Thursday, March 20, 2008

Actor Paul Scofield dies at 86

Paul Scofield may have turned down a knighthood, but his place among British acting royalty is nonetheless assured. The legendary stage actor, who won an Academy Award for A Man for All Seasons, made only a handful of films, but he made them count. Scofield died Wednesday at age 86 in a hospital in southern England. He had been suffering from leukemia. On stage, Scofield brought his physical gifts — a craggy face and a powerful, rumbling voice — to roles from Shakespeare and Shaw to Steinbeck and Chekhov. Richard Burton, once regarded as the theatrical heir to Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, said it was Scofield who deserved that place. "Of the 10 greatest moments in the theater, eight are Scofield's." Even A Man for All Seasons, perhaps his greatest film role, was an adaptation of a play that won him a Tony Award in 1961. He reprised his role as Sir Thomas More, who was executed after clashing with King Henry VIII, in the 1966 film. In 1979, he received acclaim for another great historical stage role, as composer Antonio Salieri in Amadeus. For all the fame, Scofield remained a family man who lived most of his life a few miles from his birthplace. Scofield received his second Oscar nomination for Robert Redford's Quiz Show (1994). His other films included Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1973), Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (1989) and The Crucible (1996).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oscar-winning director Minghella dies at 54

Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who turned such literary works as "The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain" into acclaimed movies, has died. He was 54. The death was confirmed Tuesday by his agent, Judy Daish. No other details were immediately available. "The English Patient," the 1996 World War II drama, won nine Academy Awards, including best director for Minghella, best picture and best supporting actress for Juliette Binoche. Based on the celebrated novel by Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje, the movie tells of a burn victim's tortured recollections of his misdeeds in time of war. Minghella also was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay for the movie and for his screenplay for "The Talented Mr. Ripley." His 2003 "Cold Mountain," based on Charles Frazier's novel of the U.S. Civil War, brought a best supporting actress Oscar for Renee Zellweger. The 1999 "The Talented Mr. Ripley," starring Matt Damon as a murderous social climber, was based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. It earned five Oscar nominations. Among his other films were "Truly, Madly, Deeply" (1990), and last year's Oscar-nominated "Michael Clayton," on which he was executive producer. Minghella was recently in Botswana filming an adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith's novel "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." It is due to air on British television this week. The book is the first in a series about the adventures of Botswanan private eye Precious Ramotswe; a 13-part television series was recently commission by U.S. network HBO.
Producer David Puttnam said Minghella was "a very special person." "He wasn't just a writer, or a writer-director, he was someone who was very well-known and very well-loved within the film community," Puttnam told the BBC. "Frankly he was far too young to have gone." Minghella also turned his talents to opera. In 2005, he directed a highly successful staging of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" at the English National Opera in London. The following year, he staged it for the season opener of New York's Metropolitan Opera. It was the first performance of the Met's new era under general manager Peter Gelb. Jeff Ramsay, press secretary to Botswanan President Festus Mogae, called Minghella's death a "shock and an utter loss." He said the director had been coming to the country ahead of the detective film and learning about Botswana. Born the second of five children to southern Italian emigrants, Minghella came to moviemaking from a flourishing playwriting career on the London "fringe" and, in 1986, on the West End with the play, "Made in Bangkok," a hard-hitting look at the sexual mores of a British tour group in Thailand. He worked as a television script editor before making his directing debut with "Truly, Madly, Deeply," a comedy about love and grief starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman. According to reports, Mingella died of a hemorrhage after a routine operation on his neck.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Academy

It's time we dedicate a moment of attention to the Institution that gives away the annual awards. Founded on May 11, 1927 in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is a professional honorary organization ostensibly dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures.

The Academy is composed of over 6,000 motion picture professionals. While the great majority of its members are based in the United States, membership is open to qualified filmmakers around the world.

All members must be invited to join. Invitation comes from the Board of Governors. Membership eligibility may be achieved by a competitive nomination or a member may submit a name based on other significant contribution to the field of motion pictures. New membership proposals are considered annually. The Academy does not publicly disclose its membership, although past press releases have announced the names of those who have been invited to join. Academy membership is divided into 15 branches, representing different disciplines in motion pictures. Members may not belong to more than one branch. Members whose work does not fall within one of the branches may belong to a group known as "Members At Large."

The academy's branches are:

Art Directors
Film Editors
Public Relations
Short Films and Feature Animation
Visual Effects

Presidents are elected for one-year terms and may not be elected for more than four consecutive terms. The current president of the Academy is Sid Ganis, an American motion picture executive and producer who has produced such films as Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, The Master of Disguise and Akeelah and the Bee. On August 23, 2005 he was elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Ganis began his film career in marketing and publicity at several studios, eventually joining Lucasfilm, where he served as Senior Vice President of the company for several years. He later became President of Paramount Pictures during the 1980s, and then Vice President, and president of marketing and distribution, at Columbia Pictures.

Former Presidents: Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was the first president. Others presidents include William de Mille, M.C. Levee, Conrad Nagel, J. Theodore Reed, Frank Lloyd, Frank Capra, Walter Wanger, Bette Davis, Jean Hersholt, Charles Brackett, George Seaton, George Stevens, B.B. Kahane, Valentine Davies, Wendell Corey, Arthur Freed, Gregory Peck, Daniel Taradash, Walter Mirisch, Howard W. Koch, Fay Kanin, Gene Allen, Robert E. Wise, Richard Kahn, Karl Malden, Arthur Hiller, Robert Rehme, Frank Pierson and Sid Ganis, who has been president since August 2005.
From its founding until 1946, when it moved into a building at 9038 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, the Academy occupied a number of rented offices. In December of 1975, the Academy dedicated a seven-story headquarters at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For the first time in the organization’s history, its administrative offices, the Academy Players Directory, the Margaret Herrick Library, the Samuel Goldwyn Theater and other facilities were all located under one roof. Within a decade, however, the rapid growth of the holdings of both the Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive necessitated the search for a new, separate facility. In 1988 a 55-year lease was arranged with the City of Beverly Hills for the conversion of its historic Waterworks building in La Cienega Park into the new home of the Academy’s library and film archive, to be called the Center for Motion Picture Study. The library and film archive occupied the structure in 1991, but by 1997 the crush of growing collections resulted once more in the need for additional off-site storage. In May of 2001 the Academy bought the former Don Lee-Mutual Broadcasting studios on Vine Street in Hollywood and began converting them into the new home of the Academy Film Archive and the Academy Players Directory. In 2006 the Academy Players Directory published its final edition, and the Directory was sold to a private concern. The building currently houses offices for the Academy Film Archive, the Academy’s Science and Technology Council, the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting program, and the planning staff for the proposed Academy museum, as well as four temperature- and humidity-controlled vaults (three for film, one for photos and documents) and the 286-seat Linwood Dunn Theater.