Sunday, February 28, 2010
It seems the smear campaigning that continues in the L.A. Times (first against Up in the Air and now The Hurt Locker) has since spread to the other news outlets. While the L.A. Times focus was the Nicholas Chartier email scandal, Newsweek and Associated Press put out articles by war experts who dislike The Hurt Locker because it's supposedly disrespectful and inaccurate. Then the L.A. Times picked up on it themselves with a front-page story 'The Hurt Locker' sets off conflict, followed by others such as 'The Hurt Locker' debate: accuracy vs. entertainment. I can't help but notice that none of them spoke to the "accuracy" of the Weinsteins' Inglourious Basterds.
This reminds me of Norm Jewison who spoke recently about how The Hurricane was a strong contender in the Oscar race until a New York Times article smeared the film. Suspciously-timed articles have a habit of appearing during Academy's voting period that cast negative light on Oscar frontrunners, such as the accusations of anti-Semitism against A Beautiful Mind, the release of grand jury testimony from Polanski's 1977 sexual assault case when The Pianist was up against Gangs of New York, and accusations of exploitation against Slumdog Millionaire. Curiously, none of these articles ever seems to critique a Weinstein movie. Hmmmm.
The L.A. Times has become a de facto cheerleader for the Weinsteins' Inglourious Basterds, with Patrick Goldstein providing the voice of reason. Certainly none of these smears have come from the Avatar camp. James Cameron maintains an excellent relationship with his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow and made it a condition of promoting Avatar that it would not be at the expense of The Hurt Locker.
On Saturday, Cinematographer Christian Berger of Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon) was a surprise winner of the 24th Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Awards. It's only the second time a foreign film has won the award, after 2004's Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement). Morgan Freeman was given the Board of Governors Award, Caleb Deschanel received the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award, and Chris Menges a took the ASC International Award.
The Cinema Audio Society (CAS) also held its Awards ceremony on Saturday night. The Hurt Locker pulled out a surprise win over Avatar which won two major awards at the Golden Reel Awards for sound editors. The other nominees were District 9, Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The CAS recognizes sound mixers, who are responsible for sculpting and blending the sound after the sound editors have created and/or selected all of the sounds.
The following are complete lists of winners.
Writer: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright; based on George Romero's 1973 original
Director: Breck Eisner
Producer: Michael Aguilar, Rob Cowan, Dean Georgaris
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson
Zombie horror, 101 minutes
This remake of a 1973 George Romero film has an unusual pedigree. It’s made by Participant Media, which was founded by eBay’s first president Jeffrey Skoll. Participant’s mission is to make politically relevant films, and they’re best known for the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth about Al Gore and climate change. Breck Eisner is the film’s director. He is the son of former-Disney boss Michael Eisner, and was the director of the atrocious Matthew McConaughey film Sahara.
As with many of Romero’s original zombie movies, the political overtones are noticeable but discreet. I expect that most viewers will be oblivious to the interpretive possibilities, and just enjoy it as a good example of the genre. The plot will be familiar to not only zombie fans, but to anyone who saw The Simpsons Movie. Basically, man-made event causes the townsfolk of Ogden Marsh to become crazed homicidal maniacs. So technically, they are not zombies since they were never dead. But they move, act, kill and infect humans the same way, so for all intents and purposes that's what they are.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Un prophète (A Prophet) was the big winner on Saturday, February 27 at the 35th annual César Awards in Paris. It won nine of its thirteen nominations including Best Film, Best Director and two awards for its breakout star Tahar Rahim - Best Actor and Breakthrough Actor. Un prophète is France's nominee for the Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award, and receives its Toronto release on March 5, 2010. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino was a surprise winner in the Foreign Film category, beating out Avatar, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Panique au village (A Town Called Panic), Palme d'Or winner Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon), and Canada's J’ai tué ma mere (I Killed My Mother).
On Friday night, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted their Image Awards. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire was the night's big winner, taking six trophies including Best Motion Picture and Best Independent Motion Picture. There was a moment of embarrassment when director Lee Daniels said, "No one in Hollywood told me they wanted to see a movie about a 350lb black girl who had HIV" before quickly correcting himself. "She's not 350lbs, Gabby," referring to the film's star Gabourey Sidibe. He awkwardly explained that was the description from the book.
On Thursday, the Costume Designers Guild (CDG) gave out their awards to film and television wardrobe artists. They recognize three categories in the area of film: contemporary, period and fantasy. These were won by Doug Hall (Crazy Heart), Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria), Monique Prudhomme (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) respectively. Sandy Powell also received a Career Achievement Award, having won Oscars for Shakespeare in Love and The Aviator.
Here are complete lists of winners for the César, NAACP Image, and CDG Awards.
Friday, February 26, 2010
This is the year that the Academy gets everything wrong in the acting categories.
It won’t be quite so bad on the men’s side. Jeff Bridges will win for his work in Crazy Heart and he is worthy. Personally I think George Clooney’s performance was better in a better film Up in the Air. But he has already won and Jeff Bridges hasn’t so I’m okay with that. Chris Waltz will win for his outstanding turn in Inglourious Basterds. His role was really the lead, however, and so he has an unfair advantage over his fellow nominees. Since Waltz didn’t support anyone but rather stole the movie and made the villain far and away the most interesting thing, I’d probably give it to Woody Harrelson or Christopher Plummer.
But it’s especially the women’s categories that will be a travesty. There’s no way that Sandra Bullock is remotely in the same league as Meryl Streep. Her work in The Blind Side is somewhat better than her Razzie-nominated work in All About Steve or equally lame The Proposal. Still, all she does is go from being a deeply devout and concerned Christian to … well, a deeply devout and concerned Christian. Meryl Streep is the greatest actor of her generation, male or female. Unfortunately, Hollywood takes her for granted. So while she gets nominated often – a record 16 times – she hasn’t won since 1982 (Sophie’s Choice). Her other Oscar was for supporting work in Kramer vs. Kramer, so Hillary Swank has more Best Actress awards. No one in their right mind believes that Swank is superior to Streep.
Okay then, what about Mo'Nique in Precious?
Writer: Sebastián Silva, Pedro Peirano
Director: Sebastián Silva
Cast: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedón, Alejandro Goic, Andrea García-Huidobro, Mariana Loyola
Indie drama, 94 Minutes
Spanish w/ English Subtitles
With his sophomore film La Nana (The Maid), director/co-writer Sebastián Silva paints a fascinating character study of Raquel, an old maid in both senses of the term. Drawing on memories of his family’s own domestic help, his portrayal doesn’t sentimentalize or trivialize the workers but creates complex and multi-dimensional characters.
Raquel (Catalina Saavedra) is a frumpy, likeable and hardworking maid, but has a definite dark side. She has helped the Valdez family in Chile for 23 years and is almost like family, yet still feels distant from them. She has to be cajoled into joining them to celebrate her own birthday. She is diligent, but overworked to the point of exhaustion and suffers headaches and dizzy spells. When the mother Pilar (Claudia Celedón) suggests that the family hire a second maid, she does everything she can to sabotage her or anyone else who might come along.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Not to toot my own horn but....
At the beginning of the month, just four days after the Oscar nominees were announced, I declared that The Hurt Locker was going to win both Best Director and Best Picture. Lately, everyone else seems to be jumping on the bandwagon now that it has won most of the big prizes this month, including ACE, WGA, DGA, PGA, and this past weekend’s BAFTA Awards. Some writers eventually caught on to my observation that the new preferential voting process would benefit The Hurt Locker, such as Hendrik Hertzberg’s New Yorker article fully a week-and-a-half after mine. I hear that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess I can take some satisfaction seeing others finally catching up.
The only thing that could derail them now isn’t the brilliance of one of the Weinsteins, but the foolishness of one of The Hurt Locker’s producers, Nicholas Chartier. He sent out an idiotic email last Friday that is in contravention of the new rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), introduced in 2004 to prevent the badmouthing and negative campaigning that were so often part of the Oscar race. Academy regulations state that "ads, mailings, Web sites or any other forms of communication that attempt to promote a particular film or achievement by casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement are not permitted. In particular, any tactic that singles out “the competition” by name or title is expressly forbidden." Although he didn’t mention a rival by name, it’s clear he’s speaking of Avatar by referring to “a $500M film.”
Here’s the text of his email, typos included:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Writer/director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval
Gay coming-of-age drama, 96 minutes
In Toronto theatres now, J’ai tué ma mere (I Killed My Mother) returns to Montreal Thursday for the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois. It is indeed an impressive debut film by Montrealer Xavier Dolan.
Dolan took Cannes by storm last year, winning three awards: the Art Cinema Award (C.I.C.A.E.), Prix Regards Jeune and the SACD (Societe des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques) Prize at the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar. It went on to win two awards at the Lumiere Awards in France, and numerous awards in Festivals as far-flung as Bangkok, Reykjavik and Zabreb. It was also named to Canada’s Top Ten by the Toronto International Film Festival, and was Canada’s submission to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film Category. It received 5 Jutra Award nominations, 4 for Dolan himself.
All of this praise is mostly justified. It is quite a strong first feature by a precocious filmmaker, at only 20 years of age. He not only wrote and directed the film, but produced it and starred in it as well. Could he really be the next Orson Welles? Is J’ai tué ma mere another Citizen Kane?
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Writer/director: Lixin Fan
Documentary, 90 minutes
Some thirty years after China’s “Reforms and Opening up” to the outside world, its coastal cities are overrun with factories ready to supply the West’s insatiable need for cheap goods. Because of crushing poverty in the interior rural areas, over 130 million people have flooded to these cities for the work, however low-paying and grueling. They end up living in the factories, and can only return home once a year to celebrate the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival with their families. But with millions all trying to take the same trains home at the same time, the result is a crush of pandemonium.
Last Train Home is a remarkable look at the effects of globalization on China in general and on one family in particular, and resonates on many levels both large and small. It is both epic and intimate. It takes us through many cities and regions, often contrasting the beautiful, pristine but impoverished countryside with the smog-choked yet affluent urban centres. Crowds pack the factories and stream into trains by the thousands and thousands. But it is through the eyes of the Zhangs that we see how difficult the work and journey home can be, and how they arrive home only to find that their children are strangers to them.
The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) announced the nominees for their 2010 Screenwriting Awards on Monday. The five nominees in the Feature Film category were High Life, A Shine of Rainbows, The Trotsky, Love and Savagery and Crackie.
Of these films High Life and The Trotsky are comedies. The others have an Irish/ Newfoundland leaning. A Shine of Rainbows is set in Ireland while Crackie is set in Newfoundland. Love and Savagery is set in both Ireland and Newfoundland.
Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Monday, April 19, at Maro in Liberty Village, Toronto. The ceremony will be hosted by Canadian Comedy Award-winning Debra DiGiovanni, and she will write the awards show with fellow Canadian Comedy Award-winning writers Steven and Daniel Shehori.
Conplete list of 2010 Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Awards nominees
Writer/director: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Griffths
Social Realist drama, 123 minutes
This past year has been a terrific one for women directors. Kathryn Bigelow is only one of the many who had prominent releases. We also saw major films from Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia), Jane Campion (Bright Star), Lone Scherfig (An Education), Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body), Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated), Drew Barrymore (Whip It), Mira Nair (Amelia), Anne Fontaine (Coco avant Chanel), and many others. This past weekend, Toronto saw the theatrical release of Fish Tank which won the Jury Prize at Cannes and just won Outstanding British film at the BAFTA Awards.
Fish Tank is a compelling coming-of-age drama set in the public housing underbelly of Essex, east of London. Working class folks bark at each other with gusto and scathing profanity. Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a troubled 15-year-old who fights other girls but dreams of becoming a hip-hop dancer like them. She also develops an unhealthy crush on her mother’s new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender).
Monday, February 22, 2010
Cast: (voice) Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Véronique Dumont, Bruce Ellison, Frédéric Jannin, Bouli Lanners, Vincent Patar
Stop-motion animation comedy, 75 minutes
French, with English subtitles
This has been a very strong year for stop-motion animated films. Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox were hits at the box office, and the sadly neglected Mary and Max was also superb. Now comes a Belgian film Panique au village (A Town Called Panic). It was a rare animation film that was invited to the Cannes Film Festival and later played at the Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival as well. It's based on a Belgian television series that used plastic children's toys to tell fantastical and hilarious stories.
They are also two of the main voice actors, voicing Cowboy (Aubier) and Horse (Patar) and various other characters. Bruce Ellison provides the voice for Indian and Jeanne Balibar is the voice of Madame Longrée. They each channel the inner child and make frequent use of hyperactive falsetto voices.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Yesterday at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois in Montreal (a film festival for works by Quebeckers) the Quebec premiere for the very fine short film Day Before Yesterday took place at the Cinémathèque Québécoise as part of a selection of short films. The film also won the Best Short Drama Award at the Magnolia FIlm Festival this weekend. The following is my interview with the film's director, Patricia Chica.
Who and/or what was the initial impetus in getting the ball rolling on this film?
The project was initiated by Sarah Beckett, a very talented screenwriter. She was looking for a director for her short and I was the lucky one selected. I felt a strong connection with Sarah's story and vision. I feel almost like the script was written for me even though it wasn't. What struck me the most from Sarah's concept was the way the narration unfolded: the story is not told in chronological order but like a puzzle in the principal character's mind! I love psychological thrillers and I thought that I could bring the story forward by adding my own visual style and storytelling skills into the mix!
How was your working relationship with Sarah Beckett?
Sarah is a very respectful collaborator both as writer and producer. She gave me a lot of creative freedom and on my side, I tried to be faithful to her vision as well. During pre-production, we were able to have a lot of discussions regarding all of the creative aspects of the film, from casting to visual style, so we both knew what the outcome would be. I'm very proud of the results. It was totally a team effort!
Sunday February 21 saw the awarding of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden. The Hurt Locker took the top prize, as did Kathryn Bigelow for the directing award. It received six awards in total. The acting awards varied from previous ceremonies in that the top prizes went to British actors Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan instead of Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock. But Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique still won the supporting awards as they have at many other awards ceremonies.
The Hurt Locker also won at the Irish Film & Television Awards (IFTA) on Saturday with Irish writer-director Jim Sheridan taking the directing award for Brothers. Irish films The Eclipse and Ondine were multiple award winners. Meryl Streep and Robert Downey Jr. won acting awards in the international categories.
Avatar won two awards at the Golden Reel Awards, also given on Saturday. These awards are given in recognition of sound editors. Sound editing differs from the sound awards in that the editors are responsible more for the recording, creating or selecting of sounds, whereas the sound mixing preimarily relates to the subsequent blending of all the elements. Up, District 9,This Is It and Inglourious Basterds each took a single award.
Saturday also saw the Academy Awards ceremony for the Scientific & Technical Awards Winners. Many of the awards were for digital lighting and digital intermediate technology. The evening was hosted by actress Elizabeth Banks at the Beverly Wilshire, and she frequently poked fun at the "nerds" receiving the awards.
The list of winners for these four awards ceremonies are as follows:
I wrote earlier about how the ridiculous smear campaign against Jason Reitman likely originated from the Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob, beginning with an article by Steven Zeitchik in the LA Times "Screenwriting credits, floating up in the air." Now a flurry of articles have appeared in that same paper that are touting the Weinstein Company’s contender Inglourious Basterds as a sure bet to be a surprise Best Picture winner at the Oscars (Beware: Here comes an 'Inglourious' upset at the Oscars) ('Basterds' comes roaring into final stretch) (Pundits pipe in: 'Yes, "Inglourious Basterds" can pull off an Oscar upset'; 'No, "Basterds" will not win best picture') (More pundits dish: Can 'Inglourious Basterds' pull off an Oscar upset for best picture?) There have also been glowing posts flooding comment boards at the latimes.com and others that allow them like hollywoodreporter.com by essentially anonymous sources. They claim that Inglourious Basterds is a cinematic masterpiece, by far the best work by the “genius” Tarantino. Fortunately, the sanity of LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein provides a more thoughtful balance to the sudden burst of unwarranted and excessive enthusiasm for Basterds (Can Harvey really pull off an 'Inglourious Basterds' victory?).
All this crowing is nonsense, of course. Inglourious Basterds is a middling film by a talented but highly derivative filmmaker. The Weinsteins' only hope of getting the Academy members to warm up to it is to create the impression that it is overwhelmingly popular and respected, and that voters should just go along with the consensus. Hence, their bluster and arrogant overconfidence. They use the victory by Inglourious Basterds at the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards for Best Ensemble on January 23 to make their point. Crash had a similar win at the SAG Awards which telegraphed their surprise win at the Oscars. But Crash won a ton of other awards too, while Basterds has very little else which they can boast.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Mark Boal’s gripping Iraq War script for The Hurt Locker captured the WGA (Writers Guild of America) Award for Original Screenplay on Saturday, February 20. Competing films in this category were (500) Days of Summer (Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber), Avatar (James Cameron), The Hangover (Jon Lucas, Scott Moore), and A Serious Man (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen). He thanked director Kathryn Bigelow and the American soldiers in
In the Adapted Screenplay category, Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner continued their winning streak with their screenplay for Up in the Air, which is based on the novel by Walter Kirn. Their competition this evening were scripts for Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper; based on the novel by Thomas Cobb), Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron; based on the books "Julie & Julia" by Julie Powell and "My Life in France" by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme), Precious (Geoffrey Fletcher; based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire), and Star Trek (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman; based on "Star Trek," created by Gene Roddenberry). Turner thanked his fellow Guild members, while Reitman thanked his father in particular as he did at the Golden Globe Awards.
The Documentary Award went to Mark Monroe for his writing on The Cove, about the dolphin slaughter in
. The nominees he was up against were Against the Tide (Richard Trank; based on original material written by Richard Trank, Rabbi Marvin Hier), Capitalism: A Love Story (Michael Moore), Earth Days (Robert Stone), Good Hair (Chris Rock, Jeff Stilson, Lance Crouther, Chuck Sklar), and Soundtrack for a Revolution (Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman). Taiji, Japan
The WGA Awards for writing don’t reflect as strongly on the Academy Awards this year because some strong contenders were not eligible since they were not filmed under a WGA or international guild contract. Disqualified scripts included Inglourious Basterds, Up, An Education, District 9 and In The Loop, all of which are Oscar nominees.
The ceremony took place at the
Century Plaza in , hosted by Seth McFarlane of “The Family Guy.” Los Angeles
Complete list of 2010 WGA Award winners
Friday, February 19, 2010
Writer: Laeta Kalogridis (based on a novel by Dennis Lehane)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson Emily Mortimer, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Jackie Earle Haley, Max von Sydow
Neo-noir thriller, 137 minutes
Neo-noir thriller, 137 minutes
I was prepared for the worst before I saw this. I got a sense from the odd headlines (I try to avoid reading reviews themselves prior to seeing a film) that the reaction to Martin Scorsese’s latest film Shutter Island was decidedly mixed. I also heard from director Ruba Nadda (who made the delightfully subtle yet charming Cairo Time) that Scorsese told her that he had to contend with money people showing up on set and telling him what shots to get. He was infuriated and stormed off. Imagine the nerve of anyone, let alone non-filmmakers, telling Martin Scorsese how to make a film!
I certainly did get the sense that he may have lost some creative control over this, the way he did with some of his more ambitious films like Gangs of New York. So no, it’s not one of his masterpieces by any means. But there are things to like about it. The acting of the top-notch all-star cast is superb. I didn’t mind the strident but interesting score, a mélange of modern classical music assembled by Robbie Robertson. The story from a novel by Dennis Lehane is good. It tells of an FBI Marshall Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) who goes to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient but also uses the opportunity to delve into an incident from his past.
Included in the current awards season are some given in recognition of a particular focus. Yesterday saw the announcement of nominees for both the Prism Awards and the Saturn Awards. The Prism Awards are given in recognition of actors, movies, music, media and television's top shows that accurately depict and bring attention to substance abuse and mental health issues. The Saturn Awards are given by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in recognition of genre films and other works.
It's good to see that the Prism Awards are offering some recognition to the little-known gem Julia starring Tilda Swinton. My feeling is that it's the best film of all the nominees, followed by A Single Man and Crazy Heart. But amazingly, the fine performance by Swinton, and by Colin Firth in A Single Man as a grieving gay professor were not nominated. Instead, two acting nominations went to the clichéd The Soloist about a supposed musical genius with mental illness. The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Beverly Hills Hotel on April 22
The Saturn Awards separate their Best Picture honour into 4 categories: Science-fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Action/Adventure/Thriller. There is some inevitable overlap; Avatar is in the Fantasy category, but could just as easily be in the Sci-fi or Action/Adventure/Thriller categories. Avatar leads the race with 10 nominations. Sherlock Holmes follows with 8; Watchmen and Inglourious Basterds both have 7 each; and both Star Trek and District 9 each have 6. The awards will be given out on June 24, 2010.
Here are the nominees lists for both the Prism and Saturn Awards.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Writer/director: Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman
Documentary, 82 minutes
Last month the United States celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and now February is Black History Month. So it’s perhaps fitting then that Soundtrack for a Revolution opens this weekend at the Bloor Cinema. Directors Guttentag and Sturman examine the black civil rights movement of the 60s through the eyes of people who lived through it. As the title makes clear, particular attention is paid to the songs and music that permeated the movement and inspired its participants.
On hand to provide updated interpretations of many of these songs are various younger musicians such as Wyclef Jean, John Legend, Joss Stone and The Roots (the house band for Jimmy Fallon) as well as venerable performers like the Blind Boys of Alabama and Richie Havens. They clearly hope to reach a younger audience that might not know about the civil rights movement nor would be interested to see a documentary. The studio performances are interspersed throughout the unfolding of the story, told with excellent archival footage, much of it never seen before. For me, the best performances were the simplest, the simple guitar accompaniment to songs performed by Richie Havens or Wyclef Jean, or the piano of Johnny Legend for his rendition of “Woke up this morning with my mind on freedom.”
Also just announced, Humane Society of the United States announced the nominees for their 24th annual Genesis Awards, given in recognition of animal-friendly stories in film , TV and news. In the film catergories, the nominees for top film were Up, Hotel for Dogs, and The Men Who Stare at Goats. The documentary nominees were The Cove, Food, Inc., and The End of the Line. With the exception of Hotel for Dogs, all are excellent movies. The awards ceremony will take place on March 20 in Beverly Hills.
The following are the nominees and winners lists.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tonight marks the opening of the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, the annual celebration of Québec films. The opening film is an invitation-only gala screening of La Dernière fugue (The Last Fugue) directed by Léa Pool. The film is an adaptation of Gil Courtemanche’s novel Une belle mort (A Beautiful Death) by both the novelist and director, and includes a number of comedians in its cast of Jacques Godin, Andrée Lachapelle, Yves Jacques, Benoit Gouin, Isabelle Miquelon, Marie-France Lambert, and Alyosha Schneider. The closing film will be Robert Morin’s Le journal d’un coopérant (The Diary of an Aid Worker) which was filmed in Burundi.
Many of the films being shown were nominated just yesterday for Jutra Awards, including Dédé à travers les brumes (Dédé Through the Mists), Grande ourse - La clé des possibles (Master Key), Polytechnique, J’ai tué ma mere (I Killed My Mother), Je me souviens (I remember), Les doigts croches (Crooked Fingers), De Père en flic (Father and Guns), La donation (The Legacy), 5150, rue des Ormes (5150 Elm's Way), and Lost Song. The lyrical and tragic Lost Song was a winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival where it premiered in 2008.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
With more news on the current Awards season, the nominees were announced at a press conference Tuesday morning for the 2010 Jutra Awards, which are given to the best in Quebec cinema. Leading the pack with 10 nominations is Dédé à travers les brumes (Dédé Through the Mists) a biopic of the late André "Dédé" Fortin of the 90s band Les Colocs. Following closely with nine nominations is Grande ourse - La clé des possibles (English title: Master Key) but generally these were in minor categories.
Polytechnique by writer-director Denis Villeneuve took seven nominations including best picture and director. This outstanding and moving film about the 1989 Montreal Massacre made my personal top 10 list of 2009. Je me souviens (I remember) by André Forcier received six nominations, while Xavier Dolan's much lauded J'ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) only managed five nominations but four were for Dolan himself in the major categories of picture, director, actor and screenplay. 1981 and The Timekeeper also received five nominations. The year's biggest box-office hit in Quebec De Père en flic (Father and Guns) only received two nominations.
The 12th Jutra Awards ceremony will be held on March 28, 2010.
Complete list of nominees for the 2010 Jutra Awards:
Monday, February 15, 2010
The 2010 Awards season continued its march on Valentine's Day, with ceremonies on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Spain, Daniel Monzon's prison drama Cell 211 won eight prizes at the 24th Goya Awards ceremony including the award for Best Picture. The film Agora followed closely with seven awards, leaning more towards the technical categories. Penelope Cruz showed up with her partner Javier Bardem , but the big surprise was Pedro Almodovar showing up to present the award for Best Picture. He previously had a falling out with the Spanish Film Academy and resigned from the academy in 2005. On returning, he received a standing ovation from the audience.
Meanwhile in Hollywood, The Hurt Locker continues to roll along and accumulate awards and acclaim. At the 60th annual American Cinema Editors’ (ACE) Eddie Awards on Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton, it triumphed yet again over Avatar for the award for Best Edited Feature (Dramatic). Other big winners in the film categories were The Hangover (Comedy or Musical), Up (Animation) and The Cove (Documentary). This victory for The Hurt Locker comes after having beaten Avatar in other head-to-head contests including the Directors Guild (DGA) and Producers Guild (PGA) Awards.
The following are the complete lists of winners for both awards presentations.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Art Directors Guild (ADG) hosted their 14th Annual Excellence in Production Design Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday, February 13. The winners in the Feature Film categories - period, fantasy and contemporary - were Sherlock Holmes, Avatar and The Hurt Locker respectively. Avatar and The Hurt Locker continue their neck-and-neck battle for glory in the Awards season culminating with the Academy Awards.
Sherlock Holmes was perhaps a surprise winner since it was up against Best Picture nominees Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man as well as Julie & Julia and Public Enemies. Sherlock Holmes is not nominated for an Art Direction Oscar. The other nominees are The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine and The Young Victoria.
Production design is the creative department that deals with how everything in front of the camera will look. While the Director of Photography is in charge of the camera and lighting departments, the production designer/art director chooses styles, colours, patterns and looks for everything, and is in charge of the costume, hair, makeup, set decoration and other such departments. The terms production designer and art director are used synonymously, but if both are used, the production designer is higher ranking and the head of the art department.
Complete list of winners:
Saturday, February 13, 2010
After complaining about the overvaluation of dialogue in screenwriting, I have to point out that I do very much love great dialogue when I hear it. For my money, the smartest and funniest dialogue that you'll hear in any film this year isn't by Tarantino or in some Hollywood comedy, but rather you'll find it in a BBC Films gem called In The Loop.
The screenplay has just been posted online. You can find it here.
The credited writers on this particulary draft are Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, and Tony Roche. imdb.com also credits Harold Manning (French adaptation) and Ian Martin (additional dialogue). It is nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award. In this category, Up in the Air is the clear favourite. But if there's an upset, I'd love to see this film pull it off.If you haven't seen it yet, treat yourself to a brilliant and hilarious political satire. Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini star in this look at the British involvement with the Americans in the leadup to an unnamed military invasion. But we all know what war they're talking about.
Here is a special note from writer/director Armando Iannucci.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Writer: Katherine Fugate
Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo, Jennifer Garner, Patrick Dempsey, Eric Dane, Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Queen Latifah, Carter Jenkins, George Lopez, Kathy Bates
Romantic comedy, 125 minutes
The multi-plot film was a specialty of Robert Altman's, and has shown up recently with films such as Paul Haggis’ Crash, and Babel. But somehow or other, the romcom folks got a hold of it. As a result, we had films like Love, Actually and He’s Just Not That into You. Just in time for the big day itself, Valentine’s Day takes another crack at that approach.
To give the film a boost, director Garry Marshall went all out with the casting. He hired a number of Oscar-winners: Jamie Foxx, Kathy Bates, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts, whom he also directed in Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride. For good measure, he adds Oscar-nominated Anne Hathaway and Queen Latifah. Bradley Cooper makes the jump from He’s Just Not That into You. Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace from “That 70s Show” are thrown in, as are “McDreamy” and “McSteamy” (Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane) from “Grey’s Anatomy.” Marshall adds George Lopez and rounds out the cast with some young eye-candy: Emma Roberts (Julia’s niece), Carter Jenkins, two Jessicas (Alba and Biel), and two Taylors (Swift and Lautner).
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Okay, I know this is sacrilege to say this. But hear me out.
I am well aware that the writing of James Cameron in general and of Avatar's screenplay in particular is regarded with the same disdain usually afforded to Paris Hilton’s acting. The biggest knock against him is that his dialogue is wooden, so therefore he’s a bad writer. This just reveals his critics’ ignorance of what screenwriting really entails. While dialogue is everything in playwriting, it is a vastly overrated aspect of screenwriting. You can have a play with two hours of dialogue in a single setting, but that would be unbearable in a feature film. My Dinner with Andre and Tape are exceptions that prove the rule. I’ve read a lot of screenplays, and my biggest complaint with beginners’ screenplays is that there’s just too much dialogue, with no story, no dramatic impulse.
Besides, no one seems to have asked themselves what Avatar would look like if it were rewritten like Shakespeare or some Jane Austen adaptation. The movie is clearly a sci-fi fantasy film. It’s also an action film. The dialogue that he has is what it needs to be and is not much different than in other films of its type. In fact, it’s probably better (for really bad writing in a blockbuster, see the Transformers movies).
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tuesday night saw the celebration of Black History Month by the Canadian Film Centre, Canada’s equivalent of the American Film Institute. Taking place at the Isabel Bader Theatre, it began with a private reception for industry guests. Then the theatre filled to capacity to greet director Clement Virgo (Rude, Lie With Me, TV’s "The Wire"), who moderated a conversation that lasted well over an hour with directors Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof, Moonstruck) and Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, and producer of Monster’s Ball).
Many from Toronto’s filmmaking community turned up, including prominent black filmmakers such as David “Sudz” Sutherland (Love, Sex and Eating the Bones), Charles Officer (Nurse.Fighter.Boy), Powys Dewhurst (Delroy Kincaid), Alison Duke (Raisin' Kane: A Rapumentary); writer Andrew Moodie; and broadcasters Joan Jenkinson (S-VOX) and Karen King (CanWest). The audience gave Jewison a warm ovation when he was brought out after highlights from his films were shown. Some recited along with the many familiar lines (“Snap out of it!” “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”) After some humourous awkwardness about whether they should stay onstage for the clips from Daniels’ films, the audience gave another ovation as Daniels was brought out.
Daniels expressed his love for Toronto, having been here in the fall for the screenings of Precious at the Toronto International Film Festival. It claimed the festival’s prestigious Audience Choice Award. Although I have previously written about how I think the film disappointing, there’s no denying that it has a strong emotional punch.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The Scripters Award win by the writers of Up in the Air this past weekend brought to mind a recent controversy about the film's writing credits which erupted a few weeks ago. The story started from an article by Steven Zeitchik (Screenwriting credits, floating up in the air). He talked about the tricky matter of having multiple screenwriters in succession and the resulting disputes over the writing credit. There were three examples given – Nine, written by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella; Avatar, by James Cameron; and Up in the Air (read screenplay here), written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner. But comments on the message board, bloggers and other writers who picked up on this focused entirely on Jason Reitman and accused him of trying to steal a writing credit he didn’t deserve.
I myself commented on the article (I’m the David in question in the original article’s comments) and was shocked at the nastiness directed at Reitman. The mostly anonymous comments at this and other articles include, “Isn't it lucky and nice for Jason Reitman that he is now a powerful Hollywood director and … can continue to steal other people's work and to try to steal the credit,” “I'm sick of these fortunate children of Hollywood blue bloods buying up scripts, adding a few words, and claiming it was their work,” “Reitman is second-rate in the class department,” “Reitman is an overrated prick,” and “fuck Reitman.” The fact that Jason Reitman is a credited writer on the film after arbitration with the Writers Guild means that he most definitely played a critical role in writing it.
Monday, February 8, 2010
On Sunday, the Film Academy of Denmark presented the Danish Film Awards, known as the Roberts. Monday saw the presentation of the Evening Standard British Film Awards in London, given by British press.
Antichrist was the big winner at the Roberts, picking up seven awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for the controversial Lars Von Trier. Lars Mikkelsen and Henning Moritzen picked up acting prizes for Headhunter. In the two foreign film categories, American and Non-American, the awards went to Up and Slumdog Millionaire (March 2009 release in Denmark) respectively.
The British Film Awards generally honoured smaller indie films, with the low-budget gem Fish Tank winning best film. Several rock-themed films won as well - Anne-Marie Duff won Best Actress for playing John Lennon's mother in Nowhere Boy, Andy Serkis took Best Actor for his role as Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, and Anvil! The Story of Anvil about the Canadian heavy-metal band won Best Documentary.
Here are the winners of the the Danish Film Awards (Roberts) and British Film Awards.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
In discussing yesterday why The Hurt Locker would win top the prizes at the Oscars, I explained how voting for Best Picture now involves ranking the 10 nominees in order of preference rather than just picking one as they did in the past. This small change will have a significant effect on the results, and I think it is enough to give the edge to The Hurt Locker. I also pointed out that the breakdown of the voting results is never made public by the two accountants at PriceWaterhouseCoopers that are responsible for all tabulations.
This got me thinking that it would be interesting to see how it might look if the results were revealed. It also occurred to me that the voting of the Academy might not be all that different from critics and knowledgeable filmgoers. Many people – myself included – often make the mistake of thinking that the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is a single entity. It is not. It consists of 5,777 film industry professionals and all of them have their own bias. But they understand the craft and they know the business.
It was a good night to be "up" last night. Up won Best Picture Award at the Annie Awards, the awards for animated films. The comedy/drama Up in the Air won the USC Libraries Scripter Award given to "the year's best book-to-film adaptation." Both ceremonies took place on the night of Saturday, February 6, 2010.
The Annie Awards were hosted by William Shatner at UCLA's Royce Hall. Up won two of its nine nominations, in the big categories of Best Feature and Best Director. Coraline led with 10 nominations and won three, for character design, music and production design. The Princess and the Frog also won three (out of 8 nominations) for animated effects, character animation and voice acting. The awards are presented by ASIFA-Hollywood, the Los Angeles branch of the International Animated Film Society. A complete list of award winners follows.
Presented at the University of Southern California’s Doheny Library, the USC Libraries Scripter Award went to Up in the Air author Walter Kirn and screenwriters Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner. Also in the running were screenwriter Scott Cooper and author Thomas Cobb for Crazy Heart; screenwriters Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for District 9, adapted from Blomkamp’s screenplay for the short film Alive in Joburg; screenwriter Nick Hornby and author Lynn Barber for An Education; and for Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher and "Push" author Sapphire. The Scripters also presented screenwriter Eric Roth, adapter of Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with the Scripter Literary Achievement Award for his "sustained contributions to the art of film adaptation."
A complete list of winners at the Annie Awards
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Unlike the acting categories at the Oscars, the Best Picture and Best Director race are tight races between the two films with 9 nominations each – Avatar and The Hurt Locker. True, Inglourious Basterds could surprise and come up the middle in those races, especially with the Weinsteins' muscle behind it (they are renowned awards campaigners, dirty tricks and all). But Avatar and The Hurt Locker have won the lion's share of awards so far, with Avatar winning both Best Picture and Director at the Golden Globes, and The Hurt Locker winning at the Producers Guild (PGA) Awards and the Directors Guild (DGA) Awards.
It has been hyped as the battle of the exes (James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow were married from 1989 to 1991), David vs. Goliath, and the box-office champion against the chump (adjusted for inflation, The Hurt Locker has the smallest box office of any Best Picture nominee ever with $12 million). But although it's a close race, here's why The Hurt Locker will win both categories.
Friday, February 5, 2010
This weekend marks the 3rd edition of the Toronto Romanian Film Festival, which is put on by the ToRo Arts Group. This is an exciting opportunity to catch up on the latest in Romanian cinema, which has been among the world's best as of late. The festival began with a panel discussion on Thursday, but has its official opening Friday night at 6:30pm with Amintiri Din Epoca de Aur (Tales From the Golden Age), which is Cristian Mungiu's followup to the critically acclaimed 4 Luni, 3 Saptamâni si 2 Zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and Two Days). But while he wrote and produced this latest film, he shared the directing credits with Constantin Popescu Jr, Razvan Marculescu, Ioana Uricaru and Hanno Hofer. The film is an anthology of 5 short films, each by a different (though unnamed) director. For more information, go to the Toro Arts website.
From Friday, February 5 - Thursday February 11th, the first ever Great Digital Film Festival will take place at Scotiabank Theatre on Richmond Street W. Classics such as The Godfather, Part I and Part II; Amadeus; 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Wizard of Oz; The Silence of the Lambs; and The Matrix will be projected digitally on the big screen. Tickets are $5 per screening, less if you buy more. Details at Great Digital Film Festival.
The Canadian Film Centre celebrates Black History Month with a special screening of In the Heat of the Night at Isabel Bader Theatre. The event will be hosted by noted director Clement Virgo (Rude) and will feature special guests Norman Jewison and Lee Daniels, recently nominated for his film Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. For more details, click here.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Taking a look back at the recently-announced Oscar nominations, there were a few Canadian connections that we in the Great White North could take pride in.
- Director James Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario and raised in Chippawa, Ontario, while director Jason Reitman is from Montreal, Quebec. Both received three nominations – producing, directing and editing for Cameron on Avatar; producing, directing and writing for Reitman on Up in the Air. Cameron received those same three nominations and won each of them in 1998 with Titanic.
- Jason’s father Ivan Reitman is a co-nominee for producing Up in the Air. It is his first nomination. The Reitmans are only the second father-son team to be nominated for Best Picture after Mario Cecchi Gori and Vittorio Cecchi Gori of Il Postino (The Postman).
- The venerable 80-year-old Toronto actor Christopher Plummer received his first Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category for playing Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. In a great year, he also was the titular Doctor Parnassus in nominated film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, played Charles Muntz in the nominated Pixar film Up, and also voiced another animated film, Shane Acker’s 9.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Okay, I’m a little late getting to this. But I’ve finally seen pretty much everything being mentioned in awards talk with the major exception of A Serious Man. There were many terrific films as always. Perhaps my taste is changing, but it seems that more than ever I’m most impressed by the less obvious films – independent, foreign, Canadian, and documentary films.
Mind you, I still like a good blockbuster, and I’ll defend Avatar against its current backlash. Yes it has flaws, but its achievements are extraordinary and impressive. No one except Cameron could have pulled it off. I’m in agreement with Roger Ebert that even though it doesn’t make my top 10, it’s worthy of a Jury Prize.
As I’ve already pointed out, I’m blasé about An Education and Inglourious Basterds. I also think Crazy Heart is pretty average, great acting aside. So was (500) Days of Summer. I’ve never “gotten” Wes Anderson and find his movies frankly dull, with unimaginative style that uses symmetry and straight lines ad nauseum. So no, I don’t care much for Fantastic Mr. Fox, and think Mary and Max was the far better and funnier stop-motion film. A Single Man looked beautiful, but didn’t add up to much more than an over-long mood piece. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire and The Blind Side were just plain lousy.
So here's my pick of the top 10 pictures this past year. And I've included my top 20 for the past decade - it was impossible for me to cull it down any further. Even just narrowing the year's best down to 10 is always an enormously difficult task. My long list of runners-up is as follows: Anvil! The Story of Anvil; Antichrist; Avatar; Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (The Baader Meinhof Complex); Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans; Cairo Time; District 9; Food, Inc.; The Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould; The Informant!; Julia (with Tilda Swinton, not Meryl Streep); Mary and Max; Moon; Séraphine; Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence); Tetro; Tokyo Sonata; Tulpan; Up!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Earlier today, the nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards were announced by actress Anne Hathaway and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak. To no one’s surprise, the leading contenders were rival war films Avatar and The Hurt Locker by the former husband-and-wife duo of James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow respectively. They led with 9 nominations each followed by the 8 nominations of Inglourious Basterds.
But there were a few surprises, both good and bad. The biggest of these were in the expanded Best Picture category, which nominated 10 films for the first time since 1943 when Casablanca won. District 9 and A Serious Man were pleasant surprises; The Blind Side was not. Although it wasn’t a total shocker (many such as Roger Ebert had predicted its inclusion) it seems utterly out of place and undeserved.
The problem was the faulty reasoning for having 10 nominees in the first place. Some people were upset that The Dark Knight was not nominated last year. Not me though; I liked the movie a lot but it didn’t even make my top 10 list. I found it very stylish but emotionally hollow, especially regarding Batman’s reaction to a death. There were also too many plot holes to make it a truly great film. Nonetheless, its omission was seen as regrettable by the Academy since they do want high ratings and when the nominated movies are box-office hits, like Titanic or Lord of the Rings, the ceremony gets much higher ratings.
This pursuit is a fool’s errand because sadly great movies are rarely box-office hits. Many films almost succeed because of their critical failure, such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which made over $400 million despite its lowly 20% rating on rottentomatoes.com. Titanic and Lord of the Rings were the rare exceptions that were critically and commercially well-received.
All this would have been moot this year since the new box office champ Avatar is also a nominee. So the Oscars would have drawn a huge audience with or without the expanded nomination field. Avatar has been suffering the backlash that always occurs when something is successful. It has been criticized by the right, the left, the Catholics, the disabled, anti-smoking groups, and many others. Viewers who are seeing it post-hype are inevitably disappointed, not realizing that that is a function of how hype can destroy one’s ability to enjoy something for what it is. Personally, my feeling is that Avatar would be a worthy winner in spite of its flaws as it does have many special qualities and artistic merit.