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.


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;
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:

LA CORONA (The Crown)

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).