In 1991, Disney struck gold with Beauty and the Beast. The film enchanted audiences and critics alike, and raked in several hundred million dollars along the way, but also upended expectations of what an animated film could be.
Not only did the New York Times theater critic controversially call it the best Broadway musical score of the year (spurring an actual Broadway show three years later), it also was the first-ever animated film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar.
Over a quarter century later, the legacy endures but times have changed, and there’s a new Beauty and the Beast on the block. Out March 17, the film is a lavish live-action reimagining of the “tale as old as time” with state-of-the-art CG splendor, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s classic songs and score (and a few new tunes with Tim Rice), and a modern social consciousness.
The film stars Harry Potter’s Emma Watson as the bookish heroine Belle, who yearns for adventure outside of the confines of her “small provincial town” and Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens as the cursed and cold Beast. Their supporting cast is a coterie of veterans, including Kevin Kline (Maurice), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza) and Ewan McGregor (Lumiere).
That Disney’s specific vision for Beauty and the Beast has lived on is no surprise, and its 13-year run on Broadway helped keep it in the cultural consciousness.
“It’s genuinely romantic, a genuinely beautiful story,” Menken said of its lasting appeal.
And then there’s the nostalgia aspect. For many (including the cast), this was a seminal childhood film.
Luke Evans (Gaston) saw it when he was 12, Josh Gad (LeFou) when he was 10, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) when she was 8. Suffice it to say, they all knew the lyrics to the songs before they were cast.
The remake is also part of the Walt Disney Company’s ongoing strategy to mine their vaults for animated fare worthy of live-action re-creations. Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King are just a few already in the works.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t worthy updates to be made in Beauty and the Beast. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) delighted in rooting the story in a specific time and place — 1740 France — and adorning every last corner of the production with Rococo and Baroque details.
Technology advances allowed the production to render household objects that look believable when brought to life. The Beast’s look, meanwhile, was achieved by combining performance capture and MOVA, a facial capture system, meaning Stevens throughout production walked on stilts and sported a prosthetic muscle suit with a gray body suit on top. (Yes, he danced in this getup).
The characters are more fleshed out as well. The Beast gets a backstory. As does Belle, whose independence looked refreshingly radical in ‘91 and goes even further here.
“She’s a 21st century Disney princess. She’s not just a pretty girl in a dress,” Evans said. “She’s fearless and needs no one to validate her.”
That the woman behind the character is also the UN women’s goodwill ambassador only adds to its resonance.
“I think Emma’s an incredible role model for young girls, as somebody who has two daughters but also has a young son who I want to grow up with these values instilled,” Stevens said.
And, in a tribute to Ashman, who died of complications relating to AIDS at age 40 before the ‘91 film came out, the production even unearthed forgotten lyrics from his notes, which they’ve added to two songs in the new film — Gaston and Beauty and the Beast.
While many of the beats, and even lines, remain the same as in 1991, the world looks more diverse from the very first shots. Faces of all races can be seen both in the grand castle and the country town.
“(Condon) wanted to make a film that was resonant for 2017, that represents the world as it is today,” said Mbatha-Raw.
Much has been made, too, of LeFou’s subtle “gay moment,” which put the internet in a tizzy far ahead of anyone actually seeing the film. On one side, GLAAD was applauding, on the other, a Facebook page apparently belonging to the Henagar Drive-In Theatre in Henagar, Alabama, announced that it would not be showing the film.
Many in the production have backed away from the topic entirely.
“To define LeFou as gay … nobody who sees the movie could define it that way. He’s enthralled with Gaston,” Menken said. “I’m happy that LeFou is getting so much attention. But I pray that this stupid topic goes away because it’s just not relevant with any respect to the story. Even the one moment that’s being discussed is just a silly little wink. It’s nothing.”
For his part, Gad thinks it’s been “overblown,” too, and that the story is more about “inclusiveness” and not judging a book by its cover.
“It’s a story with a lot of wonderful messages, and, really once you watch the film, anyone who is wondering what it’s all about will understand that it’s a beautiful story, inclusive of everyone. It’s a legacy that I’m proud to be part of,” Evans added.
“But you can judge Gaston by his cover,” he said with a smirk. “That’s exactly who he is.”
Long before Barry Jenkins made his way to the podium through the bewildered throng that packed the Dolby Theatre stage at the Academy Awards, he sat in a Toronto hotel room explaining his movie’s quiet power.
“There’s something in the way black men grow up in this country,” said Jenkins. “There’s a lot of information on these men’s faces when they’re not speaking, partly because we’re robbed of our voices so much by society and the things society projects on us.”
It was, in a way, fitting that “Moonlight” — stealthy and silent — won best picture amid such cacophony Sunday night. Since its fall film festival debut, Jenkin’s tenderly lyrical film has steadily risen not through the loud kind of arm-waving that often catapults movies to the top prize — big box office, scene-chewing performances, historical sweep — but instead by a soulful, unremitting glow that slow-burned all the way to the Oscars.
Now that we more or less have some answers to “What the heck happened?” in the Oscars’ final moments — EnvelopeGate, if you will — we can turn to that other puzzler: How did “Moonlight” just pull off one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history?
While not quite as gasp-inducing as the gaff that preceded its win, “Moonlight” will surely rank alongside, if not above, shockers like “Shakespeare in Love” (over “Saving Private Ryan”) and “Crash” (over “Brokeback Mountain”) for sheer, oh-my-god surprise.
The odds were stacked against it. “La La Land,” with a record-tying 14 nominations, was seen as the hands-down favorite, having run up prizes from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. Though this usually hapless critic predicted a “Moonlight” win , virtually every Oscar prognosticator considered “La La Land” _ like Hillary Clinton, it turned out_ a lock.
But just as Clinton learned, there are dangers to being the presumed front-runner, especially when you’re seen as a representative of nostalgia and tradition in turbulent times.
Widely expected to honor itself again by awarding a showbiz celebration like “La La Land,” Hollywood veered instead to Miami’s Liberty City, and a film that ripples with the humanity of a young man — black, gay, poor — seldom dignified by the movies or other realms of society. Yet “Moonlight” isn’t a traditional social drama but a deeply personal one, soaked through with the kind of empathy many believe is missing from the national discourse. In the wake of the election of Donald Trump — surely a factor on Oscar night — Hollywood chose not a love letter to itself, but, as filmmaker Mark Duplass argued in an open-letter to academy voters , a “love letter to the core human values that connect us all.”
“Moonlight,” arguably the most critically adored film of 2016, is unquestionably deserving. In fact, it might even be too deserving. Films this good don’t often win best picture. Even “La La Land” star Emma Stone took a moment in the chaotic aftermath Sunday to exclaim: “I love ‘Moonlight!”
But “Moonlight” was made for just $1.5 million. It was only Jenkins’ second film, and his first in eight years. Having made $22.2 million at the box office, it’s one of the littlest-seen best-picture winners ever. The littlest seen best-picture winner was Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” (2009), which had made $12.7 million at the time of the Oscars.
The comparison is a good one, in some ways. Like “Moonlight,” “The Hurt Locker” triumphed over a colorful event movie that was praised for resuscitating the theatrical experience: “Avatar.” And it was boosted by some compelling history: Bigelow’s film was the first best-picture winner directed by a woman. “Moonlight” is the first directed by an African-American filmmaker. Its win, also the first for an LGBT-themed movie, is sure to inspire a generation of filmmakers.
Only one major studio release (Warner Bros.’ “Argo”) has won best picture in the last decade. “La La Land” was distributed by Lionsgate, often called a “mini-major,” and had much the feel of an old studio musical. Its 14 nominations and $370 million-plus in global box office only enhanced its reputation as the juggernaut front-runner — with the requisite backlash to go with it.
But, increasingly, small wins big at the Oscars. For four years straight, the Film Independent Spirit Awards winners — “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman” and “Spotlight” — have lined up with the Oscars. It could well be that academy voters, working in an industry that increasingly makes little beyond branded blockbusters, are most moved by the personal cinema that has managed to escape Hollywood.
“I hope we are moving in that vein,” said Tarell Alvin McCraney, co-writer of “Moonlight,” which was based on his play. “I hope the storytellers up here and their proud journey here can imprint on someone out there watching, that they, too, can stand here too, and also tell their stories as daringly, as intimately as possible.”
“Moonlight” had won at the Writers Guild Awards and the Globes and (unlike “La La Land”) been nominated for best ensemble by the Screen Actors Guild. But it broke all the rules that help predict Oscar winners. There are factors that may have played a role, like the revamped film academy, which added 683 new members in June to help diversify its ranks. And the best-picture category, unlike the other categories, uses a preferential ballot to select the winner, a ranking method adopted in 2009 when the category increased from five movies to as many as 10. It’s a system that rewards films with broad support, not necessarily the most No. 1 votes.
Jenkins didn’t have any answers himself, sounding amazed and impressed that the industry “voted for a film about a marginalized character from a marginalized community told in a very unorthodox way.”
Wisconsin has some incredibly talented female artists. That is not an “alternative fact.”
But you might not know it if you went to any random concert, art gallery or comedy club. In an effort to address this gender imbalance, multiple venues in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood played host to a parade of female and female-identifying creatives for five days last week — from teenage rockers to soprano singers, visual artists to spoken word poets.
What was originally intended simply to be a basement party thank you to the inspiring women in Olivia Doyle’s life three years ago, has blossomed into Riverwest FemFest, possibly the state’s largest female-focused arts festival.
I started it because I was feeling empowered by the women around me, to the point where it really changed my life. I went back to school. I started wanting more of myself because they reminded me that I deserve it. It was a truly powerful experience for me to meet all these women in Riverwest, so the first fest was really just a thank you. It was never meant to be what it is now.
Why is the diversity of arts at the festival important?
Because women and femmes are creative in other ways that aren’t just music. And we want to showcase as much of their creativity as we can.
Have there been any growing pains with the festival over the years?
This year especially has been a real learning process for us, with the expansion of everything that we’re including and also with how big we’re getting. We’re reaching a lot more people. So it’s really like a community event and there’s lots of different people in this community, so learning to be as inclusive as possible is a process.
What are some of the things you’re most proud of in terms of the festival?
As a whole, watching all these people perform that I love and I’m inspired by. I’m very proud to have created this platform. In terms of a specific moment, Jenna Knapp did spoken word, she’s a childhood friend of mine. Being able to introduce her and tell the audience why she’s so inspiring to me and then have her read her poetry, which people loved, it made me feel like a proud mom. It’s really wonderful to see all these people that I love and care about do what they love and care about.
Ellie Jackson, organizer and musician (Scape)
I’ve been involved in music and radio from an early age. I joined a community radio station when I was in college. When I got involved with music I realized there was like a 20-to-1 ratio between the bands I was playing that were male and the bands that were female. Not because I wanted to, but those were the numbers. I asked the station manager if I could do an all-female focused show and they told me that that was sexist. I said, “It doesn’t feel sexist though. The music industry is sexist!”
So for me FemFest is an opportunity to celebrate those female artists that I wasn’t given permission to celebrate before. Now we’re taking the permission. Riverwest is also where I live so the community here is very important to me. But certainly supporting creatives everywhere is also very important to me.
Why is it important to have a diversity of arts at the festival?
I think that we as a culture underestimate other arts. Like a great example is that here we are in this venue (Company Brewing) where you can come and buy a beer and watch music almost any night of the week, which is a beautiful thing. But there isn’t really that culture around 2D art, there isn’t exactly that culture around the Milwaukee Art Museum and other performance arts. They’re not quite as celebrated as musical art. We have a culture with bar venues and theater venues that make it easier to celebrate musical art, but we’re really excited to have a variety night with comedians and other performance art. There was a burlesque performance, we have an art gallery and we have a Maker’s Fair upstairs, so we’re trying to sort of spread out all the creativity.
Were you a part of the festival last year?
No, I just came to it. I came to it on Saturday, one year ago today, and I remember walking into this space and just being so impressed with all the performances and I guess just feeling like, “Duh. Of course we should celebrate this, these people are amazing!” And the fact that the ratio is still not even.
It’s a no-brainer that this festival needs to happen and people need to come and experience the talent that these female performers have. And then to be in a room with people that are genuinely interested in celebrating femme creativity and supporting Milwaukee organizations, because it’s all a fundraiser. Also actively working on not being sexist and being allies for that cause. It felt great, so as soon as it happened last year I was like, “Who do I talk to? How do I get involved in this?”
I got involved with FemFest last year when I was a part of another show with one of FemFest’s organizers, Johanna Rose. We were in Prince Uncovered together and we just connected musically. She said, “You and Cree Myles have to be a part of FemFest!” So we called Jay Anderson, and I wasn’t even in Foreign Goods at the time, but we were all friends because my husband is in the band. They backed us and the experience was so incredibly invigorating. Not only performing, but also watching all of these women command the stage and the audiences.
There was one group in particular, Mary Allen and the Perculators, and I was just blown away. I couldn’t believe that we have this much power! And then when I saw that the festival was coming back around and I was more developed with my own solo stuff at this time, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to recreate the same magic that I experienced. I’m very happy to have the opportunity.
What does it mean for you to be a part of female focused gatherings?
It makes me feel like what I’m doing is purposeful. As we mentioned in the show this evening, ‘It’s really hard out here for a pimp.’ (laughs) It’s hard being a woman in this industry, let alone in this world. And to be able to be a thriving example of someone who not only has a craft but also makes a livelihood with it, that sets the tone for all the generations to come. I feel really good about letting the young ones know that no matter your background, or gender or creed, you can do whatever makes you happy. Forget everybody else’s standards that they place on you. I really feel like that’s the spirit behind FemFest. Celebrating that we’re not going to let you think of us as the lesser gender or anything, we’re equally as talented and important.
Gabriella Kartz, music organizer and performer (Faux Fiction)
It’s about supporting each other and celebrating people who add a lot to the Milwaukee scene in general through their various art forms. I think we’re really trying to make sure that we’re inclusive of all groups. People who are women or identify as women, we’re really trying to embrace all of that diversity. It’s what makes the fest a wonderful thing.
For me, last year was just a really positive experience. We got great feedback about our music and it was a really comfortable space to be able to express yourself. I think that’s what I really liked about it and why I wanted to be more involved this year.
Kelsey Moses, comedian (Goodlanders)
This was the first time we’ve done anything outside of ComedySportz. , so it was a great opportunity to share what we do with people who might not come to ComedySportz. How could you not enjoy a giant collaboration of beautiful, strong, powerful women being funny, being creative, being artistic, being musical? Women coming together to celebrate women, I love it.
Ashley Altadonna, filmmaker and musician (The Glacial Speed)
One of the great things about FemFest is that it is so inclusive. I know that they’ve had other transgender performers besides me at the festival and I think that’s great. I also had two films in the film showcase, plus all the workshops and community organizing they’re doing is fantastic. There’s just so much to see and do.
Jessi Paetzke, photographer
I attended last year because a friend invited me and it was really inspiring for me, so I wanted to get involved and photography is what I do. It’s really encouraging to see a bunch of diverse and talented women doing what they’re supposed to be doing and living out their passions. And also hearing about other people’s struggles, those of us who aren’t white men, what we face in society, how people might try to make us feel small or not welcome, and knowing that we’re not the only ones who feel that way.
Mary Joy, organizer and musician (Fox Face)
I didn’t have a strong female role model growing up and I had a lot of self-esteem issues. For me, music became that outlet of expression and that confidence builder. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 16 and that’s really where my female role models emerged. Music has been such an essential part of my identity and I realize that my story, my feminism, can relate and intersect with other people’s feminism. Our stories can come together and change a community. Our stories can help us find that self-esteem and whatever is missing in our lives.
It’s been a very empowering experience for me to have my own journey, but also to bring together other people’s journeys, wherever they’re at. And I hope they find something at FemFest, find something that they’re looking for, find a new relationship, find meaning somewhere.
D Kirschling, volunteer (Ladies Rock)
This year the fest has really expanded and added all types of artists. I’ve known about women in the arts and music scenes for a long time and it’s great to see everybody getting together to spread the word and get to know each other and share. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. I’m hearing bands I’ve known and loved and I’m hearing new bands I haven’t been exposed to before.
Anskar Thorlac, performance artist (Maplewood Gardens – Chicago)
We’re really interested in intersectionality in our audiences. Our rituals are meant to be public and shared by large groups of people. It’s really exciting to find different communities and especially a femme identifying community, being femme identifying artists ourselves. It’s exciting to have an entry point into that community in a different city. It’s also sort of liberating doing a shared ritual for people you don’t know. Plus all of the femme organizers have been so generous and supportive and responsive.
Katie Lyne, musician (New Boyz Club, Ruth B8r Ginsburg, The Grasping at Straws)
It shows that if we have to put on a whole entire festival of female or female-fronted acts, there’s obviously something missing. We have to do this to put it at the forefront. It’s not a female-dominated scene, but it’s going to be one. The dynamic is changing. And it’s just such an awesome festival, having safe places for women like Company Brewing, places that include everyone and bring the power back to where it belongs.
I love hearing the poetry too. Hearing females tell their stories of sexual abuse or whatever it may be, especially friends of mine who I see everyday. Everyone has a struggle as a woman and to have that on stage alongside these awesome bands, it’s such a great place for women to collaborate and remember that we’re all in this together.
Rachel Clark, gallery team
FemFest is an opportunity to bring a lot of people together to talk about females and female-identifying folks. Like when we did the interviews for gallery artists, we had meetings at our houses just so people could meet and have conversations. So not only is the festival important to me because of what it stands for, but also it’s an opportunity for people to get to know each other and build community.
Alexandre Maxine Hill, musician (LUXI)
FemFest means a lot to me. In the past it was harder for me to book shows as a female artist. I’m not sure people really took me seriously. So I think it’s really important that we have a place where we can have a voice and express ourselves in whatever way we want and just be the awesome women that we are.
Gabriela Riveros, gallery and Maker’s Fair artist
I think these kinds of fests are needed, especially for all the creatives that exist in Milwaukee. We need a space for other women creatives to come out of their own neighborhoods and communities and be a part of a larger project. I love the fest. There’s so much going on.
Casey O’Brien, festival-goer
I feel that women tend to have a somewhat secretive supportive role that isn’t always publicized. It sort of feels like the foundation that supports something else. And this festival puts a spotlight on people who don’t normally get a spotlight.
I think it’s easier for a woman or femme-identifying person to get up on this stage versus being on an everyday Milwaukee lineup, when too often girls are judged based on how they look or people say stuff like, “Oh she’s good for a girl.” Here no one is looking at the stage and saying, “Look they have a girl in that band!” It feels more comfortable.
Katie Lafond, musician (Siren)
I want female-focused gatherings to be unnecessary. We shouldn’t need to have an all-girl thing for people to start putting more girls on shows. I think it’s more important for the guys because it gives them something to look at and be like, “Oh, this has been in our city this whole time and I just never knew it.”
But it’s also good for younger girls to see there are women out there who are doing what they might want to do. So I think it’s good to educate men and to show kids there are better opportunities and that we’re able to do these things on stage. It’s kind of like a teaching moment where we’re saying, “You can do this too, you’re not alone.”
See more of Jessi Paetzke’s photos from Riverwest FemFest 2017 by clicking the links below.
Carrie Fisher, who rose to fame as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” films, died on Tuesday aged 60, her family said.
Fisher, a mental health advocate who spoke about her own struggles with bipolar disorder and cocaine addiction, had suffered a heart attack on Friday as she flew into Los Angeles.
The daughter of actor Debbie Reynolds and the late singer Eddie Fisher had been returning from England where she was shooting the third season of the British sitcom “Catastrophe.”
“Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter,” Reynolds said on Facebook. “I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop.”
Fisher’s friend and former Star Wars’ co-star Mark Hamill, who played Leia’s brother Luke Skywalker, said in a tweet: “No words. #Devastated”
Fisher was met by paramedics and rushed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after suffering the heart attack during the flight on Friday.
She made headlines last month when she disclosed that she had a three-month love affair with her “Star Wars” co-star Harrison Ford 40 years ago.
Fisher revealed the secret to People magazine while promoting her new memoir, “The Princess Diarist,” just before it went on sale. The book is based on Fisher’s diaries from her time working on the first “Star Wars” movie.
Harrison said in a statement Fisher was funny, emotionally fearless and one-of-a-kind. “She lived her life, bravely…We will all miss her.”
Fisher said the affair started and ended in 1976 during production on the blockbuster sci-fi adventure in which she first appeared as the intrepid Princess Leia. Ford played the maverick space pilot Han Solo.
“It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend,” Fisher told People. She was 19 and Ford was 33 at the time.
“How could you ask such a shining specimen of a man to be satisfied with the likes of me? I was so inexperienced, but I trusted something about him. He was kind,” she wrote of Ford in the memoir, the latest of several books Fisher authored.
Fisher reprised the role in two “Star Wars” sequels. She gained sex symbol status in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi” when her Leia character wore a metallic gold bikini while enslaved by the diabolical Jabba the Hutt.
She returned last year in Disney’s reboot of the “Star Wars” franchise, “The Force Awakens,” appearing as the more matronly General Leia Organa, leader of the Resistance movement fighting the evil First Order.
Filming was completed in July on Fisher’s next appearance as Leia in “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” which is set to reach theaters in December 2017.
Fisher’s Princess Leia makes a surprise appearance at the end of “Rogue One,” the latest blockbuster, which opened this month, in the “Star Wars” series.
Shortly after news of her death was made public, her dog Gary, who has his own Twitter account, said goodbye: “Saddest tweets to tweet. Mommy is gone. I love you @carrieffisher.”
She is survived by her mother, Reynolds, her daughter, Billie Lourd, and her brother Todd Fisher.
EARLY SHOWBIZ START
Fisher also played a memorable supporting role in the 1989 hit film “When Harry Met Sally,” as a friend of Meg Ryan’s character who falls for and marries the best pal of Billy Crystal’s character.
More recently, Fisher played the American mother-in-law on “Catastrophe.”
Born in Beverly Hills, Carrie Fisher got her showbiz start at age 12 in her mother’s Las Vegas nightclub act. She made her film debut as a teenager in the 1975 comedy “Shampoo,” two years before her “Star Wars” breakthrough.
But her life was also at times mired in drug abuse, mental illness and tumultuous romances with other entertainment figures, all of which she laid bare in her books, interviews and a one-woman stage show titled “Wishful Drinking.”
She was once engaged to comic actor Dan Aykroyd, later married, then divorced, singer-songwriter Paul Simon, and had a daughter out of wedlock with Hollywood talent agent Brian Lourd.
After undergoing treatment in the mid-1980s for cocaine addition, she wrote the bestselling novel, “Postcards from the Edge,” about a drug-abusing actress forced to move back in with her mother. She later adapted the book into a film that starred Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
She told Reuters in a 2011 interview that tabloid exposure of her private life could be trying.
“‘Carrie Fisher’s tragic life.’ That was one that hurt,” she said, quoting a headline. “‘Hey, how about Carrie Fisher? She used to be so hot. Now she looks like Elton John.’ That hurt.”
She also acknowledged being briefly hospitalized in 2013 due to a bout with bipolar disorder.
However, Fisher told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview published last month she was happier than she had ever been.
“I’ve been through a lot, and I could go through more, but I hope I don’t have to,” she said. “But if I did, I’d be able to do it. I’m not going to enjoy dying but there’s not much prep for that.”
Summing up the showbiz legacy she expected to leave behind in her 2011 memoir “Shockaholic,” Fisher wrote in self-deprecating style: “What you’ll have of me after I journey to that great Death Star in the sky is an extremely accomplished daughter, a few books, and a picture of a stern-looking girl wearing some kind of metal bikini lounging on a giant drooling squid, behind a newscaster informing you of the passing of Princess Leia after a long battle with her head.”
Our politics is often reflected in our pop culture, and vice versa — especially in an election year. That relationship seemed closer than ever in 2016, when a TV personality was elected president, reality shows and beauty contests were referenced in presidential debates, and even a Broadway show ignited partisan sparring.
At times, it seemed like the election overshadowed everything, but of course there was more. The diversity issue again roiled Hollywood. The old-style musical made a glamorous comeback. One of Hollywood’s most scrutinized couples called it quits. And we said a series of painful goodbyes: to legendary rock stars, cinema and TV greats, and The Greatest himself. Our annual, highly selective journey down pop culture memory lane.
Ground Control to Major Tom: We shall miss you. The death of DAVID BOWIE casts a pall over the pop culture scene as the year begins. The elegant rock star succumbs to cancer — an illness he fought in secret — just a few days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final music video, “Lazarus,” which begins with the line: “Look up here, I’m in heaven.”
A year after (hash)OscarsSoWhite in 2015, the Oscars are … (hash)SoWhiteAgain! For the second year, all 20 nominated actors are white. The lack of diversity leads to some sweeping membership changes at the Academy. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl halftime show is allegedly headlined by Coldplay. But it’s BEYONCE who rules with a commanding performance of her new song, “Formation,” proving that Queen Bey is still very much among our royalty.
The ROLLING STONES perform in Cuba, a once-unthinkable event that happens a week after President Obama visits the island nation. Speaking of Obama, he hosts a White House concert performance of “HAMILTON,” part of a remarkable 2016 for LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA and his rap-infused Broadway musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton. We say goodbye to GARRY SHANDLING.
HAMILTON wins the Pulitzer for drama (to add to a Grammy and, soon, 11 Tonys), and current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reverses a plan to bump Hamilton from the $10 bill after fans kick up a fuss — undoubtedly the first time a Broadway show influences currency policy. And April showers bring Purple Rain: Rock legend PRINCE dies a shocking death at 57 of an accidental opioid overdose, launching countless poignant tributes.
“It’s not over ‘til I say it’s over,” says BERNIE SANDERS to HILLARY CLINTON, of the fight for the Democratic nomination. Actually, that’s LARRY DAVID talking to KATE MCKINNON on “Saturday Night Live.” As MCKINNON hones her acclaimed, manically ambitious portrayal of Clinton — one of nine actresses to portray her in SNL history — DONALD TRUMP (in real life) clinches the Republican nomination. We’ll have to wait a few months to see who plays him on SNL….
The greatest is gone: MUHAMMAD ALI dies at 74 after a three-decade battle with Parkinson’s disease. It’s CLINTON’s turn to clinch her party’s nomination, becoming the first woman in U.S. history to lead a major party ticket. At the Tony awards, host JAMES CORDEN opens with a tribute to the Orlando nightclub shooting victims, and MIRANDA does the same with a tearful sonnet, declaring that “love is love is love is love.”
Hollywood always turns out for Democrats, and the Democratic National Convention is no exception. Performers include KATY PERRY, ALICIA KEYS, CAROLE KING, DEMI LOVATO, BOYZ II MEN and PAUL SIMON, among many others. In media news, ROGER AILES is out at Fox News Channel, following allegations of sexual harassment. And the retired JON STEWART — missed by many fans in an election year — returns to late night, bearded and in a bathrobe, for an appearance with STEPHEN COLBERT.
SCOTT BAIO is the biggest celebrity at the Republican National Convention. And some sports news: In Rio, MICHAEL PHELPS ends his historic Olympic career (or so he says) with a mind-boggling 23rd career gold. But the U.S. swim team’s achievements are overshadowed by RYAN LOCHTE’s drunken night and evolving explanation. Goodbye, Willy Wonka and Leo Bloom: Actor GENE WILDER — whose name could easily describe his famous eyes and untamed hair — dies at 83 of complications of Alzheimer’s.
The first CLINTON-TRUMP debate draws 84 million viewers, the most ever for a U.S. presidential matchup, and yields at least one catchy meme: The “Hillary Shimmy.” Clinton tries her hand at comedy with ZACH GALIFIANAKIS on “Between Two Ferns.” JIMMY FALLON famously musses TRUMP’s hair, and is criticized for the friendly encounter. Bye Bye, BRANGELINA: One of the most high-profile couplings in Hollywood is over.
Hello, NASTY WOMAN: Trump’s frustrated comment about Clinton in their third, extremely contentious debate becomes one of the more famous exchanges of the season, launching “nasty woman” merchandise like the “Madam President If You’re Nasty” T-shirt. We meet ALEC BALDWIN’S Trump on SNL. TRUMP — the real one — tweets: “Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks.” And the candidate’s “grab ‘em” comments on “Access Hollywood” emerge, sending his campaign into damage control.
Something happens in early November … what was it again? Meantime, let’s remember singer LEONARD COHEN, dead at 82. Many find themselves singing “Hallelujah,” his much-covered ballad — including a somber MCKINNON on “SNL,” a few days after the election. BALDWIN reprises Trump, the real TRUMP settles into meetings at Trump Tower, and his vice president-elect, MIKE PENCE, goes to HAMILTON, where the production appeals to him directly from the stage to work on behalf of all Americans. Pence says he doesn’t mind, but Trump tweets: “Apologize!”
It’s been quite a year for the musical, and not just on Broadway. “Hairspray Live!” continues the live TV musical fad. And movie audiences are enchanted by a candy-colored, old-fashioned musical ode to Tinseltown itself, “La La Land,” by young director DAMIEN CHAZELLE. Finally, for those craving a little consistency in this turbulent year, it’s perhaps nice to know that December arrives bearing the same Christmas gift as it did last year: A new “STAR WARS” movie.
Martin Scorsese’s Manhattan office, in a midtown building a few blocks northwest of the cordoned-off Trump Tower, may be the most concentrated bastion of reverence for cinema on the face of the earth.
There’s a small screening room where Scorsese screens early cuts of his films and classic movies for his daughter and his friends. There’s his personal library of thousands of films, some he taped himself decades ago. Film posters line the walls. Bookshelves are stuffed with film histories. And there are editing suites, including the one where Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker regularly toil with a monitor dedicated to the continuous, muted playing of Turner Classic Movies.
“It’s a temple of worship, really,” says Schoonmaker.
Scorsese’s latest, “Silence,” may be the film that most purely fuses the twin passions of his life: God and cinema.
Scorsese, who briefly pursued becoming a priest before fervently dedicating himself to moviemaking, has sometimes seemed to conflate the two.
“Silence” is a solemn, religious epic about Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) in a violently anti-Catholic 17th century Japan. Scorsese has wanted to make it for nearly 30 years. He was given the book it’s based on, Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, by a bishop after a screening of his famously controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1988.
“Silence” is an examination of belief and doubt and mysterious acts of faith.
But making the film was such an act in itself.
“Acting it out, maybe that’s what existence is all about,” Scorsese says of his faith. “The documentary on George Harrison I made, ‘Living in the Material World,’ that says it better. He said if you want an old man in the sky with a beard, fine. I don’t mean to be relativist about it. I happen to feel more comfortable with Christianity. But what is Christianity? That’s the issue and that’s why I made this film.”
It wasn’t easy.
Scorsese, 74, may be among the most revered directors in Hollywood, but “Silence” is almost the antithesis of today’s studio film.
To make it Scorsese had to drum up foreign money in Cannes and ultimately made the film for about $46 million. Everyone, including himself, worked for scale.
Few today are making movies with the scope and ambition of “Silence” — a fact, he grants, that makes him feel like one of the last of a dying breed in today’s film industry.
“Cinema is gone,” Scorsese says. “The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone.”
“The theater will always be there for that communal experience, there’s no doubt. But what kind of experience is it going to be?” he continues. “Is it always going to be a theme-park movie? I sound like an old man, which I am. The big screen for us in the ‘50s, you go from Westerns to ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ to the special experience of ‘2001’ in 1968. The experience of seeing ‘Vertigo’ and ‘The Searchers’ in VistaVision.”
Scorsese points to the proliferation of images and the overreliance on superficial techniques as trends that have diminished the power of cinema to younger audiences. “It should matter to your life,” he says. “Unfortunately the latest generations don’t know that it mattered so much.”
Scorsese’s comments echo a tender letter he wrote his daughter two years ago. The future of movies, he believes, is in the freedom that technology has yielded for anyone to make a movie.
“TV, I don’t think has taken that place. Not yet,” adds Scorsese, whose “Boardwalk Empire” was lauded but whose high-priced “Vinyl” was canceled after one season. “I tried it. I had success to a certain extent. ‘Vinyl’ we tried but we found that the atmosphere for the type of picture we wanted to make — the nature of the language, the drugs, the sex, depicting the rock ‘n’ roll world of the ‘70s — we got a lot of resistance. So I don’t know about that freedom.”
Since the election of Donald Trump, some have expressed hope for a return to the kind of ‘70s filmmaking Scorsese is synonymous with.
“If the younger people have something to say and they find a way to say through visual means as well as literary, there’s the new cinema,” says Scorsese.
But the current climate reminds him more of the ‘50s of his youth.
“I’m worried about double-think or triple-think, which is make you believe you have the freedom, but they can make it very difficult to get the picture shown, to get it made, ruin reputations. It’s happened before.”
“Silence,” which Scorsese screened for Jesuits at the Vatican before meeting with the pope, remains a powerful exception in a changing Hollywood.
“He wanted to make this film extremely differently from anything out there,” says Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s editor since “Raging Bull.” “He’s just tired of slam-bam-crash. Telling the audience what to think is what he really hates. Trying to do a meditative movie at this point, in this insane world we’re in now, was incredibly brave. He wanted to stamp the film with that throughout: the pace, the very subtle use of music.
“How many movies start without music at the very beginning under the logos?” she adds. “He said, ‘Take out all that big Hollywood.””
Scorsese, apostle of cinema, continues the fight.
His Film Foundation has helped restore more than 750 films. And he regularly pens supportive letters to young directors whose films he admires.
Imagine that in your mailbox. Almost like getting a letter from your god.
A movie has a way of sitting up straight whenever Sigourney Weaver is in it. Whether the part is small or large, she reliably jolts any film alive with her intelligence and commanding presence. She usually means business.
That, of course, has been apparent since her breakthrough role as Ellen Ripley in “Alien.” But it’s no less true of Weaver at 67. She has an almost queen-like status on today’s movie landscape, particularly in science-fiction.
She has defined one mega franchise (“Alien,” with one more on the way) and been the MVP of another (“Avatar,” with four sequels coming). Just her voice is enough to lend sci-fi credibility, whether as the ship’s voice in “WALL-E” or as the all-powerful Director in “The Cabin in the Woods.”
Weaver has been particularly ubiquitous in 2016, gracing the year’s top box-office hit, “Finding Dory,” with its best gag (her aquatic center greeting), and popping in to reprise her original role in the contentious “Ghostbusters” reboot. She was even glimpsed in Ron Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” as a young, rabid Beatlemaniac.
But she ends the year with “A Monster Calls,” a smaller film that uses fantasy to plumb deeper emotional depths. Directed by J.A. Bayona (who’s helming the next “Jurassic Park” film), the adaptation of Patrick Ness’ novel is about a boy coping with his mother’s terminal illness. Aside from approaching grief with uncommon seriousness, the film flips some genre tropes, including Weaver’s grandmother character.
The actress (who hasn’t lost a bit of her glamour) recently reflected on “A Monster Calls,” her re-entry to Pandora and her legacy of strong female protagonists.
AP: Your father, Sylvester ‘Pat’ Weaver was president of NBC and created the “Tonight Show.” Was it like you grew up in show business?
Weaver: At the time, I thought everyone’s father ran a network. I thought everyone got to go on the set of “Peter Pan” and meet Mary Martin. I always used to think I was going to go to school and then come home and be a different girl and go to a different house. It took me a while to realize I was stuck with me. Maybe that’s the early awareness of an actor that we’re all changeable. I remember thinking, “Gosh, I’m so amazed I’m in this body for so long.”
AP: You have such an impact on a film, regardless of how large your part is.
Weaver: I really love being part of a good story. I don’t need to be the center of the story. That’s why I really loved “A Monster Calls” because the grandmother was unlike anyone I’ve played before _ not completely unlike my mother, who was British. It’s a movie I hope families go to together.
AP: Was your small role in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” your first film?
Weaver: Woody offered me a bigger part but I turned it down because I was in a play. I played a multiple schizophrenic who kept a hedgehog in her vagina and I wasn’t going to give that part up.
AP: “Alien” was quite a follow-up.
Weaver: It didn’t feel like a big movie to me. It felt like a very small, dark, strange movie and I could relate to that because I was used to doing very strange things off-Broadway. I thought: This is fine. This is like a workshop movie.
AP: Ripley was one of the first strong female protagonists in an action film. Is that a legacy you’re proud of?
Weaver: I am. I’ve since read other scripts and I go, “Well that’s kind of an interesting part but I’d rather play this guy.” Because I always feel still, like in our world, there’s a lot of testosterone in some of these movies where really legitimately a woman would be involved.
AP: Do you think that’s changing?
Weaver: I think by the time your daughters are in the world, everything will be different.
AP: What did you think of the backlash to Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters”?
Weaver: I was very surprised by it. I enjoyed the movie. I love all those women. I think Feig is brilliant. I do think it has something to do with the misogyny Trump has unearthed. I thought it was very charming. Does it also make you remember how much you loved the first one? I think so, but not to the extent that I’m going to boycott it. We’re sitting at the table. You’ve got to make room for us. We’re not going to go away.
AP: Ang Lee’s “Ice Storm” must be a film you’re particularly proud of.
Weaver: I was discussing a character I might play with someone and they said, “This woman’s cold.” I said I find that a nonsensical adjective for a woman. I’m sure you could describe Janey in “Ice Storm” as cold but she wasn’t cold. She was so disconnected from her life and bored by it.
AP: You’re soon to head into one mammoth “Avatar” production.
Weaver: The scripts for “Avatar” are absolutely incredible. I have committed to a very interesting movie about a woman (“Second Saturn”) that I hope to do in May. It’s like: This is my wonderful meal before I go into Pandora.
In time for Christmas, there’s the eye-popping, heart-lifting “La La Land,” which honors and modernizes the screen musical to such joyful effect that you might find yourself pirouetting home from the multiplex.
OK, perhaps we exaggerate.
“La La Land,” created by the copiously talented writer/director Damien Chazelle and featuring the dream pairing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, is not for everyone.
Perhaps you don’t like music, or singing, or dancing. Or romance, or love, or beautiful people falling in love. Or sunsets, or primary colors, or pastels. Or stories. Or, heck, the movies themselves.
If you don’t like any of those things, maybe stay home.
Otherwise, be prepared: By the end, something will surely have activated those tear ducts. The one complaint I overheard upon leaving the film was: “I didn’t have enough Kleenex.”
The first obvious gift of “La La Land” is its sheer originality. Let’s start with the music. Unlike in so many other films, nobody else’s hits are used here. The affecting score is by Justin Hurwitz, with lyrics by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul (also getting kudos for Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen.”)
Our setting is Los Angeles, and so it begins — as it must — on a jammed freeway.
But unlike Michael Douglas in “Falling Down,” the drivers here simply brush off their frustrations, exit their cars, and break into song and dance.
This virtuoso number, “Another Day of Sun,” which was filmed on a freeway interchange with some 100 dancers toiling in sizzling temperatures, establishes Chazelle’s high-flying ambitions. It also tells us we’d darned well better be ready for people to break out into song — because that happens in musicals. And it introduces our main characters.
Sebastian (Gosling) is a struggling jazz pianist, with stubborn dreams of opening his own club. Mia (Stone) is an aspiring actress, working as a barista while auditioning for TV parts. They clash on the freeway. She gives him the finger.
They have a second bad meeting at a piano bar. Finally they meet a third time, at a party. Suddenly, they find themselves on a bench overlooking the Hollywood Hills at dusk. And then … they dance.
Is it Astaire and Rogers (or Charisse)? Yes and no. Stone and Gosling are charming musical performers, but way less polished and ethereal than their cinematic forbears. This human quality in their first duet makes us root for them.
And we keep on rooting. It’s hard to imagine more perfect casting here. Gosling’s Sebastian is suave and sexy but also ornery and unsure of himself; Stone’s Mia is warm and ebullient but also fretful and self-doubting. They need each other to chase their respective dreams.
But what will success mean, and can they possibly achieve it together? It’s this pillar of the story that lends it a very modern, melancholy bite.
Chazelle, 31, shows his love for cinema with references both sly and overt to classics like “Singin’ In the Rain” and Jacques Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.”
And then there’s the nod to “Rebel Without a Cause,” with a scene at LA’s Griffith Observatory.
There, at a place built to watch the stars, the two dancing lovers actually lift up into them.
It’s corny, sure, and gorgeous and romantic. As Sebastian says to his sister earlier in the film, “You say ‘romantic’ like it’s a bad word!” In a musical, romantic is NEVER a bad word.
Some people resist musicals because in real life, people never break out into song; they just speak their feelings. To which musical lovers say: “Exactly! And this is why we need musicals.”
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association never fails to disappoint with their assortment of nominees, which always seem to include some expected picks, some inspired ones and some headscratchers too.
The nominations for the 74th annual Golden Globes certainly had some bombshells, too. Here are a few notable snubs and surprises.
OLD GUARD OUT
Past Globes glory didn’t seem to matter this year for Hollywood legends Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Warren Beatty, none of whom received directing nominations despite all having won in that category at least once. In fact, Eastwood’s “Sully” (that means no Tom Hanks nomination either) and Scorsese’s “Silence” were shut out completely, while Beatty’s big return to directing and acting, “Rules Don’t Apply,” scored only one nomination — for actress Lily Collins.
NO LOVE FOR ‘LOVE & FRIENDSHIP’
Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen adaptation “Love & Friendship” charmed audiences and critics, but was left without a single nomination — especially surprising in the case of Kate Beckinsale, whose performance as the conniving and ambitious Lady Susan Vernon has been widely regarded as one of her best. Instead, in the musical or comedy category, the HFPA singled out the little-seen John Carney musical “Sing Street.”
THE NAUGHTIEST SUPERHERO
Besides being a superhero movie, the irreverent and very R-rated “Deadpool” is about as far away as one can get from a stereotypically tasteful awards choice, but somehow still scored two nominations — one for best motion picture in the musical or comedy category and another for star Ryan Reynolds. Perhaps they draw the line at animated food orgy, though — “Sausage Party,” despite a big awards push, was left out of the fun.
LEFT FIELD ACTING CHOICES
The comedy and drama distinction always allows for a few out-of-nowhere contenders, but the best performance by an actor in a musical or comedy was stacked with unexpected picks, including Colin Farrell for his performance as a single guy looking for love in the dark as night comedy “The Lobster,” Ryan Reynolds for “Deadpool,” and Jonah Hill as a bro arms dealer in the generally panned “War Dogs.” In the supporting category, Aaron Taylor-Johnson sneaked in with a nod for his portrayal of a sadistic Texan in “Nocturnal Animals” and Simon Helberg for his crowd-pleasing piano player in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which elicited a gasp from those in the room at the Beverly Hilton while the nominations were being announced.
MISS SLOANE TAKES CHARGE
“Miss Sloane,” the Jessica Chastain-led lobbying thriller, might have bombed at the box office this weekend and received generally tepid reviews from critics, but it didn’t stop the HFPA taking notice of Chastain’s performance as the always three steps ahead of the competition Elizabeth Sloane. Since 2012, Chastain has been nominated for four Golden Globes and won once, in 2013, for “Zero Dark Thirty.”
WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA
With the statistics of female representation behind the camera as dismal as they are, it might not be that much of a surprise to find zero films directed by women up for best picture or best director this year. Yet it is notable, especially with critically acclaimed fare like Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” and Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” both of which were shut out completely. The one saving grace is in the foreign category, where Maren Ade’s comedy “Toni Erdmann” is the nominee from Germany and Uda Benyamina’s “Divines” is nominated from France.
Jacqueline Kennedy did not have a conventional speaking voice. It’s part New York, part prep school Mid-Atlantic, and it’s jarring to most modern ears. Natalie Portman remembers her first few days on the set of “Jackie,” going all in on that very specific accent and looking up to see her director Pablo Larrain’s wide-eyed bafflement.
“Pablo’s face was like ‘uhhhhh…’,” Portman said laughing.
They were filming a recreation of the television special “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy,” where CBS News correspondent Charles Collingwood followed the first lady around with cameras as they spoke about each room and her pricey restoration. Larrain stopped during one take and played footage of the actual tour just to check. He was amazed at how spot-on Portman’s interpretation actually was.
Still, “at the beginning it was shocking,” Larrain said.
It was also, he notes, different from how Jackie Kennedy sounded in other circumstances. She had a public voice and a private voice, which Portman was able to study through Kennedy’s recorded interviews with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
The film “Jackie,” out in limited release, explores the nuances of these public and private sides of the enigmatic figure in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband in 1963 as she plans the funeral, exits her home, comforts her children and tends to her husband’s legacy.
It’s what compelled screenwriter Noah Oppenheim to make her the subject of his first script.
“Most often she is perceived through the lens of being this style icon, this beautiful woman at her husband’s side. People are fascinated by their marriage and his infidelities. But I didn’t feel like she had ever gotten enough credit for understanding intuitively the power of television, the power of imagery and iconography and her role in defining how we remember her husband’s presidency,” Oppenheim said.
It was she, a week after the assassination, in an interview with Theodore H. White for LIFE magazine, who first uttered the word Camelot in reference to their time in power.
“I always assumed that the Kennedy administration had been referred to as Camelot from the beginning, that they were this young, handsome couple and American royalty,” Oppenheim said. “The fact that she came up with Camelot is incredible. That one reference accomplishes more than any list of policy accomplishments ever could have in terms of cementing in people’s minds who Jack Kennedy was.”
The film, however, isn’t out to provide answers. It relishes in Jackie being this inscrutable figure, showing the subtle differences in her interactions with the people around her, including a priest (John Hurt), the journalist (Billy Crudup), her longtime friend Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard).
“(Oppenheim) told her story through these different relationships and the different roles she played around the people in her life at different times. I think that’s really powerful … Consistency or arc is really a narrative fiction. Human beings are not like that,” said Portman, who is earning some of the best reviews of her career for her performance.
Larrain wouldn’t do the film without Portman. The script had been around since 2010 before getting the attention of Darren Aronofsky, who was set to direct his then-fiance Rachel Weisz in the role. After exiting, Aronofsky stayed on to produce and was the one who made the somewhat unconventional ask of Larrain, a Chilean filmmaker, to consider it.
When Portman met with Larrain, she said it was akin to “being dared” to do the film.
“He was like, ‘we’re going to do this together or we’ll both walk away,’” she said. “I was like ‘all right, this is good. Let’s take each other’s hands and jump.’”
The tone, thanks to studied editing of Sebastian Sepulveda and a striking score by Mica Levi, can sometimes seem more like a psychological thriller than a conventional character study. Larrain delights in the beauty of bringing an audience to “that indeterminate place.”
Portman, on the other hand, knows she’s at the disposal of her directors and often isn’t aware of the exact tone until she sees the finished product.
“When we were making ‘Black Swan,’ I thought I was making a completely different movie from the one I saw. I thought we were making something almost like a documentary and then I saw it and I was like ‘What? What is this!?’ I literally had no idea,” she said. “I thought it was like a realistic portrait of a psychological breakdown of a person and it was not at all. You can totally misunderstand tone, but still it can work.”
The film, heavy with historical and emotional significance, did allow for some levity, though, compliments of that White House Tour.
“We enjoyed that so much,” Larrain said. “It was just talking about furniture and chairs. And she would even make the same mistakes Jackie did.”
Portman: “We laughed a lot. Pablo kept being like ‘be more excited about the chair!’ She’s REALLY excited about the chair.”
Larrain: “But it was necessary because it shows a kind of splendor. I think when you are portraying such a tragic and critical moment, you need to have splendor to really understand that.”