amandla stenberg

The 2017 BET Awards

The 2017 BET Awards
Held June 25, 2017, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Hosted by Leslie Jones.

Eight-year-old Annalise Bishop (in the black shirt) and a few friends attended with her dad Jamie Foxx, who presented the award for Best Male R&B/Pop Artist to Bruno Mars.

Marsai Martin, 12, was nominated for the YoungStars Award. BET didn't give out any awards for TV this year, so her show Black-ish, which was a big winner last year and in 2015, had no nominations.

Skai Jackson, 15, looked so beautiful and grown-up, and her lipstick-imprint dress put her on a few best-dressed lists. Perez Hilton said, "The Disney darling more than slayed with her number for the industry event. Not only did the up-and-comer look precious AF with her hair all fro'd out, but she also served up a mature look by donning a playful mini dress with black stilettos. So fierce. Does anyone else feel like Miz Jackson just grew up over night?"

Marsai's TV sister Yara Shahidi, 17, presented and won the YoungStars Award. Even bigger news for Yara: after being accepted into every college she applied to in April, she recently announced that she will be attending Harvard in the fall ... and getting her own Black-ish spinoff series, College-ish. Congratulations, Yara!

Previous posts on the BET Awards: 2016, 2015, 2014.
rachel hurd-wood

Happy Birthday to Jennette McCurdy & Ariana Grande

Did you know that Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande have the same birthday? The two young stars fell into a feud after their Nickelodeon series Sam & Cat was cancelled early in 2014. Today, June 26, Jennette turns 25, and Ariana turns 24. Ariana received lots of Twitter messages from fans (this is her first birthday since the bombing outside her concert in Manchester Arena on May 22, which killed 23), and these two from her mother Joan Grande and fan Sabrina Carpenter, 18:

Miranda Cosgrove, 24, Jennette's former costar from iCarly, posted this sweet photo of them together on Instagram, with the message: My favorite little birthday princess. The seas should part and the skies should rain down cookies and cream ice cream for your big day but since that's not possible you get this Instagram post from me instead. You're my best friend and confidante. You're a game changer. I don't know what I'd do without you. I know one day when I'm old and gray I'm gonna look back on our late night car rides listening to music and wandering the streets as some of the best times of my life. Thanks for always being you. Happy Birthday Curds! 🎈

karen dotrice

Elle Is All Grown Up as a Twentieth Century Woman

Film: Twentieth Century Women (2016). Young Actress: Elle Fanning, age 17.

This film centers around divorced single mother Dorothea (Annette Bening), who's running a boarding house and raising her fifteen-year-old son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann, 2.5 years Elle's junior) alone in 1979 Santa Barbara. Concerned about Jamie growing up without a father, Dorothea asks his friend Julie (Elle) and a thirty-something tenant in their boarding house, Abbie (Greta Gerwig), to help her raise him by sharing their lives with him. Abbie, who's being treated for cancer, begins taking Jamie on her doctor's appointments, and he buys a pregnancy test for Julie after she has unprotected sex with a classmate. Julie often sleeps in bed with Jamie, but she refuses to have sex with him because she thinks it would destroy their friendship.

Julie smokes on a bike ride through her neighborhood.
See more at my old list of Smoking Scenes in Films.

The film is interesting in how Dorothea, Abbie, and Julie are each women of a different generation and represent different eras of American history. Jamie often says, "She's from the Depression" as an excuse for his mother's eccentricities, and Dorothea is uncomfortable when at dinner one evening, Abbie forces every man at the table to say the word menstruation. The three actresses all deliver strong performances, but the film belongs so much to them that soon, you start to wonder why pointlessly empty Jamie is even in it. He reminded me of Mason in Boyhood, the alleged center of the film who's much less interesting than everyone else.

Elle is at that age where former child stars want to taken seriously, and it shows in Twentieth Century Women. She has some of her most mature material to date as rebellious Julie, who "likes to say she's self-destructive." As the youngest and least conventional of the three women, she smokes, teaches Jamie how to smoke, has indiscriminate sex, and talks about her first sexual encounter in the previously mentioned dinner scene. She appears in one scene in only her underwear (when Jamie is trying to get her to have sex with him), but it's handled tastefully enough that it never feels like shallow shock value. Elle's performance is worth watching for her fans, but it's not enough to elevate this film above average.

Premiered at the 2016 Hamptons and New York Film Festivals.
Other reviews of Elle's movies: We Bought a Zoo (2011), Maleficent (2014), Trumbo (2015).
mara wilson

Just Because It's Summertime [2017]

Since today is the Summer Solstice, here are some Twitter photos of young actresses enjoying their summer:

After performing in the annual Memorial Day Concert in Washington DC, Auli'i Cravalho, 16, was happy to be back in her native Hawaii.

And Disney Channel star Lizzy Greene, 14, took a vacation to Hawaii with her family.

And Mackenzie Hancsicsak is excited to be off to summer camp.

Grace Kaufman, 15, had a great time at the annual Garden Grove Strawberry Festival with young actor Daniel DiMaggio.

And Disney Channel star Trinitee Stokes, 11, attended the grand opening of Chicks With Class in Houston.

Previous summertime posts: 2016 and 2015.
kate maberly

Why Milly Bobby Brown Is Headed Straight for an Emmy Nod

In September 2010, I posted an article on this blog titled Kiernan Shipka for an Emmy? about how then-10-year-old Kiernan Shipka's performance on Mad Men might break the drought for kid actors at the Emmy Awards. But Mad Men ended its run in 2015 without Kiernan ever receiving a nod. In the Emmy's 68-year history, minors have only ever won three times - once by Roxana Zal for Something About Amelia in 1984, and twice by Kristy McNichol for Family in 1977 and 1979.

But now, another child actress is generating even stronger Emmy rumors than Kiernan did. Milly Bobby Brown, 13, got lots of red-carpet attention when she attended her first Emmys last year, and this year, she's favored for a nomination for her breakout role as Eleven in Stranger Things. She would be the first minor to be nominated in a dramatic category since 16-year-old Claire Danes for My So-Called Life in 1995. But unlike Claire, Milly stands a good chance of taking home the trophy - which would make her the youngest Emmy winner ever.

Milly and costars Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo at the Stranger Things "For Your Consideration" Event, June 6

As an ensemble, the Stranger Things cast has submitted in the supporting category. This adds to Milly's chances, since the lead category is even harder for kid actors to break into. But what really works in her favor in the delayed production on Game of Thrones. The producers decided to postpone the show's seventh season to July, which makes it ineligible for this year's Emmy drama race. Maisie Williams, 20, a popular contender for Best Supporting Actress: Drama, won't be receiving a nomination, leaving more room in the category for Milly.

Milly also has the most momentum at the moment. Stranger Things and Eleven have quickly become pop-culture phenomenons, and the show already proved its power during the 2017 Awards Season, when it won Best Drama Ensemble over Game of Thrones at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Milly was also nominated for Best Actress: Drama there, alongside her costar Winona Ryder. The former young actress making a comeback is a vote-splitter that might keep Milly from winning, but there's little doubt that her nomination is in the bag - and it's about darn time!

Milly winning Best Actor: TV for Stranger Things (presented by Alexandra Daddario and Zac Efron) at the MTV Movie & TV Awards, May 7
amandla stenberg

Kirsten Dunst and Zendaya on Spider-Man: Homecoming

Kirsten Dunst, now 35, had one of her most famous roles playing Mary Jane in the original Spider-Man triolgy, which launched in 2002. During recent interviews at the Cannes Film Festival, Kirsten made some rather harsh comments about how she has no interest in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming reboot and that her films were the best.

Kirsten told Marie-Claire magazine: "We made the best ones, so who cares? I'm like, 'You make it all you want.' They're just milking that cow for money. It's so obvious. You know what I mean?" She also said to Variety: "I don't care. Everyone likes our Spider-Man. Come on, am I right or what? Listen, I'd rather be in the first ones than the new ones." Ironically, Kirsten is in Cannes to promote her new movie The Beguiled, which is itself a remake of a 1971 film. I guess remakes are okay when she's doing them.

Spider-Man: Homecoming will be released next month and stars British actor Tom Holland, 21, as Spider-Man and Zendaya, 20. Zendaya's exact role in the film isn't clear; she's listed as "Michelle," and there's been speculation that her character is Mary Jane with a name change. At the MTV Movie & TV Awards last month, Zendaya said, "She's definitely a different character. This is a character I can have fun with and just really create what I wanted to make her, and the director had a lot of really cool ideas about how to make her weird and interesting and cool."

Mary Jane and Michelle: Kirsten at a Cannes photocall on May 24, and Zendaya at the Chrysalis Butterfly Ball on June 3.
georgie henley

Film Comparions: Pollyanna vs. Polly

Pollyanna (1960), with Hayley Mills
Polly (1989), with Keshia Knight-Pulliam

Covers of three Pollyanna productions: Pollyanna (1960), Polly (1989), and Pollyanna (2003)

I mentioned in my review of The Trouble With Angels that Hayley Mills is one of my favorite child actresses. And probably Hayley's most famous childhood role was as the optimistic orphan Pollyanna, which introduced her to American audiences and earned her an honorary Academy Award (it was presented by Shirley Temple, then in her 30's, who'd also gotten a mini Oscar as a kid). Keshia Knight-Pulliam was best-known for her role on The Cosby Show, but she also did several TV movies as a kid, including Polly, an African-American Pollyanna remake.

As the title characters, Hayley and Keshia both give good performances with a lot of charm. But unless (like me) you're already a fan of Hayley or have nostalgia for the movie, you might find her Pollyanna a little too saccharine. She was about 13 during filming but looks much younger, and the movie emphasizes her wide-eyed innocence, cutesy smiles, and optimism more than it should, making her come off as unrealistically perfect. Her performance is most appealing when she just gets to act like a regular kid, like in the scenes of Pollyanna and her friend Jimmy (Kevin Corcoran) playing by the creek.

Pollyanna and Polly in church with her aunt

Keshia's Polly (who hails from Detroit, rather than the British West Indies) is a refreshing contrast to Hayley's Pollyanna. She's still optimistic and cheerful, but she also has a little bit of a fun, sassy edge. For example, in the 1960s film, when Nancy and George need to distract Pollyanna, they take her out for ice cream, but here, it's Polly who hints to the grown-ups that they can buy her silence with ice cream. This production also makes Polly and Jimmy the same age (there was over a three-year age difference between Hayley and Kevin) and gives them a cute little romance. It helps that Brandon Quintin Adams, as the '89 Jimmy, had tap-dancing skills to rival Shirley Temple.

But although Keshia's character is edgier, her movie as a whole is pretty dull. In Pollyanna, the strong adult cast and high production value save much of the movie from the storyline's inherent schmaltz. Jane Wyman (as Aunt Polly) and Karl Malden (Reverend Ford) are both really excellent at creating realistic, conflicted characters. Some of the dialogue is surprisingly deep and smart for a feel-good family movie, like when Pollyanna yells at cranky old Miss Snow (Agnes Moorehead, Jane Eyre 1944) to "forget about dying, and be glad you're living," and when she tells Reverend Ford about searching for the good in his congregation, rather than the bad. The reverend is so moved by this that he falls to his knees – it's a powerful moment, and Malden knocks it out the park.

One of the central storylines in Pollyanna is the town bazaar, and after the build-up, the bazaar scenes deliver a lot of payoff. Although Hayley Mills singing "America the Beautiful" in her British accent is a little ridiculous, there's such a strong, fun atmosphere. But as a TV movie with a smaller budget, it's understandable Polly can't deliver the same production value. Polly falls out of the tree and gets paralyzed on her way to the bazaar, not on her way home from it, so the bazaar scenes are sadly absent.

Pollyanna and Polly visit Miss Snow

But what really hurts Polly is that it's a musical. Some of the songs work well, like the catchy "Honey Ain't Got Nothin' on You," sung while Polly is shopping for new clothes (this is a wordless montage in Hayley's film), and Polly and Jimmy's song-and-dance number "Angel Eyes." But most of the songs just get in the way of character development. For example, in the 1960 film, after an argument with her old flame Dr. Chilton (Richard Egan), Aunt Polly holds her head high in front of her servants, then breaks down crying in her room. Wyman's excellent acting shows us her conflict and regret. But in the 1989 version, after Aunt Polly (Phylicia Rashad) argues with Dr. Shannon (Dorian Harewood), the film doesn't show us anything. It tells us everything by having Aunt Polly sing a song about how she feels, "Something More." It's not nearly as interesting to watch.

Other key elements from the original film are thrown out to make room for the songs: Polly's "Glad Game" has a much smaller part, and her father's locket is completely gone. Miss Snow's changed outlook on life takes place mostly offscreen, and Celeste Holm, who plays her, isn't convincing at all as a mean character. (In her late 50's, Agnes Moorehead, Hayley's Miss Snow, wasn't nearly old enough to play the allegedly old woman, but she could play mean. There was a reason she was cast as hateful Aunt Reed in Peggy Ann Garner's Jane Eyre.) Malden's performance as Reverend Ford would be hard to match, but Larry Riley, as the '89 reverend, is so cartoony that he doesn't even seem to be trying.

Other reviews of Hayley's films: The Trouble With Angels (1966).
elle fanning

An Overload of Photos from The Beguiled Premiere

I already made this post about some of the other movies and young actresses at this year's Cannes Film Festival, but I thought the premiere of The Beguiled, held at the Palais des Festivals on May 24, deserved its own post. I am so looking forward to this movie and seeing so many former/current young actresses onscreen together!

The Stars of The Beguiled: Addison Riecke, 13, Elle Fanning, 19, Kirsten Dunst, 35, director Sofia Coppola (Somewhere), Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies), Collin Farrell, and Angourie Rice, 16.

Another view: Angourie, Farrell, Kidman, Coppola, Kirsten, Elle, and Addison. The two other young stars of The Beguiled, Oona Laurence, 14, and Emma Howard, didn't attend the Cannes premiere.

I love Elle's arm around Addison's shoulders, and it's funny how much taller Elle is than her!

Kirsten (who at one point appeared to break down in tears at the premiere) on the Fanning sisters: "I'm very close to them. I knew Dakota first and then I had met Elle, but then we became very close on this movie. She would sleep over at my house. She's like my little sister. I love her." Kirsten said back in this 2015 interview that "Dakota Fanning reminds me a lot of myself."

Elle at a photocall with Nicole and Kirsten on May 24. Elle: "Sofia held these rehearsals that were specific to the Civil War era. Even though our characters are not blood-related, we are all supposed to feel like family, so we would just hang out together. Sofia had us make breakfast in character. We had dance lessons and sewing lessons too, which we did it in our corsets to get used to the costumes."

Angourie beside Kirsten at a cast press conference on May 24. Angourie on working with Coppola: "I was so nervous because I really wanted to get it right because she's one of my idols. I really wanted to work with her, and I was so excited to, and she's just phenomenal."

Addison at the press conference. Kirsten, Elle, and Angourie have all been to the Cannes Film Festival at least once before, but it was the first time for thirteen-year-old Addison, who's biggest project until now has been the TV series The Thundermans. She's a long way from Nickelodeon here!

The Beguiled has been receiving positive reviews at Cannes, and it's won Best Director for Sofia Coppola, marking the first time in over fifty years that a woman has won this award.

The Beguiled is due out on June 30 - Elle's excited, too!
mara wilson

The Great Gilly Hopkins Isn't Quite So Great

Film: The Great Gilly Hopkins (2015). Young Actress: Sophie Nelisse, age 14.

Based on the 1978 book of the same name, this film opens as Galadriel "Gilly" Hopkins (Sophie) arrives at another foster home. Her new foster mother Trotter (Kathy Bates, Annie 1999) tries to make her feel welcome, but Gilly, angry and apathetic, pushes away all her attempts to get close. After stealing money from a neighbor and trying to run away, Gilly gradually comes to love living with Trotter and sees her and her foster brother William Ernest (Zachary Hernandez) as her surrogate family. But just as this happens, Gilly's biological grandmother (Glenn Close) discovers that she exists and wants to take custody of her.

The writers and director of this film made several poor choices while adapting it from the book. Gilly's storyline in the book has so much potential for grittiness and depth; after being abandoned by her mother, she went through several foster families, some of whom gave her up for superficial reasons. But the film never touches on her backstory, or tells us anything about her life before she arrived at Trotter's. Gilly's change of heart towards her foster family also happens much too quickly, and without any turning point to trigger it. Sophie does the best that she can, but no actress could deliver a great performance with such an underdeveloped character.

Gilly with her foster mother, Trotter

In favor of character development, this film gives us standard kid-movie subplots, and some of them don't even go anywhere. Gilly fights with bullies, rebels against her teacher (Octavia Spencer, Black or White), and befriends a perky younger girl (Clare Foley). There's also too much ridiculous dialogue; after standing up to some bullies who picked on William Ernest, Gilly tells them, "The name's Hopkins, Gilly Hopkins." To an even worse degree than Bridge to Terabithia (based on a book by the same author, Katherine Paterson), this film loses the book's unique depth and power and turns it into an average, watered-down children's movie. It's watchable, but it could've been so much better, if only it had made a little effort to be edgier.

Other reviews of Sophie's films: The Book Thief (2013).
rachel hurd-wood

Abigail Breslin Talks Up Her Dirty Dancing Remake

Abigail Breslin, now 21, says that she definitely felt the gravity of remaking a film as beloved as Dirty Dancing. Thirty years after the original film's release, the TV remake starring Abigail as Baby and Colt Prattes as Johnny (played originally by the late Patrick Swayze) will air on ABC tomorrow, May 24. And a lot of the pressure to get it right came from friends and family. Abigail told ABC news, "One of my best friends, she was like, 'If you don't do a good job, I will kill you.'"

Prattes came to the role with a Broadway background and dance training, but Abigail confesses that learning to dance for the movie took her hugely out of her comfort zone. "I don't think that the words graceful and Abigail Breslin have ever been in a sentence together. I was terrified. I was really lucky I was working with Colt and everybody on the choreography end of things."

Abigail with Sarah Hyland, 26, who plays Baby's big sister Lisa, at the Dirty Dancing premiere, Beverly Hills, May 18

Abigail was also bolstered by meeting Jennifer Grey, who was 26 when she played Baby in the original 1987 film, which remains her most famous role. Now 57, Jennifer was very supportive of the remake. "I met [her] after we filmed and she was lovely and so sweet, but before hand, we mostly hung out with each other. We were doing something that was a little bit different. It's kind of hard to get advice from those who were in the original when that's of its own unique experience."