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All About The Movies: Film Reviews and Hollywood Legends

 

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HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS

 

We had a blast on REEL HOLLYWOOD LIVE with Hollywood Legends Ed Asner and Russell Williams II!
The most honored male performer in Primetime Emmy Award history, with 7 wins and 20 nominations, actor/activist Ed Asner‬ joined us on Reel Hollywood Live yesterday, and if that weren’t enough, we also had 2-time Academy Award-winning Sound Mixer Russell Williams II‬ in the studio. Russell has made history, becoming the first African American to win multiple Oscars in any category.
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Ed Asner and Russell Williams


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This Week at the Movies…

Hi Movie Lovers! The old saying “good things come in small packages” happened this week! I saw 4 very small films that are better than their titles. I honestly didn’t know what to expect so I was surprised how good they were and, of course, they did win at film festivals. All these movies will play well on the small screen so if you want a movie-going experience, choose a big Hollywood tentpole and get lost in the movie magic.

DOPE

The biggest surprise was this really small film with unknowns, but it had a lot of behind the scenes power players pushing it (Forest Whitaker), and it did win at Sundance. This is a great High School Comedy and coming-of-age film about an intellectually gifted “geek” balancing life in a rough neighborhood with preparing for college.

Dope

Infinitely Polar Bear

I hated the title, which deals with mental illness, but not the film. Starring Mark Ruffalo and the beautiful Zoe Saldana, this is drama/comedy about a man with Bipolar Disorder who, after a nervous breakdown, moves into a halfway house, and the must rebuild a relationship with his two daughters and wife. Mark Ruffalo’s performance will not go unnoticed.

Infinitely Polar Bear

THE TRIBE

This is a sign language film and this one was hard for me as it had no dialogue or subtitles, but is very interesting subject matter. A deaf teenager becomes part of a wild organization known as “the tribe”. He falls in love with a concubine which leads to an unnatural break in “the tribe’s” hierarchy. (Just so you’re aware, there is nudity in the trailer.)

The Tribe

THE FACE OF AN ANGEL

The Face Of An Angel… This film was the weakest of the four, which disappointed me because I have interviewed both of the stars, Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Bruhl. The movie is about a journalist and a documentary filmmaker after a story and the prime suspect in a murder. Not the finest example of metacinema I could come up with.

The Face of an Angel

Celebrity Journalist Reveals Top 5 Favorite Star Interviews

As I am getting ready to premiere my new web tv/radio show, Reel Hollywood Live, I have been asked a lot lately who my favorite star interviews were. I have given it some thought, and here are my Top 5:

#5 RUSSELL CROWE
I had not seen any of Russell Crowe’s work when I sat down with him the first time (before Oscar nominations) and had no idea that he was willing to play with me. An actor who willing to play in an interview is very rare as they are going to face the press on a junket at least 50 times so it’s better to just answer the questions and get through it. My questions were a little from left field and he had a field day with me more than once. But my most memorable interview came on the press junket for Cinderella Man, he came at 6pm for a noon interview slot and I was so nervous so I changed my questions while I waited to see if he would appear. Whatever was going on ̶ he did not take it out on me ̶ he gave me everything I wanted and more. Oh, by the way, later that night he threw the phone at the desk clerk, thank God, I was on my way back to LA.

#4 ANGELINA JOLIE
I was over-the-moon to interview Angelina Jolie, many times, and she is not only beautiful, but candid and kind. I really like private moments from a star, and when this happens, they are my favorite forever. It’s the stars that let you see their humanness that I really adore. You will notice her different hair styles as some interviews were done on film sets. One in particular, was at 2:30 am during a night shoot. Film shoot interviews are actually the most difficult, because the most thing to be done is to shoot the film, and the press interviews have to be squeezed in. Over the years she got more and more comfortable with me and more revealing.

#3 JOHNNY DEPP
I must admit that I had preconceived ideas about interviewing Johnny Depp. My research told me he was a wild one , so I thought I was wasting my time. Boy, was I wrong! I was completely taken aback when I got a charming, revealing and candid interview from this Hollywood “bad boy”. What surprised me was how open he was to all my questions, some of which were very personal. I was leaving the interview suite when a gentleman stopped me and said “he really likes you”. I said, “how do you know” and he replied, “he never tells those stories in press interviews.” He is one my favorite interviews for giving me a small part of who he really is, which so many stars refuse to do.

#2 MERYL STREEP
I was on the film set of Ironweed ready to do my video interview with Meryl Streep. Meryl was not properly informed of the details of the interview, and when she arrived with wet hair, glasses and no makeup, I nearly fainted because this was an interview that would play all over the world. I couldn’t do it to her. I said “this is not fair to you. This interview will last a long time,” and she agreed, but her shooting schedule was so tight that I left upstate with no interview. I was thrilled to be given a second chance for that interview, which took place at her hotel in New York City. Using her favorite hair and makeup artist, Roy Holland, (who won an Oscar for turning Meryl into Margret Thatcher) she was ready. She looked beautiful and felt comfortable enough to reveal some interesting stories found in this interview. What happened to the interview once it was done can be found in my book Nearly Famous: tales from the Hollywood trenches.

# 1 HARRISON FORD
Whenever I am asked which star is my favorite interview, I always pick Harrison Ford. Interestingly enough, he is the most difficult, not because he is mean or anything like that, but because he is shy. I like a challenge. I failed my first interview with him on the film Star Wars because my questions were wrong ̶ I only used studio production notes. When my next chance came I was ready, spending days doing research. The words that changed this interview were “Don’t worry about the questions, I know all the answers,” and then Harrison realized that I did my homework, and that he did know all the answers.

So now you know who my real, or should I say “Reel”, favorites are. It’s amazing to me every time I sit down with an actor and they reveal authentic, candid and touching moments that remind of us that we’re really all the same.

Don’t forget to join me for the premiere show of ‘Reel Hollywood Live with Ben & Reba’, June 2nd, Tuesdays at 1pm PT, on UBN Radio, Channel 1.

Enjoy,

~Reba

RHOBH Kim Richards: A Rocky Road to Recovery

My name is Reba and I’m an addict in recovery. Once an addict always an addict, and when I watched the ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ this past season I noticed that Kim Richards, who admitted that she was an alcoholic, acted angry like I did when I was practicing my addiction. It was not only the anger, but it was the lying and the screaming which made me take a deeper look—I recognized my addictive behavior in her actions. I lived that way for over for 7 years. So with Kim, denying that she is drinking again, I watched this reality series and thought “she’s lying,” because that’s how I acted and I lied about nearly everything. In fact, that’s what we addicts are really good at—lying. I just watched Dr. Phil, who interviewed Kim Richards, and she finally came clean about her sobriety and the reason she started to drink again, citing the nasty tweets about her behavior, but most of all she was concerned with “what will people think”. Again I saw my old self in her as that was my problem too. I cared more about my appearance to the world than anything else. It took me a long, long time to feel ok just as I am and not what I think others want me to be. My heart goes out to Kim Richards, her family, and to anyone currently struggling in the throes of addiction. I sincerely hope Kim can get back on track with her recovery and finally learn to love herself for exactly who she is.

10154941_811170758924777_135625967001571867_n

I wrote a lot about how my addictive behavior manifested, the ways in which it threatened my career and how I got sober in my book, Nearly Famous: Tales From the Hollywood Trenches. I have been blessed to stay clean for over 25 years and my life has changed beyond my wildest dreams, but the biggest gift I got was that I no longer care what you think of me. I just celebrated a big birthday, and it is wonderful to look at life knowing that you don’t have to love me, because today I love myself.

Daytime Emmy Awards Reba Merrill for Pushing the Envelope

Congratulations to all the 20015 Daytime Emmy winners and nominees! The 42nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards ended with a tie on Sunday night for outstanding drama series split between ‘Days of Our Lives’ and ‘The Young and the Restless’. It was wonderful to see actress Betty White, 93, be recognized with a lifetime achievement award, as well as the wonderful tribute to Joan Rivers by daughter Melissa. As much as I love the movies and the Oscars, the Daytime Emmy Awards are special for me, after all, I made my start doing daytime talk shows. I even won a Daytime Emmy.

Reba Emmy Night

Watching them this year, especially after seeing the picture of the night I won (above), I remembered just how that evening went—some memories funny, some embarrassing, and the feeling of being honored for following my passion. I know that I had just been fired (like the month before the Emmy awards) from my show ‘That’s Life,’ which was nominated, and that I was up against my old show that had fired me the year before. I made up my mind that I would appear acting and looking like a winner. It did work going into the hotel (where this picture was taken). The show and dinner were a big deal in San Diego, though not big enough to televise the event. I remember that I had a little too much to drink as (I knew) I would not win because my show was on cable—not a big deal in 1980, and I was competing with only broadcast stations. I don’t even know if I even heard my name called, but my family did. The long walk to the stage made me aware that I was wearing shoes that were beautiful but were falling off my feet. Since I had been fired from the show I did not thank my boss, although he was entitled to have an Emmy for his office. All I did was thank my family. Here’s the embarrassing part of the story…too much to drink, shoes falling off my feet, and bingo, I fell (JLaw. style) coming down the steps to go back to my table. I have to tell you, everybody in the room that night knew Reba Merrill won an Emmy, probably for the wrong reason, but I don’t care as I see that Emmy every day on a shelf above my television in my den. FYI, I don’t drink anymore which would come in handy if I ever got nominated again.

Sandra Bullock: Hollywood’s Most Beautiful Actress Inside and Out


The first time I interviewed Sandra Bullock was on the set of a small independent film called ‘When the Party’s Over’. She was so charming! She had not “made it” so to speak, but she had done a television series, and some independent films, but nothing made her into a star until the next time I sat down with her for the film ‘Speed’. From then on Sandra Bullock was a bona fide movie star, following with iconic romantic comedies like ‘While You Were Sleeping’, and later, ‘Miss Congeniality’.




Sandra realized that to make it in Hollywood, it takes more than looks and when I sat down with her again for ‘Hope Floats’, not only was she the star of the film, but she had started Fortis Films and produced it, kicking off the start of her producing career. I realized from then on every time I sat down with her that, not only was she a star, but she was also the same charming, truthful woman as I had first interviewed for a small indie film.

It was always a little sad for me when a celebrity or actor became less gracious or interesting as their popularity rose, but this wasn’t the case with Sandra Bullock, which I assume is a good part of the reason for her being named People Magazine’s 2015 Most Beautiful Woman. At age 50, that makes her the oldest woman to be graced with the title, and she embodies the phrase “aging like a fine wine”. Sandra Bullock: Oscar-winning actress, producer, mother, and one of the most beautiful women inside and out.

Reba’s Top Ten Films of 2014

Oscars are just around the corner and it’s been a season for great movies! Here are some of the year’s favorites and there are a lot of them. These are my favorites and will keep you busy for the coming year. Here’s a breakdown of my top 10 must see films of 2014!

10. Selma
It was for me a great reminder of our past to see a part of our history brought to life. Watch for David Oyelowo to get an Oscar nomination. The film takes us on the 3-month journey of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to secure equal voting rights facing a strong opposition from all facets of society.

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Packed with fun cameos and Oscar buzz around Ralph Fiennes’ performance, Wes Anderson takes us on a classy ride chasing a missing painting and the greed-motivated conflict between heirs of a family fortune.

8. Birdman
Excellent dark comedy and anybody with an entertainment background will get it. Loved the long continuous take from Director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Micheal Keaton attempts to put together a Broadway play as he struggles within himself and the superhero he once played.

7. Locke
This film had the added challenge of taking place in a single location for the duration of the movie, Tom Hardy pulls it off and then some with an unforgettable performance!

6. Whiplash
This is the story of a 19-year old drummer determined to become a famous musician. The film is a gift, especially if you love jazz. J.K. Simmons’ performance as a merciless instructor is incredible!

5. Boyhood
There has not been a film like “Boyhood” ever before. It’s long but worth the time. In fact, this film is definitely an Oscar favorite right now.

4. American Sniper
Directed by Clint Eastwood at his best. Bradley Cooper’s performance was one of the great snubs of the 2014 Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations. It’s based on a true story about one of America’s top snipers in Iraq. The film does have quite a bit of war violence but is definitely a must see.

3. The Theory of Everything
This film is about the love story of iconic physicist Steven Hawking and Jane Wilde. After being diagnosed with a debilitating condition, Hawking pushes forward to complete his most ambitious scientific work with Jane by his side. Their performances are bound to make you cry.

2. A Most Violent Year
With the title you would expect a lot of violence, but it really is a great story and not as violent as you might have thought. The film chronicles an immigrant family pursuing the “American Dream” facing crime, corruption, and violence throughout their strive for success. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain are supremely engaging.

1. The Imitation Game
This film was well worth getting up for! This is the best film I have seen and has Oscar written all over it! See this one on the big screen. The emotion will pull you into the movie experience. Benedict Cumberbatch is a definite favorite – as this is a performance of depth and weight.

Meryl Streep…Enclosed in a World of Fiction

In 1987, I went on location to upstate New York for the film Ironweed, which would be Oscar-nominated in 1988 against Rain Man. I knew that I would not be allowed to interview or shoot behind the scenes footage of Jack Nicholson. That left me with his co-star, Meryl Streep. I shot footage of Jack working, but no one knew because I had my cameraman turn his light off. Jack joked around with the TV crew and me as long as the camera was not running. Meryl Streep, on the other hand, let us shoot behind the scenes footage of her. The film’s unit publicist arranged Meryl’s interview and when the scheduled time came, we were set up and ready.

What a surprise when Meryl arrived with wet hair, glasses, and no make up. No one had told her that this was a video interview, not print. I told her, “This interview will last a long time, and I don’t think you want to look that way on video.” I left the film set with all the interviews except the one with the star of the film. When I came back to Los Angeles, I told the producers I did not have Meryl’s interview.

I was sent back to New York to interview Meryl Streep, where I picked up a crew and met her at a hotel on Madison Avenue. When I returned to do the interview, she was comfortable with me. Maybe it was because she saw me often during the three-week period on the film; maybe it was because I had been honest with her and said, “Please don’t do the interview with wet hair and no makeup and glasses.”

For our next interview, the studio provided Meryl with her personal hair and makeup person at the cost of $1,500. About a third of the way through the interview, she put her hand through her hair and got it all messed up, undoing the work of her expensive stylist. I kept my mouth shut because the interview was going really well. The same stylist, J. Roy Helland, won an Oscar in the Hair and Makeup category for turning Meryl into Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. When he accepted his Oscar, he thanked Meryl for keeping him employed for over 30 years.

Meryl gave me a very revealing, hour-long interview about the woman she was, what made her tick, and what was important in her life. “I still get nervous, very nervous, when I have to audition,” she told me, which is probably not something she has to do anymore since she is considered one of the most talented and respected actresses of our time.

In addition to numerous other entertainment awards, she has been nominated for an Academy Award a record of seventeen times and has won three: Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer and Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice and for The Iron Lady. In her acceptance speech at the 2012 Oscars for playing Margret Thacher, she thanked Roy Helland and congratulated him on winning an Oscar. Kathrine Hepburn is the only actress to have won four Oscars and no other actress besides Meryl has won three.

Meryl became interested in acting at Vassar and then headed to the prestigious Yale School of Drama. “I decided to be an actress halfway through drama school. It was something that was hard to commit because I didn’t think it was a serious sort of way to spend a life. Or one that would help the world … But now I think my mind has changed about that. It is a valuable thing.”

It was one of those magical times when the star was comfortable enough to be candid. It surprised me when she said, “If I have to sing in front of people, I am just terrified,” though she had taken voice lessons for years. She sang in Ironweed and in a few of her other films, including Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge, and later in Mamma Mia.

She described perfectly how so many actors feel about their work and how they hate having to do interviews like this to promote their films: “I am much more comfortable enclosed in a world of fiction.”



“I had a lot of breaks early on,” Meryl, who is extremely shy, told me that when her entire drama class prepared and was invited to audition for Joe Papp’s Public Theater, “I was too nervous, I couldn’t go. But basically I didn’t want to be a part of that whole’ meat market.’ Competition makes me very nervous. The next day I went to the woman who arranged the auditions and said: ‘Give me a chance to read for it.’ And she did and I don’t know why. She was just a nice woman.” She got an audition with Joe Papp, who cast her in Trelawny of the Wells, which was her Broadway debut in Lincoln Center in 1975.

Since then, she has appeared in over fifty films, making her movie debut in Julia with Jane Fonda and Venessa Redgrave in 1977 and earning her first Oscar nomination in 1978 for The Deer Hunter. “ I know a lot of my success has to do with luck. I’ve also poured a lot of hard work into it, so I feel in some way, I can justify myself. I am just happy that life has happened this way.”

The most candid moment of tour interview was when she told me that she could not ask her housekeeper to remove the dust balls in the closet.

She has been married since 1978. “ The greatest break in my life is when I met Don Grummer. There is no question in my mind about that.” Meryl and her husband, a well-known sculptor, have four children, three girls and a boy. Her two oldest daughters, Mamie and Grace, are both actresses and look just like Meryl did when she first started her career.

I was in awe of this extraordinary woman, who was as kind and humble as she is talented. “I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be successful. The fear is always there for an actress that you will never work again. That goes with the territory, so each happy event as it has happened has been a surprise.”

After the interview, Meryl Streep told me that she would be leaving the country for A Cry in the Dark, which would put her in Australia when the publicity for Ironweed was to be released. I offered to make her a video of the sound bites used in the profile and send her a transcript. All she had to do was to strike out what she didn’t want used. She sent us back the edited transcript and went to Australia. As the release date of the film got closer, a consultant hired by the production company called me. I was told to turn over the entire Meryl Streep’s interview to be edited by the man who had hit on me for sex at Fox years earlier. The old boys’ network kept getting him jobs even though he lost his big position at Fox after being charged with sexual harassment by a woman at the studio and his career came tumbling down. I told him that I could only turn over the approved footage, nothing else. I even got my lawyer involved.

The end result was that I kept my word to Meryl Streep and he got the pleasure of threatening me with the famous Hollywood line: “You will never work in this town again.” It didn’t work this time either. I never had to turn over the interview footage, we edited the Meryl Streep profile, and I worked in Hollywood for another twenty years.

-Excerpts from “Nearly Famous: tales from the hollywood trenches”

A Taste of Lemmon

My first job for my new company was given to me by Michelle Reese, V.P. Universal Pictures in 1984. Before landing the job I had spent nearly two years knocking on doors trying to prove that my movie star interviews would play on a lot of stations as it had not been done before.

I was so lucky that she gave me Jack Lemmon to interview for the film Mass Appeal. I could not believe that he would share so many personal stories with me. Not only did he let me photograph his baby book, he also revealed to me that he knew that he wanted to be an actor from 9 years old, After he graduated from Harvard he went to New York and started getting very small parts doing live TV. After doing over 100 television shows he went to Hollywood and, as they say, the rest is history. He was nominated for an Oscar for The Days of Wine and Roses and for Save the Tiger, with the latter winning him an Academy Award. He reminisced about his role in Save The Tiger which touched him deeply and made him aware of his own behavior at home. His character had a drinking problem, which was how he dealt with unhappiness. Jack realized that the character was very close to himself, in fact there were moments when he felt that the character had taken over his life. Jack said: “I still like to drink and when I have too much I take it out on the walls and doors of my house.” He went on to say: “I never hit anybody.” Although Jack Lemmon went public with his drinking in the 1960’s, it wasn’t until three decades later that he revealed that he was a recovering alcoholic. I never showed that video with his personal stories to anyone. It’s interesting that his best Oscar nominated performances were for playing characters that were alcoholics.

At the conclusion of the interview he said some wonderful things to me and I said to Jack: “Do you really mean what you are saying?” He replied: “Yes.” I asked if he would put it in writing and he did. After his note arrived, I called his office and asked if I could show it to the studios, the answer was “Yes.”

jack lemon letter-page-001

I saw Jack one more time in 1996. when I was doing publicity for the film Getting Away With Murder. I told him that his letter changed my life as it put my career on the fast track. Jack Lemmon was a most charming man who gave so much of himself to others, like me who was just an unknown interviewer. Thank you Jack Lemmon! I am so glad you came into my life, even though it was only for that one day at the very beginning of my Hollywood career…you are a true Hollywood Gem!

Laughter and Tears: Goodbye Robin Williams

My job as a celebrity journalist threw me in Robin William’s path many times and I never forgot any of those moments. He was not only funny but complex and brilliant. I never interviewed anyone else like him.

My first interview with him was for the film “Toys” in 1993 . He made an impression on me that I will never forget. To remind him that he had to talk to me not as a woman as my voice was replaced most of the time by men. I said “I have no sex,” before I could explain what I meant he jumped in and said “Get this woman a roto-rooter.” From then on we were connected. He remembered me each time I went to interview him. Maybe it was because I would use his private bathroom before I could sit down with him. His job was to make me laugh, my job was to hold it all in. Of course he won.

With a mind forever moving faster than I could think he came up with comic moments unlike anything I previously encountered. I never judged his performances, as it was the man, not the actor, that I was getting to know little by little behind the comic riffs When I said to him “If you keep me laughing, I will never find out who you are” and he smiled. Then I said “Do you know who you are?” he answered “Yes.” “Are you going to tell me?” he said “No.” To me that was the man behind the laughter talking and giving a little of himself and then closing himself off by making me laugh.

What’s great about Robin, the actor, was that there were so many amazing roles that will insure his place among the comic greats. Of all the film roles that he did, ny favorite would have to be “Dead Poets Society,” as he made me not only seize the day, but also make the most of it.

I am so glad to have had these memories of a man who made me laugh till I cried and made me cry till I laughed. Lucky for me that our paths crisscrossed for many years. .

The Secrets Behind Winning An Oscar

I wrote the article below before the Oscars… and guess what? For the first time in a my career as an academy voter I was denied tickets. Could they be related? Read on and let me know what you think.

You might be surprised to know that to win an Oscar takes much more than talent. It takes a strategic campaign. Let me translate. Outrageous budgets go towards lavish lunch and dinner parties to win the favor of Oscar voters. Big publicity budgets go towards new 30 second TV spots, and self-congratulatory magazine and newspaper ads. Does this sound familiar? Could it be that the studios are running a political campaign? Why all the hoopla? Well, Every Oscar win is money in the pockets of the releasing studio and let’s face it, money is king.

The best-kept secret of an Oscar campaign is that competing studios try to destroy the competition anonymously. The cleverest publicist who operates like a seasoned campaign manager will plant stories which ever so subtly throw shade over the successes of competing films. For example in a Huffington Post article about The Wolf Of Wall Street, the article has DiCaprio defending the film for condoning the excessive behavior it depicts, instead of raving about how great it was to participate in the film. Bringing these subtle details about the film to light can make an Oscar voter take a second look which may in turn change their vote.

The moral of this story is you can’t just make a great film and expect it to win on it’s own merits, you have to spend the money, use the publicity machine and plant subliminal messages that will put the golden man in your hand.

Nearly Famous: tales from the hollywood tenches



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