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Category: Venice Film Festival

Gold Derby nuggets: Sasha Stone on state of best actress Oscar race | Guy Lodge: No complaints about Venice lineup

July 29, 2010 |  1:53 pm

Annette Bening Julianne Moore • Longtime Oscarologist Sasha Stone has produced a list of 17 women who could vie for the best actress prizes in the awards derby. For Sasha, "the field is already half-filled with Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Jennifer Lawrence. But out of Cannes, came three great performances. I saw two of them, Michelle Williams and Lesley Manville. I missed Naomi Watts in 'Fair Game,' but word has it she won’t BE IGNORED, Dan. And then Tilda Swinton received her usual acclaim for 'I Am Love,' which puts her in the running." Beyond this, Sasha says, "there are more to come this year. The question is, how well will these early names hold as the festival season kicks into high gear? What names will rise to the top of the pile? Will it be a newcomer? Or will a veteran finally get her due?" AWARDS DAILY

Ray Richmond delivers an insightful report into the continuing controversy surrounding which producers are deemed eligible to contend for the best series Emmy Awards. As Ray writes, "the academy has aggressively cracked down on the producer lists submitted by nominated series contenders since about 2000, with the joint goals of weeding out the undeserving and capping the producing team’s size." The academy's awards exec John Leverence, "stresses that, over the past year, there has been a 'generalized embrace' from the Academy of the writer-producer’s role with regard to comedy and drama series in particular. The dialogue that’s been conducted between ATAS members and showrunners over the past numbers of years 'has finally resulted in white smoke coming up at the PGA and WGA and the Academy during the last year. And it points to the fact there’s an understanding of the general eligibility of writer-producers.'" DEADLINE

Barack Obama chose ABC's long-running "The View" as the first daytime talker to receive a visit from a sitting president. Had he waited till this fall, he would have been faced with a quandary as "The Talk," another female-friendly gabfest, is set to debut on CBS. On Tuesday, the sextet of sassy ladies who will gather daily to dish met the TV press. Among those joining show creator Sara Gilbert on the panel is, "Julie Chen, who will remain a contributor to 'Early Show' and host of CBS' 'Big Brother,' and said the show will be a discussion of motherhood and more. All the hosts, including Sharon Osbourne and actresses Holly Robinson Peete and Marissa Jaret Winokur, are parents. 'This show should feel like you're watching six women talking about what everybody's talking about, whether it's Mel Gibson or the Arizona immigration law,' Chen said. 'But we don't have an edit button.' " AP

• While "The Talk" replaces the canceled soap "Another World," another daytime drama -- "All My Children" -- is still going strong thanks in no small part to Susan Lucci, who has starred on the show for four decades. Now comes the news that the reigning diva of daytime is finally penning her autobiography. The press release promises that "in addition to providing readers with an exciting and satisfying behind the scenes look at her career, Lucci will devote much of the book to her personal life off-camera. Lucci will reveal information on her devastating car accident, her miscarriage, and the joy that came with finally winning an Emmy in 1999 after eighteen previous nominations."

Screen shot 2010-07-29 at 4.12.19 PM • For Guy Lodge, Wednesday's announcement of 22 films in competition in Venice "looks much as we expected -- we'd effectively been promised Sofia Coppola' s 'Somewhere' and Julian Schnabel's 'Miral' since they failed to show up at Cannes, while Tuesday’s Toronto announcement tipped us off to the presence of Francois Ozon's 'Potiche,' the Dustin Hoffman starrer 'Barney’s Version' and the Haruki Murakami adaptation 'Norwegian Wood.'" And as Guy notes, "the list is no less appetizing for its lack of real surprises. Topping my 'can’t wait' list is another film that had widely been expected to play the Lido: Kelly Reichardt’s 'Meek’s Cutoff,' a period western starring Michelle Williams and Paul Dano." IN CONTENTION

• The international version of the Emmy Awards sent out a glossy reminder to save the date of Nov. 22 for the 37th annual edition of these kudos. The ceremony at the New York Hilton is slated to include salutes to Brit bad boy Simon Cowell and Canuck comedy maestro Lorne Michaels, who have changed the face of U.S. television with "American Idol" and "Saturday Night Live," respectively. The weekend prior will see the unspooling of the international television festival highlighting many of the contenders.

Amy Poehler has a busy few weeks ahead of her as she and hubby Will Arnett prepare for the arrival of a second child to join son Archie and both prepare to attend the Emmy Awards. She is contending for lead actress in a comedy series for "Parks and Recreation" while he is up for best guest actor in "30 Rock" which was created by their good pal -- and Amy's category rival -- Tina Fey. Amy dishes with Leslie Bruce about the nomination, her dream role and her plans to get post-baby red-carpet ready. HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Photos, from top: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in "The Kids Are All Right." Credit: Focus Features. Venice Film Festival logo. Credit: La Biennale.

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Gold Derby nuggets: 'Modern Family' writers speak up | More 'Mad Men' | 'Black Swan' debuts at Venice

July 22, 2010 |  3:23 pm

Modern familyRick Porter chatted with some of the "Modern Family" scribes about the Emmy hopes of the freshman hit as well as the snub of a TV vet: "'Sadly, the unsung hero is Ed O'Neill,' writer/co-exec producer Dan O'Shannon says. 'He's just so great. I think some of the stuff that's really great about him is sometimes maybe overlooked in the bigger comedy of the other characters. But he just really holds the show down.' Adds fellow co-EP Bill Wrubel, 'He never feels the need to be the center of a scene. He's happy to kind of just do his line and react. His generosity on stage was really eye-opening. And he's super-fun to write for, because his delivery is just perfect every time.'" Co-creator Steve Levitan endorsed the idea of an ensemble Emmy: "I think that would be incredible. I think it's a great idea, and I love that award [at the SAG Awards]. ... It is an ensemble, and it's very hard to pick out who the standouts are." ZAP 2 IT

• As Steve Pond observes, "Not many Emmy voters will be roaming the aisles or cramming into the halls and meeting rooms at Comic-Con this week. But Emmy nominees will certainly be there, lobbying not for votes but for the viewers who can turn their shows into pop-culture phenomena and by doing so, just maybe attract the attention of awards voters." Says Steve, "you will find a full contingent of Emmy-nominated shows making the trip, starting with 'True Blood' and encompassing everything from 'Dexter,' 'Lost' and 'Glee' to 'Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil' (Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program) and 'Human Target' (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music)." THE ODDS

Ricky Gervais reveals he has been asked to present at the upcoming Emmy Awards. Writing on his blog, the wry comedian says, "Got asked to hand out an Emmy. Nice. I'm there anyway as I'm nominated for the animation and 'The Office,' so that would be perfect. Even if I don't win I'll still get to go back stage and have a sneaky beer. No beer in the theatre! Unbelievable! It's not in Utah for ****'s sake. Still mustn't grumble." DIGITAL SPY

Mad-men-season-4-posterRick Porter reports that "Mad Men" -- which begins its fourth season Sunday -- could be on cablecaster AMC for another two years. However, "the catch, and it's a pretty big one, is that Lionsgate only has creator Matthew Weiner under contract through this season. Variety notes that the studio wants to get a sense of how much AMC will be willing to pay for the show before starting up negotiations with Weiner." ZAP 2 IT

Nellie Andreeva explores the relationship between when a program airs and how well it does with the Emmy Awards. She notes, "'Mad Men' won multiple awards including the top drama series statuette at the Emmys in the past 2 years. Both times, a new season of the show launched just before the final voting phase, with fresh episodes airing throughout. In the year before 'Mad Men''s first Emmy appearance, 'The Sopranos' won best drama series. The series was also fresh in voters’ minds, having concluded its run with the much-talked about finale in June." DEADLINE

Lisa de Moraes puts the latest contretemps about Conan O'Brien in context. Deon Cole, one of the Emmy-nominated team of writers on "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," tweeted "NOT NBC but the powers that be has sent us an email saying that the category we are nominated for will not be televised this year! really?" However, as Lisa notes, "It's a pity Cole is so far behind in reading his guild's memos. Because, in the days leading up to last year's Emmy broadcast, the writers and directors guilds pounded out a deal with the TV academy in which they agreed that the writing and the directing competitions for best variety, musical or comedy series (aka 'VMC's') and VMC specials (think 'Kennedy Center Honors') would take turns being part of the televised portion of the two-night Emmy ceremony. The academy did this as part of its effort to trim the Emmy TV show's mind-numbing number of awards. Last year's Emmycast included the races for best writing and for best directing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Series so this year the writers and directors who worked on VMC Specials are getting their turn, when NBC broadcast's this year's Emmy show on Aug. 29." THE WASHINGTON POST

Thomas Peter details the Tony-winning talent associated with the HBO pilot "The Miraculous Year." John Logan -- who just picked up the best play prize for "Red" -- penned the script about a self-destructive Broadway composer while the music will be penned by Adam Guettel, who won a Tony Award for his score to "The Light in the Piazza." Joining Tony champ Norbert Leo Butz as the troubled tunesmith will be Tony winners Frank Langella, Patti LuPone and Eddie Redmayne. And, oh yes, Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow will direct the pilot. PLAYBILL

• Ten theater veterans will begin three-year terms on the Tony Awards nominating committee this season, including three-time directing nominee Michael Grief, two-time acting nominee Andre de Shields and Moises Kaufman -- a directing nominee for "I Am My Own Wife" and a nominee for his play "33 Variations." Approximately one-third of the roster of 30 nominators rotates off each year. TONY AWARDS

BlackswanAnne Thompson previews the lineup for the 67th edition of the Venice Film Festival, reporting that "not completed in time for Cannes, Darren Aronofsky’s 'Black Swan' will make its world debut as the opening night film at the Venice Film Festival, which runs on the Lido from Sept. 1 through Sept. 11." And, as Anne writes, "other American films expected to debut in Venice include Sofia Coppola’s 'Somewhere,' Julian Schnabel’s 'Miral,' Ben Affleck’s 'The Town' and Al Pacino’s 'Wilde Salome.' Weinstein Co’s U.K. entry 'The King’s Speech,' starring Colin Firth as King George VI, may also make the Venice line-up." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

• Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences received an e-mail today asking them to "Save the Date" of Nov. 13 for the Governors' Awards to be bestowed. In late August, the academy will announce who'll be honored at the event.

Lou Lumenick reveals, "Alex Gibney's 'Untitled Eliot Spitzer Project'' finally has a title, 'Client 9' after the disgraced former governor's nom de john. The new moniker, and little else popped up in a tiny ad in yesterday's Village Voice listing two daily showings to meet the Oscar-qualification requirements for documentaries." And, as Lou notes, "this is nothing unusual; there have been a flurry of such low-profile public showings before the Aug. 31 deadline, mostly at out-of-the-way venues like the Coliseum on W. 178th St. ('Teenage Paparazzo,' 'Monica and David'') and the Village East on Second Avenue ('Garbo, The Spy')." Says Lou, "What's slightly unusual is that 'Client 9'' is showing not in a tiny auditorium but the 585-seat AMC Loews 72nd Street East, a former showplace venue that used to be known as the Tower East." NEW YORK POST

Top photo: "Modern Family" poster. Credit: ABC.

Middle photo: "Mad Men" poster. Credit: AMC.

Bottom photo: Natalie Portman in "Black Swan." Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

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Will victory at the Venice Film Festival help 'The Wrestler' in the Oscars bout?

September 6, 2008 | 10:47 pm

Now that "The Wrestler" has won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, what does that mean for the Oscars?

The Golden Lion is the Venice Film Festival's best-picture prize, of course, but that doesn't translate to the Academy Awards. No Golden Lion champ has nabbed the loftiest Golden Boy in Hollywood yet, but a few got nominated in the top Oscars derby, including "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) and "Atlantic City" (1980).


Venice's top winner of 2004 — "Vera Drake" — at least paid off in Oscar's best-actress race with a nom for Imelda Staunton, so this news out of Italy's fest certainly boosts Mickey Rourke's hopes in the best-actor bout.

Yankee film critics are wild for Rourke's performance. Variety's Todd McCarthy declares, "Rourke creates a galvanizing, humorous, deeply moving portrait that instantly takes its place among the great, iconic screen performances."

With those kinds of reviews, "The Wrestler" and Rourke will probably score a few knock-out punches at the critics' awards.

And, of course, the Golden Lion victory could help director Darren Aronofsky — much like a Golden Lion victory for "Short Cuts" in 1993 probably helped Robert Altman at least a bit to score his Oscar bid in the academy's helmers' contest.

See a full list of Venice champs in all categories here.

Photo credit: Saturn Films

Everybody's at the Toronto Film Festival! Hey, where's Oscar?

September 4, 2008 |  1:14 pm

Ever since "American Beauty" broke out at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1999 and won the Oscar for best picture, many other ponies followed and went quite far in later derbies: "Crash," "Capote," "Sideways," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," etc.

Last year, four of the five best-picture nominees, including winner "No Country For Old Men," played at the Toronto festival (the lone holdout — "There Will Be Blood"). However, this year the overwhelming majority of the flicks considered to be the best-pic front-runners aren't here.

Here's a list of the top M.I.O.A.s (Missing in Oscar Action) with their release dates: "Australia" (Nov. 26), "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Dec. 25), "Defiance" (Dec. 12), "Doubt" (Dec. 19), "Frost/Nixon" (Dec. 5), "Gran Torino" (December), "Milk" (Dec. 12), "The Reader" (December), "The Road" (Nov. 21), "Revolutionary Road" (Dec. 26), "Seven Pounds" (Dec. 19), "The Soloist" (Nov. 21), "W." (Oct. 17). None of them played at Cannes, Venice or Telluride either.


These fests have often proved to be great launch pads for small artsy pix, but last year some Oscar consultants claimed that "Atonement" made a mistake by unspooling at the fests. They believe that a big commercial epic like that would've done better to just go right to theaters, thus avoiding the wolf packs of film critics and industry rascals at events like this who often go gunning for commercial fare — just because, well, they're wolves out to prove how intellectually superior they are.

In fact, though, "Atonement" had a terrific reception at Toronto last year, so I'm not sure I buy this argument. These consultants are just desperate to explain how an early front-runner to win the top Oscar got nominated for best picture but not best director, thus becoming doomed.

However, this year the Toronto festival does feature many Oscar contenders in other top races (and maybe some in the best-picture contest too, such as "Slumdog Millionaire") among the 312 entries at the 34th edition of the event. And in keeping with the founding spirit of what was originally called a "festival of festivals," many of these movies have played at other festivals already.

The Berlin fest launched "Happy-Go-Lucky," the latest from helmer Mike Leigh with a star-making turn by Sally Hawkins. Cannes contenders "Blindness," "Che" and "Synecdoche, New York" will be reintroduced in Toronto after mixed receptions there. Toronto also offers a wider viewing of Telluride hits "I've Loved You So Long" with Kristin Scott Thomas and Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire." And the just-ending Venice filmfest premiered the Coen brothers' latest, "Burn After Reading," as well as scripter Guillermo Arriaga's directorial debut  "The Burning Plain."

Toronto has its share of world premieres including "Appaloosa" from director/star Ed Harris, who launched "Pollock" here in 2000, and the sure to be controversial documentary "Religulous" with Bill Maher. However, Toronto missed out on Clint Eastwood's "Changeling." That Depression-era drama starring Angelina Jolie in a much talked about performance will be the centerpiece of the much smaller New York Film Festival at the end of the month.

Other Academy Award contenders being shown in Toronto: "The Brothers Bloom," "Dean Spanley," "The Duchess," "Good," "Miracle at St. Anna," "Nothing But the Truth," "Rachel Getting Married," "The Secret Life of Bees," "Waltz with Bashir," "Wendy and Lucy" and "The Wrestler."

To learn more about these flicks, these preview pieces by a top-notch crew of fest veterans are well worth a read:

John Horn of the Los Angeles Times - CLICK HERE

David Germain of AP - CLICK HERE

Continue reading »

Oscars buzz at the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals

August 31, 2008 |  5:38 pm

Jeff Wells of reports the response of two chums who saw the 20-minute preview of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (photo, right) at the Telluride Film Festival: "Their reactions to the 'Button' footage, and, frankly, the Benjamin_button reactions of others they spoke to as they left the theatre (including a couple of journo-critics and a respected director of an '07 political documentary), were not all that good." Cinematical echoes that report, saying the 20-minute preview "wasn't so compelling."

• At Telluride, Hollywood Reporter's Risky Business blog notes: "Fox Searchlight will try to mount another derby ambush like it did over the previous two years with those crowd-cheering indies "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Juno." Based upon wild audience huzzahs to "Slumdog Millionaire" at Telluride, the studio is excited about this tale of a contestant on India's TV version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and it is planning "an elaborate campaign for the smart but feelgood dramedy (which, incidentally, was shot in India and features an all-Indian cast)."


• Upping the best-actress hopes of Kristin Scott Thomas at Telluride Film Festival, Cinematical swoons over "I've Loved You So Long," (photo, left) hailing the first feature of French novelist-turned-director Phillipe Claudel "art at the level that makes independent cinema worthwhile." It's a drama about a woman caring for her sister (Kristin Scott Thomas) who has just been released from prison after serving a 15-year sentence for murder. "Thomas's performance here has been generating Oscar buzz for a while now, and deservedly so," says the site. "She will almost certainly garner a Best Actress Oscar nod for this film."

• Ever since the split-up of writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams," "Babel"), Arriaga's debut as the director of his own next script has been highly anticipated. So far verdict on "The Burning Plain," which debuted at the Venice Film Festival, is split. Screen International loves it, calling it "a powerful contemporary melodrama, more restrained but also much cleaner, in dramatic focus and emotional thrust, than the three films Arriaga penned for Inarritu."

However, Variety blasts "The Burning Plain": "Multicharacter head-scratcher, yo-yoing between New Mexico and Oregon, and back and forth in time, doesn't finally reveal much beneath the emperor's clothes to repay viewers' concentration during the first half. Despite an OK-to-good cast led by Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, plus a handsome tech package, this remains an elaborate writing exercise with few emotional hooks." READ MORE So does the Hollywood Reporter, calling it "an ambitious, visually handsome production which fails to ignite. The star power of Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger may attract initial business for the directing bow of Guillermo Arriaga . . . but the two actresses' sensitive performances don’t make the emotional connection to audiences that the story yearns for."

(Photos: Paramount, Sony Pictures Classics)

Brad Pitt finally claims last year's best-actor trophy at the Venice Film Festival

August 27, 2008 |  4:58 pm

A year late, but Brad Pitt finally received the best actor award he won from the Venice Film Festival in 2007 for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."

Now back as star of the Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading," which opened the festival, Brad Pitt was handed the prize at last.


"I guess you forgot something here years ago," said the mistress of ceremonies, handing him the gold cup.

"You can run but you can't hide," Pitt said accepting it. "It was an honor to receive this last year and it's an honor to receive it this year. Thank you very much."

It's common for stars not to be present to accept the Venice Film Festival awards. The prizes are bestowed on the fest's final night at which point most celebs have gone home. Sometimes winners turn around and hurry back to reap the honor, but often they can't. That's what happened to Ben Affleck. Two years ago he found out that he won best actor for "Hollywoodland" soon after he landed in Los Angeles after returning from Venice. Affleck scrambled to try to arrange flights to get back before the fest officially closed, but without success.

Last year Brad Pitt attended the Venice Film Festival to promote "Jesse James," but left before awards night after being jumped by a crazed fan who pushed past his bodyguards and threw her arms around the heartthrob star. Pitt was obviously shaken by the ambush and said afterward, "I haven't been jumped like that in a while. It tells me that we're vulnerable. It's something I have been thinking about, but I don't want to change my life to avoid those kind of things. I've had break-ins in the house and I'm dealing with a recent one now. You also develop a radar. You feel it when you are approached by unbalanced people."

It's strange, however, that the Venice Film Festival didn't ship the award to Pitt after he won. That's how Affleck eventually caught up with his golden cup.

Last year Pitt triumphed over his longtime pal and "Burn After Reading" costar George Clooney, who competed for "Michael Clayton," plus James McAvoy ("Atonement"), Tommy Lee Jones ("In the Valley of Elah") and Tony Leung Chiu Wai ("Lust, Caution," winner of the Golden Lion as best picture).

Pitt did not end up reaping an Oscar nomination for "Jesse James," but that's not unusual. Over the last 20 years, only two stars who won best actor at the Venice Film Festival were nommed by the academy: David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck") and Javier Bardem ("Before Night Falls"). Neither won the Oscar.


BELOW: Brad Pitt and George Clooney at the press conference in Venice for "Burn After Reading" where Pitt says of his role as ditzy gym trainer who holds a computer disc of secret info: "After reading the part, which they said was hand-written for myself, I was not sure if I should be flattered or insulted."

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Gold Derby nuggets: 'Mad Men' talk and Charlie Rose (almost) listens … Visual Effects Society fetes Kennedy & Marshall … Gucci to honor artist-turned-filmmaker at Venice

August 1, 2008 |  3:34 pm

• New York magazine's Vulture column highlights the recent appearance by "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner and Emmy-nominated stars Jon Hamm and John Slattery on PBS TV's "The Charlie Rose Show. " As per the vultures: "If you can get past Rose's traditional inability to ask interesting follow-ups, you'll be treated to hints to what aspects of Don Draper's past we'll soon learn Mad_men_jon_hammabout (19:00), what 1963 books symbolize the social change 'Mad Men's' characters are about to go through (8:00), and how Weiner viewed the life of the women in the office as a combination of 'Sex and the Single Girl' and 'The Feminine Mystique' (13:00)."

Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are to be feted by the Visual Effects Society at their seventh annual awardsfest Feb. 21. The dynamic producing duo, whose credits include such special effects laden movies as the "Indiana Jones" series and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," are hard at work on the upcoming award derby entry "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Between them, the pair have produced six best picture Oscar nominees but have yet to win the big prize.

• As part of the Venice Film Festival, Italian fashion conglomerate Gucci will honor an artist who has contributed to a film as a director, actor, writer, costume or set designer. The nominees are: Isaac Julien for "Derek," his tribute to the late filmmaker Derek Jarman; visual artist Steve McQueen for his directing debut, "Hunger," a stark film about IRA leader Bobby Sands which won the Camera d'Or at Cannes; last year's winner Julian Schnabel for the documentary "Lou Reed's Berlin;" and Beastie Boys Adam Yauch for the documentary "Gunnin' for That No. 1 Spot." Deciding the winner to be announced at a Sept. 1 gala is a jury comprised of fest director Marco Mueller, American artist Jeff Koons, Yves Saint Laurent creative director Stefano Pilati, and Vogue Italia editor in chief Franca Sozzani.

(Photo: AMC)

Will the Venice Film Festival launch Oscars' lead ponies again?

July 31, 2008 |  4:53 pm

The official competition at the Venice Film Festival may be called "Venezia 65," but with 21 films competing for the top prize –- the Golden Lion –- it is just coming of age as a launching pad for Academy Award fare. Last year best picture nominees "Atonement" and "Michael Clayton" were launched there. The previous year: "The Queen." In 2005, "Brokeback Mountain" and "Good Night, and Good Luck." Among the contenders this year are Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme and three-time nominee Debra Winger with the comedy drama "Rachel Getting Married" and a pair of Oscar winners -- Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger -- as a combative daughter and mother in "The Burning Plain," That's the long-awaited directorial debut of one of the world's most gifted screenwriters — Guillermo Arriaga, who was nominated for an Oscar for writing best-picture nominee "Babel. " He also penned two other derby players — "21 Grams" (acting noms for Naomi Watts and Benicio del Toro in 2003) and — and one of the most riveting films I've seen over this past decade — "Amores Perros" (nominee best foreign film of 2000). READ MORE

Though "Lust, Caution," last year's surprise choice for best of the fest, did not figure in the Oscar race, the expected victor at Venice — "Atonement" — did land seven nominations, including that best picture nod. Best actress winner Cate Blanchett slipped down to the supporting race come Oscar time for "I'm Not There." And while last year's Venice best-actor winner, Brad Pitt ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"), did not get a nod, his on-screen adversary, Casey Affleck, was a supporting nominee.

The year before, Casey's older brother, Ben Affleck, was the surprise winner of the best actor prize at Venice for "Hollywoodland." Because the festival offers only one acting category, Affleck's supporting Venice_film_festival1 turn as TV's Superman George Reeves edged out leading performances, including that of the film's nominal star, Adrien Brody as an anguished detective investigating Reeves' suspicious death. While Affleck landed a Golden Globe supporting nod, he was snubbed come Oscar time.

That same year, Dame Helen Mirren began her regal procession to an Oscar coronation with her win at Venice for "The Queen." However, Dame Helen stands alone among Venice Volpi Cup winners of the past decade to prevail at the Academy Awards. Those who successfully translated their Venice victories into at least Oscar nods were: David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck," 2005), Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake," 2004), Julianne Moore ("Far From Heaven," 2002), and Javier Bardem ("Before Night Falls," 2000). Among those snubbed were Bardem ("The Sea Inside," 2004) and, in a way, Sean Penn who won with "21 Grams" at Venice but with "Mystic River" at the 2003 Oscars.

The only Golden Lion winner to compete at the Oscars in the past decade was "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005. Deciding the winners this year will be a jury of seven including four directors -- German helmer Wim Wenders who chairs, along with American director John Landis, Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To, and Argentinean newcomer Lucrecia Martel -- as well as Russian screenwriter Juriy Arabov, Italian actress Valerie Golino, and Scottish visual artist Douglas Gordon. Among the films competing this year for the top prize are four from Italy, three each from France and Japan, and these five from the USA.

Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs") competes with the comedy drama "Rachel Getting Married" starring Anne Hathaway as an estranged daughter returning to the family fold for her sister's wedding. Debra Winger supports in her first feature film in four years.

"The Burning Plain" stars Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger as a daughter and mother struggling to reconnect. Guillermo Arriaga, the Oscar nominated screenwriter of "Babel," handles both helming and scripting.

Darren Aronofsky, who competed at Venice two years ago with "The Fountain," returns with "The Wrestler." Mickey Rourke plays, appropriately enough, a man in search of a comeback, co-starring with Oscar winner Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood.

"Hurt Locker" reunites director Kathryn Bigelow with her "Strange Days" star Ralph Fiennes in the story of an Army bomb squad under fire in Iraq. "Vegas: Based on a True Story" from Iranian director Amir Naderi rounds out the American slate.

For the full line up of films at the fest, which runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 6 - CLICK HERE

(Sony Pictures Classics)

Crix reax: 'Lust, Caution' vs. 'Brokeback'

September 29, 2007 |  7:32 pm


OK, so what's the truth? "Lust, Caution" — masterpiece or misfire?

Two years after winning the Oscar as best director for "Brokeback Mountain," Ang Lee is back with another sexually charged drama that repeated "Mountain's" early kudos success: both pix took the top prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice Film Festival. "Lust" excited some media like Rolling Stone, which said it "casts a spell you won't want to break," but Variety pooh-poohed it for "too much caution and too little lust." When more film critics voiced cautionary comments about it, conspiracy theories popped up in cyberspace claiming that "Lust" really won the Golden Lion because Lee's ole pal Zhang Yimou (who won the Golden Lion for "The Story of Qiu Ju" and "Not One Less") headed the seven-person jury.

Enough! Now that it's opening this weekend in limited release, moviegoers will soon be able to weigh in on the controversial pic with a long running time (2 hours, 37 minutes) and restrictive adult rating (NC-17). Meantime, enough critics have piped in for consensus views to take shape.

CLICK HERE to Continue Reading!

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How will victories in Venice impact the Oscars race?

September 8, 2007 |  6:51 pm

"Lust, Caution" winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival is a shockeroo considering some of the negative reviews it drew from top media like Variety, which dissed Ang Lee's Chinese-language WWII spy thriller as "a largely bloodless melodrama . . . that's a long haul (two and a half hours) for relatively few returns." READ MORE


How did it win? Conspiracy theories are buzzing across the internet, many pointing to the fact that Lee's pal Zhang Yimou, a two-time past winner of the Golden Lion himself ("The Story of Qiu Ju," "Not One Less"), headed the seven-person jury, which also included Alejandro González Inarritu, who previously directed today's winners of best actor and actress, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in "Babel."

Were jurists merely pushing their personal pals? Maybe in the case of Lee, the jury just likes to reward Chinese filmmakers to emphasize how international it is. Chinese director Jia Zhang-Ke's "Still Life" won the Golden Lion last year and, considering Ang Lee won it two years ago for "Brokeback Mountain," that means a Chinese filmmaker has clutched the prize for three years in a row. Or, if you like conspiracy theories, here's another one to try on: maybe the Venice fest is just nuts about "Lust, Caution" actor Tony Leung, who also starred in previous Golden Lion winners "City of Sadness" (1989) and "Cyclo" (1995).

Whatever the case, "Lust, Caution" is not likely to be a big Oscar player like "Brokeback." Buzz across Hollywood isn't great. Dialog is spoken in Mandarin. And there's a tricky lil problem about its restrictive adult rating: NC-17. It might do well in some categories, but it's not going to be the next "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Maybe an even bigger surprise in Venice is not that "Lust" did so well, but that "Atonement" — which garnered the most Oscar buzz at the fest — got shut out.


When this year's Oscar race is over, there may end up being many parallels between what happened at the Venice fest last year and this year.

Last year western Oscar-watchers believed "The Queen" would win the Golden Lion, but it lost, just like "Atonement." However, "The Queen" ended up with a nifty consolation prize: best actress for Helen Mirren.

It's rare that the winner of a top acting award at Venice repeats at the Oscars, as Mirren ended up doing, so don't assume that fest champ Brad Pitt is now a shoo-in for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and Cate Blanchett for "I'm Not There." Many Venice winners aren't even nominated by the academy. Four years ago Venice honored Sean Penn just like Oscar voters, but for a different film, "21 Grams," not "Mystic River." Many other Venice champs do reap Oscar noms, however, like Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake") and Julianne Moore ("Far from Heaven").

But if parallels to last year are appropriate now, we must wonder about last year's winner of best actor at Venice. Early in the 2006 derby there was some low-key speculation that Ben Affleck might be an Oscar contender for best supporting actor as TV's Superman George Reeves in "Hollywoodland," but there was fear that he might be overshadowed by Adrien Brody in the grandstanding lead role as a anguished detective investigating Reeves' suspicious death. But Venice doesn't have categories for supporting acting and jaws ended up dropping along the Rialto when Affleck won best actor at the fest.

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Venice fest ditches celebs (!) for a jury of 7 directors

July 13, 2007 |  8:43 am

The Venice Film Festival will do something dangerous-but-special for its 75th anniversary — not use any movie stars as judges! (Will the Lido end up empty?) Instead, it will opt for an all-director jury to evaluate what unspools Aug. 29 to Sept. 8. The seven judges: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel"), Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Paul Verhoeven ("Black Book"), Catherine Breillat ("An Old Mistress"), Emanuele Crialese ("Golden Door") and Ferzan Ozpetek ("Saturn in Opposition"). Jury chief is Zhang Yimou, who's won the Golden Lion for "Not One Less" and "Qiu Ju Goes to Court."

"Ciao, Oscar," says Venice Film Fest

May 23, 2007 |  9:21 am


From the canals to the Croisette, organizers of the Venice Film Festival came to Cannes to announce initial entries for this increasingly important stop on the road to Oscar. Last year "The Queen" and "Children of Men" premiered in Venice, while in 2005, "Brokeback Mountain," "Good Night, and Good Luck," and "The Constant Gardener" started their campaigns there.

This year's dates: August 29 to September 9. With organizers promising a slate that will be at least one-third American, expect many more Oscar hopefuls to join the two already named.

First: "I'm Not There" — Todd Haynes' audacious look at the life of Bob Dylan with seven actors, including Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Christian Bale, embodying various aspects of his character. Also: "There Will Be Blood" — Paul Thomas Anderson's epic about oil exploration in turn-of-the-century Texas starring Oscar winner Daniel Day Lewis.

Both Haynes and Anderson are Oscar-nominated screenwriters and these films could finally earn them nods for directing. Ang Lee, who picked up a directing Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain," returns to his Hong Kong roots with the spy thriller "Lust, Caution." After the breakthrough success of his "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" in 2000 (which won 4 Oscars out of 10 nominations) this new subtitled picture could well be another contender.

This diamond anniversary edition of the festival will focus on directors. Tim Burton, helmer of the highly anticipated Christmas release "Sweeney Todd," is to be feted with a lifetime achievement award. And the jury will be headed up by acclaimed Chinese director, Zhang Yimou, who has won two Golden Lions for best of the fest — "The Story of Qiu Ju" and "Not One Less." The other members of the jury, who also will be directors, are to be announced on July 26 along with the rest of the film lineup.

(Photos: Weinstein Co.)



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