Friday, January 30, 2009

Suheir Hammad

Again I directed this segment for our show Open Book. worked with Cinematographer Francisco Aliwalas who did a great job on the show with an EX3 and small dolly. The other camera is the Nikon D90... Suheir was as cool as could be and the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn is an amazing place. They were so generous.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The 2009 oscar Nominations announced

The 2009 Oscar nominees were just announced. Wow a lot of surprises. Revolutionary Road got no major nominations. I thought Leo deserved a nod.  Instead, The Reader got best director and best picture nominees. Dark knight shut out, again I agree. Also Kate Winslet nominated for Best Actress for Reader, unfortunately have not seen yet. I was disappointed that Jenny Lumet writer of Rachel Getting Married did not get recognized for her sparkling dialogue. Here are the nominations and my revised picks marked with an *.

Best picture - Slumdog Millionaire*, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Benjamin Button
Best Director - Danny Boyle*, David Fincher, Ron Howard, Gus Van Zandt, Stephen Daldry
Best Actor - Mickey Rourke*, Sean Penn, Frank Langella, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt
Best Actress - Kate Winslet*, Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Melissa Leo, Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor- Heath Ledger*, Robert Downey Jr, Josh Brolin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Shannon
Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz*, Marisa Tomei, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Taraji Henson
Best Foreign Film - Waltz with Bashir*, 
Best original Screenplay - Happy go Lucky*, In Bruges, Wall-E, Milk, Frozen River
Best Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog Millionaire*, The Reader, Doubt, Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon
Best Documentary - Man on Wire*, The Betrayal, Encounters, The Garden, Trouble the Water

Overall pleased with academy choices even though i was wrong on a lot of them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

2009 Oscar Predictions

Two days before the big announcement. I am doing my bit of crystal ball gazing. Here are my predictions, not my suggestions, but my predictions who i think the Academy will give nods to. * marks my choice to win

Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire*, Benjamin Button, Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Dark Knight
Best Director - Danny Boyle*, David Fincher, Gus Van Zandt, Christopher Nolan, Ron Howard
Best Actor - Mickey Rourke*, Frank Langella, Sean Penn,Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt
Best Actress - Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet*, Angelina Jolie, Sally Hawkings, Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger*, Robert Downey Jr, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress - Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz*, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Marissa Tomei
Best Original Screenplay - The Wrestler, Happy Go Lucky, The Visitor, Rachel Getting Married*, Dark Knight
Best Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog*, Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, The Reader
Best Documentary - Man on Wire*, Standard Operating Procedure, Trouble the Water, Encounters at the End of the World, Pray the Devil Back To Hell

Let's see how accurate I am. pride myself in being pretty good at this.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Obama spot

on the eve of his inauguration i thought i would post this spot. This is the long version of a tv spot we put forward for's Obama in 30 seconds competition called playground politics. Together with my producer Lucy Kennedy, we decided while working together at CBS that we should contribute to Obama's campaign. I had heard about the contest and we put this spot together within a week. All the kids volunteered for free and we shot it on top of a school in brooklyn. With 1400 odd entries, we were just happy to be in the running. In the end, we won one of 5 awards, ours was best positive message. Check out the long version, which is my personal favorite.

Jeffrey Wright channels Walt Whitman

This video is a very rough cut of the award winning actor reading from Walt Whitman's Brooklyn Ferry. Shot in the Walt Whitman projects and the Brooklyn navy yard, it is a tribute to the lasting legacy of Whitman and the area where he lived.

Jeffrey Wright channels Walt Whitman from Diane Paragas on Vimeo.

My Top 10 Films of 2008 List

The year in films and particularly my pics embody a sort of optimism perhaps a reflection of the YEAR OF OBAMA. It was a hard list to make as many films had superb direction, nuanced performances and intelligent writing, films like Frost/Nixon, Milk and Revolutionary Road but ultimately didn't move me or stay with me beyond the screening. Instead, my top films had one unifying quality, a return to the belief that cinema should uplift and transport us to a different world that gives us hope and comforts us in difficult times.

10. Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Despite the lack of chemistry between Pitt and Blanchett and annoying flashback structure,this film is on my list for its technological achievement and sumptuous cinematography. I admire Finchers dedication which shows in every frame of this flawed film.

9. Wall-E. Pixar does it again in it's smartest and perhaps most adult film to date. The film pays homage to movies like Brazil and 2001 and manages to make a scathing social commentary amidst the dazzling animation.

8. Happy-Go-Lucky. Mike Leigh knows how to cast a film and just let life happen on screen. Poppy played with heart by Sally Hawkings, goes from loveable to irritating and finally by the end of the film to human.

7. Man on Wire. Best documentary of the year. The mixture of archival footage and live action is seemless and the heroic tale of Petit is pure magic.

6. Rachel Getting Married. Jenny Lumet has written a no holds barred family drama. Debra Winger and Anne Hatthaway give nuanced performances. Demme uses his documentary style to give more intimacy to this story.

5. The Visitor. Quiet and restrained this film would be higher up on my list if not for the ending. Richard Jenkins has created a complex character and the supporting cast is wonderful.

4. The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke is heartbreaking in a role that seemed to be made for him. Aronofsky pulls back form his usual showing off antics and never resorts to exploitation in this tender drama.

3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona. My favorite film from Woody in years reminds me why I love him so much. Penelope, Scarlett, Rebecca Hall and Javier in the Spanish countryside is a great place to start, but Woody proves again how he understands the female psyche.

2. Slumdog Millionaire. Classic Capra meets City of God. This fairytale of rags to riches is told with exuberance and optimism and non-stop energy. The film is best in the first act with it's talented young actors. Danny Boyle proves you can tell a tale devoid of cynicism with an artful and delicate hand. Kudos to any film that has you dancing in the aisles literally.

1. Reprise. This small film from Norway about two 20-something writers tackles friendship, love, creative angst, insanity and ambition. Writer/director Joachim Trier perfectly captures the spirit of youth and creates to me the most fresh and original film of the year both in style and substance.

***One film that I thoroughly enjoyed but because of illness slept through a large part would be on my list but I would feel dishonest having not seen the whole thing is Waltz with Bashir.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obama Celebration

This is some footage I shot on the Nikon D90 the night after the great and historic night of Obama's win.  We were walking home from my good friend Vijay's home and decided to pass by Union Square in NYC.  What an amazing outpouring of love and pride and hope.  Maybe it was the first time for me that I felt really part of this country...

This footage will be also aired on BET's Inaugural Ball.

Nelson George: City Kid

Nelson George: City Kid from Diane Paragas on Vimeo.

The Ghost of Walt Whitman

The Ghost of Walt Whitman from Diane Paragas on Vimeo.

The 8 P's by Billy Lee

This is a recent short from the new show Open Book which will air in February on Link TV.

The 8 P's by Billy Lee from Diane Paragas on Vimeo.