Friday, December 28, 2007


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.


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 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.


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.


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 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 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 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.