Review: ‘The French Dispatch,’ starring Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright

October 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton Fisher Stevens and Griffin Dunne in “The French Dispatch” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

“The French Dispatch”

Directed by Wes Anderson

Some language in French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, France, the comedy film “The French Dispatch” features predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: After the American editor of The French Dispatch magazine dies, his staffers gather to put together the magazine’s final issues, with four stories coming to life in the movie.

Culture Audience: “The French Dispatch” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Wes Anderson and of arthouse movies that have well-known actors doing quirky comedy.

Lyna Khoudri, Frances McDormand and Timothée Chalamet in “The French Dispatch” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

At times, “The French Dispatch” seems like an overstuffed clown car where filmmaker Wes Anderson tried to fit in as many famous actors as possible in this movie. This star-studded cast elevates the material, which is good but not outstanding. Anderson’s style of filmmaking is an acquired taste that isn’t meant to be for all moviegoers. He fills his movies with retro-looking set designs, vibrant cinematography and snappy dialogue from eccentric characters. “The French Dispatch,” written and directed by Anderson, takes an anthology approach that doesn’t always work well, but the fascinating parts make up for the parts that are downright boring.

The movie revolves around a fictional magazine called The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (also known as The French Dispatch), which is a widely circulated American magazine based in the fictional city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, France. The French Dispatch was founded in 1925. The movie opens in 1975, when the French Dispatch editor/owner Arthur Howitzer Jr. (played by Bill Murray), an American originally from Kansas, has died in the magazine’s offices. The employees have gathered to work on his obituary and reminisce about him and the magazine’s history.

Arthur appears in flashbacks throughout the movie. In one of the flashbacks, Arthur has told his top-ranking staffers that he has put a clause in his will which requires that The French Dispatch will stop publishing after he dies. The staffers are melancholy and a bit disturbed when they hear about this decision. Arthur is loved and respected by his employees, so they oblige his request. Therefore, they know that the French Dispatch issue that will have Arthur’s obituary will also be the magazine’s final issue.

The French Dispatch is a magazine that is known for its collection of stories. In “The French Dispatch” movie, four of these stories come to life and are told in anthology form, with each story told by someone from the magazine’s staff. Some scenes are in color, and other scenes in black and white. Anderson says in the movie’s production notes that The French Dispatch was inspired by his love for The New Yorker magazine. That’s all you need to know to predict if you think this movie will be delightful or pretentious.

The French Dispatch staffers are mostly Americans. They including copy editor Alumna (played by Elisabeth Moss), cartoonist Hermès Jones (played by Jason Schwartzman), an unnamed story editor (played by Fisher Stevens), an unnamed legal advisor (played by Griffin Dunne), an unnamed proofreader (Anjelica Bette Fellini) and an unnamed writer (played by Wally Wolodarsky). All of these aforementioned staffers don’t have in-depth personalities as much as they have the type of quirky reaction conversations and stagy facial expressions that people have come to expect from characters in a Wes Anderson movie. A running joke in “The French Dispatch” is how obsessive Alumna and proofreader are about things such as comma placement.

The staffers who get more screen time and more insight into their personalities are the four staffers who tell their stories. The first story is told in travelogue form by Herbsaint Sazerac (played by Owen Wilson), whose title is cycling reporter. Herbsaint travels by bicycle to various parts of the city. He has a penchant for going to the seedier neighborhoods to report what’s going on there and the history of how certain locations have changed over the years. During his travels, he visits three other French Dispatch writers who tell their stories. They are J.K.L. Berensen (played by Tilda Swinton), who is the magazine’s flamboyant art critic; Lucinda Krementz (played by Frances McDormand), a secretive essayist who likes to work alone; and Roebuck Wright (played by Jeffrey Wright), a lonely and brilliant writer with a typographic memory.

J.K.L.’s story is “The Concrete Masterpiece,” which is about the how a “criminally insane” painter named Moses Rosenthaler (played by Benicio del Toro as a middle-aged man and by Tony Revolori as a young man) is discovered and exploited while Moses is in prison for murder. One of the paintings that first gets attention for Moses is a nude portrait of a prison guard named Simone (played by Léa Seydoux), who is his muse and his lover. Moses has a makeshift art studio in prison for these intimate painting sessions, which he is able to do because Simone gives him a lot of leeway and protection from being punished.

An unscrupulous art dealer named Julian Cadazio (played by Adrien Brody), along with his equally corrupt and greedy uncles Nick (played by Bob Balaban) and Joe (played by Henry Winkler), find out about Moses’ talent and are eager to make huge profits off of Moses’ work. These art vultures figure that they can take advantage of Moses because he’s in prison. Julian, Nick and Joe get a tizzy over how much money they can make off of Moses, who is a mercurial and unpredictable artist. Imagine these art dealers’ panic when Moses decides he’s going to stop painting until he feels like painting again. There’s also a Kansas art collector named Upshur “Maw” Clampette (played by Lois Smith) who comes into the mix as a potential buyer.

“The Concrete Masterpiece” is the movie’s highlight because it adeptly weaves the absurd with harsh realism. Swinton is a hilarious standout in her scenes, because J.K.L. is quite the raconteur. She delivers her story as a speaking engagement in front of an auditorium filled with unnamed art people. It’s like a pompous lecture and bawdy stand-up comedy routine rolled into one. You almost wish that Anderson would make an entire movie about J.K.L. Berensen.

Lucinda’s story is “Revisions to a Manifesto,” which chronicles a youthful uprising in the French town of Ennui, when young people stage a labor strike that shuts down the entire country. At the center of this youthful rebellion are two lovers named Zeffirelli (played by Timothée Chalamet) and Juliette (played by Lyna Khoudri). Zefferelli (a college student) is the sensitive and romantic one in this relationship, while Juliette has a tendency to be aloof and no-nonsense. Although “Revisions to a Manifesto” has some visually compelling scenes depicting the strikes and protests, the overall tone of this story falls a little flat. Chalamet’s performance is very affected, while McDormand is doing what she usually does when she portrays a repressed character.

Roebuck’s story “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” which is a tale of kidnapping and other criminal activities. The story starts off being about a famous chef named Nescaffier (played by Stephen Park), who is hired to serve Ennui-sur-Blasé’s police commissioner (played by Mathieu Amalric), who is just named The Commissaire in the story. But then, the story becomes about The Comissaire’s son/crime-solving protégé Gigi (played by Winsen Ait Hellal), who gets kidnapped by some thugs, led by someone named The Chauffeur (played by Edward Norton). The kidnappers say that Gigi will be murdered unless a recently arrested accountant named Albert (played by Willem Dafoe), nicknamed The Abacus, is set free from jail.

“The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” ends up being too convoluted and somewhat sloppily executed. Liev Schreiber has a small role as a Dick Cavett-type TV talk show host who interviews Roebuck on the show. There’s some whimsical animation in this part of the movie. But ultimately, “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” is a story about a lot of people running around and making threats with no real sense of danger.

Although it’s admirable that Anderson was able to attract so many famous actors in this movie, after a while it seems like stunt casting that can become distracting. Viewers who watch “The French Dispatch” will wonder which famous person is going to show up next. Some well-known actors who make cameos in “The French Dispatch” include Christoph Waltz, Saoirse Ronan and Rupert Friend. Anjelica Huston is the movie’s voiceover narrator.

“The French Dispatch” can almost become a game of Spot the Celebrities, since there are so many of them in this movie. That being said, there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch. However, the movie would’ve benefited from taking a chance on casting lesser-known but talented actors in some of the prominent speaking roles, in order to make the film a more immersive viewing experience instead of it coming across as an all-star parade.

Despite its flaws, there’s no doubt that “The French Dispatch” is a highly creative film that has Anderson’s unique vision and artistic flair. He has a love of language and a knack for keeping viewers guessing on what will happen next in his movies. And these bold risks in filmmaking are better than not taking any risks at all.

Searchlight Pictures released “The French Dispatch” in U.S. cinemas on October 22, 2021.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Other Music’

May 5, 2019

by Carla Hay

“Other Music” (Photo by Robert M. Nielsen)

“Other Music”

Directed by Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 26, 2019.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores that sell music—just like video stores and places to develop film—are a dying breed that the Internet and other digital technology have been killing off since the mid-2000s. From 1995 to 2016, Other Music was an independent music store located in New York City’s East Village. The store had a reputation for being a place that championed obscure and non-mainstream music, but Other Music also carried releases from popular artists, with an emphasis on releases that might not be that easy to find. The documentary “Other Music” is a respectful, nostalgic history of the store, including a behind-the-scenes look at the final days before Other Music closed for good on June 25, 2016.

Other Music’s financial woes weren’t just caused by the Internet. Like many other independent retailers in high-priced urban cities, Other Music (which stayed in the same location throughout its 21-year run) couldn’t keep up with the rising rents in the area. But the store’s history is truly a reflection of what was going on in the music business at the time. Other Music was co-founded by Chris Vanderloo, Josh Madell and Jeff Gibson, at a time (the mid-‘90s) when alternative/indie rock was at the height of its commercial appeal. Vanderloo and Madell were former employees of Kim’s Underground Video, an independently run video store in New York City.

In the documentary, Vanderloo is described as the most customer-oriented; he was the Other Music owner who was most likely to be mingling with store customers. Madell was the managerial taskmaster, who was the most involved in employee hiring and training, as well as community outreach and setting up in-store performances. Gibson was the one who was the most enthusiastic about discovering new music—the more obscure, the better. In 2001, Gibson left Other Music and moved to Belgium, where his wife is from, and he declined to participate in the documentary.

The documentary mentions that, at first, many people thought it was crazy for Other Music to open directly across the street from the East Village location of Tower Records, the music-store behemoth that was considered one of the most powerful music retailers in the U.S. for decades. But it turns out that both stores had overlapping customers, and Tower Records’ foot traffic helped Other Music, which was a place to find releases that Tower Records might not have. Ironically, Other Music would outlast Tower Records (which closed all its U.S. operations in 2006), as well as other corporate music retailers that shut down in the U.S., such as Virgin Megastore and HMV. TransWorld-owned music retailers Musicland, Sam Goody, The Wherehouse and Camelot Music also went out of business years before Other Music did.

Other Music was the kind of store that strived to keep its anti-corporate image intact. The store’s labels and signs were hand-written. Most of the inventory was from independent record companies. The store prided itself on having employees who were extremely knowledgeable about non-mainstream music and weren’t shy about making recommendations to customers. But all of that led to Other Music having a “hipster snob” reputation that was a turnoff and intimidated some people, which the documentary rightfully acknowledges. A few of the employees interviewed also admit that they would be impatient and give attitude to customers if they thought the customers didn’t know much about music.

The film predictably includes a number of celebrities who mostly praise Other Music. Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore opens the movie with this glowing statement about Other Music: “Per square meter, it probably had more interest value than any other shop I’d ever been in, in the world.” Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro says that shopping at Other Music was “almost like a religious experience.” Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig, former Le Tigre member JD Sampson, and Animal Collective singer Avey Tare are among the other artists who share fond memories of Other Music.

A few celebrities, such as Jason Schwartzman and Regina Spektor, admit that although they were fans of Other Music, they often felt like their musical tastes were being judged by the staff. Spektor explains that she always had a feeling of “first-day-of-school nervousness” when she shopped at Other Music, because she didn’t want to feel embarrassed. The National lead singer Matt Berninger said that if people felt uncomfortable shopping at Other Music because of the “snob” factor, it was because Other Music “set the bar high” when it came to musical taste. “They should celebrate stuff that’s better-than-average.”

One of the best things about the Other Music documentary is that is gives a spotlight to some of the store’s unsung heroes. Even though Other Music carried a wide variety of music, it still had an image of being dominated by indie rock. It might come as a surprise to many people who see this film that Other Music’s staff was a lot more diverse than the stereotypical white male music nerd, even though the store’s owners/bosses and many of the employees fit that stereotype. There were plenty of female staffers there too (although they don’t get as much screen time in the movie as the male staffers) and some people of color (usually male) who worked at Other Music. Most of the employees describe themselves as music fanatics and misfits who wouldn’t do well if they had to work at a regular 9-to-5 office job. It’s mentioned in the documentary that it was hard to get a job at Other Music because the standards for music knowledge were high and the employee turnover was relatively low. Co-owner Madell said that if employees got fired, it was often because of chronic tardiness.

Many people in the documentary mention Duane Harriott (a black man) as Other Music’s best employee. Harriott, who worked at Other Music from 1997 to 2008, is interviewed in the film, and he says of Other Music: “It wasn’t just a record store. It was a community center.” He also says he was largely responsible for building Other Music’s hip-hop inventory “from scratch.” Harriott is praised by many people in the documentary for his encyclopedic music knowledge and his sales skills—he had a gift of gab with customers, and he loved to tell trivia factoids and stories about artists, which often resulted in people buying music that they originally didn’t intend to buy.

Many of the employees of Other Music were also musicians, and they were encouraged to promote their own music in the store. One former employee, an African American identified in the movie only as Beans, was notorious for relentlessly suggesting that customers buy his music. Beans, who’s interviewed in the movie, freely admits that he was one of those Other Music employees who would get impatient and give attitude to customers if he thought they seemed clueless. Even though he admits this flaw, he’s also clearly one of Other Music’s most loyal employees: He’s seen in the documentary being one of the last employees to stay behind to help clear out the store after it permanently closed.

The documentary also interviews Vanderloo’s wife Lydia and Madell’s wife Dawn, who are perhaps the biggest unsung heroes of Other Music. The wives reveal that because they had more stable incomes than their husbands, the wives kept the business afloat for years when Other Music was losing money. In other words, if Vanderloo and Madell hadn’t been married to people who could give them money to keep the business going, the store would have closed years before 2016. The wives say that they and their husbands kept the business going because they felt obligated to Other Music’s customers and employees. But when they were losing so much money that the business no longer became sustainable, it was time to shut it down for good.

From the beginning, Other Music had issues with being cash-strapped. As Josh Madell says in documentary, the store didn’t pay most of its employees in its early years (the staff knowingly signed up as volunteers), and not even Lydia and Dawn were exempt from working for free. The wives talk about how their pre-marriage dates with their future husbands involved meeting at the store and being unpaid employees. A “dinner date” would be often be ordering pizza while they worked for free at the store.

The documentary also mentions how Other Music was affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which caused most businesses located in downtown Manhattan to be temporarily closed or severely limited in the weeks and sometimes months after the tragedy. William Basinski’s “DLP1.1” composition (one of his “disintegration loop” instrumental recordings) became Other Music’s unofficial anthem in dealing with aftermath of 9/11, according to the documentary. Other Music co-owner Madell says that the store had its biggest sales in the year 2000, and things never really recovered after 2001.

When Napster and other controversial file-sharing services began to eat away at the music industry’s profits, Other Music responded by launching its own digital music store without digital-rights management, but that wasn’t until 2007, when music retail was already in a major downward spiral, and iTunes was already dominating the online music market. Things also got worse for Other Music when corporate stores such as Best Buy had lower prices for CDs than what Other Music’s wholesalers/distributors would charge. Other Music had its own e-newsletter, and when that also shut down, the owners heard that Lou Reed was despondent over it. Other Music also launched its own record label in 2012.

Financial woes aside, Other Music’s biggest legacy is that it was a home for independent artists, many of whom weren’t mainstream enough for commercial radio or corporate chain stores. The documentary includes footage of in-store performances of artists such as Ghost, St. Vincent and Conor Oberst. Former employee Harriott says his most memorable Other Music performance was by the mysterious and elusive singer/songwriter Gary Wilson, who arrived at the store with a blanket over his face. Before his performance, Wilson poured talcum powder over himself and then performed wearing 3-D glasses.

The documentary also notes that in the aftermath of 9/11, the music community in New York City became more vibrant. It was during this period of time that the New York City music scene had LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Interpol, The National, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Other Music helped all of these acts before they broke through to larger audiences.

Although a few people (including Josh Madell) had tears in their eyes and understandably got emotional in the final days and hours before Other Music’s last day in business, the general feeling was one of positivity over all the great experiences they had because of Other Music. There’s plenty of nostalgia and wistfulness, because the closing of Other Music represents a bygone era when most people got their music by physically going to a store and combing through racks of vinyl records, cassettes or CDs. Many of the customers interviewed in the documentary talk about how they prefer the tangible feeling of holding albums in their hands, so that they can better appreciate the artwork or lyrics that came with the packaging.

People who’ve spent countless hours of their lives at a music store know that it’s become an increasingly rare experience to physically be at a store devoted to music where you can find those hidden gems or sought-out items to add to a collection. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common for small, independent businesses such as Other Music to not be able to survive online competitors, technology’s effects or rising rent.

The documentary ends with the “Other Music Forever” farewell concert that took place at the Bowery Ballroom on June 28, 2016. The event, hosted by Janeane Garofalo, included performances by Yoko Ono, Sharon Van Etten, Bill Callahan, Yo La Tengo, OM, Julianna Barwick and Frankie Cosmos. People who didn’t attend the concert can see a few snippets in the movie, as well as how Other Music co-owner Madell had to practically beg a modest Vanderloo to come up on stage.

“Other Music” co-directors Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller do a fine job of telling Other Music’s story in a cohesive and entirely conventional manner. There’s some use of animation, which can be hit-or-miss in a documentary, but it works well-enough in this movie because the animation is used sparingly. And although there are some celebrities and other world travelers who no doubt got to experience Other Music firsthand, the movie might not be compelling enough to watch for the average person who’s never heard of Other Music or has never even been to New York City.

And here’s why the movie might have a challenge in finding an audience that’s larger than those who care about a music store in New York City: Unfortunately, there are any number of beloved, independently owned music stores around the world that have closed over the years. Each store had its own unique impact on its community. Other Music just happened to be in America’s largest-populated city, so it had a bigger profile than most indie record stores. The people who have the most emotional attachment to Other Music are those who had a great experience there and/or those whose careers were affected by Other Music—and that’s a very niche audience indeed.

That’s not to say that the “Other Music” documentary isn’t worth watching, and you don’t have to be a former customer or employee to enjoy the movie. But people who never went to Other Music might have a harder time relating to and engaging in the documentary’s sentimental nostalgia over the store. The “Other Music” documentary would make a great double feature with “All Things Must Pass,” director Colin Hanks’ excellent 2015 documentary about the rise and fall of Tower Records, because, at the very least, the “Other Music” documentary shows how a scrappy underdog outlasted a corporate giant.

UPDATE: Factory 25 will release “Other Music” on digital and VOD on August 25, 2020.

2018 CinemaCon: What to expect at this year’s event

April 23, 2018

by Carla Hay

CinemaCon

CinemaCon, the annual convention for the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), will be held April 23 to April 26, 2018, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. About 5,000 people attend the event, which gives movie studios the chance to showcase what they expect to be their biggest hits of the year.

Movie studios scheduled to give their presentations at the event are Sony Pictures Entertainment on April 23; Walt Disney Studios, STX Films and Warner Bros. Pictures on April 24; Entertainment Studios, Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Paramount Pictures on April 25; and 20th Century Fox, Amazon Studios and Lionsgate on April 26.

One of the highlights of CinemaCon 2018 will be the 2018 Pioneer of the Year Award Dinner on April 25. The event will honor Tom Cruise, the first actor to ever receive the award. Tony-and-Grammy-Award-winning “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. will perform at the event, which will include a special presentation from Cruise’s “Jack Reacher” director Christopher McQuarrie, who also directed Cruise in 2015’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and 2018’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

CinemaCon culminates with the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards ceremony, which will take place April 26.

Here are the announced winners of the awards:

CinemaCon Lifetime Award
Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Jodie Foster has been one of the most critically acclaimed actors in movies since made her big-screen debut in 1972’s “Napoleon and Samantha.” Her most famous movies include 1976’s “Taxi Driver,” 1997’s “Contact” and 2002’s “Panic Room.” She has two Oscars for Best Actress: for  1988’s “The Accused” and 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs.” In 2018, her thriller film “Hotel Artemis” is set for release. Foster has also become a respected director and producer, having helmed several feature films, including 1991’s “Little Man Tate,” 1995’s “Home for the Holidays,” 2011’s “The Beaver” and 2016’s “Money Monster.”

CinemaCon Icon Award
Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

In a career spanning more than 45 years, Oscar-nominated Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in more blockbusters than any other actor. His hit films include 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” 1994’s “Pulp Fiction,” “Star Wars” Episodes I II and III, 2004’s “The Incredibles,” 2012’s “Django Unchained” and several Marvel Studios films, such 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” 2011’s “Captain America; The First Avenger,”  2012’s “The Avengers,” 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” 2015’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The prolific Jackson has several movies scheduled for release. In 2018, his movies include “The Last Full Measure,” “Incredibles 2” and “Life Itself.” In 2019, he has three movies that are predicted to be big hits: “Glass” (the hybrid sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split”), “Captain Marvel” and a remake of “Shaft.”

CinemaCon Visionary Award
Jack Black

CinemaCon Vanguard Award
Jonah Hil

Jack Black and Jonah Hill (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Grey Goose Vodka)

Jack Black and Jonah Hill are co-stars in 2018’s “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.” Although they have appeared in dramas, they are mostly known for their comedic roles. Black’s biggest hits include 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” the “Kung Fu Panda” movies, 2003’s “School of Rock” and 2005’s “King Kong.” His other 2018 movie is “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.”

Hill, who received Oscar nominations for supporting roles in 2011’s “Moneyball” and 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” has appeared in a number of hit movies, including 2007’s “Superbad,” 2012’s “21 Jump Street,” 2013’s “This Is the End,” 2014’s “22 Jump Street” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies. He’s also reunited with his “Superbad” co-star Emma Stone in the Netflix series “Maniac.”  In 2019, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is due out in cinemas.

CinemaCon Award of Excellence in Acting
Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones (Photo by Christopher Polk)

Felicity Jones had carved out a niche in independent films (usually dramas) before she was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything.” Since then, her career has grown by leaps in bounds, including starring roles in 2016’s biggest blockbuster, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and 2016’s “Inferno.” In 2017, she starred in the critically acclaimed “Breathe.” She plays U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2018’s “On the Basis of Sex.”

CinemaCon Male Star of the Year
Benicio Del Toro

Benicio Del Toro (Photo by Richard Foreman Jr.)

Benicio Del Toro won an Oscar for his supporting role in 2000’s “Traffic.” He has developed a reputation for playing brooding, often mysterious characters in critically acclaimed movies that range from ,ow-budget independent films to major blockbusters. Del Toro’s best-known movies include 1995’s “The Usual Suspects,” 2013’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and 2015’s “Sicario” and 2016’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”  His movies set for release in 2018 are “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” which is expected to the biggest box-office hit of the year.

CinemaCon Female Star of the Year
Dakota Johnson

Dakota Johnson (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Coming from from a family of famous actors (her parents are Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith; her maternal grandmother is Tippi Hedren; and her former stepfather is Antonio Banderas), Dakota Johnson has forged her most recognizable identity in movies as the star of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. She has four very different movies in 2018: S&M-themed romantic drama “Fifty Shades Freed,” the horror movie “Suspiria” and the thriller “Bad Times at the El Royale.”

CinemaCon Director of the Year
Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images)

After directing just three feature films (2014’s “Fruitvale Station,” “2015’s “Creed” and 2018’s “Black Panther”), Ryan Coogler has become one of the hottest filmmakers in Hollywood, thanks to the blockbuster success of “Black Panther,” which broke the record for the highest-grossing film to open in February. The movie also earned rave reviews from critics, and “Black Panther” is set to be in the Top 5 of the highest-grossing movies of 2018.

CinemaCon Breakthrough Producer of the Year
Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union (Photo courtesy of BET)

Gabrielle Union is not new to making movies (she’s starred in 2000’s “Bring It On” and 2012’s “Think Like a Man, among other films), but she is relatively new to producing movies. Union was an executive producer of her 2016 comedy film “Almost Christmas,” and she’s a producer of her 2018 thriller “Breaking In.”

CinemaCon Action Star of the Year
Taron Egerton

Taron Egerton (Photo by Larry Horricks)

Taron Egerton is best known to movie audiences as the star of the “Kingsman” movies: 2014’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and 2017’s “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” His 2018 movies are the big-screen version of the true-crime drama “The Billionaire Boys Club” and as the iconic title character in “Robin Hood.” Egerton is also set to star as Elton John in the biopic “Rocketman,” whose release date is to be announced.

Cinema Spotlight Award
Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Anna Kendrick is best known for starring in the “Pitch Perfect” comedy/musical movies, but she is equally adept at doing dramas, such as her Oscar-nominated turn for her supporting role in 2009’s “Up in the Air.” Her 2018 movie is “A Simple Favor,” a mystery thriller

CinemaCon Female Star of Tomorrow Award
Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish (Photo by Michele K. Short)

Tiffany Haddish is a longtime stand-up comedian, but she had a major breakthrough in movies with her much-talked-about role in the 2017 comedy smash “Girls Trip.” Since then, her career has been on a hot streak, with starring role in TV and movies, including four films due out in 2018: “Uncle Drew,” “Night School,” “The Oath” and “Nobody’s Fool.”

CinemaCon Breakthrough Performer of the Year
LilRel Howery

LilRel Howery (Photo by Jason Lubin)

LilRel Howery made movie audiences stand up and take notice as the wise-cracking TSA worker in the 2017 horror blockbuster “Get Out.” It was a small but memorable role for the actor who was previously known on screen for starring as Bobby Carmichael in “The Carmichael Show.” Howery’s 2018 movies are the comedy “Uncle Drew” and the sci-fi thriller “Birdbox.”

CinemaCon Comedy Star of the Year
Kate McKinnon

Kate McKinnon (Photo by Adam Rose/ABC)

Kate McKinnon has already won multiple Emmys for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” but she has also made her mark on the big screen, with scene-stealing roles in 2016’s “Ghostbusters” remake, 2017’s “Rough Night” and 2017’s “Ferdinand.” In 2018, her comedy movies set for release are “Irreplaceable You” and “The Spy Who Dumped Me.”

Other awards that will be given at the ceremony:

  • CinemaCon International Filmmaker of the Year Award: J.A. Bayona, director of 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
  • CinemaCon Passpartout Award: Kurt Rieder,  20th  Century Fox International executive VP for theatrical in the Asia Pacific region
  • NATO Marquee Award: Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, Cinépolis CEO/general director
  • Career Achievement in Exhibition Award: Robert Carrady, Caribbean Cinemas president

2018 Cannes Film Festival: Benicio del Toro named president of Un Certain Regard jury; ‘Everybody Knows’ to open festival

April 4, 2018

Benicio del Toro in "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" (Photo by Richard Foreman Jr.)
Benicio del Toro in “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (Photo by Richard Foreman Jr.)

Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro has been named president of the Un Certain Regard jury at the 71st Annual Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in Cannes, France, from May 8 to May 19, 2018.

In other Cannes news, Variety has reported that the Spanish-language psychological thriller “Everybody Knows” (“Todos Lo Saben”) , directed by Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi, will open the festival. Oscar-winning spouses Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz star in the movie, which is the first Spanish-language film to open the Cannes Film Festival since Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education” in 2004. The lineup of films at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival will be announced May 12 at a press conference that will be streamed live at 11 a.m. CET on the official Cannes Film Festival website, YouTube and Daily Motion.

Here is the official press release from the Cannes Film Festival about del Toro heading the Un Certain Regard jury:

The man who will preside over the fate of the Un Certain Regard Jury is not only a film lover but a brilliant actor, entirely devoted to his art. Eight years ago, along with Tim Burton, Benicio del Toro and his fellow members of the Jury selected Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee (The One Who Can Recall His Past Lives) as the winner of the Palme d’or.

Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Pennsylvania, he is an artist who knows no boundaries. He is a great admirer of Jean Vigo and Charlie Chaplin and would have loved to have met Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Toshiro Mifune or Humphrey Bogart. When he was 20 years old, he discovered The 400 Blows and the infinite universe of Fellini, Eisenstein, Bergman, Eustache, Kurosawa… The Naked Island of Kaneto Shindô became his go-to film.
At 6 feet 2, Benicio Del Toro always dreamt of becoming a basketball player but became an actor instead. His intense and magnetic presence on the screen makes him sleek and attractive. A chameleon with a thousand faces: a mild-mannered gangster (Usual Suspects, 1995), an eccentric moustachioed lawyer (Las Vegas Parano, 1998), a four-fingered robber (Snatch, 2000), an agent in a Mexican drug squad in cartel areas (Traffic, 2001, Ocar for Best Supporting Actor), an ex-convict turned fundamentalist Christian (21 Grams, 2003), a troubled American Indian (Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, 2013), a famous drug dealer both charming and terrifying (Paradise Lost, 2014).

The charismatic Benicio Del Toro transforms each of his performances into impressive but subtle displays. Despite his apparent insouciance, he throws himself like no other into his roles – his teacher was Stella Adler of the Actors Studio. He is a loyal supporter of independent cinema and has worked with Abel Ferrara (The Funeral, 1996), Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, 1997) and Oliver Stone (Savages, 2012) – he also appears in the 8thepisode of the saga Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).

In 2008, he received the award for best actor in Cannes for his role as Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s two-part film – a part he carried for no fewer than seven years. Del Toro and the Festival have a long shared history. He was there for the special screening of Usual Suspects, then The Pledge (2001), Sin City (2005) and more recently, Sicario(2015) which was selected to compete for the Palme d’or. He was even there for his directorial debut, El Yuma, one of the segments of 7 Days in Havana, a collective work selected at Un Certain Regard in 2012. The following year, Benicio Del Toro said: “I’ve come here many times and it’s always amazing. I am totally thrilled and excited to be here.”

As the second competition within the Official Selection, Un Certain Regard will once again feature some twenty original and unique works in terms of themes and aesthetics.

Benicio Del Toro takes over from Uma Thurman, who was president in 2017 of a jury that awarded prizes to Mohammad Rasoulof, Jasmine Trinca, Mathieu Amalric, Taylor Sheridan and Michel Franco.

This year’s Festival de Cannes will take place from Tuesday 8 to Saturday 19 May.

April 5, 2018 UPDATE:

The following is a press release from Momento Films:

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in “Everybody Knows” (Photo courtesy of Momentum Films)

EVERYBODY KNOWS, the new film by director Asghar Farhadi, with Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darín, will be the opening film of the 71st Cannes International Film Festival on 8 May. It will also be in Competition for the Golden Palm and will be released in France on 9 May. EVERYBODY KNOWS is produced, distributed in France and handled internationally by Memento Films.

Asghar Farhadi is back in the Cannes Film Festival after THE SALESMAN, winner of the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Film 2017, and winner of Best Actor and Best Screenplay at Cannes 2016. Asghar Farhadi also won the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Film in 2012 with A SEPARATION. The new film by the Iranian director will be screened in opening and in Competition 8 May.

Memento Films Distribution will release EVERYBODY KNOWS on 9 May in 350 theatres.

EVERYBODY KNOWS was entirely shot in Spain and in Spanish with Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and the Argentinian actor Ricardo Darín as main characters. Spanish actors Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie and Inma Cuesta also star in the film.   The psychological thriller follows Laura who travels with her family from Buenos Aires to the village where she was born, on a Spanish vineyard, to attend her sister’s wedding but unexpected events lead this gathering towards a crisis which exposes the hidden past of the family.

Asghar Farhadi collaborated with great names of Spanish cinema including Jose-Luis Alcaine as DOP and Sonia Grande as costume designer, both regulars in Pedro Almodovar’s filmography. Clara Notari, known for WILD TALES and Soderbergh’s CHE, supervised the production design. The editing of the film was helmed by Hayedeh Safiyari who already worked with Asghar Farhadi on A SEPARATION and THE SALESMAN.

After THE SALESMAN and THE PAST, EVERYBODY KNOWS is the third consecutive film by Asghar Farhadi produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy from Memento Films Production. The French producer collaborated with Spanish producer Alvaro Longoria from Morena Films. Lucky Red and Rai Cinema in Italy, France 3

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