Jury Coordination and Notes

Disagreeing with Critics by Keefer C. Blakeslee

October 12th, 2016

SeeYouatMovies.2.jpgHere’s something we can all relate to. I’ve recently been thinking about it because I’ve seen a lot of films recently that I’ve enjoyed and yet critics disliked. Now, film is art and art is subjective so, of course, people are going to have different thoughts about certain films. That’s what having an opinion is all about. Here are some films that come to mind.

Money Monster - This Jodi Foster directed film starred George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Just uttering those three stars should make critics go wild. Well, in fact, the opposite happened. While critics enjoyed the cast, they thought the themes of Wall Street were clouded by action. Now I can understand where they are coming from. The drama comes from George Clooney’s character becoming a hostage by a young man played by Jack O’Connell, who lost  everything by following a stock tip by Clooney. This film had the potential to use the power of film to comment about Wall street and commerce but they played it safe. I think it works. This is one of those films where it’s fueled by its actors. Lucky for Foster she has two of the best in the film industry plus Jack O’Connell  who steals the show with his performance.

Bridge of Spies - Now let’s talk about a film that was praised by critics. Many people called it Steven Spielberg’s best film and who could blame them. It stars Tom Hanks. It’s written by the Coen Brothers and Matt Charman. And, it’s based on a true story set during the cold war. I was excited for this film, which could be the reason I didn’t go nuts over it. Don’t get me wrong, I like this film and have no problems with it. However, I just didn’t get into it that much. I thought Tom Hanks’ performance was good, but not amazing compared to his other roles. The dialogue was flawless, but standard drama. Even Spielberg’s direction wasn’t anything special. Not only do I think the hype for the film influenced my opinion, but I also think it was expected to be good. With the cast and crew, I expected an amazing film, making it almost predictable. That’s where I think I didn’t connect with it. I know it sounds crazy but the film was too perfect for me to enjoy.

Ace Ventura - Here is an example of a film audiences loved but critics thought it was too obnoxious and desperate. Keefer.2014.5.jpgOne of Jim Carrey’s signature roles was disliked by many critics including my hero Roger Ebert who called the film “a long, unfunny slog through an impenetrable plot.” Yes, the film is filled with Jim Carrey’s silly comedy and even I agree it’s not his best. I have to admit, this film makes me laugh every time. I think it showcases Carrey’s best comedic attributes. His physical comedy, fast-talking quips and absurd acting ability are all wrapped up in one movie.

Now You See Me - The closer you look, the less you see.  Critics looked at this film so close, trying to find a good movie, that they missed it. Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a 49% and said, “Now You See Me’s thinly sketched characters and scattered plot rely on sleight of hand from the director to distract audiences.” I can’t disagree with the points they made but that doesn’t make it a bad film. It’s a popcorn movie! It’s meant to entertain and it does a stunning job at doing that. The story is unique and the many twists and turns keep you on the edge of your seat. So instead of trying to analyze this, you should stop looking and just enjoy the show.

Rocky and Bullwinkle Movie – Okay, this one really gets me. This film brings back the cartoon icons Rocky and Bullwinkle in a feature length film. Rotten Tomatoes said, “Though the film stays true to the nature of the original cartoon, the script is disappointing and not funny.” I totally disagree. This film has hilarious lines and action from our favorite moose and squirrel. Sure, some of the jokes are incredibly cheesy and even cringe worthy, but the original cartoon was like that as well. Even the movie makes fun of their writing at points. I believe the so-called “unfunny” parts stays faithful to the original cartoon. Compared to other adaptations, I’m looking at you Smurfs, it’s comedy gold.

Are there any films you liked and the critics hated or vice versa? In the end, there are movies we love and some we hate. While critics can influence our opinions, it’s up to you to challenge your thinking of films and figure out what you enjoy at the movies.

Labor Intensive Animation Is Still Best! By Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

October 5th, 2016

hayao_mizayaki_movies.jpgAnimation is an amazing art form.  Especially, the labor intensive forms, such as hand-drawn, traditional animation, stop-motion animation and claymation. All my favorite animated films use these types of animation.  Computer generated animation (CGI) just doesn’t do it for me, especially in a feature film.

Traditional animation is known to be the oldest form of animation.  The artist has to draw every frame to fashion the animation sequence.  Numerous drawings are created and filmed to create motion.  In traditional animation, timing is very important, since each frame has to blend into the soundtrack exactly.  Some films that use classic_animated_disney_movies.jpgtraditional animation, also called ink and paint, include the classic Disney features Snow White, Aladdin, Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty. Walt Disney Feature Animation was the first studio to switch from hand-drawn to digital ink and paint, starting in the late 80s with The Rescuers Down Under.  Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke was the last feature film to exclusively employ traditional ink and paint.

In stop-motion animation, physical objects are moved around and filmed, frame by frame, but through the magic of cinema it appears as fluid movement. Stop-motion animation has been around since the invention of film when Albert Smith and Stuart Blackton made The Humpty Dumpty Circus in 1898.  Some films which use stop-motion animation are early South Park episodes, Coraline, James and the Giant Peach, Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit series and his wonderful, Chicken Run.  This year’s Kubo and the Two Strings took stop-motion animation to a whole new level. The origami characters that Kubo creates are mind-blowing in their grace and detail.  My favorite stop-motion animation film is Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.  That film not only has great visuals, but an incomparable screenplay as well.

In claymation, balls of clay are molded together to create characters.  Oil or water based clay is used to accomplish this.wallace_and_gromit.jpg  The characters are then filmed in short burst of movement to create a scene.  Most of the films that use this technique are also stop-motion animation.  Some of the best include the original Gumby series, the Wallace and Gromit shorts, Shaun the Sheep and Paranormal.  I will never forget the chase scene on the train set in Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers.  That scene is the epitome of stop-motion animation!

Throughout the years, new modern forms of animation have been created that resemble these older styles, but take less time to make and cost considerably less.  These newer techniques are usually used in conjunction with the more traditional forms to create a hybrid animation if you will.  The newer Studio Ghibli films employ this approach, a mix of computer animation and hand-drawn cels.  This is what still gives those films such a wonderful, painterly look.

What do you think? What are your favorite animated films and what format are they created in? Let us know. We love to hear from our readers.

Sci-Fi of the Future by Gerry Oz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

September 23rd, 2016

sci_fi_32.jpgThere is nothing like a good futuristic story. It may include spaceships, teleportation, invisibility, lasers or just your good old giant robot fight. For many decades, this futuristic tech has been the things of fiction. Recently, that is changing. The objects in films like Star Wars, or Star Trek, or even Transformers are actually becoming part of our everyday life. In Japan, there are robots that have become so advanced and so powerful, they could replace a soldier. Across Europe and North America, there is development of cleaner and much more powerful electricity production and in many nations, space is a big topic again.

Stephen Hawking theorizes how to send a space probe at close to the speed of light, or plans to land on Mars in less than two decades, or even the possibility of sending people to Jupiter and Saturn. This is the talk of science fiction, right? Well, no. With space tourism on a rise and people living much longer then previous generations, science fiction is becoming non-fiction. This brings up an interesting point. In our future world, with all these advanced gadgets, what will become of the science fiction genre? It is described in the dictionary as: fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

What happens when we actually all those futuristic scientific or technological advances become reality? In 100 years, Headshot.GerrySM.jpgwill we still have sci-fi as we know it now? Most likely, in 100 years, all that technology that we never thought could be possible, will be part of our day to day life. Most likely, sci-fi will either become a much different genre with technology than we believe is simply impossible to exist, like immortality, or magical production that pops anything out of nothing. Another possibility is that in a very ironic way, the imagination that the sci-fi genre sparks will be the one that kills it at the end since, as a human race, we focus on making such a world come to life (even if that world is a good or bad one) and thus, it will cause the death of sci-fi as a movie genre.  What do you think?

Betty White - Full of Life by Brianna Hope Beaton

September 16th, 2016

Betty_White.jpgBetty White was born January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois.  She was the only child to her parents, Horace and Tess White. She moved to California at the young age of two.  She is best known for her role as Rose Nylund on the hit TV Show, The Golden Girls.

Ms. White has been in the entertainment industry for a very long time. Her appearances include sitcoms, game shows and even hosting Saturday Night Live. She is a comedic actress and a lover of animals. In fact, she worked with the Los Angeles Zoo and the Morris Animal Foundation for four decades. As if being a comedic actress and animal lover was not enough, she is also an author of several books that she wrote during the 1980s and 1990s. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988.  The star is next to her late husband Allen Ludden’s star. She has been nominated for four Golden Globes awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series and had countless Prime Time Emmy nominations and is a winner of many.

Ms. White never had any children of your own however she is the stepmother of David, Martha and Sarah through her previous marriages. It was a conscious decision not to have children which she never regretted.BriannaHopeBeaton2.jpg

Ms. White continues to make appearances on TV and is very close with her animals. She is loved by so many and, not only people in her age bracket, but also teens like me.  She is witty, funny and gets to make people laugh. How can you not love her? She states, “I’m actually the luckiest old broad alive. Half my life is working in a profession I love and the other half is working with animals.” I truly believe you can have a successful career working in what you love to do and someday, I will be doing the same thing.

Acting in Film: Portrayal or Presence? By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

September 9th, 2016

classic.jpgJack Nicholson once gave the following screen acting advice to Harry Dean Stanton: “Just let the wardrobe be the character. You play yourself. That’s the way you approach it.” Jack Nicholson is a three time Oscar® winner, 12 time nominee and the star of classic films such as The Shining, Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. On the other hand, Ian McKellen once commented, “Acting is a very personal process. It has to do with expressing your own personality, and discovering the character you’re playing through your own experience - so we’re all different.” What I’ve laid out are two completely different approaches to film acting. One is the argument that to be a good film actor, you only must be present and being yourself, with a little charm and charisma is enough to be successful on screen. The likes of Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and William Powell might be examples of this school of thought. The other argument is one more associated with actors who participate more in the theater, in believing that a successful film actor takes more than presence, it takes an ability to express emotions and portray someone different than yourself. The likes of Pacino, De Niro, Duvall and Nicholson exemplify this. That’s where the great debate lies.

Throughout this blog I will refer to the first argument as presence and to the second as portrayal. If you notice, the examples of actors who fall under the presence category are all stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Which is to say that is the style most popular during that era.

Film acting, at that time in America, wasn’t necessarily thought of as something deep and internal. It was simply a matter grant.jpgof being marketable and was a part of successful films. Of course there were exceptions such as Fredric March, Laurence Olivier and Claude Rains. But the biggest money makers, such as Bogart and Cagney. While they may have started their careers in theater, once they became film stars they never went back.

Those actors, even though they lacked the talents of a thespian, made millions. They were stars, and they starred in the films we consider classics today. Films such as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind and His Girl Friday. You’ll notice that the supporting players are the true thespians. That’s because, at that time, to be a leading man or woman wasn’t about your talent as an actor with a deep process. It was about making money and bringing people to the theater to see beautiful, extravagant people. The studios didn’t want actors, they wanted stars. People to fawn over, people with charisma and charm. They didn’t want deep, emotional experiences. Theclassic.2.jpgy wanted to witness the fantastic - wonderful costumes, extraordinary stories, and attractive actors were the order of the day. This meant, for actors like Sydney Greenstreet and Thomas Mitchell, there were no starring roles in major pictures for them. But they could bet on a supporting actor nomination or even a win.

Nonetheless, that style of thinking within the studio system lasted until Brando came on thchinatown.jpge scene. Then, the actors of old condemned the new style. We know it as “method acting.” Gary Cooper called method actors “a bunch of goof balls.” Spencer Tracy said he was “too old, too tired and too talented to care.” Then again, Tracy approached acting as easily as “knowing your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.”

But amidst the Brando and Deans of the Golden Age, characterization in the world of film acting wasn’t something desired by audiences until the New Wave came along in the late 60s. Realism was the order of the day and that’s where Ian McKellen’s quote I mentioned earlier came into play. Actors such as Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino came on the scene and offered audiences a new type of movie star - the kind that won Oscars for more than being the box-office star, but because they delivered a wonderful performance of emotional stature. No longer was the dhoffman.jpgashingly handsome or exceptionally beautiful actor necessary. Now don’t get me wrong, box office stars still included the likes of Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, but even short, off-beat Dustin Hoffman could draw in crowds. That was new. For even in the Golden Age, method actors Paul Newman and Marlon Brando were exceptionally attractive. But now, at the dusk of that classic era, character actors could now lead movies.

That trend has trickled into today. Interestingly enough, it’s still an attractive actors’ medium as far as major motion pictures go. Dwayne Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Zac Efron and such still fit that stereotypical “leading man” criteria. The only difference is that they aren’t the ONLY ones leading films that are seen and acclaimed. If Claude Rains led a film in his day, it wouldn’t be an “indie film”, it’d be a B movie - just another film to keep the machine running. But there would be no awards’ traction, no sort of acclaim. In today’s film culture, a character actosideways.jpgr can be supporting in a major picture and lead their own indie film. Willie1.jpgTake Paul Giamatti for example, he’s not anything like a leading man type. But Sideways is a film he leads beautifully and he got plenty of awards’ notice. But he’s great at the job that pays him, being the supporting actor in films like San Andreas, Cinderella Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

The debate lies in, “is someone like Cary Grant a better film actor than someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman?” Cary Grant starred in the some of the most beloved films of all time - North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief and An Affair to Remember. Philip Seymour Hoffman has given versatile performances such as his performances in The Master, Punch-Drunk Love and Doubt. The first examples are all time acclaimed films, but Cary Grant doesn’t show much versatility. The next examples are acclaimed performances, but the films themselves aren’t considered classic by the masses. So who do you consider better? Perhaps it depends on who you are. The new generation of critics and movie buffs will say Hoffman easily. But classic movie fans will surely say Grant. What matters more to you? The presence of the actor or the portrayal by the actor?

Movies that Portray Men as Stupid, by Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

August 18th, 2016

dumb.dumber.jpgIn today’s society, men in movies, TV shows and ads are often depicted as bumbling, idiots. Since my family doesn’t have cable, I see this trend happening in movies as well. Some recent movies that have done this include the Ted franchise, the Jump Street franchise, The Internship, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Central Intelligence and The Interview. All the men in Melissa McCarthy films are portrayed as dumb fools. In the new Ghostbusters, instead of having a “dumb blonde” as a receptionist, they show a dumb, young hunk, wonderfully portrayed by Chris Hemsworth.

Most movies with Seth Rogen and Zac Efron typically portray men as ridiculous fools. Even James Franco, a very respected writer, director and actor, appears in some really inappropriate, dumb guy movies. For instance, Seth Rogen and James Franco are the stars of the movie, The Interview. I have watched this movie three times and I actually really enjoy it. They implement a lot of funny, inappropriate jokes that teens like me love. Zac Efron stars in The Neighbors franchise, which not surprisingly, also stars Seth Rogen. I haven’t seen these films yet, but they are on my list. Zac Efron also stars in the recently released Mike and Dave film which portrays two really dumb brothers that need dates to their sister’s wedding. The family thinks that if they get dates, they won’t be Mike.Dave.jpgas rowdy and ruin the event, like they usually do.

I don’t know when this trend actually started, but it seems to have supplanted the “dumb blonde” trend in movies. Sometime in the 80s. the SNL cast started making movies and many of them followed this trend. I’m thinking of films such as Caddyshack, Animal House, the National Lampoon franchise and The Jerk. This was followed by all the Jim Carrey movies and his persona who, for the most part, was a bumbling idiot. Examples are Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber and The Cable Guy.

This trend coincides with a disturbing trend in college attendance by males in this country. Prior to the 1970s, more men than women went Clayton.jpgto college. Sometime in the late 70s, the ratio switched and more women than men went to college. Now, approximately 60% of all college students are female. According to educators, this is an alarming trend in the U.S. As a teen soon headed to college, I am concerned about these statistics and wonder how I’ll be perceived by my fellow students (most of whom will be female).

I’m not afraid of no Ghosts or Haters by Keefer C.Blakeslee

July 18th, 2016

ghostbustera.jpgJune 8th,1984 the original Ghostbusters was released. It blew up the box office, amazed critics and became a comedy classic. June 8th, 2016, to celebrate my 16th birthday and my slow progression into old age, I took a couple of my friends to go see the original Ghostbusters on the big screen because my local movie theater was having a special anniversary screening.

We sat down with our soda and popcorn surrounded by fellow fans wearing slimer T-shirts ghostbuster.jpgand Ghostbuster snapbacks. Then the house lights dimmed and the original director, Ivan Reitman appeared on screen. He shared a few words about the film and thanked fans for attending. The movie began and the crowd cheered. As the movie continued, people jumped when the librarian scares the Busters, laughed at the classic dialogue between the characters and you could hear audience members finish certain lines (Me being one of them).

Watching it again on the big screen rekindled my love for this film. When the film ended people, applauded and started leaving the theater. Suddenly, director of the new Ghostbusters, Paul Feig was on screen. He talked about the original classic and then introduced a sneak peek of the new Ghostbusters. Immediately the audience groaned with disgust when the sneak preview came on.

That reaction is exactly why I’m writing this blog. The dislike for the new Ghostbusters is overwhelming. I want to say, for the record, that I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan. I constantly watched the film growing up. I had copies of the original TV show and I even dressed up like a Ghostbuster for Halloween. I also have to admit that I was not ecstatic for the reboot at first. Not because it’s an all female cast, but because it’s a reboot of one of my childhood films. I thought they were trying  to live up to the legacy of the original. I can understand why some people are not particularly excited for the ghostbuster.b.jpgreboot, but the negative and misogynistic reaction has grown. The new Ghostbusters trailer video on YouTube is the most disliked trailer in YouTube history and has garnered a lot of raging comments. Films have had bad advertising reactions before, but this hate continues to grow before anyone has even seen the film. Taking all this into consideration, here are four reasons why I am now enthusiastic about the new film.

1) The Cast: If you’re going to hire female Ghostbusters, these are exactly the comedians to include. Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Kristen Wiig are completely qualified to carry the Ghost hunting torch. All of them are hilarious on each has her own unique style of comedy that I’m sure will have the audience roaring with laughter.

2) The Director: Paul Feig has climbed the ladder to become one of the best comedic film director. He’s directed hit comedies such as The Heat, Spy (which he also wrote) and the Oscar-nominated Bridesmaids. Feig knows the perfect balance of smart dialogue and outrageously funny physical comedy. Plus, he’s worked with Wiig and McCarthy on previous films so he knows how to work with them.

3)  It’s not a Remake! It’s a Reboot! Something that the filmmakers explicitly say is that it’s not continuing the original story, it’s four new characters who get into the profession of busting ghosts. So, it is in no way trying to outdo the original film. What made the first film funny is that it put four funny comedians into the situation of hunting ghosts and comedy ensues. The same goes for this film, only they are starting from scratch and these ladies have their own style of comedy. The first film relies on clever dialogue because, most of the time they’re wearing heavy proton packs which prevent them from doing a lot of complicated physical comedy and, because of the infancy of special effects, they had limitations in interacting with the apparitions. The new film, because of modern technology and lighter proton packs, will most likely have smart dialogue but it can also utilize more physical comedy.

4) The original cast give their blessings: Yes, the original cast loves the idea of the reboot and, in a Jimmy Kimmel interview with the new and original cast, Bill Murray expressed his enjoyment of the film. Kimmel asked, “Why was this idea (meaning the new Ghostbusters) appealing to you?” Murray responded, “It was only cause I knew these girls were funny.” Even Keefer.2014.5.jpgAykroyd, who was not only one of the actors but writers, along with Harold Ramis (Rest in Piece) said in a Hollywood Reporter interview, “The Aykroyd family is delighted by this inheritance of the Ghostbusters torch by these most magnificent women in comedy. My great grandfather, Dr. Sam Aykroyd, the original Ghostbuster, was a man who empowered women in his day and this is a beautiful development in the legacy of our family business.” So, if original cast are happy with the film maybe we shouldn’t judge to quickly.

Say what you want about how Hollywood is running out of ideas and that you are tried of seeing remakes and reboots. That’s a given. However, before people start writing pessimistic and sexist comments about a film, how about they wait until the film comes out before writing those negative reviews.

I think Leslie Jones said it best in an Entertainment Weekly interview regarding the sexist remarks: “It’s not a man thing, it’s not a woman thing. It’s a Ghostbuster thing.”

Nora Ephron, Someone To Admire By Brianna Hope Beaton

July 11th, 2016

Nora_Ephron.jpgWe all have people that we look up to and admire. Personally, I have a high regard for Angela Bassett, Leonardo Dicaprio, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep and Matt Damon (just to name a few). I happen to know that Nora Ephron is greatly looked up to by one of my fellow KIDS FIRST! Film Critics as well and I would like to write about her.

Born on May 19, 1941, in New York, NY, Nora Ephron was the daughter of writers. Even though she was born in New York, she grew Up in Los Angeles. Later in life she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts for her extended education. Her articles and essays were collected and published in the 1970s Wallflower at Orgy and Crazy Salad. She wrote her very first novel, Heartburn in 1983 which was inspired by the ending of Ephron’s second marriage. It also was adapted into a film that Meryl Streep starred in. After that, she wrote a couple screenplays including Silkwood (1983) and When Harry Met Sally (1989). They both earned her Academy Award nominations for Best Screenplay. She directed her first film, This Is My Life, in 1992 and in 1993,  wrote and directed BriannaHopeBeaton2.jpgSleepless in Seattle. This film gave her a third Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. In 1998, Ephron co-wrote her next screenplay with her sister Della, You’ve Got Mail. In 2009, Ephron received a great amount of praise for directing and writing Julie & Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. On June 26, 2012, at the age of 71, Nora Ephron passed away due to pneumonia, caused by acute myeloid leukemia.

In researching the life and times of Nora Ephron, I have seen true passion, perseverance and, in turn - success. Stepping back to the beginning, there are many people that surround us in media, on television, in films, in books and in many other places that have done so well in and at their lives that they can’t helped being admired. I find that the more people you admire and learn from, the more they help take you on the road to success. Perhaps one day you too will fill those shoes.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”- Nora Ephron

Has Hollywood Gone Too Far With Sequels? By Clayton Pickard

July 6th, 2016

AttackofSequels.jpgHollywood seems to be all about sequels and remakes these days. So far this year, 14 out of the top 20 U.S. films have been sequels or remakes. That’s 70 percent! Does Hollywood keep making these sequels and remakes because they don’t want to take any chances with new ideas and these are a known quantity?

The movie business wasn’t always this way. Of the top ten films in 1985, only one was a sequel or a remake. In 1995, none of the top ten were sequels or remakes. But, by 2005, nine of the Clayton.jpgtop ten films were sequels or remakes. I was looking forward to a lot of the sequels this year: Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Captain America: Civil War, Alice Through The Looking Glass and X Men: Apocalypse. But, when I look back on the films I most enjoyed this past year, all of them are based on original ideas. For instance, The Big Short, Spotlight, Room, Inside Out, When Marnie Was There and Monster Hunt. For those of you who don’t know Monster Hunt, it was the highest grossing film in China in 2015 and is the craziest, funniest, action-packed, original film I’ve seen in years.

Some of the overwhelming amount of sequels and remakes were: The Man From Uncle, Fantastic Four, Creed, Avengers Age of Ultron, Terminator: Genysis and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I didn’t see Creed, I heard a lot of people loved it, but did we really need a Sylvester Stallone comeback? I did see The Man From Uncle, which was fun, but it was all style and no substance. Fantastic Four was a total waste of time and money. The plot and the acting were so uninteresting that it failed to hold my attention. I purposefully did not see Terminator Genysis because it looked like IMG_0238.jpga rehash of the last Terminator film. Nor did I choose to see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. It’s the fifth film in the series and I feel they are milking the franchise for no reason besides money. They are even planning a sixth Mission Impossible!

A great place to see original, creative, theatrical films for kids is at children’s film festivals. I have been going to the New York International Children’s Film Festival for ten years now. I always see the most creative, visionary and uplifting films from around the world. They always premiere a Studio Ghibli film, which is how I became such a fan of that studio. There are children’s film festivals all around the U.S. If there isn’t one in your area, check out www.gkids.com for a list of great children’s films from prior festivals that you can get on DVD. And, don’t forget to look out for KIDS FIRST! Film Festival partners such as the University of Hawaii at Manoa which is doing its 10th KIDS FIRST! Film Festival all summer long.

The Film Musical in Our Current Era by Willie Jones

June 29th, 2016

broadway_picture1.jpgThere was a time in Hollywood when musicals were the top box-office earners. They were the award winners, being lauded by audiences and critics alike. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the top toe-tapping stars of their day, giving box-office smashes such as Top Hat and Swing Time. Then along came the likes of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in their collaborations, a little guy by the name of Frank Sinatra came on the scene and helped make Gene Kelly a star. Before Hollywood knew it, musicals were winning Best Picture. Films like An American in Paris and Gigi (which are both now hated winners) took home the big prize and in the mid-60s, we even had back to back musical best picture winners with My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, not to mention a few years earlier West Side Story took home the glory. And we can’t forget Oliver winning just some years later.

Then along came the modern-era of filmmaking, focused on more realistic direction and acting The_Little_Mermaid_Musical_Playbill_1.jpgand the theatrical musical was no longer in. Instead, grittier, darker musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret were the (rare) musicals of the time to gain awards traction and audience interest. Musicals wouldn’t become big again until the 80s, when the Disney Renaissance brought in the animated musical, with hits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. These films would eventually make their way to Broadway. As a matter of fact, the live-action musical wouldn’t make its comeback until the early 2000s when Moulin Rouge and Chicago gained Best Picture nominations, with the latter winning. Then suddenly the 2000s began a resurgence in musical films. This time, mixing the gritty style of the 70s with the fun, theatrical style of Classic Hollywood, like in Dreamgirls or even Hairspray.

The turn of the century brought in a new age of cinema, I believe, an age that doesn’t necessarily have a preference, since fantasy films and realistic films both became audience and critic pleasers. See, in the 70s, suspending disbelief for something in your face and theatrical wasn’t in. Gritty, “honest” styles of filmmaking were preferred even in sci-fi films and horror films (a la The Exorcist and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). But, the advent of more advanced special effects and the resurgence in animated films, brought back a simple, childlike yearning of movie audiences. So the musical was back in business. Mind you, they are still directed with a sense of realism and awards caliber acting, but audiences are again willing to sit through singing and dancing.

Now they aren’t coming out as often as they once did in the classic Hollywood days, but films sLes_Miserables_Musical_Poster.jpguch as Les Miserables and Into the Woods made money and were favored by critics. But, in this decade, we’ve yet to have the dance musical. We’ve had more dramatic musicals without any classic flair of innocence and good fun. Of the upcoming musicals being rumored about being created, not many of them are dance musicals, nor are they well known within the film industry. Now, my worry is that this generation of filmgoers, which is rooted in the comic book film, the dark drama and the dry comedy, won’t see musicals. This is unfortunate because musicals are a very legitimate genre that mixes the aural beauty of music with the visuals of film. Looking at Into the Woods which made money because it is a Disney film and it has princesses and fairy tales attached. Les Miserables made money because it’s been etched in American culture since the 80s. But will In the Heights make money? Or Jekyll and Hyde? Or even Gypsy? Musical theater nerds like me will flock to the theaters to see these stage musicals on the big screen in cinematic form, because we know them. But the theatrical world isn’t the money making world, unfortunately and theater isn’t very accessible to the mainstream, unless it’s something like The Phantom of the Opera or a Disney adaptation.Willie1.jpg

To conclude, I’m expressing my worry that the cinematic musical will once again be forgotten within a generation. Despite the fact a show such as Hamilton is crossing the barrier between theater and the mainstream world, there is still, it seems, a vendetta against movie musicals - particularly ones with dance and family friendly fun. It’s just a shame, I think, that musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and On the Town wouldn’t make a buck today.

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