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Shooting ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ to the Rhythm of Aaron Sorkin’s Layered Script

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Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael shot the courtroom scenes in large-format and the riot like a documentary with two hand-held cameras.

For cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, going from “Ford v Ferrari” to “The Trial of the Chicago 7” was more than merely shifting gears and genres within the period lane of the late 1960s. Shooting the timely conspiracy trial, showing Vietnam War protesters outside the 1968 Democratic Convention that turned horribly violent, required a new mindset and rapport with writer-director Aaron Sorkin, making his second outing behind the camera following “Molly’s Game.”

In fact, on “Chicago 7,” Sorkin’s technical inexperience demanded more visual heavy lifting from the cinematographer. Finally, Papamichael was able to facilitate Sorkin’s vision, just as he’s done all along with his frequent collaborators James Mangold (“Ford v Ferrari,” “Walk the Line”) and Alexander Payne (the Oscar-nominated “Nebraska”).

Papamichael realized on day one that “Aaron is all about the rhythm and the language,” he said. “And therefore he doesn’t want any shots that are not just on the person who’s speaking. And, you also have to be conscious not to design shots that will lengthen the way it’s covered because it will mess with his rhythm.”

Sorkin gathered his talented ensemble of actors (led by Sacha Baron Cohen as counterculture activist Abbie Hoffman and Eddie Redmayne as political activist Tom Hayden) to run through a courtroom scene without any blocking, after which he turned to his cinematographer and asked: ‘We good?”

It immediately became clear to Papamichael that he needed to visualize Sorkin’s script in a way that wasn’t too static yet also provided editor Alan Baumgarten (“Molly’s Game”) with enough footage of the ensemble in the courtroom, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as prosecutor Richard Schultz, Mark Rylance as attorney/civil rights activist William Kunstler, Jeremy Strong as Hoffman cohort Jerry Rubin, Yahya Abdul-Mateen as Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, and Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Aaron Sorkin, left, and Phedon Papamichael, right)

Niko Tavernise/Netflix © 2020

Sorkin’s multi-layered script balances three story threads: the overheated courtroom drama, how the peaceful demonstrations turned violent, and the bitter political rivalry between Hayden and Hoffman. “Aaron’s the first to admit how much he relied on me, but I was also aware that he sees very specific things,” said Papamichael. “And, as long as we’re capturing that, he’s fine with whatever else happens. He doesn’t want anything else that’s not in his head. He’ll close his eyes when the scene is going on, sitting in front of the monitor, and if he’s fine, we move on.” And Sorkin usually got what he wanted in two or three takes.

Papamichael used the same large-format setup that he experimented with on “Ford v Ferrari”: the Alexa LF with expanded, anamorphic lenses to cover the full sensor, providing a similar period distortion and grainy look. He shot with three cameras to capture as much as possible in the courtroom (a set build by production designer Shane Valentino in an empty church nave in Paterson, New Jersey).

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (L-R) YAHYA ABDUL-MATEEN II as BOBBY SEALE, BEN SHENKMAN as LEONARD WEINGLASS, MARK RYLANCE as WILLIAM KUNTSLER, EDDIE REDMAYNE as TOM HAYDEN, ALEX SHARP as RENNIE DAVIS. NICO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Niko Tavernise/Netflix © 2020

“The expanded anamorphics give you beautiful fall off in terms of the depth of field,” he said, “but it also gives that widescreen aspect ratio with classic anamorphic lens and vignetting.” The cinematographer convinced Sorkin that this was preferable to a long lens, because he was able to rake through the courtroom to pick up groups of characters in clusters.

“We’re in a courtroom, we have a lot of people sitting in a row next to each other, and I wanted to get closeups that didn’t isolate them,” Papamichael added. “You get their reactions and look exchanges in the defendant’s bench (against the wall and under the windows) or in the jury box, so I had to block shoot it, meaning several scenes in one direction that didn’t show extras because I didn’t [always] have extras available.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Cr. Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Niko Tavernise/Netflix© 2020

Papamichael said the courtroom scenes were part of a jigsaw puzzle, intercut with the protests and riots, and other revealing flashbacks (including Hoffman’s guerrilla performance). Aside from the legendary theatrics, the cinematographer wanted to convey “how terribly long this event was, lasting from September through mid-February in 1969. So I created a lot of different looks, and I controlled the exterior completely by building a gigantic box outside those big windows, and I was able to turn over from hard sunlight to a moody overcast, fall day, to a rainy winter day, all within minutes by having all those units in place. The biggest challenge was creating this timeline.”

By contrast, shooting the riot scenes was more of an improvised, vérité approach, following the crowd of actors and extras as Chicago police and the National Guard. Fortunately, they got to film in the actual Grant Park, the nearby bridges, and in front of the Hilton, the site of the Democratic Convention. Papamichael was inspired by Haskell Wexler’s iconic “Medium Cool” doc of the event, and they interspersed archival footage that was processed in black-and-white.

The riot was scripted to function as rapidly intercut vignettes and nothing was storyboarded or shot-listed and they used all of the footage from the three days of shooting. “We would set the crowd, work out their beats [including a sexual assault], and I would send out two operators hand-held, to immerse and free-style, just like a news crew would,” Papamichael said. “The actual event had 10,000 people in the park, but I only had 150 extras, so it was helpful not to get pretty wide. Actually, it was a nice, sunny day if you look at Wexler’s footage. Unfortunately, we were there in October and I was battling with leaves turning brown, but the use of [smoke for the tear gas] helped.”

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (Featured) JEREMY STRONG as Jerry Rubin in THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7. Cr. NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Niko Tavernise/Netflix© 2020

For Sorkin, there was always a particular beat that was important, such as the baton-hits that caused bloody head injuries or a bottle hitting the pavement, or the throwing of a Molotov cocktail. “The bottle was a key image for him because it sets off the violence coming from the otherwise peaceful demonstrators, which our heroes/defendants could control or stop at that point,” Papamichael said. “There is a specific mention in the screenplay that refers to those moments: ‘Let the blood flow all over the city.’”

But the critical turning point occurs when Kunstler grills Hayden during a practice interrogation scene the night before his appearance as a witness. Once again, though, the cinematographer had to finesse covering all the defendants when Sorkin only cared about turning the camera on Hayden and Kunstler. “I got all the defendants in the room, and since I was in charge of selecting the shots, the actors all came up to me and asked about their individual closeups,” Papamichael said. “And Aaron didn’t want to see them, so I gave you the early presence of everyone assembled around the room, but no reactions when Kunstler grills Tom. Ultimately, I’m serving the director and I’m trying to get the result as close to his vision and what he imagined.”

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Are Kenny and Armando Still Together?

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The sweetest love story! 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way stars Kenneth Niedermeier and Armando Rubio easily became fan-favorites on season 2. The couple won the TLC reality TV franchise’s fandom over with their heartfelt — and at times, heartbreaking — journey. Keep scrolling to find out if Kenny and Armando are still together!

Kenny, 57, and Armando, 31, met in a gay father support group on social media. Kenny is the father to four children — son Bricen and triplet daughters, Taylor, Cassidy and Madison. Armando is a father to a young daughter, Hannah, from a previous marriage.

TLC

Since Kenny resided in Florida and Armando lives in Mexico, the couple dated long-distance for about four years before Kenny made the big decision to relocate to be with his love. In the October 10 episode, Armando opened up about the reason the couple decided Kenny should be the one to move to Mexico instead of Armando moving to America with Hannah.

“One of the reasons Kenny moved to Mexico is because it’d be difficult to bring Hannah to the U.S. because she doesn’t know English and having lost her mother, I think it’s important to keep her near the family,” Armando said in a confessional. Earlier in the season, Armando explained he was previously married to his late ex-wife, who is Hannah’s mother, but she passed away several years ago in a car crash.

Just one week after Kenny arrived in Mexico, he popped the question to Armando in a romantic beachside proposal. But the couple faced obstacles because Armando’s family is not accepting of his sexuality, as Mexican culture is not widely accepting of same-sex couples.

Hannah, on the other hand, was more accepting of her father’s engagement with Kenny. The adorable little girl said she was happy that the three of them would be together as a family.

90 day fiance kenneth armando family react engagement
Courtesy @kenneth_90day/Instagram

Even though Kenny got a lukewarm welcome from Armando’s parents, Virginia and Armando Sr., they seemed to break down their walls a little bit as they shared a tearful goodbye as Armando, Kenny and Hannah prepared to move from San Felipe to their new home four hours away in Mexico. Virginia gave Kenny a big hug goodbye instead of their usual handshake, and Armando Sr. came to see them off after they were unsure if he would show up.

Despite the obstacles Kenny and Armando have faced, it seems like they’ve overcome it all together as a couple. According to their Instagram, Kenny and Armando are very much still together. Shortly after the Sunday, October 18, episode aired, Kenny shared a sweet family photo of him, Hannah and Armando. “Mi Familia … Amor es Amor,” he captioned the picture in Spanish, which translates to “My Family … Love is Love” in English.

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50 Cent urges followers to ‘vote for Trump’ over Biden tax plan

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When it comes to dollar bills, rapper 50 Cent is going MAGA.

The 45-year-old rapper on Monday urged his social media followers to “VOTE For TRUMP” after seeing figures related to Joe Biden’s tax plan.

The Queens-bred artist bashed the Democratic presidential nominee’s plan, which would raise tax rates for corporations and people making $400,000 or more per year.

He posted a photo from what looked like a CNBC broadcast, citing studies stating that under the plan, high earners in New York City could face combined federal and state tax rates of 62 percent.

“WHAT THE F–K!” he wrote. “(VOTE ForTRUMP) IM OUT, F–K NEW YORK.”

He added: “The KNICKS never win anyway.”

50 Cent then wrote: “I don’t care Trump doesn’t like black people 62% are you out of ya f–ing mind.”

The endorsement came after the rapper in 2016 posted that he hoped Trump wouldn’t win the presidential election.

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The Walking Dead: World Beyond Episode 3 Recap: The Tyger and the Lamb

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The Walking Dead: World Beyond Episode 3 Recap: The Tyger and the Lamb

In the third episode of The Walking Dead: World Beyond titled “The Tyger and the Lamb,” burdened by their pasts, members of the group adopt opposing strategies for dealing with a massive obstacle while pressure is put on the group to return home.

Past Mistakes

After a flashback reveals Silas was previously arrested for a violent incident — memories including bloody knuckles, an ambulance, and Silas hitting an unknown man along with earphones playing a birthday message from his grandparents when Silas turned six — Hope wakes up the group by radioing them over the walkie telling them she’s acting as the bait in Elton’s plan to sound the siren so they can get through the B.O.G. Iris begs her to come back, but Hope refuses, saying it has to be her.

We learn more about Silas’ background, including the day Felix welcomed him into the colony and that Silas’ uncle acted as his sponsor. Felix attempted to talk Silas into attending Monument High, but Silas chose to work in the physical plant with his uncle instead of going to school (though he still ends up at the school working as a janitor). Silas’ uncle says they’re grateful for the opportunity and that he’s a good kid.

Back in the present, Hope asks her sister to trust her and to go along with her plan. Hope shuts off her walkie and heads towards the siren. Iris, Elton, and Silas make their way towards an office at the front of the factory where Hope directed them to wait until she can set off the siren and they can make their escape to the exit. Elton sees Silas eyeing his weapon, a large wrench, and says he hopes they won’t have to kill, but if they do, is Silas up for it? Silas puts the wrench away and offers to carry Iris and Elton’s bags. He’s strong, and this will help them to move faster and makes it so they can kill the empties instead.

As they make their way through the smoke, Silas momentarily loses sight of Iris and Elton. When an empty attacks, he hallucinates it’s the man from his memories, and Silas grabs the large wrench, ready to attack. He then sees it’s just an empty as Iris and Elton come back for him. The three make their way into the office and begin looking for supplies while Hope continues on her mission to set off the sirens.

Reunited

After Silas shares a memory of his mom, Iris asks if he misses her and he says no before changing his answer to “sometimes.” Iris tells him it’s okay if he’s scared of the empties, but Silas says the undead are not the ones he’s afraid of. Elton changes the conversation by asking Silas to help him open a door, only for them to find Felix and Huck on the other side. Felix is stunned that this plan to find Iris and Hope’s dad was Iris’ idea and reveals that someone has been leaving them breadcrumbs so Felix and Huck could find the kids. Iris doesn’t believe Hope would do that and also refuses to tell them where the siren is because she trusts Hope’s plan to get them out of the B.O.G. Elton quietly speaks with Silas, saying not to worry and that they can “still get out of this,” but Silas says it’s going to go “how it always goes.”

Another flashback sees Silas mopping in Leo’s lab and meeting Iris for the first time, who tells him that her father had left a week prior as part of the Alliance Science Exchange with the Civic Republic. She doesn’t know where he is or when he’ll be back and she misses him, and that “every family’s got something.” When she leaves, Iris drops a paper that Silas picks up. The paper contains a poem about a tiger (spelled tyger) and a lamb, along with drawings of the animals, that Silas keeps in his locker.

In the present, Silas reveals that Hope had led the treehouse empty away from the group in the night because mistakes shouldn’t have to follow you around, and Silas implies knowing what it feels like to have your mistakes follow you. He mentions that he thinks Hope feels guilty about something she’s done. Huck confronts Silas, asking if he’s out there to try to make up for his own mistakes and Silas leaves the room. Iris follows, and Silas tells her that he’s not strong, that what he’s done means he should never have come. Iris says her sister is going through something she doesn’t understand and that she doesn’t feel strong either, but she doesn’t care about Hope’s mistakes or Silas’ mistakes. Silas says she should care and tells Iris that he’s afraid of himself. Another flashback reminds Silas that there are people in the colony who think he’s a monster.

Haul Ass

On the roof, Hope radios Iris and tells her she found the siren but had to take it apart because the crank was broken. Felix gets on and demands to let them help her, but Hope doesn’t want to put them in more danger and reminds them to haul ass to the exit once she gets the siren working. Iris tells Hope she isn’t mad but she just needs her to get to the exit. Hope says if she doesn’t make it to not come back for her, but Iris refuses to accept that Hope won’t get to the exit and that they’ll talk about the rest later. As Elton finally begins to understand the terminology of “haul ass” much to Felix’s exasperation, the sisters say their “no goodbyes” and the group prepares to escape.

When Silas says he’s not sure he can do this, Elton and Iris both tell him that he can. After fixing the siren, Hope finally sounds it, drawing the attention of the empties and allowing the others to make a run for it. After drawing them away, Hope climbs down a ladder, injuring her ankle in the process but making her way to the exit while Felix and Huck protect the other kids as they make their escape. During the scramble, Silas recalls Iris’ poem while Hope lights another fire to draw more empties away.

Hope is soon attacked by two empties and saved by Iris who makes her first kill by taking out one of the undead. Iris returns the favor by killing the other one, and the two make their way back to the others. Elton runs up to help Iris get the slightly injured Hope to safety, and Silas looks at the three of them, essentially coming to terms with the fact that he has found friends that he cares about who care about him, too. When a fence begins to fall over near the exit thanks to a pile of tires, Silas drops the bags and holds up the fence, buying everyone enough time to get through. Elton grabs the bags (later revealing he has his mom’s unfinished manuscript) and everyone makes it to the other side as the fence falls along with the tires, acting as a barricade between them and the B.O.G. empties.

After making it through the smoke, the group heads to a lake to clean their clothes and take the time to eat and rest. Felix says they’ll have to head up to Omaha and resupply before they head back home on the next transfer to the University in two weeks so they can avoid The Blaze. Iris says she’s not going back and Silas has her back, saying he’s where he’s supposed to be and Elton says this is where he’s supposed to be, too. Hope tells Felix that if he wants to keep his promise to keep them safe then he’ll have to help them find their dad in New York. The kids make it clear that they’re going with or without them, and Huck tells Felix keeping them safe is all they can do. Felix inevitably agrees and later Hope apologizes to him for dragging him into this and stealing his and Will’s jackets, but she’s glad he’s there.

A Lie

When they get the chance to speak alone, Hope reveals the truth about how their mother died, saying it wasn’t empties, it was her. She says she scared the pregnant lady who then shot their mother and Hope in turn picked up the gun and it went off, killing the woman. Hope didn’t tell the truth for all of these years because she didn’t want it to change her sister, or change how Iris saw Hope. Iris is upset Hope didn’t tell her, but they were just kids. Hope apologizes and they both cry as Iris hugs her sister, saying they’ll get through this.

As the group hits the road, Felix and Huck leading the way, Silas listens to more sweet old messages from his grandparents before Iris walks up to bandage his hand that got cut during the escape. Silas then wraps his blanket around both of them as they continue walking together following the others.

Elsewhere, Sergeant Major Barca speaks with the Lieutenant Colonel and says he can’t get what they did out of his head. Elizabeth tells him to stand at attention and demands he says what they did out loud. “We neutralized the threat,” Barca responds before saying they didn’t seem like a threat. Elizabeth begins turning on a bunch of random stuff in her kitchen, saying they have energy, water, medicine, transport, the council, the courts, the schools, culture, currency, an economy, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. Elizabeth says they are the last light in the world, the last hope, and they enable the population of over 200,000 souls there to live to create the future. Elizabeth says they didn’t seem like a threat, but they were going to be. Barca says he doesn’t know if he believes that.

Elizabeth has two fully-armed soldiers come to take Barca away to the CRM Health and Welfare Complex until it’s deemed he can serve again in a labor-oriented capacity. Barca says he’ll never be ready to serve again. Elizabeth replies that he’ll never leave the Complex, then, and repeats that they are the light in the world when Barca brings up the people they killed. Barca calls it a lie that they are the light in the world as he is taken away. When she’s alone, Elizabeth begins to cry.

What did you think of the third episode of The Walking Dead: World Beyond? Sound off in the comments below!

The Walking Dead: World Beyond

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