Sundance Film Festival Announces Opening Film


Cody Clark – Ogden Daily Herald   

Has the Sundance Film Festival gone Walt Disney on us? For the second time in three years, the opening night film at the prestigious annual cinema showcase will be an animated film.

In 2007, it was the political mock-doc “Chicago 10,” but this year’s film is a gentle story about an unlikely friendship between pen pals. “Mary and Max,” which festival publicists announced on Wednesday will be the first film to screen at the 2009 festival, is the story of fat 44-year-old Max Jerry Horovitz, who lives in New York City, and a lonely 8-year-old Mary Daisy Dinkle, who lives in Melbourne. The two become friends long-distance after beginning to write letters to each other. 

“Mary and Max” is the feature film debut of writer and director Adam Elliot, a maker of short films, including the film “Harvie Krumpet,” shown at Sundance in 2004, that claimed an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. “Max and Mary,” made using the clay animation technique familiar to fans of the “Wallace and Gromit” movies, will feature the voices of Toni Collette as Mary, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max.

The festival will be held Jan. 15-25 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and at Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon. The entire festival program is scheduled to be announced over two days, Dec. 3-4.


Axl Rose Demands Apology, Payment From Dr Pepper

Axl Rose is accusing Dr Pepper of botching a soda giveaway tied to Guns N’ Roses’ new album.

And he’s demanding the company take out a full-page apology in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

His lawyer wants Dr Pepper to pay the band for what he calls “unauthorized use and abuse of their publicity and intellectual property rights.”

Dr Pepper had promised a free soda to everyone in the country if Guns N’ Roses released their “Chinese Democracy” album this year.

It had been delayed since recording began in 1994.

The CD went on sale Sunday, but Dr Pepper’s Web site malfunctioned during the 24 hours it offered the free drink. The company extended the promotion for another 18 hours, setting up a toll-free line to accept coupon requests.

A Dr Pepper spokesman didn’t address the demands but says this was “one of the largest responses” the company has ever received for a giveaway.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Screen Actors Guild to Vote on Strike in December

The Screen Actors Guild says it will hold its strike vote next month.

President Alan Rosenberg made the announcement in an e-mail sent to members on Wednesday, and asked them to give the guild’s board the authority to call a strike “only if it becomes absolutely necessary.”

The vote could take more than a month and requires 75% approval to pass.

Mediated talks between SAG and the Hollywood studios broke down early Saturday.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers responded to the e-mail by saying the guild failed to explain why it deserves a better deal than other unions that have already settled.

The producers also said SAG members will lose more in the first days of a strike than they could ever expect to gain.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Happy Thanksgiving Kitty Style


‘Pardoned’ Turkeys: Where Are They Now?

Every year, one lucky bird is ‘saved’ by the White House. Where do they go?
The Associated Press

At Thanksgiving, turkeys are in the spotlight, but not all of them end up on our tables.

One lucky bird is appointed National Thanksgiving Turkey, appearing at the White House and getting an official pardon from the president.

It’s the high point of a turkey’s career. But once he’s whisked off the stage, what happens?

In recent years, the pardoned turkey and its alternate have had the good fortune to retire to the site of many a dream vacation — Disney World and Disneyland.

The first pardoned turkeys to go to Disneyland were Marshmallow and Yam in 2005. In his speech that year, President Bush joked that their retirement location had been changed because the turkeys “were a little skeptical about going to a place called Frying Pan Park,” a historic farm park in Virginia that had been the home of the previous honorees.

Disney spokesman Duncan Wardle remembers it a bit differently. One Thanksgiving, chatting about the pardoned turkey over coffee, someone on his staff said, “Doesn’t that make him the happiest turkey on earth? We should bring him to the happiest place on earth.”

Last year’s birds — named May and Flower via online poll — are currently living the good life at Disney World in Florida, where they were flown by a United Airlines flight that was renamed “Turkey One” for the occasion.

They served as honorary grand marshals of the Thanksgiving parade, riding on the first float. But once the holiday was over, like many of us, they had to go on a post-Thanksgiving diet.

“They arrived very heavy,” says Matt Hohne, acting animal operations director for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. “They were immediately put on our conditioning program.”

Turkeys get the same attention to their nutritional and health needs as any more exotic species at Animal Kingdom. Excess weight is unhealthy for animals as well as people. For the turkeys, for example, it’s bad for their feet to constantly support the extra pounds. Now that their weight is down, Hohne says, their activity levels are up

So they’re healthy and trim. But how do you tell if turkeys are happy?

“We look for behavioral signs,” says Hohne. “Are they inquisitive? Are they responsive? Are they eating well?”

A particularly good time to look for those signs is in training sessions. Training helps keep animals active and stimulated, and the trained behaviors help keepers manage them in a less stressful way. The turkeys go on a scale to be weighed, move from one enclosure to another for cleaning, and go into a crate to be transported, all without the stress of capturing them. They’re rewarded in training sessions with mealworms, a crunchy treat that’s a favorite of many animals.

The turkeys would no doubt argue that they’re not to blame for their weight problems. One of only two bird species native to the Americas that have been domesticated, the turkeys on our dinner tables were selectively bred for many generations to grow fast and get bigger than their ancestors who are still doing well in the wild.

Although the numbers of wild turkeys had declined by the early 20th century, they’ve made a comeback in many places, says Paul Curtis, professor of natural resources at Cornell University. Regrowth on land that was formerly used for farming has provided additional habitat for species that depend on forest, including deer, bears, and wild turkeys.

Curtis says that while wild turkeys are probably not as intelligent as social birds like crows, they have excellent senses of hearing and vision to detect predators – “It’s very difficult to sneak up on a turkey,” he says.

May and Flower have no worries about predators, of course. They don’t even have to put up with roommate problems: When they didn’t get along with the cow in their original exhibit, they were moved to their own private quarters.

Unfortunately, this means that they’re no longer visible to the public. However, the turkeys to be pardoned this year will go to Disneyland in California, where you will be able to visit them at Big Thunder Mountain Ranch.

“In today’s world of social media, they have their own fan club,” says Disney’s Wardle. “They have fans — I guarantee there will be people who will go out and look for them.”


Screen Actors Guild Contract Impasse Could Lead to Strike

From the Los Angeles Times
After failing to negotiate with studios on payment for shows distributed on the Web, the union has decided to seek a strike authorization vote from its members.

By Richard Verrier

November 23, 2008

In a move that ups the ante in the stalemate between actors and the studios over a new labor contract, the Screen Actors Guild has decided to pursue a strike authorization vote from its 120,000 members.

The decision came early Saturday morning after two days of mediation failed to bridge deep differences between the sides over how actors should be paid for work that is distributed over the Internet. Actors have been working without a contract since June 30.

Although a last-minute breakthrough is still possible, the actors and the studios now look to be inching closer to a costly showdown that would have seemed remote only a month ago.

Despite a rapidly deteriorating economy and the widespread acknowledgment that an actors’ strike could cripple Hollywood’s production industry, the actors union appears emboldened to put the studios on the defensive.

The coming weeks are a crucial period for the studios as deadlines to decide what big movies to make for 2010 are nearing and Hollywood readies for its all-important promotional event, the Academy Awards. A strike — or the fear of one — could wreak havoc on those plans.

But the bar is high. At issue is whether the actors guild, a notoriously fractious union, can persuade enough members to authorize its board to call a strike should negotiations fail. Strike referendums require 75% approval from those who cast ballots. Because returns typically run low, a minority of members can affect the outcome. However, the board has ultimate say about calling a strike, and recently elected moderates — who now exert key influence — would probably approve a strike only if there were an overwhelming mandate from members.

To make its case, the guild said it would now begin a “full-scale education campaign” in support of a strike referendum.

“Management continues to insist on terms we cannot possibly accept on behalf of our members,” the union said in a statement. “We remain committed to avoiding a strike, but now more than ever, we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the negotiating arm of the major studios, countered: “SAG is the only major Hollywood union that has failed to negotiate a labor deal in 2008. Now SAG is bizarrely asking its members to bail out the failed negotiating strategy with a strike vote — at a time of historic economic crisis.”

The failure of the mediation effort was not a surprise. Few believed federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez would be able to bridge the enormous gap between the parties. Gonzalez also was unable to mediate a contract dispute last year between writers and the studios.

Among the chief stumbling blocks is the guild’s demand for jurisdiction over all shows created for the Web, regardless of budget. The studios said that would constrain their ability to experiment in new media, and instead proposed limiting contracts only to shows above certain budget levels or when professional actors are hired.

Late Friday night, the actors guild signaled that it was prepared to accept the new media pay terms if studios granted an increase in the residuals actors earn from DVD sales, which studios have always rebuffed. Studios offered some tweaks to their previous final offer, but that was rejected in an 11-6 vote by the union’s negotiating committee.

The union’s 71-member national board previously gave the guild’s negotiating committee authority to seek a strike vote if mediation failed.

“I think it was a big mistake for the negotiating committee to terminate the mediation after only two days,” said Ned Vaughn, spokesman for the “Unite for Strength” group of actors who have been critical of the union’s leadership. “These difficult times require that we exhaust every opportunity to reach an agreement.”

In 2000, actors staged a six-month walkout over a commercials contract. If the guild strikes this time, it probably won’t be until early next year. A strike referendum takes 30 to 40 days and would probably not occur until after the guild conducted an aggressive campaign to muster support.

Guild leaders are expected to time any walkout to disrupt the Golden Globe Awards and Academy Awards — in January and February, respectively — and studio plans to ramp up production on movies scheduled for release in 2010.

Although union members typically grant strike authorizations to give their leaders leverage in bargaining, securing enough votes could be difficult given the sickly economy and strike fatigue after a 100-day walkout earlier this year by the Writers Guild of America.

Top 5: Ways to Celebrate ‘Chinese Democracy’ Release

We elected a black president this year, and Axl Rose, after 17 years of foot-dragging, finally decided to release Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy.” What a country!

1. Donate to the Steven Adler Rehabilitation Fund – The band’s original drummer has recently relapsed into drugs – and his spokesman says he’s still hanging onto the dream of a reunion.

2. Create best-of “Use Your Illusion” mix – Every fan’s favorite pastime in the wake of the band’s 1991 simultaneous release of two bloated albums is easier than ever in the digital age.

3. Camp out in front of Best Buy – Mr. Rose’s exclusive deal with the big-box retailer makes a midnight-release camp-out as simple as one-stop-shopping.

4. Relearn Axl’s hip sway – Please note: The doo-rag has been replaced by cornrows.

5. Skate on surface of Hades – A must-do for those pessimists who thought this day would never come.

From Washington Times