Thursday, April 17, 2008

Festival wrap

The 17th Philadelphia Film Festival wrapped up its 13-day-and-night run on Tuesday, April 15, with attendance figures just a tad below last year's 66,000 -- not bad considering the festival was shorter by a day and downscaled by several venues, too. And this is certainly not bad: a record 85 sold out screenings.

And yes, a select few of the 246 films from 49 countries at PFF-17 came away with prizes. Juried awards went to Pieter Kuijpers’ Nothing to Lose (best feature); Greg Kohs’ Song Sung Blue (best doc); Jeremiah Zagar’s In a Dream (best first film); Rahmin Bahrani (best director, for Chop Shop); Luke Eberl’s Choose Connor (best American independent); Fumihiko Sori’s Vexille (animated feature), and Armand Demuynck’s “Breakout” (animated short).

Audience awards were doled to Ann Calamia’s Universal Signs (feature); Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro’s Body of War (doc), and Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes (best Danger After Dark entry).

The Festival of Independents’ Award winners were Tom Quinn’s The New Year Parade (feature) (photo of stars Greg Lyons and Jennifer Welsh above); Benjamin Herold’s First Person (documentary); Jena Serbu’s “Figure Study #7” (narrative); Dan Pinto’s "Hedgehug” (animation), and Lindsay Kovnat’s "AYND” (experimental).

Additionally, In a Dream nabbed the DIVE Technical Achievement Award, First Person’s Herold took the SCION First Time Director Award and Daniel Barnz, director of Phoebe in Wonderland, received the Archie Award, a juried kudo pesented in honor of the late Philadelphia cineaste and scholar Archie Perlmutter.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Charlton Heston (RIP) on "Touch of Evil"

In an interview nearly fifteen years ago (yikes!), Charlton Heston reflected back on his career, on playing such epic figures as Moses , Michelangelo, John the Baptist and Buffalo Bill. But Heston - who passed away Saturday, April 6, at the age of 84 -- said during the 1993 phone chat that, "my most important contribution to motion pictures" was off-camera. That is, persuading Universal Pictures to let Orson Welles direct a little noir thriller called Touch of Evil.
The 1958 classic, which stars Welles (as a corrupt U.S. cop), Heston (as a dogged Mexican G-man) and Janet Leigh (as his American bride), was without a director when Universal gave the picture the green light. It was Heston who mentioned that Welles, who hadn't helmed a successful picture in years, be given the job. The producers' initial reaction was one of gaping silence, "as though I had suggested that my mother direct the film," Heston recalled.
Touch of Evil, which also boasts a cameo by Marlene Dietrich , is "an extraordinarily interesting film," said Heston. "I think Cahiers du Cinema had the right take on it. They wrote - oh my gosh, 20 years ago - that Touch of Evil is not a great film, but it's the best B-movie ever made. And that's about right.
"I'm very proud to have been in it, and I'm very proud to have played a significant part - well, the crucial part - in having Orson direct it."

"In a Dream" On a Winning Streak

Jeremiah Zagar's beautiful, disturbing In a Dream, a documentary about his dad, the Philadelphia artist and muralist Isaiah Zagar, sold out its three Philadelphia Film Festival showings, so a fourth one has been added for Monday, April 14, 7 p.m. as part of the "Festival Favorites" series. The screening will take place at the Ritz East. (See for details.)
Meanwhile, In a Dream has just taken home its second big festival prize: the Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival which wrapped up Sunday, April 6, in Durham, N.C. In a Dream won the Emerging Visions Audience Award at last month's SXSW Film Fest.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Paternity and Maternity Suits... Hollywood.

Three 2008 movies -- Definitely, Maybe, the smart rom-com starring Ryan Reynolds that's still in a few theaters, Chaos Theory, the not-so-smart rom-com starring Ryan Reynolds opening April 11, and Mamma Mia!, the Meryl Streep-does-Abba adaptation of the smash Broadway musical, coming in July (and not starring Ryan Reynolds) -- share eerily similar plot-lines.

In Definitely, Maybe, Reynolds recounts his amorous past to his cute-as-a-button daughter, changing the names of his three girlfriends, as his little girl tries to guess which one turned out to be her mother.

In Chaos Theory, it seems that Reynolds' character, married to Emily Mortimer with a cute-as-a-button daughter, may not be the biological father of same, after all. The real dad could have been best buddy Stuart Townsend.

And in Mamma Mia!, a young bride-to-be (Amanda Seyfried) discovers her mother's (Streep's) old diary and its entries describing intimate liaisons with three men. The daughter figues that one of the three has to be her dad, and invites the gentlemen to her wedding -- without letting Mom know. The suspected pops are played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård.