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No Animals Were Harmed? Ugh, Tiger Was Nearly Killed On 'Life Of Pi'

Ang Lee

The Life of Pi on-set monitor who emailed a colleague to say that King - the Bengal tiger used on the movie - "damn near drowned" during shooting has left the American Human Association.

Ang LeeAng Lee With His Oscar for Best Director, for 'Life of Pi'

Gina Johnson, whose email kicked off The Hollywood Reporter's Animals Were Harmed package, is no longer an AHA employee, the organization confirmed on Tuesday, a day after the story hit newsstands. 

Continue reading: No Animals Were Harmed? Ugh, Tiger Was Nearly Killed On 'Life Of Pi'

Dark Rooms, Bans And Bolshy Women: How The Cannes Jury Choose The Palme D'Or Winner

Stephen Frears Cannes Film Festival Steven Spielberg Quentin Tarantino Coen Brothers Nicole Kidman Ang Lee David Fincher Nicolas Winding Refn Michael Gray Steven Soderbergh Alexander Payne

What it's like to sit on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival and have the power to present the director of the very best movie with the prestigious Palme d'Or? This year, Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz bring a touch of Hollywood A-list glamor to the event and will spent 10 days in darkened screening rooms debating each of the movies in competition.

British director Stephen Fears headed the jury in 2007, when he and his team chose Romanian movie 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days as the Palme d'Or winner ahead of the Coen's No Country For Old Men, David Fincher's Zodiac, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. "They were very anti-American, the jury. But I kept saying that American films are watched all over the world. This cut no ice with a few bolshy women on the jury," Frears told the BBC ahead of the Festival this week, "I don't know, you try and behave sensibly. I hear all those stories about people manipulating things, but there didn't seem to be any of that. There were no orders from above - nobody tried to interfere, but there were a few basic rules which you had to follow," he added.

Sitting in a darkened room and watching the very best movies of the year before anyone else sounds pretty fantastic right? "'re terrified of is going to sleep," said Frears, " I had coffee brought to me to stay awake - it was manageable. I didn't write notes but I had a friend with me and she and I would discuss the film afterwards." On whether he still recognised that he had chosen the best movie in competition, Frears was unequivocal, saying, "Oh yes, it was a wonderful, original film. I'm sure it benefitted from winning, it was a very accessible film. I'm sure if you spoke to distributors, I'm sure they would say Michael Haneke's film [2012 Palme d'Or and Oscar-winner] Amour has done really well."

Continue reading: Dark Rooms, Bans And Bolshy Women: How The Cannes Jury Choose The Palme D'Or Winner

The Iconic Mingle With The Indie On This Year's Cannes Jury

Steven Spielberg Ang Lee Nicole Kidman

The jury, which will seal the fate of all Cannes entrants has been decided. The power now lies with a mix of directors and actors, which includes Ang Lee (Best Director Oscar this year); former Palme d'Or winner Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days); Scottish helmer Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase. And the best bit, which we’ve known for a while now, Steven Spielberg will preside over the festivities.

The directors won’t have the only say in this year’s decision though, as the rest of the Cannes jury is comprised of Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz, French star Daniel Auteuil and Bollywood blockbuster actress Vidya Balan. That seems like a good representative sample of the film industry, with lots of professionals coming from outside of Hollywood as well as some household names. It is definitely a diverse bunch, appropriate for the colorful roster of films premiering at the festival – from Sofia Coppola’s glitzy crime flick The Bling Ring to Controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike's Straw Shield.

All in all, there is lots to look out for at this year’s festival and, whether the jury are qualified or not, they should have a pretty tough time deciding the winner of the Golden Palm.

Continue reading: The Iconic Mingle With The Indie On This Year's Cannes Jury

Cannes Jury Boasts Stellar Line-Up Featuring Nicole Kidman And Ang Lee

Nicole Kidman Ang Lee Christoph Waltz Baz Luhrmann Steven Spielberg

This year’s Cannes jury boasts some high profile talent, spanning eight different nationalities. The Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman is perhaps the best known of the line-up and she will be joined by the Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (star of Django Unchained) and the Taiwanese director Ang Lee (Life Of Pi). The jury will be led by Steven Spielberg (E.T.) and will be fleshed out with film veterans from another five countries.

The Indian actress Vidya Balan will not only appear on the jury but will also be at the festival marking 100 years of the Bollywood genre at a gala screening, Entertainment Weekly reports. The Japanese director Naomi Kawase has won the Camera D’Or prize in the past (1997) and the Grand Prize (2007) and will now be taking a place on the judging panel. Similarly, Lynne Ramsey, whose movie We Ned To Talk About Kevin was highly praised at 2011’s Cannes festival. They will be joined by the French actor Daniel Auteil, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes in ’96 and three-times Cannes winner Cristian Mungiu.

This year’s festival will be opened by the highly anticipated Baz Luhrmann movie The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, on May 15. The festival runs until May 26, when it will close with Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom’s Zulu, a political thriller. 

Continue reading: Cannes Jury Boasts Stellar Line-Up Featuring Nicole Kidman And Ang Lee

Cannes Jury Confirmed – Hollywood Directors And International Stars In Fine Balance

Steven Spielberg Ang Lee

The presiding jury for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival have been finalized, and it would be fair to say the list is dominated by film directors. But that’s not to say those in front of the camera won’t have their say.

Of the directors involved, we have: Stephen Spielberg – Mr President; Ang Lee – who beat Mr President to best director at the Oscars; Cristian Mungiu - a former Palme d'Or winner; Lynne Ramsay - (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase – a regular at Cannes. The actors circle includes: Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Auteuil and Bollywood actress Vidya Balan. And there you have it; the nine judges who will decide the winners at this year’s Cannes festival. This is tipped to be a huge year for the prestigious French film gathering; we’ll see huge debuts from the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Roman Polanski, Alexander Payne and the Coen Brothers, not to mention much-anticipated bows from Denmark's Nicolas Winding Refn and Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. We’re already excited.

Steven SpielbergAng Lee
These two will have to put their Oscars past behind them

Continue reading: Cannes Jury Confirmed – Hollywood Directors And International Stars In Fine Balance

Ang Lee To Make TV Directorial Debut With Tyrant

Ang Lee

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee has signed up for his first TV directorial job after it was announced that he will direct the pilot episode of new series, Tyrant.

Ang Lee
Ang Lee to make TV debut

According to the BBC, the show is going to be Lee's first project since last year’s Life of Pi, which saw the Taiwanese filmmaker win his second Academy Award last month. The TV show is set to be one based around cultural and political conflict, focusing on an everyday American family who find themselves caught up amidst the middle of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation.

Continue reading: Ang Lee To Make TV Directorial Debut With Tyrant

Ang Lee TV Series Is On, David Fury Blurts News On Twitter

Ang Lee

In his constant quest for originality, Oscar winning director Ang Lee finds him self on the small screen for his next project. He's directing the pilot for Tyrant - a project from the minds of the Homeland team.

Well, two of them anyway: Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff - two of the producers of the CIA drama - are working on the pilot, which will land on the FX network. Also producing is David Fury, who let the cat out of the bag on Twitter, clearly unable to hide his excitement, "News I can no longer contain: the director for the pilot of TYRANT, my current gig, will be none other than... ANG LEE!!! #youheardme" he posted.

In a far more measured show of excitement, FX chief John Landgraf said in a statement: "Ang Lee has demonstrated time and again an ability to present characters with such depth and specificity that they reveal the universal human condition. No one could be a more perfect filmmaker to bring Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff, and Craig Wright's Tyrant to indelible life." Before Life of Pi, Lee directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility and comic book blockbuster Hulk.

Continue reading: Ang Lee TV Series Is On, David Fury Blurts News On Twitter

Ang Lee's In-N-Out Oscars: Best Director Celebrates With Burger And Soda!

Ang Lee

Ang Lee's In-N-Out visit capped an altogether fantastic night for the filmmaker, whose movie Life of Pi scooped four awards in total, including Best Director. A delighted looking Ang was snapped by chowing down on an In-N-Out patty while clutching onto his golden statuette in Los Angeles.

Lee, clad in his Academy Awards tuxedo, also had a couple of sodas to wash down the burger - and who can blame him?  Magical 3-D epic Life of Pi took home the most awards of the night, with Ang's win over Steven Spielberg in the Best Director category perhaps the biggest shocker. It was a truly well-deserved win for the Taiwanese-born American, arguably the first filmmaker to realise the possibilities of the new movie technology. Life of Pi also secured the Oscars for Sound Editing, Visual Effects and Best Original Score, composed by Mychael Danna. 

Elsewhere at the ceremony, Daniel Day-Lewis made Hollywood history by becoming the first man to collect the Best Actor accolade on three separate occasions. Jennifer Lawrence fended off stiff competition from Emmanuelle Riva for Best Actress, while Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress. Ben Affleck and George Clooney's Argo was named Best Picture.

Continue reading: Ang Lee's In-N-Out Oscars: Best Director Celebrates With Burger And Soda!

Zero Dark Thirty Wins Only One Oscar Through Rare Tied Award

Kathryn Bigelow Academy Of Motion Pictures And Sciences Ben Affleck Steven Spielberg Daniel Day Lewis Ang Lee

If there’s anything worse that winning just one Oscar after your film was nominated for five, it's winning Best Sound Editing, and if there’s anything more embarrassing that that, it’s winning Best Sound Editing in a rare tied award with Skyfall.

Zero Dark Thirty’s failure at the 85th Academy Awards can be attributed, at least in part, to a trio of US senators, who, on December 19 last year, complained that the film was “grossly inaccurate” for implying torture played a part in tracking down the al-Qa’ida leader. The controversy surrounding the political implications of her film, led director Kathryn Bigelow to write a piece in the Los Angeles Times. “Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.”


Continue reading: Zero Dark Thirty Wins Only One Oscar Through Rare Tied Award

Are The 2013 BAFTAs Unpredictable? Strong Contenders Make It Tough To Judge

Ang Lee Ben Affleck Kathryn Bigelow Tom Hooper Steven Spielberg BAFTA

Film awards outcomes are difficult to predict. Year on year the judging panel changes and the tastes of both the public and the film critique elite evolve. Sometimes winners will be a curve ball, and sometimes movies that seem to be a dead cert get completely ignored from nominations.

This year, The Master had been tipped to be a firm favourite among critics, but has been largely ignored by many awards. In contrast, the underdog movie Beasts of the Southern Wild, starring two completely novice actors and the feature film directorial debut from Benh Zeitlin, has snapped up three nods from the Oscars. The BAFTAS doesn't quite have the same notoriety for its unpredictable nominations or winners, but for this year's Best Film Award, with 5 unusually strong contenders, the floor is still entirely open. 

This year's nominations are; Ben Affleck's Argo, Tom Hooper's all star Les Miserables, Ang Lee's stunning adaptation of Life of Pi, American historical drama Lincoln from Steven Spielberg, and Kathryn Bigelow's controversial search for Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty

Continue reading: Are The 2013 BAFTAs Unpredictable? Strong Contenders Make It Tough To Judge

The Hobbit Continues Its Expected Journey At The Top Of The US Box Office

Peter Jackson Steven Spielberg James Bond Ang Lee

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey enjoyed another week atop the Box Office charts this weekend, earning more than double that of its nearest rival. It's Contact Music's Christmas Box Office Roundup!

With $36,705,000 this weekend (Dec 21-23), Bilbo Baggins et al, steered by Peter Jackson stayed top, bolstering its total gross to $149,858,000. In at second, and on its opening weekend, Jack Reacher - starring Tom Cruise - managed $15,600,000, while in third place comes another opener for this week, This Is 40 with $12,031,000. Rise Of The Guardians continues to chip away at its $140m budget, coming in at 4th with $5,900,000m and a total gross of $79,694,000. Steven Spielberg's political biopic, Lincoln, continues an impressive 7-week stay in the top 5 with $5,633,000 and a cumulative gross of $116,781,000. Paramount's The Guilt Trip fails to break the top 5 with $5,390,000 on it's opening weekend, while a re-release of Monsters inc in 3D manages, incredibly, to place 7th $5,040,000.

The ret of the top 10 features more Oscar contenders than the top 7 with James Bond Skyfall, Ang Lee's Life of Pi, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 polishing things off in 8th, 9th and 10th with $4,700,000, $3,800,000 and $2,600,000 respectively. Not bad considering they've all been contending for at least 5 weeks. This weekend saw a total of $110,376,200 changing hands at US ticket offices; a decidedly smaller figure than we've seen in recent weeks. 

Continue reading: The Hobbit Continues Its Expected Journey At The Top Of The US Box Office

A Week In Movies Feat: Cruise Promoting Jack Reacher, JJ Abrams' Exciting Sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness And Will Smith's End Of The World Thriller After Earth

Steven Spielberg Kathryn Bigelow Ang Lee Tom Cruise George Clooney Jj Abrams Will Smith Chris Pine Benedict Cumberbatch Zachary Quinto Zoe Saldana


As the year winds down, critics are making lists and checking them twice to decide which filmmakers have been naughty or nice. Top 10s are appearing everywhere, along with awards and nominations and even some worst of the year lists. And most film fans are anxiously awaiting the emergence of a front-runner in the Oscar race. 

So far the love has been spread around between year-end releases like Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and Ang Lee's Life of Pi, all of which earned key nominations from the Golden Globes last week and the London Critics' Circle Film Awards this week. Perhaps not quite so awards-worthy is the new Tom Cruise action romp Jack Reacher, which opens on Christmas.

Continue reading: A Week In Movies Feat: Cruise Promoting Jack Reacher, JJ Abrams' Exciting Sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness And Will Smith's End Of The World Thriller After Earth

Life Of Pi Hits Cinemas In The UK: Why You Should/Shouldn't See It

Ang Lee

Chatter about the new Ang Lee film, Life of Pi, has been deafening of late, with the build-up to the long awaited novel adaptation hitting cinemas across the UK today (Dec 21). With three Golden Globe nominations already, and a barrage of positive feedback still coming in, it's easy to see why so many are talk so highly of this 'unfilmable' film.

But should you really dedicate two hours of your life to a film about a young Indian boy floating in a boat with a tiger? Here's a quick list of pros and cons on why you should, or shouldn't, go see Life of Pi.

Pro: It has three Golden Globe nominations already.

Continue reading: Life Of Pi Hits Cinemas In The UK: Why You Should/Shouldn't See It

The Golden Globes Nominations, No Surprises For A Great Year Of Film

Quentin Tarantino Leonardo Dicaprio Daniel Day Lewis Rachel Weisz Naomi Watts Helen Mirren Richard Gere John Hawkes Joaquin Phoenix Denzel Washington Maggie Smith Michelle Dockery Ben Affleck Marion Cotillard Christoph Waltz Ang Lee

The Golden Globes are one of the biggest film and television awards in the world. Winning an award from them will almost always top the C.V.s of anyone involved in film. 2012 has been one of the best years in film for a long time, with many films being deemed 'instant classics'. Although, of course, that's said every year, with just a quick glance at the calibre of performances, narrative and cinematography this year it's easy to see why it's being said.

2012's nominations were revealed today with few surprises. The favourites during speculation included Argo, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and The Master, and they haven't failed to impress in the Globes' nominations. Lincoln's set to be a big winner with seven nominations, while Argo has 5 nominations, Zero Dark Thirty has 4 and The Master has 3. All four, except The Master, are also in the running for Best Motion Picture, competing alongside Ang Lee's Life of Pi and Quentin Tarantino's re-envisioning of a slave narrative, Django Unchained

Tarantino's film received 5 nominations, which included two in the category for Best Supporting Performance by an Actor, for Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Dicaprio, which proves to us that it's more than worth the watch. Best Director nominations mirrors the Best Motion Picture, and include Ben Affleck (Argo), Stephen Spielberg (Lincoln), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), which is no surprise really. 

Continue reading: The Golden Globes Nominations, No Surprises For A Great Year Of Film

Batman The Dark Knight Rises Lands Spot On AFI Best Film List

Christopher Nolan Ben Affleck Paul Thomas Anderson Ang Lee

In the run up to The Oscars, as awards season is in full swing, a mention by The American Film Institute in their top 10 films of the year represents a confidence boost for the respective directors and actors hoping to pick up that much coveted gold statue. 

One of these films in the last instalment of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises, which isn't totally void of Oscar buzz, but is very much considered to be an outsider. Being selected in the list doesn't guarantee anything, but it certainly revitalises the flame for films that were released earlier in the year. 

Given the stellar list of movies, it's hard to see how Dark Knight... will prevail. Even if it's nominated, it'll more than likely face stiff competition from Life of Pi, Lincoln and Ben Affleck's Argo.

Continue reading: Batman The Dark Knight Rises Lands Spot On AFI Best Film List

Silver Linings Playbook? Argo? Lincoln? Your Oscars Cheat Sheet For Best Picture!

Ben Affleck Steven Spielberg Tom Hooper David O Russell Joaquin Phoenix Philip Seymour Hoffman Michael Haneke Bradley Cooper Jennifer Lawrence Kathryn Bigelow Daniel Day Lewis Hugh Jackman Helena Bonham Carter Russell Crowe Anne Hathaway Paul Thomas Anderson Ang Lee Quvenzhane Wallis

David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook - a stunning dark comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper - appears to have hijacked the Oscars race. Russell was tipped for a golden statuette with The Fighter, though missed out on the directing prize to Tom Hooper (The Kings Speech). His latest movie has certainly thrown a spanner into the works for the greatest film prize of them all, so we've compiled an Oscars cheat sheet for Best Picture in 2013. So read on, before cleverly dropping the information into conversations with your friends.

Who's the frontrunner?

There's still a handful of likely Oscar contenders to be released, though the eight or ten movies most strongly tipped to get nominated for Best Picture are now in place. The list is headed by two movies: Ben Affleck's thriller Argo and Steven Spielberg's historical drama Lincoln. The bookmakers cannot choose between the two, but most give the former's movie the edge as recent history suggests this type of film is likely to please the younger looking Academy. The Hurt Locker famously usurped Avatar in 2009, and Affleck's slick movie has much in common with Kathryn Bigelow's classic Iraq War film. As mentioned, both films are pretty much neck-and-neck in the betting, though Argo is generally available at 3/1 while Spielberg's epic is around 4/1.

Continue reading: Silver Linings Playbook? Argo? Lincoln? Your Oscars Cheat Sheet For Best Picture!

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 Takes The Thanksgiving Weekend: Box Office Roundup

Kristen Stewart Robert Pattinson Daniel Craig Ang Lee Denzel Washington

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 wasn't only the longest film title vying for hard earned dollars this weekend, it was also the biggest, as it claimed the top spot on Thanksgiving weekend. Here's our American Box Office roundup. 

Outpacing 007 by $7m, Twilight earned $43,070,000 following the traditional pre-Thanksgiving weekend Wednesday release to bring its total to an impressive $227m. Daniel Craig as Bond in Skyfall brought some British style to proceedings, but was ultimately out-jousted, coming in second with $36m. Steven Spielberg's epic political drama Lincoln, with Daniel Day Lewis starring as the titular character, couldn't touch the top two, managing $25,020,000 and placing it third. The top three was a hotly contested spot, with Dreamworks Studios' Rise of The Guardians gleaning $24,025,000 and placing 4th. Ang Lee's Life of Pi struggled with the big-name competition, completing the top 5 in its opening weekend with $22m. The movie, adapted from the famous novel, is receiving a round of very positive critical responses, and will be battling for Oscar recognition come 2013.

The video game animation, Wreck It Ralph represents a stark drop in revenue in 6th place, with $16,760,000, although its overall performance has been good, with $149.5M in its 4th week of release. Red Dawn opened to $14,600,000 while Flight, starring Denzel Washington as a pilot battling alcohol issues chugs along with $8,600,000 and $74.9M overall; an average return for a film in its 4th week. Silver Linings Playbook and Argo round off the top 10 with $4,623,000 and $3,875,000 respectively. Figures according to Yahoo Movies. 

Ang Lee's Empathy With The Life Of Pi

Ang Lee

Life of Pi, the newest film from award winning director Ang Lee, has already been tipped as a sure fire Oscar winner. Every new review has been frantically searching for a new adverb to describe the type of 'beautiful' that Life of Pi is; the Wall Street Journal opted for "ineffably beautiful", while others have said 'sumptuous', 'dangerous' and rather less dramatically 'consistently beautiful'. So, Life of Pi is beautiful, good. But, judging by recent interviews with Ang Lee, beauty is far from merely skin deep. 

Given the reactions of critics so far, being almost unanimously positive and praising, one wonders what makes something quite so beautiful. Most of the time it's hard work and dedication, and no one can accuse anyone that's worked on Life of Pi of not living up to those things, but Ang Lee's direct empathy with Pi himself will surely really have bolstered a lot of its feeling of authenticity. 

"[Life of Pi is] Very much [a spiritual tale rather than a religious story]. It's not like you have a scripture you practice, it's not religious. ... Sometimes in the making of it, you have a taste of it, you feel like your faith is being tested." Lee said in an interview with Zimbio. "It is about religion because it's related to God, the creative deity. it's not really religion because of the ocean. Religion is organized. [Pi] doesn't have that societal framework so he's thrown into the abstractness, facing God. So in making the movie, I felt very sympathetic to Pi because I felt the same way." 

Continue reading: Ang Lee's Empathy With The Life Of Pi

Life Of Pi Actor Narrowly Avoids Expulsion From 'India's Cambridge University'

Ang Lee Suraj Sharma

Suraj Sharma, the 19-year-old actor who stars in Ang Lee's Oscar tipped movie Life Of Pi, has narrowly avoided expulsion from Delhi University's St Stephen's College for missing more than half his first term lectures to promote the 3-D movie. The school - known as 'India's Cambridge University' - eventually let Sharma retain his place after he crammed in eight last minute essays.

Sharma's casting in Life of Pi came after he accompanied his brother to an audition, for moral support. A producer encouraged him to try-out too, and the rest, as they say, is history. His casting has generated a real buzz in India, with many comparing Life of Pi to Danny Boyle's Mumbai-set Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire. In the film he plays Pi Patel, the young son of Indian zoo owners, who is trusted with moving a cargo full of animals across the sea to Canada. When the ship sinks he finds himself alone with a Bengal tiger on a life-boat. Sharma was picked from 3,000 applications for the role, with director Ang Lee saying he had, "the innocence to capture our attention, the depth of character to break our hearts, and the physicality needed to embody Pi on his journey." However, his college principal Valson Thampu told the UK's Daily Telegraph the actor had made less than half of the minimum 66 per cent of lectures and tutorials students must attend to remain at the college. The deadline for work passed on Tuesday (Sharma had submitted nothing), though Thampu made an exception, saying, "He had not cleared the requirement until 10 minutes ago. He submitted eight essays and I'm delighted. I've accepted them altogether, which is not usual."

Let that be a lesson to you all, kids. Forget your school work, try become a Hollywood star, hand in all your work at the same time, if you really have to. 

Continue reading: Life Of Pi Actor Narrowly Avoids Expulsion From 'India's Cambridge University'

Life Of Pi: How A Promise Of A Free Lunch Launched Suraj Sharma's Career

Suraj Sharma Ang Lee Steven Spielberg Daniel Day Lewis

As the Life of Pi reviews roll in, it's become clear that this is a movie to take seriously, but that's far from the attitude that lead character Suraj Sharma adopted when he tagged along with his brother for the audition.

Asked by The New York Daily news if he'd always wanted to act, Sharma's response was "No," which seems funny considering he's the lead in a possible Oscar winning movie. "It was my brother who wanted to audition for the role and I went along with him," he explained. "I'd told him 'I'll come if you buy me a Subway salad afterwards.' Next thing I know, I am in an Ang Lee movie! I was a school-going kid, literally, obnoxiously normal. I was in that stage when you don't know what you want to do with your life. With this film, I went through something life-changing." They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but this complimentary meal seems to have lead to an acting career for the young man. 

Given the cinematic clout of its director, and the politically emotive subject matter after Obama's re-election, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham, is sure to prevail come February, when the Academy Awards take place. Ang Lee's Life of Pi is sure to provide some stiff competition, though. 

Crouching Tiger: Ang Lee And Long Road To Life Of Pi

Ang Lee Suraj Sharma

Perhaps tigers will prove a lucky omen for Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee, whose magical 3-D epic Life of Pi - based on the Booker Prize winning novel by Yann Martel - hits theaters in the U.S. this weekend. The film follows the adventurous tale of Pi, whose ship carrying zoo animals to Canada is his by a storm and sinks, leaving the protagonist on a lifeboat with only a fully grown Bengal tiger for company.

Life of Pi comes some 12 years after Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, whilst being nominated for Best Picture. Considered one of the most influential foreign movies of all time, Crouching Tiger was lauded for its story and cinematography, both of which are praised in Life of Pi. The new film has been a long-time coming. It clearly boasts a huge Hollywood-style story and has been on the mind of movie studio executives for years. In 2003, Fox 200 Pictures hired M. Night Shyamalan to direct the film though the filmmaker ultimately decided to make Lady In The Water instead, easily one of the worst movies ever made. As Time Magazine put it, "What was [Shyamalan] thinking? This isn't just duff, it's career-threatening catastrophic." In 2005, Fox entered talks with Alfonso Curaron, the award-winning filmmaker hailed for his classic Y Tu Mamá También. Curaron instead chose to directed Children of Men, leading Fox to hire Amelie directed Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The Frenchman began writing and adapting the screenplay and filming was scheduled to begin in 2006, though he eventually left the project and Fox hired Ang Lee.

Over 3,000 men auditioned for the role of Pi, though it was 17-year-old student Suraj Sharma who landed the role, albeit somewhat unintentionally. Sharma agreed to accompany his brother to the auditions for moral support, though was asked to try-out by the casting director and eventually landed the part. "I had never acted before", he told the New York Daily News, "The first thing I learned was how to act opposite no one. I didn't think I could do it, but Ang gets what he wants. So it was new for me - but it was doable"

Continue reading: Crouching Tiger: Ang Lee And Long Road To Life Of Pi

Is Ang Lee's Life Of Pi Ready To Upset The Oscars Form Book?

Ang Lee Suraj Sharma

Ang Lee's epic spiritual adventure movie Life of Pi - based on the Booker Prize winning book by Yann Martel - is set for release on Wednesday in the U.S. (November 21, 2012), on the back of strong early reviews. The movie follows the story of a student who sets sail on a cargo ship hauling zoo animals from India to Canada, however, when the ship sinks, he is forced to get along with a full-grown Bengal tiger. 

Lee - best known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - shot most of the visually stunning movie in his native Taiwan, though it could be lead star Suraj Sharma who takes all the plaudits come awards' season. "I had never acted before," the actor told the New York Daily News, "The first thing I learned was how to act opposite no one. I didn't think I could do it, but Ang gets what he wants. So it was new for me - but it was doable." All the water sequences were shot in a huge movie studio tank, while Sharma was forced to act opposite a digitally created version of the tiger. "I'd watch the tigers being trained to get an idea how it would move on the boat. But then I had to imagine the whole thing. I had to get the idea so I could see the tiger as best as I could." Sharma's story could provide the backbone for a Hollywood movie itself, with the New Delhi native being asked by his brother to accompany him to a movie audition to provide moral support. "The casting director told me I might as well give it a shot, too, so I made an audition tape," Sharma recalled, "I wound up having five call-backs and then went to Bombay to meet Ang. For the first three auditions, I didn't even know what I was auditioning for; I just knew it involved survival manuals." Of course, the movie turned out to be Lee's latest assault on awards' season (he won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain in 2005), with Life of Pi tipped for an Oscar nomination, at least. Currently, the movie is the fifth favorite to win Best Film at the awards' ceremony in February, though Sharma is the 33/1 outsider to win Best Actor.

Tom Shone of The Guardian suggests Ang Lee's latest film could usurp the likes of Argo and Lincoln at the Oscars, writing in his review of the movie, "Hollywood has been waiting for this movie. Get ready for the year of the Tiger." Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter echoed the sentiments, writing, "A gorgeous and accomplished rendering of the massive best-seller."

Continue reading: Is Ang Lee's Life Of Pi Ready To Upset The Oscars Form Book?

Ang Lee's Life Of Pi Will Show You God

Ang Lee

The New York Times' review of Ang Lee's Life of Pi is one of the few around that's willing to speak ill of it. Everyone else loves it! Rolling Stone said that "Every sight and sound is astounding", NY Daily News' high praise said that "there should be no argument that Lee has made one of the year's most impressive films," and Time Magazine said "Magical realism was rarely so magical and never before so real."

It is precisely this 'reality' and the line that the film treads which the NY Times took issue with. Life of Pi is based on a book of the same name by Yann Martel, about a man telling a Canadian novelist a story from his youth, in which he survived a shipwreck that his zoo-keeping parents weren't so lucky with. Subsequently, finding himself stranded in a lifeboat with a tiger. 

The review considers Pi to be largely focussed on theological and deistic concerns, describing Pi's 'spirituality' as "slack-jawed piety" and cynically commenting that "He likes them all [religions]." While the NYTimes doesn't seem to like that part of the movie too much, it's Pi perogative, even telling the Canadian that his story "will make you believe in God." Forcing the audience into the suspension of disbelief is the task of all film makers, and the reviewer considers the concept of God to be something that the audience inherently disbelieves. Of course, this may be the case, but Ang Lee and everyone else involved in the film seem to have truly taken 'God' to heart. The quality of the digital imagery conjuring the creation of the CGI tiger have received the highest praise for the film, the NY Times described it as "almost miraculous vividness," continuing "His eyes, his fur, the rippling of his muscles and the skeleton beneath his skin, all of it is so perfectly rendered that you will swear that [the tiger] is real." 

Continue reading: Ang Lee's Life Of Pi Will Show You God

Life Of Pi's Enormous Technical Challenges

Ang Lee

Bill Westenhoffer, a visual effects supervisor for Life of Pi said that the film was "one of the most challenging projects [he's] worked on," on a film featurette on YouTube. The challenge is unsurprising when you think about the task he and the rest of the visual effects team had on their shoulders. 

Life of Pi is about a young Indian boy who ends up being shipwrecked in the middle of an ocean, stranded in a life boat that's also occupied by a zebra, an orangutan and, most problematically, a Tiger. Naturally, you couldn't have a live, blood thirsty tiger around a young boy all day every day filming, so instead they used a mixture of both a real tiger, and a CGI tiger. Director Ang Lee (who also directed Brokeback Mountain) said that "by bringing in the real animal, you set a standard- this is what you have to match." Indeed, according to Westenhoffer, "[they] had over 15 artists just working on the fur." 

The trailer (see below) makes the film look both terrifying and beautiful, and likely to be one of the most visually stunning examples of cinema to reach the silver screen in a very long time, perhaps since Lee's martial arts masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We have high hopes for both its commercial and critical success.

Continue reading: Life Of Pi's Enormous Technical Challenges

Ang Lee's 'Life Of Pi' Debuts In New York, In 3D!

Ang Lee

It might have once been considered as 'unfilm-able', yet The Life of Pi is the latest film to hit the silver screen, with director Ang Lee hoping to make the impossible not just possible, but a cinematic journey that won't be forgotten.

The new film opened up the New York Film Festival last night, and is the screen adaptation of the acclaimed Yann Martel novel of the same name about a boy named Pi who recalls the time was shipwrecked, leaving him and a small collective of animals led by a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, a spotted hyena, an injured zebra, and an orang-utan to survive their perilous journey to safety in the confines of small lifeboat. The film is renowned for it's deep spiritual underlining, something that drew Lee to the project in the first place as it was something that the Oscar-winning director wanted to display for a much wider audience.

Lee also said, revealing to reporters on standby at the film's opening, that he knew the only way he could transfer the spectacle from page to picture was by shooting it in 3D and that this had been his ambition sometime before James Cameron's Avatar.

Continue reading: Ang Lee's 'Life Of Pi' Debuts In New York, In 3D!

‘Les Miserables’ To Battle Tarantino’s Django Unchained On Christmas Day

Tom Hooper Russell Crowe Ang Lee Baz Luhrmann Quentin Tarantino Jamie Foxx Leonardo Dicaprio Kathryn Bigelow Tom Cruise

Looks like Universal Pictures mean business. The studio has pushed the release of ‘Les Miserables’ from December 14, to December 25. Interestingly, the decision was made after Universal got the final cut from director Tom Hooper and felt it was more appropriate for a Christmas Day release.

Ang Lee’s hugely anticipated ‘Life of Pi’ – an adaptation of Yann Martel’s classic novel – and Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ recently moved off the Christmas Day release date, though ‘Les Mis’ still has high profile challengers. The Russell Crowe starring movie, based on the long-running musical which itself is based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, will go up against Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’. The drama-western follows a slave-turned-bounty hunter played by Jamie Foxx who sets out to rescue his wife from Leonardo Dicaprio’s brutal Mississippi plantation owner Calvin Candie. It will certainly be interesting to discover who comes out on top on Christmas Day, with both movies expected to be in the running for the major prizes at the Golden Globes and Oscars.

Continue reading: ‘Les Miserables’ To Battle Tarantino’s Django Unchained On Christmas Day

Taking Woodstock Trailer

Watch the trailer for Taking Woodstock

Woodstock Festival was almost not meant to be, originally the permit was pulled, only when Elliot Tiber stepped in and spoke to the organisers offering them the use of his parents motel and his next door neighbour, Max Yasgur, land that things got rolling. Taking Woodstock starts the moving story of Elliot Tiber and his personal struggle to keep the family motel open, what eventually develops from Elliot's plans is way beyond anyone's expectation.

Directed by Academy Award winner Ang Lee
UK Release date: 13th November 2009

Starring: Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber, Paul Dano, Henry Goodman, Imelda Staunton, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eugene Levy, Jonathan Groff, Kelli Garner, Adam LeFevre, Edward Hibbert, Dan Fogler, Damian Kulash, Christina Kirk, Skylar Astin and Gabriel Sunday

Explicit Ang Lee Film Set For Chinese Censorship

Ang Lee

Academy award-winning director Ang Lee has confirmed that a censored version of his latest film will be shown in mainland China.

According to Screen Daily, Taiwanese national Lee said that Lust, Caution would have its more explicit sex scenes removed for Asian audiences.

The film, a contender for the Leone d'Oro top prize at the Venice film festival this week, has already been given an NC-17 certificate in the US, banning anyone under the age of 18 from watching it.

Lee's long-time movie producer associate James Schamus defended the film's adult nature.

"We made the movie we absolutely wanted to make," he insisted.

"We are being very modest in our expectations for the film, not because of the NC-17, not because of the foreign language, but because quite frankly Ang has made a film which is a challenge."

Based on a short story by Chinese author Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution is set in Shanghai amid the Japanese invasion of the second world war.

It features a plot by members of the Chinese resistance to kill a collaborator by using an attractive young woman as bait.

The film's inclusion at the Venice film festival was controversial in itself however after it was classified as being from Taiwan, China, implying that the island state was part of China itself.

But Sense and Sensibility director Lee told reporters in Venice: "I think it is more important to show the movie. I leave it to the politicians and the festival."

Continue reading: Explicit Ang Lee Film Set For Chinese Censorship

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Life of Pi Movie Review

Life of Pi Movie Review

Working with perceptive writer David Magee (Finding Neverand), Ang Lee creates one of the most...

Life of Pi Trailer

Life of Pi Trailer

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Taking Woodstock Trailer

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Lust, Caution Movie Review

Lust, Caution Movie Review

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