DOM_3986Forty HFPA members braved a day of pouring rain in the English countryside to visit Highclere Castle, where many scenes of the hit series Downton Abbey are filmed.

Members were greeted  by Lady Carnarvon and then watched filming before talking with Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter, who plays the deep-voiced Carson the butler.

They were joined at lunch by more cast members, including the show’s writer and creator, Julian Fellowes, and two Golden Globe winners , Dame Maggie Smith (Countess Violet Crawley) and Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates).





The Dr, Frankenstein laboratory set of Penny Dreadful

Dr. Frankenstein’s spooky lab was just one of the elaborate sets at Ireland’s Ardmore Studios visited by a delegation of the HFPA. Showtime is currently shooting the second season of Penny Dreadful occupying the entire studio located an hour outside of Dublin.

The TV series brings icons of classic Gothic literature such as Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray into a new light by weaving their original stories into a narrative that takes place in the dark corners of Victorian London.

The creator and writer of the series, playwright and screenwriter John Logan („The Aviator“) welcomed the journalists and explained his fascination with horror and the occult: “We have to experience and overcome our nightmares in order to find beauty and truly human values.”

The leading actors of the series, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett also greeted the group. Timothy Dalton, who plays the explorer Sir Malcolm, revealed that his very first movie role, The Lion in Winter (1968), was filmed at the Ardmore Studios and he remembered shooting a scene with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in the very room where he met with the visiting journalists.

The Ardmore Studios (founded 1958 and recently used for The Tudors and Camelot) has 5 sound stages currently all dedicated to Penny Dreadful, filled with specially manufactured or original Victorian furniture and decorated with the typical fixtures of Gothic fantasy. The walls of one of the sets are covered with over 8.000 artificial bones including 600 human skulls. After lunch in the candle-lit Dorian Gray’s Gallery Hall, the journalists went to the recently constructed backlot to observe the scenery: A sleazy London street filled with horse carriages, market stalls and extras in hats and drab-glooking costumes.

Center of the series is Sir Malcolm Murray who has lost his daughter to the city’s creatures. He will do whatever is needed to get her back and to right past wrongs. His accomplice, the seductive clairvoyant Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), recruits charming American Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) to help locate Sir Malcolm’s daughter and slay  the monsters.

Penny Dreadful takes its name from the cheap, sensational papers sold in the 1800’s specializing in stories about murder and mayhem. According to helmer John Logan, Ireland has been an inspirational place for the series because Dublin’s unspoiled architecture perfectly captures London at the turn of the last century. He adds: “The ghosts of Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde walk the streets of Dublin.  What more can you wish for?.”



kurt-cobain-montage-of-heck  Every year the Sundance Festival boasts a formidable amount of documentaries, even opening with one (What Happened, Miss Simone?) this year. Another impressive doc about a dead musician, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, screened  in overbooked venues, even though some festivalgoers were ignorant of its subject matter. As HFPA member Vera Anderson overheard while waiting in line: «Is Kurt Cobain gonna be here tonight?» Well, he was. In spirit anyway.

After the screening, the HFPA’s Silvia Bizio sat down with director Brett Morgen who worked for years on it. What got him interested in the first place was not being the biggest Nirvana fan, he says: «I saw them play a bunch of different times but they weren’t like my favorite band. When Courtney Love showed me Kurt’s artwork, I got very excited that there was an opportunity to show a side of Kurt we hadn’t seen before. The audio and the journals gave me an unfiltered insight into Kurt’s psyche.»

But it wasn’t until he connected with Cobain’s daughter that he felt compelled to tackle the documentary: «After I met Frances it became a mission. Everything up to that point was ‘hey, this would be a cool project, blablabla…’ and then I understood why I was making this film. And I was making this film to bring a sense of connectiveness to Frances and Kurt. Kurt died when she was two. She has no memory of him.»

Morgen was deeply touched by the story: «The first thing she said to me after she shook my hand was ‘I’ve known you longer than I have my father’. And from that point on my goal was to give Frances two and a half hours with her father that she never had. I felt that if it would work on that level, it would work for other people as well.»

«This was a very difficult film to make. I’m not gonna lie. I mean, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that all films are hard. But this was far and away the most challenging movie I have ever attempted to do.» And not just because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, he says: «There wasn’t a lot of footage. From the time he was seven years old to when he was 22, there is nothing. Kurt never participated in a cinema verite documentary. But as my editor said: ‘Don’t you understand? Not having as much footage is a blessing in disguise because it forces us to be more creative.‘ So we ended up creating an experience rather than throwing in videos of Kurt doing this or that. It’s not an academic history lesson but an encounter with Kurt.»

Morgen who has done documentaries on the Rolling Stones and Robert Evans believes there is no point in simply doing a biography: «You cannot achieve the same impact if you just film a book. You get so much closer to Kurt in a cinematic way than you would if you just read his biography. Or watch his interviews. He was a terrible interview, so self conscious and uncomfortable that he made me uncomfortable watching him. Yet he could express himself so beautifully through his music and his art. There was an honesty in his art that resonates strongly with people.»

And so the quest became to humanize a very insecure man and take him off the pedestal. For his daughter to see the real person: «Frances was at my office a couple of months ago where I showed her an early cut, and then I walked her out, we were hugging and she whispered in my ear ‘thank you, you made the film I wanted to see’»

And that is possibly the only critique that counts.


noir“Unholy Matrimony” was the theme of the 25 films presented at this year’s Film Noir Festival in San Francisco. Many fans in the sold-out Castro Theater were  dressed in ’40’s clothes and, said Jason Wiener, a radiology engineer from San Jose, who has been a regular since the beginning of the Festival 13 years ago:  “The spirit is unique and every year more and more fans style themselves in vintage costumes, so I wouldn’t want to miss the festival.”

Opening night presented a double feature: the restored version of Woman on the Run starring Ann Sheridan and Born to be Bad with Oscar winner Joan Fontaine as the perfect baddy.  Woman on the Run, which was celebrating a re-premiere at the Film Noir Festival, has an extraordinary story behind it. Premiered in 2003 at Noir City, the only existing copy of the 35 mm film was stored at Universal Studios´s vault awaiting its transfer to UCLA Film and Television Archives. The print never arrived  but was destroyed in a 2008 fire along with thousands of other valuable reels. But Film Noir chief Eddie Mueller eventually found a duplicate negative along with a separate sound track at the British Film Archive. They were lent to the UCLA archive and restored thanks to a grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The second gem of the opening night,  Born to be Bad, actually has two endings and both endings were shown for the first time to an American audience. At the time of its release, the longer version was said to be “morally unfit for American audiences” although it is an intriguing treat noir depicting “unholy matrimony.”.

The festival also paid tribute to film locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles—- Nob Hill, Bunker Hill, Union Square, Santa Monica Pier and Pier 43. Sadly, most of the original locations are gone, have been developed and today house commercial properties such as an Apple store, Westfield shopping mall, Old Navy and even a parking lot.

Barbara Gasser



The date for the 73rd annual Golden Globe Awards has been announced as Sunday, January 10 2016. golden globe

The ceremony will take place at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and will be telecast live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. PT coast-to-coast.

“We look forward to follow this year’s successful Golden Globe Awards by celebrating what looks like another exceptional year in both film and television” said Theo Kingma, president of the HFPA.

The Golden Globe Awards are viewed in more than 160 countries worldwide and are among the few awards shows to include both motion picture and television achievements.


nicole at sundance

Nicole at Sundance

A dozen HFPA members braved the snow and ice of Park City to watch movies, talk to filmmakers and meet the stars at the Sundance Film Festival.

This year 123 feature films were screened out of 4,105 that applied and among those watched by members were Strangerland which stars Nicole Kidman; Stockholm, Pennsylvania, starring Cynthia Nixon and Jason Isaacs; True Story with James Franco and the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?

Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, Ryan Reynolds and Peter Lord, who produced the animated Shaun the Sheep, all stopped by to talk with members about their movies and the HFPA joined with the Hollywood Reporter to host a Next Generation party at Park City Live on Main Street

Guests included Hailee Steinfeld, Emile Hirsch, Brie Larson, Tye Sheridan, Thomas Mann, Avan Jogia, Bel Powley, Gail Bean, Olivia Cooke, RJ Mitte and Tony Revolori,

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