by Eugene Hernandez
>> Oscar is Weinstein's Million Dollar Man
Miramax Films' well-documented multi-million dollar Oscar marketing campaign
for "Shakespeare in Love" paid off Sunday night as the film won the Academy
Award for Best Picture, giving Harvey Weinstein his first Academy Award.
Somewhat surprisingly, Steven Spielberg had to settle for only a Best
Director Oscar for "Saving Private Ryan," but was also involved in another
Oscar winner, the Best Documentary winner, "The Last Days," which he
executive produced through his Shoah Visual History Foundation. The film
was produced by James Moll and Ken Lipper.
"Who would have thought a girl from Japan could make a movie about Jewish
senior citizens and actually receive this award," proclaimed an emotional
Keiko Ibi, while accepting the Short Documentary Oscar for "The Personals:
Improvisations on Romance in the Golden Years." She went on to thank Sheila
Nevins at HBO, and acknowledging the Academy's recent decision to
discontinue the Short Doc Oscar and combine it with the feature category,
Ibi said, "I would like to thank the Academy for recognizing the short
documentary films, and I hope that you will continue to do so."
This is the third consecutive year that filmmakers Kim Magnusson and Anders
Thomas Jensen have been nominated for the Oscar for Best Live Action Short
Film -- this year the filmmakers won the Academy Award for "Election Night
A visibly moved Martin Scorsese welcomed director Elia Kazan on stage to
receive the Academy's Honorary Oscar -- typically the moment of the annual
telecast in which attendees deliver their greatest ovation. This year,
following clips from Kazan films including "On the Waterfront," "A
Streetcar Named Desire," and "A Face in the Crowd," as the music swelled
and the director made his was to the microphone, some attendees sat
quietly, some clapped respectfully from their seats, and eventually, many others
stood up to applaud the filmmaker whose recognition by the Academy has been
debated considerably. "Thank you all very much," Kazan said as he closed
his acceptance speech, "I think I can just slip away."
Clearly, the biggest ovation of the evening went to Roberto Benigni who
literally climbed over the seats to accept his Oscar for Best Foreign
Language Film and received an extended standing ovation reminiscent of the
moment nearly one year ago when Martin Scorsese presented him with an award
at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. "Thank you for your love," Benigni
offered, "If I am here, it is because people love the movie." Benigni went
on to "dedicate this prize to those who are not here, they gave their lives
in order that we can say life is beautiful." A little later in the
evening, accepting the Oscar for Best Actor, Benigni quipped, "This is a
terrible mistake because I used up all of my English."
Receiving the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg award, filmmaker Norman Jewison,
acknowledged the American Film Institute and the Canadian Film Centre,
"where the next generation of filmmakers are preparing to entertain the
world in the new millennium." In his "parting thought," Jewison said, "Just
find some good stories, never mind the gross, the top ten, the bottom
ten...the biggest grossing picture is not necessarily the best picture --
so just tell stories that move us to laughter and tears and perhaps reveal
a little truth about ourselves."
"Well, I thought you'd like to know that while you were watching this show
another century has gone by," awards show host Whoopi Goldberg joked in closing the marathon four hour broadcast, "But
like the century that we're seeing out, tonight's show was full surprises,
shocks, things we hoped for and things we weren't sure were going to
happen." Finally, addressing the worldwide TV audience, she added, "We love
that you love what we do....if you want to do it too, well then like that
young lady who won the documentary Oscar, you come on over or stay where
you are and honey make those movies and we'll watch them. Good night."
[For a complete list of Oscar winners, visit
>> Karakassis Wins Top Prize at First Thessaloniki Doc Festival
This column took a bit of a hiatus last week while I was in Thessaloniki,
Greece to participate in the city's first Documentary Film Festival. The
Festival, an off-shoot of the annual narrative-driven international film
festival held in the Northern Greek city, was directed by its founder
Dmitri Eipides who programs the Thessaloniki Film Festival's New Horizons
section and is a programmer at the Toronto Film Festival.
At the awards ceremony on Sunday night, Apostolos Karakassis' new Greek
documentary, "98 Years," won the Festival's top award, an audience prize
selected by the large crowds of festival-goers. Bennett Miller's "The
Cruise," which had its European debut -- and won an award -- last month at
the Berlin Film Festival, won the Greek press prize, while Nicos
Grammaticos' new Greek documentary, "Nightflowers," won the award from the
The week-long Festival, held March 15 - 21, screened 70 documentary films
in a variety of sections -- Views of the World, Portraits, The Recording
of Memory, Music Through the Lens, On the Edge of Love, Greek
Documentaries, Spotlight on Dmitri Mavrikios and Joris Ivens, and New
Technologies -- concurrent with a Doc Market and a conference on
documentary filmmaking in Greece and Europe that was organized in part by
the European Documentary Network (EDN).
[A full report from the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival will be published
in indieWIRE later this week.]
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