Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Location: Memphis International Film Fest opens Thursday!

This year's On Location: Memphis International Film Festival opens Thursday night. There will be films, music, and a party every night. Filmmakers, producers, actors, and a surprise celebrity here and there are expected to attend. More than 90 films representing 20 countries and the U.S. will be screened.

Thursday, the festival opens at 7:30 pm at Malco's Paradiso Theater, with a screening of the new blues documentary, DELTA RISING, filmed at Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, MS.

If you have a full-fest pass, you can attend, at no additional charge, the screening and the after party at the Ground Zero Club on Beale Street (approximately 9:00 pm), Freeman's not-yet-open-to-the-public Ground Zero Blues Club Memphis, featuring the Queen of Beale Street, Ms. Ruby Wilson.

If you do not have a full-fest pass, do not wish to purchase one, you may still attend the screening and after party by purchasing a Membership for $20.00 each before the screening, plus screening tickets.

You can attend only the screening for $8.50, if individual tickets are available. No after party included.

Full-fest passes were $60, and were available online. You should have checked my Film Festival Page earlier this month, because fest passes go up to $70 today, and will only be available at the door. I'm not sure if the student pass ($30) will increase. Individual screening tickets are $8.50 each. They, Memberships, and full-fest passes, will be available now only at the door of each event. Available tickets on a first-come basis.

For more, see my Film Festival Page (link on right sidebar), call 901.626.9685, or go online by clicking the title of this post.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

PERSEPOLIS releasing in English

PERSEPOLIS scene, poster, and French actress Catherine Denueve

The French Oscar-nominated feature animated movie PERSEPOLIS, will get a second opening in movie theaters 11 April, and this version is in English. I'm delighted. They may have done it in French for financing, and anticipating that it would be chosen by the French Academy as an entry in the Best Foreign Language category for an Oscar® nomination, which it was.

The plan backfired. It was not selected by AMPAS® in that category, but was nominated in the best animation category. In my humble opinion, if they had released it in the U.S. with the English soundtrack, in the period to qualify for a nomination on its own merits, it would have stood a better chance of winning the Academy Award®. It is totally hand-drawn like the early Disney animated movies.

The movies' writers / directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, directed actors recording the English soundtrack as they were recording the French soundtrack. The movie is based on the autobiographical graphic novel of the same name by Satrapi, which is based on her experiences as a young girl in Iran. It takes place when a large number of fundamentalist Shi'ite Islamic radicals deposed Shah Reza Palavi (1979) and established Sharia law as the supreme law.

Mother and daughter Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni will reprise their roles as the mother Tadji, and daughter Marjane, respectively, in the English version. Sean Penn will provide the voice of Marjane's father Ebi; Gena Rowlands plays Marjane's grandmother; Iggy Pop is Uncle Anouche; and Amethyste Frezignac plays young Marjane.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Marion Cotillard Gets L.A. Mural

French Actress Marion Cotillard, who received a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance as Edith Piaf in LA VIE EN ROSE (La Môme), now has a mural in Los Angeles. It is located on La Brea, between Pico and Olympic.

LA-LA Land is known for its great art, and its quirky graffiti murals that pop up here and there on building walls. Painting murals on walls started when some artists decided to counter the blight of the gang members scrawling their hateful slogans and obscene gestures on walls all over Los Angeles County, but mostly in the city.

Before the Cotillard mural, another painting, "Moona Lisa" occupied the wall. Every morning she "mooned" commuters. Only in L.A.! Cotillard's mural (rated G). Moona Lisa (rated NC 17).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Film Festival Page Updated

My new updates include the about-to-wrap San Diego Latino and the just-wrapped South by Southwest (SXSW) Festivals. There is new information on the upcoming Memphis (TN), River Run (NC), Canadian Hot Docs Documentary (Toronto), Ebertfest (IL), Tribeca (NYC), San Francisco (CA), and the festival most festival-watchers consider the world's most prestigious film festival, Cannes (France).

You can read about those already completed this year, which included Berlin (Germany), Santa Barbara and Palm Springs (CA), Sundance (UT), Miami (FL), and the Mexican sister-festivals, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta (MX). That's just Part I of Mimi Film Festivals 2008.

Part II, which will include festivals from June through September 2008, will go online sometime in April. The festivals highlighted will begin with Jackson Hole (WY) and probably conclude with San Sebastián (Spain) or San Diego (CA), but new ones are always cropping up, so there are no guarantees at this point.

In between, there will be the world's oldest festival, Venice (Italy), and the world's bravest, Sarajevo (Bosnia). Major festivals in the USA include Los Angeles (CA) and Telluride (CO). Foreign ones, other than San Sebastián, include Montreal and Toronto (Canada), Deauville (France), and Edinburgh (UK), plus any new ones that may spring up during this time frame.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Firsts at 80th Academy Award Awards®

Day-Lewis, Swinton, Cotillard, and Bardém

All four acting categories at the Academy Awards® Sunday night were won by actors who have residences outside the U.S. I haven't had time to check this out thoroughly, but I have followed the Oscars® for longer than I am willing to admit on this blog, and I'm almost certain that has never happened before in the history of the Awards. So, that would be the first, first.

UPDATE 9 MARCH to original post of 26 February: It is not a first. All four acting awards going to foreigners at this year's Oscars was NOT a first. That happened first in 1965. Russia's Lila Kedrova received the statuette for ZORBA THE GREEK for best supporting actress, while Julie Andrews took best actress for MARY POPPINS. Best actor and supporting actor went to Rex Harrison, MY FAIR LADY and Peter Ustinov for TOPKAPI, respectively. The last three were Brits. Now, we know. (Source: Entertainment Weekly Magazine, 7 March 2008, Issue #981, p. 42.)

Briton Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor for his role in THERE WILL BE BLOOD; Scotland's Tilda Swinton was named best supporting actress for her role in MICHAEL CLAYTON; and French star Marion Cotillard won best actress for her portrayal of the late real-life French chanteuse, Edith Piaf, in LA VIE EN ROSE. Cotillard was the first French woman to win the award since Simone Signoret in 1960, thus, the second, first. Signoret won for her role in ROOM AT THE TOP.

Spanish actor Javier Bardém, whose Bardém family in Spain is often compared to the U.S. theatrical family dynasty, the Barrymore family, garnered his first personal Oscar® for his role as the maniacal Chigurh in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which won Best Picture. Bardém also won the Golden Globe and the SAG award, plus many other awards, for this performance. He now holds the forever distinction of being the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar. So, that's the third, first.

There was some pre-Oscar buzz about whether, or not, Bardém would escort Penélope Cruz to the Awards. He took his mother, Pilar Bardém, sister of the late great Spanish director Juan Antonio Bardém. Pilar is an award-winning Spanish actress,. She gave her son a big kiss when he was announced as winner. Read more about Bardém, his family and foreign movies on my Foreign Movie Page, and there is also a permanent link on the right sidebar. However, taking one's mother to the Oscars is not a first. I do not know to whom that honor goes.

The fourth, first: The winner of the Best Foreign Language Film, THE COUNTERFEITERS (Die Fälscher, Austria), directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, is the first-ever win in this category for Austria.

It wasn't only actors residing in other countries who "cleaned up" at the Oscars. The music categories did too. The best original score was awarded to Italian Dario Marianelli for ATONEMENT. Also, Irishman Glen Hansard and Czechoslovakian Marketa Irglova performed their award-winning song, "Falling Slowly" from the very low-budget movie ONCE (Ireland).

The fifth-first happened after Miss Irglova was "played" off the stage before she got a chance to say a word after receiving the Oscar. When the commercial break was over, host Jon Stewart apologized, and she returned to the stage to make an elegant and respectively short, "Thank you" speech. No one cut-off by the show's director has ever been invited back before. It was a wonderful spontaneous moment, one that may join Oscar-clip history.

The sixth first, of which I am aware, is that this was the lowest rated Academy Awards show in history. According to AP, Nielsen Media Research says preliminary ratings for the 80th annual Academy Awards telecast are 14 percent lower than the least-watched ceremony ever, which was in 2003 when CHICAGO won, and there were 33 million viewers. This year's show had a 21.9 rating and 32 million viewers.

This year's ratings are 21 percent lower than last year when THE DEPARTED was named best picture, and Scorsese finally won for best director. That show attracted 41 million. The movie critics, professors and pundits will have a field day postulating as to why almost 10 million U.S. viewers were lost, if these were the correct figures.

And, now, the final first considered here, number seven. The Oscars have made a cautious venture onto the Internet. You can see their first efforts right now on YouTube. Next year, the Oscars may be streaming live on YouTube, or from the Academy's own Web site. That's roughly 362 days and counting. How can one wait that long?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Film Festival Page Updated

Anjelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the Santa Barbara Festival earlier this year.

There is new information on my Mimi's Film Festivals Page about the film festivals now playing: Miami International, San Diego Latino, Austin's South by Southwest, and the sister festivals in Mexico: Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta in conjunction with the University of Guadalajara.

Check the happenings at these festivals, and start preparing for the other upcoming international festivals: Memphis, River Run, Canadian Hot-Docs, San Francisco, and the biggest of the internationals - - the 61st in Cannes, France.

Oh, I haven't forgotten NYC's Tribeca, or the Ebertfest, as in Roger Ebert. This will be the 10th in Champaign, IL. As always, there are links to the festival's official Web sites.

All the above, and it is only Part I this year of my Mimi's Film Festivals Page 2008! This year's previous festivals are included, and I update the page about every week, but don't always post an update notice here, so visit often. There is a permanent link on the right sidebar of this blog.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

KITE RUNNER Releasing on DVD

Author Hosseini and Director Forster at L.A. Premiere

THE KITE RUNNER is scheduled for DVD release, 25 March. It has had only a limited release in the U.S., beginning 14 December, dates depending upon where you live. It has never made it to my neck of the woods, so I am excitedly awaiting the DVD.

THE KITE RUNNER (USA) is based on the 2003 novel of the same title by Afghani Khaled Hosseini, now a U.S. citizen and California resident. The awarding-winning book was at the top, or on the New York Times best-seller list for almost three years. Director Marc Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND, 2002) chose to film in China in five languages: English, Dari (an Afghan language), Pashtu, Urdu, and Russian. For the U.S. scenes, filming was in northern California.

Hosseini's novel covers three decades of Afghan strife, from before the Soviet invasion through the rise of the Taliban. The protagonist is Amir, a wealthy Pashtun boy (played in movie by Zekiria Ebrahimi), who returns from America to Afghanistan after the Taliban are routed. There, he had formed a bond with a young boy his age, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), the Hazara son of Amir’s father’s servant. Hassan was raped in an alley by a Pashtun bully. Amir witnessed the rape, but never told. Later, also witnessed Sohrab, a Hazara boy played by Ali Danish Bakhty Ari, being preyed upon by a Taliban official, and never told. Now, back in Afghanistan, Amir must confront his past by finding Hassan, and in the process, Amir finds much more.

There are two reasons the movie was mostly filmed in China. One, the war in Afghanistan had destroyed any hopes of finding a location suitable for filming as so much is simply rubble. Two, the boy actors received death threats because of the rape scene, so the production company (DreamWorks SKG), and releasing company (Paramount Pictures) arranged to send them, plus a guardian for each, to the United Arab Emirates for their safety. Consequently, the release date was moved from November to December.

The young actor who played Hassan, Ahmad Kahn Mahmoodzada, won the Broadcast Film Critics Association's Critics Choice Award as best supporting actor, awarded 7 January in Santa Monica, CA. The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign film, and film score by Alberto Iglasias. It won neither. The film score was nominated for an Oscar, but that category was won by Dario Marianelli for ATONEMENT. I repeat from a previous post, I love that name!

Unfortunately, the movie was released too late, and too limited, to compete in any 2007 major film festivals. No awards, no "buzz," and vice versa.

Hosseini's current novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was well received and resided on the best-seller for a month, or more. It is also set in Afghanistan. Instead of two Muslim boys who become men, it is about two Muslim women and their trials in Afghani society.

For more posts about this movie, click the "Kite Runner" label at bottom of this post.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Iranian Muslim Makes Jesus Movie

Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh has made a movie about Jesus, THE MESSIAH. It is his feature film directorial debut, and was shown at the Religion Today Film Festival 18 October 2007, in Rome, Italy. This is a festival sponsored by the Roman Catholic Vatican and the movie won an award for generating interfaith dialogue. I have not seen the movie, but have researched it and used the interview of the filmmaker by Lara Setrakian, which is posted on

There is an extensive post on my Universal Mind Warp blog. If you are interested in comparative religions, especially between Islam and Christianity, you should read that post.