Dame Helen Mirren says streaming is ‘devastating’ for cinema

Dame Helen Mirren has said the rise of watching films on streaming services at home is “devastating” for people who want to make films for the big screen.

“It’s devastating for people like my husband, film directors, because they want their movies to be watched in a cinema with a group of people,” the actress told Total Film magazine.

Dame Helen, 72, is married to Taylor Hackford, director of 2004 biopic Ray.

She said the “communal” experience of cinema is in danger of dying out.

“An audience, a movie, and you’re all in it together,” she said. “You’re frightened, you laugh, you cry all together. So it’s a communal thing. And that’s beginning to disappear.”

The Oscar winner’s comments continue a debate about services like Netflix, which has bought films like Annihilation and Mudbound for its own subscribers.

Its business model generally bypasses cinemas – a fact that has unsettled many in the film industry.

Netflix films have been banned from this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which has introduced a rule saying all films in competition must have a cinema release.

Streaming services may be able to offer fans advantages in terms of price, selection and home comforts – but the attraction of the cinema doesn’t seem to be waning.

Last year, UK cinemagoers spent a record £1.38bn on tickets, up 6.1% on the previous year.

Cinemas v streaming – which is best?

We put Dame Helen’s comments to our Facebook group. Here’s a sample of what people said:

  • “I love the cinema experience but it’s so expensive that I only go to see a movie I’ve been waiting ages for (next trip is Avengers: Infinity War!). With Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions there are so many movies I can watch at home in the comfort of my living room and movies tend to come out faster for streaming than they used to on DVD.” Rosie Smith
  • “I love seeing great films on huge screens in the dark in comfy seats and with treats to eat. However, my husband will no longer go any more because of the cost and the fact he can now download for free so feels there’s no need nor justification to go.” Claire Stokes
  • “I love going to the cinema, as nothing compares to being completely enveloped in that room with that sound and vision! Yes the price has risen a lot but where hasn’t it these days? If you’re watchful you can get two for the price of one or become a member for reduced prices. Compared to the cost of a meal out or the price of a few drinks, it’s much less expensive.” Louise Prior
  • “The cinema has become so expensive, so I’ll only go a few times a year. Love the experience, but will only go for films I am dying to see and have been waiting to come out. Otherwise I feel these films do come to Sky or online pretty quickly, so I’m happy to wait.” Eve St Claire
  • “I love the cinema and my hubby and I would like to make it a weekly treat. However the cost means we wait until a film we desperately want to see comes out rather than seeing less exciting films. With travel and ticket price a cinema trip has become a luxury and not a regular outing.” Bbev Hall Palfreyman
  • “I still go regularly. I like being at the cinema but also like having a closer look at the production, maybe because I also enjoy the theatre. Film is definitely a big screen medium and it’s a shame to see the works ignored at the cinema. Lots of times I have seen only three or four people at a screening for something that was really good and that a lot of effort had gone into.” Alex Pinfold

    Join the conversation on our Facebook group. It’s a place to chat about everything we’re watching at the moment, as well as discuss the big issues in the entertainment world.

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Hotel auditions should be banned, acting union says

Acting auditions should no longer take place in hotel rooms or homes, the leading US actors’ union has said.

Sag-Aftra, which organises the Screen Actors Guild Awards, has called for an end to the practice “to help protect members from potential harassment”.

Such auditions have “allowed predators to exploit performers behind closed doors”, Sag’s Gabrielle Carteris said.

The announcement comes in the wake of a slew of sexual harassment allegations against high-profile Hollywood figures.

Disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein has been accused of harassing and abusing dozens of young actresses, models and employees.

Many of the alleged incidents are said to have taken place in hotel rooms. Weinstein has denied all allegations of “non-consensual sexual conduct”.

Sag-Aftra’s new Guideline No 1 forms part of a “Four Pillars of Change initiative” to tackle harassment in the workplace.

UK actors’ union Equity released its own report into sexual harassment last month.

Sag-Aftra’s announcement came on the day that two of Weinstein’s accusers appeared at the Women in the World summit in New York.

Actress Asia Argento and model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez spoke about the backlash they have faced since coming forward with their allegations against the movie producer.

“For speaking truth to power, I have been called a whore, a liar, a traitor and an opportunist,” wrote Argento on the event’s website.

“The one thing I will not be though, the one thing none us will be, is silenced.”

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Love, Simon: The teen film helping people come out

“It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it. It’s beyond overwhelming.”

It’s no surprise author Becky Albertalli feels this way – the book she wrote as Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda has been made into the cultural phenomenon that is Love, Simon.

Not only has it been delighting audiences, with stars like Neil Patrick Harris and Kristen Bell buying out cinemas to help people to see it, but it’s been hailed as groundbreaking.

The reason why? It’s the first mainstream teenage film, backed by a major studio, to feature a gay lead.

Nick Robinson stars as Simon Spier, a US high school student who is keeping his sexuality secret from his family and close friends – until someone threatens to out him.

Another said: “When Simon’s mother tells him he can exhale now [it] turned me back into a child that needed to hear his mother say it was gonna be okay.”

Hayley wrote: “Queer kid me needed this movie, 21-year-old me needed it more. It’s hard to express how this kind of representation feels.”

Skip Twitter post by @spacekidreilly

I just saw Love Simon and I’m in awe. It’s an amazing movie. It’s exactly what we need right now and my mom and i cried pretty much the whole second half! So happy i have the support system I have, so happy a movie like this exists , love who you are. Happy to be bi. #ThxSimon

— looney lovegood (@spacekidreilly) March 31, 2018

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One fan said they are “so happy a movie like this exists”, while another wrote: “Hearing a cinema full of people clapping when a non-hetero couple kissed made me feel so accepted.”

Becky used to work as a clinical psychologist, specialising in working with teenagers. While she saw a lot of people from the LGBT community, she stresses that none of Love, Simon was based on any of her patients’ experiences.

“That would be so unethical,” she says. “Everything about my former career is off limits.

“But because of my background, I got to a place where I had a pretty thorough understanding of what some of the issues some of the people in that community were dealing with. For personal and professional reasons, that community is important to me.

“One of the ways I try to explain my purpose for writing the book is that it’s like a love letter to them. The stuff that so many of them have to go through… I’m so in awe of those teens – they’re just the coolest, most awesome people.”

Love, Simon is on general release


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Milos Forman: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus director dies

Film lovers are mourning director Milos Forman, who won Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus.

The Czech-born film-maker, who was 86, was one of a small number of foreign directors to enjoy lasting commercial and critical success in Hollywood.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starred Jack Nicholson and won five Oscars in 1976, while 1984’s Amadeus won eight.

Director Edgar Wright was among those paying tribute, saying he “documented the rebel heart and human spirit”.

Skip Twitter post by @edgarwright

Very sad to hear that the great director Miloš Forman has passed away. He had a tremendous filmography that documented the rebel heart and human spirit. I have seen 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' enough times to be able to silently mouth along with the movie. RIP. pic.twitter.com/4QwOHL7tS4

— edgarwright (@edgarwright) April 14, 2018

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He was “a great director” with “a tremendous filmography”, Wright wrote on Twitter.

Skip Twitter post by @YesitsAlistair

Milos Forman won the Oscar for Best Director twice, and yet he was still one of the most under appreciated filmmakers of the 20th century. RIP Milos, and thanks for the films that will live on for generations to come.

— Alistair Ryder (@YesitsAlistair) April 14, 2018

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Skip Twitter post by @MarkHarrisNYC

Very sad to see that the great Miloš Forman has died at 86. A brilliant director who made only about a dozen feature films, every one of which is worth revisiting. Hair, Amadeus, Cuckoo's Nest–an indelible legacy.

— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) April 14, 2018

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Forman was born in Czechoslovakia in 1932 and became an orphan when both his parents were killed in Nazi death camps during World War II.

He made his name as a leading figure in Czech new wave cinema in the 1960s, but moved to the US when Russian troops invaded in 1968.

His first feature in the US, 1971’s Taking Off, was a critical if not commercial success. But the follow-up, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, firmly established him in Hollywood.

It was one of the biggest box office hits of 1975, taking more than $100m, and became only the second film in history to win Oscars for best picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay.

The film starred Nicholson as a man battling the system in a psychiatric establishment and was based on Ken Kesey’s novel.

“To me it was not just literature but real life, the life I lived in Czechoslovakia from my birth in 1932 until 1968,” Forman once said.

“The Communist Party was my Nurse Ratched, telling me what I could and could not do.”

The director followed that with Hair and 1981’s Ragtime before Amadeus, a look at the life of 18th Century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart through the eyes of his rival Antonio Salieri. Its Oscars included best picture and best director.

After 1989’s Valmont, he made The People vs Larry Flynt, with Woody Harrelson cast as the porn publisher.

Three years later, Forman cast Jim Carrey to star in Man On The Moon, the biopic of comedian Andy Kaufman.

When Forman was honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the Directors’ Guild of America in 2012, the guild’s president Taylor Hackford said he “finds the universality of the human experience in every story”.

Forman was married to actresses Jana Brejchova and Vera Kresadlova, having twin boys with the latter.

In 1999, he married screenwriter Martina Zborilova, with whom he also had twin sons, Andrew and James – named after Andy Kaufman and Jim Carrey.

He died on Friday in the US after a short illness, Martina told Czech news agency CTK.

“His departure was calm and he was surrounded the whole time by his family and his closest friends,” she said.

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Why China has fallen in love with a baby radish monster

Huba, cat-sized, resembling a radish with four arms and pointy ears, is the star of China’s biggest local film to date.

The green-haired creature is the main character of Monster Hunt, which has swept the box office since it opened on 16 June.

The plot is, well, unconventional and yet it has collected more than 1.317bn yuan ($212m, £137m) to date. The BBC’s Tessa Wong explains why.

Surreal slapstick

Monster Hunt tells the story of hapless villager Tianyin who gets impregnated with Huba by a monster queen.

Tianyin becomes the target of monster-hating humans as well as monster revolutionaries bent on capturing Huba, who is the heir to the monster kingdom.

Though it sounds bewildering – The Hollywood Reporter called it “a confused and confusing fantasy adventure” – the film has become a huge hit, in part thanks to its familiar appeal to Chinese audiences.

Its slapstick humour – one gag involves Tianyin breastfeeding Huba – is typical of many Chinese comedies, and is best exemplified by the Hong Kong mo lei tau (Cantonese for nonsensical) films of the 1990s.

Two veterans from that genre, Sandra Ng and Eric Tsang, play bit parts in Monster Hunt.

Mo lei tau comedy was a style popularised by Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow, and in fact Monster Hunt bears some similarities to one of his biggest hits, CJ7, which previously held the China box office record.

The 2008 film starred Chow as a construction worker who discovers a green alien.

Both films feature a fantasy-comedy theme, a bumbling main character who has to protect a cute monster, and a blend of live-action and computer-generated imagery.

Kung Fu fighting

With its elaborate costumes and sets, fight sequences, and fantasy setting which resembles ancient China, Monster Hunt has the look and feel of a wuxia (martial arts hero) film.

Wuxia is a hugely popular and classic genre in Chinese literature, film and opera, and features the swashbuckling adventures of a young male protagonist as he embarks on an epic journey.

The twist, in Monster Hunt, is that Tianyin is not quite the hero as he goes on the run.

Instead he is protected by female warrior Xiaonan, who is a trained monster hunter and agrees to protect Tianyin if she gets to later sell Huba for a profit.

Foreign restrictions

One reason why the film may have done so well is that China severely restricts the release of foreign films to just 34 titles a year so that local titles have a better shot at scoring at the box office.

Those that do get approved for release often get delayed opening dates so that local films can get maximum exposure – a restriction especially apparent in the summer.

In Monster Hunt’s case, there was only one foreign film that was allowed to be released in the same week – Shaun the Sheep Movie – reported Variety.

China is not likely to see another foreign film opening until the end of July, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Controversial ending

Fans have been lapping it up with the film generating buzz online – though some have taken issue with its denouement (warning: spoilers ahead).

After several trials and tribulations, Huba parts ways with Tianyin and Xiaonan and returns to the monster world.

The ending has sparked controversy on social network Weibo, with many calling for a happier ending.

A post by Weibo user Healer_ChenXuelian commenting on that scene has since gone viral and been shared more than 9,000 times. “The ending where Huba was abandoned really made me feel anguished,” she wrote.

Her post attracted hundreds of replies, many of them with crying emojis. “That last scene when Huba… finds that it’s all alone is just too cruel,” said one user.

The Greatest Showman soundtrack equals Adele’s UK chart run

The Greatest Showman soundtrack is number one in the UK for the 11th week in a row – more than any other album in modern chart history except Adele’s 21.

The soundtrack hasn’t loosened its grip on the top spot since January, and has seen off competition from the likes of Craig David and Camila Cabello.

It has sold 465,000 copies – more than 40% of which have been on CD and vinyl, the Official Charts Company said.

The success comes despite lukewarm reviews for the movie itself.

The Telegraph declared it “completely and utterly bibbly bibbly quack-quack insane”, while the Evening Standard called it “a load of big top baloney”.

But the film, which stars Hugh Jackman as circus entrepreneur PT Barnum, defied the critics to become a major box office success. In the UK, it has sold £37.5m worth of tickets, second only to Black Panther in 2018.

Many fans are paying to see the film multiple times, with a knock-on effect on the success of the soundtrack, which has also spawned the top 40 hits This Is Me and Rewrite The Stars.

When it first reached number one, on its third week of release, songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul said they were “honoured and thrilled” by its reception in the UK.

  • How The Greatest Showman became a film phenomenon

    “The universal themes of inclusion and acceptance are what inspired every song on the soundtrack, and we couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved,” they told the Official Charts Company.

    It now has the the joint-longest consecutive run at the top spot in the past 30 years, along with Adele’s 21 in 2011.

    Other albums that have enjoyed long consecutive spells at the summit include Madonna’s Immaculate Collection (nine weeks in 1990), the Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits (nine weeks in 1991), The Beatles’ greatest hits collection 1 (nine weeks in 2000), and Ed Sheeran’s Divide (nine weeks in 2017).

    The overall record for the longest ever spell at number one is held by the South Pacific soundtrack, which was number one for a mammoth 70 weeks in a row from 1958-1960.

    Meanwhile, on this week’s singles chart, Drake also sustains a long run at the summit – with God’s Plan notching up its ninth week in pole position.

    That means Rudimental’s These Days has to settle for a seventh week at number two. It is now one of only three singles to spend so long in second place without reaching number one.

    The others are I Swear by All-4-One in 1994, and Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera in 2011.

    Elsewhere in this week’s top five, George Ezra’s Paradise climbs seven places to number five, earning his third top 10 hit.

    The star’s second album, Staying At Tamara’s, will be The Greatest Showman’s biggest competition in the albums chart next week.

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Drew Barrymore declares love for Jake Gyllenhaal

She described him as her “least talented” co-star earlier this week – but now Drew Barrymore wants the world to know she loves Jake Gyllenhaal.

The actress was a guest on James Corden’s Late Late Show when he made her choose between three actors.

She ranked Gyllenhaal third in a segment that requires stars to answer a question – or eat something disgusting.

Now, she has tried to make it up to him by carrying a placard on a red carpet saying: “I heart Jake Gyllenhaal.”

She carried the apparently home-made sign at the premiere of season two of Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet in Hollywood on Thursday.

That’s despite Corden predicting, incorrectly, before posing the question: “You’re never going to answer this.”

Referring to Gyllenhaal, she said: “I don’t even care if he hates me,” explaining she would be sick if she had to eat the food. “I literally am doing this because I won’t make it.”

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