Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Winner Will Walk Our Red Carpet on Oscar Night

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Coordinator

Only nine days until BMFI celebrates the 83rd Academy Awards with its third annual Oscar Party! on Sunday, February 27. Guests will watch a big-screen simulcast of the Oscars and enjoy a gourmet buffet dinner, drinks, cash bar, and silent auction. Tickets are going fast! Have you bought your ticket?

Last week we announced a contest to win two tickets to our Oscar Party! Thirty-one contestants made their cases for the award category that they'd most like to see added to the ceremony. All of the entries were creative and entertaining. But, like the Best Picture Oscar, only one can take home the prize: Lawrence, you've won two tickets to BMFI's Oscar Party! The winning award category: Best Movie We Forgot to Nominate a Decade Ago.

The three runners up were Brenda McFadden (Best Break-Out Role), Miranda (Best Low-Budget Picture), and Rhianna Shaheen (Best Meryl Streep Performance of the Year). Runners up will receive two free passes to BMFI! Read the winning entries below and the rest of the entries in the comments here.

The Winner:
Lawrence for Best Movie We Forgot to Nominate a Decade Ago
What do movies like Metropolis, Scarface, King Kong (1933 version), Modern Times, Sullivan’s Travels, The African Queen, The Searchers, Some Like it Hot, Psycho, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Wild Bunch, The Empire Strikes Back, and Blade Runner all have in common? They would arguably be considered classic and/or great movies that were never recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a nomination for Best Picture. This award has been created to correct such injustices. This award for the “Best Movie We Forgot to Nominate a Decade Ago” goes to the movie that 10 years ago should have been recognized with a Best Picture award nomination (or win) but received neither. This film has stood the test of time, and has continued to receive critical and popular acclaim, and finally deserves to be recognized. Partly to avoid this omission, the Academy has now expanded the number of nominees for Best Picture from five to ten films, so it will be harder to find a winning picture starting in 2019 (although Star Trek stands a chance). The award considers films released 10 years ago, so that the 2010 Academy Award would go to a film released in 2000. My proposed six nominees (I had trouble whittling it down to five) for the 2010 award are: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot, Cast Away, Memento, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Requiem for a Dream, although we would have to go through the formal nominee selection process (and only have five) to be fair.

The Runners Up:
Rhianna Shaheen for Best Meryl Streep Performance of the Year: 
Obviouslyyy the Academy should give Meryl Streep her own category. How about Best Meryl Streep Performance of the Year…Yes/Yes? Let’s just face it; this woman should just get an award for simply EXISTING! First of all, her perfection on screen can make any so-so movie absolutely fabulous. Mamma Mia anyone? Secondly, what's an Oscar season without Meryl's magic? I mean really it feels a little empty this year. And lastly for having received an astounding total of 16 nominations over the course of her 34 year career the MOST deserving actress in Hollywood has only won TWICE!!! TWICE?? HOW DOES THIS EVEN HAPPEN? With her own category all can be forgiven, Academy. No worries! ☺
For your consideration:
Rhianna Shaheen

Miranda for Best Low-Budget Picture:
I’d like to see an award for Best Low-Budget Picture. Maybe use $5 million as a cut-off. A few of my favorites this year were Blue Valentine, Fish Tank, Tiny Furniture & Please Give, none of which cost more than $3 million and Tiny Furniture cost just $45,000! Compare that to the Oscar front runners - The King’s Speech at $15 million, True Grit at $38 million and Social Network at $40 million. Consider that ALL Academy members vote to nominate the ten Best Picture candidates and the production designers, costumers, cinematographers and sound designers probably have a lesser appreciation for low and micro-budget films, which by necessity have more technical limitations.

Brenda McFadden for Best Break-Out Role:
I would like to see a category for Best Break-Out Role--something like the Grammy for Best New Artist, though it would not necessarily have to be a brand new actor--just an actor or actress who has not had a Stand-Out performance in the past. It could be a young, new actor or it could even be a veteran who has always been cast in small roles or bad movies. This award is often stolen by a Best Supporting Actress nominee, sometimes leaving the true BSA without her Oscar. For instance, this year Hailee S. in True Grit would be one of the Break-Out (or Stand-Out or "Best Role") nominees (and in my opinion the Winner). Plus I like the idea of a category that includes male and female actors. Yes, we need to have an Oscar for "Best Role"!

Thanks for competing, everyone!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From Open Screen Monday to Sundance: Local Filmmaker Wins Prize

By Meredith Slifkin, BMFI Intern

Filmmaker Jon Foy has screened a number of his projects at BMFI as part of Open Screen Mondays, and now Foy is the recipient of the Documentary Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival! His film, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, follows friend and artist Justin Duerr through his fascination with the mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, a collection of tiles that began appearing throughout Philadelphia in the 1980s with the cryptic message, “Toynbee Idea in Movie 2001. Resurrect Dead on Planet Jupiter.” To learn more about Foy, Duerr, and the tiles, check out this article on the film published in this week’s Philadelphia Weekly.

Artist Justin Duerr and one of the notorious Toynbee Tiles
Interested in the future award-winners to come out of Open Screen Mondays? Have a film of your own that you want to screen? Open Screen Mondays screens work by local filmmakers on the first Monday of every month, starting at 9:15pm. This unique platform allows you to see your work on the big screen, share it with friends, family, and everyone else, and get valuable feedback from an audience...for free. All are welcome to submit their short films and anyone can come to the screenings. The next Open Screen Monday is March 7. Who knows? You may be on your way to Sundance next!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Another Chance to Win Two Free Tickets to BMFI's Oscar Party!

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Coordinator

BMFI is awarding two free tickets to our third annual Oscar Party! on Sunday, February 27 to one lucky contestant! Great movies deserve to be watched on the big screen, and so do the 83rd Academy Awards. Enjoy a silver screen simulcast of Hollywood’s biggest night while you and a friend enjoy a gourmet buffet dinner, drinks, cash bar, and silent auction.

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors meets to consider new categories. It's been ten years since they added a new award: Best Animated Feature. (Shrek took home the gold.)

Pretend that we’re on the Board. Make a case in for the award category that you’d most like to see added to the ceremony by commenting below. The person who submits the most creative and convincing entry, as judged by BMFI staff, will win two tickets to our Oscar Party! Perhaps you’d like to bring back awards long since eliminated (eg. Best Dance Direction, Best Assistant Director), or maybe you’re part of the campaign to recognize the work of stunt coordinators. Post your entry by Monday, February 14 at 5pm. We'll announce the winner next week.

And remember to buy your tickets before it's too late!

Please note: When posting your comment, you will be asked to select a log-in from a list. If you do not have a Google account, etc., please select either 1) "Name/URL", which requires that you have a valid website address of your own, or 2) "Anonymous". If you select the latter, please be sure to sign your name in the post. Thanks!

Producer Beth Rasin Keeps Her Eye on Ball

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Coordinator

Last Thursday evening 280 squash fans enjoyed the Philadelphia premiere screening of the new documentary Keep Eye on Ball: The Hashim Khan Story, followed by a Q&A with producer Beth Rasin. As if that wasn’t enough, there was also a book signing with Trinity College squash coach Paul Assaiante and James Zug, the author of Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear, at a reception sponsored by Trinity's alumni club before the film.

Keep Eye on Ball producer Beth Rasin and Run to the Roar author James Zug pose together before the screening. 

I had the chance to chat with Beth while the film played. A master of many trades, Beth has worked for organizations including Women’s World Cup Soccer and the US Olympic Committee. She is the Associate Director of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, the largest professional squash event in North America, and she managed the US Women’s National Squash Team for ten years. Currently, Beth is the Executive Director of PowerPlay NYC, Inc., a non-profit providing sports and life skills training for girls in underserved communities.

Here are some highlights from our conversation and the Q&A:
How did you get involved with the film?

I met Josh [Easdon, the director] in 2005. I was the Associate Director of the Tournament of Champions, which is like a who’s who in the international squash world. I helped him set up three days of interviews with the great players in the sport… Josh said that he didn’t know how to do fundraising, and I said, “I’ve done a lot, let’s talk.” We had coffee and I shared some ideas. He asked me if I wanted to be the producer. It was supposed to be a year-and-a-half long project. Six years later…

How did the project get started?

Josh is a squash-teaching pro who developed an interest in filmmaking fifteen years ago and got a Masters in Media Studies from the New School. He initially wanted to do a documentary about the history of squash, but Josh soon realized if he captured Hashim’s story, he would also capture the history of squash.

Hashim’s father was a butler at the British Officer’s club in Peshawar. He went to the club with his dad as a child. Later he became a ball boy there and developed an affinity for the game. In 1951 he was invited to play in the British Open, four years after the partition of India and Pakistan. No one had ever heard of Pakistan before. He gave Pakistan an identity around the world. He really was their first national hero! Even more impressive, he was already 37 at the time of his first British Open—long after most athletes are past their prime—and he won the next six years.
Squash champion Hashim Khan (right) shakes hands with M.A. Karim after winning his first British Open in 1951.
In the course of filming the documentary, you travelled to Pakistan with Hashim, then 92 years old. How were you received? What did you learn?

Most people expressed gratitude to us for making this film about their hero. The Department of State had issued travel warnings about Pakistan, so we weren’t sure what we’d run into, but we never encountered any anti-American sentiment.

I consider myself an educated person, but after we arrived in Pakistan, I realized that I didn’t know very much about the culture of that part of the world. I also didn’t know anything about Islam. As we progressed in making the film, the ability to explore these things was really interesting. Hashim’s story is quite compelling, and by telling it, I hope that we shed some light, beyond most of our current media sound bites, about that part of the world and also about what it means to be a Muslim; it’s not really that different from Christianity or Judaism.

The Pakistani people, and especially the Pashtuns (the tribe from which Hashim is descended), have an incredibly strong tradition of hospitality; they feel duty bound to provide hospitality and protection as long as you show them respect. Pakistan is one of the “poorer” countries I’ve travelled to, but they have this great sense of community and contentment in their lives. It was an eye-opening, life-changing journey. It reinforced for me that all of us have more in common as human beings than anything that divides us.

Did you run into any issues travelling as the only woman on the filmmaking team?

We went to a lunch honoring Hashim and I was the only woman in the room. Everyone who got up to spoke acknowledged my presence by starting off, “Gentlemen and lady…” I got an understanding of a different part of the world, but there was a lot of mutual respect.

Also, as a woman, I was the only one from the film who could meet Hashim’s eldest daughter and her eldest daughters. They follow a very conservative tradition and won’t meet men outside of the family.

What attracts you to sports?

Sports offers the opportunity to transcend the artificial boundaries that separate us: language, nationalities. And sports can also inspire us – when we watch athletes dig deep to perform at their very best we can be inspired to do that in our own lives.

I also just love being physically active. I’ve played a lot of sports—almost every sport under the sun—and nothing compares to squash. It is such a great combination of the physical and the mental—you have to do a lot of running and at the same time, a lot of thinking, because there are so many angles and different shots to hit. Even though squash is played in more countries around the world than any other sport, except soccer, the squash community is also very connected—as evidenced by the huge turnout for the film.

Would you produce another film?

Absolutely. After I’ve gotten a little sleep.
Thank you, Beth!
If you missed this screening of Keep Eye on Ball or would like to watch it again, you can order a DVD here.