EXTRA! EXTRA! Technology and Academy Awards: Connections #69

NAB 2013.   Model of Black Magic's new 4K Camera.

NAB 2013. Model of Black Magic’s new 4K Camera.

     Last year I attended NAB — the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Black Magic announced it would deliver a Cinema Camera with 4K resolution for $3,999.  Well, it has taken them almost one year to deliver this camera to the folks who want it.  It is a great camera for a very low price.  The marketing talk was “4K for 4K (four thousand dollars) but Black Magic did themselves  one step better.  It’s now 4K for a ridiculously low price of $2,999.  And it includes their hi-end post production color timing tool Resolve.

     This Sunday night is the Academy Awards.  Who will win?  Who will lose?  But in  truth everyone nominated is a winner.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! Cinerama Dome’s 50th Birthday: Connections #65

     November 7th, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California.

     November 7th, 1963 I was a newreel cameraman for KHJ-TV in Los Angeles.  The occasion was the world première of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” in a theatre based on a geodesic dome developed by R. Buckmaster Fuller.  This premier marked the dawn of “single lens” Cinerama.

Photo of the Cinerama Dome on November 7, 1963

Photo of the Cinerama Dome on November 7, 1963

     Directed by Stanley Kramer, the cast was outstanding: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, and a host of other stars including legendary Buster Keaton.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! “Atlas Shrugged”, “Bad Blood”, “The Wrecking Crew”: Connections #55

Been a very busy month.  “Atlas Shrugged Part ll – The Strike” as well as “Bad Blood – The Hunger” are playing or have have played in movie theaters throughout the USA.

Today I was told by some of my Hollywood friends that “Bad Blood – The Hunger” is on the cover of the Daily Variety that’s being given to film distributors and buyers from around the world who are attending the American Film Market in Santa Monica this week and next.

And to top all of this off, my wife Marcia and I are co-sponsoring with Peter and Dallas Clark, the Santa Barbara premiere of  “The Wrecking Crew, “ an amazing documentary about the young studio musicians who played on virtually every top pop hit out of Los Angeles in the 1960s with their influential West Coast Sound.   Pop singers such as Cher, Glen Cambell, Nancy Sinatra, and the list goes on.

The film was a winner at the Seattle Film Festival.

The Wrecking Crew,” a film by Denny Tedesco, will play on Wednesday, November  7th at the historic Arlington Theatre on State Street in Santa Barbara.  Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster on the Arlington’s website.

Every month lots of exciting things seem to happen, so I’m looking forward to the month of November.

Ah yes, The Presidential Election.  Be sure to vote…O I’m not going to tell you who my wife and I will vote for.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! IT’S ACADEMY AWARDS TIME: Connections (#35)


Oscars

It’s that time of the year again, and an especially exciting time for me, with the Academy Awards Show airing tomorrow night.

I’ve been busy since September working as Post Production Producer on the feature film “Atlas Shrugged.” We had our first private screenings at Sony Studios on Tuesday and Thursday.  Tuesday morning I had a technical screening for financier John Agigularo, his wife Joan Carter, and producer Harmon Kaslow. Afterwards, Joan told me she was crying (with tears of joy) as the “hero scene ” played on the big screen.  I do not want to give it away. I will only say it has to do with The John Gault Line.

Two time Academy awards winner Al Ruddy, who was once involved with “Atlas,” said the movie turned out much better than he had ever imagined.

I watched all the screenings from the projection booth at Sony Studios, as “Atlas was being digitally projected to stellar audiences.  Each screening was an overwhelming success.

Two days ago, I took AMTRAC’S Pacific Surfliner from Santa Barbara, California to Solano Beach, just north of San Diego,.  The event was The CATO Benefactor’s Conference held at the Grand Del Mar, one of the most luxurious hotels I’ve ever stayed at.  CATO is a Libertarian Think Tank and this weekend they were raising funds to build  a headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

The screening of “Atlas Shrugged” was warmly received and John Agigularo and Harmon Kaslow received a standing ovation.

I will talk more about “Atlas” as I travel across the country to show the movie to members of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Then at Tribecca in New York City.   And at a venue in Palm Beach, Florida.

"The King's Speech"

Now on to the Academy Awards.  Colin Firth is a shoe-in to win an Oscar for Best Actor.  It will be a wonderful experience for him, and a delightful experience for me.  Twenty-two years ago, I worked with Colin on the wonderfully quirky motion picture “Apartment Zero.” He played a projectionist in a small movie theatre showing “Art Films” in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  He had “star” quality even back then, and now he’s a real “movie star” with his magnificent performance in “The King’s Speech.”   Colin, I can’t wait ’til tomorrow night to hear your acceptance speech.

My hat’s off to James Franco who’s nominated for an Oscar for his extraordinary performance in “127 Hours,” directed by Danny Boyle. I worked with Franco on “Camille,” a lovely motion picture that sadly underperformed at the box office.

James Franco won’t win an Academy Award — he did win the SPIRIT Award last night — but the next best thing to winning an Oscar is to co-host with Anne Hathaway the Academy Awards show tonight.

I’ll be watching Colin and James, along with millions of fans world-wide, with fond memories of our working together.

As the old Show Biz saying goes, “Break a Leg.”  In the case, since I’ll be rooting for both of you, “Break Two Legs.”

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EXTRA! EXTRA! Looking Forward: Connections (#34)

Collin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech"

The race is on.In the weeks leading up to Oscar nomination day, David Fincher’sFacebook movie “The Social Network” had all but been anointed the winner of this year’s best picture Academy Award, racking up nearly every critic’s prize across the country, in addition to taking the top Golden Globe. But Tuesday morning the race heated up significantly with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences handing the British drama “The King’s Speech” 12 nominations — the most of any film this year.Joel and Ethan Coen’s PG-13 western “True Grit” landed 10 nominations while “Social Network” and “Inception” each walked away with eight.

“It seems like an extremely even playing field,” said Scott Rudin, who with “The Social Network” and “True Grit” became the first producer since 1974 to have two films in the best picture race. “I don’t think it’s a two-horse race, I don’t think it’s even a three-horse race. I think it’s going to be a very fun and interesting month.”

The rest of the films in the best picture category include director David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” which earned seven nods; the James Franco – starring “127 Hours,” which landed six; and “Black Swan” with five; plus “Toy Story 3,” “The Kids Are All Right” and “Winter’s Bone.”

Leaving aside “Toy Story 3,” all of the nine other best-picture nominees are adult-oriented dramas, most of which have done exceedingly well at the box office. “Inception,” “True Grit” and “The Social Network” all passed the $100-million mark, and “Black Swan” is on track to do so. “These are all grown-up, sophisticated movies that are mostly big hits in a genre that people thought was finished,” added Rudin.

This crop of films also serves as a reinforcement for the academy’s decision to expand the best-picture category from five films to 10 last year as a way to better reflect the most popular movies (especially in comparison to the 2010 race, in which top-grossing “Avatar” was nominated but the little-seen indie “The Hurt Locker” won the top prize).

Now the teams behind the nominated films and actors will enter the final leg of their marketing campaigns, with four weeks remaining to get their movies seen and admired by all academy voters before ballots are due on Feb. 22. The awards will be handed out Feb. 27.

“The King’s Speech” took home top honors at Saturday’s Producers Guild Awards and seems to be gaining momentum. But the film’s backers aren’t taking anything for granted.

“I do not believe that of the 6,000-plus Oscar members, that everybody saw the movie,” said Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. distributed “The King’s Speech,” echoing the sentiments of most Oscar campaigners. “We have to get them all to see the movie.”

In the top acting categories, the boxing drama “The Fighter” rivaled “The King’s Speech” for the most nominations, with three each. Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Amy Adams were all selected for their portrayals of characters in the real-life Lowell, Mass., family surrounding boxing champion Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg, who was not nominated for his performance).

“We are here because of all these actors and their performances,” said Russell, who also walked away with a best director nomination along with Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”), Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), Fincher (“The Social Network”) and the Coen brothers (“True Grit”). “It’s been very emotional for me and my family.”

The one striking omission in the directing category was Christopher Nolan, whose mind-bending thriller “Inception” landed eight other nominations.

As for “The King’s Speech,” Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter were recognized for their portrayal of British royalty, while Geoffrey Rush was rewarded for his role as speech therapist Lionel Logue in the period drama about friendship and loyalty. “It’s a simple thing,” said Weinstein. “The reason the movie got that many nominations is a tribute to this cast. Our actors are our special effects on this movie.”

In contrast, “The Social Network” only received one acting nomination — for Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. Andrew Garfield’s role as Zuckerberg’s friend-turned-courtroom rival Eduardo Saverin was bypassed in the supporting actor category in favor of turns by Bale, Rush, John Hawkes for “Winter’s Bone,” Jeremy Renner in “The Town” and Mark Ruffalo for “The Kids Are All Right.”

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Ruffalo of his first-time recognition for his role as sperm donor in director Lisa Cholodenko’s family drama. “I think this is as close as you can be to becoming royalty in this country. It’s like being a duke. I was pretty much blown away.”

One of the other actors landing a nomination for the first time was “127 Hours” star Franco, who will also be hosting the show with Anne Hathaway on Feb. 27. Franco said he’s relieved to have double duty on Oscar night.

“It’s great,” he said. “The hosting duties will have me thinking about the show and not thinking about my category.” He will compete in the lead category against rookie Eisenberg, veterans Javier Bardem in “Biutiful,” Jeff Bridges in “True Grit” and Firth in “The King’s Speech.”

The lead actress category pits Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”) versus Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”), Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”), Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone). At 20, Lawrence is the youngest nominee in the category for her role as the determined teenager in “Winter’s Bone.”

There was a chance that Lawrence would be competing against the plucky 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld for her starring role in “True Grit,” but Paramount Pictures pushed her in the supporting category — as is somewhat traditional for someone of her age and inexperience. The academy responded, nominating Steinfeld opposite four more seasoned actresses: Adams, Leo, Bonham Carter and Australian Jacki Weaver for her role in the crime drama “Animal Kingdom.”

Steinfeld is still marveling at the luck of her first acting role turning into an Academy Award-nominated performance.

“Just a year ago, I was auditioning for the role and thinking whoever gets this is winning the lotto,” she said. “All of this coming with it is just so crazy.”

Copyright © 2011, The Los Angeles Times

Though blockbusters created through the studio system once had a lock on these awards, things have so changed that “The King’s Speech,” the most classically Hollywood film on the best picture list, was distributed not by a major studio but by the savvy Weinstein Co.

While the studios focus almost exclusively on dumbing down their product on an often-fruitless quest to increase revenue, five of the 10 best picture nominees were distributed by specialty divisions or small companies.

Aside from the Weinstein’s “King’s Speech,” Roadside Attractions handled “Winter’s Bone,” Universal Picture’s Focus Features division did “The Kids Are All Right” and Fox Searchlight put out both “Black Swan” and “127 Hours.”

One might even argue that many of the Oscar-nominated movies distributed by the majors were so free of studio control (because of the power and status of their filmmakers) that they were independent films in spirit, if not in name. No one is going to tell the auteurs behind “Toy Story 3” at Pixar how to operate, no one is going to give notes to Joel and Ethan Coen on “True Grit” and no one but Christopher Nolan could have persuaded Warner Bros. to go through with as nervy a project as “Inception.” More power to Sony, then, for taking a risk and giving the green light to David Fincher’s “The Social Network.”

Speaking of Nolan, one of the real scandals of this Oscar season is his absence from the best director list. Why that branch didn’t recognize Nolan’s vision and skill, not only with special effects but with actors as well, is a mystery. It’s similarly disheartening to see Lesley Manville’s marvelous performance in Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” slighted, and to have Mark Wahlberg’s non-showy but absolutely essential work as the heart of “The Fighter” sadly ignored.

And don’t get me started about this year’s foreign-language category, which inexplicably excluded France’s marvelous “Of Gods and Men,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes and dominated the recent Cesar nominations, France’s version of the Oscars. If not for the inclusion of Susanne Bier’s richly humanistic “In a Better World,” the likely winner, it would be an unusual group indeed. No, Bier’s film didn’t premiere at Sundance, but it is playing here now.

For this wintry Utah town, it’s been that kind of a year

Times staff writer Chris Lee contributed to this report.

kenneth.turan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2011, The Los Angeles Times

EXTRA! EXTRA! 2011 Golden Globe Awards: Connections (#33)

68th Annual Golden Globes

Sitting here watching the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,  I’m reminded about a number of tonight’s stars I’ve had the good fortune to work with.  L.L. Cool Jay and Blair Underwood were presenters in the show.  I worked as Post Production Supervisor with them on “Krush Groove,” (1965) for Warner Bros., which is widely credited as being the first Black Rap film.

Steve Buscemi won a Golden Globe for Best Actor  and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” in the Best Dramatic Series category.  I’m  reminded of when I was a kid spending so many wonderful summers during the 40’s and 50’s in Atlantic City. Of course it wasn’t the violent place portrayed in the TV series or at least I don’t think so.

Al Pacino won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Mini-Series for HBO’s TV Movie  “I don’t Know Jack,” the true story of Dr. Jack Kavorkian, who served time in prison for putting people with terminal illnesses out of their misery.  When Al Pacino won a Tony Award for Best Actor in “Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie,”  his manager “Sandy Bressler offered me his services for $50,000 to play the lead in “Malcolm Winkler,” (1969) which was going to be produced by me and directed by Steven Spielberg; but when I floated Pacino’s name around the Black Tower at Universal it didn’t gain any traction.

Robert De Niro was presented with the Cecil B. Demille Award for Lifetime Achievement.  One of his memorable performances was for “The Taxi Driver,” (early 70’s) a project I unsuccessfully struggled for about a year to get off the ground.

And finally congratulations to Colin Firth, who won a Golden Globe as Best Actor for “The King’s Speech.” Colin gave a wonderful performance in “Apartment Zero,” (1988) a wonderful off-beat movie set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the time of Civilian Disappearances orchestrated by the Military.  James Franco was a best actor nominee for “127 Hours.”  I worked with him on the motion picture “Camille” (2007).

Golden Globe Winner Colin Firth

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Christmas Comes Early This Year: Connections (#30)

Today marks the release of the CD “A Christmas Carol – The Concert.”  It is a pops style symphonic concert for orchestra, choir, a narrator and 3 soloists and our CD features some of Broadway’s best voices! Merwin Foard as “Scrooge”, John McDonough as “The Narrator”, Lawrence Clayton as “Cratchit”, Tony Winner Chuck Cooper as “Ghost of Christmas Present” and “Marley”, Daniel Reichard as “Fred” and “Ghost of Christmas Past”, and Sean Palmer as “Young Scrooge”.

The music is composed by my talented friend, Bob Christianson, who also co-wrote “Too Hot To Handel” which is being performed on November 14th at Carnegie Hall with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony. Book adaptation and lyrics are by Alisa Hauser.

The CD is available now for download on itunes: www.amazon.com/Christmas-Carol-Concert-Bob-Christianson/dp/B0043CT8HW

You can also visit his website: www.achristmascaroltheconcert.com

Bob told me that he decided to write “A Christmas Carol – The Concert” because of the success of my “Too Hot To Handel” concert piece (co-written with Gary Anderson) that has been performed for the past 20 years by many major orchestras in the US. Orchestra’s always need new material around Christmas time, because that’s always a good time to get families to experience the magic of a full symphonic concert.  He also feels that his writing strengths lie in writing pieces for large and diverse ensembles.  His favorite form is symphonic orchestra, large chorus, a rock/pop rhythm section, and vocal soloists. This is the structure of “A Christmas Carol – The Concert” as well as “Too Hot To Handel”.

When he and his collaborator, Alisa Hauser started writing the piece, they both realized although there were many, many film and “musical” versions of “A Christmas Carol” there didn’t seem to be one written specifically to be played in a concert setting: without scenery, costumes and staging. So they decided to try their hands at that form.  Their version tells a slightly different version of “Christmas Carol”…one that it closer to the book than to the black and white movies we all love.  As a matter of fact, there are a lot of character situations in the films that they wanted to write songs around, but they found out that these “off-shoots” of the story were not in the original story at all! But, they found a lot of interesting material in the original book that was never used in any of the famous films, and so their version of the story  has some surprises.  “For people who only know the films.  Alisa did a magnificent job of writing the lyrics and adapting the book… I couldn’t have asked for a better collaborator,” Christianson told me.

Their version of “Christmas Carol” is performed with a full symphony orchestra; a large choir; a rock/pop rhythm section, and 4 singer/actors.  One of the performers is “The Narrator”, and in addition to narrating the story to a musical background, he also “assumes” various characters in he story.  The second actor only plays “Scrooge”.  The last two singer/actors play and sing most of the other roles including Marley, Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s nephew Fred; the Ghost’s of the Past and the Present, and Tiny Tim. The “Ghost of Future Christmas” is played by a solo cello.

Christianson describes the style of the piece, as a “hybrid. …..A cross between a symphonic concert, a musical, and a film score.  The “film score” part of it is heavily emphasized since we decided to highlight the “ghost” part of the story (after all, even Dickens called it “A Christmas Ghost Story”).”

I hope you will check it out!

I wrote about Bob Christianson in another Blog: EXTRA! EXTRA! MARCH MADNESS: CONNECTIONS (#10)