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5 Sundance films to keep on your radar in 2018

Charmaine Blake

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Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson inSorry to Bother You, maybe the craziest movie at Sundance 2018.

Image: Sundance Institute

As this year’s Sundance Film Festival comes to an end and the mountains of Park City are being drained of celebrities, it’s time to take stock of what cinematic treasures this year’s lineup yielded. 

Chatter among some who ventured to Utah was that it was an off year for the festival: Distributors weren’t purchasing titles with fervor, Oscar contenders seemed few and far between, there wasn’t a quote-unquote “sensation.” 

But with more than 100 films in the mix, Sundance was still a place to see engaging and significant work from indie filmmakers. 

It’s impossible to see everything. I, for one, missed Hereditary, the horror project starring a reportedly fantastic Toni Collette that some have said is extraordinarily frightening. I also didn’t get around to catching the insane-sounding Assassination Nation – about teens on the warpath after a social media leak – which sold for a whopping $10 million to NEON and AGBO

I did get plenty in my eyes, though, including a breakthrough performance from Hamilton‘s Daveed Diggs in the Oakland-set drama Blindspotting and wonderful work from Carey Mulligan in the literary adaptation Wildlife. If you weren’t traipsing around the snow, here’s what you should know. 

The Tale might be one of the most important things you’ll see all year

Laura Dern and Isabel Nélisse in The Tale

Image: Sundance Institute

The Tale is difficult to evaluate as just another movie. After its premiere this past Saturday, I found myself approaching it more as testimony. Director Jennifer Fox has made a memoir of her own sexual abuse that would be astonishing no matter when it came out – but at this moment it stands as a vital entry into the ongoing cultural conversation about women’s experiences. 

In the film, Laura Dern plays Jennifer. She begins to investigate her past after her mother (Ellen Burstyn) sends her a story she wrote when she was 13, which her experiences with her 40-year-old running coach and the horseback riding instructor that introduced them. 

Jennifer had always acknowledged that her first relationship was with an older man, but her mother’s guilt and concerns force her to dig into her memories and accept the situation as rape and abuse. Strikingly, Fox uses structure to detail how the past can mutate in one’s mind. Jennifer, for instance, has to be reminded of how young she actually looked at the time. That’s when Isabelle Nélisse, who was 11 during filming, steps in for the flashbacks. 

The movie is unflinching in its portrayal of what Jennifer endured, to horrifying and devastating effect. A card at the end notes that a body double was used and Fox explained in the post-screening Q&A how she kept Nélisse safe on set. 

It feels beside the point to question filmmaking choices in The Tale. This is Fox’s story and how she wanted to tell it. And it’s one that, like so many that are coming out in 2018, people need to hear. As Sundance was going on and viewers were seeing The Tale for the first time, the survivors of Larry Nassar were facing him at his sentencing. The parallels speak for themselves. 

… But Sorry To Bother You might be one of the craziest

Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You

 

The funniest, most exciting ride I sat through at Sundance was far and away Sorry To Bother You, an astute but also holy-shit-did-that-just-happen satire about race and the evils of corporations. 

Whenever I’ve tried to describe the plot of this movie, I don’t seem to do justice to how inventive it is. But here goes nothing: Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius Green, who lives in his uncle’s garage in a heightened reality version of Oakland. He gets a job at at telemarketing company and soon learns he can make the ranks of “power caller” by using his “white voice.” (The “white voice” is provided by David Cross.) 

The upper echelon of the company is connected to a nefarious organization run by entrepreneur Steve Lift (Armie Hammer in coked-out Winkelvoss mode) that’s basically selling slave labor. Meanwhile, Cassius’ loyalties are tested when his friends start trying to organize a union. But I promise it’s even crazier than that. 

It’s also packed with visual gags that delight. My personal favorite? The rotating collection of insane earrings worn by Detroit (Tessa Thompson), Cassius’ artist and agitator girlfriend. In one set: “Murder Murder Murder” dangles from one ear while “Kill Kill Kill” hangs on another. Put all of this together and Boots Riley has made a film that’s pointed and unforgettable.  

Bo Burnham is a director to watch

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade

Image: SUNDANCE INSTITUTE

The first movie I saw to truly capture my heart at the festival was Eighth Grade, the directorial debut of stand-up Bo Burnham. When I saw last year’s Sundance hit The Big Sick, I wondered to myself when Burnham – who played Kumail’s sarcastic friend – was going to break out beyond the comedy world. 

Turns out I didn’t have to wait that long. I daresay Eighth Grade flew a little under the radar at the festival this year, but once it gets released by A24 it’s going to win audiences over. 

Unlike many comedians who make the leap into directing, Burnham didn’t simply make a movie that’s an extension of his act. (Though I still wouldn’t be mad if he decided to make a musical.) Instead, he created a detailed portrait of the inner life of a 13-year-old girl in her last week of middle school. 

The movie is perfectly pitched to make you cringe and cry, and Burnham has clear sense of style. If this is only his first feature, I’m already excited for what comes next. 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post should be the next beloved YA movie

Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane, and Chloë Grace Moretz in The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Image: SUNDANCE INSTITUTE

For years, it seemed like Chloë Grace Moretz was on the hunt for a YA property that would win her acclaim. And, frankly, she made a lot of duds in that period. I’m not sure her new one, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, will be a commercial hit – it’s too intimately staged, too sensitively underplayed – but it is wonderful. 

Director Desiree Akhavan follows up her autobiographical Appropriate Behavior with this story of a teen (Moretz) who is sent to a gay conversion facility after she is caught with another girl in a prom-night hook up. Akhavan captures organization’s cruelty masked as kindness, as its protagonist navigates it with quiet skepticism. 

The film condemns the treatment without judging the young men and women undergoing it, like Cameron’s roommate Erin (the fabulous Emily Skeggs), who truly believes what she’s doing is for her own benefit. All the supporting performances are winning – especially the sarcastic warmth of Forrest Goodluck and Sasha Lane as Cameron’s closest confidantes – and they help make this melancholy work shine. 

Skate Kitchen will make you want to pick up a board

Rachelle Vinberg, Ajani Russell, Nina Moran, and Dede Lovelace in Skate Kitchen

Image: SUNDANCE INSTITUTE

In a gametime decision, I snagged tickets to see Skate Kitchen by The Wolfpack director Crystal Moselle and, man, was I glad that I did. Totally valid – as the kids say – choice. 

Moselle found her leads on the subway and built a narrative around a real-life group of teen girls that skateboard in New York. The plot is minimal, but it mainly follows Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), who, after being forbidden from skateboarding by her mother on Long Island, ventures into Manhattan to meet up with the collective she follows on Instagram. 

From there, the movie is mostly a dreamy ride through Manhattan locations as Camille finds the friendship she lacked. The dialogue is casual and free-flowing – they talk of vaginas as easily as they discuss tricks – and the conflicts are familiar. Jaden Smith plays a cute but shitty guy who runs with a groups of dudes that frequent the same skate parks. 

I would have happily spent a few more hours in the world of Skate Kitchen. It made me long for New York summers, immediately follow @theskatekitchen in Instagram, and start thinking I maybe I should get a board. (I definitely shouldn’t.) 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/01/27/sundance-2018-movie-roundup/

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Apple and Oprah sign a multi-year partnership on original content

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Apple announced today a multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey to produce programs for the tech company’s upcoming video-streaming service. Apple didn’t provide any specific details as to what sort of projects Winfrey would be involved in, but there will be more than one it seems.

Apple shared the news of its deal with Winfrey in a brief statement on its website, which read:

Apple today announced a unique, multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN.

Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.

Winfrey’s projects will be released as part of a lineup of original content from Apple.

The deal is a significant high-profile win for Apple, which has been busy filing out its lineup with an array of talent in recent months.

The streaming service also will include a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Storiesa Reese Witherspoon- and Jennifer Aniston-starring series set in the world of morning TVan adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, a thriller starring Octavia Spencer, a Kristen Wiig-led comedy, a Kevin Durant-inspired scripted basketball show, a series from “La La Land’s” director and several other shows.

Winfrey, however, is not just another showrunner or producer. She’s a media giant who has worked across film, network and cable TV, print and more as an actress, talk show host, creator and producer.

She’s also a notable philanthropist, having contributed more than $100 million to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, and is continually discussed as a potential presidential candidate, though she said that’s not for her.

On television, Winfrey’s Harpo Productions developed daytime TV shows like “Dr. Phil,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Rachael Ray.” Harpo Films produced several Academy Award-winning movies, including “Selma,” which featured Winfrey in a starring role. She’s also acted in a variety of productions over the years, like “The Color Purple,” which scored her an Oscar nom, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Winfrey also founded the cable network OWN in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Communications, and has exec produced series including “Queen Sugar,” “Oprah’s Master Class” and the Emmy-winning “Super Soul Sunday.”

The latter has a connection with Apple as it debuted as a podcast called “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations” and became a No. 1 program on Apple Podcasts.

Winfrey recently extended her contract with OWN through 2025, so it’s unclear how much time she’ll devote specifically toward her Apple projects.

Apple also didn’t say if Winfrey will star or guest in any of the programs themselves, but that’s always an option on the table with a deal like this. CNN, however, is reporting that Winfrey “is expected to have an on-screen role as a host and interviewer.”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/15/apple-and-oprah-sign-a-multi-year-partnership-on-original-content/

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Tom Cruise Day #1 Set of Top Gun 2

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(CNN) “It wasn’t “Top Gun” Day, but Tom Cruise still managed to thrill fans.

The star posted a photo that appears to celebrate the planned sequel to “Top Gun.”
The picture shows Cruise in character as Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell looking at his aircraft with the words “Feel The Need” superimposed over the image.

A post shared by Tom Cruise (@tomcruise) on

The caption reads “#Day1.”
Three years ago, David Ellison, chief executive officer of the Skydance production company, confirmed that a sequel to the hit 1986 film was in development.
The following year, the original film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, raised the stakes when he tweeted a picture with Cruise captioned: “Just got back from a weekend in New Orleans to see my old friend @TomCruise and discuss a little Top Gun 2.”
Last May, Cruise’s co-star Val Kilmer shared his excitement for the forthcoming sequel on social media.

friends said it’s official – #TOPGUN2 was announced today. I’m ready Tom- still got my top gun plaque! Still got the moves! Still got it!

A post shared by Val Kilmer (@valkilmerofficial) on

“Friends said it’s official – #TOPGUN2 was announced today,” Kilmer wrote in the caption of a photo he posted on Instagram that showed him wearing a t-shirt with a drawing of his Iceman character on it. “I’m ready Tom — still got my top gun plaque! Still got the moves! Still got it!”
The plot is being kept tightly under wraps. However, in October, director Joseph Kosinski told ComingSoon.net, “The Navy is very different now than it was in 1986.”
“Back then, they hadn’t been in any war for 15 or 20 years at that point,” he said. “The tone of that movie and what those guys were doing was very different. Now, here in 2017, the Navy’s been at war for 20 years. It’s just a different world now, so you can’t remake the first movie.”
According to Kosinski, the sequel has to “adapt.”
“That being said, I certainly want to recreate the experience of that movie, which gives you a front-seat into the world of Naval aviation and what it’s like to be in a fighter jet,” he said. “The approach is going to be appropriate for the times we live in.
For the record, “Top Gun” Day is May 13 — the unofficial holiday when fans of film are encouraged to celebrate it…”

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/31/entertainment/tom-cruise-top-gun-sequel/index.html

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Roseanne cancelled: ABC scraps sitcom after star’s ‘abhorrent’ tweets

Charmaine Blake

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“Roseanne Barrs revived sitcom has been cancelled after she posted a racist and Islamophobic tweet that attacked former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The sitcom star falsely alleged that Jarrett, who was born in Iran to American parents, has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, and compared her to an ape. Barr wrote Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj, using Jarretts initials.

ABC swiftly announced the shows cancellation. The network said in a statement: Roseannes Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.

Bob Iger, the chief executive of Disney, which owns ABC, supported the decision. Iger wrote on Twitter: There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing….”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/may/29/roseanne-barr-tweet-valerie-jarrett-ape

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