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Category: January 2012

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SAG Awards: Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer on acting, injustice and awards-season frenzy

January 29, 2012 |  9:09 pm

Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis

Why, yes, Viola Davis does find it strange and exciting that she beat out veteran actress Meryl Streep (the woman who gets nominated for just about everything) to take the SAG award for female actor in a leading role for her turn in "The Help." “I feel pretty overwhelmed with my name being called,” Davis said backstage Sunday night when the cast answered questions about the film's best ensemble win.

Earlier, of course, Davis had taken the stage to accept her award for her portrayal of Southern domestic Aibileen Clark in “The Help," the big-screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel. "I just don’t see the ‘best’ thing going on," Davis said. "It’s hard. Every time I start a new job, I feel like I start with a clean slate. … I feel like everyone is going to find out what a hack I am. And it’s strange to triumph over Meryl Streep."

But Cicely Tyson, Davis’ “Help” co-star, wasn’t the least surprised by her win or that of Octavia Spencer, who took the statuette in the supporting female actor category.

SAG Awards: Photos | 360° tour | Photo booth | Winners | Stage set-up time lapse | Video

“I’m not surprised that Viola and Octavia were awarded for the unbelievable work that was done in the film,” Tyson said. “I had a dream — and I told Viola about it — that she and Octavia did win. So it wasn’t a surprise to me. What surprised me is that the two of them were black. That’s unusual … what I saw tonight was extreme promise and hope.”

But for Davis, the role was accompanied not only by acclaim but also some criticism. “During the course of promoting the movie, I found myself having to defend my choice in playing a maid,” she said. “I’ve had to find my voice. I had to find my voice as a woman of color, as an artist. And I never thought I would be put in a position like that. I’m usually in the background of movies. All of a sudden, I was being put to the test, being pushed against the wall. It kind of made me feel what Aibileen felt.”

For her part, Spencer seemed to take pride in the characters and spirit of “The Help.” “I’m thrilled that [the film is] shining a light on women who haven’t been given a voice in our history,” Spencer said.

She also said the experience of playing Southern maid Minny Jackson was a profound one that made her realize “To be silent is to be passive.” While responding to questions backstage, Spencer both voiced her support for gay rights, comparing the issue to past civil rights struggles by women and African Americans, and took on societal standards of beauty.

“It’s our society that has told [women] and continues to tell them when you reach a certain age you’re no longer valuable, that when you reach a certain weight, you’re no longer valuable,” Spencer said. “We have to start standing up for ourselves and saying, 'This is who I am.' ”

The outspoken actress has been on a roll this season, having won awards for her performance at the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and now the SAG Awards. Spencer was honored to be recognized by her fellow actors. “It’s beyond profound,” she said backstage, “because its your peers saying you are the best that you can be tonight.”

Asked by a reporter if she was excited by the chance to continue her success and win an Academy Award in a few weeks, Spencer demurred and praised her competition.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say to you I would love to win an Oscar,” Spencer said. “But we have a group of brilliantly talented actresses, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that because I’ve won these [awards] then I’ll win [the Oscar]. I would never be that presumptuous. I mean, Melissa McCarthy, Jessica Chastain, Janet McTeer are in that category. Pretty brilliant.”

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Photo: Octavia Spencer, left, and Viola Davis backstage at the Screen Actors Guild. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images.


SAG Awards 2012: Jean Dujardin admits to feeling 'big pressure'

January 29, 2012 |  8:44 pm

Jean dujardin SAG awards the artist
With his breakout performance in “The Artist,” French actor Jean Dujardin has vaulted from obscurity stateside to Hollywood stardom and done it while scarcely saying a word.

At the SAG Awards at the Shrine Exposition Hall on Sunday, Dujardin’s turn as the silent-era movie star George Valentin beat out such A-list leading men as George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role.

Looking every bit the old-school movie star backstage in his tux, a glowing Dujardin was a bit more talkative than his onscreen persona, and it took only a few lines of his heavily accented English to charm the press room.

SAG Awards: Photos | 360° tour | Photo booth | Winners | Stage set-up time lapse | Video

Asked by a reporter if he was surprised by the film’s success, Dujardin downplayed his contributions. “It’s not my fault,” he said, flashing a smile and prompting peals of laughter. “I’m just an actor. I think the star of the movie is the movie and the project and the …”

He trailed off, clearly struggling for the right words.

“Boring!” he said, slapping himself on both cheeks. “Wakey, wakey, Jean!”

The crowd laughed and he continued.

He went on to thank director Michel Hazanavicius, whom he nicknamed “Hazava-genius.”

Dujardin tried to explain the film’s appeal, calling it a feel-good movie, a love story and “a new visual and emotional experience for the audience.” He added, “And there’s a dog, and it’s a cute dog.”

When asked how he felt about his chances of winning an Academy Award for his performance — he would be the first Frenchman to win best lead actor — he answered by singing a few bars of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. After the applause died down, he admitted to feeling “pressure, big pressure. It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing already. It’s too early to tell."

“Take a drink with me after,” he added in a conspiratorial whisper.

Dujardin was also asked what he thought of his future acting in America. After protesting that his English needs work and joking that he might try making another silent movie in the U.S., he said, “I have another shooting in April in France, and after I don’t know. But like George Valentin says, ‘With pleasure.’ ”

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SAG Awards 2012: 'The Help' takes film cast prize

January 29, 2012 |  6:58 pm

SAG Awards 2012: 'The Help' takes film cast prize. Click for full coverage.

"The Help," the 1960s-set civil rights drama adapted from Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel, won the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, taking home the coveted film cast award at the guild's annual ceremony.

The win gives "The Help" a boost heading into the 84th Academy Awards ceremony next month, where it is up for best picture — the film cast prize at the SAG Awards is considered one of the most reliable bellwethers of Oscar glory.

It was a good night for the film, with both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer winning for their female actor and supporting performances, respectively.

FULL COVERAGE: 18th annual SAG Awards

In accepting the cast award, Davis said racism and sexism aren't just battles to be fought by women or people of color. "It’s all of our burden," she said, "all of us."

The 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards were handed out at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles and broadcast on TNT and TBS. The Oscars will be presented on Feb. 26.

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Photo: Octavia Spencer, left, and Viola Davis star in "The Help." Credit: Dale Robinette / DreamWorks


SAG Awards 2012: Viola Davis wins best female actor

January 29, 2012 |  6:53 pm

SAG Awards 2012: Viola Davis wins best female actor . Click for full coverage.

Viola Davis won the SAG Award on Sunday night for female actor in a leading film role for her starring turn in “The Help.”

The 46-year-old Davis also just earned her first lead actress Academy Award nomination for her role as Southern domestic Aibileen Clark in the hit adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel set in the 1960s.

SAG Awards: Photos | 360° tour | Photo booth | Winners | Stage set-up time lapse | Video

Davis, who has won two Tony Awards for her work on Broadway, won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for lead actress and garnered Globe and BAFTA nominations.

The 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards were handed out at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles and broadcast on TNT and TBS.

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Photo: Viola Davis in "The Help." Credit: DreamWorks


SAG Awards 2012: Jean Dujardin wins lead actor film prize

January 29, 2012 |  6:44 pm

SAG Awards 2012: Jean Dujardin wins lead actor film prize. Click for full coverage.

Jean Dujardin won the SAG Award for male actor in a leading role Sunday night for his starring role in the black-and-white love letter to silent cinema, "The Artist."

The 39-year-old Parisian is also a first-time Oscar nominee for lead actor as George Valentin, a silent-screen superstar whose career falls apart with the advent of talkies. Last year, he won lead actor at the Cannes Film Festival for the movie and he recently received the Golden Globe for lead actor in a motion picture, comedy or musical.

Dujardin is also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and a BAFTA.

The 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards were handed out at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles and broadcast on TNT and TBS.

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Photo: Jean Dujardin in "The Artist."  Credit: Associated Press


SAG Awards: Octavia Spencer wins for supporting female actor

January 29, 2012 |  5:12 pm

The Help

Octavia Spencer won the SAG Award for female actor in a supporting role for “The Help.”

The 39-year-old character actress also just earned her first Oscar nomination for her scene-stealing turn as the sassy Southern domestic Minny Jackson in the box office hit set in the South of the early ’60s.

Spencer already has won the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for her performance, as well as the National Board of Review honor as a member of the ensemble of the film. She’s also in contention for the BAFTA award. Spencer's co-star Jessica Chastain was also nominated in the category for her work in the film.

The 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards were handed out at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles and broadcast on TNT and TBS. The Oscars will be presented on Feb. 26.

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Photo: Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer in "The Help." Credit: DreamWorks


SAG Awards: Christopher Plummer wins for supporting actor

January 29, 2012 |  5:06 pm

 Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners."

Christopher Plummer won the SAG Award for male actor in a supporting role for his turn as a man coming out about his homosexuality near the end of his life in “Beginners.”

The 82-year-old Canadian-born Plummer, who starred as Capt. Von Trapp in the 1965 best picture winner “The Sound of Music,” just earned his second supporting actor Oscar nomination for his turn as Hal Fields, a widower dying of cancer.

He's already won the Golden Globe, the Critics' Choice Movie Award and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and several other critics’ honors. Plummer is also in contention for BAFTA and Independent Spirit awards.

The 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards were handed out at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles and broadcast on TNT and TBS. The Oscars will be presented on Feb. 26.

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Photo: Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners." Credit: Focus Features


Sundance 2012: An Occupy movement (sort of) takes hold

January 29, 2012 |  4:57 pm

Occupy protesters
On a snowy day last week in Park City, Utah, about 10 activists outfitted in costumes such as the Statue of Liberty and a Boston Patriot materialized in the parking lot of a Wells Fargo outside the city's Old Town. The Sundance Film Festival was taking place, and there was no better place for Occupy-style activists to deliver their message to the 1%.

The flash mob burst into a waiting area on the bank's ground-floor offices and began chanting "Pay your taxes, Wells Fargo" and "We are the 99%," marching in a small circle before reading a list of Occupy tenets.
 
The scene went on for about five minutes as employees and customers looked on. Then a branch manager came out of his office and asked them to leave. They agreed, and the protest moved to the corner of a busy intersection where snow was driving pretty hard. A policeman used tape to cordon off an area, keeping a stoic face as one of the protesters tried to give him a quick primer on the prison-industrial complex. 

The protesters started up the chants again. Cars passed by — some drivers honking in solidarity, others waving their middle fingers.

"We feel that way about you too," activist Justin Kramer yelled back when given the bird. Then he turned to a reporter and said, "That doesn't seem like a good way to go about it. At Marmot [a clothing and equipment store on the city's Main Street] they put out a sign that said, 'Hey Occupy people, we're hiring.' His voice took on a rueful tone. "It's nice when they at least try to be creative."

Though filled with glitz and celebrity, the Sundance Film Festival, which wraps Sunday, has been a minor bed of activism over the past 10 days. In addition to the protests — several others were held on Main Street during the festival — director Jonathan Demme came to the Slamdance Film Festival (held in Park City concurrent with Sundance) and screened a short he shot at the Occupy Wall Street protests in October.

The effect of these events was to create an unusual contrast: inside the city's high-end restaurants, fine food and wine were being consumed by some of the entertainment world's richest and most influential people. On streets and screens, however, were persistent reminders of the economically disadvantaged, a juxtaposition we explore in this Times story. (Other films included the documentary "Detropia" and the corporate-tax investigation "We're Not Broke," the latter of which some of the Wells Fargo protesters were affiliated with.)

The activists explained why Sundance was an ideal forum for their message. “What were trying to do is reach the 1%, and there’s no better place to do that in Park City during Sundance,” said Kramer, 28, a Salt Lake City resident who has been active in the local Occupy movement.
 
The protesters said they had chosen Wells Fargo, they said, because of the low taxes the company paid, and generally thought Park City was a good choice because of the concentration of high-end brands “There are so many corporate sponsors here during the film festival,” said Kira Elliott, 29, an activist from Chicago. “We’d be crazy to be anywhere else.”

Demme's short, "Hyptnotic Fierce Drum Circle," was shot Oct. 15, and the title sums it up well: It captures dozens of percussionists — black, white, asian, male, female, young, old — plus people playing horns, whistles, guitars and cymbals. Without a conductor, they somehow improvise a melodic cacophony.

In an interview the day after the screening, Demme, who lives in New York, said initially intended to go check out the Occupy Wall Street protest for about an hour. "I was obliged to go down there," he recalled. "I've been complaining for years about the lack of a protest generation." 

He stayed for an hour and then another, and then another, and then when he started to leave, a march started coming his way, so he stayed longer.

After his first visit, he and collaborator Shane Bissett, 25, returned a dozen times and shot footage at Zucotti Park and of other Occupy-related activities. They estimate they've collected more than 40 hours of footage, including some one-one-one interviews with individual protesters.

Their primary interest has been putting footage on the Internet, Demme said. "The premise is that if more people know what Occupy was really about — how positive it is — more poeple would join. So we've been supporting that as outsiders."

But they are also intending to go back and shoot more footage focusing on the stories of individual protesters. Ultimately, Demme said, they may cut together a couple of hours into a longer film (though he's also busy now trying to get two long-gestating projects, the animated "Zeitoun" and the adaptation of the Stephen King novel "11/22/63"). "People of my generation, the hippie generation," he said, "have been waiting for this."

You can check out another of Demme's Occupy shorts below:

 

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Photo: Occupy protesters outside a Wells Fargo in Park City, Utah. Credit: Steven Zeitchik.

 

— Steven Zeitchik and Julie Makinen


DGA names 'The Artist's' Michel Hazanavicius best director

January 28, 2012 | 11:17 pm

Scorsese payne hazanavicius fincher dga

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

The Directors Guild of America on Saturday evening named Michel Hazanavicius best film director of 2011 for “The Artist,” the nostalgic black-and-white, nearly silent movie that hearkens back to the time of transition in Hollywood from silents to talkies. It is the first guild win for the 44-year-old French filmmaker.

"It's maybe the highest recognition I could hope. I really love directors, I over-respect directors. This is very moving and touching to me," he said, receiving a standing ovation. "Best director -- I really don't know what that means. All movies are different, so it's a strange thing to try to compare them and say which is best, but I'm very happy to get this. Thank you."

The other nominees were Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), David Fincher ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Alexander Payne ("The Descendants").

PHOTOS: Directors Guild of America Awards

The DGA feature film awards are considered one of the most dependable bellwethers for the Academy Awards for best director. Over the past 63 years, the DGA and academy have disagreed on their choices only six times. The last time was nine years ago when Rob Marshall won the DGA award for “Chicago” and Roman Polanski was named best director by the academy for “The Pianist.”

Hazanavicius had already been named best director by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Critics Choice Movie Awards. He was in contention for a Golden Globe and is nominated for a BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award for best director.

Last week, “The Artist” won the Producers Guild of America award, which is one of the indicators for the best film Oscar. On Tuesday, “The Artist” earned 10 Oscar nominations, one less than the top nominee “Hugo.” Hazanavicius is up for three of those Oscars for director, screenplay and editing.

The 64th annual DGA Awards were held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland. Recent Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammer was the host of the evening, succeeding Carl Reiner, who had become an institution at the event, hosting 24 times. Reiner agreed to host for a final time at the 2011 ceremony.

"Welcome to what will be a glorious night....for some of you. Last year we celebrated the DGA awards of biblical length -- it was so long, the Mayans could not predict an end," he said. "The director's cut was two hours shorter. Even James Cameron said, 'it was too long.'"

Before being named the night's big winner, Hazanavicius was presented with his nominee medallion by his two stars, Berenice Bejo and Jean Dujardin. Upon taking it, he said: "It's a thrill to be here and to be among these wonderful directors. I'm honored," he said in accepting the medallion. "Maybe you haven't noticed but I'm French. I have an accent and I have a name that is very difficult to pronounce. I'm not American and I'm not French, actually. I'm a filmmaker. And I made a film about my love for Hollywood. We create stories that tell people they are not alone. We separate life from shadows. Hollywood helped me grow up. I believed in values like courage, perseverance and integrity."

"I made this film as a love letter to Hollywood. I feel like I am being accepted by you -- not you as Americans but as filmmakers. So thank you." And he added:  "For my wife Berenice, I'm so glad we shared this together and I love you."

The guild gave James Marsh the award for feature documentary for "Project Nim."

The DGA award for best directing in a TV comedy series went to Robert B. Weide, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ("Palestinian Chicken").

In accepting, Weide said: "I have very mixed feelings about this because this means that I just lost a $300 bet to my wife, Linda. Why do they call this a medallion? It's a plate. I understand when you go to Don Mischer's house for dinner, you actually eat off of these."

Other awards handed out Saturday night:

Movies for Television and Mini-series: Jon Cassar, "The Kennedys"

Dramatic TV series: Patty Jenkins, for the pilot of "The Killing"

Musical variety TV: Glenn Weiss, for the 65th annual Tony Awards 

Reality TV programs: Neil P. Degroot, for "Biggest Loser"

Daytime TV serials: William Ludell, for "General Hospital" ("Intervention")

Children’s programs: Amy Schatz, for "A Child's Garden of Poetry" 

Commercials: Noam Murro

Three special awards were also presented. Ed Sherin was named an Honorary Life Member; Katy Garretson received the Frank Capra Achievement Award; and Dennis Mazzocco recieved the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award.

[For the record, 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29: A previous version of this post misspelled the last name of "Project Nim" director James Marsh as March.]

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Photo: Directors Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Michel Hazanavicius and David Fincher attend the 64th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards Meet the Nominees Breakfast held at the DGA on Saturday.Credit: Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA 

  


Sundance 2012: 'Beasts,' drug war doc win grand jury prizes

January 28, 2012 |  8:57 pm

John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up Saturday night in Park City, Utah, with "Beasts of the Southern Wild," directed by Benh Zeitlin, taking the grand jury prize in the U.S. dramatic competition. 
"The House I Live In,"  a look at the war against drugs and the American penal system directed by Eugene Jarecki, was awarded the grand jury prize for U.S. documentary.

"Beasts" had been the clear favorite in the dramatic category throughout the festival. The film is an expressionistic, uplifting fable of a little girl (Quvenzhane Wallis) and her father (Dwight Henry) struggling to survive on the Southern Delta in the face of poverty and flooding.

As the cast and crew took to the stage to accept the prize, Zeitlin  declared, "I hope this film is just like a flag that goes up" in inspiration to other filmmakers.

"Violeta Went to Heaven," directed by Andres Wood, a film about singer Violeta Parra, won the World Cinematic Dramatic Jury prize. The jury prize for World Cinema Documentary went to Ra'anan Alexandrowicz for "The Law in These Parts," about the legal system in Israel and the  Palestinian territories.

The audience prizes went to Ben Lewin's "The Surrogate" in the U.S. dramatic category and Kirby Dick's "The Invisible War," about rape in the military, for U.S. documentary. "Valley of Saints" won with audiences in the world cinema dramatic category and "Searching for Sugar Man" won in the  world cinema documentary contest. "Sleepwalk With Me," written, directed by and starring Mike Birbiglia, won the Best of NEXT audience award.

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance 2012

Other winners in the U.S. dramatic category were Ava DuVernay for directing "Middle of Nowhere" and Ben Richardson with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" for cinematography.  The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award went to Derek Connolly for "Safety Not Guaranteed."

A special jury prize went to producers Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling who had both "Smashed" and "Nobody Walks" in the competiton. A special jury prize also went to the ensemble cast of "The Surrogate," which includes John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy. 

In the U.S. documentary category, Lauren Greenfield won for directing "The Queen of Versailles," Enat Sidi won for editing on "Detropia," and Jeff Orlowski with "Chasing Ice" for cinematography.

There were two special jury prizes, for "Love Free Or Die" and "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry." 

The awards ceremony was to be have been hosted by long-time Sundance favorite Parker Posey, but at the opening of the show John Cooper, director of the festival, announced that Posey had taken ill and was unable to attend. "This is real," he said to the crowd who assumed it was some kind of comedy bit.

Rather, he brought up actress and filmmaker Katie Aselton, at the festival with her film "Black Rock," to serve as co-host.

The evening also included a tribute to Bingham Ray, the veteran film executive, stalwart festival presence and leading champion of independent film who died this week after suffering a stroke at the festival.

Cooper took pause and choked up as he read a statement which noted Ray's was "a career that almost perfectly paralleled the rise of independent film in America." 

Full list of winners:

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