Saturday, June 27, 2009

SERIES - “Upcoming Film Festivals”

Traverse City, Michigan

The Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) will turn five next month when it kicks off its annual celebration at the State Theatre, Tuesday, 28 July. It will run through Sunday, 2 August. Michael Moore reports he has watched over 300 movies in preparation for the programs.

The official program will be released 2 July, but here is a sneak preview. First, the legendary director Paul Mazursky and his family will be on hand for this year's TCFF Lifetime Achievement Award. Mazursky's filmography includes "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "Moscow on the Hudson," "Harry and Tonto," "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," "Enemies: A Love Story," "An Unmarried Woman" and dozens of others. Mazursky will appear at screenings of three of his films and will speak on a panel as well.

TCFF Kids Fest will present award-winning independent children's films from around the world at 9:30 am Wednesday through Saturday of festival week at the State Theatre. Tickets will be reduced in price to $6 for these films, made for kids, which most young people never get the chance to see.

This year, the Festival is launching the TCFF Film School to offer students of all ages a chance to learn about the art of making movies. Five master classes will be taught for three hours each day of the festival from Tuesday through Saturday. This mini film camp will create an opportunity to meet with a different visiting filmmaker each day who will teach the craft of cinema to those interested.

Low-cost licensed child care, which I have never seen at film festivals, will be available Wednesday through Sunday.Interested parents should visit for more information, to offer comments, or make reservations.

This is only one of the services TCFF is offering this year to help everyone enjoy the festival despite the economic downturn that has hit Michigan exceptionally hard. They are holding ticket prices at the same price as last year, screening free movies outdoors each night, and foregoing some of the lavishness at parties.

Tickets to regular movies are $9. Opening and closing night films are $25, with opening and closing night parties ticketed separately at $50. Friends of the Traverse City Film Festival get half off opening and closing night party tickets, according to their benefit level. Tickets are available in advance and during the festival.

All tickets go on sale at the Front Street Cybercafe box office to Friends of the Film Festival on Sunday,12 July, 12 noon on a walk-up basis only. At 6 p.m. that day, Friends may also begin purchasing tickets by phone and online. Public ticket sales begin Saturday, 18 July.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

82nd Best Feature Oscar® Will Have Ten Noms

Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announced today at a press conference in Beverly Hills that the 82nd Academy Awards®, which will be presented on 7 March 2010, will have 10 feature films vying in the Best Feature Picture category. For over 65 years the number of nominees has remained at five. CASABLANCA
won Best Feature Picture over nine others in 1943.

Ganis explained, "Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize."

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, 2 February. The Oscar® ceremony honoring films for 2009 will take place at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Carradine Funeral - rest in peace, Grasshopper

(8 December 1936 - 3 June 2009)

Actor / Director / Producer / Writer/ Editor / Composer/ Musician David Carradine was buried Saturday in private, and by invitation only. Much has been written, and sensationalized about his death, but here is something that has not been mentioned.

Carradine made a movie with a Spanish filmmaker friend of mine, Jose Luis Borau, ON THE LINE (aka, Downstream, and Rio abajo in Spain) in 1984. It is about a Border Patrol agent (Carradine) who is determined to catch his old nemesis, an American criminal who successfully smuggles illegal aliens across the border from Mexico. He gets involved with a woman in the red light district and that involvement changes the course of his life.

The movie has two unique distinctions: (1) It is the last movie appearance of the venerable American actor, Sam Jaffe, (2) It was the first and only English language film Spanish filmmaker Jose Luis Borau has made, and (3) Spanish actress Victoria Abril made her debut in an English language film. She played the woman of the red light district.

Borau writes, producers, acts and directs. He gained international fame for FURTIVOS (Poachers, 1975). Abril currently has two Spanish language films in post production.

Carradine, at the time of his death, had six movies in post production in which he had a role. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television in 1997, and many award nominations, but had few wins. He was nominated for an Emmy in 1973 for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Drama Series - Continuing) for: "Kung Fu" (1972).

David Carradine was the eldest son of legendary character actor John Carradine. His acting family includes brothers Keith and Robert Carradine, and Michael Bowen, as well as his daughters Calista and Kansas Carradine, and neices Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Woody Allen’s Homage to London

Woody Allen in San Sebastian 2008.

Lucy Punch, recent.

The British actress, Lucy Punch, is reported to have wowed writer-director Woody Allen with a screen test for his yet untitled movie set to be filmed in London this summer. She will be replacing Nicole Kidman who accepted the role in March, but canceled weeks later because of a scheduling conflict.

Punch is a relatively unknown. She starred on the CBS series "The Class" and had roles in HOT FUZZ and ELLA ENCHANTED. She has a role in YOUNG AMERICANS, a comedy, scheduled to be released by Universal Pictures in January.

Punch will be joining a lead cast that includes, so far, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins. She will be the least experienced actor in the lead cast.

Looking at Lucy Punch’s picture, and having seen ELLA ENCHANTED, I find her resemblance to a young Mia Farrow striking. Considering Allen’s long history with younger women, including Diane Keaton, Allen’s former wife Mia Farrow, and his current wife Soon-Yi, who is the adopted daughter of Farrow and Andre Previn, I must exclaim: Watch out Soon-Yi

Meanwhile, there is a rumor that Freida Pinto, recently a member of the leasd cast of Oscar-winner SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, has been tapped to play the new Bond Girl. If so, she may have scheduling problems, too.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The Cannes Film Festival (CFF) wrapped 23 May. Scroll down for my post of the top winners, 24 May. Since then, there have been further discussions about them.

The world-wide economic slowdown impacted Cannes this year. There were far fewer yachts, stars, press, and attendees. In the U.S., film critics are considered a luxury, and many newspapers have cut then from their staff. That is not true in Europe. For example, a newspaper in France, even though it may be experiencing a financial slowdown, will not ever think of cutting its film critic.

Biggest disappointment among the films in competition was Ang Lee's, TAKING WOODSTOCK. John Powers says the movie is “dinky”. Others made comments such as, “. . . highly anticipated, yet underwhelming.” Powers feels it is not very good cinematically, and probably should not have been in the Festival. He says it is fun to watch, and thinks Cannes accepted it because the Festival turned down BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2006). Judging by the Jury picks, this could have been the Festival for Lee’s LUST, CAUTION (2007).

The biggest surprise about a film that did not get an award at the Festival is Jane Campion's BRIGHT STAR. It received great reviews by critics viewing the film at the Festival. Apparently, it did not impress the Jury. Powers dubbed this years Cannes Festival, a Festival of Violence and Extremes.

The most deliberately provocative movie is Lars von Trier’s ANTICHRIST. Entertainment Weekly’s critic pulled no punches when he wrote, “Scenes of sexual mutilation in this gruesome story of a couple in [marital] hell elicited involuntary groans and then boos.” Most of the other critics left out “involuntary,” adding jeers, foot pounding, and many leaving the theater.

It has been widely reported that Trier suffered a bout of deep depression before embarking on this film. Despite the huge outcry against the film, Austrian Charlotte Gainsbourg won Best Actress for her role.

There was much buzz about Heath Ledger’s final performance in Terry Gilliam’s THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, which screened out of competition. As usual, the critics didn’t get the film at all. They seldom get a Gilliam movie, but many die-hard fans do. When Ledger died about halfway through the filming, the role was recast to have Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell portray "physically transformed versions" of Tony.

No one else has speculated on this but I am going to. Could the Joker role followed by the mysterious stranger Tony in this “the Devil will have his due, if I don’t undo my mistakes” movie, coupled with Ledger’s recent divorce, and drug use, all have united to seal Ledger’s fate? It is the Doctor’s daughter, Valentina, who is in peril because of what her father has done, and Ledger had a young daughter. Just speculating.

Most critics were kind to Pedro Almodóvar’s latest with Penélope Cruz, BROKEN EMBRACES, praising her performance, but lukewarm to the movie. Poor Penélope had a bad cold, or flu, and missed most of the festivities.

Almodóvar and Lee are losing their mojo, according to the majority of the critics. Perhaps, both need to take a break to unwind and recharge.

On the other hand, critics and viewers generally praised Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, which is the name of a gang slaughtering Nazis. Powers calls it an amazing film because it takes us back to the 1960s WW II Nazi movies, with glimpses reminding one of the TV show, Hogan’s Heroes, but BASTERDS is 100 times more violent. Brad Pitt stars, but Australian Christopher Waltz as a "Jew hunter" in Nazi Germany, won Best Actor for the role, stealing Pitt’s thunder.

Michael Haneke ***** Christopher Waltz ***** Charlotte Gainsbourg

As to the winner, award-winning Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke's black and white drama, THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band, Austria), basically little negative has been written about this stark film, which won both the FIPRESCI Prize and the Golden Palm. In an over-baring patriarchal society, strange and brutal things happen at a rural school in northern 1913 Germany just prior to WW I, which seem to be ritual punishments. How will this affect the school system, and will what happens at school and in the community sew the seeds for fascism?

Haneke's THE PIANO TEACHER (La pianiste, 2001) vaulted him onto the world cinema scene. That award-winner was followed by another critically acclaimed movie, HIDDEN (Caché, 2005), winning the FIPRESCI Prize, and a Best Director for Haneke.

At the Munich Film Festival on 3 July, Haneke will be honored by his peers with the CineMerit Award. Munich Festival kicks off on 26 June and runs until 4 July. I look for THE WHITE RIBBON to do extremely well in Munich, the beautiful city with a sinister past.

To help you wrap the afterglow of Cannes, here are some great links:
1. John Powers, "On the Ground at Cannes, " Part I - Fresh Air, PBS, Tuesday, 26 May.
2. John Powers, "On the Ground at Cannes, " Part II - Fresh Air, PBS, Wednesday, 27 May.
3. “Violence Reaps Rewards at Cannes Festival,” Manohla Dargis, The New York Times, 25 May.
4. ”The Ballyhooed, the Magical and All that Mutilation: Cannes ‘09 Winds Down,“ Eric Kohn, Indiwire, 24 May [The link is wrong, but works as 06].

I can hardly wait for next year.