Alec Baldwin and ‘Mini’s First Time’ Producer Get Into Heated Twitter Fight Over the Actor’s Autobiography Claims

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Alec Baldwin is making headlines following the publication of his memoir, “Nevertheless.” In the book, the actor claims that he was not aware Nikki Reed was only 16 when they made the film “Mini’s First Time,” in which Baldwin’s character has an affair with his stepdaughter, played by Reed. According to Baldwin, he was so upset that he “flipped out” on the producers of the film.

READ MORE: Alec Baldwin Reveals Why He May Not Be Playing Trump Much Longer on ‘Saturday Night Live’

On Wednesday, Dana Brunetti, who produced the film along with Kevin Spacey and Evan Astrowsky, took to Twitter to refute Baldwin’s statements, claiming that the actor was aware of Reed’s age when the film was shot in October 2004.

Moreover, on Thursday, Brunetti told The Hollywood Reporter“It’s a lieI read it and was like, ‘What the f—. Of course he totally knew how old she was. That’s why there’s no nudity in the movie. He knew before we even cast the movie. I think he’s been method acting Trump too much and he doesn’t know the difference between fake news anymore.”

READ MORE: David Letterman: ‘Alec Baldwin Deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom’ for Spoofing Trump on ‘SNL’

Baldwin fired back on Twitter and Brunetti did not hold back. Read the tweets below.

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‘Girls’ Pales in Comparison to Lena Dunham’s 2009 Web Series, ‘The Delusional Downtown Divas’

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Not everyone is sad to see the end of “Girls,” Lena Dunham’s meandering ensemble dramedy about four overly coddled, overly ambitious millennials. However, it’s an exercise in frustration when you consider “The Delusional Downtown Divas,” her two-season 2009 web series about a group of three fame-chasing twentysomethings who would stop at nothing in their dogged pursuit of art-world recognition — except make art.

Commissioned by Index Magazine when Dunham was fresh out of Oberlin College, the three Divas were an obvious precursor to the four “Girls.” However, they inhabited a much more specific world in the downtown New York art scene, where Dunham was raised. It was a subject ripe for parody, one that she was uniquely suited to lampoon. (Of note: The founder of Index was artist Peter Halley, father of “Divas” star Isabel Halley.) “Divas” struck a much sharper and funnier tone than the uneven soup of dissatisfied ennui that often hampered “Girls.”

READ MORE: ‘Girls’ Review: Adam and Hannah Play Out A Fantasy As Jessa’s Nightmare Comes True

Of course, each episode of “Girls” has to sustain a half hour, while “Divas” rarely passes the five-minute mark, a length that serves Dunham’s character-driven humor. Played by Dunham and her real-life friends Halley and Joana D’Avillez, the “Divas” presage the “Girls,” but their worries trade in downtown oddball neuroses rather than slick Hollywood anxieties. As artists who don’t make art (one is a “private performance artist”), the Divas are outrageous caricatures whose desperate attempts at fame rise to absurd comedic heights.

Where “Girls” trades in naturalism, often bogging down in expository conversational scenes that lack focus, a “Divas” episode pulls out every stop in less time than it takes Adam to explain his acting philosophy. Through the lens of this heightened reality, Dunham’s perspective is much clearer. It’s an old trick, but one she does well: By channeling her desire for fame into larger-than-life wannabes, she pokes fun at herself while grappling honestly with her demons. The result is a much more genuine — and ultimately compelling — work of art.

READ MORE: ‘Girls’ Review: A Baby Daddy Surfaces While Another Character Grows Up

There’s a moment in episode 9, season 1, “A Decent Proposal,” when conceptual artist Rob Pruitt offers the Divas the gig of hosting the Art Awards at the Guggenheim Museum. “I think it’s really important for us to get kind of like, attention, generally,” says self-described businesswoman AgNess (Halley). Oona (Dunham) coolly corrects her: “Exposure.” Like those who prefer “wealthy” to “rich,” there’s a socially acceptable term for venal desires.

While it’s not hard to imagine Hannah using words like “exposure,” “Girls” typically shrouds such blatant self-aggrandizement in hemming and hawing. The difference between the two shows is much like the difference between the two words: One is up front about its delusions of grandeur, the other hides it under HBO polish.

Certainly, there’s an enormous difference between making a short web series and creating a half-hour comedy for HBO. Dunham’s rise to fame inspired a cottage industry of think pieces about her privilege, connections, and whiteness. They’re valid criticisms, but it’s difficult to find a young male auteur that ruffled as many feathers. Dunham’s position as a “voice of her generation,” however fraught that claim, is as yet unrivaled. (Though Donald Glover comes close).

Far more important than Dunham’s connections (but since we’re on the subject, since when did modest art-world recognition guarantee success in Hollywood?) is the fact that “Girls” never lived up to expectations. Audiences have trailed off every season, and even current fans often admit it in a whisper. Not suspenseful enough to be a drama, not laugh-out-loud funny enough for a comedy, the storylines often feel like coat racks to hang Dunham’s funny hats. The bottle episodes are the most critically praised, but wouldn’t pass muster in an introductory screenwriting class.

READ MORE: Lena Dunham on ‘Girls’: ‘I Wouldn’t Do Another Show That Starred Four White Girls

One could teach a class on comedy writing from the scripts of “Divas;” they are that perfect. The game of the episode sets up quickly and clearly, with a premise that always pays off, and the random asides are full of unexpected whimsy. The three-part “Night at the Museum” sees the Divas spending a night in a tent at the Guggenheim, reading aloud from E.L. Konigsberg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. (Now that’s a reference worthy of the voice of a few generations.)

In a documentary-style interview in the Pruitt episode, Oona says of his invitation, “It showed trust on his part, but it also showed desperation. And that was something I admired.” She would soon receive a real-life offer from another man who would place his trust in her, Judd Apatow. But what “Delusional Downtown Divas” had — and what is most admirable about it — is desperation.

“The Delusional Downtown Divas” is available on the Guggenheim YouTube channel.

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‘In the Heat of the Night’ Turns 50: Why This Police Classic Still Thrills — TCM Fest

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Ever wonder why “In the Heat of the Night” beat “The Graduate” and “Bonnie and Clyde” for Best Picture Oscar in 1968? Well, as Bobby Kennedy told director Norman Jewison when he presented the movie with the New York Film Critics Award, “Norman, timing is everything.”

It’s hard to believe that the movie came out 50 years ago. Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger lit up the screen in the racially-charged murder mystery that not only captured the Civil Rights zeitgeist but also delivered a damn good drama. On April 6, the TCM Classic Film Festival celebrates that anniversary with a gala opening night screening at the Chinese Theatre IMAX on Hollywood Boulevard, attended by Jewison, Poitier, producer Walter Mirisch, Lee Grant, and composer Quincy Jones.

Considered an underdog that year, “Heat” took home five Oscars, including Best Actor for Steiger, Stirling Siliphant’s Best Adapted Screenplay, Hal Ashby’s Editing, and Sound Mixing. Unlike the more subversive nominees from Mike Nichols (who won Best Director for “The Graduate”) and Arthur Penn (“Bonnie and Clyde”), Jewison’s “Heat” took a more mainstream cinematic approach to the turbulent ’60s with a movie that offered hope and reconciliation. As James Baldwin pointed out in “I Am Not Your Negro,” the film soothed filmgoers and Academy members alike 50 years ago. The movie remains as resonant as ever in today’s divisive America.

Poitier plays a tough fish out of water Philadelphia cop trapped in Mississippi as the prime suspect in the murder of an industrialist, but winds up helping redneck sheriff Rod Steiger solve the crime. Underneath, it’s a buddy dramedy and they learn to accept the humanity in one another and the necessity of uniting the country.

“It’s an unusual picture in a way: There’s no love story, but that [bonding] between Sidney and Rod is what makes it work so well after all these years,” said Mirisch, who won back-to-back Best Picture Oscars for “The Apartment” (1960) and “West Side Story” (1961), two other incisive movies about the elusive American Dream. “There’s truth in all these situations and it’s as true today as when it was made. And the problem is still with us.”

“In the Heat of the Night”

Mirisch jumped at the opportunity of making “Night” (based on a 1965 novel by John Ball) with the very hot Poitier, who broke the color barrier by winning the Best Actor Oscar the previous year for “Lilies of the Field.” He developed the movie with Poitier and Siliphant (“The Slender Thread” starred Poitier), making sure it was a solid mystery and not a racial polemic.

Mirisch then hired up and coming Canadian director Jewison straight off their Cold War satire, “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” (1966). “I had no idea how important a picture it was,” Jewison told IndieWire. “Of course, I was aware of what was going on in the country, but I just wanted it to be believable or it would fall flat.”

And Jewison couldn’t have done it without cinematographer Haskell Wexler (who won the Oscar in ’66 for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) or editor Ashby. Wexler provided a verite vibe and Ashby turned in a tight 110-minute movie that should serve as a model for editors today.

The trick, though, in getting United Artists to greenlight “Heat,” was convincing the studio that if it were made for $2 million, it could turn a profit even if it was boycotted in the South (which did not happen).

And the key was landing Steiger as the sheriff, after George C. Scott bowed out because of another commitment. Steiger made the role iconic with great charisma and wit — and became the wild card.

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, Sidney Poitier, Lee Grant, Rod Steiger, 1967

“In the Heat of the Night”

Courtesy Everett Collection

“I think we owe the humor largely to him,” said Mirisch. “Norman appreciated what Rod was bringing to the picture and encouraged it and went with it. From chewing the gum [to reveal his inner thought process] to his reactions to various things.

“For example, the famous slaps in the face that take place in the greenhouse [of the town patriarch]. The tension is very high and Larry Gates says to Steiger, ‘What are you gonna do?’ And Rod looks at him quizzically and says, ‘I don’t know.’ And the theaters burst out into laughter. And the relief of that tension was just what it needed.”

Ah, yes, the famous slap. This marked the first time an African American had ever slapped a white man on screen before, which Poitier insisted on. Poitier’s first caveat, however, was that he was not going to shoot in the Deep South, so “Heat” was made in Sparta, Illinois. That is, except for the scenes with Gates, which were shot in Tennessee for three days because Jewison wanted the authentic look of cotton fields and a plantation house.

Jewison’s favorite moment — a conversation between Poitier and Steiger at the sheriff’s home — was crucially altered when a rainstorm interrupted the shooting. The director and stars huddled in a car and improvised an exchange about loneliness and then shot it after the storm lifted.

“I don’t think it had the same intimacy on the page,” Jewison said. “They worked well together: Sidney brought dignity and Rod used the Method to his advantage.”

 


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‘Boss Baby’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Will Battle Again For Box-Office Bragging Rights

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The Boss Baby” (20th Century Fox) and “Beauty and the Beast” (Disney) should take the top slots this early spring weekend, but the DreamWorks Animation comedy isn’t guaranteed to hold on to number one.

We’re in the middle of staggered school spring vacation season, so family-oriented films abound. That explains Sony’s release of “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” which looks to do best among the three new wide releases. However, “Going in Style” (Warner Bros.) and “The Case for Christ” (PureFlix) are less predictable with their respective older and faith-based core audiences.

This looks like another weekend that will outpace last year’s, when the top 10 grossed $91 million; expect this one to reach at least $100 million.

“Beaty and the Beast”

Alec Baldwin as an overgrown, big-mouth animated infant bested the third week of “Beauty” by $5 million, but on Monday and Tuesday it fell behind by small margins. This week, expect another close contest: “Baby” should fall more precipitously in its second week than “Beauty,” which is further into its run. The results for DreamWorks’ film will indicate whether it has found a zeitgeist among adults responding to Baldwin’s portrayals of narcissistic characters.

“Smurfs: The Lost Village”

Both should end up somewhere around $25 million. That’s about a third better than the opening of its predecessor, 2013 release “The Smurfs 2.” However, that opened on a Wednesday, with a $27 million five-day total. But it also arrived in something of a family-film vacuum, a month after “Despicable Me 2.”  This go round features a Smurfette and other girl characters. That could give it a boost, with $15 million-$20 million its likely range.

Going in Style

“Going in Style”

Warner Bros.

“Going in Style” is Zach Braff’s third time out as a director and his first wide studio release. A remake of the 1979 sleeper with George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, which grossed $92 million (adjusted), it stars Morgan Freeman Jr., Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine as retired criminals combining forces for one last score. (The script was written by Theodore Melfi, before his stint as an Oscar-nominated writer for “Hidden Figures.”) It’s a genre that appeals to older audiences, and did well for recent comedies “The Bucket List” and “Last Vegas.” Older audiences also like reviews, and they’ve been held back here. Despite lower expectations, it could end up closer to “Smurfs: The Lost Village” than projected.

The Case for Christ
Mike Vogel in “The Case for Christ”

Both “Style” and “Smurfs” debut at the usual 3,000+ theater total. The more niche-oriented “The Case for Christ,” aimed at gaining a Holy Week foothold, is set for over 1,000. Pure Flix’s biggest success came a year ago with “God’s Not Dead 2,” which opened to $7.6 million and got to over $20 million with an initial total of 2,419 theaters. This bestseller adaptation includes Faye Dunaway in its cast.

A very active specialized and limited opening schedule gives hope that the mostly weak post-Oscars period might see some strong entries to join “Kedi,”  “T2 Trainspotting,” and “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” Notable as their first release is Neon’s “Colossal” with great New York/Los Angeles theater placement for Nacho Vigalondo’s comedy starring Anne Hathaway as a young woman whose life changes course after a giant creature attacks Seoul.

Anne Hathaway in “Colossal”

Also opening is Fox Searchlight’s “The Gifted” from Marc Webb, director of Searchlight’s “500 Days of Summer” and two “Spider-man” films from Sony. It stars Chris Evans looking out for his niece, a seven-year-old math prodigy. STX has “Their Finest” similarly positioned in New York and Los Angeles. From Lone Scherfig (“One Day,” “An Education”) it stars Gemma Arterton as a British woman hired to provide a female touch to war-time screenplays in London during the Battle of Britain.

“Their Finest”

The best advance reviews go to two subtitled films and a massive worldwide animated film already honored last year. “Graduation” (IFC) from acclaimed Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, debuts in New York. “Truman” (FilmRise), from Spanish director Cesc Gay, spotlights the difficulties of sustaining a relationship over two continents. And the Japanese “Your Name” (FUNimation), which won Best Animated Film from the Los Angeles Film Critics last December with an off-the-radar one week qualifying run; it has a worldwide gross of $328 million.

“Graduation”

Also of note: Werner Herzog’s “Salt and Fire” (XLrator) with Michael Shannon and Gael Garcia Bernal, the Polish documentary “All These Lonely Nights” (The Orchard), and “Alive and Kicking” (Magnolia), a rare documentary (this one about swing dancing) backed by Blumhouse Productions.

Add in another Herzog film,”Queen of the Desert” (IFC) with Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Robert Pattinson, Walter Hill’s controversial transgender thriller “The Assignment” (Saban), and “Aftermath” with Arnold Schwarzenegger (Lionsgate) — all three either on or shortly available for home viewing — and the specialized viewer has a lot of options.


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San Francisco’s Master Plan to Keep Film Relevant In the 21st Century — SF International Film Festival

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Festivals

In order to understand the evolution of the San Francisco Film Festival on the eve of its 60th anniversary, it helps to look at its name, because it’s no longer called that.

Now, it’s the SF International Film Festival, which is produced not by the San Francisco Film Society because the major nonprofit is now known simply as “SFFILM.” It’s an appropriately modern moniker for an institution nestled in the fast-paced technology circuit of the Bay Area, and chic enough to match the region’s progressive scene.

But that’s not the only way way in which SFFILM, which launches its 14-day festival this week, continues to stay relevant. “We’re sitting here in the Bay Area surrounded by an enormous amount of wealth that wants to be invested in media that matters,” said SFFILM executive director Noah Cowan. “We can really focus on who we are as a nonprofit, to be sure that great films are being made by a diverse group of filmmakers, and help get them out in the world.”

Growing Into the Present

Cowan inherited that lofty goal a little over three years ago in the midst of a rocky few years for the organization. The film society was briefly run by Bingham Ray before his untimely death in 2012, followed by a yearlong tenure by Ted Hope, now an executive at Amazon Studios. Today, SFFILM is healthier than ever, and the festival has more reasons to stand out on the calendar: Now taking place two weeks earlier, it no longer conflicts with the Tribeca Film Festival; additionally, it has added two new presentation venues — the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and SFMOMA — to help encompass a meaty program that includes 181 films, 200 filmmaker and industry guests, a handful of world premieres and five significant awards programs.

Highlights among this year’s events include a “Creativity Summer & State of Cinema Address” by Pixar’s Edwin Catmull, a rare tribute for legendary producer and Telluride founder Tom Luddy, and a closing night performance of a new collage film produced by Guy Maddin and commissioned by the film society.

READ MORE: How Do You Find Distribution at a Film Festival? San Francisco’s New Launch Section Provides An Original Opportunity

However, one of the most anticipated events involves a key figure behind the current drive to modernize SFFILM: William R. Hearst III, the grandson of “yellow journalism” legend William Randolph Hearst, who will speak about the relevance of “Citizen Kane” to his family over the years after a screening of Orson Welles’ seminal 1940 film that was based loosely on the newspaper mogul’s life.

Citizen Kane

“Citizen Kane”

For years, the Hearst family has distanced itself from the project, but the current heir to the Hearst legacy has a special connection to the festival: He’s an influential member of the festival’s board of directors and has heavily invested in it over the years, including the development of a screenwriting grant in 2009 and a soon-to-launch streaming platform designed to showcase foreign film to a national audience.

“He’s very eager to see us look to our history to guide our next 20 years,” Cowan said. “This guy is the definition of a media visionary. His family certainly understands it better than most. He really galvanized us in the step to think differently about film and how we might play a role beyond the Bay Area.”

The streaming service, SFFILM Screening Room, is a world apart from the arena of Netflix and Amazon. Instead, the curated platform is available to members of the organization and will feature more than 10 films from the lineup after their public screenings. Cowan and director of programming Rachel Rosen worked out non-exclusive deals with rights holders so as not to endanger other potential distribution deals for the films showcased on the platform. “It’s an organic outgrowth of what we do,” Rosen said. “It’s how we support these films we love so much. Success for us looks like audiences discovering a film at the festival and being able to share it with friends and family.”

For Cowan, “as a nonprofit organization, we see our role as filling gaps in cultural knowledge,” he said. “Dynamic streaming services that champions global filmmakers are essential to American culture thriving, and that’s just part of who we are. We’ve been championing foreign language films for 60 years, and won’t stop.”

A Supportive Community

Hearst is not the only influential figure with a longterm commitment to supporting the scene. Chris Columbus first came to the Bay Area in 1993 to shoot “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and found it difficult to return to New York when production wrapped. He moved to San Francisco a year later. “I have never looked back,” the director said in a recent interview. “I feel in love with its visual beauty and majesty. The Bay Area film community values artistic expression and integrity over commerce.”

Of course, the commerce part of the equation is necessary for survival, but it has found many constructive purposes within the organization that encourage the continuity of filmmaking in the area, including the SFFS Producers Initiative, which supports producers on a range of international projects. It’s also an incentive for filmmakers to stay in the area, which Columbus said he considers to be crucial. “My goal is to shoot my next film in the city, and I will strive to continue to shoot films in the Bay Area,” he said.

Filmmaker Chris Columbus

Shutterstock

Another major investor in the region is producer and philanthropist Todd Traina, who left the area for Los Angeles 18 years ago (where his credits include “What Maisie Knew” and “10,000 Saints”) only to return last year with his family, newly committed to supporting the scene. “The Bay Area in generally really exposes and ultimately embraces the yin and yang across multiple cultures, residents, groups, artists, leaders and so on,” Traina said. “Local filmmakers gain tremendous access to all types of characters. We have access to so much here — and all these divergent personalities and histories and voices do battle in a very small geographic landscape.”

For Traina, that’s a big reason why the organization’s existence speaks to broader concerns for the survival of film culture. “In many ways, San Francisco is a a microclimate of the changing world today,” he said. “This is a community of major, major art lovers and creators. Everyone has very diverse interests and while the best arthouse films break out, and the exciting studio films break out, the vast majority of independent films have to compete with our other monumentally venerable cultural arts institutions for the time commitment of locals. There can sometimes be little energy left for supporting the film community.”

By stimulating further interest around the medium, SFFILM seeks to change that. “We are knee-deep in global change and cultural shifts — all within a very small and gorgeous city that has more money than it knows what to do with,” Traina said. “Hopefully, we can trigger a lot more of that money towards the arts, and specifically film.”

Beyond the Movies

Some may argue that the very notion of a film institution in the 21st century is too narrow to encompass an ever-cluttered media landscape that also includes first-rate television — and, more recently, virtual reality. But SFFILM isn’t blind to those developments, either.

“TV has been a part of the Bay Area for years,” said Rosen, pointing out that the festival showcased David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” series when it originally aired, long before the advent of TV sections at festivals worldwide. “It needs to fit organically into what we’re doing. We’ve always been relatively platform agnostic.”

This year, that sentiment has led to a tribute to screenwriter John Ridley, alongside a screening of his new Showtime series “Guerrilla,” starring Idris Elba, in addition to a preview of Jill Soloway’s new Amazon series “I Love Dick.”

Meanwhile, the festival continues to find its place in the emerging VR field, launching the second year of its two-day “VR Days” program. The festival will showcase a variety of VR projects from the Bay Area and beyond alongside panel discussions and other activities. “I find that VR can sometimes take on a gear-focused flavor,” Cowan said. “We already have all the gear people, so we find that audiences are more interested in celebrating the artists themselves.”

Much of these efforts reflect a renewed sense of purpose throughout the Bay Area that is now seeping into the film scene. “San Francisco is now arguably the most powerful, legitimate arbiter of society and culture, a global innovator and mediator,” Traina said. “But, in keeping with tradition, it is also the ultimate disrupter.”

The 60th SF International Film Festival runs April 5 – 9.


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