Hungarian director Janos Szasz triumphed at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic on Saturday (06Jul13) after he was awarded the top prize for his war drama The Notebook. The movie was named the winner of the Grand Prix Crystal Globe, while the Special Jury Prize was awarded to British filmmaker Ben Wheatley for A Field in England.
The Czech Republic's own Jan Hrebejk earned the Best Director honour for Honeymoon and Olafur Darri Olafsson was named the Best Actor for Icelandic movie XL. The female equivalent was awarded jointly to Bluebird stars Amy Morton, Louisa Krause, Emily Meade and Margo Martindale.
The final day of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival also included a special prizegiving for John Travolta and Oliver Stone, who both received the Crystal Globe Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema.
If the description of Amy Morton dealing with familial woes in the middle of a desolate, cold location sounds all too familiar, think again. The award-winning veteran stage actress' latest Bluebird, which premiered earlier this week at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, is a far cry from her role as George Clooney's sister who reunites with him in snowy Wisconsin in 2009's hit dramedy Up in the Air. In every way possible.
In Bluebird, Morton plays Lesley, a school bus driver in a sleepy working class mining town in Maine whose life is turned upside down when one of the kids she picks up is accidentally left on the bus and is left clinging to life. Lesley begins to break down in the aftermath of the terrible accident, complicated by her own family issues, including having a distant husband who has carried on an affair (played by Mad Men's John Slattery, who Morton described as "very fun, straightforward and down to earth") and her teenage daughter Paula (Emily Meade) who's headed down a wrong path.
"In the beginning of the movie... everybody's trying to get through their day because everybody's in a certain amount of financial trouble because of our economy and it added to that is the isolation of each member of this family," Morton said during a chat with Hollywood.com. "You can tell they're kind of growing apart and after the tragic incident she just begins to unravel. It's a geographical place with the people from that area don't do a lot of talking. There's not a lot of 'This is how I feel' going on."
Of course, it was that very geographical location that made Bluebird the slow-burn of a character study that it is. Morton said that she would drive an hour-and-a-half from Bangor to the small rural town where it was filmed because, as she put it, "there was no way I was gonna be stuck in that town without a car."
"It was smack dab in the middle of Maine in the smack dab middle of winter. It was bleak," Morton continued. "There really was not much to do at all. Nobody wanted a day off, because there was nothing to do. That town was really small and it was a mill town and the mill closed so it had already lost half of its population so the one main street 85 percent of the businesses were closed."
But that depressing isolation wasn't just a place, it was a state of mind for the actors. "Watching the movie I was like, 'Now I get it.' It would not be the same movie had we shot it in Northern New York trying to make it Maine. I think the location and the time of year is absolutely the other character in the movie. It's as important as anyone else in it."
Though it most certainly wasn't the exotic filming location that drew Morton to the script, but the very human story that Lance Edmands' Bluebird tells. "I thought the character [of Lesley] was really good and I thought the story was kind of beautiful and I love the fact that Lance didn't really answer any questions for anybody. To me, it was very much like real life. That's why I liked it so much."
Morton added that Bluebird, which Edmands (making his full-length feature debut) spent three years working on before cameras (on 35mm film, to be precise) even started rolling, "Any progress that's made in the film — and once it's over how you imagine their lives after— it's very true to life in that progress comes in inches. There aren't' huge revelations or changes from, 'I was this person and now I'm this person.' It's how people progress, it's usually very slowly."
Getting to explore these characters and setting is something, Morton —who, in addition to Up in the Air has been seen on the big screen in movies like The Dilemma and on the small screen including shows such as Boss — says this is where being in a small indie has the advantage. "I haven't done a lot of films, so I don't have a whole lot to compare it to, but to compare this to a big budget movie with big stars in it, yeah there's a big difference," Morton explained. "You get paid more when you work with the stars but I guess what makes up for it when you're doing a low budget independent film is that you get more time."
"When you're doing a big budget film you feel the pressure to get your work done because time is so much money," she said, adding, "Whereas on this film you get the luxury of a little bit more rehearsal time and discussion time, so you feel a little bit more relaxed about exploring. You don't feel under the burden of the mighty dollar. It's a more relaxed set because you're not spending a gazillion dollars a day. They scraped and begged and worked very hard for every dollar that they raised for this thing, so it's not like they weren't aware [of money]. Everybody's on the same page, nobody is making more than anybody else or anything like that, so you have a more relaxed atmosphere."
But for Morton, who recently wrapped up the Broadway revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, noted that there's no preference when it comes to creating art, big budget or otherwise. "I like it all," Morton told Hollywood.com. "I like stage work and I like film work and I also direct, so it's all really good. I feel very lucky that I get to work in this business in a couple of different ways."
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The basic premise of most crime revenge dramas is how much of our humanity we're willing to trade to get back what the other people — the ostensible baddies — have taken from us. Oliver Stone returns to this familiar stomping ground with Savages a splashy adaptation of Don Winslow's novel about a unique love affair a major marijuana-dealing business and an increasingly violent pissing match between two SoCal growers and the Baja Cartel.
Stone's frenetic visual style is in full swing but even this Oscar-winning auteur can't quite raise the film from mediocrity. It's hard to care whether or not Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) rescue their gorgeous mutual girlfriend O (Blake Lively) from the cartel if O isn't engaging enough to persuade us she's worth the bloodshed. O (short for Ophelia — an allusion to her earthshaking climaxes) is not a well-written character to begin with but she's even less engaging as played by Lively. Johnson is unconvincing as the bleeding heart Ben and the details his character is given — extra earrings a shoddy-looking tattoo on his neck even white boy dreads at one point — undercut his believability even more. Kitsch is given a few prominent scars and a mean squint but he doesn't quite bring the weird slightly empty vibe of Chon to life.
On the villain side Benicio Del Toro chews every inch of scenery from Laguna Beach to Tijuana as Lado. He's rocking an intense moustache that he strokes when he's lying or being a creep (which is most of the time) a vaguely mullet-like wig and a fondness for torture. Salma Hayek takes no prisoners as the head of the cartel nicknamed Elena la Reina who is both a frustrated mom whose college-age daughter is blowing her off (aw!) and a brutally tough woman in a man's world. John Travolta definitely enjoys a bit of Pulp Fiction ridiculousness as Dennis a DEA official who's in Ben and Chon's pocket. It's hard to tell just how funny Savages is aiming to be. Lado Elena and Dennis are cartoonish but Ben Chon and O are earnest — which is to say a little bit boring.
The double- and triple-crossing is practically moot as is the wacky technology that Ben and Chon employ; it's like The Social Network meets surfers. The real meat of the movie is the flash and violence but it's not the kind of thing that stays with you like Stone's Natural Born Killers. Savages doesn't have the same lingering aftertaste. It's not that a movie needs to have some sort of message with its pointed commentary on the media's bloodlust but the gist of Savages — that we're all savages at heart or that we can easily become a savage given the right circumstances — is not that interesting or unique.
Oddly enough Savages pulls a few punches when it comes to its source material (hard to believe when the movie kicks off with a glimpse of an abattoir-like enclosure and close-ups of men begging for their lives just as a chainsaw revs in the background). Winslow's book is a quick enjoyable read with an interesting on-page style that's hard to replicate verbally. It has a sort of ADD-addled feel that the movie tries to but doesn't quite capture. While it's not always fair to compare an adaptation to the book it's based on Winslow is both the author and one of the screenplay writers so some of the choices made behind the scenes don't quite add up. Cut are significant and menacing back story for Lado and all of the zestiness out of O. Why add in certain plot points and take out others unless it was to give one of its big name stars more screen time? The most interesting part of the story the love story is treated like a wink wink homoerotic thing than an actual relationship between three people who adore each other which is how it's portrayed in the book. It's hard not to be a little disappointed especially given Stone's no-f**ks-given attitude. (Or as O would say baditude.)
That said it is a somewhat entertaining diversion and a nice tour of lifestyles of the rich and criminal. Lively is all tangled tan limbs and luxurious hippie clothes and the homes they frequent whether on Laguna Beach or a desert compound are meticulously decorated with exquisite expensive taste. Santa Muerte imagery also figures heavily in the background of many scenes. The scenery is gorgeous — even the marijuana looks amazing. It's good for adults to have another R-rated choice in what's usually a season dominated by blockbusters but in years to come you'll more likely to reach for your old True Romance DVD than Savages.
New mom Rebecca Romijn plans to return to television, this time in a new drama called Eastwick.
The actress, most recently seen as Alexis Meade on Ugly Betty, will play Roxie Torcoletti in the ABC pilot based on John Updike’s novel The Witches of Eastwick according to Variety. The story was also used in the 1987 film by the same name starring Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson.
Romijn’s costars in the show, about three women who discover they have magical powers, will include Lindsay Price (Joanna Frankel), Jaime Ray Newman (Kat Rougemont) and Paul Gross (Darryl Van Horne).
Romijn, who recently had twins with her husband Jerry O’Connell, will maintain her recurring role on Ugly Betty.
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Milestone haircuts worked for Mia Farrow (see: "Rosemary's Baby") and Gwyneth Paltrow (see: "Sliding Doors"). But chopping off one's long locks did nothing for Keri Russell, star of the WB's "Felicity."
In fact, according to a network exec, the cut hurt the fledgling series, which won raves -- and a Golden Globe for Russell - in its first season. WB entertainment chief Susanne Daniels told reporters Monday that the reaction to Russell's crop top was "so overwhelmingly negative" that it hurt the show, which arguably was already suffering from creative drought. But Daniels won't dismiss the hair's factor in the downtrend. And just to play it safe, she says, "Nobody is cutting their hair again."
The 23-year-old Russell reportedly got tired of the long, corkscrew mane that became synonymous with her identity (and that of her show's lead character, Felicity Porter) and took to the barber, which resulted in a look so dramatic it warranted an episode of its own in the second season.
HOW TO WOO WOODY: In a new tell-all bio, "The Unruly Life of Woody Allen," out next month, we learn that the 64-year-old writer-director was roped into the relationship with his then-lover's adopted daughter.
Or so says author Marion Meade who writes that the young Soon-Yi Previn peppered Allen with questions about basketball and homework whenever he visited then-flame Mia Farrow. Allen, flattered by Soon-Yi's attentions, invited her to New York Knicks games, and she soon began to sneak out to visit him after classes in her high school uniform.
Also key to the capture, according to the tome, was Soon-Yi's biting remarks about mother Farrow, whom she regularly criticized, describing her as "no Mother Teresa." When Farrow finally discovered the affair, Soon-Yi threatened suicide, then gloated to Farrow that, "The person sleeping with the person is the one having the relationship," which spurred a physical fight between the two women.
"She shrewdly studied Mia's life and -- confident that a woman could win her heart's desire by aggressively pursuing older, successful men -- would soon emulate it," Meade writes.
NO PUFFY, EITHER: While country superstar Garth Brooks showed up to receive three American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Monday night, nominee (and scheduled performer) Jennifer Lopez was a conspicuous no-show.
Host Norm MacDonald took the opportunity to take a couple shots at the M.I.A. actress-singer, commenting on her recent run-in with the law over boyfriend Sean "Puffy" Combs, as well as noting that an extra seat-filler was needed to, um, fill in for Lopez -- and her widely discussed derriere.
OBITUARIES: Benjamin "Ben" Masselink, who wrote and produced episodes of "Hawaii Five-O," "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Starsky and Hutch," died Thursday of prostate cancer. He was 80. ...
James Card, a film preservationist who co-founded the Telluride Film Festival, died Sunday at age 84 after a lengthy illness. ...
John Newland, host of television's "Alcoa Presents" (1959-61) (later known as "One Step Beyond"), died Jan. 10 at age 82. Newland also directed TV movies and series, including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Wonder Woman" and "Fantasy Island."
QUICK TAKES: Filmmaker Anthony Minghella, Golden Globe nominee for "The Talented Mr. Ripley," has been named Director of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners. He'll be presented with the award at the group's annual ShoWest convention March 6-9. ...
Talk-show host Marie Osmond has confirmed her separation from Brian Blosil, her husband of 13 years. In a statement released Monday by her publicist, Osmond says the split was amicable and hopes "the media will respect our privacy during this period of our lives." No other details were released.