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Indie Focus: Golden Globes preview, plus ‘The Strange Ones,’ ‘Blame’ and Michael Curtiz

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

This week’s newsletter will be coming out just hours before this year’s Golden Globes ceremony. The prevailing feeling in Hollywood right now doesn’t quite sync up with what it typically thought of as one of the more fun (and, depending how one is feeling, frivolous) evenings of the annual awards circuit.

Amy Kaufman explored the way in which this year’s Globes will attempt to reflect the moment, beginning with a reconfiguration of the rituals of the red carpet. In a sign of support following the recent announcement of the Time’s Up initiative to end harassment and foster gender equality, many women are planning to wear black as a way to refocus the conversation on the bigger issues.

As actress Kerry Washington said, “We decided we didn’t want to boycott, because there were a lot of our peers who were being nominated. We thought it was stronger to participate, but make sure we had a public sign of support.”

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Glenn Whipp spoke to Seth Meyers, who will be hosting this year’s Globes ceremony. Of the challenges of the night, Meyers said, “I like that it’s a small room. I’m very good at eye contact. I might just lock in on Helen Mirren all night and she’s just going to have to deal with it.”

Tre’vell Anderson went to the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala,which has become an unexpectedly important whistle-stop along the awards season campaign trail.

Justin Chang spotlighted a handful of films screening at the fest, including Lucrecia Martel’s transcendent adventure film “Zama.”

Over the holiday break we published the last of this year’s Envelope awards season roundtables. For a conversation on the ins-and-outs of being a supporting actor we had Sam Rockwell for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Richard Jenkins for “The Shape of Water,” Jim Belushi for “Wonder Wheel,” Laurence Fishburne for “Last Flag Flying” and Jason Mitchell for “Mudbound.”

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As Jenkins put it, “What you have to do is when the star is talking, you can’t roll your eyes. That’s the one thing I’ve learned.”

And to start the new year off really right, we’ve got a screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” on Monday followed by a Q&A with actress Vicky Krieps and costume designer Mark Bridges. For updates on future events, go to events.latimes.com.

James Feedson Jackson in “The Strange Ones.” Credit: Vertical Entertainment
James Freedson-Jackson in "The Strange Ones."
(Vertical Entertainment )

‘The Strange Ones’

In “The Strange Ones,” two brothers, played by Alex Pettyfer and James Freedson-Jackson, are on a road trip. In the debut feature from writer-directors Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff, what the brothers are doing and why they are doing it are carefully parceled out bits of knowledge, turning the film into a somewhat dizzying enigma.

Reviewing the film for The Times, Katie Walsh called it “a mysterious puzzle box of a film,” before adding, “it’s an artful, boundary-pushing debut from Radcliff and Wolkstein, with breakthrough performances from Freedson-Jackson, and Pettyfer, perhaps signaling a new direction in his career.”

At rogerebert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz said, “This is a primordial story filled with dreamlike symbols from humanity’s past — roads, forests, caves, clouds, the sun — and its characters move through it in the manner of a mid-century American short story, the kind where you’re not sure how literally you’re supposed to take anything.”

In an interview with Vadim Rizov for Filmmaker magazine back when the film first premiered at the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival, Wolkstein and Radcliff talked about expanding the film into a feature from a short film.

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(L-R) - Owen Campell, Luke Slattery, Nadia Alexander, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tessa Albertson, and Quinn S
Owen Campell, from left, Luke Slattery, Nadia Alexander, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tessa Albertson and Quinn Shephard in "Blame."
(Samuel Goldwyn Films )

‘Blame’

The debut as filmmaker from 22-year-old writer-director-actress Quinn Shephard, “Blame” is the story of a group of teenagers drawn into staging a school production of “The Crucible” that draws out the worst in all of them. As the (relative) adults in the room, Chris Messina and Trieste Kelly Dunn also star.

Reviewing the film for The Times, Gary Goldstein called the film “a potentially timely and provocative story that’s all over the map, never quite building to an effective enough crescendo or catharsis.”

For the Hollywood Reporter, Jon Frosch reviewed the film when it premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, where he said “the film is powered by some fine acting, as well as a current of sincere feeling that helps you forgive some of its more conspicuous flaws and limitations.”

At rogerebert.com, Tomris Laffly interviewed Shepard, who said, “I think the irony of Hollywood is, when you’re a young woman trying to make a film, you meet some of that prejudice, of people going, ‘Oh, she’s a young woman. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.’ Then when you actually do make a film, then people say, ‘Oh yeah, well it’s because she’s a pretty young woman. Of course people want to take meetings with her.’ It’s like you get the double-edged sword. It’s like they’re saying you can’t do it, and then if you do it, then people get jealous and bitter, and it’s unbelievable. I think people should just celebrate it.”

(L-R) - Rosemary Lane as ‘Kay Lemp,’ Gale Page as ‘Emma Lemp,’ Priscilla Lane as ‘Ann Lemp,’ Lola L
Rosemary Lane, from left, Gale Page, Priscilla Lane and Lola Lane as the Lemp sisters in 1938's "Four Daughters," directed by Michael Curtiz.
(UCLA Film & Television Archive )

‘Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film’

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In conjunction with Alan K. Rode’s new book of the same name, the UCLA Film and Television Archive is presenting a program titled “Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film” in celebration of the prolific filmmaker. The series opened this weekend with a screening of the classic “Casablanca” — I was there and the film has lost none of its heart, verve or luster — but there are lots of great movies still to see, including “Mildred Pierce,” “Four Daughters,” “The Adventure of Robin Hood” and “The Sea Wolf.”

Kenneth Turan wrote about Curtiz and the program, saying, “No one understood studio filmmaking better than Curtiz, and the sheer amount of work he did was staggering .… That facility, the ability to bring energy and focus to westerns, horror films, swashbucklers, biblical dramas and musicals starring everyone from Bing Crosby to Elvis is key to why Curtiz isn’t celebrated.”

The program runs through March 17.

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


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