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‘Blindspotting’ Review: Daveed Diggs Is an Instant Movie Star in Intense, Uneven Oakland Buddy Movie — Sundance 2018

http://www.indiewire.com/2018/01/blindspotting-review-daveed-diggs-rafael-casal-sundance-2018-1201919106/

There’s a brilliant scene in “Blindspotting” in which Collin (Daveed Diggs), a few days before ending his probation, has a terrible nightmare. Sitting in a neon-red courtroom presided over by the police officer he recently saw kill a man, Collin faces a metaphysical trial that embodies every ounce of frustration in his fragile life. It’s a tense collage of one man’s cluttered mind, his disdain for a system piled against him, and nothing else in the movie can compete with it.

Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada from Diggs and co-star Rafael Casal’s long-gestating, semi-autobiographical screenplay, “Blindspotting” offers up a handful of such astonishing moments throughout an otherwise straightforward look at two lower-class Oakland pals struggling to find their place in a sea of gentrification. Ultimately, the movie belongs to Diggs, a Tony winner for “Hamilton” who comes into his own as a genuine movie star with a fully realized performance that easily outshines the bumpier moments.

He’s complemented by his creative partner, Casal, as the pair bring a fascinating chemistry to the uncertainty that defines their lives. The introductory moments waste no time establishing a tight framing device to set the story in motion: Collin has three days left on his probation for an outrageous incident from his previous job; now, he works as a mover with his childhood pal Miles (Casal) as they whine about their challenging lives in between exchanging freestyle raps.

Miles is at once the more reckless of the pair — he giddily brandishes a handgun for no good reason — even as he attempts to maintain a stable family life with his girlfriend (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and young child. Collin has yet to make amends with his ex (Janina Gavankar), who oversees the moving company while keeping her distance whenever she can.

The women are unfortunately sidelined in a plot that has little to do with them; on the other hand, the male leads who dominate the movie aren’t dominant figures, either; responsibility eludes them at every turn. “Blindspotting” lingers on Collin’s rocky existence with a fascinating and unpredictable air. When Collin witnesses a burst of violence early on, it provides an all-too-tidy excuse to illustrate the racial dynamics of the scene that barrel down on him. But the maximalist approach injects the movie with palpable suspense that reflects Collin’s mindset: He fears, for real reason, that at any given moment his entire life could collapse.

Casal, a hot-blooded white man who behaves like a crude inner-city caricature, serves as a blunt wild card to animate Collin’s broader conundrum: He’s a black guy with dreads who gets pigeonholed in the worst possible way, even though his best friend acts a whole lot worse. This dynamic simmers in their scenes together, until it finally bursts in a climactic showdown that’s at once inevitable and terrifying for the authentic rage Diggs brings to the scene.

Unfortunately, “Blindspotting” is continually marred by the fancy trickery of a filmmaker incapable of reining in the material, as split screens, an exuberant flashback, and flashy transitions constantly get in the way of letting the stronger exchanges stand out. The movie’s middle section struggles from a listless quality, as if the screenwriters found themselves incapable of writing a second act and simply gave up until they arrived at the third one. Clumsy bursts of violence that complicate the scenario materialize out of nowhere, and a ludicrous twist at the very end threatens to derail the more credible moments leading up it.

But Diggs carries it through the finish line, juggling extraordinary monologues that border on poetry as his eyes throb with outrage. Estrada frames his plight by transforming Oakland into a tantalizing vessel for America as a whole — decrepit streets sitting side by side with posh neighborhoods, a class-based system in denial about itself.

However, the ultimate success of “Blindspotting” comes down to the intensity of emotion percolating beneath each scene, with Diggs’ face exuding fury for an unjust world that has no use for his goodwill. He’s a striking embodiment of what it means to feel marginalized in modern times, a figure dominated by a blend of fear and anger so deeply entangled they become indistinguishable, and the only catharsis lies in living through another day.

Grade: B-

“Blindspotting” premiered opening night in the U.S. Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.


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‘The King’s Speech’ and ‘The Artist’ Best Picture Oscars Currently Missing From the Weinstein Company’s Offices — Report

http://www.indiewire.com/2018/01/the-kings-speech-the-artist-best-picture-oscars-missing-the-weinstein-company-1201919054/

A new Vanity Fair feature on Harvey Weinstein’s October panic right before investigations guillotined his career includes an engrossing footnote: The Best Picture Oscars won by “The Kings Speech” (2011) and “The Artist” (2012) have reportedly gone missing from the Weinstein Company (TWC)’s Manhattan offices. TWC has not yet responded to IndieWire’s requests for comment. Weinstein produced three additional Best Picture winners (“The English Patient,”  “Shakespeare in Love,” and “Chicago”).

Weinstein was fired from the mini-major studio he co-founded with his brother, Bob, on October 8, three days after the New York Times published details about eight sexual harassment lawsuits he had settled. The ousting also arrived two days before a New Yorker exposé detailed more allegations against the producer, including three rapes. Several dozen women have now made claims against Weinstein, whose past is now being examined by police in Beverly Hills, London, and New York.

Vanity Fair’s Adam Ciralsky describes how Weinstein and his TWC allies “allegedly spen[t] his last days at the company searching for and trying to delete documents; absconding with others; surveilling ex-employees’ online communications; and seeking to discover who, in the end, had orchestrated his downfall.” Among the documents was one obtained by Vanity Fair, “HW friends,” a list of 63 women organized by city.

During this time, a trusted Weinstein employee was Frank Gil, TWC’s vice president of human resources. Per a statement TWC sent Vanity Fair, on October 1, “Gil entered the offices of TWC employees without their knowledge and may have been responsible for the disappearance of personnel files,” including — sources told the magazine — parts of Weinstein’s file. Gil is now on administrative leave.

Citing two senior TWC officials, Vanity Fair reports that after Gil’s unannounced weekend visit, “Gone, too, were a pair of Oscar statuettes from the company’s back-to-back best-picture wins, for ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010) and ‘The Artist’ (2011). (No one has suggested Gil was involved in their disappearance.)” It is unclear whether TWC knows the current whereabouts of the statuettes.

Unnamed sources also told Vanity Fair that one day after the Times story broke, Gil told Weinstein that for a seven-figure sum, he would provide evidence that the Weinstein revelations were leaked by the duo now jointly leading the company, Bob Weinstein and TWC president and COO David Glasser (something both emphatically deny). Through a spokesman, Gil said he had not “engag[ed] in any wrongdoing whatsoever at any time.”

While Gil did not speak with Vanity Fair directly, TWC’s head of publicity and marketing, Nicole Quenqua, did. She was quoted on the record saying Harvey Weinstein sat her down a week prior to the Times story to say, “I might have done some things that are immoral. But I didn’t do anything that was illegal.”

Quenqua continued, “I thought the Times article was going to be bad but I didn’t have a clue about the extent and severity of the accusations. When I got the ‘push’ notification and I read that story at my desk, my mouth dropped open and there were tears. I was shocked and shaking. Then Harvey called,” asking that she and her colleagues assist on necessary damage control. Quenqua rebuffed the request.

Read More:  Harvey Weinstein Slapped by Man at Hotel Restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona

Besides Gil, the confidants that tried to bolster Weinstein ahead of the damning articles also reportedly included his former legal adviser Lisa Bloom, communications strategist and former Miramax staffer Matthew Hiltzik, onetime sex-crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein, his lawyer and famed Supreme Court prosecutor David Boies, Clinton administration crisis manager Lanny Davis, criminal defense lawyer Elkan Abramowitz, and another current Weinstein attorney, Charles Harder, who has previously represented Hulk Hogan and President Trump.

Read the full story here.

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Sundance 2018 Live Stream: Watch Robert Redford’s Opening Day Press Conference Online

http://www.indiewire.com/2018/01/sundance-2018-live-stream-opening-day-press-conference-robert-redford-1201918846/

Once Sundance Institute president and founder Robert Redford imminently walks onstage at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, the 34th annual Sundance Film Festival will officially commence. The Best Director Oscar winner (“Ordinary People”) will be joined by festival director John Cooper and his institute’s executive director, Keri Putnam, to provide insight on selecting this year’s slate from 13,468 submissions. Cinephiles will have plenty of new fare to watch — 138 world premieres — when not briefly distracted by Academy Award nominations early on January 23.

Also expected to be addressed is how Sundance is supporting the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up initiative, both founded in recent months as outcries to rampant allegations of sexual misconduct in the entertainment community. Sundance already updated its code of conduct and partnered with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’s office on a 24-hour hotline to report violations. During the first Saturday of last year’s festival — the day after President Trump’s inauguration — an estimated crowd of 8,000 including Connie Britton, Laura Dern, Chelsea Handler, Salma Hayek, John Legend, and Charlize Theron participated in the March On Main, in solidarity with concurrent Women’s March events across the globe. On its anniversary, Redford’s five-time co-star, Jane Fonda, and an attorney representing multiple Harvey Weinstein accusers, Gloria Allred, will be among the speakers at the Respect Rally.

The festival shares a name with Redford’s character in the 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which earned four Oscars. In November 2016 interview with his grandson, Dylan — co-star of the 2013 dyslexia documentary, “The Big Picture,” directed by Redford’s son and Dylan’s father, James — Redford revealed that this year’s film “Old Man and the Gun” will be his last as an actor.

Said press conference begins at 3pm ET and can be live streamed on the Sundance website. We will include an embed to the stream below when the feed starts. The festival runs through January 28.

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