LA Critics Choose "Splendor," "Friedmans" Follow-Up, Texas Picks, and More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Susan Wrubel has joined Paramount Classics as VP of acquisitions and co-productions in Los Angeles. She recently left Global Film Initiative in New York.
"SPLENDOR" SPLENDID IN LA: The L.A. Film Critics Association has selected "American Splendor" as its top film of 2003, while directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini were also honored for their screenplay. The group named Peter Jackson as the best director of the year for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." Bill Murray was named best actor for "Lost in Translation" and Naomi Watts was selected as best actress for "21 Grams." The award for best doc went to "Fog of War" while the prize for foreign-language film went to "Man on the Train."
RETURNING TO THE SCREENING ROOM: Last night, the Tribeca Film Institute christened its new Tribeca Cinemas screening venue -- formerly the Screening Room -- with a preview screening of Russian film "The Return." The festival hit is Russia's submission for the foreign-language Oscar, and it also has a Golden Globe nomination for best foreign film. Kino International and Tribeca hosted director Andrey Zvyagintsev for a Q&A after the screening. The film opens in select theaters January 23.
FRIEDMAN FILING: The makers of "Capturing the Friedmans" have announced that Jesse Friedman has filed a 440 motion in the hopes of overturning his 1998 conviction on charges that he and his father had sexually abused children during computer classes at the Friedman house. Jesse Friedman filed a 1000-page brief in Nassau County Court, charging that a number of the facts that came to light during the making of Andrew Jarecki's documentary weren't disclosed at the time of the trial. "The exhaustive investigation done by the filmmakers in the course of making the film uncovered a tremendous amount of exonerating material," Friedman said in a statement. "The prosecution had an obligation to share this information with me at the time they became aware of it, but they kept it secret from me and my lawyer. Had I known of this information before, I would have been able to use it at trial and prove my innocence. It is my hope that by presenting this information now, I will be able to overturn my conviction and clear my name."
NEW ANGELIKA: The Angelika Film Center in Dallas announced that it will open a Plano location in "late spring 2004." The art-house theater will be located at the Shops at Legacy, on the corner of the North Dallas Tollway and Legacy.
TEXAS CRITICS: In other Texas news, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association revealed its annual winners, announced at a ceremony at the Angelika. They named "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" as the best film of 2003. Rounding out the top 10 were "Cold Mountain," "Mystic River," "Lost in Translation," "Finding Nemo," "American Splendor," "In America," "Big Fish," "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," and "The Last Samurai." Sean Penn took best actor for "Mystic River," and best actress went to Charlize Theron for "Monster." Other winners included Alec Baldwin (best supporting actor), Renee Zellweger (best supporting actress), Peter Jackson (best director), "City of God" (best foreign-language), "Capturing the Friedmans" (best doc), "Finding Nemo" (best animated), and "American Splendor" (Russell Smith award for cutting-edge indie film).
CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARDS: The American Society of Cinematographers will present its Conrad L. Hall Heritage Award for promising film students to Nelson Cragg and Bill Fernandez, who both have their master's degrees in film studies. Cragg attended the University of Southern California while Fernandez attended Florida State University. The ASC also recognized Alfonso Aguilar from Los Angeles Film School, Brian Plow from Ohio University's School of Film, and Ji Yong Kim and Jitsu Toyoda from the American Film Institute.
[Eugene Hernandez contributed to this report.]