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    Jerome Hellman, Producer of ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ Dies at 92

    His movie producing career consisted of just seven films, but they earned him six Academy Awards, three for “Midnight Cowboy” and three for “Coming Home.”Jerome Hellman, who produced “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), the only X-rated film ever to win the best picture Academy Award, and who went on to solidify his reputation with other tough-minded dramas, like the Oscar-winning “Coming Home,” died on May 26 at his home in South Egremont, Mass., in the Berkshires. He was 92.The death was confirmed by his wife, Elizabeth Empleton Hellman.Almost no one at the 1970 Academy Awards ceremony expected “Midnight Cowboy” to win. The movie was the gritty urban story of Joe Buck (Jon Voight), a young, handsome, naïve and not particularly bright Texan who decides to start a new life in New York City as a male hustler catering to wealthy older women, and Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), a grubby Bronx con man with a debilitating limp who becomes Joe’s unlikely ally.Shot with an initial budget of only $1 million, the movie included straightforward but far from pornographic depictions of straight and gay sex, prostitution and gang rape. The film’s rating was later upgraded to R.Vincent Canby’s review in The New York Times seemed hesitant to overpraise the film, which was based on James Leo Herlihy’s 1965 novel of the same name. It was “tough and good in important ways,” Mr. Canby wrote, “slick, brutal (but not brutalizing)” and “ultimately a moving experience.”Mr. Hellman didn’t even bother to write an acceptance speech.“I probably only said 10 words” after Elizabeth Taylor handed him the trophy, Mr. Hellman told The Los Angeles Times in 2005. “It must have been the shortest speech in the history of the Oscars.”Mr. Hellman’s entire movie producing career consisted of seven films, but they earned him six Academy Awards, not to mention an additional 11 nominations. Three Oscars were for “Midnight Cowboy”; John Schlesinger also won as best director and Waldo Salt for best adapted screenplay.The other three — for best actor, best actress and best original screenplay — were for “Coming Home” (1978), an ambitious drama directed by Hal Ashby. Mr. Voight and Jane Fonda starred in the film, he as a paraplegic Vietnam War veteran with a social conscience, and she as a military wife who becomes his lover while her conservative straight-by-the-book husband is deployed in the same war.Jon Voight, left, and Dustin Hoffman in a scene from the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy,” the only X-rated film ever to win the best picture Oscar.United ArtistsBetween those two successes, “The Day of the Locust” (1975), also directed by Mr. Schlesinger, was another story altogether. Based on Nathanael West’s novel, set on the fringes of 1930s Hollywood, it was a depressing tale of a seductive but tainted promised land where some people came to fail and some to die. William Atherton, Donald Sutherland and Karen Black starred, respectively, as an Ivy League designer, a sexually repressed accountant and an untalented starlet.Many critics found the film off-putting, and it did not do well at the box office. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker said it had “no emotional center.” Although Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times loved Mr. Sutherland’s performance, he found most of the characters too clearly doomed to care about.But Mr. Canby wrote in The Times that the film was “in many ways remarkable,” declaring its subject a metaphor for the decline of Western civilization and “second-rateness as a way of life.”Judith Crist, then the acclaimed founding movie critic for New York magazine, praised “The Day of the Locust” in a full-page review. “So brilliant is” this film, she began, “so dazzling and harrowing its impact, so impotent are the superlatives it evokes” that you almost want to avoid looking at it directly, like a solar eclipse. She concluded, “To call it the finest film of the past several years is to belittle it.”The National Board of Review named it one of the year’s 10 best films.Jerome Hellman was born on Sept. 4, 1928, in Manhattan, the second child of Abraham J. Hellman, a Romanian-born insurance broker, and Ethel (Greenstein) Hellman. After high school, he served two years in the Marine Corps, then began his working life as a messenger in the New York office of Ashley-Steiner, a talent agency.He rose through the ranks and founded his own agency in 1957, before he was 30. But he sold that business in 1963 and became a full-time movie producer, beginning with George Roy Hill’s comedy “The World of Henry Orient” (1964). Peter Sellers played the title role, a New York concert pianist who is trying to initiate an affair with a married woman but is being stalked by two adoring adolescent girls. The film was both well reviewed and a hit.His other films as producer were Irvin Kershner’s “A Fine Madness” (1966), starring Sean Connery as a poet with writer’s block, and “Promises in the Dark” (1979), starring Marsha Mason as a doctor treating a teenage cancer patient. It was the only film that Mr. Hellman ever directed, and only because Mr. Schlesinger, who was scheduled to do so, had dropped out.Mr. Hellman’s last film was “The Mosquito Coast” (1986), directed by Peter Weir from Paul Theroux’s novel about an inventor who moves to a tropical island with his family, tries to create a utopia and fails. Harrison Ford starred.Mr. Hellman in 2009. At one point he described his earlier films as “unique, different, fraught with risk, problematical.”Neilson Barnard/Getty ImagesMr. Hellman was married to Joanne Fox from 1957 to 1966 and to Nancy Ellison, a photographer, from 1973 to 1991. In addition to his third wife, a film promoter whom he married in 2001, his survivors include a son, J.R.; a daughter, Jenny Hellman; and a grandson.Authors and commentators considered Mr. Hellman a driving force in the creation of what some called the New Hollywood of the 1970s, where power shifted from big-studio committees to independent filmmakers with purpose. But the era didn’t last long. In 1982, in an interview with The New York Times, he described the films he had made up to that point as “unique, different, fraught with risk, problematical.”“People just can’t believe that after the success of ‘Coming Home,’ I couldn’t just do what I wanted,” Mr. Hellman observed. But the studios, he said, were now run by business types who needed every film to be a blockbuster.“All that my success has won me is the luxury of immediate access to top executives,” he said. More

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    'Colette,' From the Video Game Medal of Honor, Wins an Oscar

    “Colette,” which was featured in the virtual-reality video game Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, took home the award for best documentary short.It was a night of firsts: First Korean actor to win an Oscar, oldest performer to win best actor, first woman of color to win best director.And, for the video game industry, its first Oscar recognition for best documentary short.The statuette was for “Colette,” a short film featured in the Oculus virtual-reality game Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, which is also the first Oscar for Facebook. (It owns Oculus, the virtual-reality group that produced the documentary short along with EA’s Respawn Entertainment.)The 24-minute film, directed by Anthony Giacchino and produced by Alice Doyard, follows a survivor of the French Resistance, Colette Marin-Catherine, as she returns to Germany for the first time since the end of World War II to visit a concentration camp where the Nazis killed her brother, Jean-Pierre.“The real hero here is Colette herself, who has shared her story with integrity and strength,” Mike Doran, the director of production at Oculus Studios, said in a statement. “As we see in the film, resistance takes courage, but facing one’s past may take even more.”Medal of Honor, which is set during World War II and casts players as an Allied agent trying to outwit the Nazis, did not garner much acclaim as a video game. Many reviewers criticized it for its huge system requirements, which were largely the result of the inclusion of so much historical and documentary footage.But now that the film has won an Oscar — well, that might change a few minds. Or at least get it in front of the eyes of nongamers. You can watch “Colette” free online on Oculus TV or YouTube, or on the website of The Guardian, which later acquired and distributed the film.“We hope this award and the film’s reach means” that the memories of all of who resisted “are no longer lost,” Doran said. More

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    Anthony Hopkins Wins Best Actor Over Chadwick Boseman

    We have an upset.Anthony Hopkins, who won a best actor Oscar almost three decades ago (not two decades as was reported earlier), received another on Sunday, denying the late Chadwick Boseman a prize many thought would go to him posthumously. In a twist this year, the best actor award was the last one of the evening, resulting in an abrupt end to the ceremony, given that Hopkins was not in attendance.Hopkins, 83, was rewarded for his towering performance as a London patriarch struggling with dementia in the drama “The Father,” which appeared to gain momentum with voters down the homestretch of awards season. He is now the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar.“It was easy,” he told The New York Times about playing the role. “Just so easy.”In a review for The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis wrote, “Hopkins has never been an especially physical actor — most of the magic happens above the neck — but here he pushes his capacity for small, telling gestures and stillness to distressing limits.” She added, “It’s an astonishing, devilish performance.”Hopkins won the Oscar for best actor in 1992 for his performance in “The Silence of the Lambs”; he was nominated two more times in the category, in 1994 (“The Remains of the Day”) and 1996 (“Nixon”). He has also been nominated for best supporting actor twice, though has never won.Boseman won the Golden Globe for best actor earlier this season for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” one of dozens of awards he garnered for the Netflix adaptation. But Boseman never got to see the film; he died of colon cancer at age 43 three months before “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was released. More

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    Anthony Hopkins Accepts Oscar, Paying Tribute to Chadwick Boseman

    “At 83 years of age I did not expect to get this award,” Hopkins said of his best actor win in a video posted early on Monday morning.About four hours after he won best actor at the 93rd Academy Awards in an upset, Anthony Hopkins delivered his acceptance in a video from Wales, taking a moment to acknowledge the actor who had been widely expected to win posthumously, Chadwick Boseman.“At 83 years of age I did not expect to get this award — I really didn’t,” said Hopkins, who won for his role as a patriarch struggling with dementia in “The Father.”On Sunday night, Hopkins became the oldest actor to win the award, almost three decades after his first Oscar win in the category, for “The Silence of the Lambs.”The award provided a strange ending to the ceremony. When Boseman was awarded a Golden Globe for best actor earlier this year, the emotional acceptance speech given by his widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, was the emotional highlight of the night. Perhaps with that in mind, the Oscars switched the traditional order of categories this year so that the best actor award came last, after the best picture had already been awarded.Boseman, who had been widely expected to win, did not — and Hopkins was not present to accept the award in person or virtually, resulting in a stilted, anticlimactic ending.Chadwick Boseman, in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”David Lee/Netflix, via Associated PressSocial media erupted with indignation at the win, with many saying the award should have gone to Boseman for his role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Boseman died of colon cancer at age 43 in August, months before “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was released.“I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman who was taken from us far too early,” Hopkins said in his video, which was posted to social media.Posted in the morning in Wales, the video was short and sweet, with Hopkins thanking the typical cast of characters in the caption to his Instagram post: the film’s production company, his talent agency, his family.“Thank you all very much,” Hopkins said. “I really did not expect this.” More