How CNN Films Is Spurring The Doc Boom & Why The Network Won’t Make A Movie About Trump- INTV

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When it comes to the great surge we’ve seen at the box office for documentaries, “investment by someone or some entity” like CNN Films makes all the difference according to RBG co-director and producer Julie Cohen.
“If you&#8217…

Here are (most of) the Best Song nominees performing live at the Oscars 

Read on: The A.V. Club.

Though it wasn’t as thrilling as the drama surrounding its lack of host, the Academy Awards ceremony generated some bonus controversy with the announcement that the only Best Song nominees that would be performed at the Oscars would be “Shallow” from A…

Oscars Last Call: Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy On Why ‘RBG’ – The Woman And The Movie – Really Matter

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Since its Sundance 2018 unveiling, the documentary RBG has — like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — proven to be most resilient. While fellow successful theatrical release docus from that Sundance like Won’t You Be My Neighb…

Oscar-Nominated Documentary Directors on the Importance of Truth in ‘Broken’ Times

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

This story about Oscar documentaries first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

By lots of standards, 2018 was one of the greatest years for nonfiction filmmaking: the first year to have four documentaries top the $10 million mark and 15 make more than $1 million.

In this climate, Oscar voters sifted through the 166 eligible films and chose five films. Two were among the biggest moneymakers: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s “Free Solo,” about Alex Honnold’s attempt to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan rock formation without ropes or safety equipment, and Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “RBG.”

Two were critically adored debut features: “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross’ meditative look at the inhabitants of a poor area of Alabama and how blacks are depicted in the media, and Bing Liu’s “Minding the Gap,” which moves from a depiction of the skateboarding culture to examine dark questions about growing up and breaking free from violent family histories.

Also Read: ‘Of Fathers and Sons’ Director Pretended to Be an Extremist During Two-Year Production

The final nominee is Talal Derki’s wrenching “Of Fathers and Sons,” which follows the two years he lived in his native Syria pretending to be a jihadist as he filmed a radical who was bringing up his sons to fight and die for al-Qaeda.

TheWrap spoke to all of the nominated directors in a series of interviews.

Documentary filmmaking is a form of journalism, and we’re currently in a time when we see journalism under fire. As a filmmaker, do you feel a special urgency these days?
JULIE COHEN, “RBG” We consider ourselves journalists as well as filmmakers — and right now, as you say, journalism in America is in a perilous situation. But documentary film is one sub-genre that seems to be strengthening, and I think that’s a heartening development. People are open to hearing journalistic stories through this format, and they accept the idea that something can be entertaining and cinematic and also journalistically sound.

ELIZABETH CHAI VASARHELYI, “FREE SOLO” I think people are hungry for truth. In the times that we’re living, things are broken. And documentary filmmakers, who are bound by ethics and are here to tell the truth, are an important voice.

JIMMY CHIN, “FREE SOLO” There’s a certain aspirational aspect to watching movies, and I think people are starting to connect with the idea that beyond superhero movies, there are really inspiring people doing incredible things.

Also Read: How the Oscar-Nominated ‘Free Solo’ Helped Daredevil Climber Alex Honnold ‘Evolve’

TALAL DERKI, “OF FATHERS AND SONS” I felt that I had to go and make this film. Ideology is capable of brainwashing people, and that is what we must understand. And film can do that.

Given the commercial success of many documentaries last year, is this the golden age of nonfiction filmmaking?
BING LIU, “MINDING THE GAP” If you’re within that bubble of films that do that well, yeah. But it depends on the perspective. Money is still hard to find — I had rejections from every major funder until PBS took a chance on us. There’s a land grab going on now, with a lot of big streamers commissioning new projects, but I don’t know how sustainable it is. We’re probably living in the Iron Age or the Stone Age of documentaries.

VASARHELYI I think it’s twofold. One, all of these films that have done well at the box office are communal experiences — they’re about connection and are meant to be seen sitting next to somebody. And I also think that the sort of investment that has happened in nonfiction has allowed filmmakers to push the boundaries with the quality of their production.

BETSY WEST, “RBG” There are many opportunities now for people to tell stories in documentaries, and it’s pretty exciting. But I think we have to see whether or not it’s a wave. There are a lot of really strong documentaries that I’ve heard about this year, but we’ll have to see how audiences react to them.

RAMELL ROSS, “HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING” I feel like we’re in a golden age of sorts for all lens-based media. And quite naturally, because the documentary genre is such a defined and interesting space, some of it will rise to the top. But if we were to define a genre of people making selfies and talking about what’s going on in their lives, there’d be a golden age of that, too. There are so many platforms, so much content, so many hundreds of thousands of things to watch.

Also Read: ‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening’ Wins Top Award at the Cinema Eye Honors

What were the biggest challenges of your film?
LIU First and foremost, finding the motivation to keep going year after year. I had a reason for making the film, which was to answer some of the big questions that had been sort of protruding since I was an adolescent — questions that became clearer to me in my early 20s, questions about growing up and about how family affects that. But as I worked on it and the rejection letters kept piling up, I had to try to keep sane and find the motivation to not give up.

VASARHELYI In our conversations, the question of emotional risk keeps overtaking the one about physical risk. The emotional challenge of living with the fact that our friend Alex could die while we were filming him was a weight our entire team carried for two years. That ethical question gets to the heart of the meaning of the film and why we would do this. But we really believed in Alex, who thinks about his mortality more than anyone.

CHIN I’ve been filming and climbing with Alex for more than 10 years, and working in this space for 20. So the logistics of it, while complex, were within my wheelhouse. It was more managing the space around Alex and protecting him from the external pressure of the production as much as possible.

DERKI The hardest thing for me was being there from beginning to end, capturing the lives and the education of these kids who go from being shy children to jihadists. And I was in fear all the time. I was directing and writing this film for two-and-a-half years, but I was also acting — I was playing a role where there was no possibility of a single mistake, because if they found out who I was they would kill me. That made me feel exhausted spiritually, because day by day playing that role became more complicated.

COHEN For us, the big challenges were to take what is in effect an extremely serious, intellectual subject matter — constitutional law and how it can be used to increase equal rights — and make it a human story and a romance with elements of inspiration and comedy. We had to make people grapple with the serious issues at the core of the film, but also have an experience like you want to have when you go to the movies.

ROSS I think the biggest challenge for me was having the film be accessible in the broadest sense. There’s a certain way in which folks are predisposed to approach installation or things that don’t have narrative or clearly defined characters. The editing team was tasked with creating meaning in the film, creating space for someone to enter it and complete the film, but also allowing the film to be built in a way that teaches a person not to have certain expectations.

Also Read: ‘RBG’: 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Video)

Do you feel yourself pushing against traditional documentary forms?
LIU Yes and no. In many ways, “Minding the Gap” is very traditional, but I was not really thinking of documentary norms or tradition or rules. We thought about this as a story, and that’s what we paid heed to: “What are the character’s motivations, where is this character’s journey headed, how do we build toward that, how do we leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the audience?”

Those are the things people think about in the fiction world. But we were in the documentary medium, and we didn’t have all the vérité scenes we wanted, so we had to set up things and prop up the story with traditional documentary devices like sound bites and interviews.

ROSS I wasn’t explicitly thinking that I was going to disrupt traditional forms. I was more trying to find solutions or strategies to issues that kept coming up. I shot for five years, but I made my first cut five months in and was really disappointed in it. It seemed to participate in a way of depicting the black experience that was drawing from the misrepresentations of the past, not bringing a new angle to it.

So I went back to the footage and started pulling out moments that were metaphorical and beautiful and poetic, and that became the template of what “Hale County” could be — a film of moments, of the spontaneous and whimsical, not a film of scenes.

DERKI The way I do documentaries is closer to fiction than journalism. I started in fiction films, and the way I like to structure a story starts from fiction. At the end of the day, I am a storyteller, and my tools might be the tools of fiction or of nonfiction.

Were you surprised that the Academy didn’t nominate the year’s top-grossing doc, Morgan Neville’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
VASARHELYI I was shocked. I think it’s an exquisite, important film, and Morgan is a dear friend of ours. I think it must have had to do with the weighted ballot. I’m proud of our branch, because these are incredible films, and our category has three female directors, four people of color, three Asians… But I was shocked.

To read more of TheWrap’s Down to the Wire Oscar magazine, click here.

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On Oscar nomination morning, director RaMell Ross tuned in to see if his documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening would make the cut. A year earlier it would have seemed like the longest of long shots, a film without major distribution that d…

Jennifer Hudson to Perform ‘I’ll Fight’ from ‘RBG’ at Oscars

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jennifer Hudson will perform the Oscar-nominated original song “I’ll Fight” at the Oscars ceremony, the Academy announced in a tweet on Thursday.

The song as performed by Hudson and written by Diane Warren comes from the documentary “RBG” about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The announcement comes as a surprise following a report in Variety last week that said producers and Academy executives had decided only “Shallow” from “A Star is Born” and “All the Stars” from “Black Panther” would be performed on the Oscars broadcast. A representative for the Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The other nominated songs are “The Place Where the Lost Things Go” as performed by Emily Blunt from “Mary Poppins Returns” and “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” as performed by Tim Blake Nelson from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

Hudson helps bolster the star power of the Oscar ceremony that is otherwise expected to include performances by Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar for “Shallow” and “All the Stars,” respectively. But the Academy has been committed to shortening the Oscars broadcast to three hours, including moving some of the awards announcements to the commercial breaks.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who stars in “Mary Poppins Returns,” initially expressed his dismay last week after the news of the snubbed song performances broke.

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“The 1st time I stayed up to watch the Oscars, it was because I LOVED ‘The Little Mermaid’ & they were going to sing songs from the movie I loved on The Oscars,” Miranda wrote in a tweet. “If true, and Poppins’ song won’t be performed, truly disappointing. Hostless AND music-less? To quote Kendrick: Damn.”

The Oscars air on Feb. 24 on ABC. See the Academy’s tweet below:

Things we’d like to announce today:

1. @IAMJHUD will perform the nominated song “I’ll Fight” on the #Oscars!

2. This has been our favorite tweet of the day.

— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 31, 2019

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Bill O’Reilly Shredded Over Ruth Bader Ginsburg Tweet: ‘You Impotent Ghoul’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Christmas might still be days away, but Bill O’Reilly has already been given a big ol’ lump of coal, thanks to a tweet Friday about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Former Fox News Channel personality O’Reilly came in for a grilling when he tweeted that Ginsberg’s health issues were, “Bad news for the left.”

The tweet came following news that Ginsburg had undergone surgery to have two malignant nodules removed from her left lung.

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A press release issued by the Supreme Court on Friday noted that “there was no evidence of any remaining disease” and that Ginsburg “is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days.” Still, O’Reilly offered up his own political prognosis via Twitter.

“Justice Ginsburg is very ill. Another Justice appointment inevitable and soon,” O’Reilly tweeted. “Bad news for the left.”

The tone of O’Reilly’s tweet left a number of people cold, but their reactions were plenty heated.

Also Read: Bill O’Reilly Hit With Defamation Lawsuit From Former Fox News Anchor

“F— YOU, YOU FUCKING SEXUAL PREDATOR,” responded comedian Kathy Griffin, in an apparent reference to the sexual misconduct accusations that have been leveled against O’Reilly.

Conan O’Brien sidekick Andy Richter was similarly blunt in his assessment, tweeting, “Eat the s— of your failure, you impotent ghoul.”

“The West Wing” alum Bradley Whitford, meanwhile, offered, “Classic @BillOReilly. Used to bitch about the fake ‘war on Christmas’ while his own life is an actual war on the values of Jesus Christ.”

And then there was Michael Avenatti, attorney for porn star and Trump nemesis Stormy Daniels, who offered, “@BillOReilly – if there was ever any question as to whether you were a despicable human being (there wasn’t), it has now been answered unequivocally.”

Read on for O’Reilly’s tweet and more reactions.

Justice Ginsburg is very ill. Another Justice appointment inevitable and soon. Bad news for the left.

– Bill O’Reilly (@BillOReilly) December 21, 2018

Classic @BillOReilly. Used to bitch about the fake “war on Christmas” while his own life is an actual war on the values of Jesus Christ.

– Bradley Whitford (@WhitfordBradley) December 21, 2018

.@BillOReilly – if there was ever any question as to whether you were a despicable human being (there wasn’t), it has now been answered unequivocally.

– Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) December 21, 2018

Wow @BillOReilly,this is sick. I am guessing you intended to wish her well and it just came out twisted. Did you really mean to make it sound like you are waiting for her to pass?

– Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) December 21, 2018

In case you weren’t sure that Bill O’Reilly is a despicable human being…

– Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) December 21, 2018

Congratulations @BillOReilly, for the most despicable tweet of the week.

– Peter Daou (@peterdaou) December 21, 2018

Bill, i hope you spend this holiday and figure out what is broken within you that would cause you to tweet something like this. I pray you are healed.

– Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) December 21, 2018

Siri: show me how Bill O’Reilly can be more unlikeable.

– Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) December 21, 2018

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Diane Warren Explains Her Trilogy of Inspirational Movie Songs, From ‘The Hunting Ground’ to ‘RBG’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Diane Warren is participating in TheWrap’s third annual songwriting panel on Monday night at the Dolby Screening Room Hollywood Vine. A version of this story first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

With nine nominations over the last 30 years, Diane Warren is second only to Marilyn Bergman in Oscar song nominations for a female songwriter. “I’ll Fight,” her song from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG,” marks the third year that she’s been in the race with an anthemic song of inspiration, after “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” and “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall.”

Over the last three years, you’ve had a string of inspirational songs from movies. Are you consciously changing what you want to do with your songwriting?
I think it’s kind of happening organically, and I do still have my fun songs. But when I can do songs that can have power and motivate someone, I want to do it. I feel like my writing is getting deeper, and I really do want my songs to make a difference. I’m proud of other songs I’ve written for movies, but the last couple of them, and hopefully this one too, have something to say.

And I do look at this one as part three in a trilogy. These songs are reflecting the times, or maybe even helping move things. “Til It Happens to You,” people weren’t talking about sexual assault as much until that came out. And then the song from Marshall was the next step — it says stand up for something, for yourself. And now you have the next step, which is to be more active, more activist: I’ll fight for myself, and for you. As times are getting scarier, these songs are reflecting these times when we cant be complacent, we have to fight.

Also Read: ‘RBG’ Film Review: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life Makes for a Snappy But Surface-Level Documentary

What were the keys when you were writing the song?
I always try to make a song for the movie, but I also want it to live outside the movie. In the movie, it represents what Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been doing for 40 years, but you can take that song and make it whatever you want it to be. You can think about those poor kids at the border, and the song could be for them. It could be for somebody going through depression.

But at its heart it’s about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which must have been one of the reasons you wanted to do it.
When Bonnie Greenberg, who’s a music supervisor, told me about the movie, I was like, “Oh, f—, yeah. If I could write a song that could be Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s theme song, count me in.” She is such a rock star. And I also feel a connection because before I was born, my dad changed his name because of anti-Semitism. And he took the name Warren from Earl Warren, who was a chief justice on the Supreme Court.

To read more of TheWrap’s Race Begins issue, click here.

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When it comes to releasing a hit movie, Hollywood regularly obeys unspoken rules and trends that determine what films get greenlit and when those films are put in theaters. But every year, there are certain hit films that rewrite those rules, and 2018 …