Boyhood grew on New York critics who also honor Cotillard, Spall

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .



The New York Film Critics Circle has crowned “Boyhood” best picture and Richard Linklater best director. (Above, Ellar Coltrane.)

The Circle, founded in 1935, is an organization of film reviewers from New York-based publications. It honors excellence in the U.S. and world cinema. A year ago, it crowned “American Hustle” its top film.  

Other awards announced today:

3lywnR  mrturner 02 o3  8022080  1406663970Best actress: Marion Cotillard, for two movies, “The Immigrant” and “Two Days, One Night.”

Best actor: Timothy Spall, “Mr. Turner.” (at right)

Best supporting actress: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood.”

Best supporting actor: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.”

Best animated movie:  “The LEGO Movie.”

Best screenplay: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best non-fiction film:  “Citizen Four.”

Best foreign film: “Ida.”

Best first film: Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook” (opening in Pittsburgh on Friday).

Best cinematographer: Darius Khondji, “The Immigrant.”

Special award:  Adrienne Mancia, former film curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

lifeitself01In other news, the Producers Guild of America announced its nominees for best documentary: “Life Itself” about Roger Ebert, “Merchants of Doubt,” “The Green Prince,” “Particle Fever” and “Virunga.” Still to come are the nominees for best feature which often prove a good indicator of Oscar love.

And the Annie Awards, honoring animation, will narrow this list of nominees to one for its best feature honor:  “Big Hero 6,” “Cheatin’,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Song of the Sea,” “The Book of Life,” “The Boxtrolls" (below) “The LEGO Movie” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.”







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Thanksgiving with a side of Hunger Games: Mockingjay

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .



Thanksgiving weekend moviegoers were craving the second-to-last “Hunger Games,” which was No. 1 for Friday through Sunday with an estimated $56,875,000, bringing its gross so far to nearly $226,000,000 in North America.

Here are the top five estimates (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) according to Rentrak:

  1. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” -- $56,875,000, for $225,692,805 since release.
  2. “Penguins of Madagascar” -- $25,800,000, for $36,000,000.
  3. “Big Hero Six” -- $18,770,000, for $167,209,000 to date.
  4. “Interstellar” -- $15,800,000, or $147,090,000 so far.
  5. “Horrible Bosses 2” -- $15,700,000, or $23,010,000 in North America. 


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Photo of Jake Gyllenhaal, ripped and shirtless, in Southpaw

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


We told you he was ripped and rough looking and now the first photo of Jake Gyllenhaal proves it.

This just released picture from “Southpaw” (taken by Scott Garfield/The Weinstein Co.) is making the media rounds.

If you missed our story on Aug. 17 in which director Antoine Fuqua talked about the movie he shot in his hometown of Pittsburgh, here it is:

By Barbara Vancheri / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jake Gyllenhaal is ripped and rough looking.

This is not the perfectly groomed, model-handsome actor from “Love & Other Drugs” but one molded and muscled from months in the gym, training long before production started in June on “Southpaw” in Western Pennsylvania.

Director Antoine Fuqua wanted him to convincingly play a light heavyweight boxer. A sneak peek at a smartphone photo shows Mr. Gyllenhaal has transformed himself.

The hair is short. The blood and ink are fake. But the abs are real and impressive. Very.

antoinefuqua350“He looks like a fighter. He’s got tattoos. He’s got everything. He’s got the eyes kind of messed up, the nose is different. Oh, yeah, he looks rough. He looks tough,” Mr. Fuqua, a Pittsburgh native, said recently over coffee in the lobby of the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel, Downtown.

“I really wanted him to be a fighter. Right now, he’s been boxing so much, he’s in that mentality,” the director said of the actor who has portrayed cops, a military helicopter pilot with eight minutes to stop a bomb blast, a sixth-century prince of Persia, a newspaper cartoonist, a Marine and a heartsick cowboy.

“I had him sparring. We had Victor Ortiz, the real fighter. He’s in the movie. I had him here as well and they sparred, and Victor taught him some things, and Coach Terry [Claybon] from LA, who trains with me and Denzel, I brought him out. Other fighters were here, as well.”

Denzel, of course, is Denzel Washington, who won his second Oscar and first for a leading role in Mr. Fuqua’s “Training Day.” They reunite in “The Equalizer,” which will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

In the meantime, though, there is the deadline for “Southpaw,” which The Weinstein Co. could release as early as December, although no date has been announced.

Mr. Fuqua and film editor John Refoua (an Oscar nominee for “Avatar”) have been editing as they go along and apparently aren’t daunted by the timetable. “I like the energy of that. We shot all our huge boxing sequences up front. Normally I’ll do the hardest thing first. I just think people have more in them than they think.”

That strategy minimizes overthinking or second guessing although it can “freak the crew out” sometimes, he acknowledges.

In addition to Mr. Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, a successful boxer who suffers a series of calamities, the cast includes Rachel McAdams as his wife; Oona Laurence from Broadway’s “Matilda” as the couple’s daughter, who is about 10 years old; Forest Whitaker as a trainer Billy finds at a low point in his life; 50 Cent as a manager and promoter; and Naomie Harris as a social worker.

Despite early Internet speculation, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o from “12 Years a Slave” is not among the cast.

The drama, written by Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), is about a champion boxer who loses everything after a death and goes into a downward spiral. The boxing, violence and language are expected to earn an R rating.

“Ultimately, the story’s about a father and daughter coming to terms with mourning and coming to terms with, ‘Who’s the parent?’ Learning how to be a parent, learning how to be a father, in particular,” Mr. Fuqua said.

As husband to actress Lela Rochon and father of a 12-year-old daughter, along with sons ages 21 (who worked on the movie) and 10, Mr. Fuqua said the story “really hit my heart. It’s a sports movie but it’s more about the father, learning how to be a dad without the mom when tragedy happens.”

Part-time dads, whose work takes them away from their families and such day-to-day details as school assignments and best friends, need to catch up on real life.

“This movie is forcing this man to learn how to be a dad and learn how to control his anger. In the boxing world, of course, it’s OK to be angry and be on the edge and be violent because you get paid for it. In the real world, you can’t go around punching people; it affects everyone.” Billy’s anger and rage as a fighter will destroy him or the most precious part of his life — his daughter — if he cannot tame his temper.

Mr. Fuqua, 48, has been boxing since his days in Pittsburgh and turned his suburban office here into a temporary communal gym, and Mr. Gyllenhaal, no stranger to workouts, as proven by “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Jarhead,” embarked on rigorous training.

“Four months, twice a day, in the boxing gym. Every day, sometimes on Sundays, and he completely committed. In fact, that’s where I interviewed him,” the filmmaker recalled.

“Harvey Weinstein called me and said, ‘Well, you guys should meet.’ I said, ‘Well, let me see if he can throw a punch,’ ” the director recalled.

Mr. Gyllenhaal could, and the title “Southpaw” has a double meaning here, from the traditional use of the left hand to tapping into the other side of your brain. “In life, sometimes you have to switch your tactics, even as a parent. Kids age, you age, life moves forward,” Mr. Fuqua said.

The movie, set mainly in New York, shot in Pittsburgh and Indiana for roughly 40 days and planned a few days elsewhere.

Cast and crews went to IUP’s Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex; The Priory on the North Side; the McKeesport campus of human services agency Auberle; the Omni William Penn and other Downtown locations; and the communities of Sharpsburg, Wilkinsburg and Carrick.

Just as he had for the filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Warrior,” former police detective Jimmy Cvetic steered young athletes to the set, and Auberle opened its doors to “Southpaw” in a couple of ways, too.

“That was really special. I put some of the kids in the film when I could — I had to go through the process, of course,” said Mr. Fuqua, who also talked to some of the at-risk children about “their dreams and just going for it.” Auberle supporters acted as movie extras during a gala hotel scene and helped to raise almost $5,000 for the agency’s mission of “helping children and families heal themselves.”

So, whose idea was it to come to Pittsburgh?

The Allderdice High School grad initially wanted to make a movie here about the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that got “put on pause,” he says. “I had ‘Southpaw’ for about five or six years. I got it from Steven Spielberg when he was going to produce it.”

It was originally set in Detroit, but he asked about the best tax incentives, he heard Pittsburgh and realized the Steel City could double for New York. “Me and the producers looked at the numbers, and I said, for me, it’s great, I get to make a movie at home. But at the same time, it’s tough because I got to make a movie at home.”

Although the finish line was in sight, Mr. Fuqua was torn about having to leave his hometown again. After all, he is a former Hill District and Homewood resident whose parents reside in Penn Hills. He was a director of music videos who graduated to features with “The Replacement Killers” and “Bait” and made some awards noise and history with “Training Day.”

“This is when the depression kicks in, of course. For me, it’s a double-edged sword. You know, it’s great to be home — family’s here, friends, you see the city again. It’s an amazing feeling to come back, and it’s kind of a heartbreak. You mean it’s going to end now?

“There’s so much more I want to do and see here because it’s changed so much,” he said, and scouting might mean popping into a place and realizing, “Wow, this wasn’t here before.”

He said, “I’ve been looking around and thinking about buying some property here. My kids got to see it, so it’s a special place.”

Although some friends and relatives assumed Mr. Fuqua could find them parts in his hometown movie, they also got a lesson in how consuming his job can be. He sleeps only a couple of hours a night, always preparing for the next day or scouting on weekends or meeting with new actors joining the cast.

“Now I think they know that when I don’t call back right away when I’m out of town. They get a better sense of it. I’ve hired some of my cousins and family members to work on the movie, so they can also see up close this sort of controlled chaos that happens with filmmaking.”

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The curious incident of theater with a side of shopping in NYC

Written by Sharon Eberson on .



I spent four days in New York last week seeing four shows during arguable one of the biggest weeks in Pittsburgh theater, so I have a ton of catching up to do, including "Smart Blonde" at City Theatre tonight, with the Public's "L'Hotel" and barebones' "Streetcar" still to come.

My colleague Maria Sciullo and my son Josh Axelrod spread out our viewing a bit, so here are just a few of the impressions of the week before Thanksgiving in New York.


2014SideShowMarqueeMaria and I opened with with the hauntingly beautiful revival of "Side Show," a retooled version of the original that had a relatively short first run in 1997-98. Reviews have been justifiably positive for this story of the real-life conjoined twins and vaudeville stars Daisy and Violet Hilton, but ticket sales slipped this past week, possibly as holiday tourism ratcheted up the family-friendly shows.

While we were at "Side Show" on Nov. 20, Josh and a friend took in "Cabaret" with Emma Stone making her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles. Here's what he had to say about the movie star onstage with Alan Cumming in his reprise of his career-defining role as the emcee.

On a New York trip that was to include four plays and a Jimmy Fallon taping, I knew going in that the highlight would be seeing "Cabaret" at Studio 54.

It wasn't because of the musical itself or the glowing reviews surrounding this revival. It was because Emma Stone was playing the promiscuous role of Sally Bowles. The prospect of seeing Stone clad in Kit Kat Klub-appropriate attire was exciting enough, but I also wanted to see if she could sing as well as she can act. My verdict: There seems to be nothing she can't do.

Anyone who has seen "Birdman" knows that Ms. Stone is more than just a comedienne now. She's a versatile actress who may be nominated for an Oscar this year for her supporting role as Michael Keaton's addict daughter. We all know she can be bring the comedy in broad fare like "Easy A" and "Superbad" or the emotional chemistry as Gwen Stacy in the "Spider-Man" movies. But the lady also happens to have a serious set of pipes.

She doesn't bring the roof down like I'm sure Liza Minnelli did in her time as Sally Bowles, but she destroyed "Cabaret," which required her to show her emotional range while also belting out the musical's showstopper. When she wasn't singing, she was as sultry as Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge." It's no wonder Clifford Bradshaw (Bill Heck) fell in love with her so easily.

Okay, enough gushing about Emma Stone. She lived up to expectations beautifully, but the rest of the show was just as riveting. I didn't know that much about the music or story of "Cabaret," but it's a fascinating show. It reminded me of "Pippin" in its structure, with an Emcee (Alan Cumming) holding the show together while the characters struggle to maintain normalcy during the rise of the Nazis in Berlin. It's funny, sexy and incredibly dark at times.

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New Star Wars teaser trailer here

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

It's still a year away but the big Star Wars news today is the release of the teaser trailer for the next movie, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." 

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