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European Film Awards: Tahar Rahim & Kate Winslet + Julianne Moore Honor

Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon was the big winner at the 2009 European Film Awards, which took place on Sat., Dec. 12, in Bochum, in Germany's Rhein-Ruhr region.

A stark drama about mysterious and violent occurrences that take place in a small German town shortly before the outbreak of World War I, The White Ribbon won trophies for best picture, best director, and best screenplay (also Haneke) – something unusual, as EFA members tend to spread their awards around.

Germany's submission for the 2010 Academy Award for best foreign language film, The White Ribbon has also won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Considering that the Hollywood Academy's best picture list has been stretched out to include ten nominees, I believe it's quite possible that The White Ribbon, which opens later this month in Los Angeles, will nab a slot in the list. That in addition to potential best director and best screenplay nods – that is, unless the European Film Awards Curse decides to strike again.

In the last seven years, only two best picture European Film Award winners have gone on to receive Academy Award nominations: Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her in 2002 and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others in 2006. The former landed nominations in the best director and best original screenplay categories (Almodóvar won for his screenplay); the latter was a surprise winner in the best foreign language film category (beating Guillermo del Toro's much superior and much more popular Pan's Labyrinth).

On the other hand, internationally acclaimed productions such as Matteo Garrone's mafia drama Gomorrah, Cristian Mungiu's abortion drama 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Fatih Akin's culture-clash drama Head-On, and Michael Haneke's own highly disturbing psychological drama Hidden, one of the very best movies of the first decade of the 21st century, were completely ignored by the Academy. Too good for the Oscars, perhaps.

Possibly the downbeat The White Ribbon will be luckier this year, but with Academy voters (and US critics' groups, for that matter) you never know. Up in the Air, Invictus, and The Princess and the Frog sound like so much more fun!

Photo: European Film Academy

Tahar Rahim

Best actor European Film Award winner Tahar Rahim was present at the Dec. 12 ceremony in Bochum, Germany, to receive his trophy for his performance as a prison inmate at odds with the local Corsican mafia in Jacques Audiard's A Prophet. However, much like last year's best actress winner Helen Mirren (for The Queen), Kate Winslet was nowhere to be found in the auditorium.

Winslet won for Stephen Daldry's The Reader, in which she plays a former Nazi guard who has an affair with a teenager (best actor nominee David Kross) half her age. That was in 2008. She won an Oscar and a Golden Globe back in early 2009. She was present at both ceremonies. But we're now a couple of weeks away from 2010. My point: The European Film Academy should seriously consider changing their eligibility schedule.

Ken Loach, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, didn't say anything about EFA's eligibility schedule, but he did say that Europeans have something to learn from the Americans. No, not how to make movies or produce awards ceremonies. “The U.S. government supports its steel and agricultural industries,” he remarked. “Why can't our politicians protect European film?"

(According to filmmaker Tomm Moore, whose The Secret of Kells was up for the best animated feature award, the previous night Loach asked audience members at a screening of Looking for Eric to “make some noise about Western Sahara and the plight of one their leading human rights activists who is currently on hunger strike in Lanzarote airport.” That's Aminatou Haidar. More in The Guardian.)

Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire

Even though Slumdog Millionaire (above, with Dev Patel) was old news, Danny Boyle was there to pick up the People's Choice Award for best film. That and Anthony Dod Mantle's award for best cinematography (along with Mantle's work on Lars von Trier's Antichrist) was all the worldwide sleeper hit won in Bochum. What a difference 10 months make.

Among the other EFA winners were Jacques-Rémy Girerd and Nora Twomey's Mia and the Migoo for best animated feature; Marcel Lozinski's Poste restante for best short; Alberto Iglesias for best composer for his Broken Embraces score; Peter Strickland's Katalin Varga for best first feature; and the sound crew of A Prophet.

Isabelle Huppert

European Achievement in World Cinema recipient Isabelle Huppert – appropriately introduced by Volker Schlöndorff as “a woman who isn't afraid of anything” – began her speech in English and then switched to French, stating that cinema, “a voyage that is both internal and external,” should be the “European language.” Perhaps, but for the European Film Awards to become a major cinematic event of global importance it needs more than just a “language” or even good films. It needs a new schedule…

Photos: European Film Academy

European Film Awards Predictions: Michael Haneke & Charlotte Gainsbourg

The White Ribbon by Miichael Haneke

What movie is going to dominate the 2009 European Film Awards, to be held tonight in Bochum, in Germany's Rhein-Ruhr region?

Well, three films will be battling it out for both the best picture and the best director awards: Jacques Audiard's French prison drama A Prophet, Michael Haneke's Austrian-German psycho-political drama The White Ribbon (above), and Danny Boyle's Anglo-American-Indian Bollywoodish Slumdog Millionaire. All three have already won major awards elsewhere: the first two at Cannes; the third title in Hollywood and Britain.

Will the three favorites end up splitting the vote so that a dark horse will come out victorious? Nope. In those types of races, simplistic theories about dark horses winning because favorites split the vote are both bad math and bad logic. If voters saw all six movies (or any combination of the six) every movie in the running will “split” votes. And if Stephen Daldry's The Reader, Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In, or Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank take home the best picture/best director awards that will mean only one thing: the winner, whichever movie it is, was no dark horse to begin with.

Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire

Anyhow, I'd say that of the three favorites – ahem – of the three most publicized titles, Slumdog Millionaire (above) is the one with less of a chance simply because by now it's almost yesteryear news. On the other hand, both The White Ribbon and A Prophet have been submitted for Academy Award consideration in the best foreign language film category, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if The White Ribbon garners Oscar nominations in the best picture, best director, and best original screenplay categories. In other words, those two dramas are very much of the here and now.

Ajami by Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani

The best European first feature race remains a mystery, though Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's Ajami (above) has been widely praised at the Toronto Film Festival and elsewhere, and has already won the Israeli Academy's best picture award. It's also Israel's submission for the best foreign language film Oscar. (True, Agnès Varda's The Beaches of Agnès is one of the semi-finalists for this year's best documentary feature Oscar, but it was announced a few weeks ago that Peter Liechti's The Sound of Insects - Record of a Mummy was the European Film Award winner. But remember: a small jury panel picked the year's best documentary; a much larger body – something that generally leads to well-known, well-regarded, “safe” winners – will be voting for the best first feature.)

Charlotte Gainsbourg, Willem Dafoe in Antichrist

Penélope Cruz has already won a best actress European Film Award (for Volver in 2006) and since her role in Broken Embraces is borderline supporting, my guess is that Cannes winner Charlotte Gainsbourg (above, with Willem Dafoe) will be the one taking home the prize for her bereaved sexed-out mother in Lars von Trier's Antichrist. But who knows? Oscar winner Kate Winslet (for The Reader) could be the dark horse who splits the vote with the brown one (Katie Jarvis for Fish Tank) so the rainbow-colored equine (French Academy's Cesar winner Yolande Moreau in Séraphine) can win.

Tahar Rahim in A Prophet

For the best actor award, I'd say the race is between two Cannes favorites: Tahar Rahim (above) for his tough inmate in A Prophet and
Filippo Timi for two roles – Mussolini and his son in Marco Bellocchio's Vincere. Both actors have received considerable more acclaim than, say, David Kross (for The Reader) or Dev Patel (for Slumdog Millionaire). Moritz Bleibtreu is a respected performer, but as some would say, The Baader Meinhof Complex is so 2008. (The European Film Academy should really rethink its eligibility schedule.)

If The White Ribbon doesn't win the best picture and best director awards, expect Michael Haneke to take home the best screenplay award. If A Prophet doesn't win the best picture and best director awards, expect Jacques Audiard and co-screenwriter Thomas Bidegain to take home the screenplay award. Unlike Hollywood Academy voters, European Academy members like to spread their love around. (In the last five years, only one film won all three awards: Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah.)

The Secret of Kells by Tomm Moore

Best animated feature? Tomm Moore's The Secret of Kells (above), one of the semi-finalists for the 2010 Academy Awards in the best animated feature category.

Best cinematography? A hard call, but my guess would be Oscar winner Anthony Dod Mantle for this year's Antichrist and last year's Slumdog Millionaire.

Best composer? Alberto Iglesias for Broken Embraces, if only to give some recognition to Pedro Almodóvar's film. (Iglesias' score, by the way, which can be fully experienced at the end of the movie, is superb.)

We'll find out how right – or wrong – I am in a few hours.

Julianne Moore to Receive Santa Barbara Film Festival Honor

Colin Firth, Julianne Moore in A Single Man

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has announced one more 2009 honoree: Julianne Moore, a potential Oscar contender for her performance as a married alcoholic yearning for a gay man (fellow Santa Barbara honoree Colin Firth) in Tom Ford's A Single Man (above).

Moore will receive the festival's Montecito Award, which recognizes “a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances in his/her career,” on Thursday, February 11, at the historic Arlington Theatre. Previous Montecito Award winners are Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Naomi Watts and Annette Bening.

Among Julianne Moore's credits are Jeremiah S. Chechik's Benny & Joon; Robert Altman's Short Cuts and Cookie's Fortune; Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street; Todd Haynes' Safe, Far from Heaven, and I'm Not There; Chris Columbus' Nine Months; Oliver Parker's An Ideal Husband; Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and Magnolia; Joel and Ethan Coen's The Big Lebowski; Gus Van Sant's Psycho; Neil Jordan's The End of the Affair; Stephen Daldry's The Hours; Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee; and Atom Egoyan's upcoming Chloe.

Tickets for the Julianne Moore tribute will go on sale today and can be purchased at a 20 percent discount through December 31 at www.sbfilmfestival.org or through the Lobero Box Office, 805.963.0761 and the Arlington Theater Box office, 805.963.4408. Festival Platinum and Cinema Passes are currently on sale exclusively at the Lobero Box Office. Box Office fees will apply for all Film Festival Passes, Mini-Paks, and event tickets.

The Santa Barbara Film Festival runs February 4-14, 2010.

Jason Reitman, Jeremy Renner, T Bone Burnett: Palm Springs Film Festival

Jason Reitman

Jason Reitman (above), Jeremy Renner, and T Bone Burnett will each receive a special award at the 2010 edition of the Palm Springs Film Festival. Reitman will be handed the Director of the Year Award for Up in the Air, Renner the Breakthrough Performance Award for The Hurt Locker and Burnett the Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing for Crazy Heart, whose star, Jeff Bridges, will also be honored at the festival.

Presented by Cartier, the Awards Gala will kick off the festival on January 5 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The ceremony will be hosted by Mary Hart of Entertainment Tonight. The Palm Springs Film Festival runs January 5-18, 2010.

Jason Reitman had previously received the festival's Chairman's Vanguard Award for Juno in 2008. Up in the Air, which Reitman also co-wrote with Sheldon Turner (from Walter Kim's novel), has already been named best picture of 2009 by both the National Board of Review and the Washington D.C. Film Critics. In the film, a strong candidate for the 2010 Oscar, George Clooney plays a corporate downsizing expert whose frequent-flying life is about to come to a halt right when he meets the potential love of his life. Also in the cast are Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga and Jason Bateman.

Past PSIFF Director of the Year honorees include Sean Penn, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Anthony Minghella, Alexander Payne and Ang Lee.

Jeremy Renner has already won the National Board of Review Breakthrough Performance by an Actor award, and he and his fellow The Hurt Locker actors won the best ensemble award at the Gothams about a week ago. Kathryn Bigelow's war drama follows a team of bomb disposal experts in Baghdad.

Past PSIFF recipients of the Breakthrough Performance Award include Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Hudson, Felicity Huffman and Freida Pinto.

In addition to composing the Crazy Heart score with collaborator Stephen Burton, T Bone Burnett produced the film in which Jeff Bridges plays a down-and-out country singer opposite Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall. Burnett also composed and co-wrote many of the film's original songs.

Past PSIFF recipients of the Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing include Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, Philip Glass, Howard Shore and Randy Newman.

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