Saturday, October 16, 2021

In Response to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Bush League Shenanigans


In the interest of full disclosure: I am a member of the Critics Choice Association, so I cannot claim to be at all objective in this matter. However, since I share the sentiments of CCA CEO Joey Berlin — and have his permission to reprint this message sent to me and other members of the organization today — here goes.

And by the way: Views expressed are not necessarily those of any other publication or organization with which I am affiliated.

Also: Go to hell, Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Go directly to hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect any TV network money.


To the Membership,

Perhaps you saw the Friday afternoon news dump from the scandal-ridden Hollywood Foreign Press Association announcing that it plans to present Golden Globe awards on the very day that we will be presenting the 27th annual Critics Choice Awards at the historic Fairmont Century Plaza.  This comes despite the fact that we announced the date of our show back in May — and the fact that we had been presenting our awards on the second Sunday in January for several years running (not counting last year, when COVID pushed everyone back a couple of months).

The purpose of this memo is to reassure every CCA member that our 27th annual Critics Choice Awards show is going to be our biggest and best yet and can only be helped by this hostile announcement from the new leadership of this other group.  If it is appropriate, I encourage you to share the gist of this message with your viewers, listeners, readers and followers, the louder the better.  Our friends in the industry understand all of the above, but it would be wonderful if the greater public did, too.

I believe this desperate move by the HFPA to try and undercut the Critics Choice Awards and the tremendous support we are receiving from all the major studios, networks and streamers is...really good for us!  For years we’ve been trying to draw the comparison between the tainted HFPA and the legitimate Critics Choice Association — which has five times as many members and no stink.  Our awards are the considered judgment of almost 500 active critics and entertainment reporters who cover film and television and collectively reach virtually every entertainment consumer in the US and Canada every day.  While the CCA proudly lists and displays pictures of all its members on our website, the HFPA has long hidden its tiny membership.  Only now is it attempting to come clean after having been very publicly disgraced for its prejudice, its crassness, and it's highly questionable business practices.  So, yes, let's make those comparisons!

In fact, in their desperate search for new legitimate members, some of you have been approached about joining them.  From their perspective, that makes sense.  After all, CCA members are already vetted and proved to be respected working critics and journalists.

From our perspective, we do feel bad for those HFPA members who are legitimate members of the foreign press and are suffering from the fact that so many companies have chosen to stop working with them.  We are even more sympathetic with the many members of the foreign press who have been unwelcome in the HFPA for decades, despite the fact that their collective reach is probably greater than the 80-some odd members of the HFPA who blackballed them when they sought membership.  This is why the CCA created its new International Branch, to accredit important and influential members of the foreign entertainment press who had been unable to join HFPA.

And please note that while that other group is entirely about their one big television show (and dispensing the riches it has generated), the CCA has long been a diverse and inclusive organization that is true to our mission all year long - to help audiences find the good stuff, and to help the people who make the good stuff find their audiences.  That's why we are presenting the Critics Choice Documentary Awards on November 14, and why we are hosting the Celebration of Black Cinema & Television on December 6 and the Celebration of Latino Cinema on December 9, as well as our other Critics Choice events.

Onward and upward!


Joey Berlin


Friday, October 08, 2021

Zooming with Mye Hoang — Director of the A-Meow-Sing Documentary Cat Daddies

Call it Kedi — American Style, and you won’t be far off the mark.

Cat Daddies, Mye Hoang’s irresistibly appealing documentary, is so insightfully observed, beautifully crafted and warmly empathetic that even normally feline-averse viewers will want to sing its praises and hold it close to their hearts.

Not unlike Kedi, Ceyda Torun’s splendidly graceful 2016 film about the multifaceted feline population of Istanbul, Cat Daddies will be pure catnip for anyone who can’t get their fill of their favorite four-legged friends on YouTube and Instagram. In sharp contrast to Kedi, however, Hoang’s documentary is less about the fiercely independent critters themselves than the bonds that form between men (and, sometimes, the women in their lives) and the cats who deign to be their comrades.

Hoang, a Dallas-born, Los Angeles-based producer and director, turns her camera on a diverse array of guys, ranging from a cross-country trucker to a homeless New Yorker to a movie stuntman whose romance with a stuntwoman is sparked by their shared love of cats. Much of the movie is light, even celebratory, as it pushes back against stereotypes of various sorts, and shows how companionship with cats can be therapeutic, inspirational — and in at least one case, high remunerable.

However: Cat Daddies was filmed largely over the course of 2020, a year when COVID-19, California wildfires, and other disasters amped stress levels, all of which Hoang duly acknowledges — sometimes as as subtle allusions, sometimes as front-and-center threats — in many of the multiple narratives she interweaves throughout her film. It’s a tricky balancing act, but she pulls it off with wit, intelligence, and compassion.

As Hoang says in her director’s statement:

“We all know the stereotype of the crazy cat lady. And many of us have that friend, the one with the Instagram feed dedicated exclusively to cats. Self-described ‘Crazy Cat People’ are a force to be reckoned with — a community that’s here to stay and has only grown stronger in the age of social media.

“I watched over the course of a few years as my husband [filmmaker Dave Boyle] transformed into a bona fide crazy cat person after we adopted our first cat. However, something else changed inside him — something deeper. He seemed to grow into a softer, more patient and compassionate person. This inspired me to find more men who had undergone a similar transformation, and document their stories.

“As I dug deeper on ‘Cat Instagram,’ I discovered dozens of men who seemed to be living their best life with their feline companions. Their stories ran the gamut — from firefighters in South Carolina who unapologetically dote on their ‘fire cat,’ to an unhoused immigrant on the streets of New York who always puts the needs of his cat above his own. Many of the subjects are the very embodiment of the traditional definition of ‘manliness’ — the aforementioned firemen, a stuntman, a truck driver. All of them unapologetically dote on their beloved pets in a way that I found very touching.

“I see Cat Daddies as both a collective portrait as well as a time capsule, documenting a challenging year in which people desperately needed hope, relief, and companionship. It may not convert everyone to love cats, but I hope seeing images of men caring for these little creatures wins over a few skeptics and becomes a catalyst for compassionate change.”

Cat Daddies will premiere this weekend at the Dallas International Film Festival, followed by screenings at the Newport Film Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival. Here is my Zoom interview with Mye Hoang.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

The Harder They Fall is a wild, wild Western

The Harder They Fall puts the wild back into the Wild West.

Imagine a dream team collaboration of Sergio Leone, John Woo and Spike Lee, and you’re ready for director Jeymes Samuel’s audaciously stylized and brazenly entertaining western, an exhilarating mashup of New School hip-hop swagger, Old West revenge melodrama, heist-movie double- and triple-crossing, and Spaghetti Western visual and narrative tropes. After its Wednesday premiere as the opening night presentation of the prestigious BFI London Film Festival, this sensational shoot-‘em-up will be available Oct. 22 in select theaters — arguably the ideal place to fully savor and enthusiastically share such a rock-the-house concoction — and Nov. 3 on Netflix. 

You can read the rest of my rave over at the Cowboys & Indians website