Florida Film Loops: State’s struggling film industry, ArtsCenter/South Florida grant

Is Florida’s film industry running on fumes?

Several major, notable films, of course, have recently been made in the Sunshine State.

“The Florida Project,” shot on 35mm film in and around Kissimmee at a cost of about $2 million, yielded more than $10 million at the U.S. box office. The 2017 movie, directed, written, shot, edited, and co-produced by Sean Baker, landed a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe.

Barry Jenkins‘ “Moonlight” was shot digitally on location in Miami for $4 million and generated more than $65 million in box-office receipts worldwide, including nearly $28 million in the U.S. & Canada. The 2016 film won three Oscars, including best picture, and additionally notched five Oscar nominations.

Moonlight_(2016_film)

Both films were critically lauded, racking up glowing reviews and landing on many year-end Top 10 lists assembled by critics and critics’ groups. The Florida Film Critics Circle honored director-writer Jenkins with its Breakout Award, and gave its annual Golden Orange Award to the cast and crew of “Moonlight.” The FFCC last year gave the Golden Orange to “The Florida Project.”

Bright Lights, Medium Cities

Walt Disney Studios spent more than $134,000 in Polk County while shooting director Thea Sharrock‘s “The One and Only Ivan” over a three-day period beginning June 20 in four locations around Lakeland — Southgate Shopping Center, Dobbins Park (both in my old ‘hood, BTW), the Silver Moon Drive-In, and on West Palm Drive.

cranston_1529524646500_90372963_ver1.0_900_675

That’s according to Visit Central Florida, as reported by Paul Guzzo in the Tampa Bay Times. The producers of the film, a vehicle for “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, above (pic posted by ABC Action News), spent their production on 363 hotel room nights, local cast, catering, miscellaneous expenditures, and locations and associated fees, Guzzo wrote. “Ivan,” a live-action/CGI hybrid movie based on the 2012 children’s book of the same name, is scheduled for release in summer 2019.

And Florida is home to at least three television series: MTV “reality” show “Siesta Key” (Sarasota County), PBS’s sketch-format show “Kid Stew,” created by superstar mystery novelist and Palm Beach resident James Patterson (South Florida), and TNT’s comic drama “Claws” (Manatee County).

Big Deal to Big Chill

In the early 1900s, when it was home to more than 30 movie studios, Jacksonville was dubbed “The Winter Film Capital of the World.” The north Florida city made a sunny, affordable alternative to New York and New Jersey, then the location — pre-Hollywood — for most film productions.

film-4

Flash forward more than a century: Big-dollar movie production in Florida largely has hit the skids in the wake of the 2015 expiration of the state’s tax incentives for filmmakers.

More than 60 major film and television productions opted out of shooting in Florida in recent years, at a cost of about $1 billion in lost revenue, according to Film Florida, a not-for-profit entertainment production trade association. That doesn’t include the collateral damage: Nearly 90,000 lost cast and crew jobs.

“Due to the lack of competitive incentives, productions are going elsewhere,” Variety noted last year, pointing to producers’ decisions to shoot Florida-set scenes in Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night,” and “Gifted,” starring Octavia Spencer, in Georgia.

HBO’s “Ballers” series, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, below, and once based in Miami, left to take advantage of California’s more appealing tax incentives. The third and final season of Netflix original “Bloodlines” nearly left the Florida Keys for the same reason.

ballers 2

During the five years they were in effect, Florida’s incentives — a 20% base tax credit in 2010, with additional 5% increases for shooting in the off-season (June 1-Nov. 30) and for family-friendly productions — meant that the state essentially paid out nearly $300 million. But Florida gained from filmmakers’ production expenditures in the state of more than $1.25 billion, according to Variety. The production activity also drove the creation of nearly 120,000 jobs.

Several sequences in “Iron Man 3” were shot in the state during that period, along with the features “Rock of Ages,” “Step Up Revolution,” “Pain & Gain,” and the Starz series “Magic City.”

“The Infiltrator,” also starring Cranston, was partially filmed in 28 locations around the Tampa Bay area in April 2015. Hillsborough County spent about $250,000 to bring the film to the area, and the county benefited from $490,000 in direct expenditures and $145,942 in indirect spending, according to a report by Tampa marketing research firm HCP. (Producers of the $25 million film said that they would have filmed the bulk of the movie in Florida had the incentives been more attractive).

Got Tax Incentives?

Thirty-five states and Puerto Rico offered substantial filmmaking tax incentives — some, like Oklahoma, as high as 35% — as of April 1, according to data assembled by Cast and Crew Entertainment Services.

Florida is out of the running. But other Southern states are getting busy: Kentucky is offering at least 30% in incentives, followed by Alabama (25%+), Louisiana (25%+), Tennessee (25%), North Carolina (25%), Georgia (20%+),  South Carolina (20%+), and Arkansas (20%+).

The state of Florida does, however, offer a “Film in Florida Sales Tax Exemption,” a narrowly defined sales- and use-tax exemption to those engaged in film and television production. The exemption is restricted to “the purchase or lease of certain items used exclusively as an integral part of the production activities in Florida,” according to information on the state’s Department of Revenue web site.

Building a Wall to Keep Out Hollywood

So why did Florida’s GOP-dominated legislature back away from providing economic incentives to moviemakers?

Blame it on “ideological” opposition to Hollywood productions, says Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for Florida governor.

“It’s a philosophical problem. That’s what it is,” she recently told a roomful of Sunshine State film and television production professionals, including John Lux, executive of Film Florida, according to a report by Scott Powers of FloridaPolitics.com.

Lux, Michael Jordan of MJJ Entertainment and Filmotechnic USA, Winter Park-based actor Tom Nowicki (“The Blind Side,” “Remember the Titans”), UCF film professor Lisa Mills, and other industry stakeholders met last week at Edgewood-based Adrenaline Films.

“(They) argued that the costs to Florida include the losses of high-paying jobs associated with each production, the potential to develop permanent film production businesses in Florida, the tourism boost a movie or TV show can provide, and a source for careers for actors and college graduates coming out of Florida’s film schools,” Powers wrote.

Graham and her Democratic primary rivals — the ones without recognizable surnames — have all vowed to bolster the state’s film industry.

The state’s efforts to attract film productions largely have failed because “leadership in the Florida legislature is not in the mindset of having public/private partnerships,” as Rep. David Silvers (D-Lake Clarke Shores), below, told Philip’s Flicks.

David-Silvers

A Sliver of Lights, Camera, Action

Silvers, who represents a district located in central Palm Beach County, last year again filed a bill, HB 341, calling for the creation of the Florida Motion Picture Capital Corp., as part of his ongoing quest “to bring the film industry back to Florida.”

“Regardless of this mindset, I filed the bill the last two years because I want to ensure that the Florida film and digital media industry knows that some of the legislators support the industry and understand the positive impact on our economy,” he said.

According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the proposed corporation, instead of offering tax credits or rebates, was designed to operate “under a more traditional investment model where the group would directly invest in a film with the hopes of making money on the back end. Revenue derived from those investments would be reinvested into the corporation for future films. The bill does not specify how the corporation would be initially funded, but lays out a framework to collect local and state funding.”

In March, the bill died in the Florida House’s Careers and Competition Subcommittee.

“I plan on filing this legislation upon my reelection,” said Silvers, a freshman legislator facing attorney Edgardo Hernandez in the November primary. Silvers said he’s unaware of any other ongoing efforts by legislators or state officials to bring more Hollywood dollars to the Sunshine State.

The film industry may be undergoing a sea change in movie-production locations, according to a recent report by FilmL.A. Only 10 of the top 100 movie moneymakers were shot in California in 2017. The Golden State finished fourth, behind Canada (20 of the biggest box-office hits), the U.K. and Georgia (15 each).

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On the heels of Miami-Dade County’s rebate of $100k for film or TV productions spending at least $1 million in the county, ArtCenter/South Florida is putting its focus on indie filmmakers by making $50k available to each of two movies shot in Miami.

The New Cinematic Arts Residency will be led by Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, below, a local filmmaker and the director and co-founder of the Third Horizon Film Festival,” Hans Morgenstern wrote in Miami New Times. “He says the program fills a void for those, like him, who have found themselves with a successful short film but nowhere else to go from there.”

jason

Applications for the funding are available through Sept. 18 at artcentersf.org/cinematicarts.

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Meanwhile, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau gave $313,000 to NZK Productions Inc. to shoot a single episode of “reality” romance show “The Bachelor,” according to the Miami New Times. Your resort tax dollars at work.

Have Florida film news? Contact Philip Booth at jphilipbooth@hotmail.com

 

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Five Takeaways: And the Oscar for Biggest Moneymaker goes to …

Rob Lowe and Oscars

As you’ve heard by now, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences wants to add an Oscar for outstanding achievement in “popular film” to the mix in 2019.

“The film business passed away today,” Rob Lowe (above left)  tweeted in response. “It had been in poor health for a number of years. It is survived by sequels, tent-poles, and vertical integration.”

On the surface, it seems like a cockamamie, ill-advised plan. A few quick thoughts:

  1. The Academy may be imperfect. The Oscars telecast may be kooky and overlong. But it has the highest profile of any organization/show designed to honor achievements in filmmaking — accomplishments related to the art of making movies. Box-office receipts aren’t the same thing. Does Oscar’s history count for nothing?
  2. Some films are simultaneously artistic standouts and commercial juggernauts. If the Best Popular Film award in 2019 goes to box-office hits “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” or “Mission Impossible: Fallout,” but those movies don’t get Best Picture nominations, isn’t that like saying, “Sure, your movie isn’t a stand-out artistically but it made a heckuva lot of money, so we’re giving you our Very Special Oscar?”
  3. Doesn’t introducing an Oscar for Best Popular Film dilute the impact of the Oscar for Best Picture? Which one is the “real” top winner?
  4.  If the idea is to pump up the TV ratings of the Oscars telecast, a last-minute CYA attempt to get more fans of, say, superhero movies to tune in seems misguided. There are other ways to restructure the thing to make it funnier and faster moving. And maybe, just maybe, the Academy’s members might consider cutting back on the political speechifying that’s alienated so many viewers, and potential viewers?
  5. Is the plan designed to keep the Academy from accusations of a) being “so white” if/when the enormously popular “Black Panther” doesn’t get nominated and/or win Best Picture or b) being unwilling to honor superhero movies if/when that film or “Avengers” don’t get nominated and/or win Best Picture? The Academy has notably made moves to diversify its membership via increases in minority, female, and younger members, along with other tweaks, including expanding the number of Best Picture nominees. Why not allow a bit of time for the nominations to reflect those changes? Is it really necessary to press the panic button right now? Patience, grasshopper.

Last Minute Not-So-Fearless Oscars Forecast

<> on October 19, 2009 in Santa Clarita, California.

Hollywood loves movies about showbiz, and Alejandro Inarritu‘s funny, visually novel and quite original “Birdman” is justifiably lauded for its excellence in direction/tech and acting. So look to see that film win for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and possibly for Best Actor (for Michael Keaton’s brilliant performance AND his body of work).

Still, I’m thinking it’s more likely that Eddie Redmayne will win for his impressive feat as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” Because, you know, it’s a “serious” biopic and Hawking is played by a Brit. And Brits win many of the big acting Oscars.

The cumulative effect of Richard Linklater‘s beautiful, unusual “Boyhood” — seeing a boy played by the same actor grow from child to adult, and his family members age, too, in what feels like real time over the course of a few hours — indeed was emotionally engaging, and it was the first feature film to notch that accomplishment. So it COULD take Best Picture and Best Director, but my guess is that Patricia Arquette‘s naturalistic turn as the protagonist’s long-suffering mom will result in the movie’s only major win, for Best Supporting Actress.

Best Actress: Julianne Moore, as an Alzheimer’s patient in the moving but not entirely satisfying “Still Alice,” deserves the win, and will get it, in part for a career’s worth of great work.

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons will win for his towering performance in “Whiplash” as the scariest band director in history.

Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson’s quirky, wildly inventive screenplay for his “The Grand Budapest Hotel” deserves it and will win it, I think. The film will win for Production Design, too, and probably Costume Design.

Adapted Screenplay: “The Imitation Game” deserves/gets the win.

Editing: What feat could beat the artfully-stitching-together-12-years-of-footage accomplishment of “Boyhood”?

Visual Effects: “Interstellar” deserves it and, I think, will win.

Foreign film: Probably “Ida.”

Documentary: Probably “Citizenfour”

Score: Probably Johann Johannsson, for “The Theory of Everything”; AMPAS wrongly denied Antonio Sanchez a nom for “Birdman,” IMO.

Upset potential: If anything, the commercial juggernaut “American Sniper” could force a surprise or two.

Stay tuned.

Oscars 2010: “The Hurt Locker” Wins Big; “Up in the Air” Shut Out

Sometimes Oscar even gets it (mostly) right: The Hurt Locker cleaned up with six awards last night, including best picture, best director (Kathryn Bigelow), and best original screenplay (Mark Boal).

Bigelow had been widely expected to win for her direction of the riveting Iraq War drama, and in so doing she became the first woman to take home that award. But most Oscar guessers were about evenly split on whether best picture would go to her film or James Cameron‘s extraordinarily expensive and extraordinarily profitable 3-D sci-fi spectacular Avatar. The better film won in both top categories, IMO.

Boal’s win was a bit of a surprise, as some had expected that Quentin Tarantino might take a home win in this category, for his violent, funny, wildly imaginative Inglourious Basterds. QT’s film, though, only won in the category of supporting actor (Christoph Waltz).

An even bigger upset was in the category of best adapted screenplay, with Geoffrey Fletcher winning for his adaptation of Saffire’s tough-but-uplifting urban drama Precious.

The majority of the categories played out about as expected, although it was interesting to see another left-field choice win in the foreign-film category: Argentina’s The Secret in Their Eyes trumped two wildly acclaimed films — The White Ribbon and A Prophet.

Tallies: The Hurt Locker won 6 out of 9; Avatar won 3 out of 9. Precious (6 noms), Up (5 noms) and Crazy Heart (3 noms) each won 2. Inglourious Basterds won 1 out of 8. Shut out: Up in the Air (6 noms), District 9 (4 noms), Nine (4 noms), An Education (3 noms), The Princess and the Frog (3 noms).

Why did Avatar lose out in the big categories? Patrick Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, offers this insight: “My suspicion is that academy members still find it difficult to believe that films largely created and sculpted in the computer–whether it’s “Avatar” or the long string of brilliant Pixar films — can be just as worthy and artistic as the old-fashioned live-action ones.”

How’d I do? I made predictions in 15 categories. I guessed wrong in four. Score: 11/15.

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker. My guess: Avatar.

Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (my guess).

Best Actor – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart (my guess).

Best Actress – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side (my guess).

Best supporting actor – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds (my guess).

Best supporting actress – Mo’Nique, Precious (my guess).

Best animated feature – Up (my guess).

Best documentary – The Cove (my guess).

Best foreign language film – The Secret in Their Eyes, from Argentina. My guess: The White Ribbon. As I said – plenty of wild cards in this category, and one of them won.

Best adapted screenplay – Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious. My guess: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air.

Best original screenplay – Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker. My guess: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds.

Best music (original song) – “The Weary Kind,” by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, Crazy Heart (my guess).

Best art direction – Avatar (my guess).

Cinematography – Avatar (my guess).

Visual effects – Avatar (my guess).

For the complete list of Oscar winners and nominees, click here.

Oscar Talk: Slumdog Wins Big with Best Picture, Multiple Major Other Awards

oscars7Nice touches for this year’s Oscars, including insightful and sometimes touching introductions of this year’s acting nominees by notable past winners; a terrific musical sequence featuring A.R. Rahman, John Legend and the Soweto Gospel Choir; and a Busby Berkeley-style dance sequence, capped with Jackman’s shout, “The musical is back!” (well, not quite).

slumdog_poster1Best picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Said Christian Colson, Slumdog’s producer: “We had passion and we had belief and our film shows that if you have those two things then truly anything is possible.”

Best actor: Sean Penn, Milk.

Penn (joking): “You commie, homo-loving sons of guns. I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me, often” and “Mickey Rourke rises again, and he is my brother.”

Best actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Winslet: “I think we can’t believe that we’re all in the same category at all. I’m sorry Meryl, you’ll have to just suck that up.”

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Foreign Language Film: Departures (Japan)

Original song:  A.R. Rahman, “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire

Rahman talked about how Slumdog is about “optimism and the power ofhope in our lives. All my life I’ve had a choice of hate and love. I chose love, and I’m here. God bless.”

Original score: Slumdog Millionaire

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was presented to Jerry Lewis, who has raised $2 BILLION — I was stunned by this number — for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. No surprises, just a brief thanks. I’m thinking that Lewis probably deserved a more extensive tribute, at least via a longer series of clips from his films and a more expansive explanation of his impact on film comedy than that offered by Eddie Murphy.

Editing: Slumdog Millionaire

Sound mixing: Slumdog Millionaire

Sound editing: The Dark Knight

Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Documentary short: Smile Pinki

Documentary feature: Man on Wire

Supporting actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Ledger’s father, mother and sister accepted on his behalf. Sister: “We proudly accept this award on behalf of your beautiful Matilda (his daughter)”

Live Action Short: Toyland

Director of Toyland: “I spent four years of my life making this 14-minute movie.”

Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire

Ben Stiller offered a hilarious impression of Joaquin Phoenix, circa his recent, bizarre visit with David Letterman – i.e., Stiller, wearing an out-of-control beard, and chewing gum, was entirely distracted. Stiller: “I just want to retire from being a funny guy.” He aimlessly wandered around while Natalie Portman talked about cinematography.

Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Costume Design: The Duchess

Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Animated Short Film: La Maison en Petits Cubes

Director Kunio Kato ended his speech with “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto” (from the Styx song)

Animated Feature: Wall-E

Wall-E director Andrew Stanton thanked his high-school drama teacher for casting him in “Hello, Dolly”

Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Simon Beaufoy said that the cast and crew taught him so much about India and “changed my life.”

Original Screenplay:  Milk

Funny “instructional” sequence about screenwriting, with Steve Martin and Tina Fey. And terrific quick illustration of how screenplay translates to a movie.

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona

Cruz spoke about the long road from her lowly origins to the Oscars, and said: “Art in any form is and has been and always will be our universal language and we should do everything we can to protect its survival.”

Oscar Talk: My Envelope, Please

oscars6After what feels like the longest Oscars PR run-up in Academy Awards history, the 81st annual Academy Awards arrives Sunday night.

Wolverine, I mean, Hugh Jackman, will play host in a ceremony purportedly designed to honor the year’s best achievements on the big screen.

Sadly, this year that means that The Dark Knight, the visually astonishing fantasy film directed by Christopher Nolan, was robbed of a best picture nomination, and was all but ignored in most categories. A notable exception: The late Heath Ledger’s bone-deep performance as The Joker, a shoo-in to win for best supporting actor.

Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, compelling but essentially designed to win an Oscar, is just one of the best picture nominees that might have been bumped to make way for The Dark Knight.  Another is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, vastly overrated — some have called it Forrest Gump redux — but nonetheless the recipient of 14 nominations (!!!???!!!).

The Oscars goofed, too, in leaving a pair of quite accomplished and quite different foreign films — Gomorra, a crime film from Italy, and Swedish horror shocker Let the Right One In —  off the list of foreign language nominees.

On the other hand, it’s gratifying to see underdogs Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Melissa Leo (Frozen River) land major acting nominations. Their chances at winning are practically nil.

Without further ado, my picks.

—–Picture—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

—–Director—–

  • Most likely to win: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Deserves to win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: Stephen Daldry, The Reader; Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon; Gus Van Sant, Milk

—–Actor—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
  • The rest: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

—–Actress—–

  • Most likely to win: Kate Winslet, The Reader
  • Deserves to win: Melissa Leo, Frozen River
  • The rest: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Meryl Streep, Doubt

—–Supporting Actor—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
  • The rest: Josh Brolin, Milk; Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

—–Supporting Actress—–

  • Most likely to win: Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
  • Deserves to win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona

—–Foreign Language—–

  • Most likely to win: The Class
  • (Probably) Deserves to win: Waltz With Bashir
  • The rest: The Baader Meinhof Complex, Departures, Revanche

—–Animated—–

  • Most likely to win: Wall-E
  • Deserves to win: Kung Fu Panda
  • The rest: Bolt

—–Documentary—–

  • Most likely to win: Man on Wire
  • Deserves to win: Trouble the Water
  • The rest: Betrayal, Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden

—–Adapted Screenplay—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, The Reader

—–Original Screenplay—–

  • Most likely to win: Milk
  • Deserves to win: In Bruges
  • The rest: Frozen River, Happy-Go-Lucky, Wall-E

—–Cinematography—–

  • Most likely to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Deserves to win: The Dark Knight
  • The rest: Changeling, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

—–Art Direction—–

  • Likely to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Deserves to win: The Dark Knight
  • The rest: Changeling, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road

—–Music (score)—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Defiance, Milk, Wall-E

—–Music (song)—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: “Down to Earth,” Wall-E; “O Saya,” Slumdog Millionaire

Oscar Talk: Talent Behind The Reader Strikes Back at Those Who Call It a “Holocaust Denial Film”

oscars5The Reader, nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Kate Winslet) and five other Academy Awards, essentially is an examination of how a nation, Germany, chooses to deal with the sins of its past.

And yet, some have attacked the movie as a “Holocaust denial film,” saying that Winslet, who has already been honored with a Golden Globe and a Bafta, was too sympathetic in her portrayal  of a female prison camp guard.

the_reader1-520x349Mark Weitzman, head of The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said  “Essentially it takes a woman who serves in, is responsible for, is complicit in, you pick the words, in the deaths of at least 300 Jews – and her big secret shame is that she’s illiterate.”

The London Jewish Cultural Centre’s head, Trudy Gold, in an interview with Jewish News, also expressed her displeasure with the movie.

“This is just one of a spate of films portraying sympathetic Nazis. This woman acted monstrously, there’s no question about that. The question is have we gotten to the point where we have to make heroines out of Nazis? I do find it a bit sick.”

(Source story)

The talent behind the film, including director Stephen Daldry, David Hare, whose screenplay was adapted from the German bestseller, producer Donna Gigliotti and studio owner Harvey Weinstein, are striking back.

So are leading Jewish voices, including author and activist Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Here’s the joint statement issued by the filmmakers (caps are theirs), courtesy of the movie’s publicists:

“We are proud of The Reader and everyone who made this film.  It is outrageous and insulting that people have called it a “Holocaust denial film.”  While entitled to their opinion, these allegations are fueled by ignorance and a misunderstanding of the material, and  are based on unsubstantiated arguments.

The greatest films elicit great debate and conversation. Unfortunately, the recent attacks on The Reader have generated debates, not about the substance of the film, but about what people believe to be the intent of the filmmakers.  To take a piece of art that was constructed with the hard work of many talented people and turn it into propaganda is plain ignorant.  No one is suggesting that The Reader must be beloved by everyone.  On the contrary, there is always room for criticism.  If one does not like the film that is one matter; but to project one’s personal bias on the filmmaker’s objective is wrong and something we could no longer remain silent about.

The Reader is a film about how a generation of Germans lived in the shadow of one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century.  Some detractors of the film have said that it is a piece of Holocaust revisionism; however Holocaust survivors, children of Holocaust survivors and a Nobel Peace Prize winner feel differently.

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has praised The Reader as “a film that deals powerfully with Germany’s reconciliation with its past.”  He said that ‘it is not about the Holocaust; it is about what Germany did to itself and its future generations.’ He called it ‘a faithful adaptation of an important book, that is still relevant today as genocide continues to be practiced around the world.’ ”

Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti Defamation League, concurs, according to a press release:

“As we move further away from the Holocaust we must continue to tell the story of the Shoah in ways that will reach and touch new generations.  The Reader, which takes place in post-WWII Germany, clearly portrays the horrors of the Holocaust, not visually but intellectually and emotionally.  There is no doubt to what Kate Winslet’s character, Hannah Schmitz, did during the war.  Her guilt is given.  At her trial her crimes are portrayed in detail and she is brought to justice for them.  The Reader is not meant to be a factual re-telling of the Holocaust; for that we have documentaries.  Rather it is about guilt and responsibility that is as important for our times as it was for post-war Germans.”

Will any of the folks associated with the movie, or anyone else, allude to the controversy during the Oscar ceremonies on Sunday night?

Stay tuned.

Oscar Talk: Awards Bounce? Not so Much

oscars3The Oscar bounce — the uptick in attendance when any particular movie lands Academy Awards nominations — once was the cart placed before the horse of movie productions.

That is, producers and studios routinely attached stars and directors to scripts merely in hopes of assembling a movie that would land awards attention, which in turn would lead to boffo box office, in Variety-speak.

As it turns out, the Oscar bounce is practically as obsolete as the payphone.

So says Los Angeles Times writer Patrick Goldstein, in a piece published today.

“The Academy Awards’ best picture nominees were announced Jan. 22, an event quickly commemorated by a blitzkrieg of expensive full-page ads in the trades, the New York Times and my newspaper, designed to use the cachet of a best picture nomination to nudge reluctant moviegoers into the theaters,” Goldstein writes.

“But at the time when the rest of the movie business is booming, the best picture nominees–with the obvious exception of the crowd-pleasing Slumdog Millionaire–are doing a slow fade. Only one of the five best picture nominees, The Reader, has made more of its overall box-office take after it earned a best picture nod.”

Downside for viewers, long term: Some high-quality productions, which might only have been given the green light because of their potential for grabbing Oscar attention, will now stay in development hell.

Upside for viewers, short term (as in this season): Oscar prospects have lengthened the on-screen life of an impressive group of films far more worthwhile than such February releases as the turgid The International and the execrable Friday the 13th.

So … see the good stuff while you still can.

Click here to read the rest of Goldstein’s story.

Oscar Talk: Acting Performances Rule

oscars2Great performances by actors outshine films nominated for Oscars this year, USA Today writer Susan Wloszczyna argues, in a piece published today.

Case in point: The best actress category was so packed with strong acting turns that several notable performances, by Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road), Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) and Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long) were overlooked.

Read the story here.

Oscar Talk: The Underdogs – Melissa Leo, Richard Jenkins, Trouble the Water

oscarsBack in the day — you know, before the Oscar nominations were announced — I was rooting for acting honors for Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Melissa Leo (Frozen River), and a little Academy Awards love for Katrina documentary Trouble the Water.

That particular dream came true, as all received nominations.

New York Times writer David Carr, in a piece published today, pays tribute to those Oscar underdogs, as well as Michael Shannon, nominated for best supporting actor in Revolutionary Road, and nominated docs Waltz With Bashir and The Class.

“Don’t think of the people who aren’t favorites to win as also-rans; these lesser-known nominees are still among the exalted few, given the hundreds of movies made and the tens of thousands of people who make them,” Carr writes.

“And even if they don’t get a shot at thanking their agents and their moms, we can all be grateful that the spectacle-rich Oscars actually have the collateral effect of elevating impressive work that was conceived and somehow made far from the studio lot.”

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