This year's probable Best Actor Oscar winner, Jeff Bridges, who plays troubled country singer Bad Blake in Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart, graces the cover of the upcoming issue of Guitar Aficionado, in which the veteran actor is interviewed.
Referring to his career as an actor and his passion for music, Bridges says, “I dug what an actor did, but it took me a while to feel it, to truly appreciate the craft and the preparation. Plus, I was still playing music a lot, and I guess I had a hard time choosing: was I an actor or a musician, or could I be both?”
As for his Crazy Heart character, Bridges explains, “Bad Blake is one of those 'Dude' parts. It's the kind of part you know you're born to play. Bad's the last of a breed, one of those guys they just don't make anymore—like Kris [Kristofferson] or Waylon Jennings or Merle Haggard. The role was such an open canvas for me to work with. And hey, the chance to actually do my own singing and guitar playing on film—what a trip!”
Crazy Heart earned Bridges his fifth Academy Award nomination and his second in the Best Actor category. He'd been previously nominated for The Last Picture Show (1971, supporting), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974, supporting), Starman (1984, lead), and The Contender (2000, supporting).
Jafar Panahi, 49, the Iranian director of the Venice Film Festival winner The Circle, was arrested on Monday night along with his wife and daughter and 15 house guests following a raid at his home in Teheran, according to The Times of London. Panahi had supported opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran's disputed parliamentary elections last year. The report adds that “artists from around the world yesterday called for the release of the Iranian film-maker.”
“It is a very shocking development and further demonstration of the intolerance of the regime,” said British filmmaker Ken Loach, well-known for his liberal political views. “I hope all people working in films will call for his release, and speak out in solidarity for him and all Iranian film-makers working under similar conditions. It is completely unacceptable.”
Panahi had been arrested last year as well, and earlier this year he was denied permission to leave the country to attend the Berlin Film Festival. In 2006, Panahi's Offside won the Jury Grand Prix's Silver Bear in Berlin. His work has been recognized in festivals all over the world, including Cannes, Istanbul, Locarno, San Sebastian, Singapore, and São Paulo.
“This action by the Government does not surprise us Iranians,” says Venice Silver Lion winner Shirin Neshat. “This regime has a habit of intimidating their people, their artists, so they learn to be silent.”
According to the Times, most of Panahi's films have been banned in Iran.
March 3, '10, update
The Academy opted to postpone the 2010 Academy Awards ceremony a week so as not compete with the Winter Olympics held in Vancouver. Instead, the Oscars will be competing with the Iraqi parliamentary elections.
Not that the Academy has anything to fear from the competition in terms of television ratings, but it's ironic that the Iraqi elections will be taking place on the same day that a US-made Iraq War drama focusing on American soldiers and their deeds may be taking home the Best Picture Oscar. That in spite of the fact that The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, has been attacked on various fronts in the last couple of weeks.
Right before the Oscars, news reports have surfaced in which several Iraq War veterans call the film's situations absurd. Additionally, Nicolas Chartier, one of The Hurt Locker's nominated producers, was penalized by the Academy for having sent various e-mails to Academy members asking them to vote for his film and not for a big-budget movie also in the running (James Cameron's Avatar).
The latest is a lawsuit by Master Sergeant Jeffrey Sarver, who claims that “virtually all of the situations” in The Hurt Locker are based on real-life incidents involving him and that he is the one who invented the phrase “the hurt locker.” Mark Boal spent time with Sarver's unit while in Iraq doing research for an article later titled “The Man in the Bomb Suit” and published in the Sept. 2005 issue of Playboy magazine.
According to a spokesperson for The Hurt Locker distributor Summit Entertainment, “We have no doubt that Master Sergeant Sarver served his country with honor and commitment risking his life for a greater good, but we distributed the film based on a fictional screenplay written by Mark Boal.”
“There are similarities, because you'd find similarities to events that happened to lots of these guys,” Boal told the Los Angeles Times' Patrick Goldstein. “But the screenplay is not about [Sarver]. I talked to easily over 100 soldiers during my research and reshuffled everything I learned in a way that would be authentic, but would also make for a dramatic story.”
Months ago, The Hurt Locker earned a mere $12.7 million at the North American box office. There were no inaccuracy complaints, vote-soliciting e-mails, or lawsuits then. However, according to the New York Times' The Carpetbagger blog, thanks to the Oscar hype “the movie's audience expanded with the release of a DVD version in late December. Since then, Summit estimates that 710,00 units have been sold in home video formats, including electronic downloads, and that the film has been rented 3.2 million times from stores and seen more than 1 million times via video-on-demand.”
I still believe that The Hurt Locker will end up winning the Best Picture Oscar despite the recent controversies, which came about a little too late in the game. Voting for this year's Oscar winners ended at 5 p.m. yesterday.
And if you look at recent winners such as Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Baby, and A Beautiful Mind you'll see that accusations of various kinds didn't prevent those films from receiving the Best Picture Oscar. Roman Polanski won a Best Director Oscar for The Pianist even after the grand jury transcripts of his sex case were posted online.
In fact, things look much better for the Iraq War drama than they do for Iraq itself. According to Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation, “a rumble of violence is spreading across Iraq, and while it's nothing like the generalized warfare that plagued the country three years ago, it's a worrying sign that a wrong turn after the elections could lead to an explosion – especially if the vote is rigged, or if the politically disenfranchised outsiders, such as the many Sunnis, secularists, and nationalists, feel that the deck was stacked against them.”
Not that most people care about what will happen to Iraq once foreign troops leave that country. Though they probably should.
Photo: The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)
The Hurt Locker producer Nicolas Chartier's e-mails keep popping up online. The latest sample was posted by Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times blog 24 Frames. This time around, Chartier's e-mail has nothing to do with either Oscar vote-soliciting or his film's chief Best Picture competitor, Avatar.
An army sergeant, Jeffrey Sarver, has sued the Hurt Locker producers claiming that the character of Will James, played by Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner, is based on his person. Screenwriter Mark Boal, who is also one of the film's producers, has denied the accusation. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (also one of the film's producers), The Hurt Locker received nine Academy Award nominations. It was released in the US by Summit Entertainment.
In the e-mail below, Chartier, who has been barred from this year's Oscar ceremony, is responding to a lawyer for Sarver. It's serious business – but the e-mail itself is quite humorous.
From: Nicolas Chartier
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 8:07 PM
To: Todd Weglarz
Subject: RE: Sgt Sarver / The Hurt Locker
Hi I'm sorry I've never heard of sergeant sarver/will james. I don't understand is he an actor named will james or jeffrey sarver, I just looked on internet movie database and neither are in the film. I can google but maybe you can tell me who is he and why he's not happy? Everyone says it's one of the best movies of the year, did he just not like the popcorn when he watched the movie? I haven't taken any grossly unfair action against him, I've never heard of him. what negative impact, who's that man? Did I steal his girlfriend? Never heard of him.
Voltage Pictures, LLC
Photo: The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)
Oscar-nominated The Hurt Locker producer Nicolas Chartier will be denied attendance at the 2010 Academy Awards ceremony. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today that “should The Hurt Locker be announced as the recipient of the Best Picture award at Sunday's ceremonies, only three of the picture's producers will be present for the celebration.” The Iraq War drama's other nominated producers are director Kathryn Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal, and Greg Shapiro.
Chartier is being punished “for violating Academy campaigning standards.” The producer had recently sent out an e-mail (according to some sources, there were several such e-mails) to various Academy voters and other film industry figures soliciting votes for The Hurt Locker while disparaging its strongest competitor, the blockbuster Avatar, which coincidentally had been directed, written and co-produced by Bigelow's former husband James Cameron.
In addition to disallowing e-mail solicitations, Academy rules expressly prohibit “casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film.”
As per the Academy's press release, at a special session late Monday the executive committee of the Academy's Producers Branch ruled that Chartier's “ethical lapse” merited the revocation of his invitation to the awards ceremony. The group stopped short of recommending that the Academy governors rescind Chartier's nomination – his first ever and an exception to Academy rules, which demand a maximum of three producers per Best Picture nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.
If The Hurt Locker is chosen as the Best Picture of 2009, Chartier will get his Oscar statuette at a later date.
Photo: Getty Images
Kimjongilia, N.C. Heikin's documentary about the experiences of North Korean refugees and of those who managed to escape from Kim Jong Il's concentration camps, has its New York theatrical premiere at Cinema Village on March 19.
The text below is from the fim's press release:
Lorber Films is pleased to present the New York theatrical premiere of KIMJONGILIA, N.C. Heikin's unblinking indictment of life in North Korea under the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il. This searing examination of the communist dictatorship established by Kim Il-sung and continued today by his son Kim Jong-il dispels the illusion of a Worker's Paradise peddled by the North Korean government and exposes the injustice, tragedy and famine that has prevailed over the past forty years.
Heikin compiles a series of testimonies - and daring escape stories - from concentration camp refugees, to defectors to former Korean Army officers. The result is a collage of firsthand witnesses to the unrepentant pain caused by a tyrannical leadership. The courageous individuals documented here have risked everything in the hope of exposing the truth about this cloistered, xenophobic territory. Their testimonies are supplemented by interpretive dance and a riveting score, indicative of the filmmakers keen interest in Korean art - both the propagandistic genre sanctioned by the government and the forbidden artistic expression that can result in execution. Footage of cheery government agitprop is juxtaposed with survivor testimonies and cold, hard facts. The film's practice of exposing the truth through ironic exhibition extends to its title, “Kimjongilia,” being the name of the gorgeous red flower symbol created to celebrate Kim Jong Il's 46th birthday. This feature-length documentary is a damning condemnation of a regime founded upon total oppression of its people.
Alice in Wonderland is just out (March 5, '10) and it's already become controversial. Well, not the Tim Burton movie per se – there's still plenty of time for people to call it sexist, racist, paganistic, and the like. I'm referring to the ad for the movie on the Los Angeles Times. Not in the LA Times: on the Los Angeles Times, as in, on its front page, which just happens to be a fake front page, Los Angeles Times masthead and all, but with Johnny Depp's clownish-looking The Mad Hatter partly covering phony news about health care and Afghanistan.
“We worked very closely with Disney to come up with an exceptional and distinctive way to help them open Alice in Wonderland,” The Wrap's Sharon Waxman quoted Times spokesman John Conroy as saying. “It was designed to create buzz, and to extend the film's already brilliant marketing campaign.”
Waxman also quotes someone else: Robert Niles, a former journalism instructor at the University of Southern California, who last year said that a previous full front-page Los Angeles Times ad was “a sign of just utter surrender by the Times that they wouldn't think people would be freaked out by this.”
“It's a pretty dangerous road to go down for any news organization to actually sell advertising that covers up your news reporting,” Niles added. “It really shows a lack of respect for the audience and a lack of confidence in your editorial product.
Personally, I don't know what to say about this whole matter, but I know what the Red Queen would have said – or rather, screamed. And she'd have been right.
Jamie Court also takes the Times to task in The Huffington Post.
'La France' on DVD
Lorber Films, a division of the recently formed Kino Lorber, will be releasing La France (2007), the latest film from acclaimed writer-director Serge Bozon (Mods, L'amitié) on DVD. Described as a “war film and musical, elegiac and avant-garde, cerebral and poignant” by the New York Times' Nathan Lee, La France was an official selection at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival's Director's Fortnight section. Additionally, the film earned Bozon the 2007 Prix Jean Vigo. In the cast: Pascal Greggory and Sylvie Testud of La Vie en Rose. With a prebook date of March 9, La France is set to become available to consumers on April 6 with a SRP of $34.95.
Photo: Lorber Films