Steve Carell, Rob Marshall, Chris Rock to Receive Top Honors Plus 10 Directors to Watch! 

Steve Carell, Rob Marshall, and Chris Rock all gave memorable projects in 2014 and it's fitting that the Palm Springs International Film Festival is giving them various honors. Carell, who gave a stunning performance in "Foxcatcher" will receive the Creative Impact in Acting Award from Variety while Rob Marshall, fresh from directing "Into the Woods," will be honored with the Creative Impact in Directing Award.

Chris Rock, who wrote, directed, and starred in "Top Five," the best comedy of the year, will receive the Creative Impact in Comedy Award.

Of course, the Palm Springs International Film Festival is happening in my neck of the woods, and I'll be there live at the Gala on Saturday, January 3rd!

Here's the complete press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA – (December 18th, 2014) Variety will present actor Steve Carell with the Creative Impact in Acting Award, presented by Mercedes-Benz,which celebrates his scope of work, ranging from his comedic performances to his most recent dramatic work with his critically acclaimed and groundbreaking performance in this year’s “Foxcatcher,” for which he has received both Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations. In addition, Variety will present two-time Directors Guild of American Award-winner and Oscar, Golden Globe, and Tony Award nominated director Rob Marshall with the Creative Impact in Directing Award, presented by Mercedes-Benz, which celebrates his career as a theater and film director, specifically for his work in translating the acclaimed Sondheim musical “Into the Woods” onto the screen. New to the program this year, Variety will present Emmy Award winning comedian, director and actor Chris Rock with the Creative Impact in Comedy Award, presented by Mercedes-Benz, for his critically acclaimed film “Top Five,” for which he was honored with the Spotlight Award by the National Board of Review for writing, directing and starring in the film. “Top Five” was also recognized by the Broadcast Film Critics Association with nominations for Best Comedy, Best Actor in a Comedy for Rock and Best Actress in a Comedy for Rosario Dawson.

“Since his emergence as one of America’s most gifted comedic actors two decades ago, Steve Carell’s career has moved through breakout hit television and film roles from “The 40 Year Old Virgin” to “Little Miss Sunshine” to “The Office.” Now, with his gripping portrayal of a man whose dreams and whims are overwhelmed by internal destructive forces beyond his control, Carell is firmly placed in the front ranks of America’s finest dramatic performers,” said Steve Gaydos, Vice President and Executive Editor at Variety. “Likewise director Rob Marshall not only re-launched the modern movie musical with 'Chicago,' he managed to translate one of the most complicated and beloved musicals of our time to the big screen with the recent “Into The Woods” and showcases and continuing creative vitality and artistic risk-taking in all of his work. We are especially excited to add a comedy award into the program this year. Long regarded as one of America’s funniest and most groundbreaking comedians, Chris Rock has just taken his career and art to a new level with “Top Five.” Straight from its first festival screening, which resulted in a massive bidding war and created anticipation for Rock’s legions of fans, “Top Five” established the comic as one of America’s most provocative and dynamic filmmakers.”

Previous recipients have included Jonah Hill, David O. Russell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlize Theron and Mark Wahlberg.

“10 Directors to Watch”

“10 Directors to Watch” debuted in 1996 and the annual event moved to the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January 2011. “10 Directors to Watch” was the first of Variety’s “10 to Watch” series spotlighting the most exciting new talents in the fields of directing, writing, producing, acting, cinematography and comedy. This year’s “10 Directors to Watch” include: Sean Baker (“Tangerine”), Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead (“Spring”), Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), Shlomi Elkabetz & Ronit Elkabetz (“Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem”), Jeremy Garelick (“The Wedding Ringer”), Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”), Marielle Heller (“Diary of a Teenage Girl”), Ruben Ostlund (“Force Majeure”), Damian Szifron (“Wild Tales”), Leigh Whannell (“Insidious: Chapter 3”).

Past “10 Directors to Watch” honorees have included Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”), Wes Anderson (“Bottle Rocket”), Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”), Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”), Christopher Nolan (“Memento”), Sam Taylor Wood (“Nowhere Boy”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), among others.

Palm Springs International Film Festival Director Darryl Macdonald stated, “We're delighted to once again be co-hosting Variety's '10 Directors to Watch' event at the Festival, celebrating a group of exceptionally gifted emerging talents who have each exhibited extraordinary storytelling skills. That quality is our guiding light in programming this Festival, and we congratulate all of the honorees for being selected for these awards, while joining Variety in saluting each of them.”

“Now one of the hottest tickets at the festival, Variety’s 10 Directors To Watch Brunch at the Parker has become the place to rub shoulders with the hottest emerging international filmmakers, a bevy of industry and media power players,” said Helen du Toit, Artistic Director of the Palm Springs Film Festival. “We look forward to toasting all of the directors and are doubly thrilled to be presenting the five films of their honored directors at the festival, three of which are foreign language Oscar submissions, (Israel’s powerful courtroom drama Gett: The Tiral of Viviane Ansallem by siblings Ronit & Shmlomi Elbabetz, Argentinian director Damián Szifron’s Cannes hit Wild Tales, and Swedish director Ruben Ostend’s Force Majeure), the indie genre-bending Spring from Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, and Ava DuVernay’s Selma, which will be our Opening Night film."

The event will be presented by Mercedes-Benz with venue partner the Parker Palm Springs.

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The Real Reason to See "Into the Woods!" 

Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, all the big-name stars want to get you into the theaters for “Into the Woods.” But is the film worthy of the beloved Stephen Sondheim musical, and is it worth your time and money? And what should be your main reason to see the musical?

Take a look at my review of “Into the Woods.”

Official summary of "Into the Woods"

"Into the Woods" is a modern twist on several of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters' wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy)-all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them. (C) Disney

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Las Vegas Film Critics Society Flies with "Birdman" 

The Las Vegas Film Critics Society has revealed the winners of their annual awards and Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Birdman" took home the Best Picture trophy. The film also won Best Actor for Michael Keaton, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Ensemble, and Score. It was also the No. 1 film for their Best of list.

Here's the complete list of winners:

Best Picture
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Actress
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Best Supporting Actress
Tilda Swinton, “Snowpiercer”

Best Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Screenplay
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Cinematography
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Film Editing
James Herbert and Laura Jennings, “Edge of Tomorrow”

Best Costume Design
Alexandra Byrne, “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Best Art Direction
“The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Best Visual Effects

Best Foreign Film
“Ida” (Poland)

Best Documentary

Best Animated Film
“The Lego Movie”

Best Family Film
“The Lego Movie”

Best Horror/Sci-Fi Film

Best Comedy Film
“Top 5”

Best Action Film
“Guardians of the Galaxy”

Best Ensemble
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Score
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Song
“I Love You All,” Stephen Rennicks – “Frank”

Youth in Film
Jaeden Lieberher, “St. Vincent”

Breakout Filmmaker of the Year
Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”

William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award
Bill Murray

Cinema Heritage Award
Prof. Francisco Menendez, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Film Dept. Chair

LVFCS Top 10 Films of 2013
1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
2. Boyhood
3. Whiplash
4. Nightcrawler
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Wild
7. Selma
8. The Imitation Game
9. Snowpiercer
10. Under the Skin

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Robert Duvall, Alejandro González Iñárritu to Be Honored at Palm Springs International Film Festival 

Palm Springs, CA (December 19, 2014) – The 26th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival(PSIFF) will present Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall with the Icon Award and Academy Award-nominated director Alejandro G. Iñárritu with the Director of the Year Award for Birdman at its annual Awards Gala. The Gala will also present awards to previously announced honorees Richard Linklater, Julianne Moore, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Redmayne, J.K. Simmons, Reese Witherspoon and the cast of The Imitation Game. Presented by Cartier, and hosted by Mary Hart, the Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 2-12.

“Robert Duvall gives an outstanding and amazingly realistic performance as Judge Joseph Palmer in The Judge,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “This is sure to be remembered in his long listof iconic character roles, including Tom Hagen in The Godfather films, Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove, Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies, Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, The Apostle and so many others. The Palm Springs International Film Festival is honored to present this year's Icon Award to Robert Duvall.” Duvall received the festival's Career Achievement Award in 2011. Past recipients of the Icon Award include Michael Douglas and Meryl Streep.

The Judge pairs acting heavyweights Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. in this poignant drama from Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures. Big city lawyer Hank Palmer(Downey) returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town's judge (Duvall), is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before. A Big Kid Pictures/Team Downey production, the film is directed by David Dobkin and produced by Susan Downey, Dobkin and David Gambino. The screenplay is by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, story by Dobkin & Schenk.

Over the last 50 years, Duvall's singular performances have made him one of the most respected actors working today. His numerous awards and nominations include an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in Tender Mercies and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Apocalypse Now.

Duvall's other film credits include To Kill a Mockingbird, True Grit, Joe Kidd, M*A*S*H, The Conversation,Network, The Natural, Colors, Days Of Thunder, Rambling Rose, WrestlingErnest Hemingway, A Civil Action, Get Low, Crazy Heart and Jack Reacher, among many others. As a filmmaker, he directed, produced wrote and starred in The Apostle and Assassination Tango.

Commenting on Alejandro G. Iñárritu receiving PSIFF's Director of the Year Award, his second win in the category, Matzner said, “By creating the illusion that the film was shot in one take anddirecting award-worthy performances by Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and a star-studded cast, Iñárritu has created a brilliant and original dark comedy in Birdman. The Festival is delighted to once again present Alejandro G. Iñárritu with the Director of the Year Award.”

Iñárritu received the festival's Director of the Year Award in 2007 for Babel and received the FIPRESCI prize in 2001 for Amores Perros. Past recipients of the award include Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Robert Zemeckis (Flight), Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), David O. Russell (The Fighter), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Sean Penn (Into the Wild) and Alexander Payne (Sideways).

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. The Fox Searchlight Pictures and Regency Enterprises film is directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and stars Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, Merritt Wever, Jeremy Shamos, Bill Camp and Damian Young.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu's feature films, including Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful, have garnered critical acclaim worldwide, receiving a total of 12 Oscar nominations in different categories, including Best Picture and Best Director; a Best Picture Golden Globe; and a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Film. Iñárritu's next film will be The Revenant, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Will Poulter.

About The Palm Springs International Film Festival
The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, welcoming 135,000 attendees last year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The Festival is also known for its annual Black Tie Awards Gala, honoring the best achievements of the filmic year by a celebrated list of talents who, in recent years, have included Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, David O. Russell, Meryl Streep, and Kate Winslet.

The Awards Gala of the 26th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival is presented by Cartier and sponsored by Mercedes Benz and Entertainment Tonight. The City of Palm Springs is the Title Sponsor of the Film Festival. Presenting Sponsors are Wells Fargo, The Desert Sun and Spencer's. Major sponsors are Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Wessman Development, Bank of America, Wintec, Regal Entertainment Group, Ignition Creative, Desert Regional Medical Center, Windermere Real Estate, Eisenhower Medical Center, Guthy-Renker, Integrated Wealth Management,, Ocean Properties, Chihuly and Telefilm Canada.Palm Springs, CA (December 19, 2014) – The 26th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival(PSIFF) will present Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall with the Icon Award and Academy Award-nominated director Alejandro G. Iñárritu with the Director of the Year Award for Birdman at its annual Awards Gala. The Gala will also present awards to previously announced honorees Richard Linklater, Julianne Moore, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Redmayne, J.K. Simmons, Reese Witherspoon and the cast of The Imitation Game. Presented by Cartier, and hosted by Mary Hart, the Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 2-12.

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Oscar Shortlist: Best Foreign Films! Academy Says Goodbye to "Two Days, One Night," "Mommy" 

Cannes winners "Mommy" by Xavier Dolan and Nuri Bilge's "Winter Sleep" were snubbed, so was Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's "Two Days, One Night." But what remained are still exemplary foreign language films.

The Academy has whittled down the list and came up with nine films to choose from. We'll find out on January 15th which of these nine movies will advance to the final five!

Here's the complete press release from the Academy:

LOS ANGELES, CA – Nine features will advance to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 87th Academy Awards®. Eighty-three films had originally been considered in the category.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:

Argentina, "Wild Tales," Damián Szifrón, director;

Estonia, "Tangerines," Zaza Urushadze, director;

Georgia, "Corn Island," George Ovashvili, director;

Mauritania, "Timbuktu," Abderrahmane Sissako, director;

Netherlands, "Accused," Paula van der Oest, director;

Poland, "Ida," Paweł Pawlikowski, director;

Russia, "Leviathan," Andrey Zvyagintsev, director;

Sweden, "Force Majeure," Ruben Östlund, director;

Venezuela, "The Liberator," Alberto Arvelo, director.

Foreign Language Film nominations for 2014 are being determined in two phases.

The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based Academy members, screened the original submissions in the category between mid-October and December 15. The group’s top six choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist.

The shortlist will be winnowed down to the category’s five nominees by specially invited committees in New York, Los Angeles and, for the first time, London. They will spend Friday, January 9, through Sunday, January 11, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots.

The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

# # #

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards—in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners — the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.


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