While the 2020 FILM INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS didn’t see a clean sweep for any particular Film, what made it most unique was the split of awards among deserving titles which may have been overseen on other circuits. Taking home top honours at this year’s Awards, held once again at Santa Monica Pier, was Lulu Wang‘s THE FAREWELL. The Film won Best Feature and Best Supporting Actress with Zhao Shuzhen, who sadly was unable to celebrate due to the Coronavirus situation in China. Wang‘s partner Barry Jenkins was with her to support her, showing his pride backstage.
UNCUT GEMS which surprisingly for many failed to garner an Academy Award nomination, performed very well at the Spirit Awards, rewarding Best Director to Co-Directors TheSafdie Brothers and also Best Male Lead (Adam Sandler). Sandler gave a spirited speech delivered completely as a different character, before thanking his family, while the Safdie Brothers both delivered a comical speech which saw them talking over one another.
Much like the rest of Awards Season, Renée Zellweger took home Best Female Lead for her work in JUDY, marking her first Spirit Award win after three nominations. Returning Host Aubrey Plaza delivered an opening number, a version of Judy Garland‘s Get Happy with hilarious lyrics, delivering the chuckles once again.
Watch it here:
MARRIAGE STORY also saw recognition with the Film’s team being awarded the Robert Altman Award, along with its Director/Writer Noah Baumbach who was also awarded Best Screenplay.Baumbach gave thanks to his partner Greta Gerwig, telling the audience “Even though she made a Movie (Little Women) too expensive to be here, she is just as independent as any of us.”. This was Baumbach‘s first Spirit Award.
Watch Film Independent’s YouTube Channel for more clips and speeches here.
We were thrilled once again to partner with Hollywood Suite, exclusive Canadian Broadcaster of the Awards!
See some of our star-studded Snaps. Navigate Albums by selecting the right arrow.
The Golden Globe Awards took place tonight at the Beverly Hilton, honouring together the best in Television and Cinema in one star-studded affair. The Awards for the first-time ever, served guests an all-vegan menu with Climate Change being front and center in discussion.Funnyman Ricky Gervais hosted a fifth and final time and once again nobody was spared of his biting humour, whether it be Leonardo DiCaprio being teased for his young girlfriends, The Irishman being too long or everyone as a whole being sent-off for the evening to go enjoy their booze and drugs, which failed to be caught by NBC Censors.
ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD took home three scores including Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Motion Picture Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino) and Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Brad Pitt).
Sam Mendes’ 1917 would win Best Director in a Motion Picture and also Best Motion Picture – Drama. The Film gets a wide release next week.
JOKER would be awarded Best Original Score in a Motion Picture, in addition to heavy favourite Joaquin Phoenix winning for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. Renée Zellweger as predicted, would take Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama after a 17-year absence from the ceremony.
In a couple surprises, ROCKETMAN also took home two Golden Globes, for Best Song with (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again and Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Taron Egerton). For Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Awkwafina would pull-off the upset winning for her performance in universally-acclaimed The Farewell.
HBO‘s SUCCESSION and Amazon‘s FLEABAG were both the big winners in the Television categories. The former took Best TV Series Drama and Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series Drama (Brian Cox). The latter took Best TV Series – Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Musical or Comedy (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). In addition to starring in Flebag, Waller-Bridge also wrote the Series, based on her one-woman Play.
Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon presented Ellen DeGeneres the Carol Burnett Award and reflected on how DeGeneres paved the way for her as a gay woman in Entertainment. “She risked her entire life to tell the truth. If I hadn’t seen her, I wouldn’t be on TV.”. DeGeneres when accepting her Award told the audience, “The real power in Television is not that people watch my Show, but that people watch my show and are inspired to put some of that into their own lives.”.
Charlize Theron presented the Cecil B. DeMille Award to screen veteran Tom Hanks to a standing ovation, recounting how he gave her one of her first big breaks auditioning for 1996’s That Thing You Do and giving her a second chance with a five minute break after being what she called “a sweaty mess”. A tearful Hanks gave thanks to his wife Rita Wilson and five children, stating “They are a loving group of people who put-up me with me being away months and months at a time. I can’t tell you what your love means to me.”. He credits his peers, stating “You’re a dope if you don’t steal from the ones you work with – I’ve worked with many who are known by one name like Meryl, Denzel and Antonio“. He shares a bit of advice based on his years of experience, saying “Showing-up on-time is one of the greatest liberating acts you can give others in a Movie, because when the time comes you have to hit all the marks and go there.”.
There were several winning looks on the Red Carpet including a glamorous red Vera Wang dress donned by Scarlett Johannson. Nicole Kidman also came in red, appearing every bit a Movie Star in Versace. Rising Star Ana de Armas sparkled like a sapphire in Ralph & Russo at her first-ever Globes appearance. Jennifer Lopez drew a lot of divided opinions on Social Media with her gold bow dress by Valentino.
FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW continues its winning tradition, the spin-off taking top of the Box Office with $61 million from 4,253 theatres for Universal Pictures. It gets a passing 61% on the Tomatometer and an A- CinemaScore. 2015’s Furious 7 still holds the best opening for the Franchise, with $147 million.
In second this weekend is THE LION KING which in its third week out gets $37.9 million for Disney from 4,802 theatres. It has made $430.5 million thus far domestically.
ONCE UPON A TIME.. IN HOLLYWOOD gives Quentin Tarantino lands in third with $19.3 million, a total $78.1 million over two weeks for Sony Pictures.
THE FAREWELL continues to perform well in limited release, placing seventh with $2.2 million for VVS Films/A24 Films. It has made $6.7 million over four weeks.
ANNABELLECOMES HOME rounds things out with $885k for Warner Bros., a total $71.6 million over six weeks in North America.
For a second straight week, Disney’sTHE LION KING takes the throne at the Box Office, with $78 million. In its second week, it surpasses $353.2 million in earnings, from 4,725 theatres across North America.
In second is Quentin Tarantino‘s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD with $41 million from 3,659 theatres in its debut, the biggest ever opening for the iconic Filmmaker and Sony Pictures. 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, also starring Brad Pitt like this Film, was his previous best opening with $38 million. The Film gets 86% on the Tomatometer and a B CinemaScore.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME lands in third this weekend with $11.8 million. Its four week run for Sony Pictures is $344 million domestically.
The Horror CRAWL is in fifth with $3.9 million for Paramount Pictures, a total $31.3 million over three weeks.
THE FAREWELL debuts in the Top Ten this weekend, expanding to just 135 theatres for A24/VVS Films with $1.4 million. It has made $3.6 million to date in very limited release. The Dramedy starring Awkwafina is 100% on Rotten Tomatoes still.
Toronto got another special surprise last night thanks to the amazingness that is THE FAREWELL! DC Comics’ TITANS star Ryan Potter together with the organization GOLD OPEN, bought-out last night’s 8:40 PM screening of the Film at The Varsity in Toronto, bringing his Co-Stars out to enjoy the Film. Fans in attendance received the best surprise ever!
In attendance were:
We are too lucky to be blessed by this Film! The Cast were all so nice to us! Kelly was so sweet, she loved my H&M flamingo shirt, nudging Leslie, who supported the Film a second time, to check it out!
The Cast whom have been working on season two of Titans in Toronto, dealt with a bit of sadness losing a crew member last week, which halted production. Production has begun once again it’s great to see them all bonding together right now. The tragedy altered plans for them to make an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con last week, a key opportunity for them to connect with their Fandom. And I don’t think they realized how hungry Toronto fans have been to meet them!
See our Snaps!
If you haven’t seen outstanding The Farewell starring Awkwafina yet, it expands to more cities this weekend across Canada.
What a turnout! Toronto’s own Simu Liu, known best for his work on Kim’s Convenience, got a hero’s welcome home tonight. Just this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, it was unveiled that he was cast in Marvel‘s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Tings, in the titular role. The Film has him starring as the first ever Asian male superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
To support his Shang-Chi Co-Star Awkwafina in her acclaimed new Film directed by Lulu Wang, The Farewell, he invited his fans on Social Media to a free 9:30 PM screening tonight of the Movie of the Cineplex Varsity. The theatre is pulling-in the highest ticket sales for The Farewell in North America, in addition to already beating Avengers: Endgame‘s per-theatre average!
I’ve never seen a crowd like this ever at this theatre and I’ve been going here for years! Fans crowded both levels of Manulife Centre, queueing for a chance at a free ticket, courtesy of Liu and Gold Open, a movement which supports Asian-Americans in Film, buying-out theatres entirely. The movement was instrumental in helping propel CRAZY RICH ASIANS to #1 at the Box Office in North America last year.
Showing their support for Liu were the stars of DC Comics’ Titans, Ryan Potter and Conor Leslie!
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.
It’s Awkwafina like you’ve never seen her. THE FAREWELL won huge raves at Sundance and we can’t wait to see it! The Film now has a Canadian release date!
In this funny, uplifting tale based on an actual lie, Chinese-born, U.S.-raised Billi (Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to Changchun to find that, although the whole family knows their beloved matriarch, Nai-Nai, has been given mere weeks to live, everyone has decided not to tell Nai Nai herself. To assure her happiness, they gather under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, uniting family members scattered among new homes abroad. As Billi navigates a minefield of family expectations and proprieties, she finds there’s a lot to celebrate: a chance to rediscover the country she left as a child, her grandmother’s wondrous spirit, and the ties that keep on binding even when so much goes unspoken. With The Farewell, writer/director Lulu Wang has created a heartfelt celebration of both the way we perform family and the way we live it, masterfully interweaving a gently humorous depiction of the good lie in action with a richly moving story of how family can unite and strengthen us, often in spite of ourselves.
See the Trailer:
VVS Films release THE FAREWELLFriday, July 19, 2019.
If there’s one Film coming out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival with a lot of buzz, that would be THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO. The Drama directed by Joe Talbot centers on a man searching for home in a city that seems to have left him behind. It stars Co-Writer Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Thora Birch, Danny Glover and Finn Wittrock. Our Amanda Gilmore spotted Fails, Majors and Morgan causing a commotion with autograph seekers after the Film receive a warm reception last night at the Festival. A24 distributes the Film, while Brad Pitt‘s Plan B Entertainment produces. We hear there were 100+ people on-standby to screen the Film tonight!
Biographical Sports DramedyFIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY which is based on the true story of WWE star Paige is a surprise addition to the Festival, set to premiere tomorrow. Paige who is played in the February release by Florench Pugh, was spotted about and about with Pugh. Many are wondering if Dwayne Johnson might be making an appearance at Sundance now too!
While we know Wendi McLendon-Covey mostly for her comedic work, she comes to Sundance with IMAGINARY ORDER. The Drama sees an obsessive-compulsive suburban mom’s sexual and moral unravelling and fans went wild for the star who was seen out doing press.
Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his directorial debut with THE MAN WHO HARNESSED THE WIND, based on the Novel by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Ejiofor also writes the Adaptation and stars in the the Drama. Amanda spotted him out being very giving to fans!
She speaks highly of THE FAREWELL which sees breakout star of Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians,Awkwafina, stretch her dramatic wings. Check-out her review here. The Film sold for $7 million to A24.
And of course, she was lucky enough to get into a screening of hotly-buzzed EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE starring Zac Efron! He really is that good in it we’re hearing. More here.
Some Snaps from Amanda:
Jonathan Majors, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
When a family finds out that the matriarch of their family, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), has terminal stage four lung cancer, they travel from America and Japan to pay their last respects. However, the Chinese tradition is to keep this news from Nai Nai until it is absolutely necessary to tell her. This is difficult for her granddaughter, Billi (Awkwafina), who cares deeply for Nai Nai and expresses all of her emotions.
The Farewell is perfect showcase for the amazing talent that is Awkwafina. She gets her chance to shine in a lead character role, displaying a wide range of emotions that cement her career ahead after a fantastic 2018 which included Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8. This is based on a true story and is beautifully brought to the screen from Writer-Director Lulu Wang. It’s loaded with Comedy and rich Drama that will touch anyone lucky enough to see it.
The Farewell screens at Sundance on Fri., Jan 25 at 12:15PM at Eccles PC, Sat., Jan 26 at 1PM at Redstone 2 PC and 9:15PM at Grand SLC, Tues., Jan 29 at 9:15PM at Sundance Resort, Wed., Jan 30 at 12PM at Library PC, and Fri., Feb 1 at 8:30AM at Egyptian PC.