Jury Coordination and Notes

Laughter at the Movies by Keefer Blakeslee

November 25th, 2014

MelBrooks_1.jpgComedy is by far the most difficult form of entertainment. Other film genres are not easy to successfully pull off either, but what makes comedy difficult and serious work is that you don’t know what is funny to your audience. Full fledged comedies, satires and parodies in film are not what they were in the days of Mel Brooks or The Three Stooges . So the questions I would like to ask is, “What makes a film funny?”

First of all, let’s look at some history. Like many things, comedy evolves. In film it started with the silent era which focused on slapstick and optical jokes. The master and legend of this era was, of course, Charlie Chaplin. As the years went on, films began using synchronized dialogue sequences and by 1927 Jazz Singer came out. This created “talkie” films. Stars such as The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello and especially, Charlie Chaplin starred in these films. Now, with dialogue on their side, the Golden Age of Comedy began. Cut to 1968 when a satire film by Mel Brooks, The Producers came out and introduced dark and vulgar humor. Around the 1980s, the Zucker brothers and Harold Ramis entered the comedy film field with their films Airplane and Ghostbusters. In the 90s came comedies starring stand-up comedians such as Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and many more - each with his or her own unique style of humor. In the early 2000s, the film Scary Movie came out, geared for adults, with gross humor and it became a big box office success.

To me there are three main components to humor. First, it’s the unexpected; it’s when you think you know what is going to happen but the complete opposite occurs. For example, in Young Frankenstein we expect to see a terrifying monster pillaging a town . Instead we see the monster singing and dancing to Putting on the Ritz. Next, timing. For example, in The Lego Movie the main character, Emmett is getting ready for a new day. The pacing of his everyday routine makes for a comedic payoff like when he does jumping jacks and can’t bend his arms. Last, but not least, there is tragedy. I know it’s ironic that the genre that is supposed to make you laugh revolves around the sadness of life. Look at it this way, what makes you laugh when you see someone in a movie slip on a banana peel? The reaction of the person in pain. Now, if that person falls and just gets back up, that is not as funny. A movie that shows this is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The comedy comes from the family literally trying to survive the worst day ever. That is what comedy essentially does and that is one of the reasons it is a difficult art to master. What’s difficult is being able to look at the misfortunes in life and generate laughter with it.Keefer.2014.5.jpg

Film comedies have a more unique atmosphere than other genres. When you go to a movie theater, usually people are quiet so that they can watch and enjoy the film. Have you ever noticed that comedies break that rule? They give you permission to laugh out load and break the silence inside the theater. Comedies create an atmosphere that feels like nothing else. However, when it’s all said and done, you are not going to make everyone laugh. No matter what you do, you’re still going to have that one person in the audience who won’t laugh because he/she does not think it is funny. It’s all opinion and that goes with anything. That’s why I love comedy so much because it’s not easy, but the satisfaction of making someone genuinely laugh is worth the try.

Who is Gerry Orz, by Briana Dincher

November 12th, 2014

Gerry.O_1.jpgRecently I had the chance to interview Gerry Orz, a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic who has been with the organization for almost two years and has done over 100 reviews. Read on for the full exclusive interview to find out more about the young critic and film-maker who has big plans in the film industry for the future!

Why did you decide to join the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics?

I had a short film made called Days of Silence and another film called Words of Bully. Pretty much I kept submitting it to the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival and somebody, I am pretty sure it was Ranny who emailed me and said “Hey, do you know about the KIDS FIRST! Film Critic program?” We checked it out and thought it would be a good fit – we were a little bit unsure about it. Now that I did it, I am very happy, and I am almost a year & a half being a film critic and loving it.

You’ve been a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic for one and a half years?

Yes, I started two years ago in February.

Very cool! What is the best thing about being a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic?

I was about to say getting all those free movies, but that is definitely not it. I think honestly the best part is either doing the radio show or reviewing the films. The radio shows are fun – you get to talk with your fellow KIDS FIRST! Film Critics and you just get to have fun discussing your opinion about the films. Honestly what is the best thing about Ranny is that she doesn’t constrict what you do. If you do something completely insane, she’ll say “that’s fine, you’ll just have to keep doing it from now on” - which is something I love about Ranny. It is so much fun getting in front of the camera and saying whatever you want about the film. Sometimes, yes, you have to say specific things but usually it’s just really fun. After the first 40 times, or the first 20 times, it’s just bam bam bam!

You have obviously met a lot of famous actors and people in the business. Who are some of the notable people you were most excited to meet?

I’m not going to pick favorites because that is just going to be mean. I have to say that everybody I meet is wonderful. I know that I have made some pretty good connections with a lot of people. I know I made a good connection with Rachel Crow who is a musician and one of the voices on Rio 2. I also made a pretty good connection with Morgan Freeman - he is very nice. I’m not picking any favorites and I think everybody I have interviewed is equally awesome. I remember them pretty nicely.

A couple of weeks ago you received an award for your 100th movie review. I am sure that was really exciting! Were you surprised? What was your reaction?

Here is the thing; actually, I’ve been counting my reviews and was wondering when I would get 100. It isn’t because I wanted to get a 100, but I was just curious in my spare time. Last time I counted I had 80 which was about 2 weeks before that. When Ranny got up there and said “Gerry has done his 100th review”, it was unbelievable. It just felt amazing and I didn’t know what to feel honestly. I could not believe that I had done 100 reviews, which is about 300 minutes. That is twice as long as a feature film of reviews on movies. I could not believe it.

Have you done any previous work associated with film before joining the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics?

I have a done a lot of work with film before joining the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics. I found out about KIDS FIRST! when I made my first film. Actually, when Ranny gave me the award for 100th review it was during the premiere of my first feature film The Equation of Life. That was very nice. If you want to see the movie, it is available now on Amazon.

The short film expanded into a feature film, The Equation of Life. The movie was released on October 12th. What inspired you to produce this film?

In 3rd grade, I got bullied myself because I was very open. I went to kids and pretty much said, “Hi, my name is Gerry. I have two moms, and one of them is Jewish and not from America – be my friend.” Kids had a lot to bully me about and ironically, before that I had never experienced bullying. I never knew what it was; they never taught me. This film is an educational tool for schools, kids and parents everywhere pretty much saying that this is what bullying is. This is what really is happening. This is why it’s important. It’s not just some joke that teachers want to put on kids. It’s really going on in the world. That is what this film is about. It’s not just looking at the very common victim’s perspective – it’s looking at the bully’s perspective. Why is he bullying? Why is he torturing this kid? What caused him to do that? What happens to him after that? How does he feel? What happens to the bystander, the person who knows what is going on but doesn’t tell for different reasons. What happens to him/her after a year? Two years? Twenty years?

Bullying is obviously a serious issue that is currently present among children and teens, especially virtual bullying. How do you think your film influences others?

I know it definitely worked and I know a couple stories. One story really made me cry. A mom emailed me, I think she was in Florida, that she had watched my film and said that it was a good film, not that bad.  In the film that I made a couple years ago, Days of Silence, I suggested that parents compare pictures from a couple weeks ago to pictures from six months ago. If there is a drastic change, you should talk to your child. She did that and she saw a drastic change in her daughter. The mom talked to her and the daughter broke down. She told her that she was tormented and bullied very badly, even thinking of suicide.  I knew from that point on that my film did something and I am happy about that. My film did what I wanted it to and I am OK with it.

It’s great to see how your film influences others and helps them in their lives. Do you plan on making more films in the future?

Yes, I want my job in 20 or 30 years to be a professional film director. I am always inspired by Steven Spielberg the very famous director. Honestly, he is just amazing and I was to be the next Steven Spielberg. He is a wonderful director and I’ve always been inspired by his work.

The film industry is something you want to continue with when you get older?

Definitely!

Who are some of the film producers and directors you look up to?

Since I am a Star Wars fan, I would have to say George Lucas. I definitely love George Lucas. He is my top favorite, along with Steven Spielberg. All the legendary ones inspire me - even ones that aren’t from America, such as Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein. He is a director, not from America, from 50 to 60 years ago. He is a very good director. He was fascinated by sound. He was directing films during the time when sound was first being brought into film. But really, I just look up to all directors.

Is there anyone in the film industry you would like to work and collaborate with?

Steven Spielberg, of course. I have always wanted to work with him just to see how he does his legendary work.

What is your favorite movie?

I have a lot of favorite movies but I would have to say my most favorite of all of them is Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

You founded a non-profit organization called Kids Resource. Can you tell us a little more about that and what inspired you to start Kids Resource?

Kids Resource is a non-profit organization that is directed to younger kids to help them deal with today’s issues. I was starting to make educational curriculum related to bullying for schools because of my film. The schools didn’t accept it – they wanted it to be from some sort of foundation or an organization. We went to organizations but they all wanted to pay the schools or pay us. It was something we didn’t want to do; we wanted to give the schools free material. I started Kids Resource just for that. I wanted to give schools free educational tools that would help them and help kids that would enjoy it. I wanted to provide visual education that is interactive and fun, not just a boring lecture. Something fun and interactive is more likely to be used by kids.  Kids Resource has a lot of plans!

To find out more about Kids Resource, visit: http://www.kidsresource.org

Apart from filmmaking, what other hobbies and interests do you have?

In my spare time, I absolutely love reading. Swimming is also a good sport of mine. I go to a school of arts, a very good school. I love it very much.

How can people watch your latest feature film? Is it in theaters?

It is not in theaters, although I wish it was. I’m kidding. It is on Amazon for $15.  If you feel that the money is going into my pocket, it is not whatsoever. It is goes straight to Kids Resource to help develop other films and other resources.

To support Garry’s film The Equation of Life, please visit:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Equation-Life-Willow-Hale/dp/B00M58FRWQ

To learn how you can become a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, go to: http://2013critic.kidsfirst.org

Angelina Jolie - An Admirable Actress and Humanitarian by Brianna Hope Beaton

November 4th, 2014

AngelinaJolie..jpgI have been examining the impact of women who were brave enough to do what no others in the film industry have done before and bestowing on them the title of “first” in their category. However, not all the women who have made a difference in films belong to the group of “first’s”. Angelina Jolie is known not only as a phenomenal actress, but also as a passionate humanitarian.

Angelina Jolie Voight was born on June 4, 1975 to actor Jon Voight and actress Marcheline Bertrand, in Los Angeles California. She followed in her parents’ footsteps into the world of entertainment. In Ms. Jolie’s early teen years she attended Lee Strasberg Theater Institute and later New York University. Her breakthrough role took place in the late 1990s as her performance in Gia, a made-for-television film for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Another great dramatic performance in Girl, Interrupted (1999) brought Angelina her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Since then, she has starred in various roles - Shark Tale (Lola, 2004), Beyond Borders (Sarah Jordan, 2003), Salt (Evelyn Salt, 2010), Wanted (Fox, 2008), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Mrs. Smith, 2005), Playing by Heart (Joan, 1998) The Tourist (Elise Clifton-Ward, 2010), Maleficent (Maleficent, 2014) and many more.

As to her humanitarian work, Ms. Jolie was made a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency in 2001. Her work has affected many people in and out the United States. She captured the world’s interest when she worked to obtain aid for refugees in Cambodia, Darfur and Jordan and a few more. For her work in these areas, Ms. Jolie received the Global Humanitarian Action Award from the United Nations Association of the USA.

Hackers co-star Jonny Lee Miller married Jolie in 1995 and sadly, they divorced in 1999. The following year, Jolie married Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton. That married also ended in divorce, in 2003. Jolie met actor Brad Pitt during the making of Mr. and Mrs. Smith in 2004 and they hit it off. Not only did they become a couple but they expanded their family little ones. In 2002, Jolie adopted a son, Maddox, from Cambodia. A few years afterwards, she adopted a daughter, Zahara. The couple’s first biological daughter, Shiloh, was born in Africa in 2006. A year later, Jolie adopted a three-year-old boy, Pax Thien, from a Vietnamese orphanage. Then Jolie gave birth to twins, Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline, on July 12, 2008. In total the actress and humanitarian has six kids.

Along with all the joy and happiness in creating this wonderful family came immense grief when Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand died of ovarian cancer in 2007, at the age of 56. Having a family history of breast and ovarian cancer and then, learning that she had a gene known as BRCA1, which increases the risk of both these cancers, Jolie wanted to make precautions. She underwent a double mastectomy in an effort to prevent breast cancer in herself.  “My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman,” Jolie stated. “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could.”

On the lighter side of things, the engagement of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie occurred in 2012. They tied the knot, on August 23, 2014, in a quiet and special ceremony witnessed by their close family and close friends in the romantic French countryside.
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I commend Angeline Jolie for her humanitarian efforts in promoting human welfare and social reforms with no prejudice of gender, sexual orientation, religious or national backgrounds. She has visited many countries around the world and I believe her goal is to save lives, relieve suffering and preserve human dignity.

Ms. Jolie’s career as an actress is extraordinary. She takes a scripted character and brings it to a believable and convincing life. She has mastered the skill of acting with control and confidence and always delivers a captivating performance. I certainly plan on taking the necessary steps to train and study hard on being a great actress guided by Angelina Jolie and other outstanding women.

One of my favorite quotes by Ms. Jolie that guides me is: “We come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”
—Angelina Jolie

Tim Burton Tribute by Keefer B.

October 27th, 2014

halloween.Burton.jpgHalloween is just around the corner. It’s the time for candy, costumes and everything spooky. It’s also the time to watch some of the best Halloween movies and television specials. When it comes to that, I always turn to one of my favorite directors of all time, Tim Burton. Burton is known for his dark, brooding and down-right weird film making. I was first introduced to Burton when I was a toddler and watched Nightmare Before Christmas.

When I saw the opening number, “This is Halloween” for the first time, my little toddler eyes grew wide with wonder. Sadly, my mom hid my only copy of the film from me because she thought it would give me nightmares. Which it did not!

The point I am trying to make is I love Tim Burton because he looks at the strange and unusual side of filmmaking. Films like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorshands start out in a surprisingly normal atmosphere. We see people in a quiet, suburban area living their normal lives. As the film develops, the characters encounter abnormal characters like Beetlejuice and Edward and the real fun begins.

Burton takes something as simple as a hand and makes it a little bit off. He adds more or less fingers, makes them skinny or fat. His color pallet ranges from bright to toned down  or black. A perfect example of this is in Corpse Bride. Keefer.2014.5.jpgWhen the main character is in the land of the living, it’s washed out and the characters are pale white. When he goes into the land of the dead, it’s bright and loud.

His visuals and storytelling are only matched with his characters. Edward Scissorhands is a perfect example of a defining Burton character. You fall in love with him because he’s strange and different. That creates tragedy therefore empathy. He shows the psychology of why they are like they are and it’s genuine.

Give him any story and he makes it his own with his Burton vision. That is what makes Tim Burton who he is. He looks at everything askew and seeing how he puts them on the big screen is captivating.

With that said, after I’m done trick-or-treating with my friends on Halloween, I’m going to be counting my endless supply of tooth decaying loot while watching one of Tim Burton’s movies. Although the fun does not stop there because I’m anticipating this Christmas when his new film Big Eyes comes out. I can’t wait!

A Spooktacular Time for Scary Movies by Raven Devanney

October 6th, 2014

RavenHeadshotLR.jpgAs the weather begins to chill and the leaves turn marvelous oranges, reds, and yellows, we all prepare for a slew of holidays. October is my favorite month because it’s packed full of pumpkin carving, apple cider, chilly nights, big sweaters, corn mazes and of course, Halloween. But with that package comes the best of all, scary movies! There’s no time like October to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and feast your eyes on a Scary-Movie-Marathon.

Recently Annabell, the prequel to 2013’s The Conjuring, was released to the big screen, and it is absolutely terrifying (especially due to the fact that it’s based on true events!) Now I’m all for recent horror/thriller films, but old school scary will forever have my heart. I could watch Carrie (1979), Jaws (1975), Psycho (1960), The Shining (1980), and Silence of the Lambs (1991) hundreds of times and never get bored.

Although, I do know that most kids and some teens aren’t the biggest fans of truly terrifying films, go for some classic “family horror” that will get your blood pumping and also put a smile on your face. I recommend Gremlins (PG, 1984), Beetlejuice (PG, 1988) and my absolute favorite, Hocus Pocus (PG, 1993).

So grab some blankets, grab some popcorn, turn out the lights and get your scream on!

First African American Woman To Win Best Actress By Brianna Hope Beaton

September 29th, 2014

Halle.jpgThis week I would like to discuss a woman that almost all of us will recognize. She is the first African American female to win an Oscar® for best actress.

Halle Marie Berry was born on August 14, 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio, youngest to parents, Jerome Berry (African-American) and Judith Berry (Caucasian).  She has one sister named Heidi and their father abandoned them at a young age.

Halle attended an all-white school and, as a result, she experienced discrimination at a young age. This predicament only made her push harder to excel and succeed at school and everything else she did. In high school she did many extracurricular activities. Halle had no problem with nervousness. She was and still is a natural performer. Halle earned a group of beauty pageant titles during the early 1980s, including Miss Teen Ohio and Miss Teen America. She was, in time, awarded first runner-up in the 1985 Miss U.S.A. competition. While in college she decided to focus solely on a career in the entertainment business. She ultimately ended up in New York City where she became a catalog model and then changed into a hopeful actress. Here are some of the films she has worked on: Living Dolls (TV Series, 1989), Knot’s Landing (TV series, 1991) Jungle Fever (1991), The Last Boy Scout (1991), Boomerang (1992), X-Men (2000), Catwoman (2004), Cloud Atlas (2012) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). Executive Decision (1996) marked Halle’s first leading role in a feature film. She received an Oscar® as “best actress in a leading role” and a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as the wife of a death row prisoner in Monster’s Ball.  That film also landed her the honorable title of becoming the first African-American woman to win the Oscar for best actress which she acknowledged by thanking all the performers who came before her. “This moment is so much bigger than me; this moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll… It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox and it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance, because the door tonight has been opened.”

In 2005 Halle met, French-Canadian supermodel Gabriel Aubry. Sometime after they met, Halle confirmed that she and Aubry were expecting their first child together. The expected daughter, Nahla Ariela, followed the announcement on March 16, 2008. She and Aubry, unfortunately, split in 2010. Later that year, Halle began dating actor Olivier Martinez. In March 2012, the couple got engaged and in April 2013, announced that they were expecting their first child together. On July 13, 2013, Halle and Oliver happily married in a cherished ceremony at France’s Chateau des Conde. That October, the newlyweds greeted their first child together, a baby boy. She’s now caring for her two children and still acting and producing.

Sometimes it’s nice to go back and see who did this and that. But sometimes we need to look at people who are still alive and are doing a great job at their craft. Halle has a reputation of living in her roles and remaining in character even when the cameras stop rolling.  This is a true dedication to your craft.  Not only is Halle Berry a very talented actress but her acting range needs to be commended.  She can act a beautiful actress but she can also get down and dirty when she needs to.

Words or Pictures, You Choose by Keefer Blakeslee

September 22nd, 2014

Keefer.2014.5.jpgI recently saw, The Giver, a movie based on the award-winning novel by Lois Lowry. I read reviews from critics and, for the most part, they were not pleased with the film. Naturally, I had to see if their comments were true. I went to see the movie without having read the book. This allowed me to view it with an open mind. When the credits rolled and the lights turned back on, I was impressed. I felt it was an entertaining movie with phenomenal acting and a thought-provoking story.

My mom turned to me saying, “What do you think the critics found wrong with it?” Now again, this is coming from viewers who have not, for the most part, read the book. The consensus from Rotten Tomato was, “Phillip Noyce directs The Giver with visual grace, but the movie does not dig deep enough into the classic source material’s thought-provoking ideas.” I’m, of course, leading up to a controversial question: What is better, the book or the movie?

Now before you say, “Of course the book is better,” let me explain. First of all, I’m the type of person who looks at both sides of the argument. What is a book? Well a book tells a story with characters and conflict, that’s a basic definition. If you’re an avid reader you can get lost in a good book because it transports you into new worlds, lives, ways of thinking, new information and more. It becomes the reader’s job to imagine the visuals unless it’s a picture book. Take for example, Oliver Twist. Before moving pictures, there was only Charles Dickens’ words to tell the story. Dickens is an author who gives great details about the surroundings of his beloved characters. For me, I like to visualize the workhouses or Fagin with his sticky fingers.

A movie is or, is suppose to be, able to accomplish the same goal in telling a story. In this form it’s the writers, directors and actors job to provide the visuals. This is where most book lovers say, “They left this scene out of the movie” or ”They did not include my favorite character.” These are decisions that a screen writer or director must make to please the audience and more importantly the fans, while still trying to make a movie. A movie is supposed to entertain us. If they don’t get every scene from the book in the movie, that’s probably to avoid making it a 5-hour movie. Just think if Tom Hooper did every scene in the book, Les Miserable which is at least 613 pages. Alfred Hitchcock was known to say, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” Look at it this way, in the film Hunger Games. If you read the books, were you not ecstatic to see Katniss Everdeen leap off the pages? Look at what a movie provides, not at what it doesn’t.

Let’s get into my territory, comic books. I know they are graphic novels and provide visuals for the fans who read them, but it’s something I can relate to more. I remember when I saw Iron Man 3 and I knew the Mandarin was the villain. Like most fans I was extremely excited. In the trailer he was played by Ben Kingsley. He was threatening. He had this big end-of-the-world speech. It was perfect! Then, when I saw him in the movie, as a fan, he was disappointing. Of all the directions the director or writer could have gone with this character, they choose this. I will not give anything away but, I was shocked. However, as a film choice it was hilarious and Ben Kingsley does a fantastic job. I laughed so hard but, in the back of my mind the comic book fan side of me was screaming in anger.

I bring this up because I can relate to people who find this movie was not always true to the original source material and it was frustrating. I loved the movie, but it was that one scene that killed it or me. Then I asked myself, “Did it accomplish its goal as a movie? And, I had to answer, “Yes!”

Now, back to the original question: What is better, the book or the movie? I think they are two different forms of media. Both can, and are, beautiful forms of art. They both have the same goal, but they have different forms of meeting it. I’m a youth who prefers movies but that doesn’t mean I disregard books. In fact I loved the movie, The Giver so much that I was inspired to read the book. Not to see what’s better but to look at the story from another imagination. Of course the book goes in more depth but that’s because it’s limitless. Authors can write as many pages as they want and the audience that reads it can put it down and continue reading later. If you want to fully enjoy movies you sit down and watch it all the way through. It all depends on which you prefer. Here’s a visual: Look at the book as a lobster dinner and the movie as a crab dinner, which one are you going to choose? Side by side, you may pick lobster but that does not make the crab dinner less appetizing. In the end, both media mean something.

A Dog is Not Just a Pet by Gerry Orz, age 12

September 15th, 2014

Jul_Jul_and_I.jpgNow, my dog is about 11 months old - she’s turning one in October. The first year of her life was not easy. She was a runt of the litter so her immune system was weak. In the first six months with us she survived pneumonia, battled internal bleeding and went through a pretty serious surgery.

When we think about dogs, cats, fish even lizards, the first word that comes to mind is … PETS. But are they really? No, all these species are our family members. Maybe to someone all of them are just animals, but to us my little Juliet (Jul-Jul) is a daughter to my mothers and a sister to me and my brother. Just as our three cats.

When we were worried that the future didn’t look very promising for my adorable puppy, I was heartbroken. I can’t imagine losing her and I think a lot of pet owners can relate to this. Our pets are family and are being cared for like children. I know my puppy today come to my room when I was in bed and licked my face to make me feel better. When I am under the weather or just sad, it makes feel much better. You can’t buy or fake an unconditional love like this. So,  people who think animals aren’t that big of a deal and think that they don’t have feelings are completely wrong. Animals are just like us- they care for us and they love us. They can even be a little bit sassy like my 4-legged sister, “Jul!”

A Matter of Opinion by Raven Devanney, age 17

September 8th, 2014

MPAA.Image.jpgWe all see film ratings on movies, trailers or film websites, telling us what is and is not appropriate for us to watch. And for the most part, we listen. But, what may be appropriate for some may be the opposite for others.

My parents were very open with me when I was little. If I asked a question, they answered. There was never any “wait until you’re older, then we’ll tell you,” although sometimes I wish there had been. When it came to movies, I watched a lot of content that would be deemed “too mature” for other kids that were the same age I was at the time. I saw PG-13 and R rated films long before I was “old enough,” but it never bothered me. I always knew when to turn off the TV when things got too intense. However, I have cousins that would not be able to handle some of the things I watched, so their parents steer them clear of such films.

When it comes to the rules and regulations of what is rated G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17, the films that fit into those guidelines may still be unsuitable for the audience they are considered appropriate for. A 14-year-old may be terrified or disturbed by a PG-13 film and a 9-year-old might love that same PG-13 movie. In my opinion, it really comes down to the maturity of the individual, their own opinion of what they can handle and what their parents allow them to watch.
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In 1968, when MPAA replaced the Hays Code which had been in place since 1930 with its new ratings system, there was only G, M, R and X. This was modified in 1970 and again in 1972 to incorporate PG. In the early 1984, after films such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins were released with PG ratings, parents complained about the violence and gore featured in those films. So in the summer of 1984, the PG-13 rating was born. And, in 1990, the X rating was dropped because it was associated with porn and replaced by NC-17. Since 1990, the MPAA has included brief explanations of why the film received an R rating (strong brutal violence, some strong sexual content, drug material, etc.) so that parents can make a decision based on the explanation.

The regulations of what fits into these different ratings fluctuate over the years and some films, when re-released, are given a new rating. For example Midnight Cowboy was rated X when released in 1969 and re-rated R in 1971. As I said earlier, what is appropriate for your child is truly a matter of opinion isn’t it. How do you decide what films your child can go see?

The First Female Actress on a U.S. Postage Stamp by Brianna Hope Beaton.

September 2nd, 2014

GraceKellyStamp.jpgIn the 1900s we mailed letters more often than we do in the 2000s. We now have internet, email and of course texting. When we send anything through the mail we need a postal stamp and the first female actress to have her face imprinted on a postage stamp was Grace Kelly.

Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to John Brendan “Jack” Kelly and Margaret Katherine Majer. At an early age, Grace decided she wanted to go into acting. After her high school graduation in 1947, Grace headed to New York to see where that would take her, despite her parent’s objections and comments. Grace worked briefly as a model and made her debut on Broadway in 1949. Due to Grace not being comfortable with work in New York, she moved to Southern California to pursue acting in motion pictures.

In 1951, she appeared in her first film named 14 Hours at the age of 22. The following year, she landed the role of Amy Kane in High Noon, a western starring Gary Cooper and Lloyd Bridges. In 1953, Grace appeared in only one film, but popular nonetheless (Mogambo). The film was one of the best films ever released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Her work with Director, Alfred Hitchcock, which began with Dial M for Murder, made her a star. She was cast opposite BriannaHopeBeaton2.jpgJames Stewart, who played a crippled photographer who witnesses a murder in the next apartment. Grace stayed busy in 1954 appearing in five films. Grace would forever be immortalized by winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Georgie Elgin opposite Bing Crosby in The Country Girl (1954). In 1955, Grace once again teamed with Hitchcock in To Catch a Thief (1955) co-starring Cary Grant. Grace met and married Prince Rainier of Monaco. By becoming a princess, she gave up her acting career. On September 14, 1982, Grace died in an automobile accident, in France, at age 52.

Grace Kelly holds the title of one of the most beautiful women in the world with her beauty, grace, talent and style on and off screen. Grace no longer acted after her marriage but devoted a lot of her time to raising funds for charity and helping the disadvantage.

Since the first postage stamps, almost every one of them has carried a message about our heritage, our diverse culture and the people and events that have helped built this great nation. I can see why this extraordinary icon is pictured on a United States Postal Stamp.

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