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Home Movie News Ed Catmull Creativity Honored + NSFC Awards’ First Ever Animated & Non-Fiction Best Film

Ed Catmull Creativity Honored + NSFC Awards’ First Ever Animated & Non-Fiction Best Film

Ed Catmull creativity honor: Pixar co-founder + Walt Disney Animation president Oscar statuetteEd Catmull. Pixar co-founder and “collective creativity” proponent Ed Catmull will be the recipient of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 2009 Gordon E. Sawyer Award, handed to “an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.” Past honorees – all male – include cinematographer Joseph Walker (Lost Horizon, Only Angels Have Wings), filmmaker/visual effects artist Ray Harryhausen (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts), and last year’s David A. Grafton. Ed Catmull image: Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull: Creativity honored with Gordon E. Sawyer Award

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, and the author of a Harvard Business Review article titled “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity,” will soon be having his own creativity honored.

In recognition of “his lifetime of technical contributions and leadership in the field of computer graphics for the motion picture industry,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors has announced Catmull as the next recipient of the Gordon E. Sawyer Award.

The award – an Oscar statuette – will be handed to him at the 2009 Scientific and Technical Awards on Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Bits from the presentation will be seen at the Oscar ceremony to be held on Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles.

More on Ed Catmull

As found in the Academy’s press release, Ed Catmull founded/co-founded “three of the leading centers of computer graphics research,” namely, the computer graphics laboratory at the New York Institute of Technology and, along with Alvy Ray Smith, the computer division of Lucasfilm Ltd. and Pixar Animation Studios.

In the year 2000, Ed Catmull, Rob Cook, and Loren Carpenter received an Academy Award of Merit “for their significant advancements to the field of motion picture rendering as exemplified in Pixar’s ‘RenderMan,’” a popular software that “produces images used in motion pictures from 3D computer descriptions of shape and appearance.”

The Academy’s release adds that “RenderMan” has been used in all but five of the last 50 films shortlisted for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

In addition to his Academy Award of Merit, Ed Catmull had previously been handed two Scientific and Engineering Awards: in 1992, as part of the team responsible for the development of the “RenderMan” software, and in 1995, as part of the team “responsible for pioneering inventions in Digital Image Compositing.” Besides, he also shared a Technical Achievement Award in 2005.

Ed Catmull will be the 22nd recipient of the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, established in 1981.

Waltz with Bashir makes NSFC history + trails past non-English-language winnersWaltz with Bashir. The first animated feature and the first documentary to be named Best Film by the National Society of Film Critics, Ari Folman’s Israeli-made Waltz with Bashir is one of a number of non-English-language NSFC Best Film winners – e.g.: Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1967), Shame (1968), and Scenes from a Marriage (1974); Costa-GavrasZ (1969); Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee (1971); Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972); François Truffaut’s Day for Night (1974); Bertrand Blier’s Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978); Paolo and Vittorio Taviano’s The Night of the Shooting Stars (1983); and Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (1985).

National Society of Film Critics Awards upset: Animated Israeli war documentary named Best Film

From Ed Catmull to the National Society of Film Critics Awards: For the first time, an animated feature – also for the first time, what’s officially a nonfiction feature – has been named Best Film at the National Society of Film Critics Awards, announced on Jan. 3. (See further below this year’s full list of winners and runners-up.)

No, not Pixar’s Andrew Stanton-directed blockbuster WALL-E, but Ari Folman’s Israeli-made anti-war documentary-ish Waltz with Bashir / Vals Im Bashir, about the filmmaker’s own experiences as a soldier during Israel’s disastrous 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

It’s hard not to believe that current events influenced the vote – the latest Gaza conflict has been going on since late December – though war or no war, Waltz with Bashir has been garnering nearly universal praise.

The winner of six Israeli Academy Awards (including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay) and its native country’s entry for the 2009 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Waltz with Bashir has already been voted the Los Angeles Film Critics Association‘s Best Animated Film (a sort of consolation prize, as the LAFCA’s Best Film was none other than WALL-E) and, in a tie with Man on Wire, the International Documentary Association Awards‘ Best Feature.

Additionally, Waltz with Bashir is both an Annie Award nominee and one of the semifinalists for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. (See Oscar 2009 Predictions.)

Update: Ari Folman was the Directors Guild Awards’ surprise winner in the Documentary category.

But isn’t ‘Waltz with Bashir’ a documentary?

Since Ari Folman’s mostly Hebrew- and Arabic-language effort was the National Society of Film Critics’ Best Film, the Best Foreign Language Film category was dropped this year.

Nothing unusual about that: the same happened when Edward Yang’s Taiwanese-made Yi Yi / Yi Yi: A One and a Two and Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language Pan’s Labyrinth / El Laberinto del fauno topped the Best Film category in, respectively, early 2001 and early 2007.

Update: Batman Awards.

What’s unusual is that the Best Documentary category was left standing this year. The winner turned out to be James Marsh’s critical fave Man on Wire, about Philippe Petit and his high-wire act atop New York City’s World Trade Center.

Big surprise: The return of Hanna Schygulla

In addition to Waltz with Bashir‘s Best Film win, another big surprise among the National Society of Film Critics’ selections was the Best Supporting Actress winner: veteran German performer Hanna Schygulla, singled out for her powerful portrayal of a woman trying to make amends with her dead lesbian daughter in Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven / Auf der anderen Seite.

Hanna Schygulla is best remembered for her 1970s and early 1980s collaborations with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, most notably The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978; for which she was the NSFC’s Best Actress runner-up in early 1980), Lili Marleen (1981), and the television miniseries Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980).

Note: Viola Davis, one of the key players in John Patrick Shanley’s psychological drama Doubt, earned as many Best Supporting Actress points as Hanna Schygulla, but on fewer ballots. That’s why Schygulla was named the official winner.

Hanna Schygulla The Edge of Heaven Patrycia Ziolkovska: Rainer Werner Fassbinder diva returnsHanna Schygulla in The Edge of Heaven with Patrycia Ziolkovska. Best known for her collaborations with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, NSFC Best Supporting Actress winner Hanna Schygulla has been featured in several other efforts directed by major international filmmakers – e.g., Volker Schlöndorff’s Circle of Deceit (1981), Ettore Scola’s That Night in Varennes (1982), Jean-Luc Godard’s Passion (1982), Andrzej Wajda’s A Love in Germany (1983), Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again (1991), and, more recently, Amos Gitai’s Promised Land (2004).

Minor surprise: Double winner Mike Leigh

Now, if Hanna Schygulla was a major surprise, a relatively minor one was Mike Leigh’s double win – Best Director and Best Screenplay – for the supposedly improvised (screenplay-less?) comedy-drama Happy-Go-Lucky, the tale of a (cluelessly?) cheerful primary school teacher in early 21st-century London.

Why only “a relatively minor” surprise when Slumdog Millionaire‘s Danny Boyle is clearly this awards season’s favorite filmmaker?

Well, nine years ago Leigh took home the National Society of Film Critics’ Best Director award for Topsy-Turvy – which shared Best Film with Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. Previously, he had been a top contender for Secrets & Lies (1996) and Best Film winner Life Is Sweet (1990). If that weren’t all, just a few weeks ago he was the New York Film Critics’ Best Director and a top contender in the Best Screenplay category.

Also regarding Happy-Go-Lucky, not at all surprising was the choice of its leading lady, Sally Hawkins, as the year’s Best Actress. Although relatively little known on the western side of the North Atlantic, Hawkins has already bagged a handful of Best Actress awards in the U.S., including those from the Los Angeles, New York, and Boston film critics. She’s also in the running for a Golden Globe.

On the other hand, quite a bit more surprising was the film’s male (near-)lead, Eddie Marsan being chosen Best Supporting Actor when Heath Ledger has been the runaway favorite for his (near-lead) performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. In this instance, Ledger came in second place.

Where are awards season faves ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ & Kate Winslet?

Not infrequently, the National Society of Film Critics bucks awards season trends.

In recent years, critics’ faves and/or Best Picture Oscar winners such as Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King were hardly seen among the NSFC’s top picks or immediate runners-up in the various categories, while Paul HaggisCrash, Rob Marshall’s Chicago, Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator were totally left out.

Yet it’s – at least – somewhat surprising that critics’ fave and all-around sleeper hit Slumdog Millionaire managed only two shows this year: Best Cinematography for Anthony Dod Mantle and a third-place spot for director Danny Boyle. Dod Mantle, by the way, was also the winner of that American Society of Cinematographers Award. (See partial list of winners and nominees further below.)

Also “snubbed” was Kate Winslet, a favorite in the SAG Awards‘ and Golden Globes’ (and possibly the Oscars’) Best Supporting Actress race for her (lead) performance in Stephen Daldry’s The Reader. Winslet was also absent from the Best Actress roster, where she could have been a contender for Sam MendesRevolutionary Road.

‘Milk’ & tortuous balloting process

One U.S. critics’ fave that succeeded in winning a 2009 National Society of Film Critics Award was Best Actor Sean Penn, who plays slain, openly gay San Francisco representative Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant’s Milk. Van Sant himself was the Best Director runner-up for both Milk and the largely bypassed Paranoid Park.

Of the 63 NSFC members, 49 sent in ballots this year. Only 23 critics were present at Sardi’s in New York City, and only those were eligible to vote in the second and third ballots.

Things can get really twisted around in follow-up ballots. For instance, according to reports, WALL-E was the initial Best Picture front-runner, followed by Milk and Waltz with Bashir.

Immediately below is the list of the 2009 National Society of Film Critics winners and runners-up. Further down you’ll find a partial list of the American Society of Cinematographers Award winners and nominees, the 2009 Oscar‘s Best Visual Effects semifinalists, the 2009 International Film Festival Rotterdam (Jan. 21–Feb. 1) movie line-up, and the American Cinematheque’s schedule of the screenings of this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe nominees.

Sean Penn Milk: Awards season fave bucks NSFC outsider trendSean Penn in Milk. Along with Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Sean Penn has been this awards season’s top Best Actor choice among various U.S. film critics groups. The National Society of Film Critics tends to go its own way, but every so often their views do fall in line with the awards season consensus. Case in point: Sean Penn, voted the year’s Best Actor for his portrayal of murdered, openly gay San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant’s Milk.

National Society of Film Critics winners

Numbers in parentheses reflect the votes in the decisive balloting (whether first round, second round, etc.).

Best Picture
Waltz with Bashir (26).
Happy-Go-Lucky (20).
WALL-E (20).

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky (65).
Melissa Leo, Frozen River (33).
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy (31).

Best Actor
Sean Penn, Milk (87).
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (40).
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino (38).

Best Supporting Actress
Hanna Schygulla, The Edge of Heaven (29).
Viola Davis, Doubt (29, on fewer ballots).
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (24).

Best Supporting Actor
Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky (41).
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (35).
Josh Brolin, Milk (29).

Best Director
Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky (36).
Gus Van Sant, Milk & Paranoid Park (20).
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire (16).

Best Screenplay
Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh (29).
A Christmas Tale (24).
Synecdoche New York (17).

Best Cinematography
Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle (29).
The Flight of the Red Balloon (22).
The Dark Knight (18).

Best Non-Fiction Film
Man on Wire (55).
Trouble the Water (34).
Encounters at the End of the World (26).

Best Experimental Film
Razzle Dazzle, dir.: Ken Jacobs.

Film Heritage Awards

  • The Criterion Collection for the DVD release of Samuel Fuller’s White Dog (1982).
  • Kent Mackenzie’s 1961 independent film The Exiles, restored by Ross Lipman of the UCLA Television and Film Archives and distributed by Milestone.
  • Flicker Alley for releasing DVD collections of rare early U.S. and foreign silent films.
  • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for its DVD set “Murnau, Borzage & Fox.” (Featured F.W. Murnau and Frank Borzage titles: Lazybones, Street Angel, 7th Heaven, Sunrise, Lucky Star, They Had To See Paris, City Girl, Liliom, After Tomorrow, Young America, Song O’ My Heart, Bad Girl.)

American Society of Cinematographers Awards

Roger Deakins, Revolutionary Road & The Reader.
* Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire.
Chris Menges, The Reader.
Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight.

TV Movie & Miniseries
Oliver Bokelberg, “Breakdown,” My Own Worst Enemy.
Michael Bonvillain, Fringe pilot.
Jon Joffin, “Night One,” The Andromeda Strain.
Kramer Morgenthau, Life on Mars pilot.
* David Stockon, “Resurrection,” Eleventh Hour.

ASC Board of Governors Award: Christopher Nolan.

ASC International Achievement Award: Donald McAlpine.

ASC Lifetime Achievement Award: Jack Green.

Academy Awards’ Best Visual Effects semifinalists

  • Australia.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
  • The Dark Knight.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
  • Iron Man.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth.
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

International Film Festival Rotterdam line-up

  • At West of Pluto, Henri Bernadet & Myriam Verreault, Canada.
  • Be Calm and Count to Seven, Ramtin Lavafipour, Iran.
  • Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly, Edwin, Indonesia.
  • Breathless, Yang Ik-June, South Korea.
  • Dark Harbour, Naito Takatsugu, Japan.
  • Dogging: A Love Story, Simon Ellis, U.K.
  • Floating in Memory, Peng Tao, China.
  • The Hungry Ghosts, Michael Imperioli, U.S.
  • No puedo vivir sin ti, Leon Dai, Taiwan.
  • Schottentor, Caspar Pfaundler, Austria.
  • Be Good, Juliette Garcias, France / Denmark.
  • The Strength of Water, Armagan Ballantyne, New Zealand / Germany.
  • Tourists, Alicia Scherson, Chile.
  • Wrong Rosary, Mahmut Fazil Coskun, Turkey.

Golden Globes’ Best Foreign Language Film screenings

From Ed Catmull & the NSFC Awards to … The American Cinematheque and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will be screening this year’s five Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe nominees between Jan. 7–9, at 7:30 p.m., at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Here’s the schedule:

  • Jan. 7: Uli Edel’s The Baader-Meinhof Complex (Germany). Post-screening discussion with Edel and writer/producer Bernd Eichinger.
  • Jan. 8: Jan Troell’s Guldbagge (“Swedish Oscar”) nominee Everlasting Moments (Sweden) & Ari Folman’s NSFC winner Waltz with Bashir (Israel).
  • Jan. 9: Philippe Claudel’s I’ve Loved You So Long (France) and Matteo Garrone’s European Film Award-winning Gomorrah (Italy). Claudel and Garrone will introduce their films’ screenings.

On Sunday, Jan. 10, at 1 p.m. the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood will present a panel discussion featuring the directors of the five films. Free admission. For more information, visit the American Cinematheque’s website.


Waltz with Bashir image: Sony Pictures Classics.

Hanna Schygulla and Patrycia Ziolkovska The Edge of Heaven image: The Match Factory.

Sean Penn Milk image: Focus Features.

“Ed Catmull Creativity Honored + NSFC Awards’ First Ever Animated & Non-Fiction Best Film” last updated in November 2018.

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