One of the biggest hits to come out of Sundance earlier this year was Lulu Wang’s sophomore Feature, THE FAREWELL. The semi-biographical story centers on Billi (Awkwafina), a Chinese-American woman who learns that her grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen) is dying and ventures to China with her family to see her one last time. One catch, her family refuses to let her grandmother know that she’s dying. The Film delicately examines Billi navigating her cultural duality and beloved grandmother’s mortality.
The buzz is feverish for the Film, which has seen in its limited opening, surpassing the per-screen average take by Avengers: Endgame. This, and also its rare feat of 100% on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes. The Rush Line tonight was filled with people hoping just for a chance to see the Film after it sold-out rapidly. The line coiled three times around the Box Office at the venue, with only a handful of people lucky enough to get in. Appearing in Toronto tonight for a special screening at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Wang who happens to call acclaimed Filmmaker Barry Jenkins her partner, came to introduce the Film to a Canadian audience for the first time ever with a Q&A moderated by TIFF’s Cameron Bailey.
We had the pleasure of being among the first to see this masterpiece, which features an outstanding and authentic performance by Awkwafina, whose Billi isstruggling to make sense of her two conflicting worlds, all while trying to find her own identity at age 30. It is impossible not to be affected by the love Billi shows for her grandmother, played phenomenally by Zhao, but also the tough love she receives from her mother (Diana Lin). The story connects universally to anyone who’s ever straddled two identities or tried to make sense of their confusion.
See the Trailer:
Wang talks about Billi’s character and how she adapted it to the Film’s star, Awkwafina. Wang: “I never intended her to be me. It was never like I was recreating myself on-screen. I wanted Billi to be a conduit for the audience. And also just for any Asian-American, immigrant American who feels caught in two worlds. She’s this vessel that takes us through this journey of navigating her American culture and her family’s culture.”.
Awkwafina truly transforms into Billi, speaking much less Chinese than Wang does. Wang tells us how she navigates this.
Wang: “When I met Awkwafina, she spoke a lot less Chinese than I did, so I was little nervous about that. She felt so quintessentially American, she’s your typical New Yorker. I changed the role of Billi in the Script to fit Awkwafina. I had Billi intentionally ask ‘What’s going on, dad? What did they say?’. I had her give some kind of hints that while she might understand some things, she doesn’t understand all things.”.
Wang who cites Mike Leigh as her biggest filmmaking inspiration, talks about the tone of the Film, which while dramatic, also is funny and heartfelt at once.
Wang: “It’s a lot harder to teach an actor Comedy than it is to pull a dramatic performance out of a comedic actor. I think that’s why so many comedic actors make successful turns because Comedians tend to be fairly dark people who use humour as a survival mechanism.”.
“Nora (Awkwafina) told me she grew-up cracking jokes because her mother died at age four and she was raised by her Chinese grandma, so there was a lot of awkwardness in her family. So she realized she had this superpower to crack a joke to dissipate the tension.”.
“I could feel she was tense. And she said, ‘I’m just very uncomfortable’. I said ‘Great, because Billi‘s uncomfortable, so use that. I know it’s a terrible thing for a Director to say, ‘Use it!’. I told her, ‘I said I know your instinct is to dissipate the tension by cracking a joke, but on this set you can’t because I haven’t written any jokes for Billi. So you have to channel all that tension through Billi and let us feel it on-screen.’. Once she settled into that it was so powerful and so seamless.”.
See some Snaps:
See some of Wang‘s Q&A with Bailey:
If you missed the sold-out TIFF Bell Lightbox screening of THE FAREWELL, you get a second chance to see Wang at a special Q&A following the 7:00 PM screening of the Film in Toronto at The Varsity, Friday, July 19, 2019. The Film expands to other cities Friday, July 26, 2019.
eOne Films x Mr. Will want to give Readers a chance to win Advance Passes to see IF BEALE STREET COULD TALKThursday, December 13, 2018 as follows:
Scarborough – Thursday December 13 – 7pm at Eglinton Town Centre
Vancouver – Thursday December 13 – 7pm at International Village
Calgary – Thursday December 13 – 7pm at Eau Claire
Ottawa – Thursday December 13 – 7pm at Lansdowne
Halifax – Thursday December 13 – 7pm at Parklane
Victoria – Thursday December 13 – 7pm at Odeon Victoria
Based on the novel by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk, is the story of Tish, a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her lover’s innocence while carrying their first-born child to term. It is a celebration of love told through the story of a young couple, their families and their lives, trying to bring about justice through love, for love and the promise of the American dream.
To enter to win, click “like” on this Post at MR. WILL ON FACEBOOK and indicate your City there. Re-Tweet this Tweet for an extra chance from @mrwillw.
eOne Films release IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK in select cities this Christmas, everywhere January 2019.
One of the most buzzed Films of TIFF ’18, we present to you the new Trailer for IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK from the man who brought us Best Picture, MOONLIGHT!
Based on James Baldwin‘s novel, Tish races against the clock to prove her fiance’s innocence while carrying their first child to term. A celebration of love told through the story of a young couple, trying to bring about justice through love and the promise of the American dream.
See the Trailer:
eOne Films release IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK Friday, December 13, 2018.
Following-up on the Best Picture-winning success of Moonlight, Director and Writer Barry Jenkins brings to TIFF ’18 his much-awaited Adaptation of James Baldwin‘s 1973 Novel, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK. Just as relevant then as it is today, Harlem-set love story examines racial profiling, wrongful incarceration and injustice.
The stunningly-shot Story centers on young lovers Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Toronto’s Stephan James) who learn they are expecting a child. Divided by the justice system which sees Fonny imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit. It is here we witness the strength of familial bonds and determination to overcome the worst case scenario as Tish and Fonny‘s love must withstand the rigours of dire circumstance. Brace yourself for some gorgeous Cinematography and outstanding work from veteran Regina King as Tish‘s mother Sharon. While it didn’t quite touch our core quite like Moonlight, Jenkins’ unique ability to pace a scene and tell a story is remarkable.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK screens Sunday, September 9, 6 PM at Princess of Wales Theatre VISA Screening Room and Monday, September 10, 11 AM at Princess of Wales Theatre VISA Screening Room.
The 89th annual Academy Awards took place tonight at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and in a shock of a finale, MOONLIGHT would win coveted Best Picture. Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway would make a not-soon-to-be-forgotten gaffe of announcing LA LA LAND and Best Picture, which eventually was corrected. Beatty clarified on-stage he had in fact received the envelope for Emma Stone, Best Actress. The acclaimed Barry Jenkins coming of age Film also would win for Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali).
In an era where inclusion and diversity are at the forefront of discussion, Ali becomes known as the first ever Muslim Actor to win an Oscar. Noted this year was an increased presence of talent whether it be Presenters or Nominees, of various ethnicities.
After dominating Awards Season, Damien Chazelle‘s LA LA LAND would sweep in several categories including Production Design, Cinematography,Original Score, Original Song, Directing and Actress (Emma Stone). Chazelle has the distinction of at age 32 being the youngest to ever win Best Directing.
Jimmy Kimmel filled hosting duties this year, delivering his signature brand of biting humour (much directed to a running friendly feud with Matt Damon) which drew big laughs and at once awkward silence when he joked about O.J. Simpson deserving an extra piece of bologna tonight after OJ: MADE IN AMERICA won Best Documentary.
The night reached a comedic high point where Kimmel told the audience that he had planned for a bus full of random tourists to visit Kodak Theatre without their knowing. Much to their surprise, they were greeted by a front row of Hollywood Who’s-Who which included the likes of Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, Ryan Gosling, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali and several more!
Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award just earlier this year, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep stole the show tonight right from the get-go without even speaking with Kimmel poking fun about Donald Trump‘s statement that she was over-rated getting the audience to giver her a standing ovation as the “highly-overrated Meryl Streep“.
The iconic Actress has appeared much in the news of late after Fashion Designer Karl Lagerfeld claimed to Women’s Wear Daily that Streep refused a dress from Chanel after she was denied monetary compensation for donning the label’s creation. Streep vehemently has denied the accusation, issuing a statement: “I do not take this lightly, and Mr. Lagerfeld’s generic ‘statement’ of regret for this ‘controversy’ was not an apology. He lied, they printed the lie, and I am still waiting.”.
The other acting categories went to heavy favourites. Casey Affleck won Best Actor for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA,Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress for her work in stage-to-film Adaptation FENCES.
Canada was represented well, with Montreal’s Sylvain Bellemare winning Best Sound Editing for ARRIVAL. The Best Picture-nominated Film also saw our Denis Villeneuve receive a nomination for Directing.
As always the evening’s fashion is a huge part of the spectacle and here are some of the evening’s winning looks!
As anticipated, LA LA LAND leads the 89th Academy Award nominations which were announced at 8:30 AM EST in Los Angeles. The Musical, hot off seven Golden Globe wins garnered a whopping 14 nominations including Best Picture, Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Directing (Chazelle), Writing (Chazelle) and more. It also has two nods for Original Song with Audition and City of Stars. Chazelle in a statement today said, “I am thrilled that the Academy is celebrating the work of Emma and Ryan, who brought these characters to life with such humanity and depth, and also the work of my college roommate Justin who created the beautiful music.”.
Up for Best Picture are:
HELL OR HIGH WATER
LA LA LAND
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
We had the pleasure of running promotions in 2016 for seven out of nine of these nominations and would like to congratulate our friends at these Canadian companies who distribute these Films: Elevation Pictures (Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge), 20th Century Fox Canada (Hidden Figures), Paramount Pictures Canada (Arrival, Fences), VVS Films (Hell or High Water), Mongrel Media (Manchester by the Sea) and eOne Films (Lion, La La Land).
MOONLIGHT, seen widely as LA LA LAND‘s biggest threat for Best Picture, garners the second-most nods, tallying-in at a total of eight. The Film directed by up-and-comer and nominee Barry Jenkins has been a major force this Awards Season, a powerful response to an outcry of the prestigious awards lacking diversity.
This year, we see a total six black actors nominated including Viola Davis (Fences), Denzel Washington (Fences), Ruth Negga (Loving), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures). We also see an Actor of English-Indian descent nominated for Supporting Actor, Dev Patel (Lion). FENCES, starring an all-black cast, gets four nominations, while HIDDEN FIGURES, fronted by three black female principal actors, gets three nominations.
Davis, seen widely as the favourite in the Supporting Actress category stated, “Thank you to the Academy for recognizing this extraordinary, important film and my work in it. Thank you Denzel for being at the helm!”.
Although Canada’s submission for Foreign Language Film IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD missed the final shortlist, Canadians have plenty to be proud of with a total eight nominations, according to a congratulatory Press Release from Telefilm Canada:
Howard Barish, co-producer (13th), Documentary (Feature) Sylvain Bellemare (Arrival), Sound Editing Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye (Arrival), Sound Mixing Ryan Gosling (La La Land),Actor in a Leading Role Shawn Levy, co-producer (Arrival), Best Picture Theodore Ushev (Blind Vaysha), Short Film (Animated), National Film Board of Canada Patrice Vermette (Arrival), Production Design Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), Directing
Some surprises from today’s announcements include a nod for three-time winner Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) in the Lead Actress category and Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) getting his second nomination today for Lead Actor. Many are surprised that despite getting recognized for Best Picture, ARRIVAL star Amy Adams did notgarner a nod for Actress in a Leading Role with two strong performances this year – the other being NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – being a major force all Awards Season. Newcomer and a soon to be on Broadway Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) finds himself among great company for Supporting Actor.
Streep in a humorous visual statement, had this to say about her recognition: