Film: Trumbo (2015). Young Actress: Elle Fanning, age 16.
Trumbo is a biopic of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who, along with several others, was blacklisted during the 1950's for being a communist. The film covers a long span of Trumbo's career before, during, and after the scandal. He starts out as one of the most successful writers in Hollywood; in one scene, he sells the script of a romantic comedy that he calls The Princess and the Pauper, that the producer who buys it renames Roman Holiday. After being blacklisted, fired by MGM, and briefly incarerated, Trumbo adapts and manages to keep his career alive by writing B-movie scripts and occassionally A-lister scripts under pseudonyms, while also fighting to restore his name.
The story is well-told but fairly formulaic, with very clear-cut good guys and bad guys. A lot of Trumbo's success during the 2015-16 awards season was due not to the film itself, but to the fact that Hollywood loves to nominate movies about Hollywood. And honestly, the old Hollywood setting does do a lot for the movie. So many of the characters are celebrities, and it's intriguing to see the behind-the-scenes power play of the studio era. The movie uses real clips of classic stars speaking out against the blacklist (Lucille Ball, Gregory Peck) or in support of it (Ronald Reagan, John Wayne). We also see the footage of Deborah Kerr presenting the 1957 Best Screenplay Oscar to The Brave One, one of the films that Trumo writes under a fake name; he watches at home with his family as a member of the screenwriters' guild accepts the award.
Trumbo hugs his children after his release from prisonEarly on, real-life sisters Madison and Meghan Wolfe have small roles as Trumbo's young daughters, Niki and Mitzi. Then Trumbo is jailed for contempt of Congress, and even though his sentence feels relatively brief (less than a year), and even though his other two kids don't age significantly, when he's released, Niki has transformed from Madison to Elle. It feels a little ridiculous, given the four-year age difference and extreme height difference between the two young actresses. The focus stays on Trumbo, but the rest of the movie gives Elle a decent amount of screentime as it shows Nikola, as she now prefers to be called, growing up, becoming an integration activist at her school, and alternately bonding with and fighting with her dad.
Brian Cranston and former young actress Diane Lane (who also worked with Dakota in Every Secret Thing) give good performances as Trumbo and his wife, but they're more subtle and restrained in their roles. Again, this film has very clear-cut heroes and villains, and they're obviously the perfect good guys. Cranston's Trumbo is all wise words and kind-hearted favors, never breaking down or losing his temper, no matter how much discrimination he faces. Diane's Cleo is the long-suffering but ever-supportive cliche of a wife. Against such unrealistic parents, Nikola's realistic bursts of teenage attitude feel over-the-top, and Elle's performance feels off. Some of her scenes feel forced into the film, too; Nikola's part doesn't add much, and Trumbo already has such a talented ensemble cast that it clearly would've been just fine without Elle.
But don't worry, because this film has a bunch of supporting characters who are lots more fun than Trumbo and Cleo. Two of my favorite people in Trumbo are Helen Mirren as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, the evil, love-to-hate-her villain, and John Goodman as B-movie producer Frank King, who in one scene trashes his own office with a baseball bat screaming, "I make garbage!" Movies about old Hollywood have been something of a trend lately – see also The Last of Robin Hood, My Week With Marilyn, or Saving Mr. Banks – and this is one of the better ones.
At the Trumbo premiere: Meghan and Madison Wolfe, Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, and Elle
Other reviews of Elle's movies: We Bought a Zoo (2011), Maleficent (2014).
Premiered at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival.
Critics Choice: Nominated for Best Acting Ensemble.
Screen Actors Guild: Nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
The 68th Annual Emmy AwardsHeld September 18, 2016, at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles. Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.Stranger Things is too new to have any Emmy nominations this year, but a lot of attention was heaped on its three young stars, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Millie Bobby Brown, 12. The kids walked the red carpet together, did several interviews, helped host Jimmy Kimmel pass out peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to the audience, and even took the stage to perform "Uptown Funk," although their performance wasn't televised. Millie recently named her Stranger Things costar Winona Ryder as her style icon: "I just think we're secretly doppelgangers. [Her style is] very feminine, but it has that edge to it, that homeboy side to it, which I am like, anyway."
Yara Shahidi, 16, attended to support her show Black-ish, which was nominated for Best Comedy Series but lost to Veep. Her TV little sister Marsai Martin doesn't seem to have attended the show this year, and I approve.
The Girls of Modern Family (nominee, Outstanding Comedy Series)
Little Aubrey Anderson-Emmons is only 9 and already attending the Emmys for the fifth time. Interviewing with her costar Jeremy Maguire, age 5, who wore a red cape, Aubrey said that she wanted to see Beyonce. The interview is here, if you'd like to listen to it. I was surprised by how mature Aubrey sounded, but maybe I shouldn't have been. She's been doing interviews for a long time now, after all.
When some people complained that Ariel Winter, 18, has been dressing too provocatively recently (triggered in part by her outfit at Power of Young Hollywood last month), she responded, "I mean, people say everything on the face of the planet to me about everything I do. It can destroy a person, and I also think it's disgusting what people spend their time on."
Sarah Hyland, 25, drew some comparisons to Emma Watson's outfit at the Met Gala in May. I think it has more in common with Kiernan Shipka's look at the Emmys last year. She also wore a mini-dress over fitted black pants.
The Girls of Game of Thrones (winner, Oustanding Drama Series)
Maisie Williams, 19, was asked on the red carpet about her and TV sister Sophie's matching new tattoos, 07.08.09 (visible on Maisie's left arm above). "It's the 7th of August and not the 9th of July, because in the UK we put our date the other way around. It was the day I found out I got the part in Game of Thrones. [Sophie] found out as well, but we didn't know each other then so it's quite a prominent date for both of us. It's a day that both of our lives changed forever." Maisie and Sophie were 12 and 13 when they were cast as the Stark sisters. Maisie (left, with the cast in the pressroom and right, at HBO's after-party) was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress: Drama for Game of Thrones, but she lost to Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey.
Game of Thrones is now in its final season, and Sophie Turner, 20, said about the show ending: "[I'm] probably sadder than you guys are. It's been my life since I was 13, so I'm pretty sad about it. It's crazy when the show finishes I'll pretty much be the same age Kit [Harington] was when he started, which is crazy. I don't know what I'm going to do with my life."
Former Young Actresses
Two former child actresses of the '90s faced off for Best Supporting Actress: Comedy: Gaby Hoffmann, 34, nominated for Transparent, and Anna Chlumsky, 35, for Veep. They lost to Kate McKinnon for Saturday Night Live.
And I was excited to see two of the former March Sisters at the Emmys this year. Kirsten Dunst (Amy), 34, was nominated for Best Actress: Miniseries/TV Movie for Fargo, and Claire Danes (Beth), 37, was nominated for Best Actress: Drama for Homeland. (It was Claire's 7th Emmy nomination.) I have a feeling that Winona Ryder (Jo) will attend next year for Stranger Things!
Previous posts on the Emmys: 2015, 2014, 2011, and 2010.
The 68th Annual Emmys Awards will be held tomorrow, but before that happens, I thought it'd be fun to take a look back at all of Kiernan Shipka's Emmy appearances so far. She attended the awards for Mad Men every year from 2010-2015.
Kiernan has grown up so much and developed such a strong, unique sense of fashion. At her first Emmys, at just 10 years old, she wore an A-cut dress with embroidered blue flowers. Last year, she sported a yellow mini-dress over black leggings.
I don't know whether Kiernan is attending the Emmys this year, but two young actresses who likely will are Black-ish sisters Yara Shahidi, 16, and Marsai Martin, 12, whose show is nominated for three awards. They went to the Pre-Emmys Luxury Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel together on September 16, where it looks like they had a lot of fun!Gavin Keilly, Yara, and Marsai Current/former young actresses nominated at the Emmys this year include: Maisie Williams, 19, for Best Supporting Actress: Drama for Game of Thrones; Gabby Hoffmann, 34, and Anna Chlumsky, 35, both for Best Supporting Actress: Comedy; Kirsten Dunst, 34, Best Actress: Miniseries/TV Movie for Fargo; and Kirsten's Little Women sister Claire Danes, 39, Best Actress: Drama for Homeland.
A lot of notable young-actress movies (like Brooklyn, Trumbo, and The VVitch) were screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year, and it looks like this is the case again in 2016! Here are some of the current and former young actresses who attended, from youngest to oldest: French-Canadian actress Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief), 16, was one of those honored at the festival's Rising Stars Break, held at Portland Variety on September 12. Her new drama Mean Dreams is premiering at the festival this year; she plays a girl who runs away with her troubled boyfriend (Josh Wiggins), and calls the role "not like the cute little perfect girl anymore ... very different than what I've played before."Sophie and Mylene MacKay, another Rising Stars honoree, interviewing at the event. Sophie: "Obviously I want to win an Oscar one day, it's obviously a goal or a dream of mine, but I'm not ever going to choose a script just for that." Joey King has also said that one of her goals in life is to win an Oscar. Don't let Natalie Portman or anyone else discourage you, girls. Speaking of Natalie... Lily-Rose Depp, 17, and Natalie Portman, 35, at the premiere of Planetarium at Roy Thomson Hall on September 10. Planetarium is a period drama in which they star as American sisters who work as professional mediums in 1930's Paris. Lily-Rose: "We just got along really well as soon as we met." Natalie: "It was great. We became very comfortable, very quickly."Natalie has another film out at Toronto this year, Jackie, a biopic of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The role is being described as "Oscar bait," even though Natalie scorned the Oscars as "false idols" after she won one for Black Swan. She was also in Toronto last year for her Hebrew-language film A Tale of Love and Darkness.Sunnie Pelant, 6, plays little Caroline Kennedy in Jackie. She didn't attend the Toronto Film Festival, but she shared this photo from the film on her Twitter page. Sunnie is already a TV veteran for her role as Bones and Booth's daughter Christine on Bones. Shortly after announcing that she's dropping out of all her future film projects, Chloe Moretz, 19, attended the premiere of Brain on Fire at the Princess of Wales Theatre on September 16. The film is adapted from the book by journalist Susannah Calahan (Chloe), who at age 24 was hospitalized with a rare auto-immune disease that caused delusions. Bailee Madison, 16, who also attended the premiere (above with Chloe), tweeted afterwards: Goosebumps.What a courageous & tremendously important movie. @ChloeGMoretz @scahalan congratulations, you are changing lives. #BrainOnFire
One year after she was in Toronto for The VVitch, Anya Taylor-Joy, 20, attends the premiere of Barry at the Ryerson Theater on September 10. The film is a biopic about the young life of Barack Obama (played by Devon Terrell, above with Anya). Anya plays Charlotte, a character based on Obama's three college girlfriends. "Charlotte's really cool. She's really got her shit together. She challenges Barry — that was the most important thing we really had to bring. It was kind of a matching of equals."
Just a few days after promoting Brimstone at the Venice Film Festival, Dakota Fanning, 22, attended its Toronto premiere in this black velvet gown on September 12. In an interview at the festival, Dakota said although she had less than a month to prepare for the role before shooting began (she took the part after Mia Wasikowska dropped out), "I didn't have any trepidation. I just hoped that [director Martin Koolhoven] would want me to do it. I just read the script and really loved it. I felt it was very different from anything I had ever done. Any opportunity to have a strong female character be the lead of a film, we don't see that nearly enough."
Like her little sister Elle last year, Dakota has two films out at Toronto. She wore this green dress to the premiere American Pastoral at the Princess of Wales Theatre on September 9. The '60s-set drama is the directorial debut for Ewan McGregor (August: Osage County), who also plays Dakota's father. She said of working with him: "It was a really special experience because a lot of times, when you connect with another actor in an intense way in a scene, really the only people that can ever truly understand that connection is the person that you're working with, and it's the job of the director to recognize it and be able to capture it."
And a few faces at the festival's InStyle Party, held at the Windsor Arms Hotel on September 10: Hailee Steinfeld, 19, Katherine McNamara, 20, and Evan Rachel Wood, 29.
Here's Shailene Woodley, 24, at the premiere of Snowden at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9. She attended the film festival to promote the political thriller, in which she plays the girlfriend of Edward Snowden, the NSA employee who leaked classified information to the press in 2013. But just like what happened at Comic Con, Shailene couldn't get away from questions about Allegiant going straight to TV. She said in a recent interview, "I didn't sign up to be in a television show."
Former child actress Gaby Hoffmann, now 34, at the premiere of Season 3 of her show Transparent at The Elgin on September 11. Transparent is nominated for Best Comedy Series and Best Supporting Actress for Gaby at the Emmys on September 18; Gaby lost this award last year, but maybe 2016 will be her year to win!
Former child actress Diane Lane, now 51, at the premiere of her film Paris Can Wait, at the Winter Garden Theatre on September 12. Diane's film debut, A Little Romance, was filmed in and around Paris, and so is this film, in which she plays a film producer's wife who rediscovers her zest for life during a road trip from Cannes to Paris.
Film: The VVitch (2015). Young Actress: Anya Taylor-Joy, age 18.
Horror movies featuring a young actress in a "child in peril" role are a dime a dozen, but you've probably never seen one quite like The Witch. The plot concerns a Puritan family living in New England during the 1600's; the film begins as the family is banished from their village for the father William's (Ralph Ineson) sin of "prideful conceit." They start a new life in the wilderness, settling a farm where the mother Katherine (Kate Dickie) gives birth to her fifth child. The four older children are Thomasin (Anya), about age 15; Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), about 12; and twins Jonas and Mercy, about 8.
Thomasin and CalebOne day, Samuel, the new baby, mysteriously vanishes, and that's when trouble begins for the family – but more specifically, for Thomasin. As more disasters happen (crops fail, the goat produces milk instead of blood), the family gradually turns against Thomasin and accuses her of witchcraft. But the horror doesn't build in quite the way you'd expect, and the roles of good and evil are never clear-cut. Most of the main characters raise your suspicion at some point: William constantly warns against sin and damnation, the resentful Katherine is definitely something that rhymes with witch, and the delightfully bratty twins claim that the goat, Black Phillip, speaks to them. In one scene, they sing a disturbing, nursery-rhyme-like song calling Black Phillip "king of all" and themselves his servants.
Rather than the jump scares or cliched shocks of a typical horror movie, The Witch uses historically accurate details to creep out modern viewers. For example, when William comes home from hunting in muddy clothes, Thomasin not only has to scrub out the mud (she gets all the most grudging housework), but she has to take her father's clothes off for him, too. Nothing more comes of it, but it's unsettling to watch. There are also two excellently-acted monologues where Katherine and Caleb talk about God's love in almost erotic terms; again, it's disturbing to modern viewers but was common for the era. (In fact, Caleb's monologue wasn't even written by the filmmakers; he quotes a prayer by John Winthrop, a 17th-century Puritan leader.) The Witch film reminds me of The Turn of the Screw in several good ways: the slow-burning suspense, the smart symbolism, the creepy, heavy atmosphere, and the great acting all-around. Every actor in this small cast is impressive, especially in how they deliver the old-fashioned language, but Anya's performance as Thomasin is what really makes the movie for me. Thomasin is so well-written and deeply acted. Early on, there's a scene of her in prayer, confessing to minor sins (like playing on the Sabbath) and pleading, "Show me thy light."
"I am no witch," Thomasin pleads with her father. Her mother and twin siblings in the background.But the light that Thomasin prays for never comes. Even before all the trouble starts, her family feels threatened by her blossoming sexuality and outspokenness, and she grows understandably disillusioned with her parents and with God. (Puritans believed in predestination, not in grace or free will; this is also a stumbling block for her brother Caleb.) In step with this, Thomasin gradually lets down her hair; it starts out in a tight, braided bun but becomes looser as the film goes on. In the final scene, with her hair now completely down and uncovered, Thomasin joins Black Phillip's coven of witches, but it's up to the viewer's interpretation whether she does so because she actually wants to, or because her family has driven her to it, or because she feels that she has no other option. Her motives are unclear in a way that feels intriguing, rather than frustrating, which makes The Witch a movie that's worth multiple viewings.
Premiered at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival.
In 2010, in a post on this blog called Catching Up with Chloe Moretz, I said, "Chloe has become a more than just a teenager in 2010 (she celebrated her 13th birthday in February) -- she's become one of the busiest, brightest young starlets in Hollywood." Ever since her child-star-making role in Kick-Ass, Chloe has been one of the most prolific actresses of her age; she's now 19, with 55 roles already under her tiny belt. Then and Now: Chloe at the premiere of Nanny McPhee in 2006, and at the Trailblazer Honors in 2016But now, Chloe is taking a small, certainly well-earned break from acting. After much tabloid speculation about her dating life and her Twitter feud with Kim Kardashian, Chloe announced that she "had a 'Come to Jesus' moment" and was pulling out of all her future film projects. And as has been her standard since age 12, she had several upcoming projects, including a live-action adaption of The Little Mermaid.
Chloe said the pace of several movies a year was causing her to lose sight of why she started acting and instead focus on a film's performance at the box office. "So I pulled the plug on all my movies because I want to reassess who I am and find myself within my roles again. I'm realizing that I can slow down."
Slowing down sounds like a good idea. In addition to her recent campaigning for Hillary Clinton, Chloe just wrapped two intense dramas, November Criminals and Brain on Fire, and flew to the Deauville Film Festival to accept its Rising Star Award. She still plans to promote November and Brain at the Toronto Film Festival later this month.
Chloe on the red carpet at the Deauville Film Festival, September 2Even though Chloe grew up in front of the camera, dealing with the tabloid speculation about her personal life "is hard, and the paparazzi are hard," but she also appreciates that her fame gives her a platform to talk about issues that she cares about, like body positivity for girls and bringing the arts back into the U.S. education system. "I realized if I stop talking about the negativity, then it can't thrive. And that's something I came to very, very recently."
The 73rd Annual Venice Film FestivalFrench-American actress Lily-Rose Depp, 17, looked glamorous at the premiere of Planetarium with former young actress Natalie Portman, 35 (who now lives primarily in France), on September 8. The two play sisters in the period drama, set in 1930's Paris.
Sophie Turner, 20, at the festival's Kineo Diamanti Award Ceremony on September 4. Tiziana Rocca, director of the Kineo Award, said, "We are very happy that Sophie Turner has agreed to be in Venice because she embodies talent and professionalism and will be the best combination for success."
Sophie at a press conference a few hours before the award ceremony. She flew to Venice right after wrapping her newest film, Huntsville, in which she plays a troubled American teenager living in small-town Florida. She posted on Instagram: What a completely unforgettable experience with the most magical people. That's a wrap on Josie. #huntsvillefilm.
Dakota Fanning, 22, at the premiere of Brimstone on September 3. She stars as a young mute woman in the Western drama; she said at a press conference that she was drawn to the film for its strong female lead in a usually male-centric drama: "For any genre, it's very rare to have a story about a woman in these times. It's a lot of male-dominated films, so anytime I see a film that is really about the strength and the power of the lead female character, I'm always intrigued."
British young actress Emilia Jones, 14, at a photocall for Brimstone on September 3. She plays Dakota's character, the mute Joanna, at a younger age in the film. After learning that Brimstone had been selected for the Venice Film Festival, Emilia posted on her Twitter account: So exciting! Congratulations @MartinKoolhoven 🎉 I had the best summer ever working with everyone on @BrimstoneMovie Dakota, Emilia, and director Martin Koolhoven at a photocall for Brimstone, also on September 3. It was nice to see Dakota wearing colors for a change.
Previous posts on the Venice Film Festival: 2014, 2010.
Trinitee Stokes, 10, from Disney Channel's KC Undercover, and a few other kid stars recently attended a Los Angeles back-to-school bash that raised money for classrooms in need. She said at the event that it was held on her actual first day of school, which makes me think that she's attending a regular school, not just being tutored onset (which is rare with kid actors, but I approve).
What's your relationship with school? "It's a love-hate. I love school. School's, like, my favorite. It's always exciting when you start off, but then when you start getting into all the tests, it's, like [groans]. But I still like school. It's fun, it's exciting."
Trinitee at the back-to-school bash, August 2016What's your favorite subject? "Hmmm... it's between science and history."
The back-to-school event was cosponsored by Yoobi, a school donates supply brand that donates an item for every one purchased: "Well, I think it's exciting to be a part of this because you get something for you, and then you're also able to give back to other people who are in need, so that's my favorite part about it, that you get to give back to others."
Also sponsoring the event was i Am Other, a label founded by Pharrell Williams to encourage kids to embrace their individuality: "Well, I think you should just embrace who you are, love who you are, because, just, God made you the way He made you, so just accept the way you are, and roll with it!"
What are you working on now? "Well, I'm working on my music, and I'm also working on my acting, and I'm working on my fashion line, so beware for that!"
Looks like she had fun!
Actor, writer, and director Gene Wilder died on August 29, 2016, in his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 83. Wilder was best-known to most young actresses for his title role in the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (It was remade as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, featuring AnnaSophia Robb, in 2005.) The two former young actresses of Willy Wonka, Julie Dawn Cole, now 58, and Denise Nickerson, now 59, both paid tribute to Wilder after his death.
And other young actresses who tweeted about Wilder:
Film: Infinitely Polar Bear (2015). Young Actresses: Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide.
Some movies of a case of "don't trust the cover." I think it's safe to say that Infinitely Polar Bear is a case of "don't trust the trailer." Because when I first saw the trailer for this movie, it looked so bad, I thought I might throw up. From the trailer, it comes off very much as a "bumbling dad" movie. We've all seen these before, and likely, we've seen them way more than we'd like. Few things are more painful or less funny than watching a father/father-figure struggling at housework and childcare after mom goes back to work/school. Yet despite how completely tired and dated this cliche is, it keeps getting made into movies. John Travolta in Old Dogs, Jackie Chan in The Spy Next Door, or Zach Braff in Wish I Was Here are just a few recent examples.
The movie's cover, and Imogene and Ashley at its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film FestivalSo, a disclaimer: Although this isn't a "bumbling dad" movie, it does stray a bit into that territory. The film opens as Cam (Mark Ruffalo, Begin Again) suffers a nervous breakdown and looses his job. He and his wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) are forced to give up their bohemian lifestyle and move from the countryside to inner-city Boston with their two young daughters, Amelia (Imogene) and Faith (Ashley). Maggie is determined to send her girls to a challenging private school, so to increase her earning power, she gets a scholarship to Columbia University. She visits every weekend from New York while Cam tries to care for the girls in Boston. On his first night alone with them, he leaves them sleeping to go out to bar.
But don't worry, because for most of the film, Cam is more competent. Infinitely Polar Bear isn't another cliched take on a dad learning how to care for his kids, but more the story of a bipolar dad learning how to manage his condition in order to be a better father. In several good ways, this film reminds me of another family drama, In America (one of my very favorite child-actress movies). It isn't as good as that film was, but it does have a similar warm, tender mix of humor and drama. The girls and their parents all work together to remain a loving, functional family, even when life throws them into dysfunctional circumstances, and just as the family works together, so does the cast. This was the first dramatic role that I'd seen from Zoe Saldana, and she really does it well, even though she plays a rather unrealistically perfect, sacrificial martyr of a mother. The genuine family feeling that the four of them create is so strong and impressive, and touching without being maudlin. Credit for that also goes to writer/director Maya Forbes (Imogene's mother), who based the film on her own childhood.
Imogene and Ashley are every bit on the same level as the adult actors in their roles as the very spirited daughters. For the most part, Amelia and Faith are the mature, protective big sister and innocent, adorable little sister roles that are fairly common in child-actress films. (See also When a Man Loves a Woman and In America, although in that case, the Bolger sisters did them so superbly that nobody cared that we'd seen them before. Like three of the four actresses in those films, Imogene and Ashley are making their movie debuts here.) But they aren't completely limited to those parts; in the girls' final scene and a few others, Amelia is the vulnerable one, and Faith comforts her. Also refreshing is that the family is interracial, and the film addresses this without ever being preachy or heavy-handed. Race is a part of the story, not the reason for the story, something that I feel is becoming all too rare with minorities in film.
Amelia and Faith during a ride through Boston with their dad