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Category: Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky to head Venice Film Festival jury


Darren Aronofsky is heading back to Venice. The American auteur, whose dark ballet drama "Black Swan" opened last year's Venice Film Festival, will head the jury for the 68th annual affair, which begins Aug. 31 and runs for 11 days.

Aronofsky does not currently have a movie shooting; he was set to make Fox's "The Wolverine" but bowed out of the production for personal reasons.

In 2008, Aronofsky's Mickey Rourke drama "The Wrestler" won the top prize at Venice, the Golden Lion. Aronofsky also brought his romantic time-travel tale, "The Fountain," to the festival in 2006.

In a statement, festival organizers called Aronofsky  a "key figure in contemporary film."

The Venice Film Festival is considered an important stop for many Academy Awards awards hopefuls. Last year, Quentin Tarantino headed up the jury, which, in a controversial move, awarded the Golden Lion to Sofia Coppola's moody, faded-celebrity study, "Somewhere."

The news comes as another American filmmaking personality, actor-director Robert De Niro, gets set to head the Cannes Film Festival jury next month.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Darren Aronofsky. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Oscars: 'The King's Speech's' Tom Hooper wins for director

Hooper Tom Hooper won the Oscar for director for “The King’s Speech” at the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday night. It is the first Oscar win for the 38-year-old filmmaker, who was considered to be in a tight race with “The Social Network’s” David Fincher for the prize. Hooper, whose film chronicles England’s King George VI trying to overcome his stutter, also won the Directors Guild of America Award and had been nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, the British equivalent of the Academy Award.

In addition to Fincher, Hooper was competing against Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan,” Joel and Ethan Coen for “True Grit” and David O. Russell for “The Fighter.”

The Academy Awards are taking place at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and are being televised live on ABC. We'll carry all the breaking news and reaction here on Awards Tracker.

-- Susan King

Photo: Tom Hooper. Credit: Associated Press.


Red carpet photos

Oscar scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars

Oscars: How Natalie Portman became a real dancer for 'Black Swan'

Black swan 393"She absolutely, convincingly becomes a dancer" in "Black Swan," insists director Darren Aronofsky in this new promo video dramatizing the physical ordeal Natalie Portman endured to slip into toe shoes for the role.

Portman's trainer was former New York City Ballet trouper Mary Helen Bowers, who recalls how Portman prepared for the role's physical challenges by working out "five hours a day, six days a week for months and months and months leading up to the film -– while she was working other jobs."

Portman endured, noting, "I love dancing so much that I decided that it would be so fun to be able to dance at work! That would be part of my job. [Then] I realized how physically grueling it would be."

Displaying such extreme physical commitment to a performance often helps stars to win the Oscar -– as Hilary Swank ("Million Dollar Baby") and Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull") discovered when they overhauled their bodies to become boxers on screen.

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight)

Oscar nominee Darren Aronofsky looks ahead to Wolverine and Noah

Director Darren Aronofsky, Oscar-nominated for “Black Swan,” has plenty of experience with haters questioning his projects, his taste, his sanity. And the detractors are at it again, wondering why he’s wasting his time directing the “X-Men” offshoot “The Wolverine.” (Short answer: Money — both for himself and his movie’s budget.)

But for those Aronofsky true believers worried that the filmmaker behind such downbeat, indie favorites as “Requiem for a Dream” and “Pi” is turning conventional, the 42-year-old director reveals he’s not past pushing for ambitious projects on the level of “The Fountain,” his demanding Mobius strip meditation on love, death and religion.

Next up (“fingers crossed,” says Aronofsky): A sci-fi adaptation of the Noah’s Ark tale from the Book of Genesis.

“I’m a huge fan,” Aronofsky says, noting his interest goes back to childhood when he saw the low-budget Sunn Classic Pictures documentary “In Search of Noah’s Ark” at a movie theater.

Aronofsky has been working on the screenplay for the past six years and plans on soon publishing the first of a four-part graphic novel based on his story and drawn by Canadian artist Nico Henrichon. He hopes the novel will secure studio financing so he can move forward with the film after finishing “The Wolverine.”

Aronofsky’s Noah might be a bit different from the bearded boat-builder most remember from the Bible. Aronofsky sees Noah as the “first environmentalist,” a complicated character tormented by surviving an apocalypse as well as the “first person to plant vineyards, drink wine and get drunk.”

In other words: Don’t plan on bringing the family to this biblical epic.

“I was stunned going back and realizing how dirty some of those stories are,” Aronofsky says. “They’re not PG in any way. They’re all about sleeping with your brother’s sister who gives you a child who you don’t know. That kind of stuff got censored out of our religious upbringing.”

 — Glenn Whipp

Photo of Darren Aronofsky by Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

Oscar luncheon: Schmoozing joined with a little lecturing

Oscar luncheon 
If Hollywood is some kind of weird manifestation of high school and the Oscars are prom night where the king and queen are crowned, surely the Oscar luncheon held Monday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel is graduation day.

This year's class of nominees first posed for a group photo before being issued their certificate of nomination and the requisite photo with Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences President Tom Sherak. The only things missing were the caps and gowns.

This year's event was the most well-attended of all with a record 147 out of 191 nominees present. (Most notably absent were supporting actor nominee Christian Bale and director David Fincher.) Despite some good, old-fashioned schmoozing that saw Oscar night producer/director Don Mischer and his wife posing for a photo with lead actor nominee Javier Bardem; "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky chatting up Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, the director of foreign language film nominee "Biutiful"; and "The King's Speech" director Tom Hooper getting in some face time with Oscar producer Bruce Cohen, the luncheon was also instructive. 

Mischer and Cohen were present to remind nominees to make meaningful, short and special speeches. The duo presented a video clip featuring Tom Hanks with detailed instructions on how to give an Oscar acceptance speech. The simple, but important, instructions involved beating the 45-second clock each nominee is given to accept their award; deciding ahead of time for the group awards who is going to accept the award; and, most important, never take out a piece of paper to read from. "Reading a long list of names only shows us your bald spot," quipped Hanks on the video as a slew of balding noggins appeared on the screen. Mischer even went so far as to pull out research showing that any time a winner pulls out a piece of paper, the Oscar telecast loses hundreds of thousands of viewers.

The producers also showed the audience a new indicator that will appear on the center camera that graphically counts down the 45 seconds each winner has to speak. The new method, which replaces the flashing "Please Wrap Up" message that would normally appear at 30 seconds, was met by some audience laughter. But the academy is so serious about sticking to the allotted time that it is sending home practice DVDs with the 45 second graphic, which depicts an inverted triangle that fills up more and more of the screen as time goes on.

"Playing you off to music is disrespectful to you, to our audience, to the academy and to our industry," said Mischer. "Our dream, our fantasy is to never have to play any of you off to music."

The majority of the event was spent with Hollywood luminaries chatting each other up. Best actor nominee Colin Firth blew Annette Bening a quick kiss after receiving his certificate of nomination along with the official Academy Awards gray sweatshirt that each nominee is given. (Bening immediately threw on her sweatshirt, perhaps to fight off the frigid ballroom chill.) Documentary nominee Lucy Walker ("Wasteland") and her date, musician Moby, who contributed music to Walker's film, chatted up Hooper, while best supporting actress nominee Amy Adams ("The Fighter") commiserated with her costar and fellow nominee Melissa Leo. Jeff Bridges, who received the prime front-and-center seat, with Bening on his lap, chatted up Ed Begley Jr., on hand as one of the academy governors.

The event (see a gallery of photos here) ended rather abruptly after dessert was served, with many nominees running off to do more interviews, or in the case of sound mixer Mark Weingarten, returning back to work on Fincher's latest film, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Sherak didn't seem ready for anyone to leave, joking, "We have the room til 6 tonight."


Red carpet photos

Panorama: Inside the Oscar nominees' luncheon

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Javier Bardem at the 83rd Academy Awards nominations luncheon on Monday. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


'Black Swan' leads nominations for Gold Derby Film Awards

"Black Swan" has soared off with the most nominations (12) for the Gold Derby Film Awards, which are decided by The Envelope's forum posters. "The Social Network" and "Inception" are tied for second place with 10 each. Oscar front-runner "The King's Speech" earned six bids. Winners will be announced Feb. 19. You can cast your vote here after registering in our forums, which you'll find on the link.

Black swan 393The awards were launched in 2002 by our posters, who chose "Chicago" as best picture but veered from Oscar preferences in the races for best director (picking Peter Jackson for "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" over Roman Polanski for "The Pianist"), lead actress (Julianne Moore for "Far From Heaven" instead of Nicole Kidman in "The Hours") and supporting actress (Meryl Streep in "Adaptation" instead of Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago"). In 2004, voters opted for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" as best picture over Oscar choice "Million Dollar Baby," and in 2008 they preferred "Wall-E" to "Slumdog Millionaire." Click here for a list of winners in other years.

Below is a partial list of this year's nominees. See more in our forums.

2010 Gold Derby Film Awards nominees

Motion picture
"Black Swan" (Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Brian Oliver)
"Inception" (Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas)
"The Kids Are All Right" (Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray)
"The Social Network" (Dana Brunetti, Cean Chaffin, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin)
"Toy Story 3" (Darla Anderson)

"Black Swan" (Darren Aronofsky)
"The Ghost Writer" (Roman Polanski)
"Inception" (Christopher Nolan)
"127 Hours" (Danny Boyle)
"The Social Network" (David Fincher)

Lead actor
Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels in "Shutter Island"
Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network"
Colin Firth as King George VI in "The King's Speech"
James Franco as Aron Ralston in "127 Hours"
Ryan Gosling as Dean in "Blue Valentine"

Lead actress
Annette Bening as Nic in "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman as Becca in "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly in "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers in "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams as Cindy in "Blue Valentine"

Continue reading »

Tom Hooper wins top honors from the Directors Guild of America


The Directors Guild of America on Saturday evening named Tom Hooper best director of 2010 for "The King's Speech," the film based on the real-life story of King George VI's battle to overcome a debilitating stammer. It is the first guild win in the feature category for the 38-year-old filmmaker.

"Oh my God," said a surprised Hooper. "I am so grateful to my wonderful cast. I am overwhelmed. This is the highest honor of my life."

Hooper was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Movie Award. He's also in contention for a BAFTA and an Academy Award.

"The King's Speech" was the surprise winner last week at the Producers Guild of America Awards -- the Facebook drama "The Social Network" had been favored to win the prize -- and leads the list of most-nominated films heading into the Academy Awards with 12.

The DGA Awards are one of the most dependable bellwethers of the Academy Awards. In fact, in the last 62 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the DGA have disagreed in their choices only six times.

The 63rd annual DGA ceremony was held at the Renaissance Hotel at Hollywood and Highland with Carl Reiner hosting.

The guild awarded its prize for directing a TV drama series to Martin Scorsese for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," though Scorsese, who was said to be ill, did not attend the ceremony. Charles Ferguson won in the documentary category for his feature "Inside Job." Mick Jackson won for directorial achievement in movies for television and miniseries for HBO's "Temple Grandin," while Michael Spiller won for the ABC hit "Modern Family" in the TV comedy series category.

Glenn Weiss won in the musical/variety race for his direction of the 64th annual Tony Awards (CBS), and Larry Carpenter won for his work on "One Life to Live" in the daytime serials category.

The DGA also kicked off its 75th anniversary at the ceremony with DGA winners including Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, John Rich and Steven Spielberg introducing special film-clip presentations on "game-changing" moments in the guild's history.

Among the other awards handed out, Eytan Keller won for outstanding achievement in reality programs for "The Next Iron Chef" (Food Network); Eric Bross won top honors in the children's programs category for "The Boy Who Cried Werewolf" (Nickelodeon); and Stacy Wall was recognized for his achievement in commercials directing.

-- Susan King

Photo: Tom Hooper at the James Hotel in Chicago. Credit: Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune


DGA announces list of presenters for Saturday ceremony

Martin Scorsese 
It will be a star-studded affair Saturday night at the annual DGA award ceremony, with such luminaries as Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese on hand to honor this year's best directors. Also attending will be a slew of this year's Oscar nominees, including Colin Firth ("The King's Speech"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), Melissa Leo ("The Fighter") and Natalie Portman ("Black Swan").

Other directors on hand to recognize the DGA recipients are Michael Apted, Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola and DGA President Taylor Hackford. Carl Reiner will return as the host for the 63rd annual award show at which either Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), David Fincher ("The Social Network"), Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"), Christopher Nolan ("Inception") or David O. Russell ("The Fighter") will walk away with the top prize of the evening.

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Martin Scorsese. Photo credit: Abbot Genser/HBO.

Oscar nominations: Natalie Portman's 10-year plan

Natalie Portman 
Natalie Portman, a 2004 Oscar nominee for "Closer," devoted much of her life to the making of "Black Swan," for which she received a lead actress Oscar nomination. It seems that investment has paid off.

“I am so honored and grateful to the academy for this recognition," Portman said in a statement. "It is a wonderful culmination of the 10-year journey with Darren [Aronofsky] to make this film.  Making 'Black Swan' is already the most meaningful experience of my career, and the passion shown for the film has completed the process of communication between artists and audience.  I am so thankful for the support we have received and I share this honor with the entire cast and crew of the film, especially Darren Aronofsky.”



'The King's Speech,' 'True Grit' top Academy Award nominations

Oscar nominees react

Full list of nominations

Photo of Natalie Portman from Reuters.

Oscar nominations: 'Black Swan' producer Scott Franklin felt the pressure to deliver

It would seem that "Black Swan" producer Scott Franklin is pretty graceful under pressure. Tuesday morning in New York, for instance, he was juggling getting his kids ready for school while anxiosuly awaiting the announcement of the Oscar nominations. 

“I was watching 'Good Morning America' with my wife and kids. We ran out to take my son to his bus and rushed back in. But it hadn’t aired yet so we caught it,” he says. 

Will that poise follow him to the red carpet? “It’s not that nerve-racking,” he says. “I’m a producer. So I’m not being hounded for interviews and photographs. It’s fun, the energy and buzz. I take it all in stride and enjoy it.”

The real pressure came much earlier, with the filming of "Black Swan," which he says was far more trying than making "The Wrestler," another Darren Aronofsky film that Franklin helped produce.

“'The Wrestler' was Darren going back to smaller, independent films.  There was a lot less pressure then. We weren’t on that many radars and we didn’t have a studio like Fox Searchlight behind us; we didn’t have distribution going in; Mickey [Rourke's] career was on the comeback. So we could really relax and do our thing,” he says. 

“Black Swan" "was a much more complicated film to make; we had more money but money was still tight. It was a lot more ambitious. And we were coming off the success of 'The Wrestler.'"

And with the inclusion in this film of Natalie Portman, "a  bona fide movie star, that created more pressure. We really had to deliver.”

Appears they delivered just fine. Not only was the film nominated for best picture, but Aronofsky made the best director nominees list. “I think he deserves it," Franklin says of the director. "I’m thrilled for everybody, but it’s been a long time coming for Darren.”

This year’s crop of nominated films is especially good, Franklin adds. And he credits the large number of independent films in the mix this year to the fact that there are now, for the secodnd year running, 10 films nominated for best picture instead of five. 

“When 'The Wrestler' appeared there were just five best picture noms.  It’s a very different year this year,” he says. “Ten noms gives us a chance for more diversity. And we have some great indie films this year -- that will hopefully keep independent films going.  And then 'Social Network' is great –- it’s a story of its time.  So having 10 noms helps that way. But it also dilutes the prestige of the category. I wish they’d had 10 when we did 'The Wrestler'!”



'The King's Speech,' 'True Grit' top Academy Award nominations

Oscar nominees react

Full list of nominations

-- Deborah Vankin




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