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2008 Archives -

2008 Archives -

Mack Chico


2008/12/10 at 12:00am

‘Wall-E’ named best film of 2008 by LAFCA

'Wall-E' named best film of 2008 by LAFCA

It looks like Wall-E can add an LAFCA plaque to his stash of treasures. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Wall-E the Best Picture of the Year. This marks the first time the Best Picture award was ever given to an animated film. The runner-up position in the category was awarded to The Dark Knight. Batman might have cast a shadow over the friendly little trash compactor at the summer box office, but Wall-E finally got the reward that he deserved.

The Dark Knight also found itself in the runner-up position in the Best Director category. Christopher Nolan was edged out by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle. But don’t worry; The Dark Knight was awarded the top billing where it counts with Heath Ledger being chosen as the Best Supporting Actor.

The comedy Happy-Go-Lucky received a number of nods from the LAFCA. Sally Hawkins’ portrayal of Poppy, an optimistic and cheerful schoolteacher, won her the number one spot in the Best Actress category. The film also won for Mike Leigh’s screenplay and took the second position for the Best Supporting Actor category, Eddie Marsan obviously falling just short of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. If you’ve got to lose, that’s surely the best way to do it.

The actual award ceremony will be held on Monday, January 12th at the InterContinental Los Angeles. The big question is whether or not the 34th annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards could foreshadow potential Oscar results. Being that the association pinpointed a number of fan-favorites, most people must be hoping they do. Check the entire list of winners below:

Picture: “Wall-E”
Runner-up: “The Dark Knight”

Director: Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Runner-up: Christopher Nolan, “The Dark Knight”

Actor: Sean Penn, “Milk”
Runner-up: Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Actress: Sally Hawkins, “Happy-Go-Lucky”
Runner-up: Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”

Supporting actor: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Runner-up: Eddie Marsan, “Happy-Go-Lucky”

Supporting actress: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Elegy”
Runner-up: Viola Davis, “Doubt”

Screenplay: Mike Leigh, “Happy-Go-Lucky”
Runner-up: Charlie Kaufman, “Synecdoche, New York”

Foreign-language film: “Still Life”
Runner-up: “The Class”

Documentary: “Man on Wire”
Runner-up: “Waltz With Bashir”

Animation: “Waltz With Bashir”

Cinematography: Yu Lik Wai, “Still Life”
Runner-up: Anthony Dod Mantle, “Slumdog Millionaire”

Production design: Mark Friedberg, “Synecdoche, New York”
Runner-up: Nathan Crowley, “The Dark Knight”

Music/score: A.R. Rahman, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

New Generation: Steve McQueen, “Hunger”

Douglas E. Edwards independent/experimental film/video: James Benning, “RR” and “Casting a Glance”

Mack Chico


2008/12/05 at 12:00am

Penelope Cruz, ‘Slumdog’, win big from ‘National Board of Review’

Penelope Cruz, 'Slumdog', win big from 'National Board of Review'

If “Slumdog Millionaire” is really the new “Chariots of Fire” — a little indie flick about champion underdogs that wins best picture at the Oscars — then it just hit a kudos jackpot by being named best picture of 2008 by the National Board of Review. In 1981, the National Board of Review was the first and only major U.S. awards group to give its top prize to the small film about runners with big dreams of breaking into the Olympics before it went the distance in the Oscars derby. Now the little movie about a ghetto boy who wins India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has emerged as a top dog in this year’s Oscars race.

This is the second year in a row that National Board of Review issued its top 10 list of best films separately from the winner of best picture. This year’s entries: “Burn After Reading,” “Changeling,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Dark Knight,” “Defiance,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Gran Torino,” “Milk,” “Wall-E,” “The Wrestler.” Notable snubs: “Doubt,” “Revolutionary Road,” “The Reader,” “Australia” and — considering the awards love it received in other NBR categories — “Frozen River.”

All major movies were seen by National Board of Review members this year with one exception: United Artists did not screen “Valkyrie” before voting but will show it to members before it’s released to theaters this month. In past years, NBR’s awards came out so early in December that its voters missed seeing such Oscar best picture winners as “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “Rain Man” (1988), “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (2003).

Other winners of 2008 NBR Awards:

Best director: David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Best actor: Clint Eastwood, “Gran Torino”
Best actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Best supporting actor: Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Best foreign-language filim: “Mongol”
Best documentary: “Man on Wire”
Best animated feature: “Wall-E”
Best ensemble cast: “Doubt”
Best breakthrough actor: Dev Patel, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best breakthrough actress: Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Best directorial debut: Courtney Hunt, “Frozen River”
Best original screenplay: Nick Schenk, “Gran Torino”
Best adapted screenplay (tie): Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”; Eric Roth, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Spotlight Award: Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”; Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”
Freedom of Expression: “Trumbo”
William K. Everson Film History Award: Molly Haskell, Andrew Sarris

Top five best foreign-language films, listed alphabetically: “Edge of Heaven,” “Let the Right One In,” “Roman de Guerre,” “A Secret,” “Waltz with Bashir”

Top five documentary films, listed alphabetically: “American Teen,” “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon),” “Dear Zachary,” “Encounters at the End of the World,” “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”.

Of the 100 films nominated for best picture at the Oscars over the last two decades, the NBR named 72 of them on their annual lists. The comparison is a bit skewed since National Board of Review picks 10 or 11 films per year instead of five, but it’s still worthy of note. Three times in those 20 years all five Oscar nominees made the NBR top list and the winners agreed: 1989 (“Driving Miss Daisy”), 1994 (“Forrest Gump”) and 2002 (“Chicago”). The two awards also chose the same best pictures five other times in those two decades: 1990 (“Dances With Wolves”), 1991 (“Silence of the Lambs”), 1993 (“Schindler’s List”), 1999 (“American Beauty”) and 2007 (“No Country for Old Men”).

Mack Chico


2008/10/28 at 12:00am

Early Sneak Peak at ‘Angels & Demons’!

Early Sneak Peak at 'Angels & Demons'!
Angels & Demons, the follow-up film to The Da Vinci Code, has many of the elements of the 2006 movie: star, director, a little controversy.What it doesn’t share with its predecessor, filmmakers would like you to know, is Tom Hanks’ hairstyle.

“It’s totally different” from Hanks’ slicked-back coif of the original, insists producer Brian Grazer. “It’s better. Everything is more contemporary. “

The adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel continues the sleuthing adventures of Robert Langdon (Hanks), a Harvard expert in religious symbols who discovers a conspiracy to destroy the Vatican.

Da Vinci collected $758 million worldwide, but even Grazer says the movie moved a little slowly. Angels, by contrast, sprints from crypts, catacombs and cathedrals.

In adapting the hugely successful Da Vinci novel, “I think we may have been too reverential toward it,” Grazer says. “We got all the facts of the book right, but the movie was a little long and stagey.”

In Angels, opening May 15, “Langdon doesn’t stop and give a speech,” Grazer says. “When he speaks, he’s in motion.”

Digging deeper: Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, left), Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), Chartrand (Thure Lindhart) and Carlo Ventrasca (Ewan McGregor) examine clues in Angels. Grazer describes their earlier film, The Da Vinci Code, as

Set in and around the Vatican, Brown’s Angels includes the murders of cardinals, who are mutilated with mysterious symbols. Church officials banned the crew from shooting in key locales, sometimes revoking permits that had been approved, Grazer says.

“Weirdly, even though there was so much controversy on The Da Vinci Code, we were able to shoot everywhere,” Grazer says. “We were in London, France, so it was harder to catch us.”

Because Angels is largely set at the Vatican, “we were pretty much in exile from the religious epicenter of the world,” he says.

Faith under fire: Ewan McGregor plays Carlo Ventresca, the faithful servant to the church during the papal conclave in Vatican City. Grazer says the movie examines the conflict between science and God, particularly when faith is tested by violence.

Da Vinci Code was rebuked by the church and others for its depiction of history. The fact that Angels didn’t spark as much debate makes its allure less assured.

Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracking firm Media By Numbers says Angels will need to impress critics if it hopes to find success.

Da Vinci Code didn’t get great reviews, but had controversy to help the box office,” he says. “Better reviews could make up that difference for Angels.”

That doesn’t mean Angels won’t generate any controversy. The film centers on an act of terrorism at the Vatican and examines the tension between science and faith.

“We’re living in a world that’s much more unstable,” Grazer says. “Therefore, our energy is focused on belief. This looks at what would happen when you have an act of terrorism designed to undermine that belief.”

Intelligently designed: Filmmakers had hoped to shoot Angels at the Vatican and inside Roman churches. But Brown's Angels, which includes the murder of two cardinals, was quickly shut down by the church.

Despite the contemporary topics, Grazer says the movie has no political undertones. “Both parties, through different means, don’t want terrorism to exist in the world,” he says.

As for any evolution-vs.-intelligent design parallels, “I’ll leave that to others.”

But he’s happy to talk about Hanks’ head — and body.

“I’m telling you, he’s got a scene where he’s swimming in Speedos, and he looks fantastic,” Grazer says. “He’s going to add 10 years to his career with that scene alone, just watch.”

Religious expert and scientist: Tom Hanks stars with Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer in Angels & Demons, due May 15.


Mack Chico


2008/09/04 at 12:00am

Toronto Film Festival just not the same

Toronto Film Festival just not the same
Bad news for Oscar prognosticators: The Toronto International Film Festival, starting Thursday, isn’t quite its bellwether self this year.

Factors such as rising travel costs, delays caused by the writers’ strike and weakened art-house divisions have kept the most likely best-picture candidates out of the lineup.

Unlike in the past, when 1999’s American Beauty proved a trip up north could lead to Oscar glory, late fall’s choicest academy bait, such as Frost/Nixon and Australia, won’t be there. Even high-profile titles opening in October — Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies, Oliver Stone’s W — are missing.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be celebrity gridlock at the 33rd edition of North America’s premier film gathering, which features 312 movies from 64 countries through Sept. 13.

Among the hundreds of stars expected: Keira Knightley, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Benicio Del Toro, Charlize Theron, Adrien Brody, Dakota Fanning, Michael Caine, Queen Latifah and Viggo Mortensen. Even the tabloid world’s most famous former couple, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, will be there — on separate days.

If there is a major upside to the 2008 schedule, it is that the doom and gloom cast by last year’s dour war-themed dramas (In the Valley of Elah, Rendition) and vigilante gut-wrenchers (The Brave One, Reservation Road) have been replaced by what the festival’s co-director Piers Handling declares as “the return of the American comedy.”

Call it the Juno effect. “There are a few films about the Iraq war,” such as Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and The Lucky Ones with Rachel McAdams, he says. “But there are at least five really good, solid comedies. Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Ghost Town, Religulous. The Coen brothers with Burn After Reading.”

Even British filmmaker Mike Leigh, whose last outing was the 2004 abortion weeper Vera Drake, has an effort that lives up to its title: Happy-Go-Lucky.

And a possible crowd-pleaser has emerged, if the reactions at Telluride can be trusted: Slumdog Millionaire, the story of a teen orphan in India who wins the jackpot on a Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), it was recently picked up by Fox Searchlight in a deal with Warner Bros.

Fair warning, though. There is a Paris Hilton documentary, as if we didn’t know enough about the celebutante, helpfully titled Paris, Not France. But, as Handling notes, “It’s really short.”

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