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Asian films lead best-of-decade poll

Toronto -- Asian films, led by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Syndromes and a Century," dominated the Toronto International Film Festival's best-of-the-decade poll results released Monday.

Weerasethakul's 2006 two-part drama captured the top spot with 53 votes in a poll of 60 film curators, historians and programmers conducted by the festival.

In second place with 49 votes was Jia Zhangke's "Platform," who also grabbed third place for his Venice award winner "Still Life" and its 48 votes.

French filmmaker Claire Denis earned fourth place for "Beau Travail" with 46 votes, followed by Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood For Love" with 43 votes.

Weerasethakul also earned sixth place for "Tropical Malady," which garnered 38 votes in the TIFF poll.

Romanian director Cristi Puiu was next with "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" and its 35 votes, the same tally for "Werckmeister Harmonies" from Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr.

Rounding out the best-of-the-decade competition was Jean-Luc Godard's "Eloge de l'amour" in
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News »

IFC picks up 'Tales From the Golden Age'

Cannes -- IFC is again heading to Romania, acquiring U.S. rights to "Tales From the Golden Age," a feature collection of shorts set in the country's Communist period.

"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" writer-director Cristian Mungiu penned all the shorts while he, and fellow Romanian helmers Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Hofer, Razvan Marculescu and Constantin Popescu each took a turn directing one.

The pic, which premieres Tuesday in Un Certain Regard at the Festival de Cannes, examines urban legends in the former Eastern bloc nation, examining life in those dark days through the experiences of ordinary people. The stories are not related but are united "by mood, narrative pattern and the details of the historical period," IFC said.

At Cannes two years ago, IFC bought Mungiu's "4 Months," a hard-bitten tale of a young girl's attempted abortion in Ceausescu's Romania; the film took the Palme d'Or and became a critics' darling when
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News »

Del Toro And Cruz Lead Goya Awards

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Del Toro And Cruz Lead Goya Awards
Benicio Del Toro and Penelope Cruz were the toast of the Spanish film industry on Sunday night - with the pair both landing nods at the country's prestigious Goya Awards. Puerto Rican star Del Toro triumphed in the Best Actor category at the ceremony in Madrid, Spain, for his performance as Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara, in the biopic Che.

Cruz also picked up a gong, landing the Best Supporting Actress prize for her turn in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona and thanked the director in her acceptance speech, telling the crowd, "I've always been a great fan of Woody Allen. Thank you Woody for believing in me."

The other big winner of the night was new movie Camino, which tells the story of the Opus Dei religious order.

The picture garnered six awards, including Best Film, Best Director for Javier Fesser and Best Actress for Carme Elias.

The Cannes Palme d'Or winner, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - about illegal abortion in Romania - was handed the best European film prize, while director Jesus Franco was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award.

Triple Win For Milk

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Triple Win For Milk
Biopic Milk is the cream of the crop of Hollywood hits among New York movie experts after claiming three big honours at the 2008 Film Critics Circle Awards.

The movie, about assassinated gay San Francisco, California city supervisor Harvey Milk, has been named Best Film.

Sean Penn picked up a Best Actor prize for his performance in the title role and Josh Brolin was named Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the politician's killer.

British film Happy-Go-Lucky was named a two-award winner - Mike Leigh for Best Director and his star Sally Hawkins (Best Actress).

The full list of New York Critics Circle Awards winners is:

Best Picture: Milk

Best Director: Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky)

Best Actor: Sean Penn (Milk)

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)

Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin (Milk)

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

Best Screenplay: Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married)

Best Cinematographer: Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Animated Film: Wall-e

Best Foreign Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days

Best Documentary: Man on Wire

Best First Film: Courtney Hunt (Frozen River).

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

New York Film Critics Circle Awards
Best Picture - Milk

Best Director - Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky)

Best Actor - Sean Penn (Milk)

Best Actress - Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)

Best Supporting Actor - Josh Brolin (Milk)

Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

Best Screenplay - Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married)

Best Cinematographer - Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Foreign Film - 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Best Animated Film - WALL-E

Best First Film - Courtney Hunt (Frozen River)

Best Documentary - Man on Wire
See full article at AwardsDaily »

Eastern European Distributors at the San Sebastian Film Festival

The European Film Promotion (EFP) and the San Sebastian International Film Festival (September 18-27) launched a new promotion initiative entitled "European Distributors: Up Next".

Ten independent distributors from Central and Eastern Europe attending the festival discussed the possibilities of theatrical distribution on a European level. Since the majority of European producers do not cross national borders, the meetings in San Sebastian were aimed to create possible platform and networking opportunities to improve the circulation of European productions.

• From Slovenia, Natasa Bucar, project manager of the cultural center Cankarjev Dom, a public institution that organizes many events promoting film, including the Ljubljana International Film Festival has been in art film distribution for the last 15 years. They distribute five to six titles every year to fill the gap in theatrical distribution of European high-profile films in Slovenia. Priority is given to established and not always well-known European and other international filmmakers. Their last distributed titles were Neil Jordan’s ‘Breakfast on Pluto’, Tony Gatlif’s ‘Transylvania’, Bent Hamer’s ‘Factotum’, Dagur Kari’s ‘Dark Horse’, Corneliu Porumboiu’s ‘12:08 East of Bucharest’, Roy Andersson’s ‘You, the Living’, Pascale Ferran’s ‘Lady Chatterley’, Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’ and Shane Meadows’ ‘This Is England’.

Besides Cankarjev Dom, there are only four arthouse cinemas in Slovenia. They need more along with arthouse cinema networks to enable better film promotion. In Slovenia, like everywhere in Europe, the number of cinema viewers has fallen drastically. Audiences focus on fewer films, the top 20 films take up to almost 50% of the market in Slovenia.

• From Hungary, Rita Linda Potyondi of Cirko Film - Másképp Foundation, the only Hungarian distributor to operate as a non-profit-foundation, they also own one theater in Budapest. Working on a showstring budget, they are guided by personal tastes and focus on international and particularly European ‘difficult’ auteur films with targeted or limited audiences, especially those that explore themes related to discriminated groups: homosexuals, handicapped people, ethnic or religious minorities and victims of family abuse. Their last releases include films by Robert Guédiguian, Bruno Dumont, Fernando Leon de Aranoa, Baltasar Kormakur, Alain Corneau, Bruno Podalydès, Bertrand Bonello, Claire Denis, Ferzan Ozpetek, Catalin Mitulescu and Oskar Roehler. A recent surprise success was Anders Thomas Jensen’s ‘Adam's Apples’ which became a sort of cult film. They also did well with Palme d’Or-winner ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’, and ‘Persepolis’, Susanne Bier’s ‘After the Wedding, ‘Red Road’, ‘My Brother Is An Only Child’, ‘A Soap’, ‘Our Daily Bread’. Upcoming are the Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's ‘Lorna’s Silence’, Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Belepine’s ‘Louise Michel’, Nic Balthazar’s ‘Ben X’, Simon Staho’s ‘Heaven’s Heart’, Ole Christian Madsen’s ‘Kira’s Reason’, Josef Fares’ ‘Leo’, Anders Thomas Jensen’s ‘The Green Butchers’ and ‘Flickering Lights’, and Ole Bornedal’s ‘Just Another Love Story’.

• Czech distributor Artcam’s Managing Director Premysl Martinek knows he is fighting an uphill battle. In 2007 combined total admissions for Artcam's films were under 50,000 — 0.4 percent of the national total. By comparison, leading distributor Falcon drew more than 4,000,000 viewers with its films, nearly a third of the market. However Martinek is convinced there is room in the market for small distributors and is interested in the shared challenges, from the opportunities offered by digital distribution and video-on-demand to how to negotiate with producers on minimum guarantees. The main problem is cultivating an audience. “It's very different from in Holland or Germany, where there are audiences for arthouse films,” he says.

Most of Artcam's target market is in Prague, home to roughly 1,000,000 people where European film is largely restricted to a handful of single-screen theatres, while the city's 14 multiplexes focus primarily on Hollywood imports and successful local films.

Artcam has distributed some of the most widely heralded European films of recent years, including Ole Madsen's drama ‘Prague’, ‘Persepolis’ and ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’. The international success of such films has attracted the attention of larger distributors who are now crowding the arena. This year in Cannes when they tried to acquire ‘Waltz with Bashir’, there was greater competition. Martinek says arthouse is an important part of any film culture, and lack of access to European films is hurting Czech cinema because if they lack exposure to the cinema of other countries, from new ways of narration, they cannot develop their own cinema. The Czech Ministry of Education has introduced media studies to secondary school curricula to show young people that film is “not just fun and popcorn. It's also art.”

• Polish distribution company Gutek’s Jakub Duszyński, artistic director and head of programming (along with Roman Gutek) at the Muranow movie theater also programs for the different festivals held at the theatre and for Poland’s largest film event, the Era New Horizons Film Festival in Wroclaw. A lawyer by training and a fan of Asian genre films, Duszynski has also set up a distribution company (Blink) specializing in this type of film.

Gutek Film has always been a launching pad for auteur films and has released films by Lars Von Trier, Pedro Almodóvar, Jim Jarmush and Wong Kar-Wai. Every year, they distribute two or three films not aimed solely at auteur film enthusiasts, but also at multiplex audiences. Among such titles are Tom Tykwer’s ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’ and ‘Control’. Coming up are Polish features including Jerzy Skolimowski’s ‘Four Nights With Anna’, Piotr Lazarkiewicz’s ‘0_1_0’ and Katarzyna Adamik’s ‘Boisko bezdomnych’. They distribute almost exclusively European films. The box office is certainly dominated by US films, but by only a few titles which often have, interestingly, something European about them, for example they may be inspired by European literature.

• Slovakia’s Michal Drobny is marketing manager for Slovak distributor Continental Film. Slovakia sees 2,500,000 to 3,000,000 admissions in a year. A successful film for Continental is 10,000 to 15,000 admissions, as compared to one of the Harry Potter films which will have 200,000 admissions.

Continental releases 30 to 40 films a year and, thanks largely to its partnership with Warner Bros, enjoys a market share of 20%–30%. Continental also serve as Slovak distribution partners for Hollywood Classic Entertainment, which often buys rights to European and arthouse titles for several Eastern European territories at once. Continental acquires other titles through direct negotiation with the producers, usually from the Czech Republic. Drobny seldom attends festivals other than Berlin. This year is his first visit to San Sebastian.

Margins are tight for Continental, which is the second or third largest distributor in Slovakia. Continental is also a 30% shareholder in Slovak multiplex chain Cinemax, which owns nine cinemas countrywide. Continental also operated Bratislava's only arthouse cinema until it was turned into a congress hall.

Continental counts on public money for a small portion of its operating budget. The Slovak Ministry of Culture gives support up to a maximum of SKK 160,000 (€5,500) for the distribution of European films which covers the cost of two or three prints. Continental also receives funding through the MEDIA automatic support scheme, typically receiving 40 to 60 cents per admission for European films.

Drobny says this public support is welcome but it's seldom enough to make a real difference to distributors. “A print for a US title costs $300 [€210]. For a European title, the cost is $1,000–1500 [€700–1,000] for the print, plus I still need to pay for the all the marketing materials and the cost of subtitles,” he says. “We can't be surprised that American films are everywhere.”

Not surprisingly few European films secure distribution in Slovakia. Cinemax promotes European and arthouse film through its Artmax program and screens independent films once a week, sometimes for free. Current titles in the selection include ‘Good Bye, Lenin!’, ‘The Secret Life of Words’, ‘The Science of Sleep’, ‘Volver’ and ‘Angel’. In cooperation with the Embassy of Spain, Continental and Cinemax are creating a Spanish Days celebration of Spanish cinema at Cinemax locations in November.

Drobny has hopes that digital cinema will help small distributors, but believes it will be five to ten years before the major studios settle on a common format. Even then, the costs of converting screens will be challenging for the private sector. “To install one 2K digital system costs SKK 3m–4m [€100,000–132,000] and we have 37 screens, so it's a lot of money,” he says. “We'd like to invest but it will take a long time to see a return on that investment.”

• From Romania, Transilvania Film, founded by Tudor Giurgiu and currently run by Stefan Bradea is one of the successful pioneers of arthouse film distribution in Romania. At first they distributed mainly British, German and Scandinavian features but gradually turned to quality Romanian films, genre pictures, even some mainstream American movies. Their eclectic selection is targeted to the highly educated public, basically university graduates under 35. Their latest premiere was ‘Non pensarci’ by Gianni Zanasi, an Italian comedy. Coming up are Gus Van Sant’s ‘Paranoid Park’ and a few Romanian films: Horatiu Malaele’s ‘Silent Wedding’, Adrian Sitaru’s ‘Hooked’ and Anca Damian’s debut, ‘Crossing Dates’. Their most profitable film was Tudor Giurgiu’s ‘Love Sick’ with 20,800 admissions and a box office gross of over €50,000. Other successful features were Neil Burger’s ‘The Illusionist’, with 11,500 admissions, and ‘Paris Je T’Aime’, with 9,715 admissions.

Film distribution business in Romania is rather unstable. There are eight active distributors bringing 150-160 features every year to 40-50 screens around the country. The number of distributors is growing and it is becoming a overserved field.

The Romanian mainstream public has little interest in European arthouse film and there are very few available screens, no arthouse cinemas and a poor DVD and TV arthouse market. And there is competition among distributors.

Stefan Kitanov is the founder of the most important annual film event in Bulgaria, the Sofia International Film Festival. In 2001 he founded ART FEST Ltd., the company behind Sofia IFF. The same company is one of the key European film distributors in Bulgaria. ART FEST Ltd. has three components: production, distribution and exhibition.

Most recent releases include Fatih Akin’s ‘The Edge of Heaven’, ‘The Palermo Shooting ‘by Wim Wenders and ‘Delta’ by Kornel Mundruczo. The most successful releases were Francois Ozon’s ‘Swimming Pool’ and ‘Crossing the Bridge’ by Fatih Akin with 8,000 to 10,000 admissions.

Such a distribution business is not profitable. Festival audiences like European films but the general audience likes Hollywood films. Festival audiences don’t go to regular cinemas. The general audience goes to regular cinemas, therefore European films don’t go regularly to mainstream cinemas. There need to be events around the distribution of European films so that they be seen, such as a traveling package going to different towns, whether it is with 35mm or video screenings. There are less than 30 towns in Bulgaria with cinemas.

• From Estonia, Katrin Rajaare of Tallinnfilm, a state-owned company that used to produce the majority of Estonian films during the Soviet era has stopped production and sold its studio and now focuses on restoration of its archives. In 2004, Tallinnfilm began operating as an arthouse cinema and a year later started a distribution operation to ensure continuous programming for the cinema. Tallinnfilm acquires the rights to 12-16 films a year, mostly European films, with some titles from Asia and the US. As a state-owned company, Tallinnfilm buys mostly Estonian theatrical rights only. It is the second largest distribution company in Estonia, with a market share of 2.6%. In the Baltic countries, all rights are acquired for smaller films and shared with Lithuania’s Skalvija and Latvia’s Kino Riga. Their biggest hit in 2007 was ‘La Vie en Rose’ with 9,606 paid admissions. This film was number 43 in the 2007 national box office chart. Only US and Estonian films were at the top of the chart. Recent acquisitions include ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ and ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’ to be released around Christmas and the beginning of 2009.

There is a small, steady market for arthouse titles in the capital city of Tallinn, but the recent opening of a five-screen miniplex in the second city, Tartu (96,000 inhabitants), has brought hope from the outskirts as well. There are very few towns where you can screen European films, although the cinemas have received public support for technical equipment and should screen arthouse titles, but the reality is that you can’t force cinemas to screen certain films that won’t bring in audiences.

• From Lithuania Skalvija, an exhibitor since 1962 under the name of Planeta became the only arthouse in Lithuania in 1992. It has only one screen and 88 seats and is subsidized by the Vilnius Municipality. Located in the city center; it promotes quality cinema and pays special attention to young audiences and education. Its market share as an exhibitor is 1.11%. Two major multiplex theatres share 70 % of the entire Lithuanian exhibition market. Greta Akcijonaite heads its recent arthouse film distribution activity. Over the last two years they have released 10 films theatrically, and another 5 have been acquired for Lithuania and/or all the Baltic States. As a very small and specialized distributor, Skalvija has a market share of 0.64%. Most recent releases were the Danish film ‘Adam's Apples’, with almost 8,000 admissions and the Spanish film ‘Dark Blue Almost Black’ with over 6000 admissions. Recent acquisitions include Sam Garbarski’s ‘Irina Palm’ (Belgium/UK), Kornel Mundruczo’s ‘Delta’ (Hungary), the Palme d’Or winner ‘The Class’ (France) by Laurent Cantet, Thomas Clay’s ‘Soy Cowboy’ (Thailand/UK), Ruben Östlund’s’ Involuntary’ (Sweden), and Ilmar Raag’s ‘The Class’ (Estonia).

The market share of the European films released theatrically was 25% in 2007 although the share of admissions to European films was only 11%. There is definitely a lack of venues for screening European and quality films.

• Latvia’s Oskars Killo heads Acme Film Sia the leading independent film distributor in Latvia, established in 2004 and owned by Acme, a Lithuanian based company. The rights for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are bought by the mother company in Lithuania. In 2007, Acme Film had 62 theatrical releases and a 25% market share. In 2008, the number of films released will be the same, but the revenue is expected to be higher. In 2008, Acme Film has had such European successes as French films ‘99 Francs’ and ‘Asterix at the Olympic Games’, and Spain’s ‘The Orphanage’. The last European hit was ‘2 Days in Paris’, released on one print on July 4, 2008 and still in release with 12,500 admissions thus far. ‘Cash’ was released on one print on August 1 and has 8,500 admissions so far. The results for ‘2 Days in Paris’ and ‘Cash’ are comparable to recent US releases in Latvia such as ‘The X-Files 2’, and ‘Disaster Movie’. Recent European acquisitions include ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’, ‘Paris’, ‘JCVD’, ‘The Duchess’, ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’, ‘Vinyan’, ‘Ne te retourne pas’ among others.

In 2007, European films had a 18.3% market share, US films a 66% market share, the rest of the world 10.1% and national films a 5.5% market share.

Oscar shortlists foreign-language pics

Nine films will advance to the next round of voting in the foreign-language film category for the 80th Annual Academy Awards, though the big surprise is the omission of Romania's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Festival de Cannes and has been named best foreign-language film by numerous critics groups.

The films that were named are: Austria's The Counterfeiters, directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky; Brazil's The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, helmed by Cao Hamburger; Canada's Days of Darkness, helmed by Denys Arcand; Israel's Beaufort, directed by Joseph Cedar; Italy's The Unknown, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore; Kazakhstan's Mongol, directed by Sergei Bodrov; Poland's Katyn, directed by Andrzej Wajda; Russia's 12, helmed by Nikita Mikhalkov, and Serbia's The Trap, directed by Srdan Golubovic.

In addition to 4 Months, a notable omission is France's animated film Persepolis, which has already earned recognition including the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Foreign-language film nominations are being determined in two phases. The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 63 eligible films and their ballots determined the above shortlist.

'There Will Be Blood' Tops Critics Awards

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There Will Be Blood has been hailed as the Best Picture of the Year for 2007 by the National Society of Film Critics. The movie, which was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, beat competition from Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's No Country For Old Men and Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell And The Butterfly to take the award, while he beat the same filmmakers for the Best Director prize. There Will Be Blood was also praised for Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of an oil-hungry businessman, winning him the honor for Best Actor. Best Actress went to Julie Christie for her starring role in Away From Her, while Best Supporting awards were awarded to Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There. Other winners included the Romanian 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days as Best Foreign-Language Film, while No End In Sight, by Charles Ferguson, won the award for Best Non-Fiction Film.

National Society of Film Critics Pick 'There Will Be Blood'

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The last of the major film critics groups, the National Society of Film Critics has given the bulk of its awards to Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, honoring the period epic with its Best Picture, Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Cinematography and Best Director awards. Though it bucked the trend of honoring the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men (which was shut out entirely from the group's awards), the NSFC bestowed a few of its awards to previous critics' winners. In addition to Day-Lewis, who's emerging as the front runner for Best Actor, acting honors went to Julie Christie (Best Actress for Away from Her), Casey Affleck (Supporting Actor for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), and in a bit of a surprise, Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There, who bypassed perennial Supporting Actress winner Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone). No End in Sight was named Best Non-Fiction Film, Tamara Jenkins' The Savages received the Best Screenplay award, and Foreign Language Film Honors went to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. --Mark Englehart, IMDb staff

London critics like the look of 'Blood'

LONDON -- Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood is nominated in a trio of major categories for this year's London Film Critics' Circle awards.

Anderson's tale of U.S. oil prospectors in a frontier town is nominated for film of the year and director of the year as well as actor of the year for Daniel Day-Lewis.

The nominations were announced Friday.

To win the best film award, Blood will have to fend off the mighty challenge of No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Zodiac and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Anderson will slug it out with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men), David Fincher (Zodiac) and Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) in the fight for director of the year.

Up against Lewis in the actor category are the late Ulrich Muhe (The Lives of Others), Casey Affleck (Jesse James), George Clooney (Michael Clayton) and Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah).

Vying for actress of the year are Laura Linney (The Savages), Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), Maggie Gyllenhaal (SherryBaby), Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart) and Anamaria Marinca (4 Months).

The London Critics' Circle awards concentrate heavily on U.K. endeavors at the cinema, with eight of the 14 categories exclusively there to reward British talent.

The Attenborough Award for British film of the year will go to either Once, Control, Atonement, Eastern Promises or This Is England.

British director of the year might just go to Dutch-born Anton Corbijn for his stint behind the lens of Control, with challenges from Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum), Shane Meadows (This Is England), Joe Wright (Atonement) and Danny Boyle (Sunshine).

The awards will be given out at a ceremony in the British capital Feb.

N.Y. critics heap honors on Coens' 'Country'

NEW YORK -- Joel and Ethan Coen's violent crime drama No Country for Old Men swept the New York Film Critics Circle awards Monday, taking home honors for best picture, director, screenplay and supporting actor for Javier Bardem.

The group named Sarah Polley's Alzheimer's drama Away From Her best first film, its star Julie Christie as best actress and Daniel Day-Lewis as best actor for Paul Thomas Anderson's oil baron saga There Will Be Blood, which also earned best cinematography honors for Robert Elswit. Charles Ferguson's Iraq War expose No End in Sight was named best nonfiction film.

NYFCC chairman and Newark Star-Ledger critic Stephen Whitty said the quickest vote was for >Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis as best animated feature, selected in just one round of paper ballots. The toughest calls, he said, were for Bardem as supporting actor and Amy Ryan (Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone) as supporting actress, each taking four ballot rounds when most awards took three.

In a surprise case of deja vu, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others was named best foreign-language film. Although it won the same honor at the Oscars in the spring and at last year's Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. awards, it hadn't opened in New York before the end of 2006 and wasn't eligible for previous NYFCC honors.

Whitty said one factor contributing to its win might have been that this year's Festival de Cannes Palme d'Or winner and this weekend's LAFCA winner, Cristian Mungiu's Romanian abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, had no set New York opening.

'No Country for Old Men' Tops With Critics' Awards

'No Country for Old Men' Tops With Critics' Awards
As the awards season begins, no less than four critics' groups announced their awards over the past two days, with the highest-profile group, the New York Film Critics Circle, giving its top honor to emerging favorite No Country for Old Men. Quickly turning into the movie to beat this season, the Coen brothers movie also won the Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem) awards from the Gotham critics. Top acting honors went to Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood) and Julie Christie (Away From Her), with the supporting actress award going to Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), who is appearing on as many winners' lists as the Coen brothers. Other winners included The Lives of Others (Foreign Language Film), Persepolis (Animated Film), and No End in Sight (Documentary).

In Los Angeles on Sunday, there was blood -- and lots of it -- as Paul Thomas Anderson's historical epic There Will Be Blood swept the awards, taking Best Picture, Director, and Lead Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) honors. Marion Cotillard of La Vie En Rose was named Best Actress, Vlad Ivanov of the Romanian abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was the surprise supporting actor winner, and -- yes -- Amy Ryan was named best supporting actress for Gone Baby Gone as well as Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days also won the foreign language film award, and Tamara Jenkins's The Savages received best screenplay honors. No End in Sight was the documentary winner, with Ratatouille and Persepolis sharing the animated feature award.

Also handing out awards on Sunday was the Boston Society of Film Critics, which jumped on the No Country for Old Men bandwagon, naming it their best picture and Javier Bardem as the supporting actor winner. While Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose) was the lead actress winner, the group threw a couple curveballs with awards to lead actor Frank Langella for the acclaimed but little-seen drama Starting Out in the Evening, and to director Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (which also won cinematography and foreign language film honors). Once again, Amy Ryan won the supporting actress award for Gone Baby Gone. Other winners included Ratatouille (screenplay) and Crazy Love (documentary).

And sharing in the fun was the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, which along with Boston and New York named No Country for Old Men as their Best Picture, and giving the Coen brothers directing honors and Javier Bardem the supporting actor award; to exacerbate the sense of deja vu, Amy Ryan was again the supporting actress winner for Gone Baby Gone. A bevy of usual suspects rounded out the DC awards, with George Clooney (Michael Clayton) and Julie Christie (Away From Her) nabbing lead acting awards, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly taking the foreign language film honor. Other winners included Michael Moore's Sicko (documentary), Ratatouille (animated film), Charlie Wilson's War (adapted screenplay) and Juno (original screenplay and breakthrough performance for Ellen Page).

Following up these critical honors will be the announcement of the Golden Globe nominations this Thursday morning; the Academy Award nominations will be unveiled next month on Tuesday, January 22. --Mark Englehart, IMDb staff

L.A. critics give 'Blood,' Day-Lewis top honors

Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood", an epic tale of the oil business in early 20th century California, won four awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. on Sunday, including best picture, director and actor honors.

Anderson was selected as best director, while Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as a rapacious oil man in "Blood" won as best actor. The group also gave its production design honor to "Blood"'s Jack Fisk, whose early California design won over Dante Ferretti's re-creation of late 19th century London for "Sweeney Todd".

The other multiple-award winner was Cristian Mungiu's Romanian film "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" -- the Palme d'Or winner at this year's Festival de Cannes -- which won best foreign-language film honors and best supporting actor for Vlad Ivanov, who played the abortionist in the film.

The film that finished runner-up in the best picture and director categories was Julian Schnabel's French-language "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

Best actress went to France Marion's Cotillard as Edith Piaf in the biopic "La Vie en Rose".

Tamara Jenkins won best screenplay for "The Savages", her comic drama about two quarreling siblings trying to settle their mentally failing father, beating out "Blood", Anderson's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel.

'Wall' tops Peacock pack

'Wall' tops Peacock pack
NEW DELHI -- Taiwan's The Wall, directed by Lin Chih Ju, bagged the Golden Peacock award Monday night as the 38th International Film Festival of India in Goa came to its conclusion.

The film, which also won a cash price of 1 million rupees ($25,000), is based on Taiwan's anti-communist violence of the 1950s.

IFFI was organized by the New Delhi-based Directorate of Film Festivals and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, in collaboration with the Government of Goa. It opened Nov. 23 with Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's 2007 Cannes Palme d'Or winner 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.

Other winners included Bangladesh's On the Wings of Dreams, which jointly shared the Silver Peacock award with Mexico's "More Than Anything in the World." The best director Silver Peacock went to Thailand's Pongpat Wachirabunjong for Me Myself.

IFC fingerprints all over 'Detective'

IFC fingerprints all over 'Detective'
NEW YORK -- IFC Entertainment is picking up the offbeat cop thriller Mad Detective from Hong Kong directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai.

Lau Ching-wan plays the title character, a loopy police inspector who solves cases by seeing a suspect's inner "ghosts." After a long absence from the force for mental-health reasons, he is brought back to track down a missing officer.

Detective premiered in September at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. To, who has directed dozens of films since the early 1980s, has seen some of his greatest successes with the recent gangster films Election, Triad Election and Exiled. He most recently teamed with co-director Wai on the 2003 film Running on Karma.

IFC will release Detective in theaters and via VOD through its First Take day-and-date program. An IFC spokesperson declined comment on the deal, which is now in final negotiations.

Friday's acquisition added to a high-profile week for IFC, which received four Spirit Award nominations (for Paranoid Park and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) and a Gotham Award tribute for president Jonathan Sehring.

'4 Months,' 'Band's Visit,' Mirren among EFA winners

'4 Months,' 'Band's Visit,' Mirren among EFA winners
BERLIN -- 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu's drama about a young woman trying to get an illegal abortion in communist Romania, took the two top prizes at this year's European Film Awards, winning best European film and best European director for Mungiu.

The wins, coming after Mungiu took the Palme d'Or in Cannes, put the first-time director and 4 Months at the front of the pack for next year's Oscar race for best foreign-language film.

"This is a great honor", said Mungiu, accepting the best film trophy in Berlin on Saturday. "I won't thank my producer because I was my producer."

Mungiu did, however, thank his young cast of unknowns before giving a shout-out to the Festival de Cannes.

"I really want to thank Cannes for this year opening up the competition to newcomers like me," Mungiu said. "It has made all the difference".

Cannes also made all the difference for the Israeli crowd-pleaser The Band's Visit, which followed up its Un Certain Regard Jury prize with two EFA trophies: best actor for star Sasson Gabai and the European Discovery 2007 prize for director Eran Kolirin.

Visit isn't in the running for the foreign-language Oscar because much of the film is in English, but the EFA wins could give the picture a bump as it continues its international rollout.

Another Cannes winner -- Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven -- won the best screenplay prize. Akin thanked his editor, Andrew Bird, quipping that the "final result on the screen was much different than my original screenplay."

The wins for 4 Months and Visit were a surprise for many pundits who thought Romania and Israel lacked the lobbying power with the big voting blocks in the European Film Academy, whose members vote for the EFAs.

Italy police mistakenly pick up '4 Months' star

FLORENCE, Italy -- Romanian actress Laura Vasiliu, one of the protagonists of this year's Palme d'Or-winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days was a victim of Italy's ongoing anti-immigration crackdown, briefly being taken into custody by Italian police because she had a similar name to a woman wanted for trafficking minors.

Romanians have been a focus of criticism in Italy in recent months, as increases in crime rates here followed Romania's January entry into the European Union and subsequent relaxation in travel restrictions.

New reports indicate that the Vasiliu was apprehended from her Turin hotel room after police saw her name on the hotel's register. Vasiliu was in Turin working on Francesco Munzi's La Notte (The Night), in which the actress will play an illegal Romanian immigrant in Italy.

Authorities did not keep Vasiliu long after she was able to establish her identity, and the actress issued a statement saying she would not seek damages against the police for the case of mistaken identity.

'4 Months' to kick off Goa fest

'4 Months' to kick off Goa fest
NEW DELHI -- Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's 2007 Cannes Palme d'Or winner "4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days" will open the 38th annual International Film Festival of India in Goa being held Nov. 23-Dec. 3.

The IFFI is organized by New Delhi-based government body Directorate of Film Festivals and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in collaboration with the Government of Goa. Organizers also said that Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan will inaugurate the festival.

The festival will close with Carlos Saura's Spanish-Portuguese musical "Fados" and will host an Ingmar Bergman retrospective, with screenings of classics like "Autumn Sonata" and "Fanny and Alexander" among others. The IFFI also will celebrate the birth centenary of "the first lady of the Indian screen," 1930s actress Devika Rani.

Details about festival jury members will be announced soon.

'Queen' reigns over EFA

COLOGNE, Germany -- The nominations for the 2007 European Film Awards held few surprises, with Stephen Frears' The Queen reigning over the best in European film with six nominations, including ones for best film and director.

The pretender to Queen's throne is Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland, which received five EFA noms, including one for best film.

Also in the running for the top prize of European Film 2007 are a bevy of festival favorites, including Cristian Mungiu's Cannes Palme d'Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; Fatih Akin's cross-cultural drama The Edge of Heaven and Oliver Dahan's Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose, all of which received multiple EFA nominations.

The dark horse in the best film race is Persepolis, the animated feature by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud based on Satrapi's graphic novel.

Beat out in the best picture run but still attracting EFA nominations in the direction, acting and cinematography categories was the mystery thriller The Unknown, from Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore.

The makeup of the European Film Academy, whose 1,800 members vote for the EFAs, tends to favor productions from Western Europe, and this year's nominations attest to that.

With the notable exception of Mungiu's much-praised 4 Months, only two productions from Eastern or Central Europe made the cut: Banishment, from Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev, and the Serbian musical comedy Gucha, from Dusan Milic.

Another exception to the dominance of "old Europe" is the Israeli crowd-pleaser The Band's Visit, which picked up nominations in the European actor and European screenplay categories.

The only other multiple nominee at this year's EFAs is Tom Tykwer's European boxoffice hit Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, which received four nominations, including one in the best European actor section for newcomer Ben Whishaw.

63 films qualify for foreign Oscar category

The animated film "Persepolis", from France, Denys Arcand's "Days of Darkness" from Canada, Johnnie To's "Exiled" from Hong Kong and Cristian Mungiu's Palm d'Or winner "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" are among the 63 films that have qualified for Oscar consideration in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' foreign language film category.

The record number of 63 entries include first-time submissions from Azerbaijan (Farid Gumbatov's "Caucasia") and Ireland (Tom Collins' "Kings").

Nominations for the 80th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 22, and the Oscars will be handed out Feb. 24.

The complete list follows:

Argentina, "XXY", Lucia Puenzo, director; Australia, "The Home Song Stories", Tony Ayres; Austria, "The Counterfeiters", Stefan Ruzowitzky; Azerbaijan, "Caucasia", Farid Gumbatov; Bangladesh, "On the Wings of Dreams", Golam Rabbany, Biplob; Belgium, "Ben X", Nic Balthazar; Bosnia and Herzegovina, "It's Hard to Be Nice", Srdan Vuletic; Brazil, "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation," Cao Hamburger; and Bulgaria, "Warden of the Dead", Ilian Simeonov.

Canada, "Days of Darkness", Denys Arcand; Chile, "Padre Nuestro", Rodrigo Sepulveda; China, "The Knot", Yin Li; Colombia, "Satanas", Andi Baiz; Croatia, "Armin", Ognjen Svilicic; Cuba, "The Silly Age", Pavel Giroud; Czech Republic, "I Served the King of England", Jiri Menzel, director; Denmark, "The Art of Crying", Peter Schonau Fog; Egypt, "In the Heliopolis Flat", Mohamed Khan; and Estonia, "The Class", Ilmar Raag.
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