Inside Movies and Pop Culture with Gregory Ellwood
A revealing Q&A with the co-star and producer of 'Friends with Kids'
TORONTO - When Jon Hamm sits down into the hotel room chair to begin our interview he's obviously very tired. The "Mad Men" icon has had a roller coaster of a 24 hours after the premiere of his new film "Friends with Kids" at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Directed by his longtime companion Jennifer Westfeldt (co-star and co-screenwriter of "Kissing Jessica Stein"), the ensemble comedy stars Adam Scott (an old friend), Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Ed Burns, Megan Fox as well as Hamm and Westfeldt. It's a funny and dramatic look at how two friends (Scott and Westfeldt) deal with the fact their circle of friends are having kids and, well, they aren't. Hamm was a full producer on the project, a first for him, and based on the results on screen he helped Westfeldt put together a pretty solid product. So, in something of a surprise for Hamm, this is one interview he wasn't going to be inundated with questions about the long awaited new season of "Mad Men." Not that the subject didn't come up...
Ellwood: So, I have to tell you I have first hand experience that you worked very hard as an actual producer on this film.
Vanessa Redgrave's performance survives the soap opera
Film festivals are always filled with "passion projects." Films that directors, producers or screenwriters have spent years or even decades trying to get made. This year's festival season has more then recent memory including Glenn Close scripted "Albert Nobbs" and David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" which playwright Christopher Hampton has been trying to get made for over 15 years. A more peculiar entry to that club debuted this afternoon at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in the Roland Emmerich revisionist thriller "Anonymous."
When an over the top Kristin Scott Thomas steals the show you've got problems
TORONTO - A romantic comedy or dramedy featuring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt is never going to be a box office slam dunk. Yes, the two Brits are incredibly talented actors, but they haven't had much success as cinematic leads. However, when you are adapting a best selling novel you often hope the notoriety of your source material can help overcome your lack of celebrity starpower. Unfortunately, that may not be the case for Lasse Halstrom's "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" which debuted at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival on Saturday night.
Jennifer Westfeldt's dramedy has some big and cutting laughs
TORONTO - One of the more anticipated potential acquisition titles at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is Jennifer Westfeldt's directorial debut, "Friends with Kids." And, it's not hard to figure out why. Especially when you've recruited an ensemble cast that includes Jon Hamm (also a producer), Megan Fox, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Adam Scott. Happily for distributors and moviegoers, "Friends" delivers the goods and should spark a bidding war before heading to a theater near you.
'You Betcha!' just isn't a good documentary
TORONTO - No one over the past three years has been a more polarizing figure in American politics than Sarah Palin. The former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor has transformed herself from a self-proclaimed "Hockey Mom" to a major media and political figure while alienating most of the country in the process. There have been many investigative and in-depth pieces on Palin during that time, but that didn't stop British filmmaker Nick Broomfield ("Kurt and Courtney") and his partner Joan Churchill ("Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer") from trying to find out the "truth" about the "real" Sarah Palin in their new documentary "Sarah Palin - You Betcha!"
Telluride favorite could get attention for Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
has made one of the big acquisitions of the Fall 2011 festival circuit, snagging domestic distribution for Steve McQueen's provocative drama "Shame
"Shame" had its US premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, drawing raves from critics
including this blog's regular Oscar pundit Gregory Ellwood, who speculated that star Michael Fassbender, plus co-star Carey Mulligan, could be Oscar contenders with the proper handling.
In the press release announcing the pick-up, Fox Searchlight mentions specific plans for a 2011 release, putting Fassbender and Mulligan in early Oscar discussion.
"Steve McQueen’s courageous exploration of modern life’s extremes is breathtaking. He has crafted an extraordinary film that probes some of the deepest and darkest issues ever portrayed on screen with amazingly gifted performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan," state Fox Searchlight Presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley.
Fassbender, already having himself quite the 2011, stars as Brandon, a sex-addicted New Yorker whose life enters a downward spiral when his younger sister (Mulligan) moves in with him.
"Fox Searchlight contacted us immediately after the screening in Telluride to tell us how much they loved the film. Their approach to marketing and distributing the film this year was incredibly detailed and impressive. We are excited to be working with them on a film that is sparking debate and a strong emotional reaction from audiences," say producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman.
Adds McQueen, "This is a brave statement and an important move by Fox Searchlight. I am very happy they came on board to release Shame in the U.S. It's great to be working with a team that is so passionate about cinema."
In his review, Ellwood mentioned the "intense sex scenes and nudity" which would make it impossible for "Shame" to be released with an R rating, while McQueen told press at Telluride that he had no plans to cut the movie in any way. The Fox Searchlight release makes no mention of whether "Shame" will be released with an NC-17, or whether it will go out unrated.
NBC, HFPA and Dick Clark Productions make deal while legal case rages on
The legal dispute between the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions over negotiating the rights to the Golden Globes is still being battled in a Los Angeles courtroom, but cooler heads have prevailed for at least 2012. All three parties announced this morning that the 69th Golden Globes will air as scheduled on NBC on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012 at 5 PM PST/8PM EST.
Dick Clark Productions will continue to produce the telecast as well as an official hour long NBC pre-show (that should be fun) from 4-5 PM PST/ 7-8 PM EST.
The announcement also clearly noted the HFPA will co-produce the show along with Dick Clark Productions. It is assumed the legal case will have been settled by then which means one party may be much happier than the other.
The nominees for this season's Globes will be announced bright and early at 8 AM EST on Thurs., Dec. 15.
No word yet on whether the Globes will have a host this year. Ricky Gervais received mixed notices after his two-year run, but has publicly stated he's not that interested in returning.
Two quality films make their Toronto debuts
TORONTO - It's only the first day of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and two major prestige pics have already shown their wares to the assembled international press corps; Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" and George Clooney's "Ides of March." Both films have the potential to be solid box office performers and receive very positive reviews. Critically, this pundit fell for the political leanings of "Ides of March" (grade: B+) a bit more than Billy Beane's story in "Moneyball" (grade: B), but both films have the potential to make their mark on awards season. With that in mind, let's run down the best awards season bets for each picture.
Shakespeare adaption works finds stride in performances
There have been a number of modern adaptations of Shakespeare's plays over the last two decades. So much so that transporting the classic tomes to a more contemporary setting isn't as fresh as it used to be. Therefore, when making that creative decision there has to be a specific vision that can transform the material into something fresh and new. Ralph Fiennes pretty much accomplishes that feat with his directorial debut, "Coriolanus."
New doc about the perils of quality water premieres at Toronto on Friday
TORONTO - Lost of potential acquisition titles and awards season players are getting a ton of pre-festival publicity, but less celebrity-friendly documentaries are also a key component of the Toronto International Film Festival's slate. This year, Davis Guggenheim's "From The Sky Down" about U2 is getting most of the opening night buzz, but there is another doc debuting on the same day that might be much more influential, "Last Call at the Oasis."
Directed by Academy Award winner Jessica Yu ("Protagonist," "The Realms of the Unreal") and produced by Elise Pearlstein ("Food, Inc."), the doc focuses on the growing concern with fresh water supplies across the globe. The film features none other than Erin Brockovich, among others, who is investigating this issue in the United States.
Participant Media, the company behind "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Waiting for 'Superman,'" provided HitFix with an exclusive sneak peek of "Last Call" which you can view embedded in this post.
Will "Last Call" be a call to action to the global water crisis just as "Truth" and "Waiting" were for the environment and education? We'll no more after its debut at Toronto on Friday.
Look for continuing coverage of the Toronto Film Festival on HitFix and Awards Campaign for the next 10 days.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.