Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren continued to dominate awards season last week when the Chicago Film Critics Association named the pair best actor and actress for 2006. Whitaker stars as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland and Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. Whitaker and Mirren, who have also received Golden Globe nominations, have each won the top acting award from seven other critics associations and film groups, including the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the New York Film Critics Circle. The Chicago critics also named Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) best supporting actor and actress. Martin Scorsese's The Departed was named best picture.
Instances of product placement on network television plummeted more than 20 percent last year, and the total screen time for placements dropped 14 percent, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. Annie Touliatos, a Nielsen official, attributed much of the decline to the move of The Contender from NBC to ESPN, according to an article in The Hollywood Reporter. The reality boxing show had 7,502 placements when it aired in 2005, or about 8.5 percent of the total for the four major networks (more than 88,500). Last year's total was almost 74,000. Touliatos said that for the top shows, product placement either stayed flat or dropped 1 to 2 percent.
The Library of Congress, which has archived more than 400 films over the past several years to ensure they are preserved before their celluloid disintegrates, added 25 more to its collection last week, including '70s pop classics such as Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles and John Carpenter's seminal slasher film Halloween, as well as the Coen brothers' classic Fargo. Other selected films include an early John Wayne movie (The Big Trail), a silent film starring Greta Garbo (Flesh and the Devil), and a picture from 1916-17 (The Curse of Quon Gwon) that is the earliest known Chinese-American feature. For a complete list, go to www.loc.gov.
Hollywood movie studios have won two lawsuits in China against Beijing companies that posted and sold films on the Web, according to announcements from the Motion Picture Association. On Dec. 18, the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court ruled that the Yu Hao Qing DVD retail outlet and its parent company, Beijing Century Hai Hong Trading Co. Ltd., were guilty of copyright infringement for selling pirated movies on the Internet. The court ordered that they pay damages and costs of about $21,000 to five MPA companies. On Dec. 29, the Beijing First Intermediate People's Court ordered Beijing Sohu Internet Information Service Co. Ltd. to pay 1.1 million yuan (almost $140,000) for posting digital movie files for downloading, the MPA said.
Robert Woodruff, who founded the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco and has directed plays at many of the leading theatres in the United States, will leave his post as artistic director of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., in June after six seasons. Woodruff will return to New York, where he will direct and teach. In addition to founding Eureka, Woodruff has directed plays at Lincoln Center, the Mark Taper Forum, and La Jolla Playhouse, as well as the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.