The two most interesting awards for me: Nods for the relatively low-grossing marvel Hurt Locker, and for Best Film Not Playing Near You (for which I was a juror) for Ry Russo-Young’s You Wont Miss Me, which I liked a lot at Sundance. The full list of the IFP’s indie nods below. The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, announced today the winners of the 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards™ at a ceremony held at New York City’s Cipriani Wall Street. Twenty-two films received nominations in six competitive categories, including: Best Feature, Best Documentary, Breakthrough Director, Breakthrough Actor, Best Ensemble Performance and Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You®. For the second year, the recipient of the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You award will receive a cash award of $5,000 provided by Reiff & Associates, a full service brokerage firm specializing in Arts & Entertainment Insurance.
In addition to the competitive awards, career tributes were presented to actors Natalie Portman and Stanley Tucci, filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and producer/executives Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Co-Chairman of Working Title Films.
Best Feature presented by actress Shohreh Aghdashloo.
THE HURT LOCKER Directed and produced by Kathryn Bigelow; Written and produced by Mark Boal; Produced by Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro. The Best Feature Jury: actress Shohreh Aghdashloo; filmmakers Julie Taymor and William Friedkin, producer Wendy Finerman and musician/composer Stewart Copeland.
Best Documentary presented by actor Melonie Diaz and filmmaker Brett Morgen
FOOD, INC. Directed and produced by Robert Kenner; Produced by Elise Pearlstein The Best Documentary Jury: editor Sabine Hoffman and filmmakers Edet Belzberg, Albert and Allen Hughes, Brett Morgen and Julia Reichert.
Breakthrough Director Award presented by actors Rosie Perez and Anthony Mackie
ROBERT SIEGEL Writer and director, BIG FAN. T Breakthrough Director Jury: actors William H. Macy and Rosie Perez, filmmaker Marc Forster, producer Heather Rae, director of photography Matthew Libatique, and editor Christopher Tellefsen.
Breakthrough Actor Award presented by actors Ellen Burstyn and Oliver Platt
CATALINA SAAVEDRA Actress, THE MAID. The Breakthrough Actor Jury included: actors Ellen Burstyn, Melonie Diaz and Oliver Platt, and filmmakers Jesse Peretz and David O. Russell.
Best Ensemble Performance Award presented by actress and author Brooke Shields and writer/director Richard LaGravenese. JEREMY RENNER, ANTHONY MACKIE, BRIAN GERAGHTY, RALPH FIENNES, GUY PEARCE, DAVID MORSE AND EVANGELINE LILLY in THE HURT LOCKER. The Best Ensemble Performance Jury: actors Dylan Baker, America Ferrera, Brooke Shields, writer/director Richard LaGravenese, and producer Susan Stover.
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Award presented by actors Patricia Clarkson and Sam Rockwell. YOU WONT MISS ME Ry Russo-Young, director, producer and co-writer.
At the “Great Ideas” forum at the John Cassavetes Cine in Thessaloniki, Greece, sponsored by the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, the Fulbright Foundation, the U.S. Embassy in Greece and Stavros Niarchos Foundation, co-chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment Jim Gianopulos talks about “Jim” Cameron’s “Avatar,” which he says he has seen tens of times in various cuts, but not yet a complete version of the 3-D version that will be seen in theaters, which is still being rendered. In frame: Harvard academic Toby Lee.
It’s not as simple as it could be dropped into the middle of a film festival and keeping up with a blog and the off-campus outside world… but there’s stuff I’m adding at my Twitter feed, and of course, the headlines upfront at Movie City News. Werner Herzog walks among the Thessalonians… Report to follow.
Milestone Films, one of the most important distributors of gone-missing films from international film heritage, including Killer of Sheep and I Am Cuba, releases Kent McKenzie’s The Exiles presented by Charles Burnett and Sherman Alexie, a restoration of an almost-unseen 1961 fiction film in film noir tradition, the story of Native Americans in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill District as they struggle during the Bureau of Indian Affairs “relocation period.” Glistening with bright light and darkening sorrow, the no-budget Exiles, shot in 1958 on short ends, was indie decades before the slapdash label was applied to many an undernourished project. It’s a narrative based on extensive documentary research that plays out as a day in the life of several native Americans in their twenties who have left the reservation for the big city, and the result is mood and moment, anthropology and melancholy. The sound design is unusually strong, creating a sense of a bustling, vital world now passed, and the general enterprise bears modest comparison to the early work of Cassavetes. It’s also a fugitive capsule of a moment, shaped, heightened, at small remove from its practical locations captured on-screen. It’s an action movie, in the best sense of the phrase. The double-disc edition includes scenes from Bunker Hill in 1956 and “Bunker Hill: A Tale of Urban Renewal”; clips from Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, commentary by Sherman Alexie and Sean Axmaker; shorts by Mackenzie, and “the first Native American Film,” “White Fawn’s Devotion,” as well as a stills gallery, an episode of the Leonard Lopate Show with Sherman Alexie and Charles Burnett. Text material includes a production history, a 1956 funding proposal, the final script and original publicity material from 1963, along with Mackenzie’s master’s thesis on the making of the film and his last resume. [Ray Pride.] Film website. And a tribute skateboard design.
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At a masterclass at the 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Alexandre Desplat talks about working with Terrence Malick on 2010’s Tree of Life. “The most important thing for me, for music to express,” the composer, who’s worked on nine features in 2009, says, “is the invisible, to show what is not in the film, whether outside the frame, or in the depth of field.” He offers a cooking analogy about when the score and the film finally work together. When spaghetti is cooked just right, he says, throwing his arms up toward the blank screen behind him, “It sticks to the wall. You know it’s right when the music sticks to the scene.” Asked if there are scores he wishes he could have written to earlier films, he thought for a moment, and answered, “Thousands… Polanski, Chinatown, Malick’s Days of Heaven, Hitchcocks… Color! The things Polanski and Jerry Goldsmith did with silence in Chinatown… Un Peau Douce, I would love to have been able to do a Truffaut.”
Below, Desplat answers a question from the audience about Tarantino’s soundtracks; describes the “exaltation” and “crap” of the film composer’s life; and talks about working with light and “color” on Vermeer-based fantasy “The Girl With The Pearl Earring.”
James Chressanthis‘ No Subtitles Necessary premieres Tuesday night on PBS’ “Independent Lens” series: it’s an anecdote-rich documentary about lifelong friends, cinematographic greats Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, from their youthful escape from Hungary in 1956 with footage of the Russian invasion of Budapest to the glory days of Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s and into their mature careers. One hopes there’s hours more teachable material in the unused material; there’s always more to hear about movies like Deliverance. Five Easy Pieces, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Paper Moon, Close Encounters and Deliverance. Conversations with (and between) Kovacs and Zsigmond are the beating heart of this assemblage, and there’s enthusiastic testimony from directors Bob Rafelson, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, John Boorman, Richard Donner, William Richert, Mark Rydell, composer John Williams and actors including Sharon Stone, Jon Voight, Peter Fonda, Sandra Bullock and Karen Black. Not the most neatly structured of films, No Subtitles Necessary‘s highlights include clips from the Budapest footage, early no-budget productions and a general feeling that deep feeling is conducive to great work. Kovacs died in 2007, which is noted in the film. [Photo of Vilmos Zsigmond by Ray Pride.]
In an extensive interview in the Wall Street Journal, John Hillcoat and Cormac McCarthy talk about The Road and the fragmentation of culture. “Viewers are being hardwired differently,” Hillcoat observes. “In film, it’s harder and harder to use wide shots now. And the bigger the budget, the more closeups there are and the faster they change. It’s a whole different approach. What’s going to happen is there will be the two extremes: the franchise films that are now getting onto brands like Barbie, and Battleship and Ronald McDonald; then there are these incredible, very low-budget digital films. But that middle area, they just can’t sustain and make it work in the current model. Maybe the model will change and hopefully readjust.”
McCarthy thinks there’s too much of ordinary things. “Well, I don’t know what of our culture is going to survive, or if we survive. If you look at the Greek plays, they’re really good. And there’s just a handful of them. Well, how good would they be if there were 2,500 of them? But that’s the future looking back at us. Anything you can think of, there’s going to be millions of them. Just the sheer number of things will devalue them. I don’t care whether it’s art, literature, poetry or drama, whatever. The sheer volume of it will wash it out. I mean, if you had thousands of Greek plays to read, would they be that good? I don’t think so.” Hillcoat follows with an example of gatekeepers of culture tightening the process. “No, you’re absolutely right. Just as an example, the Toronto Film Festival is one of the biggest in film festivals. They have made it, for the first time ever, much more difficult to submit a film. They charge an entry fee and they still had 4,000 submissions just this year and they boiled that down to 300.” Now imagine the twinkle in McCarthy’s eye: “This is just entry level to what’s coming. Just the appalling volume of artifacts will erase all meaning that they could ever possibly have. But we probably won’t get that far anyway.”
The International Documentary Association Announces Nominees for The 2009 IDA Awards
LOS ANGELES, November 12, 2009– The nominees for the International Documentary Association’s 2009 IDA Documentary Awards competition were announced today, including many of the year’s most buzzed-about titles and festival favorites. Winners will be feted on December 4th at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles, in a ceremony hosted by This American Life’s Ira Glass.
“As the boundaries of documentary film continue to be fearlessly shattered by the creativity of nonfiction filmmaking, IDA is proud to be honoring not only the best films of the year, but also many of those who have led the way,” said IDA Executive Director Michael Lumpkin. “The future of nonfiction storytelling could not be better represented by our outstanding host, Ira Glass, who continues to inspire and entertain across a number of media platforms.”
The IDA Documentary Awards will also recognize filmmakers and film journalists who displayed conspicuous bravery in the pursuit of truth — and put Freedom of Speech above all else, including their own personal safety, in a special “Courage Under Fire” tribute to be presented by Current Media journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. In March of this year Ling and Lee were reporting on the trafficking of North Korean women who are fleeing poverty and repression only to end up being exploited across the border in neighboring China. Ling and Lee were apprehended by North Korean soldiers while filming along the Tumen river, which separates China and North Korea. They were sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean labor prison for illegal entry and unspecified hostile acts. After 140 days in captivity, Ling and Lee were eventually pardoned, and they returned to the United States following an unannounced visit to North Korea by former US President Bill Clinton on August 4, 2009.
The five nominated films for Distinguished Documentary Achievement in IDA’s feature category are: AFGHAN STAR, the timely and moving film following the dramatic stories of four young finalists—two men and two women—as they hazard everything to compete in Afghanistan’s version of American Idol; ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL, the hilarious and unexpectedly moving account of an obscure Canadian metal band’s last-ditch quest for elusive fame and fortune; DIARY OF A TIMES SQUARE THIEF, which documents the search for the writer of a mysterious diary that the filmmaker finds on EBay; FOOD, INC., that lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies; and MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN, the story of Michael Campbell, a tough, humorous 74-year-old fifth-generation white African farmer who withstands land invasions and violence in his stand against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s land seizure program. MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN participated in IDA’s DocuWeeks program in 2009.
The four nominated short films are: THE DELIAN MODE, an exploration of the life and work of electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire; SALT, a journey with photo-artist Murray Fredericks as he tries to capture the heart of the world’s most featureless landscape on Lake Eyre, South Australia; SARI’S MOTHER, a mother’s navigation of Iraq’s health-care system in search of care for her son who is dying of AIDS; and THE SOLITARY LIFE OF CRANES, a visual poem–24 hours in life of a city seen through the eyes of crane operators. SALT and THE SOLITARY LIFE OF CRANES participated in IDA’s DocuWeeks program in 2009.
You can neither make beautiful, great movies without risk as you can make babies without sex. Risk is part of the artistic process. That’s why I like performance, because performance is walking a high wire.
~ Francis Coppola
“Probably the most heralded movie I’ve ever been in was Forrest Gump. While I was sitting on the park bench, I asked Bob, ‘Is anyone going to care about this guy?’ He said, ‘I don’t know Tom. It’s a mine field. It’s a fucking mine field.’ So when it works, you just say, ‘We dodged all the mines.'”
~ Tom Hanks