Golden Globes has a corner on super-glitz and glamour, but I was fortunate
enough to attend two smaller-scale events this weekend that offer their fair
share of star-power—and credibility. As a member of the jury, I’m privileged to
attend the annual AFI Awards luncheon, where A-list filmmakers and actors brush
against the top creators of high-end television. Then Saturday night I joined
my fellow members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for our annual
awards banquet, where the winners don’t flee the moment it’s over, because they
enjoy the opportunity to commune with people who, they realize, love movies
just as much as they do. Here are some of my souvenir snapshots.
Master and disciple: Steven Spielberg and J.J.
Abrams clearly admire each other’s work, and why not? They both started out
making home movies as kids and retain a youthful enthusiasm for what they do on
the big screen.
Speaking of enthusiasm, here is the ebullient trio who
collaborated on Pixar’s remarkable Inside
Out: director Pete Docter, producer Jonas Rivera, and the brilliant
composer Michael Giacchino (who also scored Jurassic
World and Tomorrowland, back to
back, this past year).
The charming and ferociously talented Cate Blanchett happily
posed with her Carol director Todd
Haynes. (It’s worth saying—though the film was not that well received—that she
is every bit as great in Truth,
opposite Robert Redford.)
Quiet and possibly a bit bored—until he spotted J.J.
Abrams—was precociously talented Jacob Tremblay, who is so good in Room.
Talent is all around: that’s Drew Goddard, who produced and
wrote The Martian, and F. Gary Gray,
who directed Straight Outta Compton.
My wife asked Drew how he knew what he did and he replied that his parents were
science teachers! I asked Gary what he
changed for the new Director’s Cut of Compton on Blu-ray: it’s 20
minutes longer, more emotional and, he says, fleshes out the female characters.
Revered screenwriter Robert Towne presented a benediction at
the end of the AFI Lunch, and confessed that he stood in awe of this year’s
achievements. AFI’s Bob Gazzale reminded us that there’s an amusing reference
to Towne’s Chinatown dialogue in Inside Out. Later he posed with another
filmmaking veteran who’s still riding high: Mad
Max: Fury Road director George Miller.
Though he can look forbidding at times, Michael Shannon is
actually a teddy bear who was deeply moved by the recognition the L.A. Critics
gave him for his searing performance in 99
Homes. We discussed the electrifying opening scene of Ramin Bahrani’s film
and he told me the director insisted on shooting it in one long, continuous
take: they did it 17 times, which drained the actor dry… but sure enough,
Bahrani wound up using the 17th take. (That’s Brent Simon standing
behind Shannon, having presented his award onstage.)
Relative newcomers have made headway this year: Ryan Coogler
hit pay dirt with his second feature, Creed,
starring the formidable Michael B. Jordan. Here they flank beautiful Alicia
Vikander, this year’s breakout leading lady who won LAFCA’s prize for Ex Machina but is just as good in The Danish Girl.
Alexander Payne (r) accepted LAFCA’s special citation for pioneering
film preservationist David Shepard, who was his film history teacher at UCLA…and
chatted with László Nemes, the award-winning director of this year’s Foreign
Film winner, the remarkable Son of Saul…all
the more remarkable as it is his debut feature.