Last night, first time host Seth MacFarlane ushered in the 85th annual Academy Awards with a lot of song and dance. While some of his jokes bordered on the offensive, irking critics who panned his hosting abilities as “classless” and “tasteless,” the ratings were the best for Oscar since 2010 and were up a modest 2% over last year’s show hosted by Billy Crystal.
Choosing MacFarlane for host this year came from a concerted effort by the Academy to reel in that coveted 18-49 demographic, long considered the most valuable by advertisers. Preliminary reports show the ploy worked–ratings were up 11% among those very viewers.
While MacFarlane’s comedic sense was being both panned and in some cases, lauded, his timing certainly pushed it to the limit, literally. The show lasted more than 3 1/2 hours, though not the longest Academy Awards on record, it did last until after midnight in the eastern time zone, often seen as a big no-no. The honor for the longest telecast goes to the 2002 show, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, which clocked in at 4 hours and 23 minutes.
MacFarlane wasn’t the only notable name representing Hollywood East. Besides the Kent, Connecticut writer and Ted director, Boston’s own Ben Affleck got to take the stage once again as an Oscar winner, nearly 16 years after he first won, along with buddy Matt Damon, for best screenplay in 1997 for Good Will Hunting. This time, he closed out the show, grabbing a second statuette for best picture for his film, Argo, a movie he both directed and starred in.
For many in the entertainment world, winning an Academy Award is the pinnacle of your career. A mark of achievement so significant, there are few other career highlights that can even come close. Being nominated for an Oscar is likewise, highly significant, but for the females at the award show, some find that their fashion choices can be just as talked about—for both good reasons and bad. Just a few weeks ago, Viola Davis, a nominee for her role in The Help, found that her hairstyle choice was just as buzzed about as her consideration for Best Supporting Actress. Davis found herself on many best dressed lists that evening for her green Vera Wang gown, but also was commended for ditching her wigs and wearing her hair au natural on the Red Carpet.
Davis, as it turns out, is a former resident of Rhode Island. Her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island shortly after she was born. Davis partially credits her love of acting with her time at Central Falls High School. She later went on to major in theater at Rhode Island College, where she graduated in 1988. In 2002 she received an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the college.
During the Oscars this year, partygoers at the Rhode Island International Film Festival official Oscar party in Rhode Island signed congratulatory cards for the nominee, who did not end up winning an award that evening.
In case you missed the Oscars, one of the nominees for this year’s best documentary short category was from our very own Hollywood East! Newton native Sara Nesson received the nomination for her Poster Girl, which Nesson describes as an “emotionally raw documentary” following Robynn Murray, an Iraq veteran, over the course of two years as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and redemption, using art and poetry to redefine her life.
Nesson, who graduated from the Rivers School in Weston, Mass. and from the University of Vermont, grew up watching films being made. Her father, Robert Nesson of Somerville, is an independent producer/director whose films focus on the environment, human rights, and educational projects. He taught his daughter not only about the craft of filmmaking but how it can be used to raise awareness and bring social change.
To create Poster Girl, Sara spent more than a year filming Robynn Murray, a former cheerleader who enlisted in the Army at 19 and served as a combat soldier in Iraq. The 38-minute documentary reveals the young woman’s struggles as she attempts to rebuild her life upon returning from combat, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She begins to redefine herself in her budding antiwar activism and involvement with the Combat Paper Project, a community of vets who make works of art from scraps of their uniforms. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Nesson said about her film: “I wanted to tell an intimate story and show the struggle of these vets. Robynn was the only one that trusted me. Her voice was so powerful; I knew she could be a voice for the thousands that were struggling alone.’’
Poster Girl was the first film for Nesson, 36, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. But she is already working on her next project. Iraq Paper Scissors is now in post-production, and the short film has caught the eye of Hollywood producers: Tony Bill (The Sting) and his wife, Helen Bartlett (North Country), contacted Nesson about developing a movie based on Murray and the two other female veterans featured on the cover of Army magazine whose experiences upon returning from war contradict the image the military typically strives to reveal.
Congratulations on your Oscar nomination, Sara! Check out a trailer for Poster Girl below:
Watch Hollywood East Connection’s Mary Pierce mingle with the Who’s Who of Hollywood East at the hottest Oscar night in town — the Ellie Fund’s Oscar Gala at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston:
If you’re looking for a place to celebrate the most important night in Hollywood, than look no further than the RIIFF Presents Oscar Night America 2011 taking place on Sunday, February 27, 2011 at the regal VMA Arts & Cultural Center in Providence, RI.
Because the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) has long been New England’s only qualifying festival for short films, it is appropriate that it is one of the only 50 official parties sanctioned by the Academy to host an official Oscar telecast viewing party on Oscar Night.
Along with the Oscar telecast, there will be a silent auction with prizes including a spa treatment, hotel getaway, and festival passes to RIIFF in August. Proceeds will benefit RIIFF and its community outreach and educational programs including the Youth Film Jury, the Providence GLBT Film Festival, and the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival. There will also be a red carpet for attendees to walk and special guests including award winning documentarians, Stacia Teele and Don Manley, writer/director Dan Hannon, and one of the producers of the Pirates of Caribbean franchise, Francine DiChiara.
Tickets to the event are can be found at their website. You can also take a peek at some of their current silent auction prizes online. For those interested in an Oscar ballot, they can be found here.
★ Leno leads in ratings once again, but no one looks for him on the ‘net.
★ Check out the yearbook photos of some New England stars Ellen Pompeo, John Mayer, and “Bachelorette” Ali Fedotowsky.
★ Boston Common Magazine talks to twice Emmy-nominated Samantha Harris.
★ Kings Back Bay hosts an Oscar viewing party on February 27th.
★ Newton’s John Krasinski stars in a new movie with Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin.
★ Connecticut’s John Mayer sports a new goatee at the Grammys.
★ Ben Affleck’s love letters to Boston; this time in The Company Men.
★ Supermodel Gisele Bundchen reads to kids in Boston.
The Rhode Island International Film Festival ended this past Sunday, August 15after having had over 240 filmmakers registered from 51 different countries and showcased over 200 cinematic works, including 35 World and 23 North American Premieres. These films were chosen from a record of over 4200 international submissions.
The festival kicked off last Tuesday with an exciting night of outstanding short films. RIIFF’s opening night short films have become a massive draw since the festival achieved accreditation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) as an Oscar-qualifiying festival in the Short Film category.
This year’s top prizes went to the French short, Tout Ma Vie, directed by Pierre Ferriere, Norman, a feature directed by Jonathon Segal and the documentary Afghanistan: Defying Silence directed by Stacia Teele and Ed Robbins. Two films tied for Best Short Documentary: Jennifer Stoddart’s One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey and Travis Senger’s White Lines and the Fever: The Death of DJ Junebug. The winner of Best Short Film is now eligible to receive an Academy Award nomination for the 2010-2011 season. The festival also presented a Creative Vision Award to comedic actor, Jonathan Katz, and screened his recent hilarious animated short, “Death Row Diet.” A full list of awards can be found on RIIFF’s website.
Films were shown mostly in Providence with some programs also being held in Newport. One of RIIFF’s many goals is to promote Rhode Island’s community of artists and filmmakers, therefore, there was an outdoor merchant fair featuring many artisans from the New England area and an H.P. Lovecraft Walking Tour highlighting some of the local areas mentioned in the well-known fantasy and horror author’s books.
RIIFF also held its annual ScriptBiz Workshop program for aspiring screenwriters. Writer/director Chris Sparling, author of Crazy Heart, Thomas Cobb, and Emmy Award winning director, screenwriter, producer and distributor, Michael Sergio participated in this year’s topic of “Make Your Own Success As a Writer.” Between Takes Coffee Talks, RIIFF’s morning gatherings for filmmakers were also well attended and informed many of the new forms of distribution, the process of making a personal documentary and the tricks of working with a RED camera.
Highlights of the film festival include locally made Sleather, which had a huge turnout. The film’s premiere filled most of the 1,900 seat theater at the VMA Arts and won the Audience Award Grand Prize. Waking Sleeping Beauty, a documentary about the turmoil during the 1980s at Disney Animation also played to packed audiences. The film’s writer, Patrick Pacheco, and RIIFF’s Programming Director, Ron Tippe, who had worked at Disney during the time that the film profiled, gave great insight on Roy Disney, Michael Eisner, and Jeffrey Katzenberg as well as what it was like to work at Disney.
Along with the movies playing in the main theatre, many great GLBT films were featured at the Bell Street Chapel, a Unitarian Universalist church. Jewish themed shorts and features were on view at the Brown/RISD Hillel.
For more information on the films screened at the festival and RIIFF’s upcoming horror film festival, make sure to check out their website. If you are interested in learning more about the other festivals in the New England area, check out our festivals page and let us know if there is a festival that you would like profiled.
Next week, August 10 through the 15, one of the the largest New England film festivals will take place in venues throughout Providence, Rhode Island. And although we’ve previously mentioned the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF), it is worth mentioning again simply for the fact that it is is one of the top 10 short film festivals and top 10 international film festivals in the United States.
RIIFF is one of the most important New England film festivals for filmmakers because it is recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) as a qualifying festival for the Short Films category for the Annual Academy Awards. In fact, out of more than 7,000 film festivals, only 65 have this recognition. Some shorts to look out for this year are La Premiere, which features James Earl Jones and is about the Lumiere brothers and their invention of The Kinetoscope, Kirsten Dunst‘s Bastard, which also played at the Cannes Film Festival and The Mouse That Soared, an animated tale about a flying circus mouse who reflects on his life.
Along with some of the world’s best short films, viewers can also expect to see a lot of well-made documentaries. Some interesting ones include RIIFF’s opening night premiere of Emmy nominated G. Warren Miller’s new documentary Behind the Hedgegrow: Eileen Slocum and the Meaning of Newport Society, which offers an exclusive glimpse into the private world of aristocratic Newport, RI society, Waking Sleeping Beauty, a film that chronicles how Disney animators revived animated feature films in the 1980s, and Do It Again, a journey of a Boston Globe music writer who makes it his personal mission to reunite The Kinks one more time.
RIIFF’s programming is also unique because it offers a wide range of diverse programming including Jewish, musical, animated and GLBT themed films that play throughout the week in their own venues. Viewers should keep an eye out for Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, a documentary about the impact baseball has had on American Jews, Wagner and Me, a film featuring actor Stephen Fry and the controversial composer Robert Wagner, and the Hip, Hot GLBT shorts series happening almost ever night of the festival.
RIFF also offers a panel series featuring different filmmakers and industry insiders. This year’s series explores “The New Art of Distribution,” “The Documentary Film Experience” and “Shooting with ‘The Red.’” More information on attending these panels can be found on the RIIFF website.
Acclaimed artists and filmmakers are also honored each year at RIIFF. Past recipients include Zach Braff, Richard Jenkins, Blythe Danner, and Ernest Borgnine. This year’s winners will include actor Jonathan Katz and artist Jon and Betty-Jane Berberian.
Tickets and passes are already on sale for RIIFF on their website or can be bought at the door.
If you’re interested in RIIFF, but can’t make it out this year, Hollywood East Connection will be there! Let us know if you are interested in coverage on any specific films, topics or filmmakers.
To keep tabs on other New England film festivals, be sure to check out Hollywood East Connection’s film festival page — the only complete list of festivals in New England.
On Sunday night when most of you were enjoying the 82nd annual Academy Awards in the comfort of your own home, Hollywood East Connection (HEC) was on the red carpet in downtown Boston at The Langham Hotel, celebrating the 14th Annual Ellie Fund’s Oscar Night Boston Gala. The red carpet stars arrived right on time and we were there catching up with HEC friends like actor Erica McDermott and some new friends like actor Benjamin John Parrilo. The night was filled with glitz and glamour and of course, the press!
Every last detail of the event was a success from the cabot cheese flowing fondue, the donated Oscar Statuette from actor Chris Cooper, The James Montgomery Band, title sponsor Ernie Boch Jr. and the Founder and President of the Ellie Fund, Jeff Popkin. Watch HEC Reporter, Mary Pierce “live” on the red carpet:
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