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 »

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”

Newsweek Oscar Roundtable 2011

Friday, 25 February, 2011

My definition of a great evening is one where I am with good friends and we just talk and talk. The wonderful yearly Newsweek Oscar Roundtable gives me great insight to the actors and actresses (Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, James Franco, Annette Bening, Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman) as people and how they do their “job”.

Part 1 of 7

Part 2, part 3, part 4, you can find the rest easily.

China’s Unnatural Disaster should win Oscar Documentary Short (My tears and The Tears of Sichuan Province flowed like a river)

Tuesday, 16 February, 2010

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short : China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province was nominated for Oscar Documentary Short and should win, if nothing other than allowing humanity a chance to bare witness of the pain the Sichuan parents suffered and still suffer in this unnatural disaster. The suffering is ongoing because all levels of Chinese governments have refused to conduct proper investigations and punish the government officials and business people who were responsible for “the deaths of many children, often due to the collapse of their shoddily constructed schools“.

Here is part of a LA Times review (emphasis added),

As all over Sichuan Province, schools filled with students collapsed while other buildings remained standing, grief-stricken parents demanded help from the government, help that never came. First emergency teams were routed away from smaller towns and villages where parents could hear children crying for help from beneath the debris. A fortunate few were able to actually dig their children out, others eventually found the corpses of their children (and were told to bury them themselves) but many were left with only the heaps of brick and dust to serve as a mass grave.

In life, there are horrific events that happened and it was too late or we are too remote to have anything influence, but if we are to progress as a human race, we have to at least bare witness to what had happened. To me, what I saw in the documentary counted as one of those moment.

To me, it is well-made and insightful documentaries like China’s Unnatural Disaster that give me the energy and inspiration to tell stories that are interesting/important to me.

By the way, someone has posted the program up. And I hope HBO will not take it down.

P.S. For people who think China has rule of law and their court cases can be adjudicated fairly, I want to remind them their protection under the law is as thin as how their cases are viewed by the “powerful” and if their cases are remotely related to any sensitive topics (including corrupt acts by government officials and business people).

Ana’s Playground qualifies for an Oscar nomination in 2010!

Monday, 30 November, 2009

I am really excited to hear Eric Howell’s Ana’s Playground now qualifies for an Oscar nomination. Here is what Eric wrote in his blog,

I am very pleased to report that “Ana’s Playground” has won “Best International Short Film” at the 22nd Foyle Film Festival in Northern Ireland. This festival is one of a few festivals that are sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. WIth a win in the short film category, Ana’s Playground has automatically qualified to be considered by the Academy for an Oscar nomination in NEXT year’s award cycle. Wow.

Congrats Eric! I am really happy for you.

You can check out my previous interviews with Eric and a film trailer linked here and here.

The Spine in Calgary International Film Festival

Sunday, 30 August, 2009

Wonderful news: Oscar winning animator Chris Landreth’s new film The Spine (see video interview) will be in Calgary International Film Festival Sept 25 – Oct 4. The film is also showing in Toronto International Film Festival on Sept 11th & 12th.

[via Chris]

A chat with Oscar winning animator Chris Landreth about his new film “The Spine”

Friday, 31 July, 2009

The Spine - Chris LandrethThe Spine - Chris Landreth

I first saw and was deeply touched by Chris Landreth’s Oscar-winning animated documentary Ryan and the documentary Alter Egos (a film about Ryan and Chris) in the 2004 Calgary International Film Festival. And I wrote a blog entry in 2007 in memory of Ryan‘s passing.

So it was my great pleasure to chat with Chris to talk about his new film “The Spine”. The following are the three parts of my Skype interview with Chris.

By the way, here is a separate blog entry about the helpers of “The Spine”.

The Interview – Part 1

  • How did Chris conceive a story about the seemingly strange relationship between the couple Dan and Mary?
  • Explaining what does the term “psycho-realism” mean to him? And how did he apply “psycho-realism” in “The Spine”?
  • Three big questions that seem closely related to each others,
    • How does “The Spine” avoid “Uncanny Valley” (the “creepy” effect of making CGI characters too realistic) ?
    • Animators using a Method-acting approach ?
    • Balancing realism and stylization ?

The Interview – Part 2

  • All of the animations in “The Spine” were key framed (no motion capture). So “motion capture” seems to be quick and easy. Why don’t Chris like it? What are the trade-offs in Chris’ mind?
  • Chris talking about Polar Express, Final Fantasy, and Beowulf.
  • The Spine (2009) uses Maya V8.5 for modeling, animation, visual effects and some rendering and Bingo (1998) used Maya V1.0. Chris talks about how he feels about some of the changes over the years.

The Interview – Part 3

P.S. Here is a story genesis of “The Spine” from the NFB official site. Here is Chris’ “walkabout“.

I found this YouTube of Bingo. Enjoy.


Sept 23, 2009 Update: The Spine is going to be screened at the 2009 Calgary International Film Festival.


Nov 17, 2009 Update: The Spine wins in Portugal, “The Festival Internacional de Cinema de Animação, also known as Cinanima, has just awarded its Grand Prize to The Spine!!” Congrats Chris!

Interviewing Oscar Winner Chris Landreth to chat about “The Spine”

Wednesday, 29 July, 2009

I had a nice in-depth chat with Oscar winning animator Chris Landreth (2004 Ryan, full film on NFB) about his new film “The Spine” yesterday.

I will post my video chat with Chris once I finish processing the video plus research & write the blog entry. Stay tune.

Check out Chris’ blog here.

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