April 21, 2018: “Lady Fusion feat Armand Hutton” sung live by Diana Dilee Maher at Genghis Cohen, Los Angeles. Written by Nel Gerome and Diana Dilee Maher (Dilee)
The singer and songwriter will open for Taylor Swift on her upcoming “Reputation” stadium tour which kick offs on May 8.
British musician Charli XCX has signed with Full Stop Management, Variety has confirmed. The British singer and songwriter will now be represented by Brandon Creed, who previously worked with Bruno Mars and currently manages Haim, Troye Sivan, Mark Ronson, and Sara Bareilles. Billboard first reported the signing. As recently as yesterday, a source tells Variety, Charli XCX was seen at Full Stop’s Westwood offices.
Full Stop was founded by Jeffrey Azoff who also manages Harry Styles and Meghan Trainor. Creed merged his company, The Creed Co., with Full Stop in 2017. Various Artists Management previously represented Charli XCX.
The singer had a breakout year in 2014 when she lent her vocals to Iggy Azalea’s hit single “Fancy” and also released her second album “Sucker” which featured the song “Boom Clap” from the soundtrack to the film “The Fault in Our Stars.”
Charli XCX signed to Asylum Records in 2010 and later Atlantic. She released her fourth mixtape titled “Pop 2” in December 2017 with the lead single “Out of My Head” featuring Tove Lo and Alma. She also collaborated with Carly Rae Jepsen on the record. In 2017, she supported Halsey and Sia on their Hopeless Fountain Kingdom and Nostalgic for the Present tours.
She recently revealed she was one of the more than 12 female vocalists who recorded a version of Zedd’s latest track “The Middle.”
Charli XCX will open for Taylor Swift on her upcoming “Reputation” stadium tour which kick offs in Glendale, Ariz on May 8.
Roku had a blowout holiday quarter: The company was able to handily surpass analyst expectations, thanks largely to a big increase of its licensing and advertising revenue.
Roku booked revenue of $188.26 million during the holiday quarter, compared to $147.3 million during the same quarter in 2016. The company’s Q4 income was $9.49 million, compared to earnings of $3.38 million for Q4 of 2016. However, Roku had a $2.3 million charge for paying off some debt, which resulted in a total net income of $6.9 million.
This translated to earnings per share of $0.06. Analysts had expected revenue of 183 million, and net losses of $9.8 million.
Much of that unexpected income was due to a growth in the company’s platform business, which includes both licensing fees Roku generates from device partners as well as advertising revenue. This platform revenue grew to $85.44 million in Q4, and now accounts for 45 percent of all of Roku’s revenue.
At the decade mark, the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no sign of losing momentum.
“Infinity War” bowed to a heroic $250 million in North America this weekend, along with $380 million internationally for a grand total of $630 million globally. And the tentpole hasn’t even opened in China yet. That’s a towering pinnacle for any franchise to reach, let alone a film series in its 19th installment.
While numbers could fluctuate before an official tally comes in on Monday, the estimated haul could narrowly surpass “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — which bowed with $248 million in 2015 — as the biggest domestic opening ever. It easily tops “The Fate of the Furious” as the highest global opening weekend of all time. The eighth film in the Fast and the Furious franchise previously held the top spot for its $443 million worldwide debut.
Its domestic opening also flies ahead of its Marvel predecessors. Prior to “Infinity War,” the original “Avengers” had the highest opening to date for a Marvel film, debuting with $207.4 million. Its sequel, “Age of Ultron,” launched with $191 million. In total, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned over $15 billion worldwide.
“You almost have to separate Marvel and Disney from other studios at this point,” Jeff Bock, a box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, said. “The think tank is unprecedented. It has never been matched to this level.”
Plain and simple, he said, audiences love these films. “You can’t deny it,” Bock said. “The quality are what everyone should be shooting for.”
Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst at comScore, points to four key reasons why “Infinity War” in particular smashed box office records: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Spider-Man Homecoming,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and “Black Panther.”‘
Between May 2017 when “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” landed and February 2018 with the cultural phenomenon that is “Black Panther,” the Disney-owned Marvel knocked it out of the park with one hit after the next leading up to “Infinity War’s” arrival.
“These past four movies could not have asked for a better way to lead into this release,” Dergarabedian said. “They were all the perfect manifestation of what you want in a superhero movie. They all felt like they were doing something different.”
Cranking out consecutive hits is no simple task. You don’t have to look much further than Marvel’s superhero rival DC to see that. DC’s “Wonder Woman” soared past expectations, opening in June 2017 to $102 million at the domestic box office before going on to earn $412.5 million in North America and $821.8 worldwide. Patty Jenkin’s historic blockbuster was bolstered by glowing reviews on top of audiences’ desire to see Gal Gadot in the first female-led superhero movie.
When Gadot’s Wonder Woman reappeared again a few months later in November 2017’s “Justice League,” all signs should have pointed to another smash success. While not a total flop, the critically derided “Justice League” couldn’t crack $100 million in its domestic debut. It opened with $93.8 million and ended up making $229 million in North America and $658 globally. The disappointing results only reignited questions about DC’s long-term viability.
“With superhero fatigue, we’re talking about DC,” Bock said. “If the opening weekend worldwide [of ‘Infinity War’] does better than ‘Justice League’ did in its entire run, it gives you an idea of where they are. DC has upsides, they just haven’t had the magic formula yet.”
So what’s Marvel’s secret sauce? Aside from pure audience adoration, “it’s the quality of the content, not the categorization of these movies as superhero movies,” Dergarabedian said. “That’s why they’ve been indestructible. You’re getting a great experience.”
Since its iteration in 2008 with “Iron Man,” Marvel has built up and fine-tuned its identity, “focusing on great stars, great scripts, and great directors,” Bock said.
“They picked the right people,” Bock said of Marvel’s top-notch casting, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chadwick Boseman, and Scarlett Johansson. “People already fell in love with these actors and actresses, and then they fall in love with the characters. That kind of consistency in casting goes a long way.”
DC has found the perfect Wonder Woman in Gadot, Bock pointed out, but the casting falters after that. Just look at the memes the sprung up around Ben Affleck’s morose take on Batman, and the rampant speculation that he will soon be retiring the cape and cowl.
“In DC, there is such inconsistencies in those roles,” Bock said. “It’s hard to define who Batman is right now. And how many more do we need? If we need a new Batman, show us something more worthwhile.”
Another win for Marvel is its ability to move forward with new stories. That’s something it has over another iconic franchise — “Star Wars.” While not a comic book genre, the globally revered series has stumbled recently compared to its predecessors.
Prior to “Infinity War,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” had the biggest domestic box office opening of all time with $248 million in 2015 before going on to make $936 million in just North America. The trilogy’s sequel, 2017’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” debuted strong with $220 million, but couldn’t keep that same momentum going. Its domestic tally ran out of gas at $620 million.
A lot of that was tied to backlash from fans, who criticized the Rian Johnson-directed sequel for being too jokey and from deviating too wildly from the world of the Force established by George Lucas and paid homage to by “Force Awakens’” J.J. Abrams.
“‘Star Wars’ is working off a different playbook that isn’t as strong at the moment. If they are going to keep it going as long as Marvel, they can’t keep it going in the same direction,” Bock said. “They are working off nostalgia, not quality.”
With just enough social relevance to lend a blush of importance, but without the kind of spikiness that could threaten to burst its light dramedy bubble, “Newton,” India’s Oscar submission in the foreign language film category, is a good-natured charmer that’s just a little too cozy to satisfy its billing as satire. A warm portrait of a stiff-backed young election official learning that principles don’t always mesh with practicality in the Indian democratic process, its modest story is elevated by an ingratiating turn from Rajkummar Rao, embodying the kind of lovable doofus that Tom Hanks might have played in an American analog a few years ago. Directed by Amit V Masurkar, the film, about the difficulties of boots-on-the-ground democracy is, of all things, easy: easy to watch, easy to enjoy and easy to leave with one’s preconceptions wholly unchallenged.
Newton (Rao) is a serious-minded young civil servant who decides to prove his dedication to the democratic ideal by volunteering for a gig no one else wants — overseeing a ramshackle polling station in the middle of a rebel-infested nowhere, so that a handful of locals can participate in an election about which they know little and care less. Earlier scenes have already established him as a man of unyielding principle who is nonetheless caught between tradition and progressiveness: He rejects a marriage arranged by his doting parents once he discovers the girl is underage. But Newton will find his ethical rigidity bent to the breaking point in the jungle, with a motley crew of assistants, including irreverent old-hand Loknath (Raghubir Yadav); and Malko (Anjali Patil), a pretty young local woman brought in to facilitate and translate for the villagers, who don’t understand Hindi.
As schematically familiar as that set-up sounds, “Newton” thankfully avoids most of the standard romantic comedy cliches, though the framework for a less nuanced, less culturally specific and more formulaic U.S. remake, set in rural Alaska or remote New Mexico for instance, certainly exists. But a remake would be a shame: “Newton” is at its best when it’s at its most idiosyncratic — when its ragtag characters are grumbling and hacking their way through fetid jungle or lethargically trading life philosophies to while away the time in the untrafficked makeshift station.
Disgruntled and cynical army captain Atma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) tasked with protecting Newton and his team from rebel attack, soon emerges as the film’s chief antagonist, as if this bluntly pragmatic soldier’s ideological opposition to Newton’s comparatively effete city-boy aura could be any more marked. But really the situation is the enemy — the sheer size and complexity of India as it tries to maneuver the machinery of the world’s largest democracy within its riotously diverse, often mutually mistrustful classes and populations, all of whom have their own agendas.
Regional critics have been quick to praise the film’s downplayed presentation. And Swapnil S Sonawane’s restrained cinematography and Naren Chandravarkar and Benedict Taylor’s unobtrusive music (bar one nice singing sequence that is more or less organically engineered), as well as the understated performances and lived-in production design, certainly set “Newton” apart from the bright, bold excesses of Bollywood. Yet if formally “Newton” cleaves more to the construct of an internationally independent film, its broad message is perhaps most pertinent to its nation of origin, where the film has already done strong numbers. (Rao’s last movie, the energetic “Suleimani Keeda,” carved a successful festival path.)
Still, what could have been a timely, broadly relevant investigation into electoral malfeasance is undercut by a rather mealymouthed and muddled conclusion that portrays Newton’s bureaucratic intransigence not quite as heroic, but at least quixotically noble. And while its sincere belief in the value of democratic due process may resonate with some viewers internationally, younger audiences might find its resolutely nonpartisan politics a little too comfortable for comfort. The film’s ultimately uncontroversial central tenet is that it’s not how you vote but that you vote that matters. But, certainly Stateside, where “Newton” is tilting at Oscar’s windmills, how you vote(d) feels like the crux of so much heated discourse that the film’s gently Utopian faith in democracy for its own sake seems far removed from the current American moment.
The opening or closing night of a film festival can make a statement — about where that festival, or the larger world of film, is headed. Tonight, the Tribeca Film Festival made a striking statement by presenting Liz Garbus’ “The Fourth Estate” as its closing-night selection. Garbus is a reknowned documentary filmmaker (“Searching for Bobby Fischer,” “The Farm: Angola, USA”) whose artistry has only grown with the years, culminating in the luminous, heartbreaking, Oscar-nominated 2015 musical psychodramatic portrait “What Happened, Miss Simone?” But “The Fourth Estate” isn’t, technically speaking, a feature film. It’s the first episode of a four-part documentary series, produced by Showtime (it premieres there on May 27), that takes a close-up look at the inside hustle and bustle of The New York Times as it covers the Trump presidency.
The distinction between a film or TV documentary may, at this point, seem academic. There’s a mountain of nonfiction now produced for the small screen. Almost every year at Sundance, I review first-rate documentaries made to be shown exclusively on HBO. What’s noteworthy about “The Fourth Estate” is that its open-ended, nearly diary-like aesthetic feels quite different from what it might have been as a theatrical feature. So this is the Tribeca Film Festival, in its way, tipping its hat to the rise and meaning of the TV documentary series form.
In the 90-minute installment that was shown tonight, Garbus works in a bustling and omnivorous fly-on-the-wall fashion, moving with brisk chronological energy through the Trump administration’s first 100 days. Events flash by that may now feel like they took place a thousand news cycles ago (the resignation of Michael Flynn; Trump’s first speech to Congress), all filtered through the jaded yet still slightly widened eyes of the Times reporters and editors, who possess a calming technocratic spirit. Collectively, all of them have a decision to make, one that keeps being refined: What are the rules for covering an administration that insists, every day, on breaking the rules?
That’s an extraordinary question, and “The Fourth Estate” answers it not with epic journalistic ruminations but by pinning itself to the nuts and bolts of the news process. This is the opposite of a thesis film; it’s a lively existential you-are-there diary of the pulse of The New York Times. Maybe the other episodes will expand its scope, but I couldn’t help but wish that what we were seeing here had more of a topical-philosophical edge — that it showed us the Times editors wrestling, for example, with the thorny issue of how to deal with Trump’s lies, and hammering out a policy about it.
The Times, during Trump’s first year and a half in office, has been quite pointed — and, at times, heroic — in holding this presidential Pinocchio’s feet (and nose) to the fire. But we don’t see the strategic conversations that went into that dogged ambition. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, has been in the job for four years, and it’s part of his meticulous no-drama style that he doesn’t come on like the Ben Bradlee of the age of fake news. He believes in the paper’s mission, but in “The Fourth Estate” he’s a very laidback crusader — soft-spoken and process-oriented, intently focused on “the story.”
That may be a good thing. Conditioned, perhaps, by one too many awards-bait newspaper dramas, I watched “The Fourth Estate” eager to see the Times journalists roll up their shirtsleeves, pound the tables, and fight the good fight in reporting on the drama of a new kind of American corruption. The reality looks a lot less sexy — though for news junkies, it can prove to be every bit as fascinating. In the meetings we see, the Times journalists, like their executive editor, go out of their way to avoid drama. The agenda is not to mount on attack on Donald Trump. On the contrary, it’s to sidestep any potential fake food fight, and for the paper to tether itself to the nuts and bolts of reality — or, as it was once referred to (in a Times Sunday Magazine article) by a member of the George W. Bush administration, the “reality-based community.”
There’s a telling moment when Maggie Haberman, the White House correspondent of the Times, interviews Trump on the phone after his first failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She asks if it’s a relief for him to have this battle in the rear-view mirror, and he replies, “Yeah, it’s enough already,” which produces a knowing chuckle on her part. Haberman and Trump go back a long way (she covered him at The New York Post), and though he consistently demonizes her as part of “the failing New York Times,” she grasps that the policy battles don’t, in the end, mean that much to Trump; it’s all a game to him. Yet when she characterizes his response, in her story and on CNN, as showing more dignity and restraint than usual, she gets attacked, in tweets from the left, for being a “traitor.” The tweets wash right off her, but the point is that it’s her job, and that of the other Times reporters, to maintain an even keel — to use their brains and reportorial instincts to keep the national conversation in balance.
It’s fun to see the occasional office clash, like one between the Washington bureau and the New York editors over how to interpret Trump’s remarks during his Congressional address. Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington bureau chief, thinks that the story should focus on his immigration policy, but she’s overruled, and the lead is rewritten from New York at the last minute to play up the larger political battle between Trump and the Washington establishment. In this case, the ruling heads are right (Bumiller’s view is too wonkish). But that tension is part of what gives the sausage of daily news its flavor.
In an odd way, the drama of “The Fourth Estate” lies in its lack of exoticism. The reporters are covering the most reckless and idiosyncratic president in history, but the spirit of the Times is the opposite of reckless; it’s scrupulous and by the book. That spirit dominates even when the stories turn outlandish. A few of them, however, aren’t here. It’s a surprise, watching “The Fourth Estate,” to see that Trump’s travel ban ended up on the cutting-room floor; so did Steve Bannon (except for one shot of him taken through a window of the White House). The story that rises up slowly through the episode — and will anchor the next one — is the Russia/collusion story.
“The Fourth Estate,” like the Times itself, is the temperamental opposite of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.” That book — unfairly bashed by the Times, which didn’t want to concede that Wolff had beaten the paper at its own game — allowed you to touch the mercurial intersection of personality and policy in the Trump White House. “The Fourth Estate” stays outside the hot zone. It’s about reporters and editors who (for Garbus’ cameras, as least) take an officious delight in holding their egos in check. They’re there to serve the story, even when they can hardly believe what they’re reporting. Their job, in the age of politics-as-advertising-as-demagoguery-as-entertainment, isn’t to go to war with the Trump administration. It’s to keep digging for truth on the dark side of the lies.
This accomplished, absorbing, even-handed look at the pain of a marital breakup should broaden director Tinatin Kajrishvili’s fan base on the festival circuit.
Although Georgian women may not be marking a #MeToo moment in quite the same way as their counterparts in the U.S. and Western Europe, recent Georgian features such as Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross’s “My Happy Family” and Ana Urushadze’s “Scary Mother” have given their countrymen’s patriarchal attitudes a drubbing. Now, the naturalistic, melancholy-infused, observational drama “Horizon” from multi-hyphenate Tinatin Kajrishvili (a producer on “Scary Mother”) shows a discarded husband literally pining away of heartbreak, a fate usually reserved for female characters. This accomplished, absorbing, even-handed look at the pain of a marital breakup should broaden the director’s fan base on the festival circuit.
Immature, idealistic Tbilisi designer Giorgi (George Bochorishvili), known to his friends and former wife as Gio, can’t come to terms with the fact that pretty, cosmopolitan Ana (Ia Sukhitashvili) has called it quits on their marriage. He behaves as if the only thing required is some time and some flowers, and then he will be able to return from the inconvenience of his mother’s spare room to the nuclear family flat where Ana remains with their two young sons. But, in fact, Ana is already seeing someone new. And she wants to be very adult and civilized about it, something that hot-headed Gio can’t handle at all.
Spinning out of control, Gio runs from the city, just about as far as he can go. He winds up on a remote, extreme weather-wracked island in Paliastomi Lake, near the Black Sea, where he holes up in a broken-down hut on loan from a friend. In this isolated place, the pace of life is slow and the kindly attentions of the hardy souls dwelling there supply a balm of sorts for his wounded psyche. But Gio is unwilling to be distracted by duck hunting or fishing. Eventually, his mistaken belief that Ana will recall him from this voluntary banishment leads to a further and fatal loss of self.
As with her feature debut, the atmospheric “Brides” (which earned the Panorama Audience award at the 2014 Berlinale), Kajrishvili once again proves herself a canny observer of intimate relationships and their fracture points. While astute audiences will understand ahead of time why Ana wants to meet Gio in person once again, it’s incredibly painful to witness his misapprehension. But Kajrishvili credibly resists making Ana a villainess or Gio a complete fool.
In contrast to Ana and her slick, new, business-suited fellow, Gio’s neighbors on the island are the salt of the earth. Sportsman Jano (Jano Izoria) comes and goes on his boat, but elderly chicken farmer Valiko (Soso Gogichaishvili), wise widow Larissa (Nana Datunashvili) who is in touch with the traditional ways, and attractive younger worker Marika (Lika Okroshidze) have formed an alternative family structure to support and care for one another. They look out for Gio, but he is mostly too caught up in his internal angst to want to evolve into a spot in their tight unit.
The screenplay by Kajrishvili and her husband David Chubinishvili, who also co-wrote “Brides,” takes a surprising O. Henry-like turn in the last minutes that offers an alternate view of circumstances. The questions it raises should inspire avid audience discussion at the end. As a director, Kajrishvili elicits performances that are nuanced and uniformly strong throughout.
The beauty and remoteness of the island location inspires a natural production design that is much more primal than anything that Gio would have dared to design in the city. In addition to the changing beauty of the seasons, cinematographer Irakli Akhalkatsi (who also edits) makes striking use of fire, ice, massive waves, and deep columns of snow.
Produced by Denmark’s Miso Film, which also has the buzzed up “Warrior” in competition, and co-created by Jannick Tal Mosholt, whose writing credits include four episodes of “Borgen” Season 3, “The Rain” drew a big and appreciative crowd of 1,200-plus mainly 20 or 30-something Lille spectators who packed out the lower half of Lille’s 2,000-seat Nouveau Siecle.
Here are four immediate reactions to the latest of Netflix international originals, released worldwide on May 4.
“The Rain” kicks in with scenes from what looks like a high-school romance, as Simone (Alba August) tries to organize her class mates for an exam project, and is asked out on a date by a boy in the group, during the exam. Then her father drags her out of the school, and it’s a apocalypse horror movie as her family tries to escape from looming lethal rain clouds: Anyone touched by a rain-drop falls victim to a virus, dies, frothing at the mouth, soon after.
But then it’s a bunker-set family drama, as the kids’ father, a scientist, settles them into a dug-out designed for catastrophes: then it cuts to six years later with Rasmus now not a namby-pamby kid but hunky young man. That’s not only all in Ep. 1 but just its first 15 minutes. International shows these days – think Netflix’s “La Casa de Papel,” HBO’s “Succession,” Canal Plus’ “Versailles” Season 3 – unfold as if there’s no tomorrow.
2.An Ethical Thriller
Six years after the apocalypse, Simone and Rasmus’ bunker air vents suddenly shut down; Rasmus drags a near unconscious Simone up to the surface. They collapse on the grass outside the bunker (a scene captured in the latest Netflix trailer) in lovely woodland, are soon surrounded by a raggedy group of survivor-scavengers looking for food. Having taken what’s left of bunker rations, the group makes ready to move on, leaving the siblings in a locked room, to die from starvation.
“You know the rules,” ex-soldier Martin (Mikkel Følsgaard), their leader, tells one of the group’s two girls, who protests at this.
Actually, they don’t. With Scandinavia’s adult population wiped out, the survivors, all young adults, many not come of age, have to make up the rules as they go along.
“For us, it was interesting to have young characters at a point of their lives where they are about to find out who they are and will do so in a world where civilization has gone,” Mosholt said on state Saturday night at Series Mania,where he presented the how with co-creators Christian Potalivo and Esben Toft Jacobsen.
Martin’s rules are to shoot strangers if there’s any chance they’re infected. Don’t take chances. But that’s shaped by an incident some time back when, standing sentry duty for his unit, he doesn’t shoot an woman with a baby. She infects and kills the whole of his unit.
At “The Rain’s” core is the question of what basic values the group should live by to not only survive but give their life a sense of quality which makes it worth living, Mosholt said. Since that can be affected as much by one-off incident as conviction, or the power dynamics of the group, “The Rain” weighs in as a kind of morality thriller where new morals, maybe maleable, can spell instant death for one of the group’s members.
3. Unsettling Aesthetics
Just one rain drop can kill. So the drops are shot from up-high plunging towards the surface like bombs. But, whatever their horror beats, the rain drops are also lensed with the crisp lush lensing of a commercial. So the negative looks positive. Equally, in the early stretches of “The Rain,” the positive becomes negative: Don’t fall in love with me because you won’t be so affected when I die, one of the group’s two young girls tells Rasmus. That confusion merely stresses the value vacuum in which the group now moves.
4. It’s Alba August’s Show
With Følsgaard (“A Royal Affair,” “Land of Mine”) playing opposite Alba August, a 2018 Berlinale Shooting Star, “The Rain” has two of Denmark’s finest young actors. But here it’s August’s show. Scandinavian royalty in movie terms – the daughter of double Danish Cannes Palme d’Or winner Bille August (“Pelle the Conqueror,” “The Best Intentions”) and Swedish actress-director Pernilla August (“Fanny and Alexander,” the “Star Wars” saga) – as Simone, August has to protect Rasmus, not just because he’s her younger brother but some injections given to him by their father might spell a cure for humanity. Her’s is a fantastically wide-ranging role even in just the first two episodes, where she veers from a teen flushed by exams and first love to panicked, then composed, then in the bunker near matronly. Reviews are not yet in on “The Rain.” But for August, it may mark an early-career milestone.
Here’s a thought to chew on: It’s been 11 years since the best picture Oscar went to a film — Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” — that hadn’t premiered at a film festival (though it did screen as a work in progress at the 2006 Toronto fest to select eyeballs). Prior to that, festival indies were the exception rather than the norm in the best picture race, which was ruled by the kind of big-studio prestige pics that didn’t need the momentum-building progression of a festival rollout.
Needless to say, a lot has changed at the Oscars (and, indeed, in Hollywood) this century, as the kind of tony, adult-oriented drama that tends to rule awards season has become largely the preserve of the independent realm. Film festivals, meanwhile, have been drawn ever more integrally into the Oscar dance: the imagined “official” kickoff of awards season may come with the early-fall trifecta of Venice, Telluride and Toronto, but as early as Sundance in January, continuing through Cannes in May, likely contenders are being earmarked, acclaimed and acquired, with the Oscars firmly in mind.
Picking the right festival to launch an awards hopeful is a tricky matter of timing and perception. Sundance (which, surprisingly, has yet to produce a best picture winner) is best for giving scrappy, earnest American indies from “Precious” to “Boyhood” a head-start, though last year, the Euro-smooth “Call Me by Your Name” and studio-sharp “Get Out” both played against Park City expectations to great effect. Berlin scours the edgier end of world cinema, minting many a foreign-language Oscar player (including winners “A Separation” and this year’s “A Fantastic Woman”). The more glam, more formal Cannes, which has launched such best picture winners as “No Country for Old Men” and “The Artist,” can either signal artistic cred in a commercial enterprise (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) or less an aura of mainstream accessibility than rigorous arthouse fare (“Amour”).
But while the French fest remains the premier European fest in terms of prestige and pulling power — the one event that drags the bulk of the U.S. film industry and press outside of North America — it’s losing ground in the Oscar-buzz stakes to its more intimate, relaxed Italian cousin. In the last decade, the Venice Film Festival has quietly become an awards-season kingmaker. Best picture winners “The Hurt Locker,” “Birdman,” “Spotlight” and, most recently, “The Shape of Water” all had their world premieres on the Lido, as did such heavyweight players as “Black Swan,” “Gravity,” “La La Land” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
“Black Swan,” “Gravity,” “Birdman” and “La La Land” not only played Venice — they opened it, giving the festival glittery bragging rights over Cannes, which has made a veritable tradition of opening-night duds. “The Shape of Water,” meanwhile, finished strong in Venice by taking the festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, from a jury headed by Annette Bening. (Yes, the romantic fantasy’s awards season began with Bening and ended with Warren Beatty.) Not counting Laurence Olivier’s 1948 “Hamlet” — which triumphed on the Lido when the festival had a different awards system in place — it’s the first Golden Lion champ to ultimately land the best picture Oscar.
That’s not surprising, given that Venice juries tend to gravitate toward more esoteric work than Guillermo del Toro’s crowdpleaser. (Funnily enough there wasn’t exactly a surge of Oscar buzz for Filipino director Lav Diaz’s four-hour retribution drama “The Woman Who Left” when it took the Lion in 2016.) Any award at Venice is a mere bonus for a high-profile film that arrives there with designs not so much on any jury prizes than a sunny, sexy, photo-friendly launch opportunity — before heading directly to Telluride and Toronto to consolidate. It’s at those closely bunched North American fests, both overlapping completely (Telluride) or partially (Toronto) with Venice’s duration that the wheeling and dealing really begins.
Why, then, the formality of a Venice premiere, when most of the U.S. media that most devotedly tracks and anoints Oscar players is holding out for Telluride mere days later? After all, the lofty, remote American fest has the most enviable record of it all when it comes to unveiling best picture winners: It had first dibs on “Moonlight,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Argo” and “The King’s Speech,” among others, and has hosted the U.S. premieres of several more.
Yet Venice has an old-school aura of prestige and gravitas that neither Telluride nor Toronto can replicate: it’s like Cannes that way, except better timed for awards campaigners concerned about maintaining their Croisette buzz through the summer and beyond. In the past, Venice has famously made success stories of castoffs inexplicably rejected by Cannes — Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” among them — though it’s now seeing a growing number of prestige players apply to them first.
The possibility, however distant, of shiny festival trophies doesn’t hurt, either: “The Shape of Water’s” Oscar triumph comes after a wobbly awards-season patch that saw it ignored by multiple voting bodies including the members of Film Independent (Spirit Awards), at which time that glittering Golden Lion was its most heavyweight claim to awards-contender status. As pundits eye this year’s Venice lineup for the best picture nominee (or two) that will all-but-inevitably emerge from the program — perhaps on its opening night — remember that festival juries and Academy members don’t always live in whole separate worlds.
Fittingly, Del Toro will be right there in the thick of it once again, as presiding over the jury of the event’s 75th edition.
Ejogo will star opposite the previously announced Mahershala Ali in the new installment of the HBO anthology drama. She will play Amelia Reardon, an Arkansas schoolteacher with a connection to two missing children in 1980. Ali is set to play Wayne Hays, a state police detective from Northwest Arkansas. The new season tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.
Ejogo will next be seen in Dan Gilroy’s “Roman J. Israel, ESQ.” alongside Denzel Washington. She currently stars on the second season of the Starz series “The Girlfriend Experience” for writer and director Amy Seimetz. Her credits include “Selma,” “It Comes at Night,” “Alien: Covenant,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and “Born to be Blue.” She recently wrapped shooting on “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” She is represented by WME, Anonymous Content, and Conway Van Gelder Grant.
Executive producers on season three of “True Detective” are Nic Pizzolatto, Scott Stephens, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Steve Golin, Bard Dorros, and Richard Brown. Pizzolatto, the series creator, is serving as director, writer, and showrunner.