Fri, 24 December 2021
Interview: Robin de Jesús gets real about fear, worth and working with Andrew Garfield on 'tick, tick...BOOM!'
I’ve been a fan of Robin de Jesús since Camp, nearly 20 years ago.
But de Jesús is more than Camp, he's built a stellar career with work in television, film and of course, theater where he's a three-time Tony nominee, earning nods as Featured Actor in a Musical twice (2008's In the Heights and 2010's La Cage aux Folles) and Featured Actor in a Play for the 2019 revival of The Boys in the Band.
Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, he always loved to sing and would join his family in the Parranda, the Puerto Rican version of caroling, during Christmas and go from house to house wherein that house's family would then join and go to the next house until the group grew into most of the neighborhood. It gave him the outlet for his voice and also a creative outlet for his family ("they sort of identified as factory workers but at that time of year they were musicians") and it pushed him through his school years to explore the possibility of making it a career.
After 2003's Camp, his first feature film, de Jesús landed a career breakthrough, the part of Sonny in Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, a relationship that would bear fruit once again with the theatrical feature version of Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM!, bringing him full circle back to Miranda, who directs. His performance has earned him Hollywood Critics Association and Satellite nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
Throughout our 30m conversation, we talk about the electrifying response to the film's world premiere at AFI FEST in November and the actor gets candid about his well being and mental health during the shooting of the film ("I wasn't choosing the healthiest thoughts") and how he broke through it to recognize love and blessings in his work and being present in his own life. We talk about his onscreen co-star Andrew Garfield, the depiction of the friendship between a straight man and a gay man on film and what that means on a larger scale.
We also take a look at the state of representation of queer and Latino actors and what representation means to him, the difference between who should play certain roles and who even gets a seat at the table from the ground floor of auditions and casting, what his dream role is and more.
tick, tick...BOOM! is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
This interview runs 33m with intro and music.
Wed, 22 December 2021
2021 has been the year of the musical. Whether it was Encanto, Vivo, tick…tick…BOOM, Annette, Cyrano, West Side Story, and many more, audiences have experienced a resurgence of the once staple genre of Hollywood. But for many, including myself, the musical that still stands out over the rest this year came out during the summer, Warner Bros' In the Heights.
Based on the Broadway hit musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the film is set over the course of a couple of days in the mostly Latinx based neighborhood of Washington Heights, where people are navigating the modern world and fight to obtain their sueñitos, their little dreams that will change their lives forever. With this, we many follow Usnavi, played by recent Golden Globe nominee Anthony Ramos, is saving enough money to go back to his home in the Dominican Republic and start fresh. But leaving isn’t easy when the community he is in, surrounded by family and friends, rely on him to move forward as much as he needs them.
With awe-inspiring choreography, impeccable performances by this talented ensemble, and lavish cinematography by Alice Brooks, In the Heights provides wonder not found in many modern musicals today. In large part, this has to do with the direction of Jon M. Chu, whose vibrant energy and passion for musicals comes through in almost every moment we see in the film. Chu, known for starting his career making dance movies with Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D, followed by blockbuster sequels with G.I Joe: Retaliation and Now You See Me 2, he found his biggest success in the 2018 worldwide smash hit, Crazy Rich Asians. With that film he not only made the highest grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s, but landed major awards nominations including a SAG Ensemble, thus making a commercial, celebrated film that all audiences can enjoy while given a vehicle for Asian actors to be seen by audiences in a light that they hadn’t been seen since The Joy Luck Club. Therefore, when it was announced he was attached to In the Heights, it made all sense in the world that he would carry his sincere, detailed approach over to this mostly Latinx, yet universal story.
In a recent conversation with Chu, I talked to him about his passion for the project, his love of the genre, what he carried from making the film’s extravagant musical numbers like "9600," and what he has learned, good and bad, from his experience post the film’s release. With his schedule getting bigger by the day as he starts preparations adaptation of the film version of the monumental musical sensation, Wicked, it was nice to sit down and speak with Mr. Chu about his process and passion to tell diverse stories. His affection for this world and time with Miranda, Ramos, the rest of the cast, and crew still shows in how he speaks, displaying the same feeling the audience has when watching his film, that of an unforgettable experience.
In the Heights is available to stream on HBO Max, as well as to own or rent on Blu-ray and all VOD platforms.
Mon, 20 December 2021
It's almost Christmas but the real gift for awards watchers is the Oscars shortlist announcement!
On this 84th podcast, I'm joined by Will Mavity of Next Best Picture to talk about Original Score, Original Song, Makeup and Hairstyling, Visual Effects, Sound, Documentary Feature and International Feature Film and who we think is getting in when the official list comes in on December 21.
Throughout the podcast we highlight how categories like Original Score and Song often nominate well known names and the challenges of being a new name here as well as break down one of the most competitive - and most Eurocentric - International Feature Film competition in years.
Support for this podcast and the following message comes from MGM Studios’ and United Artists Releasing’s LICORICE PIZZA – a film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. LICORICE PIZZA tells the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around, and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Named Best Film of 2021 by the National Board of Review, and nominated for eight Critics Choice Awards including Best Picture. Now playing in select theaters in seventy millimeter. Everywhere Christmas day. For Your Consideration in all categories including Best Picture of the Year.
This podcast runs 1h 7m with music.
Mon, 13 December 2021
After a brief razzing of Nick over The Power of the Dog, we settle into looking at how the National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle kicked off the critics awards season and what it all means. We dive into the NBR and NYFCC Best Actress wins for Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) and Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), respectively, and the stat that favors at least one of them to get in.
We also take a look at how the Top 10 Films lists from NBR and AFI, especially where they crossover, and how those lists might end up looking like a Best Picture 10. That takes us to a sojourn about the differences between initial critics social responses to films (like Being the Ricardos, Don't Look Up and House of Gucci) vs what the reviews end up looking like. We also dig into the Best Actor category, packed full of previous winners and nominees and wonder if the 41-year stat of a first-time nominee will hold this year or finally fall. In that conversation we look at the two main contenders to keep it going: Peter Dinklage in Cryano and Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey.
Support for this podcast and the following message comes from MGM Studios’ and United Artists Releasing’s CYRANO. From Joe Wright, the award-winning director of PRIDE & PREJUDICE, ATONEMENT, and DARKEST HOUR. A lush, musical retelling of the timeless tale of Cyrano de Bergerac set against a baroque cityscape, CYRANO is a symphony of romance and beauty that belies a heartbreaking love triangle. Starring Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, and Kelvin Harrison Jr., critics are calling CYRANO “one of the best films of the year.”
For Your Consideration in all categories including Best Picture. Opens in select cities in January. Everywhere February 4.
This podcast runs 57m 56s with music.
Wed, 8 December 2021
Within the first few moments of speaking with writer-director Mike Mills, you vibe with his calm energy and gentle spirit, therefore making it a very soul enriching experience to have during an interview. This feeling isn’t a stranger to most who have seen his films, as Mills has been making audiences feel this way over the last sixteen years since his debut feature Thumbsucker. In taking time between his debut and his next three projects, he was able to find distinct connections that span into grand ideas about not just the world his character inhabits, but our modern culture and society.
Films like Beginners and 20th Century Women are, respectively, pieces of art used as an ode to his father and mother. The former earned massive acclaim, including the late Christopher Plummer’s Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor. The latter was hailed as one of the best films of the last decade and landed Mills his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. But it is his latest film, C’mon C’mon, that finds him examining new territory, as Mills is making a film about a new family member, his relationship with his child, thus his most personal film to date. Within C’mon C’mon, we follow a journalist named Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his precocious nephew Jesse (Woody Norman) as their bond grows while Jesse’s mom Viv (Gaby Hoffman) is tending to the needs of Jesse’s struggling father (Scoot McNairy). Built within this simple narrative lies some of the most honest screenwriting of the year as Mills is able to balance this familial dynamic as well as the difficult themes he suggests about humanities future and how unsure our world is, with no solutions in sight.
From talking with him, he is someone who cares deeply about his craft, and the connection his work has with audiences across the world. In doing so, he understands the human soul better than anyone working today in film right now. C’mon C’mon is, as stated in our review, “the best film of his career” and “crafts one of the best screenplays of the last ten to fifteen years.” In my conversation with the writer-director, Mills spoke about his creative process, his inspirations for the film, and tells stories and antidotes of his cast, including the relationship between the veteran actor, Joaquin Phoenix and the newcomer of the year, Woody Norman. Here’s hoping the one time Oscar nominee can add not just another Oscar nomination to his leaguer, but a gold statue as well, thus honoring him and one of the best films of 2021.
C’mon C’mon is currently playing only in theaters from A24.
Fri, 29 October 2021
After six long months, the AwardsWatch Oscar Podcast is back with the first of the 2021/2022 season with very special guest Ryan McQuade from InSession Film and, as of today, a new staff writer for AwardsWatch.
In this podcast, recorded October 28, Ryan and I talk about the fall film festivals we attended - Telluride, Middleburg and Mill Valley - and how our conversations with fellow pundits, directors, actors, Academy voters and general attendees help shape the race and give us some of the puzzle pieces we use for predicting. We go into detail of Oscar predictions in most top categories, discuss who we think are the frontrunners and make our cases as to why. Can anything stop Will Smith and Kristen Stewart or is it too early to call? Will the Telluride 'rule' hold this year once again or will there be a Green Book surprise?
Then, of course, we had to talk about the sheer pageantry and camp of the new House of Gucci trailer (the hair, the dialogue, those accents!) and where that stands in the race.
Let's get into it.
This podcast runs 1h 24m including the opening and closing House of Gucci trailer.
Mon, 25 October 2021
When you go to a film festival, you never know who you are going to meet. At the opening night after party of the Middleburg Film Festival, I was introduced to one of the most talented, hardest working people of their or any craft, the great make-up artist Donald Mowat. What started as a meet and greet turned into multiple conversations over the span of four days, talking about not just his work and the festival, but every other topic in between. Thus was the case when we sat down for a conversation at the Salamander Resort and discussed his extraordinary work.
In a career spanning over 35 years, Mowat has created some of the most iconic looks for some of the most celebrated films in that time span. His highlighted work as a department head includes 8 Mile, The Fighter, Skyfall, Nightcrawler, First Man. He’s worked closely as a personal artist for actors such as Mark Wahlberg, Daniel Craig, and Jake Gyllenhaal. But his biggest collaborations of late have been his work with director Denis Villeneuve on Prisoners, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049, and their latest project, Dune. When talking with Mowat, there is an infectious glee that comes out of him when he talks about working with Villeneuve because of how proud he is of not just his work, but the work of all involved to make these movies successful.
Though his stellar work has been celebrated by many over the decade, Mowat has yet to receive an Oscar nomination. With Dune however, that is bound to change at it is not only some of the bes make-up and hairstyling of the year, but it is some of Mowat’s best work of his career. In the conversation below, we talked about his relationship with Villeneuve, how he came up with the looks of the different character groups in Dune, and what it would mean to Mowat, an Academy member since 1999, to be celebrated by his peers.
The interview might contain some mild spoilers, so if you want to go in blind, see the film before listening to the conversation.
Warner Brothers released Dune in theaters and on HBO MAX on Friday, October 22.
Wed, 7 July 2021
The last in our 2021 Emmy predictions video podcasts ends with the Drama categories, covering writing, directing, guest acting, supporting and lead acting.
With the Emmy sliding scale of number of nominees based on submissions in full swing, that effect is made clear in the drama categories which see some with six, some with seven and supporting acting getting a whopping eight each (due to the parity rule). Even more fascinating is that my TV Awards Editor Tyler Doster and I did not consult each other on our predictions before the podcast and found ourselves eerily closely aligned in some categories we thought we would see huge differences.
There are three shows that seem poised to really dominate the Emmy nominations when they're announced on Tuesday, July 13 and they are: Netflix's The Crown, Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale and The Mandalorian from Disney+. Both Tyler and I are expecting huge numbers from these shows in writing, directing and acting, with the first two possibly set to utterly dominated supporting actress.
With so few other returning shows due to COVID-related delays, we're also going to see an influx of new shows like Amazon Prime Video's The Boys, HBO's (now canceled) Lovecraft Country and Netflix's Bridgerton all staking claims are major Emmy nominations. We'll also see the farewell of FX's Pose (can they finally get an acting nomination outside of Billy Porter?) and several Apple TV+ hopefuls searching for a spots.
This podcast runs 48m 19s.
Thu, 24 June 2021
We hope you enjoyed our first Emmy podcast of the season, The Limited Series Categories, because now it's time for comedy.
Comedy is a section that feels both packed with competition yet also surprisingly slim. We know the latter part of that because of the Emmys' new sliding scale of nomination slots based on submissions by category. While it seemed like we all did nothing but consume massive amounts of television during 2020, we ended up with fewer slots this year than last, with some back down to just five, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Much of the conversation revolves around just three shows: Ted Lasso from Apple TV+ and Hacks and The Flight Attendant, both from HBO Max. Each are expected to rack up a boatload of nominations and in the case of Ted Lasso, two or three in the supporting categories.
But several shows could also find themselves with strong numbers on nomination morning including Hulu's PEN15, Netflix's The Kominsky Method and even a bit of a comeback for network television with ABC's black-ish, plus Kenan and Mr. Mayor from NBC.
In just 45 minutes, AwardsWatch TV Awards Editor Tyler Doster and I manage to take on Comedy Series, all acting categories (including guest) plus writing and directing.
Fri, 11 June 2021
In this first in a series of 2021 Emmy podcasts, AwardsWatch TV Awards Editor Tyler Doster and Erik Anderson, AwardsWatch Editor-in-Chief, break down the contenders in the Limited Series, Anthology Series or Movie categories. For now, we're just sticking with the series and acting categories until the official Emmy nominating ballots are revealed on June 17 (the first day of Emmy nomination voting) that will tell us who's competing for directing and writing slots. That said, many of this season's limited series' are singular visions, meaning one director took on the entire show. Whether it's The Queen's Gambit, Small Axe, The Underground Railroad or Mare of Easttown, this season has been about sole showrunner vision.
We started with Limited Series simply because it's the most competitive and by far the most interesting section of the Emmys this year. While the Television Academy expanded the Drama and Comedy series and acting categories, Limited Series stayed the same with just five nominee slots.
Fri, 16 April 2021
It's hard to believe but this is the first, and only, Oscar podcast I've done for this extended and wild Oscar season. I've guested on quite a few in recents months but had opted out of doing my own during this period. That ends today as I am joined by two young upstarts in the Oscar prediction community who've really blown up in the last couple of years: The Oscar Expert (Cole) and Brother Bro (Justin). I've had the pleasure of being a guest on their show twice and it was time I returned the favor.
In this podcast, which was also recorded as a video (see below), the three of us go over what an exceptional year its been and we finally near the big finale of the 93rd Academy Awards. We address the last-minute frontrunner hit pieces that fell at Nomadland's feet, take on every single category in depth and make our cases in some of the tough categories like Best Actress, which I saved until just before Best Picture.
You can find The Oscar Expert on his popular YouTube channel (here) where he and Brother Bro have dropped their final Oscar predictions, which were recorded before this podcast. You can also find them on Twitter @expert_oscar and @withbrotherbro.
This podcast is sponsored by the Apple Original Film Wolfwalkers, Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Feature. A girl goes to Ireland with her father to track the last pack of wolves and undergoes a magical transformation. Go to fyc.appletvplus.com for more.
This is the breakdown of categories and time stamps for this Final Oscar Predictions podcast.
*One correction: in the discussion of Production Design I mention a stat about the last film to be Best Picture-nominated and then only win Production Design was 1953's Julius Caesar. I was wrong, it's 1978's Heaven Can Wait.
With intro and exit, this podcast runs 1h 53m 30s
Mon, 22 March 2021
If you're here on AwardsWatch then it's probably safe to say that you're obsessed with the Oscars and have been for a very long time (to date, there is no known cure). Well, have I got something for you.
If you don't already listen, I have your newest podcast obsession about your favorite subject: the Best Actress Oscar. The Just To Be Nominated: An Awards Season Murder Mystery podcast isn't simply a chat about the Academy Awards, it's a murder mystery at the Academy Awards with a delicious meta twist. Think Clue meets Serial meets Little Gold Men. Here's the set up:
Riley Audrey won the Academy Award for Best Actress after a long and arduous campaign. Later that night, she was found dead in a hotel room. Someone was not happy with her win.
Leo Gold and Terri McPherson are the hosts of the popular award prediction podcast "Just to Be Nominated." And they believe they hold the key to solve Riley's death. Week by week, they'll go back to listen to interviews they did with the major players and contenders of a controversial award season, and try to put the pieces together of who killed Riley Audrey.
Just To Be Nominated is a Kingdom of Pavement production and available on Spotify, Apple or wherever you listen to podcasts. New episodes land bi-monthly on Thursday and the first two are out and ready for listening and stars Anouk Samuel as Riley Audrey, Drew Droege, Adam Faison, Gabriela Ortega, Sid Phoenix plus Brendan Scannell and Zach Noe Towers as Leo Gold & Terri McPherson and many more.
I interviewed Jorge Molina, the creator, writer and director of the Just To Be Nominated podcast about what inspired his love of the Oscars, the incredible cast he's assembled, some of his favorite Oscar campaign seasons and everything you'll want to know about his passion project. I have provided an audio version as well as a written one over at awardswatch.com for your needs and/or pleasure.