Hillary Atkin

Actress Recognized as Something of a Real-Life Superhero

Jun 14, 2018

Actress Brie Larson, soon to star as Captain Marvel, is reaching real-life superhero status after receiving one of the top honors at Women In Film’s 2018 Crystal + Lucy Awards.

In ceremonies Wednesday night at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom, Larson was honored with the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film, adding to her 2016 Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, Critics Choice and National Board of Review awards for her breakthrough lead performance as Ma in “Room.”

Instead of “thanking her publicist,” as most recipients would likely do, Larson used her entire acceptance speech — energizing the packed ballroom — to advocate for change in the ranks of those who write about film. According to a just-released USC Annenberg study, 67% of those critics who wrote about the top 100 movies of the year are white males.

“Am I saying I hate white dudes? No, but we need to be cognizant of doing our part to make sure that women and people of color are included in these ranks,” she said. “Reviews matter. They help independent films, they help slingshot movies to awards. A good review can change lives, as it did mine. I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude telling me about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.” It wasn’t made for him. Females and people of color, many of them freelance, are underrepresented and denied access to junkets and invites to screenings. Forty-one percent of journalism majors are women and 22% are people of color. The talent is there; the access and opportunity are not.”

Yet some change is coming. Larson announced that both the Sundance and Toronto film festivals have agreed to a 20% press allocation to these under-represented groups.

Meanwhile, when it was announced that ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey was to be feted at the Crystal + Lucy Awards, the firestorm surrounding her decision to can “Roseanne” was in full swing.

But when Dungey took the stage to accept the organization’s Lucy Award, she didn’t address the huge controversy or the rumors swirling about a possible spinoff to the popular sitcom.

Instead, Dungey — who had been introduced by “Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo and a video that included testimonials from Bob Iger, Jimmy Kimmel, Patricia Heaton and Viola Davis — eloquently spoke about her early love of television, one of her mentors, her philosophy and her values.

“My career began in movies but I fell in love with TV at an early age. My sister and I would buy the fall TV Guide to plan our viewing. This was in the pre-VCR era, with shows like ‘Remington Steele’ and ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ We loved our favorite characters. They were all like friends. I found inspiration in their stories and I’m thankful now for the privilege of telling stories, like those of Meredith, Jessica and Olivia Pope. Let us see ourselves and see the commonalities we have, despite our differences,” said Dungey, who was accompanied on stage by her daughter, Eden.

She talked about one of her key mentors, Mark Pedowitz, who now runs the CW. “He was open to any idea that you were passionate about and had a strategy for. ‘Let’s give it a shot,’ he would say. Those are great words and they give you the freedom to fail. Bob Iger is the same way. He stresses the importance of risk-taking — and if you fail, so what? Advocate, pursue and do everything you can to bring it to life. Believe in yourself and your ideas. Stand up, speak up and rise up. When you see something counter to your beliefs, your actions must match your beliefs. In uncertain times, the opportunity exists to create meaningful change. When we put our minds to it, look out. We do that by having courage,” she said, referring to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements — and possibly alluding to firing Roseanne Barr for her racist tweets.

“If I fail to stand up and have integrity … I choose kindness. The world can be daunting and I choose to lead by example. As Michelle Obama famously said, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ Let’s march proudly into the future together,” she concluded.

Dungey becomes one of an elite group of programming executives to receive the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television, which was first bestowed in 1994 and is named for Lucille Ball, the iconic comedienne who was one of television’s first female trailblazers. Recipients in recent years include Tracee Ellis Ross, Taraji P. Henson, Jill Soloway, Kerry Washington, the women of “Mad Men” (Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Jessica Paré, Kiernan Shipka), Bonnie Hammer, Nina Tassler, Courteney Cox, Holly Hunter, Salma Hayek and Shonda Rhimes, who worked closely with Dungey at ABC.

The evening’s program celebrated Women In Film, Los Angeles’ 45th anniversary and got off to a rousing star when Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand introduced about a dozen leaders of Hollywood’s gender parity movement who filled the stage and received a standing ovation.

McDormand had famously advocated for inclusion riders during her recent Academy Awards acceptance speech, and showed off red bumper stickers with those words on them. She said she first heard of inclusion riders two nights before the Oscars from UTA’s Blair Kohan.

McDormand also lauded outgoing WIF President Cathy Schulman, who has served for eight years. “Ignited — what a year,” Schulman said, referencing the theme of the evening. “Women are working and the demand for change has been a battle, but there’s so much yet to be done. We’re on this journey together. Let the future be free from the constraints of gender bias.”

The evening’s other awards included the Max Mara Face of the Future Award to actress Alexandra Shipp, the Artistic Excellence Award to songwriting team NOVA Wav and the Lexus Beacon Award to the 12 female department heads of “Black Panther.”

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