'Pussy Riot' & Uri Geller Documentaries + Alfred Hitchcock San Francisco Tour & Oscar Rule Changes

Pussy Riot A Punk PrayerPussy Riot A Punk Prayer

Pussy Riot & Uri Geller: Sheffield Doc/Fest line-up

The United Kingdom's Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013 kicks off on June 12, featuring 27 World Premieres. Topics range from “psychic spy” Uri Geller (Uri Geller and Vikram Jayanti's The Secret Life of Uri Geller – Psychic Spy) to shale mining (Lech Kowalski's Drill Baby Drill), from the science behind Planet Earth's fast-approaching climactic armageddon (David Sington and Simon Lamb's Thin Ice: The Inside Story of Climate Science) to the life and times of international professional thieves (Havana Marking's Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers). Below are a few Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013 highlights.

Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin's Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer follows the Pussy Riot trial in which three of the band's members stood accused of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” following a performance staged at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior – the group attacked the link between the leaders of Russia's Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin's de facto dictatorship – which evolved into the protest music video “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!"

According to the Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013 notes, Lerner and Pozdorovkin obtained “astonishing access to the legal system, including the courtroom, where the girls murmur from within the confines of a glass cage at the sometimes farcical mayhem around them.” Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer is described as “a truly compelling immersion into the clash between a generation determined to challenge an oppressive status quo, with those who are equally determined to maintain it.” Needless to say, you don't have to live in Vladimir Putin's Russia to relate to Pussy Riot's plight.

Musical director Jarvis Cocker and director Martin Wallace's The Big Melt “takes viewers on a music and film journey using one hundred years of film from the BFI archives into to the soul of a nation [that's the UK], bringing to life the ghosts of our past, taking us into the belly of our industrial heritage.” According to the Sheffield Doc/Fest website, after watching (and listening to) The Big Melt, “you will never look at a fork in the same way again.”

Plagiarism, Evangelical Christians, Michael Palin

Lucy Walker's The Crash Reel tells the story of U.S. snowboarder Kevin Pearce's recovery following a near fatal sporting accident; Toby Amies' The Man Whose Mind Exploded documents the life of Brighton resident Drako Zarhazar, who suffers from a disorder that prevents him from creating new memories; and Robert Stone's Pandora's Promise raises the issue that nuclear power may be Planet Earth's salvation.

A few more: Oscar winner Roger Williams' God Loves Uganda offers a disturbing depiction of American evangelical Christians exporting their radical dogma to the central African nation; John Murray and Emer Reynolds' Cuba Missile Crisis documentary Here Was Cuba features new footage from the 1962 madness that almost sent Planet Earth over the abyss; and, the title says it all, Samantha Grant's A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times focuses on Jayson Blair's plagiarism scandal that became another of the revered New York Times' “rock bottom” episodes.

Sheffield Doc/Fest guests include editor and sound designer Walter Murch (Fred Zinnemann's Julia, Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part III, Anthony Minghella's The English Patient); This American Life host and producer Ira Glass; and former Monty Python member and world traveler Michael Palin.

Alfred Hitchcock San Francisco: Guided tour through the sites of Hitchcock's movies

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has arranged for San Francisco City Guides to lead “a special, SFSFF-only edition” of its “Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco” guided walking tour. This particular two-hour Hitchcock tour will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 15, atop Nob Hill. From there, the tour will visit the sites of three Hitchcock films: Vertigo, The Birds, and Family Plot. (Image: Alfred Hitchcock ca. 1960.)

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival press release adds that Alfred Hitchcock tour participants will “have plenty of time” to go from the tour's end at Union Square to the Castro Theatre so as to catch the 1:00 pm screening of Hitchcock's 1928 silent Champagne.

Note: Space for this special “Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco” tour is limited. Registration is free – though donations are encouraged – and will be done on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve your spot, click here and fill out the registration form.

Alfred Hitchcock movies: Vertigo, The Birds, Family Plot

Vertigo (1958), for all it's worth (currently) considered the “greatest movie ever made” by Sight & Sound's pollsters, was both a critical and box office disappointment upon its release. James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes star.

The Birds (1963), not exactly a critical favorite but a box office success all the same, features Alfred Hitchcock discovery Tippi Hedren (who in recent years has accused the director of being a vengeful control freak who sexually harassed her), Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, and Veronica Cartwright.

Family Plot (1976), which turned out to be Hitchcock's last feature film, stars William Devane (replacing Roy Thinnes), Karen Black, Golden Globe nominee Barbara Harris, and Bruce Dern. Of note: Family Plot reunited Hitchcock with screenwriter Ernest Lehman, with whom the director had had a serious falling out during the making of North by Northwest after Lehman turned down Hichcock's offer to write the screenplay for the (eventually never made) film project No Bail for the Judge, which was to have starred Audrey Hepburn and Laurence Harvey.

The 2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festival will kick off on Jun 14, with a screening of Hitchcock's 1929 murder thriller Blackmail, starring Anny Ondra and John Longden.

Brave Academy Awards Best Animated Feature FilmBest Animated Feature winner Brave.

(Flexible) maximum of two winners in Best Animated Feature Film category

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced another rule change for the 2014 Academy Awards. This latest change affects the Animated Feature Film category.

According to the Academy's press release, from now on there will be “a maximum of two award recipients” for Best Animated Feature Film, one of whom must have a producer credit. And that's where things get a bit confusing. Despite the “maximum of two” Oscar recipients, “the director and/or key creative individual shall continue to be a recipient, and in the circumstance of a two-person team with shared and equal director credit, a third statuette may be awarded.” In other words, it's a flexible two-person maximum.

Last year, at most two individuals were listed per nominated film in the Best Animated Feature Film category: Tim Burton for Frankenweenie, Sam Fell and Chris Butler for ParaNorman, Peter Lord for The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Rich Moore for Wreck-It Ralph, and winners Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman for Brave.

More Oscar 2014 rules changes: Best Foreign Language Film and Documentary Shorts

Announced a few days ago, the most important change in the Oscar 2014 voting process affects the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary Short categories. From now on, Academy voters will be able to watch the nominated films either at a theatrical screening or on DVD. That means for the first time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' entire voting membership will automatically be eligible to choose the winners in all 24 Oscar categories.

Why the Academy waited until 2013 to come up with this change is unclear. This should have taken place in 1983 – at the latest, as VHS tapes had been available since the late 1970s. Perhaps making thousands of VHS tapes back then would have been too costly? But those people are filthy rich! Anyhow, better in 2013 than in 2033.

“This change continues our efforts to expand our members' participation in all aspects of the Academy's activities including, of course, voting for the Oscars,” Academy president Hawk Koch was quoted as saying. “Building on this past season's 90 percent record voter turnout, we want to give our members as many opportunities as possible to see these great films and vote in these categories next year.” (If that percentage figure is accurate – even if it doesn't represent voting across the board in the Oscars' two dozen categories – that's quite impressive indeed.)

So, before the Oscar 2014 winners are selected, the Academy will provide members with DVDs of the nominated films in five categories: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short Subject, Best Animated Short Film, and Best Live Action Short Film.

Last year's Best Foreign Language Film winner was Michael Haneke's Amour, also a Best Picture nominee. The widely acclaimed drama stars Jean-Louis Trintignant, Best Actress nominee Emmanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Huppert. The Best Short Documentary was Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine's Inocente.

The Academy's press release adds that “rules are reviewed annually by individual branch and category committees. The Awards Rules Committee then evaluates all proposed changes before presenting its recommendations to the Academy's Board of Governors for approval.”

The 2014 Academy Awards will be presented on Oscar Sunday, March 2, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center.

 

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer photo via the Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013 website.

Alfred Hitchcock photo via San Francisco City Guides.

2013 Best Animated Feature winner Brave movie image: Pixar / Disney Enterprises.

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