These directors can’t help but make it personal

Combo portraits of six film directors.
Envelope roundtable directors, clockwise from upper left: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kenneth Branagh, Adam McKay, Siân Heder and Reinaldo Marcus Green.
(Los Angeles Times)

I’m preparing to make some “substantial soup” (is there any other kind?) and plan to chase it with an oatmeal raisin cookie, provided Zoe hasn’t hoarded them all to share with her friend Rocco. In which case, I’m going to bring in Unhinged Elmo. And it’s not going to be pretty.

We’ve also dipped a toe into 2022, meaning the Oscars are [checking notes] ... good God, they’re still three months away. I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter, and the guy who would never deny you a cookie just to keep the peace with an inanimate object. (But if my dog wants it, that’s another story.)

Directors roundtable gets personal

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kenneth Branagh, Adam McKay, Siân Heder and Reinaldo Marcus Green recently did a virtual sit-down with my colleague, film writer Mark Olsen, to talk about the personal connections they had with their films.

Or in the case of McKay, whose latest film is the scathing satire “Don’t Look Up,” the connection belongs to his spouse.


“I always say that movie is more personal for my wife because she was the one who had to put up with me for about the last five or 10 years not sleeping because of the issue of climate change,” McKay said during the roundtable discussion. “So I think she was very happy to see me finally find some outlet for dealing with our world’s odd inaction in the face of this tangible, crazy looming threat.”

Having a healthy outlet is always a good thing, even if it’s simply watching the work. Heder (“CODA”), for one, is a huge fan of Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter,” a nuanced look at the challenges of being a mother.

“I felt like I was kind of shook by your movie,” Heder told Gyllenhaal. “And part of it was tonally you threaded a needle that was so brilliant and sure-handed. I was so impressed by your tone, because it was so clear, and I felt so safe watching the movie, like I was in really good hands.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal consults a notebook on the set of "The Lost Daughter."
Maggie Gyllenhaal on the set of “The Lost Daughter.”
(Yannis Drakoulidis / Netflix)

Where two women could make Oscar history

You may remember that Chloé Zhao made history twice at the Academy Awards in April, becoming the first woman of color to win the director prize and just the second woman ever to earn that prestigious Oscar. Zhao won for directing “Nomadland,” joining Kathryn Bigelow, who prevailed for the 2008 war drama “The Hurt Locker.”

That’s two women in 93 years, a track record that looks ... well, it looks awful, but when compared to the film academy’s history in recognizing women cinematographers, it’s downright progressive. Only one female director of photography has ever been nominated for an Oscar — Rachel Morrison for Dee Rees’ sprawling 2017 drama “Mudbound.” (Morrison merited consideration the next year for “Black Panther” too.)


So it’s noteworthy that we could be looking at another bit of history this year, with a female director and cinematographer from the same film nominated — filmmaker Jane Campion and director of photography Ari Wegner from “The Power of the Dog.” I noted after the Telluride Film Festival that I could see Campion winning her second Oscar (she won the original screenplay award for 1993’s “The Piano”), a thought that has solidified now that the remaining movies have screened.

Might Wegner join her? I took an early look at the Oscar race for cinematography in a recent column and, spoiler alert(!), it’s looking pretty good right now for this team.

A director of photography checks her camera monitor. The director sits beside her.
Director of photography Ari Wegner, left, and filmmaker Jane Campion on the set of “Power of the Dog.”
(Kirsty Griffin / Netflix)

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No TV. No stars. But Golden Globes still going ahead Sunday

Also no livestream. Also: No interest. My colleague Josh Rottenberg reports on how what was once dubbed as “Hollywood’s party of the year” is adjusting to life on the margins after NBC told the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. it was taking a break from televising the ceremony this year.

I’ll be spending my Sunday evening finishing off another batch of those oatmeal raisin cookies and making sure everyone around me — rocks excluded — is happy and satisfied. Thank you HFPA for the night off!

A close-up to two Golden Globe statuettes
The Golden Globes will be announced Sunday.
(Los Angeles Times)


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