Monday, March 30, 2009

SLUMDOG Director Heads Shanghai Film Festival Jury

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle has been appointed to head the jury at this year's 12th Shanghai Film Festival (13 - 21 June 2009). The announcement of Boyle's selection coincided with the debut of this year's best-picture Oscar® winner SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE on Mainland China.

Danny Boyle

In an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency, Boyle suggested that watching festival selections made abroad would allow him to approach them as a festival judge with an open mind. He also indicated that he would like to film a feature in China. "When you have a city that is full of people and stories like Mumbai, Beijing or Shanghai, it's just so much excitement and potential for a filmmaker," he said.

Last year, the sudden death on 18 March of Oscar-winning British writer /director Anthony Minghella, age 54 and tapped to head the festival jury, made it necessary to seek a new jury president. Wong Kar Wai, a well-known Chinese director (born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong) was appointed to replace Minghella whose best-known films included COLD MOUNTAIN, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.

AS TEARS GO BY was Wong's debut feature in 1998, and he was invited for critic's week at Cannes that year. In 2006, he served as President of the Cannes' Jury. His first feature in English, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, debuted at Cannes in 2007 and has won numerous awards.

Submission of film entries for this summer's festival is now open. More than 600 feature films and 200 short films have already been submitted to date.

To see more about last year's Shanghai Festival, click here. To access the Festival's official 2009 Web site, click the title of this post.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

AMPAS® moves 82nd Oscar® Gala to early March!

Hugh Jackman, second from right, host of 81st awards.

Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, announced yesterday that the 82nd Annual Academy Awards® (Oscars®) presentation gala will be held Sunday, 7 March 2010. Hooray!

As those of you who follow this blog know, I have posted that one of the contributing factors to the steep decline in ratings for the Oscar telecast over the past three years has been the early date. I maintained that March gives more time for the Academy to publicize the event.

Well, this past February, the rating for the 81st Oscar broadcast (2009) on the Walt Disney company's ABC network, was 12.1 in the key demographic group of adults 18-49, and the broadcast attracted 36.3 million viewers overall, up 4.3 million from last year. There was a gain of 13% in that demographic group from last year, which was the lowest since 1992. Last year, a combination of factors, including the writers strike, impacted the ratings.

No doubt the writers strike wounded a number of shows in 2008, and was one cause of the lowest Academy Award gala in at least a decade. The telecast drew about 33% of people watching television, a steep decline from 2007's 42%. For more 81st Oscar ratings analysis, click title of this post.

The ceremony will again take place at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.

Key dates currently scheduled are:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009: Official Screen Credits forms due.
Monday, December 28, 2009: Nominations ballots mailed.
Saturday, January 23, 2010: Nominations polls close 5 p.m., PT.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m., PT, Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010: Final ballots mailed.
Monday, February 15, 2010: Nominees Luncheon.
Saturday, February 20, 2010: Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards presentation.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010: Final polls close 5 p.m., PT.
Sunday, March 7, 2010: 82nd Annual Academy Awards Presentation.

Will the telecast ratings go up again this year? If so, how much? Sorry. I'm not going out on a limb to answer either question, except to say, "We shall see."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Academy's Nicholl Screenwriting Competition Opens

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS®) is now accepting entries for the 2009 Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition. As many as five $30,000 fellowships will be awarded through the program later this year.

Application forms may be downloaded from the Academy’s Web site and mailed with the other required materials, or they may be completed and submitted online. Rules and details are available at, or click title of this post.

The Nicholl Fellowships competition is open to any individual who has not earned more than $5,000 from the sale or option of a screenplay or teleplay, or received a fellowship or prize of more than $5,000 that includes a “first look” clause, an option, or any other quid pro quo involving the writer’s work. To enter, writers must submit a completed application form, one copy of their original screenplay in English, and an entry fee of $30. Entries must be postmarked, or submitted online, no later than the first of May 2009, or 30 April to be safe.

Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during the fellowship year. The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.

Last year’s competition drew more than 5,000 entries. Since the program’s inception in 1985, 108 fellowships have been awarded.

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.

In addition, the Academy 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.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NPR Free SXSW Music Downloads

The National Public Radio music division is now offering free music downloads from the "NPR Music SXSW Sampler" DVD. SXSW stands for South By Southwest and refers to the annual music and film festivals in Austin, TX, which are currently in progress. There are more activities connected to the two festivals, and the various events are usually held in March. Winners at the SXSW Film Festival, were announced earlier this week. Each festival is considered top class in its medium.

Normally, I would have posted about them on my Film Festivals Page, but due to a broken shoulder and the Great Ice Storm of 2009, my plans were derailed. I have not started a 2009 Film Festivals Page. I hope to begin tracking the festivals next month as the biggest of them all, Cannes, will be in May.

Meanwhile, you can still get some ideas about these and other festivals on my last year's page. Go directly to last year's SXSW festivals. Please note that the page opens with Cannes, because it has not been reordered. So, to read from the first festival of the year (Palm Springs) and subsequent ones, you must start here and read upward.

To download the NPR music sampler information, click title of this post.

This year's SXSW Music Festival Web site.

This year's SXSW Film Festival Web site.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Memphis Film Festival Next Month

The 10th anniversary edition of the Memphis International Film Festival, Memphis,TN, will take place April 23-26 at Malco's Ridgeway Four. The festrival, also known as "On Location Memphis," will take over the theater showing films on all four screens. The festival is sponsored by the Memphis Film Forum.

There will be a special announcement in the coming weeks regarding the Opening Night film scheduled for Thursday, 23 April, with red carpet treatment. See the list of movies selected so far, and find the info posted about individual films. Read a capsule of last year's festival on Mimi's Film Festivals Page. For link to the Official Web site, click title of this post.

Check back on this blog for more updates on the schedule, more film additions (documentary, animated, shorts and features), workshops, special screenings for children and Senior Citizens, and the Young Film Critics Contest!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Miami Film Festival Opens Tomorrow

The 26th annual Miami International Film Festival opens tomorrow, Friday, 6 March, and runs through the 15th. During that time, 137 films from 43 countries will screen.

The overall program will basically be the same as in previous years with the usual array of panels, documentaries and feature films. However there is a new spice this year, a new festival director Tiziana Finzi, who wants to bring an "Art Basel" flavor to South Florida's biggest film festival.

Tiziana Finzi

Friday's opening-night film is VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR, a documentary about the famed fashion icon that includes a look at his often turbulent personal and professional relationship with partner Giancarlo Giammetti. (Guzman Center, 7:00 p.m.). Opening Night Celebration, Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown Miami, follows.

Among the other docs on the slate are 9 TO 5: DAYS IN PORN, which follows 10 adult-film stars over the course of a year; and CACHAO: UNO MÁS, in which Andy Garcia hosts a 2005 performance of one of Cuba's most legendary musicians, Israel "Cachao" López.

This year's Career Achievement Tribute will go to director Abel Ferrara, whose films — such as KING OF NEW YORK and BAD LIEUTENANT are tough and as honest as movies can be. The tribute will be followed by a screening of Ferrara's latest film, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS, a documentary about the artists and personalities who've resided in New York City's famed Chelsea Hotel.

Among the feature films on the schedule are THREE MONKEYS, about the complicated cover-up of a hit-and-run accident; MACHAN, a comedy about a ragtag group from Sri Lanka who form a phony handball team in order to get invited to Europe; and DAD'S GIRLFRIEND, Italy, that follows a widowed father as he travels to Miami to meet the mother of his son's child.

The REEL Education Seminar Series includes workshops and panel discussions on breaking into the film industry, while Florida's homegrown talent will be on display in the Florida Focus screenings. There is a shorts competition, and the Preservation Screening Room is featuring films from renowned director John Cassavetes.

The festival's awards-night closing film is EL NIDO VACÍO (Empty Nest). The Argentine comedy follows a middle-aged couple as they adapt to life after their youngest son moves out of the house. Screening followed by Wrap Party, Everglades on the Bay, 244 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown Miami.

Screening Locations:

Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami

Miami Beach Cinematheque, 512 Española Way

Regal Cinemas South Beach 18, 1100 Lincoln Road

Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

Tower Theatre, 1508 SW Eighth St., Miami

Bill Cosford Cinema, in the Memorial Building on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables.

Tickets: $12 general admission, $10 for Miami Film Society members, $11 for seniors, $7 for students. Special event rates vary. Special Ticket Packages available for a limited time (call).

For more information, go to or call 305-405-6433.