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Saturday, February 26, 2005

SIDEWAYS SWEEP UP LA SPIRIT AWARDS

Producer Michael London, Director Alexander Payne, and writers Payne and Jim Taylor walked away with something of a sweep in the dramatic film categories at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday afternoon in Santa Monica for their film SIDEWAYS. Grabbing the acting kudos Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, and Virginia Madsen, all from the cast of the darkly romantic wine country comedy. Catalina Sandino Moreno, lead in MARIA FULL OF GRACE being the lone exception, took the award for best female lead.

The documentary award went to METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER, directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky and the feature BORN INTO BROTHELS won the DirecTV/IFC Truer than Fiction award for Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman with a cash prize of $20,000. Zach Braff, director of GARDEN STATE won the Spirit Award for best first feature.

Films overlooked at the Spirit Awards were Jonathan Caouette's groundbreaking documentary essay film TARNATION and Kevin Beacon's bracing performance in THE WOODSMEN. Critics often accuse the Spirit Awards of trying to out Oscar the Oscars by awarding big name Indiewood films and passing over the stronger but smaller independent titles.

COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS:

BEST FEATURE
"Sideways," Producer: Michael London

BEST DIRECTOR
Alexander Payne, "Sideways"

BEST SCREENPLAY
"Sideways," Writers: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

BEST FIRST FEATURE
"Garden State," Director: Zach Braff

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
"Maria Full of Grace," Writer: Joshua Marston

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Best Feature made for under $500,000)
"Mean Creek," Writer/Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

BEST DEBUT PERFORMANCE (Actors in first major role in a feature film)
Rodrigo de la Serna, "The Motorcycle Diaries"

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Virginia Madsen, "Sideways"

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Thomas Haden Church, "Sideways"

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Catalina Sandino Moreno, "Maria Full of Grace"

BEST MALE LEAD
Paul Giamatti, "Sideways"

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
"The Motorcycle Diaries," Eric Gautier

BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the Director)
"The Sea Inside" (Spain) Director: Alejandro Amenábar

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the Director)
"Metallica: Some Kind of Monster," Directors: Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky

SPECIAL DISTINCTION
Ensemble Cast: "Mean Creek"
Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder

Turning Leaf Someone to Watch Award
Jem Cohen, director of "Chain"

DIRECTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award
Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman for "Born Into Brothels"

Bravo/American Express Producers Award
Gina Kwon, producer of "The Good Girl" and "Me and You and Everyone We Know"

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

HONEST ASSESSMENTS ON TALENT

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Olympic Hockey team win over the Soviet's in what has become known as the "miracle on ice" and it causes one to reflect, particularly on assumptions underlying that 1980 Cinderella-story.

Minnesota hockey legend Herb Brooks is often quoted as telling his team, "Gentlemen, you don't have enough talent to win on talent alone." You might call this a Minnesota mantra on life. If you've ever taught a class or seminar on film or screenwriting, when standing in front of a class of fresh young aspiring filmmakers, Herbie Brooks words easily come to mind.

What is talent? And where does it exist?

Coach Brooks' statement could easily be applied to many aspects of human endeavor and especially in film, writing and other aesthetic pursuits. In reality, nobody has enough talent to win on talent alone. And frankly, no "filmmaker" has enough reserve of talent, imagination, vision, skill or ability to make an exceptional film.

One of the significant qualities you see emerge with filmmakers trying to find their voice and a consistent vision is their inabilities to assess their weakness and address them. It is sad to see writers and filmmakers consistently make the same mistakes over and over again, call it a style, and not be able to learn from making them. Boiling it down, it is simply an ability to make honest assessments.

Brooks wanted his players to look honestly at themselves and what they couldn't achieve with natural talent, how they could improve by playing to their strengths and use team members to make up for with synergy and team play.

I could name specific filmmakers in this region and outside this region who suffer from these errors but I won't. I'm not out to embarrass anyone. As professionals we need to find a context to close the doors, put away the pitches, stop enhancing the resume with hyped credits, and talk honestly about our strengths and weaknesses. We need to be able to tallk tough and with honesty and still build on each others skills and talent.

That is why I strongly believe in the workshop process. It is vital for the growth of individuals, our community and the industry.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

BERLIN AWARDS U-CARMEN AND KONG QUE TOP AWARDS


Julie Jentsch in Sophie Scholl
Originally uploaded by Screenlabs.
Berlin International film Festival announced top prizes for the South African "U-Carmen" Marc Dornford-May's remake of the classic Carmen opera set to South Africa and the Silver Bear went to Gu Changwei's "Kong Que" (Peacock) Chinese film about an ordinary small town working class family, the sibling brother and sister trials in love and marriage.

European films stood out at this years Berlin, most notably the German film "Sophie Scholl--The Final Days" about the heroic battle of a Munich students arrest, show trial and conviction on the heals of Nazi power winning prizes for Best director to Marc Rothemund and best actress to Julia Jentsch; and Henry Abu-Assads "Paradise Now" the story of two long-time friends who become Palestinian suicide bombers winning the Blue Angel for best European film and the Morgenpost Reader's Prize.

Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming Liang gained special attention for his script "Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun" (The Wayward Cloud) in a story about a young woman who returns to Taipei hoping to resume her romance with a watch-salesman only to find he changed careers. After their tender romance and daily trysts resume, we discover the watch salesman has become an actor in porno movies being made in an neighboring apartement in the building where she lives. The film is interlaced with imaginative music sequences and mysterious characters that occupy the apartment.

BERLIN AWARDS AND HONORS:

GOLDEN BEAR FOR BEAST FILM
"U-Carmen eKhayelitsha" (South Africa) by Marc Dornford-May

SILVER BEAR JURY GRAND PRIZE
"Kong Que" (Peacock) (China) by Gu Changwei

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST DIRECTOR
Marc Rothemund for "Sophie Scholl - Die Letzen Tage" (Sophie Scholl - The Final Days) (Germany)

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST ACTOR
Lou Taylor Pucci "Thumbsucker" (US)

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST ACTRESS
Julia Jentsch for "Sophie Scholl -- Die Letzen Tage"

SILVER BEAR FOR OUTSTANDING ARTISTIC CONTRIBUTION
Tsai Ming Liang for his script "Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun" (The Wayward Cloud)

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST FILM MUSIC
Alexandre Desplat for "De Battre Mon Coeur S'Est Arrete" (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)

BLUE ANGEL AWARD FOR BEST EUROPEAN FILM
Hany Abu-Assad's "Paradise Now"

CRYSTAL BEAR FOR BEST CHILDRENS FEATURE FILM
"Bluebird", directed by Mijke de Jong

CRYSTAL BEAR FOR BEST CHILDREN FEATURE FILM (14 Plus)
"Voces Inocentes" (Innocent Voices) directed by Luis Mandoki

FIPRESCI PRIZE (Competition)
"Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun" (The Wayward Cloud), directed by Tsai Ming Liang

FIPRESCI PRIZE (Panorama)
"Massker" (Massacre), directed by Monika Borgmann, Lokman Slim, Hermann Theissen

FIPRESCI PRIZE (Forum)
"Niu Pi" (Oxhide), directed by Liu Jiayin

BERLINER MORGANPOST READER'S PRIZE
"Paradise Now", directed by Hany Abu-Assad

ALFRED BAUER PRIZE (for taking the art of film in a new direction)
"Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun" (The Wayward Cloud) by Tsai Ming Liang

Members of the International Jury:
Roland Emmerich (Jury President, Germany)
Ingeborga Dapkunaite (Lithuania)
Bai Ling (China)
Franka Potente (Germany)
Wouter Barendrecht (Netherlands)
Nino Cerruti (Italy)
Andrei Kurkov (Ukraine)

SILVER BEAR JURY PRIZE FOR SHORT FILM
"The Intervention" by Jay Duplass

SILVER BEAR JURY PRIZE FOR SHORT FILM
"Jam Session" by Izabela Plucinska

SPECIAL MENTION
DON KHISHOT BE'YERUSHALAIM | Don Quixote in Jerusalem by Dani Rosenberg

Members of the International Shorts Jury:
Gabriela Tagliavini (Argentina)
Marten Rabarts (New Zealand)
Susan Korda (USA)

PANORAMA SHORT FILM JURY AWARD
"Green Bush" by Warwick Thornton

PANORAMA SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
"Tama Tu" by Taika Waititi

PANORAMA AUDIENCE AWARD
"Va, Vis Et Deviens" (Live and Become), directed by Radu Mihaieanu

PANORAMA AUDIENCE SHORT FILM AWARD
"Hoi Maya" (Hi Maya), directed by Claudia Lorenz

PANORAMA JURY SPECIAL MENTION
Rhee Young-ran for her role in the film SARA JEANNE by Kim Seong-Sooks

PANORAMA JURY SPECIAL MENTION
"Bikini" by Lasse Persson

WILL THEATRICAL AUDIENCES CONTINUE TO BUY DOCUMENTARY FILMS?


Born Into Brothels
Originally uploaded by Screenlabs.
Just look around and you might be surprised, documentaries continue to arrive at movie theaters with a line-up of new titles from GUNNER PALACE to BORN INTO BROTHELS to INSIDE DEEP THROAT. Was the 2004 documentary surge just a blip or has a shift really occurred in indie filmmaking?

Coming out of Berlin this week, a couple of riveting and unforgettable war documentaries COCA - THE DOVE FROM CHECHNYA: EUROPE IN DENIAL OF A WAR by French-born Eric Bergkraut and WHITE RAVENS -- NIGHTMARE IN CHECHNYA by Tamara Trampe and Johann Feindt bring to film audiences the unspeakable and brutal acts that have come to mark the early years of this millennium. Will these documentaries serve as a reminder of the harsh realities of war that the politicized mainstream media ignores or taints for favorable gains and, more importantly, will audiences buy tickets to sit in dark theaters with popcorn and candy, at the ready, to have brutal acts unreel before them?

After a year of art house theater owners living dangerously and running films like Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 911 on two and three screens simultaneously (like multiplexes run blockbusters) and the unlikely successes of films SUPERSIZE ME, THE CORPORATION, FOG OF WAR, and CONTROL ROOM a new documentary film market has emerged. Suddenly, non-profit venues like U Film Society's Bell auditorium dedicating itself to an "all-documentary all-the-time" schedule, cable channels like HBO, Learning and History Channels and DVD releases have invigorated revenue streams.

The challenge ahead for documentaries will be for this penetration of films to sustain itself with return of box office. The Oscars have long ignored the highest profile documentary films and audience favorites like A THIN BLUE LINE, ROGER AND ME, and HOOP DREAMS by refusing them nominations and awards. This year is no diffrerent with the people's choice films failing to appear on Oscar nomination lists.

The bigger question is whether the Oscar can bring audiences into see films like BORN INTO BROTHELS or the sublime STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL in theaters or on DVD?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

MIAMI FEST AWARDS BRITISH DRAMA AND LATIN AMERCIAN DOCUMENTARY FILMS

The Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) wrapped up on Saturday nite with the dramatic award going to British filmmaker Amma Asante's A WAY OF LIFE taking the top jury prize and Scott Dalton and Margarita Martinez's Columbian LA SIERRA taking home the top documentary film prize. The festival opened on February 4th and followed on with a tribune and lifetime achievement award for Norwegian actress Liv Ullman.

Documentary winner LA SIERRA goes behind the scenes in an ongoing Columbian civil war between right-wing paramilitary groups and left-wing guerillas, where children are used for nihilistic combat in yet another turn of violent despair in increasing world conflict.

MIFF opened with Mick Davis' MODIGLIANI a film portrait of 20th century painter Amedeo Modigliani played by Andy Garcia and closed with Spanish filmmaker Joaquin Oristrell's INCONSCIENTES. Oristrell is seen as a protege of Spain's gasconade and unique auteur Pedro Almodóvar.

Spike Lee's SUCKER FREE CITY also made an premiere appearance and is described as a "riveting look at the seductive, dangerous world of San Francisco's street gang culture, where young kids from all backgrounds engage in daily clashes." The highly touted documentary film sure to gain wider release, GUNNER PALACE by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein takes a personal look at human survival by Ameircan soldiers occupying Iraq through individual stories also unreeled.

Special jury prizes were award to Brazilian filmmaker Marcos Prado for cinematography in the film ESTAMIRA and to Keith A. Beauchamp for THE UNTOLD STORY OF EMMETT LOUIS TILL for film effecting social change. Beauchamp's film help cause the unsolved famed civil rights murder case of Emmett Till to be reopened in Mississippi.

Asante's winning dramatic film set in South Wales won the British BAFTA (UK Oscar) the same night in London for best first feature.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

BRITISH AWARDS BEST AVIATOR AND MIKE LEIGH

British top awards went out this evening in London to a full deck of American and Brit films with no single film sweeping up the categories. Martin Scorsese's bio pic on the life of Howard Hughs took four awards and was pegged best picture, while Brit favorite Mike Leigh picked up three including best director for Leigh and Imelda Staunton for best actress.

In the acting categories Jamie Foxx, front-runner for an Oscar, won for his depiction of the late Ray Charles with Kate Blanchette ("Aviator") and Clive Owen ("Closer") taking supporting acting awards. Screenwriting awards went to Charlie Kaufman's original screenplay for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and best adapted screenplay going to Alexnader Payne and Jim Taylor for "Sideways."

Amma Asante, as writer/director, took home the Carl Foreman Award for the best first feature "A Way of Life" a category long overlooked in annual American awards ceremonies. Set in South Wales, Asante's passionate film about racism in a multi-ethic community stars Academy Award nominee Brenda Blethyn ("Secret's & Lies" and "A River Runs Through It") but otherwise features a number of non-professional ordinary Welsh teenagers who had never acted before performing the supporting roles.

Brit filmmaker Paul Pavlikovsky ("Last Resort") took the prize for best British film for his romantic drama and coming of age story "My Summer of Love" starring Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt set in the Yorkshire countryside.

BEST FILM
"The Aviator," Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King, Charles Evans Jr

BEST BRITISH FILM (ALEXANDER KORDA AWARD)
"My Summer of Love," Tanya Seghatchian, Christopher Collins, Pawel Pawlikowski

CARL FOREMAN AWARD FOR BRITISH FIRST FEATURE FILM
Amma Asante, director/writer for A Way of Life"

BEST DIRECTOR (DAVID LEAN AWARD)
Mike Leigh "Vera Drake"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Charlie Kaufman "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor "Sideways"

BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
"The Motorcycle Diaries" Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenembaum, Karen Tenkhoff, Walter Salles

BEST ACTOR
Jamie Foxx, "Ray"

BEST ACTRESS
Imelda Staunton, "Vera Drake"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Clive Owen, "Closer"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, "The Aviator"

BEST FILM MUSIC (ANTHONY ASQUITH AWARD)
"The Motorcycle Diaries," Gustavo Santaolalla

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
"Collateral," Dion Beebe, Paul Cameron

BEST EDITING
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Valdís Óskarsdóttir

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
"The Aviator," Dante Ferretti

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
"Vera Drake," Jacqueline Durran

BEST SOUND
"Ray" Steve Cantamessa, Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer

BEST SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
"The Day After Tomorrow," Karen E Goulekas, Neil Corbould, Greg Strause, Remo Balcells

BEST MAKE UP & HAIR
"The Aviator," Morag Ross, Kathryn Blondell, Siân Grigg

BEST SHORT ANIMATION FILM
"Birthday Boy," Andrew Gregory, Sejong Park

BEST SHORT FILM
"The Banker," Kelly Broad, Hattie Dalton

ORANGE FILM OF THE YEAR (voted for by members of the general public)
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"

ACADEMY FELLOWSHIP
John Barry

MICHAEL BALCON AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING BRITISH CONTRIBUTION TO CINEMA
Angela Allen

Thursday, February 10, 2005

DREAM ON SILLY DREAMER: ROY DISNEY

When Roy Disney and his daughter Abigail walked into the room minutes before auditorium lights dimmed, an audible cheer went up from the section that saw his entry. Giving respite to the warnings on his web site RE: Minnesota COLD!, dressed in a red crew neck sweater and casual summer weight slacks Disney looked like he just walked off the golf course in Le Merigot and not off Hennepin Avenue in February.

As a kid, remember Uncle Walt coming on the tube at the beginning of the World of Disney, sitting on his stool, his hand waives over the drawing table, inked lines with splashes of color leap from the paper with flying Princesses and fairy jumping into the air?

Screening Dan Lund and Tony West's DREAM ON SILLY DREAMER, after all that presentation, it is hard to imagine the studio that Walt built would outsource the animation department. Without the animation department, what is Disney, a bank, a loan department, a financial holding company?

The 40 minute DREAM ON describes a guilty pleasure, an animation studio where the employees labored long hard hours and believed what they were doing was play. And they got paid for it. At one point, with the success of ALLADIN and THE LION KING animators got bonus checks resembling an executive weekly salary -- as one animator put it, you could buy a Mercedes or BMW with a bonus check.

For Walt Disney, it all began with the artist and colored pencils. The studio Walt built was at the core a passionately friendly work environment for animators. Disney had an utopian vision of life, vocation and work. Work was play. Afterall, the original dreamer at 'Disneys' was the man who imagined EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) an utopian live/work community inside a theme park. The magic of such wild visions (or delusions) is implicit in the understanding that fantasy can emerge so fully from paper and pen. Ink, line and brush. Work. Magic. Not for Michael Eisner.

If you read "Walt Disney and the Quest for Community" author and urban planner Steve Mannheim or Harrison Price's "Walt's Revolution" you can understand why the suits in the accounting department were distressed and needed to vacate Walt's dream at Disney. Suits are suits afterall! Their dreams aren't candy colored rainbows set to music with fairies dancing on the ceiling. The suits were embarrassed no doubt with Uncle Walt's brood.

In response to Dan Lund and Tony West's film Roy Disney said, "I have to say how very human a face [the documentary] puts on an institutional tragedy ... the slow, cruel and insidious death of Disney animation over the past several years."

Outside the Crown theater Disney told the filmmakers "There are many people in that room tomorrow who love Disney and appreciate what Walt Disney built." The shareholders for Disney will be meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center to hear about the transformation from Mickey and Mini to "Desperate Housewives."

Monday, February 07, 2005

MELODY GILBERT WILL PREMIERE PAIN AT SXSW


ALWPGABBY.jpg
Originally uploaded by Screenlabs.
The 2005 line-up for South by Southwest (SXSW), a top venue for emerging filmmakers and new films, will premiere Minnesota documentary filmmaker Melody Gilbert's LIFE WITHOUT PAIN on March 12th. Gilbert's film is one of eight in competition for recognition in the feature documentary category with the annual Austin film festival.

A LIFE WITHOUT PAIN provides a portrait of three families from Minnesota, Norway and Germany with children suffering from a genetic affliction causing the inability to feel pain. In a society preoccupied with masking, hiding, covering and alleviating pain, Gilbert's exploration raises uncanny insights into pain as a prerequisite to human survival. The Minnesota family depicted in the film will also be in Austin for the world premiere.

Gilbert's previous documentary films have brought significant national attention and, at times consternation, most recently her 2003 film WHOLE that aired on the Sundance Channel caused shock and dismay from smashmouth radio jocks Rush Limbaugh and KQRS Tom Bernard. WHOLE examined perspectives of people who seek to amputate healthy portions of their bodies as they become psychologically disassociated with their appendages.

Gilbert also produced the 2002 documentary MARRIED AT THE MALL and has written, directed, produced and shot her own films. SXSW Film & Music Festival runs from March 11th thru the 20th in Austin, Texas.

A LIFE WITHOUT PAIN will also be screened in April at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, the largest annual film event in the upper midwest. SXSW is quickly emerging as one of the leading film festivals for the discovery of new American filmmakers and films with a distinctive independent edge.

http://2005.sxsw.com/