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Category: American Film Institute

Is Morgan Freeman the best choice for AFI tribute?

October 12, 2010 | 12:49 pm

Some of our forum posters are not impressed that the American Film Institute will bestow its lifetime achievement award upon Morgan Freeman next June. While many posters are pleased with the news, there's a surprising amount of grumbling.

Morgan Freeman American Film Institute Million Dollar Baby news

I don't understand why. Just measuring Freeman's screen accomplishment using Oscar as a yardstick, he's had a praiseworthy career, appearing in three best-picture winners: "Million Dollar Baby" (2004), "Unforgiven" (1992) and "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989). He won best supporting actor for "M$B" (as it's often abbreviated) and was nominated again in supporting for "Street Smart" (1987). He's been nominated three times in lead: "Invictus" (2009), "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) and "Driving Miss Daisy."

Three of his films are on the American Film Institute's list of "100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time": "Driving Miss Daisy," "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Glory" (1989).

Below are some comments from our message boards. See more here.

Alfred Hitchrock: For what it's worth, my favorite Morgan Freeman performance is "The Shawshank Redemption" (you know, the No. 1 movie on IMDB that film snobs love to hate) ... There, I said it!

GoBlue! This is a great honor for a great American actor! sohappy

Brilliance inmorbid: Never been a Freeman fan. His filmography is overwhelmingly bland (oxymoron).

Streep Fan: Is Olivia De Havilland not interested?

oscarnutlen: Morgan Freeman is a fine actor but his body of work is underwhelming...he isn't a major movie star .... he is basically a character actor...I guess the AFI standards are going down the drain as well as every other award in this country. In a year where he will probably receive his 7th Oscar nomination..Robert Duvall would have been a better choice.

seanflynn: Freeman is a better actor than either Robert Redford and Woody Allen, is a major star, deserves this. That said, this award is given to someone whose presence will sell a lot of tickets and tables. Freeman will sell more than Duvall. That's just the way these things work.

Awardshq: Why all the hate on Morgan Freeman? He is a tremendous actor and is fully deserving of this award.

Continue reading »

Gold Derby nuggets: Bill Condon helming 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn' | Steve Carell leaving 'The Office'? | Kathy Griffin still on 'D List'

April 28, 2010 |  4:59 pm

Breaking_Dawn_cover • Writer/director Bill Condon -- who co-produced last year's Academy Awards -- has inked a deal to direct the fourth film in the "Twilight" franchise. There is talk that "Breaking Dawn" will be split into two films, as is being done with the last in the "Harry Potter" series. Condon -- who won an Oscar for his script for "Gods & Monsters" -- said in a statement, "I’m very excited to get the chance to bring the climax of this saga to life on-screen. As fans of the series know, this is a one-of-a-kind book and we’re hoping to create an equally unique cinematic experience."

• The first wave of bold-faced names who will attend the presentation of the AFI lifetime achievement award to Oscar-winning director Mike Nichols ("The Graduate") has been announced. Among those speaking at the June 10 ceremony will be a pair of two-time Oscar winners who are both previous AFI honorees -- Tom Hanks (2002) and Meryl Streep (2003) -- as well as two more Oscar champs -- Cher and Julia Roberts. All four of them have been directed at least once by Nichols who is one of only 10 people to have won the grand slam of all four major showbiz awards. YAHOO

Steve Carell The Office • Looks like four-time lead actor Emmy nominee Steve Carell could be resigning from "The Office" when his contract expires at the end of next season. As Willa Paskin reports, "Asked if he would stay longer, Carell, who has some ten movie projects in the works, told a BBC reporter, 'I don't think so. I think that will probably be my last year.' Of course, the last thing NBC needs is for the leading man of their highest-rated comedy to split, so they will likely offer Carell just about anything he wants to stay." NEW YORK

• The revamped official website of the Tony Awards will include a streaming feed of both the red carpet and the press room at the 64th annual edition of these top theater kudos on June 13. There will also be a section devoted to the Twitter feeds of the nominees after they are announced on May 4. TONY AWARDS

Kathy-griffin-my-life-on-the-dlist •Two-time Emmy champ Kathy Griffin talks with Scott Huver about the upcoming sixth season of "My Life on the D-List" including what sounds like a must-see episode with her taking an acting lesson from Oscar champ Liza Minnelli ("Cabaret"). Says Griffin, "What I took away from working with Liza was she wasn’t in her Liza kooky wacky mode. We see her on TV and so often she’s just putting on the Liza show. And when we were alone in her room, just the two of us rehearsing, she was so in the moment and so fantastic and that’s when you really see it." TV GUIDE

Jethro Nededog reports on the fun MTV is having touting its choice of "Parks and Recreation" supporting player Aziz Ansari as the host of this year's movie awards on June 6. In the promo, which debuted Tuesday night, "High School Musical" star Zac Efron, music mogul Diddy and "Gossip Girl" narrator Kristen Bell answer the question: Who is Aziz Ansari? ZAP2IT

Top photo: "Breaking Dawn" book cover. Credit: Hachette

Middle photo: Steve Carell in "The Office." Credit: NBC

Bottom photo: Kathy Griffin in "My Life on the D-List." Credit: Bravo

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars & SAG send out ballots | Kennedy Center kudos lineup | Significance of 'Avatar'

December 29, 2009 |  1:32 pm

Oscars Expanded Best Picture Race • Nomination ballots for the 82nd annual Oscars were mailed Monday to the 5,777 voting members of the academy. As per the news release: "Completed ballots must be returned to PricewaterhouseCoopers by 5 p.m. PST on Jan. 23. Ballots received after the deadline will not be counted. Prior to mailing, the PricewaterhouseCoopers staff administers a thorough verification process to ensure that there are no duplicate ballots and that none are missing. In addition to being counted and sorted, the ballots are numbered to guarantee that each one is addressed to the appropriate academy voter." Nominations will be announced on Feb. 2 at 5:30 a.m. PST in the academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. AMPAS

• And today's mail included 100,000 ballots to the members of the Screen Actors Guild. They will be voting on five film and eight TV acting categories as well as two stunt ensembles. Ballots must be back by noon PST on Jan. 21, with winners announced two days later in a kudofest airing on TNT and TBS. SAG

Steve Pond has been following the Twitter feed of Oscar co-producer Adam Shankman and recounts: "For starters, look for dance routines. Although Shankman once tweeted that he wouldn’t necessarily include dancing in his show because he hates musical numbers in shows 'when they don't make sense,' he's obviously changed his mind since then."  As Steve writes, "he’ll be choreographing the show himself" and "Russell Ferguson, the winner of the show on which Shankman serves as a judge, 'So You Can Think You Can Dance,' will be a performer, as will that show’s top female finisher, Kathryn McCormick. Other 'SYTYCD' personnel who’ll either perform or help include Legacy Perez, Ellenore Scott and Jakob Karr." THE ODDS

Kenneth Jones reports that helmer Jerry Zaks is boarding the Broadway-bound musical "The Addams Family" as a creative consultant. The Tony-winning Zaks will be working with the direction-and-design team of Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch as well as choreographer Sergio Trujillo. The tuner -- with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book from Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice -- boasts a ton of talent headed up by Tony champs Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia Addams. In making the announcement, producer Roy Furman said, "We have a show that is receiving outstanding audience reaction at every performance in its Chicago tryout and which has generated extremely strong ticket sales and many positive reviews, but we believe the show can be even better, and Jerry's formidable talent will help us achieve that goal." PLAYBILL

DeNiro Springsteen Kennedy Center • The 32nd annual edition of the Kennedy Center Honors airs on CBS tonight. This year's honorees were feted by a who's who of the entertainment industry during the Dec. 5 ceremony in the capital. Grand slam awards winner Mel Brooks was serenaded by Martin Short and Matthew Morrison. Two-time Oscar champ Robert DeNiro was lauded by co-stars Meryl Streep and Ben Stiller as well as long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese. Past honoree Aretha Franklin saluted opera diva Grace Bumbry while all-star bands performed for musicians Dave Brubeck and Bruce Springsteen.

Scott Feinberg lists 50 performances that he thinks merited more consideration than they received this awards season. Topping his wish list are two wannabe best actor contenders -- Viggo Mortensen ("The Road") and Nicolas Cage ("Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"). AND THE WINNER IS

• For Richard Corliss, "December is that most wonderful time of the year, when Santa perches all the little boy and girl critics on his knee and warmly whispers, 'You matter.' All the other months, we're dog food. But when the winter solstice nears, and movie reviewers convene to vote for their favorites of the year, we suddenly become valuable to the studios. The news stories about the winners provide free publicity for Oscar-yearning pictures, copy for the movie industry's trade ads and balm for its needy ego. The honor roll also gives members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hints as to which DVDs, of the dozens, hundreds, of recent films they've been sent, should be pulled out of the freebie pile and watched. See, we critics have a higher mission after all. We're the Oscar voters' touts." Corliss then catalogs the prizes awarded by various critics groups, ending with the best picture winner, which went most often to "The Hurt Locker." But, as he concludes, "on Oscar night, 'Avatar's one vote may loom a lot bigger than 'The Hurt Locker's 8.5." TIME

• The American Film Institute cited eight "moments of significance" for the year based on the following criteria -- "accomplishments of considerable merit; influences with either a positive or negative impression; trends, either new or re-emerging; anniversaries or memorials of special note; and/or movements in new technologies, education, preservation, government or other areas that impact the art film, television and digital media." First and foremost for the AFI was "Avatar" which was deemed to be "James Cameron's milepost in the evolution of the art form." The AFI also made mention of Twitter, extraordinary animation, the recession-proof box office, "This Is It," the end of analog TV, the beginning of Jay Leno in prime-time and the beginning of the end of reality TV.

Avatar PosterSasha Stone says, "Last night I saw 'Avatar' for the second time. It has been three decades since I lined up to repeatedly watch a film. It has been three decades since I had that exhilarating feeling of the absolutely new. Watching 'Avatar' again, I was trying to find the flaws I kept hearing about. Yeah, some of the lines of dialogue were corny and obvious. But since I already knew they were coming, and since I already knew the plot hovered closely to 'Dances with Wolves,' those details were taken off the table. I sunk into the love story. I looked more closely at the meticulous details of the natural world of Pandora. I never felt cheated. I always felt like I was right there with Jake. He was my avatar, bringing me back into the alternate world, and I never wanted to pulled back out, just like he didn’t. Every scene in the film is majestic and enthralling." AWARDS DAILY

• For Pete Hammond, such repeat viewings of "Avatar" boost its best picture chances. As Pete writes, "By dominating the box office this weekend, declining only 3% from last week and earning another $75 million, ['Avatar'] is the one movie certain to benefit from its box office glory. Combine that with many laudatory reviews labeling it a landmark should only enhance its already good-looking chance to nab Best Picture as we stated here last week." Pete also reviews the Oscar odds for other new releases, noting that "'Nine,' which reportedly cost around $64 million to make, only grossed just over $5 million, a disappointing number which, combined with several savage reviews (it has only a 37% approval on Rotten Tomatoes), could hurt its previous 'sure thing' image of a Best Picture contender and cost it the 'money' nomination in the academy's expanded top 10 this year. Despite impressive showings in Globes, Critics Choice and SAG lists, it may take all of Harvey Weinstein's considerable magic touch with Oscar to pull this one out of the hat." NOTES ON A SEASON

• The intrepid Mark Milian watched "Avatar" in three different formats and reports, "RealD offers the best 3-D experience in a standard theater. For a couple dollars more, IMAX is big, loud and eye-popping -- if you're into having things constantly jump at you and can handle the blur. No matter what, we emphasize that you'll really want to see 'Avatar' in 3-D." HERO COMPLEX

Eric Taub examines the economics of these competing formats. "RealD’s glasses use polarized lenses and cost about 65 cents each. MasterImage 3D, another vendor, uses a similar technology. Dolby Laboratories, the company behind theater sound systems, makes glasses that filter out different frequencies of red, green and blue. They cost about $28 each. The glasses of the third company, XpanD, use battery-powered LCD shutters that open and shut so each eye sees the appropriate frame of the movie. Those cost as much as $50 each." NEW YORK TIMES

Top photo: Academy Award statuettes. Credit: AMPAS

Middle photo: Kennedy Center Honors. Credit: CBS

Bottom photo: "Avatar" poster. Credit: Fox

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AFI's top 10 movie list includes shocking snubs – as usual (Hey, where's 'Avatar'?)

December 13, 2009 |  6:23 pm

Avatar ride 2

The American Film Institute named the top 10 films of 2009 today: "Coraline," "The Hangover," "The Hurt Locker," "The Messenger," "Precious," "A Serious Man," "A Single Man," "Sugar," "Up" and "Up in the Air."

Notable snubs include "Avatar," "Inglourious Basterds," "Invictus," "The Road" and "Star Trek." It's likely that a few of those will make the top 10 Oscar list for best picture, considering that the AFI roster usually snubbed films that went on to be nominated for top academy prize back when there were only five contenders.

Recent examples include "The Reader" (2008) and "Atonement" (2007). Heck, AFI even snubbed an eventual Oscar winner — "The Departed" (2006). The institute also snubbed last year's victor "Slumdog Millionaire," but it was a foreign production that wasn't eligible.

See the full AFI list here, including the TV top 10, which also includes surprising snubs: no "30 Rock," "Lost," "Dexter," etc.

Photo: "Avatar," by 20th Century Fox

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American Film Institute Awards hail top 10 best movies of 2008

December 14, 2008 |  5:52 pm

The American Film Institute Awards' list of the top 10 movies of 2008 includes lots of predictable favorites like "The Dark Knight," "Wall-E" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," but there are surprising omissions. Among the missing: "Doubt," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "The Visitor." "Slumdog Millionaire" isn't cited because it's a foreign production (Britain).


The inclusion of two comic book flicks ("The Dark Knight," "Iron Man") and one animated film ("Wall-E") isn't unusual because the American Film Institute Awards usually make an effort to include popular movies that are often left off snooty critics' top 10 lists. In the past, such frat-boyish comedies as "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" also made the AFI Awards list, but this year's equivalents such as "Tropic Thunder" and "Pineapple Express" aren't cited.

The AFI Awards' choices add curious twists to this year's derby track. "Milk" was snubbed in the best picture race at the recent Golden Globe nominations, but made the institute's top 10 rundown. "Revolutionary Road" rallied at the Globe bids after being snubbed earlier in the week at the Critics' Choice Awards, but it was just tripped up by the American Film Institute.

What does this list mean for the Oscars derby? Perhaps a lot, perhaps not. "Sweeney Todd" and "American Gangster" were left off the list last year just prior to being snubbed by Oscar in the best-pic race. "Dreamgirls" made the cut in 2006 but wasn't nominated at the Oscars. That same year, however, Oscar's best picture champ "The Departed" was left off the AFI list.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Frozen River"
"Gran Torino"
"Iron Man"
"Wendy and Lucy"
"The Wrestler"

The jury that decides the list is a politburo of journalists, academics and industry honchos, chaired by Leonard Maltin of "Entertainment Tonight." The jurors: Jeanine Basinger, Wesleyan University; Mary Corey, UCLA; Mark Harris, author, Entertainment Weekly; Jim Hosney, American Film Institute; Rick Jewell, University of Southern California; Elvis Mitchell, The Treatment; Daniel Petrie Jr., writer, producer, director; Tom Pollock, producer, vice chair and chair emeritus, AFI Board of Trustees; Richard Schickel, Time; Vivian Sobchack, UCLA, AFI Trustee Emeritus; Anne Thompson, Variety; Robert Towne, writer, producer, director. See more at the AFI site.

To see the AFI Awards' list of best TV shows of 2008, CLICK HERE!

Photos: Disney, Warner Bros., Oscilloscope Pictures

AFI Awards name 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad' best TV shows of 2008

December 14, 2008 |  5:50 pm


Below are the top 10 TV shows of 2008, according to the AFI Awards. All of the following programs were snubbed after being on last year's list issued by the American Film Institute: "Dexter," "Everybody Hates Chris," "Friday Night Lights," "30 Rock," "Ugly Betty." Also missing are such new TV programs as "True Blood," "The Mentalist" and "The Starter Wife."

"Breaking Bad"
"In Treatment"
"John Adams"
"Mad Men"
"The Office"
"The Shield"
"The Wire"

The American Film Institute Awards TV jury was chaired by Richard Frank, AFI Trustee Emeritus. The jurors: Neal Baer, writer, producer; John Caldwell, UCLA; Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI president emerita; Mary McNamara, L.A. Times; Kathleen Nolan, actor; James Poniewozik, Time; Del Reisman, writer, senior lecturer, AFI Conservatory; Matt Roush, TV Guide; Ellen Seiter, University of Southern California; John Shaffner, president, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; Beretta E. Smith-Shomade, University of Arizona; Tony To, director, producer.

Photos: AFI

Scott Rudin 'very nervous' about 'Doubt' opening AFI Fest

October 23, 2008 |  9:04 pm

Just an hour or two before "Doubt" screened before its first industry audience tonight, the America Film Institute announced the news that "Doubt" will replace "The Soloist" as the opening night film of AFI Fest on Oct. 30.


In fact, just moments after the "Doubt" screening concluded in New York where it was shown to its original Broadway cast plus a few dozen journalists and film industry honchos, producer Scott Rudin told Gold Derby the AFI news, adding, "I don't know if the story's broken in the trades yet or will come out tomorrow morning, but I'm very nervous about this. The decision was made to open AFI before we got the first reaction to the film from industry people. It was a big gamble. But I think we made the right decision based on the reactions I've heard so far."

Sources tell Gold Derby that AFI was reluctant to replace "The Soloist" after news broke last week that its release will be delayed till next March, but DreamWorks execs pressed hard for it being swapped out, leading to an initial stand-off. Only when DreamWorks made it clear that it could not guarantee that "The Soloist" stars, who voiced queasiness about such an advance debut, would appear on the AFI red carpet did pressure build on the fest to buckle. Obviously, "The Soloist" would have to be replaced with another prestige film whose stars would agree to last-minute plans be in L.A. next week. Few options seemed to be immediately available, but Scott Rudin rallied his team to meet the challenge. Apparently, that means that stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams will be in attendance.

"It was hard enough to pull everything together in such a short time," Rudin said, "but to do it before we even had the first industry reaction to the film — that was the hardest part. But we did it and I'm glad we did."

Rudin had early confidence in the film based upon two screenings held before test audiences over the past few months, but viewers did not include industry pros. Several film critics who write for long-lead publications were given separate, private screenings, but their verdict is still, well, in doubt because they've not yet published their reviews.


'The Soloist' bows out of AFI, but the show will go on with ... ?

October 23, 2008 |  9:20 am

Considering the release of "The Soloist" has been bumped to next March, it's been widely assumed that its premiere will no longer launch the AFI Film Soloist Festival on Oct. 30 at Hollywood's Cinerama Dome. Now the word is official. The replacement film will be announced later today.

In a joint statement, Paramount, DreamWorks and Participant Media announced: "Due to the change in 'The Soloist' release date, we unfortunately had to withdraw from the AFI Film Festival. It was an honor to be invited as the opening night film and we are very grateful to the festival for their support and understanding. 'The Soloist' filmmakers, DreamWorks, Universal, Participant and Paramount are very proud of this film and we are excited and committed to bring it to the world in March."

AFI Fest artistic director Rose Kuo adds: "While we are greatly disappointed that AFI Fest will not have the opportunity to offer the world premiere of 'The Soloist,' AFI's priority is to honor the artists. We wish to be supportive in any endeavor that will help a film of this quality reach a greater audience."

Photo credit: Paramount/DreamWorks



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