Review: ‘Nightmare Alley’ (2021), starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, David Strathairn and Toni Collette

December 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper in “Nightmare Alley” (Photo by Kerry Hayes/Searchlight Pictures)

“Nightmare Alley” (2021)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Culture Representation: Taking place the U.S. (including Buffalo, New York) from 1939 to the mid-1940s, the dramatic noir film “Nightmare Alley” features an almost all-white cast of characters (with one African American and one Latino) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A con man finds work at a carnival, where he learns how to use phony psychic skills to swindle people; he then leaves the carnival and teams up with a psychiatrist to con people in high society. 

Culture Audience: “Nightmare Alley” will appeal primarily to fans of the movie’s star-studded cast, director Guillermo del Toro and noir dramas that are too bloated for their own good.

Rooney Mara and and Bradley Cooper in “Nightmare Alley” (Photo by Kerry Hayes/Searchlight Pictures)

“Nightmare Alley” is a beautiful-looking noir film about many people with very ugly personalities. The movie’s production design, cinematography and costume design are impeccable. Unfortunately, the movie’s sluggish pacing, hollow characters and corny dialogue drag down this film into being a self-indulgent bore. It’s disappointing because there’s so much talent involved in making this film, but a movie like this is supposed to intrigue viewers from beginning to end, not make them feel like they want to go to sleep.

The 2021 version of “Nightmare Alley” (which clocks in at an overly long 150 minutes, or two-and-a-half hours) is a remake of director Edmund Goulding’s 1947 film “Nightmare Alley,” starring Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray and Helen Walker. The movie is based on the 1946 “Nightmare Alley” novel by William Lindsay Gresham. The 2021 version of “Nightmare Alley” is also Guillermo del Toro’s directorial follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2017 fantasy drama “The Shape of Water.” Most of the “Nightmare Alley” remake’s stars, producers and department chiefs also have Academy Award recognition, as Oscar nominees or Oscar winners. What could possibly go wrong?

For starters, all this talent cannot overcome this movie’s dreadfully dull pacing and painfully heavy-handed screenwriting that’s filled with hokey conversations. The “Nightmare Alley” remake screenplay (written by del Toro and Kim Morgan), which takes place from 1939 to the mid-1940s, lacks enough flair and nuance to bring these characters to life as well-rounded people. And fans of the original “Nightmare Alley” movie should be warned: This remake has an ending that’s much bleaker than the original movie.

In addition, better judgment should have been used in trimming parts of this movie that didn’t further the story very well. The first half of the movie takes place in a carnival, while most of the second half takes place in more upscale environments, when the central character (who’s a con artist) decides to go after wealthier targets than the type of people who go to carnivals. It seems like the filmmakers were so enamored with the elaborate production design for the carnival scenes, they overindulged in this part of the movie, which has a lot of drab dialogue and scenes with repetitive intentions.

At the world premiere of “Nightmare Alley” in New York City, producer J. Miles Dale said in an introduction on stage that the movie had been completed just two weeks before the premiere. That might explain why more thought wasn’t put into the film editing, which fails to sustain a high level of suspense and intrigue. This type of thrill is essential in a movie that pays homage to film noir of the 1940s.

And this is not a good sign: Many people at the premiere were laughing at lines that weren’t intended to be funny. (I attended the premiere, so I saw all of this firsthand.) As the movie plodded on, more and more people were checking the time on their phones, and the audience seemed to get more restless. But the bigger indication that this movie might not be as well-received as the filmmakers intended is that audience members at the premiere were openly giggling at lines of dialogue that were supposed to be dead-serious.

For example, there’s a scene where a character is physically assaulted in an attempted murder, which is thwarted when help arrives. When the character is asked how they’re feeling right after this attack, the character says in a melodramatic tone, “I’ll live.” It’s supposed to be a moment of high drama played to maximum effect, but several people were laughing because of how the scene is delivered in such a hammy way.

At the end of the movie, people in the audience politely applauded. (Keep in mind, that the audience also consisted of numerous people who worked on the film.) However, it wasn’t the kind of thunderous, standing-ovation applause that usually happens at a premiere for an award-worthy movie that’s going to be a massive, crowd-pleasing hit. Considering that there were many awards voters in the audience, this type of underwhelming response indicates that—at least for this particular premiere audience—many people weren’t that impressed with this remake of “Nightmare Alley.”

Even if the audience response had been more enthusiastic, it wouldn’t be able to cover up the movie’s problems. All of the cast members seem to be doing the best that they can, but they are often stymied by some of the trite dialogue that mostly renders them as caricatures. Very little is revealed about the characters’ backgrounds to give them a story behind their personal motivations.

Bradley Cooper (who is one of the film’s producers) portrays the lead character: Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, a con-man drifter who ends up working at a seedy traveling carnival. He starts off doing lowly odd jobs, such as helping with construction and clean-ups. But eventually, he charms his way into becoming part of the fake psychic act at the carnival.

The carnival’s psychic act is led by a married couple named Zeena Krumbein (played by Toni Collette) and Pete Krumbein (played by David Strathairn), who coordinate their act through code words, body language and hidden written prompts underneath the stage. Zeena (whose carnival nickname is The Seer) is the flamboyant “psychic” who acts and dresses like a stereotypical fortune teller. While she’s on stage, Pete is underneath the stage, where he writes information on placards that Zeena can see from where she’s standing. The information supplies the hints and codes that prompt Zeena to correctly guess personal facts about someone who gets a “psychic reading” from her.

The Krumbeins have recorded the secrets of their con game in a small journal-sized book that is mostly kept in Pete’s possession. Stan is eager to read the book, but the Krumbeins won’t let him, although they eventually divulge some of their main secrets. Although the Krumbeins have had a partnership in work and in marriage for several years, the romantic passion has left their relationship.

Pete (a former magician) has become an alcoholic, and his alcoholism has caused him to be sloppy and unreliable in his work. He might pass out during one of Zeena’s performances, which is what happens in one scene where Stan has to quickly take over for a barely coherent Pete. It’s implied that Pete has become an alcoholic because he feels guilty about conning people. At one point, Pete warns Stan that the Krumbeins’ con-game secrets should not be abused, and anyone who does so could be cursed. “No man can outrun God!” Pete says ominously.

Zeena openly has affairs with other men. And you know what that means. It isn’t long before Stan and Zeena have an affair, but it’s all lust and no love. And considering that Stan is a con artist, he has ulterior motives for getting close to Zeena. This is an example of the cornball dialogue in the movie: Zeena says this pickup line to Stan before they begin their sexual relationship: “You’re a maybe. And maybes are real bad for me.”

While Stan is carrying on an affair with Zeena, he finds himself more attracted to a virtuous young carnival worker named Molly Cahill (played by Rooney Mara), who performs as an electricity-absorbing phenomenon named Elektra. Molly’s Elektra act consists of being tied to an electric chair and absorbing shocks of voltage that could kill or injure most people. Molly has a trusting nature that makes her blind to Stan’s manipulative ways. Not much information is given about Molly’s background to explain why she’s so naïve about the “smoke and mirrors” carnival business and the con artists that this type of business attracts.

Stan and Zeena’s affair eventually fizzles out, and he begins ardently courting Molly. However, the carnival has a strong man named Bruno (played by Ron Perlman), who is very protective of Molly and is suspicious of Stan’s intentions. Bruno has a co-star named Major Mosquito (played by Mark Povinelli), who also sees himself in a patriarchal role for the carnival. Bruno’s hostility toward Stan doesn’t stop Molly from falling for Stan’s charms. Eventually, Molly and Stan become lovers.

Not much is revealed about Stan’s background except that he’s originally from Mississippi, and he has “daddy issues.” On a rare occasion that he opens up to someone about his past, he talks about a treasured watch that he has that was previously owned by Stan’s dead father. In brief flashbacks, it’s slowly revealed what Stan’s relationship with his father was like.

Meanwhile, other characters at the carnival are in the story, but they are essentially superficial clichés. The carny boss (played by Tim Blake Nelson) is a typical huckster. The carnival barker Clem Hoatley (played by Willem Dafoe) is a gruff taskmaster with a cruel and sadistic side. He likes to torment the carnival’s caged “freak” (played by Paul Anderson), a pathetic, gnarled, and dirty human being whose birth name is never revealed in the story and who is usually referred to as the Geek.

Clem tells people that the Geek can go days without food and water. The Geek doesn’t talk but instead snarls and growls like an animal. As part of the Geek’s “act,” Clem or other people feed live chickens to the Geek, who tears the chickens apart and eats them raw. Sensitive viewers should be warned that the movie shows these acts of animal cruelty in detail, through visual effects.

Cruelty and degradation (to animals and to human beings) permeate throughout “Nightmare Alley,” which is nearly devoid of any intended humor. The scenes are staged with immense attention to detail on how everything looks, but the filmmakers didn’t pay enough attention to how these characters are supposed to make viewers feel. Most of the main characters are obnoxious and/or smug, which makes it harder for viewers to root for anyone. Molly is the only character in the movie who seems immune to becoming corrupt, but she’s written as almost too good to be true.

When too many people in a movie are unlikable, that can be a problem if they’re unable to convey some shred of humanity that can make them more relatable to viewers. And the result is a movie where viewers won’t care much about the backstabbing, selfish and greedy characters that over-populate this movie. Because so many of the characters (except for Molly) are so blatant with their devious ways, there’s no suspense over who will end up double-crossing whom. And that makes almost everything so predictable.

Due to a series of circumstances, Stan ends up becoming Zeena’s partner in the fake clairvoyant act. Stan thinks that he’s got real talent for this type of con game, so he decides to run off with Molly and target wealthier “marks” so he can become rich too. Considering that Bruno is the type to get physically rough in his disapproval of Molly and Stan’s relationship, and Bruno isn’t leaving the carnival anytime soon, Stan and Molly believe the time is right to leave the carnival for a better life. Molly and Stan relocate to Buffalo, New York.

Stan then become a semi-successful solo psychic named the Great Stanton, who does his act at sleek nightclubs attended by upper-class people. Molly is his willing accomplice, as long as Stan confines his act to entertaining people as a performer who shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Stan often wears a blindfold for added effect when he makes his guesses about people, based on their body language, the way that they dress and any information he can get about the guests before the show. Stan is no longer financially struggling like he was as a carnival worker, but he wants to be as wealthy as or wealthier than the people who attend his shows. He’s about to meet his new partner his crime.

During one of his performances, Stan has a heckler in the audience who challenges his authenticity. Her name is Dr. Lilith Ritter (played by Cate Blanchett), a psychiatrist who tries to humiliate Stan by demanding that he tell everyone what is hidden in her purse. Through a series of observant deductions, Stan correctly guesses that she has a gun in her purse. He then proceeds to turn the tables on Lilith and publicly embarrass her with scathing comments for trying to prove that he’s a fraud.

Under these circumstances, any fool can see that Lilith is not the type of person to forgive and forget this public shaming. However, when Lilith invites Stan to her office, Stan readily accepts. She tells him that she knows he’s a con artist and won’t believe otherwise. Stan then admits it and tells Lilith how he figured out that she was carrying a pistol in his purse. The stage has now been set for two people who think they’re more cunning than the other, as they both try to see what they can get out of any relationship they might have.

Lilith tells Stan that she secretly records all of the sessions that she has with her patients, who are among the richest and most powerful people in the area. Stan immediately has the idea of using that information to target some of these people with his phony psychic act, by using their private information from these recorded sessions to convince them that he knows their secrets. Stan asks Lilith which of her clients is the wealthiest.

And that’s how Stan hears about ruthless business mogul Ezra Grindle (played by Richard Jenkins), who is successful when it comes to his career, but his personal life is filled with bitterness and loneliness. Ezra has confessed to Lilith that he’s been plagued with guilt over causing the death of a young woman he once loved. It’s information that Lilith and Stan use to concoct a scheme to swindle Ezra out of a fortune that they want to get in cash.

Stan and Lilith have the type of relationship where they trade insults but are sexually attracted to each other. It doesn’t take long for Stan to cheat on Molly with Lilith. Blanchett fully commits to the role of a classic noir ice queen, but her portrayal of Lilith is so transparently calculating, it’s never convincing that Lilith can be trusted in this con game that she’s agreed to with Stan.

Ezra isn’t the only “mark” who’s a target of Stan and Lilith. A well-to-do married couple named Charles Kimball (played by Peter MacNeill) and Felicia Kimball (played by Mary Steenburgen) get caught up in the deceit and fraud that Stan and Lilith have in store for them. It has to do with the Kimballs’ emotional pain over the death of their 23-year-old son Julian, who died while he was enlisted in the military. And it’s an example of how low Stan and Lilith are willing to go to exploit the death of a loved one for money.

As lead character Stan, Cooper is in almost every scene of “Nightmare Alley.” His character remains mostly an enigma because, like many con artists, he changes his persona to fit whatever perception will work to get people to do what he wants. He’s the most complex character of the movie, but his personality never comes across as genuine. Over time, Stan shows that he’s not only heartless, but he also doesn’t have much of a conscience unless he’s the one who might get hurt. He’s not even an anti-hero, although the last 10 minutes of the film try to garner some viewer sympathy for Stan.

Ezra can sense that Stan can’t be trusted, so Ezra goes back and forth with how skeptical he is when Stan tries to charm his way into Ezra’s life. However, Stan knows so many private details about Ezra, it’s enough to convince Ezra that maybe Stan is the telling the truth about being psychic. Ezra is supposed to be a brilliant businessman, but at no point is he smart enough to figure out that maybe his psychiatrist has been leaking his personal information.

Stan is supposed to be a skillful con artist, but at no point is he wise enough to figure out that if Lilith has a recording device in her office to secretly record people, maybe she would use it to secretly record Stan too. After all, the recording can be cleverly edited to leave out any incriminating things that Lilith would say. This is all just common sense, which is why it’s a bit of a slog when the movie lumbers along to make it look like there’s some kind of mystery about Lilith’s intentions. The only thing in the movie that might be considered a little unpredictable is what happens with the Kimballs.

“Nightmare Alley” is not the first retro-noir-inspired movie directed by del Toro. He also directed 2015’s “Crimson Peak” (starring Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska), which also yielded mixed results because the pacing for the movie was so lethargic. At least “Crimson Peak” has a less tedious length of two hours. “Nightmare Alley” tries to convince people that it’s fascinating to watch monotonous scene after monotonous scene of Stan working his way up the carnival hierarchy, when the real story is what he does once he decides he’s going to become a phony psychic. The pace of the movie would’ve been better-served if about 20 to 30 minutes of the movie’s first half had been edited out.

The movie’s screenplay is still problematic though because of how it leaves no room to care about the story’s overabundance of distrustful and shallow characters, who spout a lot of words that don’t have much substance. “Nightmare Alley” takes so long to get to the inevitable end result of Stan and Lilith’s partnership, many viewers might have emotionally checked out by the time it happens. It’s enough to say that Molly is really the only character that viewers might care about by the time the movie is over. This remake’s revised ending has a well-acted, emotional final scene, but it’s not enough to make up for the character soullessness throughout most of the movie.

Searchlight Pictures will release “Nightmare Alley” in U.S. cinemas on December 17, 2021.

UPDATE: Searchlight Pictures will release a black-and-white version of “Nightmare Alley” titled “Nightmare Alley: Vision in Darkness and Light” for a limited engagement in select U.S. cinemas on January 14, 2022.

2021 Tribeca Film Festival: Tribeca Talks lineup announced

May 10, 2021

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

The Tribeca Festival, presented by AT&T, today announced its lineup of Talks and Reunion Screenings with the stars and directors from iconic films, and conversations with the driving forces behind film, television, music, business and politics. These once-in-a-lifetime conversations will be part of the 20th Anniversary Festival celebration taking place city-wide June 9-20, the first major film festival to host in person events.

Tribeca Talks: Storytellers celebrates groundbreaking creators working across multiple mediums. This year’s multi-talented group includes: Mike Jackson and John Legend of Get Lifted Film Company; Oscar-nominated actor and director Bradley Cooper in conversation with Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro; comedian and actress Amy Schumer in conversation with Emily Ratajkowski; screenwriter Scott Z. Burns in conversation with Emmy Award-winning actor Matthew RhysShira Haas, the breakout star of Unorthodox and Tribeca Festival Best Actress-winner for ASIA with actress and comedian Ali Wentworth; and Debbie HarryClem Burke and Chris Stein of the legendary punk band Blondie

Tribeca Talks: Directors Series features intimate conversations with renowned directors who will share memorable moments from their prestigious careers. This year’s participating directors include Doug LimanM. Night Shyamalan and Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Additional Tribeca Talks events include Scott Rechler, CEO and Chairman of RXR Realty, recording two new episodes of his podcast, Recalibrate Reality: The Future of NY, and conversations with Jason Hirschhorn, CEO of REDEF, about the business of entertainment and the future of podcasting.

The 2021 Tribeca Festival will also celebrate milestone anniversaries of some of Hollywood’s most iconic films. Director Joel Cohen will be joined in conversation with stars Frances McDormand and Steve Buscemi to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Academy Award-winning Fargo; the 30th anniversary of the critically acclaimed The Five Heartbeats will reunite stars Robert TownsendJohn TerrellTico WellsLeon RobinsonHarry LennixMichael Wright and Hawthorne James; the 20th anniversary of the classic The Royal Tenenbaums, features stars Alec BaldwinGwyneth PaltrowLuke WilsonOwen WilsonAnjelica HustonDanny Glover, and director Wes AndersonRobert De Niro teams up with director Martin Scorsese to discuss creating one of cinema’s eternal masterpieces, Raging Bull; and finally, Tribeca will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s first feature-length film, The Kid, with a special screening event. 

“Each year the Tribeca Festival gathers the most esteemed names in film and entertainment for conversations that shine a light on the creative process,” said Jane Rosenthal, Co-Founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises and the Tribeca Festival. “This year we are particularly proud that we can once again convene these talented names for in-person conversations as we discuss new ways our world and business is being reshaped and reimagined.”

“This year’s Tribeca Talks will have timely conversations about real world issues and how they affect film, television, politics and business,” said Paula Weinstein, Chief Content Officer of Tribeca Enterprises. “Tribeca Talks and Reunion screenings are always a big fan favorite, and we look forward to the illuminating conversations that will take place during this milestone 20th Festival.”

Beginning today at 11AM EST, tickets to in-person screenings and events are available for advance reservation at https://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets.

TRIBECA TALKS: DIRECTORS SERIES
This conversation series showcases the careers of influential filmmakers. 

  • M. Night Shyamalan 
  • Doug Liman in conversation with Jason Hirschhorn
  • Gina Prince-Bythewood in conversation with Sanaa Lathan

TRIBECA TALKS: STORYTELLERS
Sponsored by Montefiore-Einstein

This series celebrates the illustrious careers of today’s most innovative creators, who have broken from traditional roles and pioneered their own forms of storytelling.

  • Bradley Cooper and Guillermo del Toro 
  • Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski 
  • Scott Z. Burns and Matthew Rhys
  • Shira Haas and Ali Wentworth
  • Get Lifted’s John Legend and Mike Jackson
  • Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Clem Burke and Chris Stein

TRIBECA TALKS

  • Scott Rechler – “Recalibrate Reality: The Future of NY”
  • Jason Hirschhorn – “The Business of Entertainment” and “The Future of Podcasting”

REUNIONS & RESTORATIONS

The Royal Tenenbaums – 20th Anniversary
Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and his wife, Etheline (Anjelica Huston), had three children — Chas, Margot, and Richie — and then they separated. Chas (Ben Stiller) started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of international finance. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a playwright and received a Braverman Grant of $50,000 in the ninth grade. Richie (Luke Wilson) was a junior champion tennis player and won the U.S. Nationals three years in a row. Virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums was subsequently erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster. The Royal Tenenbaums is a hilarious, touching, and brilliantly stylized study of melancholy and redemption.

  • After the Screening: A live-streamed conversation with  Wes Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson,  Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston, and Danny Glover.

Fargo – 25th Anniversary
Things go terribly awry when small-time Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can collect ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. Once people start dying, the very chipper and very pregnant Police Chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) takes the case.  Is she up for this challenge? You betcha.

  • After the Screening: An-in person conversation Joel Coen, Frances McDormand, and Steve Buscemi

The Five Heartbeats – 30th Anniversary
Five friends leave their neighborhood and head for a new type of music – Motown. Coming in on the tail end of a rhythm and blues singing group explosion, The Five Heartbeats (Robert Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon Robinson, Harry J. Lennix, Tico Wells), rise and fall within the space of seven years. Along the way, the group deals with all manner of fame and fortune distractions — jealousy, greed, too much womanizing and drugs all take a toll.

  • After the Screening: An in-person conversation with Robert Townsend, John Terrell, Tico Wells, Leon Robinson, James Hawthorne, Harry Lennix, Michael Wright moderated by Loren Hammonds.

The Kid – 100th Anniversary
Charlie Chaplin was already an international star when he decided to break out of the short-film format and make his first full-length feature. The Kid doesn’t merely show Chaplin at a turning point, when he proved that he was a serious film director—it remains an expressive masterwork of silent cinema. In it, he stars as his lovable Tramp character, this time raising an orphan (a remarkable young Jackie Coogan) he has rescued from the streets. Chaplin and Coogan make a miraculous pair in this nimble marriage of sentiment and slapstick, a film that is, as its opening title card states, “a picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear.”

Raging Bull – Restoration
Robert De Niro teams up with director Martin Scorsese to create one of cinema’s eternal masterpieces. Nominated for eight Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Director, this contemporary classic is “ambitious, violent, poetic and lyrical” (The New York Times). De Niro turns in a powerful, Best Actor Oscar®-winning performance as Jake La Motta, a boxer whose psychological and sexual complexities erupt into violence both in and out of the ring. Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty co-star.

  • Director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro discuss the film’s lasting legacy in a pre-recorded conversation.

About the Tribeca Festival
The Tribeca Festival, presented by AT&T, brings artists and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, VR, games, music, and online work. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment. Tribeca champions emerging and established voices; discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators; curates innovative experiences; and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.

The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Tribeca will celebrate its 20th year June 9 – 20, 2021 www.tribecafilm.com/festival

In 2019, James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems, a private investment company with locations in New York and Mumbai, bought a majority stake in Tribeca Enterprises, bringing together Rosenthal, De Niro, and Murdoch to grow the enterprise.

About the 2021 Tribeca Festival Partners:
The 2021 Tribeca Festival is presented by AT&T and with the support of our corporate partners: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Audible, Bloomberg Philanthropies, CHANEL, City National Bank, CNN Films, Diageo, DoorDash, FreshDirect, Hudson Yards, Indeed, Montefiore-Einstein, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, P&G, PwC, Roku, Spring Studios New York.

Hollywood Walk of Fame announces 2019 star recipients

May 25, 2018

The following is a press release from the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

A new group of entertainment professionals in the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Live Theatre/Live Performance and Recording have been selected to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was announced today, June 25, 2018 by the Walk of Fame Selection Committee of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. These honorees were chosen from among hundreds of nominations to the committee at a meeting held in June and ratified by the Hollywood Chamber’s Board of Directors. Television Producer and Walk of Famer Vin Di Bona, Chair of the Walk of Fame Selection Committee for 2018-2019 and Walk of Famer Ellen K, host of The Ellen K Morning Show, announced the new honorees with Leron Gubler, President & CEO for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce who is also the emcee of the Walk of Fame ceremonies.The new selection was revealed to the world via live stream exclusively on the official website www.walkoffame.com. The live stream began at 1 P.M. and was held at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce offices.

“The Walk of Fame Selection Committee is pleased to announce our newest honorees to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Committee always tries to select a group of talented honorees that appeal in various genres of the entertainment world,” Chairman and Walk of Famer Vin Di Bona,  “I feel the Committee has outdone themselves and I know the fans, tourists and the Hollywood community will be pleased with our selections. We are excited to see each and every honoree’s face as they unveil that majestic star on Hollywood’s most famous walkway!”

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2019 are:

In the category of MOTION PICTURES:
Alan Arkin, Kristen Bell, Daniel Craig, Robert De Niro, Guillermo del Toro, Anne Hathaway, Lupita Nyong’o, Tyler Perry, and Gena Rowlands.

In the category of TELEVISION:
Alvin And The Chipmunks, Candice Bergen, Guy Fieri, Terrence Howard, Stacy Keach, Sid and Marty Krofft, Lucy Liu, Mandy Moore,  Dianne Wiest, and Julia Child (Posthumous).

In the category of RECORDING:
Michael Bublé, Cypress Hill, The Lettermen, Faith Hill, Tommy Mottola, P!nk, Teddy Riley, Trio: Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, and Jackie Wilson (Posthumous).

In the category of LIVE THEATRE/LIVE PERFORMANCE:
Idina Menzel, Cedric “The Entertainer”, Judith Light, and Paul Sorvino.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and its Walk of Fame Selection Committee congratulate all the honorees. Dates have not been scheduled for these star ceremonies. Recipients have two years to schedule star ceremonies from the date of selection before they expire. Upcoming star ceremonies are usually announced ten days prior to dedication on the official website www.walkoffame.com.

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

Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins get caught up in an unusual love story in ‘The Shape of Water’

December 1, 2017

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in "The Shape of Water" (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water” (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

From master storyteller, Guillermo del Toro, comes “The Shape of Water,” an other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962.  In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation.  Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (played by Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.  Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones.

Here are videos and photos from “The Shape of Water”:

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