Film notes: Maureen O'Hara to be honored; Dock Ellis movie to open Sept. 5


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Honorary Oscars will be given to Maureen O’Hara, Jean-Claude Carriere and Hayao Miyazaki, while Harry Belafonte will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award Nov. 8 in Hollywood.

The awards will be presented at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ sixth annual Governors Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center.

“The Governors Awards allow us to reflect upon not the year in film but the achievements of a lifetime,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a press release. “We’re absolutely thrilled to honor these outstanding members of our global filmmaking community and look forward to celebrating with them in November.”

Dublin native Ms. O’Hara came to Hollywood in 1939 to star opposite Charles Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” She went on to appear in a wide range of feature films, including swashbucklers, dramas, family classics (“Miracle on 34th Street” and original “The Parent Trap”) and Westerns, becoming a favorite of director John Ford.

Mr. Carriere began his career as a novelist and was introduced to screenwriting by French comedian and filmmaker Pierre Etaix, with whom he shared an Oscar for the live action short subject “Heureux Anniversaire (Happy Anniversary)” in 1962. He later was nominated for “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” “That Obscure Object of Desire” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

Mr. Miyazaki is an artist, writer, director, producer and three-time Oscar nominee in the animated feature film category, winning in 2002 for “Spirited Away.” He also was nominated for “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “The Wind Rises” and is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, an  animation studio based in Tokyo.

Mr. Belafonte, an actor, producer, singer and lifelong activist, began performing in theaters and nightclubs in and around Harlem, where he was born. He often chose projects that shed light on racism and inequality and has worked on behalf of civil rights, children, education, famine relief and AIDS awareness around the world.  

The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.” The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, also an Oscar, is given “to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

A big yes to “No No”

They came wearing Pirates caps in modern or old-school designs in gold, black, blue and brown and in T-shirts celebrating the Bucs, Roberto Clemente or the 1979 World Series. Several had stories about brushes with Dock Ellis as children, including a 9-year-old dropping off a glove at the pitcher’s Pittsburgh house and returning the next day to pick it up, autographed, from the player’s then-girlfriend.

They were among the lucky who got tickets for Tuesday’s sold-out “No No: A Dockumentary” at Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Melwood Screening Room. It will open a regular run at the Harris Theater, Downtown, Sept. 5.

The documentary is about Mr. Ellis, the Pirate who famously threw a no-hitter in 1970 while on LSD but later went to rehab and became a counselor to addicts.

Through interviews with those who knew him — old friends, relatives, two former wives and fellow Pirates, including Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Steve Blass, Bruce Kison and Manny Sanguillen — a portrait emerges of Mr. Ellis before, during and after his playing career.

He was sometimes “high as a Georgia pine” (his words), helped to keep the clubhouse loose so the team could be tight on the field, and was devastated when Mr. Clemente died in a plane crash on a relief mission to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua.

The movie in some ways is shaped by death: The loss of Dock’s father, the death of “The Great One,” the end of Dock’s pitching career and then his death in 2008 at age 63 of liver disease.

Still, it’s filled with history, hijinks and revelations about brief, tragic episodes that ended his marriages or how Dock pushed back against silly rules about not drinking at the hotel bar or wearing curlers, how trailblazer Jackie Robinson wrote a touching letter to him, and director Ron Howard learned about the no-no on LSD while filming the comedy “Gung Ho” in Pittsburgh in 1985.

It was the first screening not tied to a film festival, and it featured a question-and-answer session after with director Jeffrey Radice, producer Mike Blizzard and agent Tom Reich who represented Mr. Ellis. 

They told a story about Mr. Ellis giving a youthful Shea Stadium autograph seeker, who was wearing a facsimile Stargell jersey, one of his own authentic Ellis jerseys. The pair stayed in touch, and Dock later wrote him a note, “Believe in yourself. I do.” That was typical of the player. 

The director said he did not move as fast as he should have once he conceived of the movie as an Errol Morris-style documentary. “Where it’s just one-on-one talking head, and I thought that would be great with Dock because he’s so expressive” and had a way with turns of phrases. 

The former pitcher said, “Let’s make a movie,” but he then fell ill, the director recalled. 

“When he died, I had a lot of regret. Really just did not want to carry that burden of regret through the rest of my life. I talked to my father about it, and he said, ‘Well, just reimagine the film,’ and that’s what I did. I reimagined it as sort of an elegy where you had the people who knew Dock best telling his story. It transformed the film entirely.”

Tuesday night’s movie and appearances were sponsored by Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Steeltown Entertainment Project which served as an associate producer on the project.

‘Birdman,’ Keaton soaring

Michael Keaton’s next movie, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” has sent the Pittsburgh native’s stock soaring and could land him on the year-end awards circuit.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the chief international film critic from Variety has in advance of the Venice Film Festival.

Peter Debruge writes: “In a year overloaded with self-aware showbiz satires, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s fifth and best feature provides the delirious coup de grace — a triumph on every creative level, from casting to execution, that will electrify the industry, captivate arthouse and megaplex crowds alike, send awards pundits into orbit, and give fresh wings to Keaton’s career.”

“Birdman” is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Mr. Keaton) -- famous for portraying an iconic superhero -- as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself.

The movie will arrive in Pittsburgh in October and also stars Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, Merritt Wever, Jeremy Shamos, Bill Camp, and Damian Young.

McCandless opening Sept. 19 

A grand opening for Cinemark’s new 12-screen theater at McCandless Crossing along McKnight Road is planned for Sept. 19. It is called Cinemark North Hills and XD on the website of the chain, which is based in Plano, Texas, and operates 488-plus theaters and more than 5,600 screens in the United States and Latin America. 

 


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