Indie Focus: Making time with the Golden Globes and at the Palm Springs International Film Festival


Hello! I’m Mark Olsen, and welcome to your weekly field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

I’ll be honest with you, in the year and a half or so I’ve been doing this newsletter, this may be the single worst week for new releases that I can recall. And as you’ve probably learned by now, I’m generally pretty upbeat about these things. So consider this an official catch-up week at the theaters or, depending on where you live, a time to find talked-about titles that are finally expanding to your town.

Many of the best films of the season are still finding their way to audiences, as “Silence,” Hidden Figures,” “Paterson,” “20th Century Women,” “Fences” and more are still making their way across the country. And with this week’s pause on new titles, it means there’s no excuse not to see them.


(And my interview with Jim Jarmusch and Adam Driver on “Paterson” published this week. Jarmusch said of this film in relation to his others, “They’re all personal, and not autobiographical to me. And yet they are in some way, but not. I don’t know.”)

This year’s director’s roundtable came out this week and it was just an astonishingly in-depth conversation. Kenneth Lonergan for “Manchester by the Sea,” Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight,” Damien Chazelle for “La La Land,” Jeff Nichols for “Loving” and Pablo Larraín for “Jackie” (and “Neruda”).

I was in the room for the conversation, and I’ve found my mind going back to things that were said many times since. Such as when the conversation turned to what is the purpose of cinema and art during difficult times and whether the filmmakers saw a change in the response to their films following the recent presidential elections, Lonergan had this to say.

“I think the more dangerous and dire the political circumstances seem, the more you attach value to anything that shows you why a human being is a human being or human experience or view of the world in that way,” Lonergan said. “Just like ‘Moonlight,’ or all these pictures, they’re about when you’re worried that people are turning into monsters and the world is really heading in a very dangerous direction, it becomes that much more valuable and important to go to the movies and see human beings that are human beings.”

We will have more screening and Q&A events soon here:

The Golden Globes


This week’s newsletter is coming to your inbox just ahead of the Golden Globes ceremony. Say what you will about the Globes, such as their genuine purpose in the broader awards picture, the people who give them out and the things people do to get them, but there seems to be an audience for and interest in the awards. They’re fun, if nothing else. And so we are here to service those needs.

Check out all the L.A. Times Golden Globes coverage here.

Our intrepid award reporter Glenn Whipp previewed the Globes and this year’s host Jimmy Fallon. Glenn runs through an overview of what to expect in both film and TV — and explains those surprise nominations for “Hacksaw Ridge” — while also noting that the show will include a tribute to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

Among the most pleasant surprises in the Globe noms was the charming “Sing Street” in the comedy or musical category. I spoke to director John Carney on the morning of the nominations — he was on his way to pick up firewood in Dublin when he found out — and he was as surprised as anyone else.

“You know, the movie didn’t make a lot of money and in a sense it’s a best-kept secret,” Carney said, “so it’s really nice that they noticed it and honored it with a nomination.”

Also, anyone rooting for a female filmmaker to take home a prize on Sunday night should pay attention to the foreign language category, where two of the five films were directed by women. France’s “Divines” was made by Houda Benyamina, and Germany’s “Toni Erdmann” was made by Maren Ade.

The critical hit "Toni Erdmann" was directed by Maren Ade.
The critical hit “Toni Erdmann” was directed by Maren Ade.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )

And at MTV News, Teo Bugbee gave a historical rundown of the kinds of shenanigans that make the Globes so golden.

Palm Springs International Film Festival

I spent a few days this week out at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. I’ve been there a few times in the past as well and I am here to tell you it is worth the drive. For fans of foreign language cinema in particular, the festival spotlights as many of the international films submitted for the Oscar as they can, this year showing 43 of 86 submissions.

I wrote a preview of the festival, which opened with the world premiere of Ritesh Batra’s “The Sense of an Ending.”

“When you have a film festival, it says pay attention to all the things that are happening here, not just this one movie,” the festival’s new artistic director, Michael Lerman, said. “It says, take time, take a few days even, and pay attention to several different things. And that’s always been my favorite part of film festivals, the conversations between different cultures and different styles of artistry.”


I was also at the festival’s opening night and attended a filmmaker’s retreat earlier that day.

At the opening night party, Israeli filmmaker Elite Zexer — at the festival with her debut feature, “Sand Storm” — recalled how the process of just getting the movie made initially seemed prize enough.

“When I was making the movie, everybody kept asking me, ‘What’s your dream, what festival would you want to go to,’ and I would answer, ‘My dream is to make this movie,’” Zexer said. “So for me everything that has happened since is just amazing, everything that’s happened this year, it feels like this journey is just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s been overwhelming.”

Photographer Jay Clendenin had a prime spot on the red carpet at the festival’s lavish awards gala. There’s a photo gallery from the event here, with picks Nicole Kidman, Ruth Negga, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, Joel Edgerton, Octavia Spencer, Annette Bening, Amy Adams and many more.

Mahershala Ali backstage at the 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala with his "Breakthrough Performance Award" for his work in "Moonlight."
Mahershala Ali backstage at the 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala with his “Breakthrough Performance Award” for his work in “Moonlight.”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times )

Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus.