Haifaa Al Mansour

Dubai: Haifaa Al Mansour’s Female Empowerment Project ‘Miss Camel’ Wins IWC Filmmaker Award

Haifaa Al Mansour

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour’s female empowerment feature project “Miss Camel” is the winner of the IWC Filmmaker Award, worth $100,000, awarded during the Dubai International Film Festival.

A jury headed by Cate Blanchett selected “Miss Camel” as the winner among four Arab projects. Blanchett announced the winner during a gala event Thursday evening at the One&Only Royal Mirage hotel in Dubai.

Al Mansour made waves in 2013 with “Wadjda,” about a 10-year-old Saudi girl who wants to ride a bicycle even though it is forbidden for her in her country.

She more recently directed English-language biopic “Mary Shelley” starring Elle Fanning which world premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was recently picked up for U.S. distribution by IFC Films.

The long-gestating “Miss Camel” project is about a Saudi teen named Hayla “who will do anything to escape her arranged marriage and fulfil her goal of attending art school outside of Saudi Arabia,” according to its synopsis.

“While scheming to make her way to the in-person interviews for the art college in a neighbouring Gulf state, Hayla makes a startling discovery at her cousin’s wedding – she can talk to animals.” Thus begins the teen’s rapport with a beautiful camel named Melwah with which she travels across the kingdom to compete in the Miss Camel beauty pageant in Doha, challenging the deep-rooted restrictions of her culture.

The 14th edition of DIFF runs Dec. 6-13.

‘Hunting Season’ Takes Top Prize at

Fizzy Opening Ceremony Marks Second Edition of Macao Festival & Awards

Jeremy Renner and Hong Kong star Myriam Yeung were on hand Friday to add a touch of glamour to the opening of the 2nd International Film Festival and Awards.

The festival is an ambitious attempt to put Macau, a former Portuguese colony, now a Special Administrative Area belonging to China and renown for its casinos, on the cultural map.

Under the artistic direction of Mike Goodridge, a former journalist and film executive, the festival is a carefully-balanced mix of accessible, audience-friendly features along with art-house titles that have stood out on the festival circuit in the last few months. Its modest 48-film selection keeps the event on a human scale and allows guests to quickly mingle.

The ceremony had the great virtue of addressing all the traditional Asian touch points of a festival – prominence for local officials, a formal gong ceremony, and a parade of celebrities – but also keeping things moving swiftly without lengthy speeches. Renner, sporting a radical haircut, was announced as recipient of a prize for East-West Actor of the Year, but the live-screened proceedings did not dwell.

‘Hunting Season’ Takes Top Prize at

‘Hunting Season’ Takes Top Prize at Macao Festival

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Outside, the city’s concrete Cultural Centre, security was tight, reflecting the visit of a high-ranking member of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Liaison Office. Inside, the atmosphere was brightly-lit, brisk and fun. A tinsel shower drew gasps and applause.

For men the dress code was severe-but-playful suits. For women the fashion was a range of floaty, gauzy, pastel-shaded confections.

Mixing local dignitaries, visitors from neighboring Hong Kong, film-makers with festival-selected films, and producers with projects seeking finance through the IFFAM’s project market and industry hub, the guest list was extensive.

Those treading the deep pile red carpet included “Okja” producer Choi Dooho, Indian film maker and IFFAM returnee Shekhar Kapur, festival juror Joan Chen and French auteur Laurent Cantet, who this week does duty as head of the jury.

The festival selectors included Aseem Chhabra, critic Finn Halligan, Giovanna Fulvi, Violeta Bava, Hiromi Aihara, and Michael Werner.

Other visitors included “Journey’s End” star Asa Butterfield, producers Simon Reade and Guy de Beaujeu, “Borg-McEnroe” producer Frederik Wikstrom and leading Korean director Im Sang-soo. Emperor Group boss Albert Yeung led a large talent contingent from Hong Kong that included Simon Yam, Charlene Choi, Michelle Wai and Kathy Yuen.

European Animation Awards: 12 Points on the Inaugural Edition

LILLE, France — The brainchild of European animation luminaries, the Emiles or, more formally, the European Animation Awards, take place for the first time tonight in Lille, in the northernmost-part of France. 12 points about a event which bids fair to become a significant addition to an already-demanding film-TV big event calendar.

1.A CELEBRATION OF BELOW-THE-LINE CRAFT

“The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales,” “The Red Turtle” and “My Life as a Zucchini” compete for best feature animation production. Three U.K. shows – “Revolting Rhymes,” “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” “The Amazing World of Gumball” – vie for best European TV/broadcast production. But that’s not really the Emiles’ point. Inspired by the Annie Awards, 10 of the EAA’s 16 categories highlight below-the-line craft contributions, such as background and character design, storyboard and soundtrack. The Emiles “are more to promote the excellence of European animation and give confidence and pride to all members of its industry – from producers to animators to story-boarders – about being members of the big European family,” said Emile Awards founder, producer Didier Brunner, (“Ernest and Celestine”). “The opportunity to really celebrate craftspeople and production personnel feels like a perfect justification for the awards existing,” added David Jesteadt, president of New York’s Gkids, which distributes half the nominated feature films at the Emile Awards, as indeed “Revolting Rhymes” and “The Breadwinner,” their gala feature.

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2. THE SINGULARITY OF ANIMATION

The Emile Awards also recognize the particular nature and demands of animation in general. Visuals, for example, involve double labor, argued Maïlys Valatte, in consideration at he Emiles for her storyboarding on “Long Way North.” An artistic director, for instance, “must not only know and juggle a film’s moods” as in live-action pictures, but also “have the ability to reproduce them pictorially and synthetically, often like great painters,” she remarked.

3.CELEBRATING A GROWTH INDUSTRY

The Awards target a Euro growth industry. Of the eight animated movies nominated in any category, six are first features. Just 20 years ago, Europe’s feature film production hardly existed. “Beyond famous titles such as Raymond Briggs adaptations like ‘When the Wind Blows,’ it’s hard to think of that many titles made in Europe over 20 years ago,” said Peter Dodd, nominated for best character animation in a feature film for his work as animation director on “Ethel & Ernest.” Bearing him out, 76 animated features were produced in Europe over 1984-1998, 361 over 1999-2013, according to a European Audiovisual Observatory study which suggested that, over 2010-14, non-European territories on animated features were responsible for 34.8% of admissions, vs. 26.3% of those for European films in general.

4.THE EMILES COME AT A PROPITIOUS TIME

Hitting $36 million after 24 days in the U.K., “Paddington 2,” produced by London-based David Hayman and financed by Studiocanal, topped new box office entries in France on Wednesday, selling a first-day 131,004 admissions, about $1 million. A movie animated in France, “Despicable Me 3,” made out of Paris-based Illumination Mac Guff, is the third-biggest movie in the world this year, grossing $1.032 billion. The Commission, the executive arm of the E.U., announced in December 2015 that it would explore alternative models of financing, production and distribution for Europe’s animation sector. At this September’s Cartoon Forum, Europe’s industry presented an E.U. Preferential Animation Support Plan that identified promotion precisely (as well as financing and retaining talent in Europe) as a priority for E.U. action. The Emile Awards are inspired by the Annies. Europe’s animation industry has to learn from the U.S. industry’s “professionalism at profiting to the maximum from all its talents,” said Brunner. The Emiles at least look like one step forward. This is no time for Europe to hide its talents under a bushel.

5.THE SINGULARITY OF EUROPEAN ANIMATION

Much talk at the Emiles, as Europe’s animation clans gather, is likely to focus on the state of Europe’s industry and its singularity, especially in comparison to the U.S. This may cut several ways. “European animation feels less trapped in childhood than that Stateside. There is more variety in terms of culture, audience demographics and in terms of the pace of storytelling and the subject matter compared to [Hollywood’s] more popular traditional sort of fantasy films aimed at children,” said Dodd, citing “The Red Turtle” and “The Breadwinner.” In industry terms, Europe’s industry is essentially an independent one, said Brunner. Style varies from country to country and studio to studio: “There is an Aardman style, a Xilam style, the same for Magic Light.” Also, big American studios control animation movies from the beginning to end. In Europe, producers have to “balance the creativity and the freedom of directors and how animation films get made.” That requires negotiation, Brunner added.

6.IN EUROPE, EVERY ANIMATED FILM IS ITS OWN WORLD

In consequence, every European animated feature seems in part to be its own world, with its own singular challenges. Dodd remembers being brought in for character design on “Ethel & Ernest.” “There was a sort of a house-style already, which was Raymond Briggs’ style.” So the challenge when adapting Raymond Briggs book was to bring a consistency throughout the film to Briggs’ drawings which described a huge gamut from “caricature to sometimes very anatomical, or realistic, or expressionistic” as well as to “keep character animation graphically looking like an illustration but realistic enough so that you could identify with the characters,” Dodd said. How that was achieved lies at the heart of the movie’s art, worthy of celebration at the Emile Awards.

7.STIRRING BEAUTY

The best European animation movies can often combine spellbinding 2D beauty and quite left-of-field artistic decisions: “The Red Turtle’s” colors capture with a stunning precision the palette of nature on a tropical island, but characters noses are just a line. Animated with a painterly realism, “Long Way North” involved “a borderless, rather refined rendering and a simplicity in its curves that might seem easy but is a big challenge to get to draw and keep the volume of such characters,” said Valatte. As a result, “landscapes seem to have leapt off 1920s railway posters, while character scenes look quite unlike any other animated film in recent memory — and for a film made under such modest circumstances, that’s a feat unto itself,” said Peter Debruge, reviewing “Long Way North” for Variety.

8.CHILDREN OF THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

But, yes, Hollywood’s big toon pics are often burdened by the weight of their budgets, Europe’s by their lack. So in European animation, necessity frequently becomes the mother of invention. That can be seen perhaps most in the student and animated shorts categories at this year’s European Animation Awards. Three are made in black and white, their virtuosity in part stemming from the inventiveness brought to limited resources. One case to point: “Oh Mother,” a B & W, hand-drawn piece from Poland’s Panstwowa Wyzsza School, where the characters’ expanding or contracting sizes emphasize the fluctuating relationship between a happily protective mother and her fast-grown son.

9.SO ARE THE EMILES AN OSCARS BELLWETHER?

It’s hard to say. Two of the three best picture nominations – “My Life as a Zucchini” and “The Red Turtle” – were already nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. “Revolting Rhymes,” nominated in three Emile TV categories, is shortlisted for best animated short this time round. At least four titles up for contention at the Emiles have made the 26-title best animated feature film longlist: “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales,” “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children,” “Ethel & Ernest,” and “The Girl without Hands.” The Emiles gala movie, “The Breadwinner,” is even being talked up as one of the category’s frontrunners for nomination. For Jesteadt at distributor GKids, whose U.S. acquisitions have scored a remarkable eight Oscar nominations, “of the ‘surprise’ animated titles that have gone on to receive Academy Award nominations outside the Hollywood studio system, a large number have been European works. So I think the Emilies could be meaningful in determining which European animated feature is deemed superior by the artists themselves.”

10.EUROPE’S ANIMATION’S CHALLENGE

“Hollywood’s brilliant, blockbuster productions have had enormous success all over Europe, coming to represent what fir audiences make for excellent animation: CGI films with lots of VFX, dynamic, fast-paced rhythms,” said Brunner. One result: “The public now wants more and more CGI films.” Yet much of Europe’s best animation – “The Breadwinner,” “Big Bad Fox” could never have been made in CGI, Dodd argued. Brunner agreed: “Despite this audience tendency, we must defend the diversity of techniques in the art of animation (2D, stop-motion, animated paintings, and so on) and resist this domination of CGI.” How to square this circle is one of the largest conundrums facing Europe’s animation industry.

11.THE E.U.’S MEDIA PROGRAM TO THE RESCUE?

Maybe, however, the E.U.’s Media Program will come to the rescue. It will certainly channel at least some initial E.U. aid to the sector and is reacting positively to the sector’s suggestions for support. “We recognize that the animation industry has growth potential and the Animation Plan looks into what makes animation successful and what is required to take it to the next level,” Lucia Recalde, Media Unit head, told Variety just before the Emile Awards. The Plan also comes “at the right moment,” she added. “In the shorter term, we are currently looking into ways to better support the animation sector through the Media Programme in 2019,” she said. “In addition, we will be involving the animation sector in debates with members of the European Parliament and the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel. This will bring the great potential of European animation to the attention of decision-makers.”

12.BUT HOW ARE THE EMILE AWARDS SHAPING UP?

“For such a project, the most difficult challenge is the first edition, said Commin. That said, “The response and input from European professionals is more than encouraging,” he added on the near eve of the awards ceremony. The European Animation Awards received a large number of applications, close to 500 for the 16 categories.  Natural and necessary allies such as Cartoon and the Annecy Festival, already honorary members of the EAA Assn., will be attending Lille, as will other festivals and France’s powerful CNC state agency. “Animation is a leading force in Europe in all aspects, production and distribution, and the goal of the Emiles is to be an active part of the ‘big picture,’” Commin added. It may have walked much of that road by the end of Friday night.

 

Dubai: Arab World Women Directors: Rana Eid, ‘Panoptic’

“Panoptic,” the ambitious documentary debut of Lebanese sound designer Rana Eid, arrives at its Dubai competition berth after a world premiere at the 2017 Locarno Film Festival and a First Lights kudo from the Jihlava Film Festival in the Czech Republic. A new take on the genre of city symphony/documentary essay, Eid’s film offers a complex and poetic inquiry into Beirut’s underground and the roots of conflict in her country.

Eid started writing with the locations and general concept in mind, but the structure of the film suggested itself during editing. She says, “It is at that stage that I realized that an essay documentary will resemble more the mood I wanted to have, this trip into the core of Beirut and my own memories.”

After working as a sound editor and sound designer for compatriot filmmakers including Ghassan Salhab, Vatche Boulghourjian, Khalil Joreige, Joana Hadjithomas and Philippe Aractangi, Eid at first thought she would make a radio documentary, but ultimately realized that a film would be more accessible. She says, “When I went to all the locations, the sound of each place helped to film it and to know where to put the camera, and to know the architecture and acoustics details of the places.”

During post-production, Eid edited the sounds before the images, and this established the rhythm of the film. She says, “For me, sound is the identity of the image, and the soundtrack of this film is its identity.”

While she keeps busy with db Studios, a facility for audio post-production that she founded, and teaching sound at the University Saint Esprit de Kaslik, Eid is slowly developing plans for her next documentary. She says, “This time it will be above the ground, but I will continue to try to understand more and more Beirut, this city that I love.”

MICA: Film Tank Pitches Genre Thriller

MICA: Pioneering Mexican Female Director Mariana Chenillo Brings Her Latest Cinematic Project to Market

Mexico’s Mariana Chenillo is at this year’s MICA Market in Mexico City presenting her newest project, “Guía para el viajero que no quiere preguntar.” (Guide for the Traveler Who Doesn’t Want to Ask)

Accompanying her along the way are Tigre Pictures founder-producers Humberto Hinojosa and Pablo García Gatterer. Hinojosa is a standout director in is own right. His 2009 film, “Black Sheep,” earned competition berths at Guadalajara and Karlovy Vary. Having produced mostly Hinojosa’s work until now, adding the likes of Chenillo to their roster is a definite step forward for all parties involved.

Known as much for her writing as her directing, Chenillo is establishing herself as one of Mexico’s most exciting new auteur voices working in both film and TV. In 2008 her film, “Nora’s Will,” rocketed Chenillo into the international spotlight with awards wins at Miami, Mar del Plata, Morelia and as far away as Moscow. The director also featured on the small screen in a big way when she teamed up with Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna’s production company Canana, Fox Television Studios and Once TV México for the series “Soy tu fan.” And, Chenillo also stepped in to direct an episode of Netflix’s first original Mexican series, “Club of Crows.”

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“Guía para el viajero” is the story of Jonah, a man going through the worst period of his life. Estranged from his daughters and fighting with his wife, Jonah is forced to move back to his childhood room in the home of his father. In this far-from-ideal setting, Jonah must cope with a blindness resulting from a faulty airbag deployment, and try to get compensation for the defective safety device from a reluctant manufacturer.

Being short-sighted herself, Chenillo explained: “After so many doctors visits, tests and procedures that I have gone through, I have asked myself what it would mean to be an adult who loses their vision. This led me to explore the concept of vulnerability, to understand how and why force is not the only way to achieve what we want.”

The film will begin shooting next year.

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Film Review: Agatha Christie’s ‘Crooked House’

Director:Gilles Paquet-BrennerWith:Glenn Close, Terrence Stamp, Max Irons, Stefanie Martini, Julian Sands, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Christian McKay, Honor Kneafsey, Jenny Galloway.

Rated PG-13 1 hour 55 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1869347/

We find ourselves at a curious moment in Hollywood history when producers seem obsessed with turning every property, from the Avengers comics to Agatha Christie’s mystery novels, into a potential franchise. Earlier this fall, the twist at the end of Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express” wasn’t whodunit (practically everyone knew the solution going in) but the tantalizing suggestion that Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot couldn’t stick around, since his services were needed to investigate a “Death on the Nile.”

The trouble facing studios with this “extended universe” impulse is that they can’t always maintain a monopoly on characters (the X-Men lived at Fox, and Sony had Spider-Man at the moment Disney started making Marvel movies), allowing others to swoop in and take advantage of the goodwill a successful tentpole builds for any associated characters. Take Christie’s murder-mystery oeuvre. The British crime novelist wrote at least 70 books, and Fox can’t own them all, which means the well-timed arrival of “Crooked House” is free to ride the coattails of “Orient Express” — except, in this unique case, it’s actually the better of the two movies.

Boasting an ending so outrageous only Michael Haneke could call it happy, “Crooked House” concerns the mystery of who killed Aristide Leonides, a filthy-rich octogenarian who’s survived by a mansion full of plausible suspects, including ostentatious head-of-house Edith (Glenn Close, only slightly less over-the-top than she was as Cruella de Vil in “101 Dalmations”), no-good sons Philip (Julian Sands, a gambler) and Roger (Christian McKay, a lout), alky actress Magda (Gillian Anderson) and comely granddaughter Sophia de Havilland (Stefanie Martini), who’s practically the same age as the late Mr. Leonides’ second wife and widow Brenda (Christina Hendricks), who stands to inherit it all.

As in “Murder on the Orient Express,” any one of these characters could have done it — although, thankfully, not all of them — and that doesn’t even account for the help (the nanny, played by Jenny Galloway, knows more than she lets on) or 12-year-old Josephine (Honor Kneafsey), who claims to know the killer’s identity and is nearly killed on two occasions. Unlike “Orient Express,” however, the inspector in this case is nowhere near as shrewd as Poirot. Played by the handsomely bland Max Irons, Charles Hayward is a former spy turned private eye named who had a brief fling in Cairo some years earlier with Sophia, and whose faint connection to the family might have something to do with his having been chosen to investigate the case.

Like the audience, Charles is overwhelmed when he arrives at the Leonides estate, which seems positively palatial, with closets big enough for a cemetery of skeletons. Within its tastefully appointed walls, each character occupies a room interior-decorated to suit his or her personality, à la “Clue,” all connected by a cavernous pea-green stairwell watched over by a giant portrait of their freshly poisoned patriarch (in a surreal touch, the late Aristide Leonides, who looms so large in his absence, turns out to have been little more than a dwarf).

Presenting this tony microcosm as a spider’s web of hidden intrigues, co-writer-director Gilles Paquet-Brenner (moody historical mystery “Sarah’s Key”) happens to be exploiting not only Christie’s newfound popularity, but the recent “Downton Abbey” craze as well (indeed, he shares screenplay credit with Julian Fellowes, who created that show). The film is set not long after World War 2, but features touches (including several lovely classic automobiles) that suggest it could be decades earlier, and others that are practically too avant garde for the era (such as a canary-and-ivory salon every bit as modern as “2001: A Space Odyssey’s” iconic bedroom).

In any case, we need something to keep our eyes and imaginations occupied while the director trots out his cast of suspects, and together with DP Sebastian Winterø, Paquet-Brenner takes these relatively bland characters and stages them at dramatic angles in these positively breathtaking rooms. Whereas so many of Christie’s books have gone straight to the small screen, this stunning visual treatment is enough to make “Crooked House” feel worthy of a theatrical run (although in fact, the film debuted weeks earlier on-demand in the States).

With such an enticing cast, it’s tougher than one might think trying to divine which of these eccentrics might be responsible for the crime, and “Crooked House” keeps you guessing, right up to its shocking conclusion (of which Christie was especially proud, naming it a personal favorite among her extensive oeuvre). It’s not just the revelation of who poisoned Aristide that surprises but also the way in which the film delivers justice to his killer. Cut to black. Roll credits. This particular mystery won’t be spawning sequels, but it arrives at just the right time to satisfy those whose appetite for a delicious Christie mystery are seeking a truly diabolical twist.

Film Review: Agatha Christie’s ‘Crooked House’

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, Dec. 3, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 115 MIN.

Production:A Stage 6 Films presentation, in association with Metro Intl. of a Brilliant Films, Abrams/Wood Venture, Fred Films production, in association with Hindsight, Enigma, Twickenham Studios, Headgear, Metrol Technology. Producers: James Spring, Sally Wood, Joe Abrams. Executive producers: Paul B. Edgerley, Tim Smith, James Swarbrick, John Story, Stewart Peter, Anders Erden, Jay Frestone, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Sunny Vohra, Andrew Boswel, Will Machin, Natalie Brenner, Lisa Wolofsky.

Crew:Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Screenplay: Julian Fellowes, Tim Rose Price, Paquet-Brenner, based upon the book by Agatha Christie. Camera (color, widescreen): Sebastian Winterø. Editor: Peter Christelis. Music: Hugo de Chaire.

With:Glenn Close, Terrence Stamp, Max Irons, Stefanie Martini, Julian Sands, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Christian McKay, Honor Kneafsey, Jenny Galloway.

The Walking Dead Game of Thrones

‘Downsizing’ Star Hong Chau Turned to Acting to ‘Burst Out of My Introvertedness’

Hong Chau Variety Facetime Interview

Hong Chau is drawing critical raves in Alexander Payne’s sci-fi film “Downsizing,” which opens Dec. 22. But the actress, who grew up in a Vietnamese refugee community in New Orleans, gained her widest early exposure playing a character closest to home — an immigrant, in HBO’s New Orleans-set “Treme.” She’ll next star in “American Woman,” about the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Chau studied creative writing in college but switched to film studies when her parents asked her to be more practical. “I chose film because it’s a trade,” she says. “I was wrong about it being practical.”

How did you develop your passion for acting?

I was dabbling in it initially as a way to burst out of my introvertedness. I must have found some strange sort of joy or fascination with it, because I stuck with it. But it wasn’t necessarily acting that turned me to film; it was wanting to be a part of the larger landscape. My first job after college was at PBS. I thought that I might work in the documentary world, doing something more solitary, behind the scenes.

Were you inspired by any specific actors as you transitioned to being in front of the camera?

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Honestly, no, because there aren’t any Asian-American film actresses who are doing a lot of work in independent and art-house films that I could point to.

What cause is closest to your heart?

Public libraries were a huge source of comfort and joy for me when I was growing up. I still spend time there. It’s tremendous what they can do in terms of sharing information about different cultures, introducing different characters and educating people on history.

What are you obsessed with right now?

I’m really into ghost towns. I’ve driven cross-country the past few summers and I would stop at some ghost towns along the way. They’re like a microcosm of America as a whole. People come and build an entire place with the hope that they will succeed there. That touches upon “Downsizing” a bit because most Americans will never understand what it’s like to leave everything they know and love behind and start anew in a foreign land. In the movie, different characters end up in a new environment for different reasons, but for all of them, there is no going back. You see relationships evolve and how beautiful it can be.

Things you didn’t know about Hong Chau

AGE: 37 BORN: Thailand RAISED: New Orleans FAVORITE PLACES TO UNWIND: National parks: FIRST FILMS SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH:  “Chuck & Buck,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Ghost World”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Disney Becomes Only Studio to Hit $6 Billion Twice at Global Box Office

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Walt Disney Studios is expected to cross the $6 billion mark at the 2017 worldwide box office on Friday, with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” providing the final push to reach the milestone.

Disney is the first and only studio to hit this goal twice, having done so last year when it set a record with $7.6 billion at the global box office. Disney is also the only studio to break the $5 billion mark globally for three consecutive years.

Universal Pictures announced on Dec. 12 that it had topped $5 billion worldwide for the second time in the studio’s 105-year history. Disney hit the milestone first, on Nov. 30, and Warner Bros. followed five days later.

Disney has already cleared the $2 billion mark this year in domestic grosses, though Warner Bros. achieved that mark first on Dec. 10. Internationally, Disney has passed $3.5 billion for the third year in a row.

Disney scored the three top domestic debuts of 2017: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” with a $220 million opening weekend, “Beauty and the Beast” with $174.8 million, and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” with $146.5 million. Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is set to cross the $650 million mark at the worldwide box office on Friday, with $610.5 million already grossed in its first week.

The box office record comes a week after Disney announced it was spending $52.4 billion to acquire 21st Century Fox assets — a move that will make the company the undisputed leader in box office share in coming years.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Merie W. Wallace/20th Century Fox/Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5886183au)Billy Zane, Kate WinsletTitanic - 1997Director: James Cameron20th Century Fox/ParamountUSAScene StillDrama

Billy Zane on Why ‘Titanic’ Still Resonates 20 Years Later

Twenty years after its release, “Titanic” is still widely regarded as one of the great romances of all time. Centered around the love story between Kate Winslet’s Rose and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack aboard the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage, James Cameron’s colossal blockbuster can make even the coldest of hearts melt… unless you’re talking about Cal Hockley.

Just as Rose and Jack were easy to love, the pretentious heir to a steel fortune, Caledon Nathan Hockley, was easy to hate.

Billy Zane, who played Rose’s villainous fiancé, credits Cal’s misogyny to the patriarchy, calling it a reflection of the times. And while Zane, like Rose, shares the opinion that Cal is an “unimaginable bastard,” he can’t help but empathize with his character on some level. “He’s a romantic!” Zane says.

On the 20th anniversary of the movie’s release, Zane spoke with Variety about his iconically malevolent role, the film’s lasting cultural impact, and of course, whether or not Jack and Rose could have both fit on that door.

What do you remember about working with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio?

Just how wonderfully gifted and grounded they were, clearly seeing what the future held for both of them.

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What is your relationship like with them now?

We’re close. More so with Leo, just based on frequency and living in the same city. Kate I don’t see as often, but it’s always lovely when we do catch up. We’re pals. I support his efforts, he mine. That was a wonderful bonding experience for the entire cast and crew. Everyone still maintains a great kinship. I was on the phone last night with Frances Fisher [who played Rose’s mother Ruth Dewitt Bukater]. We all were brought very close by the experience.

Was there something specific about the experience that fostered these friendships? 

The sheer length of the gig, the scope, the fact that we were witness to a number of firsts in terms of the execution. These were unifying moments.

Do you guys quote the movie when you’re together?

Never [laughs]. We don’t even talk about the movie.

That makes sense. There aren’t many iconic lines to reference anyway.

Are you being facetious?

Yes. 

Let’s just say if their experience is anything like mine, you hear them regularly from the general public and friends. There’s no danger of those lines and moments ever leaving the zeitgeist. It doesn’t really need reinforcement from us.

That’s fair. What was James Cameron like as a director? 

He was efficient. He’s an excellent director. He’s an excellent man. My experience was a pleasure, an education, crackled with camaraderie and comedy and mutual respect. I can only speak for myself, but I appreciated his personal commitment to excellence. He was as hard on himself as he was on anybody. I don’t want to say he was hard on anybody, he was doing the job to the best of his ability. If people thought that was difficult, I don’t know what they signed up for.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox/Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5886183g)Billy Zane, David WarnerTitanic - 1997Director: James Cameron20th Century Fox/ParamountUSAScene StillDrama

It became a tremendous international calling card. At times, curious, being synonymous with a universally loathed character and was the source of a lot of humor. That was tempered by great admiration. It’s the gift that keeps giving. It’s a phenomenal thing to be part of something so significant. Wonderful films being produced every year, worthy of being cemented in our collective minds as pillars of cinematic excellence, but for some reason, this picture resonates so deeply with people. That has always been a great privilege.

Why do you think it still resonates so strongly with audiences?

You can’t remove the context from this point. This was pre-smartphone, pre a lot of social media, or just right at a point when there was a significant generational marker. I couldn’t speak to it, it was something about how this impacted a right of passage for young men and women while still mining emotions in some audience members who could have grown a little jaded over time. It shook people up and penetrated deeply in a way that perhaps the numbing effects of some technology today.

James Cameron has said he was worried about the movie failing. Was that ever a concern of yours?

Not mine. I guess I didn’t have as much on the line. We felt we were making a really good movie. You can only be as confident and hopeful that what you’re making retains and resonates. From a fiscal lens, I couldn’t imagine the pressures they were under.

Do you think Cal gets a bad rap?

Yes, and rightfully so. He was a bastard. But he wasn’t born that way, he was trained that way, in my opinion. He was a tragic bastard in that it was just bad programming. And a mirror of the times. He has his own strange tragedy and comeuppance as a result. Just was not equipped to handle a fiercely independent woman who was breaking social norms. His heart was really broken. He really loved and provided for her. Through the context of history, he wasn’t programmed by certain behaviors. It was definitely a patriarchy, a slightly oppressive one, but he was a romantic! He was trying to provide and give and get love and was offended and made to look a fool. It broke his heart, and it pissed him off [laughs].

Was he misunderstood at all?

I know he loved her deeply and really cared for Rose and couldn’t understand why she was being so petulant, to him, seemingly selfish. This isn’t me, this is the character talking. That’s what I thought his perspective was. I think he was treated fairly by the audiences because that was the point!

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Merie W. Wallace/20th Century Fox/Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5886183au)Billy Zane, Kate WinsletTitanic - 1997Director: James Cameron20th Century Fox/ParamountUSAScene StillDrama

It would be “Speed 2.” It takes place on a cruise ship. No one saw it [laughs].

Of course. All of his behavior was a sign of the times. It wouldn’t register, I don’t think one would act out the way he does publicly. His actions and perspective and world view was informed by the world at that time.

What kind of reactions do you get from fans?

I get quoted. “I put the diamond in the coat, and I put the coat on her!” I get that a lot. “You unimaginable bastard.” A variety of curious greetings. My favorite are fairly off color, and I dare not mention. To be universally loathed is really quite funny.

What question do you get asked the most about the movie?

It’s not really questions as much as comments.

Nobody asks you if you think Jack and Rose could have both fit on the door? 

Oh, I get the door question. From a point of physics, sure. From a perspective of the times and that level of chivalry, I’m not surprised. I don’t think this door issue was intended [laughs]. Somewhere between the art department and the camera department it might have photographed bigger than it was. I think the fact that Jack tried to ensure that the least amount of freezing water touch her skin, which was the case by not jumping on it, preserved her and saved her. That was the idea. If he went up there, it would have swamped them.

Did you have any of the PCP-laced clam chowder on set?

No, that was Nova Scotia where they were filming the modern day sequences. We were filming in Mexico. Curiously, the food poisoning happened in Canada [laughs].