Saturday, February 28, 2009

Japanese Film Wins Oscars

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ryoko Hirosue, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo. Director: Yojiro Takita. Writer: Kundo Koyama.

The Japanese movie OKURIBITO (Departures), which won the Grand Prize of the Americas at last September's Montreal World Film Festival, reaffirmed its merit by winning the Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film (BFLF) of 2008 at the 81st Academy Awards®, 22 February 2009.

OKURIBITO, directed by Yojiro Takita, 53, is the first Japanese film to receive an Oscar in the category. SAMURAI I: MUSASHI MIYAMOTO was given a special award in 1955, a year before the BFLF category was officially established in 1956. Takita and lead actor Masahiro Motoki accepted the award at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Vine®.

With a humorous touch, OKURIBITO portrays how a mortician observes people's lives and deaths. For the film, which was in the pipeline for more than 10 years, Motoki, who plays the mortician, studied relevant techniques under a real mortician. During his training he wiped the faces of bodies and dressed them.

The four other finalists in the BFLF category were: THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, Germany; THE CLASS, France; REVANCHE (Revenge), Austria; and WALTZ WITH BASHIR, Israel.

Actually, two Japanese films picked up Oscars® at the 81st annual Academy Awards. TSUMIKI NO IE (The House of Small Cubes) was named Best Animated Short Film. The French title is,
La Maison en Petits Cubes. The animation was painstakingly drawn by hand, taking about seven months to complete the 12-minute film.

The animated short, directed by Kunio Kato, 31, was Japan's first Oscar in that category - the nation's only other animation success was in 2003 with Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY in the Best Animated Feature category.

The 2008 Montreal World Film Festival's International Jury was headed by Oscar-winning American director MARK RYDELL, along with French actress EVELYNE BOUIX, JOHANNE DUGAS, representing the general public (Canada), Chinese director XIE FEI, Czech director VOJTECH JASNY, and Montreal writer and director DANY LAFERRIÈRE.

The next Montreal World Film Festival will take place 2 August to 7 September 2009, and the next Oscars will be in March 2010.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Clint Eastwood Awarded Lifetime Palme d'Or

Today, actor/director/producer Clint Eastwood, received a lifetime Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) from the organizers of the Cannes International Film Festival. The ceremony took place during a news conference and cocktail party at the chic Parisian restaurant, Le Fouquet's. Each year, the prestigious Palme d'Or is awarded to the top film at Cannes.

The Cannes International Film Festival has awarded only one other lifetime Palme d'Or, which was given to the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman during the event's 50th edition in 1997.

Eastwood, 78, was in Paris to promote his latest movie, GRAN TORINO. He stars in the movie and directed it. It is doing great at the box office, but neither Clint nor his movie was nominated for the Academy Awards
® (Oscars®). Unusual, considering his nominations and wins over the last three decades -- won four.

The presentation was moved ahead of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival because Eastwood will be filming in South Africa at the time of this year's Festival on the Riviera, 13 - 24 May. The organizers were being frugal by taking advantage of Eastwood's stop in Paris, and Eastwood received the added publicity for GRAND TORINO, which opened in French theaters the same day as his award. Quid Pro Quo!

Monday, February 23, 2009

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE Tops 81st Oscars® with Eight


The movie that I tagged as the possible "little movie that could," in September, did. The cast and crew will be taking eight golden statuettes back to the U.K., or India. It won best picture, and the best director went to Danny Boyle. There were honors for best cinematography, sound mixing, film editing, and adapted screenplay. Musically, A.R. Rahman received the best original score and best song ("Jai Ho") Oscars.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON took home three expected ones: art direction, makeup and visual effects. THE DARK KNIGHT and MILK each garnered two.

Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded best supporting actor as the Joker in DARK KNIGHT, and the movie received one technical award for sound editing.

MILK's Sean Penn was named best actor for his role as Harvey Milk, and Dustin Lance Black's original screenplay received an Oscar.

Winning actresses Winslet and Cruz

Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz each finally won acting Oscars. Winslet was named best actress in a leading role as a former Nazi with many secrets in THE READER, and Penelope Cruz was named best supporting actress as the ex-wife in VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA. DOUBT and FROST/NIXON were shutout.

Oscars also went to:
Best Animated Feature - WALL-E
Best Costumes - THE DUCHESS - Michael O'Connor
Best Documentary Feature - MAN ON WIRE
Best Documentary Short - SMILE PINKI
Best Live Action Short - SPIELZEUGLAND (Toyland)
Best Foreign Language Film - DEPARTURES, (Okuribito, Japan), dir. Yojiro Takita.

For the list of nominees and winners see the link on the right sidebar, "81st Oscar Nominations & Winners." The link will remain until the next awards.

I have watched the Academy Awards for more years than I will admit to, and the 81st presentation last night is the best one I have ever seen. For a decade the annual event's viewer percentage has been gradually declining. Therefore, this was a year of change for the Oscar Gala, too.

Before a couple of unfortunate personal incidents, I had planned to post about the changes for the Gala. Almost everyone in the administrative and talent heads at the Academy are no longer there. Last night it was announced that President Sid Ganis had served his last year and would be leaving.

So, good show Academy! Host Hugh Jackman was able to showcase his varied talents and do so with class. The Humanitarian Award was accepted by Jerry Lewis with a short and sincere acceptance speech. The set was spectacular. The proscenium box was gone, inviting the audience in, especially by moving the orchestra out of the pit onto the expanded stage.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mimi Picks Some Oscar® Favorites

(Order Poster)

First of all, I am sorry that my coverage of the Oscar race is a bust this year. The great ice storm of 2009 hit the last week of January and I was without electricity for three weeks, not to mention I had only minimum heat. Therefore, the best I can do now is to make this post, a rather long one at that. Again, sorry!

Harvey Weinstein (The Weinstein Company), has bet his farm and then some on THE READER. He has, by all accounts, pulled out all the stops for his entry this year. How effective was his campaign? According to what I have been reading and have heard, Harvey's kingmaker days in Hollywood may be over because of two young lovers from an Indian slum. Then, on the other hand . . . . .

Performance by an actor in a leading role:

Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor” (Overture Films);
Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (Universal);
Sean Penn in “Milk” (Focus Features);
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.);
Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight).

MIMI PICKS: I think this is Sean Penn's best chance to win in the best actor category, but will the Academy members be more inclined to vote for the comeback of a loser (Mickey Rourke)?
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Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Josh Brolin in “Milk” (Focus Features);
Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder” (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount);
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt” (Miramax);
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.);
Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage).

MIMI PICKS: Josh Brolin deserved the Oscar in this category last year for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and the Academy has, on rare occasions, honored an actor or actress for a performance the previous year. It might work for Brolin, except this time he plays a guy who murdered a city supervisor who was gay and took out the mayor who supported gay initiatives. However, a real dead guy, Heath Ledger, who was first nominated for playing a gay guy (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN), seems to have a lock on the category. The question is why? Will winning give Ledger a "bump" for his career?
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Performance by an actress in a leading role

Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married” (Sony Pictures Classics);
Angelina Jolie in “Changeling” (Universal);
Melissa Leo in “Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics);
Meryl Streep in “Doubt” (Miramax);
Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company).

MIMI PICKS: Hathaway is a first-time nominee and "Academy darling." This nomination is mainly to recognize her transition to adult actress, now she must prove it for another nomination. Streep is the Grand Dame in this category while Jolie is beautiful, but her movie basically tanked. So, that leaves Leo, a first time nominee, and Winslet a five-time nominee loser. Who would benefit most from the "bump"? My money is on Melissa Leo. In other words, and like it or not, I see the best actress and best supporting actor Oscars going to a dark horse and a dark knight in that order.
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Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in “Doubt” (Miramax);
Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in “Doubt” (Miramax);
Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.);Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight).

MIMI PICKS: I love Penélope Cruz, but I fear she will once again be shut out, especially since the Weinstein Company, which has both VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA and THE READER in their distribution stable is putting all their energy toward THE READER and Kate Winslet. Tomei was not as good as she could have been, and Adams gave a superb performance, but it was a low-key one. That leaves Viola Davis for DOUBT and Taraji P. Henson for BENJAMIN BUTTON. I mostly miss in this category, so I will simply say that it will either be Davis or Henson.
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Best animated feature film of the year

BOLT (Walt Disney);
KUNG FU PANDA (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount);
WALL-E (Walt Disney).

MIMI PICKS: WALL-E! Enough said.
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Best documentary feature

THE BETRAYAL (Nerakhoon) (Cinema Guild);
THE GARDEN (A Black Valley Films Production);
MAN ON WIRE (Magnolia Pictures).

MIMI PICKS: MAN ON WIRE. I was riveted, and it has won more awards than any film in this category.
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Best foreign language film of the year

THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX (A Constantin Film Production), Germany;
THE CLASS (Sony Pictures Classics), France;
DEPARTURES (Regent Releasing),Japan;
REVANCHE (Revenge, Janus Films), Austria
WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel.

MIMI PICKS: THE CLASS. Why? It won at Cannes, and it is a sentimental thing with me. This movie reminds me of the work of the late French director, François Truffaut, who was my friend. I miss him and his movies.
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Adapted screenplay

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJHAMIN BUTTON (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord;
DOUBT (Miramax), Written by John Patrick Shanley;
FROST/NIXON (Universal), Screenplay by Peter Morgan;
THE READER (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Hare;
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy.

MIMI PICKS: All of these adaptations presented challenges, and all movies are nominated for best picture. Oh, dear. Oh, dear. I'm going with Simon Beufoy (THE FULL MONTY) for SLUMDOG.
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Original screenplay

FROZEN RIVER (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Courtney Hunt;
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (Miramax), Written by Mike Leigh;
IN BRUGES (Focus Features), Written by Martin McDonagh;
MILK (Focus Features), Written by Dustin Lance Black;
WALL-E (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter.

MIMI PICKS: MILK gets the nod here for being the sensitive subject and I think it would be a splendid pick in this category, but WALL-E blew me away with its intricacies and beautiful heart, and I'm going to say, WALL-E.
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MIMI PICKS: Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score) - SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song) - “Down to Earth” from WALL-E (Walt Disney), Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel.
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Achievement in directing

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (Paramount and Warner Bros.), David Fincher;
FROST/NIXON (Universal), Ron Howard;
MILK (Focus Features), Gus Van Sant;
THE READER (The Weinstein Company), Stephen Daldry;
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Fox Searchlight), Danny Boyle.

MIMI PICKS: First, I am delighted that the Academy members did not pick any director out of left field for this category as they did last year. This year they nominated directors of movies nominated for best picture. Well done! Who will win? I pick, Danny Boyle (TRAINSPOTTING, 1996 and SUNSHINE, 2007) for SLUMDOG.
~o_+ ~o_+ ~o_+ ~o_+~

Best motion picture of the year

FROST/NIXON (Universal);
MILK (Focus Features);
THE READER (The Weinstein Company);

MIMI PICKS: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. I first learned of this film at the Toronto Film Festival where it won the 2008 Cadillac People's Choice Award this past September. After that, this U.K. production shot in Mumbai, and Maharashtra, India, has won award after award, after award, after . . . well, you get the picture.

Good luck, everyone and party hardy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ice Storm 2009 Stops Me Cold

Sorry that I have not posted in over two weeks. The Ice Storm of 2009 roared in 26 January and lasted two days. Power is still off. Everywhere I look there are no standing light poles. 90,000 people were out of power in Missouri alone. About 1/2 of them still are.

I have been following what is happening with the Academy Awards, and will begin posting as soon as possible.

I live in the house my parents built and almost everything is run on Liquid Propane, but my furnace requires electricity to run the circulating fan. I had a laptop but it went down a few days before the storm and I took it to my tech. He determined the problem is the Motherboard. Three days ago, I was able to retreive it. It is now in the hands of UPS going to Temple, Texas, for repair or replacement. Meanwhile, I have rented a laptop and am charging it in my car.

The Red Cross was here, but they have turned over their Meals on Wheels and meals at the local community center to the Salvation Army. If anyone would like to help the people in Missouri and Arkansas, they are being asked to send a check to the Salvation Army and/or the Red Cross and mark their check "Ice Storm 2009 Relief." You may designate a particular state, if you wish. Your contribution is tax deductible, and since almost 1/2 million have been affected in six states, they will certainly appreciate any donation.

At first, the only heat I had was from my propane cookstove. I have a propane line into my house, so a friend went out and bought me a propane infared wall heater that does not need venting. He hooked it up and I have been toasty warm. I also have hot water, and a telephone (land line and cell), just no power, so I see by a battery-powered lantern and flashlights.

But, everything considered, I am well and functioning. They say it may be at least another week before power is restored. I'll try to keep you posted.