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.