Saturday, December 19, 2009

Feature Films and Original Songs Eligible for Oscar® Race

(1) Michael B. Seligman has been named supervising producer of the 82nd Academy Awards telecast, marking his 33rd year of association with the Oscar® show, telecast producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic announced.

(2) Adam Shankman, also a judge on the So You Think You Can Dance (SUTYCD) TV show, announced that the top male and top female winners on the show, Russell Ferguson and Kathryn McCormick, will perform on the Oscar telecast.

Nomination Process for Best Feature Film:

Two hundred seventy-four feature films are eligible for the Academy Award® for Best Picture of 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today. Sixty-three songs from eligible feature-length motion pictures are contending for nominations in the Original Song category.

To be eligible for 82nd Academy Awards® consideration, feature films must open in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County by midnight, December 31, and begin a minimum run of seven consecutive days. The complete list if films will not be made available until all certifications of minimum run compliance have been received.

Under Academy rules, a feature-length motion picture must have a running time of more than 40 minutes and must have been exhibited theatrically on 35mm or 70mm film, or in a qualifying digital format. Feature films that receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release are not eligible for Academy Awards in any category.

Nomination Process for Best Original Song:

The nomination process for Best Original Song is as follows: On Tuesday, January 12, the Academy will screen clips featuring each song, in random order, for voting members of the Music Branch in Los Angeles. Following the screenings, members will determine the nominees by an averaged point system vote. A song must receive an average score of 8.25 or more. Up the five songs may be nominated in the category.

A DVD copy of the song clips will be made available to those branch members who are unable to attend the screening and who request it for home viewing. A mail-in ballot will be provided.

A maximum of two songs may be nominated from any one film. If more than two songs from a film are in contention, the two songs with the most votes will be the nominees.

To be eligible, a song must consist of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the film. A clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition of both lyric and melody must be used in the body of the film or as the first music cue in the end credits.

The list of songs may be viewed by clicking the link "Original Songs Nominated for 82nd AA" on the right sidebar of this blog, and the page will remain throughout the nomination process.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden Globe Nominations for Film

Martin Scorsese

                        Ricky Gervaise                                                mavis_spencer

The nominations for the second annual biggest party in the media electronic Universe, the Golden Globes®, were announced early this morning. The Globes are sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), and honor the press association's choices for both film and television professionals at the same gala. This year, the 67th Golden Globe Awards will be Sunday, 17 January 2010, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, and broadcast live on NBC at 8:00 p.m., EST. Here is the list of nominees in film.

One advantage of the Globe broadcast is that it is leaner, cleaner, tighter and not as long as the top awards show, the Academy Awards®, a.k.a., The Oscars®. One thing I really like about the Globes is that they have two categories for the Best Picture, one in drama and one in comedy and / or musical comedy. That seems more fair, and I with that AMPAS® would do likewise as comedies and musicals often do not get the recognition they deserve. In the Oscar race, drama is everything.

The Globes are all about glitz and glam, attractive actors and actresses. The honorees are the movies the members of the foreign press liked in the current year. HFPA is mostly composed of the male gender and they tend to vote for their favorite "eye candy," both male and female, not necessarily a nominee's professional achievements and skills. Most often, beauty trumps ability.

Also, their choices are influenced upon the feedback the members get from residents of their native countries, who are their viewers, listeners, and/or readers. After all, each person associated with the press wants as many of their fellow country persons to watch the Globe gala as possible.

Unlike the Academy Awards, the voters aren't members of the industry, per sea. They are journalists and lovers of the industry. One night each year they get to show that love at the Golden Globe Gala. The Globes are no longer an event touted as something to see because they are predictors of the upcoming Oscars. The Globes now shine in their own firmament of splendor and fun.

Because the members represent the foreign press there is a much greater emphasis on who and what is "hot" at the very moment they fill out their nomination, or final ballots. However, they venerate older and more experienced actors, actresses, directors, cinematographers and writers, honoring them wherever they can.

This year, director Martin Scorsese will be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field." He has received two Golden Globe Awards as "Best Director of a Motion Picture" for THE DEPARTED and GANGS OF NEW YORK.

The Globe galas go to places the Oscars dare not go. For instance, this year the host will be Emmy / Golden Globe winner, comedian / actor Ricky Gervais. The Brit is probably best know for his appearances in the TV shows 'Extra' and 'The Office'.

Mavis Spencer, age 18, daughter of Golden Globe winner Alfre Woodard and writer/producer Roderick Spencer is this year's "Miss Golden Globe".

The special will be produced by Dick Clark Productions in association with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Philip Berk is President of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Orly Adelson, president of Dick Clark Productions, and Barry Adelman will executive produce the special. Chris Donovan is the director and Dick Clark Productions’ Bob Bardo is the executive in charge of production.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Semifinalists for Visual Effects Oscar® Nominations

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced late yesterday that 15 films have been selected as semifinalists for Achievement in Visual Effects (VFX) for the 82nd Academy Awards®. In early January, the members of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch Executive Committee, who selected the semifinalists, will narrow the list to seven. Out of that list, three will be nominated.

The films are listed below in alphabetical order:
Angels & Demons
Disney’s A Christmas Carol
District 9
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Sherlock Holmes
Star Trek
Terminator Salvation
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Where the Wild Things Are

All members of the Visual Effects Branch will be invited to view 15-minute excerpts from each of the seven shortlisted films on Thursday, 21 January. Following the screenings, the members will vote to nominate three films for final Oscar consideration.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Dubai Film Festival Opens Wednesday

With all the publicity about the financial difficulties and huge debts of Dubai, one of the seven Arab Emirates, I began to wonder if their international film festival would be held this year. Word came yesterday that it is indeed on, and the 6th edition will open this Wednesday, 9 December, for the usual seven-day run, ending on the 16th.

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is a non-competitive festival. The main purpose is to showcase contemporary and classic global cinema, exhibit their invited guests, and raise money for charity. This is their third year to host the Cinema Against AIDS Dubai, a gala to raise funds for AmfAR. That's the charity Elizabeth Taylor founded in honor of the late actor Rock Hudson and others.

There are, however, obvious signs of cut-backs. Last year over 400 films were shown. There were lavish parties and huge cash prizes. This year, the film list has been cut to something over 170 from 55 countries, which is more inline with some other festivals. The approach this year is that the films are culturally diverse, providing movies for all ages and tastes. Plus, there are several package deals, providing an easy way to choose films, find significant cost savings for movie enthusiasts, and orders may be placed online.

There will be the usual cadre of film stars and directors. The opening night gala movie will be Rob Marshall’s NINE, starring Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren. Marshall directed CHICAGO, which garnered six Oscars®, including Best Picture. He also directed MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, and is scheduled to direct the next installment of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

To make sure there will be plenty of glitz with the glam, the festival has partnered with world-renowned Cartier as the Official Jeweler. France is the country In Focus this year. Children’s favorite Alvin and the Chipmunks return with their "Squeakquel" for the Cinema for Children section, and Disney will bring THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. The Festival will host it's first-ever Acting for the Camera Workshop for school students, presented by Dubai Pearl, and it is open to school children ages 11 through 17. All sections help emphasize this year's "something for everyone" theme.

For much more in English, including how to get updates on your mobile phone, click the title of this post and visit their Official Website. Click for Arabic.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

10 Live Action Short Films Advance in Oscar® Race

10 out of the 71 originally qualifying live action short films have advanced in the voting process in the Live Action Shorts category for the 82nd Academy Awards®.

The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their director:

The Door by Juanita Wilson.
The Ground Beneath by Rene Hernandez.
Hotel by Tim Conrad.
Instead of Abracadabra by Patrik Eklund.
Kavi by Gregg Helvey.
Miracle Fish by Luke Doolan.
The New Tenants by Joachim Back.
The Response by Adam Rodgers.
Short Term 12 by Destin Daniel Cretton.
Sidney Turtlebaum by Tristram Shapeero.

The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting in screenings held in New York and Los Angeles.

Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members will now select three to five nominees from among the 10 titles on this shortlist. Branch screenings will be held in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in January 2010.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

ASIFA Announces Annie Nominations

The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, announced the 37th Annual Annie Award nominees last week. Animation award recipients will claim their trophies at the 37th Annual Annie Awards scheduled for Saturday, 6 February 2010 at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California. The 2009 recipients of the Winsor McCay Award were also announced. They are: Tim Burton, Bruce Timm and Jeffrey Katzenberg. They, too, will claim their awards 6 February.

In the interest of full disclosure, before I comment, I must disclose that the producer of CORALINE, Bill Mechanic, and actor Ed Asner (UP) are long-time acquaintances of mine.

Annie Award winners do exceptionally well in the Oscar® race for Best Animated Feature, with the Annie winner usually winning the Oscar, but not always. Here are highlights of the Annie nominations:

Best Animated Feature:
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Sony
Coraline - Laika
Fantastic Mr. Fox - 20th Century Fox
The Princess and the Frog - Walt Disney
The Secret of Kells - Cartoon Saloon
Up - Pixar

Directing in a Feature Production:
Wes Anderson for Fantastic Mr. Fox - 20th Century Fox
Pete Docter for Up - Pixar
Christopher Miller, Phil Lord for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Sony
Hayao Miyazaki, for Ponyo - Studio Ghibli
Henry Selick for Coraline - Laika

Writing in a Feature Production:
Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach for Fantastic Mr. Fox - 20th Century Fox
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy for Up - Pixar
Timothy Hyde Harris and David Bowers for Astro Boy - Imagi
Christopher Miller and Phil Lord for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Sony

Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Jen Cody - Voice of Charlotte in The Princess and the Frog - Walt Disney
Dawn French - Voice of Miss Forcible in Coraline - Laika
Hugh Laurie - Voice of Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. in Monsters vs. Aliens - DreamWorks Animation
John Leguizamo - Voice of Sid in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur — Blue Sky
Jenifer Lewis - Voice of Mama Odie in The Princess and the Frog - Walt Disney

Best Animated Short Subject:
Pups of Liberty - Picnic Pictures
Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5 - ShadowMachine
Santa, The Fascist Years - Plymptoons
The Rooster, The Crocodile and The Night Sky - Barley Films
The Story of Walls - Badmash Animation

Best Animated Television Production for Children:
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - Disney
SpongeBob SquarePants - Nickelodeon
The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack - Cartoon Network
The Mighty B! - Nickelodeon/Polka Dot Pictures/Paper Kite Productions
The Penguins of Madagascar - Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

There is a monkey wrench of sorts in the Annie nominations for Best Animated Feature. THE SECRET OF KELLS, an English-language, Irish movie, will not be released in the U.S. until March, and it is not nominated for an Annie in any other category. Somehow, it seems rather unjust that PONYO (Ponyo on a Cliff, Gake no ue no Ponyo) from awarding-winning Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, Japan, is not nominated in this category. He has won more than one Annie Award for his writing and directing, and his SPIRITED AWAY (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) won an Annie and the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature in 2001. PONYO was released months ago in the U.S., and Hayao Miyazaki is nominated in the directing category.

Miyazaki is not nominated in the writing category. ASTRO BOY is nominated in the writing and storyboarding categories. This type of split-nominating always muddies the waters when it comes to choosing the winners.

I cannot comment on the actual animation quality of THE SECRET OF KELLS as I have seen nothing of, or about, the movie. I have seen the others, or seen trailers and/or a number of clips, and I definitely concur to every nomination for the other five, as well as the nominations they received in other categories. I am, however, disappointed that no voice actor from UP received a nomination, and that PONYO was not nominated in the top category.

The winners of the Annie Awards will not be announced until 6 February. The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced prior to that on 2 February. The final Oscar voting polls close 2 March. Thus, the Annie winner will not influence the Oscar nominations for animation, but could influence the Oscar winner in the Best Animated Feature category because the Annie winner will be announced well in advance of 2 March. Interesting to ponder.

For the full list of Annie nominees, click the title of this post. For bios of Burton, Timm and Katzenberg click here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oscars® - Feature Docs Short List & New TV Director

Documentary Features

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced yesterday that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 82nd Academy Awards®. Eighty-nine pictures originally qualified to vie for the Best Documentary Feature award.

The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries and they will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on this list.

The 15 films listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their director are:

BURMA VJ, Anders Østergaard;
THE COVE, Louie Psihoyos;
EVERY LITTLE STEP, James D. Stern & Adam Del Deo;
FACING ALI, Pete McCormack;
FOOD, INC., Robert Kenner;
LIVING IN EMERGENCY: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, Mark N. Hopkins;
THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Judith Ehrlich & Rick Goldsmith;
MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN, Andrew Thompson & Lucy Bailey;
SERGIO, Greg Barker;
SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION, Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman;
UNDER OUR SKIN, Andy Abrahams Wilson;
WHICH WAY HOME, Rebecca Cammisa.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

New Oscar TV Gala Director

Almost simultaneously, the producers of the 82nd Academy Awards® telecast, Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, announced Hamish Hamilton will direct the 82nd Academy Awards® telecast. Who?

It will be Hamilton's first time directing the Oscar show. If you haven't heard of him before, you are far from alone. I learned he has directed such live shows as the “MTV Video Music Awards” and the “MTV Europe Music Awards.” He has also directed live concert performances by U2, Neil Diamond, Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera and many others. He has been tapped to direct the upcoming Super Bowl XLIV half-time show in February.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Academy Governors Awards Tonight

The first ever Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'® Governors Ball was held tonight. The Governors Awards were presented in a ceremony at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center®.

Oscar® winners Jonathan Demme, Anjelica Huston and Quentin Tarantino, along with past Honorary Award recipient Kirk Douglas, were among those presenting to Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman and Gordon Willis, who were present to receive their Oscar statuettes. John Calley was not present to receive the statuette for the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award due to health reasons.

These awards, usually given at the Academy Awards® Television Gala, were given out, instead, at this inaugural Governors Ball. I suspect there may be a brief mention at the 82nd awards in March, but perhaps not.

For each of the 2009 Governors Honorary Award winners, see bios, filmographies and audio testimonials on the official Website at -- click title of post. Also, highlight video clips from the Academy’s inaugural Governors Awards ceremony will be posted on the Website after 6 a.m., PT, Sunday, 15 November.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Animated Feature Films for Possible Oscar® Nod

Twenty feature animated movies have been submitted for consideration in the Animated Feature Film category for the 82nd Academy Awards®. However seven movies have not yet had their required Los Angeles qualifying run, and they are indicated with (*). Submitted features must fulfill the theatrical release requirements and meet all of the category’s other qualifying rules before they can advance in the voting process. Under the rules for this category, a maximum of five features can be nominated in a year in which the field of eligible entries numbers at least 16.

The 20 movies that have jumped the first hurdle are:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (*)
Astro Boy
A Town Called Panic (*)
Battle for Terra
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Disney's A Christmas Carol
Fantastic Mr. Fox (*)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Mary and Max
Monsters vs. Aliens
Planet 51 (*)
The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer (*)
The Missing Lynx
The Princess and the Frog (*)
The Secret of Kells (*)
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure

Complete 82nd Academy Awards rules. Also, follow the Academy and all awards on Facebook and on YouTube.

The nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Actors Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will serve as co-hosts of the 82nd Academy Awards®, Oscar® telecast producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman announced yesterday.

Martin hosted the 73rd and 75th Academy Awards shows, earning an Emmy nomination for the first stint. He has also served as a presenter on the show several times, most recently at the ceremony in February when he appeared with Tina Fey. He is currently touring with the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers in support of his latest album “The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo.” In 1977 and 1978 Martin won Grammys for Best Comedy Recording. He earned a third Grammy in 2001 in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category. In 2007 Martin earned a Kennedy Center Honor.

Baldwin was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003 for his supporting role in “The Cooler.” That year also marked his most recent appearance as a presenter on the show. Baldwin currently stars as Jack Donaghy on the comedy “30 Rock,” a role for which he has won two Emmys (in 2008 and 2009). Baldwin earned a Tony nomination in 1992 for his performance in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

There will be no honorary awards given at televised gala on 7 March. They have been moved to a new event, the Governors Ball, which will be held in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center® 14 November. The event is by invitation only, and the event will not be televised. However, look for a quick filmed nod to the recipients on the Oscar broadcast.

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award will be presented to John Calley for a consistently high quality of motion picture production. Actress Lauren Bacall will receive an Honorary Award in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures. Other Honorary Awards will go to filmmaker Roger Corman for his rich engendering of films, and Gordon Willis for unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, color and motion.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Animated Feature Entries for 2009 Oscars® Due

Entry forms and supporting materials to qualify in the Animated Feature Film category for the 82nd Academy Awards® must arrive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by 5 p.m., PT, today. The deadline to submit accompanying film prints is Friday, 13 November.

Complete 82nd Academy Awards rules. Additional information may be obtained by contacting Will Goldenberg via phone at (310) 247-3000, ext. 190, by fax at (310) 247-2600, or by e-mail Also, follow the Academy and all awards on Facebook and on YouTube.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards – in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners – the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; provides financial support to a wide range of other movie-related organizations and endeavors; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

French Movie Wins Best Film In London

A PROPHET (Un Prophéte), by French director / writer Jacques Audiard, was named the best film at the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) during the closing ceremonies, Thursday the 29th. The Best Documentary award went to Israeli Yoav Shamir's DEFAMATION (Hashmatsa).

Other writers for A PROPHET are Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Dafi and Nicolas Peufaillit. The prison drama received the second place Jury Grand Prize at Cannes, behind Austrian director/writer Michael Haneke's black and white drama, THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band), which won the Golden Palm.

Here is some of the report from the LFF (keep in mind that film festivals tend to exaggerate the hype):

"When Malik, a young French Arab, finds himself in prison with no friends or allies, he goes out of his way to be useful to the dominant Corsican gang and its leader Cesar Luciani. After a grueling rites-of-passage murder of a new friend, Malik builds, by slow degrees, a power base of his own.

At present, no Hollywood director can match Jacques Audiard's vice-like grip on character-driven action cinema. Time rips by in fingernail- biting anticipation of Malik's brutally authentic travails. His irrepressible nature is brilliantly incarnated by Tahar Rahim, whose impact is equally matched by Audiard regular Niels Arestrup as the Corsican boss. This is undoubtedly the crime drama of the year."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AMELIA, The Movie, Also Crashes

I was looking forward to seeing AMELIA this weekend, the biopic about the late Amelia Earhart, but it is not playing near me. So far, the reviews have not been kind to the movie, and I am disappointed.

Most think the subject is worthy but that neither the director Mira Nair, or the script has the moxie to match that of the late aviatrix. Descriptions of the movie run from cookie-cutter, paint-by-the-number, to generated by a computer screenwriting program. One critic even grandstands declaring, "This movie proves the Biopic is dead."

Director Mira Nair (THE NAMESAKE) is Indian. One of her most recent movies is BOLLYWOOD. I suspect that a cultural divide between the director and the esteem with which Americans hold Earhart could account for some of the negative criticism. In other words, something was lost in translation.

The film is lauded for its beautiful cinematography and for actress Hilary Swank's performance, but passion, probably due to the poor dialog in the script, is lacking. That's sad, because Amelia Earhart, by most accounts, was a passionate woman - - passionate about flying, being the best, love, sex, money, and being a celebrity. Above all, she had to fly!

Richard Gere stars as Earhart's older husband and promoter, Publisher Richard Putnam. Ewan McGregor plays Gene Vidal, father of Gore, who was one of Earhart's real-life flings. Apparently, the only fling she is allowed in this movie.

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, was very critical of the movie. She asks, "How could so tradition-busing a role model have resulted in so square, stiff, and earthbound a movie?"

All the critics seem to agree that the main problem is with the script by Ron Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan, which is based on biographies by Susan Butler and Mary S. Lovell. However, the director could have changed those things in the script that, as Schwarzbaum states, "overload the picture with a cargo of messages, so much so that she [Nair] deadens her subject's spirit."

Schwarzbaum isn't the only critic that disliked the musical score for the movie which, apparently, telegraphs impending action and makes one wish for the score of OUT OF AFRICA instead.

Also, not one review mentioned that they flew a real vintage Lockheed Electra in the movie, the type of plane Earhart flew. It was the first turboprop airliner produced in the United States. Unfortunately, it gained the nickname of "Killer Airliner" because of so many crashes. Fifteen still fly today, mostly as cargo planes. Apparently, the Electra is the only authentic aspect of this movie.

I went to a local movie theater Monday and noticed that AMELIA was not among the posters of "coming attractions." I asked the manager when AMELIA might be showing. He replied, "Well. I don't think we will show it. The reviewers this weekend clobbered it." I admitted that I had noticed.

Meanwhile, enjoy this:

For more videos about Earhart, click title of post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Friend of Mine Is Producer of Academy Awards

I am very pleased to announce that an acquaintance from my days at the University of Southern California (USC), Bill Mechanic, has been named one of the producers of this year's 82nd Academy Awards® telecast, set for 7 March 2010.

Mechanic is the chairman and CEO of Pandemonium Films and the former chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment. While at Fox, the studio released titles including “True Lies” (1994), “Braveheart” (1995), “Titanic” (1997), “The Full Monty” (1997), “There’s Something About Mary” (1998), “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999) and “Cast Away” (2000) among many others. Prior to Fox, he served in executive positions at the Walt Disney Company and Paramount. His producer credits include this year’s animated feature “Coraline” and the thriller “Dark Water” (2005).

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak made the official Academy announcement today that Mechanic will produce the telecast with director / dancer / producer Adam Shankman. This is the first major involvement of Mechanic with the Awards, but Shankman has danced on the telecast.

“I couldn’t be happier to have this talented team on board,” Acacemy President Sherak is quoted as saying during the announcement. “I’ve known Bill for many years so it’s like putting Oscar in the care of a dear friend. Bill has a tremendous love and respect of film and will draw from his vast experience as a producer, a studio executive, and a film historian, to help make this year’s Oscar telecast a memorable one. And Adam’s experience in producing, directing, and especially choreography, will be a huge asset to the production.”

Shankman may be best known as a judge on the TV show, "So you Think You Can Dance," but his directorial credits include “Bedtime Stories” (2008), “Hairspray” (2007), “A Walk To Remember” (2002) and “The Wedding Planner” (2001). His upcoming projects include “Rock of Ages,” “Sinbad,” “Bob: The Musical” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” In addition to directing, Shankman and his sister Jennifer Gibgot produce films through their shingle Offspring Entertainment. Together they are currently producing “The Last Song,” “Going The Distance” and “Step Up 3D,” all set for 2010 release.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Countries Submit for Foreign Language Film Oscar®

Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® announced today that 65 countries have submitted films for nomination consideration in the Foreign Language Film category (BFLF) for the 82nd Academy Awards®, honoring the BFLF for 2009. This is down from last year when a record 67 countries submitted.

Selected committees will now select a short list from which five films will be nominated by those in the full Academy membership who can certify they have seen all five films nominated. Last year's winner was DEPARTURES, Japan, directed by Yojiro Takita.

Here are the submissions by County, Title and Director:

Albania, ALIVE, Artan Minarolli;
Argentina, EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS, Juan Jose Campanella;
Armenia, AUTUMN OF THE MAGICIAN, Rouben Kevorkov and Vaheh Kevorkov;
Australia, SAMSON & DELILAH, Warwick Thornton;
Austria, FOR A MOMENT FREEDOM, Arash T. Riahi;
Bangladesh, BEYOND THE CIRCLE, Golam Rabbany Biplob;
Belgium, THE MISFORTUNATES, Felix van Groeningen;
Bolivia, ZONA SUR, Juan Carlos Valdivia;
Bosnia and Herzegovina, NIGHTGUARDS, Namik Kabil;
Brazil, TIME OF FEAR, Sergio Rezende;
Canada, I KILLED MY MOTHER, Xavier Dolan;
Chile, DAWSON, ISLA 10, Miguel Littin;
Colombia, THE WIND JOURNEYS, Ciro Guerra;
Croatia, DONKEY, Antonio Nuic;
Cuba, FALLEN GODS, Ernesto Daranas;
Czech Republic, PROTEKTOR, Marek Najbrt;
Denmark, TERRIBLY HAPPY Henrik Ruben Genz;
Estonia, DECEMBER HEAT, Asko Kase;
France, UN PROPHETE, Jacques Audiard; **
Georgia, THE OTHER BANK, George Ovashvili;
Germany, THE WHITE RIBBON, Michael Haneke; **
Greece, SLAVES IN THEIR BONDS, Tony Lykouressis;
Hong Kong, PRINCE AND TEARS, Yonfan;
Hungary, CHAMELEON, Krisztina Goda;
Iceland, REYKJAVIK-ROTTERDAM, Oskar Jonasson;
Indonesia, JAMILA AND THE PRESIDENT, Ratna Sarumpaet;
Iran, ABOUT ELLY, Asghar Farhadi;
Israel, AJAMI, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani;
Italy, BAARIA, Giuseppe Tornatore; **
Japan, NOBODY TO WATCH OVER ME, Ryoichi Kimizuka;
Kazakhstan, KELIN, Ermek Tursunov;
Korea, MOTHER, Joon-ho Bong;
Lithuania, VORTEX, Gytis Luksas;
Luxembourg, REFRACTAIRE, Nicolas Steil;
Macedonia, WINGLESS, Ivo Trajkov;
Mexico, BACKYARD, Carlos Carrera;
Morocco, CASANEGRA, Nour-Eddine Lakhmari;
The Netherlands, WINTER IN WARTIME, Martin Koolhoven;
Norway, MAX MANUS, Espen Sandberg and Joachim Roenning;
Peru, THE MILK OF SORROW, Claudia Llosa;
Philippines, GRANDPA IS DEAD, Soxie H. Topacio;
Poland, REVERSE, Borys Lankosz;
Portugal, DOOMED LOVE, Mario Barroso;
Puerto Rico, KABO AND PLATON, Edmundo H. Rodriguez;
Romania, POLICE, ADJECTIVE, Corneliu Porumboiu;
Russia, WARD NO. 6, Karen Shakhnazarov;
Serbia, ST. GEORGE SHOOTS THE DRAGON, Srdjan Dragojevic;
Slovakia, BROKEN PROMISE, Jiri Chlumsky;
Slovenia, THE LANDSCAPE NO. 2, Vinko Moderndorfer;
South Africa, WHITE WEDDING, Jann Turner;
Spain, THE DANCER AND THE THIEF, Fernando Trueba; **
Sri Lanka, THE ROAD FROM ELEPHANT PASS, Chandran Rutnam;
Sweden, INVOLUNTARY, Ruben Ostlund;
Switzerland, HOME, Ursula Meier;
Taiwan, NO PUEDO VIVIR SIN TI, Leon Dai; **
Thailand, BEST OF TIMES, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon;
Turkey, I SAW THE SUN, Mahsun Kirmizigul;
United Kingdom, AFGHAN STAR, Havana Marking; **
Uruguay, BAD DAY FOR FISHING, Alvaro Brechner;
Venezuela, LIBERADOR MORALES, EL JUSTICIERO, Efterpi Charalambidis;
Vietnam, DON'T BURN IT, Dang Nhat Minh.

** First films I shall comment on later, because I have questions that must be answered first. For instance, (1) Why is a foreign language film being submitted by the United Kingdom when it is a co-production with Afghanistan? (2) Why is that film a documentary, and not a feature film accepted for this category? (3) Why does the film submitted by Taiwan carry a title in Spanish? And (4) Will the Cannes winner, THE WHITE RIBBON, make short list for nomination, or be ignored by the selecting committees as was the acclaimed 2007 Romania movie, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS, directed by Cristian Mungiu?

The link to this list is posted on the right sidebar of this blog and will remain there until this time next year when submissions are made for the 83rd Academy Awards, honoring the BFLF for 2010.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Times BFI London Film Festival Opens Next Week

The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival (BFILFF) opens next Wednesday, 14 October, and runs through the 29th. All ticket bookings are open and can be booked online. However, some venues are fully booked.

The full line-up of films and special events for this year's Festival was announced last week by Artistic Director Sandra Hebron. The program includes a diverse selection of features and shorts from around the world, an excellent line-up of events and expected guests.

With no fewer than 15 world premieres, 23 European premieres and 146 UK premieres, this year's Festival is set to be exciting, including a world class line-up of the highly-anticipated films of the year, plus a number of hidden gems and new talent to be discovered.

The Festival will showcase the latest works from internationally-acclaimed directors Wes Anderson, Sam Taylor-Wood, Steven Soderbergh, Joel and Ethan Coen, Michael Haneke, Ang Lee, Jane Campion, Harmony Korine and Jim Jarmusch among others, as well as celebrating up-and-coming emerging talent from every corner of the globe.

Opening Night Gala, 14 October - FANTASTIC MR FOX, Odeon Leicester Square, Empire Cinema. Director Wes Anderson's first animated feature is based on Roald Dahl's children's story.

Closing Night Gala, 28 October - NOWHERE BOY, Odeon Leicester Square, feature debut from artist Sam Taylor-Wood. Nowhere Boy is a sensitive and sprightly look at the formative years of one of Britain's cultural icons. In 1955 Liverpool, a 15-year-old John Lennon is a teenager hungry for experience.

Among the special events, the latest film by legendary director Werner Herzog is an audacious 're-imagining' of Abel Ferrara's cult classic Bad Lieutenant. Herzog's BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, stars Nicholas Cage, and will receive its UK premiere Friday, 23 October.

New this year, the Best Film Award will celebrate creative, original, imaginative, intelligent and distinctive filmmaking in the Festival. An initial shortlist will be drawn up by the Artistic Director and the programming team, and will then be judged by an international jury of high profile directors, writers, producers and actors.

The British Film Institute Fellowship is awarded to individuals in recognition of their outstanding contribution to film or television culture. Initiated in 1983, this year's recipients will be recognized for their significant achievements in the field of acting and directing.

Best British Newcomer Award will celebrate new and emerging British film talent and recognize the achievements of a new writer, producer or director who has demonstrated real creative flair and imagination with their first feature.The Sutherland Trophy for the most original and imaginative first feature at this year's festival. Awarded since 1958, this year's Sutherland Trophy winner will again be selected by an invited jury of filmmakers, actors, writers, critics, producers and artists.
The Times BFI London Film Festival Grierson Award for the best feature-length documentary at this year's Festival. This award is given by the Grierson Trust, which commemorates the pioneering Scottish documentary-maker John Grierson (1898-1972).

To visit the Official Times BFI London Film Festival site, view the full program of films, and / or book tickets online, click the title of this post. To see all posts about the BFI Festival, or other festivals this year, click the tag at bottom of any post BFILFF, or TIFF, SSIFF, etc., or search same.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hollywood Film Festival Honors Announced

Bigelow directs HURT LOCKER

At the 13th annual Hollywood Film Festival (HFF), which will run 21 - 26 October 2009 in Hollywood, director Lee Daniels will receive the "Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award" at the gala Hollywood Awards 26 October. He is the director of what may turn out to be the year's "hottest" movie, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE. Most recently, Daniels produced MONSTERS BALL and directed SHADOWBOXER. For more about PRECIOUS, see previous posts.

HFF founder and executive director Carlos de Abreu announced that two ladies of cinema, Kathryn Bigelow and Nora Ephron, will receive the Hollywood Director Award and the Hollywood Screenwriter Award, respectively. Bigelow's current directorial endeavor, THE HURT LOCKER, a war film with Iraq as the subject, is receiving critical acclaim. She has been tapped to receive an award at the 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards 30 November in New York City. Her previous credits include POINT BREAK, STRANGE DAYS and BLUE STEEL.

Ephron most recently wrote JULIE & JULIA, and her previous works include HEARTBURN, YOU'VE GOT MAIL and BEWITCHED. She received Oscar® nominations for SILKWOOD, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

Pete Docter, the director of the Disney/Pixar release UP, which has earned more than $500m worldwide, will receive The Hollywood Animation Award. Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar will take home the Hollywood Visual Effects Award for TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.

Docter's directorial debut was MONSTERS, INC., earning him an Academy Award® nomination right out of the gate. Then, he received another nomination as screenwriter of WALL-E. He also developed the story and characters for TOY STORY, and wrote the original story treatment for TOY STORY 2. Buena Vista is releasing both films in 3D for a two-week run to qualify them for the Academy Awards. For more about UP and Docter, see previous posts.

Farrar joined Industrial Light & Magic in 1981 as a camera operator on STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. and was visual effects supervisor on WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. He won the Oscar in 1985 for his effects work on COCOON and since then has received nominations for THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, BACKDRAFT, A.I. ans TRANSFORMERS.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

San Sebastián IFF Presents Awards

Mo'Nique in PRECIOUS

The TCM AUDIENCE AWARD at the 57th San Sebastián International Film Festival was awarded to PRECIOUS, USA, directed by Lee Daniels. This is the third major festival audience award for PRECIOUS. The other two being Sundance and Toronto. Now, what will the movie do at the New York Film Festival NYFF, currently in progress?

At the SSIFF, the TVE-Another Look Jury also gave a special mention to LA MUJER SIN PIANO (The Woman Without a Piano), directed by Javier Rebollo (Spain-France). It also awarded a TCM AUDIENCE AWARD to an European film, DESERT FLOWER, directed by Sherry Hormann (Germany).


The Official Selection Jury for the Film Festival decided to award the Golden Shell for Best Film to CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH by LU CHUAN (China). The movies director of photography, Cao Yu, received the Jury's Best Cinematography Award.

CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH, filmed in wide screen and black and white, begins in 1937. Japanese troops have entered China's temporary capital, where their cruel occupation will be known as "The Rape of Nanjing." The film alternates between Japanese and Chinese points of view, presenting a portrait of surviving in wartime day-to-day living conditions amidst a devastated city while confronting never before encountered ethical dilemmas.

This and other awards were presented last evening at San Sebastián, Spain, in the Kursaal, with the entire media event being hosted in the Anoeta Velodrome where a broadcast of the closing gala was shown on the giant Velodrome screen. The evening was also broadcast live on the sansebastianfestivalTV channel via the Web.

The gala evening began with the showing of the final screening from the Zabaltegi-Pearls section with Johnnie To’s VENGEANCE. Following the awards, the evening closed with the screening of MOTHER & CHILD (USA), presented in person by director Rodrigo García and the actors Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington and Jimmy Smits, who made an appearance on the Velodrome stage. Also in the movie, but not at the SSIFF, are Annette Bening, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Other awards from the Official Selection went to:






The President of the International Jury was LAURENT CANTET (France), and the three other males on the jury were: BONG JOON-HO (Korea); DANIEL GIMÉNEZ CACHO (Spain); and JOHN MADDEN (United Kingdom). The females were LEONOR SILVEIRA (Portugal); PILAR LÓPEZ DE AYALA (Spain); and SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF (Iran).

The FIPRESCI Award for the Best Film Made in Spain went to Catalonian director Isaki Lacuesta's LOS CONDENADOS (The Condemned, Spain).

The HORIZONTES Jury Award for films in Spanish made outside of Spain, and carrying €35,000 (€10,000 for the director of the winning film and €25,000 for its importer in Spain), went to the film GIGANTE (Uruguay) directed by by Adrián Biniez, with a Special Mention to FRANCIA (Argentina) directed by Israel Adrián Caetano. Also, the movie CONTRACORRIENTE, by Javier Fuentes-León (Peru-Colombia-France-Germany), received the Horizontes Sebastian 2009 Award.

KUTXA’s social program granted €30,000 in aid to the film by Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro, YO TAMBIÉN, a competitor in the Official Selection, for highlighting the values of integration and equality, precisely the values promoted by Kutxa.

The FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Grand Prix for Best Film of the Year screening at the San Sebastián Festival was presented at the opening gala on Friday, 18 September, to THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band, Germany), directed by Michael Haneke. In order for a movie to be given a FIPRESCI GRAND PRIX at an individual film festival, it must have won at least on major award at a major film festival. WHITE RIBBON won the Palme d'or at Cannes in May. Can't get more "major" than that. Will Germany place it in competition for this year's Best Foreign Film Oscar®?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yikes! An Oscar® Submission Deadline

Yes, it is true. It is that time again. Like, already.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that next Thursday, 1 October, is the deadline to submit entries in the Foreign Language Film, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film categories to be considered for the 82nd Academy Awards®. Complete entries must arrive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills by 5 p.m. PT that day.

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

For 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.

Click the title of this post for complete 82nd Academy Awards rules. Additional information may be obtained from Awards Coordinator Torene Svitil via phone at (310) 247-3000, ext. 190, by fax at (310) 247-2600, or by e-mail at

The 82nd Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New York Film Festival Opens Today

The 47th New York Film Festival (NYFF) opens today in New York City (NYC), and will run through 11 October. One of the most interesting venues is always the New Directors / New Films.

This year, representing 20 countries, the titles in the 38th edition of New Directors/New Films will screen in their New York premieres or, in some cases, their United States and world premieres. From Opening Night's charming, multicultural drama AMREEKA, to Closing Night's WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, a documentary portrait of an early Internet pioneer, the festival once again affords movie goers the chance to discover the independent and world cinema stars of tomorrow.

The NYFF Main Slate selections will screen at the fully renovated Alice Tully Hall, with reserved seating, except where otherwise noted. See full Main Slate program by clicking the title of this post. Then, follow the links on the left sidebar of that page for Avant-Garde, special programs, Masterworks, ticket information, etc.

With award season starting soon, it will be interesting to see how the films entered in various festivals will "shake out" at the NYFF. For additional information on this blog about the NYFF, click the tag "NYFF" at the bottom of this post.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SSIFF Honors to Brooks, McKellen and Uribe

Actor Ian McKellen, UK, and director Imanol Uribe, Spain, each received special awards yesterday at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. In addition, the Festival is honoring the late American writer / director Richard Brooks with a retrospective of his movies.

Sir Ian McKellen, 71, has left a lasting impression on millions with his diverse roles in movies such as THE DA VINCI CODE, THE LORD OF THE RINGS series, RICHARD III, KING LEAR and HAMLET, both in the movies and on television. He was the guest of honor at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, which honored him with the Donastia Award for years of exceptional work in Movies.

The date also signified McKellen's 40-year relationship with the Hollywood film industry. He received the Festival's Silver Shell (la Concha de Plata) for Best Actor in the 1998 movie, GODS AND MONSTERS, directed by James Whale.

What many do not know is that this diverse actor is a trained Shakespearean actor who originated the role of Antonio Salieri in the Broadway production of 'Amadeus,' has hosted 'Saturday Night Live,' and appeared in the original X-MEN. He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in 1990 for his services to drama. He has been twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor but, alas, both alluded him.

In 1986, the Festival created the Donostia Award, to be given to a great film personality in recognition for their work and career. That year, the first one was awarded to Gregory Peck, and the honorees who have followed have been very diverse beginning with Peck to this year's honoree, Ian McKellen and last year's honoree, Meryl Streep. See all honorees.

Also on Wednesday, director Imanol Uribe received the Zinemira Award at the Basque Film Gala. Uribe was born in San Salvador (1950), but is of Spanish heritage and was raised in Madrid. After the death of dictator Francisco Franco, the Basque cinema could come forward, and it did with a vengeance in the late 1970's. The film that mostly facilitated the rise of the New Basque Cinema was written and directed by Uribe, THE BURGOS TRIAL (El proceso de Burgos). In 1979, the movie was awarded the Pearl of the Cantabrian Award for Best Film in the Spanish Language at San Sebastián.

He went on to make movies honored around the world such as, ESCAPE FROM SEGOVIA, (La fuga de Segovia, 1981), MIKEL'S DEATH (La muerte de Mikel), both films also related to the political situation of the time. Then, he turned his attention to other genres resulting in fine contemporary Spanish movies such as, BILBAO BLUES, (Adiós pequeña, 1986), THE DUMBFOUNDED KING (El rey pasmad, 1991), and two movies for which he landed the Golden Shell at San Sebastián Festival, Días contados (1994) and Bwana (1996).

The late American filmmaker Richard Brooks (1912 - 1991) is being honored by the Festival with a Richard Brooks Retrospective. Thirty movies, either written or directed by Brooks are being shown during the Festival, and their dates span the years from 1944 to 1985.

The movies of Richard Brooks, dubbed into Spanish of course, were very popular in Spain. Dubbed American movies, always older than those being shown elsewhere, were staples in the movie theaters and shown on television during era of dictator Franco. There was a complete industry in Spain devoted to dubbing movies from any language other than Spanish into Spanish, altering the content and dialogue at the same time in order to please Franco's censors.

When I first went to Spain, most people I met there knew more about American movies and movie stars than did I, even though I was practically raised in a movie theater in the American heartland. I wanted to know about films made in Spain and they did not want to talk about then, many saying they did not even go to see Spanish movies because they were mostly propaganda tools for, or against Franco.

To my dear friends in Spain, I wish I could be there this year to enjoy this Richard Brooks Retrospective with you, and here is the list (see more about them here):

KEY LARGO ( USA, 1948 )
CRISIS ( USA, 1950 )
DEADLINE-U.S.A. ( USA, 1952 )
LORD JIM ( USA, 1965 )
$ (DOLLARS) ( USA, 1971 )

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Iraqi Filmmaker wins Cinema in Motion Award at SSIFF

Iraqi Mohamed Al-Daradji's movie IN THE SANDS OF BABYLON received the 5th Cinema in Motion Award yesterday at the San Sebastián International Film Festival (SSIFF). The award is worth about $50,000 in cash and services.

In the Program, San Sebastián's Cinema in Motion, together with Films in Progress, presented three films, one each from Iraq, Egypt and Palestine: IN THE SANDS OF BABYLON (Iraq) by Mohamed Al-Daradji; NOMAD'S HOME (Beit Sha’ar, Egypt) by Iman Kamel; and PORT OF MEMORY (Palestine-Germany) by Kamal Aljafari. Afterward, the participants in the program decided to grant their award to Al-Daradji.

Mohamed Al-Daradji (born in Baghdad, Iraq) is now a dual Dutch-Iraqi citizen. He studied theatre directing in Baghdad and fled to The Netherlands in 1995 where he specialized as a cameraman. Later, he graduated with a MA in cinematography in Leeds. He has created several short films and commercials. 

One of his first features was AHLAAM, 2005, which took him back to Baghdad to film for four months while the war was raging. It was dangerous and difficult to film. Production was slowed as electricity would often fail. In 2006, the movie won the Brooklyn International Film Festival's Spirit Award. His other films include: SON OF BABYLON, 2009, and The Actors, Match Report and Chicken Soup, all in 2004.

For more about the SSIFF, see previous posts, and for more on the films in the 'Cinema in Motion' program, click title of this post. For all posts about SSIFF, click SSIFF in tags at bottom of this post.

San Sebastián IFF Open and Going Strong

The San Sebastián International Film Festival (SSIFF) opened Friday night with the main presentation (Opening Film) in the Victoria Eugenia Theater of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Director Quentin Tarantino and actor Brad Pitt presented the movie to kick off the Official Selection, although BASTERDS screened out of competition.

Coincidentally, according to Box Office Mojo, this past weekend BASTERDS took in $3.8 million for a $110.1 million 31-day haul. It passed PULP FICTION to become Tarrantino's highest grossing movie. However, over-all attendance for PULP was much higher than BASTERDS because of the difference in ticket prices between then and today.

Of course, that wasn't the only thing that happened Friday evening in San Sebastián, because SSIFF is a marathon of multiplexes. It is not linear with only one thing happening at a time. Other Sections opened as well.
The New Directors Section got underway at 4:00 p.m. in the Kusaal, 2, with WO DE TANG / SEASONS IN THE SUN, China, Zhang Huilin, director. The Latin Horizons followed in the same venue with SIN NOMBRE (NO NAME, USA, Mexico), directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Over in the Principe 7, at 6:30 p.m., the Made in Spain Section opened with PAGAFANTAS (Spain), Borja Cobeaga, director. Later, in Principe 9, the Panorama of Basque Cinema opened with ZUZENDU, MESEDEZ!, Juan Miguel Gutiérrez, director. Sorry, Google does not translate Euskara, i.e., Basque, but it is a documentary about teacher, artist, filmmaker Juanjo Franco Zabalegi, who died at San Sebastian in 2008.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Toronto Audience Award is PRECIOUS

PRECIOUS, the movie that won the top prize plus the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, was awarded the Cadillac Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) yesterday.

Other than recognizing some films, such as Canadian ones, this is the only major award the festival bestows as it is a non-competitive festival. This award is not only sponsored by Cadillac, it is considered the Cadillac of audience awards. Last year's winner was SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Other notable winners include, AMERICAN BEAUTY and CHARIOTS OF FIRE.

Based on the novel 'Push' by a former Harlem educator who writes under the name of Sapphire, the movie was originally titled PUSH and won at Sundance under that name. However, it arrived at Toronto with a new name, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE.

PRECIOUS was accepted at Toronto IFF with not much else than the strength of the novel and the wins at Sundance going for it, except it had some heavy hitters behind it. Among them is Lionsgate, the production / distribution company based in Vancouver, Canada, plus executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Both Perry and Winfrey attended the Festival as chief cheerleaders.

PRECIOUS also has some other heavyweight names involved. It is directed by Lee Daniels, who produced MONSTERS BALL and directed SHADOWBOXER, with a screenplay adapted by Geoffrey Fletcher. It stars Mariah Carey and Mo'Nique in supporting roles, the latter winning the Sundance Special Jury Award for her portrayal of the abusive mother.

Both the comedienne Mo'Nique and singer Carey play against type. Carey is said to have worn no makeup in the movie. Mary J. Blige contributed a song to the soundtrack, and author Sapphire has a minor part.

The lead character is played by an unknown actress from Harlem, Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, who plays Clareece "Precious" Jones, a 16-year-old Harlem girl, an overweight illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child. Both pregnancies are the result of Precious having been raped by her father.

Precious is also repeatedly beaten by her mother. When she is invited to enroll in an alternative school she gains hope that her life can head in a new direction, but the road is not altogether the yellow brick road to Oz for which she has wished.

The movies LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and JUNO were each named "the little movie that could go all the way" after their wins at Sundance, and they did. PUSH, now called PRECIOUS, has been similarly annointed. With this important win at Toronto, it now is at the front of all the movies chugging uphill in quest of an Academy Award®.

The 47th New York Film Festival opens this Friday night, 25th, and PRECIOUS: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is this year's Centerpiece Film, one of the most prestigious spots in the Festival's lineup. The current questions are, "Will PRECIOUS gain more distance from the pack at the New York Film Festival?" and "With the new expanded 10-nominee format for Best Picture, will PRECIOUS make the list?"

I can't guess the NYFF prospect, but I can hazard a guess that the answer to the last question is, "Yes." The movie's tagline is: "Life is hard. Life is short. Life is painful. Life is rich. Life is....Precious." With a tagline like that, Oprah and the others, can it possibly miss?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SSIFF High Tech, TIFF Brouhaha, NYFF Opening

Wouldn't you know. I posted yesterday about the San Sebastián International Film Festival (SSIFF) and, low and behold, today I received a notice that many of the programs, including the opening and closing ceremonies, will be Web cast, and available on mobile phones.

But before I give you the skinny, remember, you can access every post on this blog concerning the Festival, and any other festival, by clicking the tag for that festival (i.e., SSIFF, TIFF, HFF, etc.) found at the bottom of almost every post. Okay, here is the skinny.

This year, San Sebastian Festival TV offers the opening and closing galas, the Donostia Award ceremonies and the press conferences, also a number of videos among which are the Zabaltegi Meetings and the Horizontes Breakfasts, the arrival to San Sebastian of guests, the photocalls, a summary of each day, interviews, different aspects of participation of the teams presenting films at the Festival, and all of the clips of the films participating in the different sections. The content is presented in easy-to-use galleries, with search options to simplify consultation and navigation.

The majority of the programs are broadcast in Spanish, with some English and French. Some subtitles, except for live events. The Official Web site's contents will be accessible also through mobile phones, with a new navigation system adapted to use on these devices accessible through the Festival Official site.

The Festival Newspaper, Festival Diary, will be available in digital (pdf), which will make it available for download from the Official site. There will be special sites for the Press, and for industry representatives. Besides the usual audio translations, the Festival will offer assistance to persons with visual and hearing impairments.

All the above will begin opening day, except for Festival TV where trailers, etc., are now being shown.

See previous posts for more on SSIFF, and click title of this post for Official Site.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Brouhaha is over the Festival's choice of Tel Aviv for this year's City to City program.

Piers Handling, Director and CEO of TIFF and Cameron Bailey, Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival issued the following statement regarding the City to City program: (See (1) at end of statement)

The Toronto International Film Festival stands by our choice of Tel Aviv as the inaugural focus for the City to City program and we welcome the discussion that is being prompted by our series. We programmed City to City to give our audience a window into Tel Aviv from the perspective of filmmakers who live and work there -- this includes filmmakers who cast a critical eye on the status quo. The city's filmmakers are experiencing a renaissance right now, and we congratulate Tel Aviv director Samuel Maoz on winning the top prize Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his film LEBANON. Healthy debate about the role of cinema in society is at the core of our Festival every year.

It is unfortunate that the producers of the film HELIOPOLIS have decided to withdraw their film in protest of this year’s City to City program. While director Ahmad Abdalla has voiced his opposition to the program, he is a champion of ensuring that filmmakers from the Arab world continue to have a voice at our Festival. The producers, however, have the legal authority to withdraw the film. . . .

We have had to cancel the first screening for THE TRAVELLER due to a legal dispute between the Italian producer and the Egyptian producer, the Ministry of Culture. The Festival has received no communication from the film's director or producers referring to the issues surrounding the City to City program. . . .

We continue to encourage everyone engaged in the CTC debate to keep the work of these filmmakers front and center as we all grapple with that eternal question: what can art do?"

(1). Slightly edited for length and for American English.

The 47 New York Film Festival opens 25 September and runs through 11 October. Here are some of the special programs:

Opening Night - WILD GRASS (Les herbes folles) based on Christian Gailly’s novel 'The Incident,' Alain Resnais, 2009, France.

Closing Night - BROKEN EMBRACES (Los abrazos rotos), Pedro Almodóvar, 2009, Spain.

Center Piece - PRECIOUS, based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, directed by Lee Daniels, 2009, USA, winner at the Sundance Film Festival. PRECIOUS won both the grand jury prize and the audience award for drama as well as a special jury prize for acting to Mo'Nique.

Special Screening - LIFE DURING WARTIME, Todd Solondz, 2009, USA.,

Special Screening - LEBANON, Samuel Maoz, 2009, winner of the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival.

Special Screening - THE WIZARD OF OZ, Victor Fleming, 1939, USA. Celebrating the digital release of this beloved classic, and there will be some special surprise guests, plus a new Warner Home Video Release.

Tickets are on sale now, and are not cheap. Regular screenings, $20, special screenings and programs, $40. Rush Tickets: $10, and only 50 tickets will go on sale one hour before showtime, limit two. Check their Official Site for more options.

San Sebastián IFF Opens Friday

The 57th San Sebastián International Film Festival (the Zinemaldia) opens this Friday, 18 September, in San Sebastián, Spain. Renault, once again, will provide the official cars for the Festival.

Tickets went on sale Sunday and a total of 46,455 tickets were sold as compared to 37, 579 last year. Quentin Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, WATEVER WORKS and PRECIOUS were the first to sell out, the Tarantino movie within seven minutes.

This year's Festival will include a total of 202 films. The competitive sections are as follows: 17 films in the Official Selection, 14 in Zabaltegi-New Directors, 15 in Zabaltegi-Pearls and 13 in Horizontes Latinos. Made in Spain will offer 15 titles and Zinemira-Basque Film Showcase another 9, plus a short retrospective. The Zabaltegi-Specials has a recent addition of Hana Makhmalbaf’s GREEN DAYS.

The 57th Edition will offer 27 world premieres, 5 international premieres and 12 European premieres. The Selection Committee viewed a total of 1,819 films, compared to the 1,696 in 2008, in order to choose the titles presented in the different sections.

Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried star in the opening movie, CHLOE, which is almost sold out for the largest venue, the Kursaal Auditorium. As of now, there are still tickets available in the smaller venues for opening night.

Only a few tickets remain for the Cannes Festival winner, THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band), also winner of this Festival's FIPRESCI Grand Prix. Same for THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS and SIN NOMBRE, all three expected to be among the most popular movies screening at the Festival.

Sir Ian McKellen will receive the Donastia Award on the 23rd. Cultivated in the Shakespeare classics, the British actor achieved worldwide fame in THE LORD OF THE RINGS and X-MEN. He won the Festival's Silver Shell for Best Actor in 1998 for GODS AND MONSTERS.

The Antonio Elorza Velodrome has been converted into an enormous 3-D cinema for screening the Spanish premiere of BATTLE FOR TERRA, OCEANWORLD, THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and the 3-D version of TOY STORY. Almost 3,000 viewers at each screening will be able to enjoy the experience of watching films in three dimension as part of an enormous audience and before a giant screen.

Canadian director Atom Egoyan and producer Ivan Reitman will present their film CHLOE at the Festival opening gala. Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz will also present INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, the opening movie of the Zabaltegi-Pearls section, on the first day of the Festival at the Victoria Eugenia Theatre.

At the closing gala in the Kursaal, on Saturday, 26th, the director Rodrigo García, together with actresses Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington, are expected to present MOTHER AND CHILD, bringing the 57th edition to a close.

French director Laurent Cantet will chair the Official Jury. He will be accompanied by Mexican actor Daniel Giménez Cacho, Korean director Bong Joon-ho, Spanish actress Pilar López de Ayala, British director John Madden, Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf and the Portuguese actress Leonor Silveira.

Some of the glitterati expected to attend the festival, other than those mentioned above are: Ang Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Terry Gilliam, Michael Winterbottom, François Ozon, Tom DiCillo, Jacques Audiard, Johnnie To, Bahman Gobhadi, Lee Daniels, Olivier Hirschbiegel, Christophe Honoré, Juan José Campanella, Matthias Glasner, Fernando Trueba, Isaki Lacuesta, Javier Rebollo, Nicolas Klotz, Jalil Lespert. Robert Duvall, Chiara Mastroianni, Miranda Otto, Brenda Blethyn, Ricardo Darín, Carmen Machi, Lola Dueñas and Ariadna Gil.

The International Film School Meeting 24 and 25 September will offer youngsters the chance to present their works. They and their teachers will also comment on them. The showings at the Kutxa Function Hall are open to the public.

Producer and director Lluís Miñarro will chair the jury consisting of students from the participating film schools that will choose the winning film, the director of which will win €10,000 in Panavision filming material for his or her next work, also earning the chance to participate in the Short Film Corner at Cannes. Twelve countries will participate in the Meeting, which includes a Masterclass.

For more see previous posts. For detailed ticket information, click the title of this post to link to the Festival's official Web site.