Here's the complete list of the winners of the American Society of Cinematographers Awards (for a complete list of winners/nominees of other award-giving bodies, visit our Awards Avenue coverage right here)
Feature Film: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Television Movie/Miniseries: Martin Ruhe, Page Eight
Half-hour Episodic Series: Michael Weaver, Californication
One-hour Episodic Series: Jonathan Freeman, Boardwalk Empire
Asc Career Achievement in Television: Bill Wages
Featuring a splendid lead performance by Alfre Woodard and directed with compassion and deliberate delicacy by Maya Angelou, "Delta" will warm viewers' hearts with its universal sensibility.
In this sobering production -- a Miramax, Showtime presentation -- Woodard stars as Loretta, an addled alcoholic-druggie staggering around Chicago's Cabrini Green while her two young children, Thomas (Mpho Koaho) and Tracy (Kulani Hassen), are left to the matriarchal care of Loretta's solid mother, Rosa (Mary Alice).
So far, Thomas is the only kid in his project not packing and Rosa fears it's only a number of weeks before he, too, will tote a gun. Loretta's personal disintegration is so steep that Rosa fears her daughter will soon overdose.
In Rosa's practical and caring mind, there's only one option -- send them down to the old family home in the South and get them off the mean streets for at least one summer.
Above all, "Delta" is a story of rebirth, albeit not always a smooth one. Loretta and the kids find the backwaters of the Mississippi delta alien territory. Their kindly kinfolk, namely the elderly patriarch Earl (Al Freeman Jr.) also find them perplexing.
But Earl, with his calm and loving manner, takes them into his grand old home and nurtures them. It's a sometimes rocky process, but he even gets Loretta to work in his chicken restaurant -- the only consistent job she's had on her feet.
Laced with loving wisdom and bolstered by unflinching realism, "Delta" is a marvelous story. Credit scriptwriter Myron Goble for sobering, uplifting writing and director Angelou for lyrical and kindly direction.
Yet it's the performances that are the most winning, chilling part of "Delta". Woodard, with her druggie twitches eventually abating to strong-willed determination, is an absolute marvel. She takes her performance to her character's most demeaning depths and then, along the way to regeneration, shows all the tremors of physical and ethical recovery.
As the steady and gentle Earl, Freeman gives a performances that is steely in its gentleness.
Alice exudes familial strength as Loretta's saintly but wily mother, while Koaho is splendidly exuberant as Loretta's do-right boy.
Wesley Snipes does a strong turn as Earl's successful son, a complex performance showing the conflicts of material success.
From William Wages' warm-hued cinematography to Stanley Clarke's artful musical tonalities, "Down in the Delta" is a work of superb storytelling.
DOWN IN THE DELTA
an Amen Ra Films and Chris/Rose Prod.
Producers: Rick Rosenberg, Bob Christiansen, Victor McGauley, Wesley Snipes, Reuben Cannon
Director: Maya Angelou
Screenwriter: Myron Goble
Director of photography: William Wages
Production designer: Lindsey Hermer-Bell
Editor: Nancy Richardson
Co-producers: Terri Farnsworth, Myron Goble, Alfre Woodard
Music: Stanley Clarke
Casting: Reuben Cannon & Associates
Costume designer: Maxyne Baker
Loretta: Alfre Woodard
Earl: Al Freeman Jr.
Rosa Lynn: Mary Alice
Annie: Esther Rolle
Zenia: Loretta Devine
Will: Wesley Snipes
Thomas: Mpho Koaho
Tracy: Kulani Hassen
Monica: Anne Marie Johnson
Running time -- 111 minutes
Now making the festival circuit, it stars Robert Forster -- due to receive a major career infusion with the release of Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" -- so a commercial release will probably be forthcoming.
Produced by veteran director Irvin Kershner, "American Perfekt" was one of the most popular and acclaimed films at this year's Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
Forster plays Jake Nyman, a vacationing criminal psychologist wandering around the highways of the American Southwest. Jake forgoes the pressures of responsibility by living his life by chance; faced with any kind of decision, he flips the coin in his pocket and lets fate decide.
The film's complicated chain of events is set in motion when Jake gives a ride to Sandra (Amanda Plummer), a young woman who was nearly run off the road by a car driven by an unknown assailant. Sandra, en route to picking up her wayward sister Alice (Fairuza Balk), is clearly turned on by ever-cool Jake, who barely seems to acknowledge her attentions.
The driver of the malicious vehicle turns out to be Santini, a small-time con man (played with enormous relish by David Thewlis). The trio eventually sits down to a meal together, but Jake, after fending off the attentions of a drugged-out local floozy (Joanna Gleason), takes great umbrage at Santini's conning of a buffoonish local cop (Chris Sarandon). It isn't long before the floozy winds up dead, Santini turns up with his tongue cut out and Sandra lands in the trunk of Jake's car. Jake, it seems, is a criminal psychologist who's both a criminal and a psycho. The last part of the film depicts the cat-and-mouse game between Jake and the plucky Alice as Jake is pursued by the savvy local sheriff (Paul Sorvino).
Chart's complex screenplay is most interesting in its first half, as it keeps us off-guard with its quietly menacing series of surprises and revelations. If the film's pacing is a bit slow, it's still a relief to encounter a thriller more intent on mystery and atmosphere than random shocks. Some of that originality dissipates in the more conventional, bloody second part, but by this point the filmmaker has already demonstrated his talent for concocting original situations, quirky dialogue and sharp, off-kilter characterizations.
The film's power is increased immeasurably by the superb cast, which gives the appearance of having a great deal of fun. Forster is wonderfully subtle and controlled for most of the film, which makes his final, over-the-top rampage that much more entertaining. The made-to-order role is a reminder of how much we've missed with his lengthy absence from the screen.
Plummer invests her neurotic character with a twitchy lovability, while Thewlis is highly entertaining in his broadly comic turn. He slaps Plummer at one point, and the gusto with which he did so brought down the house. And his lengthy death scene is the best since the silent-movie days. Balk makes a feisty heroine, and Sorvino is fun as the tenacious sheriff.
Tech credits are way-above-average for an indie feature, with superb lensing of the dusty Southwest by cinematographer William Wages and tense editing by Michael Ruscio.
Director-screenwriter: Paul Chart
Producer: Irvin Kershner
Executive producers: Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Elie Samaha, Boaz Davidson, Trevor Short
Co-producers: Dawn Handler, Andrew Schuth
Director of photography: William Wages
Editor: Michael Ruscio
Music: Simon Boswell
Sandra: Amanda Plummer
Jake: Robert Forster
Santini: David Thewlis
Alice: Fairuza Balk
Frank: Paul Sorvino
Shirley: Joanna Gleason
Running time -- 99 minutes
No MPAA rating
Buena Vista Pictures
The stoner lingo has been toned down and the costumes are not as spectacular. Even the trademark curls are shorn. But before one gets the idea that Pauly Shore's screen persona has significantly matured, ''In the Army Now'' shows its silly stripes. A late-summer theatrical campaign should come marching home with fair booty for Buena Vista Pictures.
Shore and the usual phalanx of writers, including his strike team of Fax Bahr and Adam Small, have cleverly managed to expand the stand-up comedian's up-to-now limited appeal to MTV-soaked airheads, while delivering an uneven but enjoyable farce.
While Shore still has most of the best lines and situations -- such as when he faces off against drill sergeants and other stern military types -- he's also backed up by a solid ensemble cast, including Lori Petty, David Alan Grier and Andy Dick as the other misfits in a water-purifying detail of army reservists.
Director Daniel Petrie Jr. and cinematographer William Wages are appropriately conservative in their approach. Robert Folk's heroic movie music rehash hits the target, while O. Nicholas Brown's editing helps the laughs flow more or less constantly (HR 8/12-14).-- David Hunter
A Pacific sea lion stands in for a harbor seal and Vancouver locales double for Rockport, Maine, but ''Andre'' gets away with the usual Hollywood trickery. Four-legged, live-action animal stars have not fared well this season. But Paramount's bewhiskered, herring-munching, wryly comic seal has a chance to swim at least a few leagues along the same family film current as last summer's aquatic sleeper hit ''Free Willy.''
Set in the '60s, ''Andre' '' plot is strictly formula and the payoffs predictable. Still, there's a disarming gentleness and positive messages aplenty in debut screenwriter Dana Baratta's adaptation of the book ''A Seal Called Andre'' written by Harry Goodridge and Lew Dietz.
Goodridge is the basis for Harry Whitney (Keith Carradine), the kindly harbor master who adopts an orphaned seal pup to the delight of his family.
Director George Miller (''The Man From Snowy River'') orchestrates the swiftly swimming plot and shifting emotions with reasonable success, while the main human performers are natural and relaxed.
Thomas Burstyn's wide-screen cinematography is serviceable, but such potentially riveting scenes as Andre's climactic return journey to the Whitneys after being let go in the open sea are disappointing (HR 8/12-14).-- David Hunter
A LA MODE
''A la Mode'' (aka ''Fausto'') is a comfortable fit, not too fancy but stylish and spirited. Directed by first-timer Remy Duchemin, the French import distributed by Miramax tries on familiar themes, centered around a young man's coming of age after a family tragedy, but triumphs because of the captivating characters and upbeat, fun-loving mood.
With a strong screenplay and four excellent lead performances, the worst thing one can say about ''A la Mode'' is that it's noticeably episodic. Word of mouth should be good and the art-house underdog ought to perform well.
Set in the mid-1960s in Paris, ''A la Mode'' is written by Duchemin and Richard Morgieve, based on the latter's novel ''Fausto.'' The well-directed film is quietly ambitious in both its evocation of the times and smooth combination of comedy and drama (HR 8/12-14).-- David Hunter
Also reviewed last week was the film ''A Good Man in Africa'' (HR 8/15).
(c) BPI Communications
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