Friday, December 28, 2007

ORPHANAGE Opens Today



THE ORPHANAGE (EL Orfanato), Spain's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) Oscar®, opens in select theaters today. It was directed by J. A. (Juan Antonio) Bayona - - directing his first feature, produced by Guillermo del Toro (PAN'S LABYRINTH), and scripted by first-timer Sergio Sanchez. LABYRINTH won three Academy Awards last February, but not for the BFLF. That honor went to Germany's THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

Belén Rueda plays Laura, a former ward of the orphanage who returns to the house 30 years later with her doctor husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and their son Simon (Roger Princep). Simon does not know he is adopted, acquires an imaginary friend named Tomás, then he goes missing.

Laura goes into the cavernous areas of the house searching for her son. Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin) is a paranormal who goes into a trance. She suggests Simon's disappearance may be connected to the harrowing fate of the other orphans who lived there decades ago, and also went missing.

Critics tend to refer to the movie with lines similar to: "A mystery in a well-crafted, if familiar, haunted house," "A horror story with tears," or "A tale of love and a story of horror." I'm sure there will be many more attempts to write the perfect tag line for this movie.

For anyone who knows Spanish cinema, ORPHANAGE is much more than a tag line. I've seen more than 200 Spanish-language movies, all from the best directors Spain, Mexico, and other Latin countries have produced since before the rule of Francisco Franco. The Aragonian Carlos Saura, who followed "The Master," Aragonian Luis Buñuel but has never eclipsed him, is fading, and the Catalonia Bayona will hopefully deserve a place in the line of succession. PAN'S LABYRINTH is a wonderful movie, but it isn't "Spanish" in the Spanish surrealism tradition of Buñuel and Saura. THE ORPHANGE comes darn close.

The Goya of Honor is given by Spain's Academy of Cinematic Arts and Sciences, and is considered Spain's "Oscar." This year, OPHANAGE is nominated for 14 Goya Awards, including best picture and best director of a movie based on a novel. Rueda is nominated for a Goya as best actress, Chaplin for best supporting actress, and Princep for promising young actor.

The movie did not garner the most Goya nominations. That honor went to 13 ROSES (Las trece rosas, directed by Emilio Martínez Lázaro). It received 15. Nonetheless, over a million Spaniards rushed to the theaters in the first four days of ORPHANAGE'S release in Spain.

I must point out that Spaniards normally don't rush to see a Spanish movie, period. They rush to see the latest dubbed Hollywood movie.The population of Spain is only about 40 million in contrast to the U.S, which boasts over 300 million. Therefore an initial $36 millon gross for a Spanish movie in Spain is huge in comparison.

Some viewers have suggested the movie is based on the video game "Rule of Rose." I don't know, but Bayona's best director Goya nod is for "direction based on a Novel." I do know that ORPHANGE is backed by PictureHouse, a specialty film production and releasing company that is an arm of Time Warner, the same company that backed LABYRINTH. That is huge, too.

See my 30 September post, "Spain Sends THE ORPHANAGE to Fetch BFLF Oscar®." To find the post quickly, simply type ORPHANGE in the search box above. To see all the Goya nominations on my 2008 Awards Page, click this link that goes directly to my translated list of nominations.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oscar® Nomination Ballots


The 80th Academy Awards® nomination ballots are scheduled to be mailed today, and must be returned by 12 January. The nominations for the 80th Academy Awards will be announced Tuesday, 22 January 2008, at 5:30 a.m. PT, in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.

Final ballots go out 30 January and are due back by 5:00 p.m., 19 February, less than a week before the Academy Awards ceremony. The 80th Academy Awards gala is 24 February 2008, and will be telecast on ABC TV.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Screenwriters - - No Oscars® or Globes

If the Screenwriters don't make nice with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association® and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences® soon, the Golden Globe Awards (Sunday, 13 January 2008) and the Academy Awards® (Sunday, 24 February 2008) may not happen this year.

The Golden Globes®, scheduled only 13 days after the New Year, are in the most danger. The nominations were announced 13 December. (See the previous post.) The Oscars® have a little more leeway. Nominations are scheduled to be announced Tuesday, 22 January.

According to an announcement from the AP earlier today, the Writers Guild of America, West, will not allow its members to write for the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards. Both organizations had asked for an interim agreement for writing services. Also, the Guild denied the use of clips from movies and past awards programs.

The Screen Actors Guild, which faces its own contract negotiations next year, is supporting the writers. Therefore, actors' participation as Oscar guests and presenters might be affected, diminishing the star power that drives these events, especially for television viewers and revenue.

Jon Stewart, scheduled to host the Oscar show and a writers guild member, has honored the strike. His The Daily Show on Comedy Central has been in reruns since the walkout began. There has been no statement about him having asked for and interim agreement concerning his appearance.

The awards for the "Best of 2007" could be delayed indefinitely and, if so, will portend a bad 2008 for the television and movie industries.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Golden Globe Nomination for KITE RUNNER

THE KITE RUNNER movie (USA, directed by Marc Forster) is nominated for a Hollywood Foreign Press Association Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Film category. (Search KITE RUNNER in search box above for all my posts about this movie.) The movie received one other nomination, original score by Alberto Igleslias.

The nominations announced today included these other motion pictures in the Best Foreign Film category:

THE DIVING BELL and the BUTTERFLY (Le Scaphandre et le papillon, France, USA) directed by Julian Schnabel; 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS and 2 DAYS (4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile, Romania) winner of the Cannes' Palm d'Or this past May, directed by Cristian Mungiu; LUST, CAUTION (Taiwan), directed by Ang Lee; and PERSEPOLIS (France, animated), directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.

4 MONTHS and PERSEPOLIS are officially submitted for Oscar® consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) category. France submitted PERSEPOLIS over DIVING BELL in the Oscar category as countries may submit only one movie. LUST, CAUTION was rejected by the Motion Picture Academy® in the BFLF category on a rules technicality, and THE KITE RUNNER could not qualify for submission in this Oscar category under the Academy rules.

THE KITE RUNNER is based on the 2003 novel of the same title by Khaled Hosseini, an awarding winning book that was at the top, or on the New York Times best-seller list for almost three years, and at the time of this posting, over 8 million copies have been sold.

The British period drama ATONEMENT led with seven nominations overall, including one in the Best Drama Movie category. Others in that category, which includes seven this year, are: AMERICAN GANGSTER, EASTERN PROMISES, THE GREAT DEBATERS, MICHAEL CLAYTON, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

The Musical / Comedy category has the traditional five nominees, and they are: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR, HAIRSPRAY, JUNO, and SWEENEY TODD.

Directors nominated:
Tim Burton for SWEENEY TODD; Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN; Julian Schnabel for THE DIVING BELL and the BUTTERFLY; Ridley Scott for AMERICAN GANGSTER; and Joe Wright for ATONEMENT.


Steven Spielberg is the Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient.

The awards presentation is Sunday, 13 January 2008, a the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, and will be broadcast live on NBC, 8:00 p.m., EST. To see the list of all nominees go here.

For more about other awards currently being given by organizations, film critics, and Hollywood guilds, see my Awards Page (link also on right sidebar).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

THE KITE RUNNER Premieres in Hollywood



Khaled Hosseini and Marc Forster

The official U.S. movie premiere for THE KITE RUNNER was held at the Egyptian Theater, Hollywood, Tuesday, 4 December. The movie will begin a limited release in 30 selected theaters Friday, 14 December.

Both the author of the book and co-writer of the screenplay Khaled Hosseini, and the movie's director Marc Forster were present at the Hollywood premiere, but none of the Afghani child actors who appear in the movie attended. They are now safe somewhere in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Four boys, each accompanied by a relative, arrived in the UAE on Friday, 30 November, according to a spokesperson for Paramount Pictures. The studio is also paying a per diem to relatives left behind in Kabul, and has offered to keep the entire arrangement in place long enough for the boys to graduate from high school if they choose to stay. Paramount executives and others involved in the relocation effort still hope to bring the co-stars to the United States to be honored somehow and to grant their wish to visit as tourists.

SYNOPSIS:

THE KITE RUNNER, a DreamWorks production - Paramount Vantage release, like the 2003 best-selling novel upon which it is based, spans three decades of Afghan strife from before the Soviet invasion through the rise of the Taliban. The story centers on the friendship between Amir, a wealthy Pashtun boy (played by Zekiria Ebrahimi), who is now 11, and Hassan, the Hazara son of his father's servant.

(Hassan) In a pivotal scene Hassan, (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, now 13), is raped in an alley by a Pashtun bully. Amir witnesses the rape, but says nothing.

Later, Sohrab, a Hazara boy (Ali Danish Bakhty Ari, now also 13), is preyed upon by a corrupt Taliban official. It is the rape scene that has caused the problem for the young actors. The fourth boy is Sayed Jafar Masihullah Gharibzada, now 14, who played a smaller role but became friends with the others.

(Amir)

Amir and his father flee Afghanistan. After his father dies, Amir, now an adult, returns. Khalid Abdalla, who played the pilot / hijacker in UNITED 93, (2006), portrays the adult Amir.
Khalid Abdalla at the Hollywood Premiere.

For my readers in Spain, Mexico and Latin America, the Spanish title of the book and film is COMETAS EN EL CIELO.

A SPECIAL AUCTION ON eBAY

Beginning yesterday (5 December), there is an celebrity auction on eBay where autographed authentic Afghan kites are being auctioned to raise funds for the Afghanistan Relief Organization (ARO) specifically for the training of teachers and the construction of rural libraries in Afghanistan.

Among those celebrities who have autographed the 25 kite tails are Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Benicio del Toro, Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Cher, Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Kate Winslet, Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, former President George H.W. Bush, Eva Mendes, Ryan Gosling, Steve Nash, Lauren Bosworth, Lauren Conrad, Hans Zimmer, The Kite Runner director Marc Forster and actor Khalid Abdalla. In addition to receiving a kite with the tail autographed by the celebrity, the winning bidder will receive a “thank you” card signed by the celebrity.

Other items to be listed on eBay include a trip to the set of the new James Bond movie as a personal guest of director Marc Forster, as well as a private lunch with Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini. People will also have the opportunity to bid for the inclusion of their names in Hosseini’s next book.
Auction site.

WHAT IS THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES?

The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate. The federation was formally established 2 December 1971. When you see signs at sporting events that read, "Emirates" it means that space was paid for by the UAE.

The same for Emirates Airline, which is the airline owned by the federation. It was Dubai Ports that was not allowed to buy the contracts for port operations in the U.S., and it was the federations financial center in Abu Dhabi that recently bought about 20% of CitiCorp, the parent of CitiBank, effectively saving CitiBank's backside
in the prime mortgage debacle.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

EUROPEAN FILM AWARDS

WINNERS OF THE EUROPEAN FILM AWARDS 2007


EUROPEAN FEATURE - 4 LUNI, 3 SAPTAMINI SI 2 ZILE (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Romania), Cristian Mungiu [submitted for Oscar® in BFLF category, and won at Cannes]. A drama about abortion.

EUROPEAN DIRECTOR - Cristian Mungiu for 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS and 2 DAYS.


EUROPEAN ACTRESS - Helen Mirren in THE QUEEN [won Oscar® in February 2007].

EUROPEAN ACTOR 2007 - Sasson Gabai in BIKUR HATIZMORET (The Band’s Visit, Israel). A comedy.

EUROPEAN SCREENWRITER - Fatih Akin for AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE (The Edge of Heaven, Germany / Turkey) [submited for BFLF Oscar®].

EUROPEAN CINEMATOGRAPHER - Frank Griebe for DAS PARFUM – DIE GESCHICHTE EINES MÖRDERS (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer).

EUROPEAN COMPOSER - Alexandre Desplat for THE QUEEN (UK, etc.)

EUROPEAN DISCOVERY - BIKUR HATIZMORET (The Band’s Visit, Israel), Eran Kolirin. [Submitted for Oscar® but Academy rejected it. Claimed there was too much English. Israel submitted BEAUFORT]. See my post "Proposed Rule Change for Foreign Movies" 12 October, about this language thing.

EUROPEAN SHORT FILM – Prix UIP for ALUMBRAMIENTO (Childbirth, Spain), Eduardo Chapero-Jackson.

EUROPEAN DOCUMENTARY – Prix ARTE for LE PAPIER NE PEUT PAS ENVELOPPER LA BRAISE (Paper cannot Wrap up Embers).

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY PRIX D’EXCELLENCE - Uli Hanisch for Production Design, DAS PARFUM – DIE GESCHICHTE EINES MÖRDERS (Perfume: The Story of a Muderer, Germany / U.S, 2006), Tom Tykwer.

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY CRITICS AWARD - Prix FIPRESCI for COEURS (Hearts, France, 2006), Alain Resnais.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD for Best European Film, A SCONOSCIUTA (Unknown Woman, Italy), Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso). (Anyone could vote online. I did, but not for this one).

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD to Jean-Luc Godard, French director prominent in the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague). First feature was BREATHLESS (1960).

EUROPEAN ACHIEVEMENT IN WORLD CINEMA 2007 – Prix Screen International to Michael Ballhaus, German cinematographer, nephew of the late Max Ophüls. Prominent in New German Cinema, especially for his work with the late director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Follow the movie awards from now until the Academy Awards® 24 February on my Awards Page. See link on left sidebar.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Fernando Fernán-Gómez Dead at 86

IN MEMORIAM
Fernando Fernán-Gómez (2005)

28 August 1921 (Lima, Peru) - - 21 November 2007 (Madrid, Spain)

"For Fernando"
Stars above Iberia, twinkling in the skies;
One bright star fell in the night, tears flow from our eyes.
~ ~ Mimi, 21/11/07
Fernando Fernán-Gómez made over 200 appearances in Spanish television series and films, directed 25 films and wrote about 10 plays in a career spanning nearly six decades. He also wrote poetry and music.

Among the films he appeared in are Fernando Trueba's BELLE EPOQUE, which was ony the second movie from Spain to win the Oscar® for best foreign film (1993), and in which he portrayed Manolo, farmer father of four voluptuous daughters (Penélope Cruz, Miriam Díaz Aroca, Mary Carmen Ramírez, Maribel Verdú). In the third Spanish movie to win the same award (2000), he was the father of voluptuous Penélope Cruz in Pedro Almodóvar's ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Todo sobre mi madre).

Among his other memorable roles are the bee-obsessed father Fernando in Víctor Erice's 1973 beloved SPIRIT OF THE BEHIVE (El Espíritu de la colmena); the bird-song obsessed Fernando in THE LOVE OF CAPTAIN BRANDO (El Amor del capitán Brando, Jaime de Armiñán, 1974); the overly religious mystic wolf Fernando in Carlos Saura's ANA AND THE WOLVES (Ana y los lobos); and the older disillusioned wolf Fernando, who has substituted trying to fly an airplane for mysticism in Saura's 1979 black comedy MAMA TURNS 100 (Mamá cumple cien años).

His honors include six Goyas from the Spanish Film Academy, Spain's top film award, and the 1995 Price of Asturias Prize for the Arts. MORE . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oscar® Feature Docs Short List


Originally, 70 documentary features qualified for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'® Best Documentary Feature Film in this year's Oscar race. Under the rules, all were screened by the committees, and 15 films have advanced to the next step - - choosing five for nomination.

Here's the short list with a little extra (Docs with dirctor(s), USA productions and in color, unless noted):

AUTISM: THE MUSICAL - Tricia Regan (Music and autistic children).


BODY OF WAR - Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro (Wounded vets).

FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO - Daniel G. Karslake (Homosexuality and religion intersect).

LAKE OF FIRE - Tony Kaye (Abortion, B&W).


NANKING - Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman (1938 "Rape of Nanking, China, by Japanese").

NO END IN SIGHT - Charles Ferguson (Iraq - Special Jury Prize, Sundance IFF).

OPERATION HOMECOMING: WRITING THE WARTIME EXPERIENCE - Richard Robbins (Troops in Iraq & Afghanistan - Special Jury Award Florida FF; nominated for IDA* award).

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME - Weijun Chen, South Africa (Election, elementary class style).


THE PRICE OF SUGAR - Bill Haney, USA / D.R. (Exploitation of workers in Dominican Republic - Audience Award, SXSW FF).

A PROMISE TO THE DEAD: THE EXILE JOURNEY OF ARIEL DORFMAN - Peter Raymont, Canada (Memories of exile, longing and democracy in Argentina through the words of author /activist Dorfman).

THE RAPE OF EUROPA - Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen and Nicole Newnham (Chronicles struggle to keep Nazis from destroying centuries of western culture - Audience Award, RiverRun IFF).

SICKO - Michael Moore (Comparing U.S. health system to others - nominated for IDA* award).

TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE - Alex Gibney (Torture in Afghanistan, Gitmo, and Iraq - Best Doc, Chicago IFF; nominated for IDA* award).


WAR/DANCE - Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine (Children in displacement camp compete in Uganda music festival despite war - Directing Award, Sundance IFF; Audience Award, Wisconsin FF; nominated for IDA* award).

WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN - Steven Okazaki (Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the horror they brought to children).

*International Documentary Association Finalist. Gala is 8 December 2007. Also, see my Awards Page.

The 80th Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 22 January 2008, at 5:30 a.m. PT, in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Wilshire Boulvard, Beverly Hills, CA. The awards gala is 24 February 2008.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Filmmakers Question BFLF Oscar® Rules

It seems as though there is more unrest about the rules concerning the Academy Awards® than I thought. In the previous post, "Animators Decry Animation Rules," I reported and commented on some problems concerning this year's Best Animated Feature category, which many contribute to the rules for the category.

Last month I mentioned some issues, and suggested some possible considerations for changes regarding the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) category in my post, "Proposed Rule Change for Foreign Movies," Friday, 12 October 2007. This month, some producers and directors have suggested that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'® rules in the BFLF category are causing dismay for those in the industry, especially those working abroad, where mutinational productions are becoming more common each year, and many foreign directors want to work in English as well as their native tongue.

Director Ang Lee in Beverly Hills, 2007

First up is Ang Lee's LUST, CAUTION (Se, jie, 2007) the official entry from Taiwan. Because none of the principal cast and principal department heads (cinematographer, production designer, and sound mixer) were from Taiwan, the Academy ruled the movie was in violation of Rule 14 and disqualified it. Apparently, the Taiwanese government was given only a few hours notice to substitute another movie.

Devastated by the loss of their award-winning director (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, Wo hu cang long, Tiawan, 2000; and EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, Yin shi nan nu, Tiawan, 1994), the officials in Taiwan substituted ISLAND ETUDE (Lian xi qu, 2006) directed by Huai-en Chen, or Chen Huai-En. Chen has mainly worked as a cinematographer. ISLAND ETUDE is his first directorial effort.

Lee, born in Taiwan and educated in the U.S., won a Best Picture Oscar®, and numerous other awards for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (USA, 2005), plus many awards for SENSE AND SENIBILITY, 1995, and THE ICE STORM, 1997, English being the principal language spoken in all.

Another strong picture,THE BAND'S VISIT (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret, Eran Kolirin, director, 2007) officially submitted by Israel, was turned down because there is too much English in the picture. Again see my post of 12 October about the problem of "language" in foreign movies.


Israel substituted BEAUFORT, Joseph Cedar, 2007, the latter's story line being much less interesting than a brass band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center only to find themselves lost in a foreign city.

THE DIVING BELL and the BUTTERFLY (Le Scaphandre et le papillon, France / USA , 2007), Julian Schnabel's French movie, which won him the directing prize at Cannes and critical acclaim at other festivals, was not submitted by France. They chose to submit the animated PERSEPOLIS, also in French with French crew and actors, Catherine Deneuve among them. Under the Academy's rules a country may submit only one entry, and the country has the right to make that choice. That is, provided the movie follows the rules of submission established by the Academy.

PERSEPOLIS is based on Iranian author Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel. Satrapi also co-wrote the screenplay and co-directed the movie with Frenchman Vincent Paronnaud. It is a poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution. Deneuve plays the mother, and that alone certifies it as genuinely French. Plus, doesn't every Iranian girl have a French mother as beautiful and Deneuve?

Julian Schnabel, director of DIVING BELL, was an art-world star in the early 1980s. A native of Brooklyn, he still draws and paints, but his other medium now is film. He made his first movie, BASQUIAT (Build a Fort, Set it on Fire, USA) in 1996, about the art world with which he is very familiar.

His second movie, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS in 2000, about the homosexual Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, established him as a director, and gained an Oscar nomination for the star, Javier Bardem. All of Schnabel's five children appear in the movie. His current wife is Spanish actress Olatz Lopez Garmendia. She has appeared in all of his movies, and executive produced BEFORE NIGHT FALLS.

DIVING BELL is based on the best-selling memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), the former editor in chief of Elle magazine in France. In 1995, Mr. Bauby suffered a stroke that left him with a condition called locked-in syndrome, conscious but paralyzed, with only his left eye remaining functional. He painstakingly composed the memoir by blinking that eye to select letters on a chart.

The movie sounds very much like the award-winning MAR ADENTO (The Sea Inside, Spain, 2004), directed by Alejandro Amenába (right in picture above).
It is based on the true story of a Spanish sailor, Ramon Sampedro, who fought a 30-year campaign for his right to die with dignity after a diving accident left him paralyzed. MAR ADENTO garnered a Golden Globe as Best Foreign Film and a Globe nomination for its star Javier Bardem (left in picture above) as best actor. It swept Spain's Goya Awards, and won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in the U.S. For all awards click HERE. I'm sure this year's members of the Academy BFLF committees would recognize the similarities in the MAR ADENTO and DIVING BELL.

In an article for Reuters, "Filmmakers question Oscar's foreign movie rules," 9 October 2007, Stephen Galloway writes that the Afghan tale THE KITE RUNNER, " . . . would never had stood a chance [in the BFLF category because it] features English and Dari dialogue, [and] was made by a Swiss -American Director, Marc Forster with an international crew."

He notes Afghanistan has no submission this year, implying the reason is THE KITE RUNNER did not meet the rules for a BFLF submission, but THE KITE RUNNER is based on a book written by American-educated Afghani writer Khaled Hosseini, who also cowrote the screenplay. Although the main actors and some of the crew are from Afghanistan, it was filmed in China and California, by U.S. production companies (principally MacDonald / Parkes Productions) and is distributed by U.S. distributors (DreamWorks SKG and Paramount Vintage). There is more English spoken than the other foreign languages, and it is officially a U.S. production, not Afghani, and was not eligible for a BFLF submission from Afghanistan from the beginning.

Mr. Galloway also wrote, "In excluding movies like these, the Academy continues to court controversy with foreign-language rules that many deem in need of revision." Amen!

One reason revisions are needed could be that the designation "foreign-language film" is outmoded in our new world-wide economy in which the European Union has dissolved borders within the Union, and the English language is the official diplomatic language, transcending borders around the world. Again, I urge the members of the Board of Governors of the Academy to take a serious look at their rules, especially in the BFLF category, but I would prefer calling the category "Best Foreign Motion Picture".

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Animators Decry Academy Rules

It seems as though there is more unrest about the rules concerning the Academy Awards® than I thought. I mentioned some issues, and suggested some possible considerations for changes regarding the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) category in my post on this blog, "Proposed Rule Change for Foreign Movies," Friday, 12 October 2007.

This month, some animators complained that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'® lack of a clear definition for animated movies, and not keeping pace with changing technology, causes problems. Some have asserted that lack of clarification in the rules muddle the Best Animated Feature category.
Over the years the Academy has tried to address the question, "What is animation?" The most recent revision to the rules pertaining to the Best Animated Feature (Rule Seven) states, "An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture of at least 70 minutes in running time, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time."

Techniques used to blend real actors on the screen with animated characters in Robert Zemeckis' 1988 pioneering WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? have improved immensely as witnessed in this year's ENCHANTED. However that brings us to a statement in Rule Seven, ". . . animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time."

Now, that is really splitting hairs. I'm with those who maintain that an animated feature should either be 100% animation, or it should not be considered an animated feature. There is a new category for hybrid automobiles. Perhaps, there should be a new category for mixed-media motion pictures. Just a thought as technology continues to expand in this century.

Most of the questions being raised involve the statement from the rule, ". . . in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique." Years ago, stop-action claymation was included along with the stipulation of "drawn" frames. Then, animators were allowed to use computers to draw the blue prints for those drawings.

These changes lead to what is known today as a motion-capture process. Simplistically, actors act before a green screen and computers generate computer characters that can be further altered by computers to resemble anything the filmmaker wants. How much more vague can the Academy get than ". . . using a frame-by-frame technique?" All motion pictures use a frame-by-frame technique, but only animated pictures have previously produced each fame individually. No more.

This year, Robert Zemeckis' BEOWULF uses the motion-capture technique as did last year's nominees MONSTER HOUSE and HAPPY FEET, the category winner. Child actors supplied the action for the first, and Savion Glover supplied the penguin's smooth moves from which the computers generated the penguins. The filmmakers use special cameras and computers to capture, alter, edit and transfer the action into frames.

Some animators complain that animated movies now look and move more like video games than movies, while others have openly stated that motion-capture is NOT animation. There is a jab at motion capture at the end of director Brad Bird's RATATOUILLE, just released on DVD. At the end of the film credits on the DVD, a cartoon businessman is pictured smiling proudly as text proclaims the movie was made with "100 percent genuine animation" and "no motion capture or any other performance shortcuts."

Actually, the producers of BEOWULF do not call it an animated motion picture. Actor Ray Winstone (Beowulf) maintains he was definitely acting and has the bruises to prove it.

No animated feature has ever won overall Best Picture. In 1938, the Academy created a special Academy Award for Walt Disney to acknowledge his SNOW WHITE and the SEVEN DWARFS. The separate Oscar® animation category was created in 2001, supposedly to give animated features more of a fighting chance for recognition in the competition. Unfortunately, what it has done is segregate them even more. Thus, animators still feel as though they are second-class citizens in the movie community when it comes to recognition for their work.

Ultimately it will be up to audiences to decide whether BEOWULF and ENCHANTED are animated features. Even the members of the Academy will nominate according to what their eyes perceive. Neither may not receive a nomination in the animation category. Then, all this will have been a tempest in a teapot. For now.

In case you are interested, the standard FPS for movies is 24, for television 30, and for video games 75. Over 75 FPS, the eye cannot see the frames and perceives the screen as blank.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Animated Features Submitted for Oscars®


Only 12 animated features were submitted for possible nomination for the upcoming Oscars. I had hopes that we might get five animated features nominated for the 80th Academy Awards® in February, but the rules state, "A maximum of three films can be nominated in a year in which the field of eligible entries numbers at least 8 but fewer than 16." Oh, well. Maybe next year.

Feature motion pictures submitted in the Animated Feature category may also qualify for Academy Awards in other categories, including Best Picture, provided they meet the requirements for those categories.

The 12 submitted features are:

ALVIN and the CHIPMUNKS **
AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS #
BEE MOVIE
BEOWULF **
MEET THE ROBINSONS #
PERSEPOLIS **
RATATOUILLER #
SHREK the THIRD +
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE + +
SURF'S UP#
TEKKON KINKREET (a Japanese fable from U.S.-born director Michael Arias) #
TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) #

** Have not yet had their required Los Angeles qualifying run. The submitted features must fulfill the general release requirements and meet all of the category’s other qualifying rules before they can advance in the voting process.
# Available on DVD.
+ DVD releasing 13 November.
+ + DVD releasing December.

The 80th Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 22 January 2008, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding motion picture achievements of 2007 will be presented on Sunday, 24 February 2008, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PT.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Are Film Festivals Going to the Dogs?

Are film festivals going to the dogs? Nope. The dogs are going to the film festivals with a walk up the red carpet, a ceremony and trophies. The four-legged stars of the Oscar-winning film THE QUEEN are the winners of Britain's first-ever Fido Awards for canine cinematic excellence, presented at the Times BFI Film Festival 29 October. Why shouldn't the five corgis, who appeared with Helen Mirren get recognized? Read all about it on the Fido Awards Web site.

The Cannes festival started the whole thing in 2001 by instituting the Palm Dog Award, which consists of a black collar with "Palm Dog" stitched onto it. The winner that year was Otis, the canine lead in THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY, starring, written and directed by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming.


The co-winners this last May were Yuki, a cartoon dog from PERSEPOLIS (French-Iran, animation) and Keng and Peak, from the Thai movie MID ROAD GANG.

Last year's winner was Mops, a doll-sized dog featured in Sofia Coppola's MARIE ANTOINETTE. Was that a sly message to Sofia?

Read more about the Times BFI Film Festival on my Film Festival Page (link on right sidebar).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Academy Foundation November Calendar


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Foundation® Calendar of Events for November (and part of December) is now online. Let's face it, the Academy is now in the business of exhibition, but the programs are unique, and their prices can't be beat. Most screenings are $5.00, and some special events are free. It doesn't get better than that.

For November they have a special reunion event and screening for ET's 25th anniversary. Some cast members will attend. His honor, director Steven Spielberg may, too. This year is also the 30th anniversary of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. No. Say it isn't so. Well, it is, and there is a special screening for it, too.

Events usually take place at one of four Academy locations: The Linwood Dunn Theater, Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Academy's Grand Lobby Gallery, or Academy Theater at Lighthouse International. The first three are in Los Angeles, and the last one in New York. All the information, plus exact locations, contact phone numbers, and methods for ordering tickets in advance are in the calendar.

So, go! There is much, much, more than mentioned here. Click the link in the title to this post and you shall fly there without having to peddle a bicycle past the moon, or shake your booty on a dance floor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Animated Feature Deadline 1 November



The deadline to submit entry forms and supporting materials to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences®, Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, is Thursday, 1 November, in order to qualify in the 2007 Animated Feature Movie category for the 80th Academy Awards®, 24 February 2008. The deadline to submit accompanying film prints is Friday, 16 November. Complete 80th Academy Award rules.

Watch my Awards Page for the Annie Awards given by the International Animated Film Society (ASIFA - Hollywood) this coming February. They almost always honor the winning animated movie just prior to the Academy Awards. However, they missed last year. They picked CARS, as did I, but the dancing penguins took the Oscar®.

Here are two current animated standout features:

France has submitted its official entry, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s PERSEPOLIS (France, 2007), featuring the voice talents of Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, among others. It won a Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, plus some other festival awards. It is a coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution. Languages spoken are: French, English, Persian, German.

The favorite could be Dreamworks' animated BEE MOVIE (2007, USA) the brainchild of Jerry Seinfeld, one of the producers and writers, and featuring the voice talents of Hollywood hometown favorites: Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Larry King, Ray Liotta, Sting, Oprah Winfrey, Megan Mullally, etc., etc., etc. BEE MOVIE opens 2 November.

Then, there are some more heavyweights such as: BEOWULF, ENCHANTED, RATATOUILLE, and two long shots MEET THE ROBINSONS, and SURF'S UP. It will be interesting to see which of these possibilities make the short list for nomination.


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Foreign Language Movies Submitted for Oscar®

A record 63 countries*, including new entrants Azerbaijan and Ireland, submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 80th Academy Awards®, Academy President Sid Ganis announced 17 October 2007. In June, the Academy sent submission information inviting 93 countries to submit motion pictures.

The 2007 submissions, with directors, are:

Argentina, XXY, Lucia Puenzo;
Australia, THE HOUSE SONG STORIES, Tony Ayres;
Austria, THE COUNTERFIETERS, Stefan Ruzowitzky;
Azerbaijan, CAUCASIA, Farid Gumbatov;
Bangladesh, ON THE WINGS OF DREAMS Golam Rabbany Biplob;
Belgium, BEN X, Nic Balthazar;
Bosnia and Herzegovina, IT'S HARD TO BE NICE Srdan Vuletic;
Brazil, THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION, Cao Hamburger;
Bulgaria, WARDEN OF THE DEAD, Ilian Simeonov;
Canada, DAYS OF DARKNESS, Denys Arcand;
Chile, PADRE NUESTRO, Rodrigo Sepulveda;
China, THE KNOT, Yin Li;
Colombia, SANTANAS, Andi Baizr;
Croatia, ARMIN, Ognjen Svilicic;
Cuba, THE SILLY AGE, Pavel Giroud;
Czech Republic, I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND, Jiri Menzel;
Denmark, THE ART OF CRYING, Peter Schonau Fog;
Egypt, IN THE HELIOPOLIS FLAT, Mohamed Khan;
Estonia, THE CLASS, Ilmar Raag;
Finland, A MAN'S JOB, Aleksi Salmenpera;
France, PERSEPOLIS, Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud;
Georgia, THE RUSSIAN TRIANGLE, Aleko Tsabadze;
Germany, THE EDGE OF HEAVEN, Fatih Akin;
Greece, EDUART, Angeliki Antoniou;
Hong Kong, EXILED, Johnnie To;
Hungary, TAXIDERMIA, Gyorgy Palfi;
Iceland, JAR CITY, Baltasar Kormakur;
India, EKLAVYA -- THE ROYAL GUARD, Vidhu Vinod Chopra;
Indonesia, DENIAS, SINGING ON THE CLOUD, John De Rantau;
Iran, M FOR MOTHER, Rasoul Mollagholipour;
Iraq, JANI GAL, Jamil Rostami;
Ireland, KINGS, Tom Collins;
Israel, BEAUFORT, Joseph Cedar;
Italy, THE UNKNOWN, Giuseppe Tornatore;
Japan, I JUST DIDN'T DO IT, Masayuki Suo;
Kazakhstan, MONGOL, Sergei Bodrov;
Korea, SECRET SUNSHINE, Chang-dong Lee;
Lebanon, CARAMEL, Nadine Labaki;
Luxembourg, LITTLE SECRETS, Pol Cruchten;
Macedonia, SHADOWS, Milcho Manchevski;
Mexico, SILENT LIGHT, Carlos Reygadas;
The Netherlands, DUSKA, Jos Stelling;
Norway, GONE WITH THE WOMAN, Petter Naess;
Peru, CROSSING THE SHADOW, Augusto Tamayo;
Philippines, DONSOL, Adolfo Alix, Jr.;
Poland, KATYN, Andrzej Wajda;
Portugal, BELLE TOUJOURS, Manoel de Oliveira;
Puerto Rico, LOVE SICKNESS, Carlitos Ruiz, Mariem Perez;
Romania, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS, Cristian Mungiu;
Russia, 12, Nikita Mikhalkov;
Serbia, THE TRAP, Srdan Golubovic;
Singapore, 881, Royston Tan;
Slovakia, RETURN OF THE STORKS, Martin Repka;
Slovenia, SHORT CIRCUITS, Janez Lapajne;
Spain, THE ORPHANAGE, J.A. (Juan Antonio) Bayona;
Sweden, YOU, THE LIVING, Roy Andersson;
Switzerland, Late bloomers, Bettina Oberli;
Taiwan, ISLAND ETUDE, Chen Huai-En;
Thailand, KING OF FIRE, Chatrichalerm Yukol;
Turkey, A MAN'S FEAR OF GOD, Ozer Kiziltan;
Uruguay, THE POPE'S TOLET, Enrique Fernandez, & Cesar Charlone;
Venezuela, POSTCARDS FROM LENINGRAD, Mariana Rondon;
Vietnam, THE WHITE SILK DRESS, Luu Huynh.

*Last year, 2006, 62 countries submitted motion pictures. Findland's was withdrawn after the list was announced.

For your convenience, you will find a link on the right sidebar of this blog to this list, "Foreign Films Submitted for 80th AAs," and it will remain there, with updates, for the next year. You will find addtional information by clicking "Mimi's Film Festival Page," link. After opening, use your Browser's "edit, find" feature on the top menu bar to quickly find the movie, or country in which you are interested.

Nominations for the 80th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, 22 January 2008, at 5:30 a.m. PT (8:30 a.m. ET) in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Beverly Hills.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2007 will be presented on Sunday, 24 February 2008, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. Jon Stewart will host.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oscar® Short Docs Nomination Shortlist


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® announced last Thursday that the Documentary Short Subject entries for the 80th Academy Awards® has now narrowed to eight films. Three to five on this list will earn Oscar® nominations for the 2008 Academy Award.

Voters from the Academy’s Documentary Branch viewed this year’s 23 eligible contenders and submitted their ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The eight lucky films are listed below in alphabetical order:

BODY & SOUL: DIANA & KATHY
OCHBERG'S ORPHANS
FREEHELD
IF IT HAPPENS
LA CORONA (The Crown)
OCHBERG'S ORPHANS
PORTRAITS OF A LADY
SALIM BABA
SARI'S MOTHER

Here is more information about some of the above docs for which I could find viable links:

FREEHELD (2007, UK), directed by Cynthia Wade, and has won 7 awards so far. The full title is, FREEHELD: THE LAUREL HESTER STORY.

OCHBERG'S ORPHANS (2007, 39 min, UK), directed by Jon Blair. Not to be confused with the feature documentary of the same name, directed by Kim Hogg. UPDATE 10/20: I received a comment (see below) from the writer / director, Jon Blair, informing me that the other short I referenced, directed by Kim Hogg and produced by Rainmaker Films, was an unrealized project. Thank you, sir! I'm posting this in case anyone else might be as confused as I was. See my comment.

SALIM BABA (2006, 14 min, India / USA, in Bengali with English subtitles), directed by Tim Sternberg. Made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this past April.

SARI'S MOTHER (2006, 21 min, Iraq / USA). directed by James Longley. Excised from last years Academy Award-nominated film IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS, this doc headlines a collection of short films from Iraq. The title film documents the plight of a mother of a 10-year-old boy with HIV as she navigates the Iraqi health care system, fragmented by the American invasion, in an attempt to find treatment for her son. It won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco Film Festival this past May, but was first shown at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. Available now on DVD.

The 80th Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 22 January 2008, at 5:30 a.m. PT, in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The awards gala is 24 February.

Monday, October 15, 2007

THE KITE RUNNER at Mill Valley Festival


THE KITE RUNNER (directed by Marc Forster), screened last night as scheduled before a sold-out house at the Mill Valley Film Festival near San Francisco, CA, despite the controversy about the movie's rape scene. The crowd on closing night was so large the Festival had to add another screening. Khaled Hosseini, who wrote the novel, and screenwriter David Benioff attended.

Hosseini is a Bay Area resident, and the MVFF is only the third film festival in North America to screen the film, following showings at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Nashville Film Festival. San Francisco's ABC, KGO 7 broadcast an excellent story about the movie. WATCH THE VIDEO . Also, see the recent post (Monday, 8 October) on this blog for more information about what is already one of the most talked about movies of 2007.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Proposed Rule Change for Foreign Movies


I wish to make a proposal to change the names of the Best Motion Picture and the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) categories effective for the 2009 81st Academy Awards®. A change is long overdue. Read on to see why it may make some sense.

In June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® (AMPAS®) mailed rules and entry forms to 95 Countries inviting them to submit a feature motion picture for the Best Foreign Language Film of 2007 Oscar® category. The 80th Academy Awards will be this coming February.

The rules for the Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) this year are contained in Rule 14. The old language rule for the BFLF read that the film must be in the official language of the submitting country. Last year, the Academy designated that, "A foreign language film is defined as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track." The members made no changes in this rule for 2007. See link on right sidebar under Archives for July 2006 for more on the rule changes last year.

Apparently, the two-phase committee screening process instituted last year is still in place, since the previous nominating process has not been rescinded. Five motion pictures will be nominated from the committee(s). The final voting for the BFLF Award still will be restricted to active and life Academy members who have attended Academy screenings, or other exhibitions, and have been certified as to having seen all five motion pictures nominated for the award.

It is the producer of a motion picture who accepts the golden statuette for a Best Motion Picture at the Academy. However, in most countries, it is the director who accepts awards for Best Picture (Film). Therefore, in regards to the BFLF, the Academy this year determined that, "The Academy statuette (Oscar®) will be awarded to the picture and accepted by the director on behalf of the film's creative talents." Finally!

Someone took issue about my statement that Géraldine Chaplin might be nominated for her role as Aurora in THE ORPHANAGE (the official selection from Spain submitted for the BFLF category), which I wrote in a previous post. I wish to point out that the Academy rule is specific. The rule states, "Films submitted for BFLF Award consideration may also qualify for the 80th Annual Academy Awards in other categories, provided they meet the requirements of the special rules governing those categories." In this case, any special rules governing the acting categories.

Actually, Rule One, Paragraph 3, states that, "Awards of Merit in the form of gold statuette trophies of the Academy (Oscar®) shall be conferred annually for the following achievements: . . . " and the major awards are outlined.

Rule Two, Paragraph 8, states, "Motion pictures from all countries shall be eligible for the annual awards listed in Rule One [sic] Paragraph 3, as long as they satisfy the requirements of the other applicable rules, and contain English subtitles if released in a foreign language."

In other words, the spoken language in the movie is not a problem in any category other than the BFLF, yet the Academy specifically requires that motion pictures from other countries adhere to the non-English rule. Clint Eastwood's movie LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, filmed in Japanese, was nominated with the American movies for Best Motion Picture of 2006, under the current rules. Mel Gibson made a movie in a language other than English, too, APOCALYPTO, 2006. Both were domestically produced, but they are non-English movies. BABEL, Best Motion Picture of 2006 is a multi-language movie. Spoken English is only a small portion of the dialogue.

One of the hottest movies this year will be THE KITE RUNNER, directed by Marc Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND, 2002), whom I've been told chose to film KITE RUNNER (USA) in English, Dari, Pashtu, Urdu and Russian, much like last year's Oscar winner BABEL At any rate, there will be more multi-language movies made by American companies and foreign countries in coming years.

Besides spoken words, motion pictures have visual, rythmic, technical languages that are far more important than the ethnic dialogue attached to them.
I have a proposal for a change in the rules for Best Motion Picture, and Best Foreign Language Film categories - - both categories need renaming. Either remove the word "Language" from the BFLF category, or the two categories should read: Best Motion Picture in English and Best Motion Picture in a Language other than English.

My questions are, "If American directors can make movies in any language and submit their movie to the Academy, why are directors outside America required to use a language other than English? Why can't a Japanese director make a movie solely in English for his country to submit as their official representative foreign motion picture for the Oscars, if an American director can make a motion picture solely in Japanese and it is eligible for an Oscar, no language restrictions applied?"

The answer is: Because of the way the current rules are written and the categories are named. By insisting upon a language qualifier, the Academy keeps the foreign producers and directors at a disadvantage at the U.S. box office. The rules as written are now discriminatory, but I certainly advocate including foreign motion pictures at the Oscars.

Also, why is the top category "Best Motion Picture" while the foreign category is "Best Foreign Language Film?" Both are feature-length movies made through the same process and qualify within the same length restrictions. Therefore, I suggest the categories be designated as: Best (Domestic, American, U.S, etc.) Motion Picture of 20_ _, and Best Foreign Motion Picture of 20_ _.

At the very least, the designation should be motion picture, and not film for the foreign category. It has become customary to use film with the other categories along with their other qualifiers (feature, short, live, documentary, animated, etc.), but they are all motion pictures.

I once had a film professor at Southern Cal (USC) who clarified it this way, "A motion picture is a filmed or taped series of pictures that move, which is viewed by some mechanical or electronic means." On the other hand, "Film is one material (tape or film) and/or process that allows the motion picture to be made and viewed." I like those definitions.

Of course, all of this will be a mute point in less than ten years when everything will be digital, and new students will ask, "Tape? Film? What are those?"

However, a motion picuture will still be a series of pictures that move, but the new definition is likely to include holographic pictures that move. It is even possible within that same ten years the Academy will be obliged to adopt a new name for this century such as, American Academy of Cinematic Arts and Sciences. Think about it!

I suggest these changes because I believe they are needed due to this quickly evolving electronic and cultural age in which we live. I hope the Board of Governors will give these suggestions serious consideration.

Monday, October 08, 2007

KITE RUNNER Opening Delayed Due to Rape Scene

Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada (Hassan, a Hazara servant's son, L) and Zekiria Ebrahimi (Amir, the Pashtun protagonist, R) portray lifelong
friends from rival Afghan ethnic groups in THE KITE RUNNER.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the U.S. opening of the movie THE KITE RUNNER, scheduled for the 2nd of November, will be postponed because of safety concerns for the three Afghan boys who star in the movie, as well as their families. One source said the movie's release would be delayed until 14 December, another reported no new opening date has been determined.

The controversy stems from a scene where Amir's friend Hassan is raped by a Parshtun bully. The scene is filmed impressionistically, not realistically, but even the suggestion of such an act in the Muslim culture has generated outcries and threats.

THE KITE RUNNER is based on the 2003 novel of the same title by Khaled Hosseini, an award-winning book that was at, or near, the top of the New York Times best-seller list for almost three years. Marc Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND, 2002) directed the film version, which he chose to film in English, Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, and Russian.

Author Hosseini is Afghani, and his novel covers three decades (1970 - 2000) of Afghan strife, from before the Soviet invasion through the rise of the Taliban. There has also been continuing strife between the Poshtun wealthy Sunni ruling class and the poorer Shi'ite serving class, the Hazara.

The protagonist is Amir, a wealthy Pashtun boy. The part of Amir as a boy is played in the movie by Zekiria Ebrahimi, and as a young man by Khalid Abdalla, who played the pilot / hijacker Ziad Jarrah in UNITED 93 (2006).

Amir's mother died giving birth. He was raised by his wealthy Pashtun father, whom he calls Baba, and his father's Hazara servant, Ali, who has a son, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), one year younger than Amir. Hassan's mother left his father when Hassan was a baby.

Life is good for Amir, except for a Pashtun Hitler-admiring bully, who later joins the Taliban. One evening, the bully rapes Hassan while Amir hides, doing nothing and saying nothing even after the incident. Because of Hassan's shame and Amir's guilt, the bond between Amir and Hassan is irreconcilably broken, leading to the distruction of the friendship between their two fathers.

When the Soviets invade Afghanistan, Amir and Baba are forced to escape, eventually finding asylum in the U.S. The story is told in three sections: Amir and Baba in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion, their lives in America where Amir falls in love, and Amir's return to Afghanistan where he finds an unexpected gift.

Anyone who watches the evening news, or follows the news on the web, has little doubt that there is rising lawlessness in Afghanistan and especially in its capital, Kabul. Plus, the young actors in the movie and their relatives are now accusing the filmmakers of mistreatment and paying the boys much less than American actors would have been paid. As a result, the producers of the film, executives at the distributor Paramount Vantage, and even aide workers, have become more concerned about the safety of those in Afghanistan who are involved with the film project.

Apparently, this past Sunday steps were taken in the United Arab Emirates to begin the process of getting the boys and their families out of Afghanistan. A Middle East specialist at the consulting firm Kissinger McLarty Associates has been hired to arrange visas, housing and schooling for the young actors and jobs for their guardians. Bringing them to the United States is not an option because Afghans, like the majority of Iraqis, do not qualify for refugee status.

For much more information, note about the harassment of a young boy in the Indian movie KABUL EXPRESS, and to watch THE KITE RUNNER trailer, see the entire article (click title of this post, a link, or here).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Spain Sends THE ORPHANAGE to Fetch BFLF Oscar®


It's official. THE ORPHANAGE (EL Orfanato, Spain, 2007) directed by J. A. (Juan Antonio) Bayona and produced by Guillermo del Toro (PAN'S LABYRINTH), will represent Spain in the contest for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar®. That's a movie in languages other than English, and countries may submit only one film in the BFLF category.

ORPHANAGE bypassed the top film festival in Spain, San Sebastián, for the Film Festival of Catalonia at Sitges, a festival for fantasy and the fantastic. It will have its Spain premiere in Sitges at the opening gala 4 October.

Meanwhile, the Picturehouse release is making its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival as I write this, and is in competition. The movie stars Belén Rueda (Laura), Fernando Cayo (Carlos) and Geraldine Chaplin (Aurora), and it is the last name on the list that is very interesting, I think.

You see, one of the reasons the movie may have bypassed San Sebastián could be because that festival was pulling out all the stops to honor Carlos Saura for 50 years of filmmaking. They honored him with a Golden Shell. Before Saura, only Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, "the master," received one in 1981. Buñuel died in 1983.

If you don't know, Saura and Chaplin had a close relationship for many years in which she collaborated on the writing of the scripts, helped finance some of his projects, starred in a number of his movies and gave him his third son, Sean Saura Chaplin. Carlos was married with two sons. She was not. They never married, but were together shortly after she starred in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) until the filming of her last movie with Saura, MAMA TURNS 100 (1979). There's much more, but you must wait for my book.

FADOS ("a musical documentary," from Portugal/Spain) is Saura's latest. The movie's Spanish premiere was at San Sebastián 21 September. It was a gala event where Saura received the Golden Shell from former Festival director and movie critic Diego Galán. Not only that, there was a live production of fado singers with flamenco dancers.

FADOS will have its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival in NYC, screening as a special event on 13 October. No word as yet if the fado singers will perform. The world premiere was at Toronto, the Spain one at San Sebastián, and the Canadian one at Vancouver. ORPHANAGE didn't appear at any of those.

Here, the plot thickens. FADOS is a Portuguese/Spanish production and Portuguese is spoken. So, I can hardly wait to find out if Portugal is submitting FADOS to AMPAS® as their official submission.

Geraldine Chaplin on the set of EL ORFANATO, 2007

The story of ORPHANAGE is that Laura (Rueda) returns with her family to the orphanage in which she grew up with the intention of opening a residence for children with disabilities. The new environment wakes up her son's imagination, and he begins to take on more and more intense games of fantasy.

As the games intensify, Laura becomes increasingly disturbed until she reaches the point where she thinks there is something in the house that is threatening her and her family. The escalation of events lead her to take her son for psychological help.


Scandinavian actor Per Oscarsson and Géraldine Chaplin in LA MADRIGUERS (The Burrow, 1969)

Have you seen Saura's movie LA MADRIGUERS, 1969? Take your pick of English titles: Honeycomb, The Burrow, The Den. If you have seen this movie, the above synopsis should prick your ears, because there is definitely a psychological similarity between the synopses of the two movies. At any rate, from what I am hearing, Geraldine may receive an Oscar nomination for her performance in this movie, and the movie stands a good chance, too.

Will someone please go see these movies in New York and send me a report? I Will appreciate it. If you have a fast Internet connection, you can catch the trailer here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

First BFLF Oscar® Deadline Monday

Deadline for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences® to receive entries in Foreign Language Film, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film for Oscar® consideration in the race for the 80th Academy Awards® is 5:00 p.m., Monday, 1 October.

In the short film categories, filmmakers must submit an entry form, one film print or copy in an approved digital format, and all other required materials by the deadline. In the Foreign Language Film category, filmmakers must submit entry forms, one English-subtitled film print and all other required materials by the deadline. Only one motion picture will be accepted from each country.

This past June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences mailed Foreign Language Film award entry forms to 95 countries, facilitating their submissions for the 80th Academy Awards. Read the complete, and newly revised
rules.

The 2006 Best Foreign Language Film was THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Das Leben der Anderen), Germany, written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The German spy drama, based on records from the now defunct East German (GDR/DDR) secret police, Stasi, is currently in preproduction as an English-language movie by former Miramax Films chiefs Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella. It is tentatively set to be released in 2010.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2007 will be presented on Sunday, 24 February 2008, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. Click the schedule for the 80th Academy Awards on the right sidebar.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My Film Festival Page News

Counted today and found there is information and links for 34 film festivals so far this year on my Film Festival Page, including some that are difficult to find information about such as the Festival of New Latin American Cinema held each December in Havana, Cuba. Ten are upcoming, or going on now, with the rest already completed this year. Altogether, there's a wealth of info. Here is the list of the 34:

AFIFEST, Berlin, Boston, Times BFI London, Canadian Hot Docs, Cannes, Deauville, Edinburgh, Guadalajara, Huelva, Havana, Jackson Hole, Los Angeles Independents, Memphis, Miami, Montreal, New York, Palm Sprngs, Puerto Valarta, River Run, Rome, San Diego, San Sebatian, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Sarajevo, Sitges, Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Toronto, Tribeca, Vancouver, and Venice.

This weekend, I installed quick links to help you find the festivals in which you are interested. Just find the name of the festival you want, click, and you are there. Click the title of this post, which will take you to my Film Festival Page, and near the top you will find the links for the festivals going on now, or upcoming through December, including the one in Havana. There is a separate set of links for those already completed. Remember, there is always a link to my Film Festival Page on the right sidebar of this blog as well.


George Clooney and Jerry Weintraub at a recent Boston Film Festival gala.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Want to know what Sally Field Said at EMMYs?

Would you like to know what was deleted from Sally Field's acceptance speech at the Emmys®? Do you know what Al Gore has won an Emmy and two Oscars® for this year (different projects)? You will find answers to these questions on my 2008 Award's Page.

Want to find out some more happenings in "Hollywood North" at the Toronto International Film Festival? How about what is, and will be, happening at the Film Festival in San Sebastián, Spain, and many others?

You need to access my Film Festival and Award Pages. The Emmy Awards for Prime Time were presented last night (15 September), and I have posted on my Award's Page, incorporating some information from the Creative Emmy Awards presented 8 September. There are extra tidbits as well.

So far this year, I have written about 25 international film festivals since the first of January on my Film Festival Page. I am currently following one recently closed (Toronto), one currently going (Boston), and five upcoming (San Sebastián, Vancouver, New York (NYC), Sitges (Spain), BFI-London). All have links to the Official Web sites, plus other links of interest. More upcoming festivals will be added the last of this month.

Once the last major film festival ends for this year, usually in late November, the awards season, in anticipation of the ultimate awards the last of February, kicks off. Those ultimate awards for movies are the Academy Awards® to be presented Sunday, 24 February 2008. There are links to both my Film Festival and Award pages on the right sidebar of this blog. Come visit.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Win Red Carpet Seats For Oscars®

You could win red carpet seats for the 80th Oscars® this coming February. Beginning Monday, 17 September at noon PST, and continuing for only one week, fans may apply online to win seats on America’s most celebrated red carpet – the Academy Awards® red carpet.


There are 300 seats available along the 500-foot-long carpet that leads into the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center®. In previous years, as many as 25,000 fans have applied online for the limited bleacher seats.


Applicants may register up to four persons; however, only one form will be accepted per person or group. Only those individuals who have been pre-approved by the Academy will have access to the bleachers. Those who wait overnight to attempt admittance will not be granted entry, and the Academy will NOT be responsible for securing travel and/or hotel accommodations for winners.


The lucky winners will get to watch and cheer the Oscar® nominees, presenters, and other ceremony guests as they arrive at the 80th Academy Awards on Sunday, 24 February, and following the red carpet arrivals, the winners will be invited to watch the Academy Awards telecast at a nearby location.


Click for the application form. The online-only application process will close at noon PST, Monday, 24 September.


To be eligible for the random lottery, an individual must complete the application form in its entirety. Applications may only be submitted online. No other method of delivery will be accepted.


Those whose names are selected in the random drawing will be notified in early October. They will then be required to submit additional information for security purposes prior to final approval. Eligible attendees will receive a confirmation letter in early December with information pertinent to the event.


Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2007 will be presented on Sunday, 24 February 2008, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Film Festiva Page News

Wes Anderson’s new film, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, featuring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Anjelica Huston. (Fox Searchlight)

Winners at the Sarajevo and Edinburgh Film Festivals were posted today on my Film Festival Page as the fall film festival season is underway. My MIMI'S FILM FESTIVAL PAGE is currently reporting on happenings at the Edinburgh (England) and Sarajevo (Bosnia) festivals as well as the following: Montreal (Canada), Venice (Italy), Telluride (Colorado, USA), Toronto (Canada), San Sebastián (Spain), Vancouver (B.C.), New York (NYC, USA), Catalonian (Sitges, Spain), and the Times BFI London (UK) festivals. Others will be added as information becomes available.

The page is designed as a "quick stop" for viewers/readers to catch the highlights, and access the official sites immediately through quick links. Updates are sporadic, because they are made whenever information is received from various sources.

So, go visit and bookmark/favor the page for convenient frequent checking.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Three Movie Trilogies For Summer's Dog Days

The Dog Days of Summer have been with us for a couple of weeks, and the forecast does not predict any relief in sight for the rest of August, with temps well above 95 degrees F, mostly above 100, and heat indices of 105 or higher. So, if you are living through the dog days where you are, now is the time to consider renting some movies you may not have previously considered.

Nothing like turning off the telephone, sending everything to your mailbox, kicking back with a tall cool drink, a snack, and watching a movie all by yourself, or with a significant other, without the distractions in the average movie theater. The experience of watching a movie which does not follow the formula of the usual Hollywood concocted pablum - - most now written with pre-programmed computer programs and filled with computer-generated images (CGI) - - provides new stimulation for one's mind and emotions.

The movies I recommend here are definitely not computer generated pablum. Warning: Attention, brain power and reading (subtitles) are required, unless you understand French, Polish, Spanish, Hindi! The movies all have simple one-word titles, but there is nothing simple about any of them, cinematically or thematically.


FIRST TRILOGY

There was a Polish filmmaker, most call him a cinematic genius, who made a a movie trilogy in French and Polish, which he titled THREE COLORS (Trois Coleurs). He had made other films before discovering that he had congenital heart failure, and died shortly after he finished the third film in the trilogy. I am referring to the late Krysztof Kieslowski, and the award-winning movies in the three colors trilogy are, in the order they were made and in the order they should be viewed: BLUE (Bleu, 1993), WHITE (Blanc, 1994), and RED (Rouge, 1994).

The colors represent the tricolors in the French flag, left to right as it flies: Blue, White and Red. And, everyone should know that the French chose those colors after their revolution to express their ties and appreciation to America. They simply reversed the Red, White and Blue. The national motto of France is: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (Liberté , Egalité, Fraternité). The last, fraternity, refers to brotherhood, not a keg party.

BLUE (1993)
Trois Couleurs: Bleu

In the first installment of Kieslowski's three colors trilogy BLUE represents liberty in the French national motto and is the first color of the French flag. A young Frenchwoman Julie Vignon (Juliette Binoche), tries to uncover her famous composer husband's secret life when she finds a couple of not-so-subtle clues after he and their young daughter die in an automobile accident. Blue in this movie also represents fidelity, a trait lacking in Julie's late husband. He not only betrayed her sexually, he took her musical talents and claimed them as his own. Each step takes her both closer and farther from the truth as she journeys on a path ultimately leading to self-discovery, a man who will not betray her, and a liberating life.

WHITE (1994)
Trois Couleurs: Blanc

Julie Delpy stars in WHITE (Blanc, 1994), a dark comedy that is the middle segment of the trilogy, representing the middle section of the French flag and equality in the French motto. It is about the price of passion. Polish immigrant Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is humiliated in a public courtroom by his wife Dominique (Delpy) during their divorce proceedings in a French court. She is divorcing him because he cannot perform in bed. Shamed and brokenhearted, he finds an ally in a fellow countryman. The two concoct a way back to post-Communist Poland, where Karol sets about rebuilding his life, but not without some missteps until he and his countryman come to view each other as equals.

RED (1994)
Trois Couleurs: Rouge

RED (Rouge, 1994), is the final film in Kieslowski's three-colors trilogy, and in the French flag. The plot is an excellent fit with the last word in the French motto, fraternity. In this meditation on the need for passion and human connection, Valentine (Irene Jacob) accidentally hits a dog with her car, and the accident brings together two very different people -- Valentine, a model, and Joseph (Jean-Louis Trinignant), a retired judge who owns the dog. Random fate chooses to pair them and, although deeply improbable, their eventual relationship becomes a true romance.

The movie is poignant when we know what was happening behind the scenes. Before and during the production, Kieslowski was aware that he had heart failue and that he was dying, but RED ends on a positive note.



SECOND TRILOGY

Deepa Metha

The second trilogy, featuring three films directed by Indian-born and current Canadian resident Deepa Mehta, a female, is a trilogy about Indian Women in the early to mid Twentieth Century. All the movies are set in times past. How far in the past? We know only that the events in the movies, as well as references to Mahatma Gandhi as being alive, free in India and advocating nonviolent resistance, place the timeframe of all the movies in, or around, the 1940s.

FIRE (1996)

Deepa Mehta's FIRE, the first Indian film about lesbians, follows two Hindu women struggling with loveless arranged marriages. When Sita discovers that her husband Jatin has a mistress, she shares her unhappiness with her sister-in-law Radha, who cannot give birth. As the lukewarm coals of their long-term relationships fade, they ignite passion in their lives by finding comfort in each other. The fire that has smoldered within each of them is finally free to blaze.

The movie almost didn't get made because of the lesbian content, and fires were set in Movie theaters in India when the film was shown. Be sure and watch all the features on the DVD.

EARTH (1998)

This middle film in the trilogy is a stirring tale about the real-life religious and civil wars that broke out in India and Pakistan in 1947. The battle to gain independence from the British brought about horrendous violence between Muslims and Hindus, finally causing the splitting of India (mainly Hindu) by carving from it he nation of Pakistan (mainly Muslim). EARTH, the second movie in a trilogy from Mehta, is based on the autobiographical novel Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa and is told through the eyes of a little girl Lenny, who has one leg in a brace. Again, the DVD special features are almost as interesting as the movie itself. Don't miss them.


WATER (2005)

After losing her much older husband to illness, 8-year-old Chuyia is forced to live out the rest of her days in a temple for Hindu widows, communing with 14 other women with a cruel headmistress who agrees to take her into the Ashram. It is through the trials of another widow that Chuyia learns the many restrictions of widowhood.

Chuyia's friend is a beautiful young woman Kalyani (Lisa Ray), who is forced into prostitution by the greedy headmistress. Meanwhile, Kalyani is being courted by Narayan (John Abraham), a wealthy educated man from a higher caste. Marriage between the star crossed lovers Kalyani and Narayan is forbidden by law for two reasons. First, because widows are forbidden to remarry (unless they marry a relative of their deceased husband) and second, because the young people belong to different castes.

Chuyia and Kalyani both eventually escape their bondage but only after being cruelly used by Narayan's father. Chuyia escapes through the kindness of a fellow widow and Narayan, but Kalyani does not understand the concepts of forgiveness and redemption through the use of holy water and makes a tragic mistake.

WATER was nominated for an Oscar as the Best Foreign Language Film of 2006 (Canada/India), but lost to THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Germany). The art direction and visuals are absolutely stunning, as are Ray and Abraham. A visual feast almost as mesmerizing as a Bernardo Bertolucci movie.

All these movies are available to rent from NETFLIX (see link on right sidebar), and WATER may be downloaded for instant viewing at NETFLIX.
ADDED NOTE: I just saw Mehta's BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD (2000) "Different tree. Same wood". It is the first film of Metha's in which Lisa Ray stars. It is a hoot!

THIRD TRILOGY

There is another trilogy of movies that I whis to recommend. I highly recommend the first dance trilogy of Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura: BODAS DE SANGRE (BLOOD WEDDING, 1981), CARMEN (1983), and EL AMOR BRUJO (aka, Love Bewitched, 1986). All three star the famous late male flamenco dancer Antonio Gades. The marvelous dancer Cristina Hoyos dances with Gades in all the movies, starring in the first. Laura del Sol danced the featured role with Gades in CARMEN and AMOR BRUJO, but Hoyos is fabulous in the supporting roles. So, too, are the soundtracks. I have the soundtrack for BRUJO, but don't know about availability of the others.

FYI, Saura may have completed his second dance trilogy that began with FLAMENCO (1995), followed by TANGO (1998) only recently. Some critics are writing that FADOS (2007) is the last movie in the trilogy, but I'm not sure they are correct. From what I have read, it may relate more to Sevillanas (1992), or ¡Ay, Carmela! (1990). FADOS will receive a special screening at the San Sebastián Film Festival next month (see link to my Film Festival Page on the right sidebar). I'll keep you advised about the trilogy.

FLAMENCO and TANGO are available to rent at NETFLIX. UPDATE 10/07: BLOOD WEDDING, CARMEN and EL BRUJO are now available to rent on DVD. NETFLIX has them as a set (see link for NETFLIX on right sidebar). All the movies are also available on video tape (VHS and PAL).

Happy Dog Days!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Film Festival Page News

My Film Festival Page is updated! Tomorrow, 15th, the 61st Edinburgh International Film Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland), kicks off the late-summer into fall season. The updates begin in Scotland and run through the Times BFI London Film Festival closing 1 November.

In between, you will find information about others, including festivals in New York (NYC), Montreal, San Sebastian, Sitges (Barcelona), Telluride, Toronto, Venice, etc. I try to find and post interesting highlights before the festivals, but you will always find links to the Official Web Sites and a notification, with highlights, when the awards are presented with easy links for more information.

This page is not static. I am constantly updating it as I receive new information, and there is a permanent link to it on the right sidebar of this blog. Visit often and enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

MIMI'S NEW BLOG

I'm searching for the Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax. I've added a new blog, WHERE IS SALAM PAX. Perhaps, you can help me find his current whereabouts. Click the title of this post to view the blog.

More later.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

MORE ABOUT TOP MOVIES AT CANNES

In the previous post I forgot to mention that Geraldine Chaplin is appearing in THE ORPHANAGE (El Orfanato, Spain-Mexico). Her character's name is Aurora, and the director is Juan Antonio Bayona.

Also, I failed to mention Michael Moore's latest documentary, SICKO. This is the "Inconvenient Truth" about the ailing American health care system but, overall, much less entertaining than "Truth," or Moore's previous films. One thing it is - - a powerful wakeup call!

Monday, June 04, 2007

SOME TOP MOVIES AT CANNES

According to many critics, there were more top-rate movies at Cannes than were expected. The first thing that caught my eye was the Mexico-Spain co-production THE ORPHANAGE (El Orfanato), produced by director Guillermo del Toro (PAN'S LABYRINTH). It's a Spanish ghost story that has been described as, "terrifying and enthralling." I suggest you watch for it.

Others you might want to put on your must-see list:

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (French) that won best director at Cannes for Julian Schnabel, and A MIGHTY HEART, produced by Brad Pitt and starring Angelina Jolie as reporter Daniel Pearl's widow, were both extremely well received.

The Coen brother's NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN starring Javier Bardem, Kelly Macdonald and Josh Brolin, didn't win any awards but it received great buzz. It arrived with distribution from Miramax, which acquired DIVING BELL at the market.

Sony Pictures Classics purchased rights to the Israeli comedy THE BAND'S VISIT, while IFC bought the Palme d'Or winner, the Romanian drama 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS & 2 DAYS (now mostly referred to as 4 MONTHS). IFC also acquired FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON (Le Voyage du ballon rouge, France) starring Juliette Binoche.

It's almost summer, and I'm going on a short hiatus. Of course, if anything happens that I think is interesting, movie-wise, I'll probably post it.

HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE!