April 23, 2014

Tag Archives: Entertainment/Culture

Film Festival: Palm Springs Gold

25th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala – Awards Presentation. Meryl Streep and Margo Martindale
By ROBERT W. WELKOS
It’s no mirage.
After a quarter-century, and some early struggles, the Palm Springs International Film Festival has seen its visibility and star quotient rise significantly by tapping into Hollywood’s hotly contested movie awards season.
The festival’s success—it now draws about 130,000 attendees—has come without a lucrative television deal for its black-tie gala similar to ones enjoyed by the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards.
The festival was the brainchild of the late Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono, who rose to stardom as half of the pop singing duo Sonny and Cher and later became a U.S. congressman representing the Coachella Valley. Bono died in a 1998 skiing accident.
Harold Matzner, a local businessman and philanthropist who was a close friend and tennis partner of Bono’s, eventually took over the financially struggling festival and improved its bottom line.
A patron of the arts, Matzner not only chairs the film festival but also chairs the McCallum Theatre, is vice president on the board of trustees at the Palm Springs Art Museum, and his other philanthropic efforts include Desert AIDS Project, Stroke Recovery Center, Temple Isaiah and Animal Samaritans. He owns Spencer’s restaurant in Palm Springs.
Matzner has credited the late Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen for helping him get Hollywood studios to send movie stars being mentioned for the Oscars to be honored at the Palm Springs festival’s black-tie gala. Chasen was murdered in 2010 in a drive-by shooting in Beverly Hills as she drove her black Mercedes-Benz and police concluded it was a random attack carried out by a transient riding a bike.
Matzner chairs the tax-exempt organization behind the festival—the Palm Springs International Film Society.
The film society’s Form 990 tax returns that are filed annually with the IRS show that the nonprofit has achieved success as the film festival has become more popular.
The tax filings show that:
*The film festival had more than $26 million in total support from fiscal years 2005-06 to 2012-13.
*Revenues totaled $3.9million and expenses totaled $3.3 million in fiscal 2012-13.
*No grants were listed from fiscal 2009-10 to 2012-13.
*Chairman Matzner and other board members received no compensation for their work on the festival.
*The nonprofit paid Spencer’s restaurant $117,525 for catering and use of its facilities in fiscal 2012-13 and $113,912 in fiscal 2011-12.
*The nonprofit paid Wessman Development Co. $89,896 and $90,638 for the same [...]

Some positivity about Jennifer Lawrence for a change

Maybe I’m nuts, but it seems to me that everyone is out to get Jennifer Lawrence these days, and I’m not sure why. She’s an incredibly talented young actress, reportedly a nice person, and has good taste in the projects she chooses to work on, so what gives? Especially this past year with her Supporting Actress candidacy for American Hustle, it became the sort of situation where it appeared that the world would end if she won a second Oscar. It makes no sense to me, but I figured I’d take this opportunity to praise her a bit and turn the tide back towards respect for the Academy Award winning thespian.
It was only a few short years ago that Lawrence was being heralded for her breakthrough work in Winter’s Bone. That first Academy Award nomination she received for that film led to her winning two years ago for Silver Linings Playbook, and suddenly she was an “it” girl, combined of course with the success of The Hunger Games franchise. That led to celebrity, but remember, it all started with her talent, even in supporting roles in independent films like The Beaver and Like Crazy. Many seem to forget, but she established herself as one of the top young actresses in the business well before she seemed to conquer Hollywood.
American Hustle seemed to turn the tide for some reason. Maybe it was because the flick itself didn’t turn people on in the same way that her prior movie with David O. Russell did, but she went from a beloved superstar to a superstar that many seemed to love to bash. It boggles my mind. Am I missing something here? To me, she’s not overexposed or wearing out her welcome. On the flip side, she’s only first getting into a groove, so the best should still be yet to come from Lawrence.
Going forward, people are already licking their chops about her upcoming performance in Serena and a potential new collaboration with Russell, but I just don’t get it. More than once I’ve come across criticism of her that has nothing to do with her talent as an actress. Isn’t that what counts? Maybe I’m nuts, but that’s what I like to focus on. That’s just me though.
In summation, I think Lawrence is a fine young woman and deserves some more respect than she’s been getting. I try to keep a positive outlook [...]

No one at the box office this weekend seemed to be a ‘Nymphomaniac’

Happy Sunday once again everyone, here I am with the weekly box office report for you fine folks out there. Leading the way in a pretty significant landslide this weekend was the presumed franchise starter Divergent, which debuted with a very strong $50 million at the box office. At number two we had the relatively weak debut of the family sequel Muppets Most Wanted, which could only pull in $16.5 million. Number three was last week’s number one Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which took in another $11.7 million from you all. The other new release in the top ten was the religious film God is Dead, which came out of nowhere to amass an $8.5 million cume. Among the independent/limited releases, we had okay debuts for the comedy Cheap Thrills and the documentary Jordorowsky’s Dune, while the anticipated theatrical release of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Part One was rather underwhelming. Apparently audiences wanted to watch that particular film at home on VOD as opposed to in a theater with strangers. Make of that what you will…
I’m fairly surprised that Muppets Most Wanted and Nymphomaniac Part One didn’t do better, while Divergent did about what I expected and God is Dead came out of nowhere (it wasn’t screened for critics, so I wasn’t invited to a screening and I don’t make a habit of seeking out these sort of flicks). Among the titles that opened well, the former basically assures that the next two books in the series will be coming to theaters near you, while the latter potentially could lead to a bigger opening for Noah next week, though folks looking for a similar experience there will be in for a surprise. In regard to the two that underwhelmed, the former ran into some resistance due to a few other kid-centric titles being out as well, so it wasn’t a must see movie. As for the latter, it was never going to be a crossover success, but I’m sure it had hopes of being an art house smash, and that clearly isn’t the case. Maybe Part Two will somehow do better in a few weeks?
Among the notable holdovers in theaters, we again have to discuss Wes Anderson’s movie for sure. The Grand Budapest Hotel expanded to about 300 theaters and moved up to number seven this week with $6.7 million. That’s some strong continued success there. Also worth mentioning besides [...]

Thinking Out Loud: Who Could/Should Direct Ghostbusters III?

For this weekend’s edition of Thinking Out Loud, I only really have one topic in mind, and it’s on the direction of the Ghostbusters franchise. With the recent passing of Harold Ramis and the even more recent announcement that Ivan Reitman won’t be directing the in development sequel/reboot, I’ve been thinking about who might be best suited for the job. Bill Murray already is almost assuredly not going to be involved and Dan Aykroyd mostly is helping shape the script and will be a supporting player at best, so this is an opportunity to take the concept in a potentially new direction…
If I were in charge of offering the job to whatever filmmakers I desired, these would be the six (or technically eight, but you’ll see what I mean in a moment) that I’d be wining and dining. The half dozen different choices represent some unique takes on the material, but I think they’d all be successful candidates:
-Judd Apatow – For a few years now I’ve secretly hoped that at the very least Apatow would help produce a Ghostbusters movie. His stable of friends/actors seem perfectly suited to become wisecracking paranormal exterminators. You could have any combination of Jay Baruchel, Michael Cera, James Franco (maybe), Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, and Martin Starr in the roles, and that’s a solid recipe for comedy in my eyes. Apatow probably isn’t too interested in this gig, but I really wish he would be.
-Joe Cornish – I may not have loved Attack the Block, but in some ways Cornish’s film is almost a calling card for this type of studio project. He could make a rather unique mark. I’d think that he’d be a less likely pick because of his relative lack of experience, but if Godzilla turns out to be a big success, I could see Cornish following in the footsteps of Gareth Edwards and getting a big franchise to play with.
-Duncan Jones – A darker choice to be sure, but anyone who follows Jones on Twitter knows that he has a sense of humor as well. He’s certainly elevate the franchise and make it a real legitimate “film” as opposed to a comedy tent pole, but isn’t everything supposed to be darker and grittier anyway? He’s another less than likely candidate, but I’d hope that his name is at least floated about.
-Phil Lord and [...]

Could a Best Picture nominee launch from Cannes this year?

In the pretty near future, the lineup for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival will be announced. We already know that potential Oscar player Grace of Monaco will be there, but what else could debut at Cannes and then potentially appeal to Academy members? This particular festival isn’t nearly as awards season centric as the New York or Toronto Film Festivals are (or the Telluride Film Festival, for that matter), but we always get a contender or two to discuss. Last year we had Blue is the Warmest Color debut, while future nominees like The Great Beauty, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska unspooled as well. That got me thinking about what this year’s slate could have inside of it for prognosticators like myself to chew on…
Below you’ll find five titles that I think could have a chance at turning the heads of voters, provided of course that they play at the fest. I’ve opted to focus on American movies just because those are the ones that the Academy tends to focus in on themselves, though of course there are exceptions from time to time like Amour. Still, big time contenders (and even the occasional Best Picture winner like No Country for Old Men) tend to be english language outings. Anyway, now I’ll dive in and speculate about five likely Cannes titles that could have a chance to woo members of the Academy.
1. Birdman – There’s a chance that this comedy from Alejandro González Iñárritu could be too offbeat for Oscar voters, but they’ve gone out on dramatic limbs with him before, so if this tale of a washed up actor doesn’t get too weird for them, there are tons of nomination opportunities. This could also be the role that nabs Michael Keaton his first Academy Award nomination too, so there’s that. This one could either get shut out or be a huge player, but it’s potentially the most likely to transition to awards season attention. We’ll see if it actually debuts at Cannes, but I think it’s highly likely that it will.
2. Magic in the Moonlight – Another highly likely title for the fest, Woody Allen’s next movie is set in France, so that only makes it even more apt for a slot. That being said, of late Allen has basically seen every other film of his become Oscar players, so this could be the off year for him. Still, it’s likely [...]

Big and Bleak ‘Noah’ Draws Strong Reviews

The reviews are trickling in on “Noah,” director Darron Aronofsky’s Biblical epic adventure starring Russell Crowe in the title role, and the critics, so far, are suitably impressed.
“Aronofky Goes Big and Bleak,” reads the headline on the Film School Rejects website.
“A lot of Noah is so dark that you wonder how a big studio let a director get away with making it, and it’s not just specific moments I’m talking about here,” writes reviewer Nathan Adams. “There’s a tension that runs through the whole film about who you should be rooting for, or it it’s even possible to root for anyone in this situation. Noah goes to such dark places over the course of the movie that it’s impossible to keep relating to him as a protagonist (sometimes to the point of comedy, intentional or otherwise) ,and it becomes necessary for the narrative to switch its viewpoint from character to character. There are moments of mass death so casually presented that they almost feel mindless, and then they get followed up by character beats so focused that they almost chastise you for getting caught up in the spectacle and forgetting to remain compassionate.”
He goes on to write: “Noah is the sort of movie that takes multiple viewings and a little bit of time to fully digest.”

Variety’s Scott Foundas writes: “Aronofsky’s uneven but undeniably bold, personal, visually extravagant take on the Old Testament tale will surely polarize critics and audiences while riding a high sea of curiosity to strong initial worldwide B.O.”
Foundas describes the depiction of the character Noah in the film as “neither the Marvel-sized savior suggested by the poster nor the ‘environmentalist wacko’ prophesied by some test-screening Cassandras, but rather a humble servant driven to the edge of madness in his effort to do the Lord’s bidding.”
Steven D. Greydanus, whose review appears in the National Catholic Register, writes: “For a lifelong Bible geek and lover of movie-making and storytelling like me, Noah is a rare gift: a blend of epic spectacle, startling character drama and creative reworking of Scripture and other ancient Jewish and rabbinic writings. It’s a movie with much to look at, much to think about and much to feel; a movie to argue about and argue with.”
He adds: “It’s certainly not the picture-book story that most of us grow up with, all cheerful ark-building, adorable animals and a gravely pious, white-bearded protagonist.”
Todd McCarthy, reviewing the film [...]

Lionsgate Extends Deal with Grindstone

Lionsgate, whose recent success has been fueled by “The Hunger Games” franchise, has extended its long-term relationship with Grindstone Entertainment by signing new multi-year agreements with Grindstone President and CEO Barry Brooker and principal Stan Wertlieb, it was announced Thursday.
Grindstone’s films include the thrillers “Empire State,” starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, and “Frozen Ground,” starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack.
”They are an important part of the Lionsgate family and a key component of our slate,” Lionsgate Co-COO and Motion Picture Group President Steve Beeks. “We expect them to continue to serve as a reliable source of profitable films featuring world-class talent in the years to come and, as they continue to evolve as a label, we look forward to elevating our Grindstone relationship to the next level.”

Rooney Mara: Angry Fans Protest Tiger Lily Casting

It seems that some film fans are upset over Warner Bros.’ decision to cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in a new version of the Peter Pan story.
More than 5,000 people have so far signed a petition calling for a Native American actor to be handed the role, according to Britain’s the Guardian.
“This casting choice is particularly shameful for a children’s movie,” the newspaper quotes the petition as stating. “Telling children their role models must all be white is unacceptable.”
Mara reportedly beat out Lupita Nyong’o, the Mexican-Kenyan star who won a best supporting actress Oscar for “12 Years a Slave,” and Adele Exarchopoulous of France, whose performance in “Blue is the Warmest Color” was widely acclaimed, the newspaper reports.
Hugh Jackman is also set to star in the Peter Pan film. Directed by Joe Wright, the film is expected to be released in July, 2015, the Guardian adds.

Shanghai’s $2.4 billion “DreamCenter” to Open in 2017

In a sign of Hollywood’s expanding ties with China, DreamWorks Animation and Chinese partners Thursday unveiled their $2.4 billion “DreamCenter,” an entertainment complex in Shanghai that is set to open in 2017.
The complex will contain a 500-seat IMAX cinema with international film festivals and red carpet events in mind, bars, restaurants and performance venues, according to the companies.
A “Dream Avenue” theater district modeled on London’s West End and New York City’s Broadway will also be part of the complex, according to the Associated Press.
The 40-acre site includes eight outdoor events plazas.
The project is led by “Kung Fu Panda” and “Shrek” maker DreamWorks Animation, Chinese investment fund CMC Capital Partners, whose owners include state-owned companies, and Hong Kong developer Lan Kwai Fong, according to the AP.
“This will become the world’s third great urban center of entertainment and arts alongside New York’s Broadway and London’s West End,” DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told a news conference, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Oscars®: Alfonso Cuaron – Which director/screenplay winner is most likely to win again?

After looking at which of the four acting winners would be the most likely to make it back to the Academy Awards telecast and emerge victorious a second time, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the other three major Oscar winners…the Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay winners. They were all first timers, with two of the three writer-directors as well. Alfonso Cuarón parlayed his first Director citation into a win for Gravity, while filmmaker Spike Jonze (who’s been nominated in the Director category before) managed a win in Original Screenplay for Her, and scribe John Ridley saw his first ever nomination turn into an Adapted Screenplay win for 12 Years a Slave. All are now entering potentially fruitful stages of their careers, so who’s going to be back?
Most likely has got to be Cuarón, since he’s already such a highly respected figure. Part of the reason he won Best Director and caused the split between that category and Best Picture was due to the love for him, or else it’s very possible that Steve McQueen would have emerged victorious and prevented the split. Gravity on the whole might not have even been as big a contender. Whatever project that this filmmaker chooses next will almost immediately be considered an Oscar frontrunner, and more or less rightfully so. He’s definitely earned that distinction at this point in his career.
Next I’d say Jonze, who finally was able to entice voters to do more than just nominate him. They’ve long appreciated his work, but this was the first time that they really out and out loved it. Her was only ever so slightly more accessible than his prior movies, but it just hit them in the heart and got him not only a nod for his first solo screenplay, but a win too. The next stage will be to try and turn his next Director nom into a win, and while he’s a unique enough filmmaker that you can never bank on what he’s going to try next, I’d say he certainly has it in him to craft another winner in the near future.
Finally, Ridley is very much an X factor, since it just all depends on which sorts of projects he pursues next. Could a permanent move behind the camera to direct be next? He’s directed before and has a Jimi Hendrix biopic [...]

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