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Maui’s FirstLight Festival

Golden Globe and Spirit Award nominees shine at the MACC.

December 23, 2010
Paul Janes-Brown
Christmas is sometimes called a “festival of lights,” and on Maui during this time of year, we get a stellar double dip as the Maui Film Festival’s FirstLight: Academy Screenings on Maui comes into full swing at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater.

Cinematic entrepreneurs Barry and Stella Rivers have worked for years to put Maui on the movie map. The result of their labor is our bounty. Each year, we have the opportunity to see most of the films that will be nominated for Academy Awards on one of the state’s biggest screens, in one of the best theaters in the Pacific. For cinemaphiles, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Seven of the films showing at the MACC between Sunday, Dec. 26, and Sunday, Jan. 2, have accrued 19 Spirit and seven Golden Globe nominations.

Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone, screening on Monday, Dec. 27, at 4 p.m., won the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for drama and was voted the Best Feature at the Gotham Film Awards in New York City. It led the Spirit nominations with seven, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and acting nominations for Jennifer Lawrence, Dale Dickey and John Hawkes. Lawrence has also been nominated for a Golden Globe.

The film, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, tells the story of a girl of 17 who sets out to track down her father, who used their home mortgage for his bail bond and then failed to appear in court. If she cannot find him, she and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods. Along the way, she discovers that her family members are outlaws who refuse to break their code of silence, and risks her life to piece together the truth.

Another FirstLight film receiving nods from the Independent Spirit Awards include The Tempest directed by Julie Taymor. The film, based on Shakespeare’s play, bends the lead character’s gender by changing the magician father to a mother, casting Helen Mirren, one of the world’s finest actors, as Prospera. It will be interesting to see what happens when Shakespeare’s father-daughter relationship is morphed into the mother-daughter relationship created by Taymor. Maui audiences will recognize the locations; the film was shot over the summer of 2009 on Lana‘i.

John Cameron Mitchell was nominated as Best Director for Rabbit Hole, starring Hawai‘i native Nicole Kidman as a grieving mother dealing with the loss of a child. The buzz is this could be another Oscar for Kidman, who received a Golden Globe Best Actress in a Drama nomination.

Kidman was here this past summer filming Adam Sandler’s Just Go With It. With a Katherine Hepburn-like range, she is probably the most versatile actress working today.

Spirit Award nominees for Best First Feature are Director Lena Dunham, and Producers Kyle Martin and Alicia Van Couvering for their film, Tiny Furniture. This is a truly homemade film shot in five days in Dunham’s apartment in New York City.

“The fact that this movie is getting any attention has blown my mind. I don’t really know how to process it,” the first-time director told Cindy Perlman of the Chicago Sun Times during a break editing her HBO pilot, Girls.

The film explores the dilemma of what to do after college.

Jack Goes Boating garnered three Spirit Award nominations: Bob Glaudini for Best First Screenplay, Daphne Rubin-Vega for Best Supporting Female and John Ortiz for Best Supporting Male. However, inexplicably, the film’s star, first-time Director Phillip Seymour Hoffman, didn’t get a mention for acting or directing.

The film explores a New York City limo driver’s blind-date relationship. He could charitably be described as average, but love is his goal and he is willing to invest months learning to swim in preparation to fulfill his would-be girl friend’s dream of going on a romantic boat ride. (The trailer made me want to see this one.)

Seymour Hoffman is one of Hollywood’s most unlikely leading men, but always turns in finely crafted performances which consistently delight and surprise audiences.

Other Golden Globe nominees included in the FirstLight Academy Screenings include Halle Barry for Frankie and Alice, Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine, Kevin Spacey for Casino Jack and Biutiful for Best Foreign Language Film.

FirstLight runs through Sunday, Jan. 2. As always, the festival is “dark” on Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Christmas and New Year’s Day—but there is no better place to spend the interim vacation period than the Castle Theater.

For more information about the films, visit'>'>'>

Article Photos

Winner of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Winter’s Bone tells the story of a 17-year-old girl (Jennifer Lawrence) who sets out to track down her father.



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