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HomeIndustry SectorFilmOver the Weekend 3/8/21: More Critics Awards, Malala Signs with Apple and...

Over the Weekend 3/8/21: More Critics Awards, Malala Signs with Apple and More News


Frances McDormand in Nomadland (Searchlight Studios)

In case you missed it over the weekend, the sad news broke that Production Sound Editor Michael Wolf Snyder, who did sound on Chloé Zhao‘s Nomadland, died from suicide. This was a young guy, just 35 years old, and his career was definitely on the upswing going by his work with Zhao. It was a sad and bittersweet weekend from the filmmakers, as they were honored with many critics awards but couldn’t fully celebrate.

Otherwise, the biggest happening of the weekend, besides that scathing Oprah Winfrey interview with Prince Harry and Megan Markle, was the number of awards announced by a number of critics groups, both old and new, large and small, but surprise, surprise, most of them awarded many of the talented crafts and crew that we often hail here at Below the Line.

The biggest group is probably the Critics Choice Association (CCA), made up of nearly 400 critics and entertainment journalists (including yours truly). The group joined the praise for Chloé Zhao’s latest film, Nomadland, voting for it as Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography for Ms. Zhao’s husband, Joshua James Richards. The film’s victory was sadly dampened by the death of the film’s Production Sound Mixer, but both Zhao and Richards dedicated their Critics Choice wins to the late Snyder.

You should make a note of that last award for Cinematography, because it was something that all the critics voting this weekend agreed upon. As far as the other artisan/craft awards — all presented off-air –Production Design went to Mank‘s Donald Graham Burt and Jan Pascale, Editing was a tie between Trial of the Chicago 7 Editor Alan Baumgarten and Sound of Metal‘s Mikkel E.G. NielsenAnn Roth won for her Costume Design for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, while that film’s Hair and Make-Up team won that award from the CCA. Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet won for Visual Effects while Trent ReznorAtticus Ross and Jon Batiste seem to have the Oscar for Best Original Score sewn-up as they followed their Golden Globe win last weekend with multiple critics awards. You can read the whole list of winners at (I may try to post some of the interviews from the CCA press room with some of the artisans mentioned above in the next day or so.)

The Hollywood Critics Association (HCA) is fairly new, holding their 4th annual awards, which included many of the same talented craft people, including Richards for his cinematography, the same Best Score winner (Reznor/Ross/Batiste), Baumgarten won for Film Editing, Burt won for Production Design, the hair and make-up team from Ma Rainey’s also won the HCA’s award there. The HCA’s Visual Effects winner was Jonathan Dearing for The Invisible Man while Cathy Yan‘s Birds of Prey on for Best Stunts. The Personal History of David Copperfield was honored for its Costume Design. Composer Emile Mossari received an honorary prize for Artisan on the Rise while Cinematographer Dante Spinoti received the group’s “Timeless Award.”  As far as the main awards, the HCA went with Emerald Fennell‘s Promising Young Woman, which received the most nominations overall and walked away with four awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Carey Mulligan (she also won from CCAs), Best Original Screenplay and Best First Feature. On top of that, Fennell got an Honorary Award for Filmmaker on the Rise from the group.

Also, the relatively new Latino Entertainment Journalists (LEJA) announced their awards, picking many of the same main winners including Nomadland, but they also honored the crafts with Richards once again winning for his Nomadland cinematography, and Zhao winning for her Editing on NomadlandMa Rainey also won for Hair and Make-Up from this critics group, putting it pretty far ahead for the Oscars. The movie also won for Mark Ricker‘s Production Design and Karen O’Hara‘s Set Decoration. LEJA gave Alexandra Byrne their award for Costume Design for Emma, while Sound of Metal won for Sound. Although The Invisible Man won best Visual Effects from this group, too, they gave their Stunt award to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet instead.

Malala Yousafzai

Some late-breaking news on today’s International Women’s Day is that 23-year-old Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai, has signed a multi-year programming partnership with Apple TV+ for original programming that will include dramas, comedies, docs, animations and a children’s series, the latter under her new production banner, Extracurricular. 

In a statement, the inspiring young woman said, “I believe in the power of stories to bring families together, forge friendships, build movements, and inspire children to dream. And I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Apple to help bring these stories to life. I’m grateful for the opportunity to support women, young people, writers, and artists in reflecting the world as they see it.”

Yousafzai joins a long list of filmmakers, actors and celebs that have signed deals with Apple, including Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Idris Elba, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Octavia Spencer, Kumail Nanjiani, and Alfonso Cuarón.

We had a ton of casting news on Friday, so it makes sense that we don’t have nearly as much today, even with the European Film Market (EFM) taking place concurrently with Berlinale aka the Berlin Film Festival.

Even so, the news that Elsa Pataky from Fast & Furious and Luke Bracey (Holidate) would be starring in the Netflix action-drama Interceptor, co-written and directed by Australian author Matthew Reilly (The Tournament) did not come from the market but just from a normal new cycle. The movie, co-written by Stuart Beattie (Collateral), “follows an Army lieutenant who must utilize her years of tactical training and military expertise to save humanity when sixteen nuclear missiles are launched at the U.S., and a violent coordinated attack simultaneously threatens her remote missile interceptor station.”

In a statment, Reilly said, “As those people who have read my novels know, I love telling big action stories that are told at a frenetic pace. I wanted to bring that kind of rocket-fast, relentless, high-stakes storytelling to film, and so Interceptor was born. Elsa is just perfect as our lead: a strong, independent and determined woman who, in the face of overwhelming odds, just refuses to give up.”

The movie will film in New South Wales, Australia.

Mank (Photo: Netflix)

On Friday, my local movie theater, the Metrograph hosted an enlightening interview with filmmaker David Fincher and his long-time Editor Kirk Baxter as part of the theater’s week-long series about the duo’s collaboration. Fincher and Baxter had a lot of things to say about their workflow, specifically on Fincher’s latest, the Netflix drama Mank, but they also spoke about working with other departments. We’ll try to grab some of the more interesting quotes to share with you sometime soon.

Raya and the Last Dragon (Photo: Disney)

As far as the box office, it must have been pretty disappointing for Walt Disney Pictures when it’s first theatrical release in a year, the animated Raya and the Last Dragon, only opened with $8.6 million in 2,045 theaters, which was enough to be #1 but was significantly less than Warner Bros‘ Tom and Jerry the prior weekend. Part of it might have been that Raya got into less theaters than Tom And Jerry, partially because not all theater chains were happy about Raya being available via Premium VOD on Disney+ at the same time. What’s odd is that Tom and Jerry has also been on HBO Max since that movie’s release, though it hasn’t affected its box office; the Tim Story-directed family film dropped to second place, down 53% with $6.6 million in its second weekend. (That amount was still more than most of the new releases in 2021. Cases in point, Lionsgate‘s sci-fi action film Chaos Walking, starring Tom Holland and Daisey Ridley — two young stars from enormous franchises — only opened with $3.8 million in 1,980 theaters for third place, while Focus Features‘ Boogie (the directorial debut of Fresh Off the Boat producer Eddie Huang) opened in fourth with $1.2 million in 1,252 theaters. For the first time in three months, Universal‘s The Croods: A New Age was knocked out of the top 3. But what does this all mean, especially with New York City reopening movie theaters at 25% capacity on Friday? It might mean that audiences are still tentative of returning to movie theaters, but also, with limited capacity and fare that doesn’t seem as strong as the bigger summer franchises, we may be waiting until May before we see the massive numbers at the box office that we’ve become used to from 2019.

That’s it for today, but will be back on Friday with the usual End of Week Production Notes.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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