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With Michael Moore preferring to incite ire on social media rather than in movie theaters, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are carving out a niche as contemporary documentary filmmaking's most reliable provocateurs, capable of planting their flag in an issue and generating emotion, debate, ire and, occasionally, tangible change. For the past two films, the issue troubling Dick and Ziering -- He's the director, she's the intrepid producer -- has been institutional cover-up or denial of sexual abuse. "The Invisible War" earned Emmys and an Oscar nomination for its coverage of the sexual assault epidemic in the military. Their latest documentary, "The Hunting Ground," is taking the issue to the even more sensitive terrain of college campuses, stirring up the hornet's nest on both a general level, but also in specific scandals like the one involving Florida State football star Jameis Winston. Like "The Invisible War," "The Hunting Ground" premiered »
- Daniel Fienberg
Last year proved to be an extraordinary one for feature-length documentaries about art and artists. 2014 saw the release of Tim’S Vermeer (a holdover from 2013), For No Good Reason, Jodorowsky’S Dune, all dealing with masters of pen, ink, and brush while Life, Itself explored the writing of Roger Ebert and Glen Campbell: I’LL Be Me offered an intimate portrait of the acclaimed musician. Barely two months into 2015, we’re now treated to an exceptional film which immerses us into the world of classic dance. Now, the ballet has been the backdrop for many classic dramatic films, from the fantasy world of The Red Shoes to the psychological terror of Black Swan. But there’s little back stage melodrama here. Director Jody Lee Lipes let’s us peek behind the curtain, past the tights and tutus for the sweat, strain, and stress for Ballet 422.
So, what’s with the number? »
- Jim Batts
While Routh admitted to the killings, he entered a not guilty plea on the grounds of mental illness. His legal team argued that he was suffering from the psychotic effects of schizophrenia when he killed Kyle and Littlefield.
However, the prosecution argued: "This defendant has gone to the deep well of excuses for his violent behaviours one too many times. I am tired of the proposition that if you have mental illness that you can't be held responsible for what you do."
They added that Routh's violent behaviour was triggered by his alcohol dependency and use of marijuana.
The jury took less than »
It’s routine for Oscar winners to use their platform before a worldwide audience to push a social problem into the spotlight.
That was true in spades at this year’s Oscarcast, as recipients called attention to voting rights, incarceration rates, teen suicide, Alzheimer’s care, veterans’ mental health, immigration, government spying, Als funding and more.
In the Dolby Theater and on social media, Patricia Arquette’s call for equal pay for women got some of the biggest reaction, bringing celebrities like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez to their feet and generating a flood of second-day op-eds and analysis.
Will it matter?
It’s next to impossible to measure what impact a speech has on moving a social or political cause, although such calls to action do generate at least momentary bursts of awareness.
- Ted Johnson
Three Variety critics agree to disagree about Oscar winners and losers both onscreen and on the Dolby stage.
Peter Debruge: Last year, the Academy made a statement in giving the best picture award to “12 Years a Slave.” This time around, over the course of a spread-the-wealth evening, it was the winners’ turn to speak their minds, and they did so in force, using Hollywood’s prom as a podium to demand equal rights — for women (“Boyhood’s” only winner, Patricia Arquette), for African-Americans (Common and John Legend, accepting “Selma’s” only win), for gays (“The Imitation Game” writer Graham Moore, urging young Lgbt viewers to “stay weird, stay different” as he collected the film’s lone statue), for those with disabilities (both Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne turned the spotlight on talents who achieved while coping with Als), and for immigrants (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, offering a plea on behalf of »
- Peter Debruge, Justin Chang and Scott Foundas
Directors of award-winning films including Uncle Boonmee… and Kandahar also back freedom of expression fight.
Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Fremaux, Venice’s Alberto Barbera and renowned filmmakers including Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tsai Ming Liang and the Makhmalbaf family have sent strongly-worded statements of support to the Busan International Film Festival (Biff), currently embroiled in a censorship struggle.
The Busan fest last year refused mayor Seo Byeong-soo’s request to withdraw the ferry disaster documentary The Truth Shall Not Sink With The Sewol and has since been through what pundits have called a “vindictive audit”, and has seen the mayor this year request festival director Lee Yong-kwan step down.
Fremaux in a video expressed “stupefaction and sadness” over the events at Busan and the demand that Lee Yong-kwan resign.
Fremaux describes Lee and the Busan fest as “very respected in the world of film festivals” for reasons that include, for instance, for the French »
- email@example.com (Jean Noh)
There may have been few surprises among the winners at Sunday night's Academy Awards, but one surprise was how political their speeches were. After all, in recent years, political statements have largely been unwelcome guests at the Dolby Theater.
In past years, artists from Vanessa Redgrave to Richard Gere to Michael Moore have been criticized for using their time at the Oscar podium to raise controversial issues before a worldwide audience. In an evening of glitz, glamour, and self-congratulation, mentioning the sometimes cruel realities of life beyond Hollywood Boulevard makes winners seem like party poopers. Mentioning God, your cast and crew, your spouse and kids, and Harvey Weinstein is fine, but mentioning the plight of migrant farm workers is a little too much reality for the dream factory.
Nonetheless, several winners at the 87th annual Oscar ceremony used their victory speeches to mention causes important to them. Some of those »
- Gary Susman
Alchemy has acquired North American rights to the romantic comedy “Meet the Patels” for release later this year.
The film premiered in June at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the audience award. It also won the award at Hot Docs and Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, where it also won best film.
Independent Television Service co-produced and co-financed the project. Additional funding for the film was provided by Impact Partners, the Center for Asian American Media, Tribeca Film Institute, Whitewater Films, Hartley Film Foundation and Chicken and Egg Pictures.
Ravi V. Patel stars as a romantically inexperienced Indian-American who reluctantly consents to letting his parents find him a soulmate through traditional cultural means.
Variety‘s Andrew Barker gave the film a positive review, »
- Dave McNary
The marathon-like box office success of American Sniper, which is about to hit the $400 million mark, continues to endure impressively considering the film is about to celebrate its two month anniversary since its limited Christmas Day release. However, amidst the plethora of controversy surrounding the film with Michael Moore, Jesse Ventura and the current trial over the murder of main character, Chris Kyle, there is also another story to be told. This story details the effects of the film.s financial success on Kyle's surviving family. Apparently, as often is the case when a huge sum of money is suddenly introduced into the equation, things are getting awkwardly ugly. According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, Chris Kyle.s widow, Taya (played by Sienna Miller in the film,) has found herself embroiled in a dispute over American Sniper-related funds that were allegedly promised to the surviving family members »
The controversial Oscar-nominated movie dramatises the life story of Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in Us military history.
Ayatollah Khamenei accused American Sniper of inciting harassment of Muslims in a meeting with Iran's religious minorities, according to the country's Iran Farsi newspaper.
"The movie Sniper that is made by Hollywood encourages a Christian or non-Muslim youngster to harass and offend the Muslims as far as they could," he is alleged to have said three weeks ago.
The Iranian religious leader also apparently acknowledged that he has not yet seen American Sniper.
The Bradley Cooper-starring movie about the Iraq War has generated tremendous controversy, in spite of earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination.
2014 turned out to be an exceptional year for feature-length documentaries about artists. A film from 2013, Tim’S Vermeer, opened wide that January and was soon followed by Jodorowsky’S Dune, For No Good Reason, Life, Itself, and Glen Campbell: I’LL Be Me. However, the only art doc to be included in the five nominees for Best Documentary Feature Film at the 87th Academy Awards is the acclaimed Finding Vivian Maier. You can read my review here. Recently Wamg was able to speak to the two men behind the film, producer/writer/directors John Maloof (who also narrates the film) and Charlie Siskel.
Wamg: I suppose we should start with you John, since this journey began back in 2007 with your purchase of a box of Maier’s negatives at an auction. You mention in the film that you’d hoped »
- Jim Batts
When a billion people are watching, the Oscar stage is a tempting place to broadcast your political views, as more than one star or filmmaker has chosen to do. It's not always a popular choice, as Vanessa Redgrave or Michael Moore can tell you.
Controversial Oscar moments aren't always about politics: Among the other scandals are a shockingly naked stranger, a barely-dressed starlet, and a persistent rumor about one surprising win.
- Sharon Knolle
"Finding Vivian Maier" is a portrait of the artist who lived in secrecy. The self-sworn mystery woman who worked as a nanny in Chicago from family to family, without ever really having one of her own, took over 100,000 photographs that co-director and collector John Maloof unearthed at a junk auction in 2007. A few years later, Maloof had mounted the first show of her work, an elegiac collection of B&W street photography, self-portraits and images of everyday people caught unaware. At that point, he met the film's eventual co-director Charlie Siskel (yes, he's the nephew of Gene), a friend of producer Jeff Garlin and a former protégé of Michael Moore. Together, Maloof and Siskel leapt into the "rabbit hole," as Siskel calls it, of Vivian Maier to co-create a beautiful documentary about the unknowable interiors of The Artist that is now a Best Documentary Oscar nominee. Charlie Siskel and I spoke on the phone, »
- Ryan Lattanzio
Clint Eastwood said something really weird Monday night about "American Sniper" ... appearing to agree with his harshest critics. Clint was leaving Dan Tana's in West Hollywood when our photog asked what he thought about Bill Maher and Michael Moore blasting the portrayal of military sniper Chris Kyle as a hero. You'll recall, Moore called snipers "cowards," and Maher said Kyle was a "psychopath patriot." Clint seems to hear and then process the question before he responds ... with agreement. »
- TMZ Staff
Berlin festival chief Dieter Kosslick and outgoing Rotterdam boss Rutger Wolfson have thrown their weight behind the embattled management team of the Busan Intl. Film Festival. Busan’s director Lee Yong-kwan has been under fire from the city authorities since last October’s festival. Last week the city mayor and senior members of the council issued a public statement calling for Lee to resign. The rift was caused by the festival’s decision to program “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol” (aka “The Diving Bell”), a Michael Moore-style documentary that accuses the national government of negligence and collusion after the ferry disaster that killed 300 schoolchildren in April last year. The council denies that the film is the issue, and instead says that the festival management has failed to complete a lot of administrative tasks and reports – including the duty to give advanced notice of film selections to the council’s cultural committee. »
- Patrick Frater
American Sniper's screenwriter has responded to criticism of the film.
Speaking at the annual Beyond Words event at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills, he said: "I don't let it bother me.
"The film will remain after the voices quiet down."
The film has been the subject of intense public debate in recent weeks for its depiction of Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in Us military history.
American Sniper has earned acclaim from critics, and will be competing for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards this month. »
The pair engaged in a protracted legal battle over Kyle's claims in the media to have punched Ventura in a bar fight, with the court case continuing even after the sniper's murder.
Ventura stepped up his criticism of American Sniper earlier this week, by comparing Kyle's actions as sniper to those of the Nazis during World War II.
The ex-politician told The Alan Colmes Show: "A hero is not how many people you've killed. »
Bradley Cooper is surprised by the controversy surrounding 'American Sniper'. The 40-year-old actor stars in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie, which tells the story of the deadliest marksman in Us military history - and has argued that ''any discussion'' about the ''plight'' of the nation's military should be welcomed. He reflected: ''You never know when you make a movie if anybody's going to see it, so to have the audacity to think that it would cause any sort of effect at all would be pretty presumptuous. ''Any discussion that sheds light on the plight of the soldiers and the men and women in the armed services, for that discussion to occur is fantastic.'' Cooper has earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Chris Kyle, but the film has also attracted criticism from the likes of Michael Moore and Seth Rogen. Rogen compared the movie to Inglourious Basterds »
Is American Sniper the new The Interview? Though the war drama is a critical and box office success, it has caught flak in the country where it's set for its portrayal of the Iraqi people. Now, the only movie theater in Baghdad has yanked the film following protests by viewers and the country's government, according to the Washington Post. "It glorifies Americans and makes Iraqis out to be nothing but terrorists," teacher Ahmed Kamal, 27, who downloaded the flick illegally, told the paper. "It portrays Americans as strong and noble, and Iraqis as ignorant and violent." American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, »
- Michele Corriston, @mcorriston
The 40-year-old - who starred in and produced the war biopic - said that "any discussion" about the "plight" of the nation's military should be seen as a good thing.
According to Reuters, Cooper said: "You never know when you make a movie if anybody's going to see it, so to have the audacity to think that it would cause any sort of effect at all would be pretty presumptuous.
"Any discussion that sheds light on the plight of the soldiers and the men and women in the armed services, for that discussion to occur is fantastic."
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