As Dee Reess racially charged, Oscar-tipped film Mudbound debuts on Netflix, we speak to the director about challenging the establishment, while below, we profile directors Eliza Hittman, the Safdie brothers and Chlo Zhao
In the opening scene of the new film Mudbound, two bedraggled white men are digging a hole, ominous storm clouds overhead. They are using old-fashioned shovels and its difficult immediately to date the action, but it becomes clear they are brothers, burying their father. When they realise the coffin will be too heavy for them to lower in, they stop a black family, passing by in a horse and trap. Only a few words are spoken, but the looks they exchange make it clear that there is history between these two families.
The ambiguity of the films time frame was intentional, explains Dee Rees, Mudbounds 40-year-old director. The film is actually set in the 1940s in the Mississippi delta, but the scene could have taken place a century earlier or even, to a degree, shockingly recently. Black people, we didnt get the right to vote in America until 1965, says Rees. Thats not long ago at all! Women got the right in 1920, we got the vote in 65. Even when I was growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, as a suburban middle-class kid in a poor white suburb, we were the only black family on the block and there were confederate flags as curtains. Growing up in the 1980s, which we think of as contemporary, I was bussed to school because a lot of the public schools in Nashville were still segregated. This was in the 80s! So our history is with us, this isnt some far-away thing.
Mudbound caused a stir when it was first shown at the Sundance festival in January. The story, adapted from the 2008 novel by Hillary Jordan, follows two families: the white McAllans, who own the land, and a black family, the Jacksons, who are sharecroppers, giving up a part of each years harvest for rent. Their interactions are straightforward, albeit hierarchical and bigoted, until two of them, Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) are sent to fight in the second world war. Ronsel discovers that he feels more valued, more at home, in the army in Europe than he ever did in the American south. What happens when he returns to Mississippi is unflinching in its realism and brutality, as the local white nationalist community turn on him with venom, despite his service for their country.
At Sundance, there were standing ovations and five-star reviews: timely and timeless, read one. There was instant speculation that Mudbound had set the bar early for the 2018 awards season, in particular a revelatory Mary J Blige as Florence, matriarch of the Jacksons, alongside Carey Mulligan as Laura McAllan and Rees for her adapted screenplay and directing. But in the days following the premiere, something strange happened: none of the major studios made a bid to distribute the film. There were murmurs that, 12 months on from Fox Searchlight spending $17.5m on The Birth of a Nation, a story based on Nat Turners 1831 slave rebellion (the films reception was tainted by a 2001 rape case involving itsdirector andstar Nate Parker, who was acquitted at trial), there was little appetite for a period film about race.
This story, however, does at least end well. As the festival wound down, Netflix came in with an offer of $12.5m for Mudbound. It was more than they needed to pay, they knew that, but Ted Sarandos, the companys chief content officer, felt the film had a universality and epic scale other distributors had missed. And it is starting to look like a smart bet. If Mudbound does make the Oscar shortlist, it will be a first for the streaming service giant. And were Rees to be nominated, she would be only the fifth woman in the history of the awards to make the shortlist for best director, and the first black woman. In the New York Times critic AO Scott credited her with rejuvenating an old Hollywood tradition of ethically rigorous, dramatically vigorous movie-making. Sidney Lumet and Elia Kazan would recognise her as a kindred spirit.
Its clear that the reticence of the Hollywood establishment continues to irk Rees. Yeah, they didnt know how to sell it, they didnt know how to talk about it, she says. They had a reductive view and put it in a box, whereas Ted saw the bigness of it: this is a good story. He wasnt viewing it comparatively and that was the breakthrough. Certain other directors films arent compared to each other: you dont compare Wes Anderson to Steven Soderbergh just because they are both straight white guys making indie films. In that same way, Mudbound shouldnt have been compared to anything else just because of the maker.
Netflix are representative of what Hollywood used to be, she continues. [Hollywood] used to take risks, it used to be about discovery and now its about profit, its about foreign sales value, so I think Netflix are disrupters and maybe they will shake up the system and get the studios back to making original interesting things. Back to discovering new actors and not just hiring the same three actors over and over again.
Rees purses her lips. This could have repercussions; it will show that sometimes art wins and that would be great if that happens.
While there is no road map to becoming a movie director, Rees has taken a particularly circuitous path to the job. She did not grow up corralling her friends to make short films, or schooling herself in the works of foreign auteurs. Instead, after school, she did an MBA at Florida A&M University and set out on a career in brand management. I liked to write, but being a kid of the 80s, Reaganomics was de rigueur, she recalls. It was about getting a job that was practical, so a business degree was what my middle-class parents could be proud of: Shes got a business degree, she can do anything!
But, after three years working in corporate America, for the likes of Procter & Gamble, marketing all-day panty liners, Rees realised shed taken a wrong turn. Aged 26, she applied to New York Universitys graduate film programme and, to her surprise, was accepted. So all the things my parents feared came true: I was broke, it was really difficult, she laughs. Youre trying to get internships and competing to work for free. Youre competing to get someones coffee and walk someones dog! And by the time you get to make a photocopy youre elated: Im making a photocopy of the script! Im not just walking the dog.
Rees probably exercised some fairly high-calibre mutts one of her first jobs was on Spike Lees 2006 crime thriller Inside Man. I was working with the script supervisor, which is great because shes right by the monitor which meant I got to be right by the monitor, says Rees. So I was looking at composition, working with actors and interacting with the director of photography. That was my first time being able to see the breadth of a film crew and all the communication thats required.
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.
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.”
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.
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!”
“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…”
“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….”