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Star Wars’ News: Filmmaker Victoria Mahoney Will Be First African-American Woman to Direct for Franchise

While the ever-expanding movie franchise has been taken to task plenty of times for its repeated hiring of exactly one type of filmmaker — white males, including recent turns from Ron Howard and Rian Johnson — “The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams is bringing someone brand new into the fold: filmmaker Victoria Mahoney. The filmmaker and producer (and, fun fact, bit actor in “Legally Blonde”) will serve as the second unit director on Abrams’ upcoming untitled “Episode IX,” marking the first time an African-American woman has served in any directing capacity on a “Star Wars” film.  Mahoney will step into a role that requires a close attention to detail, mostly dedicated to shooting essential pieces like establishing shots, stunts, inserts, and cutaways. Mahoney is herself already an established filmmaker who has spent the past few years working inside the television space, including stints on DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar,” plus “Gypsy,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and more. But she’s no stranger to filmmaking, and Mahoney’s debut feature — “Yelling at the Sky,” which was loosely based on her own life — premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011.

“Star Wars: Episode IX” is currently slated to open on December 20, 2019.


Academy Board Member Bill Mechanic Quit With a Scorched-Earth Letter, and Hollywood’s Paying Attention – As Hollywood navigates its own future, the Academy struggles to keep up.

If you want to understand the myriad problems facing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, just ask former board member Bill Mechanic. In a blistering resignation letter addressed to Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president John Bailey, the producer, and former studio head layz it bare: Oscars are long and boring. The Academy Museum is a mess. Academy leadership is consumed by politics.

However, this scorched-earth missive isn’t telling tales out of school. In speaking truth to power, his bullet points crystallize what everyone already suspected: The Academy is struggling to take on the challenges of the 21st century. And the Academy’s new museum in Los Angeles is wildly over budget and blowing construction deadlines.

However, not everyone thinks Mechanic is on the right track. Journalist and film historian Mark Harris took to Twitter Tuesday night to declare good riddance. “Bill Mechanic’s angry letter resigning from the AMPAS Board of Governors is a really bad collection of gripes, including a slap at the last ten years of Best Picture winners that makes me quite glad he’s out.

While Mechanic’s exit stands alone in its drama, five-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and outgoing AMPAS president and marketing executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs chose not to run for the board again. One thing’s for sure: President John Bailey has important challenges to overcome. Show business, especially movies, frequently sits at the frontier of social change.  We should not mistake the troubles in the cinema business as isolated. It is a key indicator of where we are headed as a culture.  Where we are headed is clearly turbulent, but like the transformation of cinema business and aesthetics in the 1950s and 1960s, cinema culture dynamics are pointing to where society is headed. It appears, in the short-term, it is a stormy forecast for the dominant paradigm, but indicators are pointing at sunnier days ahead for those traditionally buffeted  by winds of unfair opportunity. However, the stormy weather, which can be quite disruptive, will pass and after awesome dynamics of this nature forces passes and just over the horizon, the long-term forecast is for a generally better climate conditions for all, at which time a more moderate configuration of stormy and sunny days will resume.



From Executive Producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Oh Lucy! Stars John Hartnett and Shinobu Terajima as a single 55-year-old woman in Tokyo who is given a blonde wig and a new identity by her young, unconventional English teacher. The experiment awakens hidden desires, but when her instructor suddenly quits and disappears, she enlists the help of her sister and the pair fly halfway across the world to the outskirts of Southern California to find him.

From Israel, Foxtrot is a drama about a troubled family who must face the facts when something goes terribly wrong at their son’s desolate military post. The film was the Israeli submission for consideration in this year’s Academy Award, and said it is “A formally gorgeous piece of work, the kind of film that exudes confidence in structure and tone, and it contains some of the most striking, memorable imagery of the year.”


“And Now For Something Completely Different”, our series celebrating the films of Monty Python, continues tonight at 9:30 PM with Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Included in the film are a series of live performed sketches and songs parodies which include “The Last Supper,” “Silly Olympics,” “Bishop on the Landing,” “The Lumberjack Song” and “Four Yorkshiremen.” The Meaning of Life will conclude the series next week Thursday, April 26 at the same time.

The Battleship Island will conclude the Korean Cinema Now film series this Saturday, April 21, at 1:00 PM, a historical drama taking place during the Japanese colonial era, when roughly 400 Korean people were forced onto Battleship Island (“Hashima Island”) to mine for coal. As always, this screening is free and open to the public!

And Rise of the Planet of the Apes will continue the Science on Screen series next Wednesday, April 25 at 7:30 PM and feature a live Q&A afterward with an expert in the subject of animal testing. This film stars James Franco as a scientist in San Francisco experimenting with a drug that he hopes will cure his father’s Alzheimer’s disease. After his work is deemed a failure, he becomes the guardian of Caesar, an infant chimp who was exposed in-utero to the drug. But when Caesar displays unusual intelligence and his abilities grow, he comes to represent a threat to man’s dominion over Earth.



At the Michigan:  Finding Your Feet features a very funny British cast that includes Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) Imelda Stauton (Harry Potter), and Celia Imrie (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). On the eve of retirement, a middle class, judgmental snob discovers her husband has been having an affair with her best friend and is forced into exile with her bohemian sister who lives on an impoverished inner-city council estate

The Leisure Seeker stars Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren as a couple who take one last road trip from Boston to the Florida Keys before his Alzheimer’s and her cancer can catch up with them. Based on the novel of the same name by local author Michael Zadoorian.

And The Death of Stalinthe latest political comedic satire from Armando Iannucci, also continues, which depicts the chaos that fell on the Soviet regime after the death of their leader.

At the State Theatre: Wes Anderson’s latest stop-motion animated film, Isle of Dogs continues! When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. With a voice cast featuring Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeff Goldblum.

And Black Panther also continues for another week, Marvel’s latest and most successful comic book adaptation to date.



Everyone’s favorite law enforcement team is back by popular demand with the long anticipated follow up to the cult comedy classic Super Troopers. In Super Troopers 2, when an international border dispute arises between the U.S. and Canada, the Super Troopers- Mac, Thorny, Foster, Rabbit and Farva, are called in to set up a new Highway Patrol station in the disputed area.

In I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer stars as a woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis. But after she suffers a fall in her exercise class, she wakes believing she is suddenly the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. With this newfound confidence, she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?

And starring Paula Patton and Omar Epps, Traffik follows a group of friends who are terrorized by a gang of bikers in a remote countryside home.

That’s all for this week. See you at the movies!

From Russell B. Collins


Exc. Dir., State & Michigan Theaters – Ann Arbor

Founding Director, Art House Convergence – Utah

Festival Founder, Cinetopia Festival – Detroit/A2