Academy Award Winner Discusses “Milk”

2009 Academy Award ® Winner, Dustin Lance Black was the guest of honor at the second Bruce Geller Screenwriting Awards held last night, helddustinlanceblack at the American Jewish University.

The late Geller was the writer, creator and producers of the “Mission Impossible” TV series and also wrote and produced “Have Gun, Will Travel” and “Rawhide” that launched the career of actors such as Clint Eastwood.

The Bruce Geller Screenwriting Awards were established though the generosity of Geller’s wife, Jeannette who saw the realization of her dream with the Awards’ inaugural launch last year before she too passed away.

Writer, Joel Silverman won top honors with his spec script, “Barney Ross”, the story of a talmudic scholar turned boxing champion and WW II hero who is credited with helping Jews gain acceptance in America.

Runners up were “Eight Knights” by Caroline Carrigan and “Kabbalah” by Mark Levenson.

The president of the American Jewish University, Dr. Robert Wexler interviewed Dustin Lance Black in an informal TV talk show setting.

Black talked candidly about his coming out as a gay man, Prop 8 and his years of research on the Harvey Milk story. Black had originally lobbied hard to be hired to write a version of “Milk” for Warner Bros. After much detective work, travelling to San Francisco in order to track down friends and co-workers of Harvey Milk, Black was dismissed in a cool, off-handed way by Warner executives who told him they can’t give him the job because “he had never won an Academy Award.” Deeply disappointed, Black went on to write his own spec script that was eventually read by Gus Van Sant and the rest as they say, is history.

The evening included a cocktail and appetizer reception before the award presentation and dessert afterward.

Black spent the later reception posing for pictures and signing autographs.

The Academy Gets It Almost Right

The nominations for the 2009 Academy Awards were announced in Hollywood this morning.

Benjamin Buttons cleaned up with a total of 13 nods. The audience favorite, Slumdog Millionaire got 10 nominations.

Clint Eastwood was snubbed for his latest, Gran Torino.

Some surprises included Melisa Leo as a Best Actress nominee, and Michael Shannon for his brilliant turn in Revolutionary Road which earned him a Best Supporting Actor nod.

Happily the Academy didn’t reward The Dark Knight with any major award nominations with the exception of Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor. They also correctly ignored Dev Patel for Slumdog.

Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei can rightfully celebrate their nominations for The Wrestler.  Good to see Milk get the acclaim is deserves, especially Josh Brolin.

Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder seems like a major blunder but the big loser appears to be Revolutionary Road, which failed to get best actor, best actress, best director or best film recognition. Kate Winslet was recognized as Best Actress for The Reader, when many felt she was only a supporting actress in that motion picture. The Academy over-ruled that notion.

Stay tuned for more reaction.

The Academy Awards will be presented on February 22nd, 2009 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

Here is a full list of nominees:

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn in “Milk”
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Josh Brolin in “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt”
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road”

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie in “Changeling”
Melissa Leo in “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep in “Doubt”
Kate Winslet in “The Reader”

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in “Doubt”
Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis in “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
“Kung Fu Panda”

Achievement in Art Direction
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Achievement in Cinematography
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Achievement in Costume Design
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Achievement in Directing
David Fincher for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard for “Frost/Nixon”
Gus Van Sant for “Milk”
Stephen Daldry for “The Reader”
Danny Boyle for “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Documentary Feature
“The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)”
“Encounters at the End of the World”
“The Garden”
“Man on Wire”
“Trouble the Water”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Conscience of Nhem En”
“The Final Inch”
“Smile Pinki”
“The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306”

Achievement in Film Editing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
“The Dark Knight,” Lee Smith
“Frost/Nixon,” Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
“Milk,” Elliot Graham
“Slumdog Millionaire,” Chris Dickens

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year “The Baader Meinhof Complex” – Germany
“The Class” – France
“Departures” – Japan
“Revanche” – Austria
“Waltz with Bashir” – Israel

Achievement in Makeup
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Greg Cannom
“The Dark Knight,” John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
“Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Alexandre Desplat
“Defiance,” James Newton Howard
“Milk,” Danny Elfman
“Slumdog Millionaire,” A.R. Rahman
“WALL-E,” (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
“Down to Earth” from “WALL-E” by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
“Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire” Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Best Motion Picture of the Year
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Animated Short Film
“La Maison en Petits Cubes”
“Lavatory – Lovestory”
“This Way Up”

Best Live Action Short Film
“Auf der Strecke (On the Line)”
“Manon on the Asphalt”
“New Boy”
“The Pig”
“Spielzeugland (Toyland)”

Achievement in Sound Editing
“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Achievement in Sound Mixing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Achievement in Visual Effects
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”

Adapted Screenplay
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” screenplay by Eric Roth, screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
“Doubt,” by John Patrick Shanley
“Frost/Nixon,” by Peter Morgan
“The Reader,” by David Hare
“Slumdog Millionaire,” by Simon Beaufoy

Original Screenplay
“Frozen River,” by Courtney Hunt
“Happy-Go-Lucky,” by Mike Leigh
“In Bruges,” by Martin McDonagh
“Milk,” by Dustin Lance Black
“WALL-E,” screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon; original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter