24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Christian Bale

Christian Bale film among 63 vying for foreign language Oscar

October 13, 2011 |  3:33 pm

Zhang Yimou Christian Bale

China's "The Flowers of War," Zhang Yimou's historical epic starring Christian Bale, will be among the 63 films competing to win the foreign language Oscar at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced Thursday.

"Flowers," directed by the famed Chinese auteur whose resume includes "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," is set in 1937 during the Japanese invasion of Nanking, and casts Bale as a salty mortician who risks his life to protect a group of schoolchildren. The drama will be in contention alongside films such as Iran's "A Separation," Asghar Farhadi's festival darling that Sony Pictures Classics will release at the end of the year, and Israel's "Footnote."

Among the biggest surprises is the entry for Albania, with the academy choosing "Amnesty," from director Bujar Alimani, over Joshua Marston's "The Forgiveness of Blood," the country's initial choice. Marston's film, which was co-written by an Albanian writer and was shot in Albania with Albanian-language dialogue, came under scrutiny initially with some protesters, including director Alimani, claiming that a film by an American should not be the country's official choice.

It's the second time a film from Marston did not meet the eligibility requirements set forth by the academy's foreign language committee. Marston's 2004 feature "Maria Full of Grace," which depicted the life of a Colombian drug mule, was deemed ineligible for not featuring sufficient Colombian creative input.

Also disqualified was the entry from the Central African Republic. It too was filmed by an American, in this case a woman, and didn't feature enough crew members from the selected country.

Screenings of the films begin this weekend at the academy.


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-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Director Zhang Yimou, left, with Christian Bale on the set of "The Flowers of War." Credit: YAO/New Pictures Film

Reel China: Christian Bale's 'Flowers' picked as Oscar submission

September 23, 2011 |  2:59 pm

Lost Flowers

Christian Bale won the supporting actor Oscar earlier this year for “The Fighter.” If China has its way in next year’s Academy Awards, Bale could be represented in the foreign-language race.

China’s Film Bureau said Friday that “The Flowers of War,” an ambitious war story that is set and was filmed in China, will be the country’s official entry for the foreign-language trophy. Although large parts of the film are in English, the production, directed by Zhang Yimou (“Raise the Red Lantern,” “Hero”), is principally in Mandarin. Bale plays John Haufman, an American caught in Japan’s invasion of China in 1937.  In a Nanking cathedral, Haufman fights to protect a collection of young girls from the Imperial Army.

The American release plans for “The Flowers of War” have not been finalized. Bale is currently working on the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight Rises.”


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--John Horn

Photo: Christian Bale in "The Flowers of War." Credit: New Pictures Film

Cannes 2011: Christian Bale's China movie aims to catch America's eye

May 14, 2011 |  1:15 pm


The international film business can bridge a lot of cultural divides But can it knock down one of the great walls of cinema culture -- the one that stands between China and the U.S.?

China allows in precious few American movies every year, despite halting efforts to change that, and almost no Chinese blockbusters succeed in North America. But the people behind the Chinese epic "The Heroes of Nanking" hope their movie can help create a new pipeline.

Photos: Cannes Film Festival 2011

The period drama, which tells of an American priest who puts his life on the line during the Nanking Massacre to shelter more than a dozen prostitutes and students, has roots in Chinese history and cinema. And it's based on a popular Chinese novel. But it also stars a Hollywood leading man, Christian Bale, as the priest and is directed by Zhang Yimou, the award-winning filmmaker who came to mainstream prominence in the U.S. when he staged the pyrotechnics of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony and has directed numerous films including "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers."

On Saturday afternoon at the Cannes Film Festival, filmmakers gathered at the city's Majestic Hotel to tout the project, at a reception thrown by the newly hired U.S.-based sales agent, who has come on to help the film find distributors around the world. (The company's producer, New Pictures, is also currently seeking U.S. distribution.)

Zhang Weiping, who produced as well as financed the film, said that there was a social component to his piece of entertainment.  "Chinese people love Hollywood movies, but in the West there are a lot of misconceptions about China," Weiping told 24 Frames, speaking through a fellow producer, Chaoying Deng, who was translating.  "We want this movie to give Americans and Europeans a perspective on China and Chinese cinema. We want to communicate with every race and people."

Weiping said he wasn't worried about the historical nuances being lost on a non-Asian audience.  "It's a story about heroism, and everybody can relate to that," he said.

Bale has wrapped his scenes in the movie, which has a shooting schedule of Hollywood proportions -- it began in December and finishes in mid-June. Nearly an entire period city was re-created in a neighborhood of Beijing; filmmakers are relying on physical locations over CGI to enhance the film's authenticity.

While the U.S. has a long love affair with martial-arts films, historical and other forms of Chinese dramas have mainly been confined to a niche audience, along the lines of Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" back in 2007. But filmmakers hope "Nanking" ushers in a new period. "It speaks a universal language, and that makes us hopeful," Weiping said.


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--Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France


Photo: A still from "The Heroes of Nanking." Credit: FilmNation

Oscars: What's next for the winners?

February 28, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Yourhighness They might have stood on the most prestigious stage in Hollywood on Sunday night. But this year’s Academy Award winners won’t necessarily be in Oscar mode when they next pop up on a movie screen.

Because they took jobs before the awards angel landed on their shoulders — or because they simply want to perform in  diverse roles — many of the winners will star in more commercial films than the ones that netted them their statuettes.

In April, Natalie Portman will appear in the (not exactly Oscar-like) stoner comedy “Your Highness" (and opposite Oscar co-host James Franco). Just a month later, she’ll star as a scientist in a Marvel superhero movie, "Thor," the new take on the Norse god. (She'll also appear in a supporting role in the independent drama “Hesher,” which is expected to get a limited release.)

After that? It could be a while before we see the pregnant actress on screen again; Portman said backstage at the Oscars on Sunday that she had no idea how impending motherhood would affect the roles she takes. “One of the exciting things about becoming pregnant is that I’m expecting a complete unknown,” she said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Candid quotes from the red carpet and beyond

Melissa Leo, the “Fighter” costar who provided the, er, most colorful moment of the Oscars during her acceptance speech for supporting actress, will next make more niche appearances on the big screen. She’ll play a gun-toting member of a homophobic cult in Kevin Smith’s “Red State,” which the filmmaker is self-distributing in October, and she’ll star in an independent golf dramedy titled “Seven Days in Utopia,” which does not yet have a theatrical distributor. (She also has a recurring role on HBO’s post-Katrina New Orleans-set series “Treme.”)

After years of romantic comedy roles leading up to his turn as George VI in “The King’s Speech,” lead actor winner Colin Firth is skewing a little bit more commercial than the film that landed him his statuette — but only a little bit.

The English actor will next be seen in the adaptation of John le Carré’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” a film he was shooting while promoting “The King’s Speech” this season. He plays a British intelligence officer (code name Tailor) suspected of being a Russian mole. The espionage drama, whose rights have just been acquired by Universal Pictures, does not yet have a release date.

 Firth this summer also aims to shoot Park Chan-Wook’s “Stoker,” a mystery drama that will put him in a film with another 2011 award-season personality, Nicole Kidman.

PHOTO GALLERY: Behind the scenes of the 2011 Academy Awards

And Christian Bale? He's spent the last part of his Oscar campaign in an artistically rigorous place: in China shooting a part as a heroic priest in the Asian period piece “The 13 Women of Nanjing." But blockbusters aren’t too far from the actor’s mind; Bale will reprise his superhero role in “The Dark Knight Rises,” which is scheduled for the summer of 2012.

“When I finish the movie in China,” he told reporters Sunday, “it’s straight to Batman. Much more Batman.”

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, center, and James Franco in "Your Highness." Credit: Universal


Oscar speeches: navel-gazing or proper thanks?

February 28, 2011 |  2:08 pm

Every year, Oscar nominees are admonished: If you win, make your acceptance speech memorable. Few, though, seem to be listening.

At the luncheon for Academy Award nominees held annually a few weeks before the show, the broadcast’s producers deliver the message. You’re facing a global audience of millions, they advise, so think very carefully about what you want to say. Don’t recite a list of people no one outside of Hollywood has heard of.

"Reading a long list of names only shows us your bald spot," Tom Hanks said in a video filled with bad speeches shown at this year’s luncheon. Oscar producer Don Mischer even cautioned that whenever a winner unfurls a piece of paper, hundreds of thousands of viewers tune out of the show.

PHOTO GALLERY: Candid quotes from the red carpet and beyond

Colleen Atwood, who won the costume design Oscar for “Alice in Wonderland,” was at the luncheon, but didn’t seem to heed the warning Sunday night, pulling out a long roster of people to thank.

A number of winners acknowledged parents, children and significant others. But the 2011 broadcast was also notable for how many people thanked their agents, managers and publicists — who of course are paid richly to promote their clients’ careers. 

PHOTO GALLERY: Best and Worst of the 2011 Academy Awards

Some may blame hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway for the show’s ratings, which according to early projections were off 7% from a year ago. But perhaps there’s another reason: No one in America knows — or cares — who an actor’s agent is.

Some excerpts of the inside-Hollywood thank-yous from Sunday’s winners:

Natalie Portman, lead actress for “Black Swan”: “…I want to thank my team who works with me every day. Aleen Keshishian, my manager, for 18 years and my agents Kevin Huvane and everyone at CAA. Bryna and Tamar at ID, my friends who are everything to me no matter what's going on in my career.”

Aaron Sorkin, adapted screenplay for “The Social Network”: “There are a lot of people who've worked hard in my corner for a long time, it seems like the right moment to thank them. My assistant Lauren Lohman, my researcher, Ian Reichbach, my long suffering press rep, Joy Fehily, and all the women of Prime, Rich Heller, Bill Tanner, Andy Forshay, my agents Ari Emanuel and Jason Spitz who never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free….”

Christian Bale, supporting actor for “The Fighter”: “…My team, led by Patrick and Boomer and Carlos and Jen and Anna and Julie, thank you so much for everything that you do.”

--John Horn

Photo of Natalie Portman at the 83rd Academy Awards. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


Oscars: Christian Bale gives best speech yet

February 27, 2011 |  6:43 pm

Yeah! I love it that Christian Bale won. One of those actors who is always provocative. Heartfelt, and a great shout-out to Micky Eklund, the recovering addict/boxer he played in "The Fighter." That he ended with a word for his wife, voice-breaking, best acceptance yet.

SAG and Globes had already weighed in saying he was the best. He's already created an incredible body of work, with "The Fighter" only the latest in what I hope will be a very long string.

--Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Christian Bale and his wife Sibi Blazic at the Oscars. Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP


Terrence Malick will plant a new tree with Christian Bale and Olga Kurylenko

February 3, 2010 | 12:58 pm

Terrence Malick is still editing, tweaking, adjusting and otherwise fiddling with his latest movie, the Sean Penn-Brad Pitt tour de but-what-the-heck-is-it-actually-about "Tree of Life." But apparently the meticulous auteur already has an eye outside the editing room and on the set of his next film. So much for those 20-year hiatuses.

Mal According to the company selling said project at the Berlin Film Festival, Malick will in the fall begin shooting an untitled picture, described by said company simply as a "romantic drama" and a "powerful and moving love story" (elaborate detail by Malickian standards, actually). As he did for "Tree," Malick has lined up a top-tier cast; this one includes Christian Bale and Javier Bardem (and also features Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko and Holmes girl Rachel McAdams), it was revealed today.

Film Nation, the startup sales and financing company from former Weinstein Company executive Glen Basner, is financing and selling the project, while Bill Pohlad, whose River Road is behind "Tree of Life," is among the producers.

Given Malick's famously slow work pace -- he went silent between "Days of Heaven in 1978 and "The Thin Red Line" in 1998 and has been editing and reediting "Tree of Life" for some time -- the new romance should probably hit sometime in 2019. But maybe the best news about the fall start date for the new film is that it means that "Tree of Life" -- a movie about a Midwestern boy's journey, according to a thousand read tea leaves -- is actually close to completion. That is, until the director goes back to prune more branches.

-- Steven Zeitchik


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