Friday, March 03, 2006

Just when you thought we were done....OSCARS


'Brokeback Mountain' No Love Story for Its Animal Actors
DENVER, March 1 /U.S. Newswire/ --
In a letter today to "Brokeback Mountain" director Ang Lee, the American Humane Association -- the authority behind the "No Animals Were Harmed"(r) End Credit Disclaimer on film and television productions -- expressed dismay over reports that animal care and protection guidelines were violated during the Oscar-nominated movie's filming in Canada.

Citing numerous public inquiries to American Humane's Film & Television Unit, President and CEO Marie Belew Wheatley said, "The excessively rough handling of the sheep and horses leaves viewers questioning whether anyone was looking out for the safety of those animals. And many also wonder how the filmmakers got the elk to lose its footing and crumple to the ground 'on cue' after being shot. They ask if our safety protocols were in place to protect the animals during filming. The answer is: They were not." EDITOR'S NOTE: OK, I LIKED THE MOVIE. BUT IF WE ARE TALKING LAMBIE ABUSE, I AM GOING TO HAVE TO ROOT FOR ANOTHER BEST PIC NOM. (BAAAAAAAD, VERY BAAAAAAD).


Wheatley said she recently learned that anesthesia was reportedly used on an elk to portray a hunting scene. The practice of anesthetizing animals solely for the purpose of entertainment violates the American Humane Association's "Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media," which is the standard for animal handling practices in the film and television industry.

"Using anesthesia to facilitate filming has been prohibited since 1997 after causing several animal deaths during a production," said Karen Rosa, EDITOR'S NOTE: KAREN ROSA!? (A DISTANT COUSIN, OR SOMETHING?) director of American Humane's Film & TV Unit. "Regardless of how it's administered, anesthesia endangers an animal's life and health. That's why we require production companies to find alternatives -- like humane training or digital enhancement -- that create the same effect without jeopardizing the animal's safety."

American Humane contends that, by not adhering to established animal care guidelines, "Brokeback Mountain" sends a dangerous and wrong message: That the film industry and the viewing public condone animal endangerment for entertainment's sake.

The American Humane Association's Film & TV Unit is the only organization authorized to monitor animal safety on the set of domestically filmed Screen Actors Guild productions.

Because "Brokeback Mountain" was produced in Canada, the production company was able to circumvent use of the Guidelines and oversight by the American Humane Association. "Filming abroad may be a cost-cutting measure, but the animals shouldn't have to pay the price," Rosa said.

About the American Humane Association
Founded in 1877, the American Humane Association is the oldest national organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals.

Through a network of child and animal protection agencies and individuals, the American Humane Association develops policies, legislation, curricula, and training programs to protect children and animals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The nonprofit membership organization, headquartered in Denver, raises awareness about The Link(r) between animal abuse and other forms of violence, as well as the benefits derived from the human-animal bond. American Humane's regional office in Los Angeles is the authority behind the "No Animals Were Harmed"(r) End Credit Disclaimer on TV and film productions, and American Humane's office in Washington is an advocate for child and animal protection at the state and federal levels. Visit to learn more.

Oscar night focus on serious subjects
A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the 78th Annual Academy Awards. Hollywood got serious -- really, really serious.

It's not just that the five films nominated for best picture are a uniformly somber lot -- though to be sure there is barely a rueful chuckle among them. It's also that the inevitable hoopla surrounding any Oscar race was kept carefully curtailed.

After years in which the Academy wagged its finger about excess campaigning, the contenders in this year's showdowns almost appeared to have borrowed a page from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, all vowing to place "principles before personalities."

As a consequence, there wasn't a nasty brouhaha over dirty campaigning like the one that surrounded "A Beautiful Mind" in 2002.

And there was no dramatic standoff between the specialty film labels and their parent companies like the one that occurred during the great screener war leading up to the 2004 awards -- this year, the first screener, Sony Pictures Classics' "Junebug," was issued in September and nobody blinked. Instead, this year's focus remained quite firmly on the films itself. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND SO, WHEN THE RATINGS TANK, ALL THE DECORUM AND CLASSY BEHAVIOR WILL BE HELD TO BLAME, AND NEXT YEAR WE CAN GO BACK TO CRASS AND BOORISH BUSINESS AS USUAL?


'Crash' Producers Clash Loudly Over Credit and Payment
LOS ANGELES, March 1 — On the eve of this weekend's Academy Awards, a bare-knuckled fight has broken out among the producers of one of the leading Oscar-nominated movies, "Crash," over two of the things Hollywood cares about most: money and credit.

Even as the last Oscar ballots were being cast late Tuesday, Cathy Schulman, a producer of "Crash," filed a lawsuit that accused Bob Yari, her fellow producer and former partner, of acting from "greed and ego" EDITOR'S NOTE: GREED AND EGO? IN HOLLYWOOD!!??? (NAH.....) in failing to pay at least $2 million in producing fees to her and her partner, the film's executive producer Tom Nunan. Mr. Yari had earlier sued the pair, claiming in January that they had taken funds owed to their joint production company, Bull's Eye Entertainment.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Yari, who put together the $7 million in financing for "Crash," took out full-page advertisements in Hollywood's trade papers with a ringing call to uphold justice and due process — or at least a show business version — by abolishing the secret panels that award credit for best picture.

Mr. Yari was denied a producer credit in an arbitration by the Producers Guild of America in December, and denied again after appeals to both the guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars. As a result, he will not take home a statue if "Crash" is named best picture on March 5.

Ms. Schulman and Paul Haggis, a co-writer and the director of "Crash," are the only producers eligible for the prize, though the film has six producers in its credits.

Tuesday's legal complaint by Ms. Schulman and Mr. Nunan used strongly personal language with regard to Mr. Yari. It denounced what it called the "squalor of Yari's ugly behavior" EIDTOR'S NOTE: 'SQUALOR' IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE WORDS. IT ALWAYS GIVES ME A GIGGLE. BUT CAN BEHAVIOR BE SQUALOR'ISH? (JUST ASKIN....)and claimed that the producer, a former successful real estate developer who created a Hollywood company in recent years, acted like "an impetuous child" EDITOR'S NOTE: OOO...ZING! toward Ms. Schulman after being denied producer credit. The complaint said Mr. Yari's lawsuit was, in effect, retaliation for losing the producer credit in arbitration.

Mr. Yari responded, "This lawsuit is a shameful misrepresentation of the facts concerning my partnership with Ms. Schulman and Mr. Nunan." He said the lawsuit reinforced a pattern by Ms. Schulman of "deceitful and litigious behavior." EDITOR'S NOTE: CALLING SOMEONE IN HOLLYWOOD 'LITIGIOUS' IS KINDA LIKE SAYING THEY BREATHE AIR, ISN'T IT?

A lawyer for Mr. Yari, Neil Sacker, who is also a defendant in Ms. Schulman's lawsuit, denied that Mr. Yari's suit was retaliation.

Because the budget on "Crash" was so small, many of the principal people involved — including the producers, the writers and the director — took no money during the production of the film, deferring fees until the film saw a profit. As is often the case with low-budget films, the principals also had deals to participate in the profits.

Although "Crash" was filmed two years ago and has taken in $83 million at the box office worldwide plus millions more in home video and DVD sales, the lawsuit alleges that Mr. Yari has not shown Ms. Schulman or Mr. Nunan any profit-and-loss statements and has not paid basic producing fees or profit participation.

But Mr. Sacker said that Ms. Schulman and Mr. Nunan had both been paid salaries as partners in Bull's Eye Entertainment, and that their fees for producing "Crash" were not meant to be paid until all the overhead costs for Bull's Eye had been recouped.

"Most producers are not paid a salary," Mr. Sacker said. "She was being paid a salary. Her fees were paid against her salary and overhead."

Melvin Avanzado, the lawyer for Ms. Schulman, disputed that. "He's recouped everything several times over," he said. "There's been four movies on which there has been financing in which he has recouped. We just can't tell how many times he's recouped because he hasn't given us an accounting."

Other producers on the film declined to comment on the dispute, or on the question of their being paid by Mr. Yari.

" 'Crash' has been a great thing in my life, and I expect everyone to act honorably," said Robert Moresco, a co-writer with Mr. Haggis who is nominated for the best-screenplay Oscar. Mr. Haggis could not be reached for comment.

"Crash," a multicharacter story about racial tension in Los Angeles told through varying car incidents, is nominated for six Academy Awards: best picture, director, screenplay, supporting actor (Matt Dillon), original music and editing. The film, which was made independently and acquired for domestic distribution by Lionsgate, became an unexpected hit and has been showered with nominations throughout the Hollywood awards season.

In his open letter to the academy, published in both The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety on Wednesday, Mr. Yari compared his speaking out against the arbitration process to Edward R. Murrow's standing up to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's authoritarianism, as depicted in one of the other best-picture nominees, "Good Night, and Good Luck." EDITOR'S NOTE: GIVEN THAT THE TWO THINGS ARE NOT AT ALL ALIKE, AND GIVEN THAT ONE IS ABOUT PRINCIPLE (AS IN IDEALISM) AND THE OTHER ABOUT PRINCIPLE (AS IN CASH), I'D SAY MR. YARI NEEDS TO GET A GRIP AND A CLUE?

"Murrow reported on and exposed a dark period in our country's history, when accusations and hearsay alone were enough to condemn," Mr. Yari wrote. "Unfortunately, the lessons learned then seem to be forgotten now." EDITOR'S NOTE: NOW YOU NEED TO WRAP YOURSELF IN THE FLAG AND CALL THE OTHER SIDE TRAITORS OR TERRORISTS, AND YOU SHOULD HAVE IT JUST ABOUT COVERED.

The lawsuits have cast a pall over celebrations scheduled for the next several days, including a gala dinner given by Lionsgate on Friday and the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday.

And there was a fitting, if unfortunate, footnote to the dramatic tension rising around the film: in the midst of it all, Mr. Yari's publicist, Lynda Dorf, was involved in a minor car crash on Wednesday. There were no reported injuries.


'Crash' suits revive credits debate

Is the traditional definition of a "producer" outmoded given the financial complexities of getting a film made in today's global market?

Whatever else it might do, the legal wrangling between Bob Yari, Cathy Schulman and the Producers Guild of America is sure to raise important questions about the issue.

At a time when so many projects are cobbled together through financing sources outside the studio system, some argue that the PGA and AMPAS should acknowledge what so-called money men like Yari bring to the table when they agree to back a film.

After months of posturing and threats, Yari sued the guild and the Academy on Wednesday, claiming that he was unfairly stripped of his producer's credit on best picture nominee "Crash."

On Tuesday, Schulman and Tom Nunan filed suit against Yari, alleging that he withheld millions in profits, damaged their reputations and used their joint venture, Bulls Eye Entertainment, to promote his other interests EDITORS' NOTE: GIRLS, GIRLS...YOU'RE BOTH LOVELY!

Coke to use Oscars as ad backdrop
Small screen fizz: New products to be promoted on an evening of glamour that tends to draw women viewers.
As evening falls Sunday, women across America will gather in front of televisions to critique Reese Witherspoon's gown, swoon over George Clooney, cringe at Joan Rivers' commentary and, oh, yeah, find out who wins what at the Academy Awards. EDITOR'S NOTE: GOSH, THAT'S NOT SEXIST OR OVER-GENERALIZING, HUH?

Following on the heels of the Super Bowl and the Olympics, Oscars night is the latest blockbuster television event in a tightly packed winter season. Marketers pay big bucks and introduce new commercials in hopes of capturing the attention of a captive audience. The hook with the Oscars is that it tends to draw significantly more women than men.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is debuting commercials for new products Tab Energy and Coca-Cola Blak, as well as for Diet Coke.

The company uses major events to launch new products and campaigns because the events provide "a lot of eyeballs to kick-start those activities," said Alison Lewis, senior vice president for integrated marketing at Coke's North America unit. EDITOR'S NOTE: DUH?

All three Coke spots have themes that fit with the Oscars.

The commercial for Coca-Cola Blak, a coffee-cola drink set to roll out in the United States this spring, will air during the pre-show red carpet extravaganza. In the ad, a bottle of Blak appears in a spotlight, followed by the flashes of cameras and shouts of the paparazzi.

The Diet Coke commercial features a couple leaving a movie theater on their first date. The man, at first shy, is emboldened after drinking a Diet Coke and runs after the woman, kissing her passionately. EDITOR'S NOTE: I'M STOCKING MY TRUNCK WITH DIET COKE!

The commercial for Tab Energy, a new energy drink aimed at women, features women getting dressed up and living the glamorous life.

The tagline is "Fuel to be fabulous."

The Olympics this year delivered less-than-stellar ratings, thanks in part to disappointing performances by American star athletes, and some marketing experts predict this year's Oscars could also be a snooze. None of the best picture nominees are blockbusters and many, such as "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Syriana," deal with serious topics that might not have broad appeal.

Lewis said she doesn't stress about ratings predictions because the actual show is just part of the promotion.

The company also is giving away prizes with Oscars themes, such as tickets to sit in the bleachers and watch the red carpet next year.

"We don't look at these events as one-night only," she said.

"We look at them as broader opportunities." EDITORS' NOTE: SMART.

AN OSCAR Quiz show
Everything you always wanted to know about this year's Oscar nominees but were afraid to ask.
By Stephen Galloway

1. One would think this acting nominee might have chosen a different profession, perhaps baseball. Who, and why?
Paul Giamatti's late father was former Major League Baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti.

2. A screenwriting nominee was once "engaged" to Calista Flockhart. Explain.
During his "other" career as an actor, "Capote" scribe Dan Futterman played Flockhart's fiance in 1996's "The Birdcage."

3. David Strathairn was not the first choice to play Edward R. Murrow in Warner Independent Pictures' "Good Night, and Good Luck." Who was?
"Good Night" director George Clooney thought of playing his longtime hero before deciding that he wasn't quite right for the part.

4. "Capote" co-star Catherine Keener will be very much on Sandra Bullock's mind later this year. Why?
Bullock will play author Harper Lee, best friend of Truman Capote and the character Keener plays in "Capote," in Warner Independent's Capote biopic "Infamous," a planned fall release.

5. Fernando Meirelles was a last-minute choice to replace another director on Focus Features' "The Constant Gardener." Who was that helmer, and what happened?
Mike Newell was set to go on "Gardener" before he was chosen by Warner Bros. Pictures to helm "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

6. This writer-director nearly pulled out of his film midway through the shoot. Who, and what went wrong?
Paul Haggis was rushed to the emergency room after suffering a heart attack while shooting Lionsgate's "Crash." A few days later, though, he was back on the job.

7. It's not unusual for co-stars to fall in love while making a movie, but one 2005 affair put a new twist on that old theme. Explain.
While playing a homosexual cowboy who cheats on his wife (with a cowboy named Jack Twist), Heath Ledger fell in love with Michelle Williams on the set of Focus' "Brokeback Mountain." The couple now has a baby.

8. This drama about the murder of a twentysomething woman in London originally was conceived as the murder of a thirtysomething woman in the Hamptons. Name the movie.
Woody Allen conceived of DreamWorks' "Match Point" as a New York story, set in the upscale Hamptons. He rewrote the script when funding became available in the U.K., then changed it again for star Scarlett Johansson.

9. This period piece started life as a biographical TV movie. Its writer put the script in a drawer and reconceived it years later. Which nominated movie is it?
While starring in NBC's "ER," Clooney tackled Murrow as the subject of a telefilm biopic. Years later, he mentioned it to Grant Heslov, and the two reworked the script, focusing on Murrow's confrontations with former Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy.

10. The star of this film with an Oscar-nominated screenplay modeled his role on a real-life character -- with uncomfortable consequences when that model showed up on the set during filming. Which film, and who was the model?
The father figure played by Jeff Daniels in Samuel Goldwyn Films' "The Squid and the Whale" is based on writer-director Noah Baumbach's actual father. At one point, Jonathan Baumbach visited the set and protested that aspects of the character were heavily fictionalized.

11. This Oscar nominee moonlights as a bookstore owner in Texas. Who is he?
Veteran novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry ("Brokeback") owns the bookstore Booked Up in Archer City, Texas.

12. While doing research for this Oscar-nominated drama, its screenwriter was nearly abducted by terrorists. Name the picture and the writer.
Stephen Gaghan (Warners' "Syriana") stepped off a plane in Beirut, Lebanon, and found himself thrust into a car at gunpoint, whisked away to meet with the spiritual leader of the terrorist movement Hezbollah. After a bit of questioning, he was allowed to go free.

13. A famous French filmmaker offered to fully fund a low-budget period piece on one condition, but its American helmer turned the offer down flat. Who, and why?
Luc Besson offered to pay for "Good Night," a $7.5 million production, but insisted that Clooney shoot the film in an anamorphic (widescreen) format. Clooney declined. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO WHY WOULD BESSON CARE ABOUT THAT, AND WHY WOULD CLOONEY SAY NO?

14. If this veteran actress had appeared in this 2005 movie as planned, she would have been the only performer to star in the original and a remake of the same film -- more than 70 years apart. Name the actress and the movie.
Fay Wray was set to play a cameo in Universal's "King Kong" but fell ill. She died Aug. 8, 2004.

15. The director of this biopic was amazed to discover that its subject's favorite movie was 1931's "Frankenstein." Name the film and its subject.
Johnny Cash told James Mangold, director of Fox's "Walk the Line," that his favorite movie was "Frankenstein." He even acted it out, screaming: "It's alive! It's alive!"

16. One nominated actress received free acting tips from past Oscar nominee William H. Macy. Why?
Felicity Huffman (the Weinstein Co.'s "Transamerica") is married to Macy.

17. Rob Marshall was the producers' second choice to helm Sony's "Memoirs of a Geisha." Who was their first?
Steven Spielberg signed on to direct "Memoirs" after reading Arthur Golden's novel. Years later, he chose to be an executive producer instead.

18. This Oscar nominee and occasional professor recently completed his Ph.D. thesis about the late, austere Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer. Name him.
James Schamus not only writes and produces films such as "Brokeback" and 2000's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" but also teaches film history at Columbia University -- while moonlighting as co-president of Focus Features. He earned a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2003. EDITOR'S NOTE: SEE, IF PEOPLE LIKE THIS GUY WOULD JUST STICK TO ONE JOB, IT WOULD MAKE IT EASIER FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE UNDER-EMPLOYED!

19. What does the word "Syriana" mean in the title of the Warner Bros. Pictures film?
"Syriana" is a term used in Washington to refer to a mythical, redrawn Middle East. It is not to be confused with the nation of Syria.

20. Actor David Strathairn nearly pursued another profession. What was it?
After Strathairn left college, he attended a clown school in Florida and began his career in the circus.

21. This actor made only $60,000 during the year in which he shot his Oscar-nominated role -- despite shooting six other movies that same year. Name him.
Astonishingly, Terrence Howard appeared in seven movies or telefilms in 2004, including "Crash" and Paramount Classics' "Hustle & Flow." He was paid $12,000 for the latter and less than $10,000 for the former.

22. Ang Lee passed when initially asked to direct Focus' "Brokeback Mountain," opting to make another movie instead. Which movie was it, and which director came aboard to replace him?
When Lee opted to make 2003's "The Hulk," Gus Van Sant stepped in on "Brokeback" -- but its producers could not find financing. EDITOR'S NOTE: I SHUDDER TO THINK WHAT VAN SANT WOULD HAVE DONE WITH THIS MATERIAL. (I'M BETTING IT WOULDN'T BE ANYWHERE NEAR THE LYRICAL, SEMI-MAINSTREAM MOVIE WE HAVE TODAY).

23. Among this year's Academy Award nominees, who has received the most career Oscar nominations?
"Memoirs" composer John Williams has earned 45 Oscar noms and has won five statuettes to date. EDITOR'S NOTE: GO JOHNNY, GO! (AND THIS WAS THE BEST SCORE BY FAR THIS YEAR!)

24. Who plays former Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy in "Good Night," and what is unusual about his performance?
No one does -- the real-life McCarthy is seen entirely in newsreel footage. Some preview audiences complained that "the actor who played McCarthy" was over-the-top.

25. Which nominee was named after a character in a famous 19th century romantic novel?
Heath Ledger was named after Heathcliff, the brooding hero of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights."

26. Keira Knightley, nominated for Focus' adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice," has what connection to another Austen novel, "Emma"?
Mr. Knightley is the hero in "Emma."

27. What is the most obvious connection between Mel Gibson and Colin Farrell, star of New Line's Oscar-nominated "The New World"?
Gibson and Farrell have both played Capt. John Smith -- the former as a voice in 1995's "Pocahontas," the latter in "New World."

28. French foreign-language Oscar nominee "Joyeux Noel" (Merry Christmas) tells the story of what real-life incident?
During World War I, the sides brokered a Christmas Day truce that extended for hundreds of miles along the front. In addition to singing carols together, some soldiers played soccer before going back to their guns.

29. This Oscar-nominated actor had to be airlifted out of Morocco and hospitalized in the U.S. after suffering an accident during filming. Name the actor and the movie.
Clooney got carried away while shooting the interrogation scene in "Syriana." After knocking his head during a fall, spinal fluid came out of his nose.

30. Which Oscar-nominated movie opened with a 160-minute running time, then was rereleased at 135 minutes less than two weeks later?
"New World." After releasing the longer version Dec. 25 in New York and Los Angeles in order to qualify for the Oscars, director Terrence Malick pulled it Jan. 2 and replaced it with the shorter cut.


President Bush signed a federal law that makes it a felony to use a camcorder in a movie theater.

The Top 8 Movie Industry Crimes
8> Popcorn that costs more than the movie ticket.
7> Offering to arm wrestle with Russell Crowe.
6> Replacing explosions with more dialogue.
5> Telling the truth about your age or number of facelifts.
4> Guys dressing up as Jedi for Star Wars flicks: Misdemeanor. Dressing up as Padme or Leia: Throw the book at 'em.
3> Apparently, portraying Catholics in a positive light.
2> Use of that unholy butter-flavored synthetic lubricant without a certified HazMat team in place.
and the Number 1 Movie Industry Crime...
1> Suggesting that the MPAA is getting Nazi-like in their copyright-infringement zealousness.


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