Stefanella's Drive Thru

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Israeli Oscars September 27, 2009

Last night I slipped into a little black dress and a pair of heels and made my way to Haifa for Israel’s version of the Oscars: The Ophir Awards.

Attending Israel’s upscale events is always an interesting venture. Because, compared to the U.S., they’re pretty scaled down and lacking pretense. Dress codes don’t rule and most anyone can get away with whatever their personal interpretation of gearing up or down might be.  That includes nominees, as demonstrated here by Best Actor winner Sasha Avshalom Agronov for his role in The Loners. Dig the hat.
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Also glaringly absent at these affairs are hulking bodyguards (unless government ministers are present). Sure, there’s security at the entrance but once inside, the press mingles with celebs and it’s a sort of everyone hangs out with everyone free-for-all at the bar and buffet kinda thing.

Which is why I was able to walk straight up to Ajami Producer Mosh Danon, congratulate him on taking best film and wish him luck at the Hollywood Oscars. I grabbed this shot of the film’s Israeli director Yaron Shani as he was being interviewed for radio.  His Arab co-director Scandar Copti was, unfortunately, in Europe.     IMGP0047

I also shook Lebanon film director Samuel Maoz’s hand and congratulated him on his Venice win.  I felt truly sorry that his film didn’t clinch the top seed.  Because imho, the movie based on his personal experience as a soldier during the 1982 Israel incursion into Lebanon, would have been a serious Academy Awards contender for best foreign film.  I’m not sure about Ajami, a story about the crime ridden mixed Arab-Israeli neighborhood of the same name in southern Tel Aviv.   Yes, it’s a microcosm of the Israel-Arab flashpoint conflict at large but it somehow feels too local.

But then, I’ve seen neither  and am basing that rather broad opinion on trailers,  discussions with colleagues and the reception for Lebanon thus far in the world arena.

Here’s a clip.  A reportedly super intense film, it takes place entirely inside an Israeli tank  in Lebanon.  Last night the movie nabbed top honors for Best Supporting Actor, Best Soundtrack, Best Cinematography and Best Design.

A few notes about the ceremony:  The high point was seeing Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Assi Dayan take to the stage.  A legendary Israeli actor and director, he has been plagued by negative press throughout his career for drug abuse, mental instability and domestic violence.  But he is talented.  And his peers gave him a standing ovation.

Heart wrenching, on the other hand, was witnessing producer Uri Segev’s widow and two young children take to the stage to receive an honorary award in his name.  46-year-old Segev died last year of heart complications during the wrap of  Lebanon. The audience, on their feet again, applauded warmly as his wife and children stood at the podium. And there was neery a dry eye in the house as his wife thanked the film academy with broken voice and his 8-year-old daugher sobbed quietly beside her.

A final note to self:  MUST SEE A Matter of Size – a film about a diet club support group that decides to start up their own Sumo Wrestling team.  It looks poignant, funny and visually beautiful.  And Best Actress recipient Irit Kaplan made a distinct impression upon the uber looks-conscious crowd by advising in her acceptance speech that we all go beyond exteriors and start digging deeper to the core where it really counts.

Lacking pretense, indeed.

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Chick Versus Chick April 29, 2009

Confession time:  I stand alongside the global multitudes struggling to make ends meet during the current recession. Jobs are scant and it’s downright scary right now.  Especially as a single mom.

Luckily I rely upon faith, hope, networking, routine and friends to buoy me.  And thank goodness for chat rooms and friends’ IM & email messages discussing fear, job scarcity and struggles.  “Thank goodness” not in the Schadenfreude way; I’m grateful not to be alone.  

I felt loads better last week after watching a NY Times video profile of a laid off exec who had formerly managed multi-million dollar accounts and is now pushing a janitor’s broom.  His wife needs cancer treatments so guaranteed health insurance benefits are essential.  He can’t afford the luxury of leisurely looking around.

Instead he kicks off the covers at 4 a.m. each day, checks emails and sends out resumes to potential employers.  He then heads to his janitorial job where, during breaks, he sits in his car placing follow-up calls.  I don’t know if I was more blown away by his story or by his bravado in letting the world know what he currently gets up to between 9 and 5.

I, too, am working overtime at phoning contacts, tapping into networks, making new contacts and attempting to drum up work.

Which makes having to go up against female colleagues doubly frustrating.

I have spoken several times with a work contact about leads in news production.  And each time I talk with this woman  she asks: “But what about your son?  Do you have anyone to take care of him?  I mean he IS young.”

And each time I reassure her  that yes, I do have a network in place.  A really good one.  Not to worry, the childcare issue has never presented a problem.  I even have overnight babysitters.  “I HAVE A VILLAGE!!!” I internally dialogue. “So please, send the work my way.”

But she hasn’t so far.  And I don’t believe she ever will.  Because I don’t think she can wrap her head around my being a single mom and concommitantly producing television news.  Never mind that scores of anchors, producers, editors and camerawomen before me have done just that and are faring quite nicely. Or that I myself have done just that.

I’m being pre-packaged and labeled from the get-go and not only by this particular woman.  Recently a well-known anchorwoman told me:  “You certainly don’t want to work full time or get into a heavy career.  You have your son to think about.” She wasn’t asking.  She was stating how “it is”.    And I thought:  “But you’re so wrong!  By getting into something full time I AM thinking of my son. ”

It reminds me of the time I went to see U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright speak in San Francisco.  Someone in the audience asked if she regretted the choice of fast political track over full time mommy.  She explained that there isn’t a cookie-cutter path for all women – some are meant for careers, others to stay home with kids and others to do a range of things in-between.

But she told the packed house I DO believe there’s a special place in hell for women who give other women a hard time for the path they have chosen to follow.

And the room erupted in applause.

I don’t believe the women I mention here are malicious.  But their notions are misguided and create a certain level of frustration for me.

 

Oscars – Israel Style September 25, 2008

A colleague and I attended Holy Land Central’s (HLC aka Israel) version of The Oscars Tuesday night… Although I haven’t ever physically attended Hollywood’s Academy Awards Ceremony, let’s say I could just tell from years of U.S. couch viewing that the two events were about as far removed from each other as… umm…hummus and caviar.

The first striking difference I noted as our cab pulled up curbside to the ceremony’s Tel Aviv Opera House venue was lacking paparazzi, red carpet and fanfare.  Not that I was expecting it for myself, mind you.  I’m 1) not a celeb and  2) my simple black cocktail dress & black Via Spiga heels accented with a strand of pearls and red silk Dior headscarf were nice enough but not star quality Pay Attention to Me! stunning.

This is HLC where casual is where it’s at.  But I had hoped to see Starz arrive to flashing megawatts and crowds of admirers.  Instead, all attendees – common folk and celebs alike – quietly milled about in the Opera House lobby sipping wine and nibbling cheese.  No bodyguards or cordoned off VIP area.  Politicians in these parts get bodyguards but not actors.  They’re sort of regular folk who appear on t.v. but that you might see at your local cafe.  Oh, there’s so and so.  Wow, he looks different in person.  Can you hold the foam on my latte?

Celebs were easily discernible, however, by their professional styling: complimentary make-up, good hair and brightly hued, glammy sheer and sequined formal gowns.  Actors entered the lobby, pulled poses, photographers snapped and then it was back to the conversation or glass of wine at hand.

The ceremony was painfully under-produced so when, for instance, the Israeli network carrying the event cut to commercial breaks, we the audience weren’t offered any indication of a pause.  Everything simply went quiet following an acceptance speech.  Participants walked off stage and there was a lull.  It was up to us to work out the details.  Oh.  A commercial.  I see. A few minutes later the music would start up again or the hosts would come out on stage.  Back in business.  Here we go. Strange.

As films go, Waltz With Bashir was the evening’s big winner; it took 6 awards including best director and  best film and it will represent Israel as a contender for this year’s foreign film at the Oscars.  An animated semi-documentary, Bashir is director Ari Folman’s autobiographical foray backwards into buried military memories of serving in Israel’s 1982 Lebanon War.

Folman and animation/tech crew spent four years making the film and it’s doing well on the circuit. Sony picked up distribution rights and the L.A. Times‘Clive Barker described it as “ingenious animation” and an “overwhelming anti-war” movie.  Each time Folman made his way onstage to accept an award Tuesday night, he came across as humble and grateful.  An uber-mensch very much admired by the crew members he invited onstage with him to accept the Best Picture Award.

As he and crew made their way up to the lectern for that honor of honors, however, I was horrified to witness half the audience rise from their seats and begin filing out the exit doors.  A little Respect here, People!  Come on!  He just won best film!

Over a post-ceremony glass of wine in the lobby with my friend Ilana who heads Israel’s Film Academy, I mentioned my alarm over the seeming disrespect.

Yeah, it was disgusting, she remarked.  I think it was a simple case of the audience wanting to get back out to here to the alcohol and food.

Shame.  Because they missed Folman’s scant but poignant speech welcoming into the world 8 babies born to staff members during production.  In fifteen years, he said, I hope these kids will watch this film and see it as just another animated movie that has absolutely nothing to do with their realities.

I’ll drink a post-ceremony cocktail to that.

Check the trailer here.

 

Material Girl Goes fer a Ride! January 11, 2008

Filed under: Celebrity,Culture,Fun — stefanella @ 6:48 am
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