Friday, March 10, 2006

A GANGSTER, GEISHA, GROMIT, KING, and PENGUINS

GANGSTER = TSOTSI (gangster, hoodlum, thug) was the Oscar® winner for Best Foreign Language Film of 2005 at the 78th Academy Awards, 5 March 2006. Written and directed by Gavin Hood, this U.K./South African film is set in the Johannesburg township of Soweto. TSOTSI traces six days in the life of a ruthless young gang leader who ends up caring for a baby accidentally kidnapped during a car-jacking, which becomes a life-altering experience. It opened wide 24 February 2006, and is distributed by Miramax.

GEISHA = MEMORIES OF A GEISHA, directed by Rob Marshall (CHICAGO, 2002), stars Chinese actress Zhang Zivi (HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, HERO) in her first English-language role, as Sayuri who enters the hidden world of geishas. She is taught that a geisha is not free to love, or to pursue her own destiny. Her mentor, the legendary geisha Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), understands the limits of an intimate relationship with a special patron or danna, and teaches Sayuri to keep her feelings tightly reined. Unlike Sayuri’s defiant rival Hatsumomo (Gong Li), Mameha knows that a proper geisha cannot afford to indulge her passion for any man.

I think this film should have been nominated for the Best Film Academy Award®. It won three statuettes, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design. Had it been nominated for Best Film, it would have won more. I think it should have been nominated instead of CAPOTE, which contains little to compliment, except the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of the late author Truman Capote. Hoffman won best actor.

GEISHA'S nomination most likely did not happen because all the actors are Chinese, not Japanese. Yet, the film is set in Japan, and everyone knows that geishas exist only in Japan. It was a bad judgment call by someone involved with the film, but the buck must stop on director Rob Marshall's desk.

GROMIT = The winner of the best animated feature film was WALLACE & GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT. This hand-crafted clay animated feature film, directed by Nick Parks, is from DreamWorks SKG. Wallace, a cheese-loving inventor, voiced by Peter Sallis, and his loyal dog Gromit set out to discover the mystery behind the garden sabotage that plagues their village and threatens the annual giant vegetable growing contest. The film won almost every major animation award this season.

KING = The mighty ape wasn't nominated for Best Film of 2005, but KING KONG, directed by Peter Jackson, roared in three major technical awards, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. The folks at Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic must be fuming. KONG will be released on DVD 28 March.

PENGUINS = Lots of them in the documentary feature winner, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (La Marche de l'empereur), narrated by Morgan Freeman and directed by Luc Jacquet. It is an independent film (Canal+, France, in association with Buena Vista International Films, France), distributed by National Geographic Feature Films, and Warner Independent Pictures. PENGUINS documents the amazing march of the Emperor Penguins in order to procreate in a certain location of Antarctica. It is available now on DVD.

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