Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hollywood producers want industry to keep working

Hollywood producers sent the clearest sign yet on Monday that they won't lock out actors if they are unable to agree on a contract before the current pact expires early Tuesday.

Ads in trade publications argued the entertainment industry had suffered enough from previous work stoppages over contract disputes.

"Let's keep working," the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in full-page ads appearing in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

The ads cited figures from the Milken Institute that showed the 100-day writers strike that ended in February had put more than 37,000 people out of work and resulted in $2.3 billion in lost wages.

"Enough is enough," said the ad, which also showed picketing strikers beneath the words "Harmful and Unnecessary."

The Screen Actors Guild appeared ready to keep negotiating, saying Sunday that it had not called for a strike authorization vote by members.

The exchange came as Hollywood waited nervously to see if the labor dispute would halt TV and film production.

"The producers remain committed to reaching a deal by today's deadline and do not believe there is any good reason for SAG's Hollywood leadership to stall these talks into July," alliance spokesman Jesse Hiestand said.

Last week, SAG accused the studios of offering a contract worth less than an agreement already approved by leaders of the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

SAG made the claim amid demands in Hollywood that it accept the same deal. SAG did not provide details on the differences between the offers.

SAG represents 120,000 actors in movies, TV and other media. The TV and radio federation represents 70,000 members, including actors, singers, announcers and journalists.

SAG and AFTRA share 44,000 dual members. SAG is urging those members to vote against the AFTRA contract because its approval would handcuff ongoing talks between SAG and the studios.

Results of the AFTRA ratification vote were expected to be announced on July 8.

Studios have said film and TV production has already been disrupted because SAG leaders are dragging out the talks until the AFTRA results are announced.

The dispute has split actors. Jack Nicholson, Josh Brolin, Holly Hunter and others support SAG's tactics. Others including Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey have urged support of the AFTRA deal.

SAG has said it can improve on the AFTRA deal, especially in the areas of residual payments for DVD sales, compensation for Internet content, minimum wages, mileage reimbursement and the issue of product integration into scripted scenes.

Late Sunday, the guild reported on its Web site that thousands of actors have said they voted against the AFTRA contract.

SAG also said more than 3,000 actors have signed a statement of solidarity supporting its negotiators.

"Thousands of you from all around the country are telling us you voted no on the AFTRA contract and support our goal to raise the bar for all actors and their families," the guild said.

The guild did not immediately respond to messages left Monday seeking further details.

AFTRA, meanwhile, continued to urge members to ratify its proposed agreement.

"The new AFTRA contract puts real money in actors' wallets," the federation said in a Sunday e-mail to members.

Yeast Infection - Candidiasis, commonly called yeast infection or thrush, is a fungal infection (mycosis) of any of the Candida species, of which Candida albicans is the most common.

Dutch anti-Islam politician won't be charged

Dutch legislator Geert Wilders will not be prosecuted for inciting hatred of Muslims with his film denouncing the Quran, prosecutor said Monday.

Prosecutor said his film "Fitna," or "Ordeal" in Arabic, and statements Wilders wrote in Dutch newspapers were hurtful and insulting but not criminal.

The film juxtaposed Quranic verses against a background of violent film clips and images of terrorism by Islamic radicals. It aroused protests around the Muslim world after it was released on the Internet in March.

Wilders also was investigated for remarks published in the newspaper De Volkskrant calling the Quran fascist.

"I've had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate," he wrote in the paper. "I've had enough of the Quran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book."

Prosecution spokeswoman Hanneke Festen said Wilders' statements were allowable under Dutch law, which forbids inciting hatred against groups on the basis of their race or creed but also grants leeway to freedom of speech.

"We came to the conclusion that (Wilders' statements) may be hurtful and painful for Muslims but they were made in the context of a debate in society," she said.

"That doesn't mean you can say anything, but you have to really cross a line and be unnecessarily hurtful and insulting and not add anything" to the national debate in order for prosecutors to act, she said.

Wilders told The Associated Press he was not surprised by the decision because he had stayed within the boundaries of Dutch law.

Wilders said that in the months since his film attacking radical Islam was broadcast on the Internet, he had received reactions from all over the world. "Most were very negative, but some were very positive," he said.

Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, said the Dutch group will go to court to ask a judge to order a prosecution of Wilders anyway.

"My reaction is one of disappointment and divergence with the point of view of the prosecutor," he said.

Rabbae said the prosecutors had decided that Wilders' position did not amount to discrimination against Muslims, but that it criticized Islam.

"Islam is a big part of the identity of Muslims, so if you attack Islam it is for us the same as attacking and discriminating against Muslims," he said.

Wilders said he hopes prosecutors will send a copy of their decision to prosecutors in Jordan, where he faces a lawsuit. Wilders has said he is worried he could be arrested if he leaves the Netherlands because Jordan has informed Interpol he is wanted to face charges there.

Eczema Treatment - Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the upper layers of the skin.

Western extras play bit parts in new Egyptian film

A motley group of foreigners English teachers, students of Arabic, even a journalist gathered on a recent chilly night in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, brought together by a love of cinema, curiosity and a furtive hope of catching a glimpse of Omar Sharif.

Glamour, however, was in quite short supply for our band of film extras. Waiting around for hours in our 1940s period costumes, we slouched in the elegant wood paneled bar of a luxury hotel eating cold food from McDonald's, waiting to shoot a five-minute dining room scene. The lead actors had yet to even show up.

Still, it was a unique opportunity, one I had searched for off-and-on during the decade I have lived in Egypt especially since this production is being touted as a rebirth of Egyptian cinema.

"The Passenger" has a cast full of Egyptian stars, topped by Sharif in a heralded comeback to Egyptian film after a 15-year absence. The movie has been billed by Culture Minister Farouk Hosni as a "return to the golden age of cinema."

The ministry itself is footing the bill for the film, the first time it has done so in 30 years, in effort to boost the flagging reputation of what was known as the Hollywood of the Middle East.

Egypt has one of the region's oldest movie industries; 50 years ago, it was producing films on par with those of Hollywood. But in the past two decades, it has declined, throwing together slapdash comedies and over-the-top melodramas with poor production values.

"In the West, the film has a great position and it used to be the same here in the 1940s and 1950s and then something happened, it became, I don't know why, a second class economy," said Amr Waked, one of Egypt's up-and-coming actors, who also appears in "The Passenger." He is better known to international audiences as the Egyptian terror leader in George Clooney's 2006 film "Syriana."

Critics have blamed Egyptian cinema's decline on a host of factors. Rising Islamic conservatism made movies disreputable, while at the same time, the funding dried up leaving producers just trying to make a quick buck.

The Culture Ministry is hoping that by returning to its role of financing the cinema the way it's done in many countries it can produce quality features like "The Passenger."

The film is a multigenerational epic set in 1948, 1973 and 2001, and first-time director Ahmed Maher has spent a year and a half filming it.

"There was a need to capture the right stuff, no matter how long it took, no matter how many times you repeat," Waked said. "There was very little compromise on that, unlike other (Egyptian) productions where they sometimes accept certain compromises to finish quickly."

The painstaking process was certainly clear in our scene that night, as the two dozen foreigners from Britain, the U.S., France, Puerto Rico, Germany and Sweden were transformed into diners on a postwar luxury cruise.

Battered trucks parked outside the hotel where the scene was being shot served as makeshift makeup and dressing rooms.

In the harsh glare of lights, hairdressers heated metal tongs on open gas flames to carefully straighten and then curl each woman extra's hair into elaborate coiffures, as everyone was fitted into natty suits and ball gowns.

I was selected to be a waiter. Unfortunately, I wouldn't have the chance to act with Sharif. He was appearing only in the 2001 scenes of the movie and my brief appearance in a crisp white waiter's jacket was set half a century earlier.

The scene was shot in Alexandria at a luxury hotel that once served as a 19th century hunting lodge for Egypt's royal family. The ornate wood-paneled restaurant would stand in for the cruise ship's dining room. Maher whisked away the anachronistic no-smoking signs that had been inadvertently left on the tables.

Ahead of the shoot, Maher who spent years in Italy chatted in Italian with his director of photography, Marco Onorato, whose film "Gomorra" just won the Grand Prix at Cannes.

Then, as filming finally began at 1 a.m., Maher bellowed across the set with the Egyptian version of "lights, camera, action": "Doh! Tasweer! Action!"

The camera circled around the lead couple: Egyptian actor Khaled Nabawy, who appeared in Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven," sat across from Lebanese pop diva Cyrine Abdelnour in a tense dinner scene.

Nabawy plays a lower class postman who intercepted letters between Abdelnour and her childhood sweetheart, whom he is now impersonating in effort to win her heart.

For my part, I the waiter was struggling with my own job: precariously balancing two plates on my arm.

Just minutes before I was to appear on camera, the restaurant's real head waiter took me aside and taught me how to carry plates and properly pour wine.

I tottered across the dining room floor, desperately trying to remember my cue and look appropriately haughty as I served the elite clientele and delivered my sole line "excuse me," in English.

The steak slid ominously across the plate toward the two actors as my overburdened arm faltered, and I had a sudden vision of the entire movie turning into a farce as the bumbling water dumped his food onto their exquisite costumes.

Fortunately, the scene went off more or less without a hitch, despite me stuttering my line and saying it too early at first. But it was just a rehearsal and we had several more takes ahead us. At one point, Abdelnour just buried her head in her hands she'd been working since the morning.

Hours later, it was over. One more scene finished. Only a few weeks of filming left and the year-and-a-half odyssey for the actors would be over.

We had been sitting around for 14 hours and would be paid $50. The true compensation, however, was a little taste of movie glamor, with the hope, perhaps, that it might lead to something bigger.

For me, my sole prospects for a career change came from elsewhere. "You know, you're weren't too bad," the restaurant's head waiter told me. "If you ever need a job here, just let me know."

Fibromyalgia - Fibromyalgia (FM) is a human disorder classified by the presence of chronic widespread pain and tactile allodynia.

Monday Movie Buzz: `WALL-E' revels in robot love

Though the feeling can't yet be reciprocated, Hollywood has a crush on robots.

"WALL-E," the Pixar blockbuster that opened to ecstatic reviews and $62.5 million at the box office this weekend, is a tale of robot love.

Our hero is a little pile of metal and circuitry in the mold of R2D2, and our heroine is a sleeker but less personable model. (In male-dominated Hollywood, apparently even robots are subject to gender roles.)

Writer-director Andrew Stanton has consistently spoken of his desire to make an emotional sci-fi movie. He clearly made his task difficult by trying to pull heartstrings with two metallic machines who can only bleep and blork.

"WALL-E" is only the latest film that seeks to humanize robots. As an audience, we are meant to sit in dark theaters looking up at the big screen and FEEL for the oppressed digital beings of the future. Audiences are more than happy to be swept away by something as artful as "WALL-E," but there's a notable disconnect between its premise and its emotional force.

They're ROBOTS!

Hollywood has a great fetish for humanizing an artificial intelligence we haven't yet invented. On the big screen, it's a given that as soon as AI is created, we're going to be downright nasty to those poor lil' robots?

It would not be a stretch to say that filmmakers seem more concerned with the emotions and freedoms of thus-far nonexistent machines than most currently oppressed humans. (Don't hold your breath for an animated blockbuster about Zimbabwe.)

But this is not heartlessness by Hollywood; it's a fascinating obsession that says much about the Dream Factory.

We have seen Will Smith release the imprisoned robot masses in "I, Robot." ("I don't want my toaster or my vacuum cleaner appearing emotional," Smith jokes before his character's conversion.)

In "Blade Runner," Harrison Ford hunts "replicants" (humanoid robots) before doubting the cause and whether he, too, might be a replicant.

The "Terminator" movies are based on the fear of a future taken over by robots, but we eventually begin to root for the Terminator, played by our most robotic of actors, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

WALL-E's inspiration, R2D2 (whose sound engineer Ben Burtt also does WALL-E's "voice"), and his sidekick C-3PO were what bound "Star Wars" together. The common thread throughout George Lucas' saga, they outlive everyone.

Visions of the threat of robots is a parallel, darker tradition in Hollywood dating back the "false Maria" of Fritz Lang's 1926 masterpiece "Metropolis." Arguably the greatest film in this vein is Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" a movie obviously referenced in "WALL-E."

But more than anyone, Kubrick also examined the future ethics of artificial intelligence, and more importantly, what it means for an audience to sympathize with a robotic hero. It was Steven Spielberg who followed through on Kubrick's unfinished plans for 2001's "A.I.," in which the tantalizingly cute robot, played by Haley Joel Osment, attempts to become "real."

In "WALL-E," we similarly follow a robot hero who wins us over with his endurance through solitude. The unlikely spark of love energizes WALL-E, whose bincocular-like eyes are slanted in a perpetual droop that we can't help but respond to with a collective "Aw."

In many of these films, robots are a metaphor for what we don't understand and therefore label "inhuman." In 1999's terrific "The Iron Giant" (directed by Brad Bird, who went on to become a Pixar man, helming "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille"), the lovable lug of the title is the victim of Cold War-era paranoia.

But "WALL-E" and other robot-friendly films are chiefly about technology and coming to terms with it. WALL-E collects the debris of human ingenuity an iPod, a Rubik's cube reveling in its achievements.

In the movie, the audacity of technology namely WALL-E might even save a complacent human race. But the film isn't blindly supportive of machines. For the overweight and lazy humans of "WALL-E" to be awakened, one character will also have to defeat a very HAL-like device.

It should come as no surprise that Hollywood has such a penchant for humanizing robots. Movies have always been a medium whose advance is paced by technology. The creation of the moving image was an invention in the 19th century, and cinema progressed with the advent of sound recording in the `20s, color motion pictures later and recently digital filmmaking. Pixar, itself, is built on advances in computer generated animation.

Love movies, love robots.

Cystic Acne - Cystic acne, also known as nodulocystic acne, is a severe form of acne wherein acne develops into small cysts

SAG president doesn't want to hear strike talk

The head of the Screen Actors Guild doesn't want to hear the s-word as a deadline for contract expiration looms.

"We have taken no steps to initiate a strike authorization vote by the members of Screen Actors Guild," Union President Alan Rosenberg said in a statement Sunday. "Any talk about a strike or a management lockout at this point is simply a distraction."

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has taken out an advertisement in trade publications calling a strike "harmful and unnecessary." Citing $2.8 billion in lost wages, the ad says "We've completed four equitable and forward-thinking labor agreements. Let's get the fifth done."

The ad is scheduled to run in Monday's editions of Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

"The industry is shutting down because SAG's Hollywood leadership insisted on 11th-hour negotiations and dragging these talks into July so they can continue attacking AFTRA," AMPTP spokesman Jesse Hiestand said in a statement.

The contract runs out at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Anxiety has been growing in Hollywood that actors might walk off the job or studios could lock out performers on the heels of a Writers Guild of America strike that devastated production from November through February.

SAG leaders have been fighting a deal reached between producers and another actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Vote results among that union's 70,000 members are due July 8.

AFTRA and the 120,000-member SAG have 44,000 members in common. SAG leaders are urging its members in AFTRA to vote against the deal, saying they can strike a better bargain with producers if the contract is defeated.

SAG has said it is willing to continue talks with producers after its own contract expires.

"The Screen Actors Guild national negotiating committee is coming to the bargaining table every day in good faith to negotiate a fair contract for actors," Rosenberg said.

Diamonds - Diamonds are forever

Publicist confirms: Thurman is engaged to Busson

It's official: Uma Thurman will marry financier Arpad "Arki" Busson.

"I can confirm she is engaged," Thurman's representative, Stephen Huvane, told The Associated Press in an e-mail. Huvane didn't immediately respond Monday when asked for further details.

Thurman filed for divorce from Ethan Hawke in 2004. They have two children. The 38-year-old actress was previously married to Gary Oldman.

Busson has two sons with Elle Macpherson.

Thurman received an Oscar nomination for 1994's "Pulp Fiction." Her screen credits also include the "Kill Bill" thrillers and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend."

Skin Dermatits - Dermatitis is a blanket term meaning any "inflammation of the skin"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Australian film organization creates Ledger scholarship

LOS ANGELES (AP) Heath Ledger was known for giving aspiring Australian actors a hand in Hollywood. Now, an Australian film organization has established a scholarship fund in the late actor's name to continue those efforts.

"There's an entire tribe of Australians who have all benefited from his generosity," said Susie Dobson, president of Australians in Film, or AiF. "This (scholarship) captures Heath's spirit and serves our mission to help and celebrate Australian filmmakers."

Ledger who died at 28 of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January had served as an ambassador for the film organization and its board wanted to honor him after his death, Dobson said.

Director Gregor Jordan announced the establishment of the Heath Ledger Scholarship Fund last week at AiF's annual Breakthrough Awards, where he read a statement from Ledger's father, Kim Ledger.

"Although reluctant to lend his name to anything commercial, we know Heath would be proud of his attachment to this scholarship," Kim Ledger's statement said. "This scholarship in part does what Heath has done personally during the last 10 years and supported financially or in kind many friends, Australian actors, singers, directors or writers seeking to ply their talents in the USA."

Jordan also said that Michelle Williams, mother of Ledger's daughter, "would be very proud and happy to be the first benefactor" of the scholarship fund.

The first recipient will be announced next year, Dobson said.

I had a good laugh today when I read an article over Movie News today! The article was about Chuck Norris Facts. You can read it by going here.