Film Festivals

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The Weinstein Co. debuted three stills from the eagerly anticipated film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It contains what I believe is the best quote ever put down on paper (later appropriated by Faulkner – also used, alas, in Birdman last year):

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I really hope Justin Kurzel does not screw up what looks to be one of the best films we will see next year.

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Introducing Dante, Photo Credit: Rick Segal

The Riviera Maya Film Festival is a young festival with young ideas and an innovative way of presenting films to the broader international film community. One of the big gets was Joe Dante who brought Anton Yelchin to present Burying the Ex to the crowd. Dante cautioned that it was really the kind of film that needed to be seen with an audience as opposed to watching on a little screen or, god forbid, in front of a house of poker faced critics with their notepads out jotting down observations and analysis. This isn’t that kind of movie and isn’t intended to be. It was made in the Roger Corman tradition (Corman gave Dante his start way back when) and was filmed in an astonishing 20 days.

Dante and Yelchin attended a press conference at one of the locations for the film festival. We were all aided greatly by the professionalism and generosity of Luis Carrillo, who drove us to each location, packing us into a tiny air-conditioned Mercedes which zoomed along the highways of Playa Del Carmen to wherever we needed to be. One such location held members of the press to find out what Dante had to say about his new movie.

The press conference turned out to be more than just information about Burying the Ex. Dante is quite voluble on the subject of Hollywood, how it’s changing and where it’s going. He has had many projects in the works but they never seem to see the light of day as Hollywood finds itself in the grips of fear — fear of the future, fear or risk taking, fear of the changing audiences. They don’t know where films are headed and, thus, are gun-shy about taking risks. In other words, they no longer have the balls to lead so they must insist on playing it safe.

So you think, okay fine, that’s the same old story. And it might be. But Dante thinks the whole thing is headed for collapse. The studios will have to reinvent themselves (once again) and if they can do that, Hollywood might thrive once again.

Later that night, Burying the Ex would screen for audiences and press back at the film festival’s homebase, the Yucatan Princess, which set up a theater in its opulent complex.

Burying the Ex is funny, with Anton Yelchin playing a young man eager to dump his pretty but a tad needy girlfriend (Ashley Green). When she’s killed unexpectedly she morphs into a zombie and from then, funny/scary chaos. Sure, it’s not Citizen Kane and it’s not meant to be. It reminded me of the movies I used to see in the valley in the 1970s, rocking a pair of orange Dittos, a satin and terry cloth halter top, with my shag cut. Escaping the summer heat with a big bag of popcorn to watch something that silly was the stuff of a young cinema lover’s dream.

Dante’s thumbprint exuberance is alive and well, so are the gross-outs here and there. Burying the Ex is sure to develop a cult following and become a favorite midnight movie.

The screening was followed by a party on a rooftop in the very lively downtown Playa Del Carmen. They were serving some kind of cucumber tequila mixed drinks as movies screened on the side of a building. There were small pools on the rooftop in a place that is defined by blue water.

Impossibly beautiful young men and women flitted about, danced at will while munching on barbecued shrimp. Elvis Mitchell, Ben Lyons, Claudia Puig and Ryan Lattanzio all gathered around Yelchin and Dante for conversation while the hard working team behind the festival had their annual celebration.

I wasn’t much in a partying mood, having gotten a tad baked the night before at a dinner for Dante and Yelchin with the governor of Quintana Roo. I remember the dining table shaped in a square. I remember Elvis Mitchell finishing his cigar with the photographer I’d brought along on this trip, Rick Segal on another rooftop with a cool breeze and a hell of a view. I remember drinking a lot of tequila, champagne and wine. Yes, wine. I remember a toast to the guests and then some of us stumbling out and heading back to the hotel where I’m pretty sure we proceeded to hunker down in their only open kitchen eating hot, salty fries and drinking yet more champagne.

I remember laughing with Lattanzio until I could not breathe and I remember Rick Segal’s camera snapping away, catching all manner of crazy things. We somehow made it back to our hotel rooms though that’s not the part I remember that well.

I was waking up in Vegas in Mexico and my head was pounding. That meant there was no way I could have endured, at my age, another one of those parties. So Segal and I headed out of the Joe Dante party and headed down the streets towards the beach, to get a look at the lapping night waves and their eternal dance with the gusty humid winds. To get there we had to walk through disco row. You’ve never heard music that loud. You can’t out-sexy these women. You have to either submit or withdraw to the bumping and grinding of the discoplosions happening every five feet.

We finally made it to the beach. Boats had been tied to the shoreline with ropes that you had to strategically step over without tripping. We passed a few more hard-charging discos until at last we came upon the gringo wedding. You could tell by Neil Diamond droning on through on their speakers. The wedding guests bobbed back and forth in marital bliss to the tune of “Sweet Caroline.” It felt like we weren’t in Kansas anymore, reversed. We were back in Kansas, baby.

Eventually we got home that night, too. Partly because the publicists were so helpful. Partly because we had to get home or else we were going to have to submit to one of those discos. I did not want to see where that might end up.

One thing about being invited to a film festival on the Mayan Riviera is that in your down time you can visit the natural beauty of the place. We had the choice of attending the Mayan ruins or taking our own side trip, which we did, to Rio Secreto. I’d already seen the ruins, though they are also highly recommended.

The underwater caves are filled with pure, clean water that takes a whole week to be turned from rainwater into underwater cave water. Naturally it will eventually dry up because of global warming (like everything else). Right now it is still the region’s major water supply. You might not know from the jungle that sat on top of it what is thriving underneath.

We all had way more fun than we were legally supposed to have. What a privilege to be there, to having nothing but natural beauty, the nicest people on the planet and movies playing non-stop. You could be an annoying American and complain if you wanted to, probably. You could find that angle if you were looking for it.

To me, it would be unseemly to complain about such a hospitable group of folks trying to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The stakes in Mexico are a lot higher than here, for instance, where customer service and entitlement rule the day. Their economy still hovers between recovering and collapsing. They offer us up their very best, which is, quite frankly, a lot better than any of us deserves.

It would be easy, for instance, to complain about it being too corporate or too touristic because your idea of a Mexican vacation is to relive Rachel Ward’s Cozumel camp in Against All Odds. You want a hut, a papaya and a bottle of tequila. Hey, you can find that here, too. But at the end of the day they are trying to build their economy and make their resort business a success. Fruity drinks all day, luxurious pools to lounge around in, chirping jungle birds fluttering about — world class bathroom facilities? As experiences go, this one was mighty fine.

You probably might be inclined to think, oh sure, they fly you down to Mexico what else are you going to say but nice things? You might have a point there. If you then use that information to write off the Riviera Maya Film Festival? Then you’d be shortsighted at best. It’s a festival that will continue to grow and evolve, along with its lineup and its coastline.

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Robin Write at writeoutofla.com shares his favorite Palme d’Or winners at Cannes. First of a three-part post.

The great thing about looking back at the history of the Cannes Film Festival, and in this case the illustrious Palme d’Or, is that I can pick out five winners and say, they might be the best five victors ever. It is not long before I see five more, and I think, wait a minute. These could be the best winners of the big prize. So I could read about, watch, re-watch, talk about, write about, embrace more great movies, I thought I would break down some Palme d’Or choices into three write-ups. The more the merrier, right?

You would struggle to find anyone who chooses the following five films as the best of Cannes winners. But I would like to think many of you agree they are right up there. And as per normal I am not claiming these as my absolute favorites, I would always rather say check out these fifteen films, than say here, this one is best. So there are ten more to come. Movies about the urge to clean up the streets, a dangerous mission, returning a boy to his country. Movies that tackle war in Poland, or Ireland. Documentaries about war. Semi-autobiographical musicals, eerie road movies. Sexual coming of age, or the vast universe.

Having made fifteen choices, I’m jumping ahead a little, so let’s begin:

2009 – The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)

Worthy Alternatives:
Bright Star (Jane Campion)
Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé)

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The White Ribbon is by its own declaration a German children’s story (Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte). But it’s no fairy tale. Or at least, not as we know it. Set in the early 20th century, some time not long before World War I, in a small German village where the simple life is diluted with strange goings-on. This is not a thriller, nor a horror. The patiently-paced story seems to portray villagers of all ages, and age has no barrier to ask why or respond to the bad things that happen. At times it feels like a collection of harmonious short-stories scattered for harvest, their relation to one another not in question. A series of beautiful photographs capturing these terrible things, wonderfully crafted characters, and the importance of wondrous innocence. Haneke’s direction and writing, accompanied by the marvel that is Christian Berger’s black and white cinematography, gifts us story-telling that is never ever laborious or unappealing in its duration. A real gem indeed. A masterpiece you might say.

1994 – Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)

Worthy Alternatives:
Exotica (Atom Egoyan)
Three Colours: Red (Krzysztof Kieślowski)

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I was a teenager when Pulp Fiction exploded all over the world’s cinema. Even I, though, as the young student of film, was aware that Quentin Tarantino had made a movie that was not suited for the likes of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, let alone the prestigious Palme d’Or. Tarantino and his team must have felt they had gate-crashed the party. Well, they kind of did. The ridiculously original, incomprohensibly funny crime caper appeared to get mixed reactions when announced as the winner of the big prize, but there is no denying Pulp Fiction as a master stroke of film-making of recent times. It would go to the Oscars, but they were not quite ready to give it Best Picture (or a certain prison movie). Tarantino has since built an illustrious, booming filmography on his terms, but he has certainly not matched the bravura or excellence of this.

1967 – Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni)

Worthy Alternatives:
Accident (Joseph Losey)
Mouchette (Robert Bresson)

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Based somewhat on London photographer David Bailey, Blow-Up is English language film territory for Michelangelo Antonioni. The photographer (a splendid David Hemmings) is charismatic, ambitious and haphazard. He becomes the focus of attention when he is confronted by the woman he photographed in public canoodling with a man. His photos taken there reveal much more than that. And Antonioni’s attention-grabbing film has further depth still, when the incredible sequence of revelation through photographs changes the pace and your own captivation. A crime scene emerges through the photographer’s gradual scrutiny of the shots. You are reminded of Rear Window, when James Stewart is seeing horror in real-time in front of his eyes. You think of that photo enhancing scene in Blade Runner, made fifteen years later. And why do you think psychedelic and the mod parts of Austin Powers are so familiar? Then comes the final moments of Blow-Up, which really challenge your perceptions of existence and illusion.

1999 – Rosetta (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne)

Worthy Alternatives:
All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar)
Wonderland (Michael Winterbottom)

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Sinfully not even mentioned in my Best Actress piece, Émilie Dequenne is a simply perfect gem as the title character Rosetta. The seventeen year-old, who lives in a caravan with her wilting mother, is self-sufficient, determined, and somewhat uncompromising – she squabbles with most people she encounters at some point. Nobody gets in her way. The seemingly always on the move Rosetta, often running, appears to be in every frame of the movie, where the social hardship magicians Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne get right in her personal space or peer at her around corners. It’s the type of raw, candid, but utterly effective film-making that makes you wonder about how such a portrayal of reality can be so compelling (see last year’s Two Days, One Night). At times, and we are certainly not forced, we simply watch Rosetta briskly walk back and forth, going about her daily tasks, boiling an egg and then cracking the shell on her own head as naturally as she would fasten closed a padlock. The movie’s ultimate impact is far greater than any words here used to try and describe it.

1984 – Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders)

Worthy Alternatives:
Voyage to Cythera (Theodoros Angelopoulos)
Where the Green Ants Dream (Werner Herzog)

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How great to see two of the New German Cinema generation of directors (Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog) in attendance in competition at Cannes. It was Wenders who triumphed this time around, with a story on the shoulders of the terrific Harry Dean Stanton’s Travis. A remarkable, timeless motion picture. I mean, what is not to like? LM Kit Carson and Sam Shepard’s raw and thoughtful script, Ry Cooder’s enigmatic Texan score, or the vast cinematography of Robby Müller. It also has, for me, one of the most uniquely heart-tugging scenes captured on film. Ever. When Travis tells Jane (the luminous Nastassja Kinski) his story from the other side of a one-way mirror, and she begins to realise who it really is she listening to. My goodness, every time I re-watch the movie I get a build-up of all manner of emotions just knowing that moving sequence is yet to come. Paris, Texas also scooped the FIPRESCI Prize, as well as the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the great festival.

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Robin Write, longtime fixture at AwardsDaily, runs his own site at writeoutofla.com

You can follow him on twitter too.

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I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Maya Riviera Film Festival as it emerges onto the scene. An early morning flight with a few other journalists and film critics took us first to Mexico City and onward to Cancun where a car would drive us down the coast of Mexico to Playa Del Carmen.

The vibe here is mostly laid back with free-flowing tequila and mango juice or mojitos handed to you in every room. At the Yucatan Princess, vertical pools lined the pathways with vacationers cooling off their sunburnt bodies always with drinks in their hands. There will be time for pools and drinks, but the first order of business was the opening night celebration, followed by dinner and the festival’s opener, Asia Argento’s Incompressa or “Misunderstood.”

It’s one of those typically depressing situations that Argento’s film has yet to find a distributor here in the US. Of course, other people in other countries have been smart enough and open-minded enough to back the film but in America, it appears that no one will touch it with a ten-foot pole, even though in Argento they have that rare breed of a cultish female director who has followed the more celebrated career of her father. She co-wrote the screenplay that concerns young Aria, whose life seems headed for one thing or another but is anything but a passive player in her fate. Aria is ping-ponging against sexuality, drinking, drug abuse — something holds her firmly to the ground even if forces are continually trying to pry her from it.

With a self-absorbed wreck of a mother (Charlotte Gainsbourgh) and equally self-absorbed father who is just not interested in his daughter, Aria sprouts up like a weed with imagination and resilience despite the chaos at home. Argento seems to be clearly drawing from her own life with this film and for that alone you’d think there’d be interest in here in the US. But thus far there isn’t. What a shame because this is a fine example of female-driven cinema that reaches far beyond the usual.

Just as it is kind of heartbreaking to watch Aria, overflowing with smarts and potential, be ignored by those she cares about most, it is equally frustrating to watch how Argento is not being given any kind of hero’s welcome for having made this film. So few stories about young women are told at all, let alone outside the boundaries of PG-13 fantasy we get in America. The film is a reminder of the full spectrum of a human life, not just the idealized one.

Argento was on hand to introduce the movie and afterwards propped a cigarette in between her lips and took photos with a few fans. With a little more encouragement than she’s getting now, Argento could become a major filmmaker. Here’s hoping.

It was a late first night. I slept off half the morning and didn’t see the light of day until noon. This was going to be a drink and pool day, and then dinner with the governor in the evening.

One tries not to feel like the ugly American when visiting “all inclusive” resorts but inevitably one begins to feel that way, despite the promise of being attended to, very politely spoken to, and served — all with no expectation of tips. One way out of feeling awkward and guilty about such treatment is to tip. It is not mandatory but I feel, as an American, it’s important to bring that custom along when traveling.

Playa Del Carmen is right by the Caribbean and sits across on the mainland from the island Cozumel. It is not uncommon to see wild dogs surviving on the streets here, nor wildlife like migrating crabs, or even giant-ish reptiles. The aqua blue water of the sea laps gently on the white sand beaches which are populated by people from all over the world eager to dip their bodies into the bathwater-like shallows of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Uniformed employees busily keep things clean and tidy, even raking the kelp that clusters at the lip of the sea. There is too much kelp and it appears to be worrying them enough to try to rake it away. It does seem a futile task because more just keeps floating back into the bay. While walking the beach this morning two young women from the UK were marveling at a coconut they found washed up on the shore. They were wondering whether it would be any good or whether they could take it back with them. “Nah, it’s probably too heavy,” one concluded.

The high pillars and marble floors around the resort give it kind of a Romanesque feel – it is beautiful here, there’s no denying it, even if one rather longs for the simplicity of a grass hut perched on a sand dune right on the sea while someone flips a filet of freshly caught fish on the crackling beach fire nearby. This is a modern Mexico that we’re in, one that has come to join the ranks as one of the most formidable regions for cinema. Indeed, the Oscar race has given its Best Director prize to two Mexican men in two years in a row, both of whom had their roots in Mexican cinema, helping to define it, and now helping it emerge.

Film festivals are the best and only way films can be seen by adult people in today’s market as they try to build buzz, find a distributor, then land in an art house in a major city or else play on VOD. “A Netflix movie” is how I heard them referred to once by a young person. To her, an artsy independent film was the kind you get to see on the Netflix. Was a time when they were playing all over the place and people bought tickets to them. Film festivals give us that time back by creating a kind of thinking person’s amusement park/fantasy land where the point of film still rests in the realm of art.

So committed to this notion, the festival is free of charge. They’re committed to bringing cinema to the people by showing films on the beach and in public squares. It is both a way to celebrate and fortify the cinema of Latin America as it is a fest that reaches out internationally to filmmakers everywhere. Being here, the jungle divides the resort from the sea. Though we’re all nested comfortably in luxury, that feeling of wildness always threatens to emerge, whether it’s a snake sneaking its way onto the grounds, or a hurricane churning into the gulf of Mexico. It is a place that trades this wildness for exquisite beauty, with one foot in its ancient past and one foot in the inevitability of its future.

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Imagine that Americans could come together across political ideologies, economic strata and social boundaries to stage massive nationwide demonstrations, strikes, and university occupation protests in a united effort to resist rampant corporatism, materialistic consumerism, moribund institutions, and the greed of capitalist values in general.  Imagine that this extraordinary display of civil unrest brought the USA to a virtual standstill right before the Oscars, so the Academy, in solidarity with leftist protesters, decided to cancel the Oscars altogether that year.  Imagine that the Directors Guild then mounted an alternative to Oscar Night, with the intent to honor the best of efforts of independent filmmakers working outside the systemic rot of the industry rut.

Wow, you’ve got a wild imagination.  You lost me at “Americans come together across social boundaries.”  Anyway, have you never heard of Prozac?  Swallow some and settle down.

But protests like this happened all across France in May 1968. Nearly a quarter of the entire population of France took part, and the Cannes Festival was indeed cancelled that year to show support for 11 million French workers who went on strike and millions of students who took to the streets.  In reaction, the French Directors Guild founded the Societe des Realisateurs Francais in 1969 as an alternative to the Cannes Festival, and this parallel festival became known as Quinzaine des Réalisateurs — the Directors Fortnight.

Thanks once again to our canny friend Paddy Mulholland for featuring a fine rundown of this years Directors Fortnight lineup at his site, screenonscreen. As Paddy notes, and as we’ve been discussing here at AD overnight, no small amount of controversy surrounds the failure of the Cannes selection committee to include major films by directors Arnaud Desplechin and Miguel Gomes in the main competition next month. Both have found a friendlier and possibly more sophisticated venue to launch their premieres at this year’s Quinzaine.  Paddy brings up another significant distinction of the Fortnight slate: They’ve seen fit to feature 3 movies directed by women, and several other films whose stories revolve around women.

  • Allende, Mi Abuelo Allende (Marcia Tambutti)
  • Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
  • The Brand New Testament (Jaco van Dormael)
  • The Cowboys (Thomas Bidegain)
  • Dope (Rick Famuyiwa) – closing film
  • Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra)
  • Fatima (Philippe Faucon)
  • Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)
  • The Here After (Magnus von Horn)
  • In the Shadow of Women (Philippe Garrel) – opening film
  • Much Loved (Nabil Ayouch)
  • Mustang (Deniz Gamze Erguven)
  • My Golden Years (Arnaud Desplechin)
  • Peace to Us in Our Dreams (Sharunas Bartas)
  • A Perfect Day (Fernando Leon de Aranoa)
  • Songs My Brothers Taught Me (Chloe Zhao)
  • Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld (Miike Takashi) – special screening

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The jury has just been announced for the upcoming Cannes Film Fest:

Joel & Ethan Coen – Presidents
(Directors, Writers, Producers – United States)

Rossy de Palma (Actress – Spain)
Sophie Marceau (Actress, Director – France)
Sienna Miller (Actress – United Kingdom)
Rokia Traoré (Composer, Singer-songwriter – Mali)
Guillermo del Toro (Director, Writer, Producer – Mexico)
Xavier Dolan (Director, Writer, Producer, Actor – Canada)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Actor – United States)

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Thanks to Paddy Mullholland at ScreenOnScreen for passing along the news of this morning’s Cannes Critics Week announcement. If the slate for the main competition and Un Certain Regard seemed to be surprisingly Anglo-heavy this year, Paddy notes that today rights the balance with 5 ciné Franco films, with two titles by French directors in competition and all 3 of the special screenings devoted to emerging homegrown filmmakers. All the films selected for Critics Week next month are directorial debuts or second efforts.

That last bit is another fact gleaned and paraphrased from Paddy’s own comprehensive Cannes coverage. I can’t try to pretend that I notice details that are readily apparent to Paddy. The only name that jumped out me from today’s announcement is Louis Garrel, since he’s the son of director Philippe Garrel, and I’m fairly sure Louis’ debut makes him the hottest director on the planet. His Critics’ Week film, Les Deus Amis, stars Iranian singer/actress Golshifteh Farahani who’s conveniently the real-life amour of Garrel fils. Or inconveniently. You’ll know the stunning Golshifteh from the equally stunning film that won all kinds of prizes for Asghar Farhadi in 2009.

So, (as opposed to Paddy’s perceptive insight) that’s the sort of Cannes coverage you get from me at this stage — gossipy love connections. And you get to witness me perk up on high alert at the name GARREL! the exact same way Dug the Dog is distracted by SQUIRREL!

Critics’ Week Competition

  • Degrade (Arab Abunasser and Tarzan Abunasser)
  • Krisha (Trey Edward Shults)
  • Mediterranea (Jonas Carpignano)
  • Ni la Ciel, Ni la Terre (Clement Cogitore)
  • Paulina (Santiago Mitre)
  • Sleeping Giant (Andrew Cidivino)
  • La Tierra y la Sombra (Cesar Acevedo)

Critics’ Week Special Screenings

  • The Anarchists (Elie Wajeman) – opening film
  • Les Deux Amis (Louis Garrel)
  • La Vie en Grand (Mathieu Vadepied)

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70% of Palme d’Or winners have come from just 7 countries: USA, Italy, France, UK, Japan, Sweden and Denmark. 58% from the first four alone. Counting the other 8 countries who have won the Palme more than once, 88% of the winners of the top prize at Cannes hail from just 15 nations.

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Dominance by the United States, Italy, France and the UK was strongest from 1950-1980, when those four countries won the Palme d’Or 29 times in a span of 3 decades. (That was 76% of the time, since the Palme is occasionally awarded to 2 films in the same year).

Half of the Palme d’Or winners the United States has ever won happened in the ’70s. From 1970-1980, films from the USA won the Palme d’Or seven times: MASH, Scarecrow, The Conversation, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now and All That Jazz.

(In the early years, prior to 1955, the top prize was called the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film — so those those winners are counted on this chart.)

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Robin Write at writeoutofla.com shares his favorite Best Actress winners at Cannes.

Where actresses are concerned in Cannes, there seldom is a limited range of women from which the voters have to make their decision on who is “best”. The diversity of films that tend to be in competition at the festival each year means they might often be spoilt for choice. Multiple Oscar winners like Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Sally Field, and Meryl Streep have all ventured to the festival and conquered – for films not necessaily recognised with gold by AMPAS. I’m not about to rattle on about Academy Award winners though. Not even going to mention Julianne Moore, who took the award for, and literally so in, Maps to the Stars last year.

The likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Helen Mirren have won it twice. In fact, the British ladies have done extremely well with this prize over the years. Also twice a Best Actress recipient in Cannes is Barbara Hershey, who actually won in consecutive years in the late eighties – the second time was a prize for the female cast of A World Apart. They gave Brink of Life the prize for their actresses in 1958 (Ingrid Thulin, Eva Dahlbeck, Bibi Andersson, Barbro Hiort af Ornäs), as well as more recently honouring the women of Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver (Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Lola Dueñas, Yohana Cobo, Blanca Portillo). This kind of ensemble recognition is just one of the truly refreshing elements we love about Cannes.

They tend to spread the wealth across many of the films in competition. In fact, a couple of my following choices came from movies that may well have warranted a prize in other areas. Almost certainly so. Not to say these actresses were any less deserving. Although again not necessarily my all-time top five (I don’t think), it was way too much fun to pick these Best Actress winners as ones that have adored since I saw them, and have not left me since. Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy) is a great recent winner, and I’d like to add I would almost certainly have considered the excellent Marie-Josée Croze had I not selected The Barbarian Invasions in an earlier post. See, I am starting to sound like a Cannes jury member.

2001 – Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher)

Worthy Alternatives:
Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!)
Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive)

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As far as movies about the relationships between the music tutor and student are concerned, if Whiplash is still playing heavy on your mind, you really ought to go seek out Michael Haneke’s astoundingly brutal The Piano Teacher. A much harder slap in the face, I can tell you. Physically, mentally, sexually, Isabelle Huppert’s Erika is humiliated and brutalised, and much of it self-inflicted. The performance is, and the movie itself, tough-going to watch at times, but never does it lose your attention. Taking her second prize at Cannes, Huppert is worn-down and emotionally battered here, even from the opening scene. And she continues to deliver a raw and uncomfortably exceptional performance right through to the very end. Haneke would win the Palme d’Or for The White Ribbon years later – guess who the Cannes jury president was?

2013 – Bérénice Bejo (The Past)

Worthy Alternatives:
Adèle Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour)
Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant)

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Without in any way intending to offend the beautiful Bérénice Bejo, she played it plain and simple in Asghar Farhadi’s near flawless The Past. So solid and sincere is her performance here, she is unrecognisable from the (also excellent) song-and-dance turn in the silent Oscar winner The Artist. Marie-Anne is not a particularly scary woman, but those men in her life (and her kids to a large extent) are walking on thin ice – she is weighed down by bitternesss, perhaps some buried guilt, not to mention the tension built from her recent and current life choices. You watch The Past, though, and want the pain to end for her. For all of them. Bejo is so authentic, such a grand presence in this grounded human story, you carry empathy for her, even in her coldest moments. This is not solely her film, in the acting stakes she is surrounded by some outstanding performers, but she more than plays her part.

1996 – Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies)

Worthy Alternatives:
Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)

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What a wreck Cynthia is, you might note while watching Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies. Bleak and uncompromising, yes of course, this film is, but Brenda Blethyn carries with her the open wounds and tired legs of single motherhood in council estate England. It’s a brittle and important backdrop to the story of a woman, a bag of nerves in fact, coming to terms with the discovery the daughter she gave away at birth is a young black woman. We, the audience, partially feel the shock and social acclimatization that Cynthia seems to be going through, as she struggles to keep it together. This is engulfed later when brreaking the news to her already emotional, crumbling family. Blethyn is manic, warmly real, and utterly brilliant in every scene.

1997 – Kathy Burke (Nil by Mouth)

Worthy Alternatives:
Robin Wright (She’s So Lovely)
Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter)

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It is no secret that Cannes juries over the years have been suckers for bleak British movies. And British actresses. The unforgettable Nil By Mouth is no exception. Written and directed by Gary Oldman, the chameleon actor deserved the plaudits for dragging us face first through the mud of domestic abuse. Everyone, too, was talking about the monstrous performance from Ray Winstone (many still say he was robbed here). I remember seeing the news that it was Kathy Burke who came away from the festival with the Best Actress prize for her remarkable turn as the battered wife Valerie. What a lot of people outside of the UK (and perhaps many of that year’s Cannes jury) will not have experienced is Burke’s comedy TV work – most notably the comic sketch shows she did with Harry Enfield. The prospect of seeing her in this kind of gritty big screen role was a hard contrast to imagine, but seeing it for myself blew me away. An impressive, true winner indeed.

1991 – Irène Jacob (The Double Life of Véronique)

Worthy Alternatives:
Barbara Sukowa (Europa)
Emmanuelle Béart (La Belle Noiseuse)

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Personally speaking, Irène Jacob’s screen presence has more than once inspired my own creation on on-screen heroins in mt screenwriting. In The Double Life of Véronique she shows a range of performance (not unlike the brilliance on display in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red), whether it be the child-like hope of her singing or exploring ways to see the world, or the heavy sadness that somehow overcomes her throughout. She seems to be on the brink of joy or tears, we are not always sure which, and Jacob has the perfect face for such multi-emotional performance in a dual role. It is a tranquil, subtle piece of expressive, non-explosive acting. Kieślowski was renownded for bullying his own ability as a film-maker to convey exactly to the screen what was in his creative mind (not the only one to feel this way I suspect). With Jacob’s help here, and elsewhere, I can’t see what greater way he could have seen this.

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Robin Write, longtime fixture at AwardsDaily, runs his own site at writeoutofla.com

You can follow him on twitter too.

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As we learned earlier this week, Emmanuelle Bercot’s Standing Tall (La Tête Haute), will open the festival at Cannes on May 13. More titles are expected to be added to the Competition roster in coming days, but here’s what we know so far:

Jury co-presidents: Joel Cohen and Ethan Coen

COMPETITION

  • Dheepan (working title), Jacques Audiard
  • A Simple Man (La Loi Du Marché), Stéphane Brizé
  • Marguerite And Julien, Valérie Donzelli
  • The Tale Of Tales (Il Racconto Dei Racconti), Matteo Garrone
  • Carol, Todd Haynes
  • The Assassin (Nie Yinniang), HOU Hsiao Hsien
  • Mountains May Depart (Shan He Gu Ren), JIA Zhang-Ke
  • Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary), Hirokazu KORE-EDA
  • Macbeth, Justin Kurzel
  • The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Mon Roi, Maïwenn
  • Mia Madre, Nanni Moretti
  • Son Of Saul (Saul Fia), László Nemes
  • Youth, Paolo Sorrentino
  • Louder Than Bombs, Joachim Trier
  • The Sea of Trees, by Gus Van Sant
  • Sicario, Denis Villeneuve

OUT OF COMPETITION

  • Standing Tall (La Tête Haute), Emmanuelle Bercot (opening film)
  • Mad Max : Fury Road, George Miller
  • Irrational Man, Woody Allen
  • Inside Out, Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen
  • The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), Mark Osborne

UN CERTAIN REGARD

  • Fly Away Solo (Masaan), Neeraj Ghaywan
  • Rams (Hrútar), Grímur Hákonarson
  • Journey To The Shore (Kishibe No Tabi), KUROSAWA Kiyoshi
  • I Am A Soldier (Je Suis Un Soldat), Laurent Larivière
  • The High Sun, (Zvizdan), Dalibor Matanic
  • The Other Side, Roberto Minervini
  • One Floor Below (Un Etaj Mai Jos), Radu Muntean
  • The Shameless (Mu-Roe-Han), Oh Seung-Uk
  • The Chosen Ones (Las Elegidas), David Pablos
  • Nahid, Ida Panahandeh
  • The Treasure (Comoara), Corneliu Porumboiu
  • The Fourth Direction (Chauthi Koot), Gurvinder Singh
  • Madonna, Shin Suwon
  • Maryland, Alice Winocour

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

  • Amy, Asif Kapadia
  • Office (O Piseu), HONG Won-Chan

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

  • Oka, Souleymane Cisse
  • Hayored Lema’ala, Elad Keidan
  • A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Sipur Al Ahava Ve Choshech), Natalie Portman
  • Amnesia, Barbet Schroeder
  • Panama, Pavle Vuckovic
  • Asphalte, Samuel Benchetrit

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AwardsDaily has been invited to attend the Riviera Maya Film Festival for the first time since the fest began in 2012. It features more than 70 films from around the world, and will include Asia Argento’s Incompresa and Joe Dante’s Burying the Ex, among others, in addition to showcasing new Mexican cinema, which has really taken Hollywood by storm. We’re excited to see what it’s all about.

More than 70 Films from Around the World, Including the Critically Acclaimed ‘Burying the Ex’ and Asia Argento’s ‘Incompresa,’ Have Been Selected To Screen During the 2015 Riviera Maya Film Festival

LOS ANGELES, CA (April 13, 2015) – The Riviera Maya Film Festival (RMFF) today announced its official program of domestic and international films to be screened at this year’s annual event (April 23rd–29th). Continuing its mission to promote and distribute the most outstanding productions of the global film industry, the fourth edition of the RMFF will feature three Mexican-production world premieres, 53 international premieres in Mexico, a wide variety of Latin American premieres and about 200 free screening sessions compose our program.

The competitive sections of the Festival are Mexican Platform, in which the jury bestows two Kukulkan Awards endowed with 300,000 MXN each and a Kukulkan Youth Jury Award, endowed with 100,000 MXN; the RivieraLAB/Co-production Forum, where two selected projects will receive a financial incentive of 200,000 MXN each; and the RivieraLAB/Work in Progress, where two selected projects will receive a financial incentive of 100,000 MXN each. In total, the Festival grants 1,300,000 MXN in awards and prizes.

“We are constantly trying to create a festival that has what is important: a solid program with guests that represent it. We will have 70 films, from which 53 are premiering nationwide. Thus, RMFF brings an added value to the people and visitors of Riviera Maya”, said Paula Chaurand, director of the festival.

“What is important about festivals, film shows and events that promote national film production, is not for them to be numerous, but to have an identity of their own,” said Cristina Prado Arias, Director for Cultural Film Promotion. “That is the match point of this festival –RMFF, as it was born with an identity that has respected and reinforced.”

“The importance of RivieraLAB lies in the fact that, through its activities, incentives and support for creators, it has achieved to get films released in and out of the country.” Said Sandra Gómez, RivieraLAB chief coordinator.

The Riviera Maya Film Festival will take place in Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, from April 23rd to the 29th.

Below you can find a selection of the films which will be shown at the 2015 Riviera Maya Film Festival:

GALAS
· Burying the Ex (2014, United States) Director: Joe Dante
· Elvira, te daría mi vida pero la estoy usando (2014, Mexico) Director: Manolo Caro
· Incompresa (2014, Italy / France) Director: Asia Argento

MEXICAN PLATFORM
The board composed by Maximiliano Cruz, Fernando del Razo and Claudio Zilleruelo has chosen 14 films from a total of 71 national films entering the call. All corresponding screenings will include special guests. The selected films are:

· Alexfilm (2015, Mexico) Director: Pablo Chavarría
· El regreso del muerto (2014, Mexico) Director: Gustavo Gamou
· El señor de las 3 caídas (2015, Mexico) Director: Roberto Olivares Ruiz *World Premiere
· El silencio de la princesa (2014, Mexico) Director: Manuel Cañibe
· Ícaros (2015, France / Mexico) Director: Pedro González Rubio
· Juanicas (2014, Canada / Mexico) Director: Karina García Casanova
· La maldad (2015, Mexico) Director: Joshua Gil
· Los muertos (2014, Mexico) Director: Santiago Mohar Volkow
· Lucifer (2014, Belgium / Mexico) Director: Gust Van den Berghe
· Me quedo contigo (2014, Mexico) Director: Artemio Narro
· Memoria oculta (2014, Mexico) Director: Eva Villaseñor
· Muchachas (2015, Mexico) Director: Juliana Fanjul
· Noche de resurrecciones (2015, Mexico) Director: Raúl Rico *World Premiere
· Plan sexenal (2014, Mexico) Director: Santiago Cendejas

PLANETARIUM
The selected films deal with the juncture issues of today’s social structure. Planetarium takes a stand before aspects of the world: political, cultural, historical, social and environmental. The selected films are:

· Atlas (2014, France) Director: Antoine d’Agata
· La obra del siglo (2015, Argentina/Cuba/Switzerland/Germany) Director: Carlos Machado Quintela
· Of Men and War (2014, France Switzerland/United States) Director: Laurent Bécue-Renard
· Over the Years (2015, Austria) Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
· The Postman’s White Nights (2014, Russia) Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
· Violencia (2015, Colombia / México) Director: Jorge Forero *Screening will be attended by special guests

WIDE AUDIENCE
A showcase of diverse outlooks aimed to mass audiences. Films arriving from diverse territories proffer ways, perhaps unheard, to entertainment. The selected films are:

· 3 Hearts (2014, France/Germany/Belgium) Director: Benoît Jacqot
· Among the Living (2014, France) Directors: Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury
· Buzzard (2014, U.S.A.) Director: Joel Potrykus
· Caprice (2015, France) Director: Emmanuel Mouret *Screening will be attended by special guests
· Cub (2014, Belgium) Director: Jonas Govaerts
· Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 (2014, Hong Kong/China) Director: Johnnie To
· Fires on the Plain (2014, Japan) Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto
· Girlhood (2014, France) Director: Céline Sciamma *Screening will be attended by special guests
· Goodnight Mommy (2014, Austria) Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz *Screening will be attended by special guests
· Los hongos (2014, Colombia/France/Argentina/Germany) Director: Óscar Ruiz Navia *Screening will be attended by special guests
· Queen and Country (2014, Ireland/France/Rumania) Director: John Boorman
· Results (2015, EEUU) Director: Andrew Bujalski *Screening will be attended by special guests
· The Golden Era (2014, China/Hong Kong) Director: Ann Hui
· The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (2014, France) Director: Guillaume Nicloux
· The Midnight After (2014, Hong Kong) Director: Fruit Chan
· Tokyo Tribe (2014, Japan) Director: Sion Sono
· Victoria (2015, Germany) Director: Sebastian Schipper *Screening will be attended by special guests
· Slow West (2015, United Kingdom-New Zeland) Director: John Maclean

AUTHOR PANORAMA
A film panorama for international film creators. The section exhibits alternative ways to tell stories, produce films and approach film language and diverse film genres. The selected films are:

• Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories (2015, Vietnam/France/Germany/Holland) Director: Phang Dang Di
• Fort Buchanan (2014, France/Tunisia) Director: Benjamin Crotty *Screening will be attended by special guests
• Heaven Knows What (2014, United States) Directors: Joshua and Ben Safdie *Screening will be attended by special guests
• Hide and Seek (2014, United Kingdom/United States) Director: Joanna Coates
• In the Basement (2014, Austria) Director: Ulrich Seidl
• Iris (2014, United States) Director: Albert Maysles
• La mujer de los perros (2015, Argentina) Directors: Laura Citarella and Veronica Llinás
• Le Paradis (2014, France) Director: Alain Cavalier
• Lulú (2014, Argentina) Director: Luis Ortega *Screening will be attended by special guests
• Mar (Chile / Argentina) Director: Dominga Sotomayor
• Meurtre à Pacot (2014, Haiti/France/Norway) Director: Raoul Peck *Screening will be attended by special guests
• Near Death Experience (2014, France) Directors: Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern
• Red Amnesia (2014, China) Director: Wang Xiaoshuai
• Saint Laurent (2014, France/Belgium) Director: Bertrand Bonello *Screening will be attended by special guests
• Taxi (2015, Iran). Director: Jafar Panahi
• The Forbidden Room (2015, Canada) Directors: Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson *Screening will be attended by special guests
• The Kindergarten Teacher (2014, Israel/France) Director: Nadav Lapid *Screening will be attended by special guests
• The Smell of Us (2014, France) Director: Larry Clark *Screening will be attended by special guests

RivieraLAB PRESENTS
A showcase for films that went through former editions of RivieraLAB, as projects. This fourth edition outstands the world premiere of the Mexican documentary Los días no vuelven, directed by Raúl Cuesta. The selected films are:

• Adventure (2014, Kazakhstan) Director: Nariman Turebaev
• El tiempo nublado (2014, Switzerland/Paraguay) Director: Arami Ullón
• Feguibox (2015, Equatorial Guinea/Spain) Directors: Rubén Monsuy and Gabriel Amdur
• La princesa de Francia (2014, Argentina) Director: Matías Piñeiro
• Los días no vuelven (2015, Mexico) Director: Raúl Cuesta. * World Premiere *Screening will be attended by special guests
• Ruined Heart! Another Love Story Between a Criminal & a Whore. (Philippines/Germany) Director: Khavn De la Cruz *Screening will be attended by special guests
• The Iron Ministry (2014, China) Director: J. P. Sniadecki

SELECTION – RivieraLAB 2015
RivieraLAB is the project laboratory and the production incentive platform of the Riviera Maya Film Festival. It presents, in its two sections, Coproduction Forum and Work in Progress, film projects in stage of development and post-production, accordingly. In addition to pursuing coproduction, sales agency, international funding, distribution and alternative financing, the chosen projects compete for economic and in-kind support.

RivieraLAB/ Coproduction Forum 2015:
From 94 projects entering the call from 20 countries, the members of the board, Sandino Saravia, Rebecca de Pas, Jorge Forero and Sandra Gómez, chose 9 projects in stage of development. The selected projects are:

• Am I Demon (United States) Director: Joel Potrykus
• Carroña (Mexico) Director: Sebastián Hiriart
• Tiempo vertical (Spain) Director: Lois Patiño
• Rojo (Argentina) Director: Benjamín Naishtat
• Nona (Chile) Director: Camila José Donoso
• Soy una estrella del rock (Mexico) Director: Raúl Fuentes
• Mis violentas flores (Mexico) Director: Tin Dirdamal
• Pistolero anónimo (Mexico) Director: Leo Marz, Angel Marz
• Mariana (Colombia) Director: Chris Gude

RivieraLAB / Work in Progress 2015:
From 93 projects that entered the call from 22 countries, the members of the board, John Campos, Gonzalo de Pedro, Susana Santos, Sandra Gómez and Maximiliano Cruz, chose 7 projects with a cut in post-production stage. The selected projects are:

• La balada del Oppenheimer Park (Mexico) Director: Juan Manuel Sepúlveda
• Lazar (Macedonia/Croatia/Bulgaria/France) Director: Svetozar Ristovski
• I, Olga Hepnarova (Czech Republic/Poland Slovakia/France) Directors: Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb
• El rastreador de estatuas (Chile) Director: Jerónimo Rodríguez
• ¿Dónde estás? (Mexico) Director: Maricarmen Merino
• Maquinaria Panamericana (Mexico) Director: Joaquín del Paso
• Silenciosa (Argentina) Director: Sofía Medrano

PENINSULAB: Training workshop for producers and directors of the Mexican Southeast

PENINSULAB was created by RivieraLAB to enable counseling and follow up for 3 projects selected from the CAI Audiovisual Itinerating Camp, given by lecturers and special guests of RivieraLAB 2015.

CAI is an initiative that promotes production and development of audiovisual projects for communities of the State of Oaxaca. The program arranges workshops, training, meeting, and exhibition of the projects.

PENINSULAB together with CAI share the purpose of contributing to decentralization of the film culture in Mexico. We believe that quality films can and should be accessible to everyone. Beyond technical effort and high budget, the most important aspect of filmmaking is the common language and the stories to be told.

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If Youth makes a probable appearance at Cannes next month, it will mark the fifth time a Paolo Sorrentino film has been nominated for the Palm d’Or. Il Divo won the Jury Prize in 2008 and This Must Be the Place won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury in 2011. (Thanks to Bryce for bringing this to our attention.) The Great Beauty won the BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014. Donatello nominations and wins too numerous to list. Sorrentino finally won an Oscar for The Great Beauty in 2014 because it only takes the Academy about 10 years to get a clue.

“Fred and Mick, two old friends, are on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. They look with curiosity and tenderness on their children’s confused lives, Micks enthusiastic young writers, and the other hotel guests. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. But someone wants at all costs to hear him conduct again.”

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Robin Write at writeoutofla.com has selected his favorite Best Director winners at Cannes.

At the 1958 Cannes Film Festival French film-maker François Truffaut was nowhere to be seen. Truth is, he was not allowed to attend that year as a result of him verbally lashing out at the competition as an institution. I won’t say he had the last laugh, but the very next year his very first feature film The 400 Blows won over audiences at Cannes – as well as rewarding Truffaut with the Best Director prize. Film politics are fickle, always have been, but what a victory for cinema that was. I don’t believe many people reading this were not at all aware that the French New Wave had arrived that year.

I love how the juries at Cannes reward the movies. The winners of Best Director are so diverse, and yet still feature many names we know to be acclaimed. Not necessarily following any trend with regards to what the best film might be, for example. Did you know Joel Coen has won it three times between 1991 and 2001? Michael Haneke won for Cache, though it was two other of his films, The White Ribbon and Amour, that took the Palme d’Or. New German Cinema directors Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders have both taken the prize. Even Martin Scorsese has been named Best Director – for After Hours believe it or not. Cannes has also seen those fifth slot, yet arguably most deserving, Oscar nominees win the prize – Robert Altman (The Player), Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother), and David Lynch (Mulholland Drive). Last year’s Best-Picture-less Foxcatcher somehow earned a Best Director nod, and Bennett Miller was the last recipient in Cannes last May.

Here are five excellent examples of how Cannes Best Director winners really do seem to acknowledge a director’s significant and commanding presence on a film’s impact. That they are honoring actual stand-out film directing. Madness, right?

2007 – Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

Worthy Alternatives:
Wong Kar-wai (My Blueberry Nights)
David Fincher (Zodiac)

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The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is an extraordinary looking film, and concept, unlike much you have seen before, or could see in the future. A grand achievement by Julian Schnabel. The set-up is purely about perspective, we see much of the movie through the point of view of the main character. And I mean this quite literally, through his eyes. For those who have not seen it, or know what it is about, the movie is based on real events, when Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) suffered a stroke and was left paralyzed from the head down. Bauby’s eyes guide us (well, one eye actually), not the exact way they guided him, but Schnabel certainly gives it a good go. The film also tells the story of Bauby’s life prior to the ailment. Some of the technical story-telling is so astonishing you wonder what kind of trickery this really is. Schnabel’s direction is so tight and meticulous, it flourishes – at times you suffocate as your heart breaks.

2011 – Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)

Worthy Alternatives:
Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty)
Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin)

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I feel I have exhausted my merits of Nicolas Winding Refn, both in my written form, and that personal praise I give him for his work on directing Drive. I will, though, never stop singing the praises of this. The movie is so perfectly stylish and refreshingly cool, even in its very dark and violent moments. You can see the director’s blueprint all over the movie, via the edgy, yet very different, performances from main actors (Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks in particular), to the shifts in movement and pace. I mean, at times it almost lingers so much it comes to a complete halt, but is not for one second tedious or uninteresting. Even the dance music Refn uses sits right beside the chugging tone of the film’s narrative, and could have been so out of place in anyone else’s grip – but is a perfect companion to it. With the disappointing reception of Only God Forgives, we hope to experience more of the kind of showcasing from Refn in the future he gave us with Drive.

2002 – Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love)

Worthy Alternatives:
Alexander Payne (About Schmidt)
Mike Leigh (All or Nothing)

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Hooray for Cannes once again for acknowledging one of the finest, and most talented directors of today’s generation, but also rewarding one of his most under-rated works. Punch-Drunk Love is a love story more than anything else, but is smeared with Paul Thomas Anderson’s signature ingredients. The characters are likable oddballs, especially Barry played by Adam Sandler, acting, really acting. Anderson shoots with vigor and energy, his camera pulls back and forth as effectively as it did in Magnolia – only on a much smaller story-scale. His arsenal as a film-maker is full to the brim with expertise, he makes movies likes he has been doing it since the seventies. Punch-Drunk Love is a much better film-watching experience now (and earns its place in Anderson’s consistently brilliant filmography) knowing what he has since achieved with the likes of There Will Be Blood, The Master and Inherent Vice.

1979 – Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven)

Worthy Alternatives:
Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now)
Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career)

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I remember when I was very, very young, and seeing a documentary about cinematography, and there was a significant discussion on Days of Heaven by Terrence Malick. I watched film frames capture so much scenery, and the camera moving with Richard Gere as he shoveled coal into a furnace, eloquent and glorious camera-work I, as a kid, had not really seen too much of. But was certainly appreciating now. Néstor Almendros won Best Cinematography at the Oscars, and this movie is a text-book example of the craft, even now. Malick, though, is a true master behind the camera, an artist who can incorporate his bold skill as a director into the movement and vision of the camera frame. He has since worked with the likes of cinematographers John Toll and Emmanuel Lubezki, with similarly amazing visual results. Sometimes his landscapes are untouchable, a real treat for the eyes. Days of Heaven was the promise he has kept.

2006 – Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel)

Worthy Alternatives:
Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Sofia Coppola (Marie Antoinette)

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Oscar winner for Best Director for Birdman. But not 21 Grams. Or Babel. That’s another discussion altogether. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s win at Cannes was another notch on the bedpost of Mexican film-makers that year, with fellow nationals Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) also at the chair of terrific movies. Brave, incomparable movies. Babel was a multi-character piece, over several main story strands (as was 21 Grams, though the narrative time-shifts were a world apart). Iñárritu sets a formidably different tone in each of the stories, though we’re never allowed to assume this is not one complete movie. He gets intense and emotive performances from his cast, and manages to surprise us with both the faces we know, and those new ones we do not – Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza rightly got the most attention, and were eventually nominated for Oscars. Compellingly sluggish and rather gloomy, Babel still hits hard, and not one frame is wasted.

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Robin Write, longtime fixture at AwardsDaily, runs his own site at writeoutofla.com

You can follow him on twitter too.

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Our good friend Robin Write at writeoutofla.com has selected his favorite Best Actor winners at Cannes.

Oh Cannes Film Festival, how we miss you. More so around this time of year, when the Oscars and its end trails are not a long enough distant memory. They to us now, and the whole mirage of the awards season, are the messy house, the dog hairs, the dusty shelves – we want to have a spring clean. And Cannes is returning home, after a short well-earned break from it all, looking forward to letting the clean house smell drift through your nostrils. Open the window, breathe that sea air.

Completely forgotten by AMPAS, and many other critics and awards groups alike, our great Brit Timothy Spall was awarded the Best Actor prize last year for his terrific, quirky, devastating central role in Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner. I know we are not far away geographically, as if this has anything to do with it, but British actors have not done as well as winners at Cannes as they have with the Oscars (I mean, Daniel Day Lewis has three of those bald statuettes). And that is for reasons of a refreshing diversity not many festivals or awards can vouch for. Although the French understandably pop up more often than most nations, when you look back at the Best Actor winners in Cannes over the years you’ll find actors from all over the cinematic planet. Japan, Belgium, Russia, Austria, China, Israel, Turkey. America. Oh, and France.

The following choices (including the upcoming series in other categories) are not necessarily my all-time favorites. But as Best Actor winners at Cannes go, they are close. I admit, I have not seen all the movies that have won prizes at Cannes, but here are five at least that deserve a revisit:

1993 – David Thewlis (Naked)

Worthy Alternatives:
James Spader (The Music of Chance)
Otto Sander (Faraway, So Close)

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Mike Leigh again deserves some of the credit, not just for Naked, but for the irredeemable work his does with his actors and actresses. If you tried to pick a favorite Leigh performance you would lose yourself after using all fingers and both thumbs on each hand to tally them. David Thewlis though stands on his own here, a giant of his own making. He rants and implores Leigh’s words on screen like a natural, convincing nut-case. Arrogant declarations and theories of apocalyptic grandeur or the world we live in now. Thewlis gives Johnny a sarcastic, over-bearing presence, whether likeable or not you can not help but watch and listen.

2009 – Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Worthy Alternatives:
Tahar Rahim (A Prophet)
Steve Evets (Looking For Eric)

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I, and many others I am sure, have often wondered if Christoph Waltz would have taken home an Oscar had he been in the Lead Actor category. I would say yes, without much doubt. The voting in Cannes is not really too concerned with this. There was the usual debates of course from the moment Waltz won Best Actor in Cannes right through to the awards season. There was quite simply no performance so grand or glorious that year. Maybe the decade. At least that’s what I think. Waltz’s charismatic, multilingual achievement was certainly a show-stopper. Is this a rare time that both Cannes and Oscar get it right?

2011 – Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

Worthy Alternatives:
Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)

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Not only was there a heavy revival of the silent cinema days with Michael Hazanavicius’ The Artist, but Cannes was also crammed with some fascinating male leads who did not predominantly rely on the spoken word to be compelling. Ryan Gosling (Drive), Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life), and even Ezra Miller (We Need To Talk About Kevin) are three such popular examples. Eventually going all the way to the Oscar Best Actor award (unlucky Mr Clooney) Jean Dujardin not only has the chiselled looks of an old-time movie star, his performance captured the eccentricities of that classic days of silent cinema, delivering heavy emotion and comedy in equal bursts of success.

1991 – John Turturro (Barton Fink)

Worthy Alternatives:
Joe Mantegna (Homicide)
Michel Piccoli (La Belle Noiseuse)

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Even today, Barton Fink is so good, like any of the Coen Brothers’ movies, I still shake my head when many awards groups stayed clear. Cannes, however, have a wonderful habit of embracing the movies of Joel and Ethan – and indeed those film-makers sinfully ignored elsewhere. Once a regular feature in their movies, John Turturro might not have been this magnetic in any of his movies prior, or since. The troubled Barton Fink, the character, was the perfect foil for the somewhat dumbstruck-looking actor (I mean that in the best possible sense) in a movie so odd, but ultimately so original. The movie was also reward with Best Director prize for the Coens, as well as the illustrious Palme d’Or.

1979 – Jack Lemmon (The China Syndrome)

Worthy Alternatives:
Klaus Kinski (Woyzeck)
Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now)

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The China Syndrome was one of those movies from the seventies you discover on your own. Nobody really told me about it, nor was I simply aware of it through it’s critical and award success, or the film’s status as instant classic (like, say, The Godfather). I saw this movie quite by accident as a boy, probably a teenager, and it gripped me from start to finish. A young Michael Douglas was a surprise, but the real stars here were Jane Fonda (who I was in love with anyway), and the terrific Jack Lemmon. Back then I was obviously a fan of his famous comedy work, but to see him this impressive in a pure dramatic role was a real eye-opener, as I continued to nurture my passion for cinema.

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Robin Write, longtime fixture at AwardsDaily, runs his own site at writeoutofla.com

You can follow him on twitter too, if you have good sense.

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next time

by Stephen Holt

It’s always a pleasure to participate in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s great “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.” The audiences are always as varied, delightful and intensely interesting, by age and gender, accurately reflecting the always-thrilling diversity depicted on screen.

This year the Rendez-vous initiated for its’ 20th anniversary, a series of Live Free Talks open to the public, cinephiles all.

I attended a particularly memorable one called “Actress On Actress” with French film icon Natalie
Baye and actress-turned-director Melanie Laurent. I got to ask the first question, which was how, when it seems even films with women as the central characters struggle to be made in the U.S., never mind films made BY women themselves, how is it that in France, it seems definitely not
be the case.

I pointed out that even this year’s Oscar nominations for Best Actress only had FOUR nominees in English speaking films, and the fifth was a French woman, Marion Cotillard, acting in her own language in a Belgian Film, “Deux Jours, Une Nuit.”(Two Days, One Night).

Both actreses seemed a bit astonished that this should be so, but Melanie Laurent was quick to answer. “In France, it is never the gender of the character that matters, it’s whether the script is good or not. If the script is good, whether about a man or a woman, it will get made.”

And they both felt that actors and actresses were treated equally across the board, and that even extended to women as directors, too.

Laurent felt she experienced no resistance to her attempting to change her career path to include directing. Her second film “Breathe” or “Respire” was featured in this year’s Rendez-Vous. Though “Breathe” was about a teenage lesbian love story, no one even thought to bring this up as a topic or question to Laurent. It was simply accepted as a well-told romance

Also on hand in person, was the charming quipster and heart-throb Guillaume Canet, who picked up all five of the hand mikes that were on the floor when he ascended the stage, and held them like a bouquet of roses, and said “I am not a serial killer.” Though the actor/screenwriter/director actually played TWO in two films at the Rendez-Vous “Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart” and “In the Name of My Daughter.” Both noirs based on true stories, he told of actually being able to talk on the phone to the man whose character he was portraying in “Daughter” which co-stars Catherine Deneuve as his mother-in-law.”Sometimes the conversations would go on for hours,” he said. “It was wonderful to have that much information, but it was weird.”
And what was it like acting for the first time opposite the legendary Deneuve? “I was always scared,” he said.

Just as scary, I imagine as he was in “Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart”(“La Prochaine Fois Je Viserai Le Coeur”) which was my favorite film this year I have to say. This year’s theme of the Rendez-Vous was a celebration of French Film Noir and there was plenty of excellent examples of that on hand.

In “Next Time”, Canet chillingly but expertly interprets the mind of a notorious French serial killer, who terrorized France in the winter of 1978-79. The twist here, and it’s true, he was one of the main gendarmes inspecting the case. No wonder they couldn’t solve it!

It was a wonderful cat-and-mouse thriller, with Canet’s schizoid character constantly throwing the police off the track. HIS track. Cedric Anger, who was once a critic for “Cahiers du Cinema” wrote and directed this taut true crime thriller.

I also liked “Wild Life” or “Vie Sauvage” which was about the tortured flight of a father escaping his divorced wife with two of their young sons. Also based on a true story, as many of the films in this year’s Rendez-vous were, it tells the story completely from the point of view of the anguished hippie dad, who wants his sons to live free off the land, nomadic-ly, in modern day France. Not an easy thing to do. Constantly chased by the police, their life underground and on the run was fascinating. Mathieu Kassovitz and Celine Sallette played the warring parents to perfection. Directed by Cedric Kahn.

I also liked “Hippocrates,” a Paris-set hospital drama, written and directed by Thomas Lilti, who is himself a doctor. The lack of funds are crippling the staff of this small hospital which struggles to treat its’ patients, and save their lives against vast bureaucratic and economic obstacles. Another film, “Eat My Bones” showed the underbelly of French society, the lives of the French trailer park gypsies, as they, too, struggle and plot, their only alternative seeming to be a life of crime.

And of course, the biggest French star of them all at the moment, Best Actor Oscar Winner Jean du Jardin, was back in fine form as the good cop in a very gritty gangster flick that is sure to be a hit stateside. “La Connection” is the French side of the drug ring depicted in the original “French Connection.” As a shoot’em-up genre film, it kept the beat going on with the back-drop of the French Riviera in 1970’s glamorous, but drug-ridden Marseilles.

As you can see, these French films keep besting their American counter-parts at every turn. And Vive la Difference, I say!

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Now fully grown Ellar Coltrane, whom we all watched grow up in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, gives a moving speech as he presents his movie parents Hawke and Arquette with the American Riviera Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Hawke also talks about Robin Williams, what it was like to work with him and that strange way certain people have of hiding inside the work:

Arquette and Hawke on the reaction to Boyhood:

Ethan Hawke on the whole awards experience, “it does feel like it’s really not happening.”

COEN

The Coens have a movie coming out, Hail Caesar. But it isn’t clear whether that means the film will show at the festival out of competition.

For the first time in the history of the Festival de Cannes, not one but two leading figures will chair the Jury.

Indeed, American filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen have accepted the invitation from President Pierre Lescure and General Delegate Thierry Frémaux to become the Presidents of the 68th edition of the Festival.

“We look forward to returning to Cannes this year”, Joel and Ethan Coen said from the Hail Caesar! film shoot with George Clooney, Christophe Lambert, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Josh Brolin and Channing Tatum. “We welcome as always the opportunity to watch movies there from all over the world. Cannes is a festival that has been important to us since the very beginning of our career. Presiding over the Jury is a special honour, since we have never heretofore been president of anything. We will issue further proclamations at the appropriate time.”

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The Santa Barbara film festival is coming at the end of the month. It’s just been announced that Aniston will be the recipient of the Montecito Award on January 30, 2015. Aniston is making one of the most astonishing 11th hour bids for Best Actress I’ve seen in a while. She’s well liked, and overdue for a nomination. Though Julianne Moore has this in the bag, her main competition for the prize will be Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl and Jennifer Aniston for Cake.

Press release as follows.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 2, 2015

JENNIFER ANISTON TO RECEIVE THE MONTECITO AWARD

AT THE 30th SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Santa Barbara, CA- The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is proud to announce that it will present the prestigious Montecito Award to Jennifer Aniston in honor of her celebrated career, including this year’s inspirational performance in Cinelou Films’ Cake, directed by Daniel Barnz. The Tribute will take place on Friday, January 30, 2015 at the historic Arlington Theatre during the festival’s 30th edition.

The Montecito Award was created in recognition of a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances throughout his or her career and whose style has made a major contribution to film. Previous recipients of the Montecito Award include such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Naomi Watts, and Annette Bening, who was the award’s first recipient in 2005.

Aniston’s most recent work includes her moving performance as Claire Bennett in Cake, where she plays a mother in pain over the loss of her child who struggles as she drives away her friends, husband, and even her chronic pain support group. This heart-wrenching story has rightfully garnered awards season buzz, with Aniston having already received SAG and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.

“Once in a while a performer who we thought we knew gets outside of his or her comfort zone and shows us the unexpected,” said SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “When that happens it is cause for celebration – and this is why the 2015 Montecito Award is bestowed upon Ms. Aniston.”

Jennifer Aniston is a Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning actress, thanks to 10 seasons playing Rachel Green on the classic television comedy Friends. The role earned her five Emmy nominations, two SAG Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations. During hiatus from Friends, Aniston pursued a film career, landing roles in Then There Was You, Picture Perfect, Dreams for an Insomniac, She’s the One, Rock Star, The Object of My Affection (her first of many films with Paul Rudd) and Bruce Almighty. One of Aniston’s most critically acclaimed roles was 2002’s The Good Girl, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. With the end of Friends in 2004, the San Fernando Valley native devoted herself full-time to her movie career, receiving critical praise for playing a depressed housekeeper in director Nicole Holofcener’s Friends With Money. Adept at both indie films and studio features, Aniston has starred in such box office hits as The Break-Up, Marley and Me, He’s Just Not That Into You, Horrible Bosses and We’re the Millers. She was most recently seen in Life of Crime. Upcoming films include Horrible Bosses 2, in November, and She’s Funny That Way, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, next year. Aniston made her directorial debut with the short, Room 10. She recently directed one of the Project Five short films, exploring the impact of breast cancer on people’s lives. She is also a producer on Call Me Crazy, a Project Five film premiering on Lifetime in April.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs January 27 – February 7, 2015. The Montecito Award will be presented at the historic Arlington Theatre on Friday, January 30, 2015. Tickets are available now and can be purchased through www.sbfilmfestival.org or by calling 805-963-0023. Festival Passes and Packages are still available and sold exclusively at www.sbfilmfestival.org and 805-963-0023.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG® Australia, is dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, SBIFF offers 200+ films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema and everything in-between. With its commitment to cultural diversity and powerful storytelling, SBIFF transforms beautiful downtown Santa Barbara, CA into a rich destination for film lovers, attracting more than 85,000 attendees. SBIFF brings to the forefront the importance and power of filmmaking and continues its commitment to providing free children’s education and community outreach programs through its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. The Festival is set to run January 27 – February 7, 2015. For more information, please visit www.sbiff.org.

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Publicity Contact:
Carol Marshall Lisa Taback
Carol Marshall Public Relations LTLA Communications
818-760-6450 310-274-3880
carol@cmarshallpr.com Lisa@lt-la.com

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(Press Release) – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival continues its tradition of honoring the year’s standout performers by presenting The 2015 Virtuosos Award to Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), Logan Lerman (Fury), David Oyelowo (Selma), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), it was announced today by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. The Award presentation, sponsored by Travel + Leisure, will take place Sunday, February 1, 2015 at the Arlington Theatre at the 30th edition of the festival, which runs January 27 – February 7, 2015.

The Virtuosos Award was created to recognize a select group of actors who have distinguished themselves through performances in film this past year. Previous recipients for this award include Ann Dowd, Elle Fanning, Ezra Miller, Eddie Redmayne, Omar Sy, Quvenzhane Wallis, Demian Bichir, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Shailene Woodley, Andy Serkis, Patton Oswalt, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Lesley Manville, Hailee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver, Emily Blunt, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Stuhlbarg, Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Melissa Leo, James McAvoy, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jared Leto, and June Squibb.

Comments Durling, “These are seven exemplary performers that provide us with undeniable evidence that 2014 was a dynamic year in acting.”

The talented group of actors will be recognized for their exceptional careers, including their portrayal of some of the most memorable characters in film this year. Following his critically acclaimed performance as Jackie Robinson in 42, Chadwick Boseman brings to life James Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to one of the most influential musicians in history in Get on Up. Ellar Coltrane’s courageous performance in Boyhood, where we watch him grow up over the course of 12 years, charts the joys and pitfalls of a child named Mason, evoking nostalgia and self-reflection along the way. Following previous films such as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Percy Jackson, Logan Lerman comes into his own as Norman Ellison in Fury. David Oyelowo gives us a powerful performance as one of the most iconic heroes in history, Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, capturing not only King’s mannerisms and physicality, but offering an intimate portrayal of the man himself. Rosamund Pike’s incredible performance in Gone Girl where she plays missing wife Amy Elliot-Dunne has earned her widespread critical acclaim. J.K. Simmons expertly embodied egomaniac bandleader Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash, adding to his already diverse body of work that spans motion picture, television, and stage. Jenny Slate offers up a stellar performance in Obvious Child as Donna Stern, a Brooklyn standup comic who intimates with her audiences, but is closed off in her personal life.

The 2015 Virtuosos Award will take place at the Arlington Theatre on Sunday, February 1, 2015. Tickets, Festival Passes and Packages are available now and can be purchased through www.sbiff.org or by calling 805-963-0023.

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The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Now in its 30th year, SBIFF offers 12 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema and everything in-between.  With its commitment to cultural diversity and powerful storytelling, SBIFF transforms beautiful downtown Santa Barbara, CA into a rich destination for film lovers which attract more than 85,000 attendees. SBIFF continues its commitment to providing free children’s education and community outreach programs through its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars.  For more information, please visit www.sbiff.org

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