Monday, 26 January 2015

Birdman impresses the Producers' Guild

Birdman won the top prize at the Producers' Guild of America’s (PGA) annual film and television awards, which took place in Hollywood this weekend. In the film, Michael Keaton plays a former suoer hero actor attempting to revive his career by appearing in a Broadway play.

The victory for Birdman is being seen as strengthening its chances against the hotly tipped Richard Linklater-directed coming-of-age drama Boyhood. Many of the PGA's 6,700 members also vote in the Academy Awards, and the winner of the top PGA prize has gone on to win best picture at the Oscars every year since 2007, and 18 times in the past 25 years.

Last year the PGA took the unusual step of announcing a tie between the space drama Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, with the latter going on to win the best picture Oscar.

The Academy Awards will be presented on 22 February. Birdman has nine nominations, as does Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel also has nine nominations. One category in which the PGA is out of step with the Academy was the best animated features. The producers opted for The Lego Movie, which was not short listed in the Academy Awards.

PGA Awards: Key winners
  • The Darryl F Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures – Birdman
  • The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures – The Lego Movie
  • The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures – Life Itself
  • The David L Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television – Fargo
  • The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama – Breaking Bad
  • The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy – Orange is the New Black
  • The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television – A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • The Award for Outstanding Digital Series - Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee (

SAG names Eddie Redmayne best actor

Eddie Redmayne (Kevin Mazur/Wire Image)
Eddie Redmayne’s performance as the academic Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything won the best actor prize at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards.

In the film, the British actor portrays Hawking's life being overtaken by ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neurone disease). He told the audience at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles: "I would like to dedicate this award to those people around the world living with ALS , to those who have lost their lives to this brutal disease. In preparing to play Stephen I met many people fighting ALS, and I met their families fighting alongside them. And the courage and the bravery and the spirit, this triumph of spirit that I witnessed, blew my mind. So I'm incredibly grateful to them.”

The SAG awards are seen as a strong indicator of who will win at the Oscars, because actors make up the largest portion of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. For the last 10 years the winners of the best actor at the SAG awards have gone on to win the best actor Oscar.  However, at the SAG awards Redmayne beat Michael Keaton, the bookies’ favourite to win the best actor Oscar for his performance in Birdman.

However Birdman collected the best ensemble cast at the SAG awards – besides Keaton the film features the likes of Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. There were also awards for several other Oscar hopefuls Julianne Moore (best actress for Still Alice), Patricia Arquette (best supporting actress for Boyhood) and JK Simmons (best supporting actor for Whiplash).

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Borderlines brings a festival of cinema to the countryside

The 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Borderlines Film Festival is set to expand its horizons in 2015 as it launches the Festival of British Cinema at Hay-on-Wye during its opening weekend, Friday 27 February to Sunday 1 March. Previously run by the Screen at Hay volunteers, the festival takes place in various venues across Herefordshire, Shropshire and the Welsh Marches. 

The Festival of British Cinema will comprise 30 screenings, showcasing new independent cinema releases on preview alongside revisited classics and documentaries, with a strong helping of Welsh-made productions at four locations in the historic border town.

Events to look out for include a strand curated by director Ken Loach featuring the three British films that have influenced him the most. Other highlights are a strand of films by Australian director, Rolf de Heer, (Charlie’s Country, Ten Canoes, The Tracker), all starring the Aboriginal actor, David Gulpilil who made his screen debut back in 1971 in Nic Roeg’s Walkabout. Adam Woodward, deputy rditor of Little White Lies magazine will introduce a screening of Charlie’s Country at The Courtyard, Hereford.

Along with the usual mix of the best of world cinema, documentaries and classics, Borderlines also offers the opportunity to see multi-award nominated films Birdman and Boyhood as well as the much-anticipated The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that reunites Dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench with Bill Nighy and Dev Patel for more adventures at the very singular Indian hotel ‘for the Elderly and Beautiful’.

Still Life
Other confirmed guests for both the Festival of British Cinema and Borderlines include Uberto Pasolini, director of Still Life, starring Eddie Marsan as a council worker whose job is to track the next-of-kin of those who have died alone, Morgan Matthews, director of X+Y, starring Asa Butterfield as a gauche maths prodigy, Sinead Kirwan, producer of 1984 Miner’s Strike documentary Still the Enemy Within and Berwyn Rowlands, director of Cardiff’s Iris Prize Festival who will introduce a section of the best British LGBT shorts.

Uberto Pasolini, producer of The Full Monty, will present his latest release, Still Life, with Eddie Marsan.

Sight & Sound magazine will host a discussion on the state of British cinema at Hay Castle. The Picturehouse will bring its refurbished Mobile Cinema, which seats 100, to the town centre for two days of screenings.

Borderlines the UK’s largest rural film festival and the fourth largest film festival in England, after London, Leeds and the East End Film Festivals. Based in the isolated Welsh Marches, it was attended by 19,000 in 2014.

A Cottage on Dartmoor
In 2015 the event will feature 100 films and events in 230 screenings over 17 days in 30 locations across four counties: Herefordshire, Shropshire, Powys and Worcestershire. Venues vary from a contemporary steel and glass arts centre to a 12th Century Gothic church, a 1930s Art Deco cinema, a Victorian chapel converted into a community cinema, a 48-seat boutique cinema adjacent to a bookshop, two 19th century assembly rooms and numerous village halls.

Previews, films shown prior to general release, continue to play a prominent role in the festival line-up, programmed for the third year running by the Independent Cinema Office’s David Sin. The total number of previews, yet to be confirmed, is likely to exceed 16, an impressive amount for a non-metropolitan film festival.

Festival director Naomi Vera-Sanso said: “The opportunity to reinvigorate the Festival of British Cinema represents a welcome challenge that will complement and enhance our existing film festival programme. Our audiences have responded with ever-increasing enthusiasm to the widening selection of titles that we have been able to provide. For nearly three weeks each year they relish being at the cutting edge of what’s going on in cinema and, from their rural vantage point, watching films that the rest of the country will not be able to see for several months.”

Other highlights for Borderlines 2015 are a compilation of the films that have won the major European Film Awards in 2014: Winter Sleep (Palme D’Or, Cannes), A Pigeon That Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Golden Lion, Venice), Black Coal, Thin Ice (Golden Bear, Berlin), Leviathan (Official Competition, BFI London FF), The Tribe (Sutherland Award, BFI London Film Festival) and Whiplash (Sundance), as well as a mini-retrospective of the Australian director Rolf de Heer (Charlie’s Country, Ten Canoes, The Tracker), supported by Little White Lies Magazine.

Festival patron, Radio 4’s The Film Programme presenter Francine Stock continues her alternative exploration of French Cinema by focusing on four of its heroines: Danielle Darrieux (Madame de...), Jeanne Moreau (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud), Nathalie Baye, (La Fleur du Mal, Sauve Qui Peut), Sylvie Testud (Lourdes).

Open Bethlehem
The festival will also screening three films by Palestinian filmmakers selected by Annemarie Jacir (When I Saw You, Salt of this Sea) –  the Oscar-nominated Omar by Hany Abu-Assad, Villa Touma, directed by Suha Arraf, and Open Bethlehem by Leila Sansour. Both Annemarie Jacir and Leila Sansour will discuss the films alongside their influences, inspirations and the latest trends in Palestinian filmmaking. This compilation is delivered in association with the Bristol Palestine Film Festival as part of the BFI-funded project called Conversations About Cinema: Impact of Conflict, an ongoing strand exploring the repercussions of conflict and the multiple ways this has been presented in film.

Invited guests to Borderlines are directors Ken Loach, John Madden (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Saul Dibb (Suite Française), Uberto Pasolini (Still Life), Morgan Matthews (X+Y), Palestinian filmmakers Leila Sansour and Annemarie Jacir, actor Toby Jones, production designer Maria Djurkovic and Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media History, Birkbeck, University of London.