its 22nd anniversary as the official launch of the awards season, was hosted by actress and comedian Awkwafina, and took place at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.  In its 22-year history, more than 320 of the world’s biggest stars and filmmakers have been highlighted at the Hollywood Film Awards and more than 130 of the honorees have gone on to garner Oscar nominations and/or wins.

The night kicked off with Awkwafina’s biting humor, and was filled with many intimate and touching moments, as the honorees expressed their pride in their featured works.

Brad Pitt and Felix Van Groeningen at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

After a sincere introduction from Brad Pitt, Felix van Groeningen voiced his utmost gratitude to receive the “Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award” and to be lucky enough to make a film like “Beautiful Boy.” Brad Bird kept his Hollywood Animation Award acceptance speech short and sweet as he stressed the need to keep making animation films for “dreaming and for dreamers.”

Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Ryan Gosling gave an impassioned speech on the marvel and genius of Damien Chazelle and presented him with the Hollywood Director Award, which Chazelle humbly accepted.

Taraji P. Henson (L) and John David Washington at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Taraji P. Henson lauded the brilliance of John David Washington and his ability to make a period piece, that is still so relevant today, as he was honored with the Hollywood Breakout Performance Actor Award.

After accepting the Hollywood Documentary Award on behalf of Don Argott for “Believer,” Dan Reynolds performed an extremely emotional rendition of the documentary’s original song, “Skipping Stones.”

Dan Reynolds and Hans Zimmer at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Danny Huston introduced New Hollywood Actress Award recipient Yalitza Aparicio who gave a touching speech in Spanish explaining that she hopes the “win of the performance is felt by the people of Mexico.”

Yalitza Aparicio at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Emma McIntrye/Getty Images)

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Anne Hathaway took the stage to present the “Hollywood Actor Award” to Hugh Jackman, applauding his many achievements including his “20 plus year juggernaut career,” his “sexiest man alive title,” and most importantly, “his widely known reputation for being the nicest guy in Hollywood.”

 

Sterling K. Brown presented the award for “Hollywood Breakout Ensemble” to the cast of “Crazy Rich Asians.”  Several of the cast members including Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh, remarked at what an incomparable experience they’ve had making this film and how impactful it has been to be able to share this story with a fully Asian cast.

“Crazy Rich Asians” stars Constance Wu (at podium) and (L-R) Henry Golding, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Nico Santos, Michelle Yeoh, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Harry Shum Jr., and Ken Jeong at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

Amandla Stenberg and Janelle Monáe at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Janelle Monáe was on hand to present Amandla Stenberg with the Hollywood Breakout Performance Actress Award, and shared with the room what a fierce and fearless woman Stenberg is growing up to be.  Stenberg expressed her hope that the film “The Hate U Give” encourages people to stand up and be heard.

 

Christian Slater presented Glenn Close with her Hollywood Actress Award for her unparalleled performance in the film “The Wife.”  Close received a standing ovation before thanking all of the members of her team and all the filmmakers for staying with her throughout the entire process.

Glenn Close at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Michael B. Jordan came out to recognize “Black Panther” producer Nate Moore and director Ryan Coogler with the Hollywood Film Award.  He spoke to his experience both making and seeing the movie, saying that “for everyone with African roots, it spoke to us on an intensely powerful level.”

Michael B. Jordan. Ryan Coogler and Nate Moore at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

The final award of the evening went to Hollywood Career Achievement Award recipient Nicole Kidman, and was presented by Kidman’s co-star Shailene Woodley who was overwhelmed with gratitude that their lives crossed paths.  Kidman was welcomed with a standing ovation and thanked those in the room and in the industry for allowing her to play the women she’s played and tell their stories.  She vowed to “always give back to [her] craft!”

This year’s award show honored the following:

Hollywood Career Achievement Award

Nicole Kidman, presented by Shailene Woodley

Hollywood Film Award

“Black Panther,” presented by Michael B. Jordan

Hollywood Actress Award

Glenn Close for “The Wife,” presented by Christian Slater

Hollywood Actor Award

Hugh Jackman for “The Front Runner,” presented by Anne Hathaway

Hollywood Supporting Actor Award

Timothée Chalamet for “Beautiful Boy,” presented by Armie Hammer

Hollywood Ensemble Award

Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini for “Green Book,” presented by Octavia Spencer

(Back, L-R) Octavia Spencer with “Green Book” stars Dimiter Marinov, Sebastian Maniscalco, Joe Cortese, Nick Vallelonga, Mike Hatton, Brian Hayes Currie, (front L-R) Mahershala Ali, and Viggo Mortensen at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Hollywood Breakout Ensemble Award

Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remi Hii, Nico Santos for “Crazy Rich Asians,” presented by Sterling K. Brown

Hollywood Breakout Performance Actress Award

Amandla Stenberg for “The Hate U Give,” presented by Janelle Monáe

Hollywood Breakout Performance Actor Award

John David Washington for “BlakKklansman,” presented by Taraji P. Henson

New Hollywood Actress Award

 Yalitza Aparicio for “Roma,” presented by Danny Huston

Hollywood Director Award

Damien Chazelle for “First Man,” presented by Ryan Gosling

Hollywood Screenwriter Award

Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie for “Green Book,” presented by Michael Keaton

Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award

Felix van Groeningen for “Beautiful Boy,” presented by Brad Pitt

Hollywood Documentary Award

“Believer,” presented by Adam Lambert

Hollywood Animation Award

“Incredibles 2,” presented by Sophia Bush

Hollywood Cinematography Award

Matthew Libatique for “A Star Is Born”

Hollywood Film Composer Award

Justin Hurwitz for “First Man”

Hollywood Editor Award

Tom Cross for “First Man”

Hollywood Visual Effects Award

Dan Deleeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, Dan Sudick for “Avengers: Infinity War”

Hollywood Costume Design Award

Sandy Powell for “The Favourite”

Hollywood Make-Up & Hair Styling Award

Jenny Schircore, Sarah Kelly, Hannah Edwards for “Mary Queen of Scots” 

Hollywood Production Design Award

Hannah Beachler for “Black Panther”

Hollywood Sound Award

Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn, Brandon Proctor for “A Quiet Place”

 

Honoree Portraits are available on the show’s Twitter and Instagram pages. For all information and highlights, please visit the website for the Hollywood Film Awards.

For the latest news, follow the “Hollywood Film Awards” on social and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #HollywoodAwards.

Twitter: @HollywoodAwards
Facebook: Facebook.com/HollywoodAwards
Instagram: @hollywoodawards
YouTube: youtube.com/HollywoodAwards

 

About Dick Clark Productions
Dick Clark Productions (DCP) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and DCP. DCP also owns one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries with over 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. DCP is a division of Valence Media, a diversified media company with divisions and strategic investments in premium television, wide release film, specialty film, live events and digital media. For additional information, visit www.dickclark.com.

About The Hollywood Film Awards
The Hollywood Film Awards, founded in 1997, were created to celebrate Hollywood and launch the awards season. The recipients of the awards are selected by an Advisory Team for their body of work and/or a film(s) that is to be released during the calendar year. For additional information, visit www.hollywoodawards.com.

2018 Hollywood Film Awards: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ stars, Amandla Stenberg, John David Washington to receive breakthrough awards

October 16, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians
“Crazy Rich Asians” team at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre on August 7, 2018. Pictured from left to right: director Jon M. Chu, Jimmy O. Yang, producer Nina Jacobson, Sonoya Mizuno, Gemma Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Chris Pang, Nico Santos, Ronny Chieng, Ken Jeong, producer Brad Simpson, executive producer/author Kevin Kwan and producer John Penotti. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau)

The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions:

Dick Clark Productions announced today the line-up of stand-out performers and talent who will be recognized at the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards. “Crazy Rich Asians” will receive the “Hollywood Breakout Ensemble Award,” Amandla Stenberg will be recognized with the Hollywood Breakout Performance Actress Award for 20th Century Fox’s “The Hate U Give,” while John David Washington will receive the“Hollywood Breakout Performance Actor Award for his role in Focus Features’ “BlacKkKlansman.” Additionally, Felix Van Groeningen will be bestowed the Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award” for Amazon Studios’ “Beautiful Boy,” and Yalitza Aparicio will be given the New Hollywood Award for her performance in Netflix’s “Roma.”

They join previously announced honorees Nicole Kidman, who will receive this year’s Hollywood Career Achievement Award, and Timothée Chalamet and Rachel Weisz, who will receive the Hollywood Supporting Actor Award and Hollywood Supporting Actress Award, respectively.  The 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards will take place on Sunday, November 4 at The Beverly Hilton.

The Hollywood Film Awards, honoring the most acclaimed films and actors while previewing highly anticipated films and talent for the upcoming year, also acknowledges artists in the categories of Cinematography, Visual Effects, Film Composing, Costume Design, Editing, Production Design, Sound and Makeup & Hairstyling. In its 22-year history, more than 320 of the world’s biggest stars and filmmakers have been highlighted at the Hollywood Film Awards and more than 130 of the honorees have gone on to garner Oscar nominations and/or wins.

ABOUT THE HONOREES

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a contemporary romantic comedy based on the acclaimed worldwide bestseller by Kevin Kwan and featuring an all-Asian starring ensemble, including Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remi Hii, and Nico Santos.  The story follows New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore.  Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life.  Not only is he the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families, but also one of its most sought-after bachelors.  Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites and, worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh) taking aim.  It soon becomes clear that the only thing crazier than love is family, in this funny and romantic story sure to ring true for audiences everywhere.

Amandla Stenberg can currently be seen in 20th Century Fox’s highly anticipated film “The Hate U Give,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018 to rave reviews.  Additionally, she can currently be seen in Amma Asante’s WWII drama “Where Hands Touch,” which also premiered at TIFF.  Amandla’s other recent film credits include “The Darkest Minds,” “Everything, Everything” and “As You Are,” which won the Special Jury Award at Sundance 2016, “Colombiana,” “Rio 2” and “The Hunger Games.” She has been recognized globally for her crusade towards sparking thoughtful conversation using social media as a platform to spread awareness and knowledge on topics such as cultural appropriation, intersectional feminism, mindfulness, biracial identity, sexual identity, gender and beauty standards to name few.  Amandla has been recognized with Teen Choice Awards, a BET Award and NAACP Image Award for her work.

John David Washington garnered critical acclaim for starring in “BlacKkKlansman,” directed by Spike Lee and produced by Jason Blum and Jordan Peele. The film premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to a standing ovation and won the Grand Prix. This fall he co-starred in “Monsters and Men” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. The script was selected and developed as part of the 2017 Sundance Directors Lab. Earlier this year, he was seen in “Monster,” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, starring opposite Jeffrey Wright, ASAP Rocky and Jennifer Hudson. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Washington got his start as a child in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” in 1992. Prior to acting, he spent six years playing professional football. Shortly after, he booked his fist-ever audition to play Ricky Jerret in the HBO series “Ballers” with Dwayne Johnson. His performance as Ricky has generated rave reviews with the show currently in its 4th season and it was recently announced that the show will be renewed by HBO for a 5th season.

Yalitza Aparicio was born in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca in 1993. She holds a degree in education and aspires to become a teacher upon completion of her exams, but also has additional opportunities ahead of her since the film “Roma” has been completed. Aparicio went to her local community center to accompany her sister to the casting call and ended up trying out and being selected. She is very close with another actress from “Roma,” Nancy García, who lives in a nearby town in Oaxaca. Aparicio also developed strong relationships with the child actors that formed her family on set. Aparicio took advantage of working in Mexico City and visited Chapultepec Park and the pyramids of Teotihuacán. She loved being on set and seeing how spaces were transformed. She also enjoyed working with Cuarón and building the relationship of trust they came to share.

Felix Van Groeningen is a Flemish director, screenwriter and producer. This is his first English-language film. His previous film, “Belgica,” premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where he won the Directing Award (Dramatic World Cinema). Van Groeningen’s internationally acclaimed breakthrough “The Broken Circle Breakdown” earned a 2014 Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and a César for Best Foreign Film. Previously, “The Misfortunates” premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. Van Groeningen is a graduate of Belgium’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He currently resides in Antwerp, Belgium.

Additional honorees for the 22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards will be announced in the coming weeks.

For the latest news, follow the Hollywood Film Awards on social and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #HollywoodAwards.

Twitter: @HollywoodAwards
Facebook: Facebook.com/HollywoodAwards
Instagram: @hollywoodawards
YouTube: youtube.com/HollywoodAwards

About Dick Clark Productions
Dick Clark Productions (DCP) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and DCP. DCP also owns one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries with over 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. DCP is a division of Valence Media, a diversified media company with divisions and strategic investments in premium television, wide release film, specialty film, live events and digital media. For additional information, visit www.dickclark.com.

About The Hollywood Film Awards
The Hollywood Film Awards, founded in 1997, were created to celebrate Hollywood and launch the awards season. The recipients of the awards are selected by an Advisory Team for their body of work and/or a film(s) that is to be released during the calendar year. For additional information, visit www.hollywoodawards.com.

2018 American Music Awards: Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, The Chainsmokers, Lenny Kravitz among presenters

October 8, 2018

AMAs logo

The following is  a press release from Dick Clark Productions and ABC:

Dick Clark Productions and ABC today announced a star-studded line-up of presenters for the “2018 American Music Awards.” Some of the biggest names from film, television and music including Kelsea Ballerini, Tyra Banks, Kane Brown, Chloe x Halle, Macaulay Culkin, Lauren Daigle, Billy Eichner, Sara Gilbert, Kathryn Hahn, Amber Heard, Vanessa Hudgens, Taran Killam & Leighton Meester, Heidi Klum, Liza Koshy, Lenny Kravitz, Normani, Rita Ora, Busy Philipps, Bebe Rexha, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Evan Ross, Ashlee Simpson-Ross, John Stamos, Amandla Stenberg, The Chainsmokers, Constance Wu, and the cast of “Bohemian Rhapsody” including Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello & Gwilym Lee will take the stage throughout the night.

The lineup of presenters joins host Tracee Ellis Ross and previously announced performers benny blanco with Halsey and Khalid, Camila Cabello, Cardi B featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, Mariah Carey, Ciara featuring Missy Elliott, Dua Lipa, Jennifer Lopez, Ella Mai, Panic! At The Disco, Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla $ign, Shawn Mendes with Zedd, Taylor Swift, Twenty One Pilots, and Carrie Underwood, as well as a special tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

The “2018 American Music Awards,” the world’s largest fan-voted awards show, will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

The American Music Awards winners are voted entirely by fans. Voting is now closed in all categories except New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One® Savor® Card and Collaboration of the Year.
Fans can vote for each award 100 times per day, per voting platform in one or both of the ways below.

  • Via web at VoteAMAs.com
  • Posting a tweet on Twitter that includes the nominee’s name or Twitter handle, the category name and #AMAs within the tweet
Voting for New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One Savor Card and Collaboration of the Year will close on Tuesday, October 9 at 5:59:59pm PT, one hour into the live broadcast.American Music Awards nominees are based on key fan interactions as reflected on Billboard.com, including streaming, album and digital song sales, radio airplay, social activity and touring. These measurements are tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen Music and Next Big Sound, and reflect the time period of September 15, 2017 through August 9, 2018.

YouTube Music is the presenting sponsor of the “2018 American Music Awards.”

Capital One Savor Card and Subaru of America, Inc. are sponsors of the “2018 American Music Awards.” Media partner is Cumulus Media/Westwood One.
The “2018 American Music Awards” is produced by dick clark productions. Barry Adelman, Mark Bracco and Tracee Ellis Ross are Executive Producers. Larry Klein is Producer.

For the latest American Music Awards news, exclusive content and more, be sure to follow the AMAs on social and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #AMAs.

Facebook: Facebook.com/AMAs
Twitter: @AMAs
Instagram: @AMAs
Snapchat: TheAMAs
YouTube: YouTube.com/TheAMAs

Tickets are now on sale at www.axs.com.

About the American Music Awards
The American Music Awards, the world’s largest fan-voted award show, features performances from today’s hottest artists and presents fan-voted awards in the music genres of Pop/Rock, Alternative Rock, Country, Rap/Hip-Hop, Soul/R&B, Adult Contemporary, Contemporary Inspirational, Latin, EDM and Soundtrack, and the categories of Artist of the Year, New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One Savor Card, Collaboration of the Year, Tour of The Year, Favorite Social Artist presented by Xfinity and Favorite Music Video. The American Music Awards pays tribute to today’s most influential and iconic artists.  The show is produced by dick clark productions and is seen in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. For more information, visit www.theamas.comwww.dickclark.com or abc.go.com/shows/american-music-awards.

About dick clark productions
dick clark productions (dcp) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and dcp. dcp also owns one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries with over 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. dcp is a division of Valence Media, a diversified media company with divisions and strategic investments in premium television, wide release film, specialty film, live events and digital media. For additional information, visit www.dickclark.com.

About YouTube Music 
YouTube Music is a completely reimagined streaming music service with music videos, official albums, singles, remixes, live performances, covers and hard-to-find music you can only get on YouTube. It’s ALL here! YouTube Music serves music based on your tastes and what’s moving the community around you. Discover something new or keep up with what’s trending. Basic functions such as playing music and watching videos are totally free, but you can upgrade to YouTube Music Premium to explore the world of music ad-free, offline, and with the screen locked. Available on mobile and desktop.  For additional information, visit  www.youtube.com/musicpremium.

 

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