Showbiz veterans like Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, and Denzel Washington mingled with reps of New Hollywood such as Barry Jenkins, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Andrew Garfield at the 17th AFI Awards luncheon Friday afternoon at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

The mixture of longtime figures and newbies was also reflected in the TV honorees, as NBC (the sole broadcast network repped) was side by side with relative newcomers Netflix and ESPN Films, and with TV fare ranging from reliables like “Game of Thrones” to the new “This Is Us” and “Stranger Things.”

AFI announced its 21 honorees last month, with 10 films and 10 TV shows cited as “outstanding creative endeavors” during 2016; there was also one special award, to ESPN Films’ “O.J.: Made in America.” The big winners, with three apiece, were Paramount (“Arrival,” “Fences,” and “Silence”), FX (“The Americans,” “Atlanta,” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”), and HBO (“Game of Thrones,” “The Night Of,” and “Veep”).

Vince Gilligan, repping AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” enthused to Variety, “I feel lucky to be here; I’m so happy to be part of this.” Gilligan has attended the lunches multiple times, both for “Breaking Bad” and “Saul,” but added, “Believe me, I don’t take it for granted. This is a great event and I would do anything for AFI. AFI is so integral to Hollywood.”

Andrew Garfield is the star of two movies in the mix, “Silence” and “Hacksaw Ridge.” The actor told Variety, “It’s a big honor to be here with two films, one with Martin Scorsese and one with Mel Gibson. I think these two stories are very urgent for these times: How do we co-exist peacefully with people whose beliefs are so different from our own?”

The set-up was the same as in past years: A brief remark on each of the films (read by Leonard Maltin) and TV works (read by Rich Frank), followed by a one-minute clip. All of the scenes, though brief, packed a punch and drew reaction from the crowd, which was especially enthused for “La La Land,” “Sully,” “Zootopia,” “Atlanta,” and “Veep.”

The room was jam-packed with talent, and benefits from the movie-TV mix. As one studio exec confided, “I’m so excited that I can geek out over the ‘This Is Us’ people!”

And there was plenty to geek out about. Among the other attendees: Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Damien Chazelle, Charlie Collier, Toby Emmerich, Jim Gianopulos, Mel Gibson, Brad Grey, Reed Hastings, Sue Kroll, John Landgraf, Thelma Schoonmaker, and Kevin Tsujihara.

Executives and behind-the-camera talent also included Scott Alexander, David Benioff, Howard Cohen, Eric D’Arbeloff, Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer,  Ezra Edelman, Marc Evans, Joel Fields, Suzanne Fritz, Dede Gardner, Juli Goodwin, Mark Johnson (there with “Saul,” while his Gran Via Prods. has three films and four TV shows coming up in 2017), Larry Karaszewski, Katie Martin Kelly, Jeremy Kleiner, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, David Linde,  Kenneth Lonergan, David Mackenzie, David Mandel, Peter Morgan, Ryan Murphy, Marc Platt (his third consecutive time at the luncheon), Terry Press, Richard Price, Frank Rich, Chip Sullivan, Joe Weinberg, D.B. Weiss, Irwin Winkler, and Steve Zaillian.

Actors included Amy Adams, Riz Ahmed, Mahershala Ali, Jeff Bridges, Claire Foy, Donald Glover, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ginnifer Goodwin, Naomie Harris, John Lithgow, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore, Issey Ogata, Sarah Paulson, Chris Pine, John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Milo Ventimiglia, and Michelle Williams, representing various honorees, which also included “Hell or High Water,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight,” “The Crown,” and “Stranger Things.”

AFI topper Bob Gazzale told the 200-plus people in the room that they are already winners and there is no pressure about making speeches or wondering who would win. He also reminded the crowd that 2017 will mark AFI’s 50th anniversary.

Gazzale also announced the Audi Fellowship at the AFI Conservatory beginning in August, a scholarship that will support the entire two-year enrollment for one promising female director.

Repping the AFI board: Howard Stringer, Bob Daly, Jon Avnet, Roger Birnbaum, Jim Breyer, John Burke, Christopher J. Dodd, Jean Picker Firstenberg, Richard Frank, Jon Jashni, Kathleen Kennedy, Lori Lee, Edward James Olmos, Rich Ross, Chris Silbermann, George Stevens Jr., and Anne Sweeney, as well as Boone Isaacs, Gianopulos, Grey, and Tsujihara.


Todd Fisher brought the cremated remains of his sister Carrie Fisher to the private memorial for their mother Debbie Reynolds on Friday in Los Angeles. The vessel for the ashes? An extra large Prozac pill doubling as an urn, showing that Carrie Fisher’s sense of humor about just about everything, including her mental illness, lives on.

“Carrie’s favorite possession was a giant Prozac pill that she bought many years ago. A big pill,” Todd explained to Entertainment Tonight. “She loved it, and it was in her house, and Billie and I felt it was where she’d want to be.”

Todd also shared how he and the rest of the family are doing in the wake of the two deaths.

“Everybody’s as settled as we can be, and we’re not going to go any further,” Todd told reporters. “We’ll have a bigger service down the road for the public and all the family friends, but this was a private family service and we’re — it was fitting and it was beautiful.”

The date for the memorial hasn’t been set, but Todd noted that there are still ways to commemorate the late actresses.



Film Review: ‘Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’


“We have so much of them that was left behind,” he added. “All of my sister’s words and all the movies, and all the things that they created. That’s what we need to remember.”

Fisher spent years as a mental health advocate and even battled mental illness herself. In her interviews and in books, Fisher worked to break the stigma around mental illness and divulged her bipolar disorder over a decade ago.

Some of Fisher’s remains were buried with her mother.


Cecchi Gori Pictures and Cecchi Gori USA have tapped “Silence” exec producer and former CEO Niels Juul as a consultant.

The announcement was made in conjunction with Thursday night’s premiere of Martin Scorsese’s historical drama “Silence” at the Directors Guild of America Theatre. Newly named CEO Andrew De Camara made the announcement, which formalizes Juul’s role at the Italy-based company along with reviving the Cecchi Gori brand.

Juul had stepped down as CEO at Cecchi Gori at the end of 2012 but company owner Vittorio Cecchi Gori asked him to stay on the executive producer to finish the work on “Silence.” He also closed a deal with Michael Mann setting up the Enzo Ferrari biopic as well as settling a Cecchi Gori lawsuit in early 2014 against Scorsese, claiming the director had breached an agreement to direct “Silence” as his next movie by first directing “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Cecchi Gori was among Italy’s top production and distribution companies until the mid 1990s. It went through bankruptcy proceedings in Italy, which included the auctioning off of the company’s library which included Oscar-winning pics “Life is Beautiful,” “Il Postino” and Vittorio Gassman’s “Il Sorpasso.”

“If it’s going to be a movie company, it needs to make movies,” Juul told Variety at the premiere.

Juul began working with Scorsese on “Silence” in 2008. Scorsese had launched development in 1990.

“Martin gave me a bear hug in his living room,” he recalled. “My whole thing was to make sure he got it done. I believe in the greatest director of all time.”


One of the buzziest titles to debut at this month’s Sundance Film Festival is already off the market. “Call Me By Your Name,” a gay love story in the tradition of “Brokeback Mountain,” has sold to Sony Pictures Classics, Variety has learned.

The deal for worldwide rights, estimated to be north of $6 million, was struck after several buyers expressed serious interest. The movie will debut in the upcoming Park City festival’s Premieres section on Jan. 22.

“Call Me By Your Name,” adapted from the 2007 novel by Andre Aciman, follows an affair after a chance meeting in 1980s Italy between a 17-year-old boy (Timothee Chalamet from “Homeland”) and a twentysomething man (Armie Hammer). It’s not clear what the movie will be rated, but the book involves a sexually explicit act with a peach and other charged moments.



Sundance Film Festival 2017 Premieres and Documentary Premieres (Photos)


The film was made by acclaimed Italian director Luca Guadagnino (“A Bigger Splash”) and produced by Emilie Georges, Guadagnino, James Ivory, Marco Morabito, Howard Rosenman, Peter Spears and Rodrigo Teixeira.

Executive producers include Naima Abed, Tom Dolby, Sophie Mas, Francesco Melzi, Lourenco Sant’Anna, Derek Simonds and Margarethe Baillou.

The early sale for “Call Me By Your Name” coincides with a trend happening at film festivals, where hot properties are scooped up early, as distributors are eager to avoid all-night bidding wars with deep-pocketed players like Netflix. Last year’s Sundance featured two such big auctions for “The Birth of a Nation” (which sold for a record-breaking $17.5 million to Fox Searchlight) and “Manchester by the Sea” ($10 million to Amazon Studios). The rest of the titles in 2016 either arrived with distribution in tow or found homes in a slow trickle of deals.

WME and UTA Independent Film Group handed the sale.


“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” got off to a decent start in Chinese theaters, grossing $9.7 million (RMB66.5 million) and opening on top of the box office on Friday. But the debut was down from the launch of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The film earned $10.4 million, according to data from Ent Group, with previews from Thursday night screenings factored in. Local ticketing firm Weiying Technology shows “Rogue One” with a 60% market share on a quiet Friday that saw just $15.9 million generated by all movies nationwide. Heavy smog blanketing parts of the country may have dented cinema attendance.

The film’s release is delayed in comparison with the pre-Christmas outing in other territories, but it’s the first major Hollywood title to hit China in 2017. That is a similar course to “The Force Awakens,” which opened on Jan. 9 in 2016. In comparison with “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One” looks weak.



‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Hits $838 Million Worldwide


“The Force Awakens” grossed $27.8 million on its Saturday opening day, and $53.2 million in its two-day weekend. However, comparisons are complicated as January of last year was before the Chinese box office turned down sharply in May 2016. Now, Chinese audiences are less wooed by ticket price discounts and may also have become somewhat jaded by last year’s content. Nevertheless, the number of commercial screens in operation in China is up by some 30% since this time last year.

“The Force Awakens” ended its run in China with $124 million, which at the time of hyperbole was seen in some quarters as a disappointment. But after the mid-year slowdown, perspectives were revised and the film’s 13th-place ranking looked strong.

At the time of “The Force Awakens” opening, Disney suggested that its huge marketing campaign was necessary as the “Star Wars” franchise had suffered a long hiatus in Chinese theaters. And it also indicated that “The Force Awakens” would help build the Chinese market for “Rogue One” and other upcoming franchise installments.

“Rogue One” has in its favor a full Friday to Sunday opening release pattern. And it has the presence of two Chinese stars – Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen – who were on promotional duty for the picture pre-Christmas.


“Arsenal,” a pulpy crime drama about desperate characters and excessive carnage in Biloxi, Miss., is memorable primarily for some random scraps of loopy dialogue, the credible evocation of a sleazy demimonde rife with white-trash lawbreakers, and yet another Nicolas Cage performance that could be labeled Swift’s Premium and sold by the pound. Decked out in a putty nose, a bad wig, and a fake mustache that resembles an exhausted caterpillar, Cage plays a mood-swinging, coke-addled crime boss with the same manic gusto that lately has distinguished his work in scads of other easy-paycheck misadventures. (You could argue that, at this point, he is to 21st-century VOD fare what Wings Hauser was to ’80s direct-to-video quickies.) And while his over-the-top shtick is perilously nearing the end of its shelf life, Cage routinely dominates each film in which he appears, even when, as happens here, he is off screen for extended periods.

Adrian Grenier and Johnathon Schaech are the nominal leads, competently playing disparate siblings whose frayed family ties are sorely tested by the machinations of Jason Mosberg’s screenplay. JT (Grenier), an upright family man who owns and operates a construction company, is committed to covering the back of his ne’er-do-well brother, Mikey (Schaech). Unfortunately, Mikey has been far too close for far too long to Eddie King (Cage), a seedy gangster given to angry outbursts, ferocious violence, and twisted moralizing. (When JT aims an F-bomb in his direction, Eddie expresses disapproval: “Didn’t your mom teach you boys how to speak with distinction?”) Even more unfortunately, Eddie impulsively decides he could wrangle a hefty ransom from JT by employing Mikey, willingly or otherwise, as a hostage.

“Arsenal” isn’t big on explaining things, so don’t expect to find out why an undercover cop (John Cusack) is — conveniently — JT’s BFF, or how the straight-arrow JT so easily evolves into a two-fisted, gun-wielding avenger. Director Steven C. Miller more or less plays fairly by the rules of the genre, to the point of adding his own spin to the Law of Chekhov’s Gun. (In this case: Don’t introduce a stun grenade in the first act if you’re not going to detonate it in the third.) But his self-consciously stylized depiction of gruesome mayhem — lots of slo-mo beatings, shootings and blood-spurtings, often underscored with gospel choirs — is just so much pointless flash and filigree. As the closing credits roll, you may find yourself thinking that if Miller had just let everyone bleed out and die in real time, the movie might have been 10, maybe 15 minutes shorter.

Film Review: 'Arsenal'

Reviewed online, Houston, Jan. 6, 2016. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 92 MIN.


A Lionsgate Premiere release of a Grindstone Entertainment Group presentation in association with Ingenious Media of an Emmett Furla Oasis Films production in association with River Bay Films and Tinker Productions. Producers: Randall Emmett, George Furla. Executive producers: Marc Goldberg, Mark Stewart, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Barry Brooker, Stan Wertlieb, Ted Fox, Steven Saxton, Vance Owen.


Director: Steven C. Miller. Screenplay: Jason Mosberg. Camera (color): Brandon Cox. Editor: Vincent Tabaillon.


Adrian Grenier, Johnathon Schaech, Nicolas Cage, Lydia Hull, Christopher Coppola, Megan Leonard, Christopher Rob Bowen, Tyler Jon Olson, Shea Buckner,  John Cusack.

“La La Land” has dominated the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) International  Awards with trophies for Best Film and Best Lead Actress for Emma Stone.

“La La Land” topped “Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Lion” and “Manchester by the Sea.”

Nominees attending Friday night’s ceremonies at the Avalon Hollywood included Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, Luke Hemsworth, Kenneth Lonergan, Harvey Weinstein, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joel Edgerton. Among those taking the stage were host Daniel MacPherson and presenters Isla Fisher, Ruby Rose, Julian McMahon, Alan Dale, Radha Mitchell, Damon Herriman, Luke Bracey and Simon Baker.

Gibson received the award for Best Direction for World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” which dominated at AACTA’s domestic Awards in Sydney last month with nine awards, including Best Direction.

“Manchester by the Sea” received two AACTA International Awards with Kenneth Lonergan receiving the Award for Best Screenplay, and Casey Affleck receiving the Award for Best Lead Actor.

The Weinstein Company’s drama “Lion” took awards for Dev Patel for Best Supporting Actor, while Australian actress Nicole Kidman received the Award for Best Supporting Actress.


D.A. Pennebaker’s concert film “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” will screen in movie theaters across Europe on March 7 as part of a celebration of the life and music of David Bowie.

The evening, courtesy of event cinema company CinEvents, will include a new film produced by Mojo magazine exclusively for this screening. Picturehouse Entertainment is partnering with CinEvents for distribution of the event.

The film will be screened in multiplex and independent cinemas across the U.K. as well as selected countries across Europe, including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Germany, France and Spain.

The documentary/concert film captures Bowie and his band, The Spiders From Mars, performing at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on July 3, 1973. It was at this concert that Bowie made a sudden announcement, shocking fans and media alike by stating “it’s the last show we’ll ever do.”

Rather than marking his withdrawal from music, his declaration signaled the retirement of the Ziggy Stardust persona, and the end of a hugely influential chapter in Bowie’s own story.

In addition to the concert movie, the evening will include a new film produced by Mojo magazine exclusively for these screenings. This film will feature Mojo’s editor-in-chief Phil Alexander in conversation with The Spiders From Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey, whose memoir “My Life With Bowie: Spider From Mars” has just been published by Sidgwick & Jackson. As well as re-living that fateful night in 1973, Woody will provide further insight into what he describes as “the adventure of a lifetime.”

CinEvents is working with Mojo magazine — Britain’s biggest-selling music magazine, which Bowie guest edited in 2002 — to “further enhance the cinema-going experience.” Every attendee will receive a special edition of the magazine, which will document the Ziggy-era, and will also feature an exclusive David Bowie/Spiders From Mars Collectors’ Cover.

Tickets for the screenings will be on sale from Jan. 11 and customers will be able to find their closest participating cinemas via


Heading into the weekend, a tight race was projected between “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Sing” and “Hidden Figures,” the latter of which showed a strong expansion judging by early estimates.

Sure enough, Fox’s “Hidden Figures” earned $7.6 million at 2,471 locations to win Friday, on its way to an estimated $21 million for the weekend. “Rogue One,” meanwhile tacked on an additional $6.1 million at 4,157 theaters, shooting to a potential $24 million this weekend. Illumination-Universal’s animated comedy “Sing” made $5.1 million on Friday from 3,955 theaters and should make about $23 million by the weekend’s end.

Taraji P. Henson stars in “Hidden Figures” as Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who, along with her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), helped NASA advance in the Space Race. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons also star. Fox 2000 Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, Levantine Films and TSG Entertainment produced the film distributed by Fox. The awards season contender also performed well in limited release with $2.9 million from 25 locations since Dec. 25.



Film Review: ‘Hidden Figures’


With an additional $6.1 million on Friday, “Rogue One” passed “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and the original 1977 “Star Wars” to join the top ten highest grossing movies at the domestic box office of all time. The movie, from Disney and Lucasfilms, has also posted impressive numbers overseas.

In its debut weekend, Sony’s Screen Gems’ “Underworld: Blood Wars” made $4.9 million on Friday from 3,070 locations. The fifth film in the franchise starring Kate Beckinsale is expected to take in about $14 million in its opening weekend. “Underworld: Blood Wars” marks Anna Foerster’s feature film directorial debut.

“La La Land,” distributed by Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment, expanded to 1,515 locations picking up an additional $3.1 million to round out the top five. Its current total grosses stand at $51.8 million. A number of other awards season hopefuls remain in limited release including “Silence,” “Patriots Day,” “20th Century Women” and “Paterson.”


“Moonlight,” the coming-of-age story of a gay black boy named Chiron living in Miami, was named the best picture winner by the National Society of Film Critics on Saturday.

In the acting categories, “Manchester by the Sea” star Casey Affleck took the award for best actor, while Isabelle Huppert won the actress prize for her performances in both “Elle” and “Things to Come.” Affleck’s “Manchester” co-star Michelle Williams scored the prize for supporting actress, and “Moonlight” standout Mahershala Ali nabbed the award for supporting actor.

“Manchester” also won the best screenplay award. “Moonlight” continued its run by winning cinematography for James Laxton and director for Barry Jenkins.

The foreign film prize went to “Toni Erdmann” — the film’s lead actress Sandra Huller was a runner up in her category. “O.J.: Made in America” won in the nonfiction category.

This year the group had 38 people vote from around the country. The society announced Friday that for the first time in addition to its New York meetings, eight critics would cast their votes in real time from L.A., Chicago, Seattle, Denver and more cities. This year the group welcomed new members MTV’s Amy Nicholson and the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips into the fold.

View of the complete list of awards below:

Best Picture: “Moonlight”
Runners-up: “Manchester by the Sea”; “La La Land”

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Runners-up: Denzel Washington, “Fences”; Adam Driver, “Paterson”

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, “Elle” and “Things to Come”
Runners-up: Annette Bening, “20th Century Women”; Sandra Huller, “Toni Erdmann”

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Runners-up: Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”; Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Runners-up: Lily Gladstone, “Certain Women”; Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Runners-up: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”; Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Runners-up: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”; Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water”

Best Cinematography:  James Laxton, “Moonlight”
Runners-up: Linus Sandgren, “La La Land”; Rodrigo Prieto, “Silence”

Best Foreign Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Runners-up: “The Handmaiden,” “Elle” and “Things to Come”

Film Heritage Award: Kino Lorber’s five-disc collection “Pioneers of African-American Cinema”

Special citation for a film awaiting American distribution: Cristi Puiu’s “Sieranevada”


Jordana Mollick, Anna Rose Holmer and Nanfu Wang were each awarded $25,000 grants Saturday at Film Independent’s Spirit Awards brunch.

The event, held at Boa restaurant in West Hollywood, takes place a month and a half before the Spirit Awards ceremonies on Feb. 25 in a tent on Santa Monica Beach.

Mollick, a producer on “Hello, My Name is Doris,” won the Piaget Producers award, which goes to a producer who demonstrates “creativity, tenacity and vision” on a limited budget. Finalists for the award were Lisa KjerulffMelody C. Roscher and Craig Shilowich.

Holmer, director of “The Fits,” received the Kiehl’s Someone to Watch award, which recognizes talented filmmakers of singular vision who have not yet received appropriate recognition. Finalists for the award were Andrew Ahn, director of “Spa Night”; Claire Carre, director of “Embers”; and Ingrid Jungermann, director of “Women Who Kill.”

Holmer told Variety on the red carpet that the $200,000 film was funded entirely by grants and shot in 20 days in Cincinnati. The story centers on an 11-year-old girl who’s caught up in danger after becoming involved with a dance troupe.



Sundance Film Review: ‘The Fits’


“It was so satisfying that I received so much help in making this film,” Holmer said.

Wang, director of “Hooligan Sparrow,” received the Truer Than Fiction award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not received significant recognition. Finalists for the award were Kristi Jacobson, director of “Solitary,” and Sara Jordenö, director of “Kiki.”

The film follows activist Ye Haiyan, aka Sparrow, who seeks justice for six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal.

The event drew dozens of the nominees, including Ava DuVernay, who’s up for the documentary “13th.” She’s in the midst of directing Disney’s “Wrinkle in Time” but said it was crucial to show support for independent films.

“I’m a board member of Film Independent so I just had come out today,” she said on the red carpet. “I’ve been feeling feeling constricted politically.”

Viggo Mortensen, nominated for “Captain Fantastic,” said that the Spirit Awards are valuable for their recognition of less-visible films. “Captain Fantastic” debuted at Sundance in January and was released by Bleecker Street in July.

“We’ve helped keep it alive with hundreds of screenings and Q&As,” he added.