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Best Movie or Mini-Series

Jan 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The year 2003 was a golden one for miniseries and movies made for television, as writers, directors, producers and actors collaborated to make some of the most visionary films to be seen on any screen. The Golden Globes nominees in this category all ran on HBO or Showtime, and each combines aesthetic excellence with an attention to issues that fuel conversation and inflame passions.
“Angels in America,” a six-hour extravaganza directed for the screen by Mike Nichols, enjoyed huge success as a stage play (written by Tony Kushner) before it was a gleam in HBO’s eye. The demanding material got theatrical-release treatment by HBO Films, which brought on director Nichols and a stellar production team to bring Mr. Kushner’s vision to life. There were no slouches in front of the camera either, with heavy-hitters Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson leading a very talented cast.
The tale of the early days of AIDS told through the eyes of those suffering the disease, against a backdrop of governmental indifference, remains gripping and relevant even after the passage of time. “I and everyone in the cast felt a special privilege in working on this specific project,” said co-star Ben Shenkman. “It was a phenomenon in the theater that we were hopefully translating to the broader audience that TV allows. The pride we feel in it is special.”
Starring two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith, “My House in Umbria” is based on the book of the same name. HBO Films reunited the group behind “The Gathering Storm,” which snagged the 2003 Golden Globe in this category. A charming and evocative drama about four survivors of a terrorist act, “Umbria” was executive produced by Robert Allan Ackerman and Frank Doelger and directed by Richard Loncraine from a screenplay by Hugh Whitemore. The United Kingdom/Italy co-production also featured actors Chris Cooper and Giancarlo Giannini as well as Ronnie Barker, Timothy Spall and Benno Furmann.
Getting “My House in Umbria” to the screen meant a lot to Mr. Ackerman, who said he first came across the book more than 10 years ago and spent years trying to make the movie. “I’m thrilled the movie got made,” Mr. Ackerman said.
Two other nominees this year center on charged issues. “Normal” tells the story of a Midwestern factory worker who stuns his family and community when he announces he wants a sex change operation. “A Soldier’s Girl” is the true story of a U.S. soldier who falls in love with a transgendered nightclub performer and is murdered by a fellow soldier.
Both films handle their controversial topics with aplomb. “Normal” stars Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson, both of whom are nominated for Globes for their roles in the film. It was directed by Jane Anderson, who adapted the screenplay from her own book, “Looking for Normal.” The Avenue Pictures Production was executive produced by Cary Brokaw and Lydia Dean Pilcher.
“The Golden Globe nomination has a special resonance for me because of the international scope of the recognition and the high value that HFPA places on cultural diversity,” Ms. Pilcher said.
Produced by Linda Gottlieb and Doro Bachrach, “Soldier’s Girl” was written by Ron Nyswaner, who also serves as the film’s co-producer. Troy Garity stars alongside newcomer Lee Pace, Shawn Hatosy and Andre Braugher. Directed by Frank Pierson, the hot-button film, which debuted at the 2003 Sundance Festival, tackles the U.S. military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding sexual preference.
“This nomination means a lot to me,” Mr. Pierson said. “This is a fascinating, almost Shakespearean story. In highlighting the dreadful failure of `Don’t ask, don’t tell’ in dealing with gays in the military, we’re dramatizing the repercussions that are still there. It’s wonderful to be able to do something that people recognize as good work artistically and also socially relevant.”
“Tennessee Williams’ The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone,” another Showtime production, also puts a spotlight on an uncomfortable subject: women’s aging and sexual attractiveness. First adapted for the big screen in 1961 by Warner Bros. with Vivien Leigh as Karen Stone and Warren Beatty as the gigolo Paolo, the Showtime version features Helen Mirren and Olivier Martinez in those roles, with the conniving countess played by Anne Bancroft. Tennessee Williams’ first foray into narrative fiction, it was made from a screenplay by Martin Sherman and directed by Robert Allan Ackerman.
For Mr. Ackerman, directing “Tennessee Williams’ The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” was a promise fulfilled. Years ago, he read in a biography that Mr. Williams was interested in having Mr. Ackerman direct his work and invited the renowned playwright to “Bent,” which Mr. Ackerman directed on Broadway. The two spoke briefly backstage, but Mr. Williams died shortly thereafter.
“I was very honored to be working on material by Tennessee Williams,” Mr. Ackerman said. “To be filming in Rome with Helen Mirren, Anne Bancroft and Olivier Martinez was a fantastic experience. Getting the nomination was validation for a project that I definitely feel was one of the best pieces of work that I’ve done on film.”