Sunday, January 22, 2012

'The Artist, 'Tinker Tailor' up for UK film awards

Frothy silent movie "The Artist" and moody spy saga "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" are among the leading contenders for the British Academy Film Awards, Britain's equivalent of the Oscars.

"The Artist" has 12 nominations and "Tinker Tailor" 11, including best picture and director nods, and best actor nominations for leading men Jean Dujardin and Gary Oldman.

The other best-film nominees are "The Descendants," "Drive" and "The Help."

In a diverse field not dominated by any single film, there are also multiple nominations for "My Week With Marilyn," "The Iron Lady," "The Help" and "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

The best actor contest pits Oldman and Dujardin against Brad Pitt for "Moneyball," George Clooney for "The Descendants" and Michael Fassbender for "Shame."

Best-actress nominees are "The Artist'"s Berenice Bejo, Meryl Streep for "The Iron Lady," Michelle Williams for "My Week With Marilyn," Tilda Swinton for "We Need to talk About Kevin" and Viola Davis for "The Help."

Nominations were announced Tuesday and the prizes will be awarded at a ceremony at London's Royal Opera House on Feb. 12. They are considered an important indicator of prospects at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles two weeks later.

In recent years, the prizes, known as BAFTAs, have helped small British film gain momentum for Hollywood success.

In 2010, Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" won seven BAFTAs, including best film; it went on to take eight Oscars. Last year "The King's Speech" won seven BAFTAs and four Oscars, including best picture.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quiet birthday for Kate Middleton as she turns 30

The former Kate Middleton turns 30 on Monday - but royal fans expecting a lavish birthday bash to mark the milestone will be disappointed.

Palace officials say the Duchess of Cambridge's birthday celebration will be a "low-key and private" affair, appearing to quash press reports that she will see off her 20s with a fun '80s themed party, complete with karaoke, in a throwback to her more carefree bachelorette days.

The choice of a muted event seems appropriate: After all, the duchess is not just starting the fourth decade of her life - she is also embarking on her career as a future queen, charged with renovating a monarchy that has become somewhat creaky with age.

"She's done very well, playing a very good supporting role to Prince William and complementing him as part of a team," commentator Robert Jobson said of her first few months as a royal.

"We've not seen much of her, but when she's in public she has performed with aplomb," added Jobson, who is the author of "William and Kate: The Love Story."

The past year has seen momentous changes for Kate, with a fairytale wedding to Prince William, travels around the world and glamorous appearances that marked her transition from commoner to the world's most talked-about princess and style icon. She has won rave reviews for her sparkle, her elegant sense of style, and her common touch with the public. The media, yearning for a young and beautiful royal, documented - and largely admired - her every move.

But now that the excitement around her grand wedding has subsided, she is expected to quietly settle down into her royal duties - and for much of this year, that means helping Queen Elizabeth II celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, without upstaging the monarch in her moment of glory, and also playing a supporting role at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Until recently, palace officials have been quiet about what exactly her role will be, keen to protect her transition into a fully fledged royal from the glare of the media limelight. The newlyweds, who live in a remote corner of north Wales, were said to favor a "quieter life" after the massive global media coverage of their April wedding. Outside of a tour of Canada and California in the summer, the duchess has only taken a handful of official engagements.

The former Middleton ventured out on her first solo engagement in October - a private charity dinner for about 30 guests - but is yet to make a public speech on her own.

That is set to change. This week, royal officials finally gave the first insight into her new role when they announced which charities she's supporting, including the Scouts and a group that helps drug addicts. More organizations will follow later, officials said.

The royal family considers patronage of charities an important aspect of their social role, and frequently makes visits and attends events to boost the charities' profiles. William is involved in many diverse nonprofits, while his mother, the late Princess Diana, was well known for her active support for numerous charities including organizations that helped AIDS patients.

Even after her separation from Prince Charles, Diana was actively campaigned for a ban on land mines, and visited Angola to champion that cause.

The former Middleton is expected to take on a similar role, eventually designating more charities she wants to be involved with as a way for her to carve out her own niche, based on her own priorities and concerns.

She has already taken on an unofficial role as a champion of the British fashion industry, wearing the creations of British designers at home and abroad, showcasing their work in the best possible light.

On top of such duties, the duchess also has a busy year ahead with the queen's jubilee, a major celebration of the monarch's 60 years on the throne that will take see numerous celebrations throughout Britain and the Commonwealth, peaking in a major celebration in London in early June.

The royals are expected to play a supporting role by traveling overseas to represent the queen. William and Kate are due to journey to Malaysia, Singapore, the Solomon Islands and the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu as part of the festivities.

The queen and her husband will avoid overseas travel because their advanced years make such trips challenging. The queen's husband, Prince Philip, recently spent time in hospital with a heart problem.

William and his wife have also indicated that they intend to take up residence at an apartment in London's Kensington Palace once his military commitment at an air base in Wales has been met. That will give the likely future king and queen even more visibility in the capital.

Inevitably, much of the speculation about the duchess's future has centered on royal lineage - Is she going to start a family soon? That, however, is anyone's guess, and despite incessant tabloid baby chatter, there doesn't yet appear to be great pressure on the newlyweds to produce an heir.

"It's early days yet, and they're both getting used to their roles," said Jobson, adding that the presence of other young members of the royal household, such as Prince Harry, helps to ease the pressure on William and Kate.

Many of the more senior women in the royal family were mothers in their 20s, but times and expectations have changed - both inside and outside the royal household. By the age of 30, the queen had given birth to two of her four children. Her daughter, Princess Anne, married at 23 and had her first child, Peter Phillips, four years later. Diana also married early and gave birth to William, her first child, at 21.


UK PM visits Olympic Park for 200-day countdown

Britain's prime minister will hold a special Cabinet meeting Monday at Olympic Park amid tight security, marking 200 days until the Summer Games and promising that the event will offer a lasting legacy for the nation.
Prime Minister David Cameron and other officials will discuss how to make the most of the Olympic spectacle and how best to use it to promote British interests.
"This is the perfect time for the Cabinet to come together and ensure we are doing absolutely everything we can to make the most of this unique opportunity to showcase all the great things the UK has to offer to the rest of the world," Cameron said.
As the Olympic milestone was celebrated, organizers grappled with controversies in security and ticketing ahead of an event that has so far been largely on time and within budget.
On the security front, UK police carrying out tests managed to smuggle a fake bomb onto the main site. While the Olympic Delivery Authority declined to directly comment on the incident, it said "testing is standard practice" in all major security operations.
"Such tests have a key role in developing our capability to ensure that London 2012 is safe and secure and that we are best prepared to detect potential threats before and during the Games," the statement said. "Members of the public with tickets should be reassured that such exercises are being staged to ensure their safety, our number one priority."
The terror threat is the biggest security worry for the Olympics. Security has been an intricate part of the games since an attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. London itself has not been immune from terror attacks –
four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters in 2005 when they targeted the city's transit network.
Britain expects the national terror threat to be "severe" during the Olympics, meaning an attempted attack is highly likely. About 12,000 police officers will be on duty on the busiest days of the games – which run from July 27 to Aug. 12 – while up to 13,500 troops will be deployed on land, at sea and in the skies. The security budget for the Olympics is more than £1 billion (US$1.6 billion.)
Meanwhile, organizers grappled with yet another ticketing problem: A limited ticket sale has been suspended indefinitely after computer problems kept causing trouble for buyers.
The tickets came from customers who decided to submit them for resale, but the online system did not work properly and sales remained suspended Monday, a spokeswoman for the organizing committee said.
The tickets are only being sold in Europe. Customers can still go to the site and get tickets for soccer and the Paralympics.
Organizers have struggled with ticket sales from the start. A complicated lottery system in which people blindly registered for tickets and handed over their credit card details before learning what tickets they were frustrated thousands who wished to see the spectacle.
Two-thirds of ticket seekers failed to obtain any in the first round of sales, with 22 million requests for 6.6 million available tickets.
Another round was blighted by computer problems and there is no indication when the resale efforts would be resumed. (nvn)

The Jakarta Post