Arkansas connections among 2017 Writers Guild Awards nominees

wgaCourtesy of Skip Rutherford comes news that the Writers Guild Award nominees include two with Arkansas connections.

The first is that Little Rock native Jeff Nichols scored a nomination in the Original Screenplay category for LOVING.  (If it is nominated for an Oscar, it would be in the Adapted Screenplay category — because the Oscars don’t always have the same rules as other awards.)

The second is that Command and Control is nominated for Documentary Screenplay.  This film depicts that Titan II silo explosion at Damascus.  It features a telescript by Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser, story by Brian Pearle and Kim Roberts. Based on the book Command and Control by Eric Schlosser;

Arkansas Heritage Month – Cannes Critics Loving Jeff Nichols’ LOVING Film

NicholsThe early reviews are starting to come in from the Cannes screening of Little Rock native (and Central High grad) Jeff Nichols’ latest opus LOVING.

The film screened on Monday in Cannes.  Oscar buzz has already started for the film, Nichols and his performers.

Here is what some of the critics had to say:

Vox says that the film’s: “subdued tone delivers a wealth of emotions in the film’s final minutes.”  It also declares “Loving is a period piece that feels eerily relevant today.”

IndieWire notes:

“In an impressive body of work accumulated over the past 10 years, Jeff Nichols has emerged as a skilled filmmaker who relishes in the poetry of Southern life. It was only a matter of time of time before he explored its history. With “Loving,” the director moves from the combination of otherworldly lyricism and genre storytelling in “Take Shelter,” “Mud” and “Midnight Special” toward more conventional drama — namely, the backstory of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Civil Rights case that overturned laws against interracial marriage. — by exploring the intimate details behind its legacy.”

And also credits “Nichols’ elegant screenplay, which pares down the events so that the emphasis is taken off the legal proceedings and avoids any overdone speechifying.”

loving-teaser-posterVariety calls the movie “a film of utmost sensitivity” and declares, “Though it will inevitably factor heavily in year-end Oscar conversations, Nichols’ film is seemingly less interested in its own glory than in representing what’s right.”

The Hollywood Reporter opines: “writer-director Jeff Nichols takes an appealingly low-key approach to an important American civil rights story in Loving.”  It also praises his “way of underplaying racism, even as he firmly notes its constant presence in daily life and makes it the overriding subject of his film, is refreshing as well as rare in the realm of socially conscious cinema,indicating a respect for his audience’s intelligence and a desire not to hit viewers over the head.”

THR concludes its review by stating “Nichols has delivered a timely drama that, unlike most films of its type, doesn’t want to clobber you with its importance. It just tells its story in a modest, even discreet way that well suits the nature of its principal characters.”

The Daily Beast notes “An anguished, but low-key, meditation on race—American’s ongoing obsession—Loving is the most high-minded sort of Oscar bait.”

In The Telegraph, Robbie Collins declares that Nichols “calmly dodges every expectation you have for the genre. Loving is short on grandstanding and hindsight, long on tenderness and honour, and sticks carefully to the historical record.”  He also says that, “The film’s determination not to overcook any single scene means the tears it eventually draws feel honestly come by.”

While Cannes tries to focus on art and not awards or commercialism, the positive early reviews for Loving, coupled with Focus Features’ November release date, should poise the film for awards season in late 2016 and early 2017. More importantly, this will continue to raise the profile of Jeff Nichols, who continues to make Little Rock proud.

 

Arkansas Heritage Month – Little Rock’s Jeff Nichols at Cannes

NicholsLittle Rock native Jeff Nichols’ latest film, Loving, premieres at Cannes today. The film showed at 8:30 am and 11:30 am Cannes time. (That would be at 1:30am and 4:30am, Little Rock time). It also shows at 7pm Cannes time (12 noon, Little Rock).

Loving, which was written and directed by Nichols, tells the story of the Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial married couple who were sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958. It is set for national release in November and is being distributed by Focus Features.

Nichols was first brought the project by Martin Scorsese. A 1997 graduate of Little Rock Central High, he was intrigued by the story and the opportunities it provided him as a filmmaker.

The film stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the central couple. Others in the cast include Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, and Bill Camp.  Edgerton, Shannon and Camp are part of Nichols’ informal repertory company of actors. Interestingly, Shannon and Camp are both nominated for Tony Awards in the same category (Featured Actor in a Play) for work they have done on Broadway this spring in American classics: Shannon in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night and Camp in Miller’s The Crucible.

This is Nichols’ third film to screen at Cannes, following 2012’s Mud (which like Loving was in contention for the Palm d’Or) and 2011’s Take Shelter (which won the top prize at Cannes’ Critics Week).  His first feature film was 2007’s Shotgun Stories.

With Loving’s screening at Cannes, Nichols is in a select group of directors to have one film screen at the Berlin International Film Festival (where he showcased Midnight Special) and another at Cannes in the same year.