Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oscar Honors Women Filmmakers

Actress Diablo Cody poses in the press ...

This year we saw giant strides made by women filmmakers at the Oscars. It was good to see women finally telling their stories and getting acclaim for it.

Persepolis, adapted and directed by Marjane Satrapi (and Vincent Paronnaud) from her graphic novel was nominated for Best Animated Feature. Marjane removes the veil so we can really get to know the precocious Iranian girl living during the Iranian revolution. T
hrough this poignant and often hilarious film, writer/co-director Marjane Satrapi hopes to create understanding of what the Iranian people have undergone.

“I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists,” Satrapi says. “I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.”

We watched as women accepted Oscars for:

Best Documentary Short Subject "Freeheld" - Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth

Best Animated Short Film "Peter & the Wolf" - Suzie Templeton (and Hugh Welchman)

For the first time in Oscar history, four women were nominated in the screenwriting categories: Nancy Oliver was nominated for her highly original feel good comedy, Lars and the Real Girl. Congratulations to Diablo Cody (pictured above) for winning Best Original Screenplay for her quotable dialogue and for her honest portrayal of a teenage girl (which also garnered Ellen Page a Best Actress nomination) in Juno. Two of these nominated writers also realized their vision as director. They created fully drawn, truthful characters that paid off in nominations for their leading ladies. Young writer/director Sarah Polley was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Away from Her while her lead actress, Julie Christie, was nominated for best actress. Writer/Director Tamara Jenkins was nominated for the bitingly real screenplay, The Savages. Her lead actress Laura Linney was nominated for Best Actress.

Congratulations to all these talented filmmakers! I hope that these powerful women inspire and empower a new generation of women filmmakers to express their stories on film.
Jana Segal


Tuesday, March 4th at 7:00 p.m.

Presented by The University of Arizona's Women's Studies Department

LUNAFEST 2008 lands at The Loft!

Get ready for an entertaining and enlightening evening of short films made by, for, and about women. This annual, nationally-touring film festival brings the best short films from around the world (all made by women) together for one special night of cinematic excitement.

This year's films, which have won industry awards and film festival audience accolades, run the gamut from quirky animation to touching documentaries, and explore such topics as social and cultural diversity, the joys and challenges of mother and child relationships, and the bending (and sometimes breaking) of traditional gender roles. Incredibly diverse in both style and subject matter, these gems are united by a common thread of exceptional storytelling by…for…about women.

Visit the LUNAFEST website:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Michael Clayton"

I thought I'd give you one more inspiring film to catch before the Oscars Sunday night: best picture nominee "Michael Clayton."

There are always those films that miss my radar when they first come out. The trailer made "Michael Clayton" out to be just another downbeat legal thriller. Luckily, a fellow movie lover recommended it as the best movie of the year so I saw it Monday and again yesterday. I enjoyed this well written adult drama even better the second time around. I apologize for not reviewing this extraordinary film sooner. But you can still catch it at the second run theaters.

George Clooney gives an Oscar caliber performance as the world weary "fixer" in a law firm that is defending their biggest client U/North against a multi-million dollar settlement of a class action suit regarding their toxic weed killer. Michael's personal ethics are tested when his friend, the brilliant but guilt-ridden lead attorney
Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) snaps, and Michael is called to clean up his mess.

We've seen this obvious (and tired) theme of corporate corruption before. But this movie has more to say. It brings up the question of who is really crazy: the bi-polar attorney who believes he has been called on a quest of redemption to stop the evil corporation or the U/North corporation who is willing to literally kill people in order put the firm and it's stockholders in the "most financially advantageous position." As a society, have we become so jaded that we see someone who doesn't have a financial motivation to help others as crazy? Don't miss this inspiring story of moral responsibility and redemption.

Tom Wilkinson, who also gave an Oscar nominated performance in "In the Bedroom" gives a strong, Oscar worthy performance here. Though
Javier Bardem is considered the favorite to win best supporting actor for his work in “No Country for Old Men, in my opinion Tom Wilkinson gives a much more dynamic performance. Tilda Swinton, who plays the cold, controlled U/North litigator, is also nominated for best supporting actress. But I prefer Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There" or Rudy Dee in "American Gangster" (for her life's work) or young Saoirse Rona in "Atonement."

So of course, Tilda Swinton won the only statue for Michael Clayton. And thank Heavens she did. She gave an entertaining speech, teasing fellow nominee George Clooney and appropriately giving credit to writer/director Tony Gilroy.

So this gives you one more "Reel Inspiration film" to root for during the Oscars Sunday. For a complete list of nominees, scroll down to 2007 Academy Award Nominees.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

Saturday, February 09, 2008


I recently saw the powerful, Oscar nominated animated feature, "Persepolis" (98 minutes) at the Loft Theater in Tucson. Persepolis is definitely a love project. Marjane Satrapi, along with co-director Vincent Paronnaud, adapted her graphic novels based on her life story. "Persepolis," was painstakingly drawn the old fashion way with pencil and ink to create more expression in the characters. It is done in (mostly) black and white, two-dimensional animation. But there is nothing black and white or two-dimensional about this story of an Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution.

The movie begins with the fall of the Shah. Often, when we think of that regime, we think of the tyranny of the Shah and all the people he executed. But at this time, Iran was also very modern and westernized. Many Iranians enjoyed some degree of personal freedom. Eventually that freedom is completely taken away by the religious extremists. We experience this world through the eyes of the precocious Marjane - a well drawn character with her own weaknesses and childish perspectives. Along with Marjane, we get a history lesson about Iran and the Islamic Revolution from her father and uncle. Imaginative (and sometimes humorous) visuals add context to their narration. Young Marjane learns some hard lessons as the uncle she idealizes is imprisoned for fighting for freedom. Teenage Marjane must cover her hair and hide her love of Punk from the "social guardians". When she speaks out, her parents fear for her life and send her away to school in Austria. In this strange new country, she must deal with the challenges of becoming an adult, culture shock, and prejudice. Marjane becomes homesick for an Iran that is no long there.

Through this poignant and often hilarious film, writer/co-director Marjane Satrapi hopes to create understanding of what the Iranian people have undergone (see her statement below) and ensure that those who fought and died for freedom are not forgotten.

OSCAR UPDATE: Persepolis, written and directed by
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. was nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal
Background from official website:

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood (Pantheon, 2003, English version) and Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return (Pantheon, 2004, English version) won widespread acclaim in France, now her home, and around the world. Now, she has co-directed, with Vincent Paronnaud, the animated film version of her memoir.

The title PERSEPOLIS comes from the Persian capital founded in the 6th century BC by Darius I, later destroyed by Alexander the Great. It’s a reminder that there’s an old and grand civilization, besieged by waves of invaders but carrying on through milennia, that is much deeper and more complex than the current-day view of Iran as a monoculture of fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism.

“I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists,” Satrapi says. “I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.”

Thursday, February 07, 2008

2008 Academy Award Nominations and Oscar Update

The 2007 Academy Awards were last night! (February 24th) This has been a great year for films. In fact, there were so many good films, that some films and actors that may have won on previous years weren't even nominated. But the nominated films are outstanding! Not a dud in the bunch. As expected, No Company for Old Men and There Will be Blood got the most nods with eight nominations each and Michael Clayton (Yeah!) coming in at seven nods.

OSCAR UPDATE: No Country for Old Men swept the Oscars with Javier Bardem winning best supporting actor (no surprise there) and writer/directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen winning best adapted screenplay, best directing, and best picture. Daniel Day-Lewis gave a theatrical acceptance speech for Best Actor for, There Will Be Blood. And Robert Elswit gave There Will Be Blood it's second Oscar for Cinematography.

Michael Clayton is nominated for (and deserves to win) Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay for it's powerful, dynamic story about moral responsibility and redemption written and directed by Tony Gilroy. There are also some Oscar caliber performances: George Clooney (Best Actor),Tilda Swinton (Best Supporting Actress) and the outstanding Tom Wilkinson for Best Supporting Actor.

OSCAR UPDATE: Tilda Swinton represented Michael Clayton by winning their only Oscar. She appropriately gave credit to her talented writer/director Tony Gilroy.

I'm thrilled that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (review below) was nominated for so many awards including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directing, Best Cinematography and Best Editing! Seems to me that it should have been nominated for Best Picture too. (I would have picked it as number one on my "2007 Best Films" list but it came to Tucson too late. Oh, well...)

But there were some other pleasant surprises too. This was the year for women screenwriters and screenwriter/directors! Just check out all the nominations for
Juno -- including Best Directing (Jason Reitman), Best Actress (Ellen Page), best screenplay, and best picture! Lars and the Real Girl was also nominated for best screenplay! Two comedies nominated for best screenplay and both written by women - unheard of! Hurray for Diablo Cody (Juno) and Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl)! Away from Her got a nomination for best adapted Screenplay and Best Actress (Julie Christie)! Kudos to writer/director Sarah Polley! The Savages was also nominated for best actress (Laura Linney) and best screenplay. Congrats writer/director Tamara Jenkins! Four screenwriting nods to women! Not to mention the best animated feature nominee writer/director Marjane Satrapi for Persepolis!

OSCAR UPDATE: Diablo Cody gave a moving acceptance speech where she thanked her amazing director
(Jason Reitman), lead actress (Ellen Page), and her mom for "accepting me just the way I am."

Marion Cotillard deserved her Best Actress award for her transformational acting in La Vie en Rose.

Other RI reviewed films that were nominated are: “Raise It Up” from August Rush and "Falling Slowly” from Once were nominated for Best Song. The Kite Runner and Michael Clayton were nominated for Best original score! "

OSCAR UPDATE: The performers/writers of the winning song,
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, gave stirring speeches about how much it meant for them and independent musicians to win this award for their $100,000. little film.

I've highlighted the films that Reel Inspiration has promoted just in case you'd like to root for those. You can bet your sweet jujubees I will be!

There were several disappointments for me. I really thought that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly deserved best cinematography and editing. And I hoped against hope that
Tom Wilkinson would win best supporting actor for his dynamic work in Michael Clayton. Also, Persepolis was definitely slighted by big studio production “Ratatouille.”

I'm delighted for our three wins - especially that
Diablo Cody won for her honest and witty script, Juno and that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won for their song, "Falling Slowly." Great job!

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

(Winners in Gold)

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd...”
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah”
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild”
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton”

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie in “Away from Her”
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose”
Laura Linney in “The Savages”
Ellen Page in “Juno”

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There”
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster”
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement”
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton”

Best animated feature film of the year
“Persepolis” (Sony Pictures Classics) Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney) Brad Bird
“Surf's Up” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Achievement in art direction
“American Gangster” Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
“Atonement” : Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Golden Compass” Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
“There Will Be Blood” Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Achievement in cinematography
“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” Roger Deakins
“Atonement” Seamus McGarvey
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Janusz Kaminski
“No Country for Old Men” Roger Deakins
“There Will Be Blood” Robert Elswit

Achievement in costume design
“Across the Universe” Albert Wolsky
“Atonement” Jacqueline Durran
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” Alexandra Byrne
“La Vie en Rose” Marit Allen
“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” Colleen Atwood

Achievement in directing
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Julian Schnabel
“Juno” Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton” Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” Paul Thomas Anderson

Best documentary feature
“No End in Sight” (Magnolia Pictures): A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience” (The Documentary Group): A Documentary Group Production : Richard E. Robbins
“Sicko” (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company): A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O’Hara
“Taxi to the Dark Side” (THINKFilm): An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
“War/Dance” (THINKFilm): A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Achievement in film editing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” Christopher Rouse
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Juliette Welfling
“Into the Wild” Jay Cassidy
“No Country for Old Men” Roderick Jaynes
“There Will Be Blood” Dylan Tichenor

Best foreign language film of the year
“Beaufort” A Metro Communications, Movie Plus Production
“The Counterfeiters” An Aichholzer Filmproduktion, Magnolia Filmproduktion Production
“Katyń” An Akson Studio Production
“Mongol” A Eurasia Film Production
“12” A Three T Production

Achievement in makeup
“La Vie en Rose” Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
“Norbit” Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Atonement” Dario Marianelli
“The Kite Runner” Alberto Iglesias
“Michael Clayton” James Newton Howard
“Ratatouille” Michael Giacchino
“3:10 to Yuma” Marco Beltrami

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
Falling Slowly” from “Once” Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted” Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“Raise It Up” from “August Rush” (Warner Bros.): Nominees to be determined
“So Close” from “Enchanted” Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted” Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Best motion picture of the year
“Atonement” (Focus Features) : A Working Title Production ; Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight): A Dancing Elk Pictures, LLC Production; Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.): A Clayton Productions, LLC Production; Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production; Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production; JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

Achievement in sound editing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
“No Country for Old Men” Skip Lievsay
“Ratatouille” Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
“There Will Be Blood” Matthew Wood
“Transformers” Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Achievement in sound mixing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
“No Country for Old Men” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
“Ratatouille” Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
“3:10 to Yuma” Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
“Transformers” Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

Achievement in visual effects
“The Golden Compass” Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
“Transformers” Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Adapted screenplay
“Atonement” Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
“Away from Her” Written by Sarah Polley
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
“No Country for Old Men” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay
“Juno” Written by Diablo Cody
“Lars and the Real Girl” Written by Nancy Oliver
“Michael Clayton” Written by Tony Gilroy
“Ratatouille” Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
The Savages” Written by Tamara Jenkins


Two RI contest finalists' films, "The Runners" and "Not 2B Toyed With," were screened Saturday, February 9 at the Shorts Fest

Justin Mashouf
was a 2004 RI Film Contest Finalist for his moving film, "Morning Submission. Morning Submission" is a lovely short film about why Moslems pray. Justin spoke at several Reel Inspiration screenings and on Arizona Illustrated. He expressed how important it was to him to share his film to create greater understanding. It is moments like this that make organizing the RI contests really worth it. Justin is still making films that promote understanding. Justin and JorDan Fuller's film, "The Runners," was screened at the Santa Fe Film Festival, the Lone Star International Film Festival, and the Tucson Film and Music Festival, among others. "The Runners," is the story of a Mexican man who crosses the border illegally, marries an American woman, and finds out that the American dream is harder than it seems. Congrats Justin and JorDan!

Congratulations to Not 2B Toyed With Filmmakers Hal Melfi, Tina Huerta, and Steve Bayless for being included in the Shorts Fest!

Since Reel Inspiration's Pura Inspiracion Film Contest, "Not 2B Toyed With," has been screened nationally and abroad including England, France, Canada, Denmark, and our own Arizona International Film Festival and RI's screening at the Oro Valley Arts Fest.

"Not 2B Toyed With," is the story of an obsessive Star Wars toy collector who is about to discover the "power of the dark side" when his nephew invades his perfectly packaged world. 

2007 Best Narrative Short: West Bank Story

Short musical comedy "West Bank Story"
with Academy Award Winning Writer/Director Ari Sandel.
A musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands in the West Bank... David, an Israeli soldier, falls in love with the beautiful Palestinian cashier, Fatima, despite the animosity between their families' dueling restaurants. Can the couple's love withstand a 2000 year old conflict and their families' desire to control the future of the chic pea in the Middle East?

West Bank Story won the 2007 Academy Award for the Best Live Action Short Film. It takes a humorous yet hopeful look at the Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and has received an overwhelming response from Arab and Jewish audiences. Ari Sandel has traveled extensively and is very involved with various political organizations promoting peace.

West Bank Story - the whole short!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

2008 Oscar Nominated Short Films

The nominees for Best Animated Short Film of 2006 are:
I MET THE WALRUS (Canada), MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI (Canada), MEME LES PIGEONS VONT AU PARADIS, (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven) (France), MOYA LYUBOV (Russia), and PETER AND THE WOLF (United Kingdom and Poland).

The nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film of 2006 are:

It was fun seeing most of these films with an audience at the Loft's screening. Couldn't quite make it through the whole three and a half hours. ZZZZZ Though I did make it through all the wonderful animated films. It was so much easier to see the humor in John Lennon's stream of consciousness ramblings in I MET WALRUS with a good audience. Also, Peter and the Wolf got some laughs. I thought the funniest was the French film, Even Pigeons Go to Heaven.

'Peter & the Wolf' won Best Animated Short Film.

Like I said, I didn't get through all the very looooooooong live action films. But one I saw and very much enjoyed was the very sweet Belgium Tango comedy, TANGHI ARGENTINI. It was a nice change to have the humor come from a kind place. According one LA Weekly reviewer (see link below) this film, along with the French short, LE MOZART DES PICKPOCKETS, were favorites with festival judges.

'Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)' won Best Live Action Short.

I hope that is some help with your Oscar polls. I plan to stay awake for most of the Oscar presentations! You?

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

For a good article on the shorts, go to:

Check out the official website for full descriptions of shorts: