Oscars, Suburbarazzi-style: Local nominees and recent winners

oscar2.jpgThis Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST, Ted Mann and I will join TV reporter Karen DePodwin for a live RNN segment about Sunday’s Academy Awards. I’ll be wearing my tux for only the third time since my senior year in college, so the comedic value of that alone might be worth the tune-in. Here’s a preview of one of the topics slated for discussion.

Stars with a connection to the Lower Hudson Valley have done very well for themselves at the Oscars over the years, and 2008 is no exception.

Eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken, a New Rochelle native and North Salem resident, has been nominated three times for his songs from the Disney movie “Enchanted.” He took home his first two trophies for Best Song and Best Score for “The Little Mermaid,â€? and his most recent ones were in the same categories for songs from “Pocahontas.â€? In total, he’s been nominated for a whopping 18 Oscars, but hasn’t won one since 1996.

First-time nominee and sentimental favorite Ruby Dee, a New Rochelle resident, is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her part in “American Gangster,” starring Mount Vernon native Denzel Washington and former Nyack dweller Russell Crowe — both of whom are Oscar-winners themselves.

LoHud also has at least two representatives in the Best Documentary/Short Subject category, including Ossining High School alumnus Francisco Bello (for “Salim Baba”) and former Croton-on-Hudson resident Cynthia Wade (for “Freeheld”).

After the break, check out a list of some other prominent current and former residents of the Lower Hudson Valley who have won or have been nominated for an Oscar in the last 30 years. Continue reading

Bill Irwin joins LoHud-tastic ‘Dancing with Shiva’ cast

tjndc5-5b4h37x89yw1i9anunb6_layout.jpgWith Nyack resident and Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme as well as former Irvington resident Debra Winger both attached to the upcoming comedy “Dancing with Shiva,” I didn’t thing the film could pack any more of Lower Hudson Vally punch. I was wrong.

Now word is out that another Nyacker, actor Bill Irwin (right) — aka Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street — has also signed on to star. And, slightly off the LoHud grid (but still on our radar), according to Cinematical, the movie is supposed to start filming next month in Connecticut. It’s being billed as a romantic comedy, but it’s clearly also got a downright wacky mix of talent — the director of “Silence of the Lambs,” a recluse actress who hasn’t been in a mainstream movie since God knows when, the star of “The Devil Wears Prada” (Anne Hathaway), and Elmo’s comic foil.

But the real question isn’t, how did all these random people come to work on the same project? No, it’s how on earth did CT become the filming mecca of the tri-state region? Seriously, I’ve counted no fewer than 10 movies set to start filming there in the next few months. What’s a NY suburb got to do to get some of that Hollywood lovin’?

(AP Photo/Carol Rosegg)

Jonathan Demme and Debra Winger team up for ‘Dancing with Sheba’


It doesn’t look likely that Trump-O’Donnell “Apprentice” dream team will come together, but fortunately there’s another trans-Hudson partnership forming: Nyack director Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” that PBS documentary about Katrina that I totally meant to watch in full) has cast Irvington’s Debra Winger in his new film, “Dancing with Sheba.”

I’m not sure which is more happy making — Demme’s return to the land of fictional movie-making or Winger’s return from the land of the dead. Her IMDB page says she’s starred in a few films in recent years (“Radio,” “Eulogy” anyone?), but I’m pretty sure the first movie on that filmography that anyone has even the faintest memory of is 1995’s “Forget Paris,” which, ironically, I can’t see to forget. The new Demme film will be about an ex-model getting out of rehab to attend her sister’s wedding. Anne Hathaway is the druggie model, Winger has a supporting role as her mother. The weirdest part of all, according to Cinematical: It’s all supposed to be a dark comedy.

Check out Demme’s Katrina doc on PBS

tjndc5-5b53bc4lthvsjtgh7p4_layout.jpgOscar winner and Nyack resident Jonathan Demme’s documentary about the aftermath of Katrina, in which he followed around residents of the Lower 9th Ward for a year after the hurricane, is airing right now on PBS. This much I learned while channel-surfing the wasteland that is early-summer TV. “Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward,” a five-installment series, has two more episodes to go — tonight and tomorrow on Tavis Smiley’s late-night program.

I was hoping we’d get to see this one take down “Sicko” at the box office, but I guess instead we’ll just have to see if it can outperform “Studio 60.” Should be an interesting face-off. Ready. Set. DVR!

(Photo: Mark Vergari / The Journal News)

Slush Pile: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

After spending much of the week jubilently harping on the misfortunes of our suburban celebrities — Rip Torn’s DWI, Stanley Tucci’s “3 Lbs.” getting canceled, Tim Daly’s “The Nine” on life support, Rene Syler losing her job, and Bonnie Fuller’s newest tabloid spawn — it’s time we finally caught up on the happy-making news from the last seven days:

• Director Jonathan Demme, who lives in Nyack, was given the Billy Wilder Award for Excellence in Directing by the National Board of Review. [E-Team, Hollywood Reporter]

• Masochistic administrative assistants, Rosie O is hiring! [Gawker] One caveat, if you’re Asian, please remember to steel yourself to the ol’ racist ching chong ding dong routine. [YouTube]

• “Studio 60” got the go-ahead for a full season, show creator and Scarsdale native Aaron Sorkin has embraced the Christmas spirit, and all is peachy on the Sunset Strip. [EW]

• But hey, even if “Studio 60” doesn’t make it to season #2, Judy Blume enthusiast Mike Wuebben has plenty of ideas for Sorkin’s next series. We’re kinda partial to “That’s Opera.” [The Showbuzz]

• Hayden Panettiere, the 17-year-old cheerleader on NBC’s “Heroes” (and Palisades native), has proven spunky enough to fend off the advances of Tommy Lee at VH1’s Big in ’06 awards. [YouTube video]

• She’s also smart enough to strike while the iron’s hot to score a record deal. Her debut album is set to come out in early 2007. [NY Post]

• Unfortunately, Panettiere isn’t savvy enough to realize that Paris Hilton is no role model. Oh Hayden, did you learn nothing about what happens to Hilton proteges last week? Name Britney ring a bell? [Mollygood, E!]

Slush Pile: This week’s news on Martha, Ralph, Lasse, and others.

Some other local celeb news you might have missed this week:

> Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart agreed to open their Katonah properties to the Bedford Lanes Riding Association. So please, local equestrians, no more taping “Buck Me” signs to the back of Ralph and Martha’s horses. [Daily News]

> According to our TJN colleague and E-Team blogger Pete Kramer, Rockland celebs Jonathan Demme, Bill Irwin (aka Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street), Kevin Clash (another Sesame Streeter: the voice of Elmo), Andrea Martin, Paxton Whitehead, David Straitharn, and Tyne Daly all spoke at Rockland Country Day School’s annual “Evening of Celebrity Storytelling and Auction III.â€? We only wish we could have been there to hear Elmo shout “Show me the money” at auction bidders. [E-Team]

> “The Hoax,” a collaboration of Bedford best buds Richard Gere and Lasse Hallstrom, is getting great early buzz at RomaCinemaFest. Yet according to www.imdb.com, the film, about a bogus Howard Hughes biographer, has had its release date pushed off until April 2007. Hmm, April 1, perhaps? We’re catching on to your marketing trickery, Miramax. [Reuters]