Top Story: Jolie Awarded Prestigious U.N. Award
Angelina Jolie tearfully accepted the United Nations Correspondents Association's first Citizen of the World Award for her continued work with refugees, The Associated Press reports. Ruud Lubbers, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, introduced the actress, saying, "She has helped put the spotlight on a disenfranchised group--refugees--and also those who are not in the headlines and who are victims of long forgotten crises," Lubbers said. "She gives a voice to millions of uprooted people across the globe." Jolie, 28, a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency since 2001, said at the awards dinner Wednesday night that she was "inspired and humbled" to work with refugees and also said it was exceptionally meaningful to receive an award named for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, who was one of 22 people killed in the Aug. 19 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, AP reports. Every time she looks at the award, Jolie said, she'll be reminded of the work he did for the United Nations, not only in Iraq but also for refugees and in promoting human rights.
Japanese Man Sues Britney Spears
A Japanese businessman who was ordered to stay away from Britney Spears has filed a lawsuit against the pop princess, claiming her security guards caused him "extreme emotional distress," Reuters reports. Masahiko Shizawa, a 43-year-old software entrepreneur, says Spears' guards confronted him on a public street at gunpoint and demanded that he leave the area. A restraining order was placed on Shizawa Oct. 7, when a judge deemed he had "engaged in a pattern of harassment and stalking" Spears for more than a year, Reuters reports.
Siegfried Vows Return to Stage With Roy
At the third annual World Awards in Hamburg, Germany Thursday, Siegfried Fishchbacher, of the famed Siegfried and Roy duo, accepted a special award on behalf of his partner, Roy Horn, who is recovering from a tiger attack during a performance Oct. 3, and vowed the two would return to the stage, AP reports. "The Siegfried who you see before you here will soon return again as Siegfried and Roy," the German-born magician told the cheering crowd at the ceremony recognizing outstanding contributions to society specifically by men. Other award recipients included Michael Douglas, Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb, Morgan Freeman and Christopher Reeve.
Columnist Fired for Racist Remarks
ESPN.com has fired columnist Gregg Easterbook as a freelance contributor to its Web site after his derogatory comments towards the producers of Kill Bill were published in The New Republic magazine, AP reports. Easterbook apologized last week for remarking the producers were "Jewish executives" who "worship money above all else," but ESPN said in a statement they found the comments "highly offensive and intolerable."
HBO's Band Could Hit Syndication
Following the sale of Sex and the City episodes to Tribune Entertainment, HBO has started shopping around their Emmy-winning miniseries Band of Brothers to other cable networks in a move to try and generate an additional revenue stream. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the History Channel has expressed the most interest in the 10-hour WWII drama produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
Reality TV Awards Shelved for Now
ABC and veteran Emmys producer Don Mischer have decided to pull the plug on producing an award show honoring the best in non-scripted television, Reuters reports, due to a lack of cooperation from the other networks. Mischer said plans for the new "Reality Awards" were severely hampered by the refusal of some competing networks to grant permission for clips of their shows to be televised on ABC. "In several cases, we were told that 'reality' stars, judges and producers would be discouraged from participating, even though all those we talked to were very excited about honoring this genre of television," Mischer said. The two-hour special was to have been taped on Nov. 23, but no airdate was ever set, Reuters reports.
Role Call: Harlin Picks Up Exorcist's Loose Ends, It's a Man-Thing
Director Renny Harlin will take over the directing chores on Exorcist: The Beginning, helming six weeks of reshoots, Variety reports. He replaces Paul Schrader, who dropped out last month as director of the prequel to the 1973 Oscar-nominated film due to creative differences. Exorcist: The Beginning traces the story of Father Merrin back to his first encounter with the devil in Africa and stars Stellan Skarsgard, Gabriel Mann, Clara Bellar and recording artist Billy Crawford…Another Marvel comic book character is coming to a theater near you. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Man-Thing, a story about a vengeful creature born from the evil and injustices perpetrated against man and nature and starring Jack Thompson and Rawiri Paratene, will open Aug. 27, 2004.
The heart of Whale Rider centers on an ancient legend of the Maori (indigenous people of New Zealand) who believe their ancestry dates back a thousand years to a warrior named Paikea. Legend has it Paikea escaped death after his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale and since then his male heirs have each assumed the responsibilities as Maori chief. That is until now. Set in the present Whale Rider tells the story of Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) a feisty 12-year-old girl who lives in the fishing village of Whangara off the east coast of New Zealand with her stern but loving grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene) who is a direct descendent of Paikea and her grandmother the kindly Nanny Flowers (Vicky Haughton). Although granddaughter and grandfather have a special bond there is a sadness in Koro. He mourns the loss of his grandson Pai's twin brother who died in childbirth along with Pai's mother. Koro also has a hard time accepting the fact his own son Pai's father Porourangi (Cliff Curtis) has not chosen to follow his destiny but instead has fled Whangara in grief. Though he loves his granddaughter dearly a thousand years of tradition is hard to buck in this unyielding man's eyes; Koro refuses to see Pai as a rightful Maori chief and instead begins to look for an outside heir to the throne by training local village boys. But Pai isn't your ordinary blossoming adolescent girl; she embodies many of the qualities of a great Maori warrior--courage determination wisdom and an irrepressible spirit. Against all odds including the hurtful rejection from her beloved grandfather she finds a way to prove herself as the true heir to her rich ancestry--and your own spirit will soar as she succeeds.
The mostly Maori cast brings truthfulness to their words and actions making the Maori culture come alive. Yet the film solely belongs to Castle-Hughes who is so amazingly poised and beautiful it's hard to believe she's only 11 years old. She simply radiates as Pai showing a depth of emotion rarely seen in a first-time actress especially one so young--she joins a short list that includes Oscar winners Tatum O'Neal (Paper Moon) and Anna Paquin (The Piano). Every scathing word and scornful reproach Pai receives from Koro registers clearly on this little girl's face and it truly almost breaks your heart to watch her. Still it's tremendous strength that shines through in Castle-Hughes' performance. In one particularly heart-wrenching scene Pai gives a speech in the wharenui or the town's sacred meeting house dedicating it to her grandfather who has not shown up. Despite the pain her grandfather has caused her Pai bravely gulps down tears and recounts her family's history. By the end you're in a puddle of your own tears. As the young actress' counterpart the elderly Paratene (Rapa Nui)--one of New Zealand's most prominent actors--also turns in a finely tuned performance as Koro. You really want to hate this man but Paratene makes you understand Koro's grief--and how attached he is to his own deep-seated roots. Koro believes there isn't any other way to be but when the old man finally sees how wrong he has been how Pai is the only true heir to the throne Paratene plays the moment brilliantly as you see his steely resolve dissolve into painful realization.
Having won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival this year Whale Rider has been steadily gaining momentum and has made already made over $2 million playing in only 163 theaters nationwide. Based on a book by Witi Ihimaera who has tribal links to the Whangara community New Zealand writer/director Niki Caro--who is not Maori--had to treat Whale Rider with kid gloves in order to preserve the great Maori traditions while at the same time craft an entertaining film. In adapting the book Caro delicately handles the legend of Paikea but centers the film on the relationship between Pai and Koro giving Whale Rider an emotional core and contemporary feel. Not since the gritty and powerful 1994 film Once Were Warriors which gave audiences their first glimpse inside a modern-day Maori family has a story about the indigenous people of New Zealand been so vividly played out. Caro also had to convince the elders in the Whangara community she was right for the job and that using their town and their sacred Maori grounds was the only way to effectively tell this story. Luckily they agreed. Caro captures the spirit of this rocky and magnificent coastline and its people showing how the rugged surroundings influenced this once-great warrior nation's customs and rituals. In the final scene the men perform a traditional warrior dance while the women chant and the community as a whole heaves off a long Maori boat symbolizing the rebirth of another rangatiratanga--or leader. It's a fitting end to a truly inspiring film.