Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted doc director Alison Klayman, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

Alison Never Sorry interview - Youtube thumbnail compositeAi Weiwei carrying an Oscar on Facebook

The insightful, fun, and sometimes deadly serious documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (艾未未:道歉你妹; title in Taiwan 艾未未:草泥馬) has been Oscar shortlisted from 126 films down to 15, coming out ahead of films like “The Central Park Five” by the legendary Ken Burns et al, and “Head Games” by Steve James (director of the amazing Hoop Dreams).

Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, was very nice and cool to do her first post-Oscar-shortlist video interview with me on the day after she came back from a Bangkok film festival trip. Here is my video interview with Alison.

Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry trailer (Official selection Sundance 2012 Film Festival)

I just noticed on the back wall in the following film still, the pictures are the concept drawings that lead to the Remembering (2009), an installation for the Façade of the House of German Art.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry - Film Still

Golden Ai Weiwei Oscar

Alison and I talked about the middle finger salute in the interview. To me, it is a show of defiance to the powerful, be it the one-party ruled Chinese government or any other governments or powerful institutions.

Weiwei middle-finger art Read the rest of this entry »


Academy narrows best Oscar documentary list from 126 to 15 films

Monday, 3 December, 2012

Ai Weiwei in a big pot

Today The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced 15 out of 126 films will advance to the next stage. Here are the 15 films (in alphabetical order by title) with their production companies (links to the films added):

(**) “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” Never Sorry LLC
(*) “Bully,” The Bully Project LLC
(*) “Chasing Ice,” Exposure
(*) “Detropia,” Loki Films
(*) “Ethel,” Moxie Firecracker Films
(*) “5 Broken Cameras,” Guy DVD Films
(*) “The Gatekeepers,” Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil
(*) “The House I Live In,” Charlotte Street Films, LLC
How to Survive a Plague,” How to Survive a Plague LLC
The Imposter,” Imposter Pictures Ltd.
(*) “The Invisible War,” Chain Camera Pictures
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films
Searching for Sugar Man,” Red Box Films
(*)* “This Is Not a Film,” Wide Management
(*) “The Waiting Room,” Open’hood, Inc.

These 15 films are now qualified for the documentary branch members to further narrow down to five nominees. Regrettably this reporter only has a chance to watch one of the above films Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and I really enjoyed it. Documentary films are insightful sources to expand our views and sometimes world views. I am hope in the coming months to have chances to watch some of the above films, especially the ones I’ve put a “*” in front of.

Rory Kennedy’s (director of “Ethel”) reaction (via Variety) are I guess typical,

“I was just on an airplane — I just got off and got a call and I was very excited,” Kennedy told Variety. “It’s just an honor anytime to get shortlisted by the Academy — it’s a huge honor. Obviously, there are so many extraordinary documentaries out there.” 

This year’s rules changes in the selection process apparently lead to some controversy, Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Christopher Plummer 82 and Ronald Coase 101

Tuesday, 28 February, 2012

From G&M, “Plummer says he was ‘totally prepared to lose’ on Oscar night

“Plummer said he was “totally prepared to lose. You have to be. You have to have some idea of what you’re going to say if you do win, but you really wipe it from your mind.”

After his name was announced, though, Plummer delivered one of the most polished acceptance speeches of the night.

He paid eloquent tribute to his fellow nominees – Max von Sydow, Jonah Hill, Kenneth Branagh and Nick Nolte – thanked all of those connected with the film, particularly its star, Ewan McGregor, and acknowledged the critical support given to him by his “little band of agents provocateurs … who’ve tried so hard to keep me out of jail.”

“I change that line every time I have a speech. Sometimes it’s ‘keeping me out of Sing Sing’ or ‘keeping me in martinis for all these years.’ ””

I love Mr. Plummer and think his Oscar acceptance speech is just beautiful!

Following is an insightful and very funny talk given by professor Ronald Coase when he was just 92 in 2003. And next month in March 2012, prof. Coase, now just 101 years young, will be publishing his lastest book “How China Became Capitalist“.

You see, Christopher Plummer 82 and Ronald Coase 101 are inspiring to me for they are both at an age where many people would have long “retired” to “happy” lives of doing absolutely nothing. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing absolutely nothing. But why are Mr. Plummer and Prof. Coase still hard at work? I believe this saying says it all, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life“. Both Mr. Plummer and Prof. Coase are doing work they just LOVE to do. And would do it anyway even if no one pays them to.

So Mr. Plummer‘s and Prof. Coase‘s lessons for me is to find and do a job I love so that I will never have to work a day in my life! Oh, and living to 82 or 101 to work will be just GREAT and a bonus!

Oscars 2012: A safe, unfunny, retro-disaster

Monday, 27 February, 2012

I love Billy Crystal and even held my VHS copy of When Harry Met Sally to show +Maria Quiban of +My Fox LA I love and respect Billy. I found Billy funny in the years he hosted in the past (videos 1998, 2004). The key is those acts worked in the past, not NOW. To me, last night’s Oscars feel so dated and it was boring, badly paced, and even had technical audio problems! Hello Oscars, audio problems? You must be kidding!

Maria made a great producing point, if the show had opened with the big Cirque du Soleil act with Billy flying in and out of the stage, that will be WOW and something to start the show on a bang! Of course, the rest of the show will still need to be fixed and updated to 2012 but at least that would have been a great start!

One of my tweet last night expressed my sentiment as a viewer.

#Oscars Fooled me once (2011). Fooled me twice (2012). Fooling me three times in a roll (2013)? #youmustbecrazytothinkthat #fail

For those that are in the business of creating entertainment and not just consumption, here is one heck of an insightful review of the retro-disaster Oscars 2012 by THR Chief TV Critic Tim Goodman. Here are some excerpts from the review. Read the full review, it is good.

“The colossal hosting disaster from last year is now forgotten by the safe, unfunny, retro-disaster that was Crystal making jokes that he laughed at repeatedly and overseeing an Oscars telecast that was as poorly paced as any in recent memory. […] Read the rest of this entry »

Oscar 2012 – Best Picture The Artist & more

Sunday, 26 February, 2012

Check out this “Oscars 2012: The Artist Producer and Jean Dujardin Backstage Interview

Here is a THR hosted “Q&A with the cast and crew of ‘The Artist.’ The crew talks about filming on th Warner Bros. and Paramount back lots as well as Los Angeles’ historic Orpheum Theatre.”

THR “Award Season Roundtable Series: The Actors Uncensored” – Full uncensored video of our roundtable interview with George Clooney, Christopher Plummer, Gary Oldman, Chastoph Waltz, Albert Brooks and Nick Nolte. Read the rest of this entry »

2011 Oscar Press Room

Monday, 28 February, 2011

Colin Firth – ‘Best Actor’ For ‘The Kings Speech’ – Press Room

Natalie Portman – ‘Best Actress’ For ‘Black Swan’

Christian Bale – ‘Best Supporting Actor’; ‘The Fighter’

Melissa Leo – ‘Best Supporting Actress’; ‘The Fighter’

CBS News: “Aaron Sorkin: Oscar win like being hit with bat

CBS Video: “The Social Network” writer Aaron Sorkin on his Oscar


Here is a clip of Colin Firth at Toronto when The King’s Speech premiere at TIFF 2010 on his birthday, complete with a Happy Birthday to You sang by the audiences!

2011 Oscar telecast – Ebert: “Dead. In. The. Water.” The Hollywood Reporter: one of the worst in history

Monday, 28 February, 2011

I had so much hope and good wishes for Oscar hosts James Franco (see this) and Anne Hathaway to do a good/reasonably good job. Instead, I was, like many others, terribly disappointed of the show itself from beginning to end. Don’t get me wrong, the award winners are well deserved of their Academy Awards, my disappointment is with the show itself. Boring and witless. There were only very few moments that I enjoy the show itself (e.g. Kirk Douglas was still very funny at 94 and great to watch).

When a show failed this spectacularly, there are enough blames to spread around, including the producers/directors (the most to blame?), the writers of the show/jokes, and others. What were these people thinking? Were their senses so out of tune with what constitute a good and fun to watch TV show?

The Hollywood Reporter, “83rd Annual Academy Awards: Television Review – Was it a bad idea to have actors host? No, it was spectacularly bad.” (emphasis added),

“In what could go down as one of the worst Oscar telecasts in history, a bad and risky idea — letting two actors host — proved out in spectacularly unwatchable fashion on the biggest of all nights for the film world.

Despite an overall rewarding of brilliant performances and no truly shocking didn’t-see-that-coming upsets, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards will likely be remembered as the night James Franco couldn’t act like a host.

It was not a great night to be on the Internet if you were one of Franco’s trusted advisers, as the likable, quirky actor was torched on Twitter and pimp-slapped across the web for his lifeless performance. He had no business agreeing to host the Oscars, and his resulting pratfall in front of — what, a billion people? — must have made David Letterman gleeful, as his stint will no longer be pointed out as some kind of nadir. Anne Hathaway at least tried to sing and dance and preen along to the goings on, but Franco seemed distant, uninterested and content to keep his Cheshire-cat-meets-smug smile on display throughout.

[…] Few awards shows ever learn that lesson or get the mix right. And to be fair, this Oscar telecast lacked spark from start to finish despite an impressive number of fine films and acting performances — and the hosts can only be blamed for so much. These Oscars were a bore-fest that seemed to drag on relentlessly but listlessly. Perhaps next time more thought will be put into actually making this a good television event. You can trot out all the big-name actors or directors you’d like, but nobody at home paid $11 to watch. The Academy Awards may be about movies, but it’s a TV show. Nobody feels any regret walking out or snapping off the set if you don’t entertain them. A good host is invaluable.

This year, the Oscars hit a new low. Like it fell into a hole.

Roger Ebert, “Oscars: “King” wins, show loses” (emphasis added),

Despite the many worthy nominated films, the Oscarcast was painfully dull, slow, witless, and hosted by the ill-matched James Franco and Anne Hathaway. She might have made a delightful foil for another partner, but Franco had a deer-in-the-headlights manner and read his lines robotically.

Incredibly, when former host Billy Crystal came onstage about two hours into the show, he got the first laughs all evening. This was the worst Oscarcast I’ve ever endured. It’s time for the Board of Governors to have a long, sad talk with itself.

At one point I tweeted: “If Bruce Vilanch is within 50 miles of the Kodak Pavilion, they should helicopter his ass backstage and put him to work.” I was quickly put straight. Vilanch, the comedy writer responsible for countless great lines in Oscarcasts past, was a writer on this year’s show. Since Franco and Hathaway lacked a single clever line, there must be an untold story.

[…] Again, I have to say this was the worst Oscarcast I’ve seen, and I go back a while. Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water.

ABC News via AP, “Oscarcast: Young Co-Hosts, but the Same Old Show“.

The Telegraph, “Oscars 2011: as it happened

NY Daily News, “Oscars 2011 winners: Kirk Douglas, at age 94, upstages hosts during best supporting actress award


Feb 28, 9:42 update: I think New Yorker is being too easy on James. I expect a lot more from James even he is a Yale Ph.D. student. If his heart isn’t into doing a great job, he should take the job. I admire people going out of their comfort zone to try new things, but James didn’t seem to give his all. Here is an excerpt from New Yorker,

QUESTION FROM EN: What did you think about the hosts?

DAVID DENBY: Ann was sweet, enthusiastic, changed dresses every few minutes; James was odd, as he often is in his performance (though it worked perfectly in 127 Hours)—sly grins, squints, looks off to the side, casual, throwaway delivery. I’m not sure he’s really cut out to be a movie star, or if he even wants it. He’s a Ph.D. student at Yale in the English Department at the moment.”


March 6 update:

Hollywood Reporter, “Live Blog of Oscars 2011 Telecast” (very readable)

Winnipeg Free Press, “That’s enough, kids; it’s the adults’ turn again

HuffPost, “James Franco: Oscar Host Says Ricky Gervais ‘Bombed’ At Golden Globes”

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