Yes, the 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 andTomorrowland, back to back, this past year).
The charming and ferociously talented Cate Blanchett happily posed with herCarol 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 ofCompton 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’sChinatown 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.