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Pete Davidson Makes ‘SNL’ Appearance After Posting Potential Suicide Message 

Pete Davidson has had a rough fall that cumulated in a concerning Saturday, but the comedian still made a limited appearance on “Saturday Night Live” this evening.

Early Saturday, the “SNL” cast member posted what appeared to be a suicide note on his Instagram account. The post was an image of a note, stating: “i really don’t want to be on this earth anymore. i’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last. all i’ve ever tried to do was help people. just remember i told you so.”

Moments prior to posting the note, Davidson had gotten involved in a social media conversation between his ex-fiance Ariana Grande and Kanye West (which began with a joke tweet from Grande about West and Drake’s current feud). Davidson posted his support of West and the rapper’s candidness about mental illness, as Davidson himself has been outspoken about mental health awareness and his own struggles with borderline personality disorder, even regularly talking about it on “SNL’s” Weekend Update. Davidson has also been open about the amount of online bullying he’s gotten since he began his relationship with Grande, and how it only got worse after the break-up.

After Davidson put up the post, a number of his celebrity friends, including Jon Cryer, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Machine Gun Kelly, voiced their concern for him and his current state. By noon, the NYPD had accounted for his whereabouts — he was at 30 Rock, rehearsing for “SNL” — and Davidson eventually completely deleted his Instagram.

During tonight’s Matt Damon-hosted “SNL,” the question was one of whether Davidson would be heavily featured or at all. While he appeared in a pre-taped sketch for Oscar host auditions (an impressions sketch, where he played Rami Malek), Davidson wasn’t in any live sketches to end 2018.

But Pete Davidson did make one live appearance on the episode, as he introduced Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson for their second musical performance.

‘Cold War’ Is the Big Winner at the European Film Awards, Picking Up Oscar Momentum 

Cold War” was the big winner at the European Film Awards, picking up the prizes for Best European Film, Actress (Joanna Kulig), Director, and Screenwriter (both Paweł Pawlikowski). Best actor went to Marcello Fonte of “Dogman,” while Armando Iannucci’s “The Death of Stalin” was named Best European Comedy.

“Cold War” also led all films with five nominations, continuing a strong year for the black-and-white drama — Pawlikowski, whose “Ida” won the Foreign-Language Oscar, also took home Best Director laurels from Cannes.

Ali Abbasi’s “Border” and Alice Rohrwacher’s “Happy as Lazzaro” left the ceremony empty-handed despite picking up four nominations apiece.

The full list of winners:

Best European Film

“Border,” Ali Abbasi
“Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski
“Dogman,” Matteo Garrone
“Girl,” Lukas Dhont
“Happy as Lazzaro,” Alice Rorhwacher

European Comedy

“C’est La Vie,” Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
“Diamantino,” Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
“The Death of Stalin,” Armando Iannucci

European Director

Ali Abbasi, “Border”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Matteo Garrone, “Dogman”
Samuel Maoz, “Foxtrot”
Alice Rorhwacher, “Happy as Lazzaro”

European Actress

Eva Melander, “Border”
Joanna Kulig, “Cold War”
Marie Baumer, “3 Days in Quiberon”
Barbara Lennie, “Petra”
Alba Rorhwacher, “Happy as Lazzaro”
Halldora Geirhardsdottir, “Woman at War”

European Actor

Sverrir Gudnason, “Borg/McEnroe”
Tomasz Kot, “Cold War”
Marcello Fonte, “Dogman” 
Victor Polster, “Girl”
Jakob Cedergren, “The Guilty”
Rupert Everett, “The Happy Prince”

European Screenwriter

Ali Abbasi, Isabelle Eklof & John Ajvide Lindqvist, “Border”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Matteo Garrone, Ugo Chiti, Massimo Gaudioso, “Dogman”
Alice Rorhwacher, “Happy as Lazzaro”
Gustav Moller & Emil Nygaard Albertsen, “The Guilty”

European Discovery — Prix FIPRESCI

“Girl”
“One Day”
“Scary Mother”
“The Guilty”
“Those Who Are Fine”
“Touch Me Not”

European Documentary

“A Woman Captured”
“Bergman — A Year in a Life”
“Of Fathers and Sons”
“The Distant Barking of Dogs”
“The Silence of Others”

European Animated Feature

“Another Day of Life”
“Early Man”
“The Breadwinner”
“White Fang”

This year’s ceremony, the 31st, took place in Seville, Spain.

Disney Channel Fires ‘Andi Mack’ Actor Arrested for Allegedly Plotting Sex With Minor 

Disney Channel has fired Stoney Westmoreland after the “Andi Mack” actor was arrested in Utah for allegedly attempting to arrange sex with a 13-year-old yesterday. Westmoreland had played Ham Mack, the main character’s grandfather, in 38 episodes since the show’s premiere in 2017. Peyton Elizabeth Lee, who stars as the title character on “Andi Mack,” is 14.

According to BuzzFeed news, Westmoreland was using a dating app to speak with someone he believed to be 13 but was actually an undercover police officer. He’s being held on $30,000 bail.

“Stoney Westmoreland, an actor working on the series ‘Andi Mack,’ was arrested in Salt Lake City today,” said a Disney Channel spokesperson in a statement. “Given the nature of the charges and our responsibility for the welfare of employed minors, we have released him from his recurring role and he will not be returning to work on the series which wraps production on its third season next week.”

A journeyman performer, Westmoreland has also made appearances in “Better Call Saul,” “Scandal,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Weeds,” “Justified,” “Breaking Bad,” “CSI: Miami,” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” His most recent silver-screen appearance was in 2016’s “War Dogs.”

The actor, who was taken into custody in Salt Lake City, is being charged with four counts of dealing in materials harmful to a minor and one count of enticing a minor. According to ABC 4, the actor “asked the person to engage in sex acts including oral sex” and “also allegedly sent the person four pornographic photos and asked for nude photos in return.”

Vox Lux’: Stream Scott Walker and Sia’s One-of-a-Kind Soundtrack 

Vox Lux” isn’t a musical, but it certainly is musical. Brady Corbet’s pop-star drama stars Natalie Portman as a singer who’s been compared to everyone from Lady Gaga to Kanye West, though the actual score comes courtesy of Scott Walker (who also worked on Corbet’s “The Childhood of a Leader”) with original songs by Sia. Like the film itself, their collaboration is a memorable mix of catchy beats and dissonant tones — and can now be streamed on Spotify. Listen below.

The film begins with a Columbine-esque school shooting set in 1999, which Celeste (played by Raffey Cassidy as a child and Portman as an adult) survives despite suffering life-threatening injuries. She writes a song about her experience, launching an unexpected career that makes her a global superstar — so much so, in fact, that terrorists eventually carry out a shooting of their own while donning masks made famous by one of her music videos.

In my Venice Film Festival review, I wrote that “’Vox Lux’ doesn’t find any grand truths in its exploration of the nexus between pop superstardom and terrorism — how the one might inspire the other, how violence on a grand scale might be another way to get one’s name in lights — but that feels less like a failing and more like a reflection of its heroine’s fractured state of mind.”

“Vox Lux” arrived in theaters on December 7 courtesy of Neon. It made $155,714 in six theaters during its opening weekend and will expand wider in the weeks to come.

Terry Crews Is Hosting a Live, 24-Hour Christmas Painting Session — Watch 

Anyone who misses Bob Ross and loves Terry Crews will be pleased to learn that the “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star is holding a live, 24-hour painting session. NBC is airing “A Very Terry Christmas: Cozy 24-Hour Painting Sesh with Terry Crews” on YouTube at this very moment, and although some trickery is involved and the actor isn’t actually taking brush to canvas for a full day, the illusion is convincing enough.

A visit to NBC’s website reveals what we’re watching is in fact a 42-minute video played on a loop. Crews certainly knows what he’s doing, not only as a painter — his color mixing is especially impressive — but as a low-key host. He takes a cue from Ross in saying things like, “Ooh, don’t you just love a blue sky? A pretty, Christmas-y blue sky.”

Over the last year, the actor has become an unexpected part of the #MeToo movement by alleging that former talent agent Adam Venit groped him at a 2016 party. Following Venit’s departure from William Morris Endeavor, Crews says he’s accepted his apology — and shared it online.

“The intent of this letter is to start a dialogue in service of taking responsibility for the emotional challenge that this experience has caused you and your family,” Venit’s letter begins. “I have dedicated myself to spiritual self-discovery in an effort to be the best person I can be for the rest of my life, and hopefully make difference to me, my family and everyone I know.”

In addition to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Crews most recently appeared in this year’s “Sorry to Bother You” and “Deadpool 2.” Watch his painting sesh:

How ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Paid Tribute to Stan Lee 

[Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”]

The passing of Stan Lee last month also meant the end of the comic-book icon’s famous cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is the first movie based on one of Lee’s creations to be released since his death at the age of 95, and though not technically part of the MCU, it does indeed feature a scene with him.

In it, Lee plays the owner of a costume shop who sells Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) his first Spider-Man suit. The burgeoning superhero isn’t sure it will fit, but Lee’s character winks before assuring him, “It always fits eventually” and pointing at a no-refunds sign.

“We always wanted to honor his legacy and Steve Ditko’s legacy as the godparents of this character,” “Spider-Verse” producer Chris Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “The movie itself was supposed to feel like an extension of what they were doing in the ’60s, when they made an ordinary nerdy teenager from a lower-middle-class family in Queens a superhero, who wasn’t a god or an alien or a billionaire. That felt very welcoming and inclusive, and that message resonated with us as kids, like, ‘It could be me.’ And we were just trying to pass that on.”

“In the beginning, we wanted to give him a real place in the movie and not just a moment — something that was exciting and could honor his legacy and also be funny at the same time,” said Miller. “Obviously it took on a whole added poignancy after his passing, but the spirit of it remains exactly the same.”

The next MCU movie scheduled for release is “Captain Marvel,” which arrives in theaters next March. Filming concluded in July, months before Lee’s death, making at least one more cameo likely.

Jennifer Lawrence Slams Weinstein’s ‘Predatory Tactics’ in Response to Lewd Claim 

In a new lawsuit brought against Harvey Weinstein yesterday, a woman identified only as Jane Doe accuses the disgraced former mogul of sexually assaulting her and threatening to damage her career if she refused. The suit further alleges that, during a 2013 meeting, Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on the woman; as she began to cry, he asked, “Do you even want to be an actress?” before adding, “I slept with Jennifer Lawrence and look where she is; she has just won an Oscar.”

In response, Lawrence has rebuffed that claim and condemned Weinstein’s actions. “My heart breaks for all the women who were victimized by Harvey Weinstein,” the actress said in a statement. “I have never had anything but a professional relationship with him. This is yet another example of the predatory tactics and lies that he engaged in to lure countless women.” Lawrence won an Academy Award for her leading role in 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was produced by the Weinstein Company.

Weinstein’s latest accuser also alleges that he repeatedly masturbated in front of her at Waldorf Astoria Park City hotel during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. His attorneys have denied the accusations, as they have all other allegations of non-consensual sex that have emerged over the last year. Weinstein has since been fired from the Weinstein Company and expelled from both the Academy and the Producers Guild of America.

Variety has a copy of the lawsuit.

There Are Now More Shows Streaming Than There Are on Broadcast or Cable 

We’ve known for some time that we’re in the midst of Peak TV, but now FX has quantified that ongoing phenomenon. Its annual research report reveals that, for the first time ever, streaming shows now outnumber their traditional-TV counterparts. 495 scripted original programs premiered in 2018, 160 of which debuted on a streaming platform; there were 146 on broadcast television, 144 on basic cable, and 45 on pay cable.

That’s compared to 117 streaming shows last year, an increase that stands in sharp contrast to the declines seen by broadcast (153 in 2017) and basic cable (175). FX was kind enough to include a number of charts with its report, one of which shows that new streaming shows accounted for 32 percent of all debuting programs — an eight percent increase from last year.

This development was recently parodied in a “Saturday Night Live” skit presented as an ad for Netflix. “In 2019 we’ll have even more programming to choose from, because we’ve gone crazy,” announces a narrator who sounds a lot like Beck Bennett. “That’s right, we’re spending billions of dollars and making every show in the world. Our goal is the endless scroll: By the time you reach the bottom of our menu there’s new shows at the top, and thus the singularity will be achieved.”

It isn’t just Netflix — or even Hulu and Amazon — of course, as more and more companies are launching proprietary streaming services to catch up. Similarly, a number of networks have begun focusing less on scripted series in favor of reality programming in recent years, accounting for part of the disparity. As you contemplate the implications of all this, avail yourself of some graphs:

Lupita Nyong’o Is at the Height of Her Powers, Even Before John Woo’s Remake of ‘The Killer’ 

For Lupita Nyong’o, the years immediately following her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for “12 Years a Slave” were charged with concerns about her Hollywood viability. Her next two roles had her playing computer-generated alien Maz Kanata in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and voicing white wolf Raksha in “The Jungle Book” — as opposed to a live-action film that, as Vulture noted, “lets her live in her own black skin.”

The actress’ future became something of a battleground for pundits, with debates over the significance of her skin color, and whether or not she was being fetishized by the mainstream media. But for Nyong’o, this popular narrative wasn’t one that she lived.

“That initial year, everything was a first for me,” she said. “Red carpets were a first. Interviews, press junkets were a first. All of it. And I really wanted to absorb and take it in for what it was. Everything was special, to a point where I almost grew numb to the newness. But now, things are more familiar.”

Related: The Respectability Politics of Lupita Nyong’o

Nyong’o falls into the camp of actors who prefer not to read their own press; she focuses her attention on the 6.2 million fans who follow her Instagram. “It’s not an act, but I definitely curate my Instagram,” she said. “Like all social media, I think all of us are just sharing mainly our best lives. People aren’t seeing me when my spirits are dampened, or when I’m upset about something. These are realities that we all have to contend with, even if we don’t put them on public display.”

“12 Years a Slave”

Francois Duhamel

She does however, quite clearly, recall the public tumult that followed her 2014 Oscar win. Asked what her expectations for herself were, she said: “Yeah, that’s a whole book. But what I will say is this: I never thought my first film would lead me all the way to the Academy Awards,” further clarifying that the Oscars were mostly a mystery to her growing up in Kenya, and she didn’t understand their significance until she was pursuing her MFA at Yale Drama School. It was soon after she graduated that she landed the role of Patsey in “12 Years a Slave.”

“What I was hoping for, coming out of drama school, was just a job,” Nyong’o said. “I was hoping to make it as an actor without having to wait tables. If I could do that, then I was doing well, I thought. In school, they teach you how to prepare for failure. But they don’t teach you how to prepare for success. I think success is just as stressful as failure, and your body registers both the same.”

Nyong’o didn’t have an agent before booking “12 Years a Slave.” She found one, only to realize that she also needed a raft of professionals to handle her affairs. “Before I knew it, I needed a publicist, and then I needed a lawyer, then I needed a business manager,” she said. “All those things I had to figure out along the way.” She had to adhere to a strict budget while on the press tour: “I was counting my dollars. I didn’t have money to my name. I was like, ‘Ooh, can I get room service tonight? Or, actually, maybe I should instead walk across the street and pick up some groceries. I had to grow into this new kinosphere that I was given.”

Part of that was determining what she wanted next. Her first step was learning to tune out the new voices in her orbit. “I had to really take the time to figure out what I wanted next, because winning an Oscar is supposed to represent the pinnacle of one’s career, and for me, it was the first thing out of the gate,” Nyong’o said. “I really had to understand what I was in it for. Was it about sustaining that level of accolade, or something else?”

Among those she did listen to were her “12 Years” director Steve McQueen, who she described as a staunch ally. “There are no words to thank him for his mentorship, and I mean, he really did take me under his wing, and gave me endless advice,” Nyong’o said, up to and including her hair styles and nail polish, as well as who she worked with.

“He was a voice that I trusted,” she said, adding that co-stars Alfre Woodard and Sarah Paulson, and producer Brad Pitt, were also sources of guidance. “To me, at the time, they were all seasoned in the ways of the business, and so just hearing their perspective was very helpful. But I feel like I’m growing into it all, because things are more familiar now.”

She decided to dedicate the year after her Oscar win to recommitting to her craft. For her, roles as a computer-generated character in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and providing voice for an animated character in “Jungle Book” were very personal, even strategic. As she said, both projects allowed her to continue to work without being seen.

Lupita Nyong’o filming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

“That was very important to me, because I really wanted to, first of all, reinvestigate what it means to be an actor,” said the actress. “My role in ’12 Years’ was so much about the currency of my character’s body. And then, the publicity for the film began, and suddenly it was about the currency of my own body, in a different way. It was about fashion, and it was about redefinitions of beauty, or whatever people were saying. I just wanted a moment to myself, to be kind of invisible, and reclaim control of my body you could say, which both films offered.”

She also acknowledged that, at the time, the kind of roles she wanted to play hadn’t been written. The demographics of industry writers didn’t include many who looked like her, or even considered roles for someone who did. Knowing that, she became entrepreneurial. “Really, it was about getting involved with projects from the ground up, I learned,” Nyong’o said.

This included acquiring rights to celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel “Americanah” (which she began pursuing before “12 Years a Slave”) and attaching herself to star in the film adaptation of “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah’s autobiography, “Born a Crime.”

“Often, for women, the challenge is that there are not very many fully realized characters we’re choosing from,” she said. “I certainly didn’t have the pick of the litter, given where the industry was when I got in. It was about recognizing that fact, and then figuring out how I was going to play my role in it.”

She also had the luxury of time. In addition to her Oscar win, signing a contract to become the new face for high-end beauty brand Lancôme gave her a certain amount of freedom.

“I was so fortunate to have the luxury of choice, which so few actors have,” she said. “And I decided to exercise that, and actually be selective even at a time when everyone was saying, ‘It’s now or never, so seize the moment!’ I realized that I want to have longevity. I wasn’t going to do what was exciting for everyone else; I was going to do what pleased me, so I decided to take my time.”

In addition to “The Force Awakens” and “Jungle Book,” Nyong’o appeared in Disney’s biographical “Queen of Katwe” and rapper Jay-Z’s 2017 music video, “MaNyfaCedGod.” And then came “Black Panther.” It might have appeared to be the role that she (and her fans) had waited for — Lupita Nyong’o 2.0! — but the actress said, really, it was business as usual.

“I think, in this industry, there are often two narratives going on simultaneously around a person or a project,” she said. “There’s the narrative that the audience is consuming in the order in which things are announced, and then there’s the actual progression of things which they don’t know about. There were lots of projects that I was always in conversations for, but not everything is announced, and certainly not always in the order that they happen.”

Prior to being considered for the role of Nakia, the butt-kicking warrior and T’Challa’s strong-willed love interest in “Black Panther,” Nyong’o said she’d simply informed her reps that she was interested in an action project. “I wanted to be in a fantasy-adventure film, and I met with different heads of studios,” she said. “They would ask me, ‘What do you have an appetite for?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I have an appetite for action.’ I put my intentions out, and they manifest.”

That’s also what brought her to her next film, “Us,” directed by Jordan Peele. “I also wanted to do horror, so I put it out there, and then Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ came up, and the timing was just right. I wanted to do a comedy, and there was ‘Little Monsters,’ all the way from Australia. Look, I’m very fortunate that I get to choose. But I want to have a varied career. I want to always be jumping into new boxes. However, these were all projects that I signed up for before ‘Black Panther’ was out, so I can’t really say that it was because of ‘Black Panther’ that I got these other roles.”

Nyong’o’s slate also includes the mysterious Ava DuVernay project that began as a meme, with Rihanna attached. There’s also Simon Kinberg’s all-female international spy thriller “355,” in which she’s joined by fellow Oscar nominees/winners Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, and Marion Cotillard. And finally there’s Hong Kong master John Woo’s much-anticipated English-language remake of his bloody hitman masterpiece, “The Killer.” A film that originally starred Chow Yun-fat, Woo’s decision to flip both the gender and race of the lead, as well as his interest in her for the part, was quite a surprise.

“Listen, I did not see it coming, either,” she said. “I mean, I knew of John Woo, but I hadn’t seen ‘The Killer.’ So I received the script and read it without really looking at his work in great depth, which is typically how I approach these things. And I really liked the story, and his revised take on it.”

Nyong’o described Woo as a man with a “quiet compassion” and “a keen eye,” who watched her hands move as she spoke during their first meeting. (He also hadn’t seen “Black Panther” when he hired her for the film.) This will be Woo’s first film with a female protagonist, a fact that tickled the actress.

“For me, the director determines whether I take a project or not,” Nyong’o said. “It all stems from there. If the director has a vision and approach that I believe in, then everything else is secondary. Because, at the end of the day, it’s trusting in his or her overall vision. They determine the culture of the film, and the promise of the experience.”

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover UsageMandatory Credit: Photo by Marvel/Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (9360960bz)Ryan Coogler, Lupita Nyong'o

Ryan Coogler, Lupita Nyong’o on “Black Panther”

Marvel/Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Nyong’o is also a director; in 2009, before she entered drama school, she directed “In My Genes,” a documentary on albinism in Kenya. She plans to go behind the camera again at some point, but it won’t be for fiction. “I don’t care for that level of control,” she said. “You have to care about everybody, and I only want to care about one character at a time. But directing documentary is something that still appeals to me. I love what you discover when you just let people be. I love the drama of real life and trying to create a cinematic narrative around that.”

She paused to reflect, and then said, “Yeah, that’s something I would definitely like to get back to. But fiction, no thanks.”

Her interests were nurtured by what she described as an “unconventional” upbringing, with parents who were very supportive of her natural artistic abilities, unlike the typical experiences of children of African parents who choose their career paths, with the maths and sciences as preferred options.

“My parents were very supportive,” Nyong’o said. “My mom and dad went above and beyond to try to facilitate my interests. They put me in poetry competitions. They ferried me to and from rehearsals to various things I was interested in. They were really supportive. And, yeah, in that regard, I realize my upbringing was very unconventional as a child of Kenyan parents. I was very fortunate.”

At just 35, she’s mapped out what that future looks like. “I love what Sidney Poitier was able to do, in terms of how he was entering new frontiers all the time,” she said. “He’s definitely an actor whose career I truly admire.” She also named Rachel Weisz (“I love how surprising she can be”) and Cate Blanchett (“She’s a badass and you can’t put her in a box”) as actresses whose careers she’d love to emulate.

She’s also interested in TV; “Americanah” is seeking a home as a limited series, with her “Black Panther” co-star (and acclaimed playwright) Danai Gurira scripting, and Pitt’s Plan B producing. She also plans to return to the stage, although she said starring in Gurira’s “Eclipsed” on Broadway in 2016 was intense enough to leave her ambivalent.

“It took so much out of me, and I have such a deep respect for theater actors, especially those that are on shows that run for that long,” she said, noting that “Eclipsed” ran nightly shows for 15 weeks. “You do these long productions, and it’s a lot of work. Very taxing. It’s been two years, but I’m still recovering. Although I’m now starting to feel that urge again, especially whenever I go to the theater to catch a show; I feel that yearning to get on stage again.”

For all her success, Nyong’o acknowledges that the privileges she enjoys today could just as suddenly be taken away.

“Yes, it all could come to an end, and when that happens, I want to be okay with it,” she said. “I really don’t take it for granted, you know? There are enough examples around me of actors who are struggling, and so I like to approach life with childlike wonder, and I don’t ever want to lose that, because I know that I’m very fortunate.”

After a brief reflective pause, she said, “Yeah. Even the things that are arduous and not fun at all, I choose to be grateful for them.”

Cuarón Tells Lubezki How He Filmed ‘Roma’ — Even One Quiet Shot Needed 45 Camera Positions 

Alfonso Cuarón’s impressive black-and-white memoir of 1971 Mexico City, “Roma,” recognized as one of the year’s best by multiple critics groups, finally arrived on Netflix December 14. Last Sunday on a packed soundstage at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, the writer-director-cinematographer was grilled by his old film school buddy Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, who collaborated on six films with Cuarón, including “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” “Children of Men” and “Gravity,” the movie that won them both Oscars.

Three-time Oscar-winner Lubezki started to prep the film but when the “Roma” shooting schedule ballooned to over 108 shooting days, he was no longer able to commit to the schedule and Cuarón, who trained as a cinematographer, took on the task himself. Lubezki asked his long-time collaborator to explain the many rules he broke while making a film that could earn him his first cinematography nomination, among other things.

Here’s an edited version of the highlights.

Emmanuel Lubezki: Alfonsito, I have a lot of questions. After we finished “Gravity,” Alfonso whispered that he had an idea for another movie. Then he goes away and sends a script and we started to work on it. He is a little like a reptile. When he changes his skin, every time he finishes a movie, his next will be completely different from the previous one. This movie was very different and I was excited to work on it. He disappeared again, went to Cannes, and then said “I don’t want to do the movie.” Then he called me: “Would you come to Mexico?” And it’s what became “Roma.” What happened?

Alfonso Cuarón: I was prepping, sending photos, location scouting in South Africa and the desert. Then this thing “Roma” happened. It originated after “Children of Men,” we talked about that in that period. I was afraid of doing it — and then I had to do it now, because of age. It’s this thing: “OK, I’m growing old. I want to understand who I am in terms of who I was.” It was also the connection of the economic success of “Gravity.” We always have the same complaint when shooting a movie: “It’s not equipment — it’s time, I want to do a film the way I’d love to do it.”

The time you prepped this film informed me so much. I wanted to do the Academy format; you convinced me to go 65 and wide. That started to inform the whole thing. We started talking about lighting.

EL: Why black and white?

AC: I didn’t want a film that looks vintage, that looks old. I wanted to do a modern film that looks into the past. And you kept questioning me about black and white: “Maybe color is better, otherwise you’re going to look back.” That was your argument about the 65, because it brought a different unapologetic quality to the film. It’s not a vintage black and white. It’s a contemporary black and white. Black and white was part of the DNA of the film. When the idea manifested, it was about the character Cleo [Yalitza Aparicio], the tune was memory, and it was black and white. From there you can change things.

EL: You tend not to follow the rules. With this one you are working with non-actors, using complex blocking. You are dealing with dancers who haven’t danced. Was this style developed during the writing, or found in situ?

AC: It was decided on the page, the script was densely described, including sounds. It has to do with stuff we’ve been doing together since “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” which changed my approach on foreground vs. background, character vs. social environment, and on “Children of Men,” we elaborated on that. On this one, I decided, “OK, I am going to trust that I already built that muscle and I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to make it happen.” When I would first describe to the crew the shot, they would think I was joking!

EL: Something that was unlike “Children” and “Y Tu Mama” was the tempo. The camera is moving at a different tempo than the actors. It’s almost a complex jazz number. Are you describing it to the crew and they are doing it? What is the procedure?

“Roma”

Netflix

AC: First is to find the space, when I start lensing, to go through the whole thing. Timing was the most difficult thing. People ask always about the beach scene. What was more complicated was simple things like doing a round movement, a 380 inside the house. When Cleo is turning off the lights we have 45 different cameras positions, the camera can’t be in one place and panning. It was a floor with lines everywhere. Even before bringing in the actors it was about sorting out the timings. But the actors had to have the flexibility to improvise. Something I learned from you was communicating with the dolly or the operator.

EL: You’re telling them to slow down as you are watching, I see. It does produce a feeling — hard to describe — the camera becomes almost like a consciousness revisiting the story. The camera knows something the actors do not. It’s very powerful. The other thing you do different from all the other movies we did together is the blocking of the scene is perpendicular to the lens. When you track, the actors are moving parallel to the lens. Usually, if I was there: “Alfonso that is very flat, we should compose in the c axis not the x axis.” Why did you do it?

AC: It needed to be objective. We would not have dollies in and out, and embrace the flatness, but compensate for that flatness with background.

EL: This is a very objective film. In “Gravity” we explored the idea of elasticity, we’d be objective and then got into her helmet and it becomes subjective. This movie is really objective 100 percent, like “Y Tu Mama.”

(L to R) Verónica García as Sra. Teresa, Daniela Demesa as Sofi, Marco Graf as Pepe, Marina De Tavira as Sofia, Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Photo by Carlos Somonte

“Roma”

Photo by Carlos Somonte

AC: It’s a ghost of the present visiting the past, objectively without getting involved, just observing, not trying to make a judgment or a commentary, that everything there would be just the commentary itself.

EL:  It becomes even more complex, because it’s mysterious and very emotional, I don’t know why. It feels like the camera and the cinematography are not there to illustrate; they are the film itself.

Another contradiction from the book of filmmaking: you rehearse these complicated movements but some of the actors don’t know what’s coming, they didn’t read the script? They know the mechanics, but don’t know where the emotional turns are coming?

AC: They know some of the mechanics but not all of them. It was all the time changing; I was throwing them curveballs. The problem was editing, all the takes were so different. I’d choose something that was so great in context and the next moment find something that did not work. It was a domino effect. You had to go back to the first take and everything changed, the sense of timing and even information. Part of the challenge was a lot of the camera was static and characters moved around. It was more challenging when the camera was moving.

EL: Moving in different rhythm.

roma

“Roma”

Netflix

AC: It was also luck. For the beach scene, we had to build a jetty, and put a techno-crane to keep the same height. And the day before we shot, tropical storms weakened the jetty. Every time we tried to shoot the scene the cameras would derail. I wanted to have six takes before the sweet spot of the light. We couldn’t get anything, it was derailing 45 seconds after saying action; we would get the beginning. Luck. When the sweet spot came the camera didn’t derail and we have the only good complete shot. I didn’t want to keep on going. I was afraid of safety and also because the light was not worth it. Do a lot of prep so you can be bit luckier!

EL: You were setting up the camera, talking to the actors. When did you have time to do the lighting?

AC: That was fundamental. We’re going to be in the dining room. I knew roughly the shot. From the night before we start doing pre-lights, having extra crew working extra hours to start doing a pre-rig, then I would finish. It was a process. Embracing being a cinematographer forced me to be on the set all day long. When we work together we work, I go away. Somehow I had to be there, that was triggering more details of the memory of the moment, it was very useful. I was there lighting, and composing. For me, it was: “What would Chivo do?”

EL: Inside the movie theater with interactive light, you shoot naturalistically with a lot of depth. That combination is not simple. It requires that you have a deep stop and that means you need a lot of light. In this particular scene you can see what’s being projected, see the lighting on [the characters], there’s a fill light, so you can see who they are. Then there’s a big change of light. This scene, even for a very old tested cinematographer, is a nightmare. How did you do it?

AC: I don’t want movie lights. I want the scene to be lighting everything in sync with the projection. Projecting 35 mil is not enough light, 65 we can’t afford, we don’t have a big F stop. Shoot 35 open as much as possible, with the F stop you lose the depth the field. So you need power. The solution of how do it was informed by “Gravity” LEDs. We changed the screen for LED lights that would be projecting, and then replaced later in post-production for 35 mm projection. To reach our characters, on top of the screen there was a smaller LED with lesser intensity that was in sync. And also I rounded a bit on the sides. The challenge was the change of light when the lights come up.

EL: Amazing. What about the music, or lack of it? We did it in “Y Tu Mama Tambien” but not to this extent.

AC: In “Y Tu Mama” we chased the source, bringing it more to the foreground. Here the source depends on the distance and sometimes you barely hear it. The music was the sound of the places. That was part of the design from the get-go. It’s described in the screenplay and one of those things that you follow through.

EL: You are never satisfied–“we fucked this up, this is a mistake, we should not have filmed this.” This to me seems like your most successful film. Sorry, if I’m talking like a critic. But it’s a combination of everything that you’ve learned, what you’ve been doing for so many years. Are you satisfied with the movie?

AC: I am very pleased because it’s what I set out to do. I had the luxury that I had the time to do it. In other films there are more conventional narratives. Here I decided what I set out to do. I don’t know if it’s successful. I set out to bring it out unfiltered. And I am satisfied, yes. That I would watch it again, no!

EL: Congratulations, I adore the movie. I think it’s one of my favorite movies.