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Notes On The Season: AFI Fest Opens And Ruth Bader Ginsburg Steals Spotlight; Crazy Rich Actors Hit Early Awards Circuit

A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit.

Welcome to a new Oscar season ..

A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit.

Welcome to a new Oscar season of Notes on the Season, my weekly column and roundup of various events and interviews from the endless awards circuit. For the next few months, right up to Oscar night February 24, look to this space for all kinds of fun stuff — that is if you are an awards junkie like me.


The fall film festival season that started with Venice, Telluride and Toronto in early September winds down this week with the AFI Fest, the American Film Institutes annual November, gala-heavy movie showcase that grabs the films breaking late in the game this month and over the holidays. It opened last night with the anticipated world premiere of Focus Features Ruth Bader Ginsburg “origin” story On the Basis Of Sex.

Veteran helmer Mimi Leder directs the film which was warmly received, especially in light of the real Ginsburgs fall in her office Wednesday resulting in some broken ribs and hospitalization. Note was made of this by Leder as she introduced the filmmakers and cast on hand including Felicity Jones, who is terrific as the young Ginsburg, and Armie Hammer equally fine as her husband Martin and co-counsel on a landmark case involving an attempt to overturn a century of sexual discrimination.

On The Basis Of Sex

Leder said she had been up into the early hours Thursday working on the pilot for her new Apple series about a morning TV show starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell and when she finally woke up after 10 AM startled to hear the news about the key subject of her new film. The movie was written by Ginsburgs nephew Daniel Stiepleman, who said he asked her permission once he discovered the facts about that early gender-based case and thought it would make a good movie. “Well if thats how you want to spend you time,” is the response Stiepleman told me he got from her, along with access to all her files and research.

At the Focus Features and Participant Media after-party at the Dream Hotel in Hollywood, I asked Stiepleman how his 85-year-old aunt was doing and he said very well and expected her to be released to go home very soon, which I can tell you is a relief to everyone. (She was released from the hospital today.) One partygoer, fearing another Supreme Court vacancy if this fall were to sideline her, said, “Where do I go to donate a rib?”

Jones also was concerned but happy to hear the woman she plays so valiantly on screen was doing better. She was receiving lots of love herself for her performance, which gives way to a brief cameo by Ginsburg herself at the end of the movie. Also, there was the films talented production designer Nelson Coates who not only did this film but also the wildly different Crazy Rich Asians this year. He explained how, with Ginsburgs help, he re-created the actual home Ruth and Marty lived in, and even put the same pictures on the tables in their bedroom. “I can actually say I was in Ruth Bader Ginsburgs bedroom with her,” he laughed.

On The Basis Of Sex

There were actually dueling after-parties, with AFIs traditional celebration across the street from the TCL Chinese theatre at the Hollywood Roosevelt in addition to the one I hit at The Dream; filmmakers made their way to both in some cases. AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale got the festival off to nice start with this opening, thanked past fest director Jacquelin Lyanga for her years of service and welcomed new director Michael Lumpkin who also has run AFI Docs out of D.C. since 2015. He offered a brief overview of what the next eight days will offer, right up to next Thursdays closing-night film, also from Focus, Mary Queen of Scots. Focus chief Peter Kujawski and Participants David Linde were among those at the opening, with Kujawski explaining to me he just learned how one is supposed to breathe when you get have broken ribs, a reference to the hot topic of Ginsburgs predicament. Everyone wished their favorite Supreme Court justice well.

Focus is releasing On the Basis of Sex on Christmas Day in honor of the 25th anniversary of Ginsburgs 1993 appointment to the high court. It is a nice holiday gift for all, especially as an antidote to all the other crap coming out of Washington D.C. these days. The Oscar voters I spoke to afterwards were uniformly impressed.


Nicole Kidman

Even though we just got through the midterms, and it is only early November with a number of contenders that havent opened yet, dont tell that to the eager recipients of some of the seasons earliest statuettes. Sunday saw the annual Hollywood Film Awards, a non-television kudos show that bills itself as the true start of awards season. Although lots of critics and pundits deride it (all the awards are negotiated with consultants looking to get photos of their contenders holding statuettes, and if you dont agree to show up in person, you dont win one), it still draws a starry lineup that is impressive, especially when you consider it is not televised. CBS tried it a few years ago but it lasted one airing on the network after low ratings and the antics of Johnny Depp deep-sixed it.

The show an the Beverly Hilton — two months before the Golden Globes take over there — is actually a breezy entertaining affair no one takes too seriously. Dress is cocktail attire, dinner is pretty good (but off the tables by the 5 PM start time), and the speeches were nice tryouts for the next kudos opp. Say what you will, but this HFA edition started out with Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling only presenting, and ended with a Career Achievement Award for Nicole Kidman, and there was lots of star wattage in between.

Kidmans in the running for Oscar noms for both Destroyer and Boy Erased this year and purposely kept the emphasis on them in her spirited acceptance. A rep for the Oscar and Emmy winner told me beforehand she wanted to call this honor The Diversity Award, since Kidman has been playing all kinds of diverse mothers lately — and that includes the upcoming Aquaman. Kidmans husband Keith Urban was there with her and suggested the name “Aquamom” when I caught up with the pair in the Hilton lobby as they arrived. Every one of these awards starts with the name “Hollywood” even as it actually takes place in Beverly Hills.

Hollywood Actress of the Year went to Glenn Close, who told me she flew in from New York that morning from her new off-Broadway show Mother of the Maid, where she had tacked on an extra Thursday matinee to get Sunday off to fly in to take this honor. Her team is making sure her electric performance in The Wife isnt lost in the buzz since it opened in August. They have lined up the Modern Master award from the Santa Barbara Film Festival in February, and yesterday announced she is getting the Icon Award from the Palm Springs Film Festival on January 3, two must-stops for exposure of Oscar hopefuls these days. (Check out my interview with Close on this weeks edition of my Deadline video series The Actors Side.)

I was sitting right near Close, who was surrounded by Sony Pictures Classics Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, who flew out for the weekend events (including Deadlines all-day The Contenders Los Angeles show at the DGA on Saturday). However, I was actually at the Netflix Roma table which was celebrating non-pro Yalitza Aparicios New Hollywood Award. She delivered her heartfelt speech in Spanish; she doesnt speak Eenglish — yet. Sitting at that table I was confused since not everyone was well known and the HFAs have a serious empty seat complex (even though they arent televised), so seat fillers kept showing up. With the Roma gang, the seat fillers, and a phalanx of Netflix publicists showing up at different moments, it was hard to keep everyone straight, but I have a feeling the much-acclaimed Roma is going to be in this room a lot this season.


Crazy Rich Asians

Hugh Jackman (Hollywood Actor), Timothée Chalamet (Hollywood Supporting Actor, moving up from Hollywood Breakout Actor last year), Damien Chazelle (Director) the Black Panther group (Hollywood Film) and a bunch of Crazy Rich Asians were among other HFA selectees. The latter took over two tables in the front and seemed to be having the best time of anyone celebrating their Hollywood Breakout Ensemble award.

“Have you ever seen this many Asians on a Hollywood stage before? star Constance Wu asked. That whole group didnt want to stop partying, so they carried it on the next night down the street at Crustacean at a bash Warner Bros threw to “celebrate their Hollywood Breakout Ensemble Award.” That event was so packed there was hardly any room for the noodles they were passing around.

Henry Golding, who got his big break in the film, told me he was going to be gone for most of awards season as hes shooting Guy Ritchies new film Toff Guys and Paul Feigs Last Christmas back to back. He also had a key role in Feigs recent hit A Simple Favor. Last year at this time the only people who had heard of him were those who watched him hosting a British travel series(!) Now hes the Asian Brad Pitt. I am guessing Henry and those two tables full of about-to-be crazy rich actors (I hear they are plotting to shoot sequels of the last two books of the trilogy at the same time since everyone is in such demand now) will all be back in force at the Golden Globes, where it has a real shot in the comedy or musical categories.

Hamilton Behind The Camera

As if one show wasnt enough Sunday, the Hamilton Watch people threw their 10th annual Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards almost simultaneously in which Gosling was again a presenter, this time to First Man costume designer Mary Zophres. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rami Malek, Angela Bassett and Felicity Jones also were among presenters to various behind-the-scenes artisans who worked on their films.

Get ready everyone. This is just the beginning.

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Spider-Man out of Marvel Cinematic Universe prompting fans to boycott Sony

Spider-Man will no longer be produced by Marvel (Picture: Marvel)

Marvel will no longer be producin..

Spider-Man: Far From Home has already grossed $580m at global box office A Still from Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man will no longer be produced by Marvel (Picture: Marvel)

Marvel will no longer be producing any Spider-Man films, after Disney bosses failed to come to an agreement with Sony.

According to Deadline, the studios were unable to come to an agreement over money, meaning Spidey is ducking out of MCU for now.

The publication states Disney asked that any future films starring the superhero – currently played by Tom Holland – be a 50/50 co-financing arrangement, something Sony refused to consider.

Instead, they reportedly suggested to keep their current deal, offering the studio 5 per cent of the first dollar grossing, with the studio declining.

Marvel president Kevin Feige was creative lead in the previous two Spider-Man films of the latest era, with 23-year-old Tom climbing into the superhero suit.

But unless a negotiation is reached, he will not have the same role in the two movies reportedly in the works.

L to R: Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff)

Spider-Man was part of the Avengers gang (Picture: Marvel)

Understandably, fans are not impressed with the developments, with some even threatening to boycott Sony over their involvement.



Flocking to Twitter, one fumed: @Sony needs to go back to negotiating table with @Disney to keep #SpiderMan in the #MCU Spidey movies need to be in that universe and we dont need Sony to f*** it up again. #savespiderman.

Ill be seriously p***ed if #SpiderMan is no longer in the MCU, another said. I guess Sony hasnt learned their lesson.

Im gonna go ahead and call Sony on their bluff. Im pretty sure they will not pull away from Marvel, yall worrying over nothing. When Disney wants something they get it, thats it! #SpiderMan, a fan suggested.

#SpiderMan far from home was the highest grossing Sony movie, but yet this still took him away from the MCU!! Oh, these MFers extra stupid, a Twitter user fumed.

While a follower added: #BoycottSony They cant take Spidey away like this! Boycott Sony until they give #SpiderMan to Disney! FULL CONTROL OVER THE CHARACTER!!

The news comes after it was revealed Spider-Man: Far From Home – aka the second instalment in the recent series – has become Sonys highest grossing film of all time.

Meaning Spidey is even bigger than James Bond.

More: Film

Far From Home, the second film in the recent Spider-Man series starring 23-year-old Tom has bought in a whopping $Read More – Source

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Keanu Reeves confirmed to appear in Matrix 4 alongside Carrie-Anne Moss after 14 years

Keanu had better dust off that trench coat

Its official, Keanu Reeves is set to reprise his role in..

Keanu Reeves in The Matrix

Keanu had better dust off that trench coat

Its official, Keanu Reeves is set to reprise his role in The Matrix franchise with confirmation that the actor will appear in the fourth installment.

The 52-year-old will take on his lead role as Neo once again with his co-star, Carrie-Anne Moss, reprising her role as his sidekick Trinity.

Fans of the iconic sci-fi franchise are thrilled with the news as its been 14 years since Keanu last donned Neos long black trench coat in 2003s double whammy of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

The Matrix 4 will be in good hands as Lana Wachowski is back on-board to write and direct the fourth installment.

Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich announced the exciting news on Tuesday, stating: Lana is a true visionary — a singular and original creative filmmaker — and we are thrilled that she is writing, directing and producing this new chapter in The Matrix universe.



Lana added in her own statement released to Variety: Many of the ideas Lilly and I explored 20 years ago about our reality are even more relevant now.

Im very happy to have these characters back in my life and grateful for another chance to work with my brilliant friends.

Carrie Anne Moss

Carrie will return as Trinity and we are too excited (Picture: Getty Images)

The Matrix 4 reactions

The Matrix 4 reactions

The Matrix 4 reactions

The Matrix 4 reactions

The Matrix 4 reactions

Theres not long for Keanu to dust off those dark sunglasses as sources say production on the anticipated project is expected to begin at the beginning of 2020.

For those wondering about Laurence Fishburnes character Morpheus, well Variety claims the studio is looking for actors to play a young Morpheus, leading to suggestions about when the sequel is set.

Its been a long time coming for Warner Bros., who have reportedly struggled to get Matrix 4 off the ground over arguments about who owned rights.

More: Keanu Reeves

Keanu, 54, is certainly enjoying a hot boy summer, following the success of John Wick 3 and Toy Story 4, both of which smashed the global box office.Read More – Source

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Kristen Stewart enjoys relaxing spa day as monster movie trailer Underwater drops

No wonder she needed a spa trip (Picture: Fox/Backgrid)

Kristen Stewart was pictured visiting a Los..

Kristen Stewart

No wonder she needed a spa trip (Picture: Fox/Backgrid)

Kristen Stewart was pictured visiting a Los Angeles spa on Monday, leaving us wondering if she needed a relaxing massage as well after the trailer for new monster flick Underwater dropped.

Kristen, wearing a white crop top and black leggings, arrived at the spa on her own for a treatment (or maybe two) on the same day as the trailer for the new thriller was released.

Underwater stars Kristen, John Gallagher Jr and Vincent Cassel as a crew of underwater researchers who must scramble to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory.

But the researchers, who are seven miles under the oceans surface, realise that there may be a bigger concern than just getting help after the earthquake.

Kristen Stewart

Its a busy few months for the 29-year-old (Picture: Backgrid)

Kristen Stewart

Underwater stars Kristen, John Gallagher Jr and Vincent Cassel (Picture: Backgrid)

Its a busy few months for the 29-year-old whose new film JT LeRoy is out now in UK cinemas while later in August fans will see her walk the red carpet at Venice Film Festival for the world premiere of Seberg.



Seberg tells the true story of a young FBI agent who is asked to investigate iconic actress Jean Seberg in the 1960s.

Later in the year her popcorn flick Charlies Angels, a reboot of the TV show, will hit cinemas in November and then in January, Underwater will arrive.

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In among all that shes also been playing the field as she was pictured packing on the PDA with former girlfriend Stella Maxwell on a yacht, leading everyone to assume they were back on.

But oh no, because days later she was pictured kissing screenwriter Dylan Meyer.

Kristen swapped a yacht in Italy for a stoop in New York City to kiss Dylan, as the pair enjoyed a dRead More – Source

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