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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Gibney’

Tuesday September 15th, 2015

Music Docs Are On the Rise This Season

By Patrick Shanley
Managing Editor

This year’s festival season has seen a major influx of documentaries focused on musical artists. This is hardly a surprise to those that have followed the Oscar winners for best doc in recent years as 20 Feet from Stardom, which followed the lives of background singers to famous acts, took home the award in 2013 and Searching for Sugar Man, chronicling the investigation into the death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez by two Cape Town fans, won the prize in 2012.

This season boasts a slew of new musical documentaries hoping to achieve the same Oscar success of those in previous years.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s sonic documentaries:

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Friday November 18th, 2011

Academy’s Doc Shortlist Includes — and Leaves Out — Plenty of Great Films (Analysis)

Each year when the Academy’s documentary branch screening committee announces its  shortlist of 15 films from which the five best documentary (feature) Oscar contenders will be  selected, as they did today, there are inevitably a few  omissions that leave doc buffs stunned. This year is no exception.

Click to read more…

Thursday January 13th, 2011


  • The Hollywood Reporter: Alex Ben Block reports that the Publicists Guild of America has announced the nominees for its 48th annual Maxwell Weinberg Showmanship Award, which honors “the creativity and enterprise that entertainment publicists apply to attract the largest possible audiences for program they represent,” according to awards committee chairman Henri Bollinger. The nominees for the award in the film category (there is also one for television) are “Despicable Me” (Universal), “Inception” (Warner Brothers), “The Social Network” (Columbia), “Toy Story 3” (Disney), “Waiting for ‘Superman’” (Paramount), and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (20th Century Fox). The winner will be announced at a luncheon on February 25. (I’d like to offer my congratulations to all of the nominees.)
  • New York Post: Claire Atkinson claims that sources have told her that Sony has spent $55 million to promote “The Social Network” — a film that is being distributed by its subsidiary Columbia Pictures, for which it has grossed $199.8 million worldwide, thus far — including a staggering $5 million on its awards campaign. (“A typical Oscar campaign costs between $2 million and $3 million,” she writes.) These costs reportedly cover everything from “the usual pre-Oscar nomination ads in Hollywood trade magazines to the unusual move of re-releasing the film in 603 theaters this past weekend ahead of its DVD debut.” It is believed that Sony is spending so much money on this effort because Columbia hasn’t produced a best picture Oscar winner in the 21 years since Sony purchased it in 1989; its last winner was “The Last Emperor” (1987) 23 years ago.
  • Boston Globe: Mark Shanahan learns that Alice Ward, the 80-year-old mother/former manager of the professional boxers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund (as well as their seven sisters) who is portrayed by Melissa Leo in the recently-release film “The Fighter,” is “fighting for her own life in a Boston hospital” right now. According to Shanahan, Ward “went into cardiac arrest Wednesday and stopped breathing for more than 30 minutes… [and] was eventually placed on life support… [remarkably, however, she] regained consciousness and is now able to speak.”
  • The Wrap: Steve Pond describes the Academy’s foreign language category as one that is “full of scandal and controversy” and “snubs and surprises,” all despite years of “taking dramatic, sometimes unprecedented steps to deal with those controversies.” Pond writes that producer Mark Johnson, a member of the Academy’s board of governors who has overseen the category for a decade, has implemented changes which “have resulted in the creation of a unique three-step nominating process that puts the final decision in the hands of a carefully-chosen committee that in recent years has included actors Ryan Gosling and Keanu Reeves, directors Jonathan Demme and Nora Ephron, writer Dustin Lance Black, composer Harry Gregson-Williams, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and cinematographer Wally Pfister, among many others.” But, Pond ponders, “by turning the major decision over to his hand-picked committee, has Johnson cut regular voters out of the process and taken too much power for himself? Or has the result — better, smarter nominations in the estimation of many — justified the tinkering?”
  • W Magazine: Lynn Hirschberg snags “an exclusive first look from the set of the year’s most anticipated film,” the English-language adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The film’s director, David Fincher, and star, Rooney Mara, previously collaborated on “The Social Network.” Fincher tells Hirschberg, “On ‘Social Network,’ I didn’t really agree with the critics’ praise. It interested me that ‘Social Network’ was about friendships that dissolved through this thing that promised friendships, but I didn’t think we were ripping the lid off anything. The movie is true to a time and a kind of person, but I was never trying to turn a mirror on a generation… ‘Social Network’ is not earth-shattering.”

Photo: Daisy in “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” Credit: Paramount.

Monday December 6th, 2010


  • The Hollywood Reporter: Stephen Galloway interviews Michael Douglas, a best actor hopeful for “Solitary Man” and a best supporting actor hopeful for “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” about his rollercoaster of a year. The 66-year-old, “looking surprisingly well” and “nothing whatsoever like the haggard figure that graces the National Enquirer and its kin,” tells him, “After all the adversity I’ve had this year with my health and my son’s incarceration, my ex-wife and the lawsuit — to be able to sit here and talk to you, I’m so happy.”
  • New York Times: Dennis Lim chats for 45 minutes with Christian Bale, a best supporting actor hopeful for “The Fighter,” during which Bale restates his aversion to interviews. “There’s only one reason to talk about a movie ahead of time, and that’s to let people know it’s coming out,” Bale says. “I want people to go see movies that I make. If I knew they’d go see them anyway, if I knew that I’d keep working, I’d never do another interview in my life.” Upon being asked about awards campaigning, Bale adds, “I’ll campaign for the movie, but I won’t campaign for myself.”
  • Inside Movies: Adam Markovitz shares a letter that Rooney Mara, a best supporting actress hopeful for “The Social Network,” sent to Entertainment Weekly from the Stockholm, Sweden set of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” In it, the 25-year-old up-and-comer pokes poking fun at the tendency of David Fincher, her director in both of the aforementioned films, to demand dozens of takes from his actors. “It’s -9 degrees Celsius. 37 takes down, only about 42 more to go,” she writes. “Every time he says, ‘Okay, last one,’ I fall for it. Every. Single. Time. If only I could get this damn shrug right, then maybe I could go inside and my nipple ring would have time to thaw out.”
  • Deadline Hollywood: Nikki Finke confirms that The Weinstein Co. has moved the theatrical release date of John Wells’s “The Company Men” from December 10 to January 21, apparently due to December’s overcrowded lineup of big releases. Finke notes, however, that the studio still plans on giving the film an Oscar-qualifying run, meaning that it will play for one week at one theater in New York and one theater in Los Angeles before the end of the year.
  • Celebuzz: Jamie Patricof, one of the producers of “Blue Valentine,” posts a picture of the full-page ad that The Weinstein Co. took out in last Friday’s Los Angeles Times on behalf of the film in advance of the MPAA’s decision on whether or not to reduce its rating of the film from NC-17 to R. The ad reads: “Before the MPAA makes their decision, MAKE YOURS.”

Photo: Michael Douglas in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Friday November 19th, 2010


  • The Hollywood Reporter: Daniel Miller writes that sources close to the investigation into the murder of veteran Oscar publicist Ronni Chasen have told him that their “working theory” is that Chasen’s death “was planned in advance and not the result of road rage or a carjacking gone awry.” Apparently, “police have obtained relevant footage from one or perhaps multiple security cameras located at… the home of Sherry Hackett, widow of the late comedian and actor Buddy Hackett.”
  • Deadline Hollywood: Pete Hammond documents this week’s frenzy of screenings and Q&As on both coasts for members of the WGA, PGA, DGA, SAG and countless media organizations. (Full disclosure: our own Scott Feinberg moderated two of this week’s New York Q&A’s, for “Frankie and Alice” with best actress hopeful Halle Berry and for “Black Swan” with best director hopeful Darren Aronofsky, best actress hopeful Natalie Portman, and best supporting actress hopeful Mila Kunis.) Pete notes that “one group that really has been making the rounds is the gang from ‘The Kids Are All Right,'” namely best director/best original screenplay hopeful Lisa Cholodenko, best actress hopefuls Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, and best supporting actor hopeful Mark Ruffalo (who told Pete, “I did six days working on this film and I have done 60 days of press”).
  • The Wrap: Daniel Frankel reports that The Weinstein Company “has hired some big legal guns” to wage its battle against the MPAA over the hard-to-comprehend/audience-limiting ratings that the group gave to its awards hopefuls “Blue Valentine” (NC-17) and “The King’s Speech” (R). Studio co-chief Harvey Weinstein said in a statement, “While we respect the MPAA, I think we can all agree that we are living with an outdated ratings system that gives torture porn, horror and ultraviolent films the same rating as films with so-called inappropriate language.”
  • Esquire: John H. Richardson interviews best supporting actor hopeful Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) and learns that the notoriously temperamental actor would not choose to spend time with him or any other reporter if it was up to him. “I want to be able to just act and never do any interview, but I don’t have the balls to stand up to the studio and say, ‘I’m never going to do another interview in my life!’ So I tip my hat and go, ‘Okay, mister! All right, mister! I’ll go do the salesman job.” He further explains his resistance to interviews by noting, “If you know something about somebody, it gets in the way of just watching the guy as the character.”
  • New York Times: Frank Bruni — in a piece that has been compared with Gay Talese’s famous 1966 Esquire profile of Frank Sinatra — brings to life his recent visit with the legendary singer and Oscar winning actress Cher, who is now 64 years old and promoting the new film “Burlesque,” which includes her first big screen appearance in seven years (opposite Christina Aguilera in her motion picture debut). Cher tells him, “Look, I have a very narrow range… I’ve never tried anything more than playing who I am. If you look at my characters, they’re all me.”
  • Thompson on Hollywood: Anne Thompson congratulates Alex Gibney, the Oscar winning documentary filmmaker, on both pieces of exciting news that he received on Thursday — first, “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” his doc about the former New York governor, made the Academy’s short-list of 15 films from which this year’s 5 best documentary feature Oscar nominees will be chosen; and second, he was named as this year’s recipient of the International Press Academy’s auteur award, which will be presented at the IPA’s Satellite Awards gala on December 19.
  • Twitter: A spokesman for Zeitgeist Films, the small distributor of “Last Train Home” and “The Oath,” two of this year’s most acclaimed documentaries, Tweeted the studio’s great disappointment at the Academy’s exclusion of both films from the aforementioned documentary short-list. Blogger Peter Knegt suggested that members of the Academy’s documentary branch must have some “personal vendetta” against Zeitgeist, but the studio quickly rebutted that notion, noting that one of its films has previous won the best documentary feature Oscar — for “Nowhere in Africa” (2001) — while four others have garnered nominations in the category over the years.
  • The Guardian: Xan Brooks passes along some recent remarks from British prime minister David Cameron suggesting that the UK film industry needs to make more films ‘Harry Potter’ if it is to survive and prosper. “We have got to make films that people want to watch and films which will benefit beyond themselves as they will also encourage people to come and visit our country,” Cameron stated. UK Film Council [UKFC] chief executive John Woodward later described the suggestion as “short-sighted and potentially very damaging.”

Photo: Ruffalo, Bening, and Moore in “The Kids Are All Right.” Credit: Focus Features.

Sunday August 29th, 2010


Since I first started covering the annual awards seasons a decade ago, one of the most striking trends I have observed has been a marked uptick in the quantity and quality of documentary features. Each November, the Academy’s documentary branch selects 15 for a shortlist from which they ultimately pick five nominees. This year, I don’t know how they’re going to do it — Fall hasn’t even arrived yet and there are already way more than 15 worthy candidates. Frankly, I don’t think it would be going out on a huge limb to declare 2010 the strongest — or, at the very least, the deepest — year yet in the history of documentary filmmaking.

Here’s a bit of commentary on each of the docs that are registering strongest on my radar at the moment…

Now in Theaters

  • “The Tillman Story” (The Weinstein Company, 8/20, trailer) — Amir Bar-Lev (“My Kid Could Paint That”) tells the true story of the man who gave up a multi-million dollar NFL contract to join the U.S. Army; who was killed in Iraq in 2004; whose “heroic” death the Bush Administration tried to use to increase public support for the war; but whose family — most of whom granted interviews for the film — ultimately discovered that the true manner in which he had been killed had been buried as part of a cover-up that led directly to the highest reaches of the military and government.
  • “A Film Unfinished” (Oscilloscope, 8/18, trailer) — The object of recents raves in Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times, Yael Hersonski‘s doc deconstructs “Das Ghetto,” a Nazi propaganda film of Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto that was shot in 1942, and which for 40 years was considered to be unmanipulated footage until another reel was discovered and exposes it as anything but that. The most powerful part of this multi-faceted effort to set the record straight: testimony from five Holocaust survivors who lived in the ghetto, as well as one of the cameramen who filmed it.

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