The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) last night hosted a phenomenal presentation for the 25h Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards held at Cipriani Wall Street. The biggest stars in Hollywood were all under one roof for the glamorous affair. VIP guests enjoyed mingling during the cocktail hour featuring fantastic drinks by Maestro Dobel Tequila. At dinner attendees sipped sophisticated Line 39 wine selections from California as the winners and tributes were announced for the ceremony.
Winning the Best Feature, Best Screenplay, and a Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance was Spotlight, director Tom McCarthy’s dramatic retelling of the Boston Globe’s investigative unit’s coverage in 2002 of the Archdiocese of Boston sex abuse scandal. McCarthy also shared Spotlight’s Best Screenplay win with co-writer Josh Singer.
The Gotham Independent Film Audience Award, voted by IFP members, went to Tangerine, director Sean Baker’s technically audacious, micro-budget comedy that follows two transgender sex workers on a wayward Christmas Eve revenge mission through the streets of L.A. Also awarded for Tangerine, Mya Taylor was voted the Breakthrough Actor award for her portrayal of Alexandra.
Winning the award for Best Actor was Paul Dano for his transformative, emotional turn as the young Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. Bel Powley was voted Best Actress for her emotionally detailed and varied performance in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, in which she plays a teen artist who starts an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.
Jonas Carpignano won the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director award, given to the director of a first feature, for Mediterranea, his timely and visually stunning debut chronicling two friends’ harrowing journey to cross the Mediterranean Sea to immigrate to Italy.
For the first time, the Gotham Awards presented two Breakthrough Series awards for achievement in episodic content in television and digital media. The Breakthrough Series– Long Form award winner was Mr. Robot, created by Sam Esmail. The USA Network series follows Elliot, a young programmer who works as a cyber-security engineer by day and a vigilante hacker by night.
The Breakthrough Series– Short Form award went to Shugs & Fats, a comedic web series that follows two Hijabis striving to find themselves in New York by adopting the latest Western trends of self-expression and personal growth. Shugs & Fats was created by Nadia P. Manzoor and Radhika Vaz, who also star as the title characters.
Also presented by IFP for the fifth year at the ceremony was the euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ grant, a $25,000 cash award for an alumna of IFP’s Independent Filmmaker & Screen Forward Labs. This grant aims to further the careers of emerging women directors by supporting the completion, distribution and audience engagement strategies of their first feature film or episodic series. The winner of the 2015 grant was Chanelle Aponte Pearson, director of 195 Lewis, a web series that follows a diverse group of young women as they navigate the realities of being black and queer in New York City.
As previously announced, in addition to the competitive awards presented, a Special Jury Award was presented by Emmy Rossum to eight actors from the cast of Spotlight for their ensemble work in the film, “in which every performance, in every role, of every size, is beautifully realized.” Career Tributes were also given during the ceremony to actors Helen Mirren (presented by Robert De Niro) and Robert Redford (presented by Dan Rather), director Todd Haynes (presented by Julianne Moore) and producer Steve Golin (presented by Alejandro G. Iñarritu).
The Premier Sponsors of the 25th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards were Maestro Dobel Tequila by Proximo and Line 39 Wines by O’Neill Vintners. The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. The Gotham Independent Film Awards by IFP, selected by distinguished juries and presented in New York City, the home of independent film, are the first honors of the film awards season. This public showcase honors the filmmaking community, expands the audience for independent films, and supports the work that IFP does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition.
The Gotham Award ceremony was streamed live to a global audience at www.ifp.org.
The Glorious Corner
SO LONG, FAREWELL — I’ve been a TV-guy for decades; from Mary Tyler Moore; MASH; The X-Files and Seinfeld on down; I’ve seen great shows fall low with just terribly written finales, but the final-Ted Lasso episode this week was nothing short of brilliant. The acting, the writing, the joie de vivre off the charts.
Joie de vivre literally translates into the joy of living and the three seasons of Ted Lasso were all just sensational in every way. Sure, there were some standout episodes (Beard After Hours), but Jason Sudeikis and gang were always just wonderful. Some pundits said that this third season ran off the rails a bit, but this last episode neatly tied them all up. And I’d be remiss in not mentioning the brilliant music that accompanied each and every episode; from The Monkees’ “Sometime In The Morning” to the new Ed Sheeran record which debuted in this last episode. Just so neatly done.
I’ll tell you what I really liked from the get-go was the fact that this episode began after Ted clearly told Rebecca he was going home in the last episode. The fact that they didn’t show it, made it a lot easier to digest. Hannah Waddingham is a star and she had her moment with Ted, in the seats, asking him one more time to stay.
She’s going to be as huge star, so get ready to see a lot more of her.
Brett Goldstein too (Roy Kent) was just tremendous. He’s huge already!
Roy Kent became the new coach of AFC Richmond with Nate as an able assistant. Ted Crimm (James Lance) finished his book originally titled The Lasso Way, but Ted after reading it and loving it, wanted a new title. Hence, The Richmond Way.
Just a great episode; a tad longer at 76-minutes, but richly written and acted. I am going to miss this show tremendously.
Utterly brilliant in every way.
MILLI VANILLI — (Via Deadline) A feature doc about controversial pop group Milli Vanilli has been picked up by Paramount +.
The eponymous doc, which tells the story of the duo who were forced to return their Grammy Award for Best New Artist after it was revealed that they didn’t sing on any of their records, is premiering at the Tribeca Festival.
The streamer will launch the doc in the U.S. as well as in Canada, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Produced by MRC and MTV Entertainment Studios, Milli Vanilli tells the story of Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, who became fast friends during their youth in Germany. With Rob coming from a broken home and Fabrice having left an abusive household, they shared a similar upbringing, as well as a future goal: to become famous superstars. In a few short years, their dreams came true. Their first album went platinum six times in 1989, and their hit Girl You Know It’s True sold over 30 million singles worldwide. Rob and Fab became the world’s most popular pop duo in 1990. However, their ascension to success came with a devastating price that ultimately led to their infamous undoing.
“For over 30 years, the story of Milli Vanilli – in particular Rob and Fab – has been reduced to sensational headlines,” said director Luke Korem. “With this documentary, we pull back the curtain on pop music. Featuring interviews with the real singers, record executives, the producer mastermind behind the deception and exclusive interviews with Rob and Fab, we unveil the truth of this complex, exciting and dramatic story. I’m thrilled that Paramount+ shares our vision and will bring this film to audiences around the world.”
“Finally – the true story of Milli Vanilli has been told,” added Fabrice Morvan. “I’m thankful Luke Korem and his team went to the lengths that they did. The journey I returned to during the filming of this documentary didn’t leave any stone unturned. At last I can close this chapter in peace… Get ready to take a walk in our steel-toe boots.”
SHORT TAKES — Nomad’s Flatiron Building looks to be turned into a residential house. Not a bad idea at all. Great address (175 Fifth) and a great location … Brian Lowry, who used to cover TV for Variety, now is at CNN. Great writer and he did a fantastic book on The X-Files years back. Congrats …
Donnie Kehr at Steve Walter’s CuttingRoom Sunday performing his Beautiful Strange album live … As you can well imagine, the reviews for Succession’s finale were just tremendous; both pro and con for certain, The Washington Post ran an interesting piece on the show as well; from a more medical-point of view. I loved it; take a look: https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2023/05/30/succession-wealth-family-life-psychologists/ …
Daryl Easlea: a brilliant writer from the U.K. has a book coming out on Slade entitled Whatever Happened To Slade?Remember them?
Here’s the cover … To close this year’s Tribeca Festival, there will be a special 30th anniversary screening of the film, A Bronx Tale, Saturday, June 17. After the film, Robert DeNiro (who directed the movie), Jane Rosenthal, and Chazz Palminteri will participate in a live conversation with David Remmick, editor of the New Yorker. Definitely one of the major highlights of this year’s fete … (Via Showbiz 411):
Billy Joel is wrapping it up. The Piano Man will end his record-breaking run at Madison Square Garden in July 2024. It will be his 150th monthly show. The whole run has been an incredible success, allowing Billy to stay mostly close to him and bring all his fans to him. At times, he’s strayed to other cities and countries, but every month like clockwork he’s been at the Garden playing his hits to very happy fans. The sold out residency began back in 2014, believe it or not. Billy has outlasted dozens of Broadway shows, some mayors, governors, presidents, etc. The run has been a phenomenon and a stunning success. Joel will turn 75 next May, so that plus the magic 150 number and it all makes sense … Happy Bday Melani Rogers; Ronnie Wood; and David Keeps.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Daryl Easlea; Tony King; David Geffen; Ed Rosenblatt; Glenn Friscia; Jim Burgess; Kent Denmark; Mikael Wood; Lester Bangs; Anne Leighton; Vince Aletti; Fred Goodman; Mark Bego; Mike Greenblatt; Ken Dashow; Jane Rosenthal; Robert DeNiro; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Markos Papadatos; and ZIGGY!
Out of Town
Monty Python’s Spamalot Finds its Grail Hilariously at the Stratford Festival 2023
“Always look on the bright side of life“, that’s what they sing, so enthusiastically to all of us, with automatic head-bobbings from one joyous side to another in happy unison, and inside Stratford Festival‘s magnificent production of Monty Python’s Spamalot, there really is no other way to go. It’s deliciously fun and utterly ridiculous, as any Monty Python engagement should ultimately be, with stellar comedic performances riding in most delightfully to the sound of coconut shells banging together with determination by those that follow. Within seconds, after our surprising side trip to Finland, all hesitations are entirely washed away by the utter skillful hilarity of all involved. Purposefully directed with sharp clever focus by Lezlie Wade (La Jolla/Broadway’s Jesus Christ Superstar), the quest for extreme merriment is “steady and over we go” inside the Avon Theatre in Stratford, Ontario as it is achieved wholeheartedly at every turn of phrase. And that is something no “doubting Dennis” will argue about.
Ripped expertly off from the motion picture “Monty Python and the Holy Grail“, this stunningly funny staging of the Broadway stage musical that in 2005 received 14 Tony Award nominations, winning in three categories, including Best Musical, finds its grail time and time again, delivering forth joke after silly joke with an expertise that is golden and holy. With a score by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, and lyrics and book by Idle, this superb parody of epic proportions is completely entertaining and non-stop irreverent, in the best of all possible ways. Playing parody with Arthurian legend, Spamalot leads itself in at the instruction of the Historian, played to perfection by Henry Firmston (Stratford’s Chicago). It’s all about the tale of King Arthur, hilariously well portrayed by Jonathan Goad (Stratford’s To Kill a Mockingbird) and his trusting right-hand coconut-wielding sound man, Patsy, awesomely embodied by Eddie Glen (MTC’s The 39 Steps), by his side. They are out on an expedition, searching for and trying to recruit a knightly army of men to serve and follow him. That is once we get our location settings all in order.
Now that we find ourselves (correctly) in dreary dark England, with penitent monks bashing themselves on the head to the beat of some drum, King Arthur hooves his way before us with his trusted sound man behind him, mimicking him to perfection. How do we know he’s the King? Well, “he hasn’t got shit all over him” is about the best response one could have, as the two go door to door trying to form a troupe of knights to sit at the round table in Camelot (and I must add, after watching the most recent revival of Camelot at the Lincoln Center Theatre a few months ago, this is the one I’d most like to hang out it, in spades). And as they say, whatever happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot.
Slowly but surely, they gather together this band of merry ridiculous men; Sir Robin, portrayed with song and dance in his heart by Trevor Patt (TIP’s Jersey Boys); Sir Lancelot, played tremendously (and violently) well by Aaron Krohn (Broadway’s The Lehman Trilogy); Sir Bedevere, cagedly portrayed with glee by Aidan DeSalaiz (Winter Garden’s Into the Woods); and Sir Dennis Galahad, beautifully embodied by the beautifully coifed (and very funny) Liam Tobin (Broadway’s The Book of Mormon). Even if his politically radical mother, Mrs. Galahad (DeSalaiz) is against it from the get-go. She states, most wisely, that they all must deny any king who has not been elected by the people, and therefore, Arthur has no legitimate right to rule over them. Well said. But it doesn’t really matter in the end. Just ask that Lady in the Lake, played magnificently by the oh-so-talented Jennifer Rider-Shaw (Stratford’s Chicago). She has another plan floating within her.
Sir Robin and Sir Lancelot need to navigate the Not Dead Yet Fred (Firmston) and his lively riotous number, “He Is Not Dead Yet.” Gloriously grand. But it’s Sir Galahad (and his mother) that needs to be convinced by the mighty charms and voice of the Lady of the Lake who has to prove to them that the story of Excalibur is real and true. Cheered on by the “Laker Girls Cheer“, she turns Dennis into the dashingly handsome Sir Galahad and together, they sing the most generic (and wonderfully long) Broadway love song, “The Song That Goes Like This“, complete with a falling chandelier and swampy boat ride in order to win out the day. With a grand fling of his locks, he happily joins Sir Robin and Sir Lancelot, and together with cagey Sir Bedevere and the “aptly named” Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show (Knuckle), they all set off for Camelot and the adventurous quest that leads them through this ridiculously funny skit-filled show.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
Out of Town
Stratford Festival’s King Lear 2023 Struggles in the Controlled Column of Rain
“It smells of mortality,” this King Lear, as the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums parade us into the opening night of the Stratford Festival in beautiful Stratford, Ontario. I must admit freely that I was thrilled. To be invited to all the openings of this world-renowned Festival is a dream, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Yet, I also couldn’t help but contemplate that moment in 2018, when, after watching The Royal Shakespeare Company’s King Lear at BAM, I surprised myself by thinking that I wasn’t quite sure I wanted another Lear viewing for some time coming. Don’t get me wrong. I love the play, with all its rich unfolding divisions around love, blindness, sanity, and a certain kind of madness that lies awaiting deep inside the sharp illumination of darkness and ego. Yet, this Shakespearian contemplation written with all the complexities of love, duty, and deceit intermingled is not my favorite of the bunch (honestly, I think that might be Macbeth). But it certainly isn’t my least favored either.
Yet after seeing that RSC production at BAM, which starred the incomparable Sir Antony Sher, I watched in awe as it dragged itself forward like an old Cleopatrian relic, spreading itself out slowly and ceremoniously in a way that made me slouch in my seat wishing for bed. That King never fully emotionally engaged, even with the hard-at-work Sher, one of Britain’s most esteemed classical actors, giving it his all. He enthrallingly stated in the program that once you play Lear, there’s really “nowhere else to go, Shakespeare-wise“. The part is a virtuoso solitary climb; a battle against time and importance; a “shouting at, arguing with, a storm.” And what could be better than that? It’s the ultimate human duel with the force of nature and existence, crackling with lighting and fury (as it should be). So it’s no wonder that I found myself, once again, ready and willing to engage, with this text and the trauma that is at the heart of this family breakdown.
Shakespeare Loose and Rollicking in Bryant Park
Eric Paterniani as Launce and Chewy as Crab (Launce’s ornery hound) in “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” 2015. Photo by Rosalie Baijer.
By Drew Valins
A couple of weeks ago I received a text: “Shakespeare’s Bday #459. We’re doing a sort of Greatest Hits thing. Are you in?” It was the Bat Signal from our own Hamilton Clancy, the Artistic Director of the Drilling Company. He was planning a sort of Shakespeare variety show. Although the run would be brief (May 25 only), it would be auspicious as the first production of the 2023 New York outdoor Shakespeare season.
We call our company the Drill for short. We are the Drillers. Every summer we do a Shakespeare play or five, and we split them between a parking lot on the Lower East Side and Bryant Park. This evening would be a lookback on our ten years of presenting Shakespeare in Bryant Park.
Of course I was in. This had become a ritual, something we previously did in Bryant Park to celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday in April. Each year held different surprises. One time we gathered about 30 actors and did a flash mob choreographed for optimal surprise. I decided to become a “drunk” Hamlet with brown bag and bottle in hand, ranting about how much of an asshole I was next to a garbage can: “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” Another time we celebrated The Immortal Bard with a full brass band doing a New Orleans style serenade of Shakespeare’s songs to accompany our scenes and monologues.
It would be fun. It would be loose. It would be rollicking. It would be like getting the band together again to do our songs. Who doesn’t like rock and roll?
Our company is no stranger to Bryant Park. We know the drill. We gathered at the Upper Terrace, some of us early to rehearse a bit and grease the wheels, others showing up at the last minute due to…well, life.
I recall one time we lost a key cast member who was stuck on the F train somewhere between “who knows where and who cares, you’re late!” We knew our #1 Drilling Company Rule: “Show up before your entrance or we skip forward”. It’s outdoor theater and the show would go on.
We set up our tent for changing and got our costumes and props in order. We did sound checks with the friendly Bryant Park staff and ran through the running order so that we’d know who to hand off our mics to and when.
It was a beautiful crisp evening in Bryant Park. The stage was set, the chairs were out, the audience was ready. I breathed in, closed my eyes, and let the sun wash over me. Ahhh. Outdoor theater. This is what summer means to me in NYC.
Doing outdoor Shakespeare in Bryant Park is like being the center act in a ten ring circus. You have the biggest audience you can ever dream of. I recall our “Romeo and Juliet” had upwards of 700 people. And at the same time you are in fact in the dead center of Manhattan, contending with a kind of manic energy all around you. I’ll tell you one thing I know. The Bryant Park Grill Happy Hour crowd may be the loudest din a theater company ever had to overcome. And yet it’s a beautiful thing to embrace for both performer and audience. The audience has so much to look at and that’s a big reason they come. You catch our show but you also get to look around and see all the teeming life of the city. For me, Shakespeare’s prose scenes, which tend to be comic in nature, adapt very well to this ambience. As Autolycus from The Winter’s Tale, I had the chance to grab the audience’s attention by shuffling through the aisles, offering folks free T shirts, Covid Tests and Toilet Paper. People laughed and as a performer, that’s food for my soul.
“Why do we do this stuff?” one of my fellow actors asked me once while we were waiting to go on. Before I had a chance to open my mouth he answered his own question: “Because we are addicts. We just love this shit. We need this shit.”
There is no backstage in Bryant Park. You don’t hide and enter on your cue. You are already there. The line between audience and performer is playful.
When we did Much Ado About Nothing set in the post WW1 Suffragette period, the men entered the scene from way way back behind the audience singing. Weaving our way through the yoga mats and picnic mats, the children doing hula hoops, and the lovers smooching on blankets, we sang our wartime song and it was awesome to hear our voices echoing through the entire park.
Come chaos! We are ready for you. Performing outdoors requires flexibility, to put it delicately. Among the many instances of chaos, I recall a few. In Two Gentlemen of Verona, the clown Launce had a real dog with him which, of course stole the show especially when it didn’t listen. An acting teacher once told me: “Never act alongside a dog or a baby. You’ll lose every time.”
In Much Ado, during the b allroom dance scene, a drunk dude (probably from Bryant Park Grill) wandered on stage thinking it was a real event and started dancing with us. We looked at each other and under our breath we said: “just keep going!”. When he realized that there were a lot of people sitting in chairs watching him, he found his inner superstar and started putting on a show. Eventually he wandered off to his next adventure.
Three Witches kicked off our 2023 production with their cauldron scene in Mackers (you don’t say Macbeth in a theater) and they did it half in English and half in Gaelic. It was dynamite and set the ritual of the evening in motion.
Next up was an audience fave: Act 1, Scene 2 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or “Meet the Mechanicals.” The only problem was that our Quince was off in Atlantic City doing bawdy Spiegelworld stuff. So I was tasked with jumping in. No problem. I had a week to learn it, and I realized it would be perfect because Quince has a clipboard and so if I needed a line, I’d just look down at my clipboard, perfectly in character!
We had Hamlet trying to get a grip, Juliet lamenting her lost love, Gertrude in grief, Jacques dancing with his many truths, and Polonia, a female Polonius which Hamilton Clancy notes “is a character that should always be played by a woman because it’s better that way.”
And while Lady M bemoaned her husband’s weakness, I glanced over at the pastry shop called Lady M on 40th street.
As for two person scenes, we pulled from Othello and Taming of the Shrew. It was delightful to watch Alessandro Colla and Evangeline Fontaine, a real life married couple who met in the Drilling Company, bicker and bluster and love their way through the scene as Kate and Petruchio.
Autolycus made an appearance from Winter’s Tale.
We had one original piece called Dueling Dr. Caiuses, written by myself and Remy Souchon. We both played Dr. Cauis in former Drilling productions of Merry Wives of Windsor and in this comic scene the two of us competed to find out who was the “Real” Dr. Caius. In the end of course we both died and so neither of us got the part.
And gracefully running through all the acts was the music. Original songs written and performed by Natalie Smith. The sweet song “Springtime” from our production of “As You Like It” was the closer. The whole company gathered on stage and sang together as a goodbye to this spring evening and a hearty hello to Summer.
Drew Valins is an actor and playwright and proud 15 year member of the Drilling Company. (www.drewvalins.com)
Donnie Kehr Debuts Beautiful Strange Live at The Cutting Room Sunday June 4th
Broadway-journeyman Donnie Kehr will perform exclusively his current album Beautiful Strange (ROB/Jazzheads) this weekend at The Cutting Room in NYC.
Max Sangerman from Broadway’s Beautiful Noise will also be performing.
Kehr’s album released earlier this year has drawn rave reviews from numerous publications and has been a huge draw in Europe.
Adds Kehr, “Says Kehr: “These songs are a reflection; a scrapbook of memories in tune. This album is inspired by people and relationships that profoundly influenced my life. A soul-searching journey to better understand my own heart, the mistakes I’ve made, and the beauty of this strange world we live in.”
Kehr produced the 10-track album himself at Good To Go Studios, NYC. Joining Kehr on backing vocals are Broadway friends including Tituss Burgess (The Little Mermaid; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt); Kris Coleman (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Eric Krop (Motown: The Musical) and Sam Behr. Guest musicians include Kevin Kuhn (The Who’s Tommy and Lion King) and the late Ted Baker (Steely Dan and Philip Glass).
Kehr who is best known for his Broadway work (Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy; Billy Elliot; AIDA; The Mystery of Edwin Drood; The Human Comedy) was a co-founder of the band band Urgent on EMI-Manhattan Records and their album ‘Cast the First Stone’ reached Billboard’s Top 100.
Continues Kehr: “Beautiful Strange has multiple colors of style and crosses over to many genres. I grew up listening and learning from my musical heroes and listeners will hear influences of Sting, Nine Inch Nails, Billy Joel, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Elton John & The Beatles.”
Also, an actor his film and TV credits include – Inventing Anna; Z The Beginning of Everything; House of Cards; Gotham; Quanitco; Jersey Boys (directed by Clint Eastwood); Wall Street; Chaplin (with Robert Downey, Jr.). And as a director / producer he is the driving force of the PATH Fund’s annual Rockers On Broadway® Benefit Concert Series, The Greatest Piano Men; and many other events.
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