Sunday, May 31, 2009

Upcoming Tony Awards

Actor Neil Patrick Harris will emcee the 2009 Tony telecast Sunday, 7 June, live from Radio City Music Hall, NYC, to be broadcast live on CBS. This is the American Theatre Wing’s 63rd annual Tony Awards® ceremony.

A Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre will be presented to Jerry Herman, 77, who received Tony nominations for six of the seven Broadway shows he created (Milk and Honey, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Mack & Mabel, The Grand Tour, and La Cage Aux Follies). He took home the trophy for both Dolly and La Cage. Herman says he will not be doing anymore musicals, but is trilled to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, because in his case, it has truly been a lifetime endeavor.

The Regional Theatre Tony Award® goes to Signature Theatre, Arlington, Virginia.

Shows with most nominations: Billy Elliot, The Musical 15; Next to Normal 11; Hair 8; Shrek, The Musical 8; Mary Stuart 7; and The Norman Conquests 7.

List of nominees:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cannes Winners Announced

Austrian director/writer Michael Haneke's black and white drama, THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band) received the top prize Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival (CFF), taking home the coveted Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) for Best Feature Film. In a pre-WW I German village a series of crimes terrorizes its ultra-conservative residents. The brutality portends the Nazi era in pre-WW II Germany. Anyone get a whiff of a possible Oscar®?

The main Jury responsible for selecting the winners was headed by French Actress Isabelle Huppert. She was named best actress at the 2001 Festival for her role in Haneke's THE PIANO TEACHER. A Special Prize for lifetime achievement was awarded to French Filmmaker Alain Resnais at the screening of his latest, WILD GRASS (Les Herbes Folles).

French director Jacques Audiard's prison drama, A PROPHET (Un Prophéte), received the second place Grand Prize. The Festival's Jury Prize, the third-place award, was shared by FISH TANK (British director Andrea Arnold's teen drama) and THIRST (South Korean Park Chan-wook's vampire romance).

It was a big night for Austrian film, with Christopher Waltz as a "Jew hunter" in Nazi Germany, named as best actor for Quentin Tarantino's World War II epic INGLOURIOUS BASTARDS, starring Brad Pitt. Uh oh - WW II, Germany, Nazis - anyone get another whiff of a possible Oscar®?

Also, fellow Austrian Charlotte Gainsbourg won the best-actress honor for her role in ANTICHRIST, directed by Lars Von Trier. The last film riled and repelled many Cannes viewers with its explicit images of physical abuse involving a grieving couple (Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe).

Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza received the award as Best Director for KINATAY. It concerns police inflicting bodily harm as retribution against uncooperative prostitutes.

Hong Kong screenwriter Feng Meiu garnered the Best Screenplay award for SPRNG FEVER (Hong Kong), directed by Lou Ye. It is a tale of forbidden romance involving homosexual relationships. First-time director Warwick Thornton was awarded a Camera d'Or (Golden Camera) in that category for his first feature, SAMSON AND DELIAH (Australia).

ARENA (Portugal), directed by João Salaviza, took home the Best Short Film Palme d'Or. THE SIX DOLLAR FIFTY MAN directed by Louis Sutherland received the Short Film Special Distinction award.

COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY, directed by Dutch-born Jan Kounen, closed the festival. It stars Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen, and is based on Chris Greenhalgh's novel. The novel weaves fact and fiction as does the film set in the 1920s, which is a lush portrayal of a brief affair between Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and fashion pioneer Coco Chanel.

2009 Films In Competition (20):

* ANTICHRIST directed by Lars VON TRIER
* BAK-JWI (THIRST) directed by PARK Chan-Wook
* BRIGHT STAR directed by Jane CAMPION
* CHUN FENG CHEN ZUI DE YE WAN (Spring Fever) directed by LOU Ye
* ENTER THE VOID directed by Gaspar NOÉ
* FISH TANK directed by Andrea ARNOLD
* KINATAY directed by Brillante MENDOZA
* LOOKING FOR ERIC directed by Ken LOACH
* TAKING WOODSTOCK directed by Ang LEE
* UN PROPHÈTE (A PROPHET) directed by Jacques AUDIARD
* VENGEANCE directed by Johnnie TO
* VINCERE directed by Marco BELLOCCHIO
* VISAGE (FACE) directed by TSAI Ming-Liang

To access links for individual films and directors, go here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cannes Cinefondation Awards

At the 62nd Cannes International Film Festival, the awards for the best films presented in the Cínefondation program of 17 student films were handed out yesterday in the Buñuel Theatre. All are under 44 minutes, ranging from three to forty-three minutes. The Jury chair was UK director John Boorman.

The Cínefondation Selection received 1,400 film submissions this year, representing Latin America, North America and Europe. Here are the winners - -

First Prize: BÁBA by Zuzana Kirchnerová-Špidlová, Czech Republic;

Second Prize: GOODBYE by Song Fang, Beijing Film Academy, China;

Third Prize (tie): DIPLOMA by Yaelle Kayam, The Sam Spiegel Film & TV School, Israel;
NAMMAE UI JIP (DON’T STEP OUT OF THE HOUSE by Jo Sung-hee, Korean Academy of Film Arts, Korea.

The winning films each received a financial prize of 15,000 € for the first prize, 11,250 € for second place and 7,500 € for the third place films.


* #1 directed by Noamir CASTÉRA
* BÁBA directed by Zuzana KIRCHNEROVÁ - ŠPIDLOVÁ
* BY THE GRACE OF GOD directed by Ralitza PETROVA
* CHAPA directed by Thiago RICARTE
* DIPLOMA directed by Yaelle KAYAM
* EL BOXEADOR (THE BOXER) directed by Juan Ignacio POLLIO
* GOODBYE directed by SONG Fang
* GUTTER directed by Dan Ransom DAY
* IL NATURALISTA (THE NATURALIST) directed by Giulia BARBERA, Gianluca LO PRESTI, Federico PARODI, Michele TOZZI
* KASIA directed by Elisabet LLADÓ
* SEGAL directed by Yuval SHANI
* THE HORN directed by YIM Kyung-dong
* TRAVERSER directed by Hugo FRASSETTO

To access links for individual films and directors,
go here.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cannes Festival is ready to roll

Actress, Isabelle Huppert

The 62nd Cannes Film Festival (CFF) will open this week, 13 May, and run through 24 May 2009. The films are selected as well as the juries, and the French know how to throw a party.


1. FEATURE FILM COMPETITION - French actress Isabelle Huppert, President, assisted by Asia Argento (Actress, Director, Screenwriter- Italy) Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Director, Screenwriter, Actor - Turkey) Lee Chang-Dong (Director, Writer, Screenwriter - South Korea), James Gray (Director, Screenwriter – United States), Hanif Kureishi (Writer, Screenwriter – United Kingdom), Shu Qi (Actress - Taiwan), Robin Wright Penn (Actress - United States), and Sharmila Tagore III ( Actress- India). Will be presented on stage during the closing ceremony on May 24th.

2. CAMERA d'OR - The Camera d’or, created in 1978, honors the best first film chosen in the Official Selection, the Critics’ Week or the Director’s Fortnight. This year, twenty first films will compete for this prize which will be presented on stage during the closing ceremony on May 24th.

French actor Roschdy Zem, President. Other members: Diane Baratier (cinematographer), Olivier Chiavassa (Federation of Film Technicians), Sandrine Ray (director), Charles Tesson (Critics’ Syndicate), and Edouard Waintrop (Fribourg Film Festival, Switzerland).

3. UN CERTAIN REGARD - The opening film of this prestigious Festival program is NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT THE PERSIAN CATS, Thursday, 14 May. The director is Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi.

Italian screenwriter and director Paolo Sorrentino, awarded the Jury Prize in 2008 for IL DIVO, will preside over: Julie Gayet (actress, France), Piers Handling (director of the Toronto Festival, Canada), Uma Da Cunha (journalist and festival programmer, India) and Marit Kapla (journalist, Göteborg Festival, Sweden).


1. Filmmaker Martin Scorsese is the honorary President of Cannes Classics 2009, a section established in 2004 to accompany the contemporary films of the Official Selection with a program of restored and rediscovered films, to be released theatrically or on DVD.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's masterpiece, THE RED SHOES (UK, 1948), tops the program. It will be presented in the Debussy Theater with Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell in attendance.

The movie has been restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with The British Film Institute, The Film Foundation, ITV Global Entertainment Ltd., and Janus Films, with funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes), The Film Foundation, and the Louis B. Mayer Foundation.

2. The Cinema Masterclass of the Dardenne Brothers - Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne will give the Cinema Masterclass at the 62nd Festival, Tuesday, 19 May. They won their first Palme d'or for ROSETTA in 1999. Like Francis Coppola, Emir Kusturica, Billie August and Shohei Imamura before, they have won more than one Palme d'or. They won their second in 2005 for THE CHILD, and followed with another for Best Screenplay in 2008's LORNA'S SILENCE.

As Martin Scorcese, Quentin Tarantino, Nanni Moretti and Wong Kar-Wai have done at previous Festivals, they will talk with Michel Ciment about their unusual career, their work at filming and writing together, the meaning that they give to their creation. They will welcome festival-goers, film buffs and journalists at the Buñuel theatre.

See my previous post, "Here Comes Cannes," 26 April.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Tribeca Festival Wraps

Heineken Audience Award, CITY ISLAND

The Heineken Audience Award was presented yesterday (3 May 2009) at the Tribeca Film Festival, NYC (TFFNYC). As the winner, CITY ISLAND received a $25,000 cash award. Ten diverse films were competing. The top three are screening at the Festival site in NYC as this post is being written.

The winner, CITY ISLAND, is a feature-length comedy written and directed by Raymond De Felitta (The Thing About My Folks, 05). Primary cast: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer, Alan Arkin, Steven Strait, and Ezra Miller.

The Rizzo family lives on a little-known island in the Bronx that is as quaint and sleepy as any New England town. But the Rizzos are not as picturesque as the island they inhabit, and like most dysfunctional families, they all stop at nothing to avoid the truth.

The Runner up is a documentary, RACING DREAMS, directed by Michael Curry, who won the 2005 Festival audience award for his documentary, STREET FIGHT. RACING DREAMS also won best documentary feature at this year's Festival. See post, 1 May, immediately below this one.

In third place we find MIDGETS Vs. MASCOTS, directed by Ron Carlson, which is described by festival commentators as a hilarious mocumentary. They go on to write, and I paraphrase, "It is one of the most-talked-about films at the Festival. . . The title alone [should] get you in the door, where little people (including, Gary Coleman and Jordan Prentice (IN BRUGES) battle Mascots, including 'Gator' and 'Taco' in events like milk-drinking, bull-riding, door-to-door-sales, and a whole ton more for a prize of one million dollars."

I must say, the title grabs me. However, I can wait for the DVD.

One more film deserves noting here, the one in fourth place. Japanese director Yojiro Takita's movie DEPARTURES (Okuribito), won the Oscar® as Best Foreign Language Film of 2008 at the Academy Awards® this year. It also won the Grand Prize at Montreal in 2008.

The Tokyo Orchestra disbands. A young cellist returns to his home in a rural town and to the family business. "The movie achieves a pleasingly droll blend of screwball-like humor with a moving story about reconciliation, acceptance, and finding one's place in the world, enhanced by a richly orchestrated score."

See a previous post, 28 February, for much more about DEPARTURES. Click the title of this post to see more about the 2009 top 10 audience picks, screening times, and previous winners.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival Winners

The eighth annual Tribeca Film Festival, co-founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, and presented by founding sponsor American Express, announced the winners of its competition categories in NYC last night, 30 April 2009. This year’s Festival included 85 features and 47 short films from 36 countries. The world competition winners were chosen from 12 narrative and 12 documentary features from 17 countries. All films at Festival.

Two awards were given to honor New York films, which were chosen from eight narrative and seven documentary features. Awards were also given for the best narrative, best documentary and student visionary films in the Shorts competition. The winner of The Heineken Audience Award, determined by audience ballot votes throughout the Festival, will be announced tomorrow 2 May, at the Festival Wrap party. This is a capsule of the 2009 winners in the World Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature Competitions.

2009 World Narrative Feature Film Competition (Jurors Bradley Cooper, Richard Fischoff, Todd Haynes, Meg Ryan and Uma Thurman):

The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature – ABOUT ELLY (Darbareye Elly), written and directed by Asghar Farhadi (Iran, Persian with English subtitles). Deceit and tragedy abound when friends take a Caspian Sea seaside mini-break in this mysterious and lush who-done-it. Farhadi received the Golden Bear in Berlin this year as best director of a feature film.

Best New Narrative Filmmaker – Rune Denstad Langlofor NORTH (Nord) (Norway, Norwegian with English subtitles). A former ski champion recovering from a mental breakdown learns he has a five-year-old son. He hops on his snowmobile with a batch of moonshine, and heads for his ex-girlfriend's home in Norway's Far North. His oddball encounters along the way make this fresh and original debut comedy both tender and amusing.

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film – Ciarán Hinds in THE ECLIPSE, written and directed by Conor McPherson (Ireland).

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film – Zoe Kazan in THE EXPLODING GIRL, written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray (USA).

2009 World Documentary Feature Film Competition (Jurors Liz Garbus, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Spurlock and Brian Williams):

Best Documentary Feature – RACING DREAMS, directed by Marshall Curry (USA). Three adolescent go-kart racers (to auto racing as little league is to baseball) vie for the national go-kart championship. They, and their parents, will soon find out if they have the talent, dedication, and sponsorship dollars to one day become NASCAR superstars.

Best New Documentary Filmmaker – Ian Olds for FIXER: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (USA). In 2007, the Taliban kidnapped 24-year-old Naqshbandi, an Italian journalist, one of Afghanistan's best "fixers"—someone hired by foreign journalists to facilitate, translate, and gain access for their stories.

Special Jury Mention: DEFAMATION (Hashmatsa), directed by Yoav Shamir (Denmark, Austria, USA, Israel).

HBO acquired FIXER at the Festival, First Fun the anti-Semitic documentary DEFAMATION, and ESPN the baseball documentary THE LOST SON OF HAVANA. Slim sales for Tribeca at this post, but there may be subsequent acquisitions as a result of the Festival.

For all winners and more information about the films such as juror comments, cash awards, etc., click title of this post.