News

Winners of Inaugural Atx-Black List Script Competition Announced (Exclusive)

Winners of Inaugural Atx-Black List Script Competition Announced (Exclusive)
Atx and The Black List partnered with Bad Robot, Carlton Cuse Productions, FX, Sony and USA Network on a new writing program, designed to find TV writers for staffing consideration across participating networks, studios and production companies.

The contest, which was announced this January, drew over 1,000 applicants. 16 winning scribes have been selected.

To be considered, writers had to submit their original pilots to The Black List’s website. The strongest pieces — both half-hour and hourlong content — were shared with studios, networks and production companies that were tasked with choosing writers with whom they’d like to work.

This year marks the inaugural contest for the Austin-based television festival, which kicks off today.

“Atx Television Festival strives to support TV writers — both established and up-and-comers — not just through the festival itself, and our year-round programming, but through key partnerships such as this with The Black List, so we thought this was
See full article at Variety - TV News »

‘Sleepy Hollow’ Scores Surprise Season 4 Renewal From Fox

‘Sleepy Hollow’ Scores Surprise Season 4 Renewal From Fox
Nicole Beharie‘s Abbie Mills may be dead, but “Sleepy Hollow” is actually very much still alive. Fox has renewed its supernatural drama for a fourth season, a show that many (once again) thought would head to the graveyard instead. Sans former female lead Beharie, “Sleepy” stars Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, Lyndie Greenwood as Jenny Mills, Lance Gross as Daniel Reynolds and Jessica Camacho as Sophie Foster. The 20th Century Fox Television and K/O Paper Products series hails from Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Len Wiseman and Phillip Iscove. The first three executive produce the show, as do Clifton Campbell,
See full article at The Wrap »

‘Sleepy Hollow’ Renewed by Fox for Season 4 Without Nicole Beharie

‘Sleepy Hollow’ Renewed by Fox for Season 4 Without Nicole Beharie
Fox has renewed “Sleepy Hollow” for a fourth season. The move follows the departure of one the show’s two leads, Nicole Beharie who was written out in the show’s season-three finale.

Sleepy Hollow,” which was a breakout hit when it aired on Mondays in its first season, has faded since as it shifted to Thursday and then Friday halfway through season three. This season, it averaged a 1.4 rating in adults 18-49 and 4.8 million viewers overall in Nielsen’s “live plus-7” estimates.

Beharie’s character was killed off in the April season finale. Though her departure may have surprised fans, it had been in discussions since before season three began. Beharie no longer wanted to be on the show and had been eyeing an exit from her contract for some time. The show’s producers did not step in the way of her departure, and originally had planned to
See full article at Variety - TV News »

Sleepy Hollow, Ep. 2.12, “Paradise Lost”: On the wings of an angel

Sleepy Hollow, Season 2, Episode 12, “Paradise Lost

Written by M. Raven Metzner

Directed by Russell Fine

Airs Mondays at 9pm (Et) on Fox

The energy level greeting the return of Sleepy Hollow after its midseason finale is far different than the energy level that greeted its second season premiere. At that time, there were only vague concerns that the show couldn’t maintain this level of absurd energy; and now those concerns have been proven right. Sleepy Hollow’s second season to date has proved that there’s a limit to its madness, as lead actor chemistry and impressive visuals have been offset by some shaky plotting and the sense that the writers have no idea what to do with anyone other than Tom Mison or Nicole Beharie.

In that context, “Paradise Lost” is a midseason premiere that meets those expectations, an episode with a few lively action scenes and some
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Jeff Eastin: Graceland's Return Has 2 of the Best Episodes I've Ever Worked On

Jeff Eastin: Graceland's Return Has 2 of the Best Episodes I've Ever Worked On
USA Network’s Graceland re-opens its doors this Wednesday at 10/9c, and it’s not long at all before FBI whiz kid Mike Warren finds cause to slip away from D.C. and visit the sun-baked beach house — though what he finds there may surprise him. Guns downstairs? Unlabeled fridge finds? Strange bedfellows? Oh, and who’s the new guy…?

Jeff Eastin, who previously created USA’s White Collar, shared with TVLine a look at the changes that Graceland the show has undergone, all while maintaining (if not amplifying) its darker, sexy tone.

Related | USA Sets Summer Dates for Covert Affairs,
See full article at TVLine.com »

Graceland, Ep. 1.12 “Pawn” closes the season with a solid but semi-dissatisfying finish

Photo Courtesy of USA Network

Graceland, Season 1, Episode 12: “Pawn”

Written by: Jeff Eastin

Directed by: Russell Lee Fine

Airs Thursdays at 10 pm (Et) on USA

On this week’s Graceland finale, Briggs continues acting shady, Johnny has his feelings hurt, Jakes chooses a side, Paige encourages Mike’s hunt for Briggs, and Jangles finally reveals himself and attacks.

Graceland‘s at its best when everyone in the house is working together against a common enemy; so, while it was entertaining watching the house nearly implode as dissension separated the team, getting not one but two scenes with the whole house (sans Briggs, at first) gathered is still a nice treat, as well as a return to the happy days at season’s beginning. With any ensemble cast, it’s difficult for shows to find a group of people that not only work well together, but also have excellent chemistry on screen.
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Graceland, Ep. 1.07 “Goodbye High”

Photo Courtesy of USA Network

Graceland, Season 1, Episode 7: “Goodbye High”

Written by: Joe Henderson

Directed by: Russell Lee Fine

Airs Thursdays at 10 pm (Et) on USA

On this week’s Graceland, Paul makes a shocking confession, Jakes uses professional means for personal gain, Charlie comes clean about her drug usage to the house, and Mike ponders his future.

After last week’s stunning revelation–Briggs attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings for heroin addiction–”Goodbye High” picks up with Briggs offering Mike the truth. In the early days of Briggs’s undercover status, he made the idiotic decision to confront the head of a Mexican drug cartel alone. He never got the chance to meet the man; instead, he was kidnapped by members of the cartel, held in a shack, and fed a steady diet of heroin for two weeks straight before being released. (If the news came out that Briggs was a heroin addict,
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Graceland, Ep. 1.01: “Pilot” is entertaining to watch, if not particularly satisfying

Aaron Tveit and Daniel Sunjata

Graceland, Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

Written by Jeff Eastin

Directed by Russell Lee Fine

Airs Thursdays at 10 pm (Et) on USA

Though a solid episode, Graceland‘s premiere was somewhat bland and unremarkable. The pilot tried to strike a balance between gritty primetime thriller and light-hearted summer TV and mostly succeeded–the final product was entertaining to watch, if not particularly satisfying.

Graceland centers on a group of undercover agents (DEA, FBI, and Customs) playing house together on a Southern California beach. The house–nicknamed “Graceland”–was seized in a drug raid by the Us Government and handed over to top Us agents investigating everything from drug deals to illegally imported birds. According to the creators, Graceland‘s premise is based on a true story.

Graceland‘s premiere opens on a dark note: scenes of FBI agents proudly graduating are smoothly intercut with scenes from
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Exclusive White Collar Video: Neal and Sara Have a Flirty Interlude by a Fantastic Fountain

Exclusive White Collar Video: Neal and Sara Have a Flirty Interlude by a Fantastic Fountain
When you’re dating someone who looks like White Collar‘s Neal Caffrey, it’s hard to keep the relationship casual — as Neal’s on-and-off girlfriend Sara discovers in the following exclusive video from Tuesday’s episode (USA Network, 10/9c).

Related | Matt’s Inside Line: Scoop on White Collar and More!

Sara’s got a new client who has created a perfume line inspired by Marie Antoinette’s signature scent. When the con man asks if Sara has a date to the launch party, she replies, “Would it matter if I did?” Based on his swoonworthy response, we’re guessing
See full article at TVLine.com »

USA Greenlights 'Graceland,' From 'White Collar' Creator Jeff Eastin

USA Greenlights 'Graceland,' From 'White Collar' Creator Jeff Eastin
"Graceland" will be the latest quirky/addictive character-driven dramedy on USA's roster -- a niche that's kept them in the top spot in terms of original cable programming. The network announced today that it was giving a series order to the show, which is from "White Collar" creator Jeff Eastin. Like "White Collar," "Graceland" sounds like a mix of crime elements and domestic/workplace banter -- the series stars Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me"), Aaron Tveit ("Howl"), Brandon Jay McLaren ("Falling Skies"), Vanessa Ferlito ("Death Proof") and Manny Montana ("The Chicago Code") as agents from the DEA, FBI and U.S. Customs who are forced to live together undercover in a Southern California beach house. In other works, it's like "The Real World," but scripted and with more guns...? Russell Fine directed the pilot, which Sean Daniel executive produce. USA...

...
See full article at Indiewire Television »

USA Greenlights 'Graceland,' From 'White Collar' Creator Jeff Eastin

USA Greenlights 'Graceland,' From 'White Collar' Creator Jeff Eastin
"Graceland" will be the latest quirky/addictive character-driven dramedy on USA's roster -- a niche that's kept them in the top spot in terms of original cable programming. The network announced today that it was giving a series order to the show, which is from "White Collar" creator Jeff Eastin. Like "White Collar," "Graceland" sounds like a mix of crime elements and domestic/workplace banter -- the series stars Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me"), Aaron Tveit ("Howl"), Brandon Jay McLaren ("Falling Skies"), Vanessa Ferlito ("Death Proof") and Manny Montana ("The Chicago Code") as agents from the DEA, FBI and U.S. Customs who are forced to live together undercover in a Southern California beach house. In other works, it's like "The Real World," but scripted and with more guns...? Russell Fine directed the pilot, which Sean Daniel executive produce. USA...
See full article at Indiewire »

USA Network Picks Up Jeff Eastin Pilot ‘Graceland’ To Series

USA Network is doubling its bet on Jeff Eastin. The cable network has picked up to series Graceland, the new pilot from White Collar creator/executive producer Eastin. The one-hour drama, from Fox TV Studios, follows a group of diverse agents — from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and U.S. Customs — whose worlds collide while forced to live together in an undercover beach house in Southern California. Sean Daniel served as executive producer on the pilot, which was directed by Russell Fine. “Graceland is very much in our sweet spot — it has that fantastic and rich look associate with most of our shows, but we also want to go to very edgy and dark places with it,” USA co-president Jeff Wachtel said. “The characters’ day job takes them to places we haven’t gone with our original series.” Eastin will run both Graceland and White Collar,
See full article at Deadline TV »

10 on scene for ASC's TV competition

10 on scene for ASC's TV competition
Ten cinematographers will vie for television honors in the American Society of Cinematographers' 22nd annual Outstanding Achievement Awards competition.

The nominees in the TV movie-miniseries-pilot category are Oliver Bokelberg for NBC's "Raines" pilot; David Franco, HBO's telefilm "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"; Ben Nott, TNT's miniseries "The Company"; Rene Ohashi, CBS' telefilm "Jesse Stone: Sea Change"; and Michael Weaver, ABC's "Pushing Daisies" pilot.

Nominees in the episodic television category were chosen for one episode of a regular series. They are James L. Carter for "Ending Happy" from CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"; Eagle Egilsson, "Inside Out" from CBS' "CSI: Miami"; Russell Lee Fine, "All of Us are in the Gutter" from NBC's "The Black Donnellys"; John Fleckenstein, "Welcome to the Club" from ABC's "Women's Murder Club"; and Glen Winter, "Noir" from CW's "Smallville".

The awards will be held Jan. 26 at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

Sherrybaby

Sherrybaby
PARK CITY -- Freedom's just another course for everything else to lose. In this story of a young woman just released from prison who tries to recon-nect with her young daughter, "freedom" entails the possibility of returning to drugs. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Sherrybaby" might find its widest audience on the Lifetime network.

In this hu-mane and vital story, filmmaker Laurie Collyer has captured the horror of having a life go out of control. In addicts' terms, Sherry (Gyllenhaal) has a lot of "wreckage": things she must clean up in her life caused during her drugging and jailing. When Sherry is released on parole to a halfway house, she makes a full-hearted attempt to re-enter her daughter Alexis Ryan' Simpkins) life. Not surprisingly, the little girl is wary, and it's evident that her brother (Brad Henke) and sister-in-law (Bridget Barkan) have bonded strongly with Alexis.

It's a daunting undertaking for someone as fragile as Sherry, especially because she doesn't clearly see the fine line of her addiction. Socially and psychologically, it's survival one day at a time. Enduring the abrasions of the halfway house as well as the hostilities of her parole officer (Giancarlo Esposito), Sherry inevitably lets the pressures get to her: a sip of beer, and it's straight back down that slippery slope.

Buoyed by Gyllenhaal's hauntingly complex portrait of the vivacious but addictive Sherry, the film is no mere by-the-numbers chronology of addiction. Gyllenhaal's sympathetic and charismatic performance binds us to the horror of Sherry's personal demons. In true addict fashion, Gyllenhaal bounds between euphoria and despair.

Under Collyer's understanding hand, other performances are exemplary, most prominently Danny Trejo as a weather-beaten but life-driven addict.

Technical contributions cap off the intelligent storytelling: Cinematographer Russell Lee Fine's incisive framings clue us to the delicate personal relationships, while composer Mark Livesey's edgy sounds nudge us to the horrors that one weak moment can wreak.

SHERRYBABY

Sherry Films

Credits:

Screenwriter-director: Laurie Collyer

Producers: Marc Turtletaub, Lemore Syvan

Executive producer: Jeb Brody

Director of photography: Russell Lee Fine

Production designer: Stephen Beatrice

Music: Jack Livesey

Costume designer: Jill Newell

Editors: Curtiss Clayton, Joe Landauer

Cast:

Sherry: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Bobby: Brad Henke

Parole Officer Hernandez: Giancarlo Esposito

Bob Sr.: Sam Bottoms

Lynette: Bridget Barkan

Alexis: Ryan Simpkins

Marcia: Kate Burton

Andy: Rio Hackford

Dean: Danny Trejo

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 96 minutes

Everyday People

Everyday People
HBO Films

NEW YORK -- Filmmaker Jim McKay, known for his well-observed, miniaturist dramas of New York life ("Girls Town", "Our Song"), has come up with another winner in this drama about the imminent closing of a beloved Brooklyn diner. Touching on themes of race relations, gentrification and upward mobility, "Everyday People" resonates with generous warmth for all of its complicated characters. The film serves as the opening-night attraction for this year's New Directors/New Films series, co-presented by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Taking place over the course of a single long day, the film is set at Raskin's, a fictional Brooklyn diner bearing no small resemblance to the legendary Junior's (it was actually filmed at another N.Y. dining institution, Ratner's, on the Lower East Side). Ira (Jordan Gelber), the diner's young Jewish owner, is closing a deal to sell the struggling restaurant to a real estate consortium, represented by Ron (Ron Butler), an aggressive black businessman who believes that the intended redevelopment will serve to upgrade the depressed area.

Arthur (Stephen McKinley Henderson), Raskin's maitre d' and longest-lasting employee, is given the task of informing the staff that their jobs will last but three more weeks, and the news is predictably not taken well. Particularly irate is Sol (Stephen Axelrod), a former doctor who became a junkie and went to prison and who counts on his admittedly menial employment to help him keep his life together.

As the news resonates among the staff, we are introduced in greater detail to the various characters, including cashier Joleen (Bridget Barkan), a single mother trying to make ends meet; waitress Erin (Sydnee Stewart), who's working to support herself while she pursues her dream of becoming a poet; Betty (Iris Little-Thomas), Erin's mother, a successful businesswoman; and kitchen worker Samel (Billoah Greene), who's about to begin college.

Perhaps the film's most arresting figure is Akbar (played in riveting fashion by Reg E. Cathey), a customer who spends his days in front of the restaurant hawking ribbons promoting black identity and haranguing passersby.

McKay's screenplay, developed from improvisational workshops with dozens of actors conducted by the filmmaker and executive producer Nelson George, has its stereotypical aspects -- certainly, the central story line feels overly familiar -- but it has an undeniable authenticity in its characterizations and situations and an empathy that is all too rare even in independent cinema. The ensemble cast, featuring a mixture of veterans and newcomers, deliver nary a false note in their performances, and Russell Lee Fine's cinematography evocatively captures the diner's Old World ambiance.

The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone
"The Grey Zone" is an existential morality play about the Holocaust that asks: What would you have done? The question may make you uncomfortable -- indeed, discomfort seems to be the reigning principle behind the film, which writer-director Tim Blake Nelson ("O") has based on his own play. What may cause equal discomfort, though, is Nelson's decision to strip away all sentiment, ethnicity or heroism from his work.

This artistic choice relegates "The Grey Zone" to the nether regions of the boxoffice landscape. Some may applaud Nelson's fierce determination to, as he puts it, "de-sentimentalize" his subject matter and to rid the concentration camp of "quaint ways of speech." But the end result feels distinctly off-off-Broadway, a work of such rigid artistic principles that its theatrical life will likely be measured in days rather than weeks.

"The Grey Zone" derives from fascinating yet horrifying facts. In the death camps, the Nazis selected willing prisoners to act as Sonderkommandos, men who would prepare fellow Jews for the gas chambers, then process their corpses after gassings. In return, this elite group received unheard-of privileges until the time of their own slayings.

In 1944, Auschwitz's 12th Sonderkommandos staged an armed revolt that managed to destroy two crematoria. Nelson bases his dramatization of this rebellion partly on a memoir by Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jewish doctor who assisted the notorious Dr. Mengele in his ghastly medical experiments.

The Hungarian Jews that make up this 12th group prove to be the most efficient of the Nazis' facilitators. But as their own deaths draw near, the men grow desperate to give their lives meaning. For their mutiny to succeed, they persuade female inmates in a nearby munitions factory to smuggle gunpowder to them.

Then a freak incident triggers the rebellion. A young girl somehow survives a gassing. The group revives her but has no way to hide. Her very presence endangers the uprising.

Nelson, working in a meticulous re-creation of an extermination plant in Bulgaria's Boyana Studios, lets everything -- the routine of the death mills, the conspiratorial planning, the relationships of prisoners with their captors -- unfold in a matter-of-fact way. You are to understand that brutality is the norm, and that those in special squads have ceased being human.

Everyone talks in the same clipped, measured tones, with emotions minimized. Maybe this is the way things were in the camps. Maybe this isn't. But in choosing this approach, Nelson lets some individuality seep from his drama.

Harvey Keitel, playing the officer in charge, tries out a serviceable German accent. But all the other actors, playing Hungarians or Poles, speak in flat American accents. But late in the film, it's a shock to realize that even though everyone is speaking English, you are meant to imagine that Keitel can't understand what the men are saying. This takes you out of the film's reality in a more jarring way than any quaint way of speech.

The rebellion itself is treated as partially successful yet clumsily staged and poorly organized. Historical accounts differ on this point, but this interpretation again falls in line with Nelson's determination not to taint any character with a whiff of heroism. Having denied their own humanity, these men are granted none by Nelson either.

The acting is solid. Standouts include David Arquette as the most emotional of the bunch, Steve Buscemi as a Pole who trusts no one and Allan Corduner as Nyiszli, who will do anything to save his wife and child on the outside. Mira Sorvino and Natasha Lyonne play brave munitions workers who refuse to divulge the uprising despite hideous torture.

Maria Djurkovic's grim, ashen sets and Russell Lee Fine's claustrophobic cinematography are all too efficient in trapping the viewer inside this gray zone where the question is asked over and over: What would you have done?

THE GREY ZONE

Lions Gate Films

Millennium Films presents

a Goatsingers production

in association with Killer Films

Producers: Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, Tim Blake Nelson, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner

Screenwriter-director: Tim Blake Nelson

Based on the play by: Tim Blake Nelson

Executive producers: Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Brad Weston, John Wells, Harvey Keitel

Director of photography: Russell Lee Fine

Production designer: Maria Djurkovic

Music: Jeff Danna

Costume designer: Marina Draghici

Editors: Tim Blake Nelson, Michelle Botticelli

Color/stereo

Cast:

Hoffman: David Arquette

Muhsfeldt: Harvey Keitel

Abramowics: Steve Buscemi

Dina: Mira Sorvino

Rosa: Natasha Lyonne

Nyiszli: Allan Corduner

Schlermer: Daniel Benzali

Rosenthal: David Chandler

Running time -- 108 minutes

No MPAA rating

Everyday People

Everyday People
HBO Films

NEW YORK -- Filmmaker Jim McKay, known for his well-observed, miniaturist dramas of New York life ("Girls Town", "Our Song"), has come up with another winner in this drama about the imminent closing of a beloved Brooklyn diner. Touching on themes of race relations, gentrification and upward mobility, "Everyday People" resonates with generous warmth for all of its complicated characters. The film serves as the opening-night attraction for this year's New Directors/New Films series, co-presented by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Taking place over the course of a single long day, the film is set at Raskin's, a fictional Brooklyn diner bearing no small resemblance to the legendary Junior's (it was actually filmed at another N.Y. dining institution, Ratner's, on the Lower East Side). Ira (Jordan Gelber), the diner's young Jewish owner, is closing a deal to sell the struggling restaurant to a real estate consortium, represented by Ron (Ron Butler), an aggressive black businessman who believes that the intended redevelopment will serve to upgrade the depressed area.

Arthur (Stephen McKinley Henderson), Raskin's maitre d' and longest-lasting employee, is given the task of informing the staff that their jobs will last but three more weeks, and the news is predictably not taken well. Particularly irate is Sol (Stephen Axelrod), a former doctor who became a junkie and went to prison and who counts on his admittedly menial employment to help him keep his life together.

As the news resonates among the staff, we are introduced in greater detail to the various characters, including cashier Joleen (Bridget Barkan), a single mother trying to make ends meet; waitress Erin (Sydnee Stewart), who's working to support herself while she pursues her dream of becoming a poet; Betty (Iris Little-Thomas), Erin's mother, a successful businesswoman; and kitchen worker Samel (Billoah Greene), who's about to begin college.

Perhaps the film's most arresting figure is Akbar (played in riveting fashion by Reg E. Cathey), a customer who spends his days in front of the restaurant hawking ribbons promoting black identity and haranguing passersby.

McKay's screenplay, developed from improvisational workshops with dozens of actors conducted by the filmmaker and executive producer Nelson George, has its stereotypical aspects -- certainly, the central story line feels overly familiar -- but it has an undeniable authenticity in its characterizations and situations and an empathy that is all too rare even in independent cinema. The ensemble cast, featuring a mixture of veterans and newcomers, deliver nary a false note in their performances, and Russell Lee Fine's cinematography evocatively captures the diner's Old World ambiance.

The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone
This review was written for the festival screening of "The Grey Zone".

"The Grey Zone" is an existential morality play about the Holocaust that asks: What would you have done? The question may make you uncomfortable -- indeed, discomfort seems to be the reigning principle behind the film, which writer-director Tim Blake Nelson ("O") has based on his own play. What may cause equal discomfort, though, is Nelson's decision to strip away all sentiment, ethnicity or heroism from his work.

This artistic choice relegates "The Grey Zone" to the nether regions of the boxoffice landscape. Some may applaud Nelson's fierce determination to, as he puts it, "de-sentimentalize" his subject matter and to rid the concentration camp of "quaint ways of speech." But the end result feels distinctly off-off-Broadway, a work of such rigid artistic principles that its theatrical life will likely be measured in days rather than weeks.

"The Grey Zone" derives from fascinating yet horrifying facts. In the death camps, the Nazis selected willing prisoners to act as Sonderkommandos, men who would prepare fellow Jews for the gas chambers, then process their corpses after gassings. In return, this elite group received unheard-of privileges until the time of their own slayings.

In 1944, Auschwitz's 12th Sonderkommandos staged an armed revolt that managed to destroy two crematoria. Nelson bases his dramatization of this rebellion partly on a memoir by Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jewish doctor who assisted the notorious Dr. Mengele in his ghastly medical experiments.

The Hungarian Jews that make up this 12th group prove to be the most efficient of the Nazis' facilitators. But as their own deaths draw near, the men grow desperate to give their lives meaning. For their mutiny to succeed, they persuade female inmates in a nearby munitions factory to smuggle gunpowder to them.

Then a freak incident triggers the rebellion. A young girl somehow survives a gassing. The group revives her but has no way to hide. Her very presence endangers the uprising.

Nelson, working in a meticulous re-creation of an extermination plant in Bulgaria's Boyana Studios, lets everything -- the routine of the death mills, the conspiratorial planning, the relationships of prisoners with their captors -- unfold in a matter-of-fact way. You are to understand that brutality is the norm, and that those in special squads have ceased being human.

Everyone talks in the same clipped, measured tones, with emotions minimized. Maybe this is the way things were in the camps. Maybe this isn't. But in choosing this approach, Nelson lets some individuality seep from his drama.

Harvey Keitel, playing the officer in charge, tries out a serviceable German accent. But all the other actors, playing Hungarians or Poles, speak in flat American accents. But late in the film, it's a shock to realize that even though everyone is speaking English, you are meant to imagine that Keitel can't understand what the men are saying. This takes you out of the film's reality in a more jarring way than any quaint way of speech.

The rebellion itself is treated as partially successful yet clumsily staged and poorly organized. Historical accounts differ on this point, but this interpretation again falls in line with Nelson's determination not to taint any character with a whiff of heroism. Having denied their own humanity, these men are granted none by Nelson either.

The acting is solid. Standouts include David Arquette as the most emotional of the bunch, Steve Buscemi as a Pole who trusts no one and Allan Corduner as Nyiszli, who will do anything to save his wife and child on the outside. Mira Sorvino and Natasha Lyonne play brave munitions workers who refuse to divulge the uprising despite hideous torture.

Maria Djurkovic's grim, ashen sets and Russell Lee Fine's claustrophobic cinematography are all too efficient in trapping the viewer inside this gray zone where the question is asked over and over: What would you have done?

THE GREY ZONE

Lions Gate Films

Millennium Films presents

a Goatsingers production

in association with Killer Films

Producers: Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, Tim Blake Nelson, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner

Screenwriter-director: Tim Blake Nelson

Based on the play by: Tim Blake Nelson

Executive producers: Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Brad Weston, John Wells, Harvey Keitel

Director of photography: Russell Lee Fine

Production designer: Maria Djurkovic

Music: Jeff Danna

Costume designer: Marina Draghici

Editors: Tim Blake Nelson, Michelle Botticelli

Color/stereo

Cast:

Hoffman: David Arquette

Muhsfeldt: Harvey Keitel

Abramowics: Steve Buscemi

Dina: Mira Sorvino

Rosa: Natasha Lyonne

Nyiszli: Allan Corduner

Schlermer: Daniel Benzali

Rosenthal: David Chandler

Running time -- 108 minutes

No MPAA rating

The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone
"The Grey Zone" is an existential morality play about the Holocaust that asks: What would you have done? The question may make you uncomfortable -- indeed, discomfort seems to be the reigning principle behind the film, which writer-director Tim Blake Nelson ("O") has based on his own play. What may cause equal discomfort, though, is Nelson's decision to strip away all sentiment, ethnicity or heroism from his work.

This artistic choice relegates "The Grey Zone" to the nether regions of the boxoffice landscape. Some may applaud Nelson's fierce determination to, as he puts it, "de-sentimentalize" his subject matter and to rid the concentration camp of "quaint ways of speech." But the end result feels distinctly off-off-Broadway, a work of such rigid artistic principles that its theatrical life will likely be measured in days rather than weeks.

"The Grey Zone" derives from fascinating yet horrifying facts. In the death camps, the Nazis selected willing prisoners to act as Sonderkommandos, men who would prepare fellow Jews for the gas chambers, then process their corpses after gassings. In return, this elite group received unheard-of privileges until the time of their own slayings.

In 1944, Auschwitz's 12th Sonderkommandos staged an armed revolt that managed to destroy two crematoria. Nelson bases his dramatization of this rebellion partly on a memoir by Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jewish doctor who assisted the notorious Dr. Mengele in his ghastly medical experiments.

The Hungarian Jews that make up this 12th group prove to be the most efficient of the Nazis' facilitators. But as their own deaths draw near, the men grow desperate to give their lives meaning. For their mutiny to succeed, they persuade female inmates in a nearby munitions factory to smuggle gunpowder to them.

Then a freak incident triggers the rebellion. A young girl somehow survives a gassing. The group revives her but has no way to hide. Her very presence endangers the uprising.

Nelson, working in a meticulous re-creation of an extermination plant in Bulgaria's Boyana Studios, lets everything -- the routine of the death mills, the conspiratorial planning, the relationships of prisoners with their captors -- unfold in a matter-of-fact way. You are to understand that brutality is the norm, and that those in special squads have ceased being human.

Everyone talks in the same clipped, measured tones, with emotions minimized. Maybe this is the way things were in the camps. Maybe this isn't. But in choosing this approach, Nelson lets some individuality seep from his drama.

Harvey Keitel, playing the officer in charge, tries out a serviceable German accent. But all the other actors, playing Hungarians or Poles, speak in flat American accents. But late in the film, it's a shock to realize that even though everyone is speaking English, you are meant to imagine that Keitel can't understand what the men are saying. This takes you out of the film's reality in a more jarring way than any quaint way of speech.

The rebellion itself is treated as partially successful yet clumsily staged and poorly organized. Historical accounts differ on this point, but this interpretation again falls in line with Nelson's determination not to taint any character with a whiff of heroism. Having denied their own humanity, these men are granted none by Nelson either.

The acting is solid. Standouts include David Arquette as the most emotional of the bunch, Steve Buscemi as a Pole who trusts no one and Allan Corduner as Nyiszli, who will do anything to save his wife and child on the outside. Mira Sorvino and Natasha Lyonne play brave munitions workers who refuse to divulge the uprising despite hideous torture.

Maria Djurkovic's grim, ashen sets and Russell Lee Fine's claustrophobic cinematography are all too efficient in trapping the viewer inside this gray zone where the question is asked over and over: What would you have done?

THE GREY ZONE

Lions Gate Films

Millennium Films presents

a Goatsingers production

in association with Killer Films

Producers: Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, Tim Blake Nelson, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner

Screenwriter-director: Tim Blake Nelson

Based on the play by: Tim Blake Nelson

Executive producers: Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Brad Weston, John Wells, Harvey Keitel

Director of photography: Russell Lee Fine

Production designer: Maria Djurkovic

Music: Jeff Danna

Costume designer: Marina Draghici

Editors: Tim Blake Nelson, Michelle Botticelli

Color/stereo

Cast:

Hoffman: David Arquette

Muhsfeldt: Harvey Keitel

Abramowics: Steve Buscemi

Dina: Mira Sorvino

Rosa: Natasha Lyonne

Nyiszli: Allan Corduner

Schlermer: Daniel Benzali

Rosenthal: David Chandler

Running time -- 108 minutes

No MPAA rating

See also

Credited With | External Sites