Sunday, May 31, 2009
Smoking in youth-rated movies has not declined despite a pledge two years ago by Hollywood studios to encourage producers to show less "gratuitous smoking," according to an anti-smoking group.
The American Medical Association Alliance, pointing to research that big-screen smoking leads teens to pick up the tobacco habit, called for an R rating for any movie with smoking scenes.
The head of the group that gives U.S. movies their ratings, however, said the smoke has been clearing from youth-rated movies, a result of the film industry's sensitivity to the issue.
The alliance, the medical association's advocacy arm, launched a summer campaign this week aimed at publicly shaming studios into making smoke-free films.
"Research has shown that one-third to one-half of all young smokers in the United States can be attributed to smoking these youth see in movies," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, head of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.
Fielding cited another study that he said "found that adolescents whose favorite movie stars smoked on screen are significantly more likely to be smokers themselves and to have a more accepting attitude toward smoking."
The Motion Picture Association of America, the industry group that issues ratings and parental guidance for U.S. films, added smoking scenes as a factor in ratings two years ago, but Fielding said it has not made a difference.
"In all, 56 percent of the top box office movies with smoking released between May 2007 and May 2009 were youth-rated films -- G, PG or PG-13," he said.
Joan Graves, who chairs the Motion Picture Association's movie rating committee, offered her own statistics, based on all of the 900 films rated each year, not just the top movies included in Fielding's numbers.
The association has given no G ratings in the past two years to a movie with smoking, Graves said.
Overall, 55 percent of the movies rated in the past two years showed some smoking, but 75 percent of those with smoking scenes were given R ratings, Graves said. Twenty-one percent were rated PG-13 and the remaining 5 percent were PG, she said.
A G movie is deemed suitable for all audiences, while a PG rating is a signal to parents that a film may include some material they might consider inappropriate for children. PG-13 indicates a stronger warning that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
No one under 17 can be admitted to see an R movie without a parent or guardian.
American Medical Association Alliance President Sandi Frost used as her chief example of a movie with "gratuitous smoking" this month's blockbuster "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which was rated PG-13 "for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity."
"Millions of children have been exposed to the main star of the film, Hugh Jackman, with a cigar in his mouth in various scenes," Frost said. "I'm willing to bet that not one child would have enjoyed that movie or Mr. Jackman's performance any less if he hadn't been smoking."
A spokesman for Twentieth Century Fox, the studio responsible for the Wolverine movie series, said Jackman's cigar was never lit and it was limited to just two scenes.
In one scene, the cigar is shot out of his mouth, prompting Jackman's Wolverine character to suggest its loss would lead to clean living -- an anti-smoking statement -- the studio spokesman said.
He said that while the Wolverine character has a cigar in his mouth in almost every panel of the comic book series, producers made "a conscious decision" to limit the cigar in the movie.
The American Medical Association Alliance, hoping to draw studio executives' attention, hired a mobile billboard to drive around the major studios this week.
"The billboard shows a teenage girl asking the question, 'Which movie studios will cause me to smoke this summer?' " Frost said.
The alliance will keep an online scorecard throughout the summer to count "how many tobacco impressions each studio delivers to G, PG and PG-13 audiences," she said.
"At the end of the summer, whichever studio has delivered the most tobacco impressions to youth audiences will be named in a billboard that will run outside of their headquarters," she said.
Motion Picture Association of America spokeswoman Angela Martinez said the group "is very sensitive to the concerns of parents about the purpose of the rating systems."
"It's reflective of society," Martinez said. "It's really a tool for parents to help determine what their kids see."
They began factoring smoking scenes into the ratings two years ago as "a reflection of changes in society and health concerns," she said.
"Smoking is rated like all the other factors, including violence and sex," she said.
Fielding said it should be absolute -- and not just a factor.
"Any movie with smoking should be rated R," he said. "And if they worry about an R rating hurting their profits, then they should work with studios to remove smoking from films that hurt youth."Graves, whose committee makes the decisions, indicated such a zero-tolerance policy would not be accepted.
I say smoking a cigarette adds something to a scene or a charater. Just imagine a femme fatale, like Kathleen Turner in "Body Heat" or Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" without a cigarette..
You think differently? Let us know and comment!
Here it is the first pic of THE LAST AIRBENDER, the new movie of M. Night Shyamalan with Dev Patel. Patel plays Zuko. The story follows the adventures of the successor to a long line of Avatars who must put aside his irresponsible ways and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations. After so many flops, can Shyamalan finally made another good movie?
One thing after the other, so first of all, here are some infos on the crew:
Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are acclaimed writers/directors/producers and long-time collaborators. Epstein won two Oscars for Best Documentary Feature: First in 1985 for "The Times of Harvey Milk" and in 1990 for "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt" about AIDS victims who are remembered in the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Both men are also responsible for the documentaries "Celluloid Closet" (Emmy Award nom) about homosexuals in Hollywood's film industry and "Paragraph 175", which deals with the persecution of homosexuals in the Third Reich.
For their work the duo has received multiple awards at the Berlin Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival as well as noms for the Independant Spirit Award.
Director Gus Van Sant is an executive producer on "Howl". He has been nominated for two Academy Awards ("Good Will Hunting", 1998 and "Milk", 2009). Other acclaimed work by Van Sant includes "To Die For", "Drugstore Cowboys" and "My Own Private Idaho".
Other producers include Lynn Appelle, Jawal Nga ("Last Chance Harvey", "Married Life"), Andrew Peterson, Elizabeth Redleaf (producer of the upcoming "Life During Wartime") and Christine K. Walker ("Factotum").
Oscar-nominated for his work on "Far From Heaven", Edward Lachman's work also includes films like "I'm Not There" and "Erin Brockovich".
Jake Pushinsky is responsible for cutting "Howl", he previously worked on the indie hit "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints".
Therese DePrez's work can be seen in movies like "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium", "American Splendor", "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "High Fidelity". In "Howl" DePrez recreates New York in the 50s.
Eric Drooker and Russel Barnes are responsible for Art Direction. Barnes resumee includes "Pride and Glory", "Be Kind Rewind" and the upcoming "Margaret" with Anna Paquin and Matt Damon. Graphic novelist Drooker, who worked with Ginsberg on illustrating his poems, is in charge of the animated part of the movie.
Robert Covelman is the Set Decorator on "Howl", he previously worked on 2005's "The Squid and the Whale".
Costumes were designed by Kurt and Bart, whose work also includes "Shortbus" and "Stephanie Daley"
Two-time Oscar-nominee Colleen Callaghan ("Benjamin Button", "A Beautiful Mind") is responsible for hair and make-up for the movie.
More on Howl HERE.
Seems like actress Mary-Louise Parker will walk in the shoes of Beatrice Straight (I'm a fan, so let me hope). In an interview the two-time Golden-Globe winner said, she has only one scene in "Howl":
Beyond Weeds, what will she tackle next? Parker has two new movies in the works: Solitary Man, in which she appears as the girlfriend of a sex-addicted car magnate played by Michael Douglas, and Howl, based on the life of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, still in production. She'd just shot her single scene for Howl the day before talking to WebMD.
"I've never been in a movie for just one scene before. I came in for one day and didn't even have a proper trailer, but it was great," she says. "I love poetry. It was sentimental to me because when my son was born my brother came to the hospital and read him a bunch of poetry -- we're literary geeks in my family -- and one thing he read to him was 'Howl.'"
Read everything on "Howl" so far HERE.
Stay tuned more news about this exciting project and keep coming back to Countdown Oscar.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Oh God, seems like today is "Movie Stills Day" - Hey, even milk can get a day, why not stills?;-) Here you can see more pics from "Public Enemies" helmed by Michael Mann. The movie stars Johnny Depp as legendary gangster John Dillinger, as the FBI tries to take him down. Also starring: Christian Bale and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as Dillinger's girlfriend Billie Frechette. U.S. release date: July 1st 2009. More stills from upcoming movies HERE.
As I'm writing this, my ears start to bleed because I can already hear shrill screams from teenie girls. Why? Because "Little Ashes" is Robert Pattinon's newest film in which he portrays famous painter Salvador Dali. There has already been some hype due to Pattinson's sex scene with another man. Actually the movie is about Dali, filmmaker Luis Bunuel and writer Federico Garcia Lorca. If you want to check out "Little Ashes", the you must also check out "Un chien andalou"a movie made by Dali and Bunuel in 1929, which is a little masterpiece if you ask me. Watch it, if you can!
The movie got a limited U.S. release on May 8th.
More stills from movies, which are yet to hit theaters, HERE.
Granted, today you don't get a lot of food for thought at Countdown Oscar. But at least you get something that's easy on the eyes, because it's Penelope Cruz in the newest Almodovar vehicle "Los Abrazos Rotos". The movie is about a film director, who has become unhappy and bitter after he lost his sight in an accident, Cruz stars as his lead actress. The is released in the U.S on November 20th (limited). More stills from other new movies HERE.
We're not finished for today with the stills, so check out the pics from the sequel to Transformers, directed by Michael Bay, with actors Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. For more stills from upcoming movies, click HERE.
This movie is M. Night Shyamalan's newest effort, starring "Slumdog Millionaire"- actor Dev Patel. The film tells the story of Avatar Zuko (Patel), who must prevent the Fire Nation from enslaving the Earth, Water and Air Nation. Release Date: July 2nd 2010. For a deleted scene from Best Picture winner "Slumdog Millionaire", click HERE.
The Cannes Film Festival is over, the awards were given, the stars have left. Enjoy once more the best pics from the Croisette. I also want to say, that this year Cannes was good to Austria, winning Michael Haneke the Palme d'Or and several other awards for "The White Ribbon", the Best Actor award for Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") and the Europa Cinema Prize for "La Pivellina". What an encouragement for our little countrie's film industry, which is basically on life support. Merci beaucoup, Cannes! To once again go through everything that happened at Cannes, click HERE.