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It’s going to be very hard for the Academy to resist nominating the animated short, “Dear Basketball,” given the star power of Kobe Bryant, John Williams, and Glen Keane. And why not? It’s an exquisite little piece (adapted from Bryan’t’s retirement poem and co-produced by him), which traces his fascination with basketball as a child and how that passion and drive led to an extraordinary 20-year career capped by five NBA championships.
Besides, the project inspired Keane, the former Disney animator (“Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid”), to reach new heights of hand-drawn fancy. Early on, in fact, Keane made the crucial connection between basketball and ballet, creating a dance between the young and adult versions of Bryant.
“The most captivating thing in the world for me is the human body in motion, doing what seems to be physically impossible things,” said Keane (the Oscar-nominated “Duet”). “I’m really drawn to that as an animator. But this chance to actually be a basketball player was really unique. I knew what it was like being a mermaid, swimming free through the water and the weightless feeling. But this was different.”
Studying Bryant’s Moves
The first step was sitting down with Bryant and studying his athleticism. They watched a Top 10 of his best plays on YouTube, and one, in particular, stood out: a final buzzer-beating, 3-point bank shot against Miami. “It’s literally down to one second left and Kobe’s being blocked by defenders, and so he has to break laterally across the court,” Keane said. “And as he’s running to the side, he lets go at one second. And the ball has two trajectories: one moving straight towards the basket and the other the momentum of moving to the side. And you watch the ball arc in an amazing way across the court and it’s a perfect swish.”
But, employing a valuable lesson from Disney legend Ollie Johnston, Keane knew it was more important to convey what Bryant was thinking than what he was doing. And so he asked the NBA superstar how he made the shot, and he told him a childhood anecdote about trying to hit a telephone pole with a rock while racing on his bike. After overshooting the pole, he learned to throw it back to compensate to hit his target.
“So he told me that when he was doing that shot, he was reliving that moment as a little kid and it went through the basket,” added Keane. “These details of him as a child were so important. They were vivid memories that he put specifically into his visual poem. They were anchors of his career, and I learned that Kobe’s greatest asset is not his athletic ability but his ability to learn.”
Getting Inside Bryant’s Head
Personal details from Bryant’s childhood were important: the posters of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson on his bedroom wall and the VHS tapes of Bulls’ and Lakers’ championships. But one memory nearly alluded Keane until he spotted it in one of the storyboards done by his son, Max: Bryant rolling his dad’s tube socks. “It was from the opening line of his poem and, for Kobe, it was everything,” Keane said. “And he showed us exactly how he did it and we filmed it so it was true.
“The way Kobe set up the chairs when he would practice was the one place where he actually did some drawing for me to show the [correct] pattern. He wanted some kid to look at it and see the steps he took.”
Accepting Bryant’s Narration
They recorded Bryant’s narration at Westlake Recording Studios, a block away from Keane’s studio in West Hollywood (where Michael Jackson recorded “Thriller”). The first recording was quiet and reserved. Keane figured Bryant was nervous and would improve with further readings. After 10 sessions, though, he realized that Bryant’s quiet reserve was intentional.
“For Kobe, this was a very vulnerable, personal expression and he was not trying to sell anything,” said Keane. “He was just trying to reveal something that was there. In fact, after we did the animation and John Williams had done the music, Kobe asked if we could take his narration off of it. I said there was no way I would’ve done this if I thought we weren’t going to use his narration. I told him not to discount it. This was part of the personal experience. So, of course, we used it. But I think that understatement in his delivery is true in John Williams’ music as well.”
For Keane, there’s usually a moment when he realizes that a project takes on greater significance than he imagined. In “Dear Basketball,” it came when he drew little and older Kobe together. “They had to be on that court together,” said Keane. “That six-year-old is always there. And, in the end, the two Kobes move together in a dance.
“We may think we’ve grown up, but those dreams and desires [from our youth] are still present. When I started sketching that, I realized this is one of those gifts, like a divine diamond, and you’re so thankful for it.”
“Dear Basketball” can be viewed on Verizon Media’s go90 (along with a behind-the-scenes documentary).
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‘Undercover High’ Review: Adults Pose as High Schoolers in a Doc Series That’s Not Nearly as Revolutionary as That Sounds
For years, the entertainment industry has been trying to figure out a novel way of explaining what high school life is “really like.” Sometimes it comes in the form of a generational-launching comedy, a one-season drama, or in the form of an eight-episode fake documentary about phallic vandalism.
But in the case of documentary series “Undercover High,” A&E tries to bring a new spin by filtering the high school experience through the eyes of young adults. Enlisting young-looking adults in their early 20s posing as students, the show sets out to bring a fresh angle through individuals like brother and sister Jorge and Lina, pastor Daniel, and student empowerment activist Shane. Working with teachers, administrators and the documentary crew, these “students” spend time as normal members of the student body of Topeka, Kansas’ Highland Park High School. A self-referential experiment, the result of this approach ends up closer to something more ordinary, with a premise that’s actually more of a hindrance than an asset.
From its opening seconds, it’s hard to watch “Undercover High” and not to think of “American Vandal,” Netflix’s faux documentary series from last fall. Even if that show didn’t explicitly set out to shine a light on the complex web of high school intrigue, the way the show captured the rhythms and relative importance of high school preoccupations still rang true. From the aerial drone shots to the grayscale background of the interview room, “Undercover High” unwittingly follows in the immediate footsteps of a scripted counterpart.
Even though both shows are produced, shaped and captured by adults, one problem with “Undercover High” is that it operates on the premise that the modern high school environment is changing exponentially. The students of only a few years ago are being sent back to relive their experiences under the assumption that they will find a vastly different world than the one they lived through only four or five years ago.
It would seem like a novel and insightful concept if the end product attained some special insight untapped by its school doc predecessors. The 2016 documentary “The Bad Kids” managed to capture the internal and external struggles of students at an alternative school, detailing how the struggle to stay afloat in the classroom is inextricably linked to the hope for a better life outside of it. “Last Chance U” is set at a community college, but the balancing of in-class responsibilities with the social pressures of playing on a football team that gives the school its identity covers much of the same attitudes.
Part of the storytelling barrier in these kinds of efforts is getting cooperation from underage participants, getting them to legally and meaningfully agree to a situation where the narrative of their lives is being shaped by someone other than themselves. In “Undercover High,” a majority of screentime is devoted to outsiders that there’s little room left for getting opinions and ideas directly from the peers that these actors are trying to learn more about. It’s essentially trapped between artifice and reality, purporting to be the latter.
In most (if not all) similar series, the teachers and administrators also play a significant part in helping to form the narrative of what these kids face. Here, Highland Park principal Dr. Beryl New and Superintendent Tiffany Pearson do give some context for the school environment. But the way their interviews are implemented here, their views always seem to come with the caveat that what the show is mainly interested in is the day-to-day experience of the students. When an administrator refers to online communication as “chat groups,” it’s another signal that everyone is at a fundamental disadvantage to better understanding the mechanisms of student life.
Some of that difficulty comes from on-screen text/Snap/comment graphics that approximate social media posts rather than showing the real thing. The vicious and callous online conversation that does provide “Undercover High” some shocking moments is still presented in the most generic way. It mirrors the way that Highland Park itself is trying to be the representative high school experience without fully highlighting what makes it unique as a Kansas public school.
Occasionally, the school-wide concerns of homecoming royalty give way to something much more dire. Cyberbullying, racial discrimination, and sexual violence all surface in “Undercover High,” but it’s still seen through the prism of the undercover students. It doesn’t diminish the fact that Lina can still feel like she’s in danger, but by the very nature of the show, she’s still an outsider. It’s disheartening to see her go through those challenges, but it’s still handled from an adult’s-eye view. Without diminishing the severity of the threats that some of these new students face in “Undercover High,” in its early going, is focused more on identifying problems than understanding them; its documentary style skews more reality show testimonial than connective tissue talking head, rehashing what’s apparent from the in-classroom footage that the audience sees.
Still, there is something fascinating about watching adults cede the upper hand in friendships to students half a dozen years their junior. Tasked with ingratiating themselves into a brand new high school community, the way that some of these undercover students talk about making friends with their “peers,” it takes on an odd teen comedy sheen to it, even when the students are trying to be friends with decent people and not The Plastics.
It doesn’t take a 23-year-old to shave, adopt some teen slang, and sit in on an AP Lit class to know that social media has its problems and that children of a certain age use their phones more than anyone would prefer. Yet, “Undercover High,” when addressing these issues couches those discoveries more in the shock of these undercover students rather than trying to identify any meaningful insight beyond being surprised at how things have changed in the past five years.
“Undercover High” premieres Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 10 p.m. ET on A&E.
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‘All the Money in the World’: Mark Wahlberg Was Paid Millions More Than Michelle Williams For Reshoots — Report
“All the Money in the World” could be facing another controversy over reports that Mark Wahlberg made millions more than Michelle Williams for reshoots. The Washington Post was the first to report on the actors’ salaries back in November when the reshoots were starting production, but now the pay difference is back in the conversation thanks to a tweet from Jessica Chastain that states she heard Williams only made $80 a day compared to the millions Wahlberg earned.
I heard for the reshoot she got $80 a day compared to his MILLIONS. Would anyone like to clarify? I really hope that with everything coming to light, she was paid fairly. She’s a brilliant actress and is wonderful in the film. https://t.co/VzGA2ucAjV
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) January 9, 2018
The Post’s first story on the topic estimated Wahlberg was making $2 million for approximately 10 days of work. Producers originally stated that the actors all agreed to be paid modestly for the reshoots since they were happening because director Ridley Scott needed to replace accused sexual abuser Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer. A source told The Post that Williams agreed to a figure in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or less but that Wahlberg demanded more and received a six-figure salary.
Ridley Scott told USA Today that Wahlberg and Williams “came in free” and agreed to reshoot their scenes opposite Plummer for no money, but The Post report directly refutes that claim in regards to Wahlberg. Williams didn’t hesitate to agree to the reshoots, telling USA Today that she said to producers they could have her salary and her Thanksgiving holiday if it meant saving the film.
“I said I’d be wherever they needed me, whenever they needed me,” Williams told USA Today. “And they could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted. Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.”
“I adore (Scott), worship him, would do anything for him,” Williams said. “I hated that this man’s time and expertise and gentlemanly-ness was going to be kind of for naught. So when I got the phone call about the change of plans I was thrilled. I was enlivened, it picked me up off the couch a little bit and got me excited.”
As The Post notes in their initial report, Wahlberg is notorious for demanding high salaries. An anonymous source told the newspaper that “All is the Lost” director J.C. Chandor dropped out of “Deepwater Horizon” during development because Wahlberg’s pay requirement was too much of the budget. The reshoots for “All the Money in the World” cost around $10 million, which would put Wahlberg’s $2 million at 20% of the additional budget.
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Golden Globe Winner Gary Oldman Has Long Hated the ‘Meaningless’ Award Show: ‘Boycott the F*cking Thing’
Gary Oldman won the first Golden Globe of his career this year when he was honored with the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Drama trophy for his lauded turn as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” The actor made sure to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press when accepting the award, but it was only four years ago that he was bad-mouthing the organization and encouraging people to boycott the Golden Globes. A 2014 interview between Playboy and Oldman is going viral in the wake of the actor’s Globe win, and in it Oldman fires off against the Globes.
“[It is] a meaningless event,” Oldman said years ago. “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is kidding you that something’s happening. They’re fucking ridiculous. There’s nothing going on at all. It’s 90 nobodies having a wank.”
“Everybody’s getting drunk, and everybody’s sucking up to everybody,” he continued. “Boycott the fucking thing. Just say we’re not going to play this silly game with you anymore. The Oscars are different. But it’s showbiz. It’s all showbiz. That makes me sound like I’ve got sour grapes or something, doesn’t it?”
The Playboy interview was hardly the only time Oldman made his extreme distaste for the Golden Globes public knowledge. Back in 2012, Oldman accepted the Empire Award for Best Actor thanks to his performance in “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy,” which was not honored with a nomination by the Golden Globes. Oldman told reports backstage at the event that he was pleased fans voted on the Empire Award since it meant it “wasn’t political.”
“Specifically, I’m talking about the Globes,” he said at the time. “Which I think is bent to be honest with you. There’s always a bit of that involved, people talk about the ‘sympathy win’ or someone will get something for their body of work rather than that role. The Oscars and BAFTAs, the voting and all of that is pretty straightforward. But the Globes, the foreign press, is a whole different thing.”
Something tells us Oldman probably doesn’t feel the same way today after winning the Best Actor trophy for “Darkest Hour.”
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Greta Gerwig Says She Hasn’t Yet ‘Come Down on One Side’ on Whether She Regrets Working with Woody Allen
After accepting the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Golden Globe for her solo writing-directing debut, “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig was asked by a reporter at the backstage Q&A whether she regrets her decision to appear in Woody Allen’s 2012 film “To Rome with Love.”
“I’m so thrilled to be here tonight as a writer-director-creator, and to be making my own movies and putting that forth,” said Gerwig (watch below), flanked by “Lady Bird” star Saoirse Ronan, who won a Best Actress statuette. Gerwig said the Allen question is “something that I’ve thought deeply about and I care deeply about, and I haven’t even had an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion where I come down on one side or the other. But it’s something I definitely take to heart, and, honestly, my job right now I think is to occupy the position of a writer and director, and to be that person, and to tell those stories.”
How Greta Gerwig feels about previously working with Woody Allen pic.twitter.com/4tmrNMdHiL
— Variety (@Variety) January 8, 2018
Earlier this week, David Krumholtz, who appeared in Allen’s latest film, “Wonder Wheel,” tweeted that the decision to partake in the film was “one of the most heartbreaking mistakes” of his life. This past fall, Gerwig’s “To Rome with Love” co-star Ellen Page called working with Allen “the biggest regret of my career,” a declaration that came a few weeks after Griffin Newman — who appears in an upcoming Allen film — revealed that he donated his entire salary from that project to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Allen’s estranged, adoptive daughter with Mia Farrow, Dylan Farrow, claims that he sexually assaulted her when she was seven years old, an allegation Allen denies. Dylan Farrow authored a December LA Times op-ed that asked in its headline, “Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?” In the piece, she specifically called out Kate Winslet, Blake Lively, and Gerwig for continuing to work with him, noting that Gerwig has called Allen her “idol,” but also told Fresh Air host Terry Gross in November 2017 that “it’s all very difficult to talk about,” as “I’m living in that space of fear of being worried about how I talk about it and what I say.”
At the Golden Globes, Gerwig, Ronan, and scores more stars wore black to support both the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, an initiative that raises awareness and legal aid for victims of workplace sexual misconduct.
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With the Golden Globes, it’s less about who wins than what the winners say, especially during today’s politically charged #timesup climate. It’s also a chance for winners to practice their acceptance speeches and spin some Oscar campaign memes. Only last year, Meryl Streep rode her incendiary Golden Globes Cecil B. DeMille achievement award speech to an Oscar nomination for not-in-the-bag “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
This year, Oprah Winfrey’s rousing call to arms could yield a run for president. “I want all the girls watching tonight to know that a new day is on the horizon,” she said. “Take us to a time when nobody has to ever say #metoo again!”
As host of the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards, vocal Donald Trump naysayer Seth Meyers walked the line between sharp brickbats and belly laughs. “Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen,” he began. “It’s 2018. Marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn’t, it’s gonna be a good year! This was the year of big little lies and get out — and also television series ‘ Big Little Lies’ and the movie ‘Get Out.'”
When it comes to Golden Globe predictions, it’s always a good idea not to be too cocky, as this idiosyncratic group of 90 Hollywood foreign press always throws a few curves. 2018 was no exception. While the HFPA didn’t go with “All the Money in the World” star Christopher Plummer for Supporting Actor or Ridley Scott for Director, they did reward “The Greatest Showman” with Best Song — as the second-year-in-a-row winning songwriters Justin Paul and Ben Hasek hugged presenter and “La La Land” star Emma Stone as they left the stage.
After last year’s “La La Land” seven-win sweep, this year the Hollywood Foreign Press spread the love. Fox Searchlight’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” lead the drama field with four wins, for Best Drama, Actress Frances McDormand, Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell and Screenplay Martin McDonagh. This gives “Three Billboards” a boost going forward, as frontrunners McDormand, Rockwell and McDonagh compete for Oscars with a strong wind in their sails.
“It was great to be in this room tonight,” said Frances McDormand as she accepted her Best Actress award, “and be part of the tectonic shift in the industry’s power structure. Trust me, the women in this room are not here for the food, we are here for the work!” Backstage, she added, “there’s no going back.” Notably, McDormand did little campaigning for this win, nor did her rival, “The Shape of Water” star Sally Hawkins.
Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell beat out “The Florida Project” star Willem Dafoe with his role as a bigoted cop in “Three Billboards.” “Yeah, baby wow,” said the indie character veteran, thanking Searchlight (with a total of six awards for the night) for releasing a movie people actually wanted to see, and writer-director McDonagh for “not being a dick. Frances McDormand, you are a badass, a force of nature,” he continued. “It was really fun to be your sparring partner. Thanks for making me a better actor.”
It was a good day for Mexico, too, as Disney/Pixar’s “Coco” won Best Animated Feature on its inevitable road to an Oscar win. Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water,” which led the 2018 Globe nominations with seven nominations, took home Best Director for Guillermo del Toro (his second nomination and first win) and Composer Alexandre Desplat. “Somewhere Lon Chaney is smiling upon all of us,” said monster-lover Del Toro, who gains momentum for a Best Director Oscar nod.
Not getting a boost was Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” with six nominations, which went home with nothing, along with such popular Oscar contenders as Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name,” Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” which has been a notable no-show in recent guild nominations.
Gaining ground in the Oscar race is Greta Gerwig’s comedy frontrunner “Lady Bird” (A24), which wound up with two Golden Globes, Best Comedy and Comedy Actress Saoirse Ronan for her role as a rambunctious teenager eager to escape Sacramento. Backstage Gerwig reminded that her title character was not like her at all, in fact, but closer to who she would have liked to be.
Supporting Actress went to Neon’s “I, Tonya” star Allison Janney, who had scored six Globe nominations and no wins on the TV side, and was delighted to win for a film. On the red carpet she called beleaguered skater Tonya Harding’s mother “a loving, nurturing mom.” Janney will continue to duke it out at SAG and the Oscars with another actress playing a formidable mom, theater star Laurie Metcalf, in “Lady Bird.”
Inevitably, Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill took home Best Actor Drama for World War II drama “Darkest Hour,” his first Globe nomination and win. “I’ll be learning about the man for many years to come,” said Oldman. “Words and actions can change the world, and boy does it need to change.” The British star is still the frontrunner for Best Actor at the Oscars.
Auteur James Franco won Best Comedy Actor for A24’s true show business story “The Disaster Artist,” which pushes him into position for a Best Actor Oscar nod — along with his graceful speeches on and backstage, thanking collaborators Tommy Wiseau, Seth Rogen, and brother Dave.
German filmmaker Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade” beat out shortlisted Oscar contenders “The Square,” “Loveless,” and “A Fantastic Woman” for Best Foreign Film, partly because it was his most personal film to date, he said. Cannes Best Actress winner Diane Kruger returned to her native Germany to star as the woman who fights back against terrorists. Will it make the final Oscar five? Only the foreign language committee knows for sure.
Many women took advantage of the Globes stage to make pointed comments, from movie star Nicole Kidman, who followed up her Emmy win with an drama acting award for Globe-winner “Big Little Lies” (along with fellow repeaters Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard), thanking her mother Jenelle for fighting so hard for women’s rights, to #timesup leader Reese Witherspoon, who told women who are harassed and abused: “We will tell your stories.”
“Here are all the male nominees,” declared Best Director presenter Natalie Portman, and Best Drama presenter Barbra Streisand made the point that it’s been 34 years since a woman (Streisand, for “Yentl,” in 1983) won a Best Director Golden Globe. “Folks, time’s up,” she said. “We need we more women directors and more women to be nominated for best director!”
Film and TV star Elisabeth Moss (“The Square”) also nabbed a second award for “Handmaid’s Tale,” which won again for Best TV drama. “We want to tell stories that reflect our lives back to us,” said Moss. “We want to see those stories, we want to see ourselves. We also believe in having as many women behind the scenes as possible. It’s also what people want to see.”
Laura Dern added: “Many of us were taught not to tattle, it was a culture of silence. Let’s support restorative justice. May we teach our children that speaking out without the threat of retribution is our culture’s new north star.”
First-time winner Rachel Brosnahan won Best TV Actress Comedy for Amazon’s “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” which also won Best TV Comedy. She plays “a bold, brilliant, and complicated woman,” she sad. “Let’s continue to hold each other accountable and invest in and make and champion these stories.”
Men spoke out, too: “The issue is bullying,” said Rockwell backstage. “People have to stop being bullies. We’ve all been taking a big look inside ourselves.”
The shift in the industry, Oldman said backstage, “is an evolution, a wheel is turning, a notch in the evolutionary wheel. We’re still coming out of the mists of time. What we do, what we say and how we do it and say it and who we do it to, are very important, and if that is exposed it’s a good thing. I’m wearing black, I was in solidarity with this #timesup movement. The film illustrates what can come from standing up and saying ‘no more, we’re not going to take it anymore.'”
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Debra Messing’s E! interview on the 2018 Golden Globes red carpet is quickly going viral after she used her time to call out the network for paying its male employees more than its women. Messing told E! that she stood by former host Catt Sadler, who announced in December that she was leaving E! after 12 years because she learned that co-host Jason Kennedy was earning double her salary for several years.
“I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female cohost the same as their male cohost,” Messing said. “I miss Catt Sadler. So we stand with her. And that’s something that can change tomorrow. We want people to start having this conversation that women are just as valuable as men.”
Debra Messing drags E! (while being interviewed on E!): “I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believing in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts” pic.twitter.com/HF3B2uhwtF
— David Mack (@davidmackau) January 7, 2018
Messing is wearing black on the red carpet to protest sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood. She’s also a member of Time’s Up, an anti-sexual misconduct group formed by hundreds of actresses. Earlier Sunday before hitting the red carpet, Messing tweeted her support for Sadler, writing, “We stand with YOU.”
Messing is just one of numerous actresses referencing Sadler on the red carpet this year. Eva Longoria, Reese Witherspoon, and Natalie Portman also called out E! for refusing to pay the host as much as her male co-host.
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