What Matters in Hollywood Today

9:57 AM 1/27/2018

by Ray Rahman

Erik Umphrey

The Weekender: A breakdown of the very best movies Sundance has to offer. Plus: A Grammy Awards fashion preview (hint: a lot of white), CBS's reboot-loving pilot season, the future of premium television and a new weed startup from a pair of Hollywood vets. — Ray Rahman

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  • Best of Sundance

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

    Critics' favorites: The festival wraps up this weekend, leaving a long trail of deals, parties and overpriced parkas in its wake. But, of course, there were actual movies as well — here are some that THR critics liked the most: 

    HEREDITARY: A superb Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne play about parents left grappling with a terrifying legacy following the family matriarch's death in writer-director Ari Aster's horror debut. The film takes the core haunting element of a spirit with a malevolent agenda and runs with it in a seemingly endless series of unexpected directions over two breathless hours that never slacken for a minute. Arguably the most effective domestic chiller since The Conjuring and The Babadook, this A24 release should hit discerning genre fans right where they live. — David Rooney

    THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST: This sophomore feature by Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior) is easily the best film about a teenage lesbian compelled to go to a Christian conversion camp since the underrated But I'm a Cheerleader (1999). Okay, that's admittedly a very small field of competition. However, it doesn't change the fact that the movie is a delight, generously peppered with biting humor and warmed by a spirit that extends understanding, if not forgiveness, even to the religious zealot characters. Chloe Grace Moretz digs deep for a sensitive lead turn. — Leslie Felperin

    AMERICAN ANIMAL: One of the most far-fetched crimes of the 21st century — an art theft from a Kentucky college library — is dazzlingly recounted in this thriller from Brit Bart Layton. While bowing to stalwarts like Michael Mann, Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino, Layton employs his own bag of tricks to craft a tale both engrossing and grotesque. The young actors, including Barry Keoghan and Blake Jenner, deliver with bristling, edgy work. — Todd McCarthy The full list.

    ^In the Studio: Issa Rae, Spike Lee, John Legend and more visited the Blackhouse Foundation at Sundance, where they had stunning portraits taken and mingled with up-and-coming talent. Mia Galuppo talks to the man behind it all:

    "We started this in 2007, and there were only seven black films at Sundance, so there weren't a whole lot of people in the audience," remembers Brickson Diamond, Blackhouse Foundation co-founder. "The panelists were just outnumbered by members of the audience."

    Now, 11 years after Blackhouse's start, his concerns are different: "I am hoping against hope that we have not achieved peak blackness," Diamond says. "Blackhouse is about black content, but it is also about our Latino, Asian-American, LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It's about the voice of those who are uniquely American who are telling truthful stories." See the portraits.

  • Acting After #MeToo

    Mat Hayward/Getty Images for AMC Networks; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    Next steps: Terry Crews and Ashley Judd both came forward with allegations against high-profile men in the industry. What are their acting plans now? Chris Gardner finds out:

    “Especially with what has been going on with me lately, people are much more receptive to the serious side of Terry Crews, which is good," he says, "I’ll never stop being funny, but some of the best actors that I’ve ever seen specialize in comedy. It’s a natural progression. I’m just getting started."

    Meanwhile, Ashley Judd, who came forward with allegations against Harvey Weinstein in October, said that her experience has shown her how much she loves the business: “I am very glad to have my feet very solidly planted in Hollywood again and to let people know that I love acting, I love working, and I would love to work more." Read more.

    In other film news...

    Eddie Awards: Dunkirk, I, Tonya win big. Those films — both also nominated for a best editing Oscar — took home the top prizes in the American Cinema Editors' ceremony last night, which also saw Coco win in the animation category. 

    Natalie Portman joins pop star drama Vox LuxShe'll be taking the lead role of Celeste, replacing Rooney Mara in the Sia-soundtracked feature.

    Fifty Shades actor Max Martini to star in horror film Eli. He joins Ciaran Foy's psychological horror film, set in a secluded clinic where an 11-year-old named Eli has a rare disease, as Eli's father.

    Reese Witherspoon's production company names Sarah Harden CEO: The exec, who had been serving as interim CEO at Hello Sunshine, can now make it official. She previously was president of Otter Media.

    Sundance deals: Bleecker Street nabs Debra Granik's Leave No Trace, starring Ben Foster ... HBO wins Laura Dern drama The Tale for $7 million ... UTA signs Night Comes On star Dominique Fishback.

  • Premium TV Concerns

    Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

    Critic's Notebook: What is the future — and present — of prestige television? Chief TV critic Tim Goodman shares his thoughts on the current state of premium content:

    Starz really and truly has something in Counterpart. If you're not watching, you need to rectify that right now. Plus, it's an interesting premium network to study for trends if only because it will hurt your brain and make you drink before you realize that not having a coherent strategy is actually the strategy and it seems to work (you know, the whole Power vs. Outlander vs. The Girlfriend Experience thing). The channel is pulling in disparate audiences to make up its whole.

    HBO has plenty of issues, but it certainly got a jolt of positivity with the good press surrounding Big Little Lies casting for the second season. But here are the two areas of concern I see. #1: Whether Nic Pizzolatto's writing for True Detective season three can be, well, significantly better than season two (if not, maybe stars Mahershala Ali, Stephen Dorff and Scoot McNairy can elevate the content like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson did in season one).

    And #2: Whether the channel's smart decision to slow play the development of Confederate, the high-risk, low (or no) reward controversial series that was planned for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss leads to outright abandonment. Read more.

    In other TV news...

    Courtney B. Vance, Mary-Louise Parker go to FX's Compliance: The pair will star in the pilot from writer Sarah Burgess, a half-hour comedy that revolves around a private equity manager (Vance) and his government-appointed compliance monitor (Parker).

    + Vance & FX: match made in heaven? Apparently so — the actor has already won an Emmy there for his work on American Crime Story, and in addition to Compliance, he's also attached to star in and produce the crime drama Heist 88.

    CBS has reboot fever: Just days after announcing a Murphy Brown reboot, the Eye is bringing back two more oldies: new Cagney and Lacey and Magnum P.I. shows have been given pilot orders.

    + The rest: CBS also ordered pilots for the female-driven police procedural Chiefs as well as comedies Fam (woman deals with her trainwreck family), Here Comes the Neighborhood (nice Midwestern guy moves to tough L.A. neighborhood) and Pandas in New York (Indian family meddles in son's life).  

    ABC hauls in Greg Berlanti, Marcia Clark and Scott Foley pilots. Here are the seven pilots the network ordered yesterday: Whiskey Cavalier, an action-drama produced by and starring Scandal star Foley; Berlanti's comedy Most Likely To, written by Diablo Cody; legal/revenge thriller The Fix, written by Clark; cop drama Safe Harbor; another cop show Staties; friend-group dramedy A Million Little Things; and an untitled drama about five African-American sisters all in the NYPD.

    + The List: Check out (and bookmark) our complete guide to all of 2018's pilot orders.

    Apple hires comedy exec Dana Tuinier: The exec boards the streamer from The Paramount Network, where she was vp development and original programming. She'll be working on Apple's recently announced half-hour Kristen Wiig comedy.

  • Grammys Whiteout?

    Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

    Sunday best: Are the Grammys heading for a fashion whiteout to follow the Golden Globes’ blackout? Sources say several performers are looking at all-white options, writes Ingrid Schmidt:

    Beyond the white roses that will be donned by musicians (including Cardi B, Rita Ora, Halsey, Kelly Clarkson and Cyndi Lauper) on the Grammys red carpet as a salute to Time’s Up efforts coordinated by the group "Voices of Entertainment” led by Roc Nation senior VP of marketing Meg Harkins, we hear that stylists have been scrambling to pull white dresses and accessories.

    “There will definitely be a white-out on stage,” said one tapped-in New York fashion publicist, based on pulls from her showroom. “We hear that at least one group of performers will be wearing all white. And people are either wearing the white rose or something white on the carpet, whether a dress or an accessory.”

    Rumor has it that Kesha may be wearing the color and that Jennifer Hudson has been searching for all-white pieces, including jewelry. Read more.

    + The internet is now the music industry's savior: Top music lawyers and an RIAA exec chat about how digital is finally doing good things for record labels. Full story.

    + Grammy cocktails! Want to serve drinks called Blue Apology and Stay Woke during your Grammy party? Find out how.

    ^High minded: Is the political climate "ripe" for the female-focused cannabis platform Miss Grass? A former exec for Lorne Michaels' company and a onetime TV publicist think so. Lesley McKenzie writes:

    "By no means do we want to be the Amazon of cannabis," says Kate Miller, 30, former director of enterprises for Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video. She's talking about Miss Grass, the highly curated cannabis-driven platform she'll launch Jan. 31 with co-founder Anna Duckworth, 33 (who previously worked as a TV and film publicist in Toronto).

    Designed as an educational content and product source for women, Venice-based Miss Grass won't actually sell cannabis, but it will offer luxe items like Asche scent-controlled leather bags (starting at $135) and CBD-infused lip balm from Vertly ($22). Within the next year, the brand hopes to both launch its own cannabis-related line and roll out a partnership that will enable Miss Grass to provide products containing THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) in states where it's legal. Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Why bother having separate Oscars for best picture and best director?" Richard Brody makes the argument that has been bubbling up in film circles more and more lately: "A great director is usually, even if in invisible but identifiable ways, also a great producer - and that’s all the more so now, in the age of independent production, than it was at a time when the studio system thrived." [The New Yorker]

    — "The woman who shined the Super Bowl spotlight on Minnesota." Megan Schuster writes: "Maureen Bausch, the CEO of the Minneapolis Super Bowl Host Committee, is working to make sure that Super Bowl LII will be remembered for more than just the cold." [The Ringer

    — "Atlanta Monster: The first blockbuster podcast of 2018." Steve Greene writes: "The show examines how race, media, and memory all lead to fundamentally different ideas of an era that left Atlanta transformed." [IndieWire]

    —  "Is Priyanka Chopra taking over the world?" Mayukh Sen writes: "The South Asian star is breaking new ground, even if it’s sometimes unclear what she stands for." [The Outline]

    — "The Bachelor goes international. Will Bachelor Nation follow?" Megan Angelo writes: "With Winter Games, the franchise is challenging a fan base not particularly open to change to embrace a cast filled with contestants from outside the United States (and some who don’t speak much English)." [The New York Times]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "What music will sound like in 2018." The Times crew talks flamboyant hip-hop, promising punk rock, intricate bluegrass and more. [Popcast / New York Times]

    + "Represent takes on Sundance." Aisha Harris' view of the festival. [Slate Represent]

    Today's Birthdays: Rosamund Pike, 39, Patton Oswalt, 49, Alan Cumming, 53, Bridget Fonda, 54, Keith Olbermann, 59, Frank Miller, 61, G.E. Smith, 66.