2020-12-21 Print

'Small Axe' Named Best Picture by L.A. Film Critics Association

by Lexy Perez
Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in LOVERS ROCK

Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in 'Lovers Rock' from 'Small Axe'

Parisa Taghizedeh/Amazon Prime Video

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association on Sunday determined their picks for the year's best in film.

Small Axe was tapped as best picture. Chloe Zhao was chosen as best director for Nomadland with Steve Mcqueen as runner-up for Small Axe. Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman was selected as best screenplay with Eliza Hittman's Never Really Sometimes Always as runner-up.

Carey Mulligan, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman and Youn Yuh-jung were among the stars who won the acting prizes in the vote. Viola Davis was runner-up to best actress for her performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, whereas Riz Ahmed was runner-up for best actor for his performance in Sound of Metal.

A full list of winners follows.

Best Picture: Small Axe
Runner Up: Nomadland

Director: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)
Runner-up: Steve McQueen (Small Axe)

Actor: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)
Runner-up: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)

Actress: Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)
Runner-up: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)

Supporting Actor: Glynn Turman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)
Runner-up: Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)

Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)
Runner-up: Amanda Seyfried (Mank)

Screenplay: Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)
Runner-up: Eliza Hittman (Never Really Sometimes Always)

Documentary: Time
Runner-up: Collective 

Animation: Wolfwalkers
Runner-up: Soul

Foreign-language: Beanpole
Runner-up: Martin Eden

Editing: Yorgos Lamprinos, (The Father)
Runner-up: Gabriel Rhodes (Time)

Production Design: Donald Graham Burt, (Mank)
Runner-up: Sergey Ivanov, (Beanpole)

Music/Score: Soul
Runner-up: Lovers Rock 

Cinematography: Shabier Kirchner (Small Axe)
Runner-up: Joshua James Richards (Nomadland) 

Career Achievement Award: Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Harry Belafonte

Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film: John Gianvito's Her Socialist Smile

New Generation: Radha Blank, The 40-Year-Old Version

Legacy Award: Norman Lloyd

Box Office: 'Wonder Woman 1984' Opens to Woeful $18.8M in China for $38.5M Foreign Start

by Pamela McClintock
Wonder Woman 1984

Warner Bros.' 'Wonder Woman 1984' will debut on HBO Max and in theaters on Dec. 25 in the U.S.

Warner Bros. Entertainment

Wonder Woman 1984 opened to an underwhelming $18.8 million in China, behind expectations and a less-than-wondrous start for WarnerMedia as it embarks on a bold plan to release its films both in theaters and on HBO Max.

The Warner Bros./DC superhero pic placed No. 2 behind The Rescue, a new Chinese film that debuted to an estimated $35 million.

In total, Wonder Woman 1984 opened to $38.5 million overseas as it began rolling out in 32 territories a week ahead of its Dec. 25  debut on HBO Max and in those cinemas that are still open amid the ongoing pandemic. That included $5 million from Imax theaters.

The first Wonder Woman (2017) debuted in China to $38 million on its way to a total haul of $90.5 million. At its current pace, the $200 million sequel, which reunites director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot, could struggle to earn much more than half of that total.

While the China box office had made a major comeback after being decimated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, analysts are seeing signs of softness again. A number of other countries — including many major European markets — have seen cinemas reclose in recent days because of a surge in cases (similar to the U.S.), further hampering the performance of the Wonder Woman follow-up.

Wonder Woman 1984 showed notable strength in the Middle East and Latin America, Warners said.

In China, the tentpole ended up facing tough competition from The Rescue, a follow-up to Operation Mekong (2016) and Operation Red Sea (2018), the latter of which earned a historic $575 million in China in 2018.

Most box office analysts had expected Wonder Woman 1984 to earn $40 million or more in its China bow. The sequel's slide in the Middle Kingdom is particularly disappointing since China is known for its affinity for superhero movies and was expected to be the title's largest theatrical market.

In North America, Paul W.S. Anderson's Monster Hunter, starring Milla Jovovich, topped another dismal weekend with an estimated $2.2 million debut, according to Sony, which is releasing the video game adaptation domestically. Monster Hunter also stars Ron Perlman.

Less than 37 percent of theaters in the U.S. are presently open, with many major moviegoing markets, including New York City and Los Angeles, off-limits.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation's The Croods: A New Age followed with an estimated $2 million in its fourth weekend for a domestic tally of $27 million and $84.5 million globally (the film could switch places with Monster Hunter and top the domestic chart when final Monday numbers are tallied).

Lionsgate's new thriller Fatale, starring Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy opened to $925,000.

With barely any new studio product, Christmas catalog perennials including Elf and The Polar Express populated the top 10-domestic chart.

More Than 200 Pandemic-Hit English Indie Cinemas to Receive $22 Million Lifeline

by Alex Ritman
The Prince Charles Cinema in central London

The Prince Charles Cinema in central London

Prince Charles Cinema

More than 200 independent cinemas across England are set to receive grant awards totaling £16 million ($21.6 million) to help see them through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The grants — ranging from £7,000 ($9,500) to £564,000 ($763,000) and spanning sites of all sizes the length and breadth of the country — will come as a major relief to a beleaguered exhibition industry, with most cinemas now closed once again after authorities placed much of England under the strictest tier of pandemic restrictions as it grapples with a deadly second spike in infections.

The funds, allocated by the British Film Institute on behalf of the government, came from the $2 billion Culture Recovery Fund rescue package for the U.K.'s arts sector, which was announced in July.

Eligible cinemas were able to apply for safety grants, to help venues meet the immediate costs of implementing COVID-secure measures to protect staff and audiences, and larger business sustainability grants to help stabilize sites financially. Theaters will be able to apply for a further £14 million ($19 million) in grants from a second round of the Culture Recovery Fund in the new year.

"Across the country, local independent cinemas are hubs and lifelines for communities and often the only form of culture and entertainment," said BFI chief executive Ben Roberts. "From educational programs and workshops for young people, to screenings for the elderly and audiences with specialized needs, these cinemas play such an important role in people’s lives. The Culture Recovery Fund will mean that many of these cinemas survive the current crisis, and go on to play a vital role in the recovery of local economies and communities, bringing people together to offer joy, solace and the magic of the big screen."

Among the major names to offer their support was Michael Caine, who starred in the biggest film to launch during the pandemic, Tenet.

"The moving image has the power to change the way we think. The power to inspire; to delight; and to move. It happens to me all the time," said the iconic British actor. "Film is one of the most powerful and accessible art forms on earth — and for so many a local cinema is a place we know, love and have grown up with. A cinema is very often a vital part of any community and we need to support them in order to keep the art of film and the sense of community alive. Let’s go to the pictures!”

In another major piece of news for the U.K. cinema industry, the Film and TV Restart Scheme, the government's £500 million ($676 million) insurance fund, is being extended. The program, which since opening for applications in October has already helped assure almost 100 productions that they are financially covered should future losses be incurred due to the pandemic, has now pushed its deadline to April 2021, hopefully giving more projects the security to start shooting in the spring.

The initiative is also being expanded to include cast and crew members over the age of 70. The changes will enable productions to to receive compensation for COVID-related delays affecting up to two cast or crew members over 70 years old.

George Clooney Reveals Walter Cronkite Screw-Up That Preceded Letter From Legendary Newsman

by Hilary Lewis
George Clooney

George Clooney

Jeff Spicer/WireImage

George Clooney was the very first guest on Stephen Colbert's premiere episode of The Late Show back in 2015, so when he returned to the CBS late-night show on Friday night, Colbert wanted to know where he'd been for the past five years.

"You said you would come back frequently," Colbert told Clooney. "This is five years and three months since you were here. This is frequent to George Clooney?! You've been on [ABC's Jimmy] Kimmel [Live!] nine times since you were on my show."

As Clooney suggested that geographic convenience (Kimmel's in L.A. vs. Colbert being in New York) may have played a part in that, Colbert argued that location doesn't matter in the pandemic.

"I want you once a week until you make up the lost time," Colbert jokingly insisted.

Clooney replied, "I'll do it every week. I've got nothing to do."

Like many talk-show guests in 2020, Clooney didn't make an in-person appearance on The Late Show — instead he appeared via video from the U.K., where the actor-director admitted he and his family were quarantined after he initially traveled there to do a drive-in premiere of his upcoming Netflix film The Midnight Sky.

As soon as he landed, Clooney said, "they came out and said, ‘We’ve just gone to tier three. You have to go quarantine for two weeks in your house.’ So I got here, I’m going to be here for two weeks in the house… I can’t walk anywhere, can’t do anything, no premiere. So I’m just here.”

Later in the interview, Clooney spoke about letters he'd received from Paul Newman, Gregory Peck and Walter Cronkite.

The Cronkite letter, Clooney recalled, came after the iconic news anchor appeared with Clooney in a 2000 CBS live broadcast of the Cold War thriller Fail Safe.

Despite decades of anchoring live broadcasts of historic news, Cronkite bungled the introduction, leading him to say, as Clooney recalled mimicking the late anchor's baritone, "Sorry I fucked up, George."

While Clooney's stuck in his house in the U.K., he is joined by wife Amal and twin, three-year-old kids Ella and Alexander.

And as he tries to keep his children from becoming "little Brits" by picking up too many British words and traditions, he has recruited Santa Claus to make sure his "little Terminators" behave themselves.

He shared that when he hears his kids fighting in their bedroom in the mornings, he pretends to talk to Santa.

"I stand outside the door and I go, ‘Oh hey, hi, Santa!’ And then you hear Santa is there and he's like ‘Ho, ho, ho,’" Clooney explained as he impersonated St. Nick. "I say, ‘What are you doing here Santa?’ And he says, ‘Oh, I’m making sure that the kids are being good kids.' And I say, 'They are, Santa.' And you can hear them going, ‘We are, Santa! We are!’ And Santa’s like, ‘Okay.'”

Once Kris Kringle leaves, Clooney says his kids are "unbelievably well behaved.”

He joked, though, that he might have trouble with a similar technique in the spring: "I’m worried about the Easter bunny, because I'm not quite sure what he sounds like."

New COVID Relief Bill Earmarks $15B for Movie Theaters and Live Event Venues

by Alex Weprin
The US Capitol
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate announced on Sunday a compromise COVID-19 relief bill, a bill that if passed and signed by President Trump will provide financial support to a number of companies in the entertainment space.

The bill includes $15 billion earmarked specifically for live event venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions, all businesses hit hard by the pandemic. It also expands the eligibility of the Paycheck Protection Program to include local TV and radio broadcasters, as well as newspapers.

The $900 billion bill also provides direct payments of $600 per person to American families, as well as some support for local municipalities and money for vaccine distribution, among other things.

The bill itself is still being written, but a vote is expected Monday. It still needs to pass both the House and Senate, and to be signed into law by Trump.

As is often the case with compromise bills like this one, the devil may be in the details. It is still unclear what movie theaters would qualify as "independent" and what TV stations would be eligible for PPP. Those details should be released in the final text of the bill.

The deal does not include liability protections for businesses, a matter some in Hollywood were pushing for. That issue was initially a "red line" for Republicans, as it would toughen the rules around whether an employer is liable if employees contract the disease while on the job.

This Week in TV: 'Wonder Woman 1984,' 'Bridgerton,' 'Bachelorette' Finale

by Rick Porter
Wonder Woman 1984

Warner Bros.' 'Wonder Woman 1984.'

Warner Bros. Entertainment

The biggest premiere on television in the week of Dec. 21 wasn't originally meant for television: Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to 2017's megahit Wonder Woman, is debuting on HBO Max in addition to theaters that are still open.

The week also bring Shonda Rhimes' first series for Netflix, a couple of broadcast finales, a streaming first in the NFL and, as it's Christmas week, the last heavy dose of holiday programming this season. (Check The Hollywood Reporter's holiday TV guide for the full list.)

Here is THR's rundown of some of the coming week's highlights. It would be next to impossible to watch everything, but let THR point the way to worthy options each week. All times are ET/PT unless noted.

The Big Show Movie

Wonder Woman 1984 had been slated to open in theaters in June … then August … then October, one of a host of films that shuffled release dates during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Finally, it's being released simultaneously in both those theaters that are open in the U.S. and on HBO Max — heralding (though negotiated separately from) Warner Bros. moving its entire 2021 lineup to the streamer for same-day release with theatrical runs.

As for the movie itself? It's earning mostly positive reviews from critics. THR's David Rooney writes that WW84 suffers from sequel bloat, but that director Patty Jenkins delivers "an absolute blast" in one early action sequence and star Gal Gadot }remains a charismatic presence." It debuts Friday, Christmas day, on HBO Max.

Also on streaming …

Three years after signing a megadeal with Netflix, Shonda Rhimes' first series for the streamer makes its debut on Friday: Bridgerton is a period drama (created by Scandal veteran Chris Van Dusen) based on a series of popular romance novels by Julia Quinn. With a diverse cast and timely storytelling despite its Regency-era setting, Van Dusen told THR that it's "not your grandmother's period show."

Wonder Woman 1984 isn't the only big movie hitting a streaming platform: Pixar's Soul, starring Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, bows Friday on Disney+. Also due this week are Finnish Cold War thriller Shadow Lines (Thursday, Sundance Now) and a new season of Letterkenny (Saturday, Hulu). Additionally, Amazon's Prime Video will carry the first ever NFL game that's exclusive to a streaming service at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT Saturday, when it showcases the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals (the game will also air on traditional TV in the two teams' home markets).

Bridgerton's trailer:

On broadcast …

Finales: The Bachelorette finishes its season with Tayshia Adams deciding who among her final three suitors has really won her heart. The ABC show closes out with episodes Monday and Tuesday, both at 8 p.m. Also Tuesday, Fox's (already canceled) drama Next concludes with its last two episodes, starting at 8 p.m.

New: Acclaimed documentarian Frederick Wiseman turns his lens on the city government of Boston in City Hall (8 p.m. Tuesday, PBS). Following an NFL doubleheader on Dec. 27, Fox debuts The Masked Dancer (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), hosted by Craig Robinson.

In case you missed it …

In the early days of the pandemic, when schools closing down meant cancellation of sports, graduation ceremonies and spring musicals, Tony winner Laura Benanti created a Twitter hashtag, #SunshineSongs, where students could share what they would have performed on stage. Thousands of people uploaded their songs, generating millions of views. Several of those performances, and the stories behind them, are featured in Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020, which Benanti executive produced. It's available on HBO Max.

'SNL': The Grinch, Pigeon Lady, and More Christmas Characters Show Up for Final Episode of 2020

by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
Kyle Mooney, Chloe Fineman, Pete Davidson as The Grinch, Mikey Day, and host Kristen Wiig during "The Grinch" sketch on Saturday, December 19, 2020

From left: Kyle Mooney, Chloe Fineman, Pete Davidson as The Grinch, Mikey Day, and host Kristen Wiig during "The Grinch" sketch

Will Heath/NBC

Kristen Wiig hosted the final Saturday Night Live episode of 2020, opening the show with a musical monologue. It was also the season’s official Christmas show, and Dua Lipa was featured as the musical guest.

There was a lot of singing in the episode, including a duet between Wiig and Bowen Yang performing for soldiers. Dua Lipa made a cameo in the sketch, joining in on their sexual song.

Kenan Thompson played the host in a 1960s-set game show sketch called “Secret Word,” in which Wiig and Kate McKinnon played celebrity contestants trying to get their teammates to guess Christmas-themed words. Wiig also appeared as a mom in a Christmas musical sketch in which her whole family got multiple extravagant gifts and she only got a robe.

Wiig later played the pigeon lady from Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Melissa Villaseñor played Kevin McCallister, who watched as the pigeon lady murdered the wet bandits.

Weekend Update featured a montage of Trump photos and clips set to "Closing Time." While performing their annual joke swap tradition, Che tricked Jost into saying a joke about wife Scarlett Johansson. "It was announced that Creed singer Scott Stapp will play Frank Sinatra in an upcoming movie," Jost said as he read off the joke cue cards. "But the good news is Sammy Davis Jr. will be played by Scarlett Johansson." The joke poked fun at Johansson's past casting controversy.  After reading the joke, Jost laughed and shook his head.

"Barring a reverse Christmas miracle, this is the last episode of SNL when Donald Trump is still president," Colin Jost noted. Co-anchors Che and Jost did their Christmas show tradition of blind-reading the offensive jokes they wrote for each other.

In a Grinch-themed sketch, Wiig and Mikey Day played a Whoville couple who had a threesome with the Grinch, who was played by Pete Davidson.

Wiig brought back one of her very popular characters: Sue who loves surprises. It was a COVID-19-themed sequel to the Christmas Surprise sketch from season 35.

'The Wilds' Renewed for Season Two at Amazon

by Hilary Lewis
The Wilds - Episode 110 - "Day Twenty-Three"
Matt Klitscher/Amazon Studios

Amazon has renewed its YA drama The Wilds for a second season, it was announced Saturday.

The cast of the series revealed the news in a video posted on social media (watch the announcement below).

The Wilds follows a group of teenage girls from different backgrounds as they fight for survival after a plane crash strands them on a deserted island. The twist, Amazon teases, is that the girls didn't end up there by accident. The first, 10-episode season debuted on Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 10.

The series, created by Daredevil writer Sarah Streicher, is part of Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke's move to push the streamer into the YA space.

Amy B. Harris (Sex and the City, The Carrie Diaries) serves as showrunner on the Amazon, ABC Signature co-production.

In addition to Streicher and Harris the series is executive produced by Jamie Tarses' FanFare and Dylan Clark and Brian Williams of Dylan Clark Productions.

Susanna Fogel (Booksmart, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Life Partners) directed and executive produced the series' pilot episode.

The series stars Rachel Griffiths, Sophia Ali, Shannon Berry, Jenna Clause, Reign Edwards, Mia Healey, Helena Howard, Erana James, Sarah Pidgeon, David Sullivan and Troy Winbush.

NHL, Players Finalize Agreement for 56-Game Season in 2021

by the Associated Press
Cody Ceci #83 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against Martin Frk #29 of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at Staples Center.
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Hockey is set to return Jan. 13 after the NHL and players completed a deal Sunday to hold a 56-game season that would include playoffs lasting into July to award the Stanley Cup.

The league's Board of Governors voted to approve the agreement that was backed by the NHL Players' Association executive board Friday night. The regular season is scheduled to go until May 8 with a 16-team playoff to follow.

The season will be highly unusual in at least one respect: There will be four divisions — North, South, East and West — and all play will be within divisions to minimize travel and the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt the season. The North Division contains only the seven Canadian teams.

The Los Angeles Kings will play in the realigned West Division that has them competing against the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights.

"It is the current plan to play games in the home arenas of participating teams while understanding that most arenas will not, at least in the initial part of the season, be able to host fans," the NHL said.

The league is allowing for the possibility of playing games at neutral sites if needed. Final details on where the Canadian teams will play are still pending until there are agreements with federal and provincial health officials.

Still, the hurdles won't be enough to prevent the season from starting without a quarantined bubble.

"The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-21 season," Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play."

The NHL completed last season in bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, with players, coaches and staff isolated from the general public and virus-tested daily.

"The players are pleased to have finalized agreements for the upcoming season, which will be unique but also very exciting," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said. "During these troubled times, we hope that NHL games will provide fans with some much-needed entertainment as the players return to the ice."

Most of the league will open training camp Jan. 3. The seven teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season can start as soon as Dec. 31.

The league’s 10-year agreement with NBC Sports at $200 million a year expires at the end of this season.

Doug Crane, 'Heavy Metal' and 'Beavis and Butt-Head' Animator, Dies at 85

by Mike Barnes
Doug Crane

Doug Crane

Courtesy of Crane Family

Doug Crane, who drew Spider-Man, She-Ra and He-Man cartoons and worked on films including Heavy Metal and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America during his six-decade career in animation, has died. He was 85.

Crane died Thursday in Stuart, Florida, after a short battle with cancer, his daughter Rose-Ellen reported. His wife of 61 years, Maureen, an inker/painter whom he had met at Terrytoons in 1956 on his and her first day there, died two days earlier.

A Clio Award recipient, Crane also worked for Hanna-Barbera, Paramount, MTV, Filmation, Oriolo Films and Zander Animation Parlour and served as a professor of animation at his alma mater, the School of Visual Arts, for 15 years.

His credits also included the features Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977), Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987), BraveStarr: The Legend (1988) and Happily Ever After (1990) and lauded commercials for Crest toothpaste (courtesy of the Cartoon Brew website) and The Wall Street Journal.

Born in Bronxville, New York, Crane was one of eight kids in his family. "Often, it could be pretty tough trying to get my two cents into a conversation around the dinner table," he said in a 2012 interview. "It dawned on me that I could get my point across and also vent my frustrations by drawing pictures, usually of myself with my cartoon mouth wide open with balloon blurbs saying stuff like, 'Bobby, Shut Up!' or, 'Betty, Be Quiet!'"

After graduating from Eastchester High School and the Cartoonist and Illustrators School (now known as SVA) in Manhattan, Crane landed a job in the ink and paint department at Terrytoons, located in New Rochelle, New York. Then, in the U.S. Army, he created a comic strip called Tiptoe and Timber that ran in military newspapers.

He returned to New York after some time in California at the request of William Hanna to open and operate the Hanna-Barbera East studio with Red Augustson.

Crane also worked on Mighty Thor in the 1960s, Challenge of the Superfriends in the '70s, The Smurfs in the '80s and the Beavis and Butt-Head film and MTV/Comedy Central series in the '90s.

Survivors include his children Maureen, Erin, Thomas, Colleen, Caitlin, Kevin and Rose-Ellen and grandchildren Megan, Katie, Kerry, Sean, Brianna, AJ, Aidan, Tiernan, Riley, Abigail, Nathaniel, Sam, Shannon, Jordan and Hayley.

Crane's "ability to walk the streets of New Rochelle and New York City and always bump into someone he knew or worked with was unparalleled but not surprising when you are lucky enough to be able to do what you love, in a city you love, for your entire career," his daughter Rose-Ellen wrote.