Hector Babenco became Brazil's leading post-"cinema novo" director in the 1970s and an acclaimed Hollywood director in the 80s. All his films deal with social issues, and are best seen as personal and...
Top Story: Country Music Darlings No More
It's hard for those country music lovers to forgive and forget. The Dixie Chicks are still getting flack for their anti-war comments as audience members at the Academy of Country Music Awards Wednesday night booed at the mention of their names. Reuters reports that instead of showing up at the glitzy Las Vegas ceremony, the three-time nominees performed a song live via satellite from Austin, Texas, but they received a "pretty big negative response," the show's host, Reba McEntire , told reporters backstage afterward. The trio also walked away empty handed. The evening's winners did include Martina McBride for top female vocalist, Kenny Chesney for top male vocalist and record of the year, Toby Keith for entertainer of the year and Alan Jackson for album of the year.
Palme d'Or Race Muddled
As the 2003 Cannes Film Festival nears its end, critics are having a tough time figuring out who the frontrunners are to win the festival's coveted Palme d'Or. "I honestly don't have the slightest idea at this stage," Variety reporter Todd McCarthy told Reuters. "It's been very disappointing. Last year, in comparison, was very strong." Some strong contenders include Lars von Trier's three-hour saga Dogville, Hector Babenco's Carandiru about life in a Latin America jail and the French-Canadian tearjerker The Barbaric Invasions. The awards will be handed out Sunday.
Jackson Can't Handle the Pressure
Michael Jackson was briefly hospitalized Wednesday in Indianapolis for observation, the same day the pop oddity was scheduled to give a deposition in a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Jackson Five, The Associated Press reports. Brian Oxman, an attorney for the Jackson family, told AP the singer "was not feeling well." "He has, in some occasions in the past, not eaten when he should," Oxman said. "He can become very concerned and nervous at depositions. He doesn't like lawsuits, and it makes him ill to have to cope with litigation that people seem to heap on him."
Idol's Seacrest Gets His Own Show
Just as the second season of American Idol comes to an end, host Ryan Seacrest has signed on with 20th Television to develop a one-hour syndicated show, which will, as Seacrest described to The Hollywood Reporter, "marry the newsmagazine and variety show to bring a hybrid of entertainment and information to America." Oh boy!
Roseanne Gets Real
ABC announced Wednesday it will air a 13-episode reality show in July centering around comedian Roseanne Barr as she creates a cooking show, Reuters reports. "In terms of what is she really like now, you are going to get to see. You're going to see Roseanne--the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the everything," ABC Entertainment chairman Lloyd Braun told Reuters. The cooking series will actually be shown on cable network ABC Family.
Mine Workers Join Fight Against Hillbillies
There's even more pressure on CBS to rethink any plans to air the reality show The Real Beverly Hillbillies. AP reports mine workers from West Virginia and Kentucky have now joined the growing legions of protestors--including other major labor unions and 43 members of the House of Representatives from Florida to Texas--who are calling to halt the series which takes an Appalachian family and sets them up in a Beverly Hills mansion. "We think that's practicing bigotry. It's hurtful and painful. It's discrimination of an entire segment of our society," Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America told AP.
Barbie as Elle Woods
Even Barbie gets to be a movie star. Mattel and MGM have partnered to create an "Elle Woods" Barbie doll, patterning it after the Legally Blonde character which was made indelible by actress Reese Witherspoon and which will coincide with the release of the sequel Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde. Ria Freydl, a spokesperson (even Barbie has a publicist) told Newstream.com, "She is proud to be associated with the sequel and hopes her homage to a strong female character like Elle Woods will further the movie's message that you can have both substance--and style."
Role Call: Comic Book: The Movie is Coming!
Miramax Films plans to release the semi-fictional documentary Comic Book: The Movie, starring and directed by Star Wars star Mark Hamill. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Comic Book is an improvised film in the vein of Waiting for Guffman, which follows the antics of the world's biggest comic fan, who has been hired to direct a documentary about his favorite comic book heroes of all time.
Two prominent American directors, Clint Eastwood and Gus Van Sant, will compete for the top prize at this year's prestigious Cannes Film Festival, it was announced Wednesday.
Eastwood's suspense thriller Mystic River, which stars Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins, is one of the top contenders for the coveted Palme d'Or, given to the best feature film winner. The film, scheduled for release stateside Oct. 3, 2003, revolves around three childhood friends who are reunited 25 years later when they become linked to a murder investigation.
Good Will Hunting director Van Sant will present Elephant, a film focusing on high school violence.
Also in competition is British director Peter Greenaway's period drama, The Tulse Luper Suitcase, starring J.J. Field and Kathy Bates. The epic tale follows 92 characters, 92 events, and 92 suitcases from the year 1928 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This is the director's third Palme d'Or nomination.
Danish director Lars von Trier, who won the Palme d'Or two years ago for the musical Dancer in the Dark, will show his new thriller Dogville. The film stars Nicole Kidman as a woman on the run who takes refuge in a small town inhabited by an anguished apple grower, his wife and their seven children.
French director Patrice Chereau, actress Meg Ryan and director Steven Soderbergh are in this year's jury.
Celebs expected at this year's festival include Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Lauren Bacall, Laurence Fishburne, Keanu Reeves, Monica Bellucci, Toni Collette and James Caan.
The 56th Cannes Film Festival opens May 14 in Paris with Penelope Cruz's new comedy Fanfan la Tulipe, a remake of the 1952 French film starring Gina Lollobrigida.
The French festival also showcases international films out of competition. Warner Bros.' highly anticipated sci-fi sequel The Matrix: Reloaded premieres worldwide May 15 on the festival's second day.
The festival closes on May 25.
Here is the complete list of films in competition:
Les Invasions Barbares, Denys Arcand, Canada
Il Cuore Altrove, Pupi Avati, Italy
Carandiru, Hector Babenco, Brazil
Uzak, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey
Mystic River, Clint Eastwood, United States
The Brown Bunny, Vincent Gallo, United States
The Moab Story/The Tulse Luper Suitcases--Part I, Peter Greenaway, Britain
Shara, Naomi Kawase, Japan
Akarui Mirai, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan
A Cinq Heures de l'Apres-Midi, Samira Makhmalbaf, Iran
Ce Jour-La, Raoul Ruiz, Switzerland
Father and Son, Alexandre Sokorov, Russia
Dogville, Lars von Trier, Denmark
Elephant, Gus Van Sant, United States
Purple Butterfly, Lu Ye, China
Les Cotelettes, Bertrand Blier, France
La Petite Lili, Claude Miller, France
Swimming Pool, Francois Ozon, France
Les Egares, Andre Techine, France
Tiresia, Bertand Bonello, France
Out of competition:
Le Temps Du Loup, Michael Haneke, France
Vai E Vem, Joao Cesar Monteiro, Portugal
Mansion by the Lake, Lester James Peries, Sri Lanka
The Matrix: Reloaded, Andy and Larry Wachowski, United States
Les Triplettes de Belleville, Sylvain Chomet, France
Qui A Tué Bambi?, Gilles Marchand, France
Gained international recognition with third feature, "Pixote"
First English language film, "Kiss of the Spider Woman"; received Oscar nomination as Best Director
Underwent treatment for a virulent strain of lymphoma; had bone marrow transplant in 1995
Raised in Argentina
Helmed "Ironweed", starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep
Moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil at age 17 (date approximate)
Directed "At Play in the Fields of the Lord"
First film in seven years, "Corazon Illuminato"
Feature film directing debut, "King of the Night"
Hector Babenco became Brazil's leading post-"cinema novo" director in the 1970s and an acclaimed Hollywood director in the 80s. All his films deal with social issues, and are best seen as personal and subjective accounts of "marginalized" people--the homeless, prostitutes, political prisoners, homosexuals.
Born to poor Russian and Polish Jewish immigrant parents, Babenco was 18 when he left Argentina on a "divine mission," inspired by Beat and existential writers, to "know the world." For seven years he traveled throughout Africa, Europe and the Americas, working at odd jobs. In Spain and Italy he pursued his interest in film, working as an extra in spaghetti westerns.
In 1971, Babenco emigrated to Brazil to make films. Having grown up watching Hollywood and European films with subtitles, he was impressed by the new, indigenous Brazilian cinema. The year he arrived, however, Brazil's rightist military regime instituted strict censorship, forcing most "cinema novo" directors into exile. Babenco, who had never formally studied cinema, spent the next four years filming documentaries, shorts and commercials while he worked on his first feature, "King of the Night" (1975).
His next film, "Lucio Flavio" (1978), made at the height of political repression in Brazil, depicted the life and death of a real-life thief/folk hero who had threatened to expose the police death squads. Although Babenco used dream sequences and attached a disclaimer to the film in order to appease the censors, he was the target of death threats and his house in Sao Paulo was machine-gunned. In addition, the prisoner who had killed the real Lucio Flavio for the police was himself murdered on the eve of the film's opening. Despite these intimidations, "Lucio Flavio" became Brazil's fourth-highest grossing feature, reviving the fortunes of the Brazilian film industry and picking up both the New York and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film. Babenco became disillusioned, however, when he realized that the film had brought no concrete political changes.
Babenco's first international success was "Pixote" (1981), about the plight of Brazil's three million abandoned children. The director originally intended to film a documentary, and had completed 200 hours of interviews with children in reformatories. When he was refused further access, however, he turned to the streets and hired slum children to portray themselves. The result, although scripted, displays a documentary-like attention to detail and perspective. Rather than having the children read lines, Babenco built scenes around improvisation workshops that allowed them to contribute their own experiences to the picture.
Babenco's next two projects were English-language films. With "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1985), he had difficulty finding American investors and was forced to defer salaries for himself and the lead actors. Its success (star William Hurt won an Oscar for his performance) ensured major Hollywood studio support for "Ironweed" (1987). Ironically, Babenco's experience in the USA convinced him that Brazilian political censorship offered greater artistic freedom than Hollywood's economic censorship and studio bureaucracy.