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Denzel Washington delivers what is forecasted as another Oscar-worthy performance in the upcoming Fences, the big-screen adaptation of August Wilson’s […]POSTED ON: November 29, 2016
Watch Emotional Trailer for Denzel Washington’s ‘Fences’
Denzel Washington delivers what is forecasted as another Oscar-worthy performance in the upcoming Fences, the big-screen adaptation of August Wilson’s 1983 play that also marks Washington’s third film as director.
In the film, Washington and Viola Davis reprise their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival of the play, with the actor portraying a Negro League baseball player-turned-garbage man struggling to provide for his family in 1950s Pittsburgh.
Washington and Davis won the Tony Award for Best Actor and Best Actress in a play, respectively, for the revival.
The title refers to a fence Washington’s Troy builds throughout the film, which revolves around the character’s relationship with wife Rose and son Cory. “Some people build fences to keep people out, while other people build fences to keep people in,” a character tells Troy of the endeavor.
Fences opens in limited release on December 16th before going wide on Christmas Day.
By Gretchen McKay / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Michelle Becker readily admits she’s obsessed with HGTV. So when she decided to buy […]POSTED ON: November 29, 2016
What’s it like to be on HGTV? A ‘House Hunter’ who landed in Beechview explains
Michelle Becker readily admits she’s obsessed with HGTV. So when she decided to buy her first house in late 2013, she applied not only for a mortgage but also for a chance to appear on one of the channel’s most popular shows, “House Hunters.”
The 22-year-old registered nurse, a Texas native, has an outgoing personality and eye for design. She also helped her mother flip a few houses while she was a high school student in Hershey, Pa. She created a high-energy audition video and crossed her fingers that she would be chosen for the show, which follows prospective home buyers and their real estate agents through three houses.
The producers said “yes” to her search for TV gold: a cheap fixer-upper. And it didn’t matter that the hunt was already over. Just two days after she closed on a three-story frame house in Beechview, a film crew arrived for five days of filming.
Four months later, her episode, “Twenty-Two Year Old Seeks Victorian Fixer-Upper in Pittsburgh” aired with a tantalizing tease: Would she bite off more than she could chew?
The answer would be a resounding “no.” Her six-month renovation was so tasty that Ms. Becker was named a finalist in last year’s Renovation Inspiration Contest, which is sponsored by Dollar Bank and judged by staff members of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Design Center. We will start accepting online entries for this year’s contest in December and the entry deadline is Jan. 29.
Ms. Becker entered the small residential project category (under $50,000) for her work on a 1926 Colonial-style house that had been cut up into six characterless apartments. After purchasing it for $75,000, Ms. Becker was determined to return it to its original layout and to stay within her budget by doing much of the grunt work herself.
Together with contractor John Hancock, she gave the exterior a facelift and updated the plumbing and electrical systems. They also refinished the original oak floors, pulled down a dropped ceiling, removed walls, installed a new farmhouse kitchen and revamped a grungy second-floor bathroom. A small bedroom was converted into a walk-in closet and a tiny back porch was replaced with a deck for outdoor entertaining.
Many of the updates, including the kitchen cabinets and butcher-block counters, came from IKEA. Ms. Becker also became a familiar face at Construction Junction and Home Depot. That allowed her to focus her money on the things that “make a difference to the people who live here,” she says. Her splurges included an apron-front farmhouse sink she found on eBay and a deep clawfoot tub outfitted with reproduction fixtures.
“It’s a dream,” she says.
But enough about that. What was it like to be on a reality show like “House Hunters”?
For starters, it can be a little unreal. There was no way Ms. Becker and her then-boyfriend Dave could tour three houses, put in an offer and get a mortgage approved in just five days. Ms. Becker had already bought the house when the TV crew arrived and she had already seen, and decided against, a house in Regent Square because it needed too much work.
“Somebody was actually in the process of buying it when we were filming,” she says.
And that house in Dormont? Her agent found it just in time for the film crew’s arrival. She seemed to like it so much that her friends were certain she would choose it when she sat down with her boyfriend and mother at Slice on Broadway for the TV “decision.”
“It’s one of the craziest things my mother and I have ever done, and I think it fooled people,” she says. “It was just so much fun.”
While the show isn’t scripted per se, it is edited to create a storyline. For every positive comment the couple made about a room or detail, Ms. Becker says, they were asked to also say something negative, which made for some uncomfortable moments (and a few unpleasant tweets) during a viewing party when the show aired.
“The first time you walk through the house, you say what you’d naturally say without any prompting,” says Ms. Becker. The second time, you go room by room, with the producer often asking, ‘Can you be more dramatic?’”
She was also a little anxious about how they would appear on film (she had to do her own hair and makeup). In the end, she’s pretty sure she came off OK. Her former boyfriend, on the other hand, looked “kind of mean” because the editors included more of his negative comments.
Before filming, she had to cover up any brand names on appliances and other items with black electrical tape and take down any original artwork so the producers wouldn’t have to seek permission. (Ms. Becker painted the impressionistic landscape above the living room mantel just a day before filming.)
Overall, she says, the eight-hour days were incredibly fun, and not just because they were paid $500. The local crew was as sweet as they were hilarious, and Ms. Becker came to love the L.A. producer like a sister.
When she was asked a year later to film a follow-up episode for “House Hunters: Where Are They Now?,” she immediately agreed.
“We just kind of hung out all day. It was much more relaxed.”
By Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Quite literally, Daniel Rice was drawn to his career. Mr. Rice, who grew up […]POSTED ON: November 23, 2016
Disney’s ‘Moana’ lets Cranberry native ride the wave to success
Quite literally, Daniel Rice was drawn to his career.
Mr. Rice, who grew up in Cranberry, is the lighting supervisor on Walt Disney Animation Studios’ holiday extravaganza “Moana.” That he became a professional artist in the first place is, as he put it, “a very long story.”
“Even as a little kid, I have always drawn. I loved Disney movies; I would wear out the VHS tapes from watching them over and over,” said Mr. Rice, a 1993 graduate of Seneca Valley High School.
Despite his creative streak, he turned down a summer at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School, figuring he wasn’t “going to find a job being an artist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
Instead, he earned a degree in biotechnology from Penn State University.
“While studying there, I found a book on [computer-generated] animation, and this ‘art thing’ just kept coming back,” Mr. Rice said. By day, he studied biotechnology. By night, he played with CG art tools and wondered what it might take to make a huge career switch.
“I just kept fighting the art thing.”
Around that time, a close cousin (“We were born a month apart from each other”) died in a car accident. “I think that hit me up to where I just thought, ‘You know, I need to follow my passions.’ ”
With his family’s blessings, he enrolled in a two-year computer animation course at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Rice was able to find jobs around Pittsburgh, including work with Interactive Media in Butler. There, he did web design and interactive animation, with a bit of 3-D animation as well. One day, a former Interactive Media artist who’d moved on to Blur Studio sent word that Blur had signed to work on a big Disney project and would be hiring additional help.
Tim Miller, who went on to direct this year’s critically acclaimed live-action feature “Deadpool,” was Blur owner and co-founder.
“He gave me my first shot in the industry. Basically, he liked the work I was doing and brought me out to California,” Mr. Rice said. The Pittsburgh native would spend the next 10 years working for Blur as an art director and CG supervisor.
He applied to work on Disney’s “Tangled” (2010) and wasn’t hired. But “Wreck It Ralph” (2012) got his foot in the Magic Kingdom door. “Big Hero 6” (2014) was Mr. Rice’s first as a supervisor.
Lest anyone be confused by the job description, Mr. Rice explained that an animation lighting supervisor works with the director, art director and director of cinematography to balance the visual tone of the film. His job is to create mood.
“There’s a lot of collaboration,” he said.
Disney is big on research. In the case of “Moana,” teams of artists were flown to the South Pacific to observe, photograph, film and draw natural aspects such as sun, water and geography. They also embedded themselves in the Polynesian culture; tattoos and their stories play an important part in the film.
“We were inspired by so many things, really inspired by the skies in those locations, just how rich the colors were and how vibrant the ocean was,” he said.
In “Moana,” the ocean is a living entity. Color and special effects were used to shape its moods.
“We really studied water,” Mr. Rice said. “We took photographs under water to study how the color shifted, and how it looked when you were outside of the water.
“It took a lot of research and development to come up with a look that really pushed the ‘character’ of it.”
One of the early films of “Moana” directors Ron Clements and John Musker was “The Little Mermaid” (1989), a hand-drawn gem many consider the start of Disney’s new golden era of animation.
“It’s amazing, when you think about it — how long they’ve been in this industry and the quality of what they’ve been creating throughout the decades. [‘The Little Mermaid’] inspired us.”
Mr. Rice’s inner Disney fanboy said he sometimes had a hard time convincing himself that his dream actually came true.
“It’s funny, how your passions keep coming back into your life. And if you can find the things you love, and just follow them, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.”
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprise their stage roles in Washington’s screen adaptation of the beloved 1950s-set August Wilson play […]POSTED ON: November 23, 2016
‘Fences’: Film Review
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprise their stage roles in Washington’s screen adaptation of the beloved 1950s-set August Wilson play about a black family in Pittsburgh.
Fences is as faithful, impeccably acted and honestly felt a film adaptation of August Wilson’s celebrated play as the late author could have possibly wished for. But whether a pristine representation of all the dramatic beats and emotional surges of a stage production actually makes for a riveting film in and of itself is another matter. Having both won Tony Awards for the excellent 2010 Broadway revival of Wilson’s 1986 Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis know their parts here backward and forward, and they, along with the rest of the fine cast, bat a thousand, hitting both the humorous and serious notes. But with this comes a sense that all the conflicts, jokes and meanings are being smacked right on the nose in vivid close-ups, with nothing left to suggestion, implication and interpretation.
All the same, public reaction to the material likely will be strong, resulting in a much-needed year-end commercial hit for Paramount.
One of the most individually successful installments of Wilson’s celebrated “Pittsburgh Cycle,” the 1950s-set Fences alludes not just literally to the barrier middle-aged Troy (Washington) forever procrastinates about building in the small backyard of his modest city home — but to the career and life obstacles he has never managed to surmount either as a baseball player, for which he blames racial restrictions, or in his messy personal life.
It’s a play of poetically heightened realism, with amusing down-home chatter, soaring monologues, boisterous drunken riffs and blunt dramatic confrontations in which Troy bitterly and sometimes cruelly draws the lines between him and those closest to him.
These include his wife Rose (Davis), who loves him, knows all his moods and yet must stoically endure his erratic behavior; teenage son Cory (Jovan Adepo), whose school football career Troy cruelly thwarts by projecting his own sports disappointments onto him; Lyons (Russell Hornsby), Troy’s mild-mannered thirty-something son by a previous marriage, a jazz musician who still comes around asking for money; and younger brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), whose wartime head injuries have rendered him childlike.
Getting off easy among Troy’s intimates is his old pal Bono (Stephen Henderson), and much of the early going is genially dominated by the pair’s increasing high humor as they end their work week as garbagemen with Troy taking out his flask and launching into tall life tales. Rose, having heard it all before, busies herself in the kitchen and alternately resists and succumbs to her husband’s wily way with words.
But modest as his station in life may be, it’s of paramount importance to Troy that he be regarded as the cock of his particular walk, and a great deal of what he does and says is devoted to emphasizing this point. He may make a meager living, but he uses his slim economic advantage and lordly personality to exert a certain droit du seigneur over his immediate circle; “I’m the boss around here,” he likes to remind the others. This is particularly hurtful to Cory, whose dreams his father so unreasonably thwarts, but is also demeaning to his wife and older son. Troy withholds from his loved ones almost as if by instinct, winning on points in the short term but losing in the long run due to what can only be called spiteful meanness.
In his third outing as a big-screen director (after Antwone Fisher in 2002 and The Great Debatorsin 2007), Washington opens up the play’s action a bit, discreetly moving out onto the street for a stickball game, to a bar and into the city to get the characters out of the house once in a while.
All the same, the film cannot shed constant reminders of its theatrical roots, nor of how different theatrical playwriting is from original screenwriting in this day and age. There were periods, especially through the 1950s and 1960s, when nearly every Broadway and London play of any artistic importance or commercial viability was adapted into a film, when audiences were accustomed to lengthy exchanges and monologues during which characters would basically speechify while being photographed. Now such transfers are a rarity — the last straight play to win a best picture Academy Award was Driving Miss Daisy 27 years ago, and perhaps the three most notable non-musical plays made into films in the past few years, August: Osage County, Carnage and Venus in Fur, went nowhere commercially.
Due to Fences‘ star power and innate qualities, this will not be the case for the film, which offers enough dramatic meat, boisterous humor and lived-in performances to hook audiences of all stripes. But just one example of a device that proved acceptable onstage but plays awkwardly onscreen is that of Troy’s brain-damaged brother, who wanders through multiple scenes with a bugle strung around his neck in the manner of any number of kindly “simpleton” characters that used to pop up in plays and literature. Of far more symbolic than dramatic use to the story, Gabriel’s movements and utterances come off as awkward and pretentiously meaningful onscreen in a way that they did not onstage.
As carefully as Washington moves the action around the limited locations, the abundance of long speeches, high-pitched exchanges and emotional depth charges are unmistakably redolent of the stage rather than very closely related to the way films have been written in a very long time. It was perhaps the problem with the film Steve Jobs last year that it was written more like a play than a film, and the sense of excess speechifying and calculated waves of character revelation give the piece an increasingly laborious feel one expects and wants in the theater but that seems somehow alien onscreen.
Fences deals overtly with racial issues almost exclusively in connection with Troy’s resentment over employment opportunities. Insisting that being black is what prevented him from becoming a big league baseball player, he then badmouths the black stars who made the grade in the majors. Of more relevance to his current life is his eventual success in breaking down an absurd racial barrier that has long prevented black trash collectors from moving up to become garbage truck drivers, which pays better. Small victory though it is (and it’s related just anecdotally, not dramatized onscreen), this breakthrough would seem to represent Troy’s most purely admirable accomplishment, especially in light of the big bombshell he drops later on.
Great in these roles onstage, Washington and Davis repeat the honors here, he with quicksilver shifts from ingratiating tall-tale-telling and humor to bulldog-like demands to his wife and offspring that he be treated like the boss king he fancies himself to be. Davis beautifully illuminates the ways in which Rose has learned to live with this man, to be quiet or cut him slack when it’s not worth the effort of a fight, but to make it clear that she has lines she will not allow to be crossed. Despite his delusions and pride, she clearly still loves the guy, and the two make an entirely convincing long-term husband and wife.
Henderson is a joy as Troy’s easygoing straight man, who indulges his old pal’s every whim, joke and complaint, while Adepo well channels the tension and rebellious desires the athletic, straight-arrow son must suck up when his father lays down the law.
Production designer David Gropman and cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen create a warmly appealing lived-in ambiance. Playwright Tony Kushner receives a prominent co-producer credit, reportedly for having done the pruning and shaping to bring the three-hour play down to a more screen-friendly length.
Production companies: Bron Creative, Macro, Scott Rudin Productions
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney
Director: Denzel Washington
Screenwriter: August Wilson, based on his play
Producers: Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, Todd Black
Executive producers: Molly Allen, Eli Bush, Aaron L. Gilbert, Jason Cloth, Dale Wells, Charles D. King, Kim Roth
Director of photography: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Production designer: David Gropman
Costume designer: Sharen Davis
Editor: Hughes Winborne
Music: Marcelo Zarvos
Casting: Victoria Thomas
Rated PG-13, 139 minutes
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Three Rivers Film Festival
The schedule offers new documentaries, indie film, foreign movies and a restored silent By Al Hoff This year, the long-running […]POSTED ON: November 16, 2016
The Three Rivers Film Festival marks its 35th year in Pittsburgh
The schedule offers new documentaries, indie film, foreign movies and a restored silent
By Al Hoff
Trespass Against Us. Chad (Michael Fassbender) lives with his shambolic extended family in a trailer encampment in the English countryside. The gypsy-like group is headed by his domineering and manipulative father (Brendan Gleeson), who directs the men to undertake various petty crimes. But Chad has had enough, and is secretly plotting to break the family cycle and move his wife and kids out. Best-laid plans and all that … Adam Smith’s debut drama is a bit shaggy, but Fassbender and Gleeson deliver the stellar performances we expect from them. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 18. Regent Square
Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. Tower was a “poor little rich boy” whose family’s affluent lifestyle exposed him to both fine and global cuisine. He broke onto the culinary scene in the 1970s after hiring on at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, and helped to create “California cuisine” (the antecedent of today’s seasonal and local). Later, he opened the see-and-be-seen Stars restaurant in the 1980s. Then he dropped off the map. Lydia Tenaglia’s documentary recounts what happened, Tower’s influence, and whether there are second acts in the celebrity-chef realm. Interesting stuff for foodies, despite the film’s occasional and confusing scrambling of the timeline. 1 p.m. Sun., Nov. 20. Harris
Hunter Gatherer. After getting out of prison, Ashley (Andre Royo, from The Wire) scrambles to get his life — and maybe his old girlfriend — back. He befriends a young man named Jeremy (George Sample III), and the two trade help on their not-very-well-conceived schemes. Josh Locy’s dramedy appears to aim for a whimsical vibe, in which all these (very real) troubles around poverty, illiteracy and immature men are simply trappings for a woefully under-developed character study. It’s a miss. 3:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 20. Harris
Tower. Keith Maitland’s affecting documentaryish drama recounts the fraught two hours before, during and after America’s first significant mass shooting, the August 1966 sniper attack from the clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin; one gunman shot 46 people, killing 14. The story is re-told by witnesses — students, cops, newsmen, bystanders. Maitland reconstructs the past with actors (rotoscoped into animation), intercutting archival footage. The first-person accounts, many untold until now, retain the event’s shock, even 50 years later, and a coda reinforces how such “unthinkable” acts of random gun violence on campuses have become all too commonplace. 6 p.m. Sun., Nov. 20. Harris
Other films playing include: the psychological thriller Always Shine; Contemporary Color, a doc about David Byrne’s embrace of school color guards; Kate Plays Christine, a exploration of an actress’ research into portraying newscaster Christine Chubbuck; a bio-pic about poet Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion; three Polish films; a shorts program; a Steeltown Entertainment Project event about local independent filmmaking; and the restored German silent circus drama, Variete, which will be accompanied by live music from Alloy Orchestra.
Casting directors are seeking paid extras for the Netflix series “Mindhunter”, which is currently filming in and around the Pittsburgh […]POSTED ON: November 16, 2016
Paid extras sought for Netflix series filming in and around Pittsburgh
Casting directors are seeking paid extras for the Netflix series “Mindhunter”, which is currently filming in and around the Pittsburgh area.
An open call for background actors will be held Saturday at the Porter Theater in Connellsville and Sunday at the Butler Arts Center.
All roles are paid and all ages are welcome.
The series is being produced by Hollywood notables including David Fincher and Charlize Theron.
The show, which is scheduled to debut in 2017, will follow two FBI agents who pioneered behavioral profiling in the 1970s.
Filming began in the Pittsburgh area in May and is expected to wrap up next month.
CLICK HERE for more details about the Connellsville casting call
CLICK HERE for more details about the Butler casting call