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

October 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

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

“The French Dispatch”

Directed by Wes Anderson

Some language in French with subtitles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: ‘The Card Counter,’ starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe

September 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish in “The Card Counter” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

The Card Counter”

Directed by Paul Schrader

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the U.S., as well as in Iraq in flashback scenes, the dramatic film “The Card Counter” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latinos, Arabs and African Americans) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: An ex-con, who has a dark past as a U.S. military officer, is now a gambling addict facing a moral dilemma on whether or not to get involved in a deadly revenge plot. 

Culture Audience: “The Card Counter” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in neo-noir dramas that explore issues of military PTSD and the fallout of extreme actions made in the name of anti-terrorism.

Oscar Isaac and Tye Sheridan in “The Card Counter” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“The Card Counter” (written and directed by Paul Schrader) is a raw and unflinching portrait of a man tortured by his past and using his gambling addiction as a way to cope. On a wider level, this neo-noir film is a scathing view of the “war on terror” and abuse of power. Oscar Isaac gives an absolutely gripping and fascinating performance as a protagonist struggling to find a sense of morality in a world where many people are rewarded for crimes and punished for trying to do the right thing.

It would be an understatement to say that William Tell (played by Isaac) is feeling spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Now in his 40s, William spent 10 years imprisoned as a dishonorably discharged ex-military officer in the U.S. federal penitentiary Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kansas. It’s eventually revealed in the movie’s several flashback scenes why William was imprisoned.

The main thing that viewers find out in the beginning of the movie, which has constant voiceover narration by William, is that he learned to count cards in prison. After he got out of prison, he became a professional gambler (mostly in poker and blackjack), who counts cards to have an advantage in the games. It’s a risky activity that could get him banned from casinos, but so far William hasn’t been caught.

The name William Tell is most associated with the early 14th century Swiss folk hero William Tell, who was a rebel and an expert marksman. It should come as no surprise that the gambler named William Tell in “The Card Counter” is using a partial alias. The William character in this movie changed his last name to Tell after he got out of prison. His real last name is also eventually revealed.

In “The Card Counter,” William is a never-married bachelor with no children and no family members who are in his life. William is currently based in New Jersey, where he spends more time in Atlantic City casinos than he does at home. It’s made apparent very early on in the movie that William is a gambling addict. And, just like most addicts, he uses his addiction as a way to deal with past traumas.

It’s mentioned several times in the movie that William’s past traumas have given him intimacy issues. He’s a loner who’s been celibate by choice for several years. He also has severe nightmares about things that happened in his past when he was a private first-class special ops solider during the Iraq War.

The flashback scenes of what William did as a solider and as a military police officer might be too difficult to watch for viewers who are very sensitive or squeamish. The production notes for “The Card Counter” have a very accurate description of how these disturbing flashback scenes were filmed: writer/director Schrader “wanted the nightmarish scenes to feel like immersive virtual reality—an effect in the movie that feels like descending first-hand into a Hieronymus Bosch-like hellscape. [“The Card Counter” cinematographer Alexander] Dynan employed VR technology to present a flattened, equirectangular version of the standard image.”

One day, while William is hanging out at an Atlantic City hotel/casino, he notices that there’s an industry convention called Global Security Conference that’s taking place at the hotel. One of the keynote speakers is John Gordo (played by Willem Dafoe), a retired U.S. Army major, who now owns a private and lucrative security consulting company that has the U.S. government as its biggest client. When William finds out that John is in the same building, it triggers William into a cascade of negative emotions that he tries to hide. However, William’s curiosity gets the best of him to see John’s speech.

There’s someone else who isn’t happy about John being a lauded speaker at this convention. Unbeknownst to William, there’s someone in the audience during John’s speech who has noticed that William is there and will soon seek out William for a face-to-face meeting. During his speech, John promotes a new product from his company called STABL, which is facial recognition software that’s supposed to be able to detect truth-telling. This technology is supposedly designed to help during interrogations.

After the speech, the person who observed William from afar finds William and introduces himself. His name is Cirk (pronounced “Kirk”) Balfort, a guy in his mid-20s whose deceased father had something in common with William, besides being dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military. While having drinks together at the casino, Cirk tells William how the troubles of Cirk’s father have affected Cirk. After his father’s disgraced military career, his father became an oxycodone addict who regularly abused Cirk and Cirk’s mother. His father eventually committed suicide.

Cirk believes that his father’s downward spiral was the direct result of something that John did. For reasons that are later revealed in the movie, Cirk also believes that William has a grudge against John, so Cirk proposes that he and William join forces to torture and murder John. William immediately says no to this proposition because he doesn’t want to do anything that would put him at risk of going back to prison.

However. William is emotionally touched by Cirk, who seems aimless and depressed about his life and in need of a father figure. Cirk makes it clear that he isn’t the type of person to want to go to college or work in a boring office job. And so, William offers Cirk an opportunity to let William mentor Cirk on how to be a professional gambler who goes on tour, with William paying all of Cirk’s expenses for this training.

How is William going to pay for this road trip? It just so happens that within the same 24-hour period of meeting Cirk, William met a gambling agent named La Linda (played by Tiffany Haddish), who works with a network of mysterious and wealthy people who like to invest in professional gamblers and get a cut of the winnings. Her job is to find talented gamblers to sign with her as their agent, so she can pass on some of the prize money to these rich investors, who fund the gambling tours for her clients.

La Linda has been observing William for a while and admires his talent. And when she approaches him to become his agent, it’s in a flirtatious but business-minded manner. At first, William turns down her offer to become his agent because he prefers to work alone. However, after William gets the idea to mentor Cirk, he tells La Linda that he’ll take her up on her offer because he needs the money for this mentoring road trip. (Although “The Card Counter” is supposed to take place in various states, the movie was actually filmed in Mississippi, mostly in Gulfport and Biloxi.)

Much of “The Card Counter” is about this road trip and the friendship that forms between William and Cirk. Eventually, William is hired to enter a major poker tournament. Viewers see that when William checks into a hotel room, he has a habit of covering all of the furniture with bedsheets and using gloves. It’s as if he’s paranoid about leaving any fingerprints and DNA behind in these hotel rooms. Is he trying to hide something or hide from someone?

Even though Cirk and William learn to trust each other, Cirk can’t let go of the idea of murdering John. Cirk repeatedly brings it up, as a way of trying to wear down William to get him to agree. It’s eventually shown if William caves in or not to Cirk’s persistence.

William’s life is also altered when he becomes closer to La Linda. Their sexual tension with each other is evident in their first meeting, but they keep things strictly professional during their first several meetings. One of the more visually stunning scenes in “The Card Counter” is when William and La Linda go on a platonic date to what looks like the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival, which is known for its elaborate lights displays that evoke a magical aura. It’s here that La Linda and William hold hands for the first time

Whether or not William and La Linda become lovers is revealed in the movie’s trailer, which unfortunately gives away a lot of moments that should be surprises to viewers. In other words, it’s best not to watch the trailer before seeing this movie. “The Card Counter” has a tone and pacing that are very reminiscent of noir films from the 1940s and 1950s, especially in William’s voiceover narrations, which are often taken from the journals that he meticulously keeps.

Some of the movie’s dialogue that doesn’t involve cursing sounds very much like it’s from the Golden Age of Hollywood, especially in the flirtatious banter between William and La Linda. That’s not the only old-fashioned aspect of the film. As well-crafted as the movie is overall, “The Card Counter” still perpetuates outdated stereotypes that movies like this often have: Only one woman has a significant speaking role in the film. And the main purpose of the woman is ultimately to be the love interest of the male protagonist. All the other women in the movie are essentially background characters or just have a few lines.

Haddish usually plays loud-mouthed, vulgar and unsophisticated characters in raunchy comedies, but with “The Card Counter,” she attempts to break out of that typecasting by portraying someone who is intelligent and is a combination of being upwardly mobile while still being street-smart. However, Haddish still seems a bit uncomfortable playing this type of serious character. It’s not a bad performance, but it’s not as believable as Isaac’s performance.

La Linda is someone who is from East St. Louis and is trying to make a better life for herself while becoming an empathetic friend to William. Unfortunately, Schrader did not develop La Linda’s character enough for her to have a backstory. The closest that viewers will find out about Linda’s past is that she drops several hints to William that she’s used to dating men with prison records. When they first meet, she correctly guesses that William spent time in prison. La Linda also tells William that she doesn’t care about anything bad that he did in his past.

However, William cares a lot about what he’s done in his past because he’s wracked with guilt over it. As much as he’s trying to move on to his new life as a professional gambler, he’s still haunted by his past sins. He reaches a point where he has to decide if participating in an act of revenge will bring him some relief. His fatherly relationship with Cirk is William’s way of trying to get some kind of redemption within himself.

Sheridan is perfectly fine but not outstanding in his role as the emotionally damaged Cirk, who’s hell-bent on carrying out a vendetta. Because the movie is told from William’s perspective, viewers aren’t really privy to a lot of Cirk’s thoughts, except his revenge plan. Cirk also has lingering resentment toward his mother, whom he hasn’t seen or spoken to in quite some time because Cirk thinks his mother should’ve protected him more from Cirk’s abusive father. It’s easy to see how William would want to take Cirk under his wing, because he’s trying to prevent Cirk from experiencing the same regrets that plague William.

Although the “The Card Counter” has several scenes of William gambling, this movie isn’t about who wins or how much the prize money is in these casino games or tournaments. What the movie shows so well is that William has learned the hard way that people’s souls and self-respect can be destroyed not just by abusers but by people doing damage to themselves. In that sense, William is taking the biggest gamble of his life in facing his fears and regrets, because he doesn’t quite know if he should bet on forgiving himself.

Focus Features will release “The Card Counter” in U.S. cinemas on September 10, 2021.

Review: ‘Siberia’ (2021), starring Willem Dafoe

July 24, 2021

by Carla Hay

Willem Dafoe in “Siberia” (Photo by Federico Vagliati/Lionsgate)

“Siberia”

Directed by Abel Ferrara

Some language in Aleut and Russian with no subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in various locations around the world, the dramatic film “Siberia” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Asians, Eskimos and one African American) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A loner, who is haunted by past tragedies and regrets, experiences a “fever dream” type of existence where he can no longer distinguish reality from his nightmarish visions.

Culture Audience: “Siberia” will appeal primarily to ardent fans of director Abel Ferrara and actor Willem Dafoe, because very few other people will enjoy this nonsensical and dull movie.

Willem Dafoe and Laurent Arnatsiaq in “Siberia” (Photo by Federico Vagliati/Lionsgate)

Some film directors were labeled “auteurs” early in their careers. And ever since then, certain people have been deluded into thinking that every movie that these “auteurs” make is somehow supposed to be important—even when these “auteurs” have made some substandard and ridiculous movies that would be trashed if those same movies were made by unknown filmmakers. Unfortunately, one of these pompous junk movies is the incomprehensible drama “Siberia,” directed by Abel Ferrara, who has been coasting on an outdated reputation of being an “auteur” filmmaker since the 1980s.

Simply put: “Siberia” (which Ferrara co-wrote with Christ Zois) is an irritating, self-indulgent, incoherent bore. It’s one of those garbage movies that’s pretentious and lacking in self-awareness of how bad it is. The only reason why people might praise this movie is because there are famous names involved in making the film. However, whatever claim to fame these people have, it’s for work that’s of much higher quality than the forgettable and embarrassing “Siberia.”

Willem Dafoe (a frequent collaborator of Ferrara’s) has the starring role in “Siberia,” which has no plot. It’s just a bunch of scenes strung together of Dafoe’s character in the movie having “fever dream” type of experiences, none of which make much sense or have any specific theme. The only conclusion that can be drawn from watching this movie is that Ferrara wanted to do yet another movie about a man having a mid-life crisis and couldn’t be bothered with writing anything that could pass as an engaging story.

Dafoe’s Clint character (who is American) isn’t just having a mid-life crisis. He seems to be having a mid-life psychosis. Almost everything he experiences in the movie might seem to start off looking “normal,” but then something demented happens to let viewers know everything is all in Clint’s imagination. There are bits and pieces of his past that come up to indicate that he’s haunted by some unresolved issues. However, there’s barely enough information to piece together what really happened, because it’s all muddled by more weird fantasies.

It’s all just a very pseudo-intellectual way to make viewers feel less than smart if they don’t understand the “true meaning” of a movie. Actually, sometimes there is no “true meaning” to a horribly dumb film with no real story. Sometimes filmmakers just want to mess around and make weird art that’s not supposed to make sense. If you’re into that sort of thing, then you might enjoy “Siberia,” because there are no redeeming qualities for this movie since it was obviously made only for the sake of being bizarre.

“Siberia” starts off with brief voiceover narration from Clint. He says that when he was a kid, during the summertime his father would take Clint and Clint’s brother up to a remote part of northern Canada to go fishing. They had Cree Indians as their fishing guides. The guide leader was an old trapper, who cut himself off from civilization 20 years before and communicated by shortwave radio. The guides lived in a camp that had Siberian Huskies that were “sweet but wild,” according to Clint.

The only purpose for telling this story is so there’s some context to the scenes where Clint is on a dog sled pulled by Siberian Huskies or when he goes fishing or camping with his Siberian Huskies nearby. What does Clint do for a living? He’s a bartender at a roadhouse in an unnamed area that gets heavy snow. It could be Siberia, but this movie plays too many guessing games on where scenes are taking place in the world, and it’s all irrelevant overall to the story.

Wherever Clint lives, there are hints that it seems to be close to the Arctic, because he has Eskimos and people who speak Russian as his customers. Clint lives by himself and there’s no mention of his brother again. However, based on hallucinations that Clint has later, he used to be married to a blonde (played by Dounia Sichov), and they had a young son (played by Anna Ferrara) who died, apparently at around 3 or 4 years old.

Don’t expect any details to be revealed about how this child died or what happened to Clint’s wife, because there are no details except hints that the wife blamed Clint for the son’s death and he feels guilty about it. She shows up in a hallucination or two where she tells Clint that she’s angry at him because he humiliated her. Don’t expect to find out more information about their relationship, because the movie doesn’t reveal it.

By the way, Clint is the only character in this movie who has a name, which is a reflection of the self-absorbed lunacy that stinks up this movie. Viewers can assume that Clint’s wife divorced him. It might be the only thing about this movie that makes sense, because who would want to be married to someone who’s this cut off from reality?

The roadhouse where Clint works (it’s unclear if he’s the owner or not) has a small slot machine for gambling. Clint tells a customer that he never plays the slot machine because “I don’t want to lose.” As soon as Clint makes that comment, the movie then abruptly cuts to a scene of Clint getting attacked by a brown bear in this roadhouse. And then, the next scene is of an unharmed Clint talking to two Russian-speaking women at the bar as if nothing happened. The bear attack is not spoken about or hinted at again. Yes, it’s that kind of incoherent movie.

When people speak in non-English languages (Aleut or Russian) in this movie, there are no subtitles. It doesn’t really matter because much of the dialogue in English doesn’t make sense. The two Russian-speaking women at the bar are a young pregnant woman (played by Cristina Chiriac) and her elderly mother (played by Valentina Rozumenko), who are the bar’s only customers in this scene. They appear to be having a pleasant conversation with each other, while Clint nods, even though he doesn’t understand what they’re saying.

For no apparent reason, except to have a gratuitious scene with nudity and sex, the pregnant woman unbottons her clothes, to expose her naked front side, and then Clint kisses her pregnant belly and lower—all while right next to the woman’s mother, who’s watching with an approving look on her face. Clint and the pregnant woman are next seen having sex in a bedroom. At least Voyeur Russian Grandma wasn’t there to leer at them while they were having sex.

But that isn’t the last that the movie shows Voyeur Russian Grandma. The next time Clint sees her, she’s dead or unconscious, with blood between her legs, and an unidentified bloody animal’s head (possibly a horse) in between her legs. Clint sees her and does nothing to try to get her medical help. What is the purpose of this scene? Nothing. However, someone using Freudian psychology would speculate that it’s a msyognistic scene thought up by someone who has “mother issues.”

In fact, much of “Siberia” has subtle and not-so-subtle sexism, because all of the female characters with speaking roles in the movie are either mentally disturbed, angry or used as sex objects. There’s a montage scene where Clint has sex with three different unidentified women: one white (played by Maria Knofe), one Asian (played by Cornelia Nguyen Luu) and one black (played by Ilham Midjiyawa). It might be Ferrara’s way of saying that he deserves credit for having a racial diversity checklist when it comes to misogynistic, gratutitous sex scenes where the females have to show their private parts but not the male star of the movie. And it should come as no surprise that the movie has a demon character (played by Stella Pecollo) that Ferrara deliberately decided should be a woman.

The hatred isn’t just directed toward women. Clint has a lot of self-hatred too. In one scene, Clint calls out the name “Mitchell” (don’t expect to find out who Mitchell is), before falling down a cliff into a cave, where he hallucinates seeing a version of himself in some water in the cave. His reflection scolds Clint: “You pretend to be open to all things but can’t see how close-minded you are. Your soul is outside of it and you must claim it … Time will pass and you’ll continue to be lost … You were never a loving son. You were a burden to him, and now to me.”

Predictably, when Clint hallucinates seeing his father, his father looks just like Clint. (Dafoe plays both characters.) Clint sees his father dressed in a longjohn in the cave, where Clint appears to envision being in some kind of nightmarish hospital setting. A woman in a hospital gown wanders by in a daze and keeps repeating, “Teach me how to die.”

In this “hospital” scene, there’s an overweight nude little woman in a wheelchair, which seems a tad exploitative of disabled little people. There’s also an overweight naked woman dancing as if she’s insane, while she keeps repeating, “I’m waiting for the doctor.”

In another hallucination, Clint has ended up in an unnamed desert where people wear turbans, live in tents and have camels as pets. In one of the tents, Clint sees his father dressed as a surgeon and operating on Clint’s son. Don’t expect there to be any explanation for this operation scene. Viewers will never find out if this happened in Clint’s real life and will never find out if Clint’s father was a surgeon.

In a different “daddy issues” scene, Clint wanders into a run-down house, where heavy-metal music is blaring and some dirty-looking people in their late teens and early 20s are gleefully kicking around a locked trunk-sized box that has someone inside who’s screaming in agony. Some horrible quick-cut editing shows that the person inside the box has managed to climb out. And it’s Clint’s son. Some viewers won’t be surprised because it’s another example of “Siberia” doing something purely for shock value, not to further a plot that doesn’t exist in the first place.

There’s a random scene of fully naked men being rounded up by soldiers and brutally shot to death. Who are these men? Don’t expect the movie to reveal that either. In another scene, British actor Simon McBurney has a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” cameo as a magician whom Clint meets at an unnamed location. Clint tells him, “I hear you’re a great magician. I hear you’re into the black arts.” McBurney’s character is not seen or heard from again, and viewers never find out why Clint wants to dabble in the black arts.

“Siberia” is like being stuck in someone’s unpleasant psychedelic hallucinations for about 90 minutes. A lot of people who take psychedelics say they want to have deeper enlightenment about life when they get to the other side. The only enlightenment that viewers will get from “Siberia” is that some overrated filmmakers are very good at convincing people to give them money to make crappy movies.

Lionsgate released “Siberia” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on June 18, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on June 22, 2021.

Review: ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League,’ starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill

March 15, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (Photo courtesy of HBO Max/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League”

Directed by Zack Snyder

Culture Representation: Set in several fictional DC Comics places such as Gotham, Metropolis, Central City and Atlantis, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians), ranging from superheroes to regular citizens to villains.

Culture Clash: An all-star group of superheroes called Justice League gather to do battle against evil entities that want to take over the universe.

Culture Audience: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of epic superhero movies that have a dark and brooding tone.

Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (Photo courtesy of HBO Max/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a four-hour superhero movie that can be summed up in four words: “definitely worth the wait.” Also unofficially known as “The Snyder Cut,” this extravaganza is the director’s cut of 2017’s “Justice League,” an all-star superhero movie that was panned by many fans and critics. Even though Snyder was the only director credited for “Justice League,” it’s a fairly well-known fact that after Snyder couldn’t complete the film because his 20-year-old daughter Autumn committed suicide, writer/director Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the movie. Whedon made some big changes from Snyder’s original vision of “Justice League.” (There’s a dedication to Autumn that says “For Autumn” at the end of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.”) The “Justice League” that was released in 2017 had a lot of wisecracking jokes, and the violence and language were toned down to a more family-friendly version of the movie.

Since the release of “Justice League” in 2017, fans of DC Comics movies demanded that Warner Bros. Pictures “release The Snyder Cut” of the film. And due to popular demand, Snyder was able to make the “Justice League” movie he originally intended to make. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is part of HBO Max’s lineup of original content.

As promised, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a darker and more violent version of the 2017 “Justice League” movie, but it also has a lot more emotional depth and gives room for more character development and intriguing possibilities within the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” was written by Chris Terrio, with Snyder, Terrio and Will Beall credited for the story concept. Terrio and Whedon were credited screenwriters for “Justice League.”

Does “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” live up to the hype? Mostly yes. The scenes with the main characters are of higher quality and are more riveting than in the original “Justice League.” The action scenes are more realistic. The overall pacing and tone of the story are also marked improvements from the 2017 version of “Justice League.” However, the reason for the cameo appearance of The Joker (played by Jared Leto) in the movie’s epilogue isn’t what it first appears to be, so some fans might be disappointed. And the appearance of Ryan Choi/Atom (played by Ryan Zheng) is very brief (less than two minutes), and he doesn’t talk in the movie.

Many people watching “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” have already seen “Justice League,” so there’s no need to rehash the plot of “Justice League.” This review will consist primarily of the content in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” that was not in “Justice League.” For those who have not seen “Justice League,” the basic summary is that an all-star group of superheroes have assembled to battle an evil villain that wants to take over the universe by gathering three mystical Mother Boxes, which are living machines that have enough energy to cause widespread destruction.

The superheroes are Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck), Superman/Clark Kent (played by Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), Cyborg/Victor Stone (played by Ray Fisher), The Flash/Barry Allen (played by Ezra Miller) and Aquaman/Arthur Curry (played by Jason Momoa)—all seen together in a live-action movie for the first time in “Justice League.” The villain is Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), but “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” features the first movie appearances of two arch villains that have more power and authority than Steppenwolf: DeSaad (voiced by Peter Guinness) and the supreme villain Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter).

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is divided into chapters with these titles:

  • Part 1 – “Don’t Count On It, Batman”
  • Part 2 – “Age of Heroes”
  • Part 3 – “Beloved Mother, Beloved Son”
  • Part 4 – “Change Machine”
  • Part 5 – “All the King’s Horses”
  • Part 6 – “Something Darker”
  • Epilogue

In “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” Steppenwolf is more of a sniveling lackey than he was in “Justice League,” because there are multiple scenes of him acting subservient to DeSaad. Steppenwolf is still aggressive against his foes, while DeSaad is sinister and imperious, and Darkseid is fearsome and unforgiving. In a new scene between DeSaad and Steppenwolf, DeSaad scolds Steppenwolf for betraying the Great One and Steppenwolf’s own family. Steppenwolf replies with regret, “I saw my mistake!”

When Bruce goes to Iceland to recruit Arthur, their confrontation is a little more violent and Bruce flashes a wad of cash to entice Arthur to join Justice League. This scene is extended to show some Icelandic women singing on the seashore after Arthur declines Bruce’s offer, Arthur takes off his sweater, and swims away. One of the women picks up Arthur’s sweater and smells it, not in a salacious way, but as a way to give her comfort.

Back in Metropolis, there’s previously unseen footage of Daily Planet newspaper reporter Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) getting coffee for a local cop. It becomes clear that this was a routine for her, since she’s seen doing this again in the scene where she finds out that Superman has come back to life. It gives some depth to Lois trying to have a normal routine after the death of her fiancé Clark Kent/Superman. It’s mentioned in the movie that Lois took a leave of absence from the Daily Planet after Clark died.

And there’s an extended scene of Wonder Woman fighting off terrorists in a government building. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has less shots of Wonder Woman fighting in slow motion and more shots of her speeded up while she’s fighting. And in the terrorist scene, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” puts more more emphasis on Wonder Woman saving a group of visiting schoolkids (who are about 10 or 11 years old) and their teachers, who are taken hostage during this fight.

After Wonder Woman defeats the terrorists, she says to a frightened girl: “Are you okay, princess?” The girl replies, “Can I be you someday?” Wonder Woman answers, “You can be anything you want to be.”

Victor Stone/Cyborg gets the most backstory in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” Viewers will see the car accident that led to his scientist father Silas Stone (played by Joe Morton) deciding to save Victor’s life by using the Mother Box on Earth to turn Victor into Cyborg. The love/hate relationship that Victor has with his father is given more emotional gravitas in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” Viewers see in the movie that even before the car accident, there was tension between Silas and Victor because of Silas’ workaholic ways. There are also never-before-seen scenes with Victor’s mother Dr. Elinore Stone (played by Karen Bryson), who died in the car crash.

And speaking of car crashes, there’s an added scene of Barry Allen /The Flash applying for a job as a dog walker at a pet store called Central Bark. Before he walks into the store, he locks eyes with passerby Iris West (played by Kiersey Clemons), in the way that people do when they have mutual attraction to each other. Iris gets into her car to drive off, but a truck driver (who was distracted by reaching for a hamburger he dropped on the floor of the vehicle) slams into Iris’ car, and Barry rescues her.

During this rescue, Barry grabs a hot dog wiener from a food vendor cart that was smashed in the accident and gets back to the pet store in time to feed the wiener to the dogs. Barry then quips to the store manager, “Do I start on Monday?” It’s an example of the touches of humor that the movie has, to show it isn’t completely dark and gloomy. By the way, this car accident/rescue scene is the only appearance of Iris in the movie.

“Justice League” got a lot of criticism for the movie’s corny dialogue that many viewers thought cheapened what should have been a more serious tone to the movie. And even the parts of “Justice League” that were supposed to be comedic were slammed by fans and critics for not being very funny. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” removes a few of the most cringeworthy lines that “Justice League” had.

For example, in the “Justice League” scene where Barry/The Flash and Victor/Cyborg are digging up Superman’s grave, Barry makes an awkward attempt to bond with Victor by extending his hand in a fist bump toward Victor, but Victor doesn’t return the gesture. Barry then makes a remark that the timing might be off and the fist bump might be too racially charged for the moment. These lines are completely cut from “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” but the movie still has The Flash/Cyborg fist bump after the group showdown battle with Steppenwolf.

The gravedigging scene in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is changed to Barry saying to Victor: “Wonder Woman: Do you think she’d go for a younger guy?” Victor replies, “She’s 5,000 years old, Barry. Every guy is a younger guy.”

Another removal from “Justice League” are some words that Lois utters when she and a resurrected Superman are reunited, and he takes her to a corn field on the Kent family farm. In the original “Justice League” Lois tells him, “You smell good.” And he replies, “Did I not before?” In “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” Lois’ line is changed to “You spoke.” And Superman gives the same reply, “Did I not before?”

But make no mistake: Even though “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has some dialogue that’s intended to be funny, the movie definitely has a heavier and edgier tone than “Justice League.” Aquaman still does some joyous whooping and hollering during the fight scenes with Steppenwolf, but it’s toned down in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” so he doesn’t sound so much like a happy guy at a frat party. And these superheroes say occasional curse words that wouldn’t make the cut in a movie that’s intended for people all ages.

Even the music that plays during the end credits reflects this more somber and more reflective tone. In “Justice League,” the music playing over the end credits was Gary Clark Jr.’s bluesy-rock, upbeat version of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” In “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” the music that plays over the end credits is Allison Crowe’s raw and soulful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which is a song that’s often played at funerals in tribute to someone.

In “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” there’s a lot more screen time devoted to showing the aftermath of death and how the loved ones left behind are grieving, including extended scenes of how Superman’s adoptive mother Martha Kent (played by Diane Lane) and Lois are dealing with Clark/Superman’s death. Arthur/Aquaman keeps going back to the deep ocean to spend time with the preserved body of his father. Victor visits the gravesite of his mother. And then later, Victor goes to the gravesites of his mother and his father, who was killed when a STAR Labs building exploded. Wonder Woman and Aquaman discuss a past war between the Amazons and the Atlanteans and how there are still lingering repercussions of that destruction.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” also delivers more details on what happened in the STAR Labs building during the part of the movie where Superman was resurrected and Steppenwolf stole the Mother Box that was hidden by humans on Earth. This new scene gives more context and shows that Steppenwolf did not get the Mother Box so easily. Victor made a decision that cost him his life, while certain members of Justice League were inside the building soon after the Mother Box was taken.

There are also extended scenes with Mera (played by Amber Heard), Nuidis Vulko (played by Willem Dafoe), Alfred Pennyworth (played by Jeremy Irons) and Deathstroke (played by Joe Manganiello). And the epic battle with Steppenwolf toward the end is truly a spectacle to behold. Viewers will see DeSaad’s and Darkseid’s reactions to this fight. The movie’s epilogue includes a conversation between Bruce and Martian Manhunter that strongly indicates that fans should look for Martian Manhunter to play a major role in another DCEU movie. Simply put: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is mostly a triumph and can easily be considered one the the best DCEU movies of all time.

HBO Max will premiere “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on March 18, 2021.

Review: ‘Tommaso,’ starring Willem Dafoe

June 7, 2020

by Carla Hay

Willem Dafoe and Cristina Chiriac in “Tommaso” (Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber)

“Tommaso”

Directed by Abel Ferrara

Italian and English with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Rome, the drama “Tommaso” has a predominantly white cast (with a few black people) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A middle-aged American filmmaker who’s a recovering drug addict/alcoholic has emotional conflicts while he’s started a new life in Italy.

Culture Audience: “Tommaso” will appeal primarily to fans of filmmaker Abel Ferrara and actor Willem Dafoe, as well to people who like arthouse movies that don’t follow a conventional storytelling structure.

Anna Ferrara, Willem Dafoe and Cristina Chiriac in “Tommaso” (Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber)

Abel Ferrara is one of those filmmakers who had a reputation for being quite the provocateur back in the 1980s and 1990s (his most famous movie is 1992’s “Bad Lieutenant”), but his films in more recent decades have lost a lot of their edge and originality.  Although the drama “Tommaso” is elevated by the terrific talent of star Willem Dafoe, too much of the movie is unfocused and self-indulgent, and it’s far from being one of Ferrara’s best films.

People interested in seeing “Tommaso” should know up front that the movie is more of a psychological portrait than a straightforward narrative. And it becomes clear early on in the story that although the film is told from the perspective of the title character Tommaso (played by Dafoe), his narrative viewpoint is very unreliable. The overall concept for “Tommaso” (which is loosely inspired by Ferrara’s own real-life experiences) also isn’t very original: a man going through a mid-life crisis.

In the beginning of the movie, it seems as if Tommaso has a contented life: He’s an American filmmaker who’s moved to Italy and started a new family with his 29-year-old Russian-Italian partner Nikki (played by Ferrara’s real-life wife Cristina Chiriac), who’s the mother of their pre-school-age daughter DeeDee (played by Ferrara’s real-life daughter Anna Ferrara). Tommaso and Nikki both seem to be very devoted parents, but there’s some unease in their love relationship, which becomes more fraught during the course of the movie.

Nikki is a homemaker, while Tommaso works a great deal from home too, so they are both able to spend quality time with DeeDee. Just like Ferrara, Tommaso is a New Yorker who moved to Italy several years ago to start a new life and a new family with a new romantic partner. Tommaso also appears to be a fading independent filmmaker, since he lives in a middle-class apartment with Nikki and DeeDee. Tommaso is well-known enough to have recognition in the international film community, but he’s not financially wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.

And when Tommaso talks about his best work, it seems to be in his distant past when he was living in the United States and when he was in the throes of his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Now clean and sober for six years, Tommaso is working on a new screenplay, but he seems to have writer’s block and he doesn’t have much contact with his peers in the film industry.

Instead, Tommaso spends most of his days taking care of DeeDee (when he brings her to a local park to play with other kids her age, he’s the only male parent there); going to his favorite café; taking Italian language lessons; practicing yoga alone; and teaching an acting class that places a lot of emphasis on body movement. At night, he regularly goes to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, where members of the group share their addiction stories and talk about other problems in their lives.

Tommaso seems to have an easygoing, friendly demeanor, but he shows flashes of anger and controlling behavior with Nikki. One day, when Nikki decides to take DeeDee on a day trip to visit Nikki’s mother, Nikki says she’s taking the metro, but Tommaso insists that she takes a taxi instead. He refuses to listen to her saying that it’s not necessary for him to call a taxi, and he calls one anyway. On another day in their home, he yells at Nikki because she started to eat lunch without him. He angrily berates her for not telling him that lunch was ready so that he could eat lunch with her.

Tommaso also complains to Nikki and to other people (including members of his AA support group and even a random taxi driver) that Nikki’s not paying enough attention to him and that when he tries to help her, she “pushes” him away. He also tells his AA support group some of Nikki’s personal history, such as how Nikki’s mother left Nikki’s abusive, alcoholic father when Nikki was 4, and that Nikki is still estranged from her father and has emotional issues because of it.

While in a taxi, Tommaso gripes to the driver that everything changed after DeeDee was born. Tommaso believes that Nikki has been shutting him out emotionally and putting all of her energy into raising DeeDee. Tommaso’s complaints are classic signs of a narcissist who gets very jealous if he’s not the center of attention.

As for Tommaso and Nikki’s sex life, it’s been dwindling. Tommaso usually has to initiate their sexual intimacy, while Nikki seems increasingly reluctant, as if she’s falling out of love with Tommaso. One day, while Tommaso is at the park with DeeDee, Tommaso sees Nikki passionately kissing a blonde bearded man (played by Stefano Papa) in his late 20s or early 30s. When Tommaso sees Nikki later at home, he doesn’t tell her what he saw, and he acts as if nothing is wrong.

But did this act of infidelity really happen, or is it in Tommaso’s head? There are signs throughout the movie that Tommaso has a vivid imagination or is seriously delusional. In one scene, he’s at his favorite café, and there’s no one else there except for him and the attractive young waitress he usually sees there—except when she serves him his espresso, she’s completely naked.

And the story also has a fantasy sequence of Tommaso being led in handcuffs to a police station, where the police chief interrogates Tommaso about trying to create civil unrest by making speeches in the piazza. Tommaso replies, “The trouble with you is your mind is closed. You lack empathy.”

There’s also a scene where Tommaso is on his apartment balcony when he sees Nikki and DeeDee below on a sidewalk. He calls out and waves to them. And then, DeeDee runs out into the street and gets hit by a car. But it turns out to be a horrific hallucination from Tommaso.

And there’s another gruesome delusion where Tommaso is at the park and sitting around a fire with unidentified African men, when he reaches into his chest, takes out his bloody heart, and offers it to them.  “Where is all of this going?” viewers might ask.

Although “Tommaso” doesn’t have a coherent plot, it’s clear that the movie is supposed to be a story of Tommaso’s psychological unraveling. Much of the film consists of what appears to be mundane “slice of life” routines in Tommaso’s life, but as the story unfolds, some of the scenes in the movie can be interpreted as “reality” or “fantasy” in Tommaso’s life.

The best scenes in “Tommaso” are those with Tommaso at the AA meetings, because they are the scenes where Tommaso not only opens up the most emotionally but he (and the viewers) get outside of Tommaso’s head and experience empathy for these group members’ stories. It is during one of these meetings that Tommaso breaks down and cries when he confesses regret about the two adopted daughters he abandoned from his first marriage. “Tommaso” would have been a much better movie if it had included more scenes from the AA meetings and less scenes of Tommaso in his acting classes, which look more like New Age exercise classes than any discussion of real acting.

Even though the storytelling in “Tommaso” isn’t linear, the movie does a fairly good job of unpeeling the layers of Tommaso’s gentlemanly façade, thanks to Dafoe’s riveting performance. In one well-acted scene, after an AA meeting, Tommaso offers to walk home one of the meeting’s young women (an American who’s temporarily staying in Italy), since he appears to be concerned about her walking home alone at night.

During their conversation back to her place, he starts asking her about her love life, and she admits she’s “happily single.” Tommaso makes a point of telling her that he’s always had a romantic partner in his life, which is his subtle way of saying that he’s never had a problem getting women. It’s clear that Tommaso is fishing to see if this woman has any vulnerabilities. He seems a little disappointed when they arrive at her place and she gives him a friendly kiss on the cheek, making it clear that she’s not interested in sleeping with Tommaso.

Tommaso’s relationship with women can be considered fairly problematic, since he only seems interested in women who are at least 25 years younger than he is, and he doesn’t seem interested in treating any women as equals. He flirts with his young Italian-language instructor (played by Maricla Amoriello) and uses a “breathing exercise lesson” as an excuse to get his arms around her and rub parts of her body. And when he and a young female student (played by Alessandra Camilla Scarci) from his acting class are alone in her car, and she starts complaining about her father, it’s not a shock when he uses this moment of “daddy issues” vulnerability to start making out with her.

It’s no doubt symbolic of Tommaso’s narcissism that he, Nikki and DeeDee are among the few people with names in the movie. And it’s also symbolic of Ferrara’s “old school” male gaze that there are several women in the movie who have full frontal nudity but none of the men.

It was considered edgy when Ferrara’s “Bad Lieutenant” featured a full-frontal male nude scene with star Harvey Keitel. But now, Ferrara seems to have lost that edge by walking down the same, tired cliché path of other filmmakers who put completely naked women in their movies just because they can. The attitude with these “male gaze” filmmakers seems to be that showing a full-frontal naked man in a movie is an unacceptable threat, even in a sex scene where a woman is required to be naked too.

Dafoe has such a high caliber of acting talent that he is the main reason to watch this rambling and often-dull movie, whose running time is almost two hours. Although the cinematography from Peter Zeitlinger is occasionally very eye-catching, ultimately, the screenplay, editing and overall direction of “Tommaso” are muddled and at times sloppy. Some people might also be upset with how the movie ends. But if viewers do make it to the end of the film, they’ll have to slog through this “reality versus fantasy” world that ends up confusing who the real Tommaso is and thereby obscuring his humanity.

Kino Lorber released “Tommaso” in select U.S virtual cinemas on June 5, 2020.

2019 Hollywood Film Awards: recap and photos

November 3, 2019

Al Pacino (left), winner of the Hollywood Supporting Actor Award, and “The Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions:

The 23rd Annual “Hollywood Film Awards” brought together Hollywood’s elite to honor the year’s most talked about and highly anticipated actors, actresses and films, and those who helped bring them to life. The awards ceremony, celebrating its 23rd anniversary as the official launch of the awards season, was hosted by actor and comedian Rob Riggle, and took place at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. In its 23-year history, over 340 of the world’s biggest stars and filmmakers have been highlighted at the “Hollywood Film Awards” and more than 140 of the honorees have gone on to garner Oscar nominations and/or wins.

Rob Riggle  at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for HFA)

Host Rob Riggle infused the ceremony with heart and humor, proving to be a steadfast guide through the evening’s many memorable moments. There was no shortage of standing ovations for both presenters and honorees alike, who included some of the most iconic members of the Hollywood community. Al Pacino took time to acknowledge many of his fellow honorees and friends in the room as he accepted the “Hollywood Supporting Actor Award.”

Martin Scorsese at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for HFA)

After a presentation from her mentor Martin Scorsese, “Hollywood Producer Award” recipient Emma Tillinger Koskoff delivered an emotional speech, offering a tear-filled thank you to the legendary director and producer. “Hollywood Filmmaker Award” honoree Bong Joon Ho, spoke in his native tongue to deliver a universal message that “we use only one language of cinema.”

Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for HFA)

In a touching moment between “Hollywood Career Achievement Award” presenter Nicole Kidman and this year’s honoree Charlize Theron, Kidman remarked that “we don’t get to choose our heroes, but through this journey, I got to work with one of mine!”

Antonio Banderas and Dakota Johnson at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Dakota Johnson took the stage to present Antonio Banderas with the “Hollywood Actor Award,” and reflected upon her realization that Banderas has become one of the most influential people in her life. He accepted by dedicating the award to Dakota, and his daughter Stella, who was in the room to share the night with him.

Cynthia Erivo at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for HFA)

Viola Davis presented Cynthia Erivo with the “Hollywood Breakout Actress Award,” calling her “fearlessness personified” as she takes on the role of Harriet Tubman. Ray Romano brought the laughs as he showered praise upon “Hollywood Breakout Actor” honoree Taron Egerton, pointing out how unfair it is that Egerton is not only endlessly talented, but funny as well.

Robert Downey Jr. and Shia LaBeouf at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019 . (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for HFA)

Christian Bale and Matt Damon turned up to honor their “Ford v Ferrari” director James Mangold, while Robert Downey Jr. was on hand to laud “Honey Boy” actor and screenwriter Shia LeBeouf with the “Hollywood Breakthrough Screenwriter Award.”  Former co-stars Jennifer Garner and Olivia Wilde celebrated Wilde’s “Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award,” each sharing humorous tales of their adventures together on set.

Olivia Wilde at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for HFA)

Kevin Feige and Victoria Alonso joined together to accept the “Hollywood Blockbuster Award,” thanking their amazing writers, directors, and awe-inspiring cast, including presenter Mark Ruffalo. Alicia Keys began her tribute to “Hollywood Song Award” honoree Pharrell Williams by recognizing all of the love in the room, before Williams delivered a powerful speech focusing on the unparalleled contributions made by “The Black Godfather” subject, Clarence Avant. He said that he has opened doors when others would glue them shut and has consistently demanded equality throughout his career.

Finn Wittrock, Renée Zellweger and Jessie Buckley at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

“Judy” co-stars Finn Wittrock and Jessie Buckley were on hand to recognize their leading lady Renée Zellweger with the “Hollywood Actress Award.” She said that the experience of playing Judy Garland was “one of those rare opportunities that essentially make no sense at all, but becomes your greatest accomplishment!”

Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe at the 23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on November 3, 2019. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for HFA)

After an earnest tribute from Jon Hamm, “Hollywood Screenwriter Award” honoree Anthony McCarten joked about finding success when he strayed from his teacher’s advice to write what he knows. He advised others to write what they want to know, that curiosity is what drove him to this project. Willem Dafoe presented his friend and colleague Laura Dern with the “Hollywood Supporting Actress Award,” praising the inspiring way in which she connects to audiences through her compassion.

This year’s award show honored the following:

“Hollywood Career Achievement Award”
Charlize Theron, presented by Nicole Kidman

“Hollywood Actor Award”
Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, presented by Dakota Johnson

“Hollywood Actress Award”
Renée Zellweger for Judy, presented by Finn Wittrock & Jessie Buckley

“Hollywood Supporting Actor Award”
Al Pacino for The Irishman, presented by Francis Ford Coppola

“Hollywood Supporting Actress Award”
Laura Dern for Marriage Story, presented by Willem Dafoe

“Hollywood Producer Award”
Emma Tillinger Koskoff for The Irishman, presented by Martin Scorsese

“Hollywood Director Award”
James Mangold for Ford v Ferrari, presented by Christian Bale & Matt Damon

“Hollywood Filmmaker Award”
Bong Joon Ho for Parasite, presented by Sienna Miller

“Hollywood Screenwriter Award”
Anthony McCarten for The Two Popes, presented by Jon Hamm

“Hollywood Blockbuster Award”
Avengers: Endgame, presented by Mark Ruffalo

“Hollywood Song Award”
Pharrell Williams for Letter To My Godfather, presented by Alicia Keys

“Hollywood Breakout Actor Award”
Taron Egerton for Rocketman, presented by Ray Romano

“Hollywood Breakout Actress Award”
Cynthia Erivo for Harriet, presented by Viola Davis

“Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award”
Olivia Wilde for Booksmart, presented by Jennifer Garner

“Hollywood Breakthrough Screenwriter Award”
Shia LaBeouf for Honey Boy, presented by Robert Downey Jr.

“Hollywood Animation Award”
Toy Story 4

“Hollywood Cinematography Award”
Mihai Malaimare Jr. for Jojo Rabbit

“Hollywood Film Composer Award”
Randy Newman for Marriage Story

“Hollywood Editor Award”
Michael McCusker & Andrew Buckland for Ford v Ferrari

“Hollywood Visual Effects Award”
Pablo Helman for The Irishman

“Hollywood Sound Award”
Donald Sylvester, Paul Massey, David Giammarco, & Steven A. Morrow for Ford v Ferrari

“Hollywood Costume Design Award”
Anna Mary Scott Robbins for Downton Abbey

“Hollywood Make-Up & Hair Styling Award”
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou, Tapio Salmi, & Barrie Gower for Rocketman

“Hollywood Production Design Award”
Ra Vincent for Jojo Rabbit

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

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

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

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

2018 New York Film Festival: ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ is the closing-night film

August 1, 2018

Willem Dafoe in "At Eternity’s Gate"
Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate” (Photo by Lily Gavin)

The following is a press release from the Film Society of Lincoln Center:

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate” as Closing Night of the 56th New York Film Festival (September 28 – October 14), making its North American premiere at Alice Tully Hall on Friday, October 12, 2018. CBS Films will release the film in November 2018.

Julian Schnabel’s ravishingly tactile and luminous new film takes a fresh look at the last days of Vincent van Gogh, and in the process revivifies our sense of the artist as a living, feeling human being. Schnabel; his co-writers Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg, also the film’s editor; and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme strip everything down to essentials, fusing the sensual, the emotional, and the spiritual. And the pulsing heart of At Eternity’s Gate is Willem Dafoe’s shattering performance: his Vincent is at once lucid, mad, brilliant, helpless, defeated, and, finally, triumphant. With Oscar Isaac as Gauguin, Rupert Friend as Theo, Mathieu Amalric as Dr. Gachet, Emmanuelle Seigner as Madame Ginoux, and Mads Mikkelsen as The Priest.

New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones said, “’At Eternity’s Gate’ is such a surprising film, for all kinds of reasons. Julian Schnabel makes use of the most up-to-date information about Vincent van Gogh, altering our accepted ideas of how he lived and died; he grounds the film in the very action of painting, the intense contact between an artist and the world of forms and textures colored by light; and he gives us Willem Dafoe’s performance as Vincent—acting this pure is endlessly surprising.”

“I would like to say thank you to Kent Jones and the NYFF selection committee on behalf of Willem Dafoe, who is Vincent van Gogh in the film, and the cast and crew, who I have been so privileged to work with, for choosing At Eternity’s Gate for Closing Night,” said Schnabel. “It is a profound honor to be included with the other films and to be part of the history of Closing Night films that came before us. Looking forward to sitting in the audience with everybody.”

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Programming, and Florence Almozini, FSLC Associate Director of Programming.

Earlier this summer, NYFF announced Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite” as Opening Night and Alfonso Cuarón’s “ROMA” as the Centerpiece selection. This year’s gala screenings, including Closing Night, will be held on Fridays instead of Saturdays.

Tickets for the 56th New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public on September 9. Festival and VIP passes are on sale now and offer one of the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events, including Closing Night.

FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema. The only branch of the world-renowned arts complex Lincoln Center to shine a light on the everlasting yet evolving importance of the moving image, this nonprofit organization was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international film. Via year-round programming and discussions; its annual New York Film Festival; and its publications, including Film Comment, the U.S.’s premier magazine about films and film culture, the Film Society endeavors to make the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broader audience, as well as to ensure that it will remain an essential art form for years to come.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Shutterstock, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. American Airlines is the Official Airline of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Support for the New York Film Festival is generously provided by Official Partners HBO® and The New York Times, Benefactor Partners Dolby and illy caffè, Supporting Partners Warby Parker, MUBI, and Manhattan Portage, and Hospitality Partner Hudson Hotel. JCDecaux, Variety, Deadline Hollywood, WABC-7, WNET New York Public Media, and The Village Voice serve as Media Sponsors.