Review: ‘Crisis’ (2021), starring Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer and Evangeline Lilly

March 7, 2021

by Carla Hay

Greg Kinnear and Gary Oldman in “Crisis” (Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution)

“Crisis” (2021)

Directed by Nicholas Jarecki

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Detroit and Montreal, the dramatic film “Crisis” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: The lives of three different Americans—a scientist, a Drug Enforcement Agency undercover officer and a recovering opioid addictall collide when a new “non-addictive” opioid prescription drug called Klaralon is being rushed to market.

Culture Audience: “Crisis” will appeal primarily to people who like to watch formulaic dramas about the “war on drugs” that have some ridiculous plot developments.

Armie Hammer and Evangeline Lilly in “Crisis” (Philippe Bosse/Quiver Distribution)

It seems as if the dramatic thriller “Crisis” (written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki) was made to be a “cautionary tale” about how big pharmaceutical companies are just greedy, corporate drug dealers in the so-called “war on drugs.” However, the movie becomes so enamored with showing enmeshed storylines of the three main characters that it all just becomes a tangled mess that tries to tie up loose ends neatly in a very unrealistic way, in order to have a cliché movie ending. The acting performances are solid, but the movie’s writing and direction are bloated and messy.

The story goes back and forth between the perspectives of three Detroit people, who all end up being connected to each other in some way in the opioid crisis. It’s a crisis that has fueled demand for opioids, whether they’re sold as legal prescriptions or through the illegal drug trade. Much of the story revolves around a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sting to take down a cartel of Armenian gangsters in Montreal who traffic drugs to and from the U.S. and Canadian border. You can tell already that this movie is more convoluted than it needs to be.

Dr. Tyrone Brower (played by Gary Oldman) is a scientist (presumably in biochemistry, because the movie never says), who teaches at an unnamed university in the Detroit area. This university has had a long-term business relationship with a corporate pharmaceutical company called Northlight, which has hired the university to do research on drugs that Northlight wants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tyrone is in charge of these research studies, and he prides himself of having high ethical standards.

Tyrone’s latest research study for Northlight is for a painkiller called Klaralon, which is supposed to be the world’s first “non-addictive” painkiller. Of course, there are caveats to using Klaralon. It’s only “non-addictive” if taken in the correct doses. And there’s some cockamamie explanation later in the story that Klaralon won’t become addictive if patients stop taking Klaralon after 30 days.

It’s an example of a poorly thought-out screenplay, because it doesn’t factor in the reality that most patients who are prescribed painkillers need to take the drugs for longer than a month. And no legitimately greedy pharmaceutical company would want to market a drug with such short-term usage. The goal would be to keep people on these drugs as long as possible to make the maximum amount of money from selling these drugs. And there are plenty of plot holes and other illogical missteps in this movie, which ruin any credibility that “Crisis” might have intended to look like a gritty drama that’s supposed to be taken seriously.

The second person in this trio of main characters is Jake Kelly (played by Armie Hammer), a hardened DEA officer who’s undercover in the Canadian city of Montreal. He’s invested a lot of time in a DEA sting to bust an Armenian gang that has been cornering the market with illegal OxyContin sales and is trying to do the same for Fentanyl. The leader of this drug cartel is named (try not to laugh) Mother (played by Guy Nadon), and his right-hand goon is named Guy Broussard (played by Éric Bruneau). “Crisis” writer/director Jarecki portrays Stanley “Stan” Foster, who is Jake’s closest and most-trusted DEA colleague in the sting.

Jake has a personal reason for wanting to bust this drug-dealing cartel: His younger sister Emmie (played by Lily-Rose Depp) is a needle-using opioid addict. During the course of the story, Emmie starts off in rehab but then ends up leaving rehab early to go back to her junkie lifestyle. You can easily predict the scene in the movie where Emmie goes missing, Jake finds her strung-out in a drug house, and he forces her to leave while she has a temper tantrum.

And speaking of drug addicts, the third person whose perspective is shown in “Crisis” is that of single mother Claire Reimann (played by Evangeline Lilly), a recovering opioid addict who’s still struggling with staying clean and sober. Claire is shown in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, where she confesses to the attendees about her urge to use opioids and how it affects how she raises her 16-year-old son David (played by Billy Bryk).

Claire says, “I can’t even sit through a hockey game without even thinking about it. I would like to be a better person for him. And I’m working on that.” David’s father is not seen or mentioned in the movie, so it’s implied that he’s an absentee father who has no contact with Claire and David.

The university that Tyrone works for relies heavily on funding from Northlight to keep the school financially afloat. Therefore, Tyrone is under pressure to deliver lab results that will be pleasing to Northlight. However, there’s a problem with the trial studies for Klaralon. The mice that were tested in the experiments died after 10 days of being administered the drug. The trial period was extended to 30 days, and led to the same results. There’s also evidence that Klaralon is more addictive than Fentanyl.

Tyrone finds out this bad news at the worst time, because Northlight is soon going to present the university’s research on Klaralon to the FDA for approval to sell the drug. In good conscience, Tyrone refuses to lie and pretend that Klaralon is safe to sell to the general public. He meets with Northlight executives Dr. Bill Simons (played by Luke Evans) and Dr. Meg Holmes (played by Veronica Ferres), who are portrayed as soulless and money-hungry. Tyrone tells them that the drug is dangerous and not ready for FDA approval, and asks them for more time to do more lab tests.

Not surprisingly, the Northlight executives refuse and even come up with a ludicrous idea to sell Klaralon anyway. Despite all the signs that it’s a deadly drug, the Northlight executives justify this rush to market for Klaralon, by saying that the company won’t be responsible for any deaths if they include a warning that the drug cannot be taken for more than 30 days. Tyrone thinks it’s a terrible idea and isn’t afraid to say so.

After this meeting, Bill tries to entice Tyrone to sign a “modified” lab report with a “corporate donation” of $780,000. Of course, it’s really a bribe to sign a falsified report. Tyrone knows he’s being offered a bribe, but he doesn’t want to alienate Northlight, so he asks for a little more time to look over the agreement.

When Tyrone tells his boss Dean Talbot (played by Greg Kinnear) about this ethical problem, Tyrone is surprised and disappointed when the dean sides with Northlight. Dean Talbot essentially tells Tyrone that if he doesn’t sign off on the report and take the money, Northwell will cancel its contract with the university, and it will ruin the university financially.

Dean Talbot also says that just because some mice died in the lab experiments for Klaralon, that doesn’t mean that people will die from taking Klaralon too. Anyone with basic knowledge of science might be yelling at their screen at this dumb part of the movie. And the dean reminds Tyrone that the university isn’t responsible if people become addicted or die from the drugs that the university researches.

Dean Talbot also strongly hints that Tyrone will be fired if he doesn’t do what he’s told. Tyrone can’t afford to lose this job because his much-younger wife Susan (played by Mia Kirshner) is pregnant with their first child together. He’s also at an age (in his 60s) where it would be difficult to find work somewhere else. And Tyrone loves his job and doesn’t want to leave.

“Crisis” tries to do too much during its nearly two-hour running time. The story goes off the rails when tragedy strikes Claire and she turns into a vigilante. With the help of a private investigator, Claire finds out some information to try to solve a mystery. And then, she starts acting as if she’s a one-woman DEA crime-busting team. She goes back and forth between the U.S. and Canadian border. And a lot of nonsense ensues. It’s just all so ridiculously portrayed in the movie.

There are inevitable shootouts that are also badly handled in the movie. And for a powerful drug cartel led by a guy named Mother, they have a lot less people handling their business than they would in in real life. But that’s because this is a low-budget independent film, so apparently the filmmakers probably didn’t want to hire any more actors because they spent a great deal of their budget hiring an Oscar winner such as Oldman.

Oldman’s Tyrone character is supposed to be the “moral center” of the story. He’s the type of professor who tells his students: “Without us crazies, where would the world be?” As far as his big ethical dilemma about Klaralon, he might as well wear a sign that says, “Whistlebower.” Hammer and Lilly are serviceable in their roles, which don’t make much of an impression in this fairly generic movie.

Michelle Rodriguez has a small role as Jake’s DEA supervisor Mia Garrett, who doesn’t do much but scowl when she hears some of the updates that Jake gives her. Scott Mescudi, also known in real life as rapper Kid Cudi, has a much smaller role as Ben Walker, an investigator for the FDA. These two characters don’t have memorable personalities. Even the chief villain Mother is a banal stereotype of the type of elder “mob boss” that’s been seen in dozens of other crime-related dramas.

“Crisis” tries to be somewhat preachy about the far-reaching effects of the opioid crisis and the “war on drugs.” Claire is supposed to represent the “everyday person” who’s affected by this crisis. But by having her do some outlandish and very unrealistic things in this story, it actually makes her character and this movie less relatable to everyday viewers. Claire also crosses paths with Jake in some of the movie’s most preposterous scenes.

“Crisis” would have been a better movie if it focused only on Tyrone’s storyline and was a drama inspired by 1999’s “The Insider,” the Al Pacino/Russell Crowe movie about a whistleblower in the tobacco industry. “Crisis” could have been an intriguing story, because it’s rare for a dramatic movie to give an in-depth look at any corruption that goes on behind-the-scenes when drugs are being tested for FDA approval. Instead, “Crisis” overstuffs the plot with a run-of-the-mill “let’s take down a drug cartel” storyline that so many other movies have done before and done much better.

Quiver Distribution released “Crisis” in select U.S. cinemas on February 26, 2021, and on digital and VOD on March 5, 2021.

Review: ‘Mank,’ starring Gary Oldman

February 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in “Mank” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“Mank”

Directed by David Fincher

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1930 to 1942 in Southern California, the dramatic film “Mank” features an all-white cast of characters who are are involved in some way in the movie industry.

Culture Clash: Alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz has personal and professional conflicts while trying to complete the “Citizen Kane” screenplay, the 1941 classic film directed by and starring Orson Welles.

Culture Audience: “Mank” will appeal primarily to people interested in dramatic depictions of Hollywood film history from the 1930s and 1940s.

Tom Burke in “Mank” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

A lot of visual flair, technical precision and above-average acting went into the creation of the dramatic film “Mank” (directed by David Fincher and written by his late father Jack Fincher), but it’s the type of movie that will still leave some viewers cold. The movie certainly has compelling performances, snappy dialogue and impressive cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt. “Mank” is a feast for cinephiles who appreciate the art that came from the Golden Age of Hollywood. But “Mank” is a famine for people who want to see movie characters with relatable emotions that are not motivated by greed or ruthless ambition.

Any disdain or apathy for “Mank” might come from people who don’t care about what the movie industry was like in 1930s or 1940s, or who don’t want to be reminded of how racially segregated America was back then. And people could also be turned off from “Mank” because they don’t want to see this part of American history glorified in a movie that recreates the racist and sexist bubble of Hollywood willing to give an alcoholic, difficult screenwriter so many chances to work on prestige projects because of his white male privilege. These are all valid reasons for people not to like “Mank,” which doesn’t try to rewrite history, but the movie also doesn’t try to make any insightful commentary on the rampant racism and sexism in Hollywood and society at large that didn’t allow anyone but white men to be the top filmmakers during this era.

“Mank” is filmed in black-and-white and in a style that emulates exactly how a biographical film about Mankiewicz would have been made in the 1940s. That’s the decade when Mank (who died in 1953, at the age of 55) was at the height of his career, as the co-writer of director Orson Welles’ classic 1941 drama “Citizen Kane,” which is often named in film historians’ lists as the best movie of all time. The “Citizen Kane” original screenplay, which was loosely based on the life of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, was the only Academy Award won by the movie, which was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor. (Welles starred in the film as Kane.)

The Best Original Screenplay prize for “Citizen Kane” was also the only Academy Award won by Mankiewicz and Welles, who died in 1985, at the age 70. “Mank” essentially tells the story of the tortuous process of getting the screenplay completed and the clashes over creative control. It’s a story that could apply to how numerous other movies have been made under similar circumstances, but “Citizen Kane” just happens to be what many film experts consider to be a masterpiece.

“Mank” depicts Mank (played by Gary Oldman) as a talented and experienced screenwriter but also a hardcore alcoholic. He’s under pressure to finish the “Citizen Kane” screenplay by his deadline. However, his alcoholism and his conflicts with Welles threaten to derail the project. At first, Mank was willing to give full screenwriter credit to Welles for “Citizen Kane.” Much of “Mank” is about how and why Mank changed his mind and demanded co-writing credit.

The opening scene of “Mank” shows Mank checking in as a guest at the North Verde Ranch in Victorville, California, in 1940. His intent is to retreat to the ranch so that he can finish the “Citizen Kane” screenplay in relative solitude. Welles (played by Tom Burke) has given Mank a deadline to finish the screenplay in 60 days. Even though Mank is told that North Verde is a “dry ranch” (no alcohol is allowed), that doesn’t stop Mank from having a suitcase full of liquor delivered to his room.

Mank’s discomfort isn’t only because he’s told that the ranch has a ban on alcohol. He also has to use crutches, because he broke his right leg in a car accident. He’s introduced to the female typist who will be working with him: A British immigrant named Rita Alexander (played Lily Collins), who tells Mank that her husband (who’s not in the movie) flies Firebird planes for the Royal Air Force. Rita’s character, like all the female characters in “Mank,” are written to have only one purpose in the film: to be dutiful, passive, and willing to please the men.

Mank’s long-suffering wife Sara Mankiewicz (played by Tuppence Middleton) sometimes talks some sass to her philandering, hard-drinking husband. But ultimately, she caves in to societal pressure to be a wife who’s completely dependent on her husband. Later in the movie, Mank becomes infatuated with Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies (played by Amanda Seyfried), a famous actress who is all too aware that her good looks and her connection to Hearst are the main reasons why her acting career is thriving.

In an early scene in the movie, Sara is helping a very drunk Mank get into bed. She mentions their past courtship of him being a war correspondent who “ruined” her home. It’s a reference to when Mank worked for the American Red Cross News Service in Paris in 1919 and 1920, the year that he and Sara were married. There are not-so-subtle hints in Mank’s interactions with Sara that Sara knew she was marrying a “bad boy” and made the mistake of thinking that he would change after they got married.

In “Mank,” he spends more time with Davies than he does with his wife and children. It’s a commentary on what the filmmakers think his priorities were at the time. Davies is portrayed as a coquettish charmer who isn’t passionately in love with Hearst (played by Charles Dance), but she’s fond enough of him to let him treat her like his trophy girlfriend so that she can enjoy all the benefits that come with it.

Davies was born to a working-class family in Brooklyn, New York, so Seyfried really plays up these roots with a heavy Brooklyn accent in “Mank.” In real life, by all accounts, Davies had lost her Brooklyn accent by the time she became a Hollywood actress. But the accent that the Davies character has in “Mank” is meant to put a lot of emphasis on the fact that she came from a working-class background and she now hobnobs with the rich and famous.

The Brooklyn accent is also apparently an excuse for the “Mank” screenplay to have Mank utter a cheesy line of dialogue when he’s flirting with Davies. Mank sees her at a birthday party for actor John Gilbert (played by Nick Job), and Davies begins telling Mank some stories about when she used to live in Brooklyn. Mank says in a remark dripping with a bad pun/double entendre: “Your Flatbush is showing.” Mank’s lusty facial expression and tone of his voice leave no doubt what he meant by that comment.

In a scene that’s a flashback to 1930, “Mank” shows the misogyny of treating women only as sex objects. The scene takes place in a writer’s room. In the room are Mank, his younger brother Joe Mankiewicz (played by Tom Pelphrey), George Kaufman (played by Adam Shapiro), Sidney Pearlman (played by Jack Romano), Charles MacArthur (played by John Churchill), Shelly Metcalf (played by Jamie McShane) and Ben Hecht (played by Jeff Harms).

There’s a secretary in the room too, but she’s topless, except for pasties covering her nipples. It’s obvious that she’s expected to look this way and to do things such as sit on a man’s lap when he tells her to do it. The men act as if it’s perfectly normal for a woman to be treated this way in a work environment.

It’s easy to see that the screenplay for “Mank” did not want to rely on showing repetitious scenes of a drunken Mank struggling to finish the “Citizen Kane” screenplay on time because he procrastinates. These types of scenes are in the movie, but at a bare minimum. The movie is filled with flashbacks of how he got to know Davies and Hearst and how Mank was tentatively invited into their social circle. Toward the end of the movie, there’s a big costume dinner party scene where, in true Mank fashion, he shows up very drunk. And you can imagine what happens.

If Hearst was the inspiration for “Citizen Kane,” then Welles was the movie’s visionary creative leader. But the person who had the most influence on Mank’s career was MGM Studios co-founder Louis B. Mayer (played by Arliss Howard), who at times was like a exasperated mentor to Mank, if you believe what’s presented to this movie. Mank spends more time on screen with Mayer than he does with Welles.

The movie has several flashbacks to how Mank’s business relationship with Mayer evolved. In a scene that takes place in 1934, Mank introduces Joe to Mayer, who quips: “We only have one star here: Leo the Lion [the MGM mascot]. Many stars forget that. And now, they twinkle elsewhere.”

Mayer is depicted as someone who’s a control freak and only concerned about himself, but is skilled at deceiving people into thinking he has their best interests at heart. This duplicitous nature is shown in a scene, also in 1934, where Mayer is on stage at an auditorium and speaking to an assembly of MGM employees. Mayer explains that the Great Depression has negatively impacted the movie industry. And he tells the employees that he needs them to volunteer to take a 50% pay cut for eight weeks, for the good of the company.

At first, the MGM employees are angry with the news that their salaries will be reduced. Mayer tells them the other option would be to make staff layoffs. And he assures the employees that if they take the pay cut, when President Franklin Roosevelt opens the banks again, Mayer promises that he will pay all of the employees the compensation that they lost out on during this eight-week period.

The employees go from a potentially angry crowd to cheering for Mayer, who’s convinced them that he’s a compassionate boss who really cares about them. Mank is watching this from the wings of the stage and somewhat awed at how Mayer was able to turn the situation around so quickly. But when Mayer leaves the stage, he tells Mank that the speech was all for show and that he has no intention of making the salary reimbursement that he promised on stage.

As a way to seemingly fill up time in this 131-minute movie, “Mank” also takes a few detours into politics, with an entire subplot of how Mank was perceived as a Socialist and how it affected his career. The movie shows that Mank refused to sign an agreement stating that he would never join a writer’s union. The union was opposed by Mayer and MGM head of production Irving Thalberg (played by Ferdinand Kingsley), who put pressure on Mank to side with MGM. The way it’s shown in “Mank,” Thalberg was ready to accuse Mank of being a Communist if Mank didn’t comply with what MGM wanted.

And as if to make it abundantly clear that Mank was a left-wing liberal, there are some unnecessary scenes of him getting caught up on in the 1934 election for California’s governor. The race came down to conservative Republican Frank Merriam versus liberal Democrat (and former Socialist Party member) Upton Sinclair. Mank refuses Thalberg’s demand to contribute to MGM’s anti-Sinclair fund, Thalberg says in a threatening tone: “I hate to think what L.B. [Louis B. Mayer] might do if he finds out that you’re the only holdout.”

Mank replies defiantly, “You don’t need my donation! You don’t need anybody’s donation. You can make the world swear that King Kong is 10 stories tall and Mary Pickford is a virgin at 40, yet you can’t convince starving Californians that a turncoat Socialist is a menace to everything they hold dear. You’re barely trying.” Mank then walks out of Thalberg’s office like a future rapper who just dropped the mic.

On election night at the Trocadero nightclub, where a crowd is gathered to listen to the election results, a drunken Mank makes a $24,000 bet on who will win. It’s the kind of money that he knows could ruin him financially, but he bets it all anyway. Viewers of this movie who know who won the election in real life can easily guess which of the candidates got Mank’s support and how this scene ends.

There’s a minor subplot of how his younger brother Joe feels overshadowed by Mank. Joe is also the more cautious brother who expresses concerns to Mank about the repercussions that Mank will get from Hearst over the “Citizen Kane” screenplay. “Self-preservation is not politics,” warns Joe. Mank doesn’t seem to care. He replies, “I’m washed up, Joe. I have been for years.”

Despite this scene where the Mankiewicz brothers have this candid talk, the brotherly dynamic is often shunted aside, since this movie is just what the title says it is: It’s ultimately all about Mank. His wife is treated as a marginal character, while his children Don and Johanna have no bearing on the plot and are briefly in the movie.

Throughout the movie, Mank seems proud of his disruptive reputation, with the type of bravado of someone who knows he is not the target of racism and sexism. Mank was Jewish, but it’s implied throughout the story that because most of the major Hollywood studios at the time were owned by Jewish men, Mank didn’t get the type of anti-Semitism that he would’ve gotten if he worked in an industry that wasn’t controlled at the time by people who weren’t Jewish.

The movie is intent on making Mank look like a lovable rogue, without any real examination of how his awful actions might have damaged other people. “Mank” gives him somewhat of a “see, he’s not that bad” redemption arc when it’s revealed that he did an act of kindness to help his German immigrant employee named Fraulein Freda (played by Monika Grossman) by sponsoring her German family to live in the United States. When typist Rita is ready to quit in frustration over Mank’s heavy drinking, Freda tells her about Mank’s immigration assistance and that he’s a “good man.”

However, it can be argued that an act of kindness is truly noble when the person committing the act won’t get anything out of it in return. Would Mank have gone to the trouble of helping Freda if she didn’t work for him and if he didn’t need to use her services in some way? Viewers can make up their own minds about Mank’s character by other actions he takes in the movie.

Although “Mank” doesn’t goes as far to say that Mank and Davies had a sexual affair, the movie shows that the two did have some kind of intimate emotional affair. After all, Davies is shown as the one who gave Mank a lot of personal information about Hearst that ended up being used for the Kane character in “Citizen Kane.” As for why Sara stayed married to Mank, she tells him what she thinks of their marriage: “It’s never boring. Exhausting? Yes.”

People watching “Mank” might be surprised by how the character of Welles doesn’t have as much screen time as expected for a movie about the pre-production of “Citizen Kane.” And it’s too bad that Welles is only in the movie for about 15 minutes, because the showdown between Welles and Mank is one of the best scenes in the film. The two men have an explosive argument when Mank tells Welles that he wants co-writing credit for the screenplay.

It’s a battle of egos and power. Welles was a hotshot filmmaker at age 24 when he was given complete creative control over “Citizen Kane” in his contract with RKO Pictures. And he was very arrogant about it, by all accounts. Mank, who was 42 or 43 when he completed the “Citizen Kane” screenplay, had the advantage of being more experienced in Hollywood.

Mank declares to Welles during their argument: “I may be a loose cannon, but you, my friend, are the outsider.” Welles shouts back: “Who’s producing this picture? Directing in it? Starring in it?”

One of the better aspects of “Mank” is it that perfectly captures the tone, pace and voice cadence of movies from the 1930s and 1940s. It looks like a movie that could have been made back then, except the pristine technical aspects (such as the film editing) make it clear that the movie benefited from modern technology. “Mank” uses an eye-catching technique of identifying the year and location of each new scene by showing this information on screen as typing on a paper script with one of the era’s typewriters.

“Mank” director Fincher has immense talent for his attention to detail, when it comes to production design, costume design, a film’s visuals and getting the best that he can out of the cast members in the movie. Those superb qualities make “Mank” worth watching for people who want to immerse themselves in Old Hollywood. However, many of Fincher’s films have main characters who are selfish and/or obsessive to the point where much of their humanity is lost. And that is one of the main reasons why some people will want to avoid watching “Mank.”

Netflix released “Mank” in select U.S. cinemas on November 13, 2020. The movie premiered on Netflix on December 4, 2020.

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 Cannes Film Festival: John Travolta, Gary Oldman, Christopher Nolan, Ryan Coogler added to lineup of speakers

May 2, 2018

The following is a press release from the Cannes Film Festival:

During the Festival de Cannes 2018, four meetings with artists will take place Buñuel Theatre replacing the Leçon de cinéma. Four masterclasses with directors and actors invited to share their work and passion about cinema during Rendez-vous for the festival goers.

Our program this year will be a focus on English and American cinema.

Thursday, May 10, 4:00PM

RYAN COOGLER
AMERICAN DIRECTOR & WRITER

Ryan Coogler was born in Oakland (California). He comes back to the Festival de Cannes and will not be the same director since he presented his first feature film, Fruitvale Station (2013), five years ago. Fruitvale Station tells the story of the last 24 hours of the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by a police officer at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station. Developed and produced by Forest Whitaker, the film won the top audience and several awards among them grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival and Prix de l’Avenir Un Certain Regard at the Festival de Cannes handed out by Thomas Vinterberg, then President of the Jury. Coogler has since co-written and directed the seventh film in the Rocky series, Creed (2015), and the internationally acclaimed Black Panther (2018) making him the youngest Marvel Studios filmmaker. Black Panther was revolutionary in many regards. Upon release, the film was an overwhelming success, grossing the fifth largest opening US weekend box-office results of all time.

Michael B. Jordan starring in all the films directed by Ryan Coogler will be at Cannes with Fahrenheit 451 directed by Ramin Bahrani.

The Rendez-vous with Ryan Coogler will take place on Thursday, May 10th, at 4.00PM, Buñuel Theatre. It will be conducted by American critic and journalist Elvis Mitchell.  

Saturday, May 12, at 4.00PM

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
BRITISH DIRECTOR, WRITER & PRODUCER

Christopher Nolan is a multi-award-winning director, writer and producer whose varied filmography includes some of the most innovative and successful motion pictures of the early 21st century. Beginning with his breakout feature Memento, which earned Nolan an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, his films have captivated critics and audiences alike. Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014) and the Dark Knight Trilogy (whose central film, The Dark Knight, received eight Oscar nominations) have all left their mark on contemporary cinema. Last year, Christopher Nolan made headlines again with Dunkirk, which was also nominated for several Oscars. Nolan is a great cinephile and a loving connoisseur of Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 50th anniversary of whose release he will be celebrating the following day (May, 13). He also defends and carries on the tradition of film, of “celluloid” and projections on a large screen, so Dunkirk had the biggest release on 70mm of the past 25 years.

The Rendez-vous with Christopher Nolan will take place on Saturday, May 12th, at 4.00PM, Buñuel Theatre. It will be conducted by French critic and historian Philippe Rouyer and translated by Massoumeh Lahidji.

Wednesday, May 16, 4:45PM

JOHN TRAVOLTA
AMERICAN ACTOR & PRODUCER

John Travolta’s breakout performance in the blockbuster Saturday Night Fever (1977) brought such emotion, surprise and pleasure as strong as his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction awarded Palme d’or in 1994 at the Festival de Cannes. Two-time Academy award nominee John Travolta has starred in a number of monumental films. His credits include a vast filmography, the long-running musical Grease, the Brian de Palma thrillers Carrie and Blow OutGet Shorty by Barry Sonnenfeld, The Look Who’s Talking trilogy,Broken Arrow and Face/Off by John Woo, The Thin Red Line by Terrence Malick, The Taking of Pelham 123 by Tony Scott. In 1998 he opened the Festival de Cannes with Primary Colors by Mike Nichols with Emma Thompson. John Travolta also played and produced the limited series American Crime Story: The People V. O.J. Simpson. He recently completed filming on Moose, and will next be seen in the crime drama Gotti by Kevin Connolly that will have its World Premiere as a Special Gala Screening in the Palais des Festivals at Cannes.

On Wednesday, May 16th at 9:30 PM John Travolta will also introduce on the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach) the restored print of the musical Grease by Randal Kleiser to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the film.

The Rendez-vous with John Travolta will take place on Wednesday, May 16th, at 4:45PM, Buñuel Theatre. It will be conducted by French critic and journalist Didier Allouch.

Friday, May 18, 4:00PM

GARY OLDMAN
BRITISH ACTOR & DIRECTOR

Gary Oldman was born in London, he is one of the most celebrated actors of his generation on both stage and screen. He gained his first starring film role in Meantime(1983). In the 1990s his credits include JFK (1991), Dracula (1992), True Romance (1993), Léon (1994), The Fifth Element (1997) and Air Force One (1997) playing the villain. Being an author himself, Oldman wrote and directed Nil by Mouth produced by Luc Besson, presented in competition at Cannes (1997), and won Kathy Burke a Best Actress prize. Oldman is also known for his roles as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series, as James Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy, as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) by Thomas Alfredson. A year ago, his phenomenon performance of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour brought him international acclaim and recognition, and he was awarded the Best Actor Academy Award in March 2018.

The Rendez-vous with Gary Oldman will take place Wednesday, May 18th, at 4:00PM, Buñuel Theatre. It will be conducted by Douglas Urbanski, American producer and artistic partner for thirty years.

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

March 4, 2018

by Carla Hay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*=winner

Best Picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Actor

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

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

Best Actress

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

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

Best Supporting Actor

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

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

Best Supporting Actress

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

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

Best Director

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

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

Best Adapted Screenplay

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

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

Best Original Screenplay

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

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

Best Animated Feature

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

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

Best Animated Short

A still from “Dear Basketball”

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

Best Cinematography

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

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

Best Documentary Feature

“Icarus” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

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

Best Documentary Short Subject

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

Best Live Action Short Film

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

Best Foreign Language Film

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

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

Best Film Editing

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

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

Best Sound Editing

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

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

Best Sound Mixing

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

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

Best Production Design

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

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

Best Original Score

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

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

Best Original Song

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

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

Best Makeup and Hair

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

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

Best Costume Design

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

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

Best Visual Effects

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

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