‘Amour,’ ‘Argo’ Win at Cesar Awards

Michael Haneke's drama "Amour" cleaned up at the Cesar Awards in Paris on Friday, taking home numerous top honors including Best Movie, while Ben Affleck's "Argo" took home Best Foreign Language Film.

In all, "Amour" took five awards — Best Movie; Best Director and Best Original Screenplay honors for Haneke, and Best Actress and Best Actor awards for Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, respectively.

Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" also racked up a number of awards, including Best Male Newcomer for Matthias Schoenaerts, Best Adapted Screenplay for Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain, Best Original Soundtrack for Alexandre Desplat, and Best Editing for Juliette Welfling.

"Waterworld" star Kevin Costner took home the Honorary Cesar award.

 

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Somali Refugees From ‘Asad,’ Congolese Actress From ‘War Witch’ to Attend Oscars

Sure, Jennifer Lawrence, Steven Spielberg and George Clooney will be attending the Oscars on Sunday. But how about this for an inspirational trio: Somali refugees Harun and Ali Mohamed from "Asad" and Congolese actress Rachel Mwanza from "War Witch."

Mwanza, the 16-year-old star of Kim Nguyen’s Foreign Language Oscar nominee “War Witch,” has just been granted a visa to travel from the Congo to attend awards shows in North America. The film is a nominee at both the Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards this weekend and is nominated for multiple awards at a pair of Canadian events in March.

Mwanza was living on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, when the filmmakers cast her in the film to play a young girl captured by rebels and forced to become a child soldier.

Meanwhile, Harun and Ali Mohamed, who fled Somalia for Cape Town, South Africa, will attend the Oscars on behalf of “Asad.” The brothers, ages 14 and 12 respectively, star in Bryan Buckley’s film, nominated for Best Live Action Short.

Inspired by a United Nations documentary short, Buckley's film follows a young boy in a wartorn Somali fishing village who must decide between piracy and an honest life.

“South Africa is a relatively young democracy only recently emerged from the shackles of tyranny and prejudice," Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a statement. "We have much to learn and we also have much to teach. 'Asad' is at once a painful reminder of the xenophobia that shamefully still exists in South Africa and a heart-warming tribute to our special ability as members of the human family to heal ourselves.”

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It’s Indie Vets Vs. Upstarts at a Varied Independent Spirit Awards

After finding the Oscars encroaching on their territory for a number of years, have the Film Independent Spirit Awards finally gotten a little space from their bigger, flashier weekend neighbor?

You’d think so, given that six of the Oscars’ nine Best Picture nominees have grossed more than $100 million, and the roster of represented companies includes Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks, Disney and Sony.

But one of those $100 million films, David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” will be competing for five Indie Spirit Awards on Saturday, the day before it takes its eight nominations to the Oscars.

Also read: With 6 $100 Million Nominees, Oscar’s Slate Is One of the Richest Ever

Another Oscar Best Picture nominee, Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” will also be in the running for the top Spirit Award at the ceremony, which as usual takes place in a tent on Santa Monica beach.

Oscar best-pic nominee “Amour,” meanwhile, is nominated in the foreign-film category at the Spirits, while Wes Anderson’s best-film Spirit Awards contender “Moonrise Kingdom” is up for an Oscar for its screenplay.

The Oscars are still honoring independent film, even in a year of unexpectedly big box office and surprising participation by the major studios. And the Spirit Awards’ definition of indie is still broad enough to encompass a wide range of movies, from the small-budgeted “Keep the Lights On” to the Weinstein Company release “Silver Linings Playbook.” That film skirted the $20 million budget limit to qualify for the Spirit Awards but was let in on a judgment call by the jury, which is always given the leeway to decide borderline cases by by Film Independent,

“The Spirit Awards are a celebration of independent film, and one of the things I love is that there’s a lot of diversity in there this year,” said Josh Welsh, co-president of Film Independent with Sean McManus. (McManus, left, and Welsh)

“We have first-time directors and new filmmaking talent like Benh Zeitlin [“Beasts of the Southern Wild”], but we also have directors that we go way back with, like Wes Anderson and David O. Russell. This year is a combination of discovery and bringing back people who are a part of what we’ve been doing for years.”

Russell first came to the Spirit Awards in 1995 with “Spanking the Monkey,” for which he won the Best First Feature award; he returned two years later as a Best Director nominee for “Flirting With Disaster.” Anderson won the Spirit Award as Best Director for “Rushmore” in 2000.

Their two films, “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” lead the pack with five nominations each. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” has four — and, crucially, the Spirit Awards jury opted to nominate it and its director in the Best Feature and Best Director categories rather than putting them in the Best First Feature category, where they would almost unquestionably have won.

"Keep the Lights On" and "Middle of Nowhere" also received four nominations each, though the latter film did not crack the Best Feature category

Despite the presence of “Bernie” and “Keep the Lights On” in the top category, this year’s awards do seem to be a shootout between “Silver Linings,” “Beasts” and “Moonrise,” perhaps with a slight edge to the first two — the first a crowd-pleasing film with real awards momentum, the second the clear indie breakout of the year.

Last year’s winner, “The Artist,” was the second film to win both the Spirit Award and the Best Picture Oscar, and the first since 1986's "Platoon."

Of the 21 Spirit acting nominees, the only ones to also be in the running at the Oscars are Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from “Silver Linings,” Quvenzhane Wallis from “Beasts” and Helen Hunt from “The Sessions.” Chances are that Cooper and Lawrence have the edge, with more than 80 percent of Spirit Awards winners since 2000 coming from the ranks of Oscar nominees.

The awards are voted on by the 4,000 members of Film Independent, which is made up of professionals in the indie world but also of film fans who pay the yearly dues. Voting is done online, and Film Independent holds free member screenings in Los Angeles and New York to allow voters to see the films.

MacManus told TheWrap that Film Independent also made a deal with iTunes this year to make some of the nominated films available online, while members also received a 14-film DVD collection containing all the nominees that had chosen to participate. (Members had to sign restrictive use agreements to receive the package, added Welsh.)

This year’s show will be hosted by comic and actor Andy Samberg, whose film “Celeste and Jesse Forever” is in the running  in the Best First Screenplay category.

“He brings a very new vibe and personality to the show,” MacManus said. “We wanted to look at this year’s show with fresh eyes. There’s a new look to the room, we’re doing something different with the food — everything is a new take.”

Last year’s host was Seth Rogen, who took the stage and immediately labeled the show “inconsequential.”

“Winning one will get you absolutely nothing,” he said, drawing a big laugh. “It won’t even raise your price, because it proves that you’ll work for nothing.”

If Samberg takes similar shots at the show, both MacManus and Welsh said they won’t mind.

“The awards are incredibly meaningful,” MacManus said. “We believe in independent film and we take it seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We are okay with poking fun at ourselves.”

Added Welsh, “We’re not all puffed up or self-important. But all joking aside, these awards are significant. It’s a genuine act of honoring the independent film of the last 12 months.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Benh Zeitlin on 'Beasts of the Southern Wild': 'We Want to Create New Myths'

How David O. Russell 'Grew Up' to Become the Ultimate Actors' Director

'Moonrise Kingdom' – Finding the Voice of a Dark-Horse Writing Contender

'Moonrise Kingdom,' 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' 'Silver Linings Playbook' Top Indie Spirit Awards Nominations

Relativity Moves ‘Turkeys’ Up a Year; Amy Poehler Joins Voice Cast (Exclusive)

Relativity Media has moved up its animated film “Turkeys” by a year and will release it Nov. 1, multiple individuals close to the project told TheWrap. In addition, Amy Poehler has joined the voice cast for the film, which Relativity and Reel FX are co-producing and co-financing, TheWrap has learned.

The movie had been scheduled to debut Nov. 14, 2014, but Relativity and Reel FX made the aggressive scheduling move based on early footage, according to two of those individuals. Development on the project began in June 2009 and physical production began in January 2011.

Poehler, who joins Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, will voice the female lead.

Executives at the studio met about the film this week, weighing the challenges the move will pose to the filmmaking, marketing, sponsorship and merchandising teams with the opportunity to seize this Thanksgiving's family market.

DreamWorks Animation recently moved “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” from Nov. 1 to March 2014, opening the door for kid-friendly fare before the Nov. 22 opening of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." Most of the other movies scheduled for October and November will cater to more mature audiences, spanning genres like science fiction ("Gravity," "Ender's Game"), horror ("Paranormal Activity 5," "Carrie") and action ("Malavita," "Thor: The Dark World"). 

Jeffrey Katzenberg's animation house has released a movie in the fall for eight of the last nine years, but its new distribution partner, Fox, moved "Peabody" to March, a month when the studio has had prior success with the "Ice Age" franchise.

Also Read: DreamWorks Animation Braces to Lose $50M on 'Rise of the Guardians' (Exclusive)

DreamWorks Animation had a costly miss last November with “Rise of the Guardians,” which grossed $301 million at the box office — a healthy sum, but not enough to cover costs. The company is expected to take a hefty write-down as a result in its upcoming fourth quarter earnings.

Reel FX, the Dallas-based animation and visual effects studio behind “Turkeys,” actually sold “Guardians” to DWA five years ago.

“Turkeys” features the voices of Wilson and Harrelson as two spunky birds that take a time machine back to the first Thanksgiving. They want to expunge turkeys from Thanksgiving's culinary tradition. Lesley Nicol of "Downton Abbey," George Takei of "Star Trek" fame, Keith David and Colm Meaney have also been cast. Dan Fogler was already lending his voice. 

Jimmy Hayward is directing the film from a script by Craig Mazin, David I. Stern, John J. Strauss. 

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Cuban Women Filmmakers to Make Groundbreaking U.S. Trip

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‘A Place at the Table’ Ticket Sales to Help Feed Children in Need (Video)

"A Place at the Table," a documentary produced by Participant Media and distributed by Magnolia Pictures, will do more than just explain America's hunger crisis. The movie's opening-weekend ticket and digital sales will provide food for children affected by it.

Plum Organics has partnered with the two film companies behind the doc, as well as the Perseus Books Group, to donate one organic "Super Smoothie" pouch to a baby or toddler in need for every ticket, online download and copy of the companion book or e-book purchased March 1-3.

Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush directed the documentary, which follows three people struggling with food insecurity in America. It includes interviews with Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio.

“At Plum, we believe each and every little one in our country deserves to be nourished to his or her full potential,” Neil Grimmer, CEO of the organic baby-food producer said. “'A Place at the Table' illustrates how we as a nation are falling short on this basic commitment to our children. We're excited to provide people with the opportunity to take one action against food insecurity by helping us donate a Super Smoothie to a baby or toddler in need."

Here's the trailer:

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Roadside Attractions, Sony Acquire Lake Bell’s ‘In a World’

Roadside Attractions has acquired domestic distribution rights to “In a World,” the directorial debut of actress Lake Bell that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has taken the international rights.

Bell also wrote the movie and won Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screen Writing Award for her script. Past winners of that award include Christopher Nolan for "Memento" and Noah Baumbach for "The Squid and the Whale."

The tale immerses the viewer in the world of movie trailer voice-over artists, as Carol (Bell) competes against a series of men to voice the new trailer of a blockbuster trilogy. The trailers are known for their catchphrase, "In a world…"

Also Read: Sundance Awards: 'Fruitvale,' 'Blood Brother' Sweep Top Prizes 

Ken Marino and Rob Corddry, Bell's co-stars in Adult Swim’s “Children’s Hospital," star in the movie, as does Fred Melamed.

“In a world where everyone loves a good laugh, Lake’s film represents the introduction of a major new comedic voice — a 21st Century Carole Lombard,” Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside, said in a statement. “We think audiences around the country are going to love it as much as we and the audiences at Sundance did.”

Roadside, which was an aggressive buyer at the Toronto Film Festival, stayed out of the fray for most of Sundance. Cohen made this deal with UTA and plans a summer 2013 release. A troika of Sony executives negotiated on the studio's behalf.

Eddie Vaisman and Mark Roberts of 3311 Productions produced "In a World" alongside Jett Steiger and Bell. 3311's Sean O'Grady and Ross Jacobson executive produced.

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Shane Acker to Direct Animated Version of ‘Beasts of Burden’ Comic Series

Shane Acker, Oscar nominee for his 2005 short '9,' will direct an adaptation of the Dark Horse Comics series "Beasts of Burden" for Reel FX, the company announced on Wednesday.

Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson created the comics series, which chronicles a group of animals, mostly dogs, that function as the protectors of a town stricken by paranormal events. Darren Lemke, who wrote "Shrek Forever After," will adapt the comics while Reel FX's Aron Warner will produce alongside Dark Horse Entertainment's Mike Richardson and Strange Weather's Andrew Adamson.

Acker made his first feature in 2009 with "9," which was based on his award-winning short and produced by Tim Burton.

“It’s a pleasure to be working with such accomplished producers and filmmakers on this incredible project," Acker said in a statement. "There is a real independent spirit at Reel FX — the studio is full of energy and fresh ideas — which is necessary to bring this unique story to life.”

Reel FX, a Dallas-based design, visual-effects and animation studio, has been ramping up its feature film division over the past few years. It is already at work on the Guillermo Del Toro-produced "The Book of Life," which Fox will release in 2014, and "Turkeys," which Relativity will release before Thanksgiving in 2014.

It recently hired Warner, who produced the "Shrek" franchise, to lead the company's charge into feature animation. Reel FX aims to make mid-budget animated movies for whichever studio offers the best fit, though in the case of "Beasts" no studio has come aboard yet.

“Reel FX is continuing to partner with some of the leading filmmakers in animation," Warner said in a statement. "Shane is an immense talent and will bring his fresh vision and approach to this adaptation of 'Beasts of Burden.'"

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