Sarah Knight Adamson is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and a voting member for the Critics Choice Awards for Movies.

Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica Aymond are both Members of the Chicago Film Critics Association

Film Rating Code:

★★★★ Outstanding Film- Run, don’t walk to the nearest movie theater.

★★★½ Excellent Film- Highly recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★★ Very Good Film- Recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★½ Good Film- Wait for the DVD, the film is still worth viewing.

★★ Wait for the DVD and proceed with caution.

★½ Wait for the DVD the film has major problems in most areas.

★ Can’t recommend the film.

Critics Choice Awards 2016 Santa Monica, CA Winners and Red Carpet Interviews

Sarah Knight Adamson, Dec. 11, 2016 Critics Choice Awards Red Carpet Interviews Santa Monica, CA Barker Hanger

22nd Critics Choice Awards and Red Carpet Interviews by Sarah Knight Adamson

The 22nd Annual Critics Choice Awards, which includes the Broadcast Film Critics Association and Television Journalists Association Red [Blue] Carpet, was the spotlight Sunday evening, December 11, 2016. The show aired live on A&E from Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, with the stars shining brightly as they walked, talked, and, in some cases, sashayed down the carpet into the event. Due to the fact that the date was moved up a month earlier than previous years, the December date brings “Hollywood notice” as the first televised film awards show leading up to the Academy Awards. On the whole, the move proved to be a huge success as talent seized the opportunity to mingle with critics and pose for photos, all while promoting their work. It should be noted that TV was also honored, which gave talent a chance to enlighten viewers about their projects, leading up to the Golden Globe Awards. All things considered, it was a win-win, as this critic appreciated the overflowing conversations with talent and the talent seemed to enjoy the limelight.

Hosted by actor and comedian T.J. Miller, the seated dinner was a relaxing way to view the show while conversing with talent. So who were the big winners?

Host TJ Miller and Sarah Knight Adamson selfie taken by Miller after his 1st time hosting the 21st Critics Choice Awards, January 2016 Photo Credit: TJ Miller

La La Land took home eight awards, the most of the night, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay (a tie) for Damien Chazelle, Best Cinematography for Linus Sandgren, Best Production Design for David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, Best Editing for Tom Cross, Best Song and Best Score for Justin Hurwitz.

“La La Land” took home eight awards, the most of the night including Best Picture.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actress Emma Stone (L) and actor Ryan Gosling attend The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards )

The acting awards went to Casey Affleck, Best Actor for his work in Manchester by the Sea, and Natalie Portman, Best Actress for Jackie. The Best Supporting Actor award went to Mahershala Ali for Moonlight, and Best Supporting Actress to Viola Davis for her performance in Fences.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actor Casey Affleck, winner of Best Actor for ‘Manchester by the Sea’, poses in the press room during The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: (L-R) Actor Casey Affleck, filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, actor Lucas Hedges and actor/producer Matt Damon attend The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards )

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actress Natalie Portman, winner of Best Actress for ‘Jackie’, poses in the press room during The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Mahershala Ali accepts Best Supporting Actor award for the movie “Moonlight” Critics Choice Awards.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actress Viola Davis, winner of Best Supporting Actress for ‘Fences’, poses in the press room during The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The People v. O.J. Simpson (FX) took home four trophies, including Best Movie Made for Television or Limited Series. Sarah Paulson won for Best Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series, Courtney B. Vance for Best Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series, and Sterling K. Brown for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series. Silicon Valley (HBO) won for Best Comedy Series, and Game of Thrones (HBO) won for Best Drama Series.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: (L-R) Writer Larry Karaszewski, actor Courtney B. Vance, producer Nina Jacobson, writer/producer Ryan Murphy, actors Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, writer Scott Alexander and actor John Travolta, winners of Best Movie/Miniseries for ‘The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story’, pose in the press room during The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Viola Davis received the first-ever #SeeHer Award presented by the Association of National Advertisers in conjunction with A&E Network. Ryan Reynolds was the recipient of Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Year Award. See the complete list of winners at the end of the Red Carpet interviews.

Ryan Reynolds Critic Choice Awards Photo Credit: TJ Callahan

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actors Ryan Reynolds (L) and Ryan Gosling attend The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards )

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actresses Amy Adams (L) and Viola Davis attend The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)


Red Carpet highlights consisted of fourteen different interviews with directors, producers, writers, actors, cinematographers, special effects talent, photographers, music composers, and musicians.

Michael T. “Mykelti” Williamson, known for his role as Bubba in Forest Gump, 1994, stars in Fences as Denzel Washington’s older brother, even though he is actually three years younger. He was on Broadway with Washington in the Tony award-winning play that is set in 1950s Pittsburgh. And how different was the film experience?

Michael T. “Mykelti” Williamson from the film “Fences” Critics Choice Awards 2016. Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

“Well, I was familiar with August Wilson’s material. We had August Wilson’s original screenplay, which he’s nominated for tonight. It was actually like a brand new beginning. It was a new beginning, because it’s a different approach. It’s not the same approach as live theater, where you have to project to the person in the back row. It’s much more intimate. Of course, you bring truth no matter what you do. It’s much more intimate, like you and I talking right now.”

Williamson’s character, Gabe Maxson, suffers from a head injury he acquired in World War II that left him mentally impaired. As a result, the children in the neighborhood torment him.

He talked about the film experience and his responsibility to portray the character as authentically as possible as well as taking the work home with him.

“I feel privileged to have played this part, but it did have me second-guessing my own decisions and my own thoughts for a while because the work is too important. When you represent a certain group of people, it’s not just another character; it’s much broader. When you consider that, this is also somebody’s child, then it becomes a huge responsibility.”
Read more ›

Brandon Stacy Interview Actor ‘Roots’ ‘Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II’ and ‘Mena’ by Alexi Rabin


Brandon Stacy actor in ‘Roots’, ‘The Big Short,’ ‘Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II’ and ‘Mena’ Photo Credit: JALISCO J

Exploring Brandon Stacy’s Roots

Brandon Stacy might have lost 25 pounds for his role in Roots, but he gained plenty of knowledge about American history.

Along with Roots, Stacy also had roles in films and televison such as The Big Short and Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. He will star in an upcoming film titled Mena, along with Tom Cruise.

I spoke with Brandon Stacy via phone at 10 am CST. Brandon lives in Los Angeles. While I was talking to him from Chicago, he was very nice, calm, and extremely willing to share information with me about his past and upcoming roles.


Brandon Stacy actor Photo Credit: JALISCO J

Sarah’s Backstage Pass® : Did you watch the original Roots in 1977?

Brandon Stacy: Well, I didn’t watch it then, but I did watch it growing up several times, and even parts of it in school. So there was certainly a lot to live up to, but I think we definitely hit our marks and reached a new generation with this material.

SBP: What were your first thoughts when you heard the History Channel would be doing a remake?

BS: Well, a great thing about the History Channel is that so many people watch it and trust it. So right away, I knew that obviously it’s a big deal if they’re going to back it and put their faith into it. I knew that I could be proud of reaching so many people with this message. And of course, in my work, I try to do things that reach a lot of people with a positive message. We all hope people take a positive message out of this. I think there are people who can use the past to divide us, but the point is to use the past to unite us and that’s what this [Roots] does.


Brandon Stacy actor in ‘Roots’ Photo Credit: JALISCO J

When I asked Stacy what he did to get into character, he explained that he lost 25 pounds from the audition process to wrapping the project. He also told me that there was a “deeper path” of his character that did not make it into the film. When describing his costume, which was made of wool, he paused and laughed because he said it was “extremely hot” while filming.

SBP: I found it interesting how there were so many generations represented in the show. How do you think that played a role in understanding how slavery changed throughout the years?

BS: As far as the descendants of Kunta Kinte, when you’re following the lineage of one person, you can see how things change from generation to generation. We kind of lose a piece of us each time, given the surroundings that we’re in. And the surroundings we’re in play a part in who we are. My character, Clingman, is a product of his environment and the teachings of his family and traditions. He is an honorable man as far as the army, but he’s on the wrong side of humanity, based on what’s right and wrong. Ultimately, he’s pretty dangerous in those ideals. Had his environment been different, he probably could have been a different person. If we’re raising our children in an environment that we can be proud of, then hopefully, we can pass the good things on to them.

Overall, Stacy seemed very strong in his belief that knowing our history is the first step in uniting us. He explained that we should want to build a future that not only we can be proud of, but our ancestors as well.

In 2015, Stacy played the role of Christian Bale’s father in the Oscar-winning film The Big Short, and he was very pleased with the results of that project.

SBP: How did you react when you first learned that The Big Short was nominated for an Oscar? Read more ›

Ted Roach Interview ‘120 Days’ ★★★★ Documentary Napa Valley Film Festival


Ted Roach, director, ‘120 Days’ Photo Credit: Ted Roach

120 Days is a ‘Must See’ Brilliant, Absorbing Film by Director Ted Roach

GWIFFposterThe documentary 120 Days is a riveting “eye-opener” that presents the U.S. immigration debate through the lives of one undocumented family—Miguel Cortes, his wife, and his teenage daughters. The Cortes family settled in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they lived for the past ten years. Setting a solid role model for their children, they contributed to their community as active participants in city programs and they were also regular members of a church – nonetheless, suddenly, their American dream turned into a nightmare. Miguel, during a routine traffic stop, couldn’t produce a driver’s license or the proper paperwork validating his U. S. citizenship. He was given “120 days” to prepare to leave the country and return to Mexico.

MiguelMirror2015Ted Roach, director of 120 Days, got involved with the filming of their ordeal through a family friend. I caught up with Roach via phone on October 24. His outstanding film will be shown at the Napa Valley Film Festival.

Read more ›

Kent Jones Interview ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ Documentary Film 51st CIFF


‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ documentary film is directed by Kent Jones. Photo Credit: Philippe Halsman Courtesy of Cohen Media

Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

Hitchcock’s Lesson’s in Filmmaking Brought to Life in a New Documentary

Hitchcock/Truffaut is a documentary film for all movie buffs that have ever considered magnifying their knowledge of the components in filmmaking. The film was so popular at the Cannes Film Festival this year that another screening was added to accommodate filmgoers. Kent Jones, the film’s director, is a notable film criticism writer, film historian, and artistic director of the World Cinema Foundation. Recently, he was in Chicago to promote the film at the Chicago International Film Festival.


Kent Jones Director ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ Photo Credit: GODLIS

Jones’s film is based on the 1967 book Hitchcock/Truffaut, by French filmmaker, Francois Truffaut. It illuminates not only the famous interviews between the two filmmakers, but adds in-depth commentary by the world’s leading contemporary directors: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich, and Paul Schrader.


Francois Truffaut director ‘400 Blows’ (1959)

Truffaut, a successful French filmmaker, admired Hitchcock’s films, but on the same hand, he recognized that people knew very little about his techniques or his personal reasoning about the films. In 1962, he wrote a flattering letter to Hitchcock in which he invited him for an opportunity to be interviewed in a series of daily, week-long interviews. Tony Gemignani, San Francisco’s Pizza Champion, intentionally wrote The Pizza Bible in 2014. However, Francois Truffaut’s “Hitchbook” as he called it is known today as the ‘Bible on filmmaking’. Read more ›

Patrick Underwood Interview Director of ‘The Middle Distance’ 51st CIFF


‘The Middle Distance’ director Patrick Underwood. Photo Credit: Peeled Apple Pictures

In an attempt to recapture a feeling of nostalgia along with those warm feelings one has in childhood, Patrick Underwood has created a beautiful film that delves into those areas, and deals with self-actualization, loss, and new beginnings.

An impressive film for a first time director, The Middle Distance, written and directed by Underwood, premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival. Underwood also qualified to compete in the “Best New Director” category.


Patrick Underwood director of ‘The Middle Distance’ Photo Credit: Timothy M. Schmidt

The Middle Distance is the story of two brothers who are reunited after the death of their father. Neil (Ross Partridge), the older brother, is a successful LA consultant who is a womanizer, a heavy drinker, and a fairly self-centered person. James (Kentucky Audley), who still lives in the Michigan area, is suddenly called away to perform a gig with his band. Rebecca (Joslyn Jensen), James’s fiancée, begins to break through Neil’s hardened layers, and an unlikely friendship is forged while James is away. Themes of kinship and a search for nostalgia are themes that are explored along with a longing for reconnection to feelings one has had with a special family place.

The film was screened at the AMC River East Theater in Chicago, which Patrick Underwood attended, and concluded in an audience Q&A session. Patty Babin and Kay Eller from Sarah’s Backstage Pass attended the screening and said that Underwood told the audience that the weather and location became characters in the film. The Middle Distance takes place in Underwood’s childhood vacation town of New Buffalo, Michigan. Shooting in the winter was intentional, as at that time of year, you’ll find few people together with frigid temperatures. Read more ›

Sarah Silverman Gets Serious for “I Smile Back”

Chicago Meet & Greet, Red Carpet Event 

Sarah Silverman is best known as a stand-up comedian, writer, producer, and actress. Her satirical, black comedy typically focuses on controversial topics like religion and race. Silverman is so vulgar and inappropriate at times that it’s almost astonishing that someone could craft jokes like that. The combination of her delivery being both straightforward and oblivious makes her jokes seem that much more outrageous.

It’s very rare to see the serious side of Silverman, but she reveals it in the latest drama, I Smile Back. The indie film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Amy Koppelman.

Sarah Silverman and Jessica Aymond at the Chicago Meet & Greet for "I Smile Back," October 2015.

Sarah Silverman and Jessica Aymond at the Chicago Meet & Greet for “I Smile Back,” October 2015.

Silverman plays Laney Brooks, an attractive, smart and privileged suburban housewife to her husband Bruce (Josh Charles, Masters of Sex, 2015) and two young children. Behind the front lies a dark, depressed, delusional and different person. Laney has a secret side full of recklessness, shame and desire that she just can’t seem to shake even though she wants to be a good mother and can’t bare the thought of hurting someone. When she realizes the harmful effects that her actions have had on her family, she comes to a crossroads with how to move forward.

Silverman recently visited Chicago during her I Smile Back publicity tour and a meet and greet was planned for the Chicago Film Critics Association at the Four Seasons Allium Restaurant and Bar. She entered with a sweet turned snide smile as soon she recognized her old friend Julia Sweeney (‘Saturday Night Live’) and Julia’s husband. Silverman dressed in a sophisticated, bright red cape dress that hit just above the knee, nude pumps and her hair perfectly pulled back in a high ponytail. I told her she very much reminded me of Lupita Nyong’o’s infamous red Ralph Lauren cape gown that she wore to the Golden Globes last year. Let’s just say, she probably didn’t think that’d be the first thing that came out of my mouth, but she seemed flattered and I don’t think she was faking it. She had a calm demeanor and was very friendly and (surprise!) open to talking about any subject with the guests. Read more ›

Adriana Trigiani Interview ‘Big Stone Gap’


Adriana Trigiani Screenplay Writer and Director of ‘Big Stone Gap’ Photo Credit: Tim Stephenson

Adriana Trigiani, director and screenplay writer of the film, Big Stone Gap, was in Chicago to promote the film. I interviewed her by phone and found her to be passionate about her work and her cast. This is a highly personal film for Trigiani, as it depicts her hometown of Big Stone Gap in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Originally, the written form of her Big Stone Gap tale began as a screenplay. That screenplay was cast aside and became a best-selling novel that garnered three more books that further developed the characters in the town.


The cast of ‘Big Stone Gap’ Whoopi Goldberg, John Benjamin Hickey, Jenna Elfman and Ashley Judd. Photo Credit: Picturehouse Films

The 2015 screenplay of Big Stone Gap incorporates all of Trigiani’s novels based on the first book of the same name, followed by the three sequels: Big Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon, and Home to Big Stone Gap. The film’s setting is the year 1978. As the film opens, we hear a whistle blow while viewing coal miners walking home from their jobs deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Ave Maria Mulligan (Ashley Judd), a pharmacist, is single and nearing forty. She delivers the prescriptions to her customers herself and directs the town’s annual outdoor play. Her life takes a turn when she discovers a long-buried family secret.

Patrick Wilson plays coal miner Jack MacChesney, while his friend since childhood, Ave Maria, grows to be his love interest. Wilson has a personal connection to Big Stone Gap, as his father’s family goes back many generations in town. There’s even a bridge that’s named after his grandfather.
Other supporting cast include Fleeta (Whoopi Goldberg), a sassy employee of the pharmacy, Iva Lou (Jenna Elfman), the energetic mobile librarian, Theodore (John Benjamin Hickey), a closeted suitor, Spec (Anthony LaPaglia), an all-around good-guy lawyer, and the ultra-sensual Sweet Sue (Jane Krakowski).
Here’s part of our interview: Read more ›

Che “Rhymefest” Smith Red Carpet Interview-‘In My Father’s House’ Documentary by Patty Babin


Che “Rhymefest” Smith Red Carpet Chicago premiere ‘In My Father’s House’. Photo Credit: SarahsBackstagePass® Photographer: Bradley Todd

The Journey of Family, Truth and Forgiveness

Here’s a little rhyme
So please take the time
To watch this docu-story
Of a man that co-wrote “Glory.”

He’s Che “Rhymefest” Smith
Who we spent some time with
At his Music Box premier
Of “In My Father’s House,” you hear?

Che’s a man with a mission
And he’s giving you permission
To see inside his life,
Of forgiveness, truth, and strife.

This rap tribute is to a man who inspires with not only his film but also his grace, humanity, and dignity. Che “Rhymefest” Smith is a hip-hop artist, well known for co-writing the Oscar-winning song “Glory” from the movie Selma, along with Common and John Legend. He’ll now be known for presenting his story to the world in the film In My Father’s House.

In My Father's House - 10/5/15 Red Carpet, Music Box Theater - Chicago, IL.

Common and Che Smith Photo Credit: SarahsBackstagePass® Photographer: Bradley Todd

On Monday, October 5, at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, the documentary, In My Father’s House, played to a packed crowd of Che’s family, friends, and colleagues. The energy in the building before the film was powerful, equally matching his film’s. It documents the journey of his reunion with his father after twenty-five  years. Not knowing if his father is dead or alive, he discovers that his father is indeed alive; living amongst the homeless while battling alcohol addiction.

When people hear about a reunion between a parent and a child, they assume it is a “Hallmark” moment. They immediately jump to a happy place because it feels good. However, this is not always the reality. His film shows how it can be similar to opening the lid on an emotional stew that has been on simmer for a long time. There is a wide variety of flavors that are tangled together and need to be identified.

In the film, Che exposes the truth, his struggle, his love, and his forgiveness towards his father with a tremendous amount of courage. Che makes some bold choices in regard to getting his father back on track and integrating him into his family. During our conversation, Che shared his thoughts about family. “No family is perfect. None; not yours, not mine—no family is perfect. But the key is how are you going to pivot, and how are you going to forgive, and how are you going to move forward. Forgiveness is key! In America, now more than ever, it is pivotal that a family comes together one way or the other.” Read more ›

Thomas Haden Church – Stars in “Max” Interview


Thomas Haden Church interview with Sarah Knight Adamson- Waldorf Astoria Chicago 2015 Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

Thomas Haden Church, as an actor, has a unique persona—ruggedly handsome, square-jawed—a mystique cowboy, and let’s not forget that undeniable Texas drawl. He’s exactly as I imagined him to be in person; let’s just say if the ‘Marlboro Man’ from the sixties could actually speak, that pretty much sums up the ultra-cool Thomas Haden Church.


David McClean the ‘Marlboro Man’ poses for an advertisement. The Marlboro advertising campaign, created by Leo Burnett Worldwide, is said to be one of the most brilliant advertisement campaigns of all time. Photo Credit: Phillip Morris Co. now (Altria)

And speak he did—his voice remains true to his relaxed macho image; it has a deep, resonating baritone quality; it’s no surprise that he has voice credits in major films, although his voice work is not what he’s known for. Church’s breakout role was in a the Academy Award-winning film, Sideways (2004), from which Church himself scored a nomination for an Oscar for his Best Supporting Role.


“Sideway” still. Sandra Oh, Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

We met on Wednesday, June 24, 2015, at the Waldorf Astoria, in a lavish suite in Chicago. Upon meeting Church, he instantly smiled and gave me an expected firm handshake with a definitive nod.

As I was setting up my digital recorder, he began telling me a story about a Texas journalist (Evan Smith) who came to his ranch in Texas (2005) to interview him for a big cover story for Texas Monthly magazine. It seems that the said journalist had spent eight hours with Church that day and phoned him a month later to say that he only got five minutes of the interview due to his low batteries. And…could he please re-cap the whole day in a thirty-minute phone conversation?

I assured him my batteries were fresh and that I could always use my iPhone as a backup. We both laughed, and he continued, “And you know what? Evan and I are still friends to this day.”

The first order of business was to congratulate him on his performance in the film Max as Ray Wincott, a father whose son dies while in combat while in the military. Ray decides to adopt his son’s traumatized war dog (Max) and gives his younger teen son (Justin, played by Josh Wiggins) total responsibility for Max. I asked what drew him to this role in this family film.


Thomas Haden Church and Josh Wiggins in “Max” Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Studio

“The unique perspective of presenting a war hero, a combat vet’s perspective of a dog, and how critical these animals are to protecting and saving solders’ lives in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he replied. “Also the dramatic aspect of Max (the war dog) and the fact that he’s vulnerable to all of the emotional trauma that a human is in post-war experience.” Read more ›

Brian Wilson and John Cusack Interview – John Cusack Stars as Brian Wilson in ‘Love and Mercy’

Interview with Brian Wilson and John Cusack on behalf of the film ‘Love and Mercy’

A California Girl Meets a Beach Boy


Finally, Brian Wilson’s own true story will be brought into the daylight via a new biopic film Love and Mercy. The Beach Boys were America’s band just as the Beatles were to fans in England. It was truly an honor to meet the mystifying musical genesis behind the Beach Boys, such an incredible person whose music I admired and listened to on radio station KRLA in Los Angeles during the Beach Boys’ rise to success. Songs of surfing, cool cars, sunshine, and the California lifestyle were chart breakers.

A pivotal change in the band’s sound happened when Wilson (as shown in the film) had a panic attack aboard a plane while touring with the band in the 60s. He decided to stop touring to devote time in the studio. Here was when the magic started as Wilson wrote songs for one of the most creative albums that has ever been written and recorded in musical history. Pet Sounds is ranked second by Rolling Stone magazine on its list of 500 of the greatest albums of all time. In 2004, the Library of Congress preserved the album with the National Record Registry for being “culturally, historically, aesthetically significant and not merely a collection of singles, an album of unified work.”


I can assure you, whether you’re a fan or not, you will never listen to a Beach Boys song in the same manner after viewing the film. The true splendor of this film is its originators Brian Wilson and his wife, Melinda Wilson.

The title Love and Mercy is based on a poignant song written by Wilson and is directed by Bill Pohlad. The film is unique in structure and is divided into two distinct parts of Brian Wilson’s life: the beginning years of the Beach Boys, early to mid-60s (Paul Dano plays this role and looks remarkably like Wilson at this age.) and the 80s to early 90s with John Cusack as Wilson.


Most of us have some idea of Wilson’s breakdown, as it’s widely known that he became a recluse and hibernated in bed for two to three years. Shortly after that time, in 1976, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd created a video to celebrate Brian’s return to the Beach Boys. It was part of the “Brian’s Back Tour.” In the skit, they play California policeman who storm upstairs to Brian Wilson’s bedroom. They give him a citation for not making use of a public beach by not surfing. They drag him out of bed with his robe on and all of them go surfing together. Aykroyd says, “Okay, Mr. Wilson, here’s your wave!” Coincidentally, there’s a line in the film Love and Mercy in which one of the Beach Boys says sarcastically, “We don’t even like to surf.”


The band Barenaked Ladies chronicled Brian’s struggles and wrote the song Brian Wilson, which has the key phrase “Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did,” released in 1992. Wilson himself embraced the song in 2000. He met with the band and rearranged the song so that its vocals are principally a cappella. As a tribute to Brian, the band now sings the first verse a cappella when touring.

Even though we may have a vague recollection of Wilson’s battles, most of us don’t know the gory details of the story. Psychologist Dr. Eugene Landy (played by Paul Giamatti) in the film Love and Mercy began treating Wilson in 1975. The intense years were from 1983 to 1986 as his unorthodox method of twenty-four-hour therapy kept Wilson literally a prisoner in his home while a team of “watchers” followed his every move. Landy himself moved in with the musician. Wilson was over-medicated and routinely shamed for over-eating all while being financially and professionally exploited. Fortunately, his life began to change when he met a beautiful, sweet-natured car saleswoman named Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks in the film. Wilson’s story does have a happy ending, with love at the core.


Seated in the Smart Bar at Chicago’s Metro, (an apropos location as “The Metro” is a concert hall venue) Brian Wilson and John Cusack met with me and three other journalists to discuss the film on May 19, 2015.

John Cusack started the interview by telling us about the film’s beginnings. “He [Brian Wilson] and Melinda, his wife, had decided they wanted to make a film, and they developed a script for about ten years and had different people working on it and trying to figure it out. Then, Bill Pohlad, the producer and director who has made a lot of wonderful films, came on and they approved the script. I found out they were making it, so I called up and said, ‘I’d love to read for it.’ I thought this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I went after the part and was lucky enough to get it.”


Having lived in the Los Angeles area as a child myself during the band’s escalation to fame and less than eighteen miles from the Wilsons’ home on 3701 W. 119th Street in Hawthorne, CA where all three of the Beach Boys brothers lived, I was anxious to thank Brian for one song in particular: California Girls. The song helped me personally on two different occasions in my life.

I said to Brian, “First of all, I want to thank you for writing, Wish We All Could Be California Girls. I was a young California girl at the time, very young, but kind of awkward, so your song made me feel special.”

Brian Wilson looked directly at me, smiled and said, “Well, thank you.”

I continued, “It really did. I was wondering, have you heard that before? Have other California girls appreciated that song like I did, do you think?”

He said, “I think most California girls would identify with the Beach Boys’ music.”

What are the chances of thanking a celebrity that profoundly helped you out at such a young tender age in life? You can be sure I’ll treasure the smile on Wilson’s face for a very long time. And, in case you’re curious about the other time the song helped me out? It was when my father was transferred to Ohio and this “new girl” was instantly “cool,” simply because she was a former “California Girl.” [Thank you again, Brian Wilson.] Read more ›

Fredrick Gertten Interview (SXSW) Film Festival 2015 ‘Bikes vs Cars’ By Kathrine LeBlanc


Director ‘Bikes vs Cars’ Fredrik Gertten. Photo Credit: Martin Bogren

Bikes vs Cars is an impressive documentary from Swedish director, Fredrik Gertten. We caught up with him while he was in the US for the film’s North American debut at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

Gertten, a seasoned filmmaker, co-produced the 2010 Academy Award nominated documentary, Burma VJ, which centers on protests against the military regime in Burma. He directed the film Bananas!, the story of a class-action lawsuit by banana workers in Nicaragua that targeted the Dole Food Company. The film incited Dole, one of the world’s largest food companies, to sue Gertten for slander. The film Big Boys Gone Bananas! was a natural progression in telling the story of Dole’s lawsuit against him, which he eventually won. Bikes vs Cars speaks to similar topics as in his Banana films − big business (mainly car manufactures and car advertising) versus the bicycle rider lifestyle.

Speaking with Gertten between breaks in the action at SXSW was informative, as he has plenty to say about this frustrating topic, one in which he does shed a bright spotlight.

Kathrine LeBlanc: Can you tell me a little bit about why you are passionate about this topic and the inspiration for the film?

Fredrik Gertten: First of all, I have always been very interested in city planning and architecture, so I’ve been doing several shows [films] about that too, but as a filmmaker, you look into many different stories that are in many ways close to your life, and I come from a city where the bike is something very natural. It’s not a political statement. Getting on a bike is just something I do. It’s been like that all my life and it’s a bit frustrating in cities, traveling the world that there is a lack of bicycles. Suddenly, I see bicycles coming back to cities all over the world. Of course, I see that there is something going on here. I thought it is interesting to look into. Read more ›

Simon Curtis Interview – Director ‘Woman in Gold’


Simon Curtis director of ‘Woman in Gold’

Simon Curtis turns his focus from Marilyn Monroe to another woman in history: Maria Altmann. In My Week with Marilyn, he showed the world that Monroe really was a good actress – one who wanted to be seen as a serious actor, not just as a beautiful woman. In Woman in Gold, he gives us the story of a much older woman, Maria Altmann, who decides to undo a grave injustice and, in order to do so, she must revisit her painful past.


Michelle Williams stars as Marilyn Monroe.

British director Simon Curtis made a splash on the Hollywood scene with his film My Week with Marilyn (2011). That film garnered two Academy Award nominations: Best Actress, Michelle Williams, and Best Supporting Actor, Kenneth Branagh. Concurrently, The Chicago Film Critics Association awarded Curtis with Best New Promising Filmmaker and gave their Best Actress Award to Michelle Williams for the same film.


Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altmann

Curtis presently has a new film opening, Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a determined survivor of the Nazi invasion into her childhood hometown of Vienna. Nazis seized her family possessions, one of which was a painting commissioned by her uncle (a beautiful portrait of her aunt, titled “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” by artist Gustav Klimt). After the war, the painting was handed over to the Belvedere Art Gallery in Vienna. The painting’s name was changed to “Woman in Gold” to avoid former claims. Maria Altmann knew that she was the rightful owner of the painting and waged a personal crusade to reclaim it. Through the help of a lawyer, Randol Schoenberg, played by Ryan Reynolds, and an Austrian investigative journalist, Hubertus Czernin, played by Daniel Bruhl, they were able to reclaim the artwork. Read more ›

Dan Fogelman Interview-Writer and Director of ‘Danny Collins’


Dan Fogelman- Writer and Director of ‘Danny Collins’ Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

Al Pacino Rocks his New Role as Rock Star ‘Danny Collins’

Dan Fogelman is known primarily for his writing skills in Hollywood. The notches in his belt are impressive: Cars (2006), Fred Claus (2007), Bolt (2008), Tangled (2010), Cars 2 (2011), Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), The Guilt Trip (2012) and Last Vegas (2013). Fogelman is making his directing debut in his latest script, Danny Collins. The film’s star is the legendary Al Pacino as an aging, druggy rock star who’s as miserable in his private life as he is in his career. Although he’s estranged from his son and has an ego that needs downsizing, you can’t help but root for the guy, especially one that John Lennon actually tried to help forty years ago. You see, Danny Collins receives a letter on his birthday from Lennon via his manager, Frank, played by Christopher Plummer (a legend in his own right), that he takes to heart. Lennon offers advice and his phone number to Collins. All of the sudden, the lights go on and Danny Collins decides to clean up his act, write new songs, and reconnect with his long lost son. It does sound a little corny but the film actually works due to Pacino’s heavy grasp of the role and a strong supporting cast, both of which work from a well-written script.



Add the cynical, unimpressed, but sweet, Annette Bening as a hotel manager of the local Hyatt— she’s the love interest of Collins. Bobby Cannavale as the adult son he’s trying to mend fences with, as well as his daughter-in-law and son’s wife (Jennifer Garner), plus a special needs granddaughter (Giselle Eisenberg), and you’ve got an attention-grabbing film.


The noteworthy fact of the film is that John Lennon really did write such a letter; only it was to a British folk singer-songwriter, Steve Tilston. When Folgelman heard of the situation (the advice given by Lennon, only forty years too late), he envisioned a story with a guy who really could have been helped. What if the letter really did change someone’s life? As it stands, Tilston had a successful career with no real regrets; therefore, Fogelman changed his singer-songwriter character’s life for his script and ran with it.

The icing on the cake for the film is that it contains nine John Lennon songs and surprisingly has Yoko Ono’s blessing. She’s also expected to attend the film’s premiere in New York; Fogelman told me when we met in the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago on March 10.


SKA: First of all, I want to thank you for writing and directing the film, Danny Collins; at the center of your film happens to be one of my favorite musical artists, John Lennon.

DF: Me too.

SKA: I was going to ask you, are you a big fan?

DF: I am. I was a big fan as a novice. I knew more than the average person about him, but then, in doing the film, I actually… I’ve read more biographies on him than any human being, so I really got to learn a lot more.
Just everything, the sheer … the volume of his work, his catalog as a solo artist, opposed to Beatles, is so extensive, and he did such weird, interesting stuff that it was exciting to just sift through all of his material.

SKA: I loved all of the music and the nine songs.

DF: I know, I know. It’s crazy. It’s funny, it blends into the movie in places, and they’re not all … We have Imagine, and we have Beautiful Boy, but they’re not all his most famous songs, so, for the non-aficionado, it sometimes blends into the movie. Then, afterwards, they go, “What was that song?” or “I liked that song that was playing during this scene,” and I go, “No, that’s John Lennon.” They know it is, but they’re not aware of the song as much, so that’s exciting.

SKA: Could you please set up the plot a little bit for our listeners and readers? I know we have Al Pacino, who plays this aging, druggy rocker, Danny Collins, and he’s given a rather life-altering birthday present by another iconic actor, Christopher Plummer.



DF: Yeah, the basic premise is … It’s based on a real story as well, but back in 1970, a young Danny Collins, played by Pacino, does an interview, and they say, “We think you’re the next big thing in music. We think you’re a Dylan, Lennon,” and he says, “I’m terrified of becoming the next big thing in music and what fame and fortune might do to my art.”

You cut through forty years later, he’s now in his sixties, and he has completely sold out. Everything he was worried about happening to him has happened. On a musical level, he’s unhappy, and on a personal level, he’s unhappy. He is basically hand-delivered a letter that John Lennon had written to him forty years previously in response to the interview.

John Lennon had read the interview he did as a young man in 1970 and wrote to him saying, “You control your destiny. You control your art. I will help guide you through this. You sound like a nice young man. Call me; here’s my phone number.” He didn’t get the letter until he was in his sixties.

SKA: That is an incredible story right there. Read more ›

Colm Feore Interview – Stars in ‘King Lear’


Sarah Knight Adamson and Colm Feore interview ‘King Lear’ Photo Credit: Morgan Harris

“It’s Good to be King”

Colm Feore is no stranger to playing kings in Shakespearean plays, and now he’s portraying the king of all kings—King Lear. He stars in the film King Lear that opens today, February 25, which was originally produced as a play for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. We met in Chicago at the “new” Virgin Hotel on a rather chilly day, February 18. He was charismatic, delightful, and hysterically comical as we chatted about superheroes and their connection to Shakespeare, the “why” of the popularity of Shakespeare, working with director Clint Eastwood, and if you’re ever in France, he gave me a quick lesson on how to pretend to speak French…aka “fake French.”

Besides Feore’s variety of Shakespearean roles, he’s also appeared in major motion pictures such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Thor, and The Changling. You’ll view him soon on the TV show Gotham as Dr. Francis Dulmacher aka The Dollmaker.

Sarah Knight Adamson: Colm Feore, it’s so great to meet you. You’re starring in a new film, King Lear, a Shakespearean tragedy. What’s it like for an actor to play a king, as opposed to other roles?

Colm Feore: You know, the hardest part about being a king is thinking that you’re going to have to act kingly, because I’m not really sure how that works. There’s a phrase that we use in the theater: “It’s the crowd that makes the king.” When we send the responsibility to the rest of the company, suddenly, it makes sense. I come into the room, you kneel; I guess I’m the king. It’s the way the people treat the royalty. It’s marks of respect like a little bowing and “Yes, my Lord, three bags full, my Lord, thank you, your Highness.” It’s all that kind of stuff. Shakespeare’s very clear about how he wants his kings treated, so for us, it was simple enough to inhabit.

SKA: Oh wonderful. I know, and I’m sure your fans know, this is not the first time you played a king. You’ve played Richard III, the Pirate King, The King of the Fairies in Midsummer’s Night Dream. Most recently, I believe, in Thor, you were King Laufey. I’m seeing a theme here.


Colm Feore as King Laufey, (the Frost Giants) in ‘Thor’ Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

CF: A few princes too, like Hamlet and others who … Oh and the King of Bohemia, in Winter’s Tale, Leontes.

SKA: I thought there might be more. How wonderful. Do you see any similarities in these roles; the princes and kings you play?

CF: You know, the thing that Shakespeare is trying to do with kings is get people at the top of society in the Greek sense so that it will be shock and awe when they tumble. An audience looks and says, “Well, if that can happen to a king who has everything in the world, and people to protect him, and enough food, and clothing, and fire, wow. I hope my life doesn’t end like that. I’m so glad I’m not a king.” Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, right? Read more ›

Hollywood: Critics’ Choice 2015 Awards Article Posted to


Steve James, director, Chaz Ebert (Roger Ebert’s wife) and Garrett Basch, producer of ‘Life Itself’ on the Red (Blue) Carpet at the Critics Choice Awards. Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

Check out Sarah Knight Adamson’s article on the Critics Choice Awards includes Red Carpet, Interviews, Recap of the show and more, posted to

Click here to read the article on!

Sienna Miller Video Interview with Sarah Knight Adamson

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 2.34.32 PM

Sienna Miller talks with Sarah Knight Adamson on behalf of the film “American Sniper.” Clint Eastwood directs, also stars Bradley Cooper as American hero Chris Kyle. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures




Liv Ullmann Interview posted to


Liv Ullmann shown here Red Carpet 50th Chicago International Film Festival, October 2014 Photo Credit: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

Check out my interview with Liv Ullmann posted to

Click here to read the article on!



Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything” Interview


Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson.

Eddie Redmayne’s Performance as Stephen Hawking Sparks Oscar Buzz in “The Theory of Everything”

In 1963, while attending the University of Cambridge, Stephen Hawking, a brilliant student, was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative form of Motor Neurone Disease. He was given the earth-shattering news that he only had two years to live. The fact that Stephen Hawking, now 72, went on to not only write the bestselling avant-garde book, A Brief History of Time (an attempt to explain the universe in simple terms), but also to have a loving marriage that bore him three children is miraculous in and of itself. It would appear that this fairytale story deserves a fairytale ending, but alas, Stephen and Jane Hawking’s life together was filled with disapproving in-laws and extramarital affairs. The film doesn’t sugarcoat their struggles; we share their triumphs as well as their defeats.

Eddie Redmayne, a British actor who is known for his roles in Les Misérables (2012) and My Week with Marilyn (2011) delivers a mesmerizing portrayal of Hawking in the film. If you haven’t seen either of those films, you just may recognize him from his stylish Burberry clothing advertisements.

Stephen Hawking’s story is based on source material from a memoir, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, penned by his first wife, Jane Hawking. The film spans three decades and requires an extreme physical transformation by Redmayne, as in contorted body movements, unnatural facial expressions, and slurred speech. If you’ve seen Daniel Day-Lewis’s Academy Award winning performance in My Left Foot (1989) as Christy Brown, an Irish writer and painter who was born with cerebral palsy and could only write, type, or paint by use of the toes of one foot, then you’ll have an idea of the physical complexity of this role. And yes, Redmayne is creating mega Oscar buzz through a similar character adaptation.

Many questions are palpable after viewing the film. Having the opportunity to have them answered by Redmayne provides insights into the backstory of this extraordinary film’s production. We discussed his meeting Stephen Hawking along with the members of Hawking’s family, his preparation for the role, the physical demands required, Hawking’s keen sense of humor, co-star Felicity Jones’s incredible strength as Jane Hawking—which, by the way, he perceives as the backbone of the film – and the joy they experienced by improvising various scenes.

I caught up with Redmayne at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Chicago and was thoroughly enlightened by the stories surrounding the foundation for his challenging role as Stephen Hawking.

Sarah Knight Adamson: Did you meet with Stephen Hawking and did he give you any advice?

Eddie Redmayne:  Yes, I met him. I basically was so nervous that I ended up just telling Stephen Hawking about Stephen Hawking for the first twenty-five minutes. What did I learn from him? More than anything, he has this vivacious, playful, witty, deeply funny charisma that emanates from him, even though he can move few muscles now. That was the overriding thing I took away, but also, there were specific things. Like he asked me whether I was playing him before the voice machine. I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, my voice was very slurred.” Aspects of the performance that he cared about specifically, he highlighted. That was important to me.

SKA:  How wonderful. From reading the press notes, I know that Stephen allowed you to use his voice in the movie. How was that different from, say, Roger Ebert’s computer voice? I know Roger used a voice called “Alex” that’s from an Apple Mac. They sound a little similar to me, but I’m sure they’re not.

ER:  Well, that is interesting. You know Stephen had a tracheotomy in 1985 – I think that was the date. After that, he had this voice made for him. At the time, it was very specific and the early technology for that. Of course, at any point, he could have changed that voice to something more updated, but he became identified with it. That became his personality. It was an American-accented voice. He says quite hilariously that Americans tend to think it sounds Swedish, and the Brits think it sounds American. It’s very interesting to me the idea that that becomes your identity in some ways. He’s held on to that point. Read more ›

Jason Schwartzman Interview “Listen Up Philip”


Jason Schwartzman stars in the film ‘Listen Up Philip” Photo Credit: Film Still, Tribeca Film

Jason Schwartzman Interview

The ever-comical Jason Schwartzman was in Chicago last Friday, October 24, 2014, promoting his new film Listen Up Philip. He stars as a narcissistic successful book author who irritates anyone that comes in contact with him, including Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), his continually tormented girlfriend. Director and screenplay writer of the film, Alex Ross Perry, shows us a side of Schwartzman that we’ve not seen on screen, illuminating his multifaceted acting chops. We chatted about his role in the film, the Woody Allen similarities in some of the film scenes, his start in acting in the film Rushmore, and his best friend, Wes Anderson.

Sarah Knight Adamson:  I’d like to congratulate you on your performance in the film Listen Up Philip. You are so convincing as an antisocial, cranky guy with no filter.

Jason Schwartzman:  Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate you saying that.

SKA:  At first, it’s a little shocking to view you in this role, I must say, because it’s such a change from the characters you typically play. Did it take some time to really “get into” this narcissistic character?

JS:  Yeah, I think that it took a little bit of time, but not in the way where it was like … oh, to feel like this person all the time or something, but it definitely took a little bit of time to just start to think in those ways. I personally could understand a lot of what this character was feeling based on what he’s saying to people. I think we all can relate to wanting to say some of these types of things to people and not really acting on it. The ability to not care what people think about you, as this character does, was one pretty big hurdle.

I would ask Alex, the director, and I would give him hypothetical situations, like “If Philip walked into this situation and this happened, how would he react?” I would show him how I thought it should be and typically was always wrong. The answer that I had in my head was so wrong, and so really it just took a little while to start to think in “Philip logic,” as it were.

Then the other thing that was hard was just this idea that he would take up his idol or his mentor on his invitation to spend time at his house.

SKA:  Yes, yes.

JS:  That’s just something that I could not understand. If Brian Wilson or Paul McCartney or someone that I love so much said, “Come get out of the city and spend some time at my private residence, and you can write music there on my piano and use my studio,” I would be very shut down by that kind of an offer.

SKA:  Yes, that actually leads into my next question because he does say things that some of us are thinking but never would say, and it also … appears, as you were just giving an example, that he makes such terrible decisions.

Read more ›

Chicago Comedy Film Festival: Love Is Strange


More often than not the road to love is a winding one, with some combination of thrilling attractions, disheartening breakdowns, dead ends and head-scratching u-turns along the way.  The 4th annual Chicago Comedy Film Festival (October 16 – 19, 2014) line up included films that echoed the sometimes harrowing, awkward and, ultimately, ‘you complete me’ quest for love many of us go through.

Awkward Expressions of Love, a 10-minute short written by Trilby Glover, marks her directorial debut. She also stars in the film as Anna, a woman trying get back into the dating scene but isn’t quite ready.  Ian Brennan, co-creator and executive producer of Glee, plays Anna’s love interest that is left virtually speechless after her supremely awkward attempt at explaining their fumbled encounter the week before.

While both delivered good performances, it was Anna’s friend Liz, played by Jayma Mays (also a Glee alum), who injected a more dynamic energy to the film.  Her experience as a seasoned performer was evident in the nuances she brought to the character.  Awkward Expressions of Love, though slickly produced, didn’t quite find its comedic pocket. I was left wanting a bit more quirk and personality from Anna and perhaps better pacing or different shot framing for more punch from the jokes and their facial expressions. I’m looking forward to seeing future projects and a different variety of work from Trilby Glover as this was just the beginning.

Read more ›

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