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(2008/Sundance)-Courtney Hunt's FROZEN RIVER jumpstarts the Oscar race on August 1st!
"I wrote this film after learning about women smugglers at the border of New York State and Canada who drive their cars across the frozen St. Lawrence River to make money to support their kids. The risk involved compelled me to write a story, not only about smuggling at the northern border, but also about what life circumstances would lead someone to take such chances. What I discovered was that a mother’s instinct to protect her children is more powerful than any cultural, political or economic boundary line. Melissa Leo (Ray) and Misty Upham (Lila) embodied the unheralded struggle of single mothers of all ethnicities who are
living on the edge." -- Writer, director Courtney Hunt
Sony Pictures Classics will release
in New York and Los Angeles
on August 1, 2008.
Winner of The Grand Jury Prize At The Sundance Film Festival
Opening Night Selection for New Directors/New Films at MoMA
Winner of the 2008 Lena Sharpe/Women in Cinema Award for Persistence of Vision
at the Seattle International Film Festival
Winner Courtney Hunt, Best Writer/Director Award at the Nantucket Film Festival
Winner Audience Award for Best Dramatic Feature at the Provincetown Film Festival
Two days before Christmas in rural upstate New York, when Ray Eddy’s sets out to search for her husband, she encounters Lila Littlewolf, a tough, street-smart Mohawk woman who is dealing with her own struggle to make ends meet. But Lila has found a way to do it—smuggling illegal immigrants into the States. The tribal elders disapprove and attempt to stop Lila by forbidding anyone to sell her a car. Ray has a car, and although the two women don’t trust each other, they team up and share Ray’s Dodge Spirit to make a run across the frozen St. Lawrence River.
This remarkable and deeply emotional film features outstanding performances by Melissa Leo and Misty Upham.
Writer/Director: Courtney Hunt. Running Time: 97 mins / Not yet rated.
Executive Producers: Charles S. Cohen, Donald Harwood, Producers: Heather Rae, Chip Hourihan, Cinematographer: Reed Dawson Morano , Editor: Kate Willams , Production Designer: Inbal Weinberg, Composers: Peter Golub, Shahzad Ali Ismaily.
"They got no jurisdiction here. This is Mohawk territory." -Lila
Two women, divided by race & joined by their maternal loves for their
individual offspring, engaged in an illegal mission to bring illegals across
a natural borderline ... a river topped with a layer of frozen ice!
3-1/4 stars (2 views) [(2008)USA/SonyPicturesClassics/Rated R] - (hr min)
Written & Directed by Courtney Hunt
Original Music by Peter Golub and Shahzad Ismaily
Cinematography by Reed Morano
Editor: Kate Williams
Cast ... Lead characters:
Melissa Leo ... Ray Eddy(Mother of 2 boys/Dollar store employee)
Misty Upham ... Lila (Mother of an infant boy/Bingo parlor employee)
"Lila" and "Ray"
"I don't usually work with Whites." -Lila
The best "indie" films are the ones that take you into worlds you never could have imagined existing, especially if you are geography-illiterate like I am.
And you don't have to have post-9/11 paranoia to find something awfully scary about a wide open section of the U.S. Northern border when everyone in the government calling for more Homeland Security against terroristic threats.
Obviously our forefathers weren't considering our national boundaries that carefully (or the weather for that matter), when they created a Native American Reservation ("The Rez") that stretches from Northern New York State to Southern Canada with only the St. Lawrence river separating the two. A river that happens to freeze solid in the wintertime.
So much for national security, eh?
That said, first-time filmmaker Courtney Hunt uses this heretofore unknown (to the rest of us) security breach as a backdrop for smuggling LIVE cargo (aka Human Trafficking). As immigration restrictions become tighter, foreigners are paying "Snakeheads" (traffickers) to enter the USA illegally from the North in two's and three's while our Mexican friends to the South and their "Coyotes" continue crossing the Southwest deserts in droves.
Though the frozen bridge from Canada to NY has a history of being used for the illegal smuggling of untaxed cigarettes, liquor, and whatever else the "Black Market" requires, our post-9/11 environment instills this latest immigration dodge a darker purpose than just the acquisition of cheap labor.
Dozens of movies have been made about the Mexican migration (most recently "Blood of My Blood" & "Under the Same Moon"), but I have never seen a film like this one, where non-Canadian illegals are crossing the Northern border while contending with bone-chilling weather and handlers that rarely speak their own language.
And that's why "Frozen River" stands out from the pack of dramatic indies that have been released this past year, since it's completely unique milieu proves to be such a compelling backdrop for the "mom vs. mom" drama driving the plot.
The two "moms" in question are as much of an odd coupling one can imagine. First there's "Ray" (Melissa Leo), a lean, 40-something, trailer-trash mother (of two) whose in absentia Native American husband has left the family
destitute in order to placate his gambling addiction.
Ray's polar opposite is "Lila" (Misty Upham), a widowed, 26-yr old, near-sighted, Blackhawk native living in her own trailer on the local 'Rez'. Her one-year old son is in the care of her mother-in-law and she'll do anything to get the child back, even smuggle "Human Traffick" across the Canadian border.
When Ray and Lila are forced to conduct this illegal business as untrusting partners, the sparks really begin to fly. Ray carries is a handgun on her person at all times, and isn't afraid to use it. Meanwhile Lila's reverse-racism reveals her deeply innate hatred of all whites.
With tragedy (and State Troopers) waiting around every corner on the icy backroads, it's a miracle that tyro-director Courtney Hunt never falls into the obvious melodramatic traps that current TV dramas rely so heavily on. If I say anymore it'll spoil the fun, so check it out NOW!
Easily the best indie drama of the year (so far), plus your ticket purchase will help support a budding director.
"It's not a crime." -Lila
Cast ... Supporting characters:
Michael O'Keefe ... Trooper Finnerty (New York State Trooper)
Mark Boone Junior ... Jacques Bruno (French-Canadian smuggler)
Charlie McDermott ... T.J. (Ray's oldest son)
John Canoe ... Bernie Littlewolf (Tribal Council member/Lila's brother-in-law)
James Reilly ... Ricky (Ray's youngest son)
Dylan Carusona ... Jimmy (Reservation smuggling contact)
Jay Klaitz ... Guy Versailles (Mobile Home salesman)
Michael Sky ... Billy Three Rivers
Thahnhahténhtha Gilbert ... Little Jake (Lila's infant son)
Adam Lukens ... Mitch (friend of TJ's)
Craig Shilowich ... Matt (Ray's boss at the Dollar Store)
Joey Chanlin ... Chinese Trafficker
Illegal aliens (to be smugled into USA):
Pun Bandhu ... Chinese Man #1
Rajesh Bose ... Pakistani Father
Gargi Shinde ... Pakistani MotherBetty Ouyang ... Li Wei
Nancy Wu ... Chen Li
"This is so fcuking stupid." -Ray
Last edited by REEL_REVIEWER; 08-01-2008 at 08:25 PM.
NOW PLAYING in select theaters!!!
[On DVD now!]
Feb. 27, 2009
Carmike Wynnsong 16 (Johnston,IA)
Carmike Oakwood 12 (Eau Claire,WI)
Carmike Royal Cinema 10 (Marquette,MI)
Carmike Oakdale Stadium 20 (Oakdale,MN)
Carmike Wynnsong 15 (Mounds View,MN)
Carmike 8 (Bismarck,ND)
Gaslamp Stadium (San Diego,CA)
Rialto Cinemas Lakeside (Santa Rosa,CA)
Quad Cinema (New York,NY)
Plaza Theatre (Atlanta,GA)
Landmark's Renaissance Place Cinema (Highland Park,IL)
Angelika Film Center (Houston,TX)
Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli (Denver,CO)
Regency Academy Cinemas (Pasadena,CA)
Laemmle Music Hall (Beverly Hills,CA)
Elmwood Rialto Cinemas (Berkeley,CA)
Opera Plaza Cinema (San Francisco,CA)
Living Room Theaters (Portland,OR)
Crest Cinema Center (Seattle,WA)
Last edited by REEL_REVIEWER; 03-01-2009 at 06:58 AM.
Feel the Spirit
'Ballast,' 'Frozen River,' 'Rachel' lead the pack
[Source: www.Variety.com/Story By ERIN MAXWELL, MICHAEL JONES]-"Ballast," "Frozen River" and "Rachel Getting Married" led the field with a three-way tie of six nominations each at the Film Independent's 24th Annual Spirit Award kudos. All three are in the running for best feature, best director, best first screenplay and best female lead for actresses Anne Hathaway, Melissa Leo and Tarra Riggs.
Also nommed for best pic are "Wendy and Lucy" and "The Wrestler."
Voting is exclusively online to make awards "as green as possible."
The winners were unveiled at Film Independent’s Spirit Awards on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009.
The 2009 Spirit Award results are:
FEATURE (Award given to the producer)
Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin
Tom McCarthy, "The Visitor"
FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
"Synecdoche, New York" - Director: Charlie Kaufman
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Spike Jonze, Charlie
Kaufman, Sidney Kimmel
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
James Franco, "Milk"
Penélope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Woody Allen - "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"
Maryse Alberti, "The Wrestler"
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
"In Search of a Midnight Kiss" - Writer/Director: Alex Holdridge
Producers: Seth Caplan, Scoot McNairy
DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)
"Man on Wire" - Director: James Marsh
"The Class" (France) - Director: Laurent Cantet
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
"Synecdoche, New York" - Director: Charlie Kaufman
Casting Director: Jeanne McCarthy
Ensemble Cast: Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, & Michelle Williams
IFC/ACURA SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Lynn Shelton, director of My Effortless Brilliance
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Margaret Brown, director of The Order of Myths
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Heather Rae, producer of Frozen River and Ibid
"Frozen River" - 1 WIN/6 noms
Last edited by ReelReviewer.com; 02-22-2009 at 12:32 AM.
Oscar nominations announced
'Button' on top with 13 noms
[Source: www.Variety.com/Story By TIMOTHY M. GRAY]-“Button” nosed out its rivals Thursday morning by scoring 13 nominations for the 81st Academy Awards. Paramount-Warner Bros.’ “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” got the most noms, including best pic.
Other best pic contenders are Universal’s “Frost/Nixon,” Focus Features’ “Milk,” the Weinstein Co.’s “The Reader,” and Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Nominations for the 81st Oscars, were announced Thursday morning at Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences h.q. in BevHills by Acad prexy Sid Ganis and Forest Whitaker.
In 15 of the last 20 years, the top-scoring contender went on to win best picture. But the trend may be changing. The top nominee only won best-pic in two of the last five years.
Awards will be presented Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. The show, produced by Laurence Mark and exec produced by Bill Condon, will be hosted by Hugh Jackman and air live on ABC-TV.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences- NOMINATIONS BY CATEGORY
81ST "Oscar" AWARDS
Performance by an actress in a leading role
- NOMINATIONS BY PICTURE -
"Frozen River" (2 nominations)
Melissa Leo - Performance by an actress in a leading role