Kimberly Peirce, Chloë Moretz, and Julianne Moore on the set of Carrie
After losing out on a 2013 Oscar nomination in the Best Director category, Ben Affleck and his film Argo became the season's biggest talking point. After losing out on a 2013 Oscar nomination in the Best Director category, Kathryn Bigelow and her film Zero Dark Thirty faded out of the picture.
Already battling wishy-washy political arguments that threatened to shift the spotlight away from the film, Bigelow's docudrama thriller was all but knocked out of Oscar consideration when the critically acclaimed director failed to sit alongside 2012's contenders. The snub was a reminder of a sad fact that remains a talking point each year: In the 85-year history of the Academy Awards, only four women have been nominated for the "Best Director" Oscar. And only of them won: Bigelow, for 2009's The Hurt Locker.
There's an imbalance of female and male directors represented in the Hollywood mainstream. It's a point argued year after year, yet it's a statistic that never seems to change. According to a study by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, School of Theatre, Television and Film, 18 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012 were women. And only 9 percent of all directors working on those films were women. While that's a 4 percent bump up from 2011, the percentage of women directors working in 2012 was the same as in 1998.
In 2013, three women are slated to direct studio-driven, wide-released feature films: Tyler Perry Presents Peeples (May 10), directed by Tina Gordon Chism, Carrie (Oct. 18), directed by Kimberly Peirce, and Disney's animated feature Frozen (Nov. 27), co-directed by Jennifer Lee alongside Chris Buck. A few more will sprout from between the blockbusters into limited releases: Sally Potter's Ginger & Rosa (March 15), Sofia Copolla's Bling Ring (June 14), Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (April 26), Maggie Carey's The To Do List (Aug. 16), Kelly Reichardt's Night Moves (Sept. 20), Susanne Bier's Serena (Sept. 27), Diablo Cody's Paradise, and the Soska sisters' American Mary. Women are making movies, but considering the sheer number of films in theaters from year to year, they're not making enough movies — and they're rarely making them with the support of Hollywood.
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Chism, screenwriter of 2002's Drumline and 2006's ATL, makes her directorial debut this spring with Peeples, but breaking through as a female force in Hollywood required hard bargaining. "I've always been attracted to writer/directors and Nancy Meyers was a huge inspiration for me in her work," Chism says. "So, as a writer, I've used my script as leverage to get in the room to plead my case to direct it. If I didn't have that script, I don't think I would have been given the opportunity."
With Peeples — which stars Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington — ready for release, Chism already has a follow-up in place, a thriller set up at Sony. Despite having a feature under her belt, Chism says the process was the same: more teeth-pulling, more clinging to her script, more proving herself capable.
The writer/director recalls her first studio meeting, during which Fox gave her a number of different script ideas, none of which worked for the budding filmmaker. "We talked about all kinds of ideas and I hated all of the things they pitched me," Chism says. "I thought, 'This is a nightmare.' In that meeting, they told me they were toying around with a movie about a band. At the time, it was about a white kid and a black kid who can't read. And I come from the South and my mind went to historically black colleges. Thank God. And I remember, they were like, 'There are all-black colleges?'"
"I'm not sure if I'll have to do that forever," Chism says. "I think it has to do with power, basically, and in this industry, the writer doesn't hold the largest bit of power. So it's more palatable for people to deal with women as writers." Hollywood does appear to be more receptive to hiring females in that role; Lauzen's study reveals that women account for 15 percent of the writers working on the top 250 films of 2012.
Like Chism, Jennifer Lee also comes from a writing background. Before being recruited by Disney Animation head honcho John Lasseter to co-direct Frozen, Lee had sold two screenplays: an adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights and an original script being developed at Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way production company. She was brought into the Disney fold by her Phil Johnston, a friend from Columbia University's film school who recruited her to write on Wreck-It Ralph. After meeting weekly for years in order to "push each other as writers," Johnston asked Lee if she would be willing to move to Los Angeles on a week's notice to take over Wreck-It's script, which he had initially developed years before. The success of the 2012 Oscar nominee — and the nurturing environment of a long-gestating animated film — landed her the job co-directing Frozen.
Concept art from Jennifer Lee's Frozen
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Unlike live-action's homogeneous roster of filmmakers, animation has traditionally welcomed female directors. In 2012, Brenda Chapman became the first woman to receive an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for Brave (sharing it with Mark Andrews, who took over as director halfway through production). Vicky Jenson (Shark Tale) nearly took home the award in 2001 for co-directing Shrek — in the category's first year, only the producers were awarded with the gold statue. In the grand scheme of Hollywood, Jennifer Yuh Nelson possessed the most important honor: Her Dreamworks Animation film, Kung Fu Panda 2, is the highest-grossing female-helmed movie of all time, with a whopping worldwide gross of $665.7 million.
In terms of creativity, box office numbers are inconsequential. But in Hollywood, they're a calling card and a record-setting number like Nelson's Kung Fu Panda 2 gross goes a long way. Which explains why women filmmakers are climbing uphill to get projects with larger budgets off the ground. Running down the list of the highest-grossing directors of all time (based on BoxOfficeMojo.com's director filmography totals), we don't find a woman until No. 60: Lana Wachowski, director of The Matrix trilogy, who first entered the industry as a man. Further down at No. 81 is Betty Thomas, one of the few women to have shaped a career out of directing modest blockbusters. Including The Brady Bunch Movie, Doctor Dolittle, 28 Days, and the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Thomas' films have collected nearly $563.3 million.
NEXT: Moviegoing Demographic Myths and Why Female-Driven Blockbusters Work
Chloë Moretz in Carrie
For women to stake a claim in box office history, they must be given the opportunity to direct blockbusters, the type of genre filmmaking narrowly aimed at adolescent boys. A 2011 study released by the Motion Picture Association of America cites that the gender composition of moviegoers was balanced, about 51 percent women, 49 percent men, with the 25 - 39 age demographic representing the largest portion of the audience, around 28 percent. Yet most of the major studio tentpoles are male-driven. Out of 45 movies based on comic books released between 2003 and 2013, only one of them was directed by a woman: Lexi Alexander's 2008 film Punisher: War Zone.
The lack of women represented in genre movies makes Kimberly Peirce's horror remake Carrie an event in itself. Like many female directors actively working in the film industry, Peirce is hesitant to make gender divide a talking point when discussing her new adaptation of the Stephen King classic. The Boys Don't Cry and Stop-Loss director wants to be seen as simply that — a director. Still, she believes women do add perspective to genre stories, and in the case of Carrie, perspectives that echo themes laid down by the book's author.
"What I love about King was, he was writing about a fear of the period," Peirce says. The director recalls King's notorious experience of working as a janitor and discovering a bloody tampon, a terrifying event that Peirce revels in. "Women may have fear about their tampons and their menstrual cycles, but you know what? They’ve got to deal with it on a monthly basis. It’s a fear that you know in a way that this guy may not know. So it took on epic proportions. So it is really interesting that it was a man’s fear that birthed [the story], and then I get to [view it] through a different tunnel."
Peirce acknowledges that Brian De Palma, director of the acclaimed 1976 version of Carrie, knows "a lot about women." Peirce also finds her approach to the material unique, because it's informed from personal experiences. "The truth is, I have a mother and I have had wars with my mother [and] I know what those wars feel like," Peirce says. "I know what those feel like from my perspective, the claustrophobia in the female-female, mother-daughter relationship. I also know how snarky the girls can be. It doesn’t mean the men can’t be. Female terror is a very interesting terror. It’s relentless, it’s diffuse, it communicates."
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For her follow-up to Peeples, Chism made a point to pen a thriller with a strong female voice, and it's a challenge for her. According to the writer/director, Drumline, ATL, and Peeples all tested higher with men, and she sees that as the result of an ability to write strong male characters. With her next movie, she wants to challenge the pre-conceived notions of what a movie with strong female characters has to be about. "I think that the similarities that a lot of minorities have to face — whether it's a woman in business or African-American — sometimes the reaction is, 'I don't want to make it about me being a woman,'" Chism says. "But I've yet to find the formula to walking into a room and an executive not seeing both things when they see me."
Over the course of her career, she's well-aware of what an executive is looking for from her. "I [can] feel the expectations that, 'Oh, you're going to do a chick flick and that's going to diminish the numbers we do.' I'd say that's 100 percent the case."
Producer Gale Anne Hurd is one of the rarities, a female producer who, while never stepping into the director's chair, has helped both men and women bring sci-fi blockbusters, independent dramas, and hit TV shows to life. In 2013, Hurd launched another season of her hit horror show The Walking Dead and debuted the teen romance drama Very Good Girls at the Sundance Film Festival. And yet, even she doesn't see much of a home for women at the movie studios. "I think it speaks to the fact that independent film is where it's at, because there were more films than ever at Sundance directed by women," Hurd says. "And mainstream film has really taken a step backward in so many ways and one significant factor is that you don't find much diversity in the ranks of directors. Now that's changing a lot in television and I think some of the best work right now is on television. The strides that women are making as directors on television is more than compensating for the steps back in the ranks of major studio directors."
The latest from Jane Campion — another of the female quartet to have been nominated for the Best Director Oscar — is a prime example of Hurd's observation. Sundance Channel's upcoming series Top of the Lake, a deeply cinematic crime procedural, was written and directed by Campion. The series premiered in full at this year's Sundance — the first TV series to do so at the festival. Along with Campion's ambitious project, the festival also played host to a number of female-directed indies, including Lynn Shelton's Touchy Feely, Lake Bell's In a World…, Jerusha Hess' Austenland, and Stacie Passon’s Concussion. Thanks to a frenzy of distribution company purchasing, most are expected to arrive in theaters this year.
NEXT: Hollywood, Wake Up and Make a Change
Kerry Washington, Craig Robinson, and David Alan Grier in Tina Gordon Chism's Tyler Perry Presents Peeples
In the male-dominated world of directing, those with clout are the ones who can bring along sea change. The female voices are there, they just need to be cultivated and supported. Lee has not been working with Disney for long, but the animation process naturally helped her rise to the top. It promoted her organically. "Animation relies on a large team of people — story artists, visual development artists, animators, and a diverse production staff," Lee says. "And we don't just work together on one film and move on; I'm working with a lot of the same folks I worked with on Ralph. Working together for years, we really get to know each others' strengths and talents. The women get the chance to shine equally."
Chism's film recently swapped titles, shifting from We the Peeples to Tyler Perry Presents Peeples. After persisting to hold onto her romantic comedy and direct it herself, she was okay with the change. "They got the movie, they got the script. Leverage diminished."
Adding Perry to the marquee also works in her favor: With a built-in audience, a stamp of approval from the Madea mastermind is the cinematic version of "Oprah's Book Club." He also worked as Chsim's biggest supporter. "Tyler was very supportive," she says. "He just let me do my thing. He read it, he had his ideas, and then he said, 'You know what, I'm just going to let you go for it and I want to see what your voice would be, your take would be.' When he needed to block for me or support me, he did that. I have nothing but appreciation for him as a producer."
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Diablo Cody, who wrote the upcoming Evil Dead remake and is expected to have her own directorial debut, Paradise, arrive sometime this year, shares the frustration over the gender divide. She sums up her feelings with comment that may sound defeatist, but it's honest and steadfast: "It's been that way for a long time, so I'm just doing what I can."
Lee feels similarly, letting her work on Frozen and her collaboration with co-director Buck speak for itself. "We share a sense of storytelling that doesn't feel male or female. I think we were cast together because of our shared vision for Frozen, and because we work well together."
On the first day of shooting Peeples, Perry phoned Chism with words of wisdom. "He called and said, 'Put your head down and make a great movie. That's all anyone cares about. No one cares about anything else other than delivering a great movie. Have a great one, bye.'" From childhood, Chism was taught that "excellence in work is really the only barrier-breaking formula." The mantra pushed her each day on Peeples, even when the scenes were at their silliest. "At the end of the day, for me, whether I'm a female or male, there's a lot of investment, a lot on the line, and you have to make your day, make it good, and make a great film."
This year will see the release of three studio films directed by women — a minuscule number. Diversity doesn't have to be forced into the industry — hiring talented directors should always be the priority — but capable and creative female filmmakers are out there, waiting to be employed. They can take on any project, not just ones that boast demographics skewing towards their own gender. "I think a good director can do anything," Peirce says. "James Cameron was not an Avatar. Coppola was not a Godfather. You’re always looking to any character and figuring out where you want to take it."
Cody gives us a little hope for the future (or at least, this year): "Let's look at the positives, which is that the worst movies are dumped in the first quarter of the year. So maybe it means the women directed all the good ones."
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
Additional reporting by Michael Arbeiter and Kelsea Stahler
[Photo Credit: Screen Gems, Hollywood.com, Walt Disney Pictures, Screen Gems, Nicole Rivelli/Lionsgate]
Michael Moore is always ready to pounce. Whether he's spending a few years tracking down subjects for a muckraking documentary or taking to the Internet to point fingers, Moore never fails to yank attention his way when he sees fit. Sure, it's crass and his tone is loud and unrestrained, but more often than not, his points are universal — regardless of what political side his audience falls on.
Moore's latest eruption took place Tuesday night, when the filmmaker took to Twitter to point fingers at the Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. Customs officials, and America as a whole after Palestinian documentarian Emad Burnat was held at the airport after arriving for the 85th Academy Awards. Burnat, whose film 5 Broken Cameras received a nomination for "Best Documentary Feature," was detained by officers at LAX, along with his wife and son, for an hour and a half before Academy lawyers (prompted by Moore) intervened.
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According to a statement released by Burnat, airport security questioned him about the purpose of his visit to the States. They didn't believe he was actually attending the Oscars. "Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary 5 Broken Cameras," said Burnat. "And they told me that if I couldn’t prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel, and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day." Adding to insult: Burnat is the first Palestinian to be nominated for an Academy Award — a fact that made the LAX officials' confusion sting even harder in Moore's eyes.
Moore explains in a blog that he communicated with Burnat via text throughout the debacle, instructing the documentarian to hand his contact information over to Homeland Security so that he could explain the situation and avert the crisis. In his statement, Burnat makes it clear that deportation was a very real possibility, but that the experience left him unfazed:
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"Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout he West Bank. There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day."
To conclude his rant on Twitter, Moore made the simple, pointed quip: "Welcome to America."
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Getty Images; Wenn]
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The New York Times today previews an in-depth magazine piece on Lee Daniels, director of festival darling Precious, in which he likens fundraising to drug deals.
The Risky Business blog meanwhile posits that the media blitz surrounding the film evokes a certain Slumdog of yore, and the New York Post and Gold Derby wonder if there may be a backlash brewing against the harrowing, Oprah-supported drama.
The NYT piece begins during the Cannes Film Festival, where Daniels received a 15-minute standing ovation. "They wouldn't stop clapping," Daniels told the NYT. "I'm a director -- after six minutes, I'm saying, please sit down. But I'm also a producer, so I'm thinking, what's the record? Can we break the record for the longest standing ovation at the festival?"
Well, before his Precious days, Daniels produced both The Woodsman, in which Kevin Bacon plays a convicted sex offender trying to reenter society, and 2001 Oscar winner Monster's Ball. Of financing films from his early career, Daniels said, "I loved the challenge. Even now, I don't think twice about raising money. It's no different than a drug deal. People have trouble getting movies made, but how many people could go out and steal for their families? You go in, you go gangster, you get what you've got to get and go on to the next. It's just another hustle."
Shadowboxer, a film he directed long prior to Precious, was cast in an unusual way, its star Helen Mirren told the Times. "One day, I was walking on Houston Street in Manhattan and because there were a lot of holes in the road, I was looking down at my feet. I got a tap on the shoulder, and I jumped. This mad-looking man with wild dreadlocks says, 'I love you and I have a movie I want you to do.' I thought, this is a complete madman, I'll never hear from this person again. Ninety-nine percent of the people who approach you this way are living in a fantasy world. But Lee, due to his charm and belief, makes his fantasies real. He doesn't hear 'no.'"
One person gave Daniels a resounding yes was Oprah Winfrey. On his way to accept the Audience Award for Precious at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Daniels' cell phone rang, and it was Winfrey. She was calling to tell him that she had seen Precious, that the movie "split her open" and that she wanted to put her might behind the film. "I said, 'I'm accepting an award right now,'" Daniels recalled. "She said, 'Then why are you answering your phone?'"
Winfrey's involvement with Precious was encouraged by Tyler Perry, who joined her as an executive producer. Having those two powerhouses behind a film should be a giant boon, right?
Not so fast. The New York Post's Lou Lumenick recently posited that the Gotham Awards snub of Precious tends to "confirm my suspicion that awards-wise, the film could suffer a backlash because of its high-profile endorsement by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry."
The Gold Derby blog does not concur -- not completely. A backlash is brewing against the film among some film critics, not among Oscar voters or other industry folks and not as a result of Oprah's or Tyler's embrace, Tom O'Neil writes.
"I think critics are starting to resent the fact that their darling flick's gone mainstream, as evidenced by it winning the audience awards at the Sundance and Toronto International film festivals. Now Precious is obviously Oscar-bound. Critics are stubborn, contrary-minded folk, of course, and I think we're seeing classic evidence of that in the nominations just announced by the Gotham Awards."
Still, on the point of Winfrey, could there be an Oscar backlash against flicks she pushes hard? That's a fascinating idea, says O’Neil. Lumenick wrote: "Oprah's own Oscar nomination for The Color Purple notwithstanding, she simply does not wield the same influence in the film world that she does with literature and theater. Witness her embrace of Baz Luhrmann's Australia, which she hailed as another Gone With the Wind. O reportedly plans a full week of shows to push Precious. Yikes. Which I'm not sure is going to help the movie's Oscar chances any more than Perry's recent public confession that he was abused as a child. "
Oprah was also a producer of The Great Debaters, O'Neil notes, and that film, he says, was unjustly snubbed at the Oscars. Ditto Beloved, which got crucified by critics first, then snubbed by Oscar.
Finally, the Risky Business blog offers up the theory that the Gotham snub has no impact given the upcoming Times piece, which, in one sense, BIZ says, "highlights the awards-season benefits of getting word out early. The film had a buzz arrival at Sundance and a full-bore rollout at Cannes...With that sort of lead time, magazine editors have had plenty of opportunity to line up their plans, resulting in, well, things like a glowing New York Times piece."
However, "it can be a mixed blessing to get an early media blitz for a film like Precious. Movies that bear down on you with their darkness…are often best discovered in the same way they are consumed -- slowly. Get too many people to see it too quickly, before they really know what it is, and you risk a backlash. And a breathless New York Times magazine story two weeks before a film is released (and accompanied by what will soon be flogging from Oprah) is the opposite of slow."
Still, Daniels' pic offers hope and strategically dispenses a few hugs, Biz notes. "In that sense...it has the feel of Slumdog Millionaire. In both, you're watching an underprivileged teenager in an exotic, difficult situation treated horribly by the people around them, but there's just enough redemption that you walk out of the theater feeling okay about it all. All Lionsgate needs now is a Bollywood number."
Actor Charlie Sheen has paid tribute to old pal Chris Penn, who was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment on Tuesday--calling him the "best friend a guy could ever hope for".
Sheen and his sibling Emilio Estevez grew up with Penn and his brother Sean, and his father Martin Sheen was one of the first to arrive on the scene of the mystery death to comfort the Reservoir Dogs star's mother.
In a statement from the Platoon star, Sheen also calls his pal "a good and decent man," adding, "I loved him.”
Meanwhile, actor Wilmer Valderrama has paid tribute to late actor Chris Penn, hailing him as a "very wonderful person".
The 25-year-old, who co-starred with Penn in new movie The Darwin Awards, was devastated when he heard the 43-year-old actor's body had been discovered at his California condominium on Tuesday.
Speaking from a screening of The Darwin Awards at the Sundance Film Festival last night, Valderrama paid tribute to his pal.
He said, "He was an incredibly talented actor and just a very wonderful person. It's so sad. We all feel it's a very big loss."
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Two of the most prestigious independent film communities have recently each given their stamp of approval on independent cinema both past and future. Nominees for the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards were announced as was the lineup for the independent feature film and world cinema competitions for next year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Although each organization acknowledge and reward independent filmmaking, the two fetes are quite different. The Spirit Awards are more of a conventional awards show, which will be handed out March 4 in Santa Monica, California [for full coverage on the Spirit Award nominations, click here].
The Sundance Awards are the culmination of the 10-day festival (Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Utah) that showcases the films in contention for awards. Next year’s Sundance Film Festival lineup marks a return of sorts to the fest’s roots, by giving way to more fresh faces. The total number of submissions increased, resulting in a different and exciting format--the expansion of the world competition to include more international films.
Below are the films to be shown in the four competition sections:
American Dramatic Competition A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (Director, screenwriter: Dito Montiel) Come Early Morning (Director, screenwriter: Joey Lauren Adams) Flannel Pajamas (Director, screenwriter: Jeff Lipsky) Forgiven (Director, screenwriter: Paul Fitzgerald) Half Nelson (Director: Ryan Fleck; screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck) Hawk Is Dying (Director: Julian Goldberger; screenwriters: Harry Crews (novel), Julian Goldberger) In Between Days (Director: So Yong Kim; screenwriters: So Yong Kim, Bradley Rust Gray) Puccini for Beginners (Director, screenwriter: Maria Maggenti) Quinceanera (Director/screenwriters: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland) Right at Your Door (Director, screenwriter: Chris Gorak) Sherrybaby (Director, screenwriter: Laurie Collyer) Somebodies (Director, screenwriter: Hadjii) Stay (Director, screenwriter: Bob Goldthwait) Steel City (Director, screenwriter: Brian Jun) Stephanie Daley (Director, screenwriter: Hilary Brougher) Wristcutters: A Love Story (Director: Goran Dukic; screenwriters: Goran Dukic, Etgar Kerett)
American Documentary Competition:
A Lion in the House (Directors: Steven Bogner, Julia Reichert) American Blackout (Director: Ian Inaba) An Unreasonable Man (Directors: Henriette Mantel, Stephen Skrovan) Crossing Arizona (Director: Joseph Mathew) God Grew Tired of Us (Director: Christopher Quinn) Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends (Director: Patricia Foulkrod) Iraq in Fragments (Director: James Longley) Small Town Gay Bar (Director: Malcom Ingram) So Much So Fast (Directors: Steven Ascher, Jeanne Jordan) Thin (Director: Lauren Greenfield) 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris (Director: Raymond De Felitta) The Trials of Darryl Hunt (Directors: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg) TV Junkie (Director: Michael Cain) Wide Awake (Director: Alan Berliner) Wordplay (Director: Patrick Creadon) The World According to Sesame Street (Directors: Linda Goldstein Knowlton, Linda Hawkins Costigan)
World Cinema Dramatic Competition 13 Tzameti (Director, screenwriter: Gela Babluani), France Allegro (Director: Christoffer Boe; screenwriters: Christoffer Boe, Mikael Wulff), Denmark The Aura (Director, screenwriter: Fabian Bielinsky), Argentina The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Director: Auraeus Solito; screenwriter: Michiko Yamamoto), Philippines Eve & The Fire Horse (Director, screenwriter: Julia Kwan), Canada Grbavica (Director, screenwriter: Jasmila Zbanic), Bosnia-Herzegovina The House of Sand (Director: Andrucha Waddington; screenwriter: Elena Soarez), Brazil Kiss Me Not on the Eyes (Director, screenwriter: Jocelyne Saab), Lebanon Little Red Flowers (Director: Zhang Yuan; Screenwriters: Ning Dai, Zhang Yuan), China Madeinusa (Director, screenwriter: Claudia Llosa), Peru No. 2 (Director, screenwriter: Toa Fraser), New Zealand One Last Dance (Director, screenwriter: Max Makowski), Singapore The Peter Pan Formula (Director, screenwriter: Cho Chan-Ho), South Korea Princesas (Director, screenwriter: Fernando Leon de Aranoa), Spain Solo Dios Sabe (Director: Carlos Bolado; screenwriters: Carlos Bolado, Diane Weipert), Brazil/Mexico Son of Man (Director: Mark Dornford-May; screenwriters: Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama, Pauline Malefane), South Africa
World Cinema Documentary Competition 5 Days (Director: Yoav Shamir), Israel Angry Monk--Reflections on Tibet (Director: Luc Schaedler), Switzerland Black Gold (Director: Marc Francis, Nick Francis), U.K. By the Ways, a Journey with William Eggleston (Directors: Cedric Laty, Vincent Gerard), France Dear Pyongyang (Director: Yang Yonghi), Japan The Giant Buddhas (Director: Christian Frei), Switzerland Glastonbury (Director: Julien Temple), U.K. I is for India (Director: Sandhya Suri), England/Germany/Italy In the Pit (Director: Juan Carlos Rulfo), Mexico Into Great Silence (Director: Philip Groening), Germany Kz (Director: Rex Bloomstein), U.K. No One (Director: Tin Dirdamal), Mexico The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez (Director: Heidi Specogna), Germany Songbirds (Director: Brian Hill), U.K. Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst (Director: Gillian Armstrong), Australia Viva Zapatero (Director: Sabina Guzzanti), Italy
Top Story: "Capturing the Friedmans'" Victims Send Letter to Academy
Two men whom Jesse Friedman pleaded guilty to sexually abusing as boys have written an open letter to Academy Awards voters speaking out against the Oscar-nominated documentary, Capturing the Friedmans, The Associated Press reports. The film, which won the documentary grand prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was named best nonfiction film by the New York Film Critics Circle, looks into the life of the Friedman family whose world is transformed when the father, Arnold, and his youngest son, Jesse, are arrested and charged with molesting dozens of children during computer classes in their Long Island home. "If this film does win an Oscar, it will be won at the expense of silencing the plaintive voices of abused children once again, just as our own voices were silenced 16 years ago by the threats and intimidation of our tormentors, Arnold and Jesse Friedman," the victims, now in their 20s, wrote. But director Andrew Jarecki defended the film, saying it was a balanced piece. "The film doesn't exclude that perspective in the slightest," he said Tuesday. "I didn't set out to make an advocacy film for the Friedmans, and I didn't make one." But 34-year-old Jesse Friedman, who was 19 when he pleaded guilty to the sex abuse charges in 1988, is seeking a new trial to overturn his conviction based on information revealed in the documentary.
First Lady Wants To Catch Passion
First lady Laura Bush, who was in Bentonville, Ark., visiting a high school, said Tuesday she would like to see The Passion of the Christ, which opens Feb. 25, Reuters reports. "I think it sounds very interesting and I'd like to see it," the first lady said after being asked by reporters if she planned to see the film. Directed by Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ depicts the last 12 hours in Christ's life. Jewish leaders have condemned the film, calling it anti-Semitic propaganda that threatens Judeo-Christian harmony, while evangelists say it is the most effective tool for spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ in more than 2,000 years.
Lohan Wants Truce With Duff
Forget about the Kelly Osbourne-Christina Aguilera feud--that's so yesterday--the newest Hollywood warfare is between Freaky Friday's Lindsay Lohan and Cheaper by the Dozen star Hilary Duff, as reports would have it. But according to Lohan, reports that Duff asked her to leave the premiere of Cheaper by the Dozen after a spat have been greatly exaggerated. "I mean, she's doing great. I'm a fan of hers. My sister loves her," the 17-year-old Lohan told Diane Sawyer Tuesday on ABC's Good Morning America. "I just wanted to let her know I have no problems and neither should she. We were friends." Lohan described the fight with Duff, 16, as "a high school thing."
Conan O'Brien "Apologizes" to Quebecers
Late Night host Conan O'Brien issued a tongue-in-cheek apology Tuesday over a segment on his show in which Triumph the Insult Comic Dog insulted the population of the French-Canadian province of Quebec. "People of Quebec, I'm sorry," O'Brien said, as a translator recited in French, with English subtitles, "People of Quebec, I'm an albino jackass." O'Brien continued, "We meant no harm with our comedy piece the other night … I was a stranger in a strange land and I was very insensitive," he continued, with the subtitle: "The other night, I wet the bed like a little girl ... I have a small penis." The controversial jokes were made while O'Brien's taped a series of shows in and around Toronto to help boost that city's profile in the wake of last year's SARS outbreak.
Guns N' Roses Could Block Greatest Hits Release
Sources tell Billboard.com that Guns N' Roses' did not give consent for Geffen Records to release a new greatest hits compilation on March 23 and may pursue legal action to block its release. The album, which consists of 14 hit singles including "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Patience," "Paradise City" and a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" from the Interview With the Vampire soundtrack. Guns N' Roses, whose only original member left is Axl Rose, returns to the live stage May 30 at the Rock in Rio-Lisbon festival in Lisbon, Portugal--the group's first live appearance since a disastrous 2002 comeback tour, which was canceled with 13 dates remaining because of an unspecified illness.
Marilyn Manson Settles Civil Suit
Marilyn Manson has learned that gyrating his crotch on someone else's head is not a good idea. Security guard Joshua Keasler, who sued Manson in U.S. District Court in Detroit for sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, claimed the shock rocker wrapped his legs around his neck and gyrated against him while wearing only a leather thong and pantyhose during a July 2001 performance in Detroit. The AP reports the suit was dismissed after Manson and Keasler reached a settlement, but both sides agreed not to release terms of the settlement. Manson pleaded no contest in 2002 to disorderly conduct and assault and battery in the same incident. At the time, Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, was ordered to pay $4,000 in fines and costs.
Don't Shake Your Polaroid Pics, Company Warns
Contrary to Andre 3000's instructions to "shake it like a Polaroid picture," the instant camera maker does not want consumers to jiggle their snapshots. In the "answers" section on the Polaroid Web site, the company says that shaking photos, which once helped them to dry, is not necessary since the current version of Polaroid film dries behind a clear plastic window, Reuters reports. The image "never touches air, so shaking or waving has no effect," the company explains on its Web site. "In fact, shaking or waving can actually damage the image. Rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause 'blobs' in the picture." Outkast's hit single "Hey Ya," which includes the "shake it" line as a reference to the motion that users do to help along the self-developing film.
Top Story: Kutcher Isn't Punk-ing Us, He Swears!
Ashton Kutcher promises he isn't pulling one of his trademark practical jokes--his MTV show Punk'd is really finished. "I've become the boy who cried wolf," he acknowledged to The Associated Press while offering some assurance that his decision to end the show after two seasons isn't just another hoax. "Let's put it this way," he said. "I'm getting ready to start shooting two movies, I'm still working on That '70s Show, I'm producing two other shows for MTV and creating a one-hour drama pilot for Fox ... I don't have the time." Fans, however, will be able to get their Punk'd fix Tuesday when the first season of the prank show comes out on DVD, AP reports.
Mystikal Jailed for Sexual Battery
Grammy-nominated rapper Mystikal, aka Michael Tyler, was sentenced to six years in prison Thursday for sexual battery, AP reports. The victim accused Tyler and two bodyguards of forcing her to perform oral sex after they accused her of stealing $80,000 worth of his checks. She denied stealing any money, AP reports. Tyler pleaded guilty to the charges.
Surf Flick Opens Sundance Film Festival
Typifying what founder Robert Redford says is the true spirit of independent filmmaking, the Sundance Film Festival opened Thursday night with the surf film Riding Giants, a documentary by filmmaker Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys). "This is a film about people who do what they do just for the thrill of it," Redford told a packed house at the debut, Reuters reports. "In a way, that's why we as filmmakers are all here tonight and this week. We're here because we love what we do, and it's the thrill of doing what we do that gives us such pleasure." The world-renowned indie film festival runs for 10 days, culminating with the awards ceremony Jan. 24.
PETA Ads Won't Air During Super Bowl
CBS has rejected advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Super Bowl advertising proposal, which, Reuters reports, features two scantily clad vegetarians snuggling up to a meat-eating pizza delivery man with the message "Meat can cause impotence." In a letter, CBS told PETA that it would not run advertisements on "controversial issues of public importance." "We just want to be able to present our jiggly women," Lisa Lange, spokeswoman for PETA, told Reuters, asking to join advertisers like beer brewers who have boosted sales with similar images of scantily clad women.
McCartney Won't Be Questioned in Alleged Assault
A spokesman for the former Beatle Paul McCartney dismissed a newspaper report claiming police wanted to interview the singer about an alleged assault, AP reports. London's Evening Standard said police planned to speak to McCartney about a dispute that occurred when one of the newspaper's photographers tried to take the singer's picture last September while he was standing near the spot where illusionist David Blaine had been suspended in a box near the Thames river. The photographer claims he was punched in the face several times by one of McCartney's friends. AP reports McCartney's spokesman Geoff Baker, who was at the scene, denied any assault took place.
In More Ex-Beatle News…
In a lawsuit filed by the family of the former Beatle George Harrison against the doctor who treated the cancer-stricken musician before his death in November 2001, Dr. Gilbert Lederman, lawyers for both sides met Thursday with a judge to try to reach a settlement, AP reports. Harrison's family is suing Lederman, accusing him of holding Harrison's hand and forcing him to sign the physician's son's guitar. Harrison died at the age of 58.
Electra Gets Net Name Back
Former Baywatch star Carmen Electra has won control of the Internet address www.carmenelectra.com in a ruling by a United Nations panel, AP reports. WIPO spokeswoman Samar Shamoon explained to AP that an arbitrator for the World Intellectual Property Organization ordered the transfer of the domain name to the 31-year-old actress, who had complained that it was being used in bad faith to divert Internet traffic to a commercial site, Celebrity1000. The ruling upheld Electra's complaint against the company that registered the name--Network Operations Center of High Prairie, Canada, AP reports. The U.N. arbitration system allows those who believe they have the right to a domain to get it back without having to fight a costly legal battle or pay large sums of money.
Role Call: Preston Returns; Reeves, Ford Have New Projects
Kelly Preston, fresh off her stint in Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, has signed on to do the feature Return to Sender. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Preston will play a lawyer who fights to exonerate a woman on death row. As the case unfolds, she begins to question the motives of a man who has befriended her client…Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, the producing team behind the upcoming comedy Along Came Polly, are already looking ahead, developing separate projects with Keanu Reeves and Harrison Ford, respectively. Variety reports the Reeves project is a comedy based on an idea generated by the Matrix star, in which he'll play an American who becomes a success in London and has to deal with the cultural differences. The Ford project is based on the Geeta Anand book For His Sick Kid, a medical drama about a man who finances a cure for a rare disease that is killing two of his kids--then has to fight to get them access to the drug.
Celebrities such Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears ditched their hooded parkas Sunday as Park City, Utah's annual Sundance Film Festival came to a close.
This year's Grand Jury Prize for best film drama went to the HBO produced American Splendor, while Capturing the Friedmans was named best documentary, Reuters reports.
American Splendor is based on the life of Harvey Pekar, a VA hospital worker in Cleveland who spends his days reading, writing and listening to jazz. When his friend Robert Crumb earns wide acclaim for comic art, Harvey is inspired to write his own brand of comic books, making the monotonous torture of his everyday foibles their focus.
Directed by Shari Springer-Berman and Robert Pulcini, it stars Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander and Pekar.
Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans is based on a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family in Great Neck, New York, whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.
Both American Splendor and Capturing the Friedmans told their stories using home videos and a crop of fresh young stars.
Best director honors went to Catherine Hardwicke for Thirteen, which revolves around a 13-year-old whose quest to befriend her high school's most popular girl lead her down a self-destructive path of drug use and sexual experimentation.
The festival this year was flanked with stars, causing veteran festivalgoers to question whether Sundance was still a relevant film forum outside the Hollywood studios.
Festival director Geoff Gilmore, however, defended the event at Saturday night's awards ceremony, saying Sundance remains committed to finding unique voices in the cinema.
"Passionate, personal storytelling is what we're truly here to celebrate," Gilmore said, thanking festival participants "for making films that matter."
Actor Richard Crenna, better known as Sylvester Stallone's former commander in the Rambo movies, died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Crenna, 76, died of heart failure resulting as a complication of pancreatic cancer. The actor first gained attention as a squeaky-voiced juvenile on radio serials, including A Date with Judy and Burns and Allen, and as the dimwitted lovesick teen Walter Denton on Our Miss Brooks. He grew up to star in such TV series as The Real McCoys and Slattery's People. Crenna moved into feature film in the early '80s, starting with the steamy film noir remake Body Heat and later in The Flamingo Kid and First Blood. Crenna had beaten cancer once already, but was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about five years ago and was struck by fatal pancreatic cancer late in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Penni, daughters Seana and Maria, son Richard and three granddaughters.
Robert Downey Jr., who was at the Sundance Film Festival last weekend to promote the dark comedy The Singing Detective, told reporters that his bouts with cocaine addiction and subsequent jail time have not only made him older and wiser, but a better actor. "My frequent appearances on Court TV have brought me to another level than just always 'the acting guy'... I think I've become very, I don't want to say real, but I'm very tangible to people...because of my fallibility."
Actor Steven Seagal may testify in a racketeering trial targeting the mob and is expected to eventually take the stand in the prosecution of Peter Gotti, brother of the late mob boss John Gotti, and other alleged members of the Gambino crime family, The Associated Press reports. The star's troubles began when he had a falling-out with his former business partner, Julius Nasso, whom authorities allege was a Gambino associate who turned to the crime family to help him settle the score.
The Directors Guild of America will honor Gangs of New York's Golden Globe-winning director Martin Scorsese with a lifetime achievement award during its 55th annual awards ceremony March 1, the AP reports. Scorsese's directing career spans more than four decades and his work includes Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Casino, Mean Streets and Goodfellas. Scorsese, 60, is being honored for nurturing young filmmakers and his fight to preserve the legacy of motion picture.
Filmmaker Spike Lee, who was a keynote speaker Saturday at two events in Lauderhill, Fla., told teens at the Boys & Girls Club that he didn't laugh at jokes aimed at civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in last year's comedy Barbershop. "To me, some things aren't funny," Lee said. "If our young children grow up thinking this, and that's all they know about (Parks and King), then we're in trouble."
The NBC news magazine Dateline will dedicate a special edition next month to pop oddity Michael Jackson's face and how it has dramatically changed over the years along with the highs and lows of his career. Jackson's Los Angeles publicist told Reuters she is outraged at the concept. "I think it's horrible that NBC is planning on doing a special on Michael Jackson's face," she said. "The network should focus on more important issues in the world."
NBC president Jeff Zucker said the network's hit comedy Friends, now in its ninth season, will positively, absolutely end its run after its upcoming 10th season. "Yes, that will be the final season. Even I acknowledge that--the 10th and final year of the best comedy on television," Zucker said at NBC's winter showcase for television critics. "The door is not open after that." NBC struck a deal last month with Warner Bros. Television to bring the show back in the fall of 2003 for 18 more episodes for a reported license fee of $10 million per episode.
Fox has officially picked up the drama pilot Skin, which uncovers the adult film industry. According to Reuters, Skin, is described as a "modern-day Romeo and Juliet" set in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the world of Boogie Nights. It centers on the daughter of a porn industry mogul who falls in love with the son of a district attorney, whose quest is to take the porn king down. The project comes from Jerry Bruckheimer and Jim Leonard, whose TV credits include Thieves and Night Visions.
A record collector in London says he has found a previously unknown recording--a jam session between Beatle John Lennon and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger--which he plans to auction off next month, Reuters reports. Auction house Cooper Owen said the old blues song, Too Many Cooks, features Jagger on vocals with Lennon singing backup. It was recorded during Lennon's so-called "lost weekend," an 18-month period he spent in 1974-75 estranged from wife Yoko Ono when he made few recordings of his own and occasionally with such rocker friends as Elton John and David Bowie.
Indie queen Christina Ricci will be working with eclectic director Woody Allen on his next untitled project. As usual, the plot is being kept firmly under wraps, but The Hollywood Reporter notes the film will center around three young adults. Jason Biggs (American Pie) is also on board. Filming is set to start in the spring.
Ricci is hot on the independent film market right now, having starred in this year's Sundance Film Festival darling Pumpkin and Miramax Films' upcoming Prozac Nation. She'll also be seen in HBO's The Laramie Project, which airs Saturday, March 9.
In a trendy Manhattan art gallery, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman, Art Garfunkel and many other celebrities attended a gala preview Monday of artwork by students, faculty and alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The event was hosted by James Wyeth, son of artist Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C.Wyeth.
Country singer Faith Hill is going to the Academy Awards. She'll be performing the song "There You'll Be" from the movie Pearl Harbor, written by Diane Warren. The song has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category, along with other nominated songs from Monsters, Inc., The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Kate & Leopold and Vanilla Sky.
Sean Combs, whose previous aliases revolved around being called "Daddy," finally faced up to the real thing when he reached a custody and financial settlement Tuesday with former model Kimberly Porter, mother of his three-year-old son, Christian. Combs had been a no-show in court nine times over the last year and was threatened with an arrest if he failed to appear Tuesday. He'll be providing child support, health insurance and other necessities for the child.
Pop singer/actress Brandy Norwood, 23, told MTV's Carson Daly on Total Request Live Tuesday the baby she is carrying is a girl. Brandy secretly wed record producer Robert Smith, 22, last summer. The baby is due in July.
Legendary comedian Lucille Ball's childhood home was put on the market via the Internet. The two-story house in Chautauqua County in upstate New York, where Ball lived from the time she was 8 years old to the middle of her high school years, is listed on the Web site eBay for an asking price of $98,500 by real estate broker Bruce Turner. The 112-year-old house had been sitting on the regular market for nearly a year before Turner put it on eBay. So far, the house has yet to be sold.
Dana Delaney of China Beach fame is returning to television. She'll star in a new hospital drama, Presidio Med, for CBS, playing a pediatric doctor. And in other TV casting news, Saturday Night Live alum Cheri Oteri has signed up for the ABC comedy pilot With You in Spirit, about a recent college grad (Reid Scott) who ends up in Spirit, N.M., working as a reporter. Primetime television just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?
Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts has decided to slow things down. In November, she'll be leaving ABC's This Week and co-anchor Sam Donaldson, when her contract expires. She wants to spend more time with her family. Roberts is still in conversations with ABC on what role she will play in the future with the network and will continue reporting for National Public Radio. To further fan the fire, The Hollywood Reporter reported there is speculation that George Stephanopoulos and Claire Shipman will replace Donaldson and Roberts, but ABC network officials have strongly denied the report.
ABC is just on the hot wire lately....As CBS and ABC continue to iron out their bids for talk-show host David Letterman, Ted Koppel defended his 22-year-old ABC news show Nightline, which ABC executives are rumored to be considering bumping in favor of Letterman's higher-rated show. Reuters reported Koppel wrote a op-ed piece and spoke out against the network executives. He wrote, "When Nightline is gone...and should the occasion arrive that our work might again seem relevant to the anonymous executive, it will not then be possible to reconstitute what is so easily destroyed." Letterman, however, has made it clear he will not consider moving to ABC unless the network can assure him that he is not responsible for knocking Koppel off the air.
Punk rocker Adam Ant was released on bail relating to his January arrest after an altercation in a London pub. He was arrested on charges of criminal damage, assault and possession of a firearm or imitation firearm with intention to cause fear of violence. The plea hearing is set for May 1 to decide whether the case will be heard.