Which big-name actor is the best director?

Anna Kendrick looks through a lens on a movie set, with a masked person standing next to her.
Anna Kendrick directed “Woman of the Hour,” an acclaimed premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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Friday mornings arrive with an anticipation of the weekend to come, sure, but also with a brief, loud punctuation that, without fail, fills me with terror.

The street sweeper. I moved my daughter’s car, right? Last night. Yes, I remember ... and yet ... when I hear that terrible whirring sound from up the street, there’s a moment of doubt that makes me spring up and look out the kitchen window. All clear. A relief as sweet as a soft-serve cone from Tastee-Freez.

I’m Glenn Whipp, columnist for the Los Angeles Times and host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter and the guy triple-checking the meter next time I make a quick stop in Larchmont. Let’s take a look at the week’s news.

Ranking the TIFF movies directed by big-name actors

For the most part, the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike kept actors away from the fall film festivals. But this year’s Toronto International Film Festival boasted an unusual number of movies directed by actors and, since the directors guild isn’t on strike, it was OK for them to head to Canada and talk about their films.


Which of these movies were worth talking about? My colleagues at the festival — Matt Brennan, Mark Olsen and Jen Yamato — checked out the 11 films directed by the likes of Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Taika Waititi and Ethan Hawke and ranked them from best to worst. I’ve seen some of these films — I’m a little more positive on Hawke’s evocation of the life and work of writer Flannery O’Connor, “Wildcat,” than Matt — and there are others that I’m now really anticipating. (C’mon. Pine’s “Poolman” can’t be that bad, can it?)

Some of these A-listers (Viggo Mortensen, for one) popped into The Times TIFF photo studio to sit for photographer Jay L. Clendenin. Check out this gallery of Jay’s fine work from the festival.

A gray-haired man in dark clothing.
Viggo Mortensen directed “The Dead Don’t Hurt,” a western that premiered at TIFF.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Bayard Rustin finally gets his biopic moment

At Toronto, my colleague Matt Brennan engaged director George C. Wolfe in a terrific conversation about his new movie, “Rustin,” a long-overdue portrait of civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, a man instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. I wasn’t really familiar with Rustin before seeing the movie, which makes me feel ignorant — but also, not alone. After I saw the movie at the Telluride Film Festival, no one I spoke with knew about Rustin.

Matt asked Wolfe why Rustin isn’t a household name in America.

“At the end of the March on Washington, a person, a personality, a figure, a leader was launched into the international stratosphere. And that was Martin Luther King,” Wolfe says. “So that’s a fact. And we tend to have very simplistic understandings of history. A community makes something happen, but we choose a star. And Martin Luther King was, without question, worthy of being chosen as a star. ...”

“The thing that makes [Rustin] an extraordinary figure for a film makes him a complicated figure for history,” Wolfe continues. “He was the most out version of an out gay person that probably existed in the streets of New York City in 1963. So I think that was at play. And I think that he did not fit easy into a mold. Life tends to be very, very complicated, and history tends to be very simplistic.”


“Rustin” will play in select theaters on Nov. 3 before landing on Netflix on Nov. 17.

Colman Domingo stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial in a scene from the biopic "Rustin."
Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin in “Rustin.”
(Parrish Lewis / Netflix)

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I’m bidding on Tom Waits’ hat

With the writers’ and actors’ strikes stretching on, some folks, like the unfunny Bill Maher, have decided to return to work without writers — a sobering thought, given how bad “Real Time With Bill Maher” was even when he had the help of a dedicated staff.

Meanwhile, better people have contributed to a benefit put on by the Union Solidarity Coalition, founded earlier this year to support crew members who’ve lost health insurance during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

The event, whose net proceeds will go to the organization’s crew healthcare fund, features some unique celebrity experiences. Natasha Lyonne will help you solve the New York Times crossword puzzle. (She lives for this kind of thing.) Lena Dunham will paint a mural in your home. Adam Scott will walk your dog for an hour. (You don’t even have to join him!)

Several Times writers took a look at the auction list and wrote about their most coveted items. Me? I couldn’t resist Tom Waits’ hat. Here’s what I had to say:


Does he have a big head? It feels like he has a big head. I have a big head, and I’m not buying this to sit on the shelf like some museum piece. But there’s no hat size listed, so I’m going to take a leap of faith. “Worn by Tom Waits”? Judging from the photos, I’d say so — and then some. What does a Tom Waits hat smell of? Sweat and stale beer? Electricity and inspiration? I guess I’ll find out. First stop after it arrives: Norms in West Hollywood. 2 a.m. Eggs and sausage and a side of toast. Wearing that fedora, it’ll taste at least 10% better.

As I write this, the bidding has hit $2,600.

I might not be able to afford Norms.

Tom Waits, wearing a hat — probably not the one up for auction. But maybe?
(Matt York / AP)


I’d love to hear from you. Email me at

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