Friday, March 3, 2017

Press Junket Potluck: Octavia Spencer & William Paul Young's spiritual trip to The Shack

Film Flam Flummox

The Shack movie poster

Stuart Hazeldine's adaptation of William Paul Young's bestselling novel The Shack is, by textbook definition, a Christian film, centering around the crisis of faith of one Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) after he loses one of his children--and himself--in an unspeakable tragedy. But as seen in Young's novel and now Hazeldine's film, Mack's journey to greater spiritual understanding and enlightenment is unlike most depictions of such stories and explorations of such themes, for it comes by way of a weekend trip to the secluded shack of the title, where no less than God Himself--or, rather, Herself, in the very female form of Octavia Spencer, going by the name of "Papa"--resides with Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush) and the Holy Spirit (Sumire). Young and Spencer discussed that atypical approach along with the overarching universal themes and intent of its story at a press day last month in Beverly Hills.

Divine Inspiration

"I've always been a writer, but like anybody you write stuff for your friends and family, poetry, short stories. [My wife] had been saying for about four years, "Someday, as a gift for our children, just write something that puts in one place how you think because you think outside the box." And I really didn't feel healthy enough until the year I turned 50. I was working three jobs, and I had 40 minutes on the train, and I had nothing for Christmas. We were at a very great place of contentedness in not having anything, which was a huge journey in itself. I wrote [the novel] mostly on the train and got it done, made my 15 copies at Office Depot as a gift for Christmas. I'm not a trained writer. I learned to write by reading; that's where I learned. I've never taken the classes. I never intended to be a published author. So when I wrote this, it was simply a way to say--because my kids love story, because I think everybody loves story--let me tell you about the God who showed up and filled my heart, and not the religious God I grew up with."
--William Paul Young

Building the Shack, Literally and Metaphorically

"We camped with the kids. I wrote it for them, so I used all kinds of places they're familiar with. We'd run into this thing in the woods, some hunter's cabin or whatever. So I started [writing the novel] with the conversations, all of the questions that I had, and this dialogue between me and God about loss and forgiveness, and those conversations became living. But then it became time [to figure out] who's asking and why, and that's where Mackenzie, who embodies my own losses, came about. So what's the setting? And in thinking about the setting, the shack suddenly made perfect sense. It's a place where you get stuck; it's our house on the inside; it's our broken soul. It's a place where I believe God has inhabited the entire time because God dwells with us. And what we do is we want to avoid the place of our darkness, where we hide our secrets, where we store our addictions. We don't want to deal with it. Our unforgiveness is there. Our shame is there. It's this broken down place we never want to go back into. But for our healing--we have to go back into that place. It is your soul, and that's what God loves, who God loves. He does not love our presentation of our best performance somewhere outside. We have to go back in here and co-create some healing, so that you can be free to be comfortable inside your own skin and at home inside your own soul."
--William Paul Young

Papa Does Preach

"For me, it was a huge undertaking, and I actually had to try to figure out a way into the character. So what I did was basically boil it down to the relationship between Mack and Papa, and it felt very parental to me. So I basically did the work as if I were his foster mom who failed him, and then it was about building those bridges so that he could trust me again."
--Octavia Spencer

"I cannot even imagine Papa not being Octavia. She embodies what I was wanting: this embrace but still in-your-face. It's the true understanding of what a parent's love is all about, that will constantly pursue you and won't stop even though you're pushing back, and filling up all the holes of the things we've lost along the way in maybe our own relationships with our own parents. Octavia is fantastic."
--William Paul Young

The Shack's Other Residents

"I have no second thoughts or regrets about any of the choices that were made, and I thought [they] just come across so powerfully. They really put their hearts into it. Tim McGraw [as Mack's best friend], Sam Worthington, Radha Mitchell [as Mack's wife], Sumire as the Holy Spirit, Aviv Alush--we have a Jew playing Jesus; who'd have thought, you know? [laughs] "
--William Paul Young

"I'm very glad that they cast an Israeli as Jesus, and the thing about Aviv is that he has this beautiful personality. If you believe that Jesus is the light of the world, Aviv is definitely the man you want to play him because he has just this everyman light, and when you're around him he just fills the room with joy. He's devout. He's just a beautiful, beautiful person. I'm glad that I got to meet him and work together, and he was a lot of fun to work with, he and Sumire. It was wonderful working with Sam. He was a brand new father when we were doing this. I think the baby was only about six to eight weeks old; tiny. [The baby] being so young, he was exhausted because he wasn't really on a sleep schedule. And he was very vulnerable, which is what the character had to be. He was a sweetheart and very open to finding the truth in the scenes--and that's what you want in a scene partner: a person who's ready to go everywhere to get to the truth."
--Octavia Spencer

The Guiding Spirit of Director Stuart Hazeldine

"Stuart is a great collaborator. We didn't have a lot of rehearsal time because we were all coming from different sets and different periods, so there was not a lot of rehearsal time prior to shooting. But while we were there, we took our time and worked on the scenes that required it. He was very collaborative and allowed us to find our footing in the scenes."
--Octavia Spencer

A Story for Everyone

"I wouldn't be doing the movie if I didn't believe in the messages of it. I think we all face challenges, and I think agnostics can approach this film and learn from it as well. You realize that we all face challenges, and Mack has a huge challenge that he's facing: the loss of a child. I'm not a parent, but for my friends and family that are, their nightmare is to lose a child. So you have a man who suffers this tremendous loss; he had such a tumultuous childhood; and he loses a child, and so he loses faith. He loses faith in himself. He loses faith in God. And by doing that, he basically becomes paralyzed in his own life and shuts down. And so his family suffers from that; his daughter also shuts down. So it's about learning to forgive yourself and also learning that if you are ever a person who ever questions God, there's also a way to be able to forgive God. I don't think you necessarily have to be a religious person to understand the message about grief and guilt being a paralytic. If you don't correct that course, you will stay in a state of distress and be unable to grow. And I think that is something anybody can identify with."
--Octavia Spencer

The Last Word

"Everything that matters to me--identity, work, value, significance, security, meaning, purpose, destiny, community, love--those were all in place before I wrote the book. The book didn't give me those things, for which I am so grateful because I can see what a black hole that can be. But what it did give me is it gave me an invitation into the holy ground of other people's stories. I tell people I think that's why we're born barefoot. We're designed to be inside the story of the other, and that invitation and ripples of it--I am so grateful [for that]. It is a kindness and a generosity to me that is too beautiful for words."
--William Paul Young

The Shack opens today, Friday, March 3, in cinemas nationwide, from Summit Entertainment.

Buy The Shack movie poster here.
Buy The Shack soundtrack here.
Buy The Shack novel here.
Buy The Shack audiobook here.

Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer
(photo by Michael Dequina)

(Special thanks to Lionsgate)

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Friday, February 3, 2017

F3PR: Access Hollywood's Natalie Morales to host CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards

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WASHINGTON D.C. (February 3, 2017) – Access Hollywood’s Natalie Morales will host this years “CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards,” it was announced today by Mitch Neuhauser, Managing Director of CinemaCon. CinemaCon, the official convention of The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) will be held March 27- 30 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The “CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards” will feature top film industry talent and takes place on the evening of Thursday, March 30, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, hosted by the Coca-Cola Company, the official presenting sponsor or CinemaCon.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have the magnificent Natalie Morales on hand to be our host for the evening,” noted Neuhauser. “We are happy to continue our longstanding partnership with Access Hollywood for the Big Screen Achievement Awards and know that Natalie will assist in making this a fantastic evening for all.”

Natalie Morales is the West Coast anchor of NBC News’ TODAY, host of NBCU’s “Access Hollywood” and co-host of “Access Hollywood Live.” She previously served as news anchor and co-host of TODAY’s third-hour. Morales has contributed to several major breaking news stories and has also landed many exclusive celebrity interviews including Angelina Jolie who revealed she was having twins, Caitlyn Jenner on life after her transition and Jennifer Lopez on her career and family. Morales, who speaks Spanish and Portuguese, was born in Taiwan and graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Latin American studies. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.

About CinemaCon

CinemaCon will attract upwards of 5,000 motion picture professionals from all facets of the industry -- from exhibition and distribution, to the equipment and concession areas -- all on hand to celebrate the moviegoing experience and the cinema industry. From exclusive Hollywood product presentations highlighting a slate of upcoming films, to must-see premiere feature screenings, to the biggest stars, producers and directors, CinemaCon will help jumpstart the excitement and buzz that surrounds the summer season at the box office.

CinemaCon is delighted to have both the International Cinema Technology Association (ICTA) and National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) as its tradeshow partners. CinemaCon is also delighted to have as its official presenting sponsor, The Coca-Cola Company, one of the industry’s greatest and highly regarded and respected partners in the world of the movies. Additional information on CinemaCon, the Official Convention of NATO, can be found at

About NATO

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) is the largest exhibition trade organization in the world, representing more than 30,000 movie screens in all 50 states, and additional cinemas in 57 countries worldwide. NATO’s membership includes the largest cinema chains in the world and hundreds of independent theatre owners, too.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

32nd Film Independent Spirit Award nominations

Film Flam Flummox

Jenny Slate and Edgar Ramirez announced the nominees for Film Independent's 32nd annual Spirit Awards this morning at a press conference at the W Hotel in Hollywood.


Award given to the producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.

  • American Honey
    Producers: Thomas Benski, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Lucas Ochoa, Pouya Shahbazian, Alice Weinberg
  • Chronic
    Producers: Michel Franco, Gina Kwon, Gabriel Ripstein, Moisés Zonana
  • Jackie
    Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel, Juan de Dios Larraín, Mickey Liddell
  • Manchester by the Sea
    Producers: Lauren Beck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Kimberly Steward, Kevin J. Walsh
  • Moonlight
    Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski

Award given to the director and producer.

  • The Childhood of a Leader
    Director: Brady Corbet
    Producers: Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chris Coen, Ron Curtis, Helena Danielsson, Mona Fastvold, István Major
  • The Fits
    Director/Producer: Anna Rose Holmer
    Producer: Lisa Kjerulff
  • Other People
    Director: Chris Kelly
    Producers: Sam Bisbee, Adam Scott, Naomi Scott
  • Swiss Army Man
    Director: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
    Producers: Miranda Bailey, Lawrence Inglee, Lauren Mann, Amanda Marshall, Eyal Rimmon, Jonathan Wang
  • The Witch
    Director: Robert Eggers
    Producers: Daniel Bekerman, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Rodrigo Teixeira

Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.

  • Free in Deed
    Writer/Director: Jake Mahaffy
    Producers: Mike Bowes, Mike S. Ryan, Brent Stiefel
  • Hunter Gatherer
    Writer/Director: Josh Locy
    Producers: Michael Covino, April Lamb, Sara Murphy, Isaiah Smallman
  • Lovesong
    Writer/Director: So Yong Kim
    Writer/Producer: Bradley Rust Gray
    Producers: David Hansen, Alex Lipschultz, Johnny Mac
  • Nakom
    Writer/Director/Producer: TW Pittman
    Director/Producer: Kelly Daniela Norris
    Writer/Producer: Isaac Adakudugu
    Producer: Giovanni Ximénez
  • Spa Night
    Writer/Director: Andrew Ahn
    Producers: David Ariniello, Giulia Caruso, Ki Jin Kim, Kelly Thomas

  • Andrea Arnold, American Honey
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Pablo Larraín, Jackie
  • Jeff Nichols, Loving
  • Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women

  • Barry Jenkins, story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
  • Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, Little Men
  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water

  • Robert Eggers, The Witch
  • Chris Kelly, Other People
  • Adam Mansbach, Barry
  • Stella Meghie, Jean of the Joneses
  • Craig Shilowich, Christine

  • Ava Berkofsky, Free in Deed
  • Lol Crawley, The Childhood of a Leader
  • Zach Kuperstein, The Eyes of My Mother
  • James Laxton, Moonlight
  • Robbie Ryan, American Honey

  • Matthew Hannam, Swiss Army Man
  • Jennifer Lame, Manchester by the Sea
  • Joi McMillion & Nat Sanders, Moonlight
  • Jake Roberts, Hell or Hight Water
  • Sebastián Sepúlveda, Jackie

  • Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Sasha Lane, American Honey
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • David Harewood, Free in Deed
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Jesse Plemons, Other People
  • Tim Roth, Chronic

  • Edwina Findley, Free in Deed
  • Paulina Garcia, Little Men
  • Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
  • Riley Keough, American Honey
  • Molly Shannon, Other People

  • Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
  • Ben Foster, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Shia LaBeouf, American Honey
  • Craig Robinson, Morris from America

Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast.

  • Moonlight
    Director: Barry Jenkins
    Casting Directors: Yesi Ramirez
    Ensemble Cast: Mahershala Ali, Patrick Decile, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders

Award given to the director and producer.

  • 13th
    Director/Producer: Ava DuVernay
    Producers: Spencer Averick, Howard Barish
  • Cameraperson
    Director/Producer: Kirsten Johnson
    Producer: Marilyn Ness
  • I Am Not Your Negro
    Director/Producer: Raoul Peck
    Producers: Rémi Grellety, Hérbert Peck
  • O.J.: Made in America
    Director/Producer: Ezra Edelman
    Producers: Nina Krstic, Tamara Rosenberg, Caroline Waterlow
  • Sonita
    Director: Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami
    Producer: Gerd Haag
  • Under the Sun
    Director: Vitaly Mansky
    Producer: Natalya Manskaya

Award given to the director.

  • Aquarius (Brazil)
    Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
  • Chevalier (Greece)
    Director: Athina Tsangari
  • My Golden Days (France)
    Director: Arnaud Desplechin
  • Toni Erdmann (Germany & Romania)
    Director: Maren Ade
  • Under the Shadow (Iran & United Kingdom)
    Director: Babak Anvari

The 20th annual Producers Award, sponsored by Piaget, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.

  • Lisa Kjerulff
  • Jordana Mollick
  • Melody C. Roscher & Craig Shilowich

The 23rd annual Someone to Watch Award, sponsored by Kiehl’s Since 1851, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl’s Since 1851.

  • Andrew Ahn, director of Spa Night
  • Claire Carré, director of Embers
  • Anna Rose Holmer, director of The Fits
  • Ingrid Jungermann, director of Women Who Kill

The 22nd annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

  • Kristi Jacobson, director of Solitary
  • Sara Jordenö, director of Kiki
  • Nanfu Wang, director of Hooligan Sparrow

Winners, who are selected by Film Independent Members, will be announced at the Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 25, 2017. The awards ceremony will be held on the beach in Santa Monica, just north of the Santa Monica Pier. The show will broadcast live exclusively on IFC at 2:00 pm PT/ 5:00 pm ET. (Special thanks to Ginsberg/Libby and Film Independent for their generous help every year)

The Movie Report wants to attend all your film award and special events for coverage! Please send any and all invitations to this address. Thanks!

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Friday, November 18, 2016

The Movie Report #896, November 18, 2016

The Movie Report

#896, November 18, 2016

  • Bleed for This **
  • The Edge of Seventeen *** 1/2
  • Elle ***
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ***
  • Manchester by the Sea ***
  • Nocturnal Animals ** 1/2
  • The Take (Bastille Day) ***

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AFI FEST presented by Audi 2016 reviews

The Movie Report

  • The Comedian *** Q&A video with Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Taylor Hackford
  • Elle ***
  • I Am Not Your Negro *** 1/2 Q&A video with Raoul Peck
  • It's Only the End of the World (Juste la Fin du Monde) **
  • Jackie *** 1/2 Q&A video with Natalie Portman, Pablo Larrain, Mickey Liddell
  • Julieta ***
  • La La Land *** 1/2
  • Lion *** Q&A video with Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Priyanka Bose, Saroo Brierley, Luke Davies, Dustin O'Halloran
  • Moana ***
  • Miss Sloane ***
  • Neruda ** 1/2
  • Paterson ** 1/2
  • The Red Turtle ***
  • Rules Don't Apply * 1/2
  • Toni Erdmann **
  • 20th Century Women ***

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Friday, November 11, 2016

The Movie Report #895, November 11, 2016

The Movie Report

#895, November 11, 2016

  • Almost Christmas ***
  • Arrival ***
  • Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk **
  • 100 Streets ***
  • Rock On II ** 1/2
  • Shut In **

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