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Category: Acting

Actor Chris Messina tries a new, more gritty approach

May 4, 2012 |  9:22 am

Tom O'Brien and Chris Messina are the writer-actors behind the new indie drama "Fairhaven"
The independent-film movement lately has been flooded with twentysomething upstarts such as Sean Durkin ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Drake Doremus ("Like Crazy") who see themselves as filmmakers first and foremost and had a clear vision of the kind of movie they wanted to make pretty much from the time they reached finger-painting age.

An older model of indie filmmaker -- the struggling actor who picks up a pen or a camera because he or she can't find the parts he or she wants -- has been harder to come by.

Which makes the DIY story of Tom O'Brien and Chris Messina, the writer-actors behind the new indie drama "Fairhaven," an interesting exception.

O’Brien, who also directed "Fairhaven," is  a New York-based actor and filmmaker who felt like he was never going to tell the stories he was interested in if he simply went the spec script or audition route.

Messina had been getting plenty of movie and television parts; the problem was that that they all came in the same key. He played Claire's sweet up-the-middle boyfriend on "Six Feet Under," and similar nice-guy spousal roles in "Julie & Julia," "Greenberg" and a bunch of others that might make you say, 'Oh, that guy.'"

The pair, who met doing New York theater in the 1990s and early 2000s, decided to write a script that would shake things up for both of them.

"Being in New York theater years ago, I got to to play these great characters -- drug dealers, gang leaders," Messina recalled over lunch with O'Brien recently. "And then I went to Los Angeles and I was cast as a Republican lawyer on 'Six Feet Under,' which seemed new and great, but then after a while some people start to think that that's all you are. So a part of the idea was to turn it all on its head." (It should be noted that Messina has done a number of indie films as well, playing the lead opposite Rashida Jones in the romantic drama "Monogamy," among other roles.)

O’Brien had a similar feeling as his friend. "I'd watch these movies and think 'that's not the Chris I know," said the actor, who's mostly worked in theater. "And I wasn't even getting those kinds of roles."

So the two began writing "Fairhaven," basing it loosely on a Massachusetts town where O'Brien's mother lived and a Long Island suburb where Messina grew up. Over a period of several years, the two would send the script back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, with the writers getting together in the same city a few weeks each year to hammer out the details. Last year, they scraped up enough money to begin shooting.

"We had about three conversations with studios to maybe get a star and try to get it made at a bigger budget," O'Brien recalled. But he and Messina ultimately decided that would defeat the purpose of doing a movie like this in the first place.

The film centers on three mid-30s childhood buddies who come together in the titular Massachusetts fishing town after the death of one of their fathers.

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'Rango' wins the Annie Award for animated feature

February 4, 2012 | 10:48 pm

Rango wins the Annie Award

"Rango," the Oscar-nominated box-office hit about a pet chameleon who becomes sheriff of a small western town, won the Annie Award for animated feature from the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, on Saturday.

The film, directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp as the voice of Rango, also won Annie Awards for character design for Mark "Crash" McCreery, writing for John Logan, Verbinski and James Byrkit, and editing for Craig Wood.

"Rango," which is nominated for the Academy Award for animated feature, topped a field that included "Kung Fu Panda 2," "Puss in Boots," "Cars 2," "Rio" and "The Adventures of Tintin."

The 39th annual Annie Awards were handed out at a ceremony at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Patton Oswalt, who most recently appeared in "Young Adult" and was the voice of Remy in the Oscar-winning 2007 animated movie "Ratatouille," was the host of the event.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson won for directing in a feature production for "Kung Fu Panda 2," which also earned an Annie for production design for Raymond Zilbach. Steven Spielberg’s "Tintin" won Annies for music for veteran composer John Williams and animated effects for Kevin Romond.

Jeremy Spears won an Annie for feature storyboarding for "Winnie the Pooh," while Jeff Gabor took home the Annie for feature character animation for "Rio." Bill Nighy won for voice acting for his role as Grandsanta in "Arthur Christmas." Animated short honors went to Minkyu Lee for "Adam and Dog."

The group also honored animation work in live-action productions. Eric Reynolds received the award for character animation in a live-action production for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and Florent Andorra earned an Annie for animated effects in a live-action production for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Besides feature films, Annies are also presented for TV, video games and commercials.

On the TV front, "Kung Fu Panda -- Secrets of the Masters" won the Annie for animated special production, while "The Simpsons" won the award for general audience animated TV production, as well as writing for the "Treehouse of Horror XXII" episode for Caroline Omine.

Following is a list of the rest of the winners.

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Oscar nominations: Meryl Streep, Viola Davis up for best actress

January 24, 2012 |  5:44 am

 Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. Streep is among Oscar nominees.Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams and Rooney Mara are the nominees for best actress for the 84th Academy Awards, it was announced early Tuesday morning.

Streep and Davis are considered to be in a dead heat for the front-runner position among most Oscar prognosticators.

Streep's nod for her work in "The Iron Lady," in which she portrays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from her political beginnings through her fading years, makes for a record-breaking 17th Oscar nomination. The actress, however, has won the trophy just twice  -- once for supporting actress for 1979’s “Kramer vs. Kramer” and once as lead actress for 1982’s “Sophie’s Choice.” Streep won the Golden Globe for lead actress in a dramatic movie early last week for the role.


For Davis, the lead actress Oscar nod -- for her role as Southern domestic Aibileen Clark, who finds her voice amid oppression in the popular film "The Help" -- is her first. If she wins, she will be only the second African American actress to win an Oscar in this category. Halle Berry was the first for 2001’s  “Monster’s Ball.”  Davis received an Oscar nomination in the supporting actress category three years ago for “Doubt.”

For Close, the Oscar nomination validates the actress' 30-year love affair with the title character of "Albert Nobbs," a role Close -- who in addition to starring in and producing the film, also co-wrote the screenplay -- told The Envelope earlier this month she found "incredibly challenging."  The nomination is her sixth.

Michelle Williams picks up her second consecutive lead actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn,” in which she plays the troubled sex symbol during the production of “The Prince and the Showgirl” with Laurence Olivier. Williams earned a lead actress nomination for 2010’s “Blue Valentine” and a supporting actress nod for 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain.” She won the Golden Globe early last week for lead actress in a motion picture comedy or musical for the "Marilyn" role.

The role of the enigmatic hacker Lisbeth Salander in the film adaptation of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” earns 26-year-old Rooney Mara her first lead actress Oscar nomination.

The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. ABC will broadcast the ceremony, which veteran comedian Billy Crystal will host.


And the nominees are...

PHOTOS: 84th Academy Awards nominees

Pals Clooney, Pitt are rivals; ‘Artist,’ ‘Hugo’ dominate

-- Elena Howe and Susan King

 Photo: Meryl Streep portrays Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Around Town: Foreign films and Spencer Tracy

January 12, 2012 |  6:00 am


The Aero’s Golden Globe Foreign-Language Nominee Series 2012 continues Thursday evening with the French drama “The Kid With a Bike.” On tap for Friday evening is Zhang Yimou’s “The Flowers of War” with Christian Bale as an American missionary in China.

The day before the Golden Globes’ ceremony Sunday evening, the Egyptian and the Hollywood Foreign Press are co-presenting a Golden Globe Foreign-Language Nominee Panel Discussion featuring Zhang Yimou, Angelina Jolie (“In the Land of Blood and Honey”), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (“The Kid With a Bike”), Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”) and Pedro Almodovar (“The Skin I Live In”). The Saturday afternoon event is free but on a first-come first serve basis. http://www.americancinematheque.com

Film Independent at LACMA presents Cassavetes’ Shadow: Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominee Discussion and Screening on Thursday at the Leo S. Bing Theatre. The evening will feature the nominees for the 2012 John Cassavetes Award, which is given to a filmmaker who has made a film for less than $500,000. After the talk, Cassavetes’ low-budget first project as a filmmaker, 1959’s “Shadows,” will screen.

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National Society of Film Critics: 'Melancholia' best of 2011

January 7, 2012 |  1:51 pm


Kirsten Dunst, from left,  Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg  in "Melancholia."

The National Society of Film Critics, which is made up of 58 the country's major film critics, rarely agrees with the choices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscars. And the group probably stayed true to form with its picks for its 46th annual awards, naming Lars Von Trier's end-of-the-world drama "Melancholia" best picture Saturday.

Terrence's Malick's "The Tree of Life" came in second and the lauded Iranian drama "A Separation" placed third. "Separation" also won best foreign-language film and best screenplay for Asghar Farhadi.

Malick took best director honors with Martin Scorsese for "Hugo" coming in second and Von Trier placing third.

The annual voting, using a weighted ballot system, is held at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City; this year 48 of the 58 members participated.

Best actor went to Brad Pitt for both "Moneyball" and "The Tree of Life." Pitt also won best actor from the New York Film Critics' Circle and is nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG award and a Critics Choice award. Runner-up was Gary Oldman for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and Jean Dujardin placed third for "The Artist."

Notably missing from the list was Michael Fassbender for "Shame" and George Clooney for "The Descendants."

Best actress honors went to Kirsten Dunst for "Melancholia," with Yun Jung-hee for the Korean film "Poetry" coming in second. Meryl Streep's turn in "The Iron Lady" placed third.

Best supporting actor went to Albert Brooks for a his dramatic turn in "Drive." Christopher Plummer placed second for "Beginners," followed by Patton Oswalt for "Young Adult."

Best supporting actress was given to Jessica Chastain for her roles in three films: "The Tree of Life," "Take Shelter" and "The Help." Jeannie Berlin came in second for "Margaret" and Shailene Woodley placed third for "The Descandants."

"Tree of Life" also took home best cinematography for Emanual Lubezki with Manual Alberto Claro placing second for "Melancholia" and Robert Richardson taking third for "Hugo."

Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" was best nonfiction film. He also came in third place in the category for "Into the Abyss." Steve James' "The Interrupters" placed second.

In best screenplay category, Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin's script for "Moneyball" was second behind "A Separation" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" took third.

 The Experimental Award went to Ken Jacobs for "Seeking the Monkey King."

There were also several Film Heritage honors given out:

-- BAM Cinematek for its complete Vincente Minnelli retrospective, with all titles shown in 16mm or 35mm.

-- Lobster Films, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema for the restoration of the color version of Georges Melies' "A Trip to the Moon."

-- New York's Museum of Modern Art for its extensive retrospective of Weimar Cinema.

-- Flicker Alley for its box set "Landmarks of Early Soviet Film."

-- Criterion Collection for its two-disc DVD package, "The Complete Jean Vigo."


'Melancholia' -- Kirsten Dunst ponders the end of the world [video]

Veteran Koreanactress Yun Jung-hee comes out of retirement for 'Poetry'

Jessica Chastain heading to Broadway in 'The Heiress'

-- Susan King

Photo: Kirsten Dunst, from left,  Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg star in "Melancholia." Credit: Christian Geisnaes/Magnolia Pictures.


SAG Awards: Double nominee Glenn Close is having a 'wonderful' day

December 14, 2011 | 11:45 am

Glenn Close talks about her SAG Award nominations, one for her starring turn in the upcoming movie “Albert Nobbs” and the other for her lead role TV's "Damages"
Glenn Close is having a hectic but "wonderful" day. It's a particularly busy shooting schedule for her on the New York set of her television series “Damages,” but this morning, Close also scored two SAG Award nominations, one for her starring turn in the upcoming movie "Albert Nobbs" and the other for her lead role on the FX TV drama.

"It's wonderful, wonderful. I don't take anything for granted," she said on a break from shooting and still dressed in what she calls her "Patty suit," referring to her character, Patty Hewes "The Patty nomination was a bit surprising because we'd been away for a while, but it's a show with a very strong, engaged following, which is lovely."

Close said she is especially pleased about the two nominations for "Albert Nobbs," which opens Dec. 23 and is a passion project for the actress. She's lived with the character of Albert -– a poor Irish woman who dresses as a male waiter to find employment -- for almost three decades, having played the character onstage in a 1982 theatrical adaptation. She's also a producer on the movie and co-wrote the script with author John Banville.

"I'm really thrilled Albert was nominated. It's phenomenal. To be nominated by my peers, because of all that went into being able to finally make this movie, it's incredibly gratifying to me," she said. "To think [the film] was made for just under $8 million and took 34 days. When you see the incredible work done in that time, it represents some of the best there is across all areas, from the makeup and hair to our production designer, the DP, the actors -– everyone."

But the nomination Close was perhaps most jazzed about was Janet McTeer's, her costar in "Albert Nobbs" and her new BFF. McTeer, who was nominated for her supporting role, is in Europe today, but the friends shared a text exchange that showed their mutual affection and admiration:

McTeer: "Hurray. Well done darling girl."

Close: "Bravo to you. I’m so happy we'll be there together."


SAG Awards: The complete list of nominees

SAG Awards: Who should win the ensemble honor? [Poll]

SAG Awards: "The Help," "Bridesmaids" among cast nominees

-- Deborah Vankin

Photo: Glenn Close and Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs." Credit: Patrick Redmond / Roadside Attractions

National Board of Review names 'Hugo' best picture

December 1, 2011 | 12:52 pm


"Hugo," director Martin Scorsese's family film reflecting his love of cinema, was named the best film of the year Thursday by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. The lavish 3-D fantasy set in a Paris railway station in 1931 also won best director for Scorsese.

Ironically, the black-and-white silent film "The Artist," which won the New York Film Critics Circle honor Tuesday, was shut out of the list of awards, though it was named one of the top 10 films of the year by the National Board of Review.

Lead actor honors went to George Clooney as the father of two in Alexander Payne's Hawaii-set "The Descendants," and Tilda Swinton was named lead actress as a mother of a troubled son in "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Veteran Christopher Plummer won supporting actor as a widower who comes out of the closet in "Beginners," and Shailene Woodley won supporting actress honors as Clooney's rebellious teenage daughter in "The Descendants." The film also won best adapted screenplay for Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, with Will Reiser winning the original screenplay prize for the cancer-themed film "50/50."

"Rango" took best animated feature honors, and two actresses were recognized for breakthrough performance honors: Felicity Jones for "Like Crazy" and Rooney Mara for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." J.C. Chandor won best debut director for "Margin Call," and the cast of "The Help" earned best ensemble.

The Spotlight Award went to Michael Fassbender for a quartet of performances -- in "A Dangerous Method," "Jane Eyre," "Shame" and "X-Men: First Class."

The National Board of Review, which was founded in 1909, is made up of film professionals, educators, historians and students.

Though considered by some to be a bellwether for the Academy Awards, NBR and the Oscars haven't seen eye-to-eye on the best film selections since 2008's "Slumdog Millionaire." Two years ago, NBR chose "Up in the Air" as the best movie of 2009, while the Academy Award went to "The Hurt Locker." Last year, "The Social Network" was the organization's top choice, but the Oscar went to "The King's Speech."

The NBR awards will be presented Jan. 10 at Cipriana's 42nd Street in New York City.

Other winners announced Thursday:

NBR Freedom of Expression: "Crime After Crime"

NBR Freedom of Expression: "Pariah"

Best Foreign Language Film: "A Separation"

Best Documentary: "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"

Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise  -- A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film


 New York critics name 'The Artist' best film of the year

-- Susan King

Photo: Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield star in the movie "Hugo." Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures / GK Films LLC

Around Town: Superman flies again and the New Wave returns

December 1, 2011 |  7:00 am


A Francois Truffaut retrospective, an animation festival and a screening of 1978’s “Superman” are among this week’s highlights.

The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre celebrates the legacy of one of the founders of France’s New Wave cinema, Francois Truffaut, who died at the age of 52 in 1984. “The Film Lover: A Francois Truffaut Retrospective” commences Friday evening with his first feature film, 1959’s “The 400 Blows,” his critically acclaimed autobiographical drama about a troubled young boy, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud in a stunning performance). The second feature is Truffaut’s third entry in the Antoine Doinel series, the 1968 romantic comedy “Stolen Kisses,” with Leaud and Delphine Seyrig.

Truffaut pays homage to one of his icons, Alfred Hitchcock, in his 1968 mystery thriller “The Bride Wore Black,” starring Jeanne Moreau in the title role, which screens Saturday. Also on tap is his 1962 masterwork, “Jules and Jim” with Moreau and Oskar Werner. The retrospective concludes Sunday with his 1960 film noir, “Shoot the Piano Player” with Charles Aznavour, and 1980’s World War II drama “The Last Metro,” with Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. http://www.americancinematheque.com

Cinefamily’s Silent Movie Theatre gets highly animated this week. The “Animation Breakdown” begins with “An Evening With Don Hertzfeldt” on Thursday, featuring the L.A. premiere of his latest animated short, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” The filmmaker will be appearing in person. On Friday, Cinefamily shines the spotlight on Polish animation with several shorts by noted animators including an exclusive presentation of the Brothers Quays’ latest film, “Maska.” Saturday afternoon’s offering is a sneak preview of Pixar’s newest short film, “La Luna,” six months before its theatrical release. Later in the afternoon, Cinefamily presents a cast and crew reunion of the Cartoon Network series “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.”

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New York critics name 'The Artist' best film of the year

November 29, 2011 | 10:50 am

The artist

"The Artist," a black-and-white silent movie, was named best picture of 2011 Tuesday morning by the New York Film Critics Circle. The film's director, Michel Hazanavicius of France, also earned best director for his valentine to the early days of Hollywood.

It is the first time the critics have given its top award to a silent film. Earlier in the morning, the film earned five nominations for the Spirit Award.

Meryl Streep was named best actress for her performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," which opens in L.A. on Dec. 30. It is the fifth time the New York circle has honored Streep. The last time was two years ago for "Julie & Julia."

Brad Pitt took home best actor honors for his performances as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball" and as a stern father in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." It is his first honor from the critics' group. Steve Zallian and Aaron Sorkin won for best screenplay for "Moneyball."

This year's golden girl, Jessica Chastain, was named best supporting actress for her roles in "The Tree of LIfe," "The Help" and "Take Shelter." Albert Brooks won best supporting actor for a rare dramatic turn in the film noir "Drive."

Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams' won best nonfiction film, while "Margin Call," written and directed by J.C. Chandor, was awarded best first feature. Cinematography honors went to Emmanuel Lubezki for "Tree of Life."

Foreign-language film honors went to Iran's  "A Separation," which has already won multiple awards and is the country's submission for the foreign-language film Oscar. The Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz, who died in August, got a special posthumous award.

The awards will be handed out in a ceremony in Manhattan on Jan. 9.

The New York Film Critics Circle, which was founded in 1935, is the first major critics group to announce its picks for the best of the year. The organization, made up of critics from daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines and online sites, traditionally voted after the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. But in October, the 33-member group announced it would move its awards selection ahead two weeks.

The voting was supposed to have happened on Monday, but the group didn't have the chance to screen David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which opens Dec. 23, until Monday morning, so the voting was delayed until Tuesday. The film received no awards.

Over the decades, the New York critics' selections and those of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have differed. Last year, the circle chose "The Social Network" as the top film and the academy gave "The King's Speech" the best film Oscar. The two groups agreed two years ago on "The Hurt Locker."

The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures announces its selections Thursday morning.


"New York Film Critics movies awards dates to see 'Dragon Tattoo'"

-- Susan King

Photo: Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

"Beginners," "Tree of Life" tie for Gotham Film Awards

November 28, 2011 |  8:07 pm

Mike Mills' semi-autobiographical drama "Beginners," about a young man whose widower father comes out of the closet, and Terrence Malick's mystical family epic "Tree of LIfe" tied for best film of 2011 at the 21st annual Gotham Independent Film Awards given out Monday evening in New York City.

"Beginners," which stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer, also won for ensemble cast. Felicity Jones took home the breakthrough actor award for her role as a lovestruck British woman in 
"Like Crazy." Breakthrough director honors went to Dee Rees for "Pariah." The documentary prize went to "Better This World."

Other awards given out included:

The Best Film Not Playing At a Theater Near You: "Scenes of a Crime"

Festival Genius Award, which is voted on by filmgoers online: "Girlfriend"

Spotlight on Women Filmmakers "Live the Dream" Grant: Lucy Mulloy, "Una Noche"

The awards are presented by the Independent Filmmaker Project, which is the oldest and largest U.S. organization of indie filmmakers. It is one of two key awards given to independent films. Nominations for the other, Film Independent's Spirit Awards, will be announced Tuesday.

PHOTOS: 21st Gotham Film Awards arrivals

Besides the competitive awards, career achievement awards were given out to actors Charlize Theron and Gary Oldman, director David Cronenberg and co-chair and chief executive of Fox Film Entertainment Tom Rothman.

Last year's top winner, "Winter's Bone," went on to receive four Oscar nominations including for best picture and lead actress (Jennifer Lawrence). The Gotham's 2009 selection, "The Hurt Locker," won the Academy Award for best picture, director and original screenplay.


"Descendants," "Beginners" among Gotham Independent Film nominations

Gotham Awards give top prize to 'Winter's Bone'

— Susan King

Photo: Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners." Photo credit: Andrew Tepper.


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