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AFI AWARDS 2006

  • AFI MOMENTS OF SIGNIFICANCE

    CLINT EASTWOOD-A NATIONAL TREASURE

    Clint Eastwood released two major motion pictures in 2006. This is a significant achievement alone, but that FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA tell the story of the same battle in World War II while presenting the points of view of the opposing sides marks a moment of significance for post 9/11 cinema.

    The films not only complement one another, but they resonate together to create one of the great motion picture experiences of the new century.

    Eastwood and his team of collaborators-including producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz, writer Paul Haggis, cinematographer Tom Stern, editor Joel Cox, production designer Henry Bumstead and casting director Phyllis Huffman-provide an epic reminder that the American viewpoint is not the only human perspective.

    THE DOCUMENTARY SPEAKS TO THE WORLD

    In 2006, it was the documentary that best illustrated the power of film and television to bring us together as a global audience-and, with hope, to affect change.

    In theatres, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH premiered in the United States and began a journey around the world, raising the level of debate about global warming. Directed by Davis Guggenheim and starring former Vice President Al Gore, this documentary presents the argument that we can no longer afford to look at the effects of greenhouse gasses as a political issue, but we must see it as a moral one.

    Also of note is IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS, a film by director James Longley, who documented the experience of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in war-torn Iraq.

    In television, WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE sets the standard for documentaries that fuse epic scope and human detail. Spike Lee's masterwork about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans revitalized the debate about what it is to be abandoned by your government. BAGHDAD ER and COMBAT HOSPITAL also stand out among the year's best documentaries, exhibiting a texture and depth that is necessary to understand their complex issues.

    YOUTUBE REDEFINES "THE TUBE"

    Though audience participation continues to have an enormous impact on television, with cultural hits like DANCING WITH THE STARS and AMERICAN IDOL reliant on interactivity, the true cultural phenomenon for 2006 is the dawn of a new era of participatory television-via the personal computer.

    The explosive growth and domination of YouTube as the pre-eminent site for uploading, viewing and sharing video clips on the World Wide Web signifies the awakening of an age when the audience is both producer and distributor.

    The impact of self-produced media is currently most profound as it relates to documenting events of the day that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Cell phones and video cameras capture police brutality, racial slurs and other events that are then "broadcast" around the world. Most notably for 2006, George Allen, a front-runner in the Virginia Senate race, referred to a man of Indian descent as "macaca" and the footage was first seen around the world on YouTube. It was one of several issues that Allen's campaign struggled to control, and he lost the race.

    TV NEWS MIGRATES TO THE INTERNET...AND FROM FACT TO FICTION

    2006 marked a year when network and cable news became far less significant in the echo chamber of the Internet, and the fusion of journalism and comedy continued to impact the political scene.

    The flashpoint for this moment took place when Stephen Colbert, star of THE COLBERT REPORT on Comedy Central, was the featured speaker at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Colbert's routine, performed in character as his faux-politically conservative news anchor, roasted President George W. Bush and his administration's policies as the President sat a few feet away, and the entire room appeared uncomfortable.

    Colbert's performance aired on C-SPAN, but became an Internet sensation, providing a defining shift in the way the 2006 midterm elections were perceived and discussed by a younger generation.

    VHS IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE DIGITAL FUTURE

    2006 marks the end of production of the VHS cassette-and with its passing, the term "Be Kind, Rewind" is erased from the American lexicon.

    Released to the consumer market in 1976 by JVC, the VHS format transformed the way the world watched the movies and, because of its popularity, changed the way movies were made and marketed.

    2006 is also a watershed year in the way motion pictures are distributed to consumers. Theatrical experiments continue-Steven Soderbergh's BUBBLE became the first motion picture released in theatres the same day it was available on HDTV and four days later on DVD. And Morgan Freeman's ClickStar, a joint venture between Intel and Freeman's Revelations production company, released 10 ITEMS OR LESS, the first feature film to premiere in theatres and then become available via broadband within two weeks of its national release.

    The legal market for digital downloading became a reality in 2006 as full-length feature films are now available via cellular phones, Internet sites and through special DVD agreements with retail stores. The field continues to be lead by iTunes, which offers hundreds of television episodes and select movie titles.

    Though the economic viability of these models is uncertain, their collective direction marks a moment when a global audience enjoys unprecedented access to the movies.

    HAVE YOU NO SHAME? TELEVISION SAYS YES.

    2006 marked a moment when what didn't air on television was as compelling as what did.

    When FOX announced that it was to broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson, who would hypothetically detail how he would have killed his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, the decisive outcry from the audience, affiliates and advertisers caused FOX to cancel the broadcast.

    The cancellation showed that a moral standard still exists for television, albeit a limit that had to be pushed to an extreme to be of note. That it was self-regulated, however, and not legislated by the government, is cause to celebrate.

    NETWORKS FIGHT BACK

    The pendulum of America's dialogue on free speech swung back in 2006 as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and several of their affiliates filed a challenge to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that cited several incidents of "indecent" language.

    This represented a rare galvanizing moment for the television community, which sees the FCC's rulings, penalties and fines as vague and inconsistent and has asked the agency to provide a clear definition of its terms of indecency.

    ROBERT ALTMAN Ð 1925-2006

    Robert Altman passed away in 2006 at the age of 81. In a career that spanned over 50 years, Altman was a true maverick of American film. His body of work-both in film and television-reflects an exceptional diversity in genre, but always with his indelible signature. From overlapping dialogue to the epic ensemble pieces filled with actors who revered him, Altman's style continues to inspire artists and audiences alike. AFI will ensure that his films will live forever-M*A*S*H, NASHVILLE, McCABE AND MRS. MILLER, THE PLAYER, GOSFORD PARK and many more.