Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dining With the Stars:
Saluting This Year's Foreign Language Film Nominees

International Celebs Shine on a Rainy Night
Sorrentino: "Thank you for being interested in nothing."

A convivial mix of American and international stars and filmmakers came together to celebrate on Friday night as The Motion Picture Academy staged its annual presentation of certificates to the directors of the five nominated foreign language films. The festivities took place at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in a tent next to the landmark streamline moderne May Co. building, soon to be the home of the Academy’s Museum of Motion Pictures. To get there, the multi-lingual crowd had to slog through flooded streets on one of the rare stormy nights in Los Angeles.

AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs warmly welcomed several hundred well-dressed guests (to be expected with so many Europeans in attendance) before turning the proceedings over to producer Mark Johnson, an Academy governor and chair of the Foreign Language Committee. Phedon Papamichael, a Best Cinematography nominee this year for “Nebraska,” introduced Belgium’s impactful “Broken Circle Breakdown” and director Felix Van Groeningen. Also on hand was the film’s gifted, luminous leading actress, Veerle Baetens.

Kathryn Bigelow handed the certificate to Cambodian director Rithy Panh for his innovative “The Missing Picture,” which also took the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in May. “Totalitarianism can destroy imagination,” Panh noted before thanking the crowd. Celebrating with him were his French producer, Catherine Dussart, star Randal Douc, and composer Marc Marder.

Thomas Vinterberg, the formidable director of Denmark’s compelling “The Hunt,” received his certificate from Matt Groening (yes, creator of television’s “The Simpsons” and certainly a strange choice to represent the Motion Picture Academy). Groening told the crowd that he checked with Vinterberg beforehand to make sure he was pronouncing his name correctly. “It’s close enough,” replied Vinterberg, who speaks flawless, unaccented English.
Denmark's Thomas Vinterberg, left, and Palestine's HanyAbu-Assad

Next up were Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino, director of the assumed frontrunner “The Great Beauty.” After watching all of the foreign language movies, Cuaron admitted, “Now I have new people to admire.” Sorrentino charmed the group with the funniest remarks of the night: “They told me to talk for two minutes. My English is not good enough for that. When we started production, they told us the movie is about everything, but it turned out to be about nothing. Thank you for being interested in nothing.”

Finally, Tommy Lee Jones saluted Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad. “Omar” was his second nomination. He had earned another in 2005 for “Paradise Now.” His talented star Adam Bakri and the film’s U.S. reps M.J. Peckos and Steven Raphael were there, too.

Who Else Was There

“Before Midnight” writer and star Julie Delpy, looking as gorgeous as ever, though why she went surprises us since she just bluntly criticized the Motion Picture Academy in the Huffington Post. We still love her, though. She told us she will make her next two films in France and in French.

Also, the great Danish star Mads Mikkelsen, Sony Classics co-heads Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, former AMPAS president Sid Ganis, writer and director James L. Brooks, “Nebraska” producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, producers Midge Sanford and Sarah Pillsbury, foreign language committee members Paula Silver, Gary Shapiro, Christine LaMonte, and Gail Cottman, and those five brilliant doyens of foreign language publicity – Nancy Willen, Fredell Pogodin, Laura Kim, Melody Korenbrot, and Tatiana Detlofson – cheering on their friends and nominees from the sidelines.

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